March 10 in freethought history…

jeancalasMarch 10, 1762 – Jean Calas, a merchant wrongly convicted of the murder of his son, is sentenced in Toulouse, France to “death by the wheel.” Calas had already been cruelly tortured by stretching and being forced to drink excessive quantities of water. His execution involved him being lashed to a cross and having his limbs broken with an iron bar. Calas insisted on his innocence until the end. Calas was a Protestant; many intellectuals (including Voltaire) believed he had been railroaded by biased Catholic officials. (Indeed, Calas’ son almost certainly took his own life, which the family had tried to make look like an anonymous murder to avoid the stigma attached to suicide. This subterfuge appears to backfired spectacularly on Calas, but he didn’t deserve torture and death.) As a result of Voltaire’s efforts, Louis XV met with the Calas family and by 1765 Jean Calas was posthumously exonerated, his family compensated by the state, and the magistrate of Toulouse removed from office.

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