The Huguenot Migration In Europe and America Part I

Its Cause and Effect
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 Following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, there occurred the greatest migration of peoples in the history of the world. More than 600,000 went to Holland, Belgique, England, Ireland, Austria, Russia, South and North America. The largest numbers came to Canada and the American Colonies; and of this number, the largest came to New England and New Netherlands.

It is interesting that the same causes which motive our other early forefathers also brought the Huguenots. Both believing in the tenets of the Reformation, both were denied the right of practicing them. In the former, it was conformity to the church of England; in the latter, the Huguenots, it was fealty to the Church of Rome, and so they fled like Jacob in all directions, taking with them the cream of the French people.

It is no idle talk when I tell you that 10,000 went to Ireland, raised Ireland from pleated potato famines and fallow land to a security in agriculture, industry and banking; that the Huguenots introduced wine and beer making, the lace industry, the silk industry, stock farming, rotation of crops, and nursery farming. By 1750, the banking system became a part of the Bank of England. At least fifteen churches were established. Thousands of Irish people married with the Huguenots; streets were named for them; and when the reaction occurred against them in Ireland in 1802, as it always does with a successful people, the Huguenots migrated from Ireland to America. What happened? Ireland went back to the potato famines. Today there are still streets in Dublin; Huguenot Lane, Perrin Street, almost as many commemoratory monuments, when Ireland once reached out and touched the stars.

In order to understand The Huguenot Migration and its Cause, one must review French Huguenot History. We must study the relationship of Henry IV, Henry of Navarre. For it was he who was most closely identified with this movement, and had he lived would have brought France and the Huguenots to the highest state of glory. But, alas, it was not to be. France would have been a Protestant country like Holland and England, and the gruesome picture of Europe today also might have been prevented.

King Henry, as he was often fondly called, was a great king, and son of the first of the Bourbon dynasty. He was beloved by his people, heroic in war, brilliant in peace, who held the affection of his people more than any king since Saint Louis. But, we must not forget that he possessed great defects of character, burned by the same vices which destroyed all the Bourbon kings, particularly Louis XIV and Louis XV, that his court was worm-eaten by constant scenes of female orgies and intrigues, and that he was influenced by women more than was good for France, his reputation, or himself.

And so we are interested not in the life of Henry of Navarre, but only rather as it crosses the paths of the Huguenots in their struggle to secure religious liberty in the 16th Century. The French Protestants from the first, adopted the principals of John Calvin, who was a citizen of Geneva, but a native of France.

The title "Reformation" was first assumed by the Huguenots and afterward became the common denominator of all Calvinistic churches on the continent. (Mosheim Ecclesiastical History, IV, 356.) Succinctly, Calvin was not a broad man as the following incident will prove.

Michael Servetus, astronomer, navigator, Doctor of Medicine, and the first discoverer of not only the circulation of the blood, (Harvey 1664 gets the credit) but also that of the capillary bed, was born in Spain and a Catholic. Knowing that the Church of Rome was too far a field on the one hand, and the Puritans too far a field on the other, he fled to France to join forces with the Huguenots. Alas, through the influence of Popery in Spain, he learned from the Huguenots that he was to be burned at the stake, so he fled to Geneva and the protection of John Calvin. Calvin ordered him not only burned, but ordered him consumed in the fire of his own writings, his very own books.

I call to your attention that the Huguenots have never, no never been a party to evil deeds. Had Calvin not committed this act of apostasy, he might have and justly so, occupied his place with other worthies. For his influence was great upon the reformed churches, including the Episcopal, Presbyterian, and Huguenots, and although the Church of England and the New England churches later rejected his discipline, neither was insensible to his influence.

At this time there was the great Protestant persecution. Regardless of the barbarous persecution of the Albigenses and the Waldenses by the Roman Catholic Church, "there was not a smothering out of the truth. Though suppressed, it was not destroyed; though the leaders were dead, it lived in the hearts of the children and as they grew, they now cried aloud for a reformation." (Quick's Synodicon in Gallia Reformata, 2 vol. fol., London 1692.)

So as learning revived in France under Francis I., the Reformation revived. Notwithstanding the rages, threats, and open persecution by the Catholic Church, the Reformation invaded the colleges, the schools, the academies, and even the court. Openly, the leaders professed the reform and the more they lost grace and the more they were persecuted, the more the people joined the forces of the Reformation.

Now, the Huguenots held assemblies openly. The people professed their faith openly. "It was the great care of the first reformer to preach up sound doctrines, to institute and celebrate pure evangelical worship, and to restore the ancient primitive discipline." (Quick) The bible was translated from the original Greek, and Hebrew into the French language. It was read by nobles and peasants, by the learned and the illiterate, by tradesmen and merchants, by women and children, at home and in public. Thus they became wiser than their Popish priest. (A. Holmes, D.D., Boston, 1826.)

The Psalms of David were translated and set to music. The court and home were charmed alike. Even children could understand the meaning of the writings and music and could understand their religion for the first time. Even Henry II was heard to sing the sacred music. The return to the simple communion table of bread and wine occurred, and for the first time the people could understand their religion; no longer an unintelligible mumbo jumbo of Latin babble by Roman priests.

Although the Huguenots and their churches were increasing, in 1540 was passed an edict, "under pain of high treason, it is prohibited to give solace, support, or refuge to the Reformed Religion." (Quick's Synodicon.)

The practice of Roman emperors of throwing professed Christians to the lions was equaled by the Church Party, which threw professed Huguenots to the flames. And yet, the Reformed Church grew as persecution grew. In 1571, 2150 Churches with 10,000 members: in 1581, it was 200,000. In 1598, 27 years later, the Huguenots were reduced to 706 churches. (Holmes.) What was the cause? How could this happen? Since all that these people wished was religious freedom in the 16th Century, why did this occur in the 16th Century? Why not earlier?

The Sixteenth Century was the greatest century since Christianity was professed immeasurably greater than our Twentieth Century; the latter chiefly marked by the triumphs of science, political and social reforms, atheism, material progress, and giveaway. "But in earnestness, in moral grandeur, and in open discussion which pertain to the health and life of nations, the Sixteenth was greater than our own." (Lord.)

All sorts of inquiries were searched concerning mind and matter, of providence, of liberty, of worship, and freedom of thought; and were discussed with an enthusiasm and freedom unparalleled in our time. Coupled with all of this was an heroism of action unequalled by any age of world history.

The unbelievable part is that men sacrificed their lives, their social positions, and their private fortunes, and catalyzed what we enjoy today, the greatest blessing which we possess, religious liberty. It was an age of investigation into all matter of things, breaking off the bondage of fraud and superstition and infidelity. It kindled the enthusiasm of the court and princes, of nobles and clergy, and produced learned men from all countries and all walks of life. Not since the early Christians combated the paganism of the Roman world, had such great men appeared as I regard Calvin, Luther, and later Knox and Rousseau, and probably will not appear again until there is a great revival and man casts off the corruptions of the Twentieth Century.

The great difference between the Sixteenth and Twentieth centuries, is: the former recognized the Majesty of God; the latter the majesty of man. The Sixteenth believed that man's improvement came by Grace of God; the Twentieth by the grace of science. "The Sixteenth Century was spiritual"; (Lord) the Twentieth material. The former looked to Heaven; the latter looks to earth and outer space. The Sixteenth actuated the ancient; the Twentieth the eternal. The Sixteenth destroyed the old superstition and fraud, but substituted something better, the Reformation. The Twentieth destroys its own earlier concept, but offers nothing in return.

The Sixteenth Century was pin-pointed by not only religious inquiry, but also religious and political freedom. From the earliest twilight of time man, except the nobles, was ground down by feudal inequalities. Now man was to emerge into the bright sunlight of deliverance. In the midst of all this, the old order would hold on. We see horrible, unbelievable cruelties, revolt, atrocities, and wanton murder.

The higher clergy at the time were of the noble class. Often one bishop would control an entire section of France.

The Huguenots were not political, did not rally round any political leaders. They wished only to preserve their churches, their synods, and their consistories; and to worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience.

In 1560, Admiral Coligny presented to the King a petition "for the free exercise of religion." He was the very first nobleman who dared to profess himself a Huguenot, a member of the Reformed Religion.

In 1561, the King pronounced that all heresy should be judged by ecclesiastics; but if convicted, should only be banished. (Henry Hist. Eccles. XXI. 1-154) The same year, all British ministers should be banished from the Kingdom, and no religion would be tolerated except the Roman church. (Davita, Hist. Civil Wars of France, 1-85)

In 1562, war broke out between the Catholics and Huguenots. (Eidgnossen, German became eignots, meaning confederates, finally became Huguenots by degeneration.) Count Villars, an ancestor of George Washington, was the first to use the name Huguenot. In a letter to the King of France from the Province of Languedoc in 1560, he called the Cevemnes, "Huenots." (Moshems Eccl. Hist. IV. 384; note also Henry, Hist. Eccl. XVIII. 603.) The Duke of Guise was assassinated; the King of Navarre, Henry IV.'s father, was killed during the siege. 50,000 Huguenots were also killed. (Davila ad Supra and Robinson's Memoirs.) This very year, 1562, Admiral Coligny attempted to settle a colony of Huguenots in America at Brazil. However, in 1558, the colony was massacred by the Portuguese (DeBry, America, P. III.)

In 1562, Admiral Coligny, with permission of Charles IX. of France, sent over a small band of Huguenots to Florida, under Jean Ribault. They established Fort Caroline on the St. Johns River May 1, 1562. After exploring the southern coast, they entered Port Royal, South Carolina, set up Fort Charles, abandoned it, and returned to France. In 1564 and 1565, Admiral Coligny renewed his attempt to found a colony in Florida. This, Too, was soon massacred; only a few escaped to return to France. (Hakluyt's Voyages, iii., 308-362).

In 1563, a peace was concluded only to be broken by repeated almost daily, violation and new edicts. Again the Protestants were forced to take up arms (1567).The City of Rochelle voted to go with them, and for the next 60 years, became their Fortress and their Strength. By 1568, aided by Queen Elizabeth and German princes, the Huguenots prevailed. The edicts were rescinded; they were able to exercise their religious rights at home, with their families, and had six cities granted as security. (Davila, A.D. 1562, Robinson's Memoirs.)

The same year, war broke out again. Queen Elizabeth aided with money; Count Palatine with men; the Queen of Navarre sold her rings and other jewelry. The Prince of Conde having been slain, the Queen declared her son, Henry of Navarre, the Protector of the Huguenots. Under this kind soul, the New Testament was translated, likewise the Catechism, and the Liturgy; all were printed at Rochelle. She also abolished popery in her own province.

In 1570, a new peace was concluded:

1. Free exercise of religion in all but walled cities.
2. Two cities in every province were assigned to the Huguenots.
3. Free recourse to all cities, schools, universities, hospitals, and public offices.
4. To assure permanent peace, a match was consummated between Henry of Navarre and the sister of King Charles despite differences in religion.

Now that these articles were accepted, the Queen of Navarre; her son Henry; the princes of the blood; and the principal Huguenots, went to Paris to celebrate the marriage., August 18, 1572. To understand what was to follow three days later, one must know some of the background preceding that horrible day, Sunday, 24th of August, 1572, St. Bartholomew's Day-the day of the plot to exterminate all Huguenots.

Henry IV., Henry of Navarre, was born in 1533. Henry II. was King of France; Edward VI. was King of England. The Reformation was so rapidly gaining ground that it had become a powerful party in France, so much so that in some sections they represented a majority and, in total numbers more than a third of all peoples were Huguenots. But they were hated by the Princes of Valois, the Duke of Guise, and the Cardinal of Lorraine; at that time the most powerful families in all of France. They were hated not because they wished to overthrow the throne, but only because they wished to worship God in the old simple Christian manner.

The King of Spain and the Pope instituted the most violent intrigues. "They resolved to suppress the hated doctrines" (Lord). There followed the most violent persecutions, intrigues, and assassinations. For, did they not hold the political power? This continued throughout the reign of the Valois princes; injustice, murder, assassination filled the pages of French History.

The Huguenots were now prevented the right of assembly under pain of death. As Lord has aptly said, "they were not persecuted, they were calumniated." Every crime imaginable was assigned to them, even the crime of sacrificing little children. The passion of the people was brought to such a pitch that all safety was at an end. A condition of hopeful progress became one of insufferable existence. And, so it was fight or die. Each prince of the House of Valois became worse than his predecessor. The University of Paris, the old nobility, the High Clergy. were determined to destroy utterly and for all time, Protestantism in France. Henry II. was more brutal than Francis I.; and Francis II. was weaker than any of the kings who preceded him and completely under the influence of his mother, Catherine de Medici; who was a fiend incarnate, a Messelina, a Friedrigunda; and had it not been for her pleasing courtly manner and natural grace, might have been considered the vilest woman in all French history.

Under the influence of Catherine's persecution, followed such a trend so wicked, so vile, that I shuddered when I read it and am utterly unable to bring myself to putting it into words.

The Huguenots, fortunately, were supported by Catherine of Navarre; her son, Henry IV., Henry of Navarre; Admiral Coligny; his brother, the Seigneur d'Andelot; the Duke of Subise; Colonel LaNoe; Colonel DeLa Mandeville; Colonel de la Fontaine (LaFountain)(See Monette, also Robertson's Memoirs); the Duke of Bouillon; Count of Montgomery; Admiral deCamp; all of whom were nobles of high rank. All was despair, for they were in danger of not only losing their titles and provinces, but their lives.

Truly, more than a third of the people were Huguenots, but the power lay in the House of Valois, in the highest nobles, the highest clergy, and they-supported by the King and armies of Spain, the Pope, and the Jesuits now just coming into power-and so the Huguenots decided to fight in their own defense. For, as Holmes has said, "there is a time when submission ceases to be a virtue."

They did not rise up to overthrow the throne, nor to destroy the House of Valopis, nor to destroy the Church, nor even the power of the Church. All they asked was to worship Almighty God according to the simple dictates of their conscience. Unlike Cromwell and Hampton and the Puritans, who wished not only to do just that, but also wished to stuff their religion down the throats OF the conquered. And, as I have told you, since their beliefs were more dear to the Huguenots than life, they were ready to sacrifice even that. They fought with such zeal and determination, that they gained possession of fortresses and towns. They could not be suppressed. Treaties were made with them, and treaties were perpetually broken. And, unable to subdue so formidable a people, the diabolical scheme was devised to destroy them in one foul stroke by inviting their leaders to Paris on St. Bartholomew's Day.


Website: The History
Article Name: The Huguenot Migration In Europe and America Part I
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: From my collection of Books: The Huguenot Migration in Europe and America, Its Cause and Effect by C. Malcolm B. Gilman, M.D., ScD. Honorary President General, The National Huguenot Society; Published by The Arlington Laboratory for Clinical and Historical Research Colts Neck, New Jersey. 1962
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