The French Protestant enlightenment of Rabaut Saint-Étienne: Le Vieux Cévenol and the sentimental origins of religious toleration

The French Protestant enlightenment of Rabaut Saint-Étienne: Le Vieux Cévenol and the... Abstract Historians often refer to the period from the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685) to Louis XVI’s Edict of Toleration (1787) as the Désert in French Calvinist history. As the name suggests, the French state outlawed Calvinists, forced them to clandestinely worship, and expelled many from the kingdom and empire altogether. In this article, I suggest that Calvinists played a role in the concurrent French Enlightenment despite their legal marginality. By examining the writings of Rabaut Saint-Étienne, a French Calvinist pastor and later leader of the National Assembly during the French Revolution, this article explores the underground French Protestant Enlightenment and the sentimental strain that ran through it. Calvinists such as Saint-Étienne informed Enlightenment debates over religious toleration and religious freedom with arguments that appealed not necessarily to public utility, reason, or even the letter of the law, but to natural rights and empathy. During his life, Jean Paul Rabaut, more commonly known by his Désert name, Rabaut Saint-Étienne, wrote copiously about the plight of French Calvinists in France and the displaced Huguenots abroad.1 Born in Nîmes to one of the most prominent Désert Calvinist pastors—Paul Rabaut—Saint-Étienne left France for Lausanne to study under Antoine Court and his son Antoine Court de Gébelin, both defenders of the French Calvinist community and prolific writers. Saint-Étienne officially became a Calvinist pastor in 1764, returning to Nîmes shortly after. Inspired by the Calas Affair two years earlier in 1762—the case, popularized by Voltaire, of a Calvinist father wrongly sentenced to death after his son’s suicide—Saint-Étienne found himself thrust into the defence of the Calvinist community on a national and international level. His first book, Le Vieux Cévenol, was a short fictional account of a despondent French Calvinist named Ambroise Borély.2 In the book, Saint-Étienne expressed a vision of enlightened religious liberty that embraced individual reason and universal sentiment. His status as a defender of the Calvinist minority all but guaranteed his place in the Estates General, and then later elevated him to the presidency of the Constituent Assembly. Before the Revolution, Saint-Étienne played a part in a much larger Protestant Enlightenment, which is often neglected in the narrative of religious toleration and the French Enlightenment. Saint-Étienne experienced and witnessed first-hand religious persecution. Geoffrey Adams and other historians who trace the rise of religious toleration during the eighteenth century focus on the efforts of statesmen, lawyers and philosophers, who expounded upon the ills of an intricately bound Catholic Church and state, and subsequently drafted laws, proclamations and legislation in the hopes of instituting religious tolerance. In his French Protestantism and the French Revolution, Burdette Poland noted that after 1750, ‘the devising of such legislation had become a professional pastime for enlightened legists’.3 The goal of lawyers such as Gilbert de Voisins, Malesherbes, Amelot and the Baron de Breteuil was to rationally explain the benefits of an état civil for the benighted Calvinists. They emphasized that Louis XIV’s lettres mortes existed in ink only, having largely been ignored in recent years throughout much of the kingdom. Saint-Étienne’s fictional approach mirrored the legist efforts, but adopted a sentimental tactic common during the late Enlightenment. In the debate over religious toleration, few historians focus on the efforts of Protestants to recast their faith during the post-Revocation period.4 A veritable ‘unnatural alliance’, according to David Bien, emerged, in which philosophers, lawyers and statesmen defended the French Protestant population and elevated their status in the process, but this ‘alliance’ remained one-sided.5 Calvinists remained passive and largely grateful for their allies’ philosophical and often litigious efforts, while the philosophes built their own pantheon in part on the cause of French Calvinism.6 In fact, Voltaire built a cause célèbre cottage industry in the 1760s defending the Calas and Sirven families.7 And Rousseau, a man from a Protestant family and a Genevese, seemed the ideal candidate to defend Calvinist interests following the 1755 publication of Discours sur l’origine et les fondements de l’inégalité parmi les hommes. While Rousseau’s writings inspired many Calvinists, including Saint-Étienne, with his turn to sentimentality, Rousseau proved to be a rather reluctant defender of French Calvinists.8 This study on Rabaut Saint-Étienne, like the recent work by David Garrioch, attempts to balance the historiographical scales.9 Saint-Étienne played a part in a much larger ‘Protestant international’ that reached from London through the Netherlands to Lausanne and into southern France—the last leg of which is usually overlooked by historians of religion in the eighteenth century.10 This link between the Désert community in southern France and the exiled Calvinist community in Lausanne and Geneva fostered a vibrant Protestant Enlightenment that persisted through the eighteenth century—a community that responded to the deist and anti-religious impulses of the more ‘mainstream’ Enlightenment by adopting a language of sentiment, predicated on the victimization of a French Calvinist population. Historians have missed links to the Protestant international in France, due in part to Louis XIV’s legal fiction of a homogenous Catholic France. Simply put, few Calvinists remained in France and those who did represented such a scattered minority that their primary goal was survival, which created a heterogeneous religious character to the point that those who understood themselves as Calvinists differed significantly in theological doctrine from one another. In his five-volume series Barbarism and Religion, J. G. A. Pocock describes a Protestant community that stretched beyond the nation state. A Protestant Enlightenment extended from the United Kingdom to the Netherlands and then to Swiss cities such as Geneva and Lausanne. James Bradley and Dale Van Kley also describe a ‘distinctly Protestant Enlightenment’ that ‘stretched like a crescent from England and Scotland through the Protestant Netherlands and western Germanies only to end in the Swiss cities of Geneva and Lausanne’.11 The concave side of this crescent followed the borders of the French kingdom, where Calvinism remained illegal for much of the eighteenth century. These historians have ignored the French periphery, which French Calvinists called home while outlawed during the eighteenth-century Désert period. Yet illegality should not be understood as absence. After 1715, the Calvinist community in Languedoc experienced a resurgence aided by the seminary in Lausanne, and in connection with the refuge Huguenot writers of the Netherlands. Calvinist pastors continued their clandestine works, rebuilding their community under the direction of leaders such as Antoine Court and Paul Rabaut—Rabaut Saint-Étienne’s father. As Garrioch argues for the Parisian population, in places like Nîmes it was possible that Catholics took pity on Protestants for their hardships and then passively fostered ‘peaceful coexistence … in everyday relationships’.12 This type of de facto toleration of the Calvinist sect had set in by the early 1770s. The last Calvinists to lose their lives because of their faith were the pastor Francois Rochette, who died in Toulouse in February 1762, and the lesser-known Francois Charmuzy, who died in a prison cell in Meaux after several days of detention in April 1771.13 This relative stability promoted the growth of a minuscule Calvinist pastor elite, who could then find ways to assert their confessional agenda. The Protestant Enlightenment described in this article should be understood as an extension of the larger Protestant Enlightenment outlined by Pocock, but one that also maintained distinctly ‘French’ characteristics. In this sense, ‘French’ is defined broadly by the legal straits placed on French Calvinists and the more radical Enlightenment fostered in France. ‘French’ does not constitute a quasi-mythical homogenous French culture. While connected to the outside world, this Protestant Enlightenment remained remarkably attuned to French legal problems. Rabaut Saint-Étienne’s Le Vieux Cévenol does not rehearse theological or eschatological exegeses more commonly seen during the Revocation years, but rather focuses on the social, economic and political plight of French Calvinists during the Désert period—a distinctly French context. The second reason why scholars have neglected a Protestant Enlightenment in France is that its arbiters turned to sentiment as a way to rebuke those who marshalled reason to fuel the fires of atheism, deism and radical anti-religious rhetoric. Protestantism was a fount of morality and sentiment, not reason. Belief and the need for religious practice were universal societal qualities. Reason was a second-order principle of man’s nature. Saint-Étienne’s writings conform roughly to the four categories David Sorkin outlines for a ‘religious Enlightenment’. Namely, Saint-Étienne depicts a middle ground between ‘reasonable belief grounded in the idea of “natural religion” and the exegetical principle of accommodation’. The characters in his Le Vieux Cévenol also make the case for the natural law of toleration. Toleration, by definition, extends to the ‘public sphere’ in which Saint-Étienne defended the natural right for Protestant public worship in France. Lastly, Saint-Étienne’s goal was to gain sponsorship from the government, not to subvert it—despite the writings of Catholic polemicists hell-bent on uncovering secret Protestant plots, more common to the previous century.14 Yet Sorkin’s typology also emphasizes the use of reason, whereas Saint-Étienne relied more on sentiment. Sentiment, not reason, was natural and instinctual for Saint-Étienne. Man was not born with a blank slate, as John Locke posited, but rather, for Saint-Étienne, ‘sensitivity to others’ pain is an invisible feeling in the back of all hearts’.15 The place of religion was to nurture said sentiment towards the promotion of religious freedom. The third reason why historians have missed the French Protestant Enlightenment is because the mainstream Enlightenment, peopled by Peter Gay’s famous ‘flock of philosophes’, overshadowed it.16 In another sense, the radical character of the French Enlightenment led the Protestant Enlightenment in France further afield than its more theologically bound manifestations in Europe. Voltaire’s position in his famous Treatise sur la tolérance popularized the Calvinist cause. The initial publication of the Le Vieux Cévenol declares that the original text had been ‘found amongst the papers of M. de Voltaire’.17 In his opening line, Voltaire noted that the Calas Affair stood out as an extraordinary event, one of distinct singularity, punctuating humankind’s longer history of tolerance.18 The language of sentimentalism, as popularized by Rousseau, and natural law, by Montesquieu and others, seemed perfectly compatible to Saint-Étienne’s discourse. The open-air worship meetings drew direct parallels in Saint-Étienne’s mind—that is, French Calvinists literally returned to nature and natural settings to worship, just as they spoke of regeneration and the return to the ‘ancient’ natural church. It made sense then that a natural law should protect public worship. Yet, in making this argument, Saint-Étienne departs from normative eighteenth-century French discourse concerning what some scholars, including Jürgen Habermas, Dale Van Kley and Jeffrey Merrick, have termed the ‘privatization of religion’.19 Saint-Étienne insisted on the essential function of religion in moral terms, whereas Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot and Turgot willingly sought to separate religion from politics and the public sphere. Saint-Étienne argued that proper public worship served a moral and pedagogical imperative. It accentuated the innate and universal sentiment of man. This position stands in opposition to the ‘normative secular’ narrative of the French Enlightenment, and its concomitant internalization and individualization of religious belief, by emphasizing the natural principles of public worship—a natural right denied to Calvinists in the Désert and Huguenot diaspora, which Saint-Étienne continued to defend for the duration of his political life. As Rabaut Saint-Étienne is the biographical nodal point for this article, I have chosen to mirror his life’s work chronologically, starting with his earliest encounters with the Protestant Enlightenment. Only after establishing the context of Saint-Étienne’s view of the Protestant Enlightenment can the sentimentalism of Le Vieux Cévenol, one of his most significant pre-revolutionary writings on religious toleration, be examined. Finally, this article concludes with a discussion of his role in the drafting of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, which further evidences the agency of a French Calvinist in France, despite the illegality of his faith.20 I J. G. A. Pocock, a historian of Enlightenment thought, argues that any understanding of the Enlightenment needs to take into account the trauma inflicted on the European conscience by the Wars of Religion. If any single unifying factor existed to connect each version of the Enlightenment, it was that they all pursued ‘a series of programmes for strengthening civil sovereignty and putting an end to the Wars of Religion’.21 Rabaut Saint-Étienne’s vision of the Enlightenment resulted from a similar position, though it emerged during a renewed climate of religious persecution at the time of his birth in 1743. As his Le Vieux Cévenol reminded its readers, the French Wars of Religion had not ceased. Henri IV’s efforts only momentarily assuaged the power of theologians—‘men cladded in white’—to wage ‘sacred war … against men in black’. They banished peace from the terrestrial plane and spun falsehoods in the process, to provide a ‘pretext for persecution’.22 Moreover, Saint-Étienne found the Revocation to be more egregious than the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. The massacre lasted ‘one day and the courts countermanded them two days later; but the delirium of the Revocation lasted for several years’.23 Huguenots found 1685 to be the source of their nadir. Calvinist women were imprisoned in the Tour de Constance, and men were sentenced to hard labour in the galleys. Only three years after Saint-Étienne’s birth, the young pastor Mathieu Majal was burned alive on the esplanade in Montpellier. A much older, octogenarian pastor met a similar fate that same year in Grenoble. His body was removed from the scaffold post-mortem only to be tossed into the Isère River. A warrant for the arrest of Saint-Étienne’s own father, the well-known Désert Calvinist pastor, Paul Rabaut, was set at 6,000 livres.24 While the Camisard Wars (1702–15) had ended, the Reformed faith remained simultaneously policed and persecuted. It was this persecution in France that led Saint-Étienne’s father to send him from their family home in Nîmes to Lausanne for a ‘proper’ Calvinist education. Under the direction of the best-known Désert pastor, Antoine Court, and his son, Court de Gébelin, Saint-Étienne first encountered the arguments of the more mainstream Enlightenment. Saint-Étienne advanced in his studies, bearing ‘fruits précoces’, as Antoine Court noted in a letter to Paul Rabaut.25 In particular, Saint-Étienne developed a fascination with ancient Greece—his famed Lettres à Mr. Bailly sur l’histoire primitive de la Grèce of 1787 was the result.26 Saint-Étienne’s turn towards sentiment owed more to his later move to Geneva with his brothers, where he continued his theological, philosophical and linguistic studies. There, Saint-Étienne undoubtedly came into contact with Jacob Vernet, a disciple of the Genevan theologian Jean-Alphonse Turrettini. Both men stressed the use of reason and the importance of moderation. Here, too, Saint-Étienne would have come into contact with the writings of German Aufklärer on the one hand, who sought a middle ground between reason and revelation. On the other, Saint-Étienne would have been equally opposed to the sterility of the German Lutheran orthodoxy and the radical ‘enthusiasm’ of the Pietists, whose evangelical fervour undoubtedly would have reminded him of the enthusiasts who had fuelled the Camisard Wars in France at the beginning of the eighteenth century.27 Vernet had promoted a work published in 1748 entitled Théorie des sentiments agrébles, which insisted that ‘proofs of sentiment’ could affect change more effectively than ‘useful arguments’. Such an argument was a jab at the overtly rationalistic arguments of thinkers such as Pierre Bayle.28 In fact, what emerged in Geneva was what Rosenblatt has called ‘Enlightened Christian sentimentalism’. In part a reaction to the claims of D’Alembert that the pastors of Geneva had become Socinians, embracing reason at the expense of revelation, this turn to sentiment implicitly recognized the growing divisions predicated on a secular rationality. A language of sensitive hearts in particular made sense to Saint-Étienne, for whom, historically, hardened hearts had led to the plight of the French Calvinists. Such sentimental language reified the pacifist character of Calvinists and added an additional layer of support for their toleration.29 Because of financial hardship, Saint-Étienne returned to Nîmes to study under his father’s supervision, delivering his first sermon in January 1763 at the same time that Voltaire issued his Traité sur la tolérance during the Calas Affair. Returning to Lausanne for a year, Saint-Étienne passed his exams, formally matriculating from the seminary in November 1764.30 Over the next fifteen years, Saint-Étienne remained in the environs of Nîmes and developed his own sense of Protestant Enlightenment. In Nîmes, he began to imagine how sentiment might be employed for the purposes of toleration in France. He drew inspiration from the cadre of philosophers and writers who had cut their teeth in the wake of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Those sceptical, critical and ‘tolerationist’ works of Pierre Bayle, Isaac de Beausobre and Jean Le Clerc, as well as the historical writings of Élie Benoît, provided the historical realism that Saint-Étienne would need to make his book relatable. Benoît’s name, specifically, appears five times in the citations at the close of Saint-Étienne’s Le Vieux Cévenol. The French Protestant pastor and historian of the Edict of Nantes, Benoît provided much of the historical fodder Saint-Étienne used to substantiate his claims in his Histoire de l’Edit de Nantes, published in the decade following the Revocation. Many of the scenes of persecution, the disinterment and mutilation of Calvinist corpses, and the imprisonment of men and women found in Le Vieux Cévenol are accompanied by footnotes citing Benoît.31 The shift marked by Benoît’s work cannot be understated in the intellectual history of the period. While completed to reassure Louis XIV of the loyalty of the French Calvinist population and to establish their sect as the victims in an unholy holy war, the text did not attempt to make any theological arguments. Instead, Benoît’s historiographical treatment of the Edict of Nantes established Calvinism as a ‘culte’, a loyal religious community with the best interests of the kingdom at heart worthy of recognition and protection.32 Saint-Étienne’s own mentor in Lausanne, Antoine Court, had published a tract on the Camisard Wars, where he continued the legacy of Benoît by calling for Calvinist loyalty to the Bourbon crown and the end of Calvinist prophesies.33 In addition to the writings of Benoît and Court, other writings from the Huguenot diaspora, such as Pierre Bayle’s Nouvelles de la République des Lettres (1684–7) and Pierre Jurieu’s Lettres pastorales aux fidèles qui gémissent sous la capivité de Babylone (1686–9), informed the historical backdrop of Saint-Étienne’s novel. Persecution histories rested on themes of pain and injustice, which laid the foundations for empathetic accounts. From the late seventeenth-century boom of historical works on religion came the creation of ‘religions’ and their comparative study.34 At the core of this movement, to which Saint-Étienne’s work is deeply indebted, was the idea that every religion shared certain principles. As Lynn Hunt, Margaret Jacob, and W. W. Mijnhardt showed in The Book that Changed Europe: Picart and Bernard’s Religious Ceremonies of the World, the comparative study of religions of the early Enlightenment moved away from the polemics of the so-called Age of Confessionalization, filled a desire to dispassionately and rationally outline the contours of many faiths alongside one another, and distilled what they perceived as the ‘natural’, and even as the ‘essence’, of universal faith. Picart and Bernard—men deeply embedded in the Huguenot diaspora—emerged out of the Republic of Letters largely influenced by the Huguenot diaspora and the early Protestant Enlightenment, which saw the rise of reason. Such a goal should be understood as an offshoot of the eschatological dream of universal conversion within the Christian tradition. To find the single unifying factor of religious expression could translate into homogeneity, curtail the endless confessional division that ardent Catholics like Bossuet blamed on the early Reformers and, by extension, end internecine religious conflict. The coterie of ‘high Enlightenment’ thinkers showed a similar tendency towards erudition. The same desire to catalogue and compare world religions manifested itself in the bastion of Enlightenment publishing, L’Encyclopédie. In the 1765 version of the Encyclopédie, the entry for ‘religion’ describes it in simple terms, as the common expression of honouring God.35 This almost anthropological impulse towards the study of religion reduced faith to its ‘nature’, a set of socially constructed commonalities. Saint-Etienne similarly detailed a common religious element, the existence of which supported man’s need for religion, specifically a form of public worship capable of fostering moral and sentimental growth. Reducing religion to common impulses, then, freed the French Protestant Enlightenment of the Désert period to make non-religious, political claims about the Protestant population. Saint-Étienne’s instructor at the Lausanne seminary, Antoine Court, had already published works defending French Calvinists as ‘patriots’ first, and Calvinists second. In his Lettre d’un patriote sur la tolérance civile des protestans de France (1756), Court used the word choice of ‘patriote’ in the title to displace distinctions like Catholic and Protestant. L’esprit protestant lost its place to ‘cet esprit de patriotisme qui convient à tout véritable citoyen’—this spirit of patriotism that comes to every true citizen.36 It is important to note that when Court used terms like ‘patrie’ or ‘nation’ he used them like his sixteenth-century constitutionalist predecessors. The ‘nation’ was not synonymous with the population as a whole. Nor did he use this term with the idea of a social contract or natural rights in mind. He was not claiming the right to change the ancient constitution of France, nor to dramatically alter the hierarchical social order of the ancien régime. His ‘nation’ referred less to natural rights and more to ‘positive rights’, or those outlined by French law.37 Court called for the ‘restitution to Protestants of a part of their ancient privileges’.38 At the core of Court’s plea was the victimization of the Calvinist, patriot people and their alienation from their country, two themes taken up by Saint-Étienne in his pursuit of religious toleration. Saint-Étienne found sources for his Protestant sentimentalism in the ‘best-sellers’ of the Enlightenment. As Céline Borello has appropriately noted, Saint-Étienne was not merely a ‘partisan of philosophical thought’, nor was his mind ‘soft wax’ shaped by the simple imposition of enlightened ideas.39 Montesquieu and Beccaria receive explicit mention in Le Vieux Cévenol. Others, such as Voltaire and Locke, appear through clear and veiled references, often just alluded to in Saint-Étienne’s text as philosophers or men of greater mental acumen. What is certain is that Saint-Étienne interpreted these philosophes in sentimental terms, noting how ‘readers of this history’ with ‘especially strong nerves’ and ‘endowed with a certain coarseness of soul’, ‘may be able to note with pleasure that in the fine century of Louis XIV, the minds of men had a peculiar energy, and that they had not been softened by reading Montesquieu and the Marquis de Beccaria’.40 The choice of the word ‘softened’ or ‘été amolli’ did not correspond with the normative understanding of the ‘age of Enlightenment’ as an ‘age of Reason’. Instead, Saint-Étienne’s rhetoric suggests a hardened conscience in desperate need of sentimentalism. In this sense, the more mainstream Enlightenment spawned a kind of empathetic revolution, one which was conducive to sentiment and religion.41 The ‘citizen of Geneva’, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, inspired Rabaut Saint-Étienne’s turn to the sentimental novel in two primary ways. First, Rousseau calls for a kind of sentimental realism or a sentimentalism that is both relatable to and seemingly worse than the reader’s experience. One without the other distances the reader from the plight to the point where sentiment is lost. In Émile, Rousseau describes his three maxims on compassion and the proper sentimental education. The first imagines compassion as a ‘part of human nature’. The second insists on the personal and ultimately selfish nature of sentimentalism, or the need for one to fear a similar fate. And the third maxim deals specifically with empathy or the ‘feelings we attribute to the sufferers’.42 In his Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse, Rousseau explored sentiment in the form of an epistolary novel, which, as Robert Darnton notes, became one of the best-sellers of the eighteenth century, as well as popularizing the form of sentimental fiction.43 Saint-Étienne became attuned to the power of sentimentalism, as well as the idea that passions drive action and change while reason devolves into inaction.44 The sentimental connection made between individuals then forms one of the social bases for the general will for Rousseau—the glue that binds society together. While Rousseau may have popularized the idea of the general will, it is necessary to recognize that the idea’s invention lay in the theological discord between Protestant and Catholic in the seventeenth century—in the debates between the Jansenists Antoine Arnauld and Blaise Pascal on the one side, and the Jesuit Nicolas Malebranche on the other—specifically within the context of the idea of God’s divine will to save all men. Such debates were taken up by early Protestant Enlightenment philosophers such as Pierre Bayle, whose writings influenced Genevan Calvinists in the Désert to a great extent, Saint-Étienne included. Rousseau, then, was part of a much larger religious dialogue, which he pulled into the social and political sphere.45 The late Protestant Enlightenment in France was best defined by sentimentalism, and other Protestants in France used this rhetoric to their advantage as well. The Genevan-born finance minister to Louis XVI, Jacques Necker, incorporated the language of Christian sentimentalism in two apologetic works, rarely interrogated by historians. In his 1788 De L’importance des opinions religieuses, as Rosenblatt has correctly noted, Necker adopts a view of justice, which forefronts sentiment rather than cold reason. ‘The timorous sentiment of a judge’s conscience’ or his ‘sensible clairvoyance’ combined with the natural sensibilities produced just rulings.46 Necker’s apologetics also speak openly about religious morality as a basis for sentiment, drawing a very similar line between Christian sentimentalism and the need for public worship and religious education.47 Saint-Étienne found his vision of Protestant Enlightenment more conducive with the sentimental side of the Enlightenment or the ‘Enlightenment of Sympathy’ explored by Michael Frazer. This sentimental Enlightenment had cosmopolitan roots linking the Protestant Enlightenment of Rotterdam to Geneva and to southern France and Paris. Saint-Étienne saw the ‘age of reason’ in a religious sense, placing greater emphasis on feeling, as well as moral and political reflection.48 In the wake of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, he chose to probe the king’s and the public opinion’s moral and Christian conscience through a gruesome, albeit fictional, account of one refugee—Amboise Borély—whose struggles reflected Calvinist experiences. II In 1779, Rabaut Saint-Étienne published the first edition of his sentimental novel. Saint-Étienne’s goal was to give a first-hand account of the man’s life—forging a sentimental bond between Borély and the reader—and to mimic the escape memoirs produced at the turn of the century.49 His Le Vieux Cévenol was a fictional account—masquerading as non-fictional—of a man whose birth to Protestant parents came at the most inopportune time. Early in his childhood, Borély witnessed his father’s death on suspicion of having attended a clandestine meeting. Ruthless dragoons ransacked his home. Despite these events, Borély’s mother found a way to support her children and to continue raising them as Calvinists. At fifteen, Borély’s plans for his future employment were dashed as he was expressly forbidden, on account of his religion and by the king’s ordinances, from entering the legal profession, as judge, solicitor, advocate or notary, or practising as a physician, apothecary or even horse-riding instructor. The military remained open to Protestants, but advancement was impossible and it seemed likely that if he supported Louis XIV in this manner he would inevitably have to act against his fellow Protestants. He found trade to be his only professional refuge. A once close family friend, Claude Hypocris, then informed on the Calvinist family in order to take advantage of an edict that placed in his hands the wealth and property of any captured Calvinist. The mother became further impoverished; Borély’s sisters were carried off to convents; Catholics tricked the youngest brother, only seven years old, into converting for treats; and a recently deceased Protestant’s corpse was dragged through the streets and subjected to calumnious and insolent mockery, before being flung into a sewer. Borély resolved to flee the country for Switzerland, but was arrested and turned over to galley ship authorities, who then sent him to America on a rickety ship incapable of making the transatlantic voyage. His French captors abandoned the ship at sea, and Borély, who clung to its floating remains, chanced upon a passing English vessel. He arrived in London, became naturalized and took up his trade. Soon he became wealthy enough to entertain the thought of returning to his homeland, only to find that one of his sisters was in possession of the family’s property. Borély returned, incognito, to a petty sister who misunderstood his intentions. He then left his former home and sister, ready to return to London, only to meet and fall in love with a Roman Catholic girl by the name of Sophie Robinel. They consecrated their nuptials in front of a Protestant minister. Their romance soon led to the birth of child, after which his wife died. Later, a bill arrived informing Borély that he must turn over all of his late wife’s possessions to her mother and father. Borély defended the rights of his son only to be informed that the boy, under the laws of Louis XIV and Louis XV, was considered to be a bastard and thus was not owed any of the family’s property. Borély’s lawyers took a stand, evoked the laws of nature and failed. The judges refused to justify their actions—choosing to enforce one part of the law, but not the other. They spoke of a type of de facto toleration of the Protestant, but despite their vague assurances Borély fled the country once again. Once safe in a free country, he renounced any future desire to return to France, his place of birth where man’s most sacred, most natural rights were proscribed, yet his mind never left his homeland. In his final moments, and included in the last sentence of the story, were the names ‘Henri IV’, the protector of the Huguenots, and ‘Louis XVI’, a king capable of recapturing the good legacy of Henri IV.50 The imaginary Huguenot protagonist, Borély, was, simultaneously, a man of the past and of the present. His story disrupts a linear temporality of the eighteenth century, bringing 1685 to the present. This literary strategy allowed Saint-Étienne to make this histoire a political and moral tale for his times. A son of one of the most prominent French Calvinists of the Désert period, Saint-Étienne realized that his contemporary battle for Calvinist rights hinged on memory. The latter part of his title—‘Anecdotes de la vie d’Ambroise Borély, mort à Londres âgé de 103 ans, sept mois, et quatre jours’51—served to simultaneously emphasize and de-emphasize the time between the Revocation and the present. Nearly a century had passed since the Revocation, but only a single man had recently died. In metaphorical terms, Borély stood for the displaced Huguenot population—a group persecuted in the past and suffering from the trauma of this in the present. Originally titled Triomphe de l’intolérance, published in London in 1779, and written under the nom de plume W. Jesterman, Saint-Étienne’s fictional account of the tribulations of one French Calvinist in the wake of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes became a relatively quick success, warranting reprintings in 1784 and 1788, and several more following the Bourbon Restoration in the nineteenth century. From the second edition onward, Saint-Étienne opted for a less ostentatious title—Le Vieux Cévenol. The original title would have signalled to censors the seditious, even combative character of the text, which ran contrary to Saint-Étienne’s goal of showing the loyalty of French Calvinists to France and the French crown. Incidentally, Rabaut Saint-Étienne had not chosen the original title. As many historians of print culture have shown, authorship could hardly belong solely to a single voice. From the literary muse, to editors and publishers, the identity of the ‘author’ often became muddled with multiple voices.52 In Saint-Étienne’s case, the very title of his work was crafted by another: the editor and Swiss pastor Vernes. An aspiring philosopher himself, but ultimately a novice to the eighteenth-century book trade, Saint-Étienne looked to his mentor and friend, Étienne Chiron, who recommended Vernes. Well known for his literary talents, Vernes took remarkable and ‘strange liberty’ with the text. He added a new title to its front page, giving it a layer of audacity that Saint-Étienne’s humble literary style could not match, nor could Saint-Étienne stomach the defeatist tone of Vernes’ title. Vernes also added three additional salacious chapters, purportedly to court sales, that detailed the love and marriage of Borély to Sophie Robinel in such great detail that it made the text seem almost foreign to Saint-Étienne.53 Many of these more amorous moments were kept for later editions, but by the 1788 edition Saint-Étienne rectified those moments where Vernes’ additions compromised the historical reality of the Désert.54 In many ways, the change in title reflected Saint-Étienne’s aim to reinvigorate the memory of the Revocation, and to depict French Calvinists as Frenchmen first. ‘Cévenol’ had largely become synonymous with the Reformed, as the Cévennes was both their refuge and the site of the Camisard Wars. His desire to cast Calvinists as Frenchmen precluded other options for the title such as le vieux huguenot, calviniste, or réformé. The ‘triumph of intolerance’ would have signalled to the censors a subversive work, and most certainly would have warranted further attention. This same reason would have precluded a title such as ‘le vieux huguenot’. The inclusion of the term ‘Huguenot’ would have harkened back to the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, religious intolerance/tolerance and subversive politics. In general, the term ‘Huguenot’ had fallen from favour in France. First, if one believed the ‘fiction of a Catholic France’ or the complete disappearance of the French Calvinist community—as Louis XIV asserted—then the term no longer applied to those French Calvinists still in the hexagon. If the term was used, it most likely referenced those who sought refuge beyond France’s borders, becoming fugitifs and étrangers. At only one point in Saint-Etienne’s text does he use the word ‘huguenot’. Describing the inability of French Calvinists to sell their property legally without being taken advantage of by a Catholic, Borély’s advocat laments: ‘A Huguenot, honest man is less happy at this point than a villain who has the good fortune to be Catholic.’55Le Vieux Cévenol reflected Saint-Étienne’s desire to emphasize the history of loyal Calvinists in the kingdom, while emphasizing their locality (i.e. Cévenol), rather than their sect. Saint-Étienne’s use of sentiment functioned on two planes—one anthropological and the other rhetorical. Saint-Étienne identified sentiment as a universal and natural human quality. Sentiment, more than any other quality, lay at the core of human existence. Man was born with a ‘sentimental slate’, not a blank one. Saint-Étienne referred to this universal principle as sentiment. Moral lessons brought out the social component of that innate sentiment, known as sensibility.56 For Saint-Étienne, religion remained the most important fount of moral lessons, and the Reformed faith was more capable of crafting sensibility than any other religion. ‘Sympathy for the sufferings of others is a sentiment to be found deep down in every heart’, Saint-Étienne argued. He continued, ‘personal interest and prejudice may often stifle it, but there come moments when it will develop, when it will burst forth with greater force for having been repressed’.57 The Revocation had been reasoned into existence and guided by greed. How could one prove that the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes was an immoral and ill-intended piece of legislation through a discussion of sentiment? During a conversation between Borély, members of the Church of the Désert and two étrangers, Saint-Étienne revealed his understanding of the ‘general will’, which is worth quoting at length: He held that laws should be framed according to the opinions of the majority of the people, and that the object of legislation should be to reform prevailing customs when they were vicious, to tolerate them when they were harmless, or to encourage them when they contributed to the moral good and prosperity of the community. It was his opinion that observers should note with the greatest care the general spirit of a people, which exhibits greater varieties than either climate or habits.58 Like Rousseau, Saint-Étienne envisioned a legal system that reflected the ‘general spirit of the people’, rather than one that tried to manipulate or control it. Popular sovereignty relied on the sentimental inclinations of the people. That is, the law should enhance man’s sentimental morality, not hinder it through its ‘vicious’ customs.59 While this quote explicitly refers to ‘secular’ law, Saint-Étienne equated it to religious law, as well. We see an overlap between the juridical and the theological. Saint-Étienne understood public worship as integral to the general will. Here, Saint-Étienne differed from the more radical Enlightenment proponents, who sought to eliminate religion’s influence in the public sphere, as well as lawyers and statesmen who promoted what Jeffrey Merrick and others have referred to as the ‘privatization of religion’.60 Saint-Étienne wrote, ‘Observe, it is not domestic worship that we see established all over the earth, but public worship. All people have had temples or religious rendezvous in which worship has taken a certain form.’61 Prejudice, avarice and tradition threatened the simple ‘universal instinct’ behind worship, according to Saint-Étienne. ‘A law hidden deeply in their nature’ draws all of humankind to worship—the human artifice of tradition added practices to the natural principle of public worship.62 Calvinists, with their religious regeneration, had only sought to return to the purest forms of religious practice—an idea furthered by the very real return to the wilderness experienced by many Désert Calvinists, who reinvigorated communal worship in rural, ‘natural’ settings.63 For all of his discussion of sentiment, natural religion and morality, Saint-Étienne managed to cover similar legal ground as his contemporaries, especially in the context of the family. For example, Malesherbes detailed the plight of Protestant children recognized as bastards, stripped of family lands and ancestral wealth after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes.64 The resulting problem was the impoverishment of the nation, and the dislocation of families from the land, which became unproductive. Saint-Étienne illustrated the issue of bastardry through the central character—an angry ‘father’ (Ambroise Borély) who, already in the throes of depression after losing his Catholic wife (Sophie Robinel), chose to relocate with his child back to London at the end of the story, rather than sentence his son to an ‘illegitimate’ life. As Meghan Roberts has rightfully noted, the Enlightenment was an age of sentiment in which ‘domestic narratives were infused with new importance. Loving ties were the foundation of natural virtue, sociability, patriotism, and social utility.’65 Borély’s connection to his wife and child pulled on the heartstrings of those readers who empathized with the family unit, and the bonds between husband and wife or father and son. The right to life also resonated in Saint-Étienne’s work with the importance of the ‘body’. Saint-Étienne described in excoriating detail the oftentimes vulgar and brutal treatment of Protestant bodies. As Antoine de Baecque effectively argues, bodies in pre-revolutionary France were often metaphorically interpreted in three ways: as the anthropomorphic symbol of the political system, as a mode of discursive persuasion and as a spectacle.66 In the story, Borély catches sight of a disinterred Calvinist body, mutilated in an almost festival setting. He actively recognizes this as a religious and political spectacle, and as an oft-used warning to the ‘so-called Reformed’ to abandon their heresy.67 In addition, the extreme violence perpetrated on the Huguenot body served empathetic purposes or offered cause for personal reflection. During a dragoon raid, Borély recounts, ‘from nursing mothers they took their infants, leaving them to be distressed by the accumulation of milk in their breasts’.68 Sympathy with the Huguenot mother comes both from the loss of the child and the lost opportunity to provide for one’s child. Just before Borély’s mother dies, early in the story, she begs her son to ‘preserve my bones from persecution by burying me in some solitary place’.69 Historical evidence in the notes at the end of each chapter further cemented the idea that such atrocities were relatively recent and deserved attention. Calvinist bodies remained threatened under the Revocation. In short, the body acted as a site of sentimentality, capable of carrying with it political and moral connotations. The mutilation of this individual Calvinist body mirrored the plight of the broken familial body and the tortured body politic. Happiness became the sentimental cure to the ailments of the persecuted Calvinist body and the body politic. Lastly, Saint-Étienne relied on a new language of emotion in the eighteenth century to plead his case for religious toleration. In particular, Saint-Étienne’s use of happiness (bonheur) reveals much about his fictional text’s mission. Happiness existed on two planes for Saint-Étienne. For the Jesuits, he noted their ‘zeal for the eternal happiness for the soul’.70 This pursuit of eschatological happiness acted as cause and warrant for forced conversions. In order to counteract this caustic and casuistic definition of happiness as modus operandi for conversion campaigns, in Saint-Étienne’s opinion, it was necessary to locate happiness in this world. Like many philosophers of the eighteenth century, Saint-Étienne referred to happiness as an obtainable treasure, something worthy of pursuit, a product of one’s actions, and something to be savoured.71 Saint-Étienne’s definition of happiness reflected the legal status of Calvinists in the kingdom. Happiness derived from the state. It was bestowed upon the populace through the law. In Le Vieux Cévenol, one judge repudiates the Revocation and the laws that followed, which ran afoul of the ‘eternal laws of nature’. Once the law reflected the law of nature, this judge notes, he would finally be happy to contribute to the happiness of the state and his patrie. Only by aligning the laws of the nation in accordance with morality could a ‘happy revolution’ occur in France. The moral, ‘happy’ revolution Borély speaks of would make the French more ‘likable, tolerant, sociable, and polite’. In short, happiness stood in direct opposition to fanaticism and persecution.72 Borély’s happiness hardly seems to be based on material gain, but rather on his propensity for work. He finds his ‘happiness and liberty’ in the United Kingdom, where the climate of religious tolerance encourages his ‘happy industry’.73 Rather than view this emphasis on ‘industry’ as a result of ascetic Calvinism, as Max Weber would have insisted on later, Saint-Étienne explained the Calvinist penchant for industry in socioeconomic terms.74 Borély is excluded from nearly every job someone of upward mobility would pursue in the eighteenth century. Legal restraints preclude Borély from pursuing a career in law, medicine or education. Borély cannot become a notary or hold any kind of public position. The only avenue left open is business: The way of commerce is still open to you … Protestants saved the business of France. The principal merchants of Bordeaux, Lyons and Marseilles, the most famous bankers of Paris, are Protestants. Protestants are carrying on the finest silk manufactories of Languedoc. These useful and oppressed subjects applied themselves to industry all over the kingdom, whilst their brothers who took refuge in England contributed to carry to perfection their art in the land of their exile, so that the foreign productions soon became the object of our emulation and envy.75 Saint-Étienne’s association between wealth and Calvinism was not new in the eighteenth century. Apologists and defenders of the Huguenots in France had long attempted to overcome the king’s religious intolerance by appealing to his financial sense.76 Saint-Étienne’s plea for religious toleration, then, relied on sentiment, both religious and secular, owing both to the Protestant and mainstream Enlightenment he took part in. Sentiment remained universal and best shaped by the Protestant faith, a religion at once regenerated to the ‘Ancient Church’ and conducive with modern ‘progressive’ egalitarian ideals. Calvinists in southern France were Cévenols first and Calvinists second, but being Calvinist could make them better Cévenols and then better Frenchmen. As such, Saint-Étienne accorded his theological education an important position in his writings. The Protestant Enlightenment in France insisted on the necessity of public worship and its natural role in the formation of sentiment. Public worship was a universal and natural condition of man. III On the precipice of the French Revolution, Saint-Étienne continued to insist that public worship and freedom of conscience remained inalienable natural rights. He spent most of the 1780s in Paris, moving in enlightened circles, working with Lafayette and Malesherbes, in order to gain Louis XVI’s ear and to ensure that the most important needs of the Calvinist population were represented in any legislation that advanced their cause. The result of such efforts was the Edict of Versailles (more commonly referred to as the Edict of Toleration) in 1787. The document itself lamented the violent means perpetrated in pursuit of conversion—those false, coerced conversions—and the ‘dangerous contradictions between the rights of nature and the dispositions of the law’.77 Yet Louis XVI and Saint-Étienne maintained different conceptions of the ‘rights of nature’. Article 1 of the Edict dashed Saint-Étienne’s hopes for a religiously tolerant France. ‘The Catholic, Apostolic and Roman religion’, the edict reads, ‘will continue to enjoy alone, in our kingdom, the right to public worship.’78 As Saint-Étienne maintained that public worship remained instinctual, natural and necessary for developing man’s emotions, the inclusion of such an article denied the most important natural right to Calvinists. In Saint-Étienne’s address to the National Assembly two years later in 1789, Saint-Étienne attacked the limited tolerance institutionalized by the Edict of Toleration. He insisted that the freedom of religious opinion remained an ‘inviolable sanctuary’, and that ‘to constrain it is an injustice, to attack it is a sacrilege’.79 Saint-Étienne continued to view the pursuit of religious coexistence and the Revolution through a lens of sentiment. During his plea to the members of the assembly, he noted that in order to wake his audience to the horrors faced by French Calvinists, he was forced to ‘incite your [members of the National Assembly] humanity by sentiment, after having tried to convince it through reason’.80 The turn to the Terror of later years, of which he too would be a victim, was a violation of the ‘revolution in sentiments, manners, and moral opinion’, to borrow a phrase from the conservative Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France—a revolution that Saint-Étienne had sought to advance through Le Vieux Cévenol.81 Saint-Étienne concluded his speech in front of the National Assembly by reverting back to arguments laden with sentiment, ‘humanity,’ and emotion. Probably sensing that the Assembly would not champion freedom of religion, Saint-Étienne made one last push for the freedom of public worship. Such a principle was expressly restricted in the Edict of Toleration. As he argued in Le Vieux Cévenol, the cultivation of sentiment occurred in the most natural of religious, communal settings. He insisted that ‘every culte is necessarily a culte of many. The cult of one solitary person is merely of adoration or of prayer … [the culte] then consists in the reunion of many.’ The nature of religious community needed to fall under the umbrella of the freedom of religious belief, because the idea of ‘common worship’ is a religious opinion, and therefore falls under the ‘justness of the expression’.82 Public worship based on natural law and bolstered by an empathetic defence of Calvinists remained a hallmark of Saint-Étienne’s argument. Article 10 of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen (1789) states: ‘No one should be disturbed for his opinions, even in religion, provided that their manifestation does not trouble public order as established by law.’ The Constitution of 1791 would finally address Saint-Étienne’s call for public worship and, in that same year, the Parisian Protestant community would relocate to the former Catholic church, Saint-Louis-du-Louvre.83 Rabaut Saint-Étienne was an exemplar of the growing Protestant Enlightenment in France. From his pastoral position, Saint-Étienne navigated a broad field of several Enlightenment discourses. His efforts led the way to freedom of religion, and his corpus revealed a form of Protestant Enlightenment persisting on France’s periphery, a cosmopolitan creation, indebted to the Huguenot diaspora in general, as well as the particular community in Lausanne and Geneva. Saint-Étienne struck a balance between the theological calls to moderation on the Protestant Enlightenment on the one side and the more mainstream French Enlightenment hostile to religious privilege on the other, by turning to Genevan-inspired-Rousseauian sentiment, a concept fostered amongst Protestant circles in Geneva, which offered him an alternate route towards religious toleration and the natural right of public worship. The Protestant Enlightenment of Rabaut Saint-Étienne and its carrier—the sentimental novel, Le Vieux Cévenol—atoned for the sins of those Calvinists who had fanned the Wars of Religion, while carrying a form of apologetics that rendered Calvinism compatible with an empathetic, tolerant, polite and enlightened society. The author is grateful to the Institute on Napoleon and the French Revolution at Florida State University for their generous support, which was used to research this article. Darrin M. McMahon, Rafe Blaufarb, Erica Johnson, Timothy Best, Cindy Ermus, Ronen Steinberg, Robert Blackman, and Timothy Tackett have all shaped this article through their thoughtful commentary. Footnotes 1 The Désert period refers to the era between 1685 and 1787, when the French state outlawed Calvinism. In order to conceal their own identity and protect their families, many Calvinists adopted Désert names. 2 R. Saint-Étienne, Triomphe de l’intolérance, ou Anecdotes de la vie d’Ambroise Borély, mort à Londres, âge 103 ans (London, 1779). Other editions came out in 1784, 1788, 1820, 1821, 1826, 1846 and 1886. Unless otherwise noted, I will be referencing the 1788 version of the text: R. Saint-Étienne, Le Vieux Cévenol, ou anecdotes de la vie d’Ambroise Borély, mort à Londres agé de 103 ans (London, 1788). Differences do exist between each text. Narrative arch and general argument do not change, but chapter organization does from version to version. While arguments can be made about the organizational choices made from edition to edition, the goal of this article is to make the case for a larger Protestant Enlightenment and Rabaut Saint-Étienne’s role in it. 3 B. Poland, French Protestantism and the French Revolution: A Study in Church and State, Thought and Religion, 1685–1815 (Princeton, 1957), 75. 4 D. Bien, The Calas Affair: Persecution, Toleration, and Heresy in Eighteenth-Century Toulouse (Princeton, 1960); G. Adams, The Huguenots and French Opinion, 1685–1787: The Enlightenment Debate on Toleration (Waterloo, ON, 1991); D. Bell, Lawyers and Citizens: Making of a Political Elite in Old Regime France (New York, 1994). 5 Bien, The Calas Affair, 25. 6 Ibid.; J. D. Woodbridge, ‘An “unnatural alliance” for religious toleration: the philosophes and the outlawed pastors of the “church of the Desert”’, Church Hist, 42 (1973), 508. 7 Voltaire, Traité sur la tolérance (1763); Voltaire, Avis au public sur les parricides imputés aux Calas et aux Sirven (Geneva, 1766). 8 In a letter to Paul Rabaut, Saint-Étienne’s father, Rousseau sympathized with the Calvinist cause, but his own poverty restricted his ability to assist in any substantive way: H. M. Baird, The Huguenots and the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, vol. 2 (New York, 1895), 517. 9 D. Garrioch, The Huguenots of Paris and the Coming of Religious Freedom, 1685–1789 (New York, 2014). 10 On the Protestant Enlightenment: J. G. A. Pocock, Barbarism and Religion, vol. 5: Religion: The First Triumph (Cambridge, 2011), 92; J. E. Bradley and D. Van Kley, Religion and Politics in Enlightenment Europe (Notre Dame, IN, 2001), 15. 11 Pocock, Barbarism and Religion, 92; Bradley and Van Kley, Religion and Politics, 15. 12 Garrioch, Huguenots of Paris, 164. 13 D. Robert, Les Églises réformées en France (1800–1830) (Paris, 1961), 7, f.4. 14 D. Sorkin, The Religious Enlightenment: Protestants, Jews and Catholics from London to Vienna (Princeton, 2008), 11; B. Dompnier, Le Venin de l’hércsie: image du protestantism et combat catholique au XVIIesiècle (Paris, 1985). 15 Saint-Étienne, Le Vieux Cévenol, 109–10. 16 P. Gay, The Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Paganism (New York, 1995), 3. 17 Saint-Étienne, Triomphe de l’intolérance (1779), title page. 18 Voltaire, Treatise on Tolerance: And Other Writings, tr. B. Masters (New York, 2000), 3. 19 J. Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society (Cambridge, MA, 1991), 90; D. Van Kley, The Religious Origins of the French Revolution: From Calvin to the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, 1560–1791 (New Haven, 1996), 200; J. Merrick, The Desacralization of the French Monarchy in the Eighteenth Century (Baton Rouge, LA, 1990), 78–104. It should be further noted that Habermas has revised his own interpretation of religion vis-à-vis the public–private divide in J. Habermas, ‘Religion in the public sphere: cognitive presuppositions for the “public use of reason by religious and secular citizens”’, in J. Habermas, Between Naturalism and Religion: Philosophical Essays, tr. C. Cronin (Cambridge, 2008), 114–48. 20 For general overviews of Rabaut Saint-Étienne’s life: A. Lods, Essai sur la vie de Rabaut de Saint-Étienne, pasteur à Nîmes, membre de l’Assemblée constituante et de la Convention nationale, (1743–1793) (Paris, 1893); A. Dupont, Rabaut Saint-Étienne, 1743–1793: un protestant défenseur de la liberté religieuse, intro. by J. Baubérot (Paris, 1989). 21 J. G. A. Pocock, ‘Conservative enlightenment and democratic revolutions: the American and French cases in British perspective’, Government and Opposition, 24 (1989), 84. I have chosen not to contend with the debate over Enlightenment or enlightenments, which accompanies much of Pocock’s work. The Enlightenment imagined here was not unitary, nor was it a distinguishable ‘Enlightenment project’. Rather, the Enlightenment described here is based on a perceived social discursive field that made certain fundamental categories for thinking possible. Concepts such as reason, natural law and sentiment were linguistic tools to debate, legitimize and delegitimize a host of ideas: D. A. Harvey, The French Enlightenment and Its Others: The Mandarin, the Savage, and the Human Sciences (New York, 2012). 22 Saint-Étienne, Le Vieux Cévenol, 112. 23 Ibid., 11. 24 C.-A. Gaidan, ‘Paul Rabaut et sa famille’, in Les Rabaut du désert à la Révolution (Montpellier, 1988), 27. 25 C. Dardier, Paul Rabaut: ses lettres à Antoine Court, 1739–1755, vol. 2 (Paris, 1884), 121. 26 R. Saint-Étienne, Lettres à Monsieur Bailly sur l’histoire primitive de la Grèce (Paris, 1787). 27 H. Rosenblatt, ‘The Christian Enlightenment’, in The Cambridge History of Christianity, vol. 7: Enlightenment, Reawakening, and Revolution, 1660–1815, ed. S. J. Brown and T. Tackett (Cambridge, 2006), 285. 28 L.-J. Levesque de Pouilly, Théorie des sentiments (London, 1750), vi, 3. 29 Rosenblatt, ‘Christian Enlightenment’, 295. 30 C. Lasserre, Le Séminaire de Lausanne (Lausanne, 1997), 298; Dupont, Rabat Saint-Étienne, 1743–1793, 11–72. 31 His name is sometimes spelled Elie Benoist. For Benoît’s history of the Edict of Nantes and its revocation: É. Benoît, Histoire de l’Edit de Nantes: contenant les choses les plus remarquables qui se sont passées en France avant et après sa publication, à l’occasion de la diversité des religions ... jusques à l’edit de révocation, en octobre 1685. Avec ce qui a suivi ce nouvel édit jusques à present, 3 vols (Delft, 1693–5); H. Bost, ‘Elie Benoist et l’historiographie de l’édit de Nantes’, in H. Bost, Ces Messieurs de la R.P.R.: histoire et écritures de huguenots, XVIIe–XVIIIesiècles (Paris, 2001), 267–79. 32 The most thorough examination of this historiography is E. I. Perry, From Theology to History: French Religious Controversy and the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (The Hague, 1973). 33 A. Court, Histoire des troubles des Cevennes; ou, De la guerre des Camisars, sous le règne de Louis le Grand (Villefranche, 1760). 34 The invention of ‘religion’ and ‘religions’ is traced to the religious controversies of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in the United Kingdom as well as in France: P. Harrison, ‘Religion’ and the Religions in the English Enlightenment (Cambridge, 1990). 35 ‘Religion’, in Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, vol. 14 (Paris, 1765), 83–8. It also recognizes that ‘religion’ even into the second half of the eighteenth century, could refer to the ‘so-called Reformed religion’ or French Calvinism. 36 A. Court, Lettre d’un patriote sur la tolérance civile des protestans de France, (Lausanne, 1756), 47; A. Court, Histoire des troubles des Cévennes ou de la guerre des Camisards, 3 vols (1819). 37 D. A. Bell, The Cult of the Nation: Inventing Nationalism, 1680–1800 (Cambridge, MA, 2001), 25. 38 Court, Lettre d’un patriote, 25. 39 C. Borello, Du Désert au Royaume: parole publique et écriture protestante (1765–1788): édition critique du Vieux Cévenol et de sermons de Rabaut Saint-Étienne (Paris, 2013), 53; R. Chartier, The Cultural Origins of the French Revolution, tr. L. G. Cochrane (Durham, NC, 1991), 19. 40 Saint-Étienne, Le Vieux Cévenol, 87. The italics are mine. 41 L. Hunt, Inventing Human Rights: A History (New York, 2007). 42 J.-J. Rousseau, Émile (Mineola, NY, 2013), 221–3. 43 J.-J. Rousseau, Julie, ou La nouvelle Héloïse, in Oeuvres complète (Paris, 1961); R. Darnton, The Great Cat Massacre. 44 Louis Dupré makes a similar argument on the connection between emotion, compassion, sentimentalism and political action in L. Dupré, The Enlightenment and the Intellectual Foundations of Modern Culture (New Haven, 2004), 53–67. 45 P. Riley, The General Will before Rousseau: The Transformation of the Divine into the Civic (Princeton, 1986), esp. ch. 1. 46 J. Necker, De L’importance des opinions religieuses (London, 1788), 92–3; Rosenblatt, ‘Christian Enlightenment’, 283–301. 47 Necker, L’Importance des opinions religieuses, 326. 48 M. Frazer, The Enlightenment of Sympathy: Justice and the Moral Sentiments in the Eighteenth Century and Today (New York, 2010). 49 C. L. Chappell, ‘“The pains I took to save my/his family”: escape accounts by a Huguenot mother and daughter after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes’, French Hist Studies, 22 (winter 1999), 1–64. 50 Saint-Étienne, Le Vieux Cévenol, 115. 51 See the 1784 version. The 1788 version lacks the same precision, detailing Borély’s age to the year and not to the month. 52 For the role of editors: R. Iliffe, ‘Author-mongering: the “editor” between producer and consumer’, in The Consumption of Culture, 1600–1800: Image, Object, Text, ed. A. Bermingham and J. Brewer (New York, 1995), 166–92; R. B. Sher, The Enlightenment and the Book: Scottish Authors and their Publishers in Eighteenth-Century Britain, Ireland, and America (Chicago, 2006). 53 A. Aulard, La Révolution française, vol. 13 (Paris, 1887), 191. 54 On the textual changes from edition to edition: Borello, Du Désert au Royaume, 9–19. 55 Saint-Étienne, Le Vieux Cévenol, 53. 56 Hunt, Inventing Human Rights, 111. 57 Saint-Étienne, Le Vieux Cévenol, 86. 58 Ibid., 102. 59 On the ‘general will’: Riley, The General Will before Rousseau; J. Farr and D. L. Williams (eds), The General Will: The Evolution of a Concept (New York, 2014). 60 Merrick, Desacralization of the French Monarchy, 95–6; Van Kley, Religious Origins, 164. 61 Saint-Étienne, Le Vieux Cévenol, 102. 62 Ibid. 63 Y. Krumenacker, ‘Une perception protestante de l’espace au XVIIIe siècle?’, in Évolution et représentation du paysage de 1750 à nos jours (Montbrison, 1997), 146–7. 64 C. G. de Lamoignon de Malesherbes, Mémoire sur le mariage des protestans, en 1785 (n.p., 1785); C. G. de Lamoignon de Malesherbes, Seconde Mémoire sur le mariage des protestans (n.p., 1786). 65 M. Roberts, Sentimental Savants: Philosophical Families in Enlightenment France (Chicago, 2016), 4. 66 A. de Baecque, The Body Politic: Corporeal Metaphor in Revolutionary France, 1770–1800 (Stanford, CA, 1993), 12. 67 Saint-Étienne, Le Vieux Cévenol, 46. 68 Ibid., 10. 69 Ibid., 56. 70 Ibid., 21. 71 Ibid., 66, 83. 72 Saint-Étienne, Le Vieux Cévenol (1784 edition), 95. 73 Ibid., 108. 74 M. Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (Chicago, 2001). This is not to say that individuals did not connect Protestantism to modern capitalism vis-à-vis their religious tenets in the eighteenth century: M. C. Jacob and M. Kadane, ‘Missing, now found in the eighteenth century: Weber’s Protestant capitalist’, Am Hist R, 108 (2003), 20–49. 75 Saint-Étienne, Le Vieux Cévenol, 32. 76 W. C. Scoville, The Persecution of Huguenots and French Economic Development, 1680–1720 (Berkeley, 1960). For the most thorough critique of Scoville’s monograph: R. Grassby’s review in Econ Hist R, 14 (1961–2), 360–2; M. Yardeni, ‘Naissance et lessor d’un mythe: la Revocation de l’adit de Nantes et le decline économique de la France’, in M. Yardeni, Repenser l’histoire: aspects de l’historiographic huguenots des guerres de religion à la Revolution française (Paris, 2000), 191–206. 77 ‘Edict of Toleration, 1787’, in The French Revolution and Human Rights: A Brief Documentary History, tr., ed., and with an intro. by L. Hunt (Boston and New York, 1996), 40–3. 78 Ibid. 79 A[rchives] p[arlementaire], vol. 8, 478. 80 Ibid., 480. Italics are mine. 81 E. Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (London, 1790), 119. 82 Ibid. 83 ‘Premier Exercise public du culte réformé à Paris en 1791’, Bulletin de la Societé de l’histoire du protestantisme français, 36 (1886), 512. © The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for the Study of French History. All rights reserved. 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The French Protestant enlightenment of Rabaut Saint-Étienne: Le Vieux Cévenol and the sentimental origins of religious toleration

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Abstract Historians often refer to the period from the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685) to Louis XVI’s Edict of Toleration (1787) as the Désert in French Calvinist history. As the name suggests, the French state outlawed Calvinists, forced them to clandestinely worship, and expelled many from the kingdom and empire altogether. In this article, I suggest that Calvinists played a role in the concurrent French Enlightenment despite their legal marginality. By examining the writings of Rabaut Saint-Étienne, a French Calvinist pastor and later leader of the National Assembly during the French Revolution, this article explores the underground French Protestant Enlightenment and the sentimental strain that ran through it. Calvinists such as Saint-Étienne informed Enlightenment debates over religious toleration and religious freedom with arguments that appealed not necessarily to public utility, reason, or even the letter of the law, but to natural rights and empathy. During his life, Jean Paul Rabaut, more commonly known by his Désert name, Rabaut Saint-Étienne, wrote copiously about the plight of French Calvinists in France and the displaced Huguenots abroad.1 Born in Nîmes to one of the most prominent Désert Calvinist pastors—Paul Rabaut—Saint-Étienne left France for Lausanne to study under Antoine Court and his son Antoine Court de Gébelin, both defenders of the French Calvinist community and prolific writers. Saint-Étienne officially became a Calvinist pastor in 1764, returning to Nîmes shortly after. Inspired by the Calas Affair two years earlier in 1762—the case, popularized by Voltaire, of a Calvinist father wrongly sentenced to death after his son’s suicide—Saint-Étienne found himself thrust into the defence of the Calvinist community on a national and international level. His first book, Le Vieux Cévenol, was a short fictional account of a despondent French Calvinist named Ambroise Borély.2 In the book, Saint-Étienne expressed a vision of enlightened religious liberty that embraced individual reason and universal sentiment. His status as a defender of the Calvinist minority all but guaranteed his place in the Estates General, and then later elevated him to the presidency of the Constituent Assembly. Before the Revolution, Saint-Étienne played a part in a much larger Protestant Enlightenment, which is often neglected in the narrative of religious toleration and the French Enlightenment. Saint-Étienne experienced and witnessed first-hand religious persecution. Geoffrey Adams and other historians who trace the rise of religious toleration during the eighteenth century focus on the efforts of statesmen, lawyers and philosophers, who expounded upon the ills of an intricately bound Catholic Church and state, and subsequently drafted laws, proclamations and legislation in the hopes of instituting religious tolerance. In his French Protestantism and the French Revolution, Burdette Poland noted that after 1750, ‘the devising of such legislation had become a professional pastime for enlightened legists’.3 The goal of lawyers such as Gilbert de Voisins, Malesherbes, Amelot and the Baron de Breteuil was to rationally explain the benefits of an état civil for the benighted Calvinists. They emphasized that Louis XIV’s lettres mortes existed in ink only, having largely been ignored in recent years throughout much of the kingdom. Saint-Étienne’s fictional approach mirrored the legist efforts, but adopted a sentimental tactic common during the late Enlightenment. In the debate over religious toleration, few historians focus on the efforts of Protestants to recast their faith during the post-Revocation period.4 A veritable ‘unnatural alliance’, according to David Bien, emerged, in which philosophers, lawyers and statesmen defended the French Protestant population and elevated their status in the process, but this ‘alliance’ remained one-sided.5 Calvinists remained passive and largely grateful for their allies’ philosophical and often litigious efforts, while the philosophes built their own pantheon in part on the cause of French Calvinism.6 In fact, Voltaire built a cause célèbre cottage industry in the 1760s defending the Calas and Sirven families.7 And Rousseau, a man from a Protestant family and a Genevese, seemed the ideal candidate to defend Calvinist interests following the 1755 publication of Discours sur l’origine et les fondements de l’inégalité parmi les hommes. While Rousseau’s writings inspired many Calvinists, including Saint-Étienne, with his turn to sentimentality, Rousseau proved to be a rather reluctant defender of French Calvinists.8 This study on Rabaut Saint-Étienne, like the recent work by David Garrioch, attempts to balance the historiographical scales.9 Saint-Étienne played a part in a much larger ‘Protestant international’ that reached from London through the Netherlands to Lausanne and into southern France—the last leg of which is usually overlooked by historians of religion in the eighteenth century.10 This link between the Désert community in southern France and the exiled Calvinist community in Lausanne and Geneva fostered a vibrant Protestant Enlightenment that persisted through the eighteenth century—a community that responded to the deist and anti-religious impulses of the more ‘mainstream’ Enlightenment by adopting a language of sentiment, predicated on the victimization of a French Calvinist population. Historians have missed links to the Protestant international in France, due in part to Louis XIV’s legal fiction of a homogenous Catholic France. Simply put, few Calvinists remained in France and those who did represented such a scattered minority that their primary goal was survival, which created a heterogeneous religious character to the point that those who understood themselves as Calvinists differed significantly in theological doctrine from one another. In his five-volume series Barbarism and Religion, J. G. A. Pocock describes a Protestant community that stretched beyond the nation state. A Protestant Enlightenment extended from the United Kingdom to the Netherlands and then to Swiss cities such as Geneva and Lausanne. James Bradley and Dale Van Kley also describe a ‘distinctly Protestant Enlightenment’ that ‘stretched like a crescent from England and Scotland through the Protestant Netherlands and western Germanies only to end in the Swiss cities of Geneva and Lausanne’.11 The concave side of this crescent followed the borders of the French kingdom, where Calvinism remained illegal for much of the eighteenth century. These historians have ignored the French periphery, which French Calvinists called home while outlawed during the eighteenth-century Désert period. Yet illegality should not be understood as absence. After 1715, the Calvinist community in Languedoc experienced a resurgence aided by the seminary in Lausanne, and in connection with the refuge Huguenot writers of the Netherlands. Calvinist pastors continued their clandestine works, rebuilding their community under the direction of leaders such as Antoine Court and Paul Rabaut—Rabaut Saint-Étienne’s father. As Garrioch argues for the Parisian population, in places like Nîmes it was possible that Catholics took pity on Protestants for their hardships and then passively fostered ‘peaceful coexistence … in everyday relationships’.12 This type of de facto toleration of the Calvinist sect had set in by the early 1770s. The last Calvinists to lose their lives because of their faith were the pastor Francois Rochette, who died in Toulouse in February 1762, and the lesser-known Francois Charmuzy, who died in a prison cell in Meaux after several days of detention in April 1771.13 This relative stability promoted the growth of a minuscule Calvinist pastor elite, who could then find ways to assert their confessional agenda. The Protestant Enlightenment described in this article should be understood as an extension of the larger Protestant Enlightenment outlined by Pocock, but one that also maintained distinctly ‘French’ characteristics. In this sense, ‘French’ is defined broadly by the legal straits placed on French Calvinists and the more radical Enlightenment fostered in France. ‘French’ does not constitute a quasi-mythical homogenous French culture. While connected to the outside world, this Protestant Enlightenment remained remarkably attuned to French legal problems. Rabaut Saint-Étienne’s Le Vieux Cévenol does not rehearse theological or eschatological exegeses more commonly seen during the Revocation years, but rather focuses on the social, economic and political plight of French Calvinists during the Désert period—a distinctly French context. The second reason why scholars have neglected a Protestant Enlightenment in France is that its arbiters turned to sentiment as a way to rebuke those who marshalled reason to fuel the fires of atheism, deism and radical anti-religious rhetoric. Protestantism was a fount of morality and sentiment, not reason. Belief and the need for religious practice were universal societal qualities. Reason was a second-order principle of man’s nature. Saint-Étienne’s writings conform roughly to the four categories David Sorkin outlines for a ‘religious Enlightenment’. Namely, Saint-Étienne depicts a middle ground between ‘reasonable belief grounded in the idea of “natural religion” and the exegetical principle of accommodation’. The characters in his Le Vieux Cévenol also make the case for the natural law of toleration. Toleration, by definition, extends to the ‘public sphere’ in which Saint-Étienne defended the natural right for Protestant public worship in France. Lastly, Saint-Étienne’s goal was to gain sponsorship from the government, not to subvert it—despite the writings of Catholic polemicists hell-bent on uncovering secret Protestant plots, more common to the previous century.14 Yet Sorkin’s typology also emphasizes the use of reason, whereas Saint-Étienne relied more on sentiment. Sentiment, not reason, was natural and instinctual for Saint-Étienne. Man was not born with a blank slate, as John Locke posited, but rather, for Saint-Étienne, ‘sensitivity to others’ pain is an invisible feeling in the back of all hearts’.15 The place of religion was to nurture said sentiment towards the promotion of religious freedom. The third reason why historians have missed the French Protestant Enlightenment is because the mainstream Enlightenment, peopled by Peter Gay’s famous ‘flock of philosophes’, overshadowed it.16 In another sense, the radical character of the French Enlightenment led the Protestant Enlightenment in France further afield than its more theologically bound manifestations in Europe. Voltaire’s position in his famous Treatise sur la tolérance popularized the Calvinist cause. The initial publication of the Le Vieux Cévenol declares that the original text had been ‘found amongst the papers of M. de Voltaire’.17 In his opening line, Voltaire noted that the Calas Affair stood out as an extraordinary event, one of distinct singularity, punctuating humankind’s longer history of tolerance.18 The language of sentimentalism, as popularized by Rousseau, and natural law, by Montesquieu and others, seemed perfectly compatible to Saint-Étienne’s discourse. The open-air worship meetings drew direct parallels in Saint-Étienne’s mind—that is, French Calvinists literally returned to nature and natural settings to worship, just as they spoke of regeneration and the return to the ‘ancient’ natural church. It made sense then that a natural law should protect public worship. Yet, in making this argument, Saint-Étienne departs from normative eighteenth-century French discourse concerning what some scholars, including Jürgen Habermas, Dale Van Kley and Jeffrey Merrick, have termed the ‘privatization of religion’.19 Saint-Étienne insisted on the essential function of religion in moral terms, whereas Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot and Turgot willingly sought to separate religion from politics and the public sphere. Saint-Étienne argued that proper public worship served a moral and pedagogical imperative. It accentuated the innate and universal sentiment of man. This position stands in opposition to the ‘normative secular’ narrative of the French Enlightenment, and its concomitant internalization and individualization of religious belief, by emphasizing the natural principles of public worship—a natural right denied to Calvinists in the Désert and Huguenot diaspora, which Saint-Étienne continued to defend for the duration of his political life. As Rabaut Saint-Étienne is the biographical nodal point for this article, I have chosen to mirror his life’s work chronologically, starting with his earliest encounters with the Protestant Enlightenment. Only after establishing the context of Saint-Étienne’s view of the Protestant Enlightenment can the sentimentalism of Le Vieux Cévenol, one of his most significant pre-revolutionary writings on religious toleration, be examined. Finally, this article concludes with a discussion of his role in the drafting of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, which further evidences the agency of a French Calvinist in France, despite the illegality of his faith.20 I J. G. A. Pocock, a historian of Enlightenment thought, argues that any understanding of the Enlightenment needs to take into account the trauma inflicted on the European conscience by the Wars of Religion. If any single unifying factor existed to connect each version of the Enlightenment, it was that they all pursued ‘a series of programmes for strengthening civil sovereignty and putting an end to the Wars of Religion’.21 Rabaut Saint-Étienne’s vision of the Enlightenment resulted from a similar position, though it emerged during a renewed climate of religious persecution at the time of his birth in 1743. As his Le Vieux Cévenol reminded its readers, the French Wars of Religion had not ceased. Henri IV’s efforts only momentarily assuaged the power of theologians—‘men cladded in white’—to wage ‘sacred war … against men in black’. They banished peace from the terrestrial plane and spun falsehoods in the process, to provide a ‘pretext for persecution’.22 Moreover, Saint-Étienne found the Revocation to be more egregious than the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. The massacre lasted ‘one day and the courts countermanded them two days later; but the delirium of the Revocation lasted for several years’.23 Huguenots found 1685 to be the source of their nadir. Calvinist women were imprisoned in the Tour de Constance, and men were sentenced to hard labour in the galleys. Only three years after Saint-Étienne’s birth, the young pastor Mathieu Majal was burned alive on the esplanade in Montpellier. A much older, octogenarian pastor met a similar fate that same year in Grenoble. His body was removed from the scaffold post-mortem only to be tossed into the Isère River. A warrant for the arrest of Saint-Étienne’s own father, the well-known Désert Calvinist pastor, Paul Rabaut, was set at 6,000 livres.24 While the Camisard Wars (1702–15) had ended, the Reformed faith remained simultaneously policed and persecuted. It was this persecution in France that led Saint-Étienne’s father to send him from their family home in Nîmes to Lausanne for a ‘proper’ Calvinist education. Under the direction of the best-known Désert pastor, Antoine Court, and his son, Court de Gébelin, Saint-Étienne first encountered the arguments of the more mainstream Enlightenment. Saint-Étienne advanced in his studies, bearing ‘fruits précoces’, as Antoine Court noted in a letter to Paul Rabaut.25 In particular, Saint-Étienne developed a fascination with ancient Greece—his famed Lettres à Mr. Bailly sur l’histoire primitive de la Grèce of 1787 was the result.26 Saint-Étienne’s turn towards sentiment owed more to his later move to Geneva with his brothers, where he continued his theological, philosophical and linguistic studies. There, Saint-Étienne undoubtedly came into contact with Jacob Vernet, a disciple of the Genevan theologian Jean-Alphonse Turrettini. Both men stressed the use of reason and the importance of moderation. Here, too, Saint-Étienne would have come into contact with the writings of German Aufklärer on the one hand, who sought a middle ground between reason and revelation. On the other, Saint-Étienne would have been equally opposed to the sterility of the German Lutheran orthodoxy and the radical ‘enthusiasm’ of the Pietists, whose evangelical fervour undoubtedly would have reminded him of the enthusiasts who had fuelled the Camisard Wars in France at the beginning of the eighteenth century.27 Vernet had promoted a work published in 1748 entitled Théorie des sentiments agrébles, which insisted that ‘proofs of sentiment’ could affect change more effectively than ‘useful arguments’. Such an argument was a jab at the overtly rationalistic arguments of thinkers such as Pierre Bayle.28 In fact, what emerged in Geneva was what Rosenblatt has called ‘Enlightened Christian sentimentalism’. In part a reaction to the claims of D’Alembert that the pastors of Geneva had become Socinians, embracing reason at the expense of revelation, this turn to sentiment implicitly recognized the growing divisions predicated on a secular rationality. A language of sensitive hearts in particular made sense to Saint-Étienne, for whom, historically, hardened hearts had led to the plight of the French Calvinists. Such sentimental language reified the pacifist character of Calvinists and added an additional layer of support for their toleration.29 Because of financial hardship, Saint-Étienne returned to Nîmes to study under his father’s supervision, delivering his first sermon in January 1763 at the same time that Voltaire issued his Traité sur la tolérance during the Calas Affair. Returning to Lausanne for a year, Saint-Étienne passed his exams, formally matriculating from the seminary in November 1764.30 Over the next fifteen years, Saint-Étienne remained in the environs of Nîmes and developed his own sense of Protestant Enlightenment. In Nîmes, he began to imagine how sentiment might be employed for the purposes of toleration in France. He drew inspiration from the cadre of philosophers and writers who had cut their teeth in the wake of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Those sceptical, critical and ‘tolerationist’ works of Pierre Bayle, Isaac de Beausobre and Jean Le Clerc, as well as the historical writings of Élie Benoît, provided the historical realism that Saint-Étienne would need to make his book relatable. Benoît’s name, specifically, appears five times in the citations at the close of Saint-Étienne’s Le Vieux Cévenol. The French Protestant pastor and historian of the Edict of Nantes, Benoît provided much of the historical fodder Saint-Étienne used to substantiate his claims in his Histoire de l’Edit de Nantes, published in the decade following the Revocation. Many of the scenes of persecution, the disinterment and mutilation of Calvinist corpses, and the imprisonment of men and women found in Le Vieux Cévenol are accompanied by footnotes citing Benoît.31 The shift marked by Benoît’s work cannot be understated in the intellectual history of the period. While completed to reassure Louis XIV of the loyalty of the French Calvinist population and to establish their sect as the victims in an unholy holy war, the text did not attempt to make any theological arguments. Instead, Benoît’s historiographical treatment of the Edict of Nantes established Calvinism as a ‘culte’, a loyal religious community with the best interests of the kingdom at heart worthy of recognition and protection.32 Saint-Étienne’s own mentor in Lausanne, Antoine Court, had published a tract on the Camisard Wars, where he continued the legacy of Benoît by calling for Calvinist loyalty to the Bourbon crown and the end of Calvinist prophesies.33 In addition to the writings of Benoît and Court, other writings from the Huguenot diaspora, such as Pierre Bayle’s Nouvelles de la République des Lettres (1684–7) and Pierre Jurieu’s Lettres pastorales aux fidèles qui gémissent sous la capivité de Babylone (1686–9), informed the historical backdrop of Saint-Étienne’s novel. Persecution histories rested on themes of pain and injustice, which laid the foundations for empathetic accounts. From the late seventeenth-century boom of historical works on religion came the creation of ‘religions’ and their comparative study.34 At the core of this movement, to which Saint-Étienne’s work is deeply indebted, was the idea that every religion shared certain principles. As Lynn Hunt, Margaret Jacob, and W. W. Mijnhardt showed in The Book that Changed Europe: Picart and Bernard’s Religious Ceremonies of the World, the comparative study of religions of the early Enlightenment moved away from the polemics of the so-called Age of Confessionalization, filled a desire to dispassionately and rationally outline the contours of many faiths alongside one another, and distilled what they perceived as the ‘natural’, and even as the ‘essence’, of universal faith. Picart and Bernard—men deeply embedded in the Huguenot diaspora—emerged out of the Republic of Letters largely influenced by the Huguenot diaspora and the early Protestant Enlightenment, which saw the rise of reason. Such a goal should be understood as an offshoot of the eschatological dream of universal conversion within the Christian tradition. To find the single unifying factor of religious expression could translate into homogeneity, curtail the endless confessional division that ardent Catholics like Bossuet blamed on the early Reformers and, by extension, end internecine religious conflict. The coterie of ‘high Enlightenment’ thinkers showed a similar tendency towards erudition. The same desire to catalogue and compare world religions manifested itself in the bastion of Enlightenment publishing, L’Encyclopédie. In the 1765 version of the Encyclopédie, the entry for ‘religion’ describes it in simple terms, as the common expression of honouring God.35 This almost anthropological impulse towards the study of religion reduced faith to its ‘nature’, a set of socially constructed commonalities. Saint-Etienne similarly detailed a common religious element, the existence of which supported man’s need for religion, specifically a form of public worship capable of fostering moral and sentimental growth. Reducing religion to common impulses, then, freed the French Protestant Enlightenment of the Désert period to make non-religious, political claims about the Protestant population. Saint-Étienne’s instructor at the Lausanne seminary, Antoine Court, had already published works defending French Calvinists as ‘patriots’ first, and Calvinists second. In his Lettre d’un patriote sur la tolérance civile des protestans de France (1756), Court used the word choice of ‘patriote’ in the title to displace distinctions like Catholic and Protestant. L’esprit protestant lost its place to ‘cet esprit de patriotisme qui convient à tout véritable citoyen’—this spirit of patriotism that comes to every true citizen.36 It is important to note that when Court used terms like ‘patrie’ or ‘nation’ he used them like his sixteenth-century constitutionalist predecessors. The ‘nation’ was not synonymous with the population as a whole. Nor did he use this term with the idea of a social contract or natural rights in mind. He was not claiming the right to change the ancient constitution of France, nor to dramatically alter the hierarchical social order of the ancien régime. His ‘nation’ referred less to natural rights and more to ‘positive rights’, or those outlined by French law.37 Court called for the ‘restitution to Protestants of a part of their ancient privileges’.38 At the core of Court’s plea was the victimization of the Calvinist, patriot people and their alienation from their country, two themes taken up by Saint-Étienne in his pursuit of religious toleration. Saint-Étienne found sources for his Protestant sentimentalism in the ‘best-sellers’ of the Enlightenment. As Céline Borello has appropriately noted, Saint-Étienne was not merely a ‘partisan of philosophical thought’, nor was his mind ‘soft wax’ shaped by the simple imposition of enlightened ideas.39 Montesquieu and Beccaria receive explicit mention in Le Vieux Cévenol. Others, such as Voltaire and Locke, appear through clear and veiled references, often just alluded to in Saint-Étienne’s text as philosophers or men of greater mental acumen. What is certain is that Saint-Étienne interpreted these philosophes in sentimental terms, noting how ‘readers of this history’ with ‘especially strong nerves’ and ‘endowed with a certain coarseness of soul’, ‘may be able to note with pleasure that in the fine century of Louis XIV, the minds of men had a peculiar energy, and that they had not been softened by reading Montesquieu and the Marquis de Beccaria’.40 The choice of the word ‘softened’ or ‘été amolli’ did not correspond with the normative understanding of the ‘age of Enlightenment’ as an ‘age of Reason’. Instead, Saint-Étienne’s rhetoric suggests a hardened conscience in desperate need of sentimentalism. In this sense, the more mainstream Enlightenment spawned a kind of empathetic revolution, one which was conducive to sentiment and religion.41 The ‘citizen of Geneva’, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, inspired Rabaut Saint-Étienne’s turn to the sentimental novel in two primary ways. First, Rousseau calls for a kind of sentimental realism or a sentimentalism that is both relatable to and seemingly worse than the reader’s experience. One without the other distances the reader from the plight to the point where sentiment is lost. In Émile, Rousseau describes his three maxims on compassion and the proper sentimental education. The first imagines compassion as a ‘part of human nature’. The second insists on the personal and ultimately selfish nature of sentimentalism, or the need for one to fear a similar fate. And the third maxim deals specifically with empathy or the ‘feelings we attribute to the sufferers’.42 In his Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse, Rousseau explored sentiment in the form of an epistolary novel, which, as Robert Darnton notes, became one of the best-sellers of the eighteenth century, as well as popularizing the form of sentimental fiction.43 Saint-Étienne became attuned to the power of sentimentalism, as well as the idea that passions drive action and change while reason devolves into inaction.44 The sentimental connection made between individuals then forms one of the social bases for the general will for Rousseau—the glue that binds society together. While Rousseau may have popularized the idea of the general will, it is necessary to recognize that the idea’s invention lay in the theological discord between Protestant and Catholic in the seventeenth century—in the debates between the Jansenists Antoine Arnauld and Blaise Pascal on the one side, and the Jesuit Nicolas Malebranche on the other—specifically within the context of the idea of God’s divine will to save all men. Such debates were taken up by early Protestant Enlightenment philosophers such as Pierre Bayle, whose writings influenced Genevan Calvinists in the Désert to a great extent, Saint-Étienne included. Rousseau, then, was part of a much larger religious dialogue, which he pulled into the social and political sphere.45 The late Protestant Enlightenment in France was best defined by sentimentalism, and other Protestants in France used this rhetoric to their advantage as well. The Genevan-born finance minister to Louis XVI, Jacques Necker, incorporated the language of Christian sentimentalism in two apologetic works, rarely interrogated by historians. In his 1788 De L’importance des opinions religieuses, as Rosenblatt has correctly noted, Necker adopts a view of justice, which forefronts sentiment rather than cold reason. ‘The timorous sentiment of a judge’s conscience’ or his ‘sensible clairvoyance’ combined with the natural sensibilities produced just rulings.46 Necker’s apologetics also speak openly about religious morality as a basis for sentiment, drawing a very similar line between Christian sentimentalism and the need for public worship and religious education.47 Saint-Étienne found his vision of Protestant Enlightenment more conducive with the sentimental side of the Enlightenment or the ‘Enlightenment of Sympathy’ explored by Michael Frazer. This sentimental Enlightenment had cosmopolitan roots linking the Protestant Enlightenment of Rotterdam to Geneva and to southern France and Paris. Saint-Étienne saw the ‘age of reason’ in a religious sense, placing greater emphasis on feeling, as well as moral and political reflection.48 In the wake of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, he chose to probe the king’s and the public opinion’s moral and Christian conscience through a gruesome, albeit fictional, account of one refugee—Amboise Borély—whose struggles reflected Calvinist experiences. II In 1779, Rabaut Saint-Étienne published the first edition of his sentimental novel. Saint-Étienne’s goal was to give a first-hand account of the man’s life—forging a sentimental bond between Borély and the reader—and to mimic the escape memoirs produced at the turn of the century.49 His Le Vieux Cévenol was a fictional account—masquerading as non-fictional—of a man whose birth to Protestant parents came at the most inopportune time. Early in his childhood, Borély witnessed his father’s death on suspicion of having attended a clandestine meeting. Ruthless dragoons ransacked his home. Despite these events, Borély’s mother found a way to support her children and to continue raising them as Calvinists. At fifteen, Borély’s plans for his future employment were dashed as he was expressly forbidden, on account of his religion and by the king’s ordinances, from entering the legal profession, as judge, solicitor, advocate or notary, or practising as a physician, apothecary or even horse-riding instructor. The military remained open to Protestants, but advancement was impossible and it seemed likely that if he supported Louis XIV in this manner he would inevitably have to act against his fellow Protestants. He found trade to be his only professional refuge. A once close family friend, Claude Hypocris, then informed on the Calvinist family in order to take advantage of an edict that placed in his hands the wealth and property of any captured Calvinist. The mother became further impoverished; Borély’s sisters were carried off to convents; Catholics tricked the youngest brother, only seven years old, into converting for treats; and a recently deceased Protestant’s corpse was dragged through the streets and subjected to calumnious and insolent mockery, before being flung into a sewer. Borély resolved to flee the country for Switzerland, but was arrested and turned over to galley ship authorities, who then sent him to America on a rickety ship incapable of making the transatlantic voyage. His French captors abandoned the ship at sea, and Borély, who clung to its floating remains, chanced upon a passing English vessel. He arrived in London, became naturalized and took up his trade. Soon he became wealthy enough to entertain the thought of returning to his homeland, only to find that one of his sisters was in possession of the family’s property. Borély returned, incognito, to a petty sister who misunderstood his intentions. He then left his former home and sister, ready to return to London, only to meet and fall in love with a Roman Catholic girl by the name of Sophie Robinel. They consecrated their nuptials in front of a Protestant minister. Their romance soon led to the birth of child, after which his wife died. Later, a bill arrived informing Borély that he must turn over all of his late wife’s possessions to her mother and father. Borély defended the rights of his son only to be informed that the boy, under the laws of Louis XIV and Louis XV, was considered to be a bastard and thus was not owed any of the family’s property. Borély’s lawyers took a stand, evoked the laws of nature and failed. The judges refused to justify their actions—choosing to enforce one part of the law, but not the other. They spoke of a type of de facto toleration of the Protestant, but despite their vague assurances Borély fled the country once again. Once safe in a free country, he renounced any future desire to return to France, his place of birth where man’s most sacred, most natural rights were proscribed, yet his mind never left his homeland. In his final moments, and included in the last sentence of the story, were the names ‘Henri IV’, the protector of the Huguenots, and ‘Louis XVI’, a king capable of recapturing the good legacy of Henri IV.50 The imaginary Huguenot protagonist, Borély, was, simultaneously, a man of the past and of the present. His story disrupts a linear temporality of the eighteenth century, bringing 1685 to the present. This literary strategy allowed Saint-Étienne to make this histoire a political and moral tale for his times. A son of one of the most prominent French Calvinists of the Désert period, Saint-Étienne realized that his contemporary battle for Calvinist rights hinged on memory. The latter part of his title—‘Anecdotes de la vie d’Ambroise Borély, mort à Londres âgé de 103 ans, sept mois, et quatre jours’51—served to simultaneously emphasize and de-emphasize the time between the Revocation and the present. Nearly a century had passed since the Revocation, but only a single man had recently died. In metaphorical terms, Borély stood for the displaced Huguenot population—a group persecuted in the past and suffering from the trauma of this in the present. Originally titled Triomphe de l’intolérance, published in London in 1779, and written under the nom de plume W. Jesterman, Saint-Étienne’s fictional account of the tribulations of one French Calvinist in the wake of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes became a relatively quick success, warranting reprintings in 1784 and 1788, and several more following the Bourbon Restoration in the nineteenth century. From the second edition onward, Saint-Étienne opted for a less ostentatious title—Le Vieux Cévenol. The original title would have signalled to censors the seditious, even combative character of the text, which ran contrary to Saint-Étienne’s goal of showing the loyalty of French Calvinists to France and the French crown. Incidentally, Rabaut Saint-Étienne had not chosen the original title. As many historians of print culture have shown, authorship could hardly belong solely to a single voice. From the literary muse, to editors and publishers, the identity of the ‘author’ often became muddled with multiple voices.52 In Saint-Étienne’s case, the very title of his work was crafted by another: the editor and Swiss pastor Vernes. An aspiring philosopher himself, but ultimately a novice to the eighteenth-century book trade, Saint-Étienne looked to his mentor and friend, Étienne Chiron, who recommended Vernes. Well known for his literary talents, Vernes took remarkable and ‘strange liberty’ with the text. He added a new title to its front page, giving it a layer of audacity that Saint-Étienne’s humble literary style could not match, nor could Saint-Étienne stomach the defeatist tone of Vernes’ title. Vernes also added three additional salacious chapters, purportedly to court sales, that detailed the love and marriage of Borély to Sophie Robinel in such great detail that it made the text seem almost foreign to Saint-Étienne.53 Many of these more amorous moments were kept for later editions, but by the 1788 edition Saint-Étienne rectified those moments where Vernes’ additions compromised the historical reality of the Désert.54 In many ways, the change in title reflected Saint-Étienne’s aim to reinvigorate the memory of the Revocation, and to depict French Calvinists as Frenchmen first. ‘Cévenol’ had largely become synonymous with the Reformed, as the Cévennes was both their refuge and the site of the Camisard Wars. His desire to cast Calvinists as Frenchmen precluded other options for the title such as le vieux huguenot, calviniste, or réformé. The ‘triumph of intolerance’ would have signalled to the censors a subversive work, and most certainly would have warranted further attention. This same reason would have precluded a title such as ‘le vieux huguenot’. The inclusion of the term ‘Huguenot’ would have harkened back to the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, religious intolerance/tolerance and subversive politics. In general, the term ‘Huguenot’ had fallen from favour in France. First, if one believed the ‘fiction of a Catholic France’ or the complete disappearance of the French Calvinist community—as Louis XIV asserted—then the term no longer applied to those French Calvinists still in the hexagon. If the term was used, it most likely referenced those who sought refuge beyond France’s borders, becoming fugitifs and étrangers. At only one point in Saint-Etienne’s text does he use the word ‘huguenot’. Describing the inability of French Calvinists to sell their property legally without being taken advantage of by a Catholic, Borély’s advocat laments: ‘A Huguenot, honest man is less happy at this point than a villain who has the good fortune to be Catholic.’55Le Vieux Cévenol reflected Saint-Étienne’s desire to emphasize the history of loyal Calvinists in the kingdom, while emphasizing their locality (i.e. Cévenol), rather than their sect. Saint-Étienne’s use of sentiment functioned on two planes—one anthropological and the other rhetorical. Saint-Étienne identified sentiment as a universal and natural human quality. Sentiment, more than any other quality, lay at the core of human existence. Man was born with a ‘sentimental slate’, not a blank one. Saint-Étienne referred to this universal principle as sentiment. Moral lessons brought out the social component of that innate sentiment, known as sensibility.56 For Saint-Étienne, religion remained the most important fount of moral lessons, and the Reformed faith was more capable of crafting sensibility than any other religion. ‘Sympathy for the sufferings of others is a sentiment to be found deep down in every heart’, Saint-Étienne argued. He continued, ‘personal interest and prejudice may often stifle it, but there come moments when it will develop, when it will burst forth with greater force for having been repressed’.57 The Revocation had been reasoned into existence and guided by greed. How could one prove that the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes was an immoral and ill-intended piece of legislation through a discussion of sentiment? During a conversation between Borély, members of the Church of the Désert and two étrangers, Saint-Étienne revealed his understanding of the ‘general will’, which is worth quoting at length: He held that laws should be framed according to the opinions of the majority of the people, and that the object of legislation should be to reform prevailing customs when they were vicious, to tolerate them when they were harmless, or to encourage them when they contributed to the moral good and prosperity of the community. It was his opinion that observers should note with the greatest care the general spirit of a people, which exhibits greater varieties than either climate or habits.58 Like Rousseau, Saint-Étienne envisioned a legal system that reflected the ‘general spirit of the people’, rather than one that tried to manipulate or control it. Popular sovereignty relied on the sentimental inclinations of the people. That is, the law should enhance man’s sentimental morality, not hinder it through its ‘vicious’ customs.59 While this quote explicitly refers to ‘secular’ law, Saint-Étienne equated it to religious law, as well. We see an overlap between the juridical and the theological. Saint-Étienne understood public worship as integral to the general will. Here, Saint-Étienne differed from the more radical Enlightenment proponents, who sought to eliminate religion’s influence in the public sphere, as well as lawyers and statesmen who promoted what Jeffrey Merrick and others have referred to as the ‘privatization of religion’.60 Saint-Étienne wrote, ‘Observe, it is not domestic worship that we see established all over the earth, but public worship. All people have had temples or religious rendezvous in which worship has taken a certain form.’61 Prejudice, avarice and tradition threatened the simple ‘universal instinct’ behind worship, according to Saint-Étienne. ‘A law hidden deeply in their nature’ draws all of humankind to worship—the human artifice of tradition added practices to the natural principle of public worship.62 Calvinists, with their religious regeneration, had only sought to return to the purest forms of religious practice—an idea furthered by the very real return to the wilderness experienced by many Désert Calvinists, who reinvigorated communal worship in rural, ‘natural’ settings.63 For all of his discussion of sentiment, natural religion and morality, Saint-Étienne managed to cover similar legal ground as his contemporaries, especially in the context of the family. For example, Malesherbes detailed the plight of Protestant children recognized as bastards, stripped of family lands and ancestral wealth after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes.64 The resulting problem was the impoverishment of the nation, and the dislocation of families from the land, which became unproductive. Saint-Étienne illustrated the issue of bastardry through the central character—an angry ‘father’ (Ambroise Borély) who, already in the throes of depression after losing his Catholic wife (Sophie Robinel), chose to relocate with his child back to London at the end of the story, rather than sentence his son to an ‘illegitimate’ life. As Meghan Roberts has rightfully noted, the Enlightenment was an age of sentiment in which ‘domestic narratives were infused with new importance. Loving ties were the foundation of natural virtue, sociability, patriotism, and social utility.’65 Borély’s connection to his wife and child pulled on the heartstrings of those readers who empathized with the family unit, and the bonds between husband and wife or father and son. The right to life also resonated in Saint-Étienne’s work with the importance of the ‘body’. Saint-Étienne described in excoriating detail the oftentimes vulgar and brutal treatment of Protestant bodies. As Antoine de Baecque effectively argues, bodies in pre-revolutionary France were often metaphorically interpreted in three ways: as the anthropomorphic symbol of the political system, as a mode of discursive persuasion and as a spectacle.66 In the story, Borély catches sight of a disinterred Calvinist body, mutilated in an almost festival setting. He actively recognizes this as a religious and political spectacle, and as an oft-used warning to the ‘so-called Reformed’ to abandon their heresy.67 In addition, the extreme violence perpetrated on the Huguenot body served empathetic purposes or offered cause for personal reflection. During a dragoon raid, Borély recounts, ‘from nursing mothers they took their infants, leaving them to be distressed by the accumulation of milk in their breasts’.68 Sympathy with the Huguenot mother comes both from the loss of the child and the lost opportunity to provide for one’s child. Just before Borély’s mother dies, early in the story, she begs her son to ‘preserve my bones from persecution by burying me in some solitary place’.69 Historical evidence in the notes at the end of each chapter further cemented the idea that such atrocities were relatively recent and deserved attention. Calvinist bodies remained threatened under the Revocation. In short, the body acted as a site of sentimentality, capable of carrying with it political and moral connotations. The mutilation of this individual Calvinist body mirrored the plight of the broken familial body and the tortured body politic. Happiness became the sentimental cure to the ailments of the persecuted Calvinist body and the body politic. Lastly, Saint-Étienne relied on a new language of emotion in the eighteenth century to plead his case for religious toleration. In particular, Saint-Étienne’s use of happiness (bonheur) reveals much about his fictional text’s mission. Happiness existed on two planes for Saint-Étienne. For the Jesuits, he noted their ‘zeal for the eternal happiness for the soul’.70 This pursuit of eschatological happiness acted as cause and warrant for forced conversions. In order to counteract this caustic and casuistic definition of happiness as modus operandi for conversion campaigns, in Saint-Étienne’s opinion, it was necessary to locate happiness in this world. Like many philosophers of the eighteenth century, Saint-Étienne referred to happiness as an obtainable treasure, something worthy of pursuit, a product of one’s actions, and something to be savoured.71 Saint-Étienne’s definition of happiness reflected the legal status of Calvinists in the kingdom. Happiness derived from the state. It was bestowed upon the populace through the law. In Le Vieux Cévenol, one judge repudiates the Revocation and the laws that followed, which ran afoul of the ‘eternal laws of nature’. Once the law reflected the law of nature, this judge notes, he would finally be happy to contribute to the happiness of the state and his patrie. Only by aligning the laws of the nation in accordance with morality could a ‘happy revolution’ occur in France. The moral, ‘happy’ revolution Borély speaks of would make the French more ‘likable, tolerant, sociable, and polite’. In short, happiness stood in direct opposition to fanaticism and persecution.72 Borély’s happiness hardly seems to be based on material gain, but rather on his propensity for work. He finds his ‘happiness and liberty’ in the United Kingdom, where the climate of religious tolerance encourages his ‘happy industry’.73 Rather than view this emphasis on ‘industry’ as a result of ascetic Calvinism, as Max Weber would have insisted on later, Saint-Étienne explained the Calvinist penchant for industry in socioeconomic terms.74 Borély is excluded from nearly every job someone of upward mobility would pursue in the eighteenth century. Legal restraints preclude Borély from pursuing a career in law, medicine or education. Borély cannot become a notary or hold any kind of public position. The only avenue left open is business: The way of commerce is still open to you … Protestants saved the business of France. The principal merchants of Bordeaux, Lyons and Marseilles, the most famous bankers of Paris, are Protestants. Protestants are carrying on the finest silk manufactories of Languedoc. These useful and oppressed subjects applied themselves to industry all over the kingdom, whilst their brothers who took refuge in England contributed to carry to perfection their art in the land of their exile, so that the foreign productions soon became the object of our emulation and envy.75 Saint-Étienne’s association between wealth and Calvinism was not new in the eighteenth century. Apologists and defenders of the Huguenots in France had long attempted to overcome the king’s religious intolerance by appealing to his financial sense.76 Saint-Étienne’s plea for religious toleration, then, relied on sentiment, both religious and secular, owing both to the Protestant and mainstream Enlightenment he took part in. Sentiment remained universal and best shaped by the Protestant faith, a religion at once regenerated to the ‘Ancient Church’ and conducive with modern ‘progressive’ egalitarian ideals. Calvinists in southern France were Cévenols first and Calvinists second, but being Calvinist could make them better Cévenols and then better Frenchmen. As such, Saint-Étienne accorded his theological education an important position in his writings. The Protestant Enlightenment in France insisted on the necessity of public worship and its natural role in the formation of sentiment. Public worship was a universal and natural condition of man. III On the precipice of the French Revolution, Saint-Étienne continued to insist that public worship and freedom of conscience remained inalienable natural rights. He spent most of the 1780s in Paris, moving in enlightened circles, working with Lafayette and Malesherbes, in order to gain Louis XVI’s ear and to ensure that the most important needs of the Calvinist population were represented in any legislation that advanced their cause. The result of such efforts was the Edict of Versailles (more commonly referred to as the Edict of Toleration) in 1787. The document itself lamented the violent means perpetrated in pursuit of conversion—those false, coerced conversions—and the ‘dangerous contradictions between the rights of nature and the dispositions of the law’.77 Yet Louis XVI and Saint-Étienne maintained different conceptions of the ‘rights of nature’. Article 1 of the Edict dashed Saint-Étienne’s hopes for a religiously tolerant France. ‘The Catholic, Apostolic and Roman religion’, the edict reads, ‘will continue to enjoy alone, in our kingdom, the right to public worship.’78 As Saint-Étienne maintained that public worship remained instinctual, natural and necessary for developing man’s emotions, the inclusion of such an article denied the most important natural right to Calvinists. In Saint-Étienne’s address to the National Assembly two years later in 1789, Saint-Étienne attacked the limited tolerance institutionalized by the Edict of Toleration. He insisted that the freedom of religious opinion remained an ‘inviolable sanctuary’, and that ‘to constrain it is an injustice, to attack it is a sacrilege’.79 Saint-Étienne continued to view the pursuit of religious coexistence and the Revolution through a lens of sentiment. During his plea to the members of the assembly, he noted that in order to wake his audience to the horrors faced by French Calvinists, he was forced to ‘incite your [members of the National Assembly] humanity by sentiment, after having tried to convince it through reason’.80 The turn to the Terror of later years, of which he too would be a victim, was a violation of the ‘revolution in sentiments, manners, and moral opinion’, to borrow a phrase from the conservative Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France—a revolution that Saint-Étienne had sought to advance through Le Vieux Cévenol.81 Saint-Étienne concluded his speech in front of the National Assembly by reverting back to arguments laden with sentiment, ‘humanity,’ and emotion. Probably sensing that the Assembly would not champion freedom of religion, Saint-Étienne made one last push for the freedom of public worship. Such a principle was expressly restricted in the Edict of Toleration. As he argued in Le Vieux Cévenol, the cultivation of sentiment occurred in the most natural of religious, communal settings. He insisted that ‘every culte is necessarily a culte of many. The cult of one solitary person is merely of adoration or of prayer … [the culte] then consists in the reunion of many.’ The nature of religious community needed to fall under the umbrella of the freedom of religious belief, because the idea of ‘common worship’ is a religious opinion, and therefore falls under the ‘justness of the expression’.82 Public worship based on natural law and bolstered by an empathetic defence of Calvinists remained a hallmark of Saint-Étienne’s argument. Article 10 of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen (1789) states: ‘No one should be disturbed for his opinions, even in religion, provided that their manifestation does not trouble public order as established by law.’ The Constitution of 1791 would finally address Saint-Étienne’s call for public worship and, in that same year, the Parisian Protestant community would relocate to the former Catholic church, Saint-Louis-du-Louvre.83 Rabaut Saint-Étienne was an exemplar of the growing Protestant Enlightenment in France. From his pastoral position, Saint-Étienne navigated a broad field of several Enlightenment discourses. His efforts led the way to freedom of religion, and his corpus revealed a form of Protestant Enlightenment persisting on France’s periphery, a cosmopolitan creation, indebted to the Huguenot diaspora in general, as well as the particular community in Lausanne and Geneva. Saint-Étienne struck a balance between the theological calls to moderation on the Protestant Enlightenment on the one side and the more mainstream French Enlightenment hostile to religious privilege on the other, by turning to Genevan-inspired-Rousseauian sentiment, a concept fostered amongst Protestant circles in Geneva, which offered him an alternate route towards religious toleration and the natural right of public worship. The Protestant Enlightenment of Rabaut Saint-Étienne and its carrier—the sentimental novel, Le Vieux Cévenol—atoned for the sins of those Calvinists who had fanned the Wars of Religion, while carrying a form of apologetics that rendered Calvinism compatible with an empathetic, tolerant, polite and enlightened society. The author is grateful to the Institute on Napoleon and the French Revolution at Florida State University for their generous support, which was used to research this article. Darrin M. McMahon, Rafe Blaufarb, Erica Johnson, Timothy Best, Cindy Ermus, Ronen Steinberg, Robert Blackman, and Timothy Tackett have all shaped this article through their thoughtful commentary. Footnotes 1 The Désert period refers to the era between 1685 and 1787, when the French state outlawed Calvinism. In order to conceal their own identity and protect their families, many Calvinists adopted Désert names. 2 R. Saint-Étienne, Triomphe de l’intolérance, ou Anecdotes de la vie d’Ambroise Borély, mort à Londres, âge 103 ans (London, 1779). Other editions came out in 1784, 1788, 1820, 1821, 1826, 1846 and 1886. Unless otherwise noted, I will be referencing the 1788 version of the text: R. Saint-Étienne, Le Vieux Cévenol, ou anecdotes de la vie d’Ambroise Borély, mort à Londres agé de 103 ans (London, 1788). Differences do exist between each text. Narrative arch and general argument do not change, but chapter organization does from version to version. While arguments can be made about the organizational choices made from edition to edition, the goal of this article is to make the case for a larger Protestant Enlightenment and Rabaut Saint-Étienne’s role in it. 3 B. Poland, French Protestantism and the French Revolution: A Study in Church and State, Thought and Religion, 1685–1815 (Princeton, 1957), 75. 4 D. Bien, The Calas Affair: Persecution, Toleration, and Heresy in Eighteenth-Century Toulouse (Princeton, 1960); G. Adams, The Huguenots and French Opinion, 1685–1787: The Enlightenment Debate on Toleration (Waterloo, ON, 1991); D. Bell, Lawyers and Citizens: Making of a Political Elite in Old Regime France (New York, 1994). 5 Bien, The Calas Affair, 25. 6 Ibid.; J. D. Woodbridge, ‘An “unnatural alliance” for religious toleration: the philosophes and the outlawed pastors of the “church of the Desert”’, Church Hist, 42 (1973), 508. 7 Voltaire, Traité sur la tolérance (1763); Voltaire, Avis au public sur les parricides imputés aux Calas et aux Sirven (Geneva, 1766). 8 In a letter to Paul Rabaut, Saint-Étienne’s father, Rousseau sympathized with the Calvinist cause, but his own poverty restricted his ability to assist in any substantive way: H. M. Baird, The Huguenots and the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, vol. 2 (New York, 1895), 517. 9 D. Garrioch, The Huguenots of Paris and the Coming of Religious Freedom, 1685–1789 (New York, 2014). 10 On the Protestant Enlightenment: J. G. A. Pocock, Barbarism and Religion, vol. 5: Religion: The First Triumph (Cambridge, 2011), 92; J. E. Bradley and D. Van Kley, Religion and Politics in Enlightenment Europe (Notre Dame, IN, 2001), 15. 11 Pocock, Barbarism and Religion, 92; Bradley and Van Kley, Religion and Politics, 15. 12 Garrioch, Huguenots of Paris, 164. 13 D. Robert, Les Églises réformées en France (1800–1830) (Paris, 1961), 7, f.4. 14 D. Sorkin, The Religious Enlightenment: Protestants, Jews and Catholics from London to Vienna (Princeton, 2008), 11; B. Dompnier, Le Venin de l’hércsie: image du protestantism et combat catholique au XVIIesiècle (Paris, 1985). 15 Saint-Étienne, Le Vieux Cévenol, 109–10. 16 P. Gay, The Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Paganism (New York, 1995), 3. 17 Saint-Étienne, Triomphe de l’intolérance (1779), title page. 18 Voltaire, Treatise on Tolerance: And Other Writings, tr. B. Masters (New York, 2000), 3. 19 J. Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society (Cambridge, MA, 1991), 90; D. Van Kley, The Religious Origins of the French Revolution: From Calvin to the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, 1560–1791 (New Haven, 1996), 200; J. Merrick, The Desacralization of the French Monarchy in the Eighteenth Century (Baton Rouge, LA, 1990), 78–104. It should be further noted that Habermas has revised his own interpretation of religion vis-à-vis the public–private divide in J. Habermas, ‘Religion in the public sphere: cognitive presuppositions for the “public use of reason by religious and secular citizens”’, in J. Habermas, Between Naturalism and Religion: Philosophical Essays, tr. C. Cronin (Cambridge, 2008), 114–48. 20 For general overviews of Rabaut Saint-Étienne’s life: A. Lods, Essai sur la vie de Rabaut de Saint-Étienne, pasteur à Nîmes, membre de l’Assemblée constituante et de la Convention nationale, (1743–1793) (Paris, 1893); A. Dupont, Rabaut Saint-Étienne, 1743–1793: un protestant défenseur de la liberté religieuse, intro. by J. Baubérot (Paris, 1989). 21 J. G. A. Pocock, ‘Conservative enlightenment and democratic revolutions: the American and French cases in British perspective’, Government and Opposition, 24 (1989), 84. I have chosen not to contend with the debate over Enlightenment or enlightenments, which accompanies much of Pocock’s work. The Enlightenment imagined here was not unitary, nor was it a distinguishable ‘Enlightenment project’. Rather, the Enlightenment described here is based on a perceived social discursive field that made certain fundamental categories for thinking possible. Concepts such as reason, natural law and sentiment were linguistic tools to debate, legitimize and delegitimize a host of ideas: D. A. Harvey, The French Enlightenment and Its Others: The Mandarin, the Savage, and the Human Sciences (New York, 2012). 22 Saint-Étienne, Le Vieux Cévenol, 112. 23 Ibid., 11. 24 C.-A. Gaidan, ‘Paul Rabaut et sa famille’, in Les Rabaut du désert à la Révolution (Montpellier, 1988), 27. 25 C. Dardier, Paul Rabaut: ses lettres à Antoine Court, 1739–1755, vol. 2 (Paris, 1884), 121. 26 R. Saint-Étienne, Lettres à Monsieur Bailly sur l’histoire primitive de la Grèce (Paris, 1787). 27 H. Rosenblatt, ‘The Christian Enlightenment’, in The Cambridge History of Christianity, vol. 7: Enlightenment, Reawakening, and Revolution, 1660–1815, ed. S. J. Brown and T. Tackett (Cambridge, 2006), 285. 28 L.-J. Levesque de Pouilly, Théorie des sentiments (London, 1750), vi, 3. 29 Rosenblatt, ‘Christian Enlightenment’, 295. 30 C. Lasserre, Le Séminaire de Lausanne (Lausanne, 1997), 298; Dupont, Rabat Saint-Étienne, 1743–1793, 11–72. 31 His name is sometimes spelled Elie Benoist. For Benoît’s history of the Edict of Nantes and its revocation: É. Benoît, Histoire de l’Edit de Nantes: contenant les choses les plus remarquables qui se sont passées en France avant et après sa publication, à l’occasion de la diversité des religions ... jusques à l’edit de révocation, en octobre 1685. Avec ce qui a suivi ce nouvel édit jusques à present, 3 vols (Delft, 1693–5); H. Bost, ‘Elie Benoist et l’historiographie de l’édit de Nantes’, in H. Bost, Ces Messieurs de la R.P.R.: histoire et écritures de huguenots, XVIIe–XVIIIesiècles (Paris, 2001), 267–79. 32 The most thorough examination of this historiography is E. I. Perry, From Theology to History: French Religious Controversy and the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (The Hague, 1973). 33 A. Court, Histoire des troubles des Cevennes; ou, De la guerre des Camisars, sous le règne de Louis le Grand (Villefranche, 1760). 34 The invention of ‘religion’ and ‘religions’ is traced to the religious controversies of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in the United Kingdom as well as in France: P. Harrison, ‘Religion’ and the Religions in the English Enlightenment (Cambridge, 1990). 35 ‘Religion’, in Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, vol. 14 (Paris, 1765), 83–8. It also recognizes that ‘religion’ even into the second half of the eighteenth century, could refer to the ‘so-called Reformed religion’ or French Calvinism. 36 A. Court, Lettre d’un patriote sur la tolérance civile des protestans de France, (Lausanne, 1756), 47; A. Court, Histoire des troubles des Cévennes ou de la guerre des Camisards, 3 vols (1819). 37 D. A. Bell, The Cult of the Nation: Inventing Nationalism, 1680–1800 (Cambridge, MA, 2001), 25. 38 Court, Lettre d’un patriote, 25. 39 C. Borello, Du Désert au Royaume: parole publique et écriture protestante (1765–1788): édition critique du Vieux Cévenol et de sermons de Rabaut Saint-Étienne (Paris, 2013), 53; R. Chartier, The Cultural Origins of the French Revolution, tr. L. G. Cochrane (Durham, NC, 1991), 19. 40 Saint-Étienne, Le Vieux Cévenol, 87. The italics are mine. 41 L. Hunt, Inventing Human Rights: A History (New York, 2007). 42 J.-J. Rousseau, Émile (Mineola, NY, 2013), 221–3. 43 J.-J. Rousseau, Julie, ou La nouvelle Héloïse, in Oeuvres complète (Paris, 1961); R. Darnton, The Great Cat Massacre. 44 Louis Dupré makes a similar argument on the connection between emotion, compassion, sentimentalism and political action in L. Dupré, The Enlightenment and the Intellectual Foundations of Modern Culture (New Haven, 2004), 53–67. 45 P. Riley, The General Will before Rousseau: The Transformation of the Divine into the Civic (Princeton, 1986), esp. ch. 1. 46 J. Necker, De L’importance des opinions religieuses (London, 1788), 92–3; Rosenblatt, ‘Christian Enlightenment’, 283–301. 47 Necker, L’Importance des opinions religieuses, 326. 48 M. Frazer, The Enlightenment of Sympathy: Justice and the Moral Sentiments in the Eighteenth Century and Today (New York, 2010). 49 C. L. Chappell, ‘“The pains I took to save my/his family”: escape accounts by a Huguenot mother and daughter after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes’, French Hist Studies, 22 (winter 1999), 1–64. 50 Saint-Étienne, Le Vieux Cévenol, 115. 51 See the 1784 version. The 1788 version lacks the same precision, detailing Borély’s age to the year and not to the month. 52 For the role of editors: R. Iliffe, ‘Author-mongering: the “editor” between producer and consumer’, in The Consumption of Culture, 1600–1800: Image, Object, Text, ed. A. Bermingham and J. Brewer (New York, 1995), 166–92; R. B. Sher, The Enlightenment and the Book: Scottish Authors and their Publishers in Eighteenth-Century Britain, Ireland, and America (Chicago, 2006). 53 A. Aulard, La Révolution française, vol. 13 (Paris, 1887), 191. 54 On the textual changes from edition to edition: Borello, Du Désert au Royaume, 9–19. 55 Saint-Étienne, Le Vieux Cévenol, 53. 56 Hunt, Inventing Human Rights, 111. 57 Saint-Étienne, Le Vieux Cévenol, 86. 58 Ibid., 102. 59 On the ‘general will’: Riley, The General Will before Rousseau; J. Farr and D. L. Williams (eds), The General Will: The Evolution of a Concept (New York, 2014). 60 Merrick, Desacralization of the French Monarchy, 95–6; Van Kley, Religious Origins, 164. 61 Saint-Étienne, Le Vieux Cévenol, 102. 62 Ibid. 63 Y. Krumenacker, ‘Une perception protestante de l’espace au XVIIIe siècle?’, in Évolution et représentation du paysage de 1750 à nos jours (Montbrison, 1997), 146–7. 64 C. G. de Lamoignon de Malesherbes, Mémoire sur le mariage des protestans, en 1785 (n.p., 1785); C. G. de Lamoignon de Malesherbes, Seconde Mémoire sur le mariage des protestans (n.p., 1786). 65 M. Roberts, Sentimental Savants: Philosophical Families in Enlightenment France (Chicago, 2016), 4. 66 A. de Baecque, The Body Politic: Corporeal Metaphor in Revolutionary France, 1770–1800 (Stanford, CA, 1993), 12. 67 Saint-Étienne, Le Vieux Cévenol, 46. 68 Ibid., 10. 69 Ibid., 56. 70 Ibid., 21. 71 Ibid., 66, 83. 72 Saint-Étienne, Le Vieux Cévenol (1784 edition), 95. 73 Ibid., 108. 74 M. Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (Chicago, 2001). This is not to say that individuals did not connect Protestantism to modern capitalism vis-à-vis their religious tenets in the eighteenth century: M. C. Jacob and M. Kadane, ‘Missing, now found in the eighteenth century: Weber’s Protestant capitalist’, Am Hist R, 108 (2003), 20–49. 75 Saint-Étienne, Le Vieux Cévenol, 32. 76 W. C. Scoville, The Persecution of Huguenots and French Economic Development, 1680–1720 (Berkeley, 1960). For the most thorough critique of Scoville’s monograph: R. Grassby’s review in Econ Hist R, 14 (1961–2), 360–2; M. Yardeni, ‘Naissance et lessor d’un mythe: la Revocation de l’adit de Nantes et le decline économique de la France’, in M. Yardeni, Repenser l’histoire: aspects de l’historiographic huguenots des guerres de religion à la Revolution française (Paris, 2000), 191–206. 77 ‘Edict of Toleration, 1787’, in The French Revolution and Human Rights: A Brief Documentary History, tr., ed., and with an intro. by L. Hunt (Boston and New York, 1996), 40–3. 78 Ibid. 79 A[rchives] p[arlementaire], vol. 8, 478. 80 Ibid., 480. Italics are mine. 81 E. Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (London, 1790), 119. 82 Ibid. 83 ‘Premier Exercise public du culte réformé à Paris en 1791’, Bulletin de la Societé de l’histoire du protestantisme français, 36 (1886), 512. © The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for the Study of French History. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com

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French HistoryOxford University Press

Published: Mar 1, 2018

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