Chapter 21: Persecutions of the French Protestants in the South of France, During the Years 1814 and 1820 (9/9)
Foreign interference was now found eminently useful; and the declarations of tolerance which it elicited from the French government, as well as the more cautious march of the Catholic persecutors, operated as decisive and involuntary acknowledgments of the importance of that interference, which some persons at first censured and despised, put through the stern voice of public opinion in England and elsewhere produced a resultant suspension of massacre and pillage, the murderers and plunderers were still left unpunished, and even caressed and rewarded for their crimes; and whilst Protestants in France suffered the most cruel and degrading pains and penalties for alleged trifling crimes, Catholics, covered with blood, and guilty of numerous and horrid murders, were acquitted.
Perhaps the virtuous indignation expressed by some of the more enlightened Catholics against these abominable proceedings, had no small share in restraining them. Many innocent Protestants had been condemned to the galleys and otherwise punished for supposed crimes, upon the oaths of wretches the most unprincipled and abandoned. M. Madier de Mongau, judge of the cour royale of Nismes, and president of the cour d’assizes of the Gard and Vaucluse, upon one occasion felt himself compelled to break up the court, rather than take the deposition of that notorious and sanguinary monster, Truphemy: “In a hall,” says he, “of the Palace of Justice, opposite that in which I sat, several unfortunate persons persecuted by the faction were upon trial, every deposition tending to their crimination was applauded with the cries of Vive le Roi! Three times the explosion of this atrocious joy became so terrible that it was necessary to send for reinforcements from the barracks, and two hundred soldiers were often unable to restrain the people. On a sudden the shouts and cries of Vive le Roi! redoubled: a man arrived, caressed, applauded, borne in triumph-it was the horrible Truphemy; he approached the tribunal-he came to depose against the prisoners-he was admitted as a witness-he raised his hand to take the oath! Seized with horror at the sight, I rushed from my seat, and entered the hall of council; my colleagues followed me; in vain they persuaded me to resume my seat; ‘No!’ exclaimed I, ‘I will not consent to see that wretch admitted to give evidence in a court of justice in the city which he has filled with murders; in the palace, on the steps of which he has murdered the unfortunate Bourillon. I cannot admit that he should kill his victims by his testimonies no more than by his poignards. He an accuser! he a witness! No, never will I consent to see this monster rise, in the presence of magistrates, to take a sacrilegious oath, his hand still reeking with blood.’ These words were repeated out of doors; the witness trembled; the factious also trembled; the factious who guided the tongue of Truphemy as they had directed his arm, who dictated calumny after they had taught him murder. These words penetrated the dungeons of the condemned, and inspired hope; they gave another courageous advocate the resolution to espouse the cause of the persecuted; he carried the prayers of innocence and misery to the foot of the throne; there he asked if the evidence of a Truphemy was not sufficient to annul a sentence. The king granted a full and free pardon.”
Ultimate Resolution of the Protestants at Nismes
With respect to the conduct of the Protestants, these highly outraged citizens, pushed to extremities by their persecutors, felt at length that they had only to choose the manner in which they were to perish. They unanimously determined that they would die fighting in their own defense. This firm attitude apprised their butchers that they could no longer murder with impunity. Everything was immediately changed. Those, who for four years had filled others with terror, now felt it in their turn. They trembled at the force which men, so long resigned, found in despair, and their alarm was heightened when they heard that the inhabitants of the Cevennes, persuaded of the danger of their brethren, were marching to their assistance. But, without waiting for these reinforcements, the Protestants appeared at night in the same order and armed in the same manner as their enemies. The others paraded the Boulevards, with their usual noise and fury, but the Protestants remained silent and firm in the posts they had chosen. Three days these dangerous and ominous meetings continued; but the effusion of blood was prevented by the efforts of some worthy citizens distinguished by their rank and fortune. By sharing the dangers of the Protestant population, they obtained the pardon of an enemy who now trembled while he menaced.