Today, people who live in democratic societies take religious freedom for granted. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, most Europeans found the idea of “freedom of conscience” deeply threatening. How could the fabric of society withstand competing religious ideas? What would convince people to live moral lives in the absence of a single, state-supported church?
When Cassiano dal Pozzo, the Pope’s personal assistant, returned to the Vatican from Spain in 1626, he brought with him a Mexican manuscript on natural history, the Libellus de medicinalibus Indorum herbis. The “herbal” was a marvelous Mexican manuscript containing illustrations of more than 180 plants. Commonly known as Codice de la Cruz-Badiano, it is considered the first illustrated survey of Mexican nature produced in the New World.
Early in the morning on May 20, 1709, before the trials of offenders commenced, the judges of Scotland’s north circuit court in Perth pardoned some 300 men and women who had been charged with fornication or adultery.