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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

The clergy had not solicited the edict


Just

as the last edicts of Louis XIV., the edict of 1724 rested upon an absolute contradiction: the legislators no longer admitted the existence of any reformers in the kingdom; and yet all the battery of the most formidable punishments was directed against that Protestant church which was said to be defunct. The same contradiction was seen in the conduct of the ecclesiastics: Protestants could not be admitted to any position, or even accomplish the ordinary duties of civil life, without externally conforming to Catholicism; and, to so conform, there was required of them not only an explicit abjuration, but even an anathema against their deceased parents. "It is necessary," said Chancellor d'Aguesseau, "either that the church should relax her vigor by some modification, or, if she does not think she ought to do so, that she should cease requesting the king to employ his authority in reducing his subjects to the impossible, by commanding them to fulfil a religious duty which the church does not permit them to perform."

At this point is revealed a progress in ideas of humanity and justice: the edict of 1724 equalled in rigor the most severe proclamations of Louis XIV.; it placed the peace, and often the life, of Reformers at the mercy not only of an enemy's denunciation, but of a priest's simple deposition; it destroyed all the bonds of family, and substituted for the natural duties a barbarous and depraving law; but general sentiment and public opinion

were no longer in accord with the royal proclamations. The clergy had not solicited the edict, the work of an ambitious man backed up by certain fanatics; they were at first embarrassed by it. When the old hatreds revived, and the dangerous intoxications of power had affected the souls of bishops and priests, the magistracy, who had formerly been more severe towards the Reformers than even the superintendents of the provinces had been, pronounced on many points in favor of the persecuted; the judges were timid; the legislation, becoming more and more oppressive, tied their hands; but the bias of their minds was modified; it tended to extenuate, and not to aggravate, the effects of the edict. The law was barbarous everywhere, the persecution became so only at certain spots, owing to the zeal of the superintendents or bishops; as usual, the south of France was the first to undergo all the rigors of it. Emigration had ceased there for a long time past; whilst the Norman or Dauphinese Reformers, on the revival of persecution, still sought refuge on foreign soil, whilst Sweden, wasted by the wars of Charles XII., invited the French Protestants into her midst, the peasants of the Uvennes or of the Vivarais, passionately attached to the soil they cultivated, bowed their heads, with a groan, to the storm, took refuge in their rocks and their caverns, leaving the cottages deserted and the harvests to be lost, returning to their houses and their fields as soon as the soldiery were gone, ever faithful to the proscribed assemblies in the desert, and praying God for the king, to whose enemies they refused to give ear. Alberoni, and after him England, had sought to detach the persecuted Protestants from their allegiance; the court was troubled at this; they had not forgotten the Huguenot regiments at the battle of the Boyne. From the depths of their hiding-places the pastors answered for the fidelity of their flocks; the voice of the illustrious and learned Basnage, for a long while a refugee in Holland, encouraged his brethren in their heroic submission. As fast as the ministers died on the gallows, new servants of God came forward to replace them, brought up in the seminary which Antony Court had founded at Lausanne,


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