Ernesto Nathan - Encyclopedia




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"ERNESTO NATHAN (1845-1921), Italian politician, was born in London in 1845, and died at Rome on April 9 1921. He was the son of an Englishman, Joseph Nathan, and of an Italian mother, Sara Rosselli, both Jews. His parents had befriended Italian political exiles in England, and on the death of Joseph Nathan in 1858 the widow and son settled at Pisa, where the latter attended the university. Soon afterwards they had to repair to Switzerland on account of Sara Nathan's republican sentiments; it was then that Ernesto Nathan became acquainted with Mazzini, whose views became thenceforth his chief inspiration and cult, and he devoted himself as a journalist, teacher and social reformer to their diffusion. A violent anti-clerical, he soon joined the freemasons and was elected " Grand Orient " for Italy in 1899, but resigned in 1905 owing to internal disagreements. He became an Italian citizen, and although he had been a republican in his early years, he gradually accepted the monarchy as the best regime for Italy, and ended by being received at Court. He showed great activity in organizing the " Unione dei Partiti popolari " in 1900, a blocco of the various radical and anti-clerical parties in Rome, and when at the municipal elections of 1900 the clerical administration fell, Nathan was chosen as mayor. That an English Jew and a militant anti-clerical and freemason should become mayor of Rome seemed indeed incongruous, but he was selected for his sterling honesty and business ability. Unfortunately he lost no occasion to offend Catholic sentiment and frequently made himself ridiculous, becoming a butt for the comic papers and revues. His plans for modernizing Rome did much to spoil its beauty for no useful purpose. Reelected in 1910, he fell when the blocco broke up in 1913. On the outbreak of the World War, in spite of his 70 years, he volunteered for the army and actually served as a lieutenant of infantry for a time. In 1917 he was reelected " Grand Orient " but resigned a year later. He was editor of the National edition of Mazzini's works.

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