Calas, Jean

Calas, Jean, an unfortunate merchant of Toulouse, of the Protestant religion. His son, Marc Antoine, hung himself in a fit of melancholy Oct. 13,17161. The father was seized as guilty of the murder, on the ground that his son intended to embrace Romanism the next day. No proof could be offered against him, but the fanatical passion of the mob was roused. The corpse was honored as that of a martyr. "The clergy exerted all their influence to confirm the populace in their delusion. At Toulouse the White Penitents celebrated with great solemnity the funeral of the young man, and the Dominican monks erected a scaffold and placed upon it a skeleton, holding in one hand a wreath of palms, and in the other an abjuration of Protestantism: The family of Calas was, in consequence of the popular excitement, brought to trial for the murder, and several deluded and (most probably) some bribed witnesses appeared against them. A Catholic servantmaid, and the young man Lavaysse, were also implicated in the accusation. Calas, in his defense, insisted on his uniform kindness to all his children; reminded the court that he had not only allowed another of his sons to become a Catholic, but had also paid an annual sum for his maintenance since his conversion. He also argued from his own infirmity that he could not have prevailed over a strong young man, and referred to the well-known melancholy moods of the deceased as likely to lead to suicide; and, lastly, he pointed out the improbability that the Catholic servant-maid would assist in such a murder. But all his arguments proved unavailing, and the Parliament of Toulouse sentenced the wretched man — by a majority of eight against five — to torture and death on the wheel! With great firmness, and protestations of his innocence to the last, the old man died on the wheel, March 9,1762. His property was confiscated. His youngest son was banished for life from France, but was captured by the monks, and compelled to' abjure Protestantism. The daughters were sent to a convent" (Chambers, s.v.). The family of the unhappy man retired to Geneva, and Voltaire subsequently undertook to defend his memory. He succeeded in drawing public attention toward the circumstances of the' case, and a revision of the trial was granted. Fifty judges once more examined the facts, and on March 9, 1765, the Parliament of Paris declared Calas altogether innocent. Louis XV ordered the property of Calas to be restored to his family, and made to the latter a present of 30,000 livres. The investigation at last led to the toleration edict of Louis XVI in 1787. — Bun gener, Priest and Huguenot, vol. ii; Coquerel, Histore des Fglises du Desert (2 vols. Paris, 1841); Haag, La France Protestante, in, 96; Coquerel, Jean Calas et saf mille (Paris, 1858, 12mo).

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