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this charge is a calumny, for the crown of France was the prize for which the generals fought. It was that which inspired them with hopes and fears, productive of devotions, or persecutions, as either of them opened access to the throne. The interests of religion, indeed, fell in with these views, and so the parties were blended together in war.
The family of Charles the Great, which had reigned in France for 236 years, either became extinct, or was deprived of its inheritance, at the death of Lewis the Lazy in 987. Him Hugh Capet had succeeded, and had transmitted the crown to his own posterity, which, in this reign subsisted in two principal branches, in that of Valois, which was in possession of the throne, and that of Bourbon, the next heir to the throne of France, and then in possession of Bearn. The latter had been driven out of the kingdom of Navarre: but they retained the title, and were sometimes at Bearn and sometimes at the court of France. The house of Guise, Duke of Lorrain, a very rich and powerful family, to whose niece, Mary Queen of Scots, the young king was married, pretended to make out their descent from Charles the Great, and were competitors, when the times served, with the reigning family for the throne, and, at other times, with the Bourbon family, for the apparent heirship to it. With these views they directed their family alliances, perfected themselves in military skill
, and intrigued at court for the administration of affairs. These three houses formed three parties. The house of Guise, (the chiefs of which were five brethren at this time) headed one; the King of Navarre, the princes of the blood, and the great officers of the crown, the other; the Queen-mother, who managed the interests of the reigning family, exercised her policy
on both, to keep either from becoming too strong; while the feeble child on the throne was alternately a prey to them all.
Protestantism had obtained numerous converts in the last reign. Several princes of the blood, some chief officers of the crown, and many principal families, had embraced it, and its partizans were so numerous, both in Paris and in all the provinces, that each leader of the court parties deliberated on the policy of strengthening his party by openly espousing the reformation, by endeavoring to free the protestants from penal laws, and by obtaining a free toleration for them. At length, the house of Bourbon declared for protestantism, and, of consequence, the Guises were inspired with zeal for the support of the ancient religion, and took the roman catholics under their protection. The king of Navarre, and the prince of Conde, were the heads of the first : but the Duke of Guise had the address to obtain the chief management of affairs, and the protestants were persecuted with insatiable fury all the time of this reign.
Had religion then no share in these commotions? Certainly it had, with many of the princes, and with multitudes of the soldiers : but they were a motley mixture; one fought for his coronet, another for his land, a third for liberty of conscience, and a fourth for pay. Courage was a joint stock, and they were mutual sharers of gain or loss, praise or blame. It was religion to secure the lives and properties of noble families, and though the common people had no lordships, yet they had the more valuable rights of conscience, and for them they fought. We mistake, if we imagine that the French have never understood the nature of civil and religious liberty, they have well understood it, though they have not been able to obtain it. Suum
cuique would have been as expressive a motto as any that the protestant generals could have borne.
The persecution of the protestants was very severe at this time. Counsellor Du Bourg, a gentleman of eminent quality, and great merit, was burnt for heresy, and the court was inclined, not only to rid France of protestantism, but Scotland also, and sent La Brosse with three thousand men to assist the Queen of Scotland in that pious design. This was frustrated by the intervention of Queen Elizabeth of England. The persecution becoming every day more intolerable, and the king being quite inaccessible to the remonstrances of his people, the protestants held several consultations, and took the opinions of their ministers, as well as those of their noble partizans, on the question, whether it were lawful to take up arms in their own defence, to make way for a free access to the king to present their petitions? It was unanimously resolved, that it was lawful, and it was agreed, that a certain number of men should be chosen, who should go on a fixed day, under the direction of Lewis Prince of Conde, present their petition to the king, and seize the Duke of Guise, and the Cardinal of Lorrain, his brother, in order to have them tried before the states. This affair was discovered to the duke by a false brother, the design was defeated and twelve hundred were beheaded. Guise pretended to have suppressed a rebellion, that was designed to end in the dethroning of the king, and, by this manœuvre, he procured the general lieutenancy of the kingdom, and the glorious title of Conservator of his country. He pleased the puerile king by placing a few gaudy horse-guards round his palace, and he infatuated the poor child to think himself and his kingdom rich and happy, while his protestant subjects lay bleeding through all his realm.
The infinite value of an able statesman, in such an important crisis as this, might here be exemplified in the conduct of Michael de L'Hospital, who at this time, 1560, was promoted to the chancellorship : but our limits will not alow an enlargement. He was the most consummate politician that France ever employed. He had the wisdom of governing without the folly of discovering it, and áll his actions were guided by that cool moderation, which always accompanies a superior knowledge of mankind. He was a concealed protestant of the most liberal sentiments, an entire friend to religious liberty, and it was his wise management that saved France. It was his fixed opinion, that FREE TOLERATION was sound policy. We must not wonder that rigid papists deemed him an atheist, while zealous, but mistaking, protestants pictured him carrying a torch behind him, to guide others, but not himself. The more à man resembles God, the more will his conduct be censured by ignorance, partiality, and pride!
The Duke of Guise, in order to please and strengthen his party, endeavored to establish an inquisition in France. The chancellor, being wilTing to párry a thrust, which he could not entirely avoid, was forced in May 1560, to agree to a severer edict than he could have wished to defeat the design. By this edict, the cognizance of the crime of heresy was taken from the secular judges, and given to the bishops alone. The calvinists complained of this, because it put them into the hands of their enemiés : and although their Lordships condemned and burnt so many heretics, that their courts were justly called, chambres ardentes, * yet
• Burning courts, fire offices.
the zealous catholics thought them less eligible than an inquisition, after the manner of Spain.
Soon after the making of this edict, many families having been ruined by it, Admiral Coligny, in August 1560, presented a petition to the king, in the names of all the protestants in France, humbly praying that they might be allowed the free exercise of their religion. The king referred the matter to the parliament, who were to consult about it with the lords of his council. A warm debate ensued, and the catholics carried it against the protestants by three voices. It was resolved, that people should be obliged, either to conform to the old established church, or to quit the kingdom, with permission to sell their estates. The protestants argued, that in a point of such importance, it would be unreasonable, on account of three voices, to inflame all France with animosity and war : that the method of banishment was impossible to be executed: and that the obliging of those, who continued in France, to submit to the Romish religion, against their consciences, was an absurd attempt, and equal to an impossibility. The chancellor, and the protestant lords, used every effort to procure a toleration, while the catholic party urged the necessity of uniformity in religion. At length two of the bishops owned the necessity of reforming, pleaded strenuously for moderate measures, and proposed the deciding of these controversies in an assembly of the states, assisted by a national council, to be summoned at the latter end of the year. To this proposal the assembly agreed.
The court of Rome, having laid it down, as an indubitable maxim in church police, that an inquisition was the only support of the hierarchy, and dreading the consequences of allowing a nation to reform itself, was alarmed at this intelligence, and