1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Sonnino, Sidney, Baron

SONNINO, SIDNEY, Baron (1847-), Italian statesman and financier, was born at Florence on the nth of March 1847. Entering the diplomatic service at an early age, he was appointed successively to the legations of Madrid, Vienna, Berlin and Versailles, but in 1871 returned to Italy, to devote himself to political and social studies. On his own initiative he conducted exhaustive inquiries into the conditions of the Sicilian peasants and of the Tuscan mUayers, and in 1877 published in co-operation with Signor Leopoldo Franchetti a masterly work on Sicily (La Sicilia, Florence, 1877). In 1878 he founded a weekly economic review, La Rassegna Seitimanale, which four years later he converted into a political daily journal. Elected deputy in 1880, he distinguished himself by trenchant criticism of Magliani's finance, and upon the fall of Magliani was for some months, in 1889, under-secretary of state for the treasury. In view of the severe monetary crisis of 1893 he was entrusted by Crispi with the portfolio of finance (December 1893), and in spite of determined opposition dealt energetically and successfully with the deficit of more than £6,000,000 then existing in the exchequer. By abolishing the illusory pensions fund, by applying and amending the Bank Laws, effecting economies, and increasing taxation upon corn, incomes from consolidated stock, salt and matches, he averted national bankruptcy, and placed Italian finance upon a sounder basis than at any time since the fall of the Right. Though averse from the policy of unlimited colonial expansion, he provided by a loan for the cost of the Abyssinian War in which the tactics of General Baratieri had involved the Crispi cabinet, but fell with Crispi after the disaster at Adowa (March 1896). Assuming then the leadership of the constitutional opposition, he combated the alliance between the Di Rudini cabinet and the subversive parties, criticized the financial schemes of the treasury minister, Luzzatti, and opposed the "democratic" finance of the fast PeWonx administration as likely to endanger financial stability. After the modification of the Pelloux cabinet (May 1899) he became leader of the ministerial majority, and bore the brunt of the struggle against Socialist obstruction in connexion with the Public Safety Bill. Upon the formation of the Zanardelli cabinet (Feb. 1901) he once more became leader of the constitutional opposition, and in the autumn of the year founded a daily organ, Il Giornale d'Italia, the better to propagate moderate Liberal ideas. Although highly esteemed for his integrity and genuine ability, it was not until February 1906 that he was called upon to form a ministry, on the fall of the Fortis cabinet. He immediately set about introducing certain urgent reforms, suppressed all subsidies to the press, and declared his intention of governing according to law and justice. In May, however, an adverse vote of the Chamber on a purely technical matter led to his resignation.