On this day in 1786, Peter Leopold Joseph, Archduke of Austria and Grand Duke of Tuscany abolished the death penalty, the first European monarch to do so. In his honor, Cities for Life Day is celebrated on November 30 in over 1,400 cities around the world (including 66 capitals). To show its opposition to the death penalty, each of the cities illuminates a significant monument. The United States does not participate although San Juan, Puerto Rico does.
Even earlier, the Chinese monk Faxien, a pilgrim to India in the 4th century, wrote of an abolitionist Buddhist king who “governs without decapitation [i.e., capital punishment generally] or (other) corporal punishments. Criminals are simply fined, lightly or heavily, according to the circumstances … Throughout the country the people do not kill any living creature, nor drink intoxicating liquor, nor eat onions or garlic.”
While I am certainly not opposed to intoxicating liquor, onions, or garlic, I’m violently opposed to the death penalty. This year, Gallup reported that US support for the death penalty fell to a 39-year low — although it retains the support of a staggering 61% of Americans. The last US President to publicly opposed the death penalty was FDR.
Horrified by the recent execution of Troy Davis in Georgia, I joined Amnesty International — which was founded 50 years ago in 1961. No recipe today.