If you live in one of the following cities you can celebrate today:
Arcata CA, Atlanta GA, Austin TX, Berkeley CA, Cincinnati OH, Covington KY, Davis CA, East Palo Alto CA, Richmond CA, Santa Cruz CA, Santa Monica CA, Sebastapol CA and West Hollywood CA.
These – and a dozen Catholic dioceses in Texas – are Cities for Life and today is an annual day of celebration. They all, along with another 1,600 cities and towns around the world, are committed to ending the death penalty.
Very trendy, very SoCal, right? (And mid and northern Cal too.)
Not really. Actually very Habsburg, very Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, very 1786.
The first head of state to abolish the death penalty was Leopold II, Grand Duke of Tuscany and eventual emperor. He was the youngest son of Emperor Francis I (and brother of Marie Antoinette) and wouldn’t have been in charge of anything, except that second son Charles died and Leopold got Tuscany by default.
For the first few years as Duke, he was under the control of counsellors appointed by his mother. He went all the way to Vienna to complain and when he got back he was really in charge.
For the next 20 years, he devoted himself to the administration of his duchy, ridding it of the many rules and restrictions imposed by the previous rulers – the Medici – and spending money on public works and infrastructure. He was not very popular, considered by his subjects to be cold and withdrawn. But the duchy prospered. Smallpox vaccinations were generally available, he created a facility for juvenile criminals, ended the inhumane treatment of the insane, and worked on a constitution for his people.
And in 1786, he banned torture and abolished the death penalty, the first modern ruler to do so. In 2000, Tuscany began Cities of Life Day in honor of his action.
Sadly, he and his siblings were remarkably short-lived. He became Holy Roman Emperor when his brother died in 1790 at the age of 50. But Leopold himself died two years later at the age of 45. Still, he left quite a legacy.
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Omg – another one of those cosmic days: Andrea Palladio, Jonathan Swift, Mark Twain,Winston Churchill, LM Montgomery, Clyfford Still, Jacques Barzun, Gordon Parks, Brownie McGhee, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Virginia Mayo, Allan Sherman, Shirley Chisholm, Richard Crenna, Robert Guillaume, Dick Clark, G.Gordon Liddy, Abbie Hoffman, Ridley Scott, David Mamet, Mandy Patinkin, Billy Idol and Ben Stiller – all born today. Here’s a little something palladian: