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Arrival Of The Austrians At Nismes








About this time, a treaty between the French court and the allied
sovereigns, prohibited the advance of the foreign troops beyond the line
of territory already occupied, and traced by the course of the Loire,
and by the Rhone, below the Ardeche. In violation of this treaty, 4000
Austrians entered Nismes on the 24th of August; under pretence of making
room for them, French troops, bearing the feudal title of Royal
Chasseurs, followed by the murdering bands of the Trestaillons and
Quatretaillons, who continued their march to Alais, where a fair was to
be held, and carried disorder and alarm into all the communes on that
route. Nothing now was heard but denunciations of fusillading, burning,
razing, and annihilating; and while the catholics were feasting and
murdering at Nismes, the flames of the country houses of the
protestants, rising one hundred feet in the air, rendered the spectacle
still more awful and alarming. Unfortunately, some of the peasants,
falsely charged with the murder of two protestants, were brought to
Nismes while the prefect was celebrating the fete of St. Louis. At a
splendid dinner given to the Austrian commanders, and even without
quitting the table, it appears, that the French prefect placed the fate
and fortune of these unfortunate prisoners at the disposal of Count
Stahremberg, who, of course, believing the representations made to him
ordered the accused to be immediately shot. To mortify and exhaust the
protestant communes, the Austrians were directed to occupy them, where
they completely disarmed the inhabitants without the least opposition.
In fact, these foreigners were soon undeceived. They expected to meet
the most perfidious and brutal enemies in arms, and in open rebellion
against their king; but, on the contrary, they found them all in peace,
and experienced the most kind and respectful treatment; and though their
duty was a most vexatious and oppressive one, they performed it in
general with moderation. On this account they could not refrain from
expressing their astonishment at the reports made to them by the
authorities at Nismes, declaring, "They had found a population suffering
great misfortunes, but no rebels; and that compassion was the only
feeling that prevailed in their minds." The commander himself was so
convinced of the good disposition of the people of the Cevennes, that he
visited those districts without an escort, desiring, he said, to travel
in that country as he would in his own. Such confidence was a public
reproach on the authorities at Nismes, and a sentence of condemnation on
all their proceedings.

As the persecution of the protestants was spreading into other
departments, strong and forcible representations were secretly printed
and made to the king. All the ordinary modes of communication had been
stopped; the secrecy of letters violated, and none circulated but those
relative to private affairs. Sometimes these letters bore the postmark
of places very distant, and arrived without signatures, and enveloped in
allegorical allusions. In fact, a powerful resistance on the part of the
outraged protestants was at length apprehended, which, in the beginning
of September excited the proclamation of the king, on which it was
observed, "that if his majesty had been correctly and fully informed of
all that had taken place, he surely would not have contented himself
with announcing his severe displeasure to a misled people, who took
justice into their own hands, and avenged the crimes committed against
royalty." The proclamation was dictated as though there had not been a
protestant in the department; it assumed and affirmed throughout the
guilt of the sufferers; and while it deplored the atrocious outrages
endured by the followers of the duke d'Angouleme, (outrages which never
existed,) the plunder and massacre of the reformed were not even
noticed.

Still disorders kept pace with the proclamations that made a show of
suppressing them, and the force of the catholic faction also continued
to increase. The catholic populace, notwithstanding the decrees of the
magistrates, were allowed to retain the arms they had illegally seized,
whilst the protestants in the departments were disarmed. The members of
the reformed churches wished at this period to present another memorial
to the government, descriptive of the evils they still suffered, but
this was not practicable. On the 26th of September, the president of the
consistory wrote as follows: "I have only been able to assemble two or
three members of the consistory pastors or elders. It is impossible to
draw up a memoir, or to collect facts; so great is the terror, that
every one is afraid to speak of his own sufferings, or to mention those
he has been compelled to witness."





Next: Outrages Committed In The Villages &c

Previous: Monstrous Outrage Upon Females



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