Page:Lectures on Modern History.djvu/189

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
163
THE HUGUENOTS AND THE LEAGUE

a probable conjecture, but no evidence takes us as high as eight thousand. I reached that conclusion many years ago, and it is confirmed by what has since appeared, especially by the new Histoire Générale, which accepts the limit I have mentioned. The higher estimates commonly given are not based on a critical investigation. The character of the event, and of its authors and admirers, is not affected by numbers. For the massacres of September and the revolutionary tribunal wrought less bloodshed in twenty-three months than the French Catholics had done in about as many days. At a time when papal agents estimated the Huguenots at one-fifth of the entire population, the loss of five thousand, or even of eight thousand, would not seriously weaken them. It checked their increase, and injured mainly the royalist element among them, for Coligny was the leader of the party that desired to support the monarchy.

Lord Clarendon has said that it was a massacre that all pious Catholics, in the time in which it was committed, decried, abominated, and detested. There were, of course, many in France who thought it possible to be a good Christian without being a professional murderer, and who sincerely desired toleration. For such men it was impossible to continue associated with the Catholics of the League, and they were in far closer sympathy with the Protestants. In this way a new party arose, which was called the Politiques, and consisted of those whose solicitude for dogma did not entirely silence the moral sense and the voice of conscience, and who did not wish religious unity or ascendency to be preserved by crime. It was on an ethical issue that the separation took place, but it necessarily involved political consequences of a definite kind.

The Politiques became promoters of the regal authority against the aggression of the clergy, the aristocracy, and the democracy. They had their strength among the jurists and the scholars in an age when France was at the head of all scholarship and jurisprudence. The very reason of their existence was the desire to resist the