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

urs, 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


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."