1559-1560, the formation of "a federative republic broken up into
cantons, the number and situation of which were already, it would
appear, determined upon by the authors of the project." And he
deplores the blind sectarian spirit which could induce Frenchmen to
acquiesce in a plan designed to destroy the unity and consequent
power of a realm whose consolidation every successive king since
the origin of the monarchy had unceasingly pursued.
I imagine that few unbiassed minds will follow this usually
judicious historian in his singularly precipitate acceptance of the
"official's" statement. It is in patent contradiction with
well-known facts respecting the constitution of the Huguenot party.
The noblemen who gave this party their support had everything to
lose, and nothing to gain, by the change from a monarchical to a
republican form of government. Condé, the "chef muet," was a prince
of the blood, not so far removed from the throne as to regard it altogether
1 The accusation referred to occurs, for instance, in a
private diary, part of which has recently come to light, begun by one
Friar Symeon Vinot, Sept. 10, 1563. He notes: "L'an 1561 "--an error for
1560--"commença à, s'elever en France la secte des Hugguenotz, ou (a
mieulx dire) Eygnossen, pour ce qu'il [ils] vouloient fayre les villes franches, et s'allier
ensemble, comme les villes des Schwysses, qu'on dict en allemand Egnossen,
cest a dire Aliez," etc. Bulletin de l'hist. du prot. fr., xxv. (1876) 380.
2 Histoire du parlement de Bordeaux, depuis sa creation jusqu'à sa suppression (1541-1790),
œuvre posthume de C. B. F. Boscheron des Portes, président honoraire de la cour d'appel de
Bordeaux, etc. (Bordeaux, 1877), i. 130.
impossible that he or his children might yet succeed to
the crown. The main body of the party had had no reason to
entertain hostility to regal authority. The prevailing discontent
was not directed against the young king, but against the persons
surrounding him who had illegally usurped his name and the real
functions of royalty. If persecution for religion's sake had long
raged, the victims had never uttered a syllable smacking of
disloyalty, and continued to hope, not without some apparent
reason, that the truth might yet reach the heart of kings.
But, independently of the gross inconsistency between the design
ascribed to La Renaudie and the known sentiments of the Huguenots
at this time, there are other marks of improbability connected with
convents, and exposed the trickery by which a corrupt clergy sought to
maintain itself in popular esteem. Thus the growing intelligence and
widening information of the people prepared them to appreciate the
merits of the great doctrinal controversy now occupying the attention of
enlightened minds. Interest in the discussion of the most important
themes that can occupy the human contemplation was both stimulated and
gratified by a constant influx of religious works from the teeming
presses of Strasbourg, Basle, Lausanne, Neufchâtel, and especially
Geneva. And the verdict of the great majority of readers and thinkers
was favorable to the Swiss and German controversialists.
Calvin's Institutes. Marot and Beza's Psalms.
Next to the Bible, translated originally by Olivetanus, and in its
successive editions rendered more conformable to the Hebrew and Greek
texts, the "Christian Institutes" exerted the most powerful influence.
The close logic of Calvin's treatises, speaking in a style clear,
concise and nervous, and touching a chord of sympathy in each French
reader, made its deep impress upon the intellect and heart, while
captivating the ear. Calvin's commentaries on the sacred volume rendered
its pages luminous and familiar. Other works exerted an influence
scarcely inferior. The "Actions and Monuments" of the martyrs, by Jean
Crespin, printer and scholar, not only perpetuated the memory of the
witnesses for the truth, but stimulated others to copy their fidelity.
Marot and Beza's metrical versions of the Psalms, wafted into
popularity, even among those
who at first little sympathized with the piety of the words, by the
novelty and beauty of the music to which they were sung, were
powerful auxiliaries to the arguments of the theologian. They
entered the house of the peasant and invested its homely scenes
with a calm derived from the contemplation of the bliss of a heaven
where the fleeting distinctions of the present shall melt away. They
nerved the humble artisan to patience and to the cheerful endurance of
obloquy and reproach. They attracted to the gathering of persecuted
reformers in the by-street, in the retired barn, or on the open heath or
mountain side, the youth who preferred their melody and intelligible
words to the jargon of a service conducted in a tongue understood only
by the learned. In the royal court, or rising in loud chorus from a
messengers of the truth, where no other messengers could have found
utterance with impunity.
Morals and martyrdom.
The blameless purity of life of the men and women whom, for religion's
sake, the officers of the law put to death with every species of
indignity and with inhuman cruelty, when contrasted with the flagrant
corruption of the clergy and the shameless dissoluteness of the court,
openly fostered for their own base ends by cardinals themselves accused
of every species of immorality and suspected of atheism, deeply affected
the minds of the reflecting. One Anne Du Bourg put to death by a Charles
of Lorraine made more converts in a day than all the executioners could
burn in a year.
Character of the ministers from Geneva.
But, if the rapid spread of Protestant doctrines at this precise date is
due to any one cause more than to another, that cause may probably be
found in the character and numbers of the religious teachers. Converts
from the Papal Church, principally priests and monks, were the first
apostles of the Reformation. Few of them had received systematic
training of any kind, none had a thorough acquaintance with biblical
learning. Many embraced the truth only in part; some professed it from
improper motives. The Lenten preachers whose leaning towards
"Lutheranism" was sufficiently marked to attract the hatred of the
Sorbonne, were generally orators,
more solicitous of popularity than jealous for the truth--fickle
and inconstant men whose apostasy inflicted deep wounds
upon the cause with which they had been identified, and more
than neutralized all the good done by their previous exertions.
But now a brotherhood of theologians took their place, not
less zealous for the faith than disciplined in intellect. Geneva1 was the nursery from which a vigorous stock was transplanted
to French soil. The theological school in which Calvin and Beza taught,
moulded the destinies of France. The youths who came from the shores of
Lake Leman were no neophytes, nor had they to unlearn the casuistry of
the schools or to throw off a monastic indolence which habit had made a
second nature. They embraced a vocation to which nothing but a stern
sense of duty, or the more powerful attraction of Divine love, could
prompt. They entered an arena where poverty, fatigue, and almost
inevitable death stared them in the face. But they entered it