« PrejšnjaNaprej »
fessed as he was unscrupulous and lax in the morals he practised. Intolerant of any opinion not his own, he condemned freedom of conscience in his subjects as tantamount to rebellion against his kingly authority. In religion, as in other matters, he would be absolute.
The minor party, that of the Huguenots, or Calvinists, still retained the characteristics sternly impressed upon it by its founder; which caused its adherents to live a life as totally at variance with that of their countrymen as was their belief. The severe and inflexible decrees of Almighty God, and the impotence of man's will in influencing his own destiny, being the basis of the Huguenot's creed, it produced in him a rigid severity of morals which, repressing all the natural instincts and emotions, caused a corresponding austerity of manner in his private life; while his natural independence of character, joined to the conviction of the hopelessness of his cause, gave him an air of defiance in his public demeanor and intercourse with the outer world. The former party, powerful and allimportant, were as arrogant as such characteristics usually cause their possessors to become ; while the other, no longer of political importance and consequently possessed of no influence at court, bowed to the inevitable, and, although subdued, were not conquered.
Cardinal de Richelieu, upon his elevation to the prime ministry, set himself to the accomplishment of three things; and having already effected two of them, namely, the humiliation of Austria and the extinction of feudalism, turned his attention to the one that lay nearest home, - the subjugation and conversion of the Huguenots.
Their subjugation he had effected in the year 1628 by the siege and possession of La Rochelle, which had been followed by the reduction of Montauban, the last stronghold of the Huguenots in France. The terms of capitulation at La Rochelle had been
liberal in the extreme, far more so than the besieged had dared to hope ; and since the treaty signed at Alais in 1629 difference in religion had never prevented the cardinal from rendering the conquered all sorts of good offices, nor had it caused him to make any distinction between Frenchmen in the fulfilment of the duties of his office.? Notwithstanding the late revolt of the Rochellese, he had continued to protect the religious as well as the civil rights guaranteed to them by Henri Quatre in 1598, in what is known as the “Edict of Nantes.'
But in regard to their conversion, even the sagacious Richelieu was mistaken, perhaps for the first time in his political career. The peaceful submission of the Huguenots was only the result of necessity. Their ambitious hopes crushed, their numbers depleted by the many wars they had undertaken, as well as the abandonment of their cause by the greater number of their nobility, had combined to oblige them to relinquish all hopes for the future, and set themselves to the work of repairing the sad effects of the last war; consequently those districts of France inhabited by them soon began to present their former appearance of fertility and thriftiness.
Excluded from higher pursuits, those of the Huguenots whose means permitted them to do so, lived in retirement; devoting themselves to the management of their estates, or else engaging in commerce, which they soon controlled to a considerable extent. Others turned their energies toward the development of the different manufactures in which, by their close application and enterprise, they soon excelled to such a degree as to cause some of its branches to become almost a monopoly with them.
With returning prosperity and a steady increase of population, the Huguenots began to raise their heads
2 Richelieu's own testimony.
again; and, as their religious as well as civil rights were secured to them, their academies soon became national synods; and they have been charged with infractions of several of the articles of the Edict.
Deprived, by death, of the counsels of the sagacious Richelieu and the prudent Mazarin, and likewise of the politic advice of the displaced Colbert, Louis, encouraged by the fanatical, war-loving Louvois, determined upon taking more effective measures to hasten the conversion of the Huguenots which he was so desirous of bringing about.
By degrees many of the privileges guaranteed to them were curtailed; and they, fearing lest in time they might see the Edict rendered null, began to hold their assemblies as in days gone by; and, as in those times, force was now likewise used to prevent them, sometimes indeed to such a degree as to cause bloodshed. Symptoms of insurrection in the southern and western portions of France caused Louis to realize that the spirit of Calvin . yet lived; and that the Huguenots were still a political body which might give cause for alarm.
“ It is necessary to recognize this fact,” says Poole, “in order to render the attitude of Louis towards them intelligible. This has been denied persistently by them and their descendants, and its assertion is stigmatized as an attempt to vindicate conduct which, judged by its results, is in a supreme degree indefensible. But the truth is that, from this point of view of the national disaster, the recall of the Edict, setting the whole world in an attitude hostile to Louis, stands at so indefinite a height among the follies of statesmen that no exaggeration of fact can aggravate it; for this very reason we should grasp at anything which, while it cannot palliate it, may serve to explain its stupendous mistake.
At the king's council held October 2, 1685, the Act of Revocation was passed by a unanimous vote,
and Louis signed the declaration to be sent to the different intendants of the provinces, to be read by them in public.
In concert with his minister, Louvois, he now set about the prosecution of the work with all the vigor of which he was capable. The dragonade was established, and cruelty succeeded cruelty. Threats, imprisonment, and death followed each other, the latter by single murders and public massacres, until it seemed that the heresy would be extinguished in blood.
The only alternative for the proud-spirited Huguenots was to abjure their faith or suffer the penalty. Escape was prohibited under pain of the galleys if they were caught in the act. Many of the Huguenots that lived in the shadow of the court abjured their religion; others, along with gentlemen living in the provinces, men of commerce and manufacturers, determined to leave their native land, however hazardous the attempt might be.
The depopulation of his kingdom had no part in the king's intention; therefore he ordered the ports to be closed and the frontiers to be closely guarded, thinking thus to prevent the threatened exodus; but determined men are not easily thwarted in their designs, and many ways were devised to elude the vigilance of the officials. In many cases gold proved the “
open sesame” of closed ports and guarded frontiers ; disguises also and second-hand passports served to pass many across the boundaries, and frequently bales of merchandise came to life when safely stowed away in the holds of friendly ships.
As the Protestant countries offered hospitality to the refugees, some sought homes in Holland and others in Switzerland. They were obliged to make their way thither during the darkness of the night,
concealing themselves by day, and crossing the frontiers by the least frequented roads. Many found means of crossing to England, notwithstanding the precautions taken to prevent them from doing so.
Certainly, the migration of such numbers of industrious people could not but make itself felt throughout the kingdom, and it did paralyze commerce and manufactures to a great extent. It being impossible to ascertain the exact number of refugees, each historian seems to have set down figures according to his own conjecture; consequently the numbers are in some cases undoubtedly exaggerated. Hume has estimated the exodus to have cost France half a million of her subjects, and many have accepted his statement. Larrey, Jurieu, and Benoit give as a total two hundred thousand, Basnage, one hundred and fifty thousand, Caveirac fifty-five thousand, and others seventy, and sixty thousand. The Duke of Burgundy, of whose opportunity of ascertaining the nearest approach to the correct figures and of whose sincerity in stating them an historian has assured us, asserts their number to have exceeded sixty-eight thousand.
There can be no doubt that the loss of even the least of these numbers of subjects did affect the material prosperity of France; and this fact was most probably the cause of the unwillingness of Louis to have the Huguenots leave his kingdom. And here likewise historians differ. Some assert that their migration was the ruin of the country, while, on the contrary, others say that the disadvantage to France has been greatly overstated. Tessereau, the king's intendant, says: “Although the refugees from La Rochelle were from amongst the principal inhabitants, both in regard of substance and reputation, the generality of the emigrants were those who either had little