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It may be well at the outset to say that this paper is to deal with some economic factors influencing the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and has nothing to do with the familiar topic of the economic results thereof.

The revocation of the Edict of Nantes is chiefly looked upon as the triumph of religious bigotry; as evidence that even if the law of Europe in 1648 recognized the right of liberty of conscience, it did not inaugurate the reign of toleration. In the enforcement of the revocation the quadruple influence of the clergy of France, the Jesuits, Louvois and Madame de Maintenon has long been recognized, although the influence of the latter was less than has formerly been supposed. But to these influences a fifth must be added, economic prejudice, which was of wide popular force in ranging much of the population of France against the Huguenots.

The industrial activity and commercial wealth of the Huguenots has been remarked by every historian of the reign of Louis XIV. and emphasized to the disparagement of the other working classes of France, so that it may sound much like heresy in history to seek to diminish their credit in this respect. The number of working days of the Huguenots, owing to the fact that they paid no attention to church holidays, exceeded that of the Catholics, and their productive capacity must have been proportionately greater. But the statement that the Huguenots were compelled to work with more energy because of the special difficulties which they encountered, and so developed a superior spirit of initiative and industry,3 ignores the fact that the economic pre-eminence of the Huguenots

1 See the passages from Madame de Maintenon's writings quoted by M. Desdevizes du Dézert, L'Église et l'Etat en France depuis l'Edit de Nantes jusqu'à nos Jours, in the chapter upon the revocation. Cf. Duc de Noailles, Madame de Maintenon, vol. II., ch. IV., § 3.

For a summary of the various views regarding the motives of the revocation, see Puaux, La Responsabilité de la Révocation de l'Édit de Nantes ", Revue Historique, XXIX. 247-248.

2 There were 310 working days with the Huguenots and 260 with the Catholics. Weiss, Histoire des Réfugiés Protestants de France depuis la Révocation de l'Edit de Nantes, I. 25.

8 Cf. Puaux, "La Responsabilité de la Révocation de l'Édit de Nantes ". Revue Historique, XXIX. 244.

also owed much of its success to Colbert's policy of favoritism; to the artificial stimulus given their labor; and to the special protection. of many of the industries they were employed in by the govern


The dominant tendency in the seventeenth century in France was toward centralization. The growth of the royal prerogative under Louis XIV. is the political evidence of it. The policy of Colbert, who aimed at establishing uniformity in conditions of employment, is the economic manifestation of it. The purpose of mercantilism was to codify and nationalize industrial law. Grand industry was to replace the petty forms of production hitherto prevailing. The origin of this movement in France goes back to the great Edit sur les Métiers of Henry III. in 1581* and the famous ordinance of Henry IV. in 1597. The troubles of the regency, the rebellion of the Huguenots, and the absorption in foreign politics of Richelieu (whose weakness as a minister was a failure to appreciate the bearing and value of economic phenomena save those connected with commerce and colonization), united with the turmoil of the Fronde, for years arrested the movement thus begun. But after the Fronde the old policy was revived.

The gilds were the chief object of attack in the enforcement of this policy and the chief opposition was encountered from them.

The Edit sur les Métiers promulgated by Henry III. in December, 1581, was the first attempt made by the crown to reduce the organization of labor to uniformity throughout the kingdom. Cf. the Elizabethan Statute of Apprentices, 1563, Unwin, Industrial Organization in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, p. 137. It summarized all preceding legislation, especially the ordinances of police of 1567 and 1577, and served as the model for the Edict of Henry IV. in 1597. When Colbert wanted to stimulate French industry he turned to the Edict of 1581 for information and guidance. According to the preamble of the edicts of March 23, 1673, and March and December, 1691, the Edict of Henry III. was regarded as the basis of the industrial legislation of France. When the physiocrats attacked the mercantile system their first attack was made upon the Edict of 1581. Turgot, in the celebrated Edict of 1776 which suppressed the gilds, invoked the Edict of 1581.

The first writer who pointed out the importance of the Edict of 1581 is Wolowski in his work, De l'Organisation Industrielle (1843). Levasseur has emphasized this importance in both editions of his great Histoire des Classes Ouvrières, II. 138-143, 156-176 (new edition), and more recently Eberstadt has consecrated an important portion of his book Das Französische Gewerberecht to the same subject. The last argues that the bearing of this edict upon the history of the eighteenth century was much exaggerated by the physiocrats.

'Levasseur, Cours d'Economie Rurale, Industrielle et Commerciale, p. 176. Levasseur, Histoire des Classes Ouvrières, II. 958.

For admirable accounts of the composition and condition of the French gilds in the seventeenth century, see Babeau, Les Artisans et les Domestiques d'Autrefois (1886); and Franklin, La Vie d'Autrefois: Comment on devenait Patron, p. 1 (1889).

Even before Colbert came to power the crown had attacked the ancient autonomy of the gilds by the Edict of December 3, 1660, which subjected all of them to royal authorization. Colbert followed this step by still more drastic action. In 1669 he abolished the old narrow regulations governing their manufactures. He had no patience with their efforts to restrict trade for fear of competition, nor with their narrowness, ignorance, corruption and fraud. He established a minute system of inspection of manufactures with attendant punishment for violation of the new provisions. He encouraged the foundation of new industries, giving to private persons a brevet of royal authority, exempting them from the restraints of the corporation and the surveillance of the local corps de métier; advanced capital; exempted them from taxes in certain cases; facilitated the hiring of labor, etc.10 He organized new corporations and revised the statutes of the old corporations." The day had gone by when work supervised by the gilds offered the greater assurance of honest production. The uniform organization of industry was to be the new order of things.

We may lay aside the question as to how far these efforts of Colbert were practicable or expedient. The point-so far as the subject of this paper is concerned-is that Colbert came into conflict with some of the most familiar habits and practices of the French nation, with deeply vested rights, with local monopoly, and that in the struggle he made large use of the Huguenots.

The gilds had a double form. They were both economic associations and religious confraternities and had been such since the Middle Ages, often having their own chapel and special religious ceremonies. This religious character was accentuated by the religious renaissance which took place in France in the seventeenth century, and of which the activity of the Jesuits, the religio-social efforts of St. Vincent de Paul, the Jansenist movement, Quietism and the conflict over the liberties of the Gallican Church are manifestations.12 It is a significant fact that there were 136 religious congregations Edict of August 13, 1669. Clément, Lettres, Instructions et Mémoires de Colbert, vol. II., part 1., p. 150.


Edict of April 30, 1670. Ibid., appendix, p. 832 ff.

10 Levasseur, Cours d'Economie, etc., p. 179.

"Clément, Lettres, Instructions et Mémoires de Colbert, vol. II., part I., introduction, p. 149 ff.

12 See on this whole movement in the church, Desdevizes du Dézert, L'Église et l'Etat en France jusqu'à nos Jours, the chapters entitled: la Renaissance Religieuse sous Louis XIII.; la Charité au XVIIe Siècle; la Compagnie du TrèsSaint-Sacrement; le Jansénisme; le Quiétisme; la Question des Libertés Gal


established in France in the seventy-five years between the death of Henry IV. and the revocation of the Edict of Nantes.13 Although the Edict of Nantes assured the Protestants entrance into the gilds, the privilege was practically a dead letter. The gilds even sought to drive Huguenot workmen out of Paris, which explains the large number of them that were settled in the suburbs, where they were beyond the jurisdiction of the city corporations, yet near enough to profit by the trade of the capital.14 Colbert played the Huguenots and other Protestants like the Anabaptists of Dunkirk15 against the gilds. While in principle he was hostile to the gilds and ordinarily restrained Huguenot workmen from entering them or forming similar associations,16 where it suited his purpose he forced the gilds to admit Protestant workmen; he granted letters de maîtrisespecial appointment "-to Protestant tradesmen, as jewellers and perfumers, 18 he imported foreign Protestant workmen1 and protected Protestant workmen against the enmity of municipalities, the gilds and the fisc;20 he put great industries which were under gov

13 Compiled from Keller, Les Congrégations Religieuses en France (1880). It will be noticed that the movement is stronger in the reign of Louis XIII. than of Louis XIV. and that the periods of greatest activity coincide with the revolt of the Huguenots (1620-1630), when 38 congregations were founded in ten years; with the misery of the Fronde, which St. Vincent de Paul labored so much to relieve; and with the question of the liberties of the Gallican Church in 1682, in which year five congregations were established.

There were 72 religious congregations established in the reign of Louis XIII. (1610-1643) and 64 in that of Louis XIV. up to the revocation of the Edict of Nantes.

The following table shows the number of congregations established in each year between 1610 and 1685.

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15 Voltaire, Siècle de Louis XIV. (ed. Bourgeois), p. 696, note 3; Clément,

Histoire de Colbert, II. 398.

16 Levasseur, II. 345, note 2.

17 Clément, Lettres, Instructions et Mémoires de Colbert, II. 585, note; VI. 355.

18 Eberstadt, Das Französische Gewerberecht (in Schmoller's Forschungen, 1899), XVII. 309, 358-361.

19 Clément, Lettres, Instructions et Mémoires de Colbert, VII. 355. 20 Ibid., II. 756; Lavisse, Histoire de France, VII., part 1., p. 220.

ernment patronage in the control of Protestant superintendents, as in the case of the Hollander Joos van Robais, the Calvinist manufacturer of Abbeville,21 who employed 6,500 workmen.22


The gilds bitterly fought the entrance of Protestant members into their midst23 and the introduction of Protestant workmen into the realm, so much so that Colbert openly expressed hope of Van Robais's conversion-shall we say for economic reasons ?2 The iron industry at Sedan, the manufacture of paper in Auvergne and Angoumois, the tanneries of Touraine, were almost exclusively in their hands. In the faubourgs of Paris they were engaged in the making of jewelry, for which the city was already famous. In Brittany the Huguenots were largely interested in the linen trade. The silk-works of Lyons were controlled by them. In Gévaudan entire families were engaged in the woollen trade. Their commercial connection with England and Holland was intimate.

It was inevitable that this favoritism, united with the religious animosity, should in course of time create a widespread and bitter feeling in France, both economic and religious, against the Huguenots,20 who were less than one-tenth of the population, but who,

Clément, Lettres, Instructions et Mémoires de Colbert, II. 669, 674, 739, 743-744, 748; VI. 96-97; VII. 440. The majority of the silk operatives were Huguenots. Levasseur, II. 254. Van Robais was much troubled by the hostility of the corps de métier of Abbeville, and Colbert wrote to the intendant, May 12, 1673: "Je vous ay cy-devant écrit (cf. vol. II. Industrie, pièce no. 267) que le sieur Van Robais estoit troublé dans son establissement par les visites que les maistres et gardes de cette ville-là faisoient chez luy. Comme plusieurs particuliers de la mesme ville luy suscitent des procès et le traduisent en des juridictions où ils ont du crédit, je vous prie, lorsque vous passerez par cette ville-là, de prendre connoissance des obstacles qu'il rencontre dans son travail, et de tenir la main à ce qu'on le laisse en repos, en exécutant néanmoins des édits qui ont esté donnés sur le fait de la religion prétendue reformée." Clément, Lettres, Instructions et Mémoires de Colbert, VI. 97, note 2.

22 Ibid., II. 786.

23 For an interesting example, see ibid., VI., no. 49, pp. 131-132.

"See his letter of May 15, 1681, to the intendant at Amiens, recommending him to make every effort to convert Van Robais, "Parceque, par ce moyen, au lieu que cette manufacture est entré les mains d'huguenots, nous parviendrons à faire convertir tous ceux qui y travaillent et à la mettre aux catholiques." For the special protection given Van Robais by the intendant at Amiens, see Godard, Les Pouvoirs des Intendants sous Louis XIV., pp. 312-314.

25 A Hollander from Amsterdam, at Angoulême, employed 500 workmen. D'Avaux, Négociations, V. 97; Lane-Poole, Huguenots of the Dispersion, pp. 8-9.

28"Non seulement le clergé, mais les parlements, les cours souveraines, les universités, les communeautés des marchands et des artisans se livraient en toute occasion à leur pieuse animosité: dès qu'on pouvait, dans quelque cas particulier, enfreindre l'édit de Nantes, abattre un temple, restreindre un exercice, ôter un emploi à un protestant, on croyait remporter une victoire sur l'hérésie." Rulhière, Éclaircissements Historiques sur la Révocation de l'Edit de Nantes, I. 26. Cf. Clément, La Police sous Louis XIV., p. 270.

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