Huguenots

 

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Huguenots. The name Huguenot was first given to the Protestants of France who favored the Reformation, but afterwards it was confined to the Calvinists, or followers of John Calvin, who was the father of the Reformation in that country. Under his watch the number of Protestants in France rapidly increased from 1528 to 1559, when the great synod held in May adopted Calvin's ideas of church government and discipline, as well as doctrine, in a confession of faith. The Huguenots were then so strong that they confidently expected to be the dominant party in the state. They included some of the royal family and many of the nobility. Among the latter was Gaspard de Coligni, admiral of France, a man respected by both parties, a brave and patriotic soldier and sailor, and for a while the favorite of the queen mother and regent of France, Catharine de' Medici. In 1555 he formed a project of a settlement for the persecuted Huguenots in America; and in that year Henry II. furnished two ships, commanded by the Chevalier de Villagagnon, who, with a small Protestant colony, sailed from Havre-de-Grace in May, 1555, and reached the bay of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in September. Coligni provided ministers for his colony, and in a synod that year, held at Geneva, of which Calvin was president, the church determined to send two ministers to Brazil. The enterprise was a failure.

Queen Catharine cared nothing for religion, but had espoused the cause of the Protestants because the leader of the Roman Catholics was the Duke of Guise, a descendant of Charlemagne, and a claimant of a right to the French throne. The Protestants were still suffering greatly from persecution, and late in 1561 Coligni sought permission from Catharine to provide a refuge for them in the wilds of America. She readily granted all he desired, and early in 1562 he sent John Ribault, an expert mariner of Dieppe, with two small ships, with sailors and soldiers, and a few gentlemen of fortune, who were prompted by a love of adventure and the prospect of gain to seek a place wherein to plant a colony. They arrived off the coast of Anastasia Island, below the site of St. Augustine, at the close of April. Sailing along the "sweet-smelling coast " of Florida, northward, the two vessels entered a river which was named Mary, and were kindly received by the natives when they landed. The Frenchmen were delighted with everything they beheld—the climate; the forest, redolent with the perfume of the magnolia; birds with gorgeous plumage and sweetest notes ; and " people of the finest forms and kindest natures." In the presence of half-naked, the Christians knelt in the shadows of a flower - la den magnolia - tree, and offered thanksgivings to God for their safe voyage. At twilight they returned to their ships; and the next morning conveyed a stone column, on which were carved the arms of France, planted it on a flowery knoll, and in the usual manner took possession of the country in the name of the king Charles IX., son of Catharine.

First Settlement at Port Royal, Carolina

A few days later they sailed northward, entered a broad sound which they named Port Royal, on the coast of South Carolina, explored the Coosa and the Combahee in the land where De Allyon met a deserved fate, and on Port Royal Island, near the site of Beaufort, made choice of a spot for a colony. The Indians were kind, and so were the Frenchmen, and there was mutual friendship. Ribault addressed his company on the glory to be obtained and the advantage to the persecuted Huguenots by planting there the seed of empire, and asked, " Who will undertake the work ?" Nearly all were willing. A colony of thirty persons was organized by the choice of Albert Pierria for governor. Ribault built a fort, and named it Carolina, in honor of his King, the remains of which were yet visible in 1866. After giving giving the colonists good advice, Ribault departed for Europe with the rest of the company. Coligni was delighted with his report, but was unable to do anything for his colony then, for civil war was raging between the Huguenots and Roman Catholics. When it subsided the admiral sent three vessels under the command of Rene-Laudonniere who was with the former expedition, to the aid and reinforcement of the colony. He was accompanied by Jacob Lemoyne, an artist and geographer; two skilful pilots (the brothers Vasseur) of Dieppe; and many young men of family and fortune, as well as mechanics and laborers.

Laudonniere left Havre-de-Grace on April 22, 1564, reached the coast of Florida in two months, and, instead of going to Port Royal, he proceeded to plant a colony on the banks of the St. John. He had evidently heard of the fate of the first colony before leaving France. That colony, expecting supplies from home, had not planted, and when Ribault did not return they were menaced with starvation. The friendly Indians supplied them with corn, but it was consumed by fire. Dissensions arose among them, a mutiny broke out, and their governor was murdered. The Indians became distrustful of the Frenchmen and withheld supplies, and the latter determined to desert Port Royal. Constructing a frail brigantine, they departed parted for home, with scanty supplies. Tossed on the ocean, their food was exhausted, and their vessel floated, a mere wreck, on the waters. One after another died and fell into the sea, and the survivors were about to eat the last victim when a green shore greeted their eyes, and a small vessel saved them from death. It is believed they were on the shores of England it is known that some of these French adventurers were taken before Queen Elizabeth, and gave her the first information concerning that beautiful middle region of America which SIR WALTER RALEIGH afterwards tried to colonize.

Huguenots Massacred at St. Augstine, Florida

Laudonniere anchored his ship, landed where Ribault had set up the arms of France, and erected a fort on the south bank of the river, which he named Carolina. Rumors came of rich mines in the interior, and a violent gold-fever raged. Disappointment cured the fever, but idleness and improvidence were the rule in the colony. There were too many " gentlemen " who would not soil their hands with labor. At length there was a mutiny, some of the soldiers and sailors seized two of the vessels, sailed for the West Indies, and turned pirates. The rich soil was neglected, starvation was threatened, and Laudonniere determined to return to France. From Sir John Hawkins (see DRAKE, SIR FRANCIS), who sailed into the St. John, he bought a ship, and was about to embark for Europe with the whole company, when Ribault appeared with a squadron of seven ships, with supplies, and a fresh colony of men, women, and children. He arrived near the close of August, 1565. A few days afterwards Pedro Menendez, a Spanish officer, appeared off the mouth of the St. John with five ships, who told Laudonniere that he was sent by his master, Philip, of Spain, to hang and destroy all Protestants whom he should find on land or sea; that he should, execute his orders to the letter, and that if any Roman Catholics were among the Huguenots they should be well treated. The captains of the French vessels cut their cables and put to sea, chased by the Spaniards, who could not overtake them, and returned to the coast farther south. The Frenchmen returned to the St. John, where Indians brought the news that the Spaniards had landed, and were building fortifications. Ribault, who was in chief command, believing the Spaniards meant to march overland and attack Fort Carolina, with three ships manned by sailors and soldiers went to sea to drive their enemies from the coast. Meanwhile Menendez had sent a galleon to Cuba for a reinforcement of Spanish troops. The spot fortified by Menendez was the site of St. Augustine, Florida. During Ribault's absence the Spanish marched over the country, captured Fort Carolina, butchered a greater portion of the Huguenots there, and hanged some of them upon trees, with the inscription over them, " Not as Frenchmen, but as Lutherans." The number of Huguenots murdered there was 142. Ribault's vessels meanwhile had been wrecked below St. Augustine, and while making his way towards Fort Carolina, with about 300 men, they were caught by the Spaniards and massacred. Laudonniere and a few others escaped from the St. John, and so ended the Huguenot colony. A fiery Frenchman, Chevalier Dominic de Gourges, a Roman Catholic, determined to avenge this outrage. He sold his property to obtain money to fit out an expedition to Florida. He kept his destination a secret, even from his followers. He arrived in Florida in the spring of 1568, and was joined by the natives in an attack upon two forts on the St. John occupied by the Spaniards below Fort Carolina. The strong places were captured, and the whole of the Spaniards were slaughtered, excepting a few whom De Gourges hanged upon trees, under the words, " Not as Spaniards and mariners, but as traitors, robbers, and murderers." Menendez firmly planted a colony at St. Augustine. In 1598 Henry IV., of France, issued an edict at Nantes (see EDICT OF NANTES) that secured full toleration, civil and religious, for the Huguenots, and there was comparative rest for the Protestants until the death of Cardinal Mazarin, in 1661. Then the Huguenots began to be persecuted, and in 1685 Louis XIV. revoked the Edict. The fires of intolerance were kindled, and burned so furiously that at least 500,000 Protestants took refuge in foreign lands. In 1705 there was not a single organized congregation of Huguenots in all France. Many came to America -some to South Carolina, some to New York, and a few to Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Virginia. They formed excellent social elements wherever they settled, and many leading patriots in the Revolutionary War were descended from them. Three of the presidents of the Continental Congress - Henry Laurens, John Jay, and Elias Boudinot -were of Huguenot parentage .

 

 

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