Samuel Smiles

The Huguenots in France
For any pastor or preacher to be apprehended, was, of course, certain
death. Thus, out of thirteen Huguenots who were found worshipping in a
private apartment at Montpellier, in 1723, Vesson, the pastor, and
Bonicel and Antoine Comte, his assistants, were at once condemned and
hanged on the Peyrou, the other ten persons being imprisoned or sent
to the galleys for life.

Shortly after, Huc, the aged pastor, was taken prisoner in the
Cevennes, brought to Montpellier, and hanged in the same place. A
reward of a thousand livres was offered by Bernage, the intendant, for
the heads of the remaining preachers, the fatal list comprising the
names of Court, Cortez, Durand, Rouviere, Bombonnoux, and others. The
names of these "others" were not mentioned, not being yet thought
worthy of the gibbet.

And yet it was at this time that the Bishop of Alais made an appeal to
the government against the toleration shown to the Huguenots! In 1723,
he sent a long memorial to Paris, alleging that Catholicism was
suffering a serious injury; that not only had the "new converts"
withdrawn themselves from the Catholic Church, but that the old
Catholics themselves were resorting to the Huguenot assemblies; that
sometimes their meetings numbered from three to four thousand persons;
that their psalms were sometimes overheard in the surrounding
villages; that the churches were becoming deserted, the curés in some
parishes not being able to find a single Catholic to serve at Mass;
that the Protestants had ceased to send their children to school, and
were baptized and married without the intervention of the Church.

In consequence of these representations, the then Regent, the Duke of
Bourbon, sent down an urgent order to the authorities to carry out the
law--to prevent meetings, under penalty of death to preachers, and
imprisonment at the galleys to all who attended them, ordering that
the people should be _forced_ to go to church and the children to
school, and reviving generally the severe laws against Protestantism
issued by Louis XIV. The result was that many of the assemblies were
shortly after attacked and dispersed, many persons were made prisoners
and sent to the galleys, and many more preachers were apprehended,
racked, and hanged.

Repeated attempts were made to apprehend Antoine Court, as being the
soul of the renewed Protestant organization. A heavy reward was
offered for his head. The spies and police hunted after him in all
directions. Houses where he was supposed to be concealed were
surrounded by soldiers at night, and every hole and corner in them
ransacked. Three houses were searched in one night. Court sometimes
escaped with great difficulty. On one occasion he remained concealed
for more than twenty hours under a heap of manure. His friends
endeavoured to persuade him to leave the country until the activity of
the search for him had passed.

Since the year 1722, Court had undertaken new responsibilities. He had
become married, and was now the father of three children. He had
married a young Huguenot woman of Uzes. He first met her in her
father's house, while he was in hiding from the spies. While he was
engaged in his pastoral work his wife and family continued to live at
Uzes. Court was never seen in her company, but could only visit his
family secretly. The woman was known to be of estimable character, but
it gave rise to suspicions that she had three children without a known
father. The spies were endeavouring to unravel the secret, tempted by
the heavy reward offered for Court's head.

One day the new commandant of the town, passing before the door of the
house where Court's wife lived, stopped, and, pointing to the house,
put some questions to the neighbours. Court was informed of this, and
immediately supposed that his house had become known, that his wife
and family had been discovered and would be apprehended. He at once
made arrangements for having them removed to Geneva. They reached that
city in safety, in the month of April, 1729.

Shortly after, Court, still wandering and preaching about Languedoc,
became seriously ill. He feared for his wife, he feared for his
family, and conceived the design of joining them in Switzerland. A few
months later, exhausted by his labours and continued illness, he left
Languedoc and journeyed by slow stages to Geneva. He was still a young
man, only thirty-three; but he had worked excessively hard during the
last dozen years. Since the age of fourteen, in fact, he had
evangelized Languedoc.

Shortly before Court left France for Switzerland, the preacher,
Alexandre Roussel, was, in the year 1728, added to the number of
martyrs. He was only twenty-six years of age. The occasion on which he
was made prisoner was while attending an assembly near Vigan. The
whole of the people had departed, and Roussel was the last to leave
the meeting. He was taken to Montpellier, and imprisoned in the
citadel, which had before held so many Huguenot pastors. He was asked
to abjure, and offered a handsome bribe if he would become a Catholic.
He refused to deny his faith, and was sentenced to die. When Antoine
Court went to offer consolation to his mother, she replied, "If my son
had given way I should have been greatly distressed; but as he died
with constancy, I thank God for strengthening him to perform this last
work in his service."

Court did not leave his brethren in France without the expostulations
of his friends. They alleged that his affection for his wife and
family had cooled his zeal for God's service. Duplan and Cortez
expostulated with him; and the churches of Languedoc, which he himself
had established, called upon him to return to his duties amongst them.

But Court did not attend to their request. His determination was for
the present unshaken. He had a long arrears of work to do in quiet. He
had money to raise for the support of the suffering Church of France,
and for the proper maintenance of the college for students, preachers,
and pastors. He had to help the refugees, who still continued to leave
France for Switzerland, and to write letters and rouse the Protestant
kingdoms of the north, as Brousson had done before him some thirty
years ago.

The city of Berne was very generous in its treatment of Court and the
Huguenots generally. The Bernish Government allotted Court a pension
of five hundred livres a-year--for he was without the means of
supporting his family--all his own and his wife's property having been
seized and sequestrated in France. Court preached with great success
in the principal towns of Switzerland, more particularly at Berne, and
afterwards at Lausanne, where he spent the rest of his days.

Though he worked there more peacefully, he laboured as continuously as
ever in the service of the Huguenot churches. He composed addresses to
them; he educated preachers and pastors for them; and one of his
principal works, while at Lausanne, was to compose a history of the
Huguenots in France subsequent to the Revocation of the Edict of

What he had done for the reorganization of the Huguenot Church in
France may be thus briefly stated. Court had begun his work in 1715,
at which time there was no settled congregation in the South of
France. The Huguenots were only ministered to by occasional wandering
pastors. In 1729, the year in which Court finally left France, there
were in Lower Languedoc 29 organized, though secretly governed,
churches; in Upper Languedoc, 11; in the Cevennes, 18; in the Lozère
12; and in Viverais, 42 churches. There were now over 200,000
recognised Protestants in Languedoc alone. The ancient discipline had
been restored; 120 churches had been organized; a seminary for the
education of preachers and pastors had been established; and
Protestantism was extending in Dauphiny, Bearn, Saintonge,[58] and
other quarters.

         [Footnote 58: In 1726, a deputation from Guyenne, Royergue,
         and Poitou, appeared before the Languedoc synod, requesting
         preachers and pastors to be sent to them. The synod agreed to
         send Maroger as preacher. Bètrine (the first of the Lausanne
         students) and Grail were afterwards sent to join him.
         Protestantism was also reawakening in Saintonge and Picardy,
         and pastors from Languedoc journeyed there to administer the
         sacrament. Preachers were afterwards sent to join them, to
         awaken the people, and reorganize the congregations.]

Such were, in a great measure, the results of the labours of Antoine
Court and his assistants during the previous fifteen years.



The persecutions of the Huguenots increased at one time and relaxed at
another. When France was at war, and the soldiers were fighting in
Flanders or on the Rhine, the bishops became furious, and complained
bitterly to the government of the toleration shown to the Protestants.
The reason was that there were no regiments at liberty to pursue the
Huguenots and disperse their meetings in the Desert. When the soldiers
returned from the wars, persecution began again.

It usually began with the seizing and burning of books. The
book-burning days were considered amongst the great days of fête.

One day in June, 1730, the Intendant of Languedoc visited Nismes,
escorted by four battalions of troops. On arriving, the principal
Catholics were selected, and placed as commissaries to watch the
houses of the suspected Huguenots. At night, while the inhabitants
slept, the troops turned out, and the commissaries pointed out the
Huguenot houses to be searched. The inmates were knocked up, the
soldiers entered, the houses were rummaged, and all the books that
could be found were taken to the Hôtel de Ville.

A few days after a great _auto-da-fé_ was held. The entire Catholic
population turned out. There were the four battalions of troops, the
gendarmes, the Catholic priests, and the chief dignitaries; and in
their presence all the Huguenot books were destroyed. They were thrown
into a pile on the usual place of execution, and the hangman set fire
to this great mass of Bibles, psalm-books, catechisms, and
sermons.[59] The officers laughed, the priests sneered, the multitude
cheered. These bonfires were of frequent occurrence in all the towns
of Languedoc.

         [Footnote 59: E. Hughes, "Histoire de la Restauration, du
         Protestantisme en France," ii. 96.]

But if the priests hated the printed word, still more did they hate
the spoken word. They did not like the Bible, but they hated the
preachers. Fines, _auto-da-fés_, condemnation to the galleys, seizures
of women and girls, and profanation of the dead, were tolerable
punishments, but there was nothing like hanging a preacher. "Nothing,"
said Saint-Florentin to the commandant of La Devese, "can produce more
impression than hanging a preacher; and it is very desirable that you
should immediately take steps to arrest one of them."

The commandant obeyed orders, and apprehended Pierre Durand. He was on
his way to baptize the child of one of his congregation, who lived on
a farm in Viverais. An apparent peasant, who seemed to be waiting his
approach, offered to conduct him to the farm. Durand followed him. The
peasant proved to be a soldier in disguise. He led Durand directly
into the midst of his troop. There he was bound and carried off to

Durand was executed at the old place--the Peyrou--the soldiers
beating their drums to stifle his voice while he prayed. His corpse
was laid beside that of Alexandre Roussel, under the rampart of the
fortress of Montpellier. Durand was the last of the preachers in
France who had attended the synod of 1715. They had all been executed,
excepting only Antoine Court, who was safe in Switzerland.

The priests were not so successful with Claris, the preacher, who
contrived to escape their clutches. Claris had just reached France on
his return from the seminary at Lausanne. He had taken shelter for the
night with a Protestant friend at Foissac, near Uzes. Scarcely had he
fallen asleep, when the soldiers, informed by the spies, entered his
chamber, bound him, and marched him off on foot by night, to Alais. He
was thrown into gaol, and was afterwards judged and condemned to
death. His friends in Alais, however, secretly contrived to get an
iron chisel passed to him in prison. He raised the stone of a chamber
which communicated with his dungeon, descended to the ground, and
silently leapt the wall. He was saved.

Pastors and preachers continued to be tracked and hunted with renewed
ardour in Saintonge, Poitou, Gascony, and Dauphiny. "The Chase," as it
was called, was better organized than it had been for twenty years
previously. The Catholic clergy, however, continued to complain. The
chase, they said, was not productive enough! The hangings of pastors
were too few. The curates of the Cevennes thus addressed the
intendants: "You do not perform your duty: you are neither active
enough nor pitiless enough;"[60] and they requested the government to
adopt more vigorous measures.

         [Footnote 60: E. Hughes, ii. 99. Coquerel, "L'Église dans le
         Désert," i. 258.]

The intendants, who were thus accused, insisted that they _had_ done
their duty. They had hanged all the Huguenot preachers that the
priests and their spies had discovered and brought to them. They had
also offered increased rewards for the preachers' heads. If
Protestantism counted so large a number of adherents, _they_ were
surely not to blame for that! Had the priests themselves done _their_
duty? Thus the intendants and the curés reproached each other by

And yet the pastors and preachers had not been spared. They had been
hanged without mercy. They knew they were in the peril of constant
death. "I have slept fifteen days in a meadow," wrote Cortez, the
pastor, "and I write this under a tree." Morel, the preacher, when
attending an assembly, was fired at by the soldiers and died of his
wounds. Pierre Dortial was also taken prisoner when holding an
assembly. The host with whom he lived was condemned to the galleys for
life; the arrondissement in which the assembly had been held was
compelled to pay a fine of three thousand livres; and Dortial himself
was sentenced to be hanged. When the aged preacher was informed of his
sentence he exclaimed: "What an honour for me, oh my God! to have been
chosen from so many others to suffer death because of my constancy to
the truth." He was executed at Nismes, and died with courage.

In 1742 France was at war, and the Huguenots enjoyed a certain amount
of liberty. The edicts against them were by no means revoked; their
execution was merely suspended. The provinces were stripped of troops,
and the clergy could no longer call upon them to scatter the meetings
in the Desert. Hence the assemblies increased. The people began to
think that the commandants of the provinces had received orders to
shut their eyes, and see nothing of the proceedings of the Huguenots.

At a meeting held in a valley between Calvisson and Langlade, in
Languedoc, no fewer than ten thousand persons openly met for worship.
No troops appeared. There was no alarm nor surprise. Everything passed
in perfect quiet. In many other places, public worship was celebrated,
the sacrament was administered, children were baptized, and marriages
were celebrated in the open day.[61]

         [Footnote 61: Although marriages by the pastors had long been
         declared illegal, they nevertheless married and baptized in
         the Desert. After 1730, the number of Protestant marriages
         greatly multiplied, though it was known that the issue of
         such marriages were declared, by the laws of France to be
         illegal. Many of the Protestants of Dauphiny went across the
         frontier into Switzerland, principally to Geneva, and were
         there married.]

The Catholics again urgently complained to the government of the
increasing number of Huguenot meetings. The Bishop of Poitiers
complained that in certain parishes of his diocese there was not now a
single Catholic. Low Poitou contained thirty Protestant churches,
divided into twelve arrondissements, and each arrondissement contained
about seven thousand members. The Procureur-Général of Normandy said,
"All this country is full of Huguenots." But the government had at
present no troops to spare, and the Catholic bishops and clergy must
necessarily wait until the war with the English and the Austrians had
come to an end.

Antoine Court paid a short visit to Languedoc in 1744, to reconcile a
difference which had arisen in the Church through the irregular
conduct of Pastor Boyer. Court was received with great enthusiasm, and
when Boyer was re-established in his position as pastor, after making
his submission to the synod, a convocation of Huguenots was held near
Sauzet, at which thousands of people were present. Court remained for
about a month in France, preaching almost daily to immense audiences.
At Nismes, he preached at the famous place for Huguenot meetings--in
the old quarry, about three miles from the town. There were about
twenty thousand persons present, ranged, as in an amphitheatre, along
the sides of the quarry. It was a most impressive sight. Peasants and
gentlemen mixed together. Even the "beau monde" of Nismes was present.
Everybody thought that there was now an end of the persecution.[62]

         [Footnote 62: Of the preachers about this time (1740-4) the
         best known were Morel, Foriel, Mauvillon, Voulaud, Corteiz,
         Peyrot, Roux, Gauch, Coste, Dugnière, Blachon, Gabriac,
         Déjours, Rabaut, Gibert, Mignault, Désubas, Dubesset, Pradel,
         Morin, Defferre, Loire, Pradon,--with many more. Defferre
         restored Protestantism in Berne. Loire (a native of St. Omer,
         and formerly a Catholic), Viala, Préneuf, and Prudon, were
         the apostles of Normandy, Rouergue, Guyenne, and Poitou.]

In the meantime the clergy continued to show signs of increasing
irritation. They complained, denounced, and threatened. Various
calumnies were invented respecting the Huguenots. The priests of
Dauphiny gave out that Roger, the pastor, had read an edict purporting
to be signed by Louis XV. granting complete toleration to the
Huguenots! The report was entirely without foundation, and Roger
indignantly denied that he had read any such edict. But the report
reached the ears of the King, then before Ypres with his army; on
which he issued a proclamation announcing that the rumour publicly
circulated that it was his intention to tolerate the Huguenots was
absolutely false.

No sooner had the war terminated, and the army returned to France,
than the persecutions recommenced as hotly as ever. The citizens of
Nismes, for having recently encouraged the Huguenots and attended
Court's great meeting, were heavily fined. All the existing laws for
the repression and destruction of Protestantism were enforced.
Suspected persons were apprehended and imprisoned without trial. A new
"hunt" was set on foot for preachers. There were now plenty of
soldiers at liberty to suppress the meetings in the Desert, and they
were ordered into the infested quarters. In a word, persecution was
let loose all over France. Nor was it without the usual results. It
was very hot in Dauphiny. There a detachment of horse police,
accompanied by regular troops and a hangman, ran through the province
early in 1745, spreading terror everywhere. One of their exploits was
to seize a sick old Huguenot, drag him from his bed, and force him
towards prison. He died upon the road.

In February, it was ascertained that the Huguenots met for worship in
a certain cavern. The owner of the estate on which the cavern was
situated, though unaware of the meetings, was fined a thousand crowns,
and imprisoned for a year in the Castle of Cret.

Next month, Louis Ranc, a pastor, was seized at Livron while baptizing
an infant, taken to Die, and hanged. He had scarcely breathed his
last, when the hangman cut the cord, hewed off the head, and made a
young Protestant draw the corpse along the streets of Die.

In the month of April, 1745, Jacques Roger, the old friend and
coadjutor of Court--the apostle of Dauphiny as Court had been of
Languedoc--was taken prisoner and conducted to Grenoble. Roger was
then eighty years old, worn out with privation and hard work. He was
condemned to death. He professed his joy at being still able to seal
with his blood the truths he had so often proclaimed. On his way to
the scaffold, he sang aloud the fifty-first Psalm. He was executed in
the Place du Breuil. After he had hung for twenty-four hours, his body
was taken down, dragged along the streets of Grenoble, and thrown into
the Isère.

At Grenoble also, in the same year, seven persons were condemned to
the galleys. A young woman was publicly whipped at the same place for
attending a Huguenot meeting. Seven students and pastors who could not
be found, were hanged in effigy. Four houses were demolished for
having served as asylums for preachers. Fines were levied on all
sides, and punishments of various kinds were awarded to many hundred
persons. Thus persecution ran riot in Dauphiny in the years 1745 and

In Languedoc it was the same. The prisons and the galleys were always
kept full. Dragoons were quartered in the Huguenot villages, and by
this means the inhabitants were soon ruined. The soldiers pillaged the
houses, destroyed the furniture, tore up the linen, drank all the
wine, and, when they were in good humour, followed the cattle, swine,
and fowl, and killed them off sword in hand. Montauban, an old
Huguenot town, was thus ruined in the course of a very few months.

One day, in a Languedoc village, a soldier seized a young girl with a
foul intention. She cried aloud, and the villagers came to her rescue.
The dragoons turned out in a body, and fired upon the people. An old
man was shot dead, a number of the villagers were taken prisoners,
and, with their hands tied to the horses' tails, were conducted for
punishment to Montauban.

All the towns and villages in Upper Languedoc were treated with the
same cruelty. Nismes was fined over and over again. Viverais was
treated with the usual severity. M. Désubas, the pastor, was taken
prisoner there, and conducted to Vernoux. As the soldiers led him
through the country to prison, the villagers came out in crowds to see
him pass. Many followed the pastor, thinking they might be able to
induce the magistrates of Vernoux to liberate him. The villagers were
no sooner cooped up in a mass in the chief street of the town, than
they were suddenly fired upon by the soldiers. Thirty persons were
killed on the spot, more than two hundred were wounded, and many
afterwards died of their wounds.

Désubas, the pastor, was conducted to Nismes, and from Nismes to
Montpellier. While on his way to death at Montpellier, some of his
peasant friends, who lived along the road, determined to rescue him.
But when Paul Rabaut heard of the proposed attempt, he ran to the
place where the people had assembled and held them back. He was
opposed to all resistance to the governing power, and thought it
possible, by patience and righteousness, to live down all this
horrible persecution.

Désubas was judged, and, as usual, condemned to death. Though it was
winter time, he was led to his punishment almost naked; his legs
uncovered, and only in thin linen vest over his body. Arrived at the
gallows, his books and papers were burnt before his eyes, and he was
then delivered over to the executioner. A Jesuit presented a crucifix
for him to kiss, but he turned his head to one side, raised his eyes
upwards, and was then hanged.

The same persecution prevailed over the greater part of France. In
Saintonge, Elie Vivien, the preacher, was taken prisoner, and hanged
at La Rochelle. His body remained for twenty-four hours on the
gallows. It was then placed upon a forked gibbet, where it hung until
the bones were picked clean by the crows and bleached by the wind and
the sun.[63]

         [Footnote 63: E. Hughes, "Histoire de la Restauration," &c.,
         ii. 202.]

The same series of persecutions went on from one year to another. It
was a miserable monotony of cruelty. There was hanging for the
pastors; the galleys for men attending meetings in the Desert; the
prisons and convents for women and children. Wherever it was found
that persons had been married by the Huguenot pastors, they were haled
before the magistrate, fined and imprisoned, and told that they had
been merely living in concubinage, and that their children were

Sometimes it was thought that the persecutors would relent. France was
again engaged in a disastrous war with England and Austria; and it was
feared that England would endeavour to stir up a rebellion amongst the
Huguenots. But the pastors met in a general synod, and passed
resolutions assuring the government of their loyalty to the King,[64]
and of their devotion to the laws of France!

         [Footnote 64: On the 1st of November, 1746, the ministers of
         Languedoc met in haste, and wrote to the Intendant, Le Nain:
         "Monseigneur, nous n'avons aucune connaissance de ces gens
         qu'on appelle émissaires, et qu'on dit être envoyés des pays
         étrangers pour solliciter les Protestants à la révolte. Nous
         avons exhorté, et nous nous proposons d'exhorter encore dans
         toutes les occasions, nos troupeaux à la soumission au
         souverain et à la patience dans les afflictions, et de nous
         écarter jamais de la pratique de ce précepte: Craignez Dieu
         et honorez le roi."]

Their "loyalty" proved of no use. The towns of Languedoc were as
heavily fined as before, for attending meetings in the Desert.[65]
Children were, as usual, taken away from their parents and placed in
Jesuit convents. Le Nain apprehended Jean Desjours, and had him hanged
at Montpellier, on the ground that he had accompanied the peasants
who, as above recited, went into Vernoux after the martyr Désubas.

         [Footnote 65: Près de Saint-Ambroix (Cevennes) se tint un
         jour une assemblée. Survint un détachement. Les femmes et les
         filles furent dépouillées, violées, et quelques hommes furent
         blessés.--E. HUGHES, _Histoire de la Restauration, &c._, ii.

The Catholics would not even allow Protestant corpses to be buried in
peace. At Levaur a well-known Huguenot died. Two of his friends went
to dig a grave for him by night; they were observed by spies and
informed against. By dint of money and entreaties, however, the
friends succeeded in getting the dead man buried. The populace,
stirred up by the White Penitents (monks), opened the grave, took out
the corpse, sawed the head from the body, and prepared to commit
further outrages, when the police interfered, and buried the body
again, in consideration of the large sum that had been paid to the
authorities for its interment.

The populace were always wild for an exhibition of cruelty. In
Provence, a Protestant named Montague died, and was secretly interred.
The Catholics having discovered the place where he was buried
determined to disinter him. The grave was opened, and the corpse taken
out. A cord was attached to the neck, and the body was hauled through
the village to the music of a tambourine and flageolet. At every step
it was kicked or mauled by the crowd who accompanied it. Under the
kicks the corpse burst. The furious brutes then took out the entrails
and attached them to poles, going through the village crying, "Who
wants preachings? Who wants preachings?"[66]

         [Footnote 66: Antoine Court, "Mémoire Historique," 140.]

To such a pitch of brutality had the kings of France and their
instigators, the Jesuits--who, since the Revocation of the Edict, had
nearly the whole education of the country in their hands--reduced the
people; from whom they were themselves, however, to suffer almost an
equal amount of indignity.

In the midst of these hangings and cruelties, the bishops again
complained bitterly of the tolerance granted to the Huguenots. M. de
Montclus, Bishop of Alais, urged "that the true cause of all the evils
that afflict the country was the relaxation of the laws against heresy
by the magistrates, that they gave themselves no trouble to persecute
the Protestants, and that their further emigration from the kingdom
was no more to be feared than formerly." It was, they alleged, a great
danger to the country that there should be in it two millions of men
allowed to live without church and outside the law.[67]

         [Footnote 67: See "Memorial of General Assembly of Clergy to
         the King," in _Collection des procès-verbaux_, 345.]

The afflicted Church at this time had many misfortunes to contend
with. In 1748, the noble, self-denying, indefatigable Claris died--one
of the few Protestant pastors who died in his bed. In 1750, the
eloquent young preacher, François Benezet,[68] was taken and hanged at
Montpellier. Meetings in the Desert were more vigorously attacked and
dispersed, and when surrounded by the soldiers, most persons were
shot; the others were taken prisoners.

         [Footnote 68: The King granted 480 livres of reward to the
         spy who detected Benezet and procured his apprehension by the

The Huguenot pastors repeatedly addressed Louis XV. and his ministers,
appealing to them for protection as loyal subjects. In 1750 they
addressed the King in a new memorial, respectfully representing that
their meetings for public worship, sacraments, baptisms, and
marriages, were matters of conscience. They added: "Your troops pursue
us in the deserts as if we were wild beasts; our property is
confiscated; our children are torn from us; we are condemned to the
galleys; and although our ministers continually exhort us to discharge
our duty as good citizens and faithful subjects, a price is set upon
their heads, and when they are taken, they are cruelly executed." But
Louis XV. and his ministers gave no greater heed to this petition than
they had done to those which had preceded it.

After occasional relays the Catholic persecutions again broke out. In
1752 there was a considerable emigration in consequence of a new
intendant having been appointed to Languedoc. The Catholics called
upon him to put in force the powers of the law. New brooms sweep
clean. The Intendant proceeded to carry out the law with such ferocity
as to excite great terror throughout the province. Meetings were
surrounded; prisoners taken and sent to the galleys; and all the gaols
and convents were filled with women and children.

The emigration began again. Many hundred persons went to Holland; and
a still larger number went to settle with their compatriots as silk
and poplin weavers in Dublin. The Intendant of Languedoc tried to stop
their flight. The roads were again watched as before. All the outlets
from the kingdom were closed by the royalist troops. Many of the
intending emigrants were made prisoners. They were spoiled of
everything, robbed of their money, and thrown into gaol. Nevertheless,
another large troop started, passed through Switzerland, and reached
Ireland at the end of the year.

At the same time, emigration was going on from Normandy and Poitou,
where persecution was compelling the people to fly from their own
shores and take refuge in England. This religious emigration of 1752
was, however, almost the last which took place from France. Though the
persecutions were drawing to an end, they had not yet come to a close.

In 1754, the young pastor Tessier (called Lafage), had just returned
from Lausanne, where he had been pursuing his studies for three years.
He had been tracked by a spy to a certain house, where he had spent
the night. Next morning the house was surrounded by soldiers. Tessier
tried to escape by getting out of a top window and running along the
roofs of the adjoining houses. A soldier saw him escaping and shot at
him. He was severely wounded in the arm. He was captured, taken before
the Intendant of Languedoc, condemned, and hanged in the course of the
same day.

Religious meetings also continued to be surrounded, and were treated
in the usual brutal manner. For instance, an assembly was held in
Lower Languedoc on the 8th of August, 1756, for the purpose of
ordaining to the ministry three young men who had arrived from
Lausanne, where they had been educated. A number of pastors were
present, and as many as from ten to twelve thousand men, women, and
children were there from the surrounding country. The congregation was
singing a psalm, when a detachment of soldiers approached. The people
saw them; the singing ceased; the pastors urging patience and
submission. The soldiers fired; every shot told; and the crowd fled in
all directions. The meeting was thus dispersed, leaving the
murderers--in other words, the gallant soldiers--masters of the field;
a long track of blood remaining to mark the site on which the
prayer-meeting had been held.

It is not necessary to recount further cruelties and tortures.
Assemblies surrounded and people shot; preachers seized and hanged;
men sent to the galleys; women sent to the Tour de Constance; children
carried off to the convents--such was the horrible ministry of torture
in France. When Court heard of the re-inflictions of some old form of
torture--"Alas," said he, "there is nothing new under the sun. In all
times, the storm of persecution has cleansed the threshing-floor of
the Lord."

And yet, notwithstanding all the bitterness of the persecution, the
number of Protestants increased. It is difficult to determine their
numbers. Their apologists said they amounted to three millions;[69]
their detractors that they did not amount to four hundred thousand.
The number of itinerant pastors, however, steadily grew. In 1756 there
were 48 pastors at work, with 22 probationary preachers and students.
In 1763 there were 62 pastors, 35 preachers, and 15 students.

         [Footnote 69: Ripert de Monclar, procureur-général, writing
         in 1755, says: "According to the jurisprudence of this
         kingdom, there are no French Protestants, and yet, according
         to the truth of facts, there are three millions. These
         imaginary beings fill the towns, provinces, and rural
         districts, and the capital alone contains sixty thousand of

Then followed the death of Antoine Court himself in Switzerland--after
watching over the education and training of preachers at the Lausanne
Seminary. Feeling his powers beginning to fail, he had left Lausanne,
and resided at Timonex. There, assisted by his son Court de Gébelin,
Professor of Logic at the College, he conducted an immense
correspondence with French Protestants at home and abroad.

Court's wife died in 1755, to his irreparable loss. His "Rachel,"
during his many years of peril, had been his constant friend and
consoler. Unable, after her death, to live at Timonex, so full of
cruel recollections, Court returned to Lausanne. He did not long
survive his wife's death. While engaged in writing the history of the
Reformed Church of France, he was taken ill. His history of the
Camisards was sent to press, and he lived to revise the first
proof-sheets. But he did not survive to see the book published. He
died on the 15th June, 1760, in the sixty-fourth year of his age.

From the time of Court's death--indeed from the time that Court left
France to settle at Lausanne--Paul Rabaut continued to be looked upon
as the leader and director of the proscribed Huguenot Church. Rabaut
originally belonged to Bedarieux in Languedoc. He was a great friend
of Pradel's. Rabaut served the Church at Nismes, and Pradel at Uzes.
Both spent two years at Lausanne in 1744-5. Court entertained the
highest affection for Rabaut, and regarded him as his successor. And
indeed he nobly continued the work which Court had begun.

Besides being zealous, studious, and pious, Rabaut was firm, active,
shrewd, and gentle. He stood strongly upon moral force. Once, when the
Huguenots had become more than usually provoked by the persecutions
practised on them, they determined to appear armed at the assemblies.
Rabaut peremptorily forbade it. If they persevered, he would forsake
their meetings. He prevailed, and they came armed only with their

The directness of Rabaut's character, the nobility of his sentiments,
the austerity of his life, and his heroic courage, evidently destined
him as the head of the work which Court had begun. Antoine Court! Paul
Rabaut! The one restored Protestantism in France, the other rooted and
established it.

Rabaut's enthusiasm may be gathered from the following extract of a
letter which he wrote to a friend at Geneva: "When I fix my attention
upon the divine fire with which, I will not say Jesus Christ and the
Apostles, but the Reformed and their immediate successors, burned for
the salvation of souls, it seems to me that, in comparison with them,
we are ice. Their immense works astound me, and at the same time cover
me with confusion. What would I not give to resemble them in
everything laudable!"

Rabaut had the same privations, perils, and difficulties to undergo as
the rest of the pastors in the Desert. He had to assume all sorts of
names and disguises while he travelled through the country, in order
to preach at the appointed places. He went by the names of M. Paul, M.
Denis, M. Pastourel, and M. Theophile; and he travelled under the
disguises of a common labourer, a trader, a journeyman, and a baker.

He was condemned to death, as a pastor who preached in defiance of the
law; but his disguises were so well prepared, and the people for whom
he ministered were so faithful to him, that the priests and other
spies never succeeded in apprehending him. Singularly enough, he was
in all other respects in favour of the recognition of legal authority,
and strongly urged his brethren never to adopt any means whatever of
forcibly resisting the King's orders.

Many of the military commanders were becoming disgusted with the
despicable and cowardly business which the priests called upon them to
do. Thus, on one occasion, a number of Protestants had assembled at
the house of Paul Rabaut at Nismes, and, while they were on their
knees, the door was suddenly burst open, when a man, muffled up,
presented himself, and throwing open his cloak, discovered the
military commandant of the town. "My friends," he said, "you have Paul
Rabaut with you; in a quarter of an hour I shall be here with my
soldiers, accompanied by Father ----, who has just laid the
information against you." When the soldiers arrived, headed by the
commandant and the father, of course no Paul Rabaut was to be found.

"For more than thirty years," says one of Paul Rabaut's biographers,
"caverns and huts, whence he was unearthed like a wild animal, were
his only habitation. For a long time he dwelt in a safe hiding-place
that one of his faithful guides had provided for him, under a pile of
stones and thorn-bushes. It was discovered at length by a shepherd,
and such was the wretchedness of his condition, that, when he was
forced to abandon the place, he still regretted this retreat, which
was more fit for savage beasts than men."

Yet this hut of piled stones was for some time the centre of
Protestant affairs in France. All the faithful instinctively turned to
Rabaut when assailed by fresh difficulties and persecutions, and acted
on his advice. He obtained the respect even of the Catholics
themselves, because it was known that he was a friend of peace, and
opposed to all risings and rebellions amongst his people.

Once he had the courage to present a petition to the Marquis de
Paulmy, Minister of War, when changing horses at a post-house between
Nismes and Montpellier. Rabaut introduced himself by name, and the
Marquis knew that it was the proscribed pastor who stood before him.
He might have arrested and hanged Rabaut on the spot; but, impressed
by the noble bearing of the pastor, he accepted the petition, and
promised to lay it before the king.



In the year 1762, the execution of an unknown Protestant at Toulouse
made an extraordinary noise in Europe. Protestant pastors had so often
been executed, that the punishment had ceased to be a novelty.
Sometimes they were simply hanged; at other times they were racked,
and then hanged; and lastly, they were racked, had their larger bones
broken, and were then hanged. Yet none of the various tortures
practised on the Protestant pastors had up to that time excited any
particular sensation in France itself, and still less in Europe.

Cruelty against French Huguenots was so common a thing in those days,
that few persons who were of any other religion, or of no religion at
all, cured anything about it. The Protestants were altogether outside
the law. When a Protestant meeting was discovered and surrounded, and
men, women, and children were at once shot down, no one could call the
murderers in question, because the meetings were illegal. The persons
taken prisoners at the meetings were brought before the magistrates
and sentenced to punishments even worse than death. They might be sent
to the galleys, to spend the remainder of their lives amongst
thieves, murderers, and assassins. Women and children found at such
meetings might also be sentenced to be imprisoned in the Tour de
Constance. There were even cases of boys of twelve years old having
been sent to the galleys for life, because of having accompanied their
parents to "the Preaching."[70]

         [Footnote 70: Athanase Coquerel, "Les Forçats pour la Foi,"

The same cruelties were at that time practised upon the common people
generally, whether they were Huguenots or not. The poor creatures,
whose only pleasure consisted in sometimes hunting a Protestant, were
so badly off in some districts of France that they even fed upon
grass. The most distressed districts in France were those in which the
bishops and clergy were the principal owners of land. They were the
last to abandon slavery, which continued upon their estates until
after the Revolution.

All these abominations had grown up in France, because the people had
begun to lose the sense of individual liberty. Louis XIV. had in his
time prohibited the people from being of any religion different from
his own. "His Majesty," said his Prime Minister Louvois, "will not
suffer any person to remain in his kingdom who shall not be of his
religion." And Louis XV. continued the delusion. The whole of the
tyrannical edicts and ordinances of Louis XIV. continued to be

It was not that Louis XIV. and Louis XV. were kings of any virtue or
religion. Both were men of exceedingly immoral habits. We have
elsewhere described Louis XIV., but Louis XV., the Well-beloved, was
perhaps the greatest profligate of the two. Madame de Pompadour, when
she ceased to be his mistress, became his procuress. This infamous
woman had the command of the state purse, and she contrived to build
for the sovereign a harem, called the Parc-aux-Cerfs, in the park of
Versailles, which cost the country at least a hundred millions of
francs.[71] The number of young girls taken from Paris to this place
excited great public discontent; and though morals generally were not
very high at that time, the debauchery and intemperance of the King
(for he was almost constantly drunk)[72] contributed to alienate the
nation, and to foster those feelings of hatred which broke forth
without restraint in the ensuing reign.

         [Footnote 71: "Madame de Pompadour découvrit que Louis XV.
         pourrait lui-même s'amuser à faire l'éducation de ces jeunes
         malheureuses. De petites filles de neuf à douze ans,
         lorsqu'elles avaient attiré les regards de la police par leur
         beauté, étaient enlevées à leurs mères par plusieurs
         artifices, conduites à Versailles, et retenues dans les
         parties les plus élevées et les plus inaccessibles des petits
         appartements du roi.... Le nombre des malheureuses qui
         passèrent successivement à Parc-aux-Cerfs est immense; à leur
         sortie elles étaient mariées à des hommes vils ou crédules
         auxquels elles apportaient une bonne dot. Quelques unes
         conservaient un traitement fort considerable." "Les dépenses
         du Parc-aux-Cerfs, dit Lacratelle, se payaient avec des
         acquits du comptant. Il est difficile de les évaluer; mais il
         ne peut y avoir aucune exagération à affirmer qu'elles
         coûtèrent plus de 100 millions à l'État. Dans quelques
         libelles on les porte jusqu'à un milliard."--SISMONDI,
         _Histoire de Française_, Brussels, 1844, xx. 153-4. The
         account given by Sismondi of the debauches of this persecutor
         of the Huguenots is very full. It is _not_ given in the "Old
         Court Life of France," recently written by a lady.]

         [Footnote 72: Sismondi, xx. 157.]

In the midst of all this public disregard for virtue, a spirit of
ribaldry and disregard for the sanctions of religion had long been
making its appearance in the literature of the time. The highest
speculations which can occupy the attention of man were touched with a
recklessness and power, a brilliancy of touch and a bitterness of
satire, which forced the sceptical productions of the day upon the
notice of all who studied, read, or delighted in literature;--for
those were the days of Voltaire, Rousseau, Condorcet, and the great
men of "The Encyclopædia."

While the King indulged in his vicious pleasures, and went reeking
from his debaucheries to obtain absolution from his confessors, the
persecution of the Protestants went on as before. Nor was it until
public opinion (such as it was) was brought to bear upon the hideous
incongruity that religious persecutions were at once brought summarily
to an end.

The last executions of Huguenots in France because of their
Protestantism occurred in 1762. Francis Rochette, a young pastor,
twenty-six years old, was laid up by sickness at Montauban. He
recovered sufficiently to proceed to the waters of St. Antonin for the
recovery of his health, when he was seized, together with his two
guides or bearers, by the burgess guard of the town of Caussade. The
three brothers Grenier endeavoured to intercede for them; but the
mayor of Caussade, proud of his capture, sent the whole of the
prisoners to gaol.

They were tried by the judges of Toulouse on the 18th of February.
Rochette was condemned to be hung in his shirt, his head and feet
uncovered, with a paper pinned on his shirt before and behind, with
the words written thereon--"_Ministre de la religion prétendue
réformée._" The three brothers Grenier, who interfered on behalf of
Rochette, were ordered to have their heads taken off for resisting the
secular power; and the two guides, who were bearing the sick Rochette
to St. Antonin for the benefit of the waters, were sent to the galleys
for life.

Barbarous punishments such as these were so common when Protestants
were the offenders, that the decision, of the judges did not excite
any particular sensation. It was only when Jean Calas was shortly
after executed at Toulouse that an extraordinary sensation was
produced--and that not because Calas was a Protestant, but because his
punishment came under the notice of Voltaire, who exposed the inhuman
cruelty to France, Europe, and the world at large.

The reason why Protestant executions terminated with the death of
Calas was as follows:--The family of Jean Calas resided at Toulouse,
then one of the most bigoted cities in France. Toulouse swarmed with
priests and monks, more Spanish than French in their leanings. They
were great in relics, processions, and confraternities. While
"mealy-mouthed" Catholics in other quarters were becoming somewhat
ashamed of the murders perpetrated during the Massacre of St.
Bartholomew, and were even disposed to deny them, the more outspoken
Catholics of Toulouse were even proud of the feat, and publicly
celebrated the great southern Massacre of St. Bartholomew which took
place in 1572. The procession then held was one of the finest church
commemorations in the south; it was followed by bishops, clergy, and
the people of the neighbourhood, in immense numbers.

Calas was an old man of sixty-four, and reduced to great weakness by a
paralytic complaint. He and his family were all Protestants excepting
one son, who had become a Catholic. Another of the sons, however, a
man of ill-regulated life, dissolute, and involved in pecuniary
difficulties, committed suicide by hanging himself in an outhouse.

On this, the brotherhood of White Penitents stirred up a great fury
against the Protestant family in the minds of the populace. The monks
alleged that Jean Calas had murdered his son because he wished to
become a Catholic. They gave out that it was a practice of the
Protestants to keep an executioner to murder their children who wished
to abjure the reformed faith, and that one of the objects of the
meetings which they held in the Desert, was to elect this executioner.
The White Penitents celebrated mass for the suicide's soul; they
exhibited his figure with a palm branch in his hand, and treated him
as a martyr.

The public mind became inflamed. A fanatical judge, called David, took
up the case, and ordered Calas and his whole family to be sent to
prison. Calas was tried by the court of Toulouse. They tortured the
whole family to compel them to confess the murder;[73] but they did
not confess. The court wished to burn the mother, but they ended by
condemning the paralytic father to be broken alive on the wheel.[74]
The parliament of Toulouse confirmed the atrocious sentence, and the
old man perished in torments, declaring to the last his entire
innocence. The rest of the family were discharged, although if there
had been any truth in the charge for which Jean Calas was racked to
death, they must necessarily have been his accomplices, and equally
liable to punishment.
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