Tuesday, January 10, 2012

John Quincy Adams on Protestantism & the French Revolution:

I caught this while reading JQA's letter to his mother dated January 9, 1816 (I added paragraph breaks for clarity):

.... Dr. Price was duped by the goodness and simplicity of his heart, by the enthusiasm of his love for liberty, and by his ignorance of the world in which he lived. His ardent zeal in favor of the French Revolution has shed a sort of ridicule upon his reputation, and his opinions upon that and some other subjects have been so completely falsified by events which have happened since his death, that his very name is sinking into oblivion.

Indeed the Dissenters in this country have fallen much into contempt since his time. Their political and religious doctrines have a tide equally strong running against them; and their conduct, which at one time swelled into seditious insolence, and at another sunk into fawning servility, has thrown them into such discredit, that the church may now, if they please, persecute them with impunity. They attempted here a few weeks since to make a stir about the real persecution under which the Protestants are suffering in the south of France. They held meetings, and passed high sounding resolutions, and opened subscriptions, and sent deputations to his Majesty's ministers, and buzzed about their importance, as busily and intrusively as so many horse-flies in dog-days.

His Majesty's ministers put off their deputation with general, insignificant civilities, which they met again, and resolved to give highly satisfactory assurances of support and interference in behalf of French Protestants. His Majesty's ministers then set their daily newspapers to circulate the report that Protestants in France were all Jacobins, and that if they were massacred, and had their churches burnt, their houses pulled down over their heads, it was not for their religion but for their politics.

From that moment Master Bull has had neither compassion nor compunction for the French Protestants. The Dissenters by a rare notion of stupidity and Jesuitism (for there are Jesuits of all denominations) have denied the fact, and vainly attempted to suppress the evidence that proved it; of stupidity for not perceiving that this must ultimately be proved against them, and of Jesuitism for contesting the fact against their better knowledge, because they could produce Protestant invectives against Bonaparte after his fall, and Protestant adulation to Louis 18 after his restoration.

The French Protestants, like the English Dissenters, have been throughout the course of the French Revolution generally time-servers. Like the mongrel brood of Babylonians and Samaritans after the Assyrian captivity, their political worship has been after "the manner of the God of the land." They have feared the Lord and served their graven images. They hated Bonaparte, no doubt, in proportion as they found themselves galled by his yoke, and they had no gratitude for the protection and security which his authority gave them for the free exercise of their religion and the quiet enjoyment of their property.

But the Protestants had unquestionably been from the first ardent supporters and exaggerated friends of the revolution. It was indeed natural enough that they should be, for the revolution had redeemed them from a worse than Egyptian thraldom. My father well remembers from personal knowledge what was the condition of the Protestants in France before the revolution, and in what sort of sentiments concerning them and their religion all the Bourbons were educated.

The revolution gave them equal religious and political rights with those of the rest of their countrymen. They had been twenty years freely and eagerly purchasing the national property, and among the rest, it appears, had purchased two of the old convents at Nismes, and used them for churches. Yet they joined in the hue and cry against Napoleon after he was down. Yet they fawned upon the Bourbons, when from the shoulders of the enemies of France they were turned off upon them, and licked the dust at the feet of Louis le Desire. As if tythes, and monks, and barefoot processions, and legends, and relics, and religious bigotry, had not been the darling and only consolations of Louis and his Bourbons in their exile, and would not inevitably bring back religious intolerance with them.

Now, this is the foundation upon which the Dissenters here have relied, to deny that the present persecution of the French Protestants has been for politics. But now comes a letter from the Duke of Wellington, formally announcing that it was for politics, and henceforth, instead of whining, and resolving, and subscribing for the French Protestants, the churchmen here, if the coal of the Angouleme fires were extinguished, would lend him a fagot to kindle them again. The Duke of Wellington says, too, that he is convinced the French government have done all in their power to protect the Protestants. This is not so certain. But whether they have or not, is held to be perfectly immaterial. The French Protestants were Jacobins or Bonapartists—nothing more just and proper than that they should be hunted down as wild beasts. At the same time, the ministerial prints are teeming with reproaches upon two of the king's sons for having lately attended at a charity sermon preached in a Methodist chapel, and giving broad hints that the church must be strengthened against the Dissenters.

I'm not sure if I would categorize the FR as a "Protestant" event, but Protestantism certainly fueled its flames.

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