Voltaire fought in defence of persecuted innocence.
As soon as he was made aware of the case in March 1762, Voltaire started inquiring. At the time, he was in Ferney, a meeting and talking place. As always, he also wrote extensively to let people know about the case.
« It seems to me that it is in everybody’s interest to look further into this affair which, however you look at it, is the height of fanaticism – “intolerance” is better. Ignoring such a thing is to abandon humanity. »
Voltaire got the trial overturned and Calas good name restored (1765)
While publishing a Treaty on tolerance (1763), Voltaire got the case brought to the King’s council, who accepted the request from Mrs Calas in favour of her husband. After numerous further steps, the Toulouse Parliament’s verdict was quashed.
In 1765, the King’s council recognized Calas as innocent. The charge was overturned and his name restored.
As the Calas family was very insecure, funds were raised to help them, and King Louis XIV himself made donations.
The Calas family house is at 50 Filatiers Street in Toulouse.
- COUTET Alex, Jean Calas, Vida, 2003
- GARRISSON Janine, L’affaire Calas, miroir des passions françaises, Fayard, Paris, 2004
- VOLTAIRE, L’Affaire Calas et autres affaires, édition présentée par Jacques Van den Heuvel, Gallimard, Paris, 1975
The Sirven affair
Although less known than the Calas affair, the Sirven case became the topic of conversation among Protestants in Montagne du Tarn. Voltaire became a staunch advocate of the Sirven family and had their name restored.
Paul Rabaut (1718-1794)
As a pastor in the “Churches of the Desert”, Paul Rabaut lived a secret and dangerous life
Relative tolerance for the Protestants
In the second part of the XVIIIth century, the political regime which took over the government in France was, on the whole, fairly tolerant towards Protestants, although there were some tragic exceptions to the rule.
The "Desert" Protestant Churches (1760-1789)
Even though repressive measures were still being taken against the Protestants and it was not yet possible for them to hold a public service, little by little, they rebuilt the basic structure of their Church.