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From The Revocation Of The Edict Of Nantes To The French Revolution In 1789








The persecutions occasioned by the revocation of the edict of Nantes,
took place under Louis XIV. This edict was made by Henry the Great of
France in 1598, and secured to the protestants an equal right in every
respect, whether civil or religious, with the other subjects of the
realm. All those privileges Louis the XIII. confirmed to the protestants
by another statute, called the edict of Nismes, and kept them inviolably
to the end of his reign.

On the accession of Louis XIV. the kingdom was almost ruined by civil
wars. At this critical juncture, the protestants, heedless of our Lord's
admonition, "They that take the sword, shall perish with the sword,"
took such an active part in favour of the king, that he was constrained
to acknowledge himself indebted to their arms for his establishment on
the throne. Instead of cherishing and rewarding that party who had
fought for him, he reasoned, that the same power which had protected
could overturn him, and, listening to the popish machinations, he began
to issue out proscriptions and restrictions, indicative of his final
determination. Rochelle was presently fettered with an incredible number
of denunciations. Montaban and Millau were sacked by soldiers. Popish
commissioners were appointed to preside over the affairs of the
protestants, and there was no appeal from their ordinance, except to the
king's council. This struck at the root of their civil and religious
exercises, and prevented them, being protestants, from suing a catholic
in any court of law. This was followed by another injunction, to make an
inquiry in all parishes into whatever the protestants had said or done
for twenty years past. This filled the prisons with innocent victims,
and condemned others to the galleys or banishment. Protestants were
expelled from all offices, trades, privileges and employs; thereby
depriving them of the means of getting their bread: and they proceeded
to such excess in their brutality, that they would not suffer even the
midwives to officiate, but compelled their women to submit themselves in
that crisis of nature to their enemies, the brutal catholics. Their
children were taken from them to be educated by the catholics, and at
seven years made to embrace popery. The reformed were prohibited from
relieving their own sick or poor, from all private worship, and divine
service was to be performed in the presence of a popish priest. To
prevent the unfortunate victims from leaving the kingdom, all the
passages on the frontiers were strictly guarded; yet, by the good hand
of God, about 150,000 escaped their vigilance, and emigrated to
different countries to relate the dismal narrative.

All that has been related hitherto were only infringements on their
established charter, the edict of Nantes. At length the diabolical
revocation of that edict passed on the 18th of October, 1685, and was
registered the 22d in the vacation, contrary to all form of law.
Instantly the dragoons were quartered upon the protestants throughout
the realm, and filled all France with the like news, that the king would
no longer suffer any Huguenots in his kingdom, and therefore they must
resolve to change their religion. Hereupon the intendants in every
parish (which were popish governors and spies set over the protestants)
assembled the reformed inhabitants, and told them, they must without
delay turn catholics, either freely or by force. The protestants
replied, "They were ready to sacrifice their lives and estates to the
king, but their consciences being God's, they could not so dispose of
them."

Instantly the troops seized the gates and avenues of the cities, and
placing guards in all the passages, entered with sword in hand, crying,
"Die, or be catholics!" In short, they practised every wickedness and
horror they could devise, to force them to change their religion.

They hung both men and women by their hair or their feet, and smoked
them with hay till they were nearly dead; and if they still refused to
sign a recantation, they hung them up again and repeated their
barbarities, till, wearied out with torments without death, they forced
many to yield to them.

Others, they plucked off all the hair of their heads and beards with
pincers. Others they threw on great fires, and pulled them out again,
repeating it till they extorted a promise to recant.

Some they stripped naked, and after offering them the most infamous
insults, they stuck them with pins from head to foot, and lanced them
with penknives; and sometimes with red-hot pincers they dragged them by
the nose till they promised to turn. Sometimes they tied fathers and
husbands, while they ravished their wives and daughters before their
eyes. Multitudes they imprisoned in the most noisome dungeons, where
they practised all sorts of torments in secret. Their wives and children
they shut up in monasteries.

Such as endeavoured to escape by flight were pursued in the woods and
hunted in the fields, and shot at like wild beasts; nor did any
condition or quality screen them from the ferocity of these infernal
dragoons: even the members of parliament and military officers, though
on actual service, were ordered to quit their posts, and repair directly
to their houses to suffer the like storm. Such as complained to the king
were sent to the Bastile, where they drank of the same cup. The bishops
and the intendants marched at the head of the dragoons, with a troop of
missionaries, monks, and other ecclesiastics, to animate the soldiers to
an execution so agreeable to their holy church, and so glorious to their
demon god and their tyrant king.

In forming the edict to repeal the edict of Nantes, the council were
divided; some would have all the ministers detained and forced into
popery as well as the laity: others were for banishing them, because
their presence would strengthen the protestants in perseverance: and if
they were forced to turn, they would ever be secret and powerful enemies
in the bosom of the church, by their great knowledge and experience in
controversial matters. This reason prevailing, they were sentenced to
banishment, and only fifteen days allowed them to depart the kingdom.

The same day the edict for revoking the protestant's charter was
published, they demolished their churches, and banished their ministers,
whom they allowed but twenty-four hours to leave Paris. The papists
would not suffer them to dispose of their effects, and threw every
obstacle in their way to delay their escape till the limited time was
expired which subjected them to condemnation for life to the galleys.
The guards were doubled at the seaports, and the prisons were filled
with the victims, who endured torments and wants at which human nature
must shudder.

The sufferings of the ministers and others, who were sent to the
galleys, seemed to exceed all. Chained to the oar, they were exposed to
the open air night and day, at all seasons, and in all weathers; and
when through weakness of body they fainted under the oar, instead of a
cordial to revive them, or viands to refresh them, they received only
the lashes of a scourge, or the blows of a cane or rope's end. For the
want of sufficient clothing and necessary cleanliness, they were most
grievously tormented with vermin, and cruelly pinched with the cold,
which removed by night the executioners who beat and tormented them by
day. Instead of a bed, they were allowed, sick or well, only a hard
board, eighteen inches broad, to sleep on, without any covering but
their wretched apparel; which was a shirt of the coarsest canvass, a
little jerkin of red serge, slit up each side up to the arm-holes, with
open sleeves that reached not to the elbow; and once in three years they
had a coarse frock, and a little cap to cover their heads, which were
always kept close shaved as a mark of their infamy. The allowance of
provision was as narrow as the sentiments of those who condemned them
to such miseries, and their treatment when sick is too shocking to
relate, doomed to die upon the boards of a dark hold; covered with
vermin, and without the least convenience for the calls of nature. Nor
was it among the least of the horrors they endured, that, as ministers
of Christ, and honest men, they were chained side by side to felons and
the most execrable villains, whose blasphemous tongues were never idle.
If they refused to hear mass, they were sentenced to the bastinado, of
which dreadful punishment the following is a description. Preparatory to
it, the chains are taken off, and the victims delivered into the hands
of the Turks that preside at the oars, who strip them quite naked, and
stretching them upon a great gun, they are held so that they cannot
stir; during which there reigns an awful silence throughout the galley.
The Turk who is appointed the executioner, and who thinks the sacrifice
acceptable to his prophet Mahomet, most cruelly beats the wretched
victim with a rough cudgel, or knotty rope's end, till the skin is
flayed off his bones, and he is near the point of expiring; then they
apply a most tormenting mixture of vinegar and salt, and consign him to
that most intolerable hospital where thousands under their cruelties
have expired.





Next: Martyrdom Of John Calas

Previous: The Bartholomew Massacre At Paris &c



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