Edict of Nantes, Revocation of colonial America

On October 22, 1685, the absolutist monarch Louis XIV of France revoked the Edict of Nantes and thereby formally ended the last pretense of legal protection for the civil and political rights of French Protestants. Called Huguenots (possibly meaning confederates), French Protestants faced open persecution at the hands of troops called dragoons, sent into Protestant communities and homes to enforce either religious conversion or prison sentences and worse. Between 100,000 and 200,000 Huguenots escaped to England, Germany, Holland, Switzerland, and some eventually fled to British North America. Official intolerance hurt the prestige of both the Catholic Church and the French Crown, and the revocation interrupted Huguenot emigration to underpopulated New France. With the Edict of Nantes, in April 1598, King Henry IV had brought an end to the fierce religious warfare within France that erupted in 1562. The edict introduced the novel principle that subjects should be free to worship as Catholics, or as Huguenots within restricted boundaries, without the state prescribing religious belief to its subjects. From the 1660s on, Louis XIV rolled back protections offered by the edict. In 1685, he declared that, since he believed the greater part of the French population had now embraced Catholicism, the edict was unnecessary. The persecution of French Huguenots encompassed the full range of social classes, from the nobility, legal professionals, and merchants to booksellers, tradesmen, and farmers. Consequently, the escape of Huguenot families to Protestant Europe had a considerable negative impact on the French economy. In contrast, their resettlement in European and colonial American cities often reinvigorated commerce and trades in those places by introducing new networks of transatlantic capital, credit, information, and affiliation. There was also a cultural impact to the resettlement, as Huguenot printers and booksellers helped spread regional or national literatures across Europe, translating English and French literature and Italian and German scholarly periodicals. The resulting interchange of ideas and correspondence between peoples and languages brought a cosmopolitan stamp to the thought and literature of the eighteenth-century Atlantic world. Between 1550 and 1620, French Huguenots had attempted to form New World colonies without success; after that time, individual Huguenots made their own way to British North America and New France. As a result of the increased persecution in France, symbolized by the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, between 1680 and 1700, around 2,000 Huguenots migrated to the British colonies. They were attracted by promotional pamphlets promising religious tolerance and material gain, particularly from William Penn’s Pennsylvania, although very few of these immigrants actually went there. Most settled in New York, South Carolina, and New England. Several hundred more Huguenots and their descendants migrated to North America colonies from Europe during the eighteenth century, with smaller numbers in Nova Scotia and western Florida. The number of American Huguenots has often been exaggerated, a result of both their substantial success and the fact that their migration supported dominant Puritan narratives about America as a Protestant haven for Europe’s persecuted. The 1680s migration was the first substantial body of colonists to come to British North America from the European continent, and they formed, for a time, distinct communities where they settled. But these migrants were mainly young adults, and most were childless when they arrived. Persecution and resettlement had taught them the advantages of blending in, and, within two generations, most Huguenots had been assimilated into American society, joining Anglican, Presbyterian, Baptist, or Dutch Reformed churches and intermarrying with English, Scots-Irish, and Dutch. In the beginning most of the Huguenot congregations were dependent on financial support either from former Huguenots or from Huguenot communities well established elsewhere, particularly in London. Still, small Huguenot congregations in New York and Charles Town retained the French character of the religious observances until the French and Indian War and the American Revolution made this cultural separateness more difficult to sustain. The Huguenot migrants who chose agricultural occupations settled together in rural communities such as New Rochelle and New Paltz in New York and in short-lived Huguenot settlements in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Huguenot merchants and tradesmen established themselves in such major ports as New York, Charles Town, and Boston. In these places, a number of Huguenots and their descendants rose to social, political, and economic prominence, including the Faneuils, Bowdoins, Manigaults, DeLanceys, and Laurens. Through civic and religious participation, and by their industry, charity, and display, these families became instrumental in the formation of the political and commercial culture of eighteenth-century America. Neil Kennedy See also: French; French Colonies on Mainland North America (Chronology); Huguenots; Louis XIV; Religion (Chronology); Religion (Essay). Bibliography Butler, Jon. The Huguenots in America: A Refugee People in New World Society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983. Davies, Horton, and Marie-Hl¨ne Davies. French Huguenots in English-Speaking Lands. New York: Peter Lang, 2000. Education Education in colonial North America varied greatly between Spanish, French, and English colonies. In Spanish and French areas, education was largely provided by the church or by missionaries and mostly directed at natives, as there were fewer European settler families. In the British colonies of mainland North America, where the population of settlers continued to grow through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, education was largely for the benefit of their children and was conducted in individual households. Even within the British colonies, however, there was much variation. Literacy and learning were more heavily emphasized in New England than in the colonies of the mid-Atlantic and the South. Still, there was one constant of colonial education, regardless of where it occurred, and that was an emphasis on piety and practicality. Edict of Nantes – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Louis XIV of France – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia apeuropeangallery – 17th Century

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