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Protestantism was exterminated in France. His bigoted and ferocious policy had struck disastrously the best interests of his country, but it had laid the foundations of the manufacturing and commercial prosperity of the Low Countries, of England, and of much of Germany, and had given to the American colonies some of their best families, from New Rochelle to Savannah. The emigration comprised some twenty-one thousand Protestant soldiers and sailors, and six hundred military officers. Most of these entered foreign service, and avenged on France in many a battle the wrongs of their brethren. Thousands helped to save the Protestant throne of England by fighting in Ireland against the attempt of Louis XIV. to restore the apostate Stuarts. They conquered their old persecutors at the battle of the Boyne, and on other Irish fields. Marshal Schomberg was one of them. Their descendants in Germany, still bearing their ancestral names, were among the best heroes of the last war with France; and Jules Simon, the French statesman, had occasion to show his country that the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes had given at least eighty eminent officers of the German staff of the terrible invasion of 1870, by which France was trodden in the dust.
The king's assertion, that there were no more Protestants in his realm, was apparently, though not really, correct. The Protestant temples were all either demolished or given to the Catholics. Protestant pastors were hanged or broken on the wheel all over the south. None remained except in concealment, and with the certainty of death if they were discovered. Their people could worship only in caves, or in recesses of forests. Never was there a more studiedly minute or more diabolical edict issued by a government than the Act of Revocation, and its accompanying acts. They reached all classes and all interests of the Protestant population. It was death if they were found worshiping in public; it was the galleys for life if they were heard singing their hymns in their own houses. It was five hundred livres fine if they did not send their children to the Catholic priest for baptism. Protestant marriages were illegal, and their children illegitimate. All children more than five years old were to be taken by the magistrate from Protestant homes. Protestant midwives were forbidden to assist their Christian sisters in childbirth. Protestant physicians,
surgeons,, druggists, lawyers, notaries, school-teachers, librarians, booksellers, printers, grocers, were all suppressed—and there were hundreds of thousands of them. All Protestant schools, charitable, public, or private, were closed. Protestants could no longer be in any government employment, even as workingmen on the highways. All Bibles and Protestant books were to be publicly burned. “ There were bonfires of them,” says a good authority, “in every town.”. Protestants were not allowed to seek employment as servants, nor Protestant families to hire them, the penalty being the galleys for life. Protestant mechanics were not allowed to work without certificates that they had become Catholics. Even Protestant washerwomen were interdicted the common washing-places on the rivers. “In fact,” says Samuel Smiles, our best popular authority on French Protestantism, “there was scarcely a degradation that could be invented, or an insult that could be perpetrated, that was not practiced upon these poor Huguenots who refused to be of the king's religion.” Such was the persecution of the infamous Revocation. According to Coquerel's figures, it drove a million of the French out of their country, and surpressed a thousand pastors, one tenth of whom were either put to death or, worse, consigned to the horrors of the galleys.
When the king supposed his work of extermination done, he was reminded of the humble Vaudois, hid away in the ravines of the French sides of the Cottian Alps. The atrocious work could not be pronounced complete while these remained. The light might again stream down from these heretic heights upon the plains and towns of southern France. They were one in faith, and in every other respect, except political allegiance, with the Italian Vaudois of the other side of the mountains. The king, therefore, demanded the co-operation of the Duke of Savoy in the extermination of both. The duke hesitated; blood enough had flowed in these mountains, and but thirty years before, fourteen thousand of their devoted population had been massacred in vain; they appeared invincible; but he had to yield to the superior sovereign, who threatened to do the bloody work himself and to appropriate the territory as his own. Thus began the thirty-third war against these unconquerable mountaineers. The armies of both nations made simultaneous invasions; terrible struggles ensued at three or four different points, but we cannot here detail them. On Easter Monday, 1686, a general attack was made. The pastor, Arnaud, became on this day first known as a hero—the hope of the persecuted people for the future, if not for the present. The Duke of Savoy led one attack ; Catinat, with his French, another. Both were hurled back the first day; on the next, Catinat destroyed the little force opposed to him, and massacred men, women, and children. The commanders of the Italian troops sent messengers to the Vaudois at other points, assuring them that their brethren in the Valley of St. Martin had surrendered and received pardon; the positive promise of the duke, assuring them of their pardon, their lives, and liberties, was declared to them, and on this pledge they all laid down their arms, surrendering impregnable positions. Immediately the pledge was violated; they were loaded with irons, and fourteen thousand of them, according to Arnaud, were incarcerated in the prisons of Piedmont. " Their children,” says the historian Mustan, “ were carried off and dispersed through Roman Catholic districts; their wives and daughters were violated, massacred, or made captives. As for those who still remained, all whom the enemy could seize became a prey devoted to carnage, spoliation, fire, excesses which cannot be told, and outrages which it would not be possible to describe.”
The great aim of the Revocation was now supposed to be accomplished. Louis XIV. declared, as we have seen, that there were no more Protestants in his realm. One of his officers in these mountains wrote that “all the valleys are now exterminated; the people all killed, hanged, or massacred.” “Rome,” says Smiles, “rang with Te Deums in praise of the final dispersion of the Vaudois.” The Pope congratulated the Duke of Savoy in a special brief. Roman Catholics were settled in the valleys on the lands of the dispersed Protestants. It was now that one of their historians, a refugee in London, wrote, “The world looks upon them no otherwise than as irrecoverably lost and finally destroyed.” But the Vaudois Church was inextinguishable; it was still alive in the thirteen dungeons of Piedmont. Of the fourteen thousand prisoners there, many were daily perishing by hunger, thirst, or disease, mar
tyrs for their apparently lost cause; eleven thousand thus perished, according to Arnaud, and the three thousand that at last came forth to wander in foreign lands looked, he says, “more like shadows than men.” On reaching Protestant Switzerland they were, he adds, but “moving skeletons.” The people of Geneva were affected with deepest pity for them, and as they moved along, some to Lausanne, some to Berne, to Basle, to Neufchatel, and into Germany, they were not only fed and sheltered, but many of the feebler sufferers were borne in the arms of the good citizens. Some died on the route. The scene reminded the generous Swiss of the hosts who, in the days of their fathers, had filled their highways, fleeing from the horrors of St. Bartholomew's in France, and many a devout heart sent up the appeal to heaven, “How long, O Lord! how long !” They dared not dream that these “moving skeletons” were soon to rise up like those of the “valley of vision,” and bear again to their ancient mountain heights the standard of the faith, and thence march down at last with triumphant hymns to Rome itself.
Assuredly such a purpose, in such circumstances, must have been a superhuman inspiration. In the heart of the heroic Pastor Arnaud, and many others, it was strong at this very moment. The strangers were allotted settlements in several places in Switzerland and Germany, but Arnaud had whispered the bold design to some hundreds, who therefore declined remote invitations, and kept together as much as possible, to be ready for the coming hour. There was no visible hope of it, but these men had as much faith as valor. Could the cause of their Lord Christ suffer any final defeat? Why had they been sustained, fighting successfully through more than twelve hundred years against the attempted invasions of Papal corruption and trained armies? Why was almost every valley, every cave, every cliff, of their country consecrated with martyr blood? Was there no providential design in these things ? Could not the Lord God of hosts raise up unknown means of salvation for them? Had not a great man, one Oliver Cromwell, the greatest sovereign who had ever ruled England, made France and Italy tremble when he threatened to interpose for them? Had he not refused to sign a treaty with France till the alarmed Mazarin consented to join his intervention! Had not a greater man, his secretary, one John Milton, the greatest poet of the nations, written for them, and thrilled Europe with his indignant words :
"Avenge, O Lord! thy slaughtered saints, whose bones
And was there not a great man rising, in the Protestant North, William of Orange, the enemy of their enemy, and one who could aid them? But what if no help were apparent? Could God's “almightiness," as John Milton delighted to say, could this fail? Had he not rescued their valleys time and again? Therefore they silently, but bravely, passed the word along their new, scattered settlements : “The valleys can and shall be rescued again. We can march into them under the Captain of our salvation-and, if need be, under him alone.” They found in Geneva “the old Vaudois hero, Javanel, who had done many a brave deed in the valley. He was now too aged, and too disabled by wounds, to return, but he planned their campaign, and bade them fight it out. “You will be told,” he said, “ that all France and Italy will be gathered against you. But were it the whole world, and only yourselves against all, fear ye the Almighty alone; he is your protection.”
The secret must be sacredly kept, for the Protestant Governments which now sheltered them had delicate relations with France and Savoy which ought not to be compromised. Three faithful men were sent to spy out the land and report on the route. Arnaud went to Holland and consulted William of Orange, and obtained funds for the outfit of arms, and other provisions. Twice they started on their march, and had to abandon it and return—their own Protestant friends, the cantonal authorities, interposing and warning them back. Arnaud, though of undaunted courage, had a sagacious eye, and saw that the hour had not yet come; but he did not allow them to disperse the second time without inspiriting their hope by a sermon at Bex on the text, “ Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
They now waited more than a year, to allay public suspicion, before resuming the attempt. But at last, in August, 1689, they secretly assembled in a woods back of Nyon, on the northern shore of Lake Leman, and, with prayer and preaching