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Persecution In The Pays De Vaud

In the month of December, 1823, a letter was addressed by three young
men, ministers of that canton, and subsequently signed by a few others,
to the council of state, intimating a determination to withdraw from the
established church, and requesting permission to constitute places of
worship independent of it. The cause assigned was, that the Helvetic
Confession had been virtually set aside, both by pastors and people; and
that the discipline of the church was annihilated. Their plan was to
preach according to that Confession, and to restore the discipline.

The petition to the council of state is dated Dec. 24, 1823. The
official answer bears date Jan. 15, 1824; and has all the formalities
with which the spirit of intolerance and persecution generally invests
itself, and is signed, Le Landamman en Charge, F. Clavel, Le Chandelier,
Boisot. In this instrument, the ministers and their friends are called
"Momiers;" and it is summarily decreed, that those who separate
themselves from the national church shall not be tolerated; that the
justices of the peace, &c. are specially charged instantly to dissolve
their meetings, and to report their proceedings to the council of state,
and every person who attends these prohibited assemblies, and who has
disobeyed the orders to leave them, and rendered it necessary to employ
force, shall be imprisoned three days, besides the possible infliction
of other pains and penalties; and that all persons whose measures shall
have tended to gain proselytes, shall be fined 600 livres, or imprisoned
two years; the same punishment to be awarded to him who furnishes a
place of meeting, or who has called or directed a prohibited assembly,
or who has taken any part whatever in quality of a chief or director.
The above decree was accompanied by a circular, dated Jan. 16, 1824,
emanating from the same high quarter, addressed to the justices of the
peace, municipalities, &c. and conceived in the same spirit with its
respectable associate.

This iniquitous and anti-christian enactment has been carried into
effect in several instances. M. Charles Rochat, minister of the gospel,
of the Canton de Vaud, of a respectable family, and whose brother is one
of the national clergy, of the Canton, is the first on whom the severity
of the law has fallen. Five persons were found seated round a table in
his own house, with the bible open before them: the wife of M. Rochat, a
common friend, with two of his sisters, and a young person, a stranger.
This was the whole crime. M. Rochat was found guilty of reading in his
own house, before his wife and four friends, a chapter of the New
Testament! For this he was at first condemned to three year's
banishment, which, however, the tribunal of appeal reduced to one year.

Next, M. Olivier was banished for two years, by the sentence of the same

Like judgments have been pronounced against M. M. Chavannes, Juvet, and
Fivas, of whom, the two former, were previously confined ten weeks in

Two females also were banished by the judgment de premiere instant, of
the tribunal of Orbe and Yverden, on the charge of similar meetings
being held at their houses; one of whom, however, has been since
acquitted at Lausanne, as it was proved that she lived with her mother,
and consequently that it was at her house, and not at hers, that some
friends, after dinner, read the bible together.

But it is not merely in the Canton de Vaud that these enormous instances
of injustice have occurred: at Neufchatel, an act of arbitrary power has
just been committed, almost incredible from its severity. An old law,
long obsolete, has been discovered, which, it seems, was passed two or
three hundred years back. An agriculturer has been made the first victim
of its revived powers. He received into his house M. Juvet, one of the
condemned ministers of the Canton de Vaud, and allowed him to administer
the sacrament. For this crime he was thrown into prison for three
months, and was then brought up in chains, and with a rope drawn tight
round his neck, to receive sentence. Ten years banishment was the
punishment pronounced; and that if he shall attempt to return before the
expiration of this term, he is to be marked with a hot iron for the
first offence, and for the second to be hanged. No passport was given
him, so that he was left to be hunted about from place to place, like
the most degraded criminal. This worthy man, whose name was Maguin, has
a wife and three children, for whom he has now no means of procuring a
support. [Wilson's Tour, 2d ed. page 325.]

These atrocities were practised by those who claim to be the only
enlightened and liberal characters of our day--by Unitarians and
Socinians--by men too, whose complaints respecting bigotry and
intolerance, have been the burden of many a long article, expressly
designed to represent orthodoxy as peculiarly relentless and cruel.

A large number of Swiss pastors have been driven into banishment, by the
inquisitorial proceedings of those who style themselves the liberal
party in Switzerland. Many of the exiles are now residing in different
parts of France, mostly near the frontiers of their own country--others
have found a home in different parts of Switzerland.

One of them is now in that place where the wicked cease from
troubling--and another seems rapidly advancing to it. M. Juvet, who
signed, with two other ministers, the letter to the "Council of State,"
having been banished from his own canton, sought an asylum in another
canton: this was refused. He then retired to Ferney Voltaire, and
pursued his labors. He was at that time weak from a pulmonary
consumption; but he ventured on an excursion to L'Isle of Mantrichen, to
visit those who were disposed to hear the word of God. "He was insulted,
attacked and pursued by the populace, from town to town; and at Le Isle,
where he arrived quite exhausted, and in profuse perspiration, he was
thrown into a cold dungeon, with only a chair and some chopped straw, on
which to pass the night. His friends were not permitted to give him
either food, fire, or clothing, and in this state he was detained
fifteen hours." For two months he was confined in the prison of Yverden,
under circumstances of severe illness and medical attendance was denied
him. After leaving the prison, he was presently arrested and expelled
the commune. Under such accumulated sufferings, nature at length gave
way: he slept in the Lord; and among his last prayers were petitions for
his persecutors whether the magistrates or the mob.

Recent information from Geneva, and the other cantons of Switzerland,
inform us that the spirit of persecution is still exhibited by the
liberal party in that country. Those who adhere to the Helvetic
Confession, and preach conformably to the doctrines of the creed of the
established church, are called "Momiers," "enthusiasts," and other terms
equally, unkind and unchristian. The liberal, or infidel party, do not
confine themselves simply to reproaches. They disturb the places of
public worship--they stone the people as they return from their
devotions--they arraign them before civil tribunals for preaching Christ
and him crucified--they impose fines upon them, subject them to
imprisonment, banishment, and even death itself. All this is done too,
in the 19th century, and by those who claim to be the only enlightened
and liberal party on the continent.

Next: Sketches Of The Lives Of Some Of The Most Eminent Reformers

Previous: Persecutions In Switzerland From 1813 To 1830

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