Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/84

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conduct of human affairs. Had it not been for the New World, the Old World might perhaps to this day have been governed in accordance with it.

But the New World was virgin soil. All Christendom, with the approbation even of Jew and Islamite, would readily have united in the opinion that its gross aboriginal idolatries should be extinguished, and the worship of the One God introduced into it, in whatever form. And in the plantation or creation of new Christian communities in America the reason for intolerance as a necessary social principle no longer existed. Each colony—and colonies in this practically vacant continent could be planted at considerable distances from each other—could now settle its religious principles for itself, for it did so at its own risk. In this way the Old World found the solution of what in France and elsewhere had, by the middle of the sixteenth century, become a serious social and political difficulty. In France, in Germany, in England, the nation was coming to be divided into two hostile camps, Catholic and Protestant. Was the one half in each case to be extinguished by the other, in an internecine war? The banishment of the weaker party by migration—and already expatriation was substituted for the death penalty in the case of greater moral crimes than heresy—was a wise and merciful alternative. The French Protestants, who felt that the course of God's dealings with man must on the whole be in their favour, were the first to think of a new career, in a new world perhaps revealed for the purpose, as the beginning of a better order of things, if not as the fulfilment of the destiny of the Reformed faith; and, as the triumph of the Catholic party in France became more and more probable, Protestant leaders cast anxious eyes towards the American shore, as a possible place of refuge for their people, should they be worsted in the struggle. An attempt of this nature was made, with the sanction and help of Coligny, the head of the Protestant party, by Nicolas Durand, better known by his assumed name of Villegagnon, a Knight of the Maltese Order who had served in the expedition of Charles V against Algiers, and who also distinguished himself as an author and an amateur theologian. Durand had resided at Nantes, where the propriety of providing a transatlantic refuge for Protestants, and the capabilities of the Brazilian coast, now frequently visited for commercial purposes by French seamen, were matters of common discussion. He resolved to be the first to carry such a scheme into effect; and he found ample support among the partisans of the Reformed religion, including Coligny, through whose influence he obtained a large pecuniary grant from the French King. In May 1555 he sailed with two ships for the coast of South Brazil, where he settled on an island, still known as Ilha de Villagalhao, near the mouth of the bay of Rio de Janeiro, two miles from the mainland. Durand named the country he proposed to occupy "Antarctic France." The voyage was understood to mark, and did in