De Mays, Venanzio (* 17xx.xx.xx † 17xx.xx.xx)
Basic Overview Data
Biographical and Intellectual Profile
There is little biographical information on Venanzio de Mays, who spent his entire life in Pavia. Between 1732 and 1742, de Mays held the role of lector in the place of Antonio Belloni and he taught civil law at the faculty of law in the University of Pavia. In 1742, he commenced teaching Ad lecturam iuris publici et civilis. He was the first professor to teach public law in Pavia and continued to do so until 1772. De Mays took an active role in the reform process of the university – that culminated in the years 1771-1773 – which led to the founding of a chair in natural law and public law, thus officially also introducing natural law into the university curricula. Hence, De Mays played an important role in developing natural law as an academic discipline at the University of Pavia, which also is demonstrated by the fact that he in 1766 had worked together with Senator Nicola Pecci in drafting the Piano degli Studi legali (a plan for legal studies) with the aim to reform that subject at Pavia.
Comment on main natural law works:
In 1738, de Mays published in Milan a treatise titled Institutiones juris naturae et gentium ad usum cupidae legum juventutis singulis titulis institutionum juris civilis accomodatae excellentissimo Mediolanensi senatui nuncupatae. After an introduction discussing the meanings of natural law and law of nations, the work followed the Institutionum seu elementorum of Justinian and was divided into four books. The first book is about law and justice with a focus on patria potestas, adoption and child protection. In the second book, De rerum divisione et adquirendo ipsarum dominio, de Mays provides the reader – through the use of Roman law sources – with a historical perspective of the different ways to acquire property. The third book is entirely dedicated to inheritance law, while the fourth and final book deals with the obligation derived from a crime. As the title indicates, the work was addressed to students in order to give them a comprehensive overview of the main European doctrines on natural law and law of nations; from the Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle to the natural lawyers of the 16th and 17th centuries, such as Grotius and Pufendorf. In 1767, De Mays published Iuris publici prudentia Prolegomena in Pavia which was another treatise for academic and teaching purposes.
Comment on profile’s conception of natural law:
His lectures were described as ‘worthy of the common applause’. They were, however, ‘traditionalist’ in the sense that they were based essentially on natural and Roman law. The sources used in Institutiones juris naturae et gentium ranged from references to Latin and religious texts, to the authors of legal humanism such as Jacques Cujas (defined as ‘the most erudite’) and Budé, to those of natural law, such as De iure belli ac pacis and Mare liberum by Grotius and De iure naturae et gentium by Samuel Pufendorf. De Mays explained that the theories of Pufendorf, Selden and Grotius should only be considered when they were functional and useful in a given context, and when they did not conflict with the doctrine of the Church. There are also references to the Elementa iuris naturae et gentium of Heineccius, to De legibus of Suarez, as well as several references to Gian Vincenzo Gravina, especially to his De ortu et progressu iuris civilis.
De Mays was ground-breaking in introducing a new way of teaching inspired by the mos gallicus in contrast to the mos italicus predominant at the time, although he had never neglected the interpretation of the mos italicus with references to Accursio’s Magna Glossa. These neo-humanism currents entered, since the first part of the 18th century, into the academic legal discourse, opening for discussion in the issues of law, of the relationship between citizens and the state and – above all – of how civil society ought to be governed. According to Villata De Mays constitutes a key figure in understanding to what extent the mos gallicus current of thought influenced the creation of a new programme of studies in the faculty of law (Villata 2012, p. 701).
Institutiones juris naturae et gentium ad usum cupidae legum juventutis singulis titulis institutionum juris civilis accomodatae excellentissimo Mediolanensi senatui nuncupatae (Mediolani: Malatesta, 1738).
De jurisprudentia (Ticini Regii: Typis J. Porri, 1744)
Iuris publici prudentia Prolegomena (Pavia: Rovedino, 1767).
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