Statuto Albertino (1848)

   The basis of constitutional government in Italy until the foundation of the First Republic in 1948, the Statuto Albertino (named after King Charles Albert) ended the absolute power of the House of Savoy. The statute was drawn up by a committee of liberal noblemen, including Cesare Balbo and Camillo Benso di Cavour, in order to head off popular discontent in Piedmont. In this respect it was very successful: The Piedmont-Sardinian throne escaped relatively unscathed in the so-called year of revolutions. Most of the statute’s 88 articles were concerned with delineating the relative powers of the sovereign and the Parliament. The king was made chief executive and nominal head of the judiciary and was given a legislative veto. He could appoint ministers, but the ministers themselves were subject to a vote of confidence from Parliament. The legislature itself was divided into two branches. The Senate was composed of life members appointed by the king; the Chamber of Deputies was elected by an electoral law that was not specified in the statute itself, but featured an extremely restrictive property qualification. Voters had to be at least 25 years of age, be literate, and pay at least 40 lire in taxes every year. Approximately 80,000 people— barely 2 percent of the population—met these conditions. The statute guaranteed important civil rights. Equality before the law was established “for all subjects, whatever be their rank”; the freedoms of property, press, and person were sanctioned. Catholicism was stated to be the “sole religion of the State,” but the principle of toleration for other faiths was established. At the end of March 1848, Charles Albert put legal flesh to these constitutional bones by signing a new press law that authorized any writings except those that offended against public decency or obstructed the “regular functioning of government.” This formulation was ambiguous, but it was regarded as a step forward from the previous system of ecclesiastic and temporal censorship. Between March and June 1848, Jews were admitted to the same civil status as Catholics throughout the kingdom.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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