Freethought Almanac

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March 7: André Morellet (1727)

MorelletAndréIt was on this date, March 7, 1727, that French economist and contributor to the Encyclopédie André Morellet was born. After a Jesuit education, he kept all his life the title of the Abbé Morellet without religious conviction. According to the Grande Encyclopédie (1751-1772), a masterpiece of Enlightenment thought, Morellet “did more than any in spreading the views of the philosophers,” that is, spreading Deism. His writings – including a translation of Beccaria’s Treatise, a smart pamphlet in answer to Charles Palissot’s scurrilous play Les Philosophes (the reward for which was a short stay in the Bastille), a reply to Ferdinando Galiani’s Dialogues sur le commerce des blés (Dialogues on the commerce in wheat), and a French translation of On Crimes and Punishments – were published in 4 vols. in 1818, the year before his death. Because of his able and biting wit, his close friend Voltaire called him “L’Abbé Mords-les” (“Father Bite-them”). Morellet’s semi-satirical translation of the Directorium Inquisitorum of Spanish theologian Nicolás Eymerico (the 14th century Inquisitor General of Aragon) led to the cessation of some of the French Catholic Church’s more inquisitorial practices.

Next to Voltaire, André Morellet counted among his friends Denis Diderot, Jean le Rond D’Alembert and Benjamin Franklin. Two years after his death, on 12 January 1819, his valuable Memories on the 18th Century and the Revolution were published.

Ronald Bruce Meyer

Our Fearless Leader.

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July 17: Phyllis Diller

Phyllis Diller (1917) It was on this date, July 17, 1917, that the comedienne and actress with the distinctive laugh, Phyllis Diller, was born Phyllis Ada Driver in Lima, Ohio. She was a San Francisco housewife with five children when her under-employed husband suggested she try to make a career of the comedic skits she […]

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