On this date in 1815, the Catholic priest turned revolutionary leader Jose Maria Morelos was shot for rebellion.
Morelos was born in New Spain — the town of his nativity was posthumously named in his honor — and entered adulthood a humble agricultural laborer* before engaging the career in letters necessary to undertake Holy Orders.
Designated to save his countrymen’s souls, he proposed instead to save their liberties and ungratefully joined up with fellow-priest Miguel Hidalgo when the latter sounded the tocsin for the Mexican War of Independence.
Morelos distinguished himself rapidly in the revolutionary army, and upon Hidalgo’s capture attained its leadership, complete with Generalissimo status.
Upon capture, he was handled first — and rather meticulously — by the Inquisition, which defrocked him in an auto de fe before relaxing him to the secular authority for the inevitable punishment.
Without a dissentient voice it [was] agreed that … [Morelos] be declared guilty of malicious and pertinacious imperfect confession, a formal heretic who denied his guilt, a disturber and persecutor of the hierarchy and a profaner of the sacraments; that he was guilty of high treason, divine and human, pontifical and royal … his property should be confiscated to the king … His three children were declared subject to infamy and the legal disabilities of descendants of heretics.
Nobody said being a national hero was easy.
* “His morals were those of his class,” remarks our source on the Inquisition. “He admitted to having three children, born of different mothers during his priesthood, but he added that his habits, though not edifying, had not been scandalous, and the tribunal seemed to think so, for little attention was paid to this during his trial.”