Chapter 21: Persecutions of the French Protestants in the South of France, During the Years 1814 and 1820 (4/9)
After some time the wretches departed, shouting Vive le Roi. Some women met them, and one of them appearing affected, said, “I have killed seven to-day, for my share, and if you say a word, you shall be the eighth.” Pierre Courbet, a stocking weaver, was torn from his loom by an armed band, and shot at his own door. His eldest daughter was knocked down with the butt end of a musket; and a poignard was held at the breast of his wife while the mob plundered her apartments. Paul Heraut, a silk weaver, was literally cut in pieces, in the presence of a large crowd, and amidst the unavailing cries and tears of his wife and four young children. The murderers only abandoned the corpse to return to Heraut’s house and secure everything valuable. The number of murders on this day could not be ascertained. One person saw six bodies at the Cours Neuf, and nine were carried to the hospital.
If murder some time after, became less frequent for a few days, pillage and forced contributions were actively enforced. M. Salle d’Hombro, at several visits was robbed of seven thousand francs; and on one occasion, when he pleaded the sacrifices he had made, “Look,” said a bandit, pointing to his pipe, “this will set fire to your house; and this,” brandishing his sword, “will finish you.” No reply could be made to these arguments. M. Feline, a silk manufacturer, was robbed of thirty-two thousand francs in gold, three thousand francs in silver, and several bales of silk.
The small shopkeepers were continually exposed to visits and demands of provisions, drapery, or whatever they sold; and the same hands that set fire to the houses of the rich, and tore up the vines of the cultivator, broke the looms of the weaver; and stole the tools of the artisan. Desolation reigned in the sanctuary and in the city. The armed bands, instead of being reduced, were increased; the fugitives, instead of returning, received constant accessions, and their friends who sheltered them were deemed rebellious. Those Protestants who remained were deprived of all their civil and religious rights, and even the advocates and huissiers entered into a resolution to exclude all of “the pretended reformed religion” from their bodies. Those who were employed in selling tobacco were deprived of their licenses. The Protestant deacons who had the charge of the poor were all scattered. Of five pastors only two remained; one of these was obliged to change his residence, and could only venture to administer the consolations of religion, or perform the functions of his ministry under cover of the night.
Not content with these modes of torment, calumnious and inflammatory publications charged the Protestants with raising the proscribed standard in the communes, and invoking the fallen Napoleon; and, of course, as unworthy the protection of the laws and the favor of the monarch.
Hundreds after this were dragged to prison without even so much as a written order; and though an official newspaper, bearing the title of the Journal du Gard, was set up for five months, while it was influenced by the prefect, the mayor, and other functionaries, the word “charter” was never once used in it. One of the first numbers, on the contrary, represented the suffering Protestants, as “Crocodiles, only weeping from rage and regret that they had no more victims to devour; as persons who had surpassed Danton, Marat, and Robespierre, in doing mischief; and as having prostituted their daughters to the garrison to gain it over to Napoleon.” An extract from this article, stamped with the crown and the arms of the Bourbons, was hawked about the streets, and the vendor was adorned with the medal of the police.
Petition of the Protestant Refugees
To these reproaches it is proper to oppose the petition which the Protestant refugees in Paris presented to Louis XVIII in behalf of their brethren at Nismes.
“We lay at your feet, sire, our acute sufferings. In your name our fellow citizens are slaughtered, and their property laid waste. Misled peasants, in pretended obedience to your orders, had assembled at the command of a commissioner appointed by your august nephew. Although ready to attack us, they were received with the assurances of peace. On the fifteenth of July, 1815, we learned your majesty’s entrance into Paris, and the white flag immediately waved on our edifices. The public tranquility had not been disturbed, when armed peasants introduced themselves. The garrison capitulated, but were assailed on their departure, and almost totally massacred. Our national guard was disarmed, the city filled with strangers, and the houses of the principal inhabitants, professing the reformed religion, were attacked and plundered. We subjoin the list. Terror has driven from our city the most respectable inhabitants.
“Your majesty has been deceived if there has not been placed before you the picture of the horrors which make a desert of your good city of Nismes. Arrests and proscriptions are continually taking place, and difference of religious opinions is the real and only cause. The calumniated Protestants are the defenders of the throne. You nephew has beheld our children under his banners; our fortunes have been placed in his hands. Attacked without reason, the Protestants have not, even by a just resistance, afforded their enemies the fatal pretext for calumny. Save us, sire! extinguish the brand of civil war; a single act of your will would restore to political existence a city interesting for its population and its manufactures. Demand an account of their conduct from the chiefs who had brought our misfortunes upon us. We place before your eyes all the documents that have reached us. Fear paralyzes the hearts, and stifles the complaints of our fellow citizens. Placed in a more secure situation, we venture to raise our voice in their behalf,” etc., etc.