Keywords: Cesare Beccaria; Giuseppe Pelli; Death Penalty; Social Contract Theory.
This article deals with two of the most recent books published in Italy on Beccaria, while focusing on the more general relationship between contractualism and the theoretical foundations of abolitionism. Is the proposal of abolishing torture and the death penalty a historical and logical consequence of the social contract theory or is it rather related to a certain conception of natural law? The answer to this question will be looked for in the pages of another Italian text, unpublished until last year: Giuseppe Pelli's manuscript against the death sentence. Following Giuseppe Pelli's arguments the Author shows the importance of assumptions of natural law in the formulation of an absolute prohibition on killing human beings.