This copy typed by Alan R. Scott Jan - Dec 2000 and proofed by Carol A.
Scott Dec 2000, both descendents of James Fontaine. A printed copy is available from the Fontaine Maury Society
TALE OF THE HUGUENOTS
MEMOIRS OF A
FRENCH REFUGEE FAMILY
TRANSLATED AND COMPILED FROM THE
ONE OF HIS DESCENDANTS.
WITH AN INTRODUCTION
F.L. HAWKES, D. D.
Showing to the generations to come the praises of the Lord, and his strength, that they should make them known to their children; That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.--Psalm 78.
JOHN S. TAYLOR,
THEOLOGICAL AND SUNDAY SCHOOL BOOKSELLER,
Corner of Park Row and Spruce Street.
According to Act of Congress, in the year 1838. by
JOHN S. TAYLOR,
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the Southem District of
To the two thousand descendants of the exemplary Christian whose eventful life forms the chief subject of the following pages, and who are now living in the United Sates of America, this work is affectionately inscribed by their kinswoman.
The history of the little work now in the reader's hands, is briefly this. Among the private documents, belonging to one of the most respectable families under the parochial charge of the present writer, there has long been preserved, with pious care, a manuscript autobiography of one of its ancestors, who, as a persecuted Huguenot, endured much for the sake of his faith. It was the labour of his latter days to prepare for his descendants the record alluded to, as a memorial of his gratitude for the Providence that had sustained him in many dangers and trials, and as an admonition to his posterity to adhere to the faith for which their forefathers hazarded life. The work, which extended to several hundred pages, was written in the French language, and without any view to publication.
In the friendly confidence growing out of parochial relations, the existence of this manuscript became known to the writer of this introduction. Curiosity led to its examination; the strange and interesting nature of the incidents it recorded, related as they were with unpretending simplicity, soon fixed his attention. It struck him as being a vivid picture of by-gone times sketched by an honest eye witness; and the page of past history thus illustrated was not the least interesting in the records of Protestantism.
There was also, as it seemed to the writer, many an useful lesson to be gathered from the leading events of the story. Independent of the spirit of piety that pervaded the book, and of the testimony it afforded to the doctrine of God's providential care of the christian, who in humble faith cast all his care upon Him, there were valuable lessons of wisdom, applicable to "the life that now is;" and it was thought that youth might here find an example worthy of its imitation.
Here was the spectacle of a man, accustomed in his early days to the enjoyments of a competent estate, and educated accordingly, who, for conscience sake, resisting the oppression and persecution of himself and his countrymen with indomitable courage, was, at last stripped of all, and obliged to abandon his country. An exile in a strange land, ignorant of its language, unaccustomed to manual labour, and with the refinement of feeling belonging to his education and former rank in society; he felt that he was thrown upon his energies as a man, and nobly girding himself to the work before him, he trusted in his Maker, and proved that if true to God and true to himself, man need never despair.
He who had enjoyed the case of affluence, and found occupation and delight in the pursuit of letters, accommodating himself to his altered situation becomes an artizan and works at his trade; and soon by his science, observation and industry, distances all his companions of the same craft. Persecuted out of his calling, because he had been guilty of success in it; with a perseverance accustomed to remove obstacles, he finds another occupation, and again directing all his faculties to his business, he again succeeds. More than once losing his all, he yet never desponds, but sets about retrieving his losses with the willing industry of one who never knew a reverse of fortune. In the midst of all this, he finds time to train his family in the fear of God, devises means to educate them for respectable callings, and lives to see some of them among the first and most esteemed ministers of the Gospel in Virginia.
The example of such a man is surely a lesson for youth. Now a scholar, and now a manufacturer; now a civilian, and now a soldier, he may be seen, at one time enjoying letters, and at another, labouring with his hands for bread; on one day he will be found asserting the rights of the oppressed before the courts of the oppressors; and on another he is withstanding a siege. In all situations, he bears himself with the noble spirit that becomes a man for he never loses his great trust in God, nor his proper confidence in himself.
It has been remarked more than once that this country has never had better citizens in it than the Huguenots and their descendants. The instances are rare indeed in which one of that stock, has been charged with crime before the tribunals of the land. The descendants of the man, a sketch of whose biography is in the reader's hands, only confirm the truth of these observations. Many hundreds of them are now among our countrymen. Some of them have been, some now are, clergymen of worth and usefulness, some have been at the bar, some in the halls of legislation, some in important public offices and we have yet to learn the name of that one who has disgraced himself, his ancestry, or his country.
These, and kindred reflections passing through the writer's mind induced him to believe that extracts might be made from the manuscript before him, worthy of publication, and he made a suggestion to one of the members of the family to prepare the work. In proposing the measure, he had in view chiefly the benefit of the young, though he thought the book would have interest for all. His suggestion was adopted, upon the condition that he would explain the circumstances connected with the publication, and would assure its readers of the authenticity of the story. Having done the first, he has only to state further that it is a veritable narrative, and as such has long been preserved in the family of one of our worthiest countrymen. If in its perusal, some of the events related should appear to others, as they did to the writer, of an unusual character, let it be remembered that their truth makes their strangeness more striking still; and serves to show that real life sometimes imbodies adventures, little, if at all, inferior to those found on the pages of fictitious narrative.
Rectory of St. Thomas N.Y.} F.L. Hawks.
August, 1st. 1838
Reasons for writing these memoirs--Noble origin of our family--John de la Fontaine born--Obtains a commission in the household of Francis I.--Embraces Protestantism--Persecution of Protestants--January Edict -- John de la Fontaine resigns his commission--His assassination --Flight of his three sons--Arrival at Rochelle--Charitable reception --Marriage of James de la Fontaine--Attempt to poison him--Application for pardon to Henry IV.
James Fontaine--Fond of study--Travels as tutor to a young nobleman -- Called to the churches of Vaux and Royan--Marries an English lady--Second marriage--His personal appearance--Habit--Labors in the ministry--Capuchins and Jesuits come to hear him preach--Summoned to appear before the governor for preaching on the ruins of the Church--A second summons--Anticipation of future persecution--Death.
My birth--Lameness--Imitation of my fathers prayers--Meditations upon the heavenly bodies--Sent to school--Disgusted with study--Letter to sister--Mr. de la Bussiere--Admirable preceptor--Eccentric man--Enter college--Take degree of Master of Arts--My mother's death--Division of property.
Study with Mr. Forestier--His persecutions--His wife's firmnes--Return home--Pray with neighbors--Leave the neighbourhood at Easter--Poor people assemble in the woods--A spy watches them--Warrants issued--A mason taken up--He recants--His repentance--My return home--Warrant against me--Determine to remain and wait the issue--Grand Provost and archers appear--Conducted to prison--Obtain permission to pray night and morning in prison.
Provost and archers make another tour--Firmness of the poor country people--Twenty brought to prison--Supplied with necessaries by Protestants of Saintes--Attempt to shake their faith--Precaution in anticipation of separation--Indictment against me--Confrontation -- Recollement--Examination of witnesses--Agoust--Two criminals -- Gaoler--Gaoler's wife--Apply to the seneschal for enlagement -- Accusation of King's advocate--Placed in a dungeon--Removed to the Town Hall-- Proposal to regain freedom by bribery.
Trial before the Presidency--A digression--My defence--Angry discussion with the President--Query--My reply--Sentence.
Appeal to Parliament--Copy of factum--President's observation upon it--Sentence reverse--Register refuses copy of the decree--Apply for redress--Return home.
Persecution of 1685--Meeting of ministers and elders--My opinion opposed to the majority--Meeting of Protestants at Royan--Mr. Certani dissuades numbers from emigration--Interview with him--Gloomy forebodings -- Departure of many persons--Dragoons appear--Leave home--Visit sisters-- Traverse the country--Place betrothed in safety.
Revocation of Edict of Nantes--Preparations for flight--Difficulties and dangers--Land in England--Cheap bread--Speculate in grain--Cruelty of a ship Captain.
Singular proposal from a lady--Marriage--Mode of living--Remove to Bridgwater--Assistance from Committee--Why discontinued--Application for relief--Unkind treatment--Receive Holy Orders-- Attempt to recover property in France.
Remove to Taunton--Keep a shop--Manufactory--Very prosperous--Summoned before the Mayor--Defence--Recorder's speech--Discharge.
Revolution of 1688--Landing of the Dutch--Unexpected visitor--Soldiers billeted upon me--Retire from business--Endeavour to make calimancoes-- Profit upon them--Instruct a crippled weaver-- Secret discovered--Visit Dublin and Cork--Shipwreck--Place sons in Holland-- Increase of family.
Arrival at Cork--Enter upon pastoral duties--Manufactory--Great happiness--Dissension in the church--Resignation--Copy of certificate-- Remarkable warning by a dream--Visit fishing stations--Death of Aaron-- Turn fisherman--Remove to Bear Haven--Loss of the Robert--Bad season-- Trading voyage--Success in fishing--Loss by mismanagement of partners-- Troublesome Irish neighbours.
Attacked by a French Privateer--Defence--Letter to the Duke of Ormond-- Ammunition furnished by government--Build a small fort--Visit Dublin-- London--Obtain a pension--Copy of warrant-- Return home.
Attacked by a second Privateer--Outhouses fired--Breach in the wall-- Wounded--Surrender--Carried away as a prisoner--Expostulate with captain--Ransomed--Peter left as a hostage--His deportment.
Affidavit before Magistrates--Retaliation on French prisoners--Removal to Dublin--Hire a haunted house--Claim compensation from the county of Cork--Disturbance in haunted house--School-- Education of children-- Peter goes to College--John obtains a commission in the army--Moses and Francis enter college--Moses studies law--Emigration to America-- Marriage of children--My wife's death--Failure of health--Conclusion.
Reasons for writing these memoirs--Noble origin of our family--John de la Fontaine born--Obtains a commission in the household of Francis I.-- Embraces Protestantism--Persecution of Protestants-- January Edict -- John de la Fontaine resigns his commission--His assassination--Flight of his three sons--Arrival at Rochelle--Charitable reception--Marriage of James de la Fontaine--Attempt to poison him--Application for pardon to Henry IV.
My dear children,
Having observed the deep interest you have taken in all that has befallen your ancestors, when I have related their adventures to you, I am induced to write down their history for your use, to the end that the pious examples of those from whom we derive our origin may not be lost to you, or those who succeed you.
I trust that it may be the means of engaging you to dedicate yourselves wholly and unreservedly to the service of that God whom they worshipped at the risk of their lives, and to be stedfast in the profession of that pure faith for which they suffered the severest hardships with unshaken constancy. And also that you may admire the watchful and wonderful providences of God exerted in supporting and preserving them through every trial. Indeed, without looking beyond the compass of your own memories, you may recall numberless instances of the providential care of that same God "whose hand is not shortened."
For my own part, I trust that the making of this retrospect may be attended with great benefit, bringing before me the frailties and sins of each age and condition of my past life, and making me humble myself before the throne of grace, and with trembling pray for pardon through the mediation of my Blessed Saviour: and by the assistance of the Holy Spirit, I may hope for more watchfulness and circumspection for the time to come. And when I review the uncommon, innumerable, and unmerited mercies I have received through the whole course of my life, I hope my gratitude will be increased towards my Almighty benefactor, and surely I shall be encouraged to put my whole trust in him for the future. If I owe such a debt of gratitude for the things of this life, its comforts and conveniences, how incalculably great must it be for his mercy to my immortal soul, shedding the blood of his only begotten Son for my redemption. Oh my God! I entreat thee to continue thy goodness during the few days that may yet remain to me, and at last receive my soul. Amen.
Before proceeding to the history, I should mention that our name was originally De la Fontaine, and not Fontaine. My father, from motives of humility was the first to cut off the De la, an indication of nobility; my older brothers wished to resume it, but he would not consent, having a large family and little property; for you must know that in France no one of noble family can engage in trade or the mechanic arts without forfeiting his claim to nobility.
The father of my great grandfather, who was a nobleman, could not bear the thought of bringing up his children without employment, according to the usual custom, and therefore placed his son in the King's service.
It is with this John De la Fontaine that I commence these annals, he being the first of whom I have any accurate knowledge.
He was born in the province of Maine, about the year 1500, and as soon as he was old enough to bear arms, his father procured him a commission in what was then called "Les ordonnances du Roi" in the household of Francis I. It was in the tenth or twelfth year of this monarch's reign that he entered his service, and he conducted himself so honourably and uprightly, that even after his father and himself had embraced Protestantism at its first preaching in 1535, he remained in the same situation, and continued there during the reigns of Henry II., Francis II., and until the second year of Charles IX. He married, and had at least four sons, when he retired from a service in which he had remained so long, only as a sort of safe-guard from persecution. The king's officers were protected by right of their office; and our ancestor, it would appear, was much beloved by all his Juniors in the service, which made the Roman Catholic party afraid to meddle with him, though at the same time they thirsted for his blood, not only on account of his exemplary piety, but of the exercise of a power his office conferred upon him, and which he had freely used, of assisting the poor Protestants, many of whom he had shielded from persecution. From the year 1534 to April 1598, when Henry IV granted the edict of Nantes, the professors of the pure faith were continually subjected to every variety of injustice and cruelty, as you have read in the history of France.*
* Open hostilities were occasioned by an event which occurred at the little town of Vassy, in Champagne, in the year 1562. The Protestants were engaged in prayer outside the walls, in conformity with the king's edict, when the Duke of Guise approached. Some of his suit insulted the worshippers, and from insults they proceeded to blows, and the Duke himself was accidentally wounded in the cheek. The sight of his blood enraged his followers, and a general massacre of the inhabitants of Vassy ensued; the report of this roused the suffering Huguenots throughout the kingdom, and a savage and bloody war followed, during which, Anthony of Bourbon, king of Navarre fell fighting in the Catholic ranks, leaving a son eight years old, the future Henry IV., that great supporter of the Protestant cause. The constable Montmorency was taken prisoner, and the Duke of Guise slain; thus the Catholics were without a leader. The Prince of Conde being also a prisoner, and the Protestant Coligny the only chief remaining on either side, an accommodation appeared indispensable, and in March, 1563 an edict was granted which allowed the Huguenots to worship within the towns they were possessed of up to that day. This permission led some of the Bishops and other clergy who had embraced Protestantism, to celebrate divine worship in the cathedrals, according to the rites of the Reformed Church; such an extension of the meaning of the edict had never been contemplated, and it was soon modified by a declaration that ancient cathedrals should in no case be used as Protestant churches.
Another edict was passed very shortly, which imposed greater restrictions, and the Huguenots, finding that they were likely to lose by edicts all that they had wrested from the king by the sword, prepared to take up arms again, and in, l567 another struggle commenced, which, with a very short interval of peace, lasted until 1570, when a treaty was concluded upon terms so favourable to the Huguenots as to excite some suspicion in their minds that all was not right. They were to have liberty of conscience, and their worship was allowed in all the towns they had held during the war, and they were permitted to retain and garrison Rochelle, Montauban, Cognac, and La Charite, as guaranties for the observance of the treaty.
All had now the appearance of peace, but it was the delusive calm which precedes a storm; vengeance was preparing, and the massacre of St. Bartholomew's day followed, with all its horrors, which are too well known to need repetition. The number of Huguenots slaughtered, has been estimated at 50,000, those who survived were for a moment paralysed by the blow, and the Catholics themselves seemed stupified with shame and remorse. Charles was as one struck by avenging retribution, he became restless, sullen, and dejected, and laboured under a slow fever to the day of his death. He tried to excuse his perfidy on the plea of its having been necessary for self-preservation, and he sent instructions to his ambassador in England to give such an explanation to queen Elizabeth. Hume speaking of this interview, says, "Nothing could be more awful and affecting than his audience. A melancholy sorrow sat on every face: silence as in the dead of night, reigned through all the chambers of the royal apartment; the courtiers and ladies clad in deep mourning were ranged on each side, and allowed him to pass without affording him one salute or favourable look, till he was admitted to the queen herself."
The lives of the young Prince of Conde and Henry of Navarre had been spared, on condition of becoming Catholics, a condition to which they merely pretended to accede, as both attempted to escape from Paris immediately afterwards; Conde alone was successful, and placed himself at the head of the Huguenots; and this sect which Charles had hoped to exterminate at one blow soon mustered an army of 18,000 men, and they had kept possession of Rochelle and Montauban, besides many castles, fortresses, and smaller towns. Thus Charles, and Catherine his mother, gained nothing by their infamous treachery, but a character for perfidy and cruelty which has been unequalled in the annals of history.
After the death of Charles IX. the condition of the Huguenots was ever changing; they were frequently in the field, and when successful obtained favourable edicts, which were broken as soon as they laid down their arms, and then they would resume them, and fight until their success gained fresh concessions.
In 1576 the Catholic League was formed, having for its main object the exclusion from the throne of France of Henry of Narvarre, who was next heir to Henry III, the reigning monarch. War was carried on between the League and the Huguenots until 1594, five years after the death of Henry III., when Henry IV. from motives of policy united himself to the Catholic Church and was thereupon generally recognized as the legitimate monarch. He still felt favourably disposed towards his old friends, and in 1598 granted the celebrated edict of Nantes, which allowed them to worship in freedom in all towns where their creed was the prevailing one. They were to pay the regular tithe to the established Church but were permitted to raise money for their own clergy, and to hold meetings of their representatives for church-governmcnt. In all law suits Protestants were to have the privilege of one half the judges being of their own faith, and several towns were left in their possession for a limited time as a surety. The parliament objected to registering this edict, but the king was resolute, and finally overcame their obstinacy.
These persecutions were carried on with some of the forms of law, the gallows were erected and the fires were kindled, not to support the law, but in order to extinguish, if possible, the very name of Protestant. The means adopted, however, had frequently an opposite effect and increased the followers of the true faith. The martyrs by their constancy, proved, in many cases, the instruments which God made use of to open the eyes of the papists, and it was no uncommon occurrence to see those who had aided in the destruction of others rush to the same martyrdom themselves.
In some provinces, the Protestants irritated beyond endurance took up arms, not against their monarch, but their persecutors; and this led to an Edict of Pacification, granted on the 17th of January 1562, commonly called the January Edict,* Charles IX being yet in his minority. The Protestants believing this to be in good faith very generally laid down their arms; and John De la Fontaine resigned his commission, seeing himself now protected by law in the exercise of his religion, he felt that he had no more occasion for his military profession than for a buckler in time of profound peace. He made a great mistake in arriving at this conclusion; the change was decidedly for the worse; whereas, heretofore proceedings had been open, and with a shadow of justice founded upon the king's proclamation against Heretics, now all was secret, no use was made of judge or prison, every miserable wretch who pleased, became at once judge and executioner. Armed miscreants broke into the houses of the Protestants at midnight, committing robbery and murder, and they were encouraged in their atrocities by priests, monks, and bigots, who made them much the same promise that the Sanhedrin of Jerusalem did to the city watch. "If this comes to the governor's ears, we will persuade him and secure you." No enquiry or examination was ever made into these acts, and thus the Protestants were again obliged to resort to arms to repel nocturnal insult, guard and treachery.
*The famous January edict granted tolerance to the Huguenots so far as to permit them to assemble outside the walls of towns.
Some of the sworn enemies of God and his Gospel who had long watched John De la Fontaine, and conceived a deep hatred against him, thought the time had now arrived, (he having laid down his commission,) when they might safely put him out of the way; and such a man being got rid of, that it would be comparatively easy to disperse the rest of the congregation to which he belonged.
It was in the year 1563 that some of these ruffians were despatched from the city of Le Mans in search of him; and in the night time, when he least expected such a fate, he was dragged out of doors and his throat cut; his wife within a few weeks of her confinement, had followed him, hoping by her entreaties to save his life, but she shared the same fate, as did also a valet, who strove to assist his master. Oh my children! let us never forget that the blood of martyrs flows in our veins! And God in his infinite mercy grant that the remembrance may enliven our faith, so that we prove not unworthy scions from so noble a stock.
The goodness of God, whose providence generally bestows especial favours upon the children of those who freely shed their blood in his service, preserved the lives of three sons of these glorious martyrs.
James De la Fontaine, my grandfather, then about thirteen or fourteen years old, with Abraham, two years his junior, and another brother still younger, deaf from the bloody scene, full of horror and consternation, without a guide save the providence of God, and no aim but to get as far as possible from the barbarians, who had in one moment deprived them of both father and mother. They did not stop until they reached Rochelle, then a very safe place for Protestants, containing as it did, within its walls, many faithful servants of the living God. These poor lads were actually begging their bread when they arrived there, and were without any recommendation but their appearance. They were fair and handsome, as I have been told; and appeared to have had good breeding. Some of the inhabitants were moved with compassion, and gave them food and shelter for the little services they were capable of performing. A charitable shoemaker, who feared God and was in easy circumstances, received James into his house, and into his affections also, and taught him his trade. This you will observe was no time for pride, or to stand upon titles to nobility, but rather to return thanks to God who had given him the power to earn his bread by the labor of his hands. It was not long before he was in receipt of sufficient wages to support his younger brothers. They all three lived poorly enough, until James reached manhood; he then entered upon commercial pursuits, and his career afterwards was comparatively prosperous. In the year 1603 he married, and had two daughters and one son, (my father,) who was named James, after himself. He married again, but had no addition to his family; and better would it have been for him had he remained a widower, for his last wife attempted to poison him, and though unsuccessful, medical aid being promptly obtained, the affair became too notorious to be hushed up, and she was carried to prison, tried, and condemned to death. It so happened that Henry IV was then at Rochelle, and application was made to him for a pardon; he said before he granted it he must see the husband she had been so anxious to get rid of, (I suppose to judge from his appearance whether there was any excuse for her,) and when my grandfather appeared before him, he cried out, "Let her be hanged, let her be hanged, ventre saint gris!* he is the handsomest man in my kingdom." I have seen his picture, and it certainly did represent him as a handsome man. He died in the year 1633, and left his family some 9000 livres.
*The accustomed oath of Henry IV
James Fontaine--Fond of study--Travels as tutor to a young nobleman-- Called to the churches of Vaux and Royan--Marries an English lady-- Second marriage--His personal appearance--Habits--Labors in the ministry--Capuchins and Jesuits come to hear him preach--Summoned to appear before the governor for preaching on the ruins of the church--A second summons--Anticipation of future persecution --Death.
I now proceed to my own father, who at an early age discovered great aptitude for study, and a very serious turn of mind. He was fortunate in gaining the friendship of Mr. Merlin, a minister at Rochelle, and this worthy servant of God assisted him greatly in his education, and recommended him as tutor to a near relation of the Countess of Royan, in which station he accompanied his pupil to the College of Saumur, and while superintending his studies there, completed his own preparation for the ministry.
Before entering on the sacred office, he travelled with this youth through various countries, and thus had the opportunity of acquiring several foreign languages in perfection. They made a long stay in London, and there my father fell in love with a very beautiful girl of the name of Thompson. She was of good family, well educated, spoke the French language with fluency, and played well on the spinette. They exchanged vows and portraits, and he returned to France with his young lord.
No sooner had he arrived than he received a call from the united churches of Vaux and Royan, and he was settled there by the authority of the synod; and from the very first he was most tenderly beloved by his charge. At the end of a year, he asked and obtained permission to go to London, to fetch her who had all this time held his heart captive, and who was herself faithfully waiting for him. They were married in the year 1628, my father being about twenty-five years of age. They lived together twelve years, and had several children.
In about a year after her death, my father married my mother, Mary Chaillon, of Rue au Roy, a village about a mile and a half distant from the town of Pons, in Saintonge. She was a handsome brunette, twelve years younger than her husband, and had a fortune of four thousand francs. During the life of his first wife, my father had lived in a small, inconvenient, ready-furnished house in the borough of Vaux. After his second marriage, he was persuaded by my mother to purchase a pretty little estate called Jenouille, and the manor of Jaffe near to it; he added some commodious apartments to the house, and made it a very comfortable and desirable residence. I was the youngest child of my parents, and have but little personal recollection of my father, being only eight years old when he died. He was a man of fine figure, clear complexion, pure red and white, and of so dignified a deportment that he commanded the respect of all with whom he came in contact. He was remarkably abstemious, living chiefly upon milk and vegetables until the decline of life, when, by the advice of his physician he went upon a more generous diet. He absented himself on festive occasions, but never failed to visit every family in his flock twice a year. The sick and afflicted were attended to as soon as their affliction was made known to him. When it was understood that he was praying with the sick, crowds would flock to hear him, filling the house; for you must know that in that district all were Protestants, save four or five families. He was most zealous and affectionate, and employed all his knowledge, his talents, and his studies in the service of God, and it was most gratifying to him to find his labors thus appreciated by his flock. He had great learning, quick and ready wit, clear and sonorous voice, natural and agreeable action, and he always made use of the most chaste and elegant language; and genuine humility crowning the whole, gave such a charm to his discourses that he delighted all who heard him.
I must mention an instance illustrative of his facility in preaching. On the afternoon of a communion Sunday, just after reading his text, which had been selected with reference to the services of the morning, he perceived some Capuchins and Jesuits entering the church; he paused--and addressing himself to his own people, he said, that the text he had at first taken was intended for the edification of those who, by the grace of God, were already well informed in the pure religion, but as these people were still in ignorance and superstition, he felt it a duty to leave the ninety and nine sheep, and endeavor to bring back the lost sheep to the fold. He then opened his Bible, and read a controversial text, and treated the subject with so much force and perspicuity, that the fathers were obliged to confess, on going out, that they never heard error (as they called it) so well defended.
When there was any difference between pastor and flock, he was usually the person appointed by the synod to go and endearour to heal the breach, and he was almost always successful, softening the hearts, and drawing tears from the eyes, of his auditors.
He was invited to take charge of the church at Rochelle, where the minister's salary was just twice as large as that which he received. He refused, for he had not the heart to abandon a flock by whom he was so tenderly beloved.
I have mentioned that he was pastor of the united churches of Vaux and Royan; and at the commencement of his ministry he preached in one church in the morning, and the other in the afternoon alternately, the distance between them being two short miles. After a time the church at Royan was pulled down, in conformity with an order in council, and my father persisted in preaching on the ruins. The governor was enraged when he heard of it, and summoned him to appear before him. My father defended himself on the plea of ancient privileges and liberties; to which the governor made answer, that he knew of no privilege or liberty to which a subject was entitled but such as had been granted to him by the king, the council, or the ancient laws, and that he had ascertained that this church had been erected without permission, (which was very true,) and therefore as its building had been an act of usurpation, its demolition could not be regarded as an arbitrary stretch of power, and surely there was no great hardship in his followers at Royan having the trouble to walk over to Vaux to hear him. This was unanswerable, so of course he had to acquiesce.
Soon after this, there was another order in council forbidding Protestant ministers to appear in their clerical robes in the streets; my father felt this as an indignity, and continued wearing his as heretofore. For this offence he was summoned a second time to appear before the governor. He went in his gown, and it so happened that the governor's wife was present at the examination, and she was so forcibly touched with the dignity and eloquence of his defence, that she persuaded her husband to permit him to continue wearing a garb to which he did so much honor.
Little vexatious trials of this sort perpetually occurring, led him to believe that a more serious persecution was not far distant, and he exerted all his energies to prepare his flock beforehand, that they might not fail when the day of trial should come. His instructions were most assuredly accompanied by the blessing of God, for, though his death took place full eighteen years before the great persecution, yet the influence he had exerted over his people lived after him, and there were very few parishes in which so large a proportion of the inhabitants left their homes as in Vaux and Royan, and I have reason to believe that of those who remained behind, many worshipped God in sincerity around their family altars, according to the true faith.
My father was as skilful in the ruling of his own household as of the church over which God had placed him. His favorite recreation was gardening, and it was in coming out of his garden in the year 1666 that he was seized with a fit of apoplexy, which proved fatal. You may well imagine how deeply and sincerely he was regretted by all, but I think to myself, though at the time unconscious of my loss, it was the most serious. Had it pleased the Almighty to prolong his days, what a guide and instructor he would have been to my youth.
My birth--Lameness--Imitation of my father's prayers--Meditations upon the heavenly bodies-- Sent to school--Disgusted with study--Letter to sister--Mr. De la Bussiere--Admirable preceptor--Eccentric man--Enter college--Take degree of master of arts--My mother's death--Division of property.
I have now arrived at the history of my own life, which I shall give more in detail, as being more immediately interesting to you than those which have preceded it; and you will find a tissue of adventures, checquered with extremes of prosperity and adversity, but amidst all its varied joys and sorrows you cannot fail to discern the hand of Almighty God, whose good providence may be distinctly traced watching over me and making all things work together for my ultimate advantage.
I was born at Jenouille, on the 7th April, 1658. The first disaster which befell me proceeded from the carelessness of my nurse; she trusted me to her daughter, a young, and giddy girl, who played with me, tossing me in the air and catching me in her arms, until at last she missed, and I fell to the ground and broke my leg. The nurse, afraid to inform my parents, took me to an ignoramus of a surgeon, who pronounced that no harm had been done. The result to me has been lameness for life, my right leg being shorter, thinner, and much weaker than the other. I inherited something of the family beauty of face, and was of a very lively and inventive turn. When only four years old, I was so taken with my father's reading of the Scriptures, and praying with the family, that I had a fancy to imitate him, and calling together the servants and my sisters, I made them kneel down while I prayed. They gave my father such an account that he had a curiosity to be present also; I would not proceed unless he knelt down with the rest; and my mother has since told me that he was much affected by the earnestness of my manner, and discovering, as he thought, the germ of future talent and piety, he himself prayed heartily to God to preserve and bless one who evinced a zeal unusual among children. I was younger by seven years than any of my brothers and sisters, and this circumstance occasioned my being left much to myself, and I used to reflect a great deal; and some of my meditations in childhood being a little remarkable, I will not pass them by. You must bear in mind that my knowledge was derived from no book save the Holy Scriptures, which I hear my father read daily. I beheld the glorious sun arise each morning to renew our joys and pleasures, and every night thousands of stars enamelled the the vault our heads; I also noticed another beautiful luminary, which day by day decreased, and again returned to its first glory by the same degrees. Now I knew from the Scriptures that God inhabited a light which no man could approach unto; and that he dwelt in the third heaven, to which St. Paul had been caught up. I concluded thence that his dwelling place was above the sun, moon. and stars, and that in order to hold him and the celestial court, consisting, as I understood, of an infinite number of angels and glorified saints. I imagined the floor of the third heaven must be of a solid and opaque substance, and the dwelling place of God all resplendent with the light that his glory diffused around him. I concluded that what we saw of the sun, (beauteous as it is) was but a hole in the ceiling of the second and floor of the third heaven, which illuminated us with a faint gleam of that light which shone fully upon the angels and, saints. As to the stars, they were only so many gimblet holes in that part which was opposite to, the sun and most distant from the throne of God. The moon, too, I supposed to be a hole nearly as large as the sun, but situated, like the stars, away from the immediate presence of God. As to her changes, they gave me no trouble. for taking the lid of a pot and sliding it over the top produced exactly the same varied form, and I left the angels of God to slide the round cover over the round hole of the moon according as they they bidden. My only difficulty was to find out how the heavens could turn round without shaking the foundations or pillars upon which David said the earth rested. But if my reason proved unequal to the solution, my faith made up all deficiencies, being confident that to Him who made all things out of nothing, it could not be difficult. In cloudy weather I prayed earnestly to God to lift up his foot from the round hole which gave us light.
I was sent from time to time to divers schools, and at seventeen years of age I had committed to memory vast quantities of Latin, but memory was the only talent that had been cultivated, my understanding and reasoning powers had been suffered to slumber. I became perfectly disgusted with study, and forming about this time an intimacy with a druggist's apprentice, I thought it would be a delightful thing if I could persuade my mother to let me throw aside my books and turn shop-boy. But how to set about it I did not know, for I had been dedicated to the ministry from my birth, and I well knew it would almost break my mother's heart if I were to give it up. I at last resolved to make my sister Ann (the only one unmarried) my confidante. I wrote her a long letter, enlarging upon the length of time I had studied, the little progress I had made, and the poor hopes I had of doing any better in future. I told her I had the greatest reverence for the ministerial office, and looked upon it as the most honorable of all employments, but then, if it was an undertaking beyond my strength, the requisite gifts being deficient, it would only be wasting time and money for me to persevere. After dwelling at length on my incapacity, I wound up by disclosing my secret wish to go into a druggist's shop, and I begged of her to tell it to my mother, as a suggestion of her own, on some very favorable occasion, and by no means to show the letter to her. Notwithstanding all my precaution, my sister felt it to be her duty to make my communication public, and a family council was held as to what was to be done, and it was unanimously decided that the very ingenuity of my arguments to prove incapacity went to establish the fact of its being inclination, and not talent, that was wanting. My mother took it to heart so much, that she absolutely fell sick; but she was determined to keep me at study for some time longer, at any rate. Soon after this struggle for liberty, I was for the first time placed under a tutor who had the art of drawing forth any talent that I might possess. Mr. De 1a Bussiere was a Protestant layman, and very eccentric. He was an excellent Latin and Greek scholar, a pretty poet and a good physician; he was as obstinate as a mule; he drank to excess, but did not commence his potations until the labors of the day were ended. He had ten or twelve pupils, but no boarders; for he and his wife had only one small apartment, which served as kichen, bedroom, and study. He wore a little cloak, once black, now of a reddish brown, threadbare, and always covered with dust. He never used a razor, but when his beard became inconveniently long, he cut it off with scissors. Their slovenly apartment did not contain such a thing as a looking-glass. In short, he was, what in England they call, a mere scholar; he had learning, and nothing else. I began to study under him upon an entirely different plan, and in a short time his explanations and exercises brought into play the stores that memory had laid up, and I was astonished to find that I had acumulated such a mass of materials without knowing how to make use of the until now. We had no holyday except Sunday, and on Monday morning we were required to give a full account of the sermon we had heard on the preceding day. I remained three years with him, and when we parted, both he and I were satisfied with the progress I had made.
He certainly understood human nature, and had the art of guiding others in a remarkable degree. A single word of reproof from him was more grievous to me than the severest punishments infiicted by former preceptors.
My next step was to the college of Guienne, and there great mortification awaited me. Latin was the only language made use of and I had never been accustomed to speak it, (though I was familiar with all the best Latin authors) and I found it impossible to follow the Lecturers. I did not allow myself to be discouraged, but hired the assistance of a private tutor for the hours of relaxation, and by this means I was soon able to keep peace with the Professors; and I may say with truth, that during the two years I remained at college, I spent sixteen hours out of every twenty-four in study. At the age of twenty-two I took my degree of Master of Arts, and of fourteen who passed at the same time, I stood second on the list. Thus, with five years of hard study, I made up in some degree for the previous nine years of negligence. About this time my dear mother ended her life of piety and usefulness.
In France, by law a man is not of age until he has completed his twenty-fifth year, but my brothers, disliking the trouble of managing my property, made me of age, or free, immediately after my mother's decease. My brothers and sisters were all married, and had long ago received the greater part of their portions, so that in making the final division of property, the estates of Jenouille and Jaffe fell to my share.
Study with Mr.Forestier--His persecutions--His wife's firmness-- Return home--Pray with neighbours--Leave to neighbourhood at Easter-- Poor people assemble in the woods--A spy watches them--Warrants issued--A mason taken up--He recants--His repentance--My return home--Warrant against me--Determined to remain and wait the issue-- Grand Provost and Archers appear--Conducted to prison--Obtain permission to pray night and morning in prison.
Having made all necessary arrangements for the management of my property. I went to my brother-in-law Mr. Forestier who was a minister at St. Mesme in Anguomois to prosecute my theological studies, for I had now no other wish than to devote to the glory of God all the talents he had bestowed upon me.
While I was at Mr. Forestier's, a complaint was made that he had received a papist into the communion of the Protestant Church, contrary to the King's edict. Upon this accusation, he was taken to prison on horseback with his legs tied under the horse's belly. If you had but seen the papists of Augouleme collected on the road, in such numbers that I may say they were literally piled up, and they were uttering the most horrid maledictions and throwing stones at him and at us who accompanied him to the prison door; I say, if you had seen them, you would have supposed the prisoner had murdered his father, commited violence on his mother, or attempted the life of the King. Oh my God! to what a horrid pitch of barbarity does the blind zeal of superstition and idolatry carry mankind!
My sister was throughout her trials resigned to His will, who she felt assured, in His infinite wisdom ordered all for the best. After a tedious imprisonment Mr. Forestier appealed to the parliament* of Paris. and was acquitted. The Church of St. Mesme being condemned, he was removed by order of the Synod to Coses in Saintonge, and though it is rather anticipating events, I think I had better finish at once the history of his labours in the ministry, before returning to my own life. The church at Coses having been condemned, the papists in the neighborhood wished to put a stop to divine worship there, even before the day appointed for its destruction arrived, and to accomplish this end, they made some frivolous complaint of Protestants who had recanted having been seen there, and procured a warrant to arrest Mr. Forestier upon this charge. A friend travelled all night from Saintes in order to give him timely notice of the steps that had been taken, and arrived at Coses just as he was ready to go to church on Sunday morning, and tried in vain to persuade him to conceal himself.
* There were ten Parliaments in the Kingdom of France, they were superior courts of judicature, to which appeal was made from the decision of inferior tribunals. They had no legislative function but that of registering and publishing the Royal Decrees, to which they very rarely raised any objection.
My sister was appealed to, expecting she would aid in dissuading her husband from going to church; so far from it, she replied with a calm and decided tone; "it is Mr. Forestier's duty to preach to his flock, and it is for God to do as seemeth him good. "
Mr. Forestier turned round triumphantly and said "you see we have no Eve here Sir," and immediately proceeded to church with his family. He preached with his accustomed energy, there was not the slightest visible trace of agitation, and as he descended from the pulpit he was seized by the Archers, taken to the prison of Saintes and thence transferred to that of La Reolle, where the parliament of Bourdeaux then held its sittings. His life was preserved through many dangers by the God whom he served so faithfully, and at last he left France with his wife and younger children, in conformity with the King's Declaration.
It is difficult which to admire most, the husband or the wife, the faith of both shone so triumphantly on these trying occasions, and I can assure you (for I was much with her) that my sister's firmness did not proceed from any deficiency of sensibility; there was no apathy about her. I have known few persons who had stronger affections, but her love for her husband and children was subordinate to her love of God, and when his glory was in question, nothing was too dear to her. Happy couple! their treasure was laid up in heaven, and they could well afford to despise this present life and its enjoyments.
I now return to my own history. I went to Saintes to reside, in order to have the assistance of two able and pious ministers, Mr. Mainard, and Mr. Borillak, in pursuing my theological studies. After a while they also were cast into prison, and I returned home.
My brother Peter had been the minister of my father's parish ever since his death, and about this time, he was seized under a 'lettre de eachet,' and confined in the Castle of Oleron; the church at Vaux was levelled with the ground, and most of the churches in our Province shared the same fate; thus my neighbors could not reach a place of worship without great fatigue; and feeling compassion for them as sheep without a shepherd, I felt myself called upon to invite them to join me in my family devotions. The number who came soon increased to one hundred and fifty, and I then recommended them not to come daily as heretofore. I could prepare myself more suitably to expound the Scriptures, and preach for them, if our meetings did not take place more than two or three times a week. And I suggested to them, that if each family only came once a week, and thus all took their turns, that our meetings being less numerous, would be less likely to attract attention. I also frequently changed our days of assembling, giving previous notice to the people, and we continued this endearing intercourse uninterruptedly during the whole winter. All who attended were personally known to me, and to each other, and all were equally interested in keeping the secret, and my house standing entirely alone was a very favourable circumstance for us.
A rumour prevailed that there were meetings in our parish, and that I was the preacher, but we had no traitor in our ranks, and the papists were unable to discover any thing with sufficient certainty to make a handle of. Some of my friends advised me to cease before we were discovered, but I believed myself to be in the path of duty, and was determined to persevere. Our holy intercourse continued without any drawback till Palm Sunday 1684. I then advised my people to go to some of the few remaining churches in order to receive the communion with their brethren, and I myself went to the other side of the Province, and received the communion both on Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, and remained from home until ten or twelve days after Easter. On Palm Sunday some of the neighbours came to my house as usual, and not finding me there, they retired to the wood behind my house, and one of their number, a mason by trade, who read very well, officiated as their pastor.. He read several chapters from the Bible, the prayers of the church, and a sermon, and they sang Psalms. This meeting having been open, it was noised abroad, and on Holy Thursday, from seven to eight hundred persons assembled on the same spot, the mason again the pastor; and on Easter day the number increased to a thousand.
A miserable pettifogging Attorney, named Agoust, who had already abjured his religion, lived within four hundred paces of a high road by which many of the people returned home from the meeting, and thinking to ingratiate himself with those in power, he sat at his window to watch them returning, but it was impossible for him to recognise individuals at that distance, the services having continued till after dusk; nevertheless, he made out a list of sixty names, putting down some who were, and some who were not there, and Mr. Mouillere and I were at the head. He knew pretty well who would be likely to attend such a meeting, and that was about as much as he really did know. On the deposition of this single witness (a man of indifferent character at best) before the Seneschal of Saintes, warrants were issued against us. Two or three days before my return home, the Grand Provost and his Archers were sent in search of us. I was absent; the country people, having had timely notice, had hidden themselves in the woods, and after scouring the country over the archers found no one but the poor mason who had officiated. Him they took, fastened him to a horse's tail, and dragged him to Saintes a distance of fifteen miles. They threatened him in all kinds of ways, and assured him he would be hanged as soon as they reached the Capital. It was late when they arrived, too late, they told him, for him to be hanged that night, and that one solitary chance for life yet remained to him, and that was, to recant without delay, for if he once got within the walls of the prison, a hundred religions would not save him from death. They said all that was required of him was to renounce the errors of Calvin, and surely he might do that with a clear conscience, for if Calvin had errors, they ought to be renounced, and if he had none, then nothing was renounced. They did not neglect to set before him the forlorn condition in which his wife and children would be placed by his death; and the poor fellow, what with their threats and their specious arguments, having no one at hand to strengthen him, yielded to the temptation, and abjured the errors of Calvin. He was rewarded by being set at liberty immediately. As soon as I returned home, he came to me, crying like a child, he threw himself on his knees before me, and entreated that I would pray to God for his soul, which he had damned by his own weakness. He related the whole story to me, and told me the torments he had endured ever since and that it was impossible for him to sleep. He viewed his crime with so much abhorrence, and was in such a state of despair, that I saw at once that my duty was not to reprove but rather to try to lead him to the true source for consolation, and I endeavoured to convince him that God's mercy was still open to him. I drew a parallel between him and St. Peter, whom he had imitated, as well in his bitter tears, as in his fall. He once more abjured his abjuration, and asked forgiveness of every one he met for the scandal he had brought upon their holy religion; and I do believe that all who witnessed the remorse of this unhappy man, were by it strengthened in their own faith. God, who can bring good out of evil, shewed them by this sad example that man, with all his cruelties, can inflict no such pain, as God causes to the consciences of those who deny him before men.
I was very sorry that I had not been on the spot to have accompanied the poor man, and to have tried to strengthen him; and understanding that there was a warrant out against me, I rode over to Saintes to ascertain the fact. I waited upon the Lieutenant General, or Seneschal of the Presidency of Saintes, and he had the malice to deny that there was any such warrant out, though he himself had issued it, but he thought that being led to prison by the Grand Provost, and made a public spectacle of, would serve to intimidate me. I saw into the matter, and returned quietly home. During the week I remained there, I was constantly employed, exhorting my neighbours and trying to strengthen their faith, and when I heard that the Provost and Archers were within two leagues of us, I sent messengers into the villages to give them time to hide themselves, but I had determined myself not to shrink from the danger whatever it might be. I made all ready in the evening, expecting them early next day; I gave full directions to my servants, I made up a bundle containing what I should require in the prison, and I prayed most feverently to God for his grace to support me in the step I was about to take, and which I believed I was undertaking for his glory. Some of my friends came to me, and offered me the use of their houses as an asylum, but I refused, saying that I had induced these poor people to jeopard their lives for our holy religion, and that, having been their guide when there was no danger, if I were now to flee, I should consider myself like the shepherd who fled at the sight of the wolf, because he was an hireling. Example, I told them, was more powerful than precept, and that if I were absent, and my poor neighbours abjured their faith for want of a leader to countenance and support them, I should for ever feel that the sin rested on my shoulder. My mind was wonderfully calm, and I slept so soundly that I was only wakened by the noise of the Provost and his Archers knocking at the gate, at break of day. I started suddenly out of my sleep, felt a vague sort of alarm, and trembling from head to foot, and being but half awake, the idea crossed my mind of defending myself with fire-arms which I had in my room. Presently I realized more fully my situation, and calling to mind the resolves of the night before, I fell down upon my knees and prayed for Divine assistance, which appeared to be vouchsafed to me, for I felt almost immediately tranquillized, and I heard with displeasure that my servants were denying that I was in the house. I put my head out of the window, and told them I had made ready for them over night, upon they retreated a little, evidently thinking the preparation I spoke of was defensive; indeed, I heard the Provost order his Archers to be on their guard, for I should probably fire upon them. I told him he was mistaken, and that if he would wait patiently until I was dressed, I would accompany him. As soon as I was ready, I opened the door and showed the bundle I had prepared the night before. The Provost gave me some exhortations about what he considered my duty, namely, to make a recantation in conformity to the King's order. He then left me in charge of two of his Archers, and proceeded with the rest in search of the other persons against whom he had warrants. They scoured the country without finding any of my accomplices in prayer. One poor ploughman was taken up, who felt somewhat embarrassed at suffering persecution without the consolation of having deserved it. He was sent forward to the place of rendezvous with an Archer for his guard, who was one of that tribe of booted Missionaries, who by oaths, threats and cruelties, strove to make converts to his religion.
Hearing that no more prisoners were likely to be brought in, we continued our way, and my companion was greatly comforted by having (at my earnest solicitation)the rope, which tied him to the horse's tail, left long enough for him to walk by my side. When we were approaching the Capital, the Archers told me, with a delicacy rather unusual, that they had positive orders to tie my legs together under the horse, but that if I would drop my cloak down so low as to hide my legs altogether, they would dispense with it. We entered the town of Saintes at 5 o'clock in the afternoon of a day near the end of April 1684, and we formed a spectacle to a crowd composed of two very different classes. The one clapped their hands, jumped for joy, and cried out in loud tones, "Hang them! Hang them!" The other stood aloof and wept. My companion was sadly overcome, but I tried to encourage him, speaking kindly to him, and pressing his hand, which when the papists observed, they redoubled their menaces. The principal Protestants in the place made me a visit of condolence in the prison that very night. I thanked them for their sympathy, and told them they would soon have an opportunity of evincing it by acts, for I felt assured that my poor neighbours would ere long be my companions in prison, and they would then be called upon to contribute to their support. After they had left me, I made a bargain with the gaoler to pay him so much a day for a bed for myself, and for the use of his own private apartment. Now my principal reason for coming to prison (which I could easily have avoided by flight) was to prevent any of my followers, who might hereafter be seized, from changing their religion, and as it would be highly dangerous to speak to them of religion, I determined, without loss of time, to make the only arrangement by which I could hope to be useful to them, and that was, to obtain permission to pray aloud night and morning in the prison, an undertaking which hitherto no minister had attempted, so far as I knew.
After supper, conversing with the gaoler, I told him there was one thing I wished to mention to him, namely, that it was my practice to pray aloud to God night and morning, and that it had become so habitual to me, and was so necessary to my peace of mind, that if I were, debarred from it, he would find me unhappy and morose, and an uncomfortable inmate for him; but that wishing to shew him all due respect, I had no idea of annoying him by praying in our joint apartment, and if he had no objection, I would choose as my altar the corner of the common prison behind the door of our room. He replied rather jocularly that he was like the devil not so black as he appeared to be, and that all my holy water would not make him drop the keys out of his hand. "Very well," said I, 'I am glad we agree so well, you may keep the key of the prison, and I will endeavour to obtain that of eternal happiness.' I went directly to the corner I had named, and kneeling down, I began to pray aloud, without calling any one to join me; but my companion threw himself on his knees at my side, as did also another poor Protestant who was imprisoned for debt. My prayer was chiefly composed of thanksgiving, that among so many faithful servants of God, he had been pleased to select me to suffer persecution for the truth of his Gospel, soliciting his grace to enable me to do my duty in this new sphere. I did not forget to make mention of the choice of Moses rather to suffer persecution with the people of God than to sit upon the throne of Pharaoh, and also the zealous protestations of St. Paul, that neither death nor life, nor principalities, nor powers, should be able to separate him from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. I prayed also for the King, that God would be pleased to put it into his heart to examine the pure faith against which he issued so many edicts, and that he might be changed from its persecutor into its nurse and father. The following morning I went to prayer in the same corner; and continued daily night and morning, and my poor ploughman became confirmed in his faith, and felt so bold that the promises and threats of the Papists no longer disturbed him. The gaoler and his wife being accustomed to deal with haughty turbulent spirits, looked upon me as disordered in my intellects when they found I considered it a privilege to be imprisoned.
Provost and Archers make another tour--Firmness of the poor country people--Twenty brought to prison--Supplied with necessaries by Protestants of Saintes--Attempt to shake their faith--Precantion in anticipation of separation--Indictment against me-- Confrontation-- Recollement--Examination of witnesses--Agoust--Two criminals--Gaoler-- Gaoler's wife--Application to the Seneschal for enlargement--Accusation of King's advocate--Placed in a dungeon--Removed to Town Hall--Proposal to regain freedom by bribery.
When I had been in prison about ten days, the Provost and his Archersset out upon another circuit, and my idea was correct that the country people would no longer flee. They had warning time enough for the timid to retreat to the woods, but more than one hundred and fifty persons met the Provost, and accosted him with the utmost intrepidity, saying: "we have all attended these holy meetings and prayed to God in the woods, and we are ready to justify our conduct." The number who came forward being much greater than those against whom he had warrants, an examination commenced, and those whose names were not on the list were put on one side; after this was done, the remainder was still too large, (the prisons being already filled with Papists who were commited for real crimes,) and the Provost said he would only take twenty. A holy strife then arose amongst these followers of the Lord as to who should be of the number. The Archers were thunderstruck at the scene they beheld. "What are you about?" said they. "Do you set no value upon life? What fury urges you to the gallows? Think for a moment of your wives and children! what will become of them?" They tried every expedient to intimidate them, and swore by all that was sacred that they would only leave the prison for the rack, the gibbet, or at any rate the galleys. They adduced numerous instances of such and such persons, who, for similar offences, had been hanged, broken on the wheel, &c. These words acted upon them like wind upon fire, the more furious and violent were the Archers, the more was the zeal of the people kindled.
At length, by a refinement of cruelty, the Provost determined to leave behind those most anxious to go, and to select those to take with him who appeared least eager.
They were bound together two and two as dogs are coupled for hunting, and fastened to the horse's tails. These poor countrymen betrayed no apprehension, they bade adieu to their wives and children with dry eyes, and the wives themselves, having put their hands to the plough, saw their husbands depart without a murmur, trusting in Him who has promised to be a husband to the widow, and a father to the fatherless.
It was certainly not more than half an hour after their arrival at the prison,when ten beds with all complete and an abundant supper were sent to them; and it deserves to be recorded, that during the whole time of their imprisonment the good Protestants of Saintes took care to supply them with every necessary, and the manna was not more abundant in the wilderness than food in the prison.
Their beds were placed on one side of the large room, apart from the Papists. In the evening I went to prayer as usual, they all knelt around me, and God who has promised his assistance to all who ask in faith, did indeed answer our prayers, for we experienced a holy joy and peace, which cannot be understood by any who have not tasted for themselves. From time to time attempts were made to undermine the faith of these poor people, and induce them to recant, and doctrinal arguments were brought forward which they were unable to answer. I dared not instruct them openly, or even converse with them upon religious subjects, but they would speak among themselves of these difficulties, and as I was walking up and down the large room, I listened to what they were saying, and when the hour of prayer returned, I availed myself of what I had overheard. and I would put up a petition, that if the enemies of the Lord should ask me such and such questions, or make use of such and such arguments, I might receive the Holy Spirit, and be enabled to answer for the faith that was in me in such and such a manner; and thus I contrived to prepare them for the Bishop's chaplain who visited them daily. During three weeks the Bishop and many other Papists were unceasing in their endeavours to cause some of these poor people to fall, but thanks be to God, it was all in vain. At length they found out the secret of our strength, and that prayer was the invincible armour of our faith; and so they determined to remove me thinking that when the poor country men were left to themselves, they might work upon their fears as successfully as they had done upon the reason. I had foreseen this step, and taken precautions accordingly, recommending them to continue praying aloud, one for the rest; and if he also were taken away, another to take the place, so long as even two should be left. For their further encouragement, I told them, that by this expedient it was not improbable that we might be placed together again.
The King's Solicitor had prepared an indictment, consisting of three charges.
1st. I had taught in the prison, and prevented my companions changing their religion.
2nd. I had given offence to the Catholics who were in prison.
3d. I had interrupted the Priest in his celebration of Divine worship.
I have forgotten to mention that there was a small chapel attached to the prison, where the Priest said Mass every morning, and I had selected the same time for our devotions, because the Papists were then generally absent.
Two of the witnesses against me, whose ears had been offended by the Holy name of God being pronounced within their hearing, were men who had waylaid a neighbour on the highway, murdered him and mangled his body, for which crime they were afterwards broken on the wheel. Oh ! how infamous for a Huguenot to attempt to pray to God in the presence of such worthy Catholics, and wound their delicate consciences with his fanatical discourse. Great God ! what times !
Before I was removed, they brought me into Court for examination, and they began first with the offence for which I was originally committed to prison. On these occasions, the accused is permitted to ask the witnesses as many questions as he pleases, in the presence of the Seneschal or President, and the Register; and he has the right to have such answers as he considers favourable to him committed to writing. This is called 'confrontation.' The President on behalf of the King cross-examines both the accused and the witnesses, and has all the answers recorded that he considers of sufficient importance. This is called 'recollement.' And upon this 'confrontation' and 'recollement' all the instructions for the prosecution turn. They are read by judges to the number of twelve or fifteen, who are lawyers of course, and are called counsellors.
At the time of judging, the witnesses are not brought to the bar as in England, but the 'confrontation' and 'recollement' only are produced; and as each witness has been separately examined, without knowing what any other has said, it is a good way of eliciting the truth. It is all important, you must perceive, for the accused to be on the alert to discover, if possible, any falsehood in the witnesses.
The only witness against me was Agoust, who had made oath to seeing me on Easter Day, among the poor people returning from the meeting in the woods. He was, as I have already said, a pettifogging attorney, and consequently, well qualified to support falsehood without contradicting himself. Truth in the end generally triumphs over falsehood, and so it was on this occasion, for I extracted from him at different times, and amidst a host of useless questions, the following replies:
1st. That the time he saw me was in the dusk of the evening.
2nd. That he was standing at his window.
3rd. That I was in Mr. Mouillere's meadow.
4th. That the distance was about a musket shot from where he was standing.
5th. That it was not in my way home from the woods.
You will readily conclude that I only obtained these answers at long intervals, putting many irrevelant questions to him in the mean time, in order to make him lose sight of the inconsistency of his present replies with those already recorded.
The President was out of all patience with me, for consuming his time in asking so many foolish questions. As Agoust had been a Protestant, and had turned Papist to retain his office as attorney, I endeavoured to trouble his conscience, and putting together the above named answer, I said to him; "Miserable wretch that you are, was it not enough that you should deny your baptism and your religion but you must also employ false testimony to tempt those whom God supports by his grace. Now; look at your statements and give the glory to God. You were at your window in the dusk of the evening, and you recognized me at the distance of a musket shot. What sort of eyes do you pretend to have ?" He was much confused at this, and said, "At any rate I thought it was you."
"Write that," said I to the Register.
The President, seeing his prey about to escape him, got into a violent passion, and reproached me with abusing the witness.
"You have perplexed and confused him," said he.
"What" said I "are you sorry that I have forced truth from his lips? I looked up to you as my judge, but I now see reason to fear you as my persecutor.''
I requested the Register several times to write down the last most decisive answer, but he looked for permission to the President, who shook his head. I then insisted that he should write down that the witness no longer said he had seen me, but only that he thought he had seen me.
The President wished to dictate it in modified terms, but I declared that if it were not written down verbatim, nothing should induce me to sign my confrontation, and finally he yielded; I believe, from the fear he entertained of my protesting against his proceedings, which would have been to his great dishonour.
The first blow avoided; you shall now see how I got clear of the dreadful accusation of having prayed to my God in prison. The two witnesses afterwards broken on the wheel were first examined. One of them had been brought up a Protestant, and all he could remember hearing me say was "Our father who art in heaven." The second could not remember even as much as that. The gaoler was the third witness, and his accusation being that I had prevented the recantation of the people. I enquired of him whether he had ever heard me speak to them about religion.
"No," said he.
"Did I even call them to prayers?"
I asked no more from him.
The fourth witness was the gaoler's wife, and she was expected to prove that I had interrupted the priest in celebrating Mass. She had some talent and was a great bigot, therefore some little dexterity was required in dealing with her.
You must bear in mind that the chapel was separated from the main body of the prison by a little court,. and also that it was on the ground floor, and the common room of the prison was in the second story, and I prayed in the corner of that room most remote from the chapel, and with my back towards it, and in a subdued tone of voice, only just loud enough to be audible to those around me. It would indeed have required lungs much stronger than mine to have made myself heard in the chapel; the President well knew that it was an impossibility; and if there were no other evidence of the falsity of the accusation, the non-appearance of the Priest, (said to have been disturbed) as a witness, would have been sufficient.
When the gaoler's wife came forward, I complained to her of the injustice of the preceding witnesses, and said, that I was sure a devout woman, such as she was, could not have been shocked to see poor people, for whom punishment was in store, humbling themselves before their God, and that as all my expressions were taken from the Holy Scriptures, they could not have given offence to a good Christian like her. She replied, that my words had not given her offence.
That was written.
"However," said I, " you had a much better opportunity of hearing me than any of the other witnesses; do not you remember passing close by my feet one morning when I was praying, as you went from one room to the other?"
She said she remembered it well.
I had that written, almost in spite of the President, who considered it so useless a question. After a few unimportant queries, I asked her if she ever heard me call any one to prayer.
"No," said she, "but as soon as they see you kneel down, they run like wild fire."
I then asked, if she ever heard me forbid these people to change their religion.
These answers were written.
I then enquired whether she was able to remember a sermon she heard from one of the preachers of her own religion. She was piqued that I should have a doubt on the subject, and answered most unhesitatingly, that she could remember it.
I did not require that to be written, but with humble apology, I begged she would do me the favor to repeat to the President any passages she could remember of my prayers, because I was persuaded that he would esteem me for them, rather than wish me evil.
She was abashed at acknowledging any deficiency in the memory of which she had just now boasted, and said she could not oblige me because I always spoke in so low a tone that she could not hear what I said.
That was written, and I was satisfied.
We both signed the confrontation or rather refutation of the accusation. The witnesses having all contradicted themselves, I told the President that instead of sending me to a worse prison, I had a right to expect that he would enlarge me.
The king's advocate answered, accusing me in an indignant tone of having caused illegal assemblies in the prison.
I answered pleasantly enough that he was wrong in imputing the crime to me, the Grand Provost and his Archers had to answer for that, and I could assure him that if he would open the prison, I would disperse the assembly.
"It is no jesting matter," said he, "you have prevented the conversion of these poor people."
I then spoke with more seriousness, and said "you must perceive by the confrontation that you are mistaken; but for the sake of argument, suppose it to be otherwise; I look upon the conversion of the soul as exclusively the work of the Holy Spirit of God, and that perseverance in our religion cannot be attributed to any mere man, but rather to Him who tries the heart and the reins, and strengthens whom he pleases." "I am ashamed," said I," to plead before Christians as Christians formerly pleaded before Pagans; and now just imagine yourself in the situation of one of us. What would you think of a religion which should impute it to you as a crime, that you had prayed to God out of the deep gulph of your affliction? Would you be disposed to embrace such a religion ?"
He was moved at this appeal, but the President remained inflexible, and said, I must go to the dungeon of the tower of Pons.
I then spoke with warmth and indignation, and told him, that being convinced of my innocence, as I felt persuaded he was, he forgot his duty, and was more inveterate against me than the King's advocate, who in virtue of his office was my persecutor, and I added, that if he thought putting me in a dungeon would prevent my calling upon my Creator, he was much mistaken, for the greater the affliction the more urgent would be my supplications, and that I would not forget in my prayers to beg that God would be pleased to give him repentance and a better mind. He very quietly said, he wanted none of my prayers or lectures, and called to the Sergeant to do his duty.
I was taken to the tower of Pons, and put into a miserable, dark, filthy dungeon at 8 o'clock in the morning. I found it already tenanted by one of the culprits who was awaiting his trial for murder. We had not much conversation. He asked me what was the general opinion of him, and he also wished to know if I could tell him any thing of the mode of examining by torture. I told him that he was believed to be guilty, and the probability was, that if he were so, some one of his companions would confess, and they would all suffer.
"What." said he, "if I go through the torture without confessing, and the others accuse me falsely, shall I be broken on the wheel all the same?"
I said that all particulars might be so circumstantially given, that he would find it impossible to deny any longer.
"Ah Jesu Maria !" he cried out, in such a tone as left me no doubt of his being really guilty. I endeavoured to waken him to repentance, and assured him that God's mercy was still open to him.
He had a curiosity to know what my crime might have been, and upon learning it he said, "Alas, sir, why do not you change your religion ? This is a sad place for one like you."
Poor wretch! I could readily believe that he would have acted up to the advice he gave me; and the probability is, that had he been brought up a Protestant, recantation would now have saved his life. He was next day put to the torture, ordinary and extraordinary: he bore all in silence, nothing could be drawn from him; one of his accomplices confessed, and all three were broken on the wheel.
Owing to the incessant importunity of Mademoiselle De la Burgerie, afterwards wife of Col.de Boisron, I was taken out of this stinking place at nine o'clock the same night. She was well acquainted with the Seneschal, and represented to him in the strongest language the infamy of his proceedings, and she would not rest until he gave her an order for my removal.
My next prison was a very elevated one, it was in a small tower at the top of the town hall of Pons, open to the town clock, circular in its form, and ten or twelve feet in diameter. I procured a small bedstead, three chairs, and a table, and I lived there three months in tolerable comfort. I was to be sure, rather dependent on the caprice of the Seneschal; sometimes he would not allow any person to enter my apartment for eight or ten days; and again, at other times, he would grant admission to any and every body who would pay the porter a few pence. I was visited by many worthy and excellent persons, through whose instrumentality I was enabled to send prayers, copied by unknown hands, suited to the condition of my dear fellow sufferers in the prison; and I had the satisfaction of learning that they persevered in their daily devotions, and not one of them was persuaded to recant.
It is worth mentioning that my solitude was never disturbed by Bishop, Jesuit, Priest, or Monk, though they never allowed a day to pass without visiting my companions. No one ever proposed to me to change my religion; so true is it that if you resist the devil he will flee from you.
It was hinted to me again and again, that I might let myself out with a silver key, but as I had only entered the prison for the benefit of my poor neighbours, I was determined not to quit it by means entirely out of their reach. I had also another reason, which alone would have been sufficient to make me decline this plan; namely, that it would hold out an inducement to the avaricious Seneschal to treat other Protestants with severity in order to extort money from them. My advocate, Mr. Maureau, and some other friends were anxious to take the matter upon themselves, and so arrange it as not to cost me a farthing, but I scorned the proposal, and assured them that if they dared to take such a step without my consent, I would proclaim publickly that the President had taken money to enlarge me.
Trial before the Presidency--A digression--My defence--Angry discussion with the President--Query--My reply--Sentence.
The month of August had come round by the time that the process was read; to be brought before the Presidency in the Hall of Justice.
In this court the prisoner is not allowed to have an advocate to plead for him, but has to appear alone. The door is locked and guarded by Archers. The President sits in the centre, the Judges or Counsellors on each side, the Register remains in the lower part of the Hall, and the prisoner is usually seated near him on a three legged wooden stool, as a mark of disgrace. There is a saying in France, "he has sat upon the stool," which is tantamount to the English phrase, "I have seen him hold up his hand at the bar."
The testimony recorded in the confrontation is read to the accused, and he is asked if it be correct, and if the signature attached to it be his. The Judges then examine him more fully, and if it be a case admitting of appeal to Parliament, the answers are recorded. The examination finished, the accused is taken back to prison, and the sentence of the court, in writing is sent to him by a sheriff's officer.
In preparing myself, I thought much more of my poor neighbours than of myself; because I was really innocent of the charge in the indictment, they were not; and without the assistance of an advocate I was somewhat apprehensive about them, and I determined, if I had an opportunity, to say something that might be useful, either in softening the hearts of the Judges, or alarming their consciences. as might appear most expedient when the time came. I prayed most fervently to God for his assistance.
I will make a digression here, which you will presently perceive is not altogether irrelevant to the subject. My apartment under the Town Clock looked into the court yard of one of my Judges. He was a very passionate man and addicted to gambling though said to be an able jurist. Two or three days before my trial I was awakened out of my sound sleep at midnight, by this man swearing and making the most horrible noises; he had just returned home after losing a round sum of money in play, and mad with vexation, he was venting his rage upon his innocent wife and children. I thought I heard blows, but of that I was not sure.
To return to my trial. When I entered the Hall of justice, the Register civilly offered me the three legged stool: I declined it, saying, I was no criminal to deserve the disgrace. He then attempted to force me upon it, which the Court observing, ordered him to desist, and one of the Judges smiling said, "Mr. Fontaine is a young man, and he might miss a good match by it."
I made a profound bow.
I was asked whether I had not prayed to God in the wood on Easter Sunday.
I said "No, and I can produce any number of witnesses to prove an alibi, if you will allow me; I spent that day at Coses."
Little was said about my crime in prison, because I acknowledged unhesitatingly that I had prayed there, but not with my full voice.
After some other questions, they asked me if I did not know that his Majesty had issued a Declaration forbidding illegal assemblies. I thought that God had now opened the door for me to urge something on behalf of my fellow prisoners, and I said;--
"Gentleman; I am aware of it. and I have read the Declaration most carefully over and over again, and I can find nothing in it which forbids people assembling to pray to God. I look upon it as the height of injustice to his Majesty, to pretend that he calls such assemblies unlawful, and you who are the interpreters of his Declaration ought to have more respect for him, and for your own reputation as Christians, than to give it so bad an interpretation as to call those assemblies illegal, to which no arms are carried but the Old and New Testament, and where no words arc spoken but such as find an echo in the sacred volume, and where prayers are offered for the prosperity of the King and his kingdom and for the conversion of those who persecute the Church of Christ."
An interruption occured here; my advocate, Mr. Maureau, had been listening at the door, and thinking I was too bold, he put his mouth to a crevice, and cried "Hist, Hist, Hist," and ran away. The door was opened, but the offender was not to be found, so they contented themselves with guarding it more carefully. This incident roused the attention of my Judges, and hoping to draw me into some unguarded expression which might be made a handle of, they encouraged me to proceed, which I did as follows :--
"Illegal assemblies, gentlemen, it appears to me, are assemblies where something is done contrary to law, such as tumultuously assembling in arms to conspire against the state; and I see none other to which it can be applied without losing sight of the correct meaning of words; but if we were to extend its application, it is evident it should be to those meetings held in summer on Sunday evenings, where they play, dance on the green, quarrel with one another, and blaspheme their Maker on his appointed day of rest. Such assemblies might perhaps fall within the meaning of the Declaration, however I do not hear of any one being taken up for attending them, while the prisons are filled with those whose only crime has been praying to God. In the name of all that is sacred, Gentlemen, how dare you give such an interpretation to his Majesty's Declaration without trembling to think of the wrath of the King of Kings? You who assemble nightly at balls, where they dance, speak evil of their neighbours, and squander their money, and perhaps lose in gambling that which is wanted to support their wives and children, and return home to be a burden where they ought to be a blessing. You, I say, who are now sitting in judgment upon others, will one day stand before the just Judge of all the world, and in that awful day, think you that He will condemn those who have worshipped Him in spirit and in truth, or those who have frequented your assemblies?"
"Aha!" cried the President "your rebellious spirit breaks out at last, you not only sermonize and reproach us, but you say the King issues Declarations wherein he forbids assemblies where they pray to God, and permits those in which the Divine Majesty is blasphemed. Register; that is the sense of his reply, write it down"
"It is not;" said I.
He then rose up in great anger, and said; "I am void of understanding if it mean anything else."
Some of the Judges more calm, said, they had better listen to what I had to say.
This was politic on their part, because an appeal to Parliament was open to me, and if I would not sign my name to the answers recorded, they might get into trouble, and be obliged to verify on oath every word they had made the Register write as coming from me.
"Gentlemen," said I, "the sense of what I did say I take to be this; that the King by his Declaration of such a date never meant to prohibit assemblies where they pray to God, but much rather balls, and Sunday evening assemblies for dancing on the green, and more especially those wherein they conspire against the state."
"No," said the President "that is not it."
"Well, gentlemen, said I, "to put an end to the dispute, I am very willing to dictate verbatim to the Register all that I have said;" and I was about to begin.
"What !" cried the President, "that long sermon over again, no; that would be rather beyond endurance.
At last, in order to save the trouble of the long reply, they consented to take the the following as the tenor of it.
"According to my judgment, the Declaration of his Majesty of such a date does not forbid assemblies where they only pray to God, and I think those who extend its application so far, depart from the intention of his Majesty." This was written, and I signed the document.
The President, by way of showing my stubbornness (as he called it) to the Court, then said to me, "Mr. Fontaine, we have no more questions to put to you as an accused person, but merely as a matter of curiosity, I wish to know from you whether you think a private individual, we will say, a mechanic, for instance, can understand the Holy Scriptures as well as the learned Doctors and Councils?"
I answered, "I must make some discrimination before I reply to your query. Suppose the individual in question should be blessed with the Holy Spirit, and the Doctors and Councils should not, (which I think very possible) then I am of opinion the former would understand the sacred volume the best, because the same Spirit, by which the Scriptures were dictated, is necessary for their correct understanding. Our blessed Lord and his poor fishermen found themselves opposed by the Scribes and Pharisees at Jerusalem. And to come nearer to our own days, Luther and Calvin to a certainty, understood the Scriptures better than all the Popes, Cardinals, and Councils put together.
At these words they all arose, crying out, "Jesu Maria! what infatuation!"
"Ere long, gentlemen," said I, "we shall all be summoned to leave this vain world, and we shall then see whose has then been the infatuation."
I was taken back to prison, and my companions succeeded me in the Hall of Justice.
The sermon, which it was reported I had preached to the Court, made a great noise in the place, it was the topic of conversation equally among Papists and Protestants, each dressing it up according to their own fashion. The Judges themselves said I had put the rope round my own neck. I received visits and letters of condolence from many of the principal Protestants, and they all blamed me for my indiscretion, but they did not know how cautiously I had expressed myself; and when I told them the whole truth, and the form in which my answers had been recorded, they no longer reproached me.
I appealed to Parliament before I had even read the sentence of the Presidency, which was handed to me next day. I was sentenced to pay a fine of a hundred livres to the King for having prayed in prison, and declared for ever incapable of exercising any function of the Holy Ministry.
My companions were condemned to make the "amende honourable," to be banished from the Province for six months, to pay all expenses and one hundred crowns in specie; and a further fine of six thousand francs was laid upon us all, collectively and individually. The object of the last clause was to squeeze the money out of me, as I was the only one in circumstances to pay it. I tendered the hundred livres imposed upon me individually, and then demanded my enlargement, or at any rate the liberty of going in and out of the prison. This was refused, therefore I was under the necessity of calling upon my friends to present my request to Parliament.
Appeal to Parliament--Copy of factum--President's observations upon it--Sentence reversed--Register refuses copy of the decree--Apply for redress--Return home.
The Parliament of Bourdeaux, or rather of Guienne, then held its sittings at La Reolle; and by its order we were removed to the prison of that town, which was so full that the gaoler, contented with his entrance fee, allowed us to go and come on "parole" as we pleased. This was very advantageous to me, giving me the opportunity of making personal application to Parliament, proving my own innocence, and exposing the injustice of the Presidency of Saintes, which I hoped to exhibit in its true colours.
I had my factum printed, of which the following is a true and faithful copy.
"James Fontaine is accused of two things. The one of being found in the assemblies held in the wood of Chatelars near Royan, and the other of having been heard praying to God, in the prison of Saintes. With regard to the first accusation, it is based upon the testimony of only one witness, named Agoust, who made affidavit to having seen him at the distance of one hundred paces from his own house, and two hundred paces from the place where the assemblies were said to have been held. At the confrontation this witness admitted that he only thought he had seen him from a window, and that too, in the dusk of the evening, at a distance of three or four hundred paces; and upon the strength of such testimony as this, the said Fontaine has been confined four months in the prisons of Saintes, which are extremely rude in their accommodations. The charge of praying to God rested upon the evidence of four witnesses, who contradicted themselves upon cross-examination, and it appeared that the said Fontaine merely knelt down in a corner of the prison, and spoke in so low a tone that the gaoler's wife, after acknowledging that she passed within one pace of him when he was kneeling down, was not able to repeat a single word of what he had said. After the breviate of the case was completed, the Seneschal in the most extraordinary manner refused to judge, and the said Fontaine was obliged to take legal steps in consequence; and after four months delay, the Attorney general's deputy, recognising the injustice of the proceeding, called for further enquiry and the sentence resulting therefrom is the subject of the present appeal. The said Fontaine has been declared guilty of contravening the King's Edict, and has been condemned to pay a fine of a hundred livres, and declared for ever incapable of exercising the functions of candidate or of Minister. The said Fontaine appealed. He tendered the sum of one hundred livres (the fine imposed upon him) to be set at liberty, this was refused--but he has since obtained permission to go in and out upon condition of returning to the prison.
"This is a brief statement of facts, and the said Fontaine now proceeds to justify his appeal. In the first place the testimony of a single witness is not sufficient under any circumstances, and the witness in question merely testified to seeing him on the highway, and not at the place of meeting, and confessed afterwards that he only thought he had seen him. A witness to be depended upon should speak with certainly, and not by credit vel non credit any more than hearsay. And it can be proved that the said Fontaine was at Coses, distant three leagues, on the day and at the hour named by the witness. As to the second accusation; who would condemn a man for praying in prison? The very situation would lead a Christian to pray more frequently and fervently. In order to convict him he should be proved to have used words admitting of evil construction; so far from it, all that appears is that he was on his knees, in a remote corner of the prison, and one witness heard him say, "Our father who art in heaven." The said Fontaine concludes that having made this just appeal, the former decision will be declared null and void."
"Monsieur de Labourin, Reporter."
"Signed. Dumas. Attorney."
Presented 6th. August 1684.
When I presented this factum to the President of the Parliament, I said to him, " My Lord, I here present you with a true statement of facts, and if you find the least discrepancy or exaggeration when you compare it with the evidence which will be brought before you, I am willing not only to have the sentence of the Seneschal confirmed, but you may increase the penalties as much as you please."
He read it with attention, and said he could scarcely imagine it was correct, for what inducement could the Seneschal have had for acting thus.
"My Lord," said I, "his is the spirit of avarice, which he hides under a specious display of false zeal; for he only joined me in the sentence with the poor people to make sure of the fine and costs; I can assure you that the fees, which are his perquisite, have been levied with an unsparing hand."
The form of proceeding before Parliament is the same as before the Presidency. When I entered the Hall, the stool was offered to me as before; I looked towards the President, and he kindly exempted me from the opprobium. I was treated most respectfully, no unnecessary questions were asked, and I received full justice. I obtained a final decision, reversing the sentence of the Presidency of Saintes, and acquitting me entirely. My poor neighhours for form's sake, were banished from the province for six months. The Seneschal of Saintes was ordered to restore me the hundred livres that I had deposited, and he was prohibited from receiving fees on this, or any future occasion, where the King was the prosecutor. Two grievous blows for the Seneschal.
In order to obtain my liberty, and recover the fine, I must produce a copy of the decree. The Register said that twenty-one copies would be necessary, one for each of us, which would have been very expensive. He knew well that on exhibiting one to the gaoler, he would let us all out of prison and therefore, (loving money) he refused to let me have my copy unless I paid him for the twenty-one.
I complained of this delay to the Lord President, and he told me to command the Register from him to furnish me with a copy, paying only for that single one.
I went gladly with this order, but the chief Register was so great a man that he interfered but little in the business of his office, and he sent me to his deputy, one Cardon, who said it was none of his business. I returned to the chief Register, for I did not begrudge my steps, and he told me that Cardon had better speak to the President. For several days I was kept on the move from one to the other without any prospect of redress, and I then began to see into the object of all this delay. This day was the last of the Court sitting before the Christmas holydays, and the Register and his deputy thought that the Lords of Parliament once dispersed, they would keep us in prison during the whole holydays, unless I would pay for the twenty-one copies.
I determined to make a desperate effort, and writing my grievance on a slip of paper, I managed to get in at the door during the absence of the Serjeant, and appeared before the Parliament, with the petition in my hand. Cardon, who was there, called the Serjeant, hoping to have me carried to prison for my intrusion.
Fortunately the President saw me, and called out, "Mr. Fontaine, have you not got your deed yet?"
"No indeed," my Lord, "what does it benefit me to have found favour in your eyes, and that you have done me justice, when it is in Mr. Cardon's power to prevent my obtaining the necessary record of it? Parliament once prorogued, he will leave me to rot in a dungeon; and foreseeing this, I have in my despair, made bold to enter, and throw myself at your feet as a supplicant for justice."
The President, extremely indignant, called out, "Mr. Cardon, how dare you disobey my orders? What have you to say to prevent my punishing you as you deserve?"
He began a shuffling excuse about not having received instructions from the chief Register.
I was on the point of contradicting him, but one of the Judges, who was my friend, put his finger upon his lips to show me that I ought to remain silent; and I presently saw it was for the best, because the President's anger was only increased by an apology setting at naught his authority.
"And so, Mr. Cardon, my order is a dead letter, unless confirmed by the Register! If you know your duty no better than that, it is time for me to have done with you."
Cardon, in dismay, begged pardon with all humility, and assured the Parliament he would attend to the matter instantly.
The President, turning to me, said "Sir, if you cannot get your deed today, come and tell me; and when you have received it, let me know how much you have paid for it."
I made a low bow and retired, very well pleased.
I waited patiently for the adjournment of Parliament, and asked Mr. Cardon as he came out to give me the deed. He said he was going home to dinner, but as soon as he had dined I should have it. I followed him to his mansion, and he perceiving it, recommended me to go and get my own dinner. I told him I was determined neither to eat nor drink till I was possessed of the deed; and I waited patiently outside of his door for two hours, and seeing neither him nor the deed, I knocked; a footman opened the door a very little way, so that I could not possibly get in, and told me his master was out; nevertheless I retained my position, and saw several persons admitted. At last, two well fed Franciscan Friars, coming to the door, I followed them in unobserved, and keeping close in the rear I managed to get into the office, and waiting until their business was finished, I rose to my full height as they disappeared, and stood like a ghost before Cardon.
"What devil has brought you here?" said he.
I replied that I came under the auspices of the good fathers who were just gone.
He handed me the deed, and I gave him in gold the one and twentieth part of the sum he had demanded for furnishing the full number. To my surprise, he returned me five or six crowns.
"How is that? Are you satisfied?" said I.
"No," said he, with much asperity of manner, nor shall I be until I see you with a rope round your neck."
"When people are hung," said I for "praying to God, I shall have reason to be afraid, and you will be able to sleep in peace."
I took the deed to the gaoler, and he thereupon released us all from our "parole" and we were at full liberty.
I should not have dwelt upon this subject at so much length, but for the purpose of showing you how many difficulties we had to contend with; every one seemed to think he had a right to impose upon a Protestant, even down to a Register's clerk.
From this detail you should learn to stand up with firmness and use every energy you are possessed of to overcome obstacles, and not sit down quietly as some do to complain of fatigue and rebuffs, and make no effort. Remember, God has promised his blessing to the diligent hand as well as the upright heart.
In the course of the day I called to take leave of my Lord the President, and to thank him for all his kindness, and then quite victorious I turned my steps towards Saintes. I made the Seneschal refund the hundred livres already named, and once more I set foot within my own dwelling. The expences I had incurred during my imprisonment amounted to two thousand livres.
Most of the poor people returned quietly to their own homes, which was winked at, and they received presents from charitable disposed Protestants to an amount that made ample amends for the labor which had been lost to their families.
The history of our imprisonment spread far and wide, and I received letters of congratulation from many distinguished individuals, members of the reformed church, amongst others from the Marquis de Rouvigny, father of Lord Galaway.
Mr. Benoist gives an account of our trial and imprisonment in his "History of the Edict of Nantes." You will find it in the third part of the third volume.
Persecution of 1685--Meeting of ministers and elders--My opinion opposed to the majority--Meeting of Protestants at Royan--Mr.Certani dissuades numbers from emigration--lnterview with him--Gloomy forebodings-- Departure of many persons--Dragoons appear--Leave home--Visit sisters-- Traverse the country--Place bethrothed in safety.
The year 1685 opened with a bitter spirit of persecution, far beyond all that had proceeded it. There was no longer the slightest semblance of justice in the forms of proceeding, the dragoons ravaged and pillaged without mercy, resembling in their progress a lawless and victorious army in an enemy's country. In the history of past ages we look in vain for any record of such cruelties as they inflicted upon the unoffending and unresisting Huguenots. They were accountable to nobody, for their acts, each dragoon was a sovereign judge and an executioner, and he who had ingenuity enough to invent any new species of torture was sure of applause, and even reward for his discovery.
Early in the year I received an invitation to attend a meeting of Ministers and Elders to consult upon what ought to be done at the present crisis. The number assembled was about twenty five. As I was only a Candidate and not a Minister, I had no right to be present, still less to give an opinion at such a meeting, but my deportment in prison had gained me so much reputation, that young as I was, the Ministers requested me to give them my views.
I pointed out to them the error I thought they had been guilty of, in preaching as they did, the doctrine of non-resistance from their pulpits, and I added that it appeared to me that our quiet submission to all the King's grievous Declarations had encouraged him to go on. Obedience to one edict only paved the way to another still more intolerable, and that we might blame the timid policy of the day for much that we had suffered. I totally dissented from the generally received doctrine, that our lives and our property belonged to the King, and I looked upon it as reflecting discredit on our ancestors, who had obtained for us, sword in hand, the privileges which were now taken away. In short, I thought there was nothing left for us but to take up arms, and leave the issue to the Lord of Hosts.
I was listened to thus far with impatience, and they then rebuked me, telling me I had none of the Spirit of the Gospel, which was patient and long-suffering, and at the utmost extremity permitted nothing but flight.
I replied that we were men as well as Christians, and that as men, we had rights to maintain; and if a compact entered into with our fathers, in virtue of which they had laid down their arms, was broken, we were certainly called upon to enforce its fulfilment, if necessary, at the point of the sword. I entreated them to reflect that this immense Protestant population could not all flee.
I was again interrupted, but I begged they would allow me to say one word more; and I solemnly called upon them to think of the thousands of souls that would be eternally ruined, unable to support persecution they would yield to the tempter, but put arms in their hands and they would willingly hazard life for the truth. They looked upon me rather with compassion as an impetuous, headstrong, young man, and thought my advice altogether unworthy of consideration.
When the dragoons made their appearance in our Province, it was with orders to over-run all the other districts before they visited the coast, and the idea prevailed that sailors were to be spared.
The Intendant of Rochfort sent a letter to Royan recommending us to change without dragoons. A large meeting was held to deliberate upon a suitable answer to this smooth letter. My voice was in favour of resistance, and I said I was convinced we could possess ourselves of Rochfort and Brouage in one week.
They would not listen to me, and I verily believe, that nothing short of the general respect entertained for our family would have prevented some who heard me from giving information.
The answer returned was, that they would obey the King in every thing that was consistent with their duty to God, but nothing should induce them to change their religion.
They told a very different story when the dragoons really showed themselves amongst them, for the principal men proved arrant cowards, and trod upon one another, trying, who could get into the Church first, to make recantation. It was amongst the county people that the most unshaken faith was found. Before the dragoons appeared, a good many sailors embarked with their families, and crowds followed to the sea shore to accompany them if room could be found for them. It was on this occasion that a Mr. Certani, the Catholic Priest of Royan (a sensible and respectable man) went down to the shore and dissuaded many from embarking, promising that Royan should not be visited by dragoons, the King loving his brave seamen too well to allow them to be disturbed.
And to give additional weight to his advice, he added that if what he had said was not true, they were welcome to burn him alive in his house. Some allowed themselves to be persuaded to chance their plan. I was not at home on that day, and when I heard of it on my return, I went to Mr. le Cure and told him I came to bid him farewell, for I was certain the dragoons would soon be in our parish, and I did not mean to trust myself to their tender mercies, if I could help it.
He urged me to do as many others had done, appear to change, which would answer every purpose.
I answered, that I could not lull my conscience sufficiently to take such a step as that.
He then told me in confidence that he was himself overwhelmed with grief at the state of affairs; he feared the just judgements of God would overtake the Catholics for forcing people to approach the altar without faith, and partake of that holy sacrament which should only be received by the sincere in heart.
"I fear," said he, "war, famine, and pestilence! War! what is more probable than that the princes, with whom so many Huguenots have taken refuge should be aroused to avenge them of their persecutors? Famine! for who will cultivate our fields? all our young people are leaving us, and what an army may be raised for our adversaries out of these brave young men whom we are driving away. Pestilence may naturally be expected to tread on the heels of famine. And who can say that we do not deserve these scourges of the Almighty for our profanation of his Holy Altar."
This prophecy of the Cure was literally fulfilled, though he did not live to see more than its commencement. The veteran army of France, formidable to the whole world, had been every where victorious till it made war upon the Saints, and then it experienced the most gloomy reverses. The soldiers appeared to be shorn of their strength and God took from them their ancient valour. The glory of Louis, whose ambition aspired to universal monarchy, departed from him when he raised his hand against God's elect, and he lived to reap his reward in seeing himself despised as he deserved to he. Famine and poverty covered the land, the gold and the silver disappeared and its place was supplied by a species of enchanted paper, which still remains in their portfolios to remind them of all that they have lost. And pestilence also has overtaken that doomed and wretched nation. France! miserable France! my country, wilt thou never open thine eyes and unstop thine ears and understand, the language in which God has spoken to thee? So long as his faithful sevants were cherished in thy bosom, his blessing was upon thee, as it was upon Abinadab while the ark rested in his house; but thou hast driven them forth with cruelties unheard of. and thy prosperity has departed with them. The floods have gone over thee, O that thou wouldest return to the Almighty and confess thy sins, and cease to forbid his true and pure worship; and his blessing would return to thee, and thy days would be bright, and prosperity would again appear within thy borders.
Sympathy for my dear native land has carried me away from my conversation with Mr. Le Cure. To resume, I begged him not to draw upon himself the just indignation of an injured and infuriated community. He deceived himself, I told him, if he really believed as he had asserted that the dragoons would not come.
"If they do come," said I. "recollect the penalty you will have to pay, you have given the people permission to burn you in your house. Now I solemnly declare to you, that I have this day heard a man (a stranger to me) swear by all that he held sacred, that if you had used deceit, he would roast you alive and carry the news to Holland."
He turned pale at this, and said he had expressed himself so strongly, in consequence of the promise he had received from the Intendant of Rochfort that the dragoons should not come; and he took out his letter and gave it to me for perusal.
"Sir," said I "how came you to make yourself answerable for the Intendant? Suppose he should not keep his word with you. Now as a friend I beseech you, go to the people before it is too late, and retract what you have said, show the letter to them, and they can attach what credit they like to it."
He thanked me for my advice and availed himself of it, going down at once to the sea shore. During three days after this interview great numbers embarked, and on the fourth the dragoons* made their appearance. All who were left and did not mean to recant, fled and concealed themselves in the woods.
* The Protestants lost most of their strong places during the reign of Louis XIII, and the remainder in that of Louis XIV, so that they were entirely at the mercy of the King, and he promised to secure to them liberty of conscience, and he kept his word until his latter days, when he began to think more upon religious subjects, and under the influence of Madame de Maintenon, and his Confessor La Chaise, he determined to convert all the Protestants in his dominions to Catholicism. Colbert, the Minister of Finance, though a Catholic himself, estimated at its real value the superior industry of the Huguenots, and he opposed violent measures successfully so long as he lived. After his death in 1683, the monarch had no one to restrain him, and the bigotted counsels of the Confessor and the Chancellor Le Tellier and his son strengthened his own resolves. Almost all the noblemen and courtiers recanted, and Louis thought he had only to say the word, and their example would be followed throughout his dominions. Missionaries were appointed, and furnished with large sums of money to make converts, they gave in flattering reports of their success; but this method was thought too expensive, and a cheaper plan was to be tried. All Protestants were excluded from public office, children were allowed to recant at the age of seven years, and severe penalties were enacted against relapse. This caused emigration, and those in power opened their eyes wide enough to perceive that in the departure of seamen and artisans they were losing many of their most valuable subjects, and to put a stop to it they
issued an edict prohibiting emigration on pain of death.
The Protestant Churches were next ordered to be demolished, and no less than 700 were destroyed even before the revocation of the edict of Nantes. The last measure adopted was that which has been known by the name of
'dragooning,'* and if we had not the most undoubted testimony on the subject, it would be impossible to believe that such horrors could have been perpetrated under the mask of the Christian religion.
* We believe that the use of the word dragoon as a verb, implying, to abandon to the rage of the soldiery, is actually derived from the cruelties practiced during these persecutions.
I left my house at midnight never to return to it, with my valet, and a horse for each of us, and a portmanteau. I was well armed, and I resolved, if I did encounter the dragoons, to sell my life as dearly as possible. My house was amply furnished, and I had removed nothing. Two hours after my departure, eighteen dragoons took possession of it, and lived there until they had consumed or sold every thing they could lay hands upon, even to the locks and bolts of the doors.
I rode rapidly forward, choosing bye-ways with which I was well acquainted in that part of the country. At break of day, approaching Jermosacq I met a body of soldiers who had compelled the people remaining in that place to do the duty of the times (as it was called,) and they were hastening elsewhere to make more conversions. They came upon me so suddenly and unexpectedly that I had no time to retreat, and I knew that if I were recognised it would go very hard with me, but I thought it best to ride boldly forward and salute them as I passed. My horses were noble animals, worthy of carrying a general officer and his aid de camp; I had scarlet housings with black fringe, and holsters for my pistols, and though I was dressed in black, I had taken the precaution of putting on a large periwig, and crepe upon my hat in order to evade the suspicion that might otherwise have attached to my dress. The officers (thanks be to God for it) took me for a country gentlemen, and returned my salutation very civilly.
A day was appointed for the conversion of a certain district and the dragoons made their appearance accordingly, they took possession of the Protestants' houses, destroyed all that they could not consume or carry away, turned the parlours into stables for their horses, treated the owners of the houses with every species of cruelty, depriving them of food, beating them, burning some alive, half roasting others and then letting them go, tying mothers securely to posts and leaving their sucking infants to perish at their feet, hanging some upon hooks in the chimnies and smoking them with wisps of wet straw until they were suffocated, some they dipped in wells, others they bound down and poured wine into them through a funnel until reason was destroyed, and many other tortures were inflicted, some even more horrible than the above named.
The first stoppage I made was at the house of my Aunt Jaguald (my mother's sister,) she had not changed her religion, but her son had done so, to escape dragooning. I spent one day and night with her, and strove to strengthen her faith, and I have reason to believe that she remained firm to the day of her death.
I went next to Jonzac where I had two married sisters living, and sad to relate, they had both recanted to avoid the dragoons. I continued my route, extremely depressed towards St. Meslars to visit my youngest sister Anne, and there my heart was cheered to find her firm in faith, even though her husband had changed his religion; and she never rested until she persuaded him to leave France with her. After several days of sweet and delightful converse with this dear sister, I went to St. Mesme to see Mr. Forestier and my sister Mary, but they had already fled.
Wherever I went I tried to do some good, strengthening those who were firm, and denouncing those who had fallen, trying if possible to persuade them to abjure their abjuration. It was most distressing to see what numbers had made shipwreck of their faith. Many persons, who had suffered persecution, lost all their property, and still did not yield to the tempter, fell victims at last to the evil counsels of false friends, who persuaded them that God having ordered them to honor and obey the King, they broke his commandment by refusing to obey the King's Decrees; and thus they became idolatrous renegades, adoring that which they well knew to be nothing more than a morsel of bread. I was so grieved at the extent of defection that I fell sick, lost my strength and spirits, and suffered much from billious vomitings. I often encountered parties of soldiers, and so great was my depression that I should not have been sorry if they had attacked me, and life had become so burdensome, that I would willingly have parted with mine, especially if I could in the struggle have despatched some of the Ringleaders of the devil's armies.
You must know, though a poor soldier on foot being weakly and lame, I was an excellent horseman, and a good shot. I could hit a mark at twelve or fifteen paces with my horse at full gallop. One of my horses was an Arabian, remarkably fleet, and if I gave him the bridle he would move with the swiftness of a race horse, stretching out his legs and doubling them so as almost to touch the ground with his body, dazzling his rider's eyes by his speed, but without any uneasiness from the motion. I knew that none of the dragoons could overtake me when mounted upon him, and I determined if pursued to fight like the Parthians; wait for any one of them who should distance the rest by the fleetness of his horse, shoot him, and gallop off, charging my pistol to be ready for another. Thus I may say I scarcely feared a whole company, for they could not come up to me in a body, and one by one, I was certain I could dispose of several of them. In addition to this, I was so well acquainted with the country, that it gave me a great advantage over them, and in extremity I could avail myself of windings among the woods where no stranger would have dared to follow. But my chief reliance has always been upon my Heavenly Father, I tried to serve him to the best of my power, and in his infinite mercy he has protected me through many and great dangers. He even obtained for me important assistance from the enemies of the Gospel as you will presently perceive.
Having but little money with me, and no prospect of adding to my store, I began to think a valet was rather too great an expense, and I dismissed him, and at the same time hit upon an excellent plan for recruiting one of my horses, while I was travelling about on the other. Between Jonzac and Jemosacq there was a castle belonging to the Count of Jonzac, a great persecutor, as was the fashion among the courtiers. I used to rest sometimes at a small Inn upon his estate, a very safe place, as I was personally unknown, because being all papists there was no fear of dragoons appearing. Mine host was a humane, simple peasant, and I told him that having some business to transact which detained me from home, I should look upon it as a great favor if he would have one of my horses put in the meadow below; he sent for the groom who took care of the Count's horses, and he, seeing that something was to be gained, very readily consented. I used to return there every week, or two, or three as might be convenient to me, and change my horse, leaving the jaded animal to recruit in the meadow. I pursued this plan regularly for three months at least, and during the whole time I found the people uniformly kind and faithful to me.
It was by no means uncommon for me to be six or seven days without the opportunity of undressing myself, or so much as being able to draw off my boots; afraid to venture abroad in the day time, I generally rode from place to place in the night.
My troubles were increased by the anxiety and uncertainty I felt about the safety of Mademoiselle Boursiquot, your dear mother, to whom I had given my affections, with every confidence of an equal return from her. I had at length an opportunity of placing her in safety, and I conducted her to Mr. Brejon's. He was an advocate who had changed his religion, and he held the office of man of business to the Duke of Montausier, therefore I felt certain that his house must be as secure an asylum as could be found.
Revocation of Edict of Nantes--Preparations for flight--Difficulties and dangers--Land in England--Cheap bread--Speculate in grain--Cruelty of a ship Captain.
In the month of October, 1685, the Edict of Nantes* was actually revoked. Of course there was no choice left, flight was the only alternative, and I went to Marennes to make preparations in good earnest, and was fortunate in finding an English Captain with whom I was able to make a bargain. He agreed to take me, and four or five persons in addition, at the rate of ten pistoles each, and we were to assemble at Tremblade for embarkation. I went immediately to fetch your dear mother, her sister Elizabeth, and my niece Janette Forestier; the latter was my god-daughter and course I felt it incumbent upon me to provide for her safety. I mentioned our project to some few persons who I thought would gladly have availed themselves of it, but their fear was stronger than their hope, and they dared not venture to encounter so many dangers, the Coast being carefully guarded both by sea and land to prevent emigration. We lodged at the house of a drunkard in Tremblade, who being able to speak the English language was to be our pilot. His imprudence and drunkenness combined made our position one of great danger while under his roof. After several days of cruel suspense, the Captain desired us to be in readiness on the next, and told us that he intended to pass between the Isle of Oleron and the main land, and that if we would be on the sands near the Forrest of Arvert, he would send a boat ashore for us.
* Surely this act has been incorrectly termed the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. All its provisions had been repealed long ago by royal edicts and ordinances, except the bare toleration of Protestantism in some few towns and districts. The edict of 22d. October 1685 forbade all exercise of the reformed religion, ordered the clergy to expatriate themselves within a fortnight, unless they would recant, and in that case their incomes were to be increased one third, and continued to their wives. All infants were required to receive popish baptism, and every one caught in the attempt to escape (unless he was a minister) was condemned to the galleys for life.
In 1686, the enactments were still more severe. A Protestent taken in the act of public worship was punished with death, and all Protestant clergymen whether natives or foreigners were to be executed. To increase the vigilance of the soldiery, a reward of three or four pistoles was given for every Protestant that was taken up.
In spite of the care with which the coast and frontiers were guarded, it is believed that not less than 50,000 families made their escape, and they enriched every land that received them, carrying arts and manufacturies and industry in their train, and it has been remarked by close observers that their descendants, up to this day, continue to be distinguished for virtue and respectability.
We set off in the night and had two horses to carry our little baggage. In the course of the following day upwards of fifty persons assembled on the sands hoping to embark with us; and most of them being very young, they had not taken due precaution to conceal their intention, and it had reached the ears of the Papists, who very promptly obtained an order from the Custom House, to prevent the vessel sailing. We waited anxiously all day, in ignorance of the detention of the vessel, and while in this distressing state of suspense I called them all around me and addressed them, and then I put up a prayer suited to our condition; and when you read it (you will find a copy among my papers) you will feel certain that it must have been a prayer of the heart as well as the lips.
The Cure of Tremblade had heard some rumour of what was going on, and he set out for the shore with another person to look for us. They were on foot, and were once so near to us that we actually saw their dog which was a little in advance of them, when they were most providentially met by two fishermen who had seen us and sympathised with us, and they purposely misled them. They enlarged to them upon the great danger they were in of losing themselves amongst the sand hills, and undertaking to guide them, they led them officiously to a path by which they would be sure not to find us.
At night horses were sent down for us to return to Tremblade, and fifteen or twenty of our number were taken in by a citizen who had changed his religion. He was in a dreadful fright, for there was a fine of 1,000 crowns for harbouring a Protestant; and the houses of suspected persons were liable to be searched at any moment. After concealing us the whole day, his fear got the better of his humanity, and towards night he turned us out of his house; saying, "I have damned my own soul to save my property, and I am not going to run the risk of losing it to save your souls. You must do as I have done or take your chance elsewhere." We were depressed by this cruel treatment, but we know not what is best for us, for in the sequel we found abundant reason to bless God for it.
We had not left his house more than half an hour before a magistrate and some soldiers went to it, and examined every part most carefully in search of secreted Protestants. We did the best we could, one finding shelter here, another there, and we experienced much greater humanity from the fishermen's wives than from the rich people; and in the cottages of the former we spent the next four or five days.
The Captain came to us again to say that he would sail most certainly on the following day; that he would pass between the Islands of Re and Oleron, and if we were disposed to venture out to sea in small boats, he would take us on board after he had got rid of all visitors, Custom House officers, &c. and that he could not assist us in any other way. That very evening the 30th. Nov., 1685, (French or new style) we embarked in a little shallop as soon as it was dusk; our party consisting of your dear mother, your aunt Elizabeth, Janette Forestier, myself, two young men from Bourdeaux, and six young women from Marennes. Under cover of the night we passed by all the pinnaces that were keeping guard, and the fort of Oleron, without being discovered; and at ten o'clock in the morning we dropped our anchor to wait for the ship. We had instructed our boatmen that if we were pursued they were immediately to run the boat ashore, abandon her, and then 'sauve qui petit.' I was well armed ready for such an emergency, because I could place no reliance upon my poor lame limb helping me in the hour of need, and I had resolved to defend myself to the last gasp, and never to be taken alive. I was not put to the trial, for God guided us in safety, and closed the eyes of our enemies.
We had agreed with the English Captain that when we saw him, we should make ourselves known by hoisting a sail and letting it fall three times, and he was to answer our signal by lowering his mizzensail three times. About 3 o'clock in the afternoon we first espied the vessel; she had the official visitors and pilot still on board. On reaching the extreme point of the Isle of Oleron we saw her cast anchor, put out the visitors and pilot, take her boat on board, get under weigh, and sail towards us. We now felt a confidence that we had surmounted every difficulty, and expected in a very few minutes to be under full sail for England. Our joy was of short duration, a King's Frigate came in sight, and gradually approached us; she was one of those vessels constantly employed on the Coast to prevent Protestants leaving the Kingdom, and all who were found were seized, and the men sent to the galleys, the women to convents. No language can describe our consternation at this sudden change in our prospects; a moment before the cup of joy, was at our lips, and now dashed to the ground. We were at the distance of a cannon shot from the Frigate, and what must she think of us; a little bit of a boat at anchor in a place which did not afford safe anchorage even for large shipping. She cast anchor, ordered the English vessel to do the like, boarded her, and searched every nook and corner without finding any French Protestants except a Minister and his family, whose departure was authorised by law. What a blessing that we were not on board at this time! Had the Frigate been only one hour later in appearing we should all have been lost. After the search, the Englishman was ordered to sail immediately, the wind was favourable, and he could make no excuse, and we had the misery of seeing him leave us behind.
Our situation was dreadful, we were in perfect despair, and knew not what to do. To remain where we were would infallibly excite suspicion, and the Frigate would send to overhaul us. If we attempted to return to Tremblade, the chances were a hundred to one against our succeeding, and to add to our dismay our poor boatmen and his son (our whole crew) wept aloud, deploring their misery, for they having already abjured, knew well that nothing short of a halter awaited them if detected in the act of aiding Protestants to make their escape. Through the whole course of my life prayer has been my constant resource in every difficulty, and I betook myself to it on this occasion as usual, and felt a persuasion that God would not suffer us to fall into the hands of his enemies and ours.
All at once I thought of a feint which, thank God, proved successful and effected our deliverance. Having considered that the wind was fair to Rochelle, and contrary to Tremblade, I said to the boatmen.
"Cover us all up in the bottom of the boat with an old sail, then hoist your sail, and go right towards the Frigate, pretending to endeavour to gain Tremblade; and if they should hail you from the Frigate, you must say you are from Rochelle, and going to Tremblade; if they ask what you have on board; say, nothing but ballast; and it would be well that you and your son should counterfeit drunkeness, tumbling about in the boat, and then you can, as if by accident, let the sail fall three times, and so inform the English Captain who we are." He determined to abide by my counsel, and after covering us up, he actually sailed within pistol shot of the Frigate.
As I expected, she hailed him, and asked whence he came, whither he was going, and what he had on board. To all which the replied as I had instructed him.
"But what made you cast anchor?" said they.
"In hopes," he said, " that the wind would change and I might make Tremblade, but it is still too strong for me."
Just then the son fell down in the boat and dropped the sail, his father left the helm, and instead of hoisting the sail at once, took a rope's end and pretended to chastise him, the hard blows falling on the wood and making a great noise. The son cried out lustily, and the people in the Frigate threatened that if the father would not have more patience with his son, they would come and treat him in the same way. He excused himself, saying that his son was as drunk as a hog, and he ordered him to hoist the sail a second time, and he resumed his station at the helm; the son let the sail fall as soon as he had raised it, and repeated the same manoeuvure a third time, and thus gave the English information of who we were.
From the Frigate they entreated our boatman not to think of making for Tremblade, that night was approaching and he would inevitably be lost, but recommended him to return to Rochelle with the fair wind. This was exactly the advice we wished to receive. Our course was altered, the boat was put before the wind, and we bade them adieu very cordially. In the mean time, the English vessel had answered our signal and was getting fairly out to sea, we dared not follow her because the Frigate remained at anchor; but about twilight the boatman said we must make the attempt before night, or we should be swallowed up by the waves. We had no sooner altered our course than we perceived the Frigate taking up her anchor and setting her sails; of course we thought we had been observed, and that she was going to pursue us, and we again turned towards Rochelle in great agony of mind. Instant death would to any of us have been greatly preferable to capture. Knowing our own weakness and frailty, we feared persecution might destroy our constancy. A few minutes put an end to our anxiety, for we saw the Frigate steering towards Rochfort; so we again changed our course, the English vessel slackened her rate; we overtook her, and were taken on board before the Frigate was out of sight. A day never to be forgotten by us, who effected our escape from enemies, who had not only power to kill the body but have destroyed an infinite number of souls also.
My dear wife and I have fully experienced the truth of that promise of our Blessed Saviour, to give an hundred fold more even in this present life to those who leave all to follow him. We have never wanted for any thing, we have not only been supplied with necessaries, but comforts; and oftentimes luxuries also. Certain it is that a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things that he possesseth, but in the enjoyment he has of them, and it is in this sense that I would be understood, when I say that we have received the hundred fold promised in the Gospel; for we have had infinitely more joy and satisfaction in having lost our property for the glory of God, than they can have had who have taken possession of it.
We had contrary winds, and were eleven days on the voyage; we suffered somewhat from a shortness of provisions, especially water, but we dared not put into any French port for a supply.
We landed on the 1st. December, 1685, (English or old style) at Appledore, a small town in the Bristol Channel, below the river Taw which goes up to Barnstaple. After paying for our passage, I had only twenty gold pistoles left, but God had not conducted us in safety to a haven there to leave us to perish with hunger; the good people of Barnstaple had compassion upon us, took us into their houses, and treated us with the greatest kindness; thus God raised up for us fathers and mothers, and brothers and sisters, in a strange land.
The first thing that struck me on my arrival in England was the extreme cheapness of bread. What with sea sickness and short provisions on board ship, we had suffered a good deal, and were well inclined to eat as soon as we landed. After returning thanks to God for our preservation, (of course our first act) we begged to have some bread, and they brought us very large biscuits, which in France would have cost two pence a piece, and to my surprise I was told their price was only a halfpenny. I doubted the fact, thinking I was misled by my ignorance of the language, so I gave a penny to a little girl and asked her to buy me some bread. She went to the baker's, and sure enough brought me back two of these large biscuits. It instantly occurred to me, that if I had only some money at command to lay out in grain to send to France, I should realise a large profit. 1 knew that there were some French Refugees at Plymouth who had brought money with them, and I determined to borrow a horse and ride over there to suggest my plan to them. I went round by Biddeford to ascertain at that Corn market the price of grain; and aided by an interpreter, I found that for two shillings and sixpence or three shillings, I could buy such a sack as in France would bring two crowns; and I also found on inquiry that there was a drawback allowed at the Custom House on the exportation of grain. My Plymouth acquaintances had already made a shipment to France, so I had my trouble for nothing, and returned very pensively to Barnstaple.
Upon reflection I thought I might as well let mine host Mr. Downe have the benefit of my knowledge on this subject. He was very kind to me, therefore it seemed a duty to put him in the way of so advantageous a transaction. He entered into it very readily, the more so, from having been in trade in his youth; he had been to Spain once as supercargo of a vessel, therefore my project was quite in his way. He said he would willingly risk L300 or L400, and that I should have half the profit. I had some hesitation about accepting his offer, because it might turn out loss, and not profit, and where was I to find the means of paying him my share of the loss; but upon further consideration I thought that if I insured my half, then I could conscientiously take advantage of his generous proposal. I paid two and a half per cent for insurance both ways.
Our whole property consisted of twenty gold pistoles, a silver watch, a gold chain, a pearl necklace, two diamonds, an emerald, and half a dozen silver spoons; and surely, to look at it in the most unfavourable light, these would be enough to cover any loss for which the Insurers were not responsible. In this list I name articles that were the property of your mother as well as my own, because though we were not yet united, we had such perfect confidence in each others' affection, that we felt as though we had but one interest.
Mr. Downe chartered a vessel of about 50 tons, loaded her without delay, and consigned her to Mr. Boursiquot (your uncle,) and Peter Robin, a distant cousin of mine. You may guess their astonishment at receiving such a consignment from their relative, who had left his home so few weeks ago in poverty. Had the vessel arrived sooner, the adventure would have been more profitable, for the King had sent to foreign countries for grain, and his importation was all to be sold before the cargoes belonging to private individuals could be opened. Nevertheless, Peter Robin sold it for twice as much as it cost, and laid out the proceeds in the best wines of Bourdeaux and Langon, which also paid a profit.
Mr. Downe prepared to make a second shipment, and was persuaded by some of his friends that the the first cargo would have done better if it had been consigned to a regular merchant, (the English seldom know when they are well off) and I from foolish diffidence did not stand up for my cousin as I ought to have done; and the vessel, much to my sorrow and our loss, was sent to a merchant at Marennes, who understood merchandise a little too well for us, for all the profits were swallowed up by his enormous charges; and instead of returning the best Bourdeaux wines as he was desired, he shipped the 'vin du pays' which he took in the way of trade from the peasants, and he invoiced it at the price of real good wine.
We made still another adventure, and ordered the return cargo to be of salt; this was disastrous in the extreme. I lost more than I had gained and was saddled with debt besides. I will give the particulars. The Captain, after taking in his cargo, agreed to bring away some Protestants who had pretended to change their religion, in order to gain time to turn their property into cash to carry away with them. They unfortunately placed their money in the Captain's hands for safe keeping, and he at once began to revolve in his mind how he could contrive to keep possession of the treasure. He decided upon going to Spain as the best plan, and he let one or two of the sailors into his confidence. They joined him in representing to the passengers that the wind was contrary, and as it was impossible for them to shelter in a French port, they had better stretch over to the Coast of Spain. When between Bilboa and St. Sebastion, the wind and tide favouring their wicked designs they ran on the beach with every sail set, and the vessel was a complete wreck. Here was an end of my cargo of salt, it returned to the sea from whence it came.
The most horrible part of the story is yet to come, the Captain and crew went ashore in the boat with the money, leaving the passengers to be drowned, every wave going completely over the wreck; one of their number a lady of quality, who owned the largest part of the treasure, wore a quilted petticoat which buoyed her up so entirely that she might have floated ashore, had not the Captain seen her; he put off in his boat as though he would have assisted her, and when he got within reach he plunged her under water and held her down for a length of time, so that the petticoat, which had in the first instance resisted the water, becoming saturated prevented her rising. Auri sacra fames quot pectora cogis. After barbarously drowning those who had placed confidence in him, he sold the wreck, went to Cadiz with his illgotten wealth, bought a share in a Spanish Privateer, and went out in her as Captain, which is the last I ever heard of him.
My losses were so heavy that I was obliged to dispose of my watch, gold chain, and silver spoons, and still all was not paid. These transactions occupied several months, but as the commencement occurred immediately after my arrival, I have thought it better to continue the account to its winding up, so as not to break the thread of the history.
Singular proposal from a lady--Marriage--Mode of living--Remove to Bridgwater--Assistance from commitee-- Why discontinued--Application for relief--Unkind treatment--Receive Holy orders--Attempt to recover property in France.
I have already mentioned that I was hospitably received into the house of a Mr. Downe at Barnstapie; this gentleman was a bachelor of some forty years of age, and he had an unmarried sister living with him, who was about thirty three or thirty-four years old. They were kindness itself, and I was as completely domesticated with them as if I had been a brother. They were in very easy circumstances; the brother was worth L10,000 the sister L3,000. This poor lady unfortunately took a great fancy to me, and she persuaded herself that it would be an excellent thing for me to marry her and her brother to marry my intended. I should have imagined that she would have had no difficulty in persuading her brother to fall in love; for in those days your dear mother was very beautiful, her skin was delicately fair, she had a brilliant color in her cheeks, high forehead and a remarkably intellectual expression of countenance, her bust was fine, rather inclined to enbonpoint, and she had a very dignified carriage which some thought haughty, but to me it appeared truly becoming in one of her beauty; altogether she seemed fitted to captivate the most indifferent, yet, I am very sure, notwithstanding all her charms (and those of her person were an index of her mind) that Mr. Downe only consented to court her in order to oblige his sister.
Miss Downe opened her project to me one day, by observing that she thought we must be two fools to think of marrying with no better prospect than beggary for our portion. I took no notice of what she said, but she persevered, and frequently gave me broad hints that I might do much better for myself. I was determined not to understand her, and our languages being different I was able to appear ignorant of her views, until one day her brother happened to enter the room when she was making an attack upon me, and she requested him to explain the matter to me. Between Latin, French and English, he and I could make ourselves very intelligible to each other. His sister's request evidently embarassed him a good deal, he not being so much smitten as she was, though I am sure he had every reason to be so; however, after a little hesitation he told me that his sister wished to marry me, and that if I agreed to it, he would be willing to take Miss Boursiquot for his wife. I should mention that Miss Downe's personal appearance presented a strong contrast to that of her rival, she was short, thin, sallow and marked with the small-pox. Mr. Downe was far from handsome, but much better-looking for a man than his sister for a woman. By way of reply to this singular proposition I produced our written promise, solemnly signed by both of us; but I added that my love was so sincere that I could cheerfully resign my betrothed to a rich man, if she thought it would be for her happiness, and that I would engage to deliver the message to her with all possible fidelity.
I went that very evening to Mr. Fraine's where she was staying, and executed the delicate commission with which I had been charged; and to tell the truth, I was not altogether sorry that so good an opportunity should offer itself of discovering whether her love for me was equal to mine for her. As soon as she had heard what I had to say, she burst into tears, and was evidently under the impression that Miss Downe's fortune had attracted me, and that I was anxious to break off our engagement. She gave me no answer but her tears, so I repeated the message, and assured her that the gallant was as much struck with her as the sister with me, and that she would have altogether the best of the bargain, because Mr. Downe's property was more than three times as large as his sister's. She then made an effort, and answered that I was free, she released me absolutely and entirely from every promise that I had ever made to her, and added that she was fully sensible that she was under sufficient obligation to me already for saving her from persecution, without condemning me to perpetual poverty by holding me to our contract; and as to the future, she was contented to remain as she was, and wished to hear nothing more from Mr. Downe. I was completely overpowered by this, and my tears flowed as fast as hers. I then, with the utmost solemnity, asked her if she thought she could be contented to join me in working for our living, and for the support of those whom God might give us; and I called upon her to remember that poverty was a hard mistress, and that we should probably have to suffer under it all our days; nevertheless if she was willing to run the risk, I should be infinitely happier working with my hands for daily bread with her, than living in wealth with any other woman on the face of the earth. She answered that every thing I said found an echo in her heart.
This circumstance occasioned our marrying much sooner than we otherwise should have done, for we were determined not to be annoyed by any more such proposals, but to tye the knot at once, as we both so ardently desired it.
I returned to my Host and Hostess, and gave them such an answer as might be expected from a person deeply in love; and I endeavoured to make them understand that an affection of such long standing, and cemented by so much joint suffering and anxiety as ours, could not be easily shaken. Our mutual promise was to be binding to death under all circumstances except apostacy, and of that, thanks be to God, there was no longer any danger.
Mr. Downe was a sensible man, and I verily believe he was on the whole relieved by the issue of the negotiation, not so the lady, she felt aggrieved, and was not able to conceal her discomfiture.
We were married on the 8th. Febr. 1686. at the Parish Church of Barnstaple. Mr. Fraine, at whose house my wife had lived from the day after our landing, prepared an excellent banquet and invited almost all the French Refugees in the neighbourhood to partake with us on our wedding day; and my friend Mr. Downe entertained us all in the same style on the following day.
Our funds were very low, for I had paid L5 for insurance, and L3 for the wedding ring and license, so that we could scarcely be much poorer than we were; and you may judge of the strength of our attachment by our refusal of the fortunes offered to us; and you may also see what strong confidence we placed in the good Providence of God, and blessed be his name! we have never had reason to repent of the step. We lived for the first month or two in a furnished room; then my valet Manseau contrived to send me from France a feather bed and several cover lids, and my sister Forestier made us a present of some linen, and upon this addition to our possessions we ventured to hire a small house in a back street. The inhabitants of the town were generous in the extreme, they sent us all things essential for a small family, so that our house was furnished without costing us a farthing, and their liberality did not stop here; every market day meat, poultry, and grain came in abundance without our knowing to whom we were obliged, and during the six or eight months that we lived there, I only bought one bushel of wheat, and had two left when we removed.
Our good cheer costing us little or nothing, we gladly ministered to the necessities of those French Refugees who did not experience the same kindness. Many also who disliked English cookery were glad to partake of my soup and bread, they would first assist in cooking and then in eating the food. This mode of living might be very agreeable to some persons, but it did not suit my wife or me; every gift made us feel our painful dependence, and we looked around us eagerly hoping to see some plan by which we could live without charity.
I availed myself of the first opportunity that offered, and accepted a situation in the family of Sir Halsewell Tynte, who lived two miles from Bridgewater. I was to receive (pounds) 20 per annum, and I thought this would maintain my wife, as I was to eat at Sir Halsewell's table. When I had been with him four months, I hired a small house in Bridgewater to bring my family nearer to me, and I went to fetch them. Our numbers were now increased by the birth of James our first-born, which had taken place during my absence. The restraints imposed upon me were so irksome, and your dear mother as well as myself suffered so much from our separation, that I determined to give up my employment and return to my wife; preferring the coarsest fare with her for my companion to the continual feasts at Sir Halsewell Tynte's.
Exertion of some kind for a livelihood was absolutely necessary; we tried a little shop in Bridgewater, but our efforts were not crowned with success; the expenses we incurred were greater than any profit that we were able to realise.
You may be surprised that in my difficulties I received no assistance from the fund collected for distribution among the suffering French Refugees; so I will tell you the reason of it, tracing it from the very commencement. As soon as my friends in London were apprised of my arrival, they brought my case (unknown to me) before the Committee, and Mr. Maureau, my advocate at Saintes, drew such a picture of my zeal and constancy that there was no opposition made to placing my name in the list of Ministers, although only a Candidate, and I was to receive L30 per annum. The first I knew of it was the receipt of a letter from Mr. Maureau, congratulating me on my escape, and enclosing L7,l0s. as the first quarter of a pension that the Committee had granted me; and he added, that before I could receive the second quarter, it was necessary that I should commune according to the rites of the Church of England, and send a certificate thereof to the Committee.
I who had but just escaped from the Tempter, felt alarmed at this mode of entitling myself to receive charity. I had previously communed very cordially with the English after the manner of the Established Church, without the least scruple of conscience, but when it became the condition on which I was to receive the charities of the Kingdom, the case was altered; I who looked upon the Communion as one of the most sacred mysteries of our holy religion, which it was not lawful to approach with any other view than to receive thereby the benefits of the sacrifice of the death of Christ, seeing that it was imposed upon me for pecuniary purposes, doubted very much whether any spiritual benefit could be derived from a Communion received for the express purpose of procuring a pension. It seemed to me a very Papistical proceedings, much like what I had seen in France,-- "Come to Mass and you shall be exempted from Dragoons." I had hitherto found nothing offensive in the Church of England, I then studied it very carefully, and all its doctrines as set forth in the articles I heartily embraced, but its Church Government, especially the point so much insisted upon of Episcopacy by divine right, seemed to me to have too strong a resemblance to Popery.
I might have gotten over these objections, perhaps if I had not learnt their cruel persecution of their brother Calvinists, only for differing, upon the subject of Episcopacy,* and some ceremonies which were in themselves of no great importance.
* It is not surprising that a foreigner should confound the conscientious members of the Church of England with the disguised Papists who were so numerous in the days of Charles II. and James II., by whom the Calvinists were persecuted.
I found that the poor Presbyterian Ministers had been imprisoned, fined, and deprived of their employments, because they would not consent to receive Episcopal ordination, in conformity with the laws passed in the reign of Charles II., and furthermore, I was told by the Presbyterians that the unfortunate people who had been executed after Monmouth's rebellion, a few days before our arrival, and whose heads and quarters I saw exposed on all the towers, gates, and cross roads, looking absolutely like butcher's shambles, had many of them no other crime than that of being Presbyterians.* I confess that all these circumstances combined, gave me a prejudice against the Established Church, and the use which it was proposed to me to make of the Holy Sacrament went so much against my conscience, that I have never yet sent the necessary certificate to receive the second quarter of my pension.
*This has evidently been a party statement, and according to history must have been untrue, for Monmouth's rebellion was an effort to subvert the government, and had no religious object.
I have another serious fault to find with the distributing Committee. The fund placed at their disposal arose from the voluntrary contributions of the whole English nation, and I believe the Nonconformists had been as liberal as the Episcopalians, and yet no one was relieved who did not hand in a certificate of his being a member of the Church of England, and surely this was unjust.
At one time, ground down by poverty, my spirit was so humbled that I went to London to make a personal application to the Committee, and my friends advised me to call upon certain Deans and other high dignitaries who were the most influential members of the Committee. My garments were old and shabby, and I found it difficult to gain an entrance to any of the great houses. The footman would leave me waiting a long time in the entry like a common beggar, and at last return to inform me that his Reverence was not then at leisure to see me. I would call again and again, till weary of opening the door, the servant, to avoid further importunity, would obtain for me the desired audience, and accompanying me through divers richly furnished apartments, watching carefully lest I should steal some of the plate that was piled up on the sideboards, introduce me to the apartment where the Dean was sitting. He enquired what I wanted with him, not even asking the poor beggar to take a seat.
In as few words as possible I told him my situation and sufferings, and was opening my papers, but he refused to read any testimonials; saying, the subject would come before the Committee.
The necessities of those who were dearer to me than life so lowered my pride, that I made a round of such visits as these, but it was all in vain, the money was for Episcopalians only. Mr. Maureau, who held the office of secretary to the Committee, took up my cause very warmly. "You will not," said he, "suffer so worthy a man to be reduced to extremity with his wife and two children, a man who has shown that he counted his life as nothing when the glory of God was in question, and who generously and voluntarily exposed himself to uphold the faith of a number of poor country people. Perhaps there are not four Ministers who have received the charity of the Committee who have done so much for the cause of true religion as he has."
All this was to no purpose so long as I was a Presbyterian. "He is a young man," said they, "let him get a situation as a servant, his wife can do the same, and we will take care of his children in the house we have hired for the purpose."
I was directed to go to the grand Almoner to receive an answer, and when he gave me the above, my eyes filled with tears, I felt indignant, and answered hastily that he ought to have put himself in my situation, according to the commandment in the New Testament, before he undertook to give me such cruel advice. His wife happened to be present, and turning to her, I said, "Madam, I sincerely pity you to be united to a man who can speak with so much indifference of separating husband and wife," and (knowing they had no family) I added that I adored the wisdom of God who had not thought fit to give him children, seeing he felt it so easy a matter to part with them; but before I would place mine under his guardianship, and give up the spouse whom I regarded as one of the choicest blessings God had bestowed upon me, I would dig the ground all day as a common labourer, in order to share with them at night the bread that I had earned by the sweat of my brow. I had L3 given to me, which I was told was the last I could expect to receive, and I returned home sadly cast down, having spent from L7 to L8 upon the necessary expenses of travelling and making this fruitless application.
Some charitable Presbyterians, hearing of my distress, made a collection for me in their congregation which was a great help. You may be sure my feelings were still more soured towards Episcopalians, and I felt convinced by bitter experience that opposition and ill treatment, for difference of opinion, have a much greater tendency to widen the breach than to bring our opponents over to our way of thinking.
I had always been in the habit of family worship, and when we removed to Taunton three or four French families wished to join us, so I thought I ought to receive authority according to the ordinances of man, and I presented myself to the Presbyterian Synod assembled at Taunton, exhibiting testimonials which I had brought from France of my manner of life, education and sufferings, and after examination, I received Holy Orders from that body on the 10th of June, 1688. I was determined rather to labour with my hands and preach the Gospel of Christ in simplicity and purity, than to wound my conscience by joining the Episcopalians.
I found by accident, among my papers brought from France, half a sheet of stamped paper, entirely blank; and it occurred to me, that it might be the means of recovering some of the property I had left in France; and as Peter Robin had been faithful to me in his management of the consignment of wheat, he was the person I looked to as an agent. I signed my name at the foot of the sheet, and sent it to him, telling him to make use of it for my benefit, filling up the blank with a sale or lease of my estate to some one, and to antedate it so as to appear to have been executed previously to my leaving France. The letter precaution was necessary to prevent the King seizing upon it. I received no answer, but from other sources I have heard that the said Robin has lived upon my estate from that time, and considered it as his own; he took advantage of the too great confidence I had placed in him by sending my blank signature, and he has cheated me and my heirs after me; because he can produce the deed of sale signed by my own hand.
I would have you observe that I was miserable enough to request him to execute a false deed for me, in order that I might obtain something from the property I had left in France. He did execute the false deed as I desired, but it was for his own benefit, not mine. I recognise in this as in every thing else the justice of the just Judge of the Universe. I was punished as I deserved to be. At the same time, as God directs all things for the good of those who love him and serve him with faith and humility of heart, I think I can perceive that he has extracted from my sin a great advantage to my family. It puts it out of the question for any of my descendants to return to the Babylon whence he has withdrawn me, in the hope of enjoying a fine estate, as many of the children of Huguenot Refugees have done. This property is irrecoverably lost. It is very desirable that we should not be exposed to temptation, but at the same time, I will say that I feel a strong confidence that none of you would have been seduced into returning to idolatry for the sake of money, and I trust you will so instruct your children after you, that the love of God, and his true religion, may be perpetuated in our family to the remotest generation.
Remove to Taunton--Keep shop--Manufactory--Very prosperous--Summoned before the Mayor--Defence--Recorder's speech--Discharge.
I removed to Taunton for the purpose of teaching the French language, finding that I could obtain some pupils there. Our plan was to keep a shop also, and we were in great hopes that with both together we should be able to pay our way.
I borrowed L100 from a friend. I found the wholesale dealers in Bristol and Exeter very accommodating in the credits they granted me. As fast as I sold the goods I paid for them, and I was then allowed to take a fresh supply on credit; and in this way we gradually increased in our dealings until we had a stock of one thing or other to the amount of L400.
About this time two Frenchmen called upon me whom I had known in great distress in Bridgewater, and I had there solicited charity for them, at the same time advising them to learn a trade so as to make themselves independent for the future; and I had suggested their binding themselves to some of the French manufacturers of light stuffs in Bristol, and assured them they would have to ask charity no more. They had taken my advice, and at the end of two years they visited me expressly to return their thanks. I did not recognise them; the rags and tatters in which they had formerly appeared had given place to decent and respectable clothing. They told me they were the persons whom I had recommended to learn a trade, that they had done so, and now all they wanted was a small advance from somebody, and they would work for half the profits. They urged me to undertake it, and they said L20 would suffice to buy worsted, yarn and dyes, and that they themselves had wherewithal to buy tools, and that if I would make the advance for them, they would work two years for me, and be contented with half the profit on the work. I consented to it, and as I did not wish to cramp the business of the shop, I borrowed the L20 from a widow lady at Bridgewater.
Behold me now not only a teacher of languages, and a shopkeeper, but a manufacturer also.
One of these Frenchmen had formerly been a pickpocket in London; and had quitted the employment solely from apprehension of punishment; he was a very skilful workman, he would accomplish more in a given time than two others and it would also be better finished. He was the chief manager, and used to go to Exeter to purchase the worsteds, and he made excellent bargains. I trusted him frequently with L20 and L25 at a time for this purpose, and he was uniformly correct in all his dealings with me. He once told one of his fellow workmen, that he had been often strongly tempted to run away with the money, and then he would say to himself. "What! steal from a man who has been so invariably kind to me, and who places so much confidence in me! No, I cannot do it." When he left me, I understood he returned to London, and fell into bad habits again.
At the end of three months, I knew much more than the workmen did. I invented new patterns, and taught them how to execute them. When the first year was ended, we had gained something; but instead of L20, I had fully L80, employed in the manufactory. In dividing the profits, the workmen quarrelled so much amongst themselves, that they proposed of their own accord, that I should pay them regular wages, and carry on the business altogether on my own account.
Every thing now seemed to prosper with me. I hired the handsomest shop in Taunton, opposite the cross in the Market place, and I was able to furnish it with so great a variety, that it was always filled with customers; and my wife and two boys to assist her, found ample employment. I manufactured stuffs in the upper part of the house which were sold below at a profit. I went once a quarter to Bristol and Exeter to purchase groceries, and pay off the old debt. I determined to sell Malaga and Alicant raisins at the same price retail that I bought them wholesale, and I did the same with needles. Every body knew the value of these articles, and the sale of them did not altogether amount to any great sum. One said to another, you will find beautiful raisins at the Frenchman's for such a price; so they came to see if it was true, and probably bought ten or twelve shillings worth of other articles, as well as the cheap raisins, and thus we found our account in it.
The other shopkeepers said I should be a bankrupt in a very short time, for I sold the raisins at the same price they paid in Bristol, without reckoning the expense of carriage, loss of weight, &c. This sort of talk only increased our business, for the people thought they would buy whatever they wanted before I was ruined. When any of my friends asked me privately why I sold so cheap, I told them that I found it to answer, and repeated the common proverb, "Light gains make a heavy purse."
I procured from the French manufacturers in Holland, linens, galloons, thread, needles, and tin and copper ware, all which, cost me much less than if I had bought them in England. Beaver hats were made by only two persons in Exeter, they were both French Refugees, and supplied no one but myself in our town, and again, I had the best of French brandy, pure and unadultrated, whereas the English generally played tricks with theirs. In short, stranger as I was, I had more custom than any other shop in the town.
For some time my competitors had patience, in the hope each day that the next would see me put the key under the door; instead of that, I was more and more prosperous.
I had just begun to breathe freely, and feel comfortable, when they commenced a prosecution, and summoned me to appear before the Mayor and Court of Aldermen.
The Mayor was a wool-comber, who come originally to the town with a single groat. He worked a long time as a boy comber, then he married his master's servant, scraped together a little money, and began business on his own account; and at the age of thirty six or thirty seven years, he learnt to read and write a little. At length having acquired L7,000 or L8,000, he had thereby obtained honors, and this was the third time he had filled the office of Mayor. The Aldermen had generally received similar education; some were workmen in wool, others shopkeepers, and as I employed people in my little woollen manufactory, and sold almost every thing that any of them did, I certainly had interfered more or less with the trade of all, and could not look for any favorable judgment from such judges.
Only one man in all this body had received a good education, and he was the Recorder, and could govern this cohort at his will. I had frequently been in his company, and we had had very interesting conversations on philosophical and theological subjects, and I had reason to believe that he esteemed me.
When I appeared, they accused me of various misdemeanours. I was a sharper, a Jack of all trades, against whom there was universal complaint. I had the wool combed. I dyed it myself, I had it spun and woven, I then retailed it in my shop. I sold all sorts of things except apothecaries drugs. The grocers complained that I sold a better article retail, than they could buy wholesale. The dealers in tin and copper were ready to shut up shop, and go to the Parish if I did not close mine. Those who dealt in brandy and vinegar set all day with their arms crossed, while we could scarcely measure fast enough. The hatters could sell no more, since I sold the Caroline and French beaver hats. Stockings of St.Maixant destroyed the hosiers. The drapers were idle all the time since I had introduced chamois leather dyed of all colors, a pair of breeches of which lasted as long as three pair made of cloth and looked better. In short, they were obliged to pay government taxes and town rates, to which the stranger was not subjected and yet he pocketed all the profits; besides, he was a Jesuit in disguise, who said mass in his own house every Sunday; as well in one word, as a thousand, he is a French dog who takes the bread out of the mouths of the English. To hear them you would have supposed I was as rich as a Jew.
I attended without an attorney to reply in person to these enormous accusations, and felt no alarm as to the result.
Mr. Mayor came to the point at once, and asked if I had served an apprenticeship to all these trades.
This question was quite to the purpose, for by law no man can carry on a trade to which he has not served an apprenticeship. I rose without any embarrassment, and answered in a tone loud enough to be heard all through the Court. "Gentlemen, in France a man is esteemed according to his qualifications, and men of letters and study especially, if they conduct themselves with propriety, are honored by every body, even though they should not be worth a penny. All the nobility, the lords, marquises and dukes, take great pleasure in the society of such persons. In fact, there, a man is thought fit for any honorable employment if he be but learned. Therefore, my father, who was a worthy Minister of the Gospel, brought up four boys, of whom I was the youngest, in good manners and the liberal arts, hoping that wherever fortune might transport us, our education would serve instead of riches, and gain us honor from persons of honor. All the apprenticeship I have ever served from the age of four years has been to turn the leaves of a book. At twenty two years old, I took my degree as Master of Arts, and since that time I have devoted myself to the study of the Holy Scriptures.
"Hitherto I had been thought worthy of the best company wherever I had been; but when I came to this town, I found that science without riches was regarded as a cloud without water, or a tree without fruit, in one word, a thing worthy of supreme contempt; so much so, that if a poor ignorant wool-comber or hawker, were to amass money, he would be honored by everybody, and be looked upon as the first man in the town. I have therefore, Gentlemen, renounced all speculative science, and have become a wool-comber, and a dealer in pins and laces, hoping that I may one day attain wealth, and be also one of the first men in the town." At this there was a general laugh throughout the assembly, with the exception of the Mayor and some of the Aldermen.
The Recorder himself lost his gravity for a few moments, and joined in the mirth. Then rising, he reminded me of the Town Clerk of Ephesus, for there was a profound silence as soon as he stretched out his hand.
"Gentlemen, said he, King Charles II. of blessed memory, issued a declaration of such a date, where by he invited the poor Protestants, persecuted in France for the cause of the Gospel, to take refuge in his kingdom, not most assuredly, to let them die of hunger, but rather that they might live amongst his subjects; thus you see that they are entitled to every privilege that we enjoy. Suppose that Mr. Fontaine and his family had no means of gaining a livelihood and they were famishing in the midst of us, we must feed them. By law, the Parish would be charged with them, for you could not send him to his birthplace, therefore you must consider him as born in the place where he resides. And if Mr. Fontaine, although he was brought up to nothing but study, yet in the desire he had to live independently without being burdensome to you, humbled himself so low as to become a mechanic, a thing very rarely seen among learned men (as I know him to be by the conversations I have had with him,) do not you think the Parish is obliged to him for every morsel of bread he earns for his family? To pretend to prevent his gaining a livelihood would be as cruel as to murder him and his babes, unless, you his accusers intend to raise a fund to settle an annuity upon him and his family for life. Strangers are entitled to justice as much as our neighbours are. When he has an income secured to him, I will answer for him, that he will leave mechanical occupations, and gladly resume his intellectual labors."
He paused a while; no one breaking the silence, he resumed;--" It is a strange thing, Gentlemen, none of you offer to give him bread, and yet you are not willing to let him earn it for himself. Shall it be said that there are but one or two families of poor Refugees settled in this town, who have abandoned country, friends, property, and every thing sweet and agreeable in this life for their religion, and the glory of the Gospel, and instead of cherishing these people, and treating them as the suffering members of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and providing for them tenderly and abundantly by our charities we would even hinder them from gaining a living by their labor? There is not a Turk in Turkey so barbarous."
Then turning round, he addressed himself to me.
"Go, there is no law that can disturb you, I will answer for it. We return you thanks for the bread you earn. God bless you and your labor!"
I answered, "May the Lord bless you also!"
The Court resounded with thousands "God bless you Mr. Fontaine!"
Here was an end of the law proceedings, but not of the malice, for the Mayor and his party hated me the more for having contemned them in the face of the whole town. They continued to annoy me in every way that they possibly could; if I gained five pence, they magnified it to as many guineas, and charged me for taxes to the utmost extent of their power.
Revolution of 1688--Landing of the Dutch--Unexpected visitor--Soldiers billeted on me--Retire from business--Endeavour to make Calimancoes-- Profit upon them--Instruct a crippled weaver--Secret discovered--Visit Dublin and Cork--Shipwreck-- Place sons in Holland--Increase of family.
A short time after the prosecution related in the last chapter, the glorious Revolution of 1688 commenced. I felt very anxious about the effect it might have upon the welfare of me and mine. I had a vivid recollection of the end of the Monmouth rebellion, for they were still hanging and quartering when I landed in England.
The Prince of Orange was welcomed at Exeter by the same party that had declared for Monmouth. Three sorry-looking Dutchmen took possession of Taunton without the slightest show of resistance from any quarter; and the common people hailed their arrival as a joyous event.
The Mayor and Aldermen, who were most decided Jacobites, held aloof to watch the issue, contenting themselves with noting down all persons who appeared to favour the Dutch, expecting to have them hanged after a while, as those had been who joined the Duke of Monmouth.
I felt certain that whichever side I might espouse, my name would have a prominent place in the list of culprits, and I was the more convinced of this from the story that was propagated about me.
On the arrival of a company of soldiers at Taunton, they were informed that there was a French Jesuit in the place, who said mass in his house every Sunday. It so happened that the Captain of this company was a French Refugee, who had settled in Holland, and entered the army of the Prince of Orange; he determined to be the first to seize the French Jesuit, and being directed to my house, he was before the door with a guard of soldiers at so early an hour, that none of the family were stirring except a female domestic who was a Frenchwoman. From her the Captain enquired who lived in that house.
She replied--"Mr. Fontaine, a minister from Royan, lives here."
The Captain immediately desired her to go to my room and and tell me that Captain Rabainieres was below, anxious to embrace me. I only waited long enough to put on my robe de chambre, and went down to welcome this dear friend who had lived within four or five miles of my residence in France. We embraced each other with the warmth of fraternal affection, and he introduced me to his brother-officers, who at once tendered their friendship with the assurance of any service in their power. I cannot pass on without calling your attention to this, as one of the many instances wherein the providence of God watched over and shielded me from threatened danger.
A crowd had collected to enjoy the sport of seeing the French Jesuit hung on the spot, and when they witnessed the warmth of our salutations, they cried out that they were ruined, for those whom they had looked upon as their liberators must be Papists also.
From my never attending the Parish Church, the idea had prevailed that I was really a Jesuit, and some of those persons who envied my prosperity had been at no small pains to confirm the impression, and many of the common people believed it so firmly that it was a great disappointment to them not to see me hanged.
The officers went to the door to disperse the populace, and told them that I was a good Protestant, probably better than most of them; and when they went away they left soldiers at my door as a precautionary measure for fear of violence.
When several more of King William's regiments were quartered in the town, you may rest assured I was not forgotten in the billeting of them upon the inhabitants.
I complained to the Mayor that two had been sent to me, and that it was unusual to quarter soldiers upon a minister. He heard me patiently, but I had no sooner got home than two more soldiers presented me a billet.
I went to complain a second time and I was answered that full justice would be done by me; and directly I reached home four more came to me. I did not complain a third time for fear of having sixteen to feed instead of eight. They were with me three weeks, and I did the best I could by them, explaining to them my situation.
The times were so ticklish and the town Magistrates so decidedly anxious to put every difficulty in my way, that I thought I had better examine into my affairs, and withdraw from all large transactions for the present, and content myself with the school I kept. I worked hard for many nights making out an inventory and putting every thing down at a low valuation, and I was pleased to find that there was enough to pay every body, and a little to spare. I sent some of my manufactures to the wholesale dealers from whom I had bought on credit, and desired they would sell them, and pay themselves out of the proceeds, and return me any balance that there might be. This arrangement was satisfactory to all parties, for the times were very hard, and they had not felt quite certain of my stability.
As soon as it was understood that I wished to dispose of my shop and stock in trade, a young man came forward, expecting to do wonders from the exaggerated accounts he had received of my business. He took every thing at the cost price as entered on my books, and in March 1689, he paid me L400, for all and every thing. With this sum I at once paid the wholesale dealers as far as it would go, so that after they had sold my goods they were indebted to me, and I left the money in their hands until the troubles should be at an end, in order that I might then have a little leaven to begin again upon with renewed vigour.
I felt very grateful to my Maker for his blessing upon my labors, which had enabled me to pay every thing that I owed, including that disastrous voyage which had caused a debt that hung heavily upon me until I was able to pay it. And in addition to this, I was sole owner of all the tools and utensils necessary for manufacturing stuffs; we had comfortable furniture; and L14 in cash. This had not been accomplished without considerable fatigue and anxiety both to your mother and myself. But what will not parents do for their children !
I found keeping a school but an ungrateful employment, I was soon tired of it; and the more so, because it barely procured a maintenance for us, and would not be equal to the wants of our increasing family. James II having taken refuge in France, and the nation having received William and Mary as King and Queen; things began to assume a settled aspect, and I thought it was time for me to exert myself again.
At Norwich there was a sort of stuff made, which was very fashionable and substantial, called Calimanco, and I determined to make an attempt to imitate it; having never you know served any apprenticeship, it was all the same to me; and my brain must be drawn upon for whatever I undertook. I thought it better to try to make something new instead of going on in the old style; for the serge which we had made before was now out of fashion, and those who manufactured it scarcely earned salt to their porridge; but then they had served an apprenticeship to it, and working altogether mechanically and not with the understanding, they were really incapable of putting their hands to any thing else. I was assailed by an almost insurmountable difficulty at the outset. The Norwich stuff was made of extremely fine worsted double twisted; now there was not in Taunton a spinner who could spin so fine, nor a weaver who knew how to weave it, no machinery suitable for the manufacture, nor a person who knew how to construct it; and I had never seen any. I saw at the same time that if money was to be gained by manufacturing, this was the stuff that ought to be made. As I could not get the worsted spun fine enough to allow of doubling and retwisting it, I must try how it could be managed with a single thread.
I engaged a weaver who was out of employment, and apparently docile; I made all the machinery, and put it up with my own hands, and spent a couple of hours every day trying to instruct him; and for three months this went on, altering the thread and machinery about once a fortnight, and still not an inch of the desired fabric was produced; and I was paying the weaver his full wages all the time.
After this a young man came to solicit charity from me, he was in the greatest distress, his wife was hourly expecting her confinement, and they were absolutely penniless. He said if I would give him employment, I should never have reason to repent it, he would spare no pains to please me, and that his extreme need might convince me of the assiduity with which he would labor for anybody who would help him at this pinch. I took him and his wife into my house, and fed the two, and soon three of them. I fitted up a loom for him to try what he could do, and he entered into all my plans, working night and day with unceasing industry, for he knew that upon his success depended his earning a comfortable living for his wife and child.
At the end of a fortnight, after trying seven or eight different plans, we produced a yard of Calimanco which looked very well, but being made of single thread, it had no more substance than serge. It was necessary for me to set my wits to work again, to try to find some plan by which I could produce a substantial fabric out of the materials that were at my command, and thus I contrived it. I made the warp, which appeared all on the right side, of fine wool coarsely spun; and the weft of very coarse wool, combed like fine wool, and spun coarsely and compactly. The second piece was begun on this plan just two months after I took the family into my house. The first piece only sold for three pence a yard, but we did not tell any body how long we had been in making it.
I kept a most exact account of all that I expended in these fruitless attempts, and the first sale only served to make my inmate discreet, and he never asked for money but when it was absolutely necessary.
He was more expert with the second piece, having learnt the process; he was able to make half a yard, and then a yard in a day; and when it came out of the frame it appeared handsome, and as strong and substantial as the real Norwich; but when it came home from the mill where it was pressed it looked like nothing better than a coarse coverlid, great strong hairs sticking out in all directions. I recollected when I was at school often going to a hatter's shop which was opposite to warm myself; and I used to see them burn off the long hairs from the hats with a wisp of straw; so I thought that would be the mode of remedying the defect in my calimanco. A hat can be easily turned round in the hand to apply the flame, not so a piece of stuff; a machine must be made for the purpose of doing it with certainty and regularity. This piece however I determined to singe as well as I could without waiting for a machine. I had to call in the aid of my wife and her sister, and they laughed so heartily at my dilemma that I felt almost discouraged. I wet the piece so as not to burn the stuff as well as the hairs, and my wife and sister held it, while I passed the blazing wisp of straw over it. At last we finished, and then I had the right to laugh, for after washing and pressing, it looked beautiful; I sent it to Exeter, and the draper allowed me two shillings and sixpence a yard for it, and I found I could make it for fifteen pence. Here was an ample reward for all my trouble and expense.
My workman improved and made it better and better every day, and I agreed to pay him four pence halfpenny for every yard he made in future, and he was soon able to produce ten or twelve yards in a day. I also employed again the man who had worked unsuccessfully for so long a time, and he accquired it after a while. I now hired a shop for the sale of my manufactures; and I took from my old tradesmen all the articles I wanted, paying them with my own goods. I took more workmen into my employment, binding them not to work for any one else, or to teach the art, under a penalty of L10. They were all willing to enter into such an agreement, because they could earn just three times as much by my work as by making serge.
When I had the machine made for singeing the hairs, I employed different mechanics to make the various parts, so that not one of them knew the use of that which he was making; and I put all together myself. It consisted of two large rollers, and the piece was wound gently, off the one, and upon the other, and fire applied during its passage; and when both sides were singed, it was washed in the river, and pressed, and really had much the appearance of the true calimancoes; the strength of the coarse worsted gave it substance, and the fineness of the warp gave it lustre. You will believe that this was great slavery to me, for as the secret must be kept, it was necessary that I should do this part myself. My wife turned the spit, and I roasted the joint.
In seven or eight months, I kept from twelve to fifteen looms constantly at work. The old fashioned nanufacturers of serge were rather envious, and looked upon me almost as a sorcerer. Their astonishment at my inventive genius was increased by an incident which I will relate.
I heard accidentally of a poor weaver who had lost a leg, and in consequence of it, he was, according to the general opinion, incapable of ever working again at his trade of serge weaving; because they and their fathers before them had never imagined it possible to weave serge with one foot; and the poor man and his family had been supported by the parish for three years. I thought much about him, and having discovered the way, I went to see him at his brother's house where he lived. I asked the poor cripple if he would wish to weave again.
"Alas!" said he, weeping, "God has been pleased to deprive of my leg and it is impossible."
I made his brother get out of the frame in which he was at work; I detached all the cords from the treads, and arranged them differently, and then asked the cripple to enter the frame, and showed him how he could use his remaining leg, first on one tread, and then on the other; and in an hour's time he had made a quarter of a yard of serge in his brother's frame, and equal in all respects to that woven by his brother. I explained to him particularly the way in which he must prepare for weaving, so as not to get his work into confusion; and I left him, after he had bestowed upon me many blessings and prayers for my prosperity. For several days the house was full of people to see the extraordinary sight of a man weaving with one leg.
The son of the Mayor before whom I had been cited bribed one of my workmen to teach him, and guaranteed him the L10 which he was under engagement to pay me if he worked for any one else. I did not sue him for it, I thought it would give me more trouble than it was worth.
When they had made the calimanco, they met with the same difficulty that I had done at the outset in the long hairs which stood out, and no one would purchase from them; so I stepped forward and offered fifteen pence a yard for their manufactures which they were glad to except of; I singed, and then resold them for two shillings and six pence. Of course they made no more; and the treacherous weaver, being thrown entirely out of employment, stole whatever he could lay his hands on from him who had tempted him to betray my secret, and left the neighbourhood.
This attempt to supplant me was so unpropitious to both master and workman, that a long time was allowed to elapse before another trial was made; and for three years I reaped the profit of my invention free from molestation. During this interval the demend for serge gradually decreased, and the people again tried to find out my secret, and this time with better success, for some pieces had inadvertently been sent to be pressed without being sufficiently washed, and the smell of burning disclosed the mystery; and then it was recollected how much straw I was in the habit of buying; and laying the two circumstances together, they had no doubt about the matter, and after a good deal of trouble they got rollers at work like mine, and every one left off making serge.
The increased demand for the coarse worsted raised the price from a penny halfpenny to fourpence per pound, and what was worse, the market became overstocked with calimancoes, and the price fell to two shillings, then to eighteen pence, and at last to fifteen pence a yard.
Then I made mine spotted, and obtained a preference over theirs; they soon imitated me, and then I contrived to make fresh variations in the patterns. It was very vexatious to be thus racking my brains to invent something new, and as soon as I had succeeded, to see myself imitated and undersold.
I was weary of the business, and seeing I was now worth L1,000, I thought I would try if I could not meet with a French Church; and knowing that there were many Refugees in Ireland, I went over to Dublin, and was there recommended to proceed to Cork, where I found that several French families were settled who were very desirous to have a minister, but they had hitherto hardly dared to make the attempt, because their means would not allow them to offer a sufficient stipend. God had vouchsafed to bless my labors, so that I felt myself independent; and this opportunity of preaching his Gospel without remuneration pleased me exceedingly; and I agreed to return to Cork as soon as I could wind up my affairs in Taunton and remove my family.
I met with two very poor French families in Cork who were almost starving from want of employment, they were weavers by trade; I felt much sympathy for them, and I bought worsted and dyes for their use, and left L25 with Mr. Abelin, an Elder of our Church, and directed him to expend it in whatever was necessary for them to manufacture such stuffs as they had been accustomed to make in France; and as fast as they finished the work, they were to bring it to him for sale, and he was to have a sort of supervision of their families until my return. I had the satisfaction of finding afterwards that they had been comfortably supported out of the profits upon their labor during my absence, and the little capital I had deposited with Mr. Abelin was unbroken.
On my return to Taunton we made immediate preparations for removing to Ireland, and the packing up our goods and closing my concerns occupied about six weeks. We took twelve horse-loads of furniture and baggage to Bristol, whence we intended to embark; and I purchased there a variety of drugs for dyeing, and large coppers, and screws, and in short every thing that I thought would be requisite for setting up a manufactory at Cork; because I knew that I should have to do something for the support of my family, or I should soon see the end of my thousand pounds, as the congregation for whom I was called to officiate were unable to pay me any stipend.
I have never mentioned the melancholy fate of my sister Elizabeth, one of the daughters of my father's first marriage. She was married to Mr. Sautreau, minister of Saujon in Saintonge, and his Church being condemned some time before the great persecution, he determined to leave his native country without delay, and seek a home where he would have the full liberty of worshipping God in purity and sincerity. He, and his wife, and five children went to Ireland, and after a very short stay there, they embarked at Dublin in a vessel bound to Boston in North America. They were shipwrecked within sight of port and every soul on board perished. This awful event, by which a whole family was swept off at once, was much in my thoughts as the time approached for us to adventure by sea to Cork, and feeling unwilling to trust my whole family in one bark, I took my sons James and Aaron to Amsterdam, and placed them under the care of a near relation there, and I thought also that it might be advantageous to them to acquire the Dutch language.
I have neglected to name, that during our residence in Taunton my wife had not been less fruitful than my brain, for we were now the parents of six children, five sons and one daughter.
Arrival at Cork--Enter upon pastoral duties--Manufactory--Great happiness--Dissension in the church--Resignation--Copy of certificate--Remarkable warning by a dream--Visit fishing stations--Death of Aaron--Turn fisherman--Remove to Bear Haven--Loss of the Robert--Bad season--Trading voyage--Success in fishing--Loss by mismanagement of partners-- Troublesome Irish neighbours.
We landed in safety at Cork on the 24th December 1694, and the agreement I had entered into with the congregation was solemnly renewed. You may see the particulars in the act of the Consistory of Cork dated 19 January, 1695, on which day I commenced the discharge of my pastoral duties.
At first I preached at Christ Church, the use of it being granted to us after the English had finished the services of the day; then we assembled in the County Court room for our worship, and finally, I gave up, for the use of the Church, a spacious apartment on the lower floor of my house, and we had it regularly fitted up with pulpit, benches, and every thing necessary.
My manufactory here was altogether different from that which I had carried on at Taunton. I considered it best to make something for which there would be a demand near home. Coarse baize was the great article of manufacture in this place, but I determined to try my skill in something of better quality, and I succeeded in making good broad-cloth for which it was only necessary to use finer wool and weave it closer and tighter. I built a dye house for my own use at the edge of the river for the convenience of pumping up the water. A dyer in the city applied for permission to use my apparatus, which I granted on the condition that he dyed all my worsteds and cloths without charge, and made me a certain allowance out of his profits in dyeing for other people. My knowledge was very advantageous to him, because I had always written down the proportions of each drug that we used at Taunton, and attached to the memorandum a pattern of the article dyed; thus when he brought me any order he had received, by a reference to my books and comparing his pattern with those I had preserved, I was able to tell him at once the exact quantity he would require of each drug, and my instruction never failed to prove correct.
I was now at the height of my ambition; I was beloved by my hearers, to whom I preached gratuitously, and thereby had the satisfaction of serving the God who had blessed me, without deriving any pecuniary advantage from it. My dear wife gained by our manufactory an ample support for the family; and by giving employment to many poor Refugees, we were the means of enabling them to maintain their families respectably. The Church increased daily, Refugees came from various parts when they heard that there was a French Church in Cork; and by and bye those who were in easy circumstances became ashamed of allowing me to preach without receiving a stipend, and they proposed to make a voluntary contribution, if it were only to show that they felt grateful for my services. When it came to my knowledge, I thanked them much, but added that as they could not possibly raise enough to support my family without exertion on my own part, I would greatly prefer that whatever they collected should be appropriated to the relief of the poor, of whom we had many in the congregation; and that it gave me great pleasure to imitate St. Paul, preaching the Gospel and earning my living at the same time by the labor of my hands. They were well satisfied with this answer, because they could not raise more than L10, or at the very utmost L15, which would have been a mere trifle towards the support of my large family.
The corporation of Cork as a mark of their esteem presented me with the freedom of the City.
This state of things was altogether too good to last, my cup of happiness was now full to overflowing, and like all the enjoyments of this earth it proved very transitory.
Great numbers of zealous, pious and upright persons had joined our communion; but it could not be expected that all were of this class; and unfortunately there were some in the flock whose conduct was not regulated by the principles of our holy religion. A man named Isaac de la Croix, originally a merchant in Calais, who had caused dissension in the Church there before its condemnation; then set tied in Dover, and there also made dissension in the Church; and to punish us for our sins he came from there to join our Church, and he had not been with us more than eighteen months before he was the cause of discord amongst us also. The history of it is as follows. He had a son twenty-five years of age, who was in the habit of doing business on his own account; this young man chartered a vessel of about 30 tons for Ostend, and he loaded her with butter and tallow, promising payment in ready money. On a Saturday afternoon he went down in the vessel to Cove, at the mouth of the harbour, and expected, the next day being Sunday, to steal away, and get fairly out to sea without paying for any part of his cargo. A butcher, from whom he had made some purchases, feeling a little suspicious, went to the father, produced his son's promisory note, and asked him to endorse it; he, thinking the vessel had got to sea, made answer that he had nothing to do with his son's affairs. The butcher without loss of time hired a boat, and went down with bailiffs to Cove, where he found the vessel and stopped her, thus arresting the dishonesty of both father and son.
It so happened that I had some time before commenced a series of sermons on the ten commandments, and on Sunday, the day after this intended fraud had been discovered, my text, in regular course, was the eighth commandment: "Thou shalt not steal." I solemnly declare before God, that when I mounted the pulpit, not a whisper of this transaction had reached my ears. I proceeded in my exposition to the very best of my power, explaining the various ways in which its spirit might be violated; and amongst others, I very naturally named the tricks and evasions sometimes practiced in commerce, which branch of the subject must have been well handled, for Isaac de la Croix felt that his character was sketched to the very life, and concluded that it was intended for him, which enraged him so much that as he left the Church he declared, with the most blasphemous oaths, that he would make me suffer for what I had said.
The elders related the story to me after the sermon, and I protested to them that I knew nothing of it before, and that the singular coincidence must be ascribed to the providence of God alone. Mr. de la Croix would not believe that it was undesigned, and continued his threats of revenge, and in the end made his words good, for he did cause me much anxiety and unhappiness.
On Monday morning it was ascertained that neither father nor son could pay for the cargo; the son ran away and I never heard more of him; the creditors went on board the vessel, and each claimed his own property as well as he could, the vessel was emptied, and the Captain was the main loser, having to seek a fresh freight.
Mr. de la Croix did not forget his promise of revenging himself upon me for his imaginary injury; he set to work without loss of time to poison the minds of my flock, he began with persons whom he knew to be weak and vain, telling them they would never rise to consideration in the city so long as they had a Presbyterian for their Minister. In this way he wrought upon those who looked up to the office of Mayor or even sheriff as something to be desired above measure; and by degrees, a spirit of opposition was infused into large numbers of my hearers, and they required me to receive ordination from the Bishop; this begot discussion, and the dispute waxing warm, I must acknowledge that I said that which it would have been much better to have left unsaid. A complaint was made to the Bishop of what I had said; and it contained what I had said, what I had not said, and assuredly what I had not even so much as thought. The Bishop was exasperated by this report, and he wrote in consequence thereof to my Lord Galway, then Lord Chief Justice of Ireland; this caused a correspondence between his Lordship and myself of which you will find full copies amongst my papers. Mr. de la Croix went so far as to assert that I was no Minister at all, and he visited from house for house repeating it, so that I was obliged to write for vouchers to the gentlemen of the Walloon Church in Threadneedle street, London. Finally, I felt it my duty, for the sake of peace, to request that they would allow me to resign and I annex a copy of their permission.
"Mr. James Fontaine our Minister having written to this congregation to request to be released from the service of the Church, for reasons assigned in his letter of 30th. May last, this congregation, distressed at the prospect of separation, and the causes which have led him to request it, deem it expedient nevertheless to give a reluctant and sorrowful consent to his desire; thanking him most humbly for the services he has rendered to this church during two years and a half, without receiving any stipend or equivalent whatsoever for his unceasing exertions. We feel bound to testify that though he has been obliged to use his own industry for the support of his family, yet it has never occasioned him to neglect any duty of the Holy Ministry. We have been extremely edified by his preaching, which has always been in strict accordance with the pure word of God. He has imparted consolation to the sick and afflicted, and set a bright example to the flock of the most exemplary piety and good conduct. We pray God to bless him and his family, and to grant him the consolation of exercising elsewhere, with more comfort to himself; those gifts which God has given him for the Holy Ministry to which he has been called.
In testimony whereof we have given to him this present certificate at
Cork, 5th. June, 1698.
Signed. P. RENUE
M. ARDOUIN. Elders.
Thus you see how much mischief one quarrelsome malicious spirit may occasion in a flock; the poor Minister feels it his duty to sacrifice his own comfort and interest for the peace of the church. It was a great source of satisfaction to me to be succeeded by Mr. Marcomb who continued to carry on every thing in the way I had commenced, and the church has ever since been governed according to the French mode.
I sometimes repented that I had been so humble as to request my discharge, for you will see, in the sequel, that I lost at Bear Haven all the property I had previously gained. Nevertheless God, who only sends afflictions to try our faith and not to ruin us, has in his infinite wisdom turned all my misfortunes, losses, and disgrace to my ultimate advantage, even in this life, and has almost miraculously provided me with all that was needful for the education of my children.
Before proceeding, I must relate a very extraordinary event. I have already said that before I left Taunton I placed my two oldest boys James and Aaron in Amsterdam; they remained there two entire years, and when I wished them to return, a Captain of a vessel named De Condre, who was going to Ostend, offered to bring them back with him to Cork. We knew nothing whatever of this man's character, but my wife had known some of his relations who lived in the neigbourhood that she came from in France, and altogether we thought it a favourable opportutunity for the boys to return; we thankfully accepted his offer, and I intrusted to him some of my manufactures to the value of L40. I wrote by him and desired the boys to proceed to Ostend, which they did. The vessel was to stop and discharge some of her cargo in London, and then return to Cork.
I had a letter from my brother Peter who resided in London to inform me that they had arrived there, and that the boys were in good health, staying at his house, until the merchandise was discharged. The night after I received this letter I had the most distressing dream you can imagine. I saw my poor boys struggling in the water, and that there was no help, they must inevitably be drowned; I awoke in agony, and every time I got to sleep for a few minutes the same dreadful dream returned. In the morning I wrote to my brother, told him I had altered my plan, and did not like trusting the boys to sea any more, so he must send them by land to Chester, and from Chester they could cross the Channel to Dublin, and proceed thence by land to Cork. You might suppose that after sending these instructions my mind would have been relieved; no such thing, the same dreadful object appeared before me again each succeeding night, and the impression made on my mind was so powerful, that I was really sick with anxiety and stress until the next post day; and I then wrote a second letter to my brother, gave him the particulars of the dreams which had afflicted me so much, and told him that I could not but consider them as a warning from God, and if my children should not yet have sailed at the time he received this letter, I charged him most solemnly not to let them go by sea; and added, that if he should do so after my telling him of the warning I had received, and the calamity I feared overtook them, that I should forever lay the blame of their death at his door. Almost immediately after the receipt of this second letter, De Condre, being ready for sea, called at my brother's house for the boys to go on board the vessel, and my brother gave him my letter to read, with which he was greatly infuriated, and wanted to take them by force, and when he found that they would not be suffered to go with him, he refused to give up any of their baggage from the vessel.
They returned according to my directions by land, (thanks be to my Heavenly Father for his providential warning) and De Condre went to sea without them, and neither he nor any of his crew have ever been heard of since. The boys told me when they reached home that this man was the most horrid blasphemer they had ever heard, that they had trembled to hear him vomiting forth his imprecations even against heaven itself; and on one occasion when the weather was bad he had paced the deck like a madman calling upon the devil to do his work. Who knows but that God would at that moment have punished this impious blaphemer, precipitating his body to the bottom of the sea, and his soul to the gulf of hell, if it had not been for these two innocent children, in favor of whom he deferred his vengeance and warned me in a dream of what I should do.
James will confirm the truth of. this to you, for I am sure he can never lose the remembrance of his wonderful preservation; and to him I would say, that I trust his grateful recollection of it may be beneficial to him through the whole course of his life, and when he feels tempted to sin against God, let him ask himself this question. Was it to commit this sin that God withdrew me so miraculously from the waves of the sea?
I now resume the thread of my story. About the time that I was deprived of the great comfort of preaching the word of God at Cork, there was an act passed by the Parliament of Great Britain forbidding the exportation of manufactured woollen goods from Ireland; this entirely broke up my manufactory, for the cloths I made were much better suited for exportation than for home use. After the injury I had received I never felt Cork an agreeable residence, and though I remained some months longer, and preached in English every Sunday at a Presbyterian church, yet I was all the time on the look out for any thing that might turn up to suit me better.
I sometimes thought of buying a farm with the money I had acquired, and living upon it. While in this unsettled state, I fell in with a merchant from Kinsale, who told me of his having purchased fish at Bantry for shipment to Spain, upon which he had realised a large profit, and that it had also paid a profit to the fishermen from whom he made the purchase. I took a great liking to this mode of making a living, being so immediately dependent upon the good Providence of God for guiding the nets, and giving them success according to his pleasure, and it seemed to me to be one of the most innocent of all occupations; so, contrary to the Apostles, who from fishermen became preachers, I, from a preacher, thought of turning fisherman. I sold all my manufacturing implements, quitted the employment, and leaving my family in Cork, I went on a tour of observation through the fishing region. At Baltimore I made acquaintance with Colonel Beecher, who had very extensive fisheries, and at Castle Haven with Colonel Townsend; from the latter I purchased very good second hand tackle and boats all complete. I ascertained that it was impossible to carry on fishing with success unless you had a large farm, with many tenants upon it, bound to fish only for you. I went to Bear Haven, and there hired a considerable farm from Mr. Boyd at L100 per annum, another from Mr. Davis at L31 10s. and a third at L18.
Behold me now making grand preparations for being both farmer and fisherman. I bought a cargo of salt to be in readiness, and put part in a cellar at Bantry, and part at Bear Haven. I did nothing but spend money this season, it being too late for the fishery when I began, but I was full of hope for the next.
On my return to Cork, I found that it had pleased God to withdraw my second son Aaron from this life during my absence. This was the most severe affliction that I had ever yet experienced. The loss of property had never made much impression upon me, but to be deprived of this dear child was a severe stroke. He had been an invalid for a long time, his complaint was consumption, and his sufferings were at times very great from violent pain in his chest. He evinced the most entire resignation to the will of God, and with a firmness beyond his years tried to console his mother, who was shedding tears by his bed-side, with the hope he entertained that through the merits of his Saviour he would be received into everlasting happiness.
This grievous affliction made Cork still more unpleasant to us, so we determined to remove to Bear Haven, where I had rented the farms for the fishery. I went into partnership in this new undertaking with my cousin John Arnauld, and Messrs. Renue, Thomas, and Gourbould, all merchants in London. They were to have one half, and I the other. I put down to them at cost price half of the Robert, a vessel of about 40 tons that I had owned some time, and half the price of the tackle, boats, and salt that I had purchased. They bought in London, on joint account with me, two other vessels of about 50 tons each, the Goodwill and the Judith. They sent the Goodwill to me with nets, cordage, and every thing necessary to make two more tackles, and the Judith went to France to bring a cargo of salt. As we intended to salt the fish ourselves, I built a house for the purpose, with stone walls and a slated roof, and floors suitable, and cellars to store the salt in, and presses to press the fish. I also built more boats, and got the tackle all ready; and so now, in the year 1700 we were only waiting for God to send us the fish, and we were fully prepared to turn them to the best advantage.
At first I had only my oldest son James with me, but as soon as these preparations were completed, I sent him to fetch his mother and the children from Cork. I had while there sold the remainder of my lease and the improvements I had made in the house for L100. My wife gave it up as soon as James arrived, and every thing was packed, and the whole family came round with the goods and chattels in the Robert to Bantry, and thence to Bear Haven. The first year and a half we lived in a mere cottage thatched with straw, and we owe it to the good providence of God, that while we were so much exposed we never suffered from the *tories, (or robbers,) of whom there were great numbers in these parts.
*The word tory having been long known only as a cant term applied to a particular political party, it may not be amiss to remark that it is here used according to its original signification. It is derived from the Irish word toruighim, (to pursue for purposes of violence,) and in the days of queen Elizabeth we discover it first used to signify the lawless banditti who were so troublesome in Ireland during her reign. In England, we find it applied for the first time by the opponents of Charles I to the followers of that unfortunate prince, under an idea that he favored the Irish rebels; and by an easy transition it became the distinctive appellation of that party who wished for the greatest extension of the royal prerogative.
Having no immediate use for the Robert, we chartered her to a merchant in Cork to go to Spain, and the Captain, James Joy an Irishman, was to lay out the freight money as soon as he received it in Salt, Oranges and Citrons; this he did, but instead of returning to Cork with the cargo, he ran the vessel ashore on the French coast, scuttled her, and sold the wreck with whatever was saved from it to a French merchant, and he remained in France to enjoy his ill gotten wealth. Here was an end of the ketch Robert so far as we were concerned; but the person who had bought her as a wreck had her repaired for little more than a crown, and she had since been constantly employed on the French coast in trading voyages.
In the month of May 1700, we first began to fish for cod off the Island of Durzey, but the weather was unfavourable, the wind high, and the sea rough; and after being at great expense we had to return with scarcely any fish. We tried to take salmon, and though our expense was small, our gains were still smaller.
In July we mustered our whole force to take herrings; three tackles, six boats, and forty five men, at an incredible expense; nevertheless, if the fish had been as abundant as was usual at this season of the year, our profit would have been considerable. Very few fish appeared, but we were obliged to continu a heavy expenditure, for perhaps the fish might come at the very time when we, for economy sake, had given up waiting for them, and a single draught in a large shoal of herring might pay all the expense of one, two, or even three years. Of course the men received the same wages whether they caught fish or not.
The season passing away so unsuccessfully, we thought it unnecessary to keep both our vessels waiting for fish, and we sent the Judith on a trading voyage to Spain. While the Goodwill was waiting for fish, we added another deck to her for the convenience of keeping Tobacco dry in case she should go to Virginia. This was an expense of L80, and made the vessel look clumsy, but she sailed very well. Finding that I had not fish enough to load her, I proceeded, by the direction of my partners in London, to make up the remainder of her cargo of beef, butter, cheese, candles &c., altogether including the Fish, worth L450. They recommended that she should go to Madeira first, to dispose of this cargo, and invest the proceeds in wine; then to Barbadoes, to sell the wine, and take in sugar, rum, and molasses, and proceed with these to Virginia, and there take in a cargo of Tobacco.
At Madeira every thing sold under its cost, owing to the number of vessels already arrived laden with provisions; and the same bad fortune followed them to Barbadoes; wine was abundant, and the losses were so great by these two transactions, that after paying the seamen's wages they were only able to take about L130 worth of sugar &c., and when they got to Virginia, they still found so many vessels before them that the produce they had on board was at a very low price; and tobacco being much in demand, they were afraid they should have to return without any cargo. The Pilot, one Perry, seeing the unpleasant situation of the Captain, told him of a river named, I think, Ptoxon* which ran 80 leagues into the interior of the country, and that if he approved of it he would take the vessel there. The Captain agreed to make the attempt, coming to the conclusion that he might almost as well return without the vessel as without a cargo. When they arrived at the port, the Captain had every thing his own way, for no vessel had been there for more than six months, and there was not a pound of sugar, or a drop of rum or molasses in the place, and he managed so well that he got in exchange tobacco enough to fill every part of the vessel, even to the cabin, and the sailors had it crammed in their beds. She arrived at Bear Haven in August 1701, and I had met with ample success in fishing so that I had a cargo all ready for her, and I wrote to my partners in London, whither she went to discharge her Tobacco, to request that she might be sent back to me directly.
*No doubt the Patuxent.
I have not mentioned that we had another son born before we left Cork; and on the 3d. August 1701 my wife was brought to bed of our youngest child Elizabeth. On that day we were particularly successful in fishing, and our slated house not being yet finished, we were living at one end of the herring house, which was so full with the immense quantity taken, that every place was piled up, even to the door of the chamber in which my wife was confined.
We cured this year more than two hundred thousand herrings, we pressed enough to fill two hundred hogsheads, and we put up two hundred barrels of pickled herrings. Besides this, we had twelve tierces of salmon, seven or eight hundred dried cod fish, and two thousand dried flukes, altogether worth about L1,200. Everyday I expected the Goodwill to arrive; I wrote, and wrote to my partners, to make haste and send her that our fish might be the first cargo in the market at Leghorn. While I was in this state of suspense, I sent a small quantity by a vessel loading at Bear Haven for Leghorn, and valuing the whole stock at the price I obtained for those I sent, which were a few of each kind, it would have been worth L1,500, if the Goodwill had only returned according to promise.
It turned out that my partners owned a large quantity of wine in Spain, and they were alarmed by rumours of war; and in such an event they would have lost all their wine if it remained in Spain, and on the other hand if brought to England the prospect of war would be sure to raise its price; this was a large concern, the fishery was a small one to them, though a very large one to me; and they retained the Goodwill, sending her to and fro as fast as possible, to bring all their wine before war was declared.
At last they wrote to me to sell the fish at Cork, as they could not send the Goodwill; I went there and finding no purchaser, I wrote again to beg they would send me a ship. Time was flying rapidly; the fish which ought to have been shipped long ago were still on hand. Finally these gentlemen bought an old vessel of 120 tons from Mr. Renue; she wanted repairs, and did not reach Bear Haven till January 1702. I loaded her in a very few days; and on the 5th. Feb. she set sail, but got no farther than the mouth of the harbour before she sprung a leak, and most of the sailors ran away. I hired some Irishmen, as soon as I heard of it, to run after the sailors and bring them back, and with much difficulty and many smooth words I got them on board again; the leak was stopped, and she proceeded on her voyage, from which I never received a single farthing; the account rendered was that the proceeds of the fish went no farther than to pay the charges of various kinds. Though I did not expect much from them, yet I never could believe that the loss was total, without dishonesty somewhere.
Thus God, to whose blessed will we must submit, in his infinite and unsearchable wisdom, saw fit to deprive us of all advantage from tbis most abundant season--all--all was lost, we were not worthy of it.
My London partners, having sustained such heavy losses by the fishery, wrote to me that they would have nothing more to do with it, though the agreement was for three years, and this was but the second. The expenses attendant upon building the cellars, herring house, and presses, as well as the cast of the boats and tackle were charged to me upon winding up our accounts; they allowing me something for the use of them during the two past years. I had also engaged fishermen for the next year, and it was impossible for me to drawback without losing at least L100 more. I made a full representation of all these circumstances, pointing out to them how hard it was upon me when they had occasioned the loss, by their own detention of the Goodwill; but it was to no purpose, there was nothing left for me to continue on my own account. The Goodwill was sold in London for a trifle compared to what she had cost. I felt that I was entirely ruined, but it was God's will, and blessed be his name for the support of his grace, which enabled my dear wife, and myself also, to submit without murmuring to the chastisement, and to say from our hearts "Thy will be done!"
Amongst other expenses entailed upon me was the building of a house with substantial stone walls, slated roof and towers; in fact, a sort of little fortification for defence, in case of need, from the French corsairs, who sometimes made attacks upon the unprotected part of the coast. This cost me a great deal of money, but you will see in the sequel that it was not thrown away, the good providence of God making it the human means of procuring for me great benefit hereafter.
My Irish neighbours were in the habit of pillaging and cheating me in a thousand indirect ways. I had brought thirteen destitute Frenchmen into the neighbourhood, who had served in King William's army, and were discharged, the war being over, and they knew not where to lay their heads. I gave them land to cultivate, but whether it was owing to their ignorance of agriculture, their habits of indolence engendered by a military life, or the perpetual injuries they received at the hands of the Irish, I know not, but certain it is, they were discouraged, and most of them left me before the end of three years; and by them I lost L80, which I had advanced for their use.
When God vouchsafes his blessing, every thing prospers, but let him withdraw the light of his countenance and the best laid plans and greatest exertions result in nothing but failure. All now seemed to go wrong with us. There was a court at Bear Haven for the Barony competent to decide in all causes under forty shillings. I do not believe that there were more than half a dozen Protestants in the adjacent country besides my own family, and those I had brought with me, so that when I or any of my Protestants demanded what was due to us, the matter was invariably decided against us by a jury of Papists, for Protestants were never by any chance summoned to sit upon a jury, and the consequence was that we not only lost our lawful dues, but were condemned to pay costs also. On the other hand, if the Irish took it into their heads to make any claim upon us, how unfounded so ever it might be, they were sure to recover. Boyd, the judge, was a very great rogue, and Dwyer, the attorney, was no better. After some little experience I put an end to this system of cheatery and false swearing, by appealing from the decision of the Barony to the county assizes. I may say with truth, that I was the only person in the whole Barony, who could be said to be really and truly in the Protestant interest, for the few Protestants who had lived there any length of time seemed to have caught the infection, and to have become as great rascals as the Irish Papists themselves.
I was a justice of the peace, and in that capacity I exerted myself to the utmost to break up the intercourse subsisting between the Irish robbers and the French privateers, who were the best of friends on every occasion, for the Irish always seemed to look upon it as a settled point that the enemies of the English must be their greatest friends. It was quite natural that my steady course of opposition should draw upon me the hatred of these people, and I soon had evidence of its being so, for I received a message from one Skelton, captain over an organized band of robbers in the woods, threatening me with an attack, saying that I might keep what guard I pleased, but they would manage to surprise me some day or other, and they would be with me before I had time to turn round. I caused them to be informed that if they declared fox's war, I would advise them to be on their guard also, lest I should be beforehand and seize upon some of them first; and it so happened that about four or five months afterwards I did discover one of them hidden on my farm in the cleft of a rock, and I took him prisoner and sent him to Cork, where he was tried, condemned and executed. In the course of twelve months this whole troop of brigands was dispersed, they had quarrels amongst themselves and betrayed one another. This should be noted down as another instance of God's superintending providence, in which a threatened blow was warded off. The animosity against me rather increased than diminished, for the reason that I persevered in sending to Cork for trial all persons who were found to be in the practice of communicating with the French privateers, and the number was generally from eight to ten every assizes. The privateers sustained a heavy loss, or rather I should say, lost the opportunity of making their usual gains, by being deprived of the means of obtaining the information they were in the habit of receiving, as to what vessels were in the neighbouring ports, where they were going, the value of their cargoes, &c. &c., which had enabled many of them to capture rich prizes. The Irish were accustomed to be rewarded for their treachery by a considerable share of the booty on these occasions, and they were of course much enraged, and as every effort they had hitherto tried to injure me had proved unsuccessful, they made up their minds to call in a force that would be adequate according to all human appearance to accomplish their grand desideratum of getting rid of me.
Attacked by a French privateer--Defence--Letter to the Duke of Ormon--Ammunition furnished by government--Build a small fort--Visit Dublin--London--Obtain a pension--Copy of warrant--Return home.
Early in the morning of the first day of June 1704, a French privateer hove in sight, she floated gently towards the house in a perfect calm, she had on board four of my Irish neighbours to act as guides, in addition to eighty men of her own. She mounted ten guns. I watched her progress, and thought the intention was to bring her to the south of my house, so that her guns would bear directly upon the front and have full scope at high water. I would prevent this if it were possible, and so I mustered all the men I could find, exactly twenty in number, I gave the Protestants muskets, and the Papists clubs on their shoulders, which made them at a distance look like armed men. I ordered them to follow me and do as I did. We went round the little cove, stooping very low as if we wished to hide ourselves, though in reality I made choice of the highest ground in order that we might certainly be seen from the privateer. I then placed all the men behind a large rock near the shore, while I stood alone on the top of it, within sight of the vessel; I ordered them all to appear on one side of the rock, as if they were peeping out of curiosity, while I was looking the other way; then I turned, and made angry gesticulations as if I were finding fault and striking some of them, and at the same time I told them all to show their heads on the other side of the rock; I turned again, and appeared to be very anxious that they should conceal themselves. The enemy, having seen (as they thought) forty men behind the rock, did not deem it expedient to effect their landing at a point so well guarded; thus my manoeuvre produced exactly the effect I intended it should, and they turned about towards the mouth of the creek upon which my house stood; and there they were opposite to one corner of the house, from which point their fire would be comparatively without effect. They dared not venture up the creek for fear of getting aground at low water.
When I saw that they had decided upon their position, I took my men back by a low path, and this time I really made them hide themselves, so that those in the vessel could not see one of us returning from the rock. I took the Protestants into the house to assist in our defence, and sent the Papists away. The privateer cast anchor about a long musket shot distant from the house, and the lieutenant landed with twenty men. I had seven men with me in addition to my wife and children; four or five of these were of very little use. I placed them all at different windows, I posted myself in one of the towers over the door, and as the Lieutenant was advancing with every appearance of confidence in his mien, I fired at him with a blunderbuss loaded with small leaden balls, one of which entered his neck above the shoulder blade, and another his side. He took aim at me before he fell, but his fire went too high. While I was gone to fetch another loaded piece from the next room, his men took him up, crossed the ditch, and carried him back to the ship.
The Captain, furious at such unexpected resistance from a minister, sent twenty more men ashore, with another commander, and two small cannon; these they placed under cover of the rocks and hedges, and cannonaded the house from the north, while the guns on board the vessel fired upon us from the south east. I must acknowledge that being unaccustomed to this sort of music, I felt some little tremors of fear when the first cannon ball struck the house, but I instantly humbled myself internally before my Maker, and having committed myself both soul and body to his keeping, my courage revived, and I suffered no more from fear. I put my head out of the window see what effect the ball had produced on our stone wall, and when I perceived it had only made a slight scratch, I cried out with joy. "Courage my dear children, their cannon balls have no more effect on our stone walls than if they were so many apples!"
An officer was then in my house, with whom I had been conversing the evening before on what would be my prospect of success, if I were to defend myself on such an occasion as the present; and he thought I should have no chance, because he said a cannon would overthrow my house with as much ease as if it were a castle of cards; and this opinion of his I verily believe occasioned me the apprehension of which I have just now spoken, but which was only perceptible to myself and my Heavenly Father, who, in answer to my petition, had dissipated my fears.
John Mc Liney, a brave Scotchman, who was stationed at a window which overlooked the cannon on shore, having fired repeatedly without any apparent effect, at last put a double charge of powder into his musket, and killed a man who was pointing the cannon. This obliged them to alter the position of their battery, and they moved their cannon to the foot of the wall, and sheltered themselves behind a rock about thirty paces from the north east corner of the house, where every one was protected from our fire except the men who reloaded the cannons. The new position was much more favourable for us, because being at one corner of the house they could not strike the walls or injure any thing but the slates on the roof. During the whole battle there were two or three hundred Irishmen collected on a neighbouring height watching the conflict, rejoicing in the anticipation of our defeat, and waiting impatiently for the moment when they might come down and help to plunder.
A Frenchman named Paul Roussier, a brave man, and a skilful soldier, was in the garret opposite to the enemies' battery, he constructed a sort of rampart of sheep's fleeces, then made a hole through the slates, and from thence he fired without the slightest intermission; a fresh loaded piece being handed to him from below directly after he had fired; and he killed one of them. They on their part also kept up a continual fire with the cannons against the house, and the pirates from the vessel fired with small arms upon our windows, which we had barricaded with mattresses and large books.
At the commencement of the action some of our muskets were a little out of order. The officer who was loading for Paul Roussier had put in the ball before the powder, (by which you may judge of his confusion) and seeing my wife enter the room, who was here, and there, and every where, carrying ammunition, and giving encouragement both by her words and her manner, he went up to her, and taking her by the hand, he said, "Alas! my dear lady, we are undone, it would be the height of folly to attempt to resist any longer when our arms are in bad order; here are no less than three useless muskets." (Observe we had eighteen muskets, two blunderbusses and several pistols.)
My wife replied with her usual composure, "We are in the hands of the Almighty, and nothing can befall us without his permission; I trust he will not suffer us to fall into the hands of these wicked men. We must not lose our courage, but try if we cannot repair what is defective."
She then came to me where I was on duty, and told me to go into the parlour directly to encourage the people, and do away the alarm caused by this faint-hearted gentleman. I went immediately and examined the three muskets; one wanted a flint, another had some dirt in the touch hole, and the third had two cartridges in it, one on the top of the other and a ball below both, next to the touch hole. I laughed at him a little, and from that time there was no further complaint of arms being out of order. My wife was so entirely free from fear, that when she went to fetch a needle for me to broach the muskets from a place where the balls were coming in at the window like hail, she did not think of stooping until I called out to her so to do. The children were a good deal alarmed when the balls struck the roof and made the slates fly, which she perceiving said to them "Courage my children, we are in the hands of God, and it is not fear that will insure our safety; on the contrary, God will bless our courage. If you cannot fire yourselves, you can load the muskets for your father and others who are older and stronger than you are; drive away all fear if you can, and leave the care of your persons to God."
This address of hers to the children had a great effect upon the older persons present, and seemed to inspire them with new courage and confidence. Ere long however we had serious cause for anxiety, our powder was becoming so scarce that we felt as if we ought to be sparing in the use of it. We were in great perplexity; if we did not continue the same fire we thought the enemy would perceive the difference and attack with fresh vigor, and to go on at the rate we were using it, we had not more than enough for three hours; we had only had twelve pounds at the outset. "Great God! it was then that thou discouraged our enemies and showed us their backs. "
Claude Bonnet, a French soldier, seeing one of them run away, went forward to take aim at him, and just; at that moment a ball from the enemy struck against the house, rebounded, and entered the fleshy part of of his arm without touching the bone. This showed us that if we had been spared, it was to God that we owed it, and to him we should return our thanks. My dear wife was the surgeon, she had him laid upon a bed without any noise, and applied the first dressing to the wound with her own hands. The battle lasted from eight o'clock in the morning till four in the afternoon, and during that whole time, there was never the least cessation in the firing except for a few minutes when the first man was killed. We had no one wounded but Claude Bonnet, and one of the children from a piece of slate striking against his thumb. The enemy had three men killed and seven wounded, as we learnt afterwards from the Irishmen who were on board. When the assailants had returned to the vessel, we visited the stations they had occupied, and found a quantity of blood which they had evidently tried to hide by treading earth and leaves into the ground.
The privateer remained at anchor for some time, and we were afraid they meditated a second attack, for which we were badly prepared being so near the end of our powder; but we determined if they did land again that we would only fire when we could take aim. While we were waiting the development of their plans, we took some nourishment, which was much needed after our fatigues. I had given each one a large glass of Sherry when we entered the house on our return from the rock, first thing in the morning; and after that, during the whole action, I did not permit any one to taste a drop of wine, or spirit, or strong beer.
We had the satisfaction in a short time of seeing them draw up their anchor and sail away, and we returned thanks to God for our glorious deliverance. I immediately wrote a full account of the affair to Lord Cox, then Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and to the Duke of Ormond who was Lord Lieutenant.
Before I mention the letter I wrote to the Duke, I should say that about nine months previous to the attack, he had made a tour through a great part of Ireland accompanied by the Chancellor. I went, with Mr. Davis, one of my landlords, to Kinsale for the purpose of paying our respects to them, and before the interview, it had been agreed between Mr. Davis, the Chancellor, and myself that if there was an opening I should say something in favor of building a fort in our neighbourhood, and they would support me in it, being fully as anxious as I was to have one erected. The Chancellor presented us both to his Grace as justices of the peace who did our duty.
The Duke conversed for a few minutes with Mr. Davis, but when he found that I was a French Refugee minister, he addressed himself more particularly to me, speaking in French. He asked me how long I had lived in this barbarous part of the country, what flock I had, &c., to all which I replied; and he then enquired what was the chief produce, and how we managed matters in this quarter. I said much in favor of our harbor, dwelt on its conveniences, and then I told him of the iniquitous practices of the French privateers, and I thought the door was now open for me to suggest our plan, and I added that if government would but erect a fort there, it would be a great place for the settlement of French Refugees, and would also prove a safeguard to the commerce of the whole kingdom.
The other gentlemen were preparing according to agreement to support what I had said with various arguments, when the Duke rather wittily cut short our discourse by saying "Pray to God for us, and we will take care to defend you."
This answer was so much to the purpose that I had not another word to say, though I was a good deal annoyed by the tittering of some of the Duke's friends who were present.
I thought the time had now arrived when I should be justified in reproaching his Grace with breach of promise. And immediately after the battle, before the sun had set, on that very evening, I wrote him a letter, beginning as follows:--
"Since I had the honor of paying my respects to your Grace at Kinsale, I have not failed to pray for you daily in conformity with your request, but you must allow me to complain that your Grace has not been equally true to the promise you then made of defending me, for without your aid I have had to defend myself from the attack of a French corsair," &c. &c. I then gave him the particulars of the engagement and our glorious victory.
I enclosed this letter unsealed to my cousin Arnauld in London, and desired him, after reading, to seal and deliver it. He had some hesitation about delivering it because he thought it too bold, nevertheless he did seal it, and went to the Duke's hotel and left it with the first servant he saw, without waiting for any answer, or even ascertaining that it reached its destination. The good and generous Duke was delighted, seeing that its boldness was justified by the defence we had made, and he enquired immediately for the person who had brought it, and as he was not forthcoming, he requested Colonel Boisron, who happened to be with him, to write an answer, telling me how much he was charmed with my conduct, and also with my manner of relating it to him, and that if it should ever be in his power to serve me, he would take great pleasure in doing so. In the mean time my name and my wife's also, became known by means of the newspapers, throughout all Europe.
I received a letter from Government, dated 10th June, 1704, complimenting me on my defence, congratulating me on its happy result, and adding that they had taken care I should be better prepared in case of another attack, for they had issued an order to the keeper of the magazine at Kinsale (without my asking for it) to deliver to me one barrel of gunpowder and two barrels of musket balls. The warrant was enclosed in the letter.
The four Irishmen, who had assisted the French, became much alarmed, and fearing I should find them out and deliver them up to justice, determined to be beforehand and came voluntarily before me to make oath that the French had taken them by main force. It was from them that we learnt the extent of loss sustained by the French; they told us that after the death of the lieutenant, the captain was furious, being a near relation of his own, and swore that if he took me he would roast me alive and salt me.
After this I determined to build a kind of fortification at the back of my house, to serve the double purpose of protecting the lower floor from the guns of ships, and defending the mouth of the creek. I bought several six pounders which had been fished up from a vessel lost on the coast. I had three carriages made for them, and I raised a fortification of turf whose parapet was eighteen feet in thickness, and so situated as to command the entrance of the creek, and cover the lower story of my house entirely on the side next to the creek. My Irish neighbours, much chagrined at the unexpected issue of the attack, which they had felt certain was to rid them of me forever, were more and more annoyed to see my preparations for future defence. They tried to discourage and alarm me, saying that perhaps I was not aware that there was an Act of Parliament which forbade any person to erect fortifications or mount guns without the special permission of government. I answered them that I knew all about it as well as they did, but I had no fear of disturbance on that head after the marks of friendship and esteem I had received from the government, and even were it otherwise, I would much rather fall into the hands of an English jury than a French privateer.
I made an application to government for powder and ball for my cannons, and they promptly furnished me with five hundred cannon balls and four barrels of powder. I did not require any stronger proof of their approbation of my fort.
By the month of November I had completed all my preparations, and the Lord Lieutenant having returned to Dublin, I thought it might be for my advantage to go there, and tell him all that I had done. While at Bear Haven, I had from time to time been able to render material assistance merchant vessels in distress, and more than once to ships of war, and I took with me certificates of these facts.
Upon my arrival in Dublin I was received by the Council with the utmost kindness, and they at once voted me L50 as a temporary assistance till something better could be done for me, and they advised me to claim a pension for my services, and recommended me officially for that purpose to the Lord Lieutenant. After a while he ordered the Secretary of State for Ireland to give me a letter to the Secretary of Lord Godolphin, then Lord High Treasurer of England. I went to England with this introduction in April 1705, and while I was in London urging my claim, the Duke of Ormond came there, and was of essential service to me in obtaining the pension, and likewise treated me it all times with the most uniform kindness and attention.
The warrant for my pension was presented to me on the 17th October 1705, and here follows a copy of the document.
"To our right trusty and right entirely beloved Cousin and Counsellor James Duke of Ormond, our Lieutenant General and General Governor of our kingdom of Ireland, and to our Lieutenant Deputy or other chief governor or governors of that our kingdom for the time being.
"Right trusty and right entirely beloved cousin and Counsellor, we greet you well. Whereas James Fontaine, Clerk, did by his humble petition to us pray that we would be graciously pleased to bestow on him a pension of five shillings a day on our establishment of our kingdom of Ireland, in consideration of his good services in his defence against a French Privateer, and the great charge he is at in securing the remote port he lives in against the insults of the French, and whereas our High Treasurer of England hath laid before us a report made by you upon the said petition wherein you certify that the petitioner is settled in a very remote port, in Bear Haven, in our said kingdom, which place is very much infested with the privateers, that he hath built a very strong house with a small sort of sod fort, on which he hath the permission of our said government to mount five guns, that he hath often been in danger of being attacked by the Privateers, and that by the continuance of the said fort he hath protected several merchant ships, that there hath been produced to you several very ample certificates from the merchants of Dublin and of Cork of the commodiousness of that place for securing merchant ships, as also from the Captains of our ships the Arundel and the Bridgewater, and that upon the whole you are of opinion that the said James Fontaine very well deserves our favour and encouragement, in consideration of his said services and expenses, and in regard he is a French Refugee, you propose that a pension of five shillings a day may be inserted for him on the establishment, under the head of French Pensioner, to commence from Michaelmas 1705. Now, we, having taken the premises into our Royal consideration, are graciously pleased to consent thereunto, and accordingly our will and pleasure is, and we do hereby direct, authorise, and command, that you cause the said pension or allowance of five shillings a day to be paid to him the said James Fontaine, or his assignees from Michaelmas last 1705, as aforesaid, for maintaining the said fort for the better preservation of our subjects of our said Kingdom against the insults of French Privateers, the same to continue during our pleasure, and to be placed for him in the list of French Pensioners on the establishment of our expense in our said kingdom, and paid in like manner as others the pensions within the said list are or shall be payable. And this shall be as well to you for so doing, as to our Lieutenant deputy or other chief governor, or governors of our said kingdom for the time being, and to our Receiver General, and all others concerned in making the said payments, and allowing thereof upon account a sufficient warrant, and so bid you very heartily farewell."
"Given at our Court at St. James, the twelfth day of October, 1705, in the fourth year of our reign."
"By her Majesty's command."
"Entered at the signet office on the 17th day of October, 1705. Geo.:
My inventive genius had now quite forsaken me, but you see, my dear children, that providence had not. It is the same God who at first called light out of darkness who frustrated the designs of our enemies, and turned to our profit and honor that enterprise by which they had expected to seal our ruin. If it had not been for their cruel attack we should never have become known to those persons who have shown us so much kindness; and let us never forget that it is to our Heavenly Father we owe all our gratitude for inclining towards us the heart of a kind and charitable earthly Sovereign. The signal failure of our adversaries' schemes reminded me of Samson's enigma "Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness."
I must not omit to mention that while I was in London I stayed the whole time at the house of my Cousin John Arnauld; he treated me with the greatest hospitality and kindness, and would never accept of a single farthing for my board, and moreover he lent me nearly L30 to further my views in obtaining a pension, and that too at a time when he saw little or no chance of my ever being in a situation to repay it. Thanks be to God, I have since been so successful in my school that it has enabled me to return him this money.
During my absence from home Privateers were occasionally seen hovering about the mouth of the harbor, one only approached near to the house, and appeared to be taking the same course that had been followed by the vessel that attacked us. My wife was very prompt in having the cannons loaded, and she had one of them fired to show that all wsn in readiness for defence, and when they saw this, they turned about, landed on Great Island, stole some cattle and sailed away.
After my return we were several times threatened with a descent, but it ended in nothing more than giving us a little fright, and making us brush up our arms, for when they saw we were in a state of preparation, they went off, contenting themselves with stealing whatever they could lay their hands on.
Attacked by second Privateer--Out houses fired--Breach in the wall--Wounded--Surrender--Carried away as a prisoner--Expostulate with Captain--Ransomed--Peter left as a hostage--His deportment.
With a constant apprehension of attack before us we lived on the "qui vive," from the 1st. June 1704 until the 8th. October 1708, when with all our precautions we were actually taken by surprise.
A French Privateer entered the harbour during the night and anchored off Bear Haven, about five miles from our house, and entirely out of sight. At that time a company of soldiers was quartered among the Irish in the Half Barony, and the Captain who commanded them lodged and boarded at my house, but unluckily both he and the Lieutenant happened then to be absent at Bantry, and the Ensign was left in command of the company. He was an imprudent, inexperienced young man, entirely destitute of judgment.
The Privateer hoisted English colors by way of deception, and she succeeded to her wish, for the Ensign no sooner discovered her, than, concluding she was a vessel just arrived from America, he went down with two or three soldiers of his company, in great haste to be the first on board her, in order to regale himself with rum punch, a beverage of which he was unhappily much too fond. He was a prisoner from the instant he set his foot on board the vessel, but the Captain and officers behaved towards him with the greatest civility. He was a little shocked at first, but they made him so welcome, treating him to the best of wine and brandy that he soon lost the remembrance of his situation, and gave the Captain every information he wanted, and it was of a nature to encourage him exceedingly, for he told him that the soldiers were dispersed throughout the country and without any commander, the Captain and Lieutenant both being absent, and that he was sure nothing would be easier than to surprise me, for I had nobody with me but my own family. Upon the strength of this information the Captain had three boats prepared to go ashore, sent eighty men in them, commanded by his two Lieutenants, who were both Irishmen born within the Barony.
A great proportion of the crew were Irishmen, and amongst them was one Sullivan, whose life I had formerly saved, when he was proclaimed as a tory and a robber, and after he fled to France I had compassion on his unhappy wife whom he had left with seven or eight children, and I allowed her to live rent free upon my farm, and fearing the family might perish with hunger, I returned to her a milch cow and ten or twelve sheep, which I had received from Sullivan himself for rent before he went away. And this was the man who came to recompense me by acting as guide to the party; for he knew better than any one else the exact situation of my house and every thing belonging to it.
They quitted the ship at midnight, landed before it was light, and commenced their march about daybreak, in perfect silence and stooping very low, in order that they might be neither seen nor heard. An Irish servant who was fetching home the cows was the first person to discover them, marching in good order, and only, about the distance of a long musket shot from the house. He ran home as fast as he could, and cried out that we were all lost, for a number of armed men were in sight. We got up directly and I ordered every door to be shut; but there was so much bustle and confusion that they forgot to close the gates of the large court in front, and even the house door below the tower was left open; this the enemy perceived, as we afterwards learned, but dared not approach, thinking it was a feint, and that we must have a loaded cannon within, ready to fire upon them. When the men were near enough to hear me I hailed them through a speaking trumpet, and told them if they were friends to stop, and let us know who they were; and if enemies, I called upon them to come forward and we would receive them with vigor.
In the mean time my children were busily engaged loading our arms and putting them in order, and as the men still continued to advance I desired my oldest son to fire from the garret window our large gun whose barrel was six feet in length; this made them lower their heads; they then separated into different parties, and hiding themselves by means of the hedges and ditches contrived to get round to the back of the house. Their first act was to set fire to the malt house which was at the east, then to straw, and grain, and hay stacks which were at the north and east, and at last to the cow house, stable, and long fish press which were at the west of my house. These being of very combustible materials, in less than half an hour we were encompassed with flames on every side but one, and by reason of the fire and smoke between us and them, we were unable to see any of our enemies, and our lungs were dreadfully oppressed by the smoke which found its way in at every crevice.
I ordered the servants to fill all the tubs and buckets that could be found with water, which fortunately for us flowed into the kitchen, and then immerse sheep-skins with the wool upon them, and ox-skins, of which we had many in the house, and when thoroughly soaked to cover the windows with them, as being the most exposed parts of the house; the roof was slated and so there was little danger of the fire being communicated to us in that direction. My dear wife superintended this department.
Our whole garrison consisted of our children, your mother and myself, and four servants, two of the latter were mere cow boys, and the other two had never seen a battle. We fired haphazard as fast as we could load; I say so, because we could actually see nothing but fire and smoke. My great apprehension was that they might seize our cannon, and turn them against ourselves, and therefore I thought the best thing I could do was to fire my large blunderbuss every few minutes in the direction of the cannon; and once after I had fired I thought I discovered that they had been making an attempt, for there was much noise and confusion, and it was evident they were carrying away a wounded man. I could hear them very distinctly, but I saw nothing; however I continued from time to time to fire in the same direction.
After a while we perceived that the door of which I have already spoken was open, and I sent some one to shut it, and continued firing at random.
I caught a glimpse of one of the enemy setting fire to the covering of the fish press, and took deliberate aim at him with my blunderbuss loaded as usual with swan shot, and wounded him in several places but not seriously.
While the stacks of grain were burning and we were being suffocated with the smoke, our adverseries raised a little mound of turf and wood, and intrenched themselves behind it, and they set to work with long poles to detach the slates from the roof of the north-east tower. As soon as they had uncovered a portion, they attached burning straw to the end of their poles, and in that way set the roof on fire three several times, and we as often extinguished it from within.
About two o'clock in the afternoon, they succeeded in making a breach in the wall of this same north-east tower, and as we could see them at work with iron bars, my children took one of those large baskets used in the country for peat to the corner opposite the hole that was made, put a mattress on the top of the basket, and kneeling behind this rampart they fired one after the other as fast as they possibly could; they were hard at work all the time but did not dare to show their noses. The enemy did not relax at all in their efforts to fire the roof with long poles armed with fire brands, and at last, the smoke subsiding a little, I hit upon a position from which I could see to take aim at their hands as they raised them above the intrenchment to guide the poles, and I fired, apparently with some success. Seeing however that they still persevered I began to think it probable that I had not put a sufficient charge in my piece, and when I loaded it again I determined to use a double quantity of powder. I had no sooner put in the charge, than I had an opportunity of trying it, for I saw a hand raised, and I fired. The piece being overcharged, burst, and I was thrown down with great violence, three of my ribs and my right collar-bone were broken, and the flesh of my right hand was very much torn. I was so completely stunned that I had no power to move or even to breathe for some seconds. My wife saw the fall and supposed I had received a ball from the enemy, she ran to my assistance, and raised me up without making the slightest noise. As soon as I was able to speak I explained to her that I was wounded by the bursting of my own piece. I was now completely "hors de combat," but I had already done my part, for during the course of the morning I had fired five pounds of swan shot from my now disabled piece. While I was prostrated, my dearest wife had an eye to every thing, she went round to furnish ammunition and to give courage to all, as well by her exhortations as by her example.
In the mean time, the enemy had enlarged the breach until it was from four to five feet square; nevertheless, they derived no advantage from it, my sons kept up such an incessant fire from behind their mattress rampart. At last, a grenade was thrown it at the breach which ran under the basket, exploded, and overturned the whole affair, without (thanks be to God) doing any harm except giving my sons a fright which made them abandon their post for a very short time. One of them ran to me, in great dismay, to tell me that the hole was as large as any door, and that the enemy were entering by it; the other boys were still firing from the dormer windows.
I immediately rose from the bed, asked for a pistol ready loaded and cocked, which I took in my left hand, the right being useless. I called my children together, and said to them, "I see, my dear children, that we must inevitably fall a sacrifice to the number of our enemies, but do not let them kill us like dogs, rather let us sell our lives dearly and die like lions;" and while I was speaking I continued advancing towards the room into which the breach was made.
A melancholy sight it was, but at the same time a gratifying one, to behold these poor boys, as soon as I had done speaking, re-enter the room and take their old position without a word or a gesture indicative of fear; they replaced their basket and mattress exposed to the fire of more than ten muskets. Blessed be thou oh God! who preserved them untouched amid such a shower of balls.
When they began to fire, the enemy retreated from the breach, and dared not raise their heads again, or even so much as their hands, and thus their fire was all thrown away; for by not raising the butt ends of their muskets, they carried too high and went far above us every time. Seeing that we did not give way in the least, they began to tire of our obstinate resistance. It was possible they might have overheard my address to the children, added to which, they were under the impression that we had at least twenty men from the constant fire that was kept up in every direction, as well as upon the main point of attack. They called out to us to surrender and we should have good quarter.
I held a consultation with my wife and children, and we determined at any rate to listen to their proposal. We ceased firing, they did the same, and I advanced to the breach to hold a parley with them. One of the Irish Lieutenants came forward and took aim at me, my second son Peter saw him before I did and immediately caught hold of me and drew me aside, barely in time to save me from this treachery, for the ball passed within three inches of my stomach.
I was extremely indignant and cried out, "Ah ! Traitors! was it then to surprise me that you called me to parley with you? Fire upon these traitors my sons, fire ;" which the poor boys did without loss of time and with all their hearts.
I had foolishly exposed myself to imminent danger, by placing confidence in the good faith of an enemy whom I might have been sure was altogether destitute of such a virtue, but a watchful and kind providence interposed for my deliverance.
We kept up an incessant fire for another quarter of an hour, and then they called to us again, and made a second offer of good quarter. I reproached them with their recent perfidy, and told them I could not trust people who had already attempted to betray the confidence I had reposed in them. They then made a threat that if we did not surrender they would throw a barrel of powder in the breach and blow us up.
"I have three or four at your service," said I, "and I intend to scatter their contents over this door and the inner hall, and whenever you are pleased to approach, I will throw a lighted turf upon it and make you dance. You may depend upon one thing that I will not perish without you."
This desperate reply induced them to offer good quarter once more.
I said, "I do not know what you mean by good quarter, but this I know that I am resolved not to surrender unconditionally, I would rather perish with all my family than do so."
They then left off firing and called to me to order my people to do likewise, so we had a cessation of hostilities on both sides. Their proposition was that they should be allowed to plunder, to which I consented, for with our lives we must of course lose our goods. I demanded life and liberty for myself and all who were with me; but as they spoke English, I said, "I do not choose to have any thing to do with English or Irishmen in making the treaty. I look upon myself as a British subject, and as such I will only treat with the French who are at war with England, and I request the French Commander will put his head to the breach, and I assure him that he may do so with perfect safety, for we have no traitors in our ranks."
Then came forward one of those rascally Irish Lieutenants, Carty, alias La Touche, who was commender of the party and could speak French as well as I could. I told him that as an Irishman I placed no reliance upon him, and that I would treat with him only as the authorised agent of the French Captain. I repeated to him in French the terms of capitulation. Life and liberty guaranteed to all of us, and strictly honorable deportment on their part while in possession, and they were to have the plunder.
They swore to the observance of this as French. men and men of honor. After which, I said, "I am now going to open the door for your admittance, and I warn you beforehand that I will allow no one to enter by any other way, and should you attempt to come in by the breach I shall shoot you directly."
This was agreed to also, and I had the doors opened and ranged myself, my wife, my sons, and four servants in regular order to surrender our arms to the commander as he entered.
"Thou knowest, Oh God! our preserver! and none else can know, what was the state of my feelings at that moment, to see my beloved wife and dear children at the mercy of enemies, fourteen of whom we had wounded. Oh! what everlasting praises do we owe to thee for our preservation. It was thou who restrained these bloodthirsty wretches from executing the vengeance they had sworn against us. Oh God! I beseech thee to sanctify the lives which thou hast so miraculously preserved, and assist us to devote them to thy service."
When the commander and a good many of his men had entered, they looked anxiously around seeing only five youths and four cow-herds, and asked me where all my people were, evidently suspecting that I had laid an ambush.
"You need not fear any thing dishonorable from me," I said, "you see all our garrison."
"Impossible ! " said he, ''these children could not possibly have kept up all the firing."
My wife then spoke, and said "I am in hopes, Sir, that the fact of so few persons having made so gallant a defence will be an inducement to you, whom I trust we shall find a man of honor, to treat us with the more consideration. Are you," added she, "the commander of this party?"
"I am, Madam," said he. I
She then handed him her keys, and intreated him to restrain his followers within strict bounds, which he promised to do. I told him, that I had forgotten to stipulate for my books, but that as they would be altogether useless to them, I hoped he would grant me the indulgence of retaining them in my own possession. He promised that they should be spared, and for a time he kept a guard at my study door, but soon after they entered it and plundered there as elsewhere, taking all the handsomest books, and leaving behind a few that looked old and were badly bound. The house was very completely furnished, and as we had never thought of a surrender until it actually took place, we had not had time or opportunity to secrete anything. We were stripped of every article both of furniture and clothing even to our coats, for in the heat of action we had taken them off to have more freedom in the use of our arms.
They not only filled their own three boats with the booty, but they took three of mine and loaded them also. When they were ready to depart they took me and my two oldest boys and two of the servants with them as prisoners. It was all in vain for me to remind them that it was an infraction of the treaty they had made with me previous to our surrender. Their reply was, that my name had made so much noise amongst the Privateers at St. Maloes that they dared not return to the vessel without me, the Captain's order to-them was peremptory, not to come back unless they had me with them dead or alive. They promised me faithfully, however, that as soon as the Captain had seen me, I should be set at liberty. My remonstrances were of no avail, go I must, and by the time I reached the vessel I had become so entirely powerless from the effect of my wounds and fractures, that they were obliged to hoist me like a log; I could not assist myself the least in the world.
As soon as the crew saw me alongside, they all shouted "Vive le Roi," and repeated it three times in grand chorus.
This roused me from my pain and depression; and when they ceased shouting, I raised my voice to its highest pitch, and said, "Gentlemen, how long it is since victories have been so rare in France, that you are glad to avail yourselves of such an occasion as the present to sing in triumph? I am ashamed, positively ashamed, of my native country, to hear rejoicings over such a victory. A glorious achievement truly! Eighty men all accustomed to warfare have actually been so successful as to compel one poor Minister, four cow-herds, and five children to surrender upon terms. And, furthermore, Gentlemen I would have you to know, that though I do appear before you as a prisoner, it is in direct violation of the treaty made with your commanding officer, and sworn to by him previous to our surrender. He cannot deny that he has broken his faith, and committed a flagrant offence against the established Law of Nations."
I was then carried to the Captain's Cabin, and I renewed my complaint, telling him of the treaty which his authorised agent had made with me, and I added, "Sir, I assure you that if I had had the least idea of being carried off as a prisoner, so far from surrendering, I would have resisted as long as I had breath in my body. I trust, under the circumstances, you will see the justice of restoring me to liberty immediately."
He answered me with much courtesy of manner, and said, "I cannot tell you how delighted I am to have on board my vessel a man of such undaunted courage, and whose name has made so much noise."
"You may indeed, Sir," said I, "find to your cost that my name is pretty well known in England and Ireland. I have received so many marks of friendship from the Lords in Council at the Irish seat of government, that I feel certain as soon as they are aware of my situation, and especially of the fact that my being made a prisoner at all was contrary to a sworn treaty, they will send instructions to Kinsale to retaliate upon the French prisoners there, which may probably bring you into a little trouble."
"What!" said he, "do you dare to make use of threats?"
"No, no, I only give you fair warning of what will most assuredly come to pass. This unjustifiable conduct of yours will be the occasion of many an honest man suffering hardships, to which the mere circumstance of his being a captive would not subject him; probably friends of your own may be among the number; and nobody will give you any thanks for what you are doing."
"Never mind," said he, "let us drink a glass of wine together now, and discuss these matters in the morning. "
"I want no wine," said I, " but I stand in great need of repose, and of having my wounds dressed."
The surgeon was thereupon summoned, and he applied some linen dipped in brandy. Notwithstanding the number of good beds they had just brought from my house, it was with great difficulty that I could obtain a very poor one to lie down upon, and a coarse sheet and coverlid to throw over me. I was placed between decks with the bed resting upon some cordage. This was Saturday night, 8th October, 1708.
Our noble Ensign, who ought to have protected us, was still on board, as drunk as a hog; he was in excellent spirits, and on the best of terms with the Captain and crew, to whom he was infinitely grateful for indulging him in his vicious propersity. The next day being Sunday, he was sent ashore early in the morning without having received the least injury, or being deprived of any thing whatsoever. My two sons and the servants were sent away at the same time, and I alone detained. When the boat returned from landing them the Captain gave orders to raise the anchor.
My wife did not sit down quietly to bemoan and lament over her misfortunes, as many would have done in her situation, but was in action at once to endenvour to remedy them. She went early in the morning to the place where the Papists said Mass to see the Priest, and persuade him if possible to go after the vessel, and use his influence to obtain my liberty. He positively refused. She dwelt upon the many obligations that I had from time to time laid his people under, and the numbers of them I had saved from the gallows; but it was all in vain. Finding persuasion useless, she changed her tone and had recourse to threats, pointing out to him that he would inevitably expose himself to the resentment of those in power, if he persisted in refusing to assist a man who was so much and so deservedly esteemed by the Lord Lieutenant, and the Council. She succeeded no better than before, and seeing the vessel under sail, she determined to follow it by land as long as she could.
The weather was clear, calm and mild. Our Captain proceeded to the Island of Durzey and found my wife waiting upon the promontory till the vessel got opposite to it. She made a signal with her apron tied to the end of a stick, and a boat was despatched to hear what she had to say. She had taken the precaution of borrowing a speaking trumpet, and thus she was able to carry on conversation, from the cliff on which she was standing, with those who were below in the boat. After a great deal of bargaining, and many difficulties raised, they at last agreed to set me at liberty upon the payment of L100 sterling. All this time I was stretched on my pallet between decks, and was in total ignorance of what was going forward.
The privateer remained off the Island of Durzey waiting for my wife's return with the money, and she was gone to try to borrow it. She was unable to procure more than L30, and the greater part of this sum I had paid to Boyd for rent only five days before we were attacked. Unable to raise more she came back to the vessel accompanied by our second son Peter, several of our tenants, and our friend Mr. Hutchins of Bear Haven.
The Captain agreed to give me up on condition of his having the L30 she had brought with her, and retaining one of my sons as a hostage for the payment of the remaining L70. He paid her many compliments upon the courage she had displayed, and told her he looked upon her as a second Judith.
She replied, "I should have felt more honored if you had compared me to Deborah; but I am far from being surprised that you should not be well versed in books that you are prohibited from reading."
My deliverance was accomplished, but it was upon hard terms, and I felt melancholy indeed at leaving my poor dear boy in my stead.
When we came away, that traitor, Sullivan, of whom I have already spoken, took me upon his shoulders, and climbed with me up the rocks. He had waited upon me the whole time I was on board the privateer, for I was literally as helpless as an infant. I reproached him with his treachery. "How could you find in your heart, after all that I had done for you and yours, to act the part of guide to my enemies?"
He tacitly acknowledged his ingratitude, for he replied, "I have not a word to say in excuse for my conduct."
It was late on Monday night, almost Tuesday morning, when I was ransomed by the exertions of my wife and the tenderness of my sons; I say sons, because, though only one was left, they were all equally anxious to have taken my place. James could not be spared, he was old enough to look after the farm and take care of the few cattle remaining to us. Peter, being next in age, would not hear of any one but himself being selected.
On the night of Tuesday, the eleventh day of October, I slept at Bear Haven at the house of Mr. Hutchins, and the next day I went in a boat to Bantry, in order to have the requisite surgical assistance, and in going there we passed near enough to have a view of our now desolate mansion.
My wife waited to see me comfortably settled under the care of a skilful French surgeon, and she then went to Cork to endeavour to raise the L70 for the payment of which Peter was retained as a hostage. The Bishop lent her twenty guineas, and she could easily have borrowed the remainder from other friends, but the merchants of Cork, upon bearing the particulars of the affair, set their faces against any payment being made, and assured her that our son would soon be liberated without it, and their reasoning seemed to her so sound that she returned the Bishop what he had kindly lent to her, and declined borrowing any more. She also contrived to have a letter sent privately to Peter, exhorting him to keep up his courage, and have patience, and that she had no doubt he would soon be set at liberty without ransom, but advised him to appear ignorant of it.
The privateer hovered about the Island of Durzey for a long time, waiting for the money. Peter conducted himself remarkably well on board the ship, and evinced much more both of prudence and courage than might have been expected from so young a lad. The steadiness of his deportment attracted the attention of the Captain, and he placed so much confidence in him as to give into his charge the key of the liquors, and this caused the whole crew to pay court to him.
While he was in the privateer she was one day chased by a British man of war; it was proposed to him to hide himself in the hold, which he declined; a musket was then offered to him that he might assist in the defence, but he said, "No, I would rather fight for the English than against them, for I regard them as my friends and countrymen."
The English vessel was inferior in point of sailing and thus they escaped from her.
The Captain had a son with him about Peter's age, a vain, disagreeable boy, much disliked by the officers of the ship; he came to Peter one day, being intoxicated at the time, and with a drawn sword in his hand threatened to kill him. Peter seized a sword to defend himself, and succeeded in disarming the drunken boy, and lowering his importance, much to the satisfaction of the bystanders.
When they reached St. Maloes, the Governor of Brest condemned the Captain very much for his misconduct in bringing a hostage away with him, in direct contravention of the Law of Nations, and he would not suffer Peter to be landed and placed with the other prisoners.
The poor Captain was sadly perplexed, and nothing would have pleased him so much as Peter running away, and thus getting him out of his dilemma, and he had it hinted to him that he was a great fool not to make his escape; but after the letter he had received from his mother, he very properly considered that it would be an act of great folly to leave the vessel in a foreign country, when he had every reason to expect that he would be taken home again. After remaining a while at St. Maloes, the vessel went out on another cruise, Peter still in her.
Affidavit before magistrates--Retaliation on French prisoners--Removal to Dublin--Hire a haunted house--Claim compensation from the county of Cork--Disturbance in lamented house-- School--Education of children-- Peter goes to college--John obtains a commission in the army--Moses and Francis enter college--Moses studies law--Emigration to America-- Marriage of children--My wife's death--Failure of health--Conclusion.
Leaving Peter on his cruise, I will return to myself. As soon as I was well enough to get on horseback, I rode over to Kinsale with my son James, and two of the servants, and waited upon the chief magistrate to make an affidavit before him, to the effect that after capitulating upon terms, with the express stipulation that we should have life and liberty, I had been forcibly carried away as a prisoner, and had only been released on the payment of L30, and leaving one of my sons as a hostage for the payment of other L70.
The governor or commanding officer at Kinsale as a retaliatory measure immediately put all the French officers in irons who had been taken in the war and were stationed there, and he sent a copy of the affidavit to Plymouth where there were numbers of French prisoners, and all of them were also put in irons. You will readily believe that the letters of complaint from Kinsale and Plymouth were very numerous.
By the time the Captain returned to St. Haloes a second time, public feeling was much excited against him, and he was summoned to appear before the Governor of Brest who wished to put him in prison, and even threatened to hang him. He made the most humble apologies, and was set at liberty only upon promising that he would convey Peter immediately to the place from whence he had taken him. Thus he was restored to our arms, and we have never paid the L70.
I went to Dublin with all my family except James, and it is unnecessary to say that we were in miserable plight.
I waited upon General Ingleby one of the Council, and he presented me at once with a warrant for L100, which was the more acceptable as it was altogether unexpected. He had applied for it as soon as he heard of my misfortunes, and that L100 was the sum demanded for my ransom. I had made the acquaintance of this valuable friend only two months before our disaster. He had been deputed by government to make a tour of observation along the south-west coast of Ireland to select the most suitable harbour upon which to erect a fortification. I went as far as Dunmannus, thirty six miles from home, to give him the meeting, and invite him to stay at my house when he came into our neighbourhood.
He accepted my invitation, and he, and his whole retinue remained with me three days, during which time I treated them as hospitably as I possibly could, making them welcome to the best the country afforded; and having had a little notice beforehand, we had had time to make preparation, and I was able to have a many as fourteen or fifteen different dishes on the table every day, and a great variety of wine. He has been one of my best friends from that day to this. You may here observe the hand of Providence which raised up for me beforehand this powerful friend against the day of need.
I determined to make Dublin my future residence, and to maintain my family by keeping a school for instruction in Latin, Greek, and French.
I found a house on St. Stephen's Green that I thought would answer our purpose extremely well. It was originally well built, but a good deal out of repair, owing to its having been long without tenant, and it had the reputation of being haunted by evil spirits. My wife and I, having no apprehension of disturbance from any unearthly visitants, were very glad to get this house upon lower terms in consequence of the prejudice that existed. I got a lease for ninety nine years at L10 per annum. It was forty feet square, had substantial stone walls, and all the carpenter's work was of oak, and it had a yard and garden three hundred feet in depth and the width of the house.
I was obliged to leave Dublin before taking possession of it, in order to prosecute my claim upon the county of Cork for the damage I had received at the hands of Irishmen in the French privateer. By law, the county is liable to make good all losses sustained by violence and robbery, provided the persons commilting the act are natives and not foreigners.
I had given due notice to the High Constable of the Barony, within the time limited by Act of Parliament, and all that now remained for me to do was to prove the facts to the satisfaction of the Grand Jury for the county of Cork. I took my son James, and two of the servants with me as witnesses, and I had no difficulty whatever in proving the robbery, and also that there were many Irishmen amongst the assailants. I presented an inventory of what I had lost, particularising those articles which had been carried away, and those which had been destroyed by fire.
No one was more active in my behalf than Captain Cox, the son of chancellor Cox whom I have named before as accompanying the Duke of Ormond to the south of Ireland. It happened that I had made him a present of a handsome watch only three days before the privateer attacked us. The watch was a good time-piece, but attracted his notice from a portrait of the late Queen, wife of James II, which was on the back of it, and as he admired it much I gladly availed myself of the opportunity of making him an acceptable present. I had received it in barter for some of my manufactures during our residence in England. When he heard of my losses he wished to return it, but I would not consent, for if I had not given it to him, the pirates would certainly have carried it off.
The Grand Jury, after examination, awarded me L800, to be paid by the county of Cork, in conformity with the Act of Parliament.
My wife had experienced some little annoyance during my absence from Dublin. It appeared that the house we had taken had been occupied by some beggars, who were allowed the use of it while it was untenanted, and my wife from the kindness of her nature did not turn them out of the house when she took possession of it. The first night neither she, nor the children, who were all in the room with her, could get any sleep for the constant noises that they heard in the house. These vagabonds were trying to frighten her as they had done many others who had thought to occupy the house, and had given it up again after hearing what they thought supernatural noises. She bore this patiently the first night, and believing she had discovered the secret, made her preparations accordingly for the second night.
She borrowed fire arms and swords, and calling the people before dark, she told them to be sure not to leave their rooms on any account when the noises recurred that night, because she had provided herself with arms, and that she and her sons intended to fire upon the evil spirit that made the disturbance, and therefore they would see the necessity of keeping out of the way for fear they might be killed by accident. As may be supposed the evil spirits were never heard more.
On my return from Cork I turned them all out of the house, and had it put into perfect repair, which, with some little alterations I made in it, did not cost me less than L450. In this house I have lived ever since, and have had a very good school, both day scholars and boarders, and I have been thus enabled to give my children an education inferior in no respect to that bestowed upon the first nobles in the land. They have had masters for writing, drawing, dancing and fencing; and with me they have prosecuted their studies in Latin, Greek, Geography, Mathematics and Fortification. I have never spared any expense in furnishing them with opportunities of improvement, girls as well as boys. My daughters, in addition to the more solid branches of education, have been instructed in drawing, and in every variety of ornamental needle-work.
Let us pause for a moment to reflect upon the mercies and loving kindness of our Heavenly Father, and our own short-sightedness. How distressing did it appear to lose at Bear Haven all the property for which I had toiled so many years, and the last mostly disastrous overthrow appeared particularly hard; yet, without it, I should never have been able to clear myself of debt, and I should have been obliged to remain at Bear Haven, and bring you all up in that desert, where it would have been absolutely impossible for me to have given you the excellent educations you have received in Dublin; and from this I wish you to arrive at the conclusion, that God knows what is good for us much better than we do ourselves. If this becomes your settled conviction, there is no language equal to describing the peace of mind that it will cause. For my own part, I endeavour to receive with perfect submission every dispensation from the hand of my Maker; even though I see nothing but poverty, sorrows, and afflictions, grievous to the flesh I can wait patiently his good time, for I know that in the end the result will be for the benefit of me and mine.
Here follows an incident quite to the purpose. General Ingleby, whose friendship was so great that he was always on the look out for something to benefit us, thought he had hit upon a plan that would be agreeable. He had received orders to send all the half pay officers that were in Ireland to Spain, and he entered the names of Peter and John upon the list without saying anything to us until he had done so. The boys were wild with joy at the idea of entering the army, and escaping from the drudgery of study.
I gave them very little recreation to be sure, except in the varieties of their employments. Latin and Greek were studies which they were obliged to attend to as tasks, and every thing else they learned, I endeavoured to make them consider as an indulgence and relaxation.
We thought it was a decided point, but behold Mr. Secretary Dawson was not so favorably inclined as General Ingleby, and he refused to make out their commissions, telling the General that he exceeded his powers in entering, upon the half-pay list, officers who had never served. The General was much chagrined at this unexpected obstacle, but he told us to have patience and perhaps he might yet have it in his power to serve us. The boys were grievously disappointed, I was not; for though I was unwilling to decline a thing that promised to be advantageous; at the same time I thought them full too young to venture from under the shelter of a parent's wing, and I also preferred their continuing longer at study.
The half-pay officers embarked at Cork, without them, to go to Plymouth, there to join the fleet for Spain. In the passage they were attacked by a French man of war, and though confessedly so inferior in size as not to warrant their resisting yet the officers of the army who were on board, being very numerous, would not consent to surrender, (though as mere passengers they should not have had a voice in the matter) and they fought with desperation till one half were killed, and almost all the rest wounded, and they had to surrender after all.
When the sad news reached us, I returned thanks to God with my whole heart for having refused to me and mine what had been so ardently desired. Oh! my dear children, learn to place your trust in that providence which will preserve you even in spite of yourselves, if you will only trust in it. What a comfort it is to be able to realise that we are under the especial care of so wise, and so powerful, and so benevolent a guide, one who only refuses to our prayers that which he knows would be prejudicial to us.
In the month of June, 1711, Peter was ready to enter college. Dr. Hall was his tutor, and with the greatest generosity and kindness he declined receiving any fee from him, and he did the same by Moses and Francis when they went to college; by which I consider he made us a present of L35 or L36, and in addition to this, he procured a chamber for them free of rent and charges, which would have amounted to about L27 more, and all this from pure benevolence and generosity, for we had never done any thing to deserve such kindness at his hands.
About this time, Lord Wharton being Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, an order was received to dispatch all the regiments that were in this country to Spain. In examining the troops it was found that a great many sons of officers had been entered who were mere children, therefore before sending them away, the Lord Lieutenant struck off without any exception all under sixteen years of age as being too young for service. He was a little too fond of money, and he availed himself of the vacancies he had created to add to his store by selling the commissions for money. John had set his heart upon being a soldier, and by the advice of General Ingleby I waited upon Lord Wharton to apply for a commission for him. I told him my circumstances did not allow my purchasing one. John also waited upon him and showed him some specimens of his military drawings. He was handsome, very well formed, and just seventeen years of age, and it appeared that he made a very agreeable impression upon his Lordship, who said it was a pity so fine a young man should not be put forward. I renewed my applications from time to time, and at last, on the eve of departure, some of the commissions not having found purchasers, General Ingleby used his interest and obtained an ensign's commision for John, without our having to pay any thing more than the fees of office. We equipped him very completely at an expense of L 75. He was in the regiment commanded by Colonel Shawe, a cruel, avaricious man, a drunkard, and a debauchee, and he always looked with an evil eye upon John, because he had obtained his commission through the favor of General Ingleby.
I leave John to tell his own story of his sufferings and mortifications under such a Colonel, and of the severe illness he had in Spain. I feel myself bound however to acknowledge in this place the great goodness of God in returning him to us safe and sound, and though he had received several wounds and had wounded others, being often obliged to put his hand to his sword, yet he had never killed any body. I bless God most especially for having preserved him amid dissolute companions, and scenes of temptation from acquiring any vicious habit, and I earnestly beseech him to continue his fatherly protection.
In June, 1712, Moses and Francis entered college with great approbation from all the professors.
Francis was very young, and small of his age, but had great talents, which he had most diligently cultivated, and he had sufficient confidence to bring all his acquirements into play. He was the admiration of the whole college as long as he remained there, which was seven years and a half.
I purchased an apartment in the college for the use of the three, and after painting, putting necessary articles of furniture into it, making closets &c, it stood me in L42. They always had the use of this apartment without interruption from any one else, even when the two older ones left college, and Francis was alone, I made interest that he should have no companion. My object we to avoid the possibility of their being corrupted by vicious companions, or drawn from study by idle ones, which very often happens to young persons whose characters are not firmly established. Thanks be to God they preserved their purity of manners, and holiness of life.
About two years afterwards, I entered Moses on the books of the Inns of Court at the Temple, London, because he intended to be a lawyer. He continued to study with great assiduity, and was very well endowed with talents, but he suffered a good deal from timidity. He went to London in 1715, and remained a year and some months, he then came home, and took his degree of Bachelor of Arts, for it was my wish that he should have it in his power to pursue the study of Theology, if he should hereafter find that he preferred it to law.
While Moses was in London, I went to the expense of entering Francis also at the Inns of Court, seeing that he was of a very quick and ready turn, with great fluency of language, I thought it more than probable he might choose the profession of a lawyer, but thanks be to God he has chosen to dedicate himself to His service, and to qualify himself for the Holy Ministry.
In November 1713, Captain Boulay; a French gentleman, a half-pay cavalry officer, with whom I had no acquaintance, called upon me to offer his grand-daughter in marriage to one of my sons. She was his sole descendant, her father and mother were both dead, and she was to inherit all his property. He said he had heard an excellent report of my sons that they had been well brought up, and conducted themselves on every occasion with propriety, and were free from the follies and vices of the age, and this made him wish to engage one of them as a protector for his grandchild when he should be laid low. He said he preferred their virtues without fortune, to the largest property unaccompanied by their piety and discretion. He was upwards of eighty years of age and his grand daughter was about thirteen.
I thanked him very much for the flattering terms in which he had made the proposal, and told him I thought the best plan would be for him to send her to us, as though she were a boarder, and then we might observe which of my sons liked her the best, and which of them she might feel a preference for.
This plan pleased him, and she came to us. She was of a very amiable temper, and good natural disposition, with fair talents, but had been extremely neglected in her education.
My sons consulted with each other, and Peter, by the advice of his brothers, determined to marry her.
Marriage articles were drawn up, and on the 29th March, 1714, they were married with great privacy, because Peter had not yet taken his degree of Bachelor of Arts.
About this time we began to turn our eyes towards America as a country that would be most suitable for the future residence of the family.
John, the officer, was without employment, and so it was determined that he should make a voyage to America, travel through every part where the climate was temperate, and purchase a plantation in such situation as he judged to be most favorable in all respects.
He landed in Massachusetts, and travelled through that province, and New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia, and came to the conclusion that the last named province possessed the greatest advantage. He purchased a plantation there, and also found a Parish or Benefice in the vicinity of his purchase which he thought would suit Peter, and wrote to him to that effect.
Captain Boulay died in March, 1715, which made Peter the owner of L1,000, and having taken his degree, he was ready to be ordained, and as soon as he had read John's letter, he went to London, and received ordination from the hands of the Bishop of London, who is also Bishop of all the British colonies.
In February or March, 1716 Moses took his wife to join him in London, and they embarked thence for Virginia, where they found John expecting them impatiently, and I have had the satisfaction of learning that they are very comfortably settled.
Moses remained in London studying law.
Francis was still at college and a very close student.
I was keeping school all the time, and had so great a number of scholars as to be able fully to meet my heavy expenditure for the maintenance of my family, and the education of my children.
I now felt that my sons were well able to provide for themselves, but I could not help feeling a little anxiety as to what might become of my wife and two daughters, in case it should please God to take me away from them. I had not been able to lay any thing up, in consequence of the heavy expenses I had incurred for the education of my children. At my death my pension would cease, and my school of course, and they would be destitute.
Lord Galway was now Lord Lieutenant of Ireland; and I applied to him to have my pension of five shillings a day transferred to my wife and daughters, one shilling to my wife, and two shillings each to my daughters. He granted me the favor, and my name was erased from the pension list, and their's entered in its place; by which I had a very narrow escape from losing it altogether, without my wife and children deriving any benefit from it.
Lord Galway's list was not approved in London, and many were deprived of their pensions under circumstances very similar to mine, but the same good providence which had so often befriended me was still watchful, and raised up for me friends in Parliament, who spoke so warmly in my behalf, when the subject came under discussion, that I was reinstated in my pension as before.
While this was going on, my eldest daughter Mary Anne was married, with the consent of the whole family, on the 20th October, 1716, to Matthew Maury, of Castel Mauron, Gascony, a very honest man, and a good manager, but without property. He had lived in Dublin about two years, and came thither from France as a Refugee.
James was the next who went to Virginia, he sailed with his wife and child, his mother-in-law, and thirteen servants in April 1717, and had a long and most disastrous voyage. The vessel sprung a leak, and they were obliged to pump twenty-six days and nights without ceasing. They arrived in safety at last, and John met them, and conducted them to a house he had provided, and he had been so considerate as to lay up grain ready for their use.
In the same year, my son-in-law, Mr. Maury, went to Virginia, and was so much pleased with the country that he took a portion of the land John had purchased, and prepared every thing for a future residence upon it, and returned for his wife and a son* that had been born to him during his absence. They left us in September, 1719.
*This infant son, afterwards the Rev. James Maury of Albemarle county, Virginia, was a highly estimable and useful clergyman of the Church of England. He has been mentioned by Mr. Wirt in his Life of Patrick Henry, in a manner scarcely justified by the circumstances of the case there recorded; for he brought an action on behalf of himself and his clerical brethren merely for the recovery of their lawful dues. To do away any unfavorable impression that record may have made, I cannot forbear inserting, in an Appendix, an extract from a confidential letter of his to a cousin in Great Britain, giving his views upon the Stamp Act. This letter is dated December, 1765, and shows the writer to have been a man of strong and vigorous understanding, wide awake to any thing like oppression, and ready to resist it. He died in 1768, and therefore did not see the struggle he appears to have foreseen.
In this year, Moses became disgusted with the law, his natural timidity was much against his succeeding in it, and he also had some scruples of conscience on the subject. I wished him exceedingly to study theology, but I could not prevail upon him, he said he was incapable of speaking in public, and had made up his mind to be an engraver, which I did not approve of, though, rather than thwart him, I consented to it. He is now settled in London, and I am told he is a good artist. It is very certain that he appeared to have a decided talent for drawing when he was instructed in the art as a boy. May the Lord bless and prosper him in an employment which he allowed him to desire so strongly.
John returned to London from Virginia, in May, 1719, and soon after came home to us, and remained rather more than a year, when he accompanied Francis to London. The latter, had been devoted to study from infancy, and had determined to be a preacher of the gospel, he had taken his degree of Master of Arts, and was well skilled in the Oriental languages, as well as in all the more usual branches of college education. The Archbishop of Dublin gave him a most particular letter of recommendation to the Bishop of London, from whom he received both Deacon's and Priest's orders, and many marks of kindness. He was married in London to Miss Mary Glanisson a young lady of French parentage, originally from Jonzac in Saintonge, and soon afterwards they sailed for Virginia. The Bishop of London gave him a letter of introduction to the Governor of Virginia.
When he arrived, he was so much admired by all who heard him preach, that many parishes were desirous of having him for their pastor, and he gained the esteem and friendship of all who came in contact with him. He is settled in St. Margaret's Parish, King William county, Virginia, where he is so much beloved that his parishioners have bestowed favors upon him such as no previous minister had received from them. I have lately had the gratification of hearing that God has given him a son.
John, becoming weary of passing his time without any settled occupation, has been learning the trade of a watchmaker from his cousin Peter Forestier, with whom he always boarded in London, and who was much famed for his repeating watches. By a late letter from John, I find he has begun to work on his own account, which I am pleased to hear, for it will make him independent, in case he should be deprived of the half-pay which he has hitherto received.
I have now, my dear children, given you a brief statement of the present condition of each one of you, and I hope that you will add your individual histories to this for the benefit of those who come after you.
My memoirs draw near a close. Your poor mother had suffered much from rheumatism for three years before John and Francis left us, this painful disorder continued to increase upon her till she was no longer able to go to Church, and then she was greatly depresscd in her spirits. At length, her complaint turned to dropsy, and she was unable to leave her bed, and on the 29th Janr. 1721, her sufferings were ended by death.
A melancholy day it was that deprived me of my greatest earthly comfort and consolation! I was bowed to the very dust, but it made me think of my own latter end, and make preparation to join her once more.
During her illness, our dear daughter Elizabeth supplied the place of all her brothers and sisters, (who had left her alone to comfort and sustain her aged parents) she took the greatest possible care of her mother, and never spared herself in any way, doing every thing that she thought would be acceptable and beneficial.
Though I was sadly overpowered by this great affliction, and much enfeebled, I continued to attend to my school till the month of September in the same year, when my health became so bad that I dismissed all my day scholars, as well as boarders, in order that I might have leisure to prepare for the great and awful change that I was assured could not be far distant, and it was my wish to withdraw from worldly care and die in peace.
After remaining some months in a deplorable state, suffering from constant low fever and other distressing symptoms, given over by my physicians, and without the least expectation on my own part of recovery, I was severely attacked with the gout, from which I had been free for eighteen months, and this new disorder drove away all others; the fever disappeared, my appetite returned, and I have continued ever since in tolerable health, though very feeble, finding it difficult to use my limbs and walking with great pain.
Your sister Elizabeth, all this time, has given me constant proofs of her tenderness and affection. She has never caused me the least pain except by her tears, which she has not at all times been able to restrain, and I have had some very anxious moments, fearing lest she should destroy her own health by her unceasing attention to me. She has taken bad colds occasionally, but God in his infinite mercy has preserved her to me, and I thank him for this very great consolation. I recommend this dear daughter most especially to your care and protection; you must remember, my dear children, that she is the one who has smoothed the downward path of life for her parents, and she has performed those tender offices which you all owed to them, but which your absence precluded you from performing.
I had written to John and Moses to tell them I would send these memoirs to them, that they might make a copy for their own use, before this was sent to Virginia. They answered, that they would much prefer retaining the copy written with my own hand, and sending that which they would write to Virginia, and this very natural wish of theirs has induced me to make this second copy.
God having prolonged my life and given me leisure, I have felt it my duty to do it, myself as well to gratify them as to save them trouble, and prevent their being taken from their profitable employments to write it, and I am sure those in Virginia will value this the more for being in my own hand-writing. I have copied it word for word from the other, and have finished it this 21st day of June, 1722, therefore, if by any accident one copy should be lost, the other may be referred to.
I feel the strongest conviction that if you will take care of these memoirs, your descendants will read them with pleasure, and I here declare that I have been most particular as to the truth of all that is herein recorded.
I hope God will bless the work, and that by his grace it may be a bond of union amongst you and your descendants, and that it may be a humble means of confirming you all in the fear of the Lord.
If our Heavenly Father, whose blessing I have implored, should vouchsafe to make use of it as an instrument for the advancement of His Glory, and your eternal welfare, I shall think myself more than recompensed for all my trouble.
I am, my dear children,
Your tender Father,
(Extract from a letter of the Rev. James Maury of Virginia, to Mr. John Fontaine, South Wales, Great Britain.)
December 31, 1765.
But what hath given a most general alarm to all the colonists upon this continent, and most of those in the islands, and struck us with the most universal consternation that ever seized a people so widely diffused, is a late Act of the British Parliament, subjecting us to a heavy tax by the imposition of stamp duties on all manner of papers requisite in trade, law or private dealings, on pamphlets, newspapers, almanacks, calenders, and even advertisements, &c. &c.; and ordaining, that the causes of delinquents against the Act, wheresoever such delinquents may reside, shall be cognizable and finally determinable by any court of admiralty upon the continent, to which either plaintiff or defendant shall think proper to appeal from the sentence either of the inferior courts of justice or the supreme. The execution of this Act was to have commenced on the first of the last month all over British America; but hath been, with an unprecedented unanimity, opposed and prevented by every province on the continent, and by all the islands, whence we have had any advices since that date. For this 'tis probable some may brand us with the odious name of rebels; and others may applaud us for that generous love of liberty, which we inherit from our glorious forefathers; while some few may prudently suspend their judgment, till they shall have heard what may be said on either side of the question. If the Parliament indeed have a right to impose taxes on the colonies, we are as absolute slaves as any in Asia, and consequently in a state of rebellion. If they have no such right, we are acting the noble and virtuous part, which every freeman and community of freemen hath a right, and is in duty bound to act. For my own part, I am not acquainted with all that may be said on the one part or the other, and therefore am in some sort obliged to suspend my judgment. But no arguments that have yet come in my way, have convinced me that the Parliament hath any such right. The advocates for the Act, I observe, have alleged both precedents and arguments in support of the Parliament's right of taxation over the colonies. The precedents alleged are two Acts of Parliament; one establishing a post-office in America; the other, making some regulations with regard to the British troops sent hither in the late war; which are so very dissimilar from what they have been alleged to support, and therefore so foreign from the point; that, instead of producing conviction, they really excite laughter. And of the arguments which I have seen urged in behalf of this, till now, unheard of claim, the chief seems to be but a bare ipse dixit, an unsupported assertion, that we, as British subjects, are virtually represented in the British Parliament, and consequently, obliged by all its acts. But, how some millions of people here (not a man of whom can, in consequence of his property here, either give a vote for sending a member to, or himself obtain a seat in, your House of Commons) can, in any sense, be said to be represented by that House, is utterly incomprehensible to an American understanding, or to any European understanding, I have yet met with, which hath breathed American air. That we are subject to the jurisdiction of Parliament in matters of government, that are of a nature purely external; subject too to such of its statues as are of a date prior to the first migration of our ancestors hither and to the first foundation of our government, is what seems to be generally granted amongst those I have conversed with. But taxation is an act of government, purely internal, in which (allowing us to be freemen) we conceive a British House of Commons and a Parliament of Paris have an equal right to intermeddle. We flatter ourselves with a notion that though we be subjects to Great Britain, and, we hope, as loyal as any others (and perhaps not less useful) we yet are freemen. All our charters declare (which we are not conscious of having ever forfeited) that all British subjects, dwelling and their children born here, shall have and enjoy all liberties, franchises, and immunities, to aIl intents and purposes, as if they had been abiding and born within the realm of England. And if these charters have not been legally forfeited, as we trust they have not, are we not entitled to all the rights and liberties of Britons? If we be, we cannot, one would think, consistently with the principles of the British government, as ascertained in Magna Charta, be taxable without our own consent. We also conceive that the consent of no freeholder in America hath been given, or can possibly be given, in any constitutional mode, either personally or vicariously to the Act in question, or to any other Act of taxation; because not a man of us, as possessor of American property, can, as was before observed, vote for a member, or himself become a member, in that august house, whence all money bills, as far as their jurisdiction extends, must take their rise. We moreover consider ourselves, if you will allow me the expression for want of a better, as a peculium of the crown. By charters from the crown that company was incorporated, which first planted us. By the crown were those charters afterwards revoked. By the crown too, we are told, all the grants of liberties, all the charters, which had passed from, the company during its existence, to the colony, were, upon the revocation of the company's charters and its dissolution, confirmed and ratified to us. Under the immediate protection, direction, and government of the crown have we been from that time to this. In short, thenceforward all the Acts of our Legislature; either have, or constitutionally ought to have, been transmitted to Great Britain and subjected to the royal judgment, either to be disallowed, or ratified, and confirmed by the ultimate sanction of the royal assent, previously to their having the force and validity of laws, without any parliamentary interposition in any manner or respect whatever. So that the king, not as a branch of the British Legislature, but as a sovereign lord and absolute proprietor of the colony, in conjunction with his commissioner the governor, his council of state and the people's representatives here, we suppose, form that aggregate Legislature, to the Acts of which alone, in all articles of internal government (of which taxation is a most important one) we owe obedience. To such alone, and to no other, have we paid obedience quite from our first establishment to this present day. And to such alone, in all such articles, particularly that of taxes, if I mistake not the sentiments of my countrymen, will they ever be disposed or prevailed on to pay obedience by any other argument than what some have called the ultima ratio regum: which may, for aught I know, be as convincing in matters of policy, as fire and faggot have been in those of religion. Besides all this, whenever the colony hath laboured under any grievance, which the branches of the Legislature here resident, could not redress; or hath found it necessary to crave any indulgence or enlargement of privileges and immunities; their application has been always made to the king. And it doth not appear to me, that ever they have made any application to Parliament, since king James the first took them out of the company's hands in 1624, on any occasion whatever, except once or twice, when it was apprehended some bills, depending in Parliament, would pass into Acts, which would be prejudicial to, their trade abroad, till they remonstrated against this Stamp Act. And indeed they have had very little encouragement to do so again, if what their agent hath told them be true; that their remonstrances against that bill (though as modest as could be expected from men, not sunk into the most abject slavery) were not so much as permitted to be heard. Such hath been the form of government, under which we have lived from the year 1621, when our government was thoroughly established by charter from the company, to this present date. This we think a succession of years, sufficient to establish that argument in support of our rights, had we no other, which is called prescription. For, during this whole period, no archives, records, or histories, that any here are acquainted with, or that any with you have cited, as far as I know, show, that ever the British Parliament attempted to tax us, or intermeddle in any matters, relative to our interior government, till the date of this unhappy Stamp Act. All these rather prove the contrary. Nay it appears, that some Acts, even under an arbitrary Stewartine reign sent over hither with Lord Culpepper, when he came as Governor, were, by his Lordship's instructions, previously to their execution, to be subjected to the consideration of our General Assembly, in order to obtain their consent. It further appears that they were so subjected and consented to by the Assembly, after the addition of two provisoes to one of them. In a word, it is indisputable, that, whenever the kings of Great Britain have wanted any aids either of men or money from this colony, the method of obtaining them hath been by letters requisitory, in the royal name, from a Secretary of State to the Governors, by whom those letters have been laid before the Assembly, who have levied the aids asked in such mode and by such ways and means, as they thought most effectual and least oppressive, of which they surely are the best judges. From all which premises the people of Virginia conclude, the Parliament hath no right to tax them. But, if they had, it is as steadfastly believed by most men here, as any article of their creed, that they have no right to deprive us of the inestimable privilege of being tried by juries. This unconstitutional stretch of authority they are certain it is not their duty to obey. The transition from subjecting us to be tried by courts of admirality in civil matters to military government is so very easy, that the thoughts of it reduce us almost to despair. For these reasons, amongst many others, the people of this colony would not allow the stamped papers to be distributed, and forced the stamp master to resign immediately on his arrival. These reasons convince them, that the moment they acquiesce under the Stamp Act they commence slaves. And the blood of their generous ancestors which flows in their veins, or some other cause, seems to have given them such an instinctive abhorrence of slavery, that, were we to judge from appearances they think any evil whatever more elegible than that. How the affair will end, God only knows! May his wise Providence prevent those tragedies, which my very heart even bleeds at the thoughts of! But, put the case (which is the most favourable supposition that can be put) that the colonies at last submit to the galling yoke, every friend to Great Britain must even there find cause to detest and execrate the Act. For the execution of it or of any other Act of Taxation will affect her in the tenderest points, her manufactures, trade, and naval power. The colonies were poor before the war. They are much more so since. Additional taxes must increase their poverty. The poorer they are, the less of your manufactures can they pay for and consume. The less demand there is for those manufactures, the more of your manufacturers must want bread. When we can no longer pay for your manufactures, we cannot go naked. Necessity will set us upon improving the natural advantanges of our soil and climate, and manufacturing the products of it, flax, hemp, wool and cotton, which are to be had here in great plenty as well as perfection. Besides, it is said, some eminent merchants in London have computed, that one third, others one fourth, of your exports are brought to the colonies; and have observed that those exports have greatly diminished since this Act hath been on the carpet. How just that computation or remark may be, I do not know. But this I know, that the orders for goods from Great Britain have greatly decreased, wherever I am acquainted, as well as the consumption of them, within these few months; that the number of wheels, looms &c. have increased to an amazing degree, and that only at one meeting in a neighbouring colony upwards of two hundred merchant are said to have bound themselves under most solemn engagements not to order any goods from Great Britain till that Act should be repealed. In short, necessity will force every man of us to employ his own labour and that of his slaves so as may best supply his needs; from which, I believe nothing but some dragoons at each manta door will prevent us. More need not be said to prove this detestable Act productive of the most direful mischief, not only to the children, but to the mother island. For my own part, whatever the event may be, I comfort myself with the reflection, that every thing here below is subject to the control of irresistible power, directed by unerring wisdom and infinite goodness. &c.