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French Huguenots noted. (Letters to the Editor).

Thank you for Mr. William Norman Grigg's article on the history of Vendeans and their pursuit of freedom in France ("The Valiant Vendeans," June 17th). The mercy of Artus, the Marquis of Bonchamps, stands as a wonderful example of virtue in an otherwise terrible age.

There is a glaring omission in this retelling of French history, however. The suffering of the Roman Catholic Church during the Reign of Terror does not begin to compare to the suffering which it imposed on French Huguenots (Protestants) during the preceding 250 years. The article fails to recount the atrocities which Roman Catholics committed on Huguenot men, women and children during the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre of 1572, which are not unlike those committed by Jacobin radicals who turned on the Roman Church of their day. It is a mistake to look at the Roman Catholic Vendeans as true champions of liberty and freedom given the history of their barbarities towards French Huguenots. They represent the counter-Reformation movement in Europe's religious history. It is the French Huguenots who should be rightly credited as pioneers of ecclesiastical and civil liberty around the world, not their oppressors. The theology of John Calvin, and Philippe du Plessis-Mornay, the Huguenot author of "A Defense of Liber ty Against Tyrants" (1579), was a direct source of inspiration to freedom fighters everywhere, from Holland to England to colonial America. The Reign of Terror can be directly attributed to the massive, forced Diaspora of French Huguenots before and after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685), who were persecuted by the Roman Catholic monarchy, which then reaped the whirlwind after purging France of her Christian populace. France is still recovering from the spiritual void brought about by the counter-Reformation. These facts, not referenced in the article, cast the Vendean struggle in a different light, but it is the light of truth, which must be told.


Alexandria, Virginia

William Norman Grigg responds: The history of internecine bloodshed among Christians is a tragic subject -- but it is a different one from that discussed in our article.

During the wars of religion of the 16th and 17th centuries, horrible acts were committed by parties on both sides of the Reformation divide, often (as was the case with the St. Bartholomew's 's Day massacre) for reasons of state policy. The French Revolution distinguished itself by being the first effort to eradicate Christian civilization and replace it with a cult that leftist historian Arnold Toynbee called "the worship of collective human power." As the "oldest daughter of the [Catholic] Church," France was the first target of the ongoing effort to eradicate Christian civilization.

Many charges can be lodged against the French monarchy, but "purging France of her Christian population" is not among them. Whatever non-Catholics (like myself) think of the Vendean Catholics' theology and mode of worship, the fact remains that their heroism was rooted in their recognition of the Lordship of Jesus Christ -- and the enemy they fought sought the total destruction of Christian civilization.

In his 1798 Independence Day speech on the French Revolution, Protestant Rev. Timothy Dwight, President of Yale College, condemned the "unexampled bitterness and cruelty" of the Revolution's anti-Catholic campaign, and warned that wherever the Revolution spread its influence, "the whole power and influence of clergy of all descriptions have, in a sense, been destroyed...." The heroism of the Vendeans, and the insight of Rev. Dwight, are of abiding value in our contemporary efforts to save Christian-style civilization.
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Publication:The New American
Date:Jul 15, 2002
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