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That Men Would Praise the LordThe Reformation in Nimes, 1530-1570$

Allan Tulchin

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199736522

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199736522.001.0001

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The Cahier de Doléances, 1561

The Cahier de Doléances, 1561

(p.97) 5 The Cahier de Doléances, 1561
That Men Would Praise the Lord

Allan A. Tulchin (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses Nîmes’s cahier de doléances, written for the Pontoise session of the national Estates General of 1561. It was written by the Protestant party, which wove together religious and political grievances that made it overwhelmingly popular, and greatly aided conversion efforts. It advocated seizing some of the Catholic Church’s benefices to pay off royal debts and increase poor relief. It also espoused contractualism through provisions greatly increasing the power of the Estates General, including provisions for regular meetings. Finally, it also advocated religious reform, but while clearly Protestant, it avoided antagonizing reform-minded Catholics.

Keywords:   Estates General, cahier de doléances, royal debts, poor relief, contractualism

In the immediate aftermath of the coup d’état in Nîmes, Governor l’Estrange had good reason to be pleased, since he had achieved two important aims. First, he had gotten the town council to alter course suddenly after months of recalcitrance and to put more stringent measures against heretical assemblies on the books. Second, he had put new leadership in place to carry out the new measures. But l’Estrange was urgently needed elsewhere, since the whole region was apparently turning Protestant, and few troops were available to suppress the heresy. So on November 25, two days after the elections, he cut a deal to obtain payment for his troops, by contracting with wealthy members of the Protestant community: if they paid £6,000, the garrison would be withdrawn. Seven Protestants agreed to stand bond for the sum. Interestingly, given that the representatives had to have means and prestige, only two were seigneurs and one a lawyer; the others were a merchant, an apothecary, a clerk, and a farmer. Nîmes’s officials gave the contract official recognition in some sense, since it was signed at the home of Jean de Montcalm, the juge-mage of the présidial, and Jean Mombel, the third consul, wrote up the contract as the notary.1

Nîmes’s officials, in support of the Catholic cause, had agreed to make the Protestant community pay for the royal troops. Given the Protestant movement’s growing size and influence, this took some daring. Unfortunately for the consuls, the crown soon decided to make the town pay more large sums to repress heresy in the (p.98) region. On November 28, the consuls summoned the town council into session to hear a letter they had received from Jean-Poldo d’Albenas. He informed the council that he had been delegated by the comte de Villars to provide supplies for the troops in the vicinity of St. Jean du Gard in the Cévennes, which had arrived to suppress Protestant assemblies and generally to quell dissent. He ordered the authorities in Nîmes to help provide for the troops’ maintenance by shipping grain, hay, wine, and meat to the town of Anduze. Villars had his reasons: wild rumors were circulating. Judging from a letter he wrote to the duc de Guise, Villars thought that thousands of Nîmes residents had gone up to the mountains to organize themselves into military units and were planning to return and seize power. There is no evidence that anyone in Nîmes was aware of the rumor, nor any possibility that it was true. The council, in its ignorance, immediately decided to protest, since it saw no reason why the town should have to pay to support troops elsewhere, and the town would be required to pay not just the price of the supplies, but the considerable cost of transporting them.

Even the second consul elect, Pierre de Fabrica, and Pierre de Brueys, who were both Catholics, agreed to go to Villars to protest. Their religion did not trump their loyalty to their community. They agreed, however, that in the meantime they would attempt to find the supplies. They noted that, although the commission specified that only the Protestants should have to pay, the town had already had to borrow money to supply its own garrison, since the Protestants were too poor to provide enough money.2 Here was the crown’s difficulty in a nutshell. Repressing heresy cost an enormous amount of money, and it was impossible to get the sums required out of the Protestants of the region. But if the crown demanded large sums from the rest of the population, it only alienated them and drove moderates and the undecided into the Protestant camp.

The same day, the consuls urged the governor not to impose the payment on Nîmes’s Protestants. They brought with them four Protestant representatives, who argued that it was unfair for their members to pay, and the richer members of the community had fled. Furthermore, it was more reasonable to make Anduze and its neighboring villages pay, since they had “made similar assemblies and persisted longer than anyone.” Protestant solidarity apparently stopped at Nîmes’s gates. The governor denied most of their requests, and the Protestant representatives immediately announced their intention to protest the entire decision to Villars. The town’s representatives split the difference, agreeing with neither the Protestant party nor the governor. Instead, it would be more reasonable to make Anduze pay, but if any Nîmes residents had to pay, it should only be the Protestants, not the whole town.3 If the consuls had to take (p.99) sides, they would stand with Rome and the king. At the last town council meeting of the month, on November 24, the consuls organized a guard of 200 “non-suspect” persons.

Governor l’Estrange, on behalf of the crown, had handpicked Nîmes’s consuls for their religious and political loyalty. But even if the royal and Catholic cause had been their only priority, they could not simply force the town to obey them. Cost precluded the use of military force, which would in any case further antagonize the population. Nationwide, the crisis compelled the royal council to consider other alternatives, and in August 1560 it decided to call for the election of representatives to a meeting of the Estates General. The meeting in December 1560 created a new political climate.4 It also enabled Nîmes’s Protestants to organize more effectively than ever before.

The Calling of the Estates General

When the royal council decided to summon the Estates General and a separate Assembly of the Clergy, it hoped to solve the twin obstacles facing the kingdom: an empty treasury and religious dissension. This was a desperate measure. The Estates had last met in 1484 and had refused to authorize sufficient taxation by the crown. After that failure, French monarchs became unwilling to go to the trouble and expense of calling them, and the French Estates became the least-often consulted national legislature in Europe. Of the major European countries, France was the only one whose Estates did not meet between 1484 and 1560. The council’s decision to call the Estates in 1560 was thus a measure both of the council’s noble aspirations and of the monarchy’s dire needs. However, in the dangerously unsettled circumstances that prevailed in 1560, it was probably less risky to call the Estates than to try to impose taxation by fiat. Since there was already a danger of rebellion, the council did not want to recommend harsh measures that would only further inflame public opinion.5 It took several months to organize the elections, to allow time for messengers to send the orders throughout the country, and for the representatives, once elected, to arrive at the appointed city. In the end, there were two meetings of the Estates, one beginning on December 13, 1560, at Orléans, and the other during the following August (1561) at Pontoise, near Paris.

Although it would have been risky not to call the Estates, the long preparations for the two sessions diverted the crown’s attention and hindered it from taking action at a crucial time. Furthermore, calling the assemblies started a process whose end could not be foreseen. No one could know whether the Estates would vote to provide the new taxes that the crown needed, nor whether (p.100) the Assembly of the Clergy would find a formula for compromise that would ease the kingdom’s religious divisions. Finally, when the crown called the meeting of the Estates, it also set off a furious bout of local political maneuvering. Each locality was required to write a list of grievances, a cahier de doléances, proposing suggested improvements for the Estates to consider. The local cahiers were then combined into one list when the Estates met, and the king then approved or rejected each provision. In Nîmes, there is no record of a cahier for the Orléans session, but the Protestant movement organized an impressive campaign around the adoption of the cahier for the Pontoise session. The movement capitalized on the economic and political discontents that began in the late 1550s and proposed a massive plan for political reform. As members of a persecuted minority, it was natural for Nîmes’s Protestants to push for a more limited government. By drawing up the cahier, they managed to link their concerns with the broader problems facing the community. The Protestant proposals proved to be wildly popular, attracting support from hundreds of Nîmes residents, many of whom had not previously been aligned with the Protestant movement. On the national level, the crown never adopted any of the measures that Nîmes proposed in its cahier. But in Nîmes itself, the Protestant movement’s campaign around the cahier created the conditions for the new religion’s eventual success.

The Estates, consisting of 455 deputies, assembled at Orléans. The querulous representatives first wondered whether their writs of election were still valid. The young King François II had died only days earlier. Could representatives called by one king meet under the authority of another? Perhaps new elections were necessary. The crown was unwilling to wait, however, and after some debate, the Estates agreed to sit. Michel de L’Hospital, the chancellor, opened the session by urging national unity under royal authority. Everyone needed to obey the king, who owed his crown to God alone. Heretics, however, needed to be brought back “par la douceur, et non par la rigeur” (gently, not by rigor) to the true faith. His goal was to assert royal power, but he also made sure to flatter the Estates.6

The three Estates began to negotiate the election of a Speaker common to all of them, who would present their grievances, but they found it impossible to come to an agreement. The nobility wanted to elect Antoine de Bourbon, king of Navarre, but the clergy felt that he was too tainted by heresy to be acceptable. Rivalries between various noble houses made it difficult for the nobility to come up with another choice to present to the clergy. In the end, the nobility was unable even to submit one cahier for itself, unlike the other two Estates. Some of the nobility submitted quasi-Protestant cahiers, where they urged that doctrinal disputes be decided by reference to the (p.101) Bible, while others insisted that they wished to live and die under the rules and doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. The Third Estate submitted its united cahier to the king on January 10, 1561. It was sharply anti-clerical. It proclaimed that religion, which should be the principal glue that bound the nation, had become instead the reverse, and the principal cause of this calamity was the “inexcusable negligence and insupportable faults” of the clergy. Far too many of the clergy were ignorant, greedy, and lazy. Indeed, the majority were at fault in certain ways. Moreover, the Third Estate requested that the traditional exemption of the clergy from taxation should be ended.7

The Estates were cantankerous, but the crown was also partly at fault. The monarchy did little to influence the contents of the cahiers: unlike the cannier Tudor kings in England, the French crown failed to use sympathetic members to plant “government” provisions into the grievances. Furthermore, only on January 13, after the Estates had finalized the cahiers, did the crown open the discussion of the financial question. In order to impress on the representatives how much it needed the new taxes, the crown made no attempt to hide the extent of the problem and offered to open its books for the representatives’ inspection. The danger of this course was that the members of the Estates might take the view that the extent of the debt only proved how disgustingly profligate Henri II had been. Only the clergy cooperated, and nominated thirteen delegates to examine the books. The bishop of Évreux announced the results on January 20: the kingdom’s debt amounted to £43.5 million, approximately four times annual revenues. Even the clergy insisted, however, that they did not have the authorization to grant new taxes, since their commissions only mentioned submitting grievances. This attitude harkened back to an older conception of the representatives’ role, originally prevalent in England as well. According to this theory, the members of a parliament were really delegates, under the instructions of their cahiers and unable to treat any matter not contained in them. In England, members of Parliament gradually came to enjoy full power (plena potestas) to make whatever arrangements seemed best to them. The clergy at Orléans were claiming that they lacked this power. Negotiations between the crown and the Estates continued for another week, to little effect. The crown decided to accept the deputies’ arguments, dissolve the assembly, and call for new elections in which the representatives would be specifically empowered to discuss the financial question. In the meantime, to gain goodwill, the crown acceded to most of the proposals in the national cahiers of the three Estates. There were two main exceptions. Catherine de’ Medici, acting as regent for her son Charles IX, vetoed provisions that tended to reduce royal revenues. (p.102) She also rejected some provisions in the First Estate’s cahier which called for harsh measures against heresy.

At the end of the month, Chancellor L’Hospital called the Estates together and presented the crown’s proposals for new taxes, which would last for six years. In the king’s name, he asked the Church to redeem loans based on the royal domain and various taxes, amounting to £15 million. The nobility’s share would be to pay a tax on salt. In areas where salt was not taxed, other feudal levies were substituted. Finally, the Third Estate was asked to approve an increase in the taille and a wine tax. Now that the Estates knew what they had to think about, the chancellor dismissed the assembly and ordered new elections for a smaller, more manageable body, which would meet at Melun. The meeting was originally scheduled for May 1, 1561, although it had to be postponed several times. When the letters patent ordering the elections were issued on March 25, they specifically forbade the local and provincial Estates to discuss the structure of either government or religion. The national Estates finally met, three months later than originally planned, on August 1.8

In the middle of the session of the Estates, Catherine announced a new edict which further liberalized the laws against Protestants. The amnesty for heresy was extended, for the first time, to Protestant preachers. It also even included an acceptance of assemblies where people had borne arms. The Protestant movement was naturally delighted; it also seems to have begun a process of consultation in order to come up with a platform that it could propose in local communities when they met to draw up their new cahiers. Unfortunately, the details of these consultations are obscure because there are few surviving records, except a draft memorandum listing possible provisions. These were then incorporated more or less faithfully into local cahiers where the Protestant movement was influential. On March 10, the Second National Synod of the Protestant Church had met and, among other decisions, endorsed a short program for the Estates, including several key provisions from the draft. In Paris, Protestant representatives also influenced the city’s cahier, which included some similar provisions. In Nîmes, the Protestant movement drew up a cahier that is particularly similar to the surviving draft memorandum. The Nîmes Protestant movement had organized the campaign in order to achieve its goals at the meeting of the Estates, but the cahier also proved to be a superlatively successful organizing tool at the local level. The Protestant cahier is therefore crucial to the history of the Reformation in Nîmes because it is the fullest exposition of Protestant ideas and because the struggle to adopt it was crucial to the success of the Protestant movement. In the cahier, Nîmes’s Protestants, given an opportunity by the economic and fiscal problems of 1557–1560, finally found a set of arguments that resonated with the town’s elite.9

(p.103) The Introduction of the Nîmes Cahier

Nîmes’s Catholic consuls were guaranteed to oppose any cahier the Protestant party proposed. However, the consuls’ political position was quite weak, since they had been imposed by force and the crown was deeply unpopular. By now, Nîmes’s elite, shaken by the political and economic stresses of the previous four years, emboldened by the weakness of the central government, and excited by the vision of political and religious reform presented in the cahier, was ready to move. When, on March 15, 1561, the council met to consider the cahier, the town’s first consul was absent, due to a convenient illness. The proposals were introduced instead by Louis Bertrand, a wealthy, prominent Protestant, explicitly a member of the nascent party:

M. Louis Bertrand declared, in his own name and on behalf of his supporters, and asked the honorable sirs the President and consuls to assemble the present Extraordinary Council, in order to remonstrate concerning the honor of God, the king’s service, and the repose and tranquility of the People, and to report this to the local Estates of this province of Languedoc … and to the Estates General.10

This opening of Bertrand’s speech gives considerable insight into his political views. By using the term “remonstrate,” he showed his low opinion of the consuls. He may also have been suggesting that since, without the reforms he was proposing, the people would be unhappy, the consuls might face violence if they rejected his proposals. He also clearly thought that the cahier was of extreme importance. At a rhetorical level, he described the cahier as concerning God, the king, and the people. More concretely, and in defiance of established procedure, he proposed that the Nîmes cahier should be considered not just at a local or provincial level, but by the entire nation, representatives of which would assemble at the Estates General.

Bertrand’s position was strengthened because he was accompanied by 136 named citizens, making the session one of the best attended in contemporary records. The 136 included many members of the upper crust, but many also of the more middling classes, including bakers, tanners, and students at the College of Arts.11 The town consuls attempted to delay consideration of the cahier by pointing out, “There were no members of the ordinary council [the smaller, more elite body] present, as is well-known,” and, in a well-calculated appeal to the town’s tendency to jealously guard its local rights and privileges, to proceed “could be prejudicial to the [local] transactions, statutes, and ordinances.”12 The consuls were arguing that the supporters of the cahier were out of order, as well as arguing that the cahier itself was poor policy: the cahier should be rejected both on procedural and on substantive grounds.

(p.104) The chair of the council meeting, normally the president of the présidial court, had the right to decide whether a motion was in order. The president, Guillaume Calvière, had been notably absent from the intensive series of présidial meetings the previous spring, where the court debated how to suppress heresy. Calvière’s views in this period are therefore hard to determine, although his absence may by itself indicate disapproval of its anti-Protestant approach. In any case, in this instance he ruled in favor of the Protestant party and disallowed the consuls’ objections, insisting that “in [the councillors’] absence [the debate] should continue.” Again, the consuls restated their objections, adding that they needed time to consider the articles of the cahier, which they had not seen before and which the first consul should review, since he was “a man of letters.” Calvière did not accept this argument, since the absentees had been duly notified, “both by the sound of the bell, and individually by the [town’s] servants; and in order not to retard the affairs of the king, he commanded the consuls to give their opinions.” When given the chance to express their opinions on the document that they had done their best to table, the consuls—presumably because they were afraid to condemn a document in front of more than a hundred people who supported it—refused, saying only that it should be referred to a committee. They also insisted that any list of grievances should only go to the provincial, not the national, Estates. In the end, however, they lost every point.13

Several conclusions can be drawn from all of this. Though Bertrand represented only one faction of the community, it was a well-mobilized and enthusiastic one. While the support of the council’s presiding officer, Calvière, certainly helped, the importance of the crowd who turned out in support of the cahier can hardly be overstated.14

The cahier provided an outlet for all of the frustrations that Nîmes’s elite had been feeling since the flood of 1557, including some age-old irritations that had new urgency, given the town’s difficult circumstances. Nîmes’s town council had long been concerned about the town’s poor. Its concern contained a strong element of enlightened self-interest, since the members were at the top of the local society, and those on top can only lose when there is political instability. Thus when, because of the fiscal and economic strains of 1557–1560, Nîmes’s governing legal elite found itself increasingly unable to relieve the hungry, they bitterly resented the crown’s illegal fiscal demands, which hit their pockets hard and hindered their commendable efforts to help the town’s poor. They were self-righteously appalled by the wastefulness of royal policies, which racked up debts and only led to military defeat. Nîmes’s Protestant movement argued successfully in the cahier that these problems were linked, and the root cause was moral corruption. The situation could only be remedied by religious (p.105) reform and rigorous controls on royal power. The cahier carefully skirted certain controversial religious questions, so that Catholics, particularly those of an Erasmian or reform-minded stripe, could sign it in good conscience. Many of the cahier’s proposed constitutional reforms had been proposed long before, and some of the provisions might seem arcane to us. In the end, the crown did not agree to make the changes that were recommended. Nonetheless, the cahier electrified contemporaries. Undoubtedly, people were particularly attracted to it because it was passed at a crucial political juncture. The economic situation was still quite bad. The regent, Catherine de’ Medici, had just granted the Protestant movement a greater degree of liberty than it had ever had before. Furthermore, the crown had just admitted that it was in grave financial difficulties. People who wanted political reform had reason to hope that the crown would actually agree to major concessions in exchange for the new revenues it desperately sought. In the end, however, the cahier affected Nîmes’s citizens profoundly, but did little to change France’s government.15

The cahier was composed of five parts: (1) the means to settle the king’s debts, (2) the regulation of the king’s expenses to prevent future deficits, (3) the reform of the Christian religion, “on which foundation all other reform is built,” (4) the elimination of judicial abuses, and (5) the maintenance of law and order.16 The most pressing issue was the debt, and most French people assumed that the Church would have to contribute much of the money necessary to reduce it. At the same time, as the Orléans session of the Estates General had shown, many Catholics were upset with the Church hierarchy. Some wished to redistribute the Church’s funds away from overly wealthy bishops toward urgent needs, including preaching and charitable foundations. In the discussions leading up to Pontoise, some anti-clericalism was in the air, and many communities were in favor of making the Church pay. At Amiens, for example, the cahier urged that “the king must take for his own profit annates and the revenues of vacant benefices,”17 while the prévôté of Paris said:

It was most reasonable that those who held the best part of the wealth of this kingdom, such as the men of the Church who possess fat benefices which are not much burdened (not including the poor vicars and other poor holders of benefices who have great difficulties living off of them), should assist with one third or two parts [i.e., one-half] of the revenue of their benefices.18

In another sign of Catholic anger, the Third Estate of the seneschalsy of Toulouse, in its cahier for the Orléans meeting of the Estates, insisted that no mercy should be shown to heretics, but bitterly condemned the clergy and called for reducing tithes.19 Even by this standard, the Nîmes cahier was unusually (p.106) detailed and blunt. It expressed no sympathy for “poor vicars” and insisted instead that severe impositions on the clergy would “affect no one” or would “affect the fewest and will not be resented.” It incorporated both the above provisions from the Amiens and Paris cahiers and more:

In order that it will not be necessary to further burden his people … it would be good to use two means, one which is of no concern and affects no one, the other which affects the fewest and will not be resented. The first is to take of the revenue of the confraternities, the bells, the half, or a third, or better all, in each and every temple, and the relics. The second is to take one third of the revenue of benefices worth more than £1000, and the annates and the revenue of vacant posts … and similarly, to take the temporal jurisdictions of the churchmen, which they cannot hold in good conscience, even according to the decretals. And the king can derive money from them by bestowing them on his vassals, receiving military service in time of war, and customary rights which the king can commute in exchange for cash, which would amount to greater sums than might be thought.

Given the hard economic times, it is not surprising that the authors of the cahier were also concerned about growing poverty and urged that, in order to “warm the hearts of men to charity and alms,” either one-quarter or one-third of Church revenues should be diverted “for food for the poor.” Secular men should be put in charge of administering the poor funds.20 This was a comprehensive attack on the Church’s revenues and jurisdiction. It went beyond a reorganization for the Church’s own benefit, as proposed by the Toulouse cahier, and indeed far beyond the light shearing proposed by the town of Amiens.

Protestants, both in the draft memorandum and in the Nîmes cahier, were anxious to attack the Church and particularly disposed to single out areas where they thought the crown and the public were likely to agree with them. For example, twenty years before, the royal Edict of Villers-Cotterêts had ordered the abolition of confraternities.21 The Protestant movement therefore felt it had good reason to attack the confraternities, and since Nîmes had been one of the few towns that implemented the edict, at least in part, the provision was likely to arouse few objections there. Similarly, the authors of the cahier took care to attack the wealthiest members of the Catholic hierarchy and the ecclesiastical courts, which were widely resented in sixteenth-century Europe. The cahier attacked the Church’s most unpopular features. Still, by any standard, the Nîmes cahier was radical. It is particularly noteworthy that the cahier refers to churches as “temples,” the Protestant term.22 Using “temple” in the cahier may have been a way of getting more people in Nîmes accustomed to the term and (p.107) a faint suggestion that France’s churches belonged to the kingdom’s pious Christian subjects—the invisible Church universal, that is the Protestants—rather than to the institutional Catholic Church. In sum, it is hard to avoid concluding that the cahier meant to harness a deep, visceral anti-clericalism among its supporters and, presumably, potential supporters.

Other provisions, whether directly religious or not, may have particularly appealed to a Protestant sensibility. The cahier asks, for example, that “[n]o reproach, question, nor molestation, should be done to any person whatsoever, under color of a conspiracy,” referring to the earlier conspiracy of Amboise. It also suggests that the Protestant-leaning king of Navarre should have a prominent role in the governing of the kingdom. Less directly, a Protestant suspicion of hypocrisy can perhaps be seen in the cahier’s singling out of “the calumniator and the false witness” for special mention.23 Some commentators have argued that Calvinism was particularly concerned with ensuring that proper hierarchy was observed within the family, and certainly the Nîmes cahier asks for reforms of the system of trustees (tuteurs or curateurs) for orphaned young people and of dowries.24 Neither subject is mentioned in either the Toulouse or the national cahiers de doléances for the Orléans Estates General meeting, so it is possible to argue that such concerns reflect strictly local sensibilities. The cahier aimed to preserve hierarchy through sumptuary laws and by restricting gaming to men of leisure, excluding “any man of mechanical occupation, or manifestly lacking the wherewithal.” In a manner consistent with both Protestant and Catholic reformers, the cahier also attacked dancing and theatricals.25

The cahier’s generally moralizing tone may also owe something to cognitive dissonance. In the context of a conversion experience, which is inherently destabilizing, the yearning for consistency may be particularly strong. Such experiences are exhilarating, but also frightening, and converts may wish to retain as many of their comfortingly familiar ideas as possible. As their views rapidly alter, their family and friends and the converts themselves (if they are sufficiently introspective) might well wonder, what’s next? Looked at from this point of view, this attempt to reinvigorate what today might be called traditional family values makes sense as an attempt to counterbalance Protestantism’s innovations in theology and practice. The cahier restated some moral propositions with which it was hard to disagree and then attached them to a popular but more controversial political and religious program. By doing so, the cahier writers seem to have created what some modern social scientists would call an emergent norm. Such moments, such as prayer meetings where more and more people apparently start to “testify” spontaneously and announce that they have now found the Lord, can have powerful emotional consequences for participants. The effect is like a cascade of peer pressure, by the end of which even (p.108) initially reluctant or skeptical members of the group can be swept along in a wash of feeling. This seems to have been the case in Nîmes. The meeting to discuss the cahier created a context in which it seemed like the entire community ratified a collective belief and agreed on a program even though, had a formal vote been taken, this might easily have proven not to be the case. Indeed, the cahier discussion included little doctrinal or other information about the group to which people were in effect pledging their adherence. Presumably, the cahier signers were learning about Protestantism from the mass meetings and preaching going on in Nîmes, but preaching at such events was also likely to focus on moral uplift and attacks on the corruption of the Church, rather than on the careful exposition of precise theological differences.26

While Protestant views are visible in numerous ways in the Nîmes cahier, some of the most explicitly religious clauses are surprisingly circumspect. It does say that “if we return to God, and serve Him purely, according to His Word,” God will reward France with military victory, just as he did for the Israelites. But the notion of the word of God is not strictly Protestant. Again, in asking for a national council to reunite the Church, anticipating the Colloquy of Poissy later in the year, the Nîmes cahier asks for the representation of “all those who speak French,” presumably so that Genevans could be included, and that issues be decided, not by tradition, but “by the word of God alone.”27 Other clauses ask for prayers to be conducted in the vernacular, the freedom to read the Bible, the end of payments to Rome, and for the people’s ministers to urge them to sing hymns and the psalms. At the same time, bishops should be ordered “not to depart from the exposition of Scripture to set one against another, but only and simply to instruct the people in the pure word of God.” But the key clause, demanding tolerance, is careful not to be too direct, asking that “those who believe they cannot take part in the ceremonies of the Roman Church should be given means to be instructed and taught in the Word of God, for fear lest they fall into atheism.”28 This could almost be misinterpreted as a demand for special instruction for the wayward, to bring them back into the fold, rather than as a demand for a separate church of their own. And finally, consider this clause:

Similarly, to oppose the light of truth to the thick darkness of ignorance, which has filled the air and the earth unto this day, and to give an opening to everyone to know and understand their salvation, the catechizing of children and rustics should be restored, if the king pleases, to such effect that they will be clearly and simply instructed in the articles of our faith, of the Law of the Ten Commandments, of the way to pray to God for the explanation (p.109) of the Lord’s Day’s sermon, and taught purely the dignity, the end, and the use of the holy sacraments, to all who are of age and capable of understanding.29

Considering that there was a major dispute between Protestants and Catholics over how many sacraments there were, this is quite imprecise. It is, however, remarkably similar to two provisions in the Orléans cahier, which ask for sermons on the Decalogue and on the “institution, virtue, and effect of the sacraments.”30 The Nîmes cahier also avoids questions of ecclesiology: there is no suggestion that the hierarchy should be remodeled to eliminate the bishops or the monasteries. The cahier avoids detailed statements on the sacraments, their meaning, and church organization, the most contentious issues dividing Catholics from Protestants. By contrast, requests for Bible reading, although eventually considered irredeemably Protestant, were not out of the question for reform-minded Catholics in the early sixteenth century. Thus, the Nîmes cahier, although drawn up by Protestants, because of its careful phraseology might have been acceptable to some reformist Catholics.

Why was the language of the religious clauses in the Nîmes cahier so ambiguous? Of course, a too-open Protestantism might have provoked persecution, but heresy only half-concealed seems hardly useful protection. Protestants in Nîmes faced a terrible dilemma, since they wished to escape trial for heresy yet felt a passion to give witness to their faith, to spread the good news. In the environment of the time, furthermore, half-concealed digs may have taken on a special, symbolic significance, like the veiled criticisms of samizdat, which later seemed timid. But the Nîmes cahier went much further than others did. The delegates at Orléans did not attack the Church in order to justify conversion to a new religion. Instead, they were angry that the Church, in its bloated inefficiency, had been unable to prevent the rise of the new heresy. Toulouse was equally concerned by the “long absence, ignorance and boundless avarice of many prelates,” and its cahier suggested that Church revenues should be seized and turned to more useful purposes, like funding preachers and schools.31 This was still notably different from Nîmes’s cahier, which advocated that the crown confiscate much of the Church’s wealth in order to reduce the state’s debts. The authors of Nîmes’s cahier would also presumably not have approved of confiscating some of the Church’s wealth to fund preachers: that measure was designed to help Catholicism more effectively combat heresy.

Some Protestants hoped for a reconciliation with the Catholic Church, although in practice what this meant was they hoped that the Church would capitulate to their demands. Perhaps we should understand the demands to (p.110) regulate the bishops’ sermons, rather than abolish their office, in the light of the Protestant party’s extravagant hopes at this time. Fundamentally, the cautious language must be understood politically: Nîmes’s Protestants did not wish to give the opposition any ammunition. This was a sign of their political sophistication. While it may have been unrealistic to expect that the Catholic Church would capitulate to Protestant demands for reform, it was perhaps more reasonable to hope for conversions among less firmly committed Catholics. By demanding reforms, rather than the liquidation of the Church, the Nîmes cahier laid the groundwork for a later breach should the reforms not be adopted. The cahier was a document with unmistakable Protestant leanings, designed to appeal to the Protestant community, with a certain amount of ambiguous language that could also appeal to moderate, reform-minded Catholics, and a grand call for a sweeping reform of government and society designed to appeal to Protestants, Catholics, and those in the middle.

The Nîmes cahier advocated radical pruning of Church assets, and its proposals for limiting royal power were hardly less dramatic. The Nîmes cahier did not merely advocate that the clergy pay for the king’s debts. It suggested that royal expenses be reduced and measures taken to control them in the future. Gifts and pensions to members of the court needed to be reduced, tax officials needed to be more closely scrutinized, and, during the king’s minority, no war should be declared nor any tax imposed without the approval of the Estates. Furthermore, the Estates should be convened on the king’s majority, “to see better in what state are the king’s affairs and how affairs have been conducted during his minority,” and at least every ten years. In future, the monarchy should be much more tightly scrutinized, and joint decision making should replace the personal rule of the monarch. Such demands were hardly new: the Estates General had in fact suggested at its last meeting, in 1484, that it should meet every two years.32 Similarly, it was hardly surprising that the authors of the cahier thought that royal advisers during a king’s minority were liable to line their pockets from the public purse. It was always easier to attack the king’s evil counselors than the king himself. Still, the provision for regular meetings of the Estates was important: it represented a serious commitment to the idea of a greater popular voice in national affairs. Although there was considerable precedent for the constitutional views expressed in the Nîmes cahier, not all contemporaries agreed. The Toulouse cahier recommended that the jurisdiction of the Estates of Languedoc be divided in two to reduce the travel expenses for the communities that paid them.33 The cahier also used the Catholic consuls’ resistance against them, arguing the populist case that cahiers should not be concocted by local elites alone, “sans y appeler le peuple” (without calling the people). (p.111) The cahier’s predilection for conciliar forms is also apparent in its suggestion that the kingdom should be governed by a council of sixteen or eighteen, to include the princes of the blood and the principal ministers of state, until the king reached his majority. Royal acts should be signed “Par le roy, à la relation de son conseil,” and there should be provisions against nepotism. The crown should also send out commissions in advance of provincial Estates, so that local meetings could draw up cahiers, “so that the king may dispense his grace and justice unto the least of his subjects, according to his holy desire and will.”34

In some areas, however, it is clear that the Nîmes cahier was less radical, or more circumspect, than, for example, the Languedoc cahier. Both the Nîmes and the Languedoc cahiers called for the end of all judicial fees, or épices, but only in Languedoc did they go so far as to insist that “[n]o judicial office shall be sold.”35 If no lucrative fees were attached, it would be hard to imagine why people would be interested in selling an office. Perhaps the authors of the Nîmes cahier felt that mentioning the sale of offices would impugn the members of the présidial court, all of whom had bought their offices. The Nîmes cahier also recommended: “In order that they [the judges] can honestly support themselves, according to their estate and the importance of their offices, good and competent salaries should be assigned to them so that they may work without regret.”36 Some of the provisions in the Nîmes cahier may have excited interest because they reflected local concerns. For example, section 4 of the Nîmes cahier asked that all jurisdictional boundaries be fixed, with the goal of preventing its rival Le Puy from getting a présidial. It also asked that surplus jurisdictions and officials and “long and useless formalities” in legal proceedings be eliminated. Similarly, the cahier asked for royal regulation of the butchers, who (as discussed above) had consistently irritated the town council over the years.37

Given the detail of some of the legal reforms that the cahier proposed, it is amply clear that people well versed in the law were involved in writing it. It does not, however, exempt them from criticism. The cahier accused notaries, for example, of “great infidelity and corruption” and suggested that their number be reduced. This is particularly noteworthy since Jacques Ursi, an early Protestant, was a notary with a large clientele. It criticized lawyers as well:

[E]specially the impudence of advocates, who advise and sustain an ill cause, is insufferable, which they cannot do without shame and a great weight on their conscience, nor the audacity and equivocation of those who consume all the time in outrages and false facts which they allege against the parties.

(p.112) There is, however, some reason to be skeptical about these protests. The cahier did not advocate a social revolution, which would have reduced the power of the lawyers and legal officials who dominated Nîmes. In its last clause, it suggested that authority should be concentrated in the hands of the présidiaux and the municipal councils, that is, in the members of the traditional ruling elite.38 It is nonetheless worthwhile to consider why such harsh language was included. The cahier was undoubtedly a compromise, and it is possible that these denunciations welled up from below, and the elite cynically permitted them knowing that the actual proposals were to their benefit. The artisans who comprised the early leadership of the movement, and who were relatively removed from access to power, may have held such resentments and written them into the cahier. But it seems more probable that the elite shared in a certain ambivalence, even guilt. If they did not, it would be somewhat difficult to explain why they converted: self-satisfied people, especially cynical ones, are not obvious candidates for conversion. Furthermore, the Nîmes elite had considerable reason to feel guilty. They had failed in their paternalistic roles as protectors of the town. Floods and bad harvests were perhaps not their fault, but when times were bad their duty was to make up for them. Yet they had been unable to moderate extreme royal fiscal impositions, and the town’s empty treasury and granary were thus in some sense their responsibility. They felt at the same time responsible for the town’s problems and unable to solve them. Nîmes’s advocates and notaries may have actively agreed with denunciations of lawyers and notaries in general, although each one probably excepted himself.39

The Nîmes elite thought habitually in paternalistic terms and expressed these kinds of sentiments repeatedly in town council meetings. Their language was also shot through with a particular kind of humanistic morality. This probably owed something to the legal mind, formed as it was by Justinian’s Code, as well as to the town’s burgeoning pride in its Roman heritage and the presence of the humanist scholars at Nîmes University and College of Arts. The cahier’s language was tinged with it when it expressed its concern that “children and rustics” should be instructed in “the Law of the Ten Commandments.” A humanist principle—the distinction between the deserving and the undeserving poor—can also be seen in the provisions for charity, which, as noted above, urged that Church funds be diverted to the poor while at the same time making it clear that lazy people should be forced to take up a trade.40 As has been noted by many scholars of the period, this kind of language is as much humanist as Calvinist; if Nîmes’s elite were already imbued with humanist values, it helps to explain why they converted. Calvinism reinforced the moral viewpoint to which they already adhered, thus easing any cognitive dissonance they may (p.113) have felt. The cahier was a program to restore moral order to the kingdom. In that sense, even the “secular” parts of the cahier were really religious.

The cahier’s ideology was wildly popular. After the adoption of the cahier, two hundred more people, many of whom were of quite low status—wool carders, soldiers—added their signatures to the bottom of the document. The most important thing about the cahier is not the occupational breakdown of its signers, but the sheer number of those who signed. This was the closest Nîmes came to a referendum on the Reformation, as frequently happened in Germany’s imperial cities.41 Still, it is interesting to compare cahier signers with the breakdown of “early Protestants” derived from Toulouse heresy prosecutions, immigrants to Geneva, and the présidial list of May 18, 1560 (discussed in Chapter 3; for both sets of figures, see Appendix A). If that list gives a profile of the movement as of early 1560, it suggests that signers of the cahier included more members of the elite, although otherwise the two groups are broadly similar. Crucially, members of the legal professions were 15 percent of those who signed the cahier, but only 9 percent of the early Protestants, and the high-status group of seigneurs and officials was also better represented among the signers than among the early Protestants. It was essential for the Protestant movement to gain the support of the lawyers, since they were the most important group in the town council. On the face of this evidence alone, it is possible to argue that lawyers may have been prominent among cahier signers merely because the cahier was a political document that was presented in the town council, where lawyers were prominently represented. But for reasons discussed below (in Chapter 6), it is more likely that the changing percentages really do represent the changing character of the Protestant movement.

Once the lawyers joined the Protestant movement, Protestants would no longer fear that the council would enact measures to suppress their preaching and other activities. Compared to the early Protestants, among the cahier signers high-status artisans—merchants and bourgeois—were not as well represented, and the percentage of those in agriculture was lower as well. It is not clear whether the national Protestant movement succeeded in its attempts to organize support for its draft cahier, but in Nîmes the effect was remarkable. The campaign was successful in attracting a large number of people and in particular the kind of influential people who had so far been somewhat reluctant to join. With the success of the cahier campaign, the movement passed a significant milestone on its way to becoming the dominant religion in Nîmes.

Some people who signed the cahier were no doubt already Protestants, but others were perhaps only on their way to becoming so, and a few probably signed despite being Catholics. No présidial members signed, while two consuls of 1560 did: Pierre Cellerier and Jean Mombel, both of whom had probably (p.114) been Protestants for some time. Among the signers were Pierre Rozel the elder and Jean Voluntat, bourgeois, two of the thirty-two “non-suspect” voters who had been allowed to vote for the new consuls the preceding November. Thirty of the two hundred equally “non-suspect” city guards nominated in December also signed.42 This pattern suggests that the cahier was indeed successful in its goal of persuading previously uncommitted people to support the Protestant cause: people who had been considered reliable Catholics only the preceding fall chose to sign a document promulgated by the Protestant movement. It suggests that the Catholic cause was rapidly losing ground and that the Protestants had indeed scored a notable success with the cahier. There are other reasons to believe that the agitation over the cahier was part of a broader Protestant campaign designed to pull in support from the larger community. The movement took additional measures to convert others to its cause: Protestant preaching reached a new pitch of excitement just at this time, and the Protestant Consistory was organized on March 23, only eight days after the tumultuous meeting of the town council.43 Whoever was responsible for drawing up the cahier knew what provisions would be likely to energize Protestant sympathizers and what would be likely to persuade the undecided and even some Catholics to join the Protestant cause.

The Nîmes Cahier in Provincial and National Politics

After adopting the cahier, the town council forwarded it to the provincial Estates General of Languedoc, whose session opened on March 20, 1561, in Montpellier, only five days after the approval of the Nîmes cahier. Pierre Chabot, a radical Protestant, represented Nîmes. According to one contemporary account, at first he was not permitted even to address the assembly, but the clamor of the crowd outside the hall eventually persuaded the delegates to give him a hearing. Chabot later explained that the other delegates of the provinces had insisted that he could not discuss his proposals, because “there [at the Estates meeting] only the funding of the king’s debts was to be discussed.” The delegates to the Estates were merely following Catherine’s orders, but Chabot was less obedient.44

Nonetheless, the Estates did consider far-reaching proposals for reform. Claude Terlon, a lawyer and the capitoul45 of Toulouse, suggested that “the most prompt expedient would be to take all the temporal goods of the Church, reserving to those who hold benefices the houses and lands adjacent to their benefices.” Furthermore, he proposed that any assets that remained after the crown’s debts had been paid off should be given to commissions of town (p.115) officials to administer on the Church’s behalf. As Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie has pointed out, this would have made the clergy into salaried state employees, a local version of the procedures eventually adopted by the French Revolution. Terlon was not an out-and-out Protestant, as indeed his proposal to reorganize the Church’s finances shows: he was more interested in reforming the Catholic Church than in demolishing it. Nonetheless, the Church could hardly have been pleased with his proposals. The Church was particularly perturbed because Terlon’s views were rather the norm than the exception: the deputies at Montpellier adopted his proposals, and they named him the representative of the Third Estate of Languedoc to the Estates General of Pontoise.46 The delegates treated Chabot’s proposals much more gingerly. Rather than reject them, which would have inflamed Protestant opinion both within and without the chamber, they arranged instead to have Antoine de Crussol, vicomte d’Uzès, a great landowner and leading Protestant, take charge of Chabot’s complaints and present them at the Estates General meeting. Achille Gamon, a contemporary and a Catholic, noted that there was a wide spectrum of opinion, with some eager to have Chabot punished as “a disturber of the public peace.” But lines were generally blurred. As a Catholic, his description of the contemporary mood has special significance:

An air of reform, which the preachers of the new religion made seem necessary, seduced some; the license which it encouraged corrupted the others, and in the uncertainty, or, more accurately, the ignorance about the Catholic religion and the Reformed religion that prevailed, people did not know which of the two to cleave to, and which pastors to follow.47

In this fluid, liminal atmosphere, then, the Nîmes cahier was useful as a propaganda document to convince the uncertain to join the Protestant cause.

Preparations for the Estates continued through the spring and early summer; the sessions had originally been scheduled to start on May 1, 1561, but were delayed. The clergy met separately from the other two orders. Its session began on July 31, 1561, at Poissy. The following day, the king and the queen mother opened the new Estates General. Instead of meeting at Melun, the session was moved to the nearby town of Pontoise; about eighty delegates attended. The session lasted just under a month, closing on August 27. The nobility and the commons were reluctant to vote new taxes. The nobility proposed with breathtaking effrontery that the clergy should pay two-thirds of the outstanding debt, the commons the remaining third, and they should pay nothing. The commons, equally ungenerous, felt that the clergy should pay the entire sum. Both recommended measures that the Nîmes cahier had also endorsed, (p.116) including the right of the Estates to consent to peace treaties and declarations of war and the scheduling of regular (biennial, in this case) meetings of the Estates. The clergy, thoroughly concerned by the antagonism that the other two Estates had shown, agreed to pay more than £9 million over ten years. As a result, the crown felt better disposed toward the clergy, who had shown themselves cooperative, than toward the other Estates, which had demanded much in exchange for little. The nobility and the commons, angry at both the crown and the Church, had attacked both at once, rather than husbanding their energies. Their strategy lacked shrewdness.48

The Effect of the Nîmes Cahier on Local Politics

The immense popular enthusiasm for the Nîmes cahier shows that it captured the public mood brilliantly, even though its goals were impossibly ambitious. Public opinion in Nîmes favored restraints on an extravagant monarchy and reform of the Church, which was believed to be rich but not performing its duties. These were simplistic solutions, but the problems were real. The Protestant movement’s strategy was somewhat shortsighted in its thinking: if its primary goal was to weaken the Church, it was a mistake to antagonize the king at the same time. From a national perspective, it was foolhardy for the Protestant movement to pursue political reform. On the local level, however, it seems likely that it would have sacrificed much of the enthusiasm for the cahier if it had abandoned its proposals for increasing the power of the Estates. It was in order to attract the fluid center of local public opinion, then, that the cahier adopted a number of popular, traditional reforms. It is also probable that the movement’s own deep-seated anger at the crown prevented it from allying with the monarchy, even against the Church. The Protestants could not readily disentangle the two. Finally, at least on the local level, the structure of the Protestant church was based on an elected council, a consistory, rather than on the more hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church. It would have been grossly inconsistent for the movement to advocate a representative council structure in one sphere and not the other. The result was that the movement campaigned for a document that was perfect for gaining converts in Nîmes, but not successful in gaining support at court. It would have been more expedient to gain the crown’s support if it were possible, but the odds of a royal conversion were never good. In any case, the other choice was the more principled position.

Furthermore, the cahier’s overarching structure was quite traditional. Politically, the cahier represented a classic contractualist view of politics, where the king and his subjects had mutual, unequal responsibilities, but the (p.117) king was supposed to rule under significant legal restraints. On the whole, the effect of the cahier, had its provisions been adopted, would have been to weaken the power of the crown, although in exchange the king would have been rewarded with a general redistribution of Church revenues, lordships, and jurisdictions. Had the crown received sufficient new revenues, it would have become relatively independent of the Estates since it would not have to ask them for supplies. But this threat was unrealistic. It was unlikely that the crown could ever acquire so much land from the Church that it would have enough money to finance itself during wartime. The cahier’s proposals requiring the Estates’ assent to declarations of war would also have severely limited the crown’s traditional prerogative to make foreign policy.49 Nonetheless, these proposals were only a starting point, and with further negotiations, they could have proven the basis for an attractive bargain for the crown. In its original form, however, the cahier was more a statement of principles than a completely realistic proposal. In particular, it seems likely that Protestants emphasized deliberative structures like the Estates because they were opposed to the kingdom’s hierarchical structure, which resembled that of the Church. The French Protestant church’s own structure, with its local and national synods, mimicked the provincial and national Estates and the system of councils that governed most towns.

Eventually, the leaders of the Protestant movement in Nîmes realized their mistake. At the next meeting of the town council, on November 13, there was a discussion of the cahier and its purposes. The November meeting was called in response to popular agitation and in spite of the consuls, and it was the hard-line Protestant Pierre Chabot who appears to have been a leader in the agitation and who was the first to speak. He first had to duel with the consuls about whether the meeting should be held, but he then turned to the question of the cahier, “in which,” among other articles, “there was a request for the purpose of asking for Protestant churches, and that those who wanted to live according to the Word of God could assemble to be instructed in it.”50 At least in retrospect, then, the cahier was seen as an unambiguously Protestant document. The town council, however, did not see the cahier as simply a petition on behalf of the Protestant community. Rather, it formulated the cahier’s request as an exchange, asking for religious concessions in exchange for cash, and specifically that the king work with the formula agreed to by the Estates. Similarly, the council resolved to send deputies to the Languedoc Estates to continue the negotiations. They gave the delegates these instructions:

To accord to His Majesty all taxes that he may please to command be levied on the province of Languedoc to satisfy his debts, charges, and the affairs of the kingdom, with the allegiance that true and faithful (p.118) subjects of His Majesty must give, sparing nothing, and for the share payable by this town. And insofar as the delegates of the Third Estate of this kingdom assembled in the last Estates General, held in the town of Pontoise, in their list of grievances, for the reasons contained therein, agreed that, in order to satisfy those who wished to live in the purity of the Gospel, under the king’s obedience, a temple should be assigned to them in every town.51

Between the spring and the fall, there had been a crucial change in emphasis. In the cahier, the Protestant movement was prepared to antagonize the crown and the Church at the same time. By the fall, the leadership had recognized that its religious goals required that an alliance be struck. They may not have been entirely in earnest, since the country was already headed for civil war. That is, they offered to sacrifice their demands in the cahier, but they may not actually have expected to have to fulfill the offer. By making it, however, they positioned themselves as loyal subjects and attempted to put the onus for the hostilities on the Catholic party. Still, it is hard to imagine that the cahier would have been more popular had it included offers to the king to pay significant tax increases. Had Nîmes’s elites thought carefully about the issues, they might have realized that the cahier was not a practical political program. By then, they were perhaps too frustrated and angry to care, and the Protestant movement’s tactics—the revival-meeting tone—helped to generate an intense, emotional atmosphere. The result was that large numbers of people signed the document without fully considering how it might affect Nîmes’s religious life. Their precise religious views probably varied considerably. But while political discontent may have motivated some people to join the movement, their new religious identity became sufficiently important that they were prepared to forgo the very political reforms that had motivated them initially. Their anxiety then led them to encourage others to join. They had accepted a community, not just a program, and only with time did they fully come to understand the precise dogmas and rites of their new faith and recognize that their previous religion had been idolatry.52 In the interval, the cahier had succeeded in one crucial way: the Protestant party, despite its outlaw status, had persuaded the majority of the town’s elite to sign a document it had written.

In the preceding decade, primarily to pay for the king’s wars, the people of Nîmes had seen taxes rise year after year, during a period of flood, harvest failures, grain shortages, rising prices, and falling standards of living. The crown had also extorted money repeatedly by threatening to divide the Nîmes présidial’s jurisdictions, which would have hurt the local economy. So it is reasonable to imagine that some of the provisions of the cahier, for example, curbing royal (p.119) power, fixing the boundaries of judicial districts, and regulating meat prices, won the support of local people because they were upset by recent events. The cahier of 1561 is an indication of how and why the economic and political strains of 1557–1560 helped the growth of the Protestant movement. The Protestants succeeded in linking Nîmes’s economic and political problems to a religious ideology that promised reform in church and state, whose political philosophy, doctrine, and ecclesiology were a coherent response to the problems of the day. Protestantism was not a mindless reaction to misery: it was aimed at people who were not themselves hungry. In 1561, Nîmes’s elites were angry and emotional, and they had reason to be: the town had been in grave difficulties for four years, and now the nation was in jeopardy of civil war. Had they been fully rational, they would have realized that the proposals in the cahier were not practical politics, since the king could hardly be expected to agree to them. Instead, the cahier evoked a more visceral response because it expressed Nîmes’s elites’ views of how the kingdom ought to operate. However impractical, this vision was powerfully seductive.53

Despite the enormous excitement the cahier generated, it alone did not ensure Protestant success, for several reasons. First of all, the case for the link between Nîmes’s problems and Calvinism was not self-evident: it had to be made, and skillfully. This link could not have been forged if the Protestant leadership had not also used mass prayer meetings and sermons, more personal approaches, and powerfully symbolic acts, such as iconoclasm. The Protestant leadership’s success in converting the elite demonstrated their ability to organize people and helped to remove the obstacles—the persecution—that had hindered the new church from broadcasting its ideas in public and in private. Second, the events of March 1561 did not ensure success by themselves. It took another year of intense activity for Protestantism to become the majority religion in Nîmes, and several years more for the Protestant party to achieve control over the town. The cahier marked a crucial breakthrough, but it was only the beginning. (p.120)


(1) . Puech, “Débuts,” 165–67. The seven were Robert Brun, seigneur de Castanet; Bernard Arnaud, seigneur de La Cassagne; Jehan Moleri the younger, an apothecary; Jehan Calvet, a merchant; Tristan Chabaud, a doctor of laws; Gaussent Brozet, a clerk (praticien); and Jacques Boys, a laboureur.

(2) . Ménard, Histoire civile, IV:14:1:275–76, Preuves, 251–52. For Villars’s letter (he wrote two copies, which he sent to the duc de Guise and the Cardinal de Lorraine, dated 27 and 29 October 1560), see Paris, Négociations, lettres et pièces diverses, 671: “une partie des habitans de Nismes, de trois à quatre mille, s’est retirée dans les montaagnes du Gévaudan, d’où ils menassent de revenir bientost en force dans la plaine.” The consuls referred to the Protestants as “ceulx des assemblées.”

(3) . Ménard, Histoire civile, IV:14:2–3:276–78, Preuves, 252–54. The representatives were Bernard Arnaud and Jean Moleri, who had just stood as guarantors for the community; Pierre Cellerier, the former fourth consul; and Jehan Lucquet, a bookseller. Quotation on 253: they “ont faict semblables assemblées et persisté plus longuement que nulz autres aux assemblées.” The only request that the governor did not deny was one where they asked to be able to assemble and nominate syndics so that they could organize payment. (This might have been a way of receiving some official recognition.) The governor agreed to refer this request to Villars. On 6 December, however, despite objections from the incoming consuls, the council agreed that Villars’s upcoming visit was a normal event, and the town, not just the Protestants, would be honored to pay the expenses for him and his retinue, as they did for all dignitaries.

(4) . On the guards, see ibid., Preuves, 257–60. The guards consisted heavily of officials, professionals (lawyers, doctors), merchants, and bourgeois. They were probably chosen from these ranks so that they would have as much influence as possible.

(5) . The standard study is Major, Estates General of 1560. For additional information and background, see his Representative Institutions in Renaissance France and Representative Government in Early Modern France.

(6) . The chancellor’s speech has been reprinted in l’Hospital, Discours pour la majorité de Charles IX. See Descimon’s preface and Romier, Catholiques et Huguenots, 12–17, for analyses of the speech.

(7) . Lalourcé and Duval, Recueil des cahiers généraux, 1:75–77 (noble cahier) 279, 281, 417 (third estate). See also Picot, Histoire des états généraux, 2:106–7; and Romier, Le royaume de Catherine de Médicis, 2:259 (Romier cites both Lalourcé and Duval and Picot, but his page numbers appear to be in error).

(8) . Major, Estates General of 1560, 83–86 (election of the speaker), 92 (cahiers), 73 (powers of representatives), 102–4 (financial questions and tax proposals), 105 (meeting at Melun). On the letters patent, see Sutherland, Huguenot Struggle, 122.

(9) . The Protestant draft cahier is preserved at BN, 20153, 71–78, and 15881, fols. 376–78. The more complete text is 15881, and it has numbered paragraphs. Noël Valois discovered these documents, and his findings were presented posthumously in “Les états de Pontoise.” Some of his conclusions are overstated, and he paints an overly (p.246) hierarchical view of the French Protestant movement. Ideologically, the article bears the imprint of the Vichy regime under which it was printed, since it sneers at anything that resembles democracy, but its facts are quite reliable. Romier, La conjuration d’Amboise, 262–66, cites a number of other localities where Protestants were able to influence the cahiers, but his sources give no details. For the Protestant synod’s proposals, see Aymon, Tous les synodes nationaux, 2nd pagination, 1:13–14; and Quick, Synodicon in Gallia Reformata, 1:12–13. Quick was scrupulous and thorough, and he occasionally quotes lost, unique documents not in Aymon, so his work, although a translation, is of unusual importance. For the Paris cahier, see Paris, Négociations, lettres et pièces diverses, 833–34. Philip Benedict is now researching the wider campaign, and when his research is published we may be able to understand better how the local cahiers were drafted. Brigden, London, 173, notes analogously that, in England, Reformers wrote pamphlets with broad political agendas, hoping to encourage conversions.

(10) . Ménard, Histoire civile, IV, Preuves, 268. The French reads:

Maistre Loys Bertrand auroit remonstré que tant en son nom que de ses adherantz, auroit requiz mondict sieur le président et messieurs les consulz d’assembler le present conseil extraordinaire, où il avoyt à remonstrer choses concernantz l’honneur de Dieu, le service du roy, et le reppos et tranquillité du peuple, pour en estre faict rapport aux estatz particuliers du present pays de Languedoc … [et] aux estatz-generaulx.

Bertrand’s religion is clear since the Protestant Church’s governing body, the consistory, named him a surveillant of one of the town’s ten quartiers at its first meeting only eight days later; see CR, fol. 1.

(11) . Ménard, Histoire civile, IV, Preuves, 267–68.

(12) . Ibid. In French, the quotations read, “n’y avoit aulcuns des conseilliers du conseil ordinaire, comme est tout notoire,” and to proceed “puisse préjudicier aux transactions, statutz, et ordonnances.” On the role of localism in promoting heresy, see Hauser, “Nîmes, les consulats et la Réforme,” 201.

(13) . Ménard, Histoire civile, IV, Preuves, 278, 280. In French, the quotations read, “en leur deffault seroit procedé,” “homme de lettres,” and “tant à son de cloche, que particulièrement par les serviteurs; et pour ne retarder les affaires du roy, a commandé ausdictz consulz oppiner.” Suggesting that it was unnecessary to send delegates to the national Estates was also a well-calculated hit: the assembly was traditionally loath to spend money, and even Pierre Rozel (although not his brother Charles) agreed that sending deputies to the provincial Estates was sufficient (see ibid., 279).

(14) . Calvière eventually turned Protestant, but his exact commitment to the movement at this point is difficult to determine. He is first mentioned in the minute book of the Protestant Consistory on 15 November 1561, when the consistory decided to complain to him about the “heresies” preached by the bishop. On 10 January 1562, the consistory tried to elect his son as deacon, but he tried to avoid it for reasons “toutes fois fort frivolles.” See CR, fols. 45v, 65v, and 67. Ménard, Histoire civile, IV:14:75:332, citing Preuves, 6, suggests that Calvière first attended services on 21 January 1562.

(15) . Guggenheim, “Calvinism,” 234–61, also analyzes the cahier. She concludes that the cahier “reflected the concerns of persons who favored administrative efficiency and the decentralization of government,” and, other than religious grievances, it “contained few notions which had not been supported by moderate Catholics, past and present.” The “reform movement” represented by the cahier was a “failure” because its provisions “offered little that had not been said before” (quotations on 247 and 259). For a somewhat analogous situation, see Clifford Geertz, “‘Internal Conversion’ in Contemporary Bali,” in his Interpretation of Cultures, esp. 185–86:

[The elite’s] sudden concern with dogma is, therefore, in part a concern to justify themselves morally and metaphysically, not only in the eyes of the mass of the population but in their own, and to maintain at least the essentials of the established Balinese world view and value system in a radically changed social setting. Like so many other religious innovators, they are simultaneously reformists and restorationists.

(16) . Ménard, Histoire civile, IV, Preuves, 268.

(17) . Cited in Major, Estates General of 1560, 107. In French, the quotation reads, “le roi doibt prendre à son proffit les annates vacants et depports des bénéfices.” The source is a deliberation of the town council, and the actual document, apparently approved by the Estates of Picardy, is not given in full; a speaker quoted the passage I cite, recommending that it be weakened. Several speakers agreed, while others advocated yet stronger measures, but both were defeated.

(18) . Cited in Major, Estates General of 1560, 107. In French, the quotation reads:

il estoyt fort raisonnable que ceulx qui tiennent la meilleure partye du bien de ce royaulme, comme les gens d’Eglise qui possedent les gros benefices qui ne sont beaucouop chargez, sans y comprendre les pauvres curez et autres pauvres beneficiers qui ont grande peyne à vivre de leurs benefices, aydassent du tiers ou des deux partz du revenu de leurs benefices.

(19) . Lafaille, Annales de la ville de Toulouse, Preuves, 2:48–50.

(20) . Ménard, Histoire civile, IV, Preuves, 269. In French, the quotation reads:

afin qu’il ne soyt besoing de charger plus avant son peuple … seroit bon de prendre deux moyens, l’ung qui n’interesse point et ne touche à personne, l’aultre qui touche le moingz et ne sera resenty: le premier est de prendre le revenu des confrairies, les cloches de deux, ou de troys une, ou plustost toutes, fores une en chascun temple, et le relicles: le second est prendre la tierce partie du revenu des benefices passantz mil livres, et les annates et sequestres des vaccantz, … et semblable faict, prendre les jurisdictions temporelles des gens d’église, lesquelles ilz ne peuvent tenir, sellon mesmes les decretz, avec saine conscience; et le roy en tirera sommes d’argent, les infeudant, et service au bang et [ar]rière-bang au temps de guerre, ensemble des droictz censuelz fondés sur biens roturiers que le roy pourra extinguer à pris d’argent, que montera aussi beaucoup plus qu’on ne pense.

(p.248) Cf. BN, 15881, fol. 376v, par. 12. On poverty, see Ménard, Histoire civile, IV, Preuves, 277. In French, the quotation reads, “Il n’y a bonnement ordre d’eschauffer le coeur des hommes à cherité & aulmosne, que occasionnera le roy, s’il luy plaict, de retirer, au nom de Dieu, la quatre partie, voyre la tierce, du revenu des benefices, pour la norriture et alimentz des pouvres.”

(21) . On confraternities, see Ménard, Histoire civile, IV:12:78–79:165; and Jouanna, La France du XVIe siècle, 53.

(22) . The distinction, still in use today, is equivalent to the British Nonconformist usage of the word “chapel,” rather than church, to describe their house of worship.

(23) . Ménard, Histoire civile, IV, Preuves, 269–70. In French, “ne soyt faicte cy après reprosche, question, ne moleste, à personne que ce soyt, soubz quelque couleur de conspiration.” Compare BN, 15881v, 376, par. 13.

(24) . Ménard, Histoire civile, IV, Preuves, 274. Similarly, Thomas Robisheaux has argued, based on German evidence, that parents were concerned about their children marrying without their consent in the early sixteenth century, since canon law accepted such marriages as valid, although the Council of Trent made clandestine marriages more difficult. Robisheaux, “Peasants and Pastors.” See also Diefendorf, “Give Us Back Our Children,” 286–88.

(25) . Diefendorf, “Give Us Back Our Children,” 277. In French, the quotation reads “aulcung homme de mestier mecanique, ou n’ayant manifestement de quoy.” Gambling was to be permitted to “le gentilhomme faisant honneur à sa noblesse, l’homme d’estude estudiant, et le bourgeois vivent de ses rentes.” Dancing should be permitted only at weddings, a provision that the Nîmes Consistory later also endorsed.

(26) . Hefner, Conversion to Christianity, 112, provides an example of this, where the guardian of a spirit shrine in Java, under pressure from orthodox Muslim influences, converted to Christianity while proclaiming it consonant with Javanese custom and the only way to resist orthodox Muslim invasion. Rebecca Sachs Norris, in “Converting to What?” in Buckser and Glazier, Anthropology of Religious Conversion, 174, concludes that “conversion is a matter of matching a tradition to an ideal or experience that already exists.” Some of the sentiments that Sachs Norris found in her interviews may be a form of post hoc rationalizing to deal with cognitive dissonance, but surely it is easier to shift from Catholicism to Protestantism precisely because the ideals and practices of the two religions are relatively similar. On emergent norms, see esp. Turner and Killian, Collective Behavior.

(27) . Ménard, Histoire civile, IV, Preuves, 271. In French, the quotations read, “si nous retornons en nostre Dieu, et luy servons purement, sellon sa parolle,” “tous ceulx de la langue Françoyse,” and “la seulle parolle de Dieu.” Parallel clauses appear in the anonymous letter that is the key source for Valois (Valois, “Les états de Pontoise,” 241; and BN, 15881, fol. 378, par. 35).

(28) . Ménard, Histoire civile, IV, Preuves, 271. In French, the quotations read, “ne sortir hors l’exposition de l’escripture pour ruer les ungs contre les aultres, mais seullement et simplement instruire le peuple en la pure parolle de Dieu,” and “ceulx qui croyent ne pouvoir en saine conscience communiquer aux cerimonies de l’église (p.249) Romaine soyt donné moyen d’estre instruictz et enseignés en la parolle de Dieu, de peur qu’ilz ne tumbent en atheisme.” Cf. BN, 15881, fol. 378v, pars. 39, 37.

(29) . Ménard, Histoire civile, IV, Preuves, 271, 272. In French, the quotation reads:

Pareilhement pour opposer la lumiere de verité à l’espesseur des tenebres d’ignorance, qui ont remply l’air et la terre jusques aujourd’huy, et donner ouverture à chascun de sçavoir et entendre son salut, sera, si plaict au roy, restitué le catechisme des enfans et des rudes, à tel effect qu’ilz seront clerement et simplement instruictz des articles de nostre foy, de la loy du decalogue, de la maniere de prier Dieu pour esposition de l’oraison dominicale, et enseignée purement la dignité, la fin, et efficace des sainctz sacrementz, à tous qui seront d’aage et discretion competantz.

(There is no parallel paragraph in BN drafts.)

(30) . The passage from the Orléans cahier reads:

Que les mêmes curés soient tenus avoir prêches un ou plusieurs avec eux, chacun capable de même capacité, tant pour prêcher que pour instruire la jeunesse de la paroisse, et que à chacun des deux offices qui se diroit par chacun jour de fête, celui qui le dira, après l’évangile parachevé, fasse la prédication, partie de l’évangile ou épître, partie de l’exposition du décalogue ou du symbole ou de l’oraison dominicale.

Plaira à sa majesté enjoindre à tous évêques, curés et autres pasteurs en son royaume, que chacun en son évêché, diocèse ou cure, avant l’administration des saints-sacremens, soient tenus exposer et expliquer au peuple, en langue vulgaire et intelligible, la cause de l’institution, vertu et efficace desdits sacrements, et à cette fin, que par moyen de telle instruction, le pauvre peuple et innocentes personnes les reçoivent plus révéremment et aient en plus grand honneur et respect que par ci devant, sans permettre les insolences et irrévérences qui y ont été faites, mêmement en la célébration des noces et baptêmes, où l’on ne voit que débordemens, risées et moqueries au lieu de penser à la sainte institution d’iceux. (Lalourcé and Duval, Recueil des cahiers généraux, 284–85, pars. 14–15)

(31) . Lafaille, Annales de la ville de Toulouse, 2:48. In French, the quotation reads, “longue absence, ignorance et avarice demesurée de plusieurs Prélats.”

(32) . Ménard, Histoire civile, IV, Preuves, 270 (quotation); and Picot, Histoire des états généraux, 1:402. Note that BN, 15881, fol. 378, par. 33, suggests that the Estates should meet every two years, while the parallel paragraph in 20153 has ten years. In French, the quotation reads, “pour veoir mieulx en quel estat seront reduictz sesdictes affaires et le mesnagement qu’on aura faict durant sa minorité.”

(33) . Lafaille, Annales de la ville de Toulouse, 2:55.

(34) . Ménard, Histoire civile, IV, Preuves, 269–72. In French, the quotation (271) reads, “affin que le roy puisse despartir sa grace et justice jusques au moindre de ses subjectz, sellon son sainct desir et voloir.”

(35) . For Toulouse, see Lafaille, Annales de la ville de Toulouse, 2:52. The French reads, “aucun Office de Justice ne sera vendu.” On épices, see Ménard, Histoire civile, IV, Preuves, 276.

(36) . Ménard, Histoire civile, IV, Preuves, 276. In French, “affin qu’ilz [the judges] puissent honnestement s’entretenir, sellon leur estat et gravité de leur office, leur soyent assignés gaiges bons et competentz qu’ilz ayent occasion de trevailher sans regret.”

(37) . Ménard, Histoire civile, IV, Preuves, 272, 277. In French, the quotation reads, “longues et inutilles formalités.” On disputes with the butchers, see e.g. AMN LL8, fols. 40v, 57, 60, 64–66, 183v, 196v, 198v-199v, 235, LL9 58v, 59, 125–128v.

(38) . Ménard, Histoire civile, IV, Preuves 273, 275, 278. In French, the quotations read:

heu esgard à la grande corruption & infidelité desdictz notaires, qui sont en grand nombre, sera bon les reduyre à chascune ville & villaige, à tel petit nombre que sera advisé par les habitans de tous estatz.

Et surtout il ne fault plus souffrir l’impudence des advocatz, qui conseilhent & soubstiennent manifestement une maulvaise cause, ce qu’ilz ne peuvent fere sans honte & grande charge de conscience, ny l’audace & terguiversation de ceulx qui consomment tout le temps en oultrages & faulx faictz qu’ilz alleguent contre les parties.

(39) . Cf. Strauss, Nuremberg in the Sixteenth Century, 169.

(40) . Ménard, Histoire civile, IV, Preuves, 277.

(41) . Moeller, Imperial Cities and the Reformation, 64.

(42) . Compare Ménard, Histoire civile, IV, Preuves, 267–68, 281–82, with 259–60 (guards); with the présidial list in Guggenheim, “Calvinism,” 15; and with AMN, LL9, fol. 216 (“non-suspect” voters). Jean Vigier, who attended a meeting of Catholics in 1562, also signed the cahier; see Puech, “Débuts,” 181–82. I do not count Pierre de Fabrica, Pons Blanc, and Guillaume Ferrussac, who attended the cahier meeting and were also voters, because they were consuls and presumably only attended the council meeting because of their position.

(43) . On preaching, see Ménard, Histoire civile, IV, Preuves, 2; on the consistory, see its minutes, CR, fol. 1.

(44) . Chabot quoted in Ménard, Histoire civile, IV, Preuves, 285. In French, the quotation reads, “en iceulx ne se traitoyt que la subvention des debtes du roy.” For summaries of the March 1561 Estates of Languedoc, see Guggenheim, “Calvinism,” 240–44; Devic and Vaissete, Histoire générale de Languedoc, 11:346–48; and Le Roy Ladurie, Peasants, 172–75.

(45) . Capitoul was the term for the town officers of Toulouse, equivalent to consul for Nîmes.

(46) . Gamon, “Mémoires,” 34:304 (cited by Le Roy Ladurie, Paysans, 1:361). In French, the quotation reads, “l’expedient le plus prompt étoit de prendre tout le temporel de l’Eglise, en reservant aux bénéficiers les maisons et les terres adjacentes de leurs bénéfices.” On Chabot’s Protestantism, see CR, fol. 1, where Chabot is named (p.251) a surveillant. Le Roy Ladurie, Peasants, 173, calls Terlon “vaguely sympathetic” to the Reformation; Guggenheim, “Calvinism,” 241, presents evidence to suggest that he was not a “convinced Protestant”; and Major, “The Third Estate in the Estates General of Pontoise,” 470, concludes that he was “at least a nominal Catholic.” All three of these are probably true.

(47) . Devic and Vaissete, Histoire générale de Languedoc, 11:347n2; and Gamon, “Mémoires,” 304–5. In French, the quotations read:

un perturbateur du repos public

Un air de réforme, dont les prédicateurs de la nouvelle religion faisoient voir la nécessité, séduisoit les uns; la liberté qu’elle favorisoit corrompoit les autres, et dans l’incertitude, ou, pour mieux dire, l’ignorance de la religion catholique et de la religion réformée où on étoit, on ne sçavoit à quelle des deux on devoit s’attacher, et quels pasteurs il falloit suivre.

(48) . Major, Estates General of 1560, 107–14. See also Van Dyke, “Estates of Pontoise.”

(49) . Valois, “Les états de Pontoise,” 241, says that the Protestant position “tendait à rien de moins qu’à l’étblissement d’une sorte de gouvernement représentatif,” which he concludes the French people did not want. See also ibid., 253–56. Van Dyke, “Estates of Pontoise,” 493–95, provides a summary of the political clauses of the Pontoise cahier.

(50) . Ménard, Histoire civile, IV, Preuves, 285. In French, the quotation reads, “dans lequel, entre aultres articles, y avoit requisition aux fins de demander des temples, et que ceulx qui desirent vivre sellon la parolle de Dieu se puissent assembler pour estre instruictz en icelle.” Chabot also criticized Terlon for not presenting the Nîmes cahier at Pontoise, as Chabot insisted he ought to have done.

(51) . Ibid., 286. In French, the quotation reads:

acorder à sa majesté toutes impositions qu’il luy aura pleu commander estre faictes sur le pais de Languedoc pour satisfaire à ses debtes, charges, et affaires du royaulme, en usant du debvoir que vrays et fidelles subjectz sont tenus envers sadicte majesté, sans y rien espargner, et pour la quotité concernant ladicte ville; et encores pour aultant que les gens du tiers estat de ce royaulme assemblés aux derniers estats generaulx tenus en la ville de Pontoyse, par leur caher, pour les causes en icelluy contenues, furent d’advis que pour satisfaire à ceulx qui desirent vivre en la pureté de l’évangille, soubz l’obeyssance du roy, leur debvoit estre assigné en chascune ville ung temple.

(52) . Brady, Ruling Class, Regime and Reformation, 233, concludes that Protestantism in Strasbourg also lacked ideological unity until the late sixteenth century. See also Hefner, Conversion to Christianity, 118, which describes an analogous process among Christian converts in Java. There, too, the process of negotiating a new religious identity eventually led the converts to jettison some of the beliefs that had led them to convert in the first place.

(53) . At least it was so in the short term. Philip Benedict, in The Huguenot Population of France, has argued that, in the seventeenth century, France’s Protestant population was stable or falling, and not because of royal persecution. Lines were clearly drawn, and Protestantism was a known entity. By this period, it was also clear that the Protestant movement needed to offer obsequious obedience to the Crown in order to survive. As a result, it may have cut itself off from being a conduit for discontent, thus hurting its ability to recruit.