History of the rise of the huguenots

The elector refuses to let him go

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The elector refuses to let him go.

But even the great theological doctor's intercession was unavailing. The

very day the elector received "Master Philip's" application, he wrote to

Francis explaining his reasons for refusing to let Melanchthon go to

Paris. It is true that the letter was not actually sent until some ten

days later;2 but no entreaties could move the elector to reconsider

his decision. Melanchthon indignantly left the court and returned to

Jena.3 Here he subsequently received a written refusal from John

Frederick, couched in language far from agreeable. The elector expressed

astonishment that he should have permitted matters to go so far, and

that he continued to apply for permission even after his prince's desire

had been intimated. The danger to be apprehended for the peace of

Germany was far greater than any possible advantage that could be

expected from his mission. And the writer hinted very distinctly that

little confidence could be reposed in Francis's

1 Luther to the Elector of Saxony, Aug. 17, 1535, Works

(Ed. Dr. J. K. Innischer), lv. 103.

2 August 28, 1535. The reasons alleged to Francis were, the

injurious rumors the mission might give rise to, and the damage to the

university from Melanchthon's absence. At some future time, the elector

said, he would permit Melanchthon to visit the French king, should his

Majesty still desire him to do so, and present hinderances be removed.

3 "Subindignabundus hinc discessit." Luther to Justus

Jonas, Aug. 19.

professions, where the Gospel was concerned, as public history sufficiently demonstrated.1

Melanchthon's chagrin.

The most ungrateful of tasks was reserved for Melanchthon himself--the

task of explaining his inability to fulfil his engagement. In a letter

to Francis, he expressed the hope that the delay might be only

temporary, and he exhorted the king to resist violent counsels, while

seeking to promote religious harmony and public tranquillity by

peaceable means. To Du Bellay and Sturm he complained not a little of

the "roughness" of his prince, whom he had never found more "harsh." He

thought that the true motive of the elector's refusal was to be found in

the exaggerated report that he had given up everything, merely because

he had spoken too respectfully of the ecclesiastical power. "I am called

a deserter," he writes. "I am in great peril among our own friends on

account of this moderation; as moderate citizens are wont in civil

discords to be badly received by both sides. Evidently the fate of

Theramenes impends over me; for I believe Xenophon, who affirms that he

was a good man, not Lysias, who reviles him."2

1 "Daneben was eurer Person halb, dessgleichen auch in Sachen des Evangelii für Trost,
Hoffnung oder Zuversicht zu dem Franzosen zu haben, ist wohl zu bedenken, dieweil vormals
wenig Treue oder Glaube von ihm gehalten, wie solches die öffentliche Geschicht
anzeigen." Letter of Aug. 24, 1535. The elector expressed himself at greater length to his chancellor, Dr. Brück (Pontanus). Such a mission would appear suspicious when the elector was
on the point of having a conference with the King of Hungary and Bohemia. Melanchthon might make concessions that Dr. Martin (Luther) and others could not agree to, and

the scandal of division might arise. Besides, he could not believe the French in earnest; they doubtless only intended to take advantage of Melanchthon's indecision. For it was to be presumed that those most active in promoting the affair were "more Erasmian than evangelical

(mehr Erasmisch denn Evangelisch)." Bretschneider, ii. 909, etc.

2 See the three letters, and other interesting

correspondence, Bretschneider, ii. 913, etc. However it may have been

with M., Luther's regret at the elector's refusal was of brief

duration. As early as Sept. 1st he wrote characteristically to Justus

Jonas: "Respecting the French envoys, so general a rumor is now in

circulation, originating with most worthy men, that I have ceased to

wish that Philip should go with them. It is suspected that the true

envoys were murdered on the way, and others sent in their place(!)

with letters by the papists, to entice Philip out. You know that the

Bishops of Maintz, Lüttich, and others, are the worst tools of the

Devil; wherefore I am rather anxious for Philip. I have therefore

written carefully to him. The World is the Devil, and the Devil is the

World." Luther's Works (Ed. Walch), xxi. 1426.

The proposed conference reprobated by the Sorbonne.

Meanwhile the proposed conference encountered no less decided

reprobation from the Sorbonne, to which Francis had submitted his

project. For the "articles" drawn up by Melanchthon, a year before, in a

spirit of conciliation much too broad to please the Protestants, when

placed in the hands of the same theological body, in a modified form,

and without the name of the author, were returned with a very

unfavorable report. The Parisian doctors suggested that, as an

appropriate method of satisfying himself whether there was any hope of

accommodation, Francis might propound such interrogatories as these to

the German theologians from whom the articles emanated: "Whether they

confessed the church militant, founded by divine right, to be incapable

of erring in faith and good morals, of which church, under our Lord

Jesus Christ, St. Peter and his successors have been the head. Whether

they will obey the church, receive the books of the Bible1 as holy

and canonical, accept the decrees of the general councils and of the

Popes, admit the Fathers to be the interpreters of the Scriptures, and

conform to the customs of the church?" As an insufferable grievance they

complained that the "articles" were not a request for pardon, but

actually a demand for concessions.2

The plan to entrap Melanchthon and some considerable portion of the

German Protestants into conciliatory proposals which Luther and the more

decided reformers could not admit, having failed through the abrupt and

tolerably rude refusal of the Elector of Saxony to permit his

theological professor to comply with the invitation of Francis, the

latter appears to have

1 That is, including the apocryphal books.

2 "Qui est, Sire," they observe with evident amazement at

the bare suggestion, "demander de nous retirer à eux, plus qu'eux se

convertir à l'Église." The articles having been submitted through Du

Bellay, August 7, 1535, the Faculty's answer was returned on the 30th of

the same month, accompanied by a more elaborate Instructio, the former

in French, the latter in Latin. Both are printed among the Monumenta

of Gerdes, 75-78, and 78-86.

determined to put the best appearance upon the affair. Accordingly, he promptly

signified to the Sorbonne his approval of its action, and he seems even to have
suffered the rumor to gain currency that he was himself dissuaded from bringing
Melanchthon to France, by the skilful arguments of the Cardinal of Tournon.[378]

In spite of the rebuff he had received, however, Francis made an attempt

to effect such an arrangement with the Protestant princes of Germany as

would secure their co-operation in his ambitious projects against

Charles the Fifth. To compass this end he was quite willing to make

concessions to the Lutherans as extensive as those which Melanchthon had

offered the Roman Catholics.
Du Bellay's representations at Smalcald.

Four months had not elapsed since the unsuccessful issue of his first

mission, before Du Bellay was again in Germany. On the nineteenth of

December, he presented himself to the congress of Protestant princes at

Smalcald. Much of his address was devoted to a vindication of his master

from the charge of cruelty to persons of the same religious faith as

that of the hearers. The envoy insisted that the Germans had been

misinformed: If Francis had executed some of his subjects, he had not

thereby injured the Protestants. The culprits professed very different

doctrines. The creed of the Germans had been adopted by common consent.

Francis admitted, indeed, that there were some useless and superfluous

ceremonies in the church, but could not assent to their indiscriminate

abrogation unless by public decree. Ought not the Protestant princes to

ascribe to their friend, the French king,

1 Florimond de Ræmond (l. vii. c. 4), and others writers

copying from him, represent Tournon as purposely putting himself in the

king's way with an open volume of St. Irenæus in his hands. Obtaining in

this way his coveted opportunity of portraying the perils arising from

intercourse with heretics, the prelate enforced his precepts by reading

a pretended story related by St. Polycarp, that the Apostle John had on

one occasion hastily left the public bath on perceiving the heretic

Cerinthus within. Soldan (Gesch. des Prot. in Frankreich, i. 163)

sensibly remarks that little account ought to be made of the statements

of a writer who associates Louise de Savoie--in her later days a

notorious enemy of the Reformation, who had at this time been four

years dead--- with her daughter Margaret, in "importuning" the king to

invite Melanchthon.

motives as pure and satisfactory as those that impelled them to crush the sedition of the peasants and repress the Anabaptists? As for himself, Francis, although

mild and humane, both from native temperament and by education, had seen

himself compelled, by stern necessity and the dictates of prudence, to

check the promptings of his own heart, and assume for a time attributes

foreign to his proper disposition. For gladly as he listened to the

temperate discussion of any subject, he was justly offended at the

presumption of rash innovators, men that refused to submit to the

judgment of those whose prerogative it was to decide in such matters as

were now under consideration.

He makes, in the name of Francis, a Protestant confession.

Not content with general assurances, Du Bellay, in a private interview

with Brück, Melanchthon, and other German theologians, ventured upon an

exposition of Francis's creed which we fear would have horrified beyond

measure the orthodox doctors of the Sorbonne.1 He informed them,

with a very sober face, that the king's religious belief differed little

from that expressed in Melanchthon's "Common Places." His theologians

had never been able to convince him that the Pope's primacy was of

divine right. Nor had they proved to his satisfaction the existence of

purgatory, which, being the source of their lucrative masses and

legacies, they prized as their very life and blood. He was inclined to

limit the assumption of monastic vows to persons of mature age, and to

give monks and nuns the right of renouncing their profession and

marrying. He favored the conversion of monasteries into seminaries of

learning. While the French theologians insisted upon the celibacy of the

priesthood, for himself he would suggest the middle ground of permitting

such priests as had already married to retain their wives, while prohibiting
others from following their example, unless they resigned the

1 Some years earlier, Du Bellay had, while on an embassy,

set forth his royal master's pretended convictions in favor of the

Reformation with so much verisimilitude as to alarm the papal nuncio,

who dreaded the effect of his speeches upon the Protestants. "Non è

piccola murmoration quì en Corte, ch'l Orator Francese facea più che

l'officio suo richiede in animar Lutherani." Aleander to Sanga,

Ratisbon, July 2, 1532, Vatican MSS., Laemmer, 141.

sacerdotal office. He would have the sacramental cup administered

to the laity when desired, and hoped to obtain the Pope's consent. He

even admitted the necessity of reform in some of the daily prayers, and

reprehended the want of moderation exhibited by the Sorbonne, which not

only condemned the Germans, but would not hesitate on occasion to

censure the cardinals or the Holy Pontiff himself.
The Germans are not deceived.

We cannot find that Du Bellay's honeyed words produced any very deep

impression. Princes and theologians knew tolerably well both how sincere

was the king's profession of friendliness to the "Lutheran" tenets, and

what was the truth respecting the persecution that had raged for months

within his dominions. The western breezes came freighted with the fetid

smoke of human holocausts, and not even the perfume of Francis's

delicately scented speeches could banish the disgust caused by the

nauseating sacrifice. The princes might listen with studied politeness

to the king's apologetic words, and assent to the general truth that

sedition should be punished by severity; but they took the liberty, at

the same time, to express a fervent prayer that the advocates of a

reformed religion and a pure gospel might not be involved in the fate of

the unruly. And they disappointed the monarch by absolutely declining to

enter into any alliance against the Emperor Charles the Fifth. The

French ambassador returned home, and Francis so dexterously threw aside

the mask of pretended favor to a moderate reformation in the church, that
it soon became a disputed question whether he had ever assumed it at all.1

1 Sleidan, De statu rel. et reipubl., lib. ix., ad annum

1535. The Jesuit Maimbourg rejects the secret conference of Du Bellay as

apocryphal, in view of Francis's persecution of the Protestants at

Paris, and his declaration of January 21st. But Sleidan's statement is

fully substantiated by an extant memorandum by Spalatin, who was present

on the occasion (printed in Seckendorff, Gerdes, iv. 68-73 Doc., and

Bretschneider, ii. 1014). It receives additional confirmation from a

letter of the Nuncio Morone to Pope Paul III., Vienna, Dec. 26, 1536

(Vatican MSS., Laemmer, 178). Morone received from Doctor Matthias,

Vice-Chancellor of the Empire, an account of Francis's recent offer to

the German Protestants "di condescendere nelle loro opinioni," on

condition of their renouncing obedience to the emperor. He reserved only

two points of doctrine as requiring discussion: the sacrifice of the

mass, and the authority and primacy of the Pope. The Protestants

rejected the interested proposal of the royal convert.

Efforts of the French Protestants in Switzerland and Germany.

Meantime the French Protestants were unremitting in their efforts to

obtain a more satisfactory solution of the religious question than was

contained in the Declaration of Coucy. They wrote to Strasbourg, to

Berne, to Zurich, to Basle, imploring the intercession of these states.

Particular attention was drawn to the severe treatment endured by their

brethren in Provence and Dauphiny. The writers declared themselves to be

not rebels, but the most loyal of subjects, recognizing one God, one

faith, one law, and one king. They were not "Lutherans," nor

"Waldenses," nor "heretics;" but simply Christians, accepting the

Decalogue, the Apostles' Creed, and every doctrine taught in either

Testament. It was unreasonable that they should be compelled by fines,

imprisonment, or bodily pains, to abjure their faith, unless their

errors were first proved from the Bible, or before the convocation of a

General Council.1
An appeal from Strasbourg and Zurich.

The Swiss and Germans made a prompt response. The Senate of Strasbourg

addressed Francis, praising his clemency, but calling his attention to

the danger all good men were exposed to. "If but a single little word

escape the mouth of good Christian men, directed against the most

manifest abuses, nay, against the flagitious crimes of those who are

regarded as ecclesiastics, how easy will it be, inasmuch as these very

ecclesiastics are their judges, to cry out that words have been spoken

to the injury of the true faith, the Church of God, and its


Zurich, going even further, made the direct request of its royal ally,

that hereafter all persons accused of holding heretical views should be

permitted by his Majesty to clear themselves by an appeal to the pure

Word of God, and no longer be subjected

1 The authorship of this interesting document, and the way

it reached its destination, are equally unknown. It is published--for

the first time, I believe--in Baum, Cunitz, and Reuss, Opera Calvini

(1872), x. part ii. 55, 56.

2 Senatus Argentoratensis Francisco Regi, July 3, 1536, ibid., x. 57-61.

without a hearing to torture and manifold punishments.1 Berne and Basle remonstrated with similar urgency.

An embassy receives an unsatisfactory reply.

Receiving no reply to their appeal, in consequence of the king's

attention being engrossed by the war then in progress with the emperor,

and by reason of the dauphin's unexpected death, the same cantons and

Strasbourg, a few months later, were induced to send a formal embassy.

But, if the envoys were fed with gracious words, they obtained no real

concession. Francis assured the Bernese and their confederates that "it

was, as they well knew, only for love of them that he had enlarged the

provisions of his gracious Edict of Coucy, by lately2 extending

pardon to all exiles and fugitives"--that is, "Sacramentarians" and

"relapsed" persons included. This, it seemed to him, "ought to satisfy

them entirely."3 It was a polite, but none the less a very positive

refusal to entertain the suggestion that the abjuration of their

previous "errors" should no longer be required of all who wished to

avail themselves of the amnesty. Nor did it escape notice as a

significant circumstance, that Francis selected for his mouth-piece, not

the friendly Queen of Navarre, but the rough and bigoted

Grand-Maître--Anne de Montmorency, the future Constable of


1 Senatus Turicensis Francisco Regi, July 13, 1536, ibid., x. 61.

2 Edict of Lyons, May 31, 1536, Herminjard, iv. 192.

3 François Ier aux Conseils de Zurich, Berne, Bâle et

Strasbourg, Compiègne, Feb. 20, and Feb. 23, 1537, Basle MSS., ibid.,

iv. 191-193. Cf. the documents, mostly inedited, iv. 70, 96, 150.

4 Le Conseil de Berne au Conseil de Bâle, March 15, 1537,

ibid., iv. 202, 203, Sleidan (Strasb. ed. of 1555), lib x. fol. 163

verso. It must, however, be remarked that the "evangelical cities"

would not take the rebuff as decisive, and, within a few months, were

again writing to Francis in behalf of his persecuted subjects of Nismes

and elsewhere. Le Conseil de Berne à François I^er, Nov. 17, 1537,

Berne MSS., Herminjard, iv. 320.


The placards of 1534 mark an epoch in the history of the Huguenots.

In the initial stage of great enterprises a point may sometimes be

distinguished at which circumstances, in themselves trivial, have shaped

the entire future. Such a point in the history of the Huguenots is

marked by the appearance of the "Placards" of 1534. The pusillanimous

retreat of Bishop Briçonnet from the advanced post he had at first

assumed, robbed Protestantism of an important advantage which might have

been retained had the prelate proved true to his convictions. But the

"Placards," with their stern and uncompromising logic, their biting

sarcasm, their unbridled invective, directed equally against the

absurdities of the mass and the inconsistencies of its advocates,

exerted a far more lasting and powerful influence than even the

lamentable defection of the Bishop of Meaux. Until now the attitude of

Francis with respect to the "new doctrines" had been uncertain and

wavering. It was by no means impossible that, imitating the example of

the Elector of Saxony, the French monarch should even yet put himself at

the head of the movement. Severe persecution had, indeed, dogged the

steps of the Reformation. Fire and gibbet had been mercilessly employed

to destroy it. The squares of Paris had already had the baptism of

blood. But the cruelties complained of by the "Lutherans," if tolerated

by Francis, had their origin in the bigotry of others. The Sorbonne and

the Parisian Parliament, Chancellor Duprat and the queen mother, Louise

of Savoie, are entitled to the unenviable distinction of having

instigated the sanguinary measures of repression

directed against the professors of the Protestant faith, of which we have already
met with many fruits. The monarch, greedy of glory, ambitious of association
with cultivated minds, and aspiring to the honor of ushering in the new

Augustan age, more than once seemed half-inclined to embrace those

religious views which commended themselves to his taste by association

with the fresh and glowing ideas of the great masters in science and

art. More than once had the champions of the Church trembled for their

hold upon the sceptre-bearing arm; while as often their opponents, with

Francis's own sister, had cherished illusory hopes that the eloquent

addresses of Roussel and other court-preachers had left a deep impress

on the king's heart.
The orthodoxy of Francis no longer questioned.

But the "Placards" effectually dissipated alike these hopes and these

fears. There was no longer any question as to the orthodoxy of Francis.

Apologists for the Reformation might seek to undeceive his mind and

remove his prejudices. His own emissaries might endeavor to persuade the

Germans, of whose alliance he stood in need, that his views differed

little from theirs. But there can be no doubt that, whatever his

previous intentions had been, from this time forth his resolution was

taken, to use his own expression already brought to the reader's notice,

to live and die in Mother Holy Church, and demonstrate the justice of

his claim to the title of "very Christian." The audacity of the

Protestant enthusiast who penetrated even into the innermost recesses of

the royal castle, and affixed the placards to the very chamber door of

the king, was turned to good account by Cardinal Tournon and other

courtiers of like sentiments, and was adduced as a proof of the

assertion so often reiterated, that a change of religion necessarily

involved also a revolution in the State. The free tone of the placards

seemed to reveal a contemptuous disregard of dignities. The ridicule

cast upon the doctrine of transubstantiation was an assault on one of

the few dogmas respecting which Francis had implicit confidence in the

teachings of the Church. Henceforth the king figures on the page of

history as a determined opponent and persecutor of the Reformation, less

hostile, indeed, to the "Lutherans," than to the "Sacramentarians," or

"Zwinglians," but nevertheless an avowed enemy of innovation. The change

was recognized and deplored by the Reformers themselves; who,

seeing Francis in the last years of his reign give the rein to shameful

debauchery, and meantime suffer the public prisons to overflow with

hundreds of innocent men and women, awaiting punishment for no other

offence than their religious faith, pointedly compared him to the

effeminate Sardanapalus surrounded by his courtezans.1

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