Chapter 21: Persecutions of the French Protestants in the South of France, During the Years 1814 and 1820 (1/9)
The persecution in this Protestant part of France continued with very little intermission from the revocation of the edict of Nantes, by Louis XIV until a very short period previous to the commencement of the late French Revolution. In the year 1785, M. Rebaut St. Etienne and the celebrated M. de la Fayette were among the first persons who interested themselves with the court of Louis XVI in removing the scourge of persecution from this injured people, the inhabitants of the south of France.
Such was the opposition on the part of the Catholics and the courtiers, that it was not until the end of the year 1790, that the Protestants were freed from their alarms. Previously to this, the Catholics at Nismes in particular, had taken up arms;
Nismes then presented a frightful spectacle; armed men ran through the city, fired from the corners of the streets, and attacked all they met with swords and forks.
A man named Astuc was wounded and thrown into the aqueduct;
Baudon fell under the repeated strokes of bayonets and sabers, and his body was also thrown into the water; Boucher, a young man only seventeen years of age, was shot as he was looking out of his window; three electors wounded, one dangerously; another elector wounded, only escaped death by repeatedly declaring he was a Catholic; a third received four saber wounds, and was taken home dreadfully mangled. The citizens that fled were arrested by the Catholics upon the roads, and obliged to give proofs of their religion before their lives were granted. M. and Madame Vogue were at their country house, which the zealots broke open, where they massacred both, and destroyed their dwelling. M. Blacher, a Protestant seventy years of age, was cut to pieces with a sickle; young Pyerre, carrying some food to his brother, was asked, “Catholic or Protestant?” “Protestant,” being the reply, a monster fired at the lad, and he fell. One of the murderer’s companions said, “You might as well have killed a lamb.” “I have sworn,” replied he, “to kill four Protestants for my share, and this will count for one.” However, as these atrocities provoked the troops to unite in defence of the people, a terrible vengeance was retaliated upon the Catholic party that had used arms, which with other circumstances, especially the toleration exercised by Napoleon Bonaparte, kept them down completely until the year 1814, when the unexpected return of the ancient government rallied them all once more round the old banners.
The Arrival of King Louis XVIII at Paris
This was known at Nismes on the thirteenth of April, 1814.
In a quarter of an hour, the white cockade was seen in every direction, the white flag floated on the public buildings, on the splendid monuments of antiquity, and even on the tower of Mange, beyond the city walls. The Protestants, whose commerce had suffered materially during the war, were among the first to unite in the general joy, and to send in their adhesion to the senate, and the legislative body; and several of the Protestant departments sent addresses to the throne, but unfortunately, M. Froment was again at Nismes at the moment, when many bigots being ready to join him, the blindness and fury of the sixteenth century rapidly succeeded the intelligence and philanthropy of the nineteenth. A line of distinction was instantly traced between men of different religious opinions; the spirit of the old Catholic Church was again to regulate each person’s share of esteem and safety.
The difference of religion was now to govern everything else; and even Catholic domestics who had served Protestants with zeal and affection began to neglect their duties, or to perform them ungraciously, and with reluctance. At the fetes and spectacles that were given at the public expense, the absence of the Protestants was charged on them as a proof of their disloyalty; and in the midst of the cries of Vive le Roi! the discordant sounds of A bas le Maire, down with the mayor, were heard. M. Castletan was a Protestant; he appeared in public with the prefect M. Ruland, a Catholic, when potatoes were thrown at him, and the people declared that he ought to resign his office. The bigots of Nismes, even succeeded in procuring an address to be presented to the king, stating that there ought to be in France but one God, one king, and one faith. In this they were imitated by the Catholics of several towns.
The History of the Silver Child
About this time, M. Baron, counselor of the Cour Royale of Nismes, formed the plan of dedicating to God a silver child, if the Duchess d’Angouleme would give a prince to France. This project was converted into a public religious vow, which was the subject of conversation both in public and private, whilst persons, whose imaginations were inflamed by these proceedings, ran about the streets crying Vivent les Boubons, or “the Bourbons forever.” In consequence of this superstitious frenzy, it is said that at Alais women were advised and instigated to poison their Protestant husbands, and at length it was found convenient to accuse them of political crimes. They could no longer appear in public without insults and injuries. When the mobs met with Protestants, they seized them, and danced round them with barbarous joy, and amidst repeated cries of Vive le Roi, they sang verses, the burden of which was, “We will wash our hands in Protestant blood, and make black puddings of the blood of Calvin’s children.”