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or nothing, or were compelled to leave what they had behind them." Certainly the majority were obliged to receive assistance from the countries in which they sought refuge, instead of enriching them as some would believe.
They did take with them, however, a vast amount of energy, industry, and a knowledge of manufacture, along with the germs of the principles of the democratic government they afterwards helped to establish in the new world, and a corresponding love for freedom, and hatred of monarchial forms of government, and all that savored of royalty.
With their loss agriculture declined, and likewise the culture of the vine; consequently the domestic supply and the foreign trade in wines were cut off. Imports failed, as the links of commerce were sundered; weaving also suffered greatly. Yet, notwithstanding all this, some writers have declared that, instead of being a misfortune to France, the king received congratulations because this emigration freed his kingdom from rebellious subjects whose loss would soon be made good.
The greatest misfortune would seem to lie in the fact of a mother country so treating her children as to oblige them to seek a home on foreign shores, even were the reproach of one of the exiles to his fellow refugees merited, - of having caused these extreme measures by their own conduct; to which he added a second, saying that the laws of most of the Protestant countries against Catholics were more severe than those of Catholic princes against Protestants.1
Those of the refugees that reached Switzerland immediately became incorporated into its civil as well as religious life, while those that succeeded in reaching Holland joined the Walloons, and some of them eventually reached the shores of the new world in 1 Avis aux Refugiés, Baylé.
Dutch ships. Others again that sought permanent homes or a temporary asylum upon the English coast found in some localities French Protestant churches with the surplus of a fund, raised some years previously, and which was now devoted either to their maintenance or to defray their expenses to some of the British colonies in the new world.
Those of the exiles that settled in England adopted the established religion, alleging, as a reason for so doing, that the kindness received from the country as well as the church made such a step a duty for them; but others, so long as they were not obliged to renounce it, clung to the form of religion in use in their native land. Those that intended to make their future home in the colonies adopted, for the time being, the form of the established church.
During their sojourn in England, the wealthier and more intelligent of the refugees had the opportunity of gaining information regarding the different British colonies, and had leisure to mature plans for their future. Many of them had relatives or acquaintances in the new worid, and, after some correspondence with them, their future course was decided.
Such of the refugees as had foreseen their flight, had left their property in the care of friends, who afterwards contrived to transmit at least a portion of it to the owners. To such, although saddened by reverses and separation from friends and country, the future did not present such a dreary aspect as it did to those who had only their passage money, or not even that. The latter were obliged to trust their future in the hands of some captain willing to convey them to the sometimes very distant port to which the vessel was bound. None of the French vessels being of sufficient size to cross the Atlantic, the poor Huguenots were usually landed upon some European coast, were they fortunate enough to reach it alive; for the voyage was full of dan
ger, and the captains often unskilful. Many of the exiles found homes in the bosom of the deep.
The American colonies were desirous of receiving the refugees. Massachusetts and South Carolina had agents in England to make proposals to them. William Penn would fain have their assistance in the forming of his new colony, and Virginia offered them land at trifling cost and even as a gift, provided they would settle upon it.
Many of the refugees took out papers of naturalization before they left England. Others, loath to cut the slender tie that united them to their native land, deferred the act until they should reach the precise locality in which they should decide to settle.
When Charles II. first invited the Huguenots to England, he led them to believe that by one general act, they all would receive the benefits of naturalization; but this idea was not realized. For a long time they were allowed to obtain under the royal seal a grant by which they might secure to themselves and families all the rights, immunities, and privileges enjoyed by free-born citizens; the only obligation being that of actual residence in England or within its dominions: but several exactions were made; among which was a certificate proving that they had received communion, and another promising they would take the oath of allegiance and supremacy within a year.
In 1671 Virginia passed an act giving to all aliens, that desired to become citizens the liberties, privileges and immunities of those born within the British dominions upon their presenting a petition to the Assembly, and taking the usual oath of supremacy and allegiance. New York passed a similar act in 1686, and South Carolina did the same in 1691.
Escape from their country was not, however, the sole solicitude of the exiles. By it one step might be accomplished, but other steps were yet to be taken before
their lives could assume a peaceful tenor. the passage across the great ocean that lay between them and the new world in which they hoped to plant their "vine and fig tree;" after which some time must elapse before they could hope to eat their fruits and rest beneath their shade.
The passage of the Atlantic was fraught with many dangers. No two vessels ever pursued the same course, as Maury had not yet planned his wind and water-current charts. Chronometers and quadrants were unknown to navigation, the compass being the captain's sole assistant. Sometimes, indeed, the ship would be found many degrees out of its intended course, and again approaching to the very coast it had lately quitted. Steam not having been impressed into the service, the small and inferior vessels were the sport of every wind and wave. One moment raised on a mighty billow, the next would find them engulfed in its depths, to be tossed upwards just as the passengers thought to find a watery grave.
Pirates infested the waters; consequently, however distant, every sail caused a tremor of anxiety to captain, passengers, and crew. Every vessel was obliged to carry guns and ammunition, which occupied the room needed for provisions for such a lengthy voyage, and sometimes they were reduced almost to starvation. Frequently deaths ensued from lack of food as well as from want of medical attendance and the simplest of remedies.
"Land ho!" was a joyful cry; but often it was only the beginning of new dangers, as no pilots were found awaiting them, and no friendly lighthouse warned them of dangerous rocks; and in case of shipwreck no saving life-boats manned by willing hands and fearless hearts were there to save them. What wonder if many of the poor exiles required no earthly home.
Provided the landing was successful, who shall describe the homesickness of those who had left the most luxurious of all the modern countries, with the refinement of its society and the comforts of the family hearthstone, with its well-known faces and familiar language, to meet the inconveniencies and privations of a new land, with its strange tongue and unfamiliar countenances?
But brighter days were in store for these poor wanderers. To whatever part of the new world they came they brought their industry and enterprise, and probably no other class of emigrants contributed more, in proportion to their number, toward the prosperity of the country of their adoption than they. In whatever station of life they belonged they were remarkable for their kindliness and courtesy, as likewise for the refinement, and even elegance of their manners, as well as their mental calibre.
Of the seven presidents of the Continental Congress, three were of Huguenot parentage: Henry Laurens, John Jay, and Elias Boudinot. In New York city and in its vicinity the names of the French refugees are amongst the most prominent ones.