At length Louis XIV, bowed beneath the weight of a reign of sixty years, was summoned in his turn to appear before God, from whom, as some said, he looked for reward, and others for pardon. But Nimes, that city with the heart of fire, was quiet; like the wounded who have lost the best part of their blood, she thought only, with the egotism of a convalescent, of being left in peace to regain the strength which had become exhausted through the terrible wounds which Montrevel and the Duke of Berwick had dealt her. For sixty years petty ambition had taken the place of sublime self-sacrifice, and disputes about etiquette succeeded mortal combats. Then the philosophic era dawned, and the sarcasms of the encyclopedists withered the monarchical intolerance of Louis XIV and Charles IX. Thereupon the Protestants resumed their preaching, baptized their children and buried their dead, commerce flourished once more, and the two religions lived side by side, one concealing under a peaceful exterior the memory of its martyrs, the other the memory of its triumphs. Such was the mood on which the blood-red orb of the sun of '89 rose. The Protestants greeted it with cries of joy, and indeed the promised liberty gave them back their country, their civil rights, and the status of French citizens.
Nevertheless, whatever were the hopes of one party or the fears of the other, nothing had as yet occurred to disturb the prevailing tranquillity, when, on the 19th and 20th of July, 1789, a body of troops was formed in the capital of La Gard which was to bear the name of the Nimes Militia: the resolution which authorised this act was passed by the citizens of the three orders sitting in the hall of the palace.
It was as follows:--
"Article 10. The Nimes Legion shall consist of a colonel, a lieutenant-colonel, a major, a lieutenant-major, an adjutant, twenty-four captains, twenty-four lieutenants, seventy-two sergeants, seventy-two corporals, and eleven hundred and fifty-two privates--in all, thirteen hundred and forty-nine men, forming eighty companies.The Nimes Militia was deliberately formed upon certain lines which brought Catholics and Protestants closely together as allies, with weapons in their hands; but they stood over a mine which was bound to explode some day, as the slightest friction between the two parties would produce a spark.
"Article 11. The place of general assembly shall be, the Esplanade.
"Article 12. The eighty companies shall be attached to the four quarters of the town mentioned below--viz., place de l'Hotel-de-Ville, place de la Maison-Carree, place Saint-Jean, and place du Chateau.
"Article 13. The companies as they are formed by the permanent council shall each choose its own captain, lieutenant, sergeants and corporals, and from the date of his nomination the captain shall have a seat on the permanent council."
This state of concealed enmity lasted for nearly a year, being augmented by political antipathies; for the Protestants almost to man were Republicans, and the Catholics Royalists.
In the interval--that is to say, towards January, 1790--a Catholic called Francois Froment was entrusted by the Marquis de Foucault with the task of raising, organising, and commanding a Royalist party in the South. This we learn from one of his own letters to the marquis, which was printed in Paris in 1817. He describes his mode of action in the following words:--
It is not difficult to understand that being faithful to my religion and my king, and shocked at the seditious ideas which were disseminated on all sides, I should try to inspire others with the same spirit with which I myself was animated, so, during the year 1789, I published several articles in which I exposed the dangers which threatened altar and throne. Struck with the justice of my criticisms, my countrymen displayed the most zealous ardor in their efforts to restore to the king the full exercise of all his rights. Being anxious to take advantage of this favourable state of feeling, and thinking that it would be dangerous to hold communication with the ministers of Louis XVI, who were watched by the conspirators, I went secretly to Turin to solicit the approbation and support of the French princes there. At a consultation which was held just after my arrival, I showed them that if they would arm not only the partisans of the throne, but those of the altar, and advance the interests of religion while advancing the interests of royalty, it would be easy to save both.
"My plan had for sole object to bind a party together, and give it as far as I was able breadth and stability.
"As the revolutionists placed their chief dependence on force, I felt that they could only be met by force; for then as now I was convinced of this great truth, that one strong passion can only be overcome by another stronger, and that therefore republican fanaticism could only be driven out by religious zeal.
"The princes being convinced of the correctness of my reasoning and the efficacy of my remedies, promised me the arms and supplies necessary to stem the tide of faction, and the Comte d'Artois gave me letters of recommendation to the chief nobles in Upper Languedoc, that I might concert measures with them; for the nobles in that part of the country had assembled at Toulouse to deliberate on the best way of inducing the other Orders to unite in restoring to the Catholic religion its useful influence, to the laws their power, and to the king his liberty and authority.
"On my return to Languedoc, I went from town to town in order to meet those gentlemen to whom the Comte d'Artois had written, among whom were many of the most influential Royalists and some members of the States of Parliament. Having decided on a general plan, and agreed on a method of carrying on secret correspondence with each other, I went to Nimes to wait for the assistance which I had been promised from Turin, but which I never received. While waiting, I devoted myself to awakening and sustaining the zeal of the inhabitants, who at my suggestion, on the 20th April, passed a resolution, which was signed by 5,000 inhabitants."
This resolution, which was at once a religious and political manifesto, was drafted by Viala, M. Froment's secretary, and it lay for signature in his office. Many of the Catholics signed it without even reading it, for there was a short paragraph prefixed to the document which contained all the information they seemed to desire.
"GENTLEMEN,--The aspirations of a great number of our Catholic and patriotic fellow-citizens are expressed in the resolution which we have the honour of laying before you. They felt that under present circumstances such a resolution was necessary, and they feel convinced that if you give it your support, as they do not doubt you will, knowing your patriotism, your religious zeal, and your love for our august sovereign, it will conduce to the happiness of France, the maintenance of the true religion, and the rightful authority of the king.
"We are, gentlemen, with respect, your very humble and obedient servants, the President and Commissioners of the Catholic Assembly of Nimes.
"FROMENT, Commissioner LAPIERRE, President FOLACHER, " LEVELUT, Commissioner FAURE, MELCHIOND, " ROBIN, " VIGNE, " "
At the same time a number of pamphlets, entitled Pierre Roman to the Catholics of Nines, were distributed to the people in the streets, containing among other attacks on the Protestants the following passages:
"If the door to high positions and civil and military honours were closed to the Protestants, and a powerful tribunal established at Nimes to see that this rule were strictly kept, you would soon see Protestantism disappear.
"The Protestants demand to share all the privileges which you enjoy, but if you grant them this, their one thought will then be to dispossess you entirely, and they will soon succeed.
"Like ungrateful vipers, who in a torpid state were harmless, they will when warmed by your benefits turn and kill you.
"They are your born enemies: your fathers only escaped as by a miracle from their blood-stained hands. Have you not often heard of the cruelties practised on them? It was a slight thing when the Protestants inflicted death alone, unaccompanied by the most horrible tortures. Such as they were such they are."
It may easily be imagined that such attacks soon embittered minds already disposed to find new causes for the old hatred, and besides the Catholics did not long confine themselves to resolutions and pamphlets. Froment, who had already got himself appointed Receiver-General of the Chapter and captain of one of the Catholic companies, insisted on being present at the installation of the Town Council, and brought his company with him armed with pitchforks, in spite of the express prohibition of the colonel of the legion. These forks were terrible weapons, and had been fabricated in a particular form for the Catholics of Nimes, Uzes, and Alais. But Froment and his company paid no attention to the prohibition, and this disobedience made a great impression on the Protestants, who began to divine the hostility of their adversaries, and it is very possible that if the new Town Council had not shut their eyes to this act of insubordination, civil war might have burst forth in Nimes that very day.
The next day, at roll-call, a sergeant of another company, one Allien, a cooper by trade, taunted one of the men with having carried a pitchfork the day before, in disobedience to orders. He replied that the mayor had permitted him to carry it; Allien not believing this, proposed to some of the men to go with him to the mayor's and ask if it were true. When they saw M. Marguerite, he said that he had permitted nothing of the kind, and sent the delinquent to prison. Half an hour later, however, he gave orders for his release.
As soon as he was free he set off to find his comrades, and told them what had occurred: they, considering that an insult to one was an insult to the whole company, determined on having satisfaction at once, so about eleven o'clock P.M. they went to the cooper's house, carrying with them a gallows and ropes ready greased. But quietly as they approached, Allien heard them, for his door being bolted from within had to be forced. Looking out of the window, he saw a great crowd, and as he suspected that his life was in danger, he got out of a back window into the yard and so escaped. The militia being thus disappointed, wreaked their vengeance on some passing Protestants, whose unlucky stars had led them that way; these they knocked about, and even stabbed one of them three times with a knife.
On the 22nd April, 1790, the royalists--that is to say, the Catholics--assumed the white cockade, although it was no longer the national emblem, and on the 1st May some of the militia who had planted a maypole at the mayor's door were invited to lunch with him. On the 2nd, the company which was on guard at the mayor's official residence shouted several times during the day, "Long live the king! Up with the Cross and down with the black throats!" (This was the name which they had given to the Calvinists.) "Three cheers for the white cockade! Before we are done, it will be red with the blood of the Protestants!" However, on the 5th of May they ceased to wear it, replacing it by a scarlet tuft, which in their patois they called the red pouf, which was immediately adopted as the Catholic emblem.
Each day as it passed brought forth fresh brawls and provocations: libels were invented by the Capuchins, and spread abroad by three of their number. Meetings were held every day, and at last became so numerous that the town authorities called in the aid of the militia-dragoons to disperse them. Now these gatherings consisted chiefly of those tillers of the soil who are called cebets, from a Provencal word cebe, which means "onion," and they could easily be recognised as Catholics by their red pouf, which they wore both in and out of uniform. On the other hand, the dragoons were all Protestants.
However, these latter were so very gentle in their admonitions, that although the two parties found themselves, so to speak, constantly face to face and armed, for several days the meetings were dispersed without bloodshed. But this was exactly what the cebets did not want, so they began to insult the dragoons and turn them into ridicule. Consequently, one morning they gathered together in great numbers, mounted on asses, and with drawn swords began to patrol the city.
At the same time, the lower classes, who were nearly all Catholics, joined the burlesque patrols in complaining loudly of the dragoons, some saying that their horses had trampled on their children, and others that they had frightened their wives.
The Protestants contradicted them, both parties grew angry, swords were half drawn, when the municipal authorities came on the scene, and instead of apprehending the ringleaders, forbade the dragoons to patrol the town any more, ordering them in future to do nothing more than send twenty men every day to mount guard at the episcopal palace and to undertake no other duty except at the express request of the Town Council. Although it was expected that the dragoons would revolt against such a humiliation, they submitted, which was a great disappointment to the cebets, who had been longing for a chance to indulge in new outrages. For all that, the Catholics did not consider themselves beaten; they felt sure of being able to find some other way of driving their quarry to bay.
Sunday, the 13th of June, arrived. This day had been selected by the Catholics for a great demonstration. Towards ten o'clock in the morning, some companies wearing the red tuft, under pretext of going to mass, marched through the city armed and uttering threats. The few dragoons, on the other hand, who were on guard at the palace, had not even a sentinel posted, and had only five muskets in the guard-house. At two o'clock P.M. there was a meeting held in the Jacobin church, consisting almost exclusively of militia wearing the red tuft. The mayor pronounced a panegyric on those who wore it, and was followed by Pierre Froment, who explained his mission in much the same words as those quoted above. He then ordered a cask of wine to be broached and distributed among the cebets, and told them to walk about the streets in threes, and to disarm all the dragoons whom they might meet away from their post. About six o'clock in the evening a red-tuft volunteer presented himself at the gate of the palace, and ordered the porter to sweep the courtyard, saying that the volunteers were going to get up a ball for the dragoons. After this piece of bravado he went away, and in a few moments a note arrived, couched in the following terms:
"The bishop's porter is warned to let no dragoon on horse or on foot enter or leave the palace this evening, on pain of death.
"13th June 1790."
This note being brought to the lieutenant, he came out, and reminded the volunteer that nobody but the town authorities could give orders to the servants at the palace. The volunteer gave an insolent answer, the lieutenant advised him to go away quietly, threatening if he did not to put him out by force. This altercation attracted a great many of the red-tufts from outside, while the dragoons, hearing the noise, came down into the yard; the quarrel became more lively, stones were thrown, the call to arms was heard, and in a few moments about forty cebets, who were prowling around in the neighbourhood of the palace, rushed into the yard carrying guns and swords. The lieutenant, who had only about a dozen dragoons at his back, ordered the bugle to sound, to recall those who had gone out; the volunteers threw themselves upon the bugler, dragged his instrument from his hands, and broke it to pieces. Then several shots were fired by the militia, the dragoons returned them, and a regular battle began. The lieutenant soon saw that this was no mere street row, but a deliberate rising planned beforehand, and realising that very serious consequences were likely to ensue, he sent a dragoon to the town hall by a back way to give notice to the authorities.
M. de Saint-Pons, major of the Nimes legion, hearing some noise outside, opened his window, and found the whole city in a tumult: people were running in every direction, and shouting as they ran that the dragoons were being killed at the palace. The major rushed out into the streets at once, gathered together a dozen to fifteen patriotic citizens without weapons, and hurried to the town hall: There he found two officials of the town, and begged them to go at once to the place de l'Eveche, escorted by the first company, which was on guard at the town hall. They agreed, and set off. On the way several shots were fired at them, but no one was hit. When they arrived at the square, the cebets fired a volley at them with the same negative result. Up the three principal streets which led to the palace numerous red-tufts were hurrying; the first company took possession of the ends of the streets, and being fired at returned the fire, repulsing the assailants and clearing the square, with the loss of one of their men, while several of the retreating cebets were wounded.
While this struggle was going on at the palace, the spirit of murder broke loose in the town.
At the gate of the Madeleine, M. de Jalabert's house was broken into by the red-tufts; the unfortunate old man came out to meet them and asked what they wanted. "Your life and the lives of all the other dogs of Protestants!" was the reply. Whereupon he was seized and dragged through the streets, fifteen insurgents hacking at him with their swords.
At last he managed to escape from their hands, but died two days later of his wounds.
Another old man named Astruc, who was bowed beneath the weight of seventy-two years and whose white hair covered his shoulders, was met as he was on his way to the gate of Carmes. Being recognised as a Protestant, he received five wounds from some of the famous pitchforks belonging to the company of Froment. He fell, but the assassins picked him up, and throwing him into the moat, amused themselves by flinging stones at him, till one of them, with more humanity than his fellows, put a bullet through his head.
Three electors--M. Massador from near Beaucaire, M. Vialla from the canton of Lasalle, and M. Puech of the same place-were attacked by red-tufts on their way home, and all three seriously wounded. The captain who had been in command of the detachment on guard at the Electoral Assembly was returning to his quarters, accompanied by a sergeant and three volunteers of his own company, when they were stopped on the Petit-Cours by Froment, commonly called Damblay, who, pressing the barrel of a pistol to the captain's breast, said, "Stand, you rascal, and give up your arms." At the same time the red-tufts, seizing the captain from behind by the hair, pulled him down. Froment fired his pistol, but missed. As he fell the captain drew his sword, but it was torn from his hands, and he received a cut from Froment's sword. Upon this the captain made a great effort, and getting one of his arms free, drew a pistol from his pocket, drove back his assassins, fired at Froment, and missed him. One of the men by his side was wounded and disarmed.
A patrol of the regiment of Guienne, attached to which was M. Boudon, a dragoon officer, was passing the Calquieres. M. Boudon was attacked by a band of red-tufts and his casque and his musket carried off. Several shots were fired at him, but none of them hit him; the patrol surrounded him to save him, but as he had received two bayonet wounds, he desired revenge, and, breaking through his protectors, darted forward to regain possession of his musket, and was killed in a moment. One of his fingers was cut off to get at a diamond ring which he wore, his pockets were rifled of his purse and watch, and his body was thrown into the moat.
Meantime the place-des-Recollets, the Cours, the place-des-Carmes, the Grand-Rue, and rue de Notre Dame-de-l'Esplanade were filled with men armed with guns, pitchforks, and swords. They had all come from Froment's house, which overlooked that part of Nimes called Les Calquieres, and the entrance to which was on the ramparts near the Dominican Towers. The three leaders of the insurrection--Froment. Folacher, and Descombiez--took possession of these towers, which formed a part of the old castle; from this position the Catholics could sweep the entire quay of Les Calquieres and the steps of the Salle de Spectacle with their guns, and if it should turn out that the insurrection they had excited did not attain the dimensions they expected nor gain such enthusiastic adherents, it would be quite feasible for them to defend themselves in such a position until relief came.
These arrangements were either the result of long meditation or were the inspiration of some clever strategist. The fact is that everything leads one to believe that it was a plan which had been formed with great care, for the rapidity with which all the approaches to the fortress were lined with a double row of militiamen all wearing the red tuft, the care which was taken to place the most eager next the barracks in which the park of artillery was stationed, and lastly, the manner in which the approach to the citadel was barred by an entire company (this being the only place where the patriots could procure arms), combine to prove that this plan was the result of much forethought; for, while it appeared to be only defensive, it enabled the insurrectionists to attack without much, danger; it caused others to believe that they had been first attacked. It was successfully carried out before the citizens were armed, and until then only a part of the foot guard and the twelve dragoons at the palace had offered any resistance to the conspirators.
The red flag round which, in case of civil war, all good citizens were expected to gather, and which was kept at the town hall, and which should have been brought out at the first shot, was now loudly called for. The Abbe de Belmont, a canon, vicar-general, and municipal official, was persuaded, almost forced, to become standard-bearer, as being the most likely on account of his ecclesiastical position to awe rebels who had taken up arms in the name of religion. The abbe himself gives the following account of the manner in which he fulfilled this mandate:
"About seven o'clock in the evening I was engaged with MM. Porthier and Ferrand in auditing accounts, when we heard a noise in the court, and going out on the lobby, we saw several dragoons coming upstairs, amongst whom was M. Paris. They told us that fighting was going on in the place de-l'Eveche, because some one or other had brought a note to the porter ordering him to admit no more dragoons to the palace on pain of death. At this point I interrupted their story by asking why the gates had not been closed and the bearer of the letter arrested, but they replied to me that it had not been possible; thereupon MM. Ferrand and Ponthier put on their scarfs and went out.
"A few instants later several dragoons, amongst whom I recognised none but MM. Lezan du Pontet, Paris junior, and Boudon, accompanied by a great number of the militia, entered, demanding that the red flag should be brought out. They tried to open the door of the council hall, and finding it locked, they called upon me for the key. I asked that one of the attendants should be sent for, but they were all out; then I went to the hall-porter to see if he knew where the key was. He said M. Berding had taken it. Meanwhile, just as the volunteers were about to force an entrance, someone ran up with the key. The door was opened, and the red flag seized and forced into my hands. I was then dragged down into the courtyard, and from thence to the square.
"It was all in vain to tell them that they ought first to get authority, and to represent to them that I was no suitable standard-bearer on account of my profession; but they would not listen to any objection, saying that my life depended upon my obedience, and that my profession would overawe the disturbers of the public peace. So I went on, followed by a detachment of the Guienne regiment, part of the first company of the legion, and several dragoons; a young man with fixed bayonet kept always at my side. Rage was depicted on the faces of all those who accompanied me, and they indulged in oaths and threats, to which I paid no attention.
"In passing through the rue des Greffes they complained that I did not carry the red flag high enough nor unfurl it fully. When we got to the guardhouse at the Crown Gate, the guard turned out, and the officer was commanded to follow us with his men. He replied that he could not do that without a written order from a member of the Town Council. Thereupon those around me told me I must write such an order, but I asked for a pen and ink; everybody was furious because I had none with me. So offensive were the remarks indulged in by the volunteers and some soldiers of the Guienne regiment, and so threatening their gestures, that I grew alarmed. I was hustled and even received several blows; but at length M. de Boudon brought me paper and a pen, and I wrote:--'I require the troops to assist us to maintain order by force if necessary.' Upon this, the officer consented to accompany us. We had hardly taken half a dozen steps when they all began to ask what had become of the order I had just written, for it could not be found. They surrounded me, saying that I had not written it at all, and I was on the point of being trampled underfoot, when a militiaman found it all crumpled up in his pocket. The threats grew louder, and once more it was because I did not carry the flag high enough, everyone insisting that I was quite tall enough to display it to better advantage.
"However, at this point the militiamen with the red tufts made their appearance, a few armed with muskets but the greater number with swords; shots were exchanged, and the soldiers of the line and the National Guard arranged themselves in battle order, in a kind of recess, and desired me to go forward alone, which I refused to do, because I should have been between two fires.
"Upon this, curses, threats, and blows reached their height. I was dragged out before the troops and struck with the butt ends of their muskets and the flat of their swords until I advanced. One blow that I received between the shoulders filled my mouth with blood.
"All this time those of the opposite party were coming nearer, and those with whom I was continued to yell at me to go on. I went on until I met them. I besought them to retire, even throwing myself at their feet. But all persuasion was in vain; they swept me along with them, making me enter by the Carmelite Gate, where they took the flag from me and allowed me to enter the house of a woman whose name I have never known. I was spitting such a quantity of blood that she took pity on me and brought me everything she could think of as likely to do me good, and as soon as I was a little revived I asked to be shown the way to M. Ponthier's."
While Abbe de Belmont was carrying the red flag the militia forced the Town Councillors to proclaim martial law. This had just been done when word was brought that the first red flag had been carried off, so M. Ferrand de Missol got out another, and, followed by a considerable escort, took the same road as his colleague, Abbe de Belmont. When he arrived at the Calquieres, the red-tufts, who still adorned the ramparts and towers, began to fire upon the procession, and one of the militia was disabled; the escort retreated, but M. Ferrand advanced alone to the Carmelite Gate, like M. de Belmont, and like him, he too, was taken prisoner.
He was brought to the tower, where he found Froment in a fury, declaring that the Council had not kept its promise, having sent no relief, and having delayed to give up the citadel to him.
The escort, however, had only retreated in order to seek help; they rushed tumultuously to the barracks, and finding the regiment of Guienne drawn up in marching order in command of Lieutenant-Colonel Bonne, they asked him to follow them, but he refused without a written order from a Town Councillor. Upon this an old corporal shouted, "Brave soldiers of Guienne! the country is in danger, let us not delay to do our duty." "Yes, yes," cried the soldiers; "let us march" The lieutenant colonel no longer daring to resist, gave the word of command, and they set off for the Esplanade.
As they came near the rampart with drums beating, the firing ceased, but as night was coming on the new-comers did not dare to risk attacking, and moreover the silence of the guns led them to think that the rebels had given up their enterprise. Having remained an hour in the square, the troops returned to their quarters, and the patriots went to pass the night in an inclosure on the Montpellier road.
It almost seemed as if the Catholics were beginning to recognise the futility of their plot; for although they had appealed to fanaticism, forced the Town Council to do their will, scattered gold lavishly and made wine flow, out of eighteen companies only three had joined them. "Fifteen companies," said M. Alquier in his report to the National Assembly, "although they had adopted the red tuft, took no part in the struggle, and did not add to the number of crimes committed either on that day or during the days that followed. But although the Catholics gained few partisans among their fellow-citizens, they felt certain that people from the country would rally to their aid; but about ten o'clock in the evening the rebel ringleaders, seeing that no help arrived from that quarter either, resolved to apply a stimulus to those without. Consequently, Froment wrote the following letter to M. de Bonzols, under-commandant of the province of Languedoc, who was living at Lunel:
"SIR, Up to the present all my demands, that the Catholic companies should be put under arms, have been of no avail. In spite of the order that you gave at my request, the officials of the municipality were of opinion that it would be more prudent to delay the distribution of the muskets until after the meeting of the Electoral Assembly. This day the Protestant dragoons have attacked and killed several of our unarmed Catholics, and you may imagine the confusion and alarm that prevail in the town. As a good citizen and a true patriot, I entreat you to send an order to the regiment of royal dragoons to repair at once to Nimes to restore tranquillity and put down all who break the peace. The Town Council does not meet, none of them dares to leave his house; and if you receive no requisition from them just now, it is because they go in terror of their lives and fear to appear openly. Two red flags have been carried about the streets, and municipal officers without guards have been obliged to take refuge in patriotic houses. Although I am only a private citizen, I take the liberty of asking for aid from you, knowing that the Protestants have sent to La Vannage and La Gardonninque to ask you for reinforcements, and the arrival of fanatics from these districts would expose all good patriots to slaughter. Knowing as I do of your kindness and justice, I have full trust that my prayer will receive your favourable attention.
"FROMENT, Captain of Company No. 39
"June 13, 1790, 11 o'c. p.m."
Unfortunately for the Catholic party, Dupre and Lieutaud, to whom this letter was entrusted for delivery, and for whom passports were made out as being employed on business connected with the king and the State, were arrested at Vehaud, and their despatches laid before the Electoral Assembly. Many other letters of the same kind were also intercepted, and the red-tufts went about the town saying that the Catholics of Nimes were being massacred.
The priest of Courbessac, among others, was shown a letter saying that a Capuchin monk had been murdered, and that the Catholics were in need of help. The agents who brought this letter to him wanted him to put his name to it that they might show it everywhere, but were met by a positive refusal.
At Bouillargues and Manduel the tocsin was sounded: the two villages joined forces, and with weapons in their hands marched along the road from Beaucaire to Nimes. At the bridge of Quart the villagers of Redressan and Marguerite joined them. Thus reinforced, they were able to bar the way to all who passed and subject them to examination; if a man could show he was a Catholic, he was allowed to proceed, but the Protestants were murdered then and there. We may remind our readers that the "Cadets de la Croix" pursued the same method in 1704.
Meantime Descombiez, Froment, and Folacher remained masters of the ramparts and the tower, and when very early one morning their forces were augmented by the insurgents from the villages (about two hundred men), they took advantage of their strength to force a way into the house of a certain Therond, from which it was easy to effect an entrance to the Jacobin monastery, and from there to the tower adjoining, so that their line now extended from the gate at the bridge of Calquieres to that at the end of College Street. From daylight to dusk all the patriots who came within range were fired at whether they were armed or not.
On the 14th June, at four o'clock in the morning, that part of the legion which was against the Catholics gathered together in the square of the Esplanade, where they were joined by the patriots from the adjacent towns and villages, who came in in small parties till they formed quite an army. At five A.M. M. de St. Pons, knowing that the windows of the Capuchin monastery commanded the position taken up by the patriots, went there with a company and searched the house thoroughly, and also the Amphitheatre, but found nothing suspicious in either.
Immediately after, news was heard of the massacres that had taken place during the night.
The country-house belonging to M. and Mme. Noguies had been broken into, the furniture destroyed, the owners killed in their beds, and an old man of seventy who lived with them cut to pieces with a scythe.
A young fellow of fifteen, named Payre, in passing near the guard placed at the Pont des files, had been asked by a red-tuft if he were Catholic or Protestant. On his replying he was Protestant, he was shot dead on the spot. "That was like killing a lamb," said a comrade to the murderer. "Pooh!" said he, "I have taken a vow to kill four Protestants, and he may pass for one."
M. Maigre, an old man of eighty-two, head of one of the most respected families in the neighbourhood, tried to escape from his house along with his son, his daughter-in-law, two grandchildren, and two servants; but the carriage was stopped, and while the rebels were murdering him and his son, the mother and her two children succeeded in escaping to an inn, whither the assassins pursued them, Fortunately, however, the two fugitives having a start, reached the inn a few minutes before their pursuers, and the innkeeper had enough presence of mind to conceal them and open the garden gate by which he said they had escaped. The Catholics, believing him, scattered over the country to look for them, and during their absence the mother and children were rescued by the mounted patrol.
The exasperation of the Protestants rose higher and higher as reports of these murders came in one by one, till at last the desire for vengeance could no longer be repressed, and they were clamorously insisting on being led against the ramparts and the towers, when without warning a heavy fusillade began from the windows and the clock tower of the Capuchin monastery. M. Massin, a municipal officer, was killed on the spot, a sapper fatally wounded, and twenty-five of the National Guard wounded more or less severely. The Protestants immediately rushed towards the monastery in a disorderly mass; but the superior, instead of ordering the gates to be opened, appeared at a window above the entrance, and addressing the assailants as the vilest of the vile, asked them what they wanted at the monastery. "We want to destroy it, we want to pull it down till not one stone rests upon another," they replied. Upon this, the reverend father ordered the alarm bells to be rung, and from the mouths of bronze issued the call for help; but before it could arrive, the door was burst in with hatchets, and five Capuchins and several of the militia who wore the red tuft were killed, while all the other occupants of the monastery ran away, taking refuge in the house of a Protestant called Paulhan. During this attack the church was respected; a man from Sornmieres, however, stole a pyx which he found in the sacristy, but as soon as his comrades perceived this he was arrested and sent to prison.
In the monastery itself, however, the doors were broken in, the furniture smashed, the library and the dispensary wrecked. The sacristy itself was not spared, its presses being broken into, its chests destroyed, and two monstrances broken; but nothing further was touched. The storehouses and the small cloth-factory connected with the monastery remained intact, like the church.
But still the towers held out, and it was round them that the real fighting took place, the resistance offered from within being all the more obstinate that the besieged expected relief from moment to moment, not knowing that their letters had been intercepted by the enemy. On every side the rattling of shot was heard, from the Esplanade, from the windows, from the roofs; but very little effect was produced by the Protestants, for Descombiez had told his men to put their caps with the red tufts on the top of the wall, to attract the bullets, while they fired from the side. Meantime the conspirators, in order to get a better command of the besiegers, reopened a passage which had been long walled up between the tower Du Poids and the tower of the Dominicans. Descombiez, accompanied by thirty men, came to the door of the monastery nearest the fortifications and demanded the key of another door which led to that part of the ramparts which was opposite the place des Carmes, where the National Guards were stationed. In spite of the remonstrances of the monks, who saw that it would expose them to great danger, the doors were opened, and Froment hastened to occupy every post of vantage, and the battle began in that quarter, too, becoming fiercer as the conspirators remarked that every minute brought the Protestants reinforcements from Gardonninque and La Vaunage. The firing began at ten o'clock in the morning, and at four o'clock in the afternoon it was going on with unabated fury.
At four o'clock, however, a servant carrying a flag of truce appeared; he brought a letter from Descombiez, Fremont, and Folacher, who styled themselves "Captains commanding the towers of the Castle." It was couched in the following words:--
"To the Commandant of the troops of the line, with the request that the contents be communicated to the militia stationed in the Esplanade.
"SIR,--We have just been informed that you are anxious for peace. We also desire it, and have never done anything to break it. If those who have caused the frightful confusion which at present prevails in the city are willing to bring it to an end, we offer to forget the past and to live with them as brothers.
"We remain, with all the frankness and loyalty of patriots and Frenchmen, your humble servants,
"The Captains of the Legion of Nimes, in command of the towers of the Castle,
"FROMENT, DESCOMBIEZ, FOLACHER NIMES, the 14th June 1790, 4.00 P.M."
On the receipt of this letter, the city herald was sent to the towers to offer the rebels terms of capitulation. The three "captains in command" came out to discuss the terms with the commissioners of the electoral body; they were armed and followed by a great number of adherents. However, as the negotiators desired peace before all things, they proposed that the three chiefs should surrender and place themselves in the hands of the Electoral Assembly. This offer being refused, the electoral commissioners withdrew, and the rebels retired behind their fortifications. About five o'clock in the evening, just as the negotiations were broken off, M. Aubry, an artillery captain who had been sent with two hundred men to the depot of field artillery in the country, returned with six pieces of ordnance, determined to make a breach in the tower occupied by the conspirators, and from which they were firing in safety at the soldiers, who had no cover. At six o'clock, the guns being mounted, their thunder began, first drowning the noise of the musketry and then silencing it altogether; for the cannon balls did their work quickly, and before long the tower threatened to fall. Thereupon the electoral commissioners ordered the firing to cease for a moment, in the hope that now the danger had become so imminent the leaders would accept the conditions which they had refused one hour before; and not desiring to drive them to desperation, the commissioners advanced again down College Street, preceded by a bugler, and the captains were once more summoned to a parley. Froment and Descombiez came out to meet them, and seeing the condition of the tower, they agreed to lay down their arms and send them for the palace, while they themselves would proceed to the Electoral Assembly and place themselves under its protection. These proposals being accepted, the commissioners waved their hats as a sign that the treaty was concluded.
At that instant three shots were fired from the ramparts, and cries of "Treachery! treachery!" were heard on every side. The Catholic chiefs returned to the tower, while the Protestants, believing that the commissioners were being assassinated, reopened the cannonade; but finding that it took too long to complete the breach, ladders were brought, the walls scaled, and the towers carried by assault. Some of the Catholics were killed, the others gained Froment's house, where, encouraged by him, they tried to organise a resistance; but the assailants, despite the oncoming darkness, attacked the place with such fury that doors and windows were shattered in an instant. Froment and his brother Pierre tried to escape by a narrow staircase which led to the roof, but before they reached it Pierre was wounded in the hip and fell; but Froment reached the roof, and sprang upon an adjacent housetop, and climbing from roof to roof, reached the college, and getting into it by a garret window, took refuge in a large room which was always unoccupied at night, being used during the day as a study.
Froment remained hidden there until eleven o'clock. It being then completely dark, he got out of the window, crossed the city, gained the open country, and walking all night, concealed himself during the day in the house of a Catholic. The next night he set off again, and reached the coast, where he embarked on board a vessel for Italy, in order to report to those who had sent him the disastrous result of his enterprise.
For three whole days the carnage lasted. The Protestants losing all control over themselves, carried on the work of death not only without pity but with refined cruelty. More than five hundred Catholics lost their lives before the 17th, when peace was restored.
For a long time recriminations went on between Catholics and Protestants, each party trying to fix on the other the responsibility for those dreadful three days; but at last Franqois Froment put an end to all doubt on the subject, by publishing a work from which are set forth many of the details just laid before our readers, as well as the reward he met with when he reached Turin. At a meeting of the French nobles in exile, a resolution was passed in favour of M. Pierre Froment and his children, inhabitants of Nimes.
We give a literal reproduction of this historic document:
"We the undersigned, French nobles, being convinced that our Order was instituted that it might become the prize of valour and the encouragement of virtue, do declare that the Chevalier de Guer having given us proof of the devotion to their king and the love of their country which have been displayed by M. Pierre Froment, receiver of the clergy, and his three sons, Mathieu Froment citizen, Jacques Froment canon, Francois Froment advocate, inhabitants of Nimes, we shall henceforward regard them and their descendants as nobles and worthy to enjoy all the distinctions which belong to the true nobility. Brave citizens, who perform such distinguished actions as fighting for the restoration of the monarchy, ought to be considered as the equals of those French chevaliers whose ancestors helped to found it. Furthermore, we do declare that as soon as circumstances permit we shall join together to petition His Majesty to grant to this family, so illustrious through its virtue, all the honours and prerogatives which belong to those born noble.
"We depute the Marquis de Meran, Comte d'Espinchal, the Marquis d'Escars, Vicomte de Pons, Chevalier de Guer, and the Marquis de la Feronniere to go to Mgr. le Comte d'Artois, Mgr. le Duc d'Angouleme, Mgr. le Duc de Berry, Mgr. le Prince de Conde, Mgr. le Due de Bourbon, and Mgr. le Duc d'Enghien, to beg them to put themselves at our head when we request His Majesty to grant to MM. Froment all the distinctions and advantages reserved for the true nobility.
"At TURIN, 12th September 1790."
The nobility of Languedoc learned of the honours conferred on their countryman, M. Froment, and addressed the following letter to him:
"LORCH, July 7, 1792
"MONSIEUR, The nobles of Languedoc hasten to confirm the resolution adopted in your favour by the nobles assembled at Turin. They appreciate the zeal and the courage which have distinguished your conduct and that of your family; they have therefore instructed us to assure you of the pleasure with which they will welcome you among those nobles who are under the orders of Marshal de Castries, and that you are at liberty to repair to Lorch to assume your proper rank in one of the companies.
"We have the honour to be, monsieur, your humble and obedient servants, "COMTE DE TOULOUSE-LAUTREC
"MARQUIS DE LA JONQUIERE "ETC."
Sorry, no summary available yet.