François Pierre Guillaume Guizot.

A Popular History of France from the Earliest Times, Volume 6 online

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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, and managed to
keep up by means of alms from Protestant Europe. It was there that the
most illustrious of the pastors of the desert, Paul Rabaut, already
married and father of one child, went to seek the instruction necessary
for the apostolic vocation which he was to exercise for so many years in
the midst of so many and such formidable perils. "On determining to
exercise the ministry in this kingdom," he wrote, in 1746, to the
superintendent of Languedoc, Lenain d'Asfeldt, "I was not ignorant of
what I exposed myself to; so I regarded myself as a victim doomed to
death. I thought I was doing the greatest good of which I was capable in
devoting myself to the condition of a pastor. Protestants, being deprived
of the free exercise of their own religion, not seeing their way to
taking part in the exercises of the Roman religion, not being able to get
the books they would require for their instruction, consider, my lord,
what - might be their condition if they were absolutely deprived of
pastors. They would be ignorant of their most essential duties, and
would fall either into fanaticism, the fruitful source of extravagances
and irregularities, or into indifference and contempt for all religion."
The firm moderation, the courageous and simple devotion, breathed by this
letter, were the distinctive traits of the career of Paul Rabaut, as well
as of Antony Court; throughout a persecution which lasted nearly forty
years, with alternations of severity and clemency, the chiefs of French
Protestantism managed to control the often recurring desperation of their
flocks. On the occasion of a temporary rising on the borders of the
Gardon, Paul Rabaut wrote to the governor of Languedoc, "When I desired
to know whence this evil proceeded, it was reported to me that divers
persons, finding themselves liable to lose their goods and their liberty,
or to have to do acts contrary to their conscience, in respect of their
marriages or the baptism of their children, and knowing no way of getting
out of the kingdom and setting their conscience free, abandoned
themselves to despair, and attacked certain priests, because they
regarded them as the primal and principal cause of the vexations done to
them. Once more, I blame those people; but I thought it my duty to
explain to you the cause of their despair. If it be thought that my
ministry is necessary to calm the ruffled spirits, I shall comply with
pleasure. Above all, if I might assure the Protestants of that district
that they shall not be vexed in their conscience, I would pledge myself
to bind over the greater number to stop those who would make a
disturbance, supposing that there should be any." At a word from Paul
Rabaut calmness returned to the most ruffled spirits; sometimes his
audience was composed of ten or twelve thousand of the faithful; his
voice was so resonant and so distinct, that in the open air it would
reach the most remote. He prayed with a fervor and an unction which
penetrated all hearts, and disposed them to hear, with fruits following,
the word of God. Simple, grave, penetrating rather than eloquent, his
preaching, like his life, bears the impress of his character. As
moderate as fervent, as judicious as heroic in spirit, Paul Rabaut
preached in the desert, at the peril of his life, sermons which he had
composed in a cavern. "During more than thirty years," says one of his
biographers, "he had no dwelling-place but grottoes, hovels, and cabins,
whither men went to draw him like a ferocious beast. He lived a long
while in a hiding-place, which one of his faithful guides had contrived
for him under a heap of stones and blackberry bushes. It was discovered
by a shepherd; and such was the wretchedness of his condition, that, when
forced to abandon it, he regretted that asylum, more fitted for wild
beasts than for men."

The hulks were still full of the audience of Paul Rabaut, and Protestant
women were still languishing in the unwholesome dungeon of the Tower of
Constance, when the execution of the unhappy Calas, accused of having
killed his son, and the generous indignation of Voltaire cast a momentary
gleam of light within the sombre region of prisons and gibbets. For the
first time, public opinion, at white heat, was brought to bear upon the
decision of the persecutors. Calas was dead, but the decree of the
Parliament of Toulouse which had sentenced him, was quashed by act of the
council: his memory was cleared, and the day of toleration for French
Protestants began to glimmer, pending the full dawn of justice and

We have gone over in succession, and without break, the last cruel
sufferings of the French Protestants; we now turn away our eyes with a
feeling of relief mingled with respect and pride; we leave the free air
of the desert to return to the rakes and effeminates of Louis XV.'s
court. Great was the contrast between the government which persecuted
without knowing why, and the victims who suffered for a faith incessantly
revived in their souls by suffering. For two centuries the French
Reformation had not experienced for a single day the formidable dangers
of indifference and lukewarmness.

The young king was growing up, still a stranger to affairs, solely
occupied with the pleasures of the chase, handsome, elegant, with noble
and regular features, a cold and listless expression. In the month of
February, 1725, he fell ill; for two days there was great danger. The
duke thought himself to be threatened with the elevation of the house of
Orleans to the throne. "I'll not be caught so again," he muttered
between his teeth, when he came one night to inquire how the king was,
"if he recovers, I'll have him married." The king did recover, but the
Infanta was only seven years old. Philip V., who had for a short time
abdicated, retiring with the queen to a remote castle in the heart of the
forests, had just remounted the throne after the death of his eldest son,
Louis I. Small-pox had carried off the young monarch, who had reigned
but eight months. Elizabeth Farnese, aided by the pope's nuncio and some
monks who were devoted to her, had triumphed over her husband's religious
scruples and the superstitious counsels of his confessor; she was once
more reigning over Spain, when she heard that the little Infanta-queen,
whose betrothal to the King of France had but lately caused so much joy,
was about to be sent away from the court of her royal spouse. "The
Infanta must be started off, and by coach too, to get it over sooner,"
exclaimed Count Morville, who had been ordered by Madame de Prie to draw
up a list of the marriageable princesses in Europe. Their number
amounted to ninety-nine; twenty-five Catholics, three Anglicans, thirteen
Calvinists, fifty-five Lutherans, and three Greeks. The Infanta had
already started for Madrid; the Regent's two daughters, the young widow
of Louis I. and Mdlle. de Beaujolais, promised to Don Carlos, were on
their way back to France; the advisers of Louis XV. were still looking
out for a wife for him. Spain had been mortally offended, without the
duke's having yet seen his way to forming a new alliance in place of that
which he had just broken off. Some attempts at arrangement with George
I. had failed; an English princess could not abjure Protestantism. Such
scruples did not stop Catherine I., widow of Peter the Great, who had
taken the power into her own hands to the detriment of the czar's
grandson; she offered the duke her second daughter, the grand-duchess
Elizabeth, for King Louis XV., with a promise of abjuration on the part
of the princess, and of a treaty which should secure the support of all
the Muscovite forces in the interest of France. At the same time the
same negotiators proposed to the Duke of Bourbon himself the hand of Mary
Leckzinska, daughter of Stanislaus, the dispossessed King of Poland,
guaranteeing to him, on the death of King Augustus, the crown of that

[Illustration: Mary Leczinska - - 121]

The proposals of Russia were rejected. "The Princess of Muscovy," M. de
Morville had lately said, "is the daughter of a low-born mother, and has
been brought up amidst a still barbarous people." Every great alliance
appeared impossible; the duke and Madame de Prie were looking out for a
queen who would belong to them, and would secure them the king's heart.
Their choice fell upon Mary Leckzinska, a good, gentle, simple creature,
without wit or beauty, twenty-two years old, and living upon the alms of
France with her parents, exiles and refugees at an old commandery of the
Templars at Weissenburg. Before this King Stanislaus had conceived the
idea of marrying his daughter to Count d'Estrees; the marriage had failed
through the Regent's refusal to make the young lord a duke and peer. The
distress of Stanislaus, his constant begging letters to the court of
France, were warrant for the modest submissiveness of the princess.
"Madame de Prie has engaged a queen, as I might engage a valet
to-morrow," writes Marquis d'Argenson; - it is a pity."

When the first overtures from the duke arrived at Weissenburg, King
Stanislaus entered the room where his wife and daughter were at work,
and, "Fall we on our knees, and thank God!" he said. "My dear father,"
exclaimed the princess, "can you be recalled to the throne of Poland?"
"God has done us a more astounding grace," replied Stanislaus: "you are
Queen of France!"

"Never shall I forget the horror of the calamities we were enduring in
France, when Queen Mary Leckzinska arrived," says M. d'Argenson. "A
continuance of rain had caused famine, and it was much aggravated by the
bad government under the duke. That government, whatever may be said of
it, was even more hurtful through bad judgment than from interested
views, which had not so much to do with it as was said. There were very
costly measures taken to import foreign corn; but that only augmented the
alarm, and, consequently, the dearness.

"Fancy the unparalleled misery of the country-places! It was just the
time when everybody was thinking of harvests and ingatherings of all
sorts of things, which it had not been possible to get in for the
continual rains; the poor farmer was watching for a dry moment to get
them in; meanwhile all the district was beaten with many a scourge. The
peasants had been sent off to prepare the roads by which the queen was to
pass, and they were only the worse for it, insomuch that Her Majesty was
often within a thought of drowning; they pulled her from her carriage by
the strong arm, as best they might. In several stopping-places she and
her suite were swimming in water which spread everywhere, and that in
spite of the unparalleled pains that had been taken by a tyrannical

It was under such sad auspices that Mary Leckzinska arrived at
Versailles. Fleury had made no objection to the marriage. Louis XV.
accepted it, just as he had allowed the breaking-off of his union with
the Infanta and that of France with Spain. For a while the duke had
hopes of reaping all the fruit of the unequal marriage he had just
concluded for the King of France. The queen was devoted to him; he
enlisted her in an intrigue against Fleury. The king was engaged with
his old preceptor; the queen sent for him; he did not return. Fleury
waited a long while. The duke and Paris-Duverney had been found with the
queen; they had papers before them; the king had set to work with them.
When he went back, at length, to his closet, Louis XV. found the bishop
no longer there; search was made for him; he was no longer in the palace.

The king was sorry and put out; the Duke of Mortemart, who was his
gentleman of the bed-chamber, handed him a letter from Fleury. The
latter had retired to Issy, to the countryhouse of the Sulpicians; he
bade the king farewell, assuring him that he had for a long while been
resolved, according to the usage of his youth, to put some space between
the world and death. Louis began to shed tears; Mortemart proposed to go
and fetch Fleury, and got the order given him to do so. The duke had to
write the letter of recall. Next morning the bishop was at Versailles,
gentle and modest as ever, and exhibiting neither resentment nor
surprise. Six months later, however, the king set out from Versailles to
go and visit the Count and Countess of Toulouse at Rambouillet. The duke
was in attendance at his departure. "Do not make us wait supper,
cousin," said the young monarch, graciously. Scarcely had his equipages
disappeared, when a letter was brought: the duke was ordered to quit the
court and retire provisionally to Chantilly. Madame de Prie was exiled
to her estates in Normandy, where she soon died of spite and anger. The
head of the House of Conde came forth no more from the political
obscurity which befitted his talents. At length Fleury remained sole

He took possession of it without fuss or any external manifestation;
caring only for real authority, he advised Louis XV. not to create any
premier minister, and to govern by himself, like his great-grandfather.
The king took this advice, as every other, and left Fleury to govern.
This was just what the bishop intended; a sleepy calm succeeded the
commotions which had been caused by the inconsistent and spasmodic
government of the duke; galas and silly expenses gave place to a wise
economy, the real and important blessing of Fleury's administration.
Commerce and industry recovered confidence; business was developed; the
increase of the revenues justified a diminution of taxation; war, which
was imminent at the moment of the duke's fall, seemed to be escaped; the
Bishop of Frejus became Cardinal Fleury; the court of Rome paid on the
nail for the service rendered it by the new minister in freeing the
clergy from the tax of the fiftieth (_impot du cinquantieme_).
"Consecrated to God, and kept aloof from the commerce of men," had been
Fleury's expression, "the dues of the church are irrevocable, and cannot
be subject to any tax, whether of ratification or any other." The clergy
responded to this pleasant exposition of principles by a gratuitous gift
of five millions. Strife ceased in every quarter; France found herself
at rest, without lustre as well as without prospect.

It was not, henceforth, at Versailles that the destinies of Europe were
discussed and decided. The dismissal of the Infanta had struck a deadly
blow at the frail edifice of the quadruple alliance, fruit of the
intrigues and diplomatic ability of Cardinal Dubois. Philip V. and
Elizabeth Farnese, deeply wounded by the affront put upon them, had
hasted to give the Infanta to the Prince of Brazil, heir to the throne of
Portugal, at the same time that the Prince of the Asturias espoused a
daughter of John V. Under cover of this alliance, agreeable as it was to
England, the faithful patron of Portugal, the King of Spain was
negotiating elsewhere, with the Emperor Charles VI., the most ancient and
hitherto the most implacable of his enemies. This prince had no son, and
wished to secure the succession to his eldest daughter, the Arch-duchess
Maria Theresa. The Pragmatic-Sanction which declared this wish awaited
the assent of Europe; that of Spain was of great value; she offered,
besides, to open her ports to the Ostend Company, lately established by
the emperor to compete against the Dutch trade.

The house of Austria divided the house of Bourbon, by opposing to one
another the two branches of France and Spain; the treaty of Vienna was
concluded on the 1st of May, 1725. The two sovereigns renounced all
pretensions to each other's dominions respectively, and proclaimed, on
both sides, full amnesty for the respective partisans. The emperor
recognized the hereditary rights of Don Carlos to the duchies of Tuscany,
Parma, and Piacenza; he, at the same time, promised his good offices with
England to obtain restitution of Gibraltar and Mahon. In spite of the
negotiations already commenced with the Duke of Lorraine, hopes were even
held out to the two sons of Elizabeth Farnese, Don Carlos and Don Philip,
of obtaining the hands of the arch-duchesses, daughters of the emperor.

When the official treaty was published and the secret articles began to
transpire, Europe was in commotion at the new situation in which it was
placed. George I. repaired to his German dominions, in order to have a
closer view of the emperor's movements. There the Count of Broglie soon
joined him, in the name of France. The King of Prussia, Frederick
William I., the King of England's son-in-law, was summoned to Hanover.
Passionate and fantastic, tyrannical, addicted to the coarsest excesses,
the King of Prussia had, nevertheless, managed to form an excellent army
of sixty thousand men, at the same time amassing a military treasure
amounting to twenty-eight millions; he joined, not without hesitation,
the treaty of Hanover, concluded on the 3d of September, 1725, between
France and England. The Hollanders, in spite of their desire to ruin the
Ostend Company, had not yet signed the convention; Frederick William was
disturbed at their coming in. "Say, I declare against the emperor," said
he in a letter which he communicated on the 5th of December to the
ambassadors of France and England: "he will not fail to get the
Muscovites and Poles to act against me. I ask whether their majesties
will then keep my rear open? England, completely surrounded by sea, and
France, happening to be covered by strong places, consider themselves
pretty safe, whilst the greater part of my dominions are exposed to
anything it shall seem good to attempt. By this last treaty, then, I
engage in war for the benefit of Mr. Hollander and Co., that they may be
able to sell their tea, coffee, cheese, and crockery dearer; those
gentlemen will not do the least thing for me, and I am to do everything
for them. Gentlemen, tell me, is it fair? If you deprive the emperor of
his ships and ruin his Ostend trade, will he be a less emperor than he is
at this moment? The pink of all (_le pot aux roses_) is to deprive the
emperor of provinces, but which? And to whose share will they fall?
Where are the troops? Where is the needful, wherewith to make war?
Since it seems good to commence the dance, it must of course be
commenced. After war comes peace. Shall I be forgotten? Shall I be the
last of all? Shall I have to sign perforce?" The coarse common sense of
the Vandal soon prevailed over family alliances; Frederick William broke
with France and England in order to rally to the emperor's side. Russia,
but lately so attentive to France, was making advances to Spain. "The
czar's envoy is the most taciturn Muscovite that ever came from Siberia,"
wrote Marshal Tesse. "Goodman Don Miguel Guerra is the minister with
whom he treats, and the effect of eight or ten apoplexies is, that he has
to hold his head with his hands, else his mouth would infallibly twist
round over his shoulder. During their audience they seat themselves
opposite one another in arm-chairs, and, after a quarter of an hour's
silence, the Muscovite opens his mouth and says, 'Sir, I have orders from
the emperor, my master, to assure the Catholic King that he loves him
very much.' 'And I,' replies Guerra, 'do assure you that the king my
master loves your master the emperor very much.' After this laconic
conversation they stare at one another for a quarter of an hour without
saying anything, and the audience is over."

The tradition handed down by Peter the Great forbade any alliance with
England; M. de Campredon, French ambassador at Petersburg, was seeking to
destroy this prejudice. One of the empress's ministers, Jokosinski,
rushed abruptly from the conference; he was half drunk, and he ran to the
church where the remains of the czar were lying. "O my dear master!" he
cried before all the people, "rise from the tomb, and see how thy memory
is trampled under foot!" Antipathy towards England, nevertheless, kept
Catherine I. aloof from the Hanoverian league; she made alliance with the
emperor. France was not long before she made overtures to Spain. Philip
V. always found it painful to endure family dissensions; he became
reconciled with his nephew, and accepted the intervention of Cardinal
Fleury in his disagreements with England. The alliance, signed at
Seville on the 29th of November, 1729, secured to Spain, in return for
certain commercial advantages, the co-operation of England in Italy. The
Duke of Parma had just died; the Infante Don Carlos, supported by an
English fleet, took possession of his dominions. Elizabeth Farnese had
at last set foot in Italy. She no longer encountered there the able and
ambitious monarch whose diplomacy had for so long governed the affairs of
the peninsula; Victor Amadeo had just abdicated. Scarcely a year had
passed from the date of that resolution, when, suddenly, from fear, it
was said, of seeing his father resume power, the young king, Charles
Emmanuel, had him arrested in his castle of Pontarlier. "It will be a
fine subject for a tragedy, this that is just now happening to Victor,
King of Sardinia," writes M. d'Argenson. "What a catastrophe without a
death! A great king, who plagued Europe with his virtues and his vices,
with his courage, his artifices, and his perfidies, who had formed round
him a court of slaves, who had rendered his dominion formidable by his
industry and his labors; indefatigable in his designs, unresting in every
branch of government, cherishing none but great projects, credited in
every matter with greater designs than he had yet been known to execute,
- this king abdicates unexpectedly, and, almost immediately, here he
finds himself arrested by his son, whose benefactor he had been so
recently and so extraordinarily! This son is a young prince without
merit, without courage, and without capacity, gentle and under control.
His ministers persuaded him to be ungrateful: he accomplishes the height
of crime, without having crime in his nature; and here is his father shut
up like a bear in a prison, guarded at sight like a maniac, and separated
from the wife whom he had chosen for consolation in his retirement!"
Public indignation, however, soon forced the hand of Charles Emmanuel's
minister. Victor Amadeo was released; his wife, detained in shameful
captivity, was restored to him; he died soon afterwards in that same
castle of Pontarlier, whence he had been carried off without a voice
being raised in his favor by the princes who were bound to him by the
closest ties of blood.

The efforts made in common by Fleury and Robert Walpole, prime minister
of the King of England, had for a long while been successful in
maintaining the general peace; the unforeseen death of Augustus of
Saxony, King of Poland, suddenly came to trouble it. It was,
thenceforth, the unhappy fate of Poland to be a constant source of
commotion and discord in Europe. The Elector of Saxony, son of Augustus
H., was supported by Austria and Russia; the national party in Poland
invited Stanislaus Leckzinski; he was elected at the Diet by sixty
thousand men of family, and set out to take possession of the throne,
reckoning upon the promises of his son-in-law, and on the military spirit
which was reviving in France. The young men burned to win their spurs;
the old generals of Louis XIV. were tired of idleness.

Online LibraryFrançois Pierre Guillaume GuizotA Popular History of France from the Earliest Times, Volume 6 → online text (page 10 of 45)