November 30 is a special date for the history of Tuscany, but we have to step back in time until November 30, 1786 to understand why. That was the day when Tuscany adopted a new penal code, and became the first State in the world to abolish death penalty.
That’s why every year we celebrate the Festa della Toscana: it’s an occasion not only to remember this incredibly important moment but also to reaffirm Tuscany’s commitment to human rights, peace, and justice as fundamental elements of the region’s identity.
If the Grand Duchy of Tuscany achieved this record and can proudly assert to be the first State in the world without capital punishment, there is one person to thank: the forward-thinking Grand Duke Leopold of Habsburg-Lorraine.
The enlightened Grand Duke entrusted Florentine jurist Pompeo Neri to write the new Tuscan penal code, that not only abolished death penalty and replaced it with lifelong social services, but also put an end to the possibility to use torture. The code thus wrote a new chapter in the history of European and World penal system.
Another important figure in this story is that of Milanese jurist Cesare Beccaria, who had already expressed his opinion against death penalty in his pamphlet On Crimes and Punishments. The work, published in Livorno in 1764, was much appreciated but also so much debated that it ended up in the Index of Prohibited Books two years after publication.
Beccaria had to wait other 20 years and the decision of Grand Duke Leopold to see his dream come true. As he stated in his work, «But if I can demonstrate that death penalty is neither necessary nor useful, I shall have gained the cause of humanity»