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while his protestant subjects lay bleeding through all his realm.. · The infinite value of an able statesman, in such an important crisis as this, might here be exemplified in the conduct of Michael de L'Hospital, who at this time, 1560, was promoted to the chancellorship : but our limits will not alow an enlargement. He was the most consummate politician that France ever employed. He had the wisdom of governing without the folly of discovering it, and all his actions were guided by that cool moderation, which always accompanies a superior knowledge of mankind. He was a concealed protestant of the most liberal sentiments, an entire friend to religious liberty, and it was his wise management that saved France. It was his fixed opinion, that FREE TOLERATION was sound policy. We must not wonder that rigid papists deemed him an atheist, while zealous, but mistaking, protestants pictured him carrying a torch behind him, to guide others, but not himself. The more a man resembles God, the more will his conduct be censured by ignorance, partiality, and pride! · The Duke of Guise, in order to please and strengthen his party, endeavored to establish an inquisition in France. The chancellor, being willing to parry a thrust, which he could not entirely avoid, was forced in May 1560, to agree to a severer edict than he could have wished to defeat the design. By this edict, the cognizance of the crime of heresy was taken from the secular judges, and given to the bishops alone. The calvinists complained of this, because it put them into the hands of their enemies : and although their Lordships condemned and burnt so many heretics, that their courts were justly called, chambres ardentes,* yet
• Burning courts, fire offices.
the zealous catholics thought them less eligible than an inquisition, after the manner of Spain.
Soon after the making of this edict, many families having been ruined by it, Admiral Coligny, in August 1560, presented a petition to the king, in the names of all the protestants in France, humbly praying that they might be allowed the free exercise of their religion. The king referred the matter to the parliament, who were to consult about it with the lords of his council. A warm debate ensued, and the catholics carried it against the protestants by three voices. It was resolved, that people should be obliged, either to conform to the old established church, or to quit the kingdom, with permission to sell their estates. The protestants argued, that in a point of such importance, it would be unreasonable, on account of three voices, to inflame all France with animosity and war: that the method of banishment was impossible to be executed : and that the obliging of those, who continued in France, to submit to the Romish religion, against their consciences, was an absurd attempt, and equal to an impossibility. The chancellor, and the protestant lords, used every effort to procure a toleration, while the catholic party urged the necessity of uniformity in religion. At length two of the bishops owned the necessity of reforming, pleaded strenuously for moderate measures, and proposed the deciding of these controversies in an assembly of the states, assisted by a national council, to be summoned at the latter end of the year. To this proposal the assembly agreed.
The court of Rome, having laid it down, as an indubitable maxim in church police, that an inquisition was the only support of the hierarchy, and dreading the consequences of allowing a nation to reform itself, was alarmed at this intelligence, and instantly sent a nuncio into France. His instructions were to prevent, if possible, the calling of a national council, and to promise the re-assembling of the general council of Trent. The protestants had been too often dupes to such artifices as these, and, being fully convinced of the futility of general councils, they refused to submit to the council of Trent now for several good reasons. The pope, they said, who assembled the council, was to be judge in his own cause: the council would be chiefly composed of Italian bishops, who were vassals of the pope as a secular prince, and sworn to him as a bishop and head of the church: the legates would pack a majority, and bribe the poor bishops to vote : each article would be first settled at Rome, and then proposed by the legates to the council ; the emperor, by advice of the late council of Constance, had given a safe conduct to John Huss, and to Jerom of Prague, however, when they appeared in the council, and proposed their doubts, the council condemned them to be burnt. The protestants had reason on their side, when they rejected this method of reforming, for the art of proeuring a majority of votes is the soul of this system of church-government. This art consists in the ingenuity of finding out, and in the dexterity of addressing each man's weak side, his pride or his ignorance, his envy, his gravity, or his avarice: and the possessing of this is the perfection of a legate of Rome.
During these disputes, the king died without issue, December 5, 1560, and his brother Charles IX. who was in the eleventh year of his age, succeeded him, December 13. The states met at the time proposed. The chancellor opened the session by an unanswerable speech on the ill policy of persecution; he represented the miseries of the pro
testants, and proposed an abatement of their sufferings, till their complaints could be heard in a national council. The prince of Conde, and the king of Navarre, were the heads of the protestant party ; the Guises were the heads of their opponents; and the queen-mother, Catharine of Medicis, who had obtained the regency till the king's majority, and who began to dread the power of the Guises, leaned to the protestants, which was a grand event in their favor. After repeated meetings, and various warm debates, it was agreed, as one side would not submit to a general council, nor the other to a national assembly, that a conference should be held at Poissy, July, 1561, between both parties, and an edict was made, that no person should molest the protestants, that the imprisoned should be released, and the exiles called home,
The conference at Poissy was held, August 1561, in the presence of the king, the princes of the blood, the nobility, cardinals, prelates, and grandees of both parties. On the popish side, six cardinals, four bishops, and several dignified clergymen, and on the protestant about twelve of the most famous reformed ministers, managed the dispute. Beza, who spoke well, knew the world, had a ready wit, and a deal of learning, displayed all his powers in fayor of the reformation. The papists reasoned, where they could, and, where they could not, they railed. The conference ended September 29, where most public disputes have ended, that is, where they began ; for great men never enter these lists without a previous determination not to submit to the disgrace of a public defeat.
At the close of the last reign the ruin of protestantism seemed inevitable; but now the reformation turned like a tide, overspread every place, and seemed to roll away all opposition, and in all pro
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bability, had it not been for one sad event, it would now have subverted popery in this kingdom. The king of Navarre, who was now lieutenant general of France, had hitherto been a zealous protestant, he had taken incredible pains to support the reformation, and had assured the Danish ambassador that, in a year's time, he would cause the true gospel to be preached throughout France. The Guises caballed with the pope and the king of Spain, and offered to invest the king of Navarre with the kingdom of Sardinia, and to restore to him that part of the kingdom of Navarre, which lay in Spain, on condition of his renouncing protestantism. The lure was tempting, and the king deserted, and even persecuted, the protestants. Providence is never at a loss for means to affect its designs. The queen of Navarre, daughter of the last queen, who had hitherto preferred a dance before a sermon, was shocked at the king's conduct, and instantly be. came a zealous protestant herself. She met with some unkind treatment, but nothing could shake her resolution; Had I, said she, the kingdoms in my hand, I would throw them into the sea rather. than defile my conscience by going to Mass. This courageous profession saved her a deal of trouble and dispute!
The protestants began now to appear more publicly than before. The queen of Navarre caused Beza openly to solemnize a marriage in a noble family, after the Genevan manner. This, which was consummated near the court, emboldened the ministers, and they preached at the countess de Senignan's, guarded by the marshal's provosts. · The nobility thought that the common people had as good a right to hear the gospel as themselves, and caused the reformed clergy to preach without the walls of Paris. Their auditors were thirty or for