The Humanitarian Legacy

Born and raised in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany in 1730, Philip Mazzei absorbed the libertarian ideals of the Asburgo-Lorena reigning family, ideals of which he eventually become an outspoken advocate. During his almost 20 year stay in London, Philip developed close relationships with Benjamin Franklin and several important businessmen from Virginia, who spoke to him of both the new political climate and agricultural possibilities in the colonies. Spurred by his curiosity to explore opportunities in the New World and with the intent of introducing the colonies to the different cultures of Europe, Mazzei set sail for Virginia in 1773.

One of Mazzei’s greatest contributions to American history was his work as a political activist during a most crucial time. Being a man of the Enlightenment, Mazzei found the ideological climate of Virginia in the late 1700s to be most congenial. He quickly became swept up in the movement for independence, of which he was a firm believer and fervent proponent in both America and Europe. He befriended and collaborated with several prominent political figures of the time, such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams, with whom he shared his modern and progressive ideas.

Mazzei advocated the notion that “All men are by nature equally free and independent. Such equality is necessary in order to create a free government.”. This ideal inspired Thomas Jefferson’s introduction in The Declaration of Independence stating “All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Once the Declaration of Independence had been written and signed, Mazzei translated the document into Italian for several important newspapers.

Mazzei was a prolific writer, transmitter of revolutionary ideals, liberal thinker, visionary, and “citizen of the world.” He is a significant exemplar of the trans-Atlantic nature of the American revolution and may be considered the first Italian immigrant to promote economic and political relations between the United Stated and Italy.

In celebration and recognition of his contributions and role as an American Patriot, a commemorative stamp entitled “Patriot Remembered”, was issued in 1980 on the 250th anniversary of this birth.