From a Far Country

From a Far Country: Camisards and Huguenots in the Atlantic World

Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 186
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  • Book Info
    From a Far Country
    Book Description:

    In From a Far Country Catharine Randall examines Huguenots and their less-known cousins the Camisards, offering a fresh perspective on the important role these French Protestants played in settling the New World. The Camisard religion was marked by more ecstatic expression than that of the Huguenots, not unlike differences between Pentecostals and Protestants. Both groups were persecuted and emigrated in large numbers, becoming participants in the broad circulation of ideas that characterized the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Atlantic world. Randall vividly portrays this French Protestant diaspora through the lives of three figures: Gabriel Bernon, who led a Huguenot exodus to Massachusetts and moved among the commercial elite; Ezéchiel Carré, a Camisard who influenced Cotton Mather's theology; and Elie Neau, a Camisard-influenced writer and escaped galley slave who established North America's first school for blacks. Like other French Protestants, these men were adaptable in their religious views, a quality Randall points out as quintessentially American. In anthropological terms they acted as code shifters who manipulated multiple cultures. While this malleability ensured that French Protestant culture would not survive in externally recognizable terms in the Americas, Randall shows that the culture's impact was nonetheless considerable.

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-3607-7
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. INTRODUCTION. Camisards and Huguenots: Old and New World
    (pp. 1-10)

    George and Martha Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay are just a few of the numerous historical figures who felt the influence of the Huguenots, a religious and ethnic minority whose ideas informed American culture in important ways. Until fairly recently, however, other than Charles Baird’s documentation of the history of Huguenot immigration to the New World, the only study specifically to explore the significance of this phenomenon was Jon Butler’s The Huguenots in America. Butler organized his exploration regionally, and unlike the emphasis in this book, theological stance was not one of his primary considerations.¹ His thesis of “rapid...

  4. CHAPTER ONE Crisis in the Cévennes
    (pp. 11-29)

    A letter dated June 30, 1705, paints a portrait of Camisard piety. Written by Commandant Bâville of the dragoons, a Catholic, it recounts how the king’s troops surprised some Camisards along the bank of a river: “The day before yesterday, we came upon ten or twelve men assembled together. One was reading the Bible and several were washing in the stream. Our men shot at them from a bit too far away … wounding two of them, [including the] one holding the Bible; they ran off and escaped into the woods.”¹

    The Camisard military leader and, later, pastor Jacques Bonbonnoux,...

  5. CHAPTER TWO Survival Strategies: Prophets, Preachers, and Paradigms
    (pp. 30-39)

    The Camisards gathered in their fervent, covert nightly assemblies to hear the prophetic and apocalyptic pronouncements issuing from the mouths of wool carders, shepherds, chestnut gatherers, and day laborers, calling for an end to the Antichrist and Babylon (Rome), foreseeing the Day of the Lord, claiming the right to worship as they pleased, and inspiring scores with the desire to defend their faith.¹ “After 1700 prophesying was widely experienced among dispersed Protestant communities in the Cévennes. It was a force which sustained the inhabitants of these communities during a time of violent religious persecution … The principal characteristic of the...

  6. CHAPTER THREE The Testimonials: The French Prophets and the Inspirés of the Holy Spirit
    (pp. 40-60)

    One evening early in 1701, a cluster of friends gathered clandestinely by candlelight in the town of Vernon, where a thirteen-month-old baby, still in swaddling clothes, convulsed and then prophesied. Despite having no knowledge of “the King’s French,” nor even, yet, of his native Provençal, the Camisard infant reportedly spoke his first words as prophecy in perfect French. He audibly and intelligibly exhorted the Camisard folk to persevere in the face of tribulation. According to Camisard observers, “The child, aged between 13 to 14 months, was wrapped up in his cradle. He had never before spoken or walked. The child...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR “From a Farr Countrie”: An Introduction to the French Protestant Experience in New England
    (pp. 61-68)

    French Protestants arrived in the North American colonies from the Bas-Languedoc, the Cévennes and Vivarais regions, and the Dauphiné.¹ Some joined British colonists on plantations in North and South Carolina and Virginia; others headed for New York or Boston.² But wherever they came from and wherever they landed, they had to make their way alone, without much aid from the new community in which they found themselves. After arriving in Boston, a native of the Languedoc wrote to friends in France: “You must disabuse yourself of the Impression that Advantages are here offered to Refugees … Whoever brings Nothing, finds...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE Protestant and Profiteer: Gabriel Bernon in the New World
    (pp. 69-79)

    When he arrived in the New World, Gabriel de Bernon (1644–1736) jettisoned the particle in his name, the “de” that designates nobility, and graphically revised the venerable family shield of the Bernon family, descended from a fourteenth-century count of Burgundy. Rather than retain the symbolic representation of his Old World lineage, Gabriel reinvented himself in a New World idiom. He did so through a cunning play on words, not in French but, significantly, in English, and even with an American accent. Gabriel Bernon’s new, self-designed shield featured a bear and a circle, or “naught”: Bar-none: Bernon. Bernon thus represented...

  9. CHAPTER SIX Cotton Mather, Ezéchiel Carré, and the French Connection
    (pp. 80-100)

    In his biography The Life and Times of Cotton Mather, Kenneth Silverman strove to revise the austere picture that had come to be taken as representative of Mather, positing that “many different features of his life and time drew Mather, popularly imagined as the quintessential Puritan bigot, into the vanguard of religious toleration.”¹

    Cotton Mather’s machinery of piety derived from his dedication to the channels of grace, methods of cultivating growth in the Christian experience. His piety was creative, capacious, and elastic. The sort of spiritual ecstasy that Mather appeared at times to experience does not at first fit with...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN Elie Neau and French Protestant Pietism in Colonial New York
    (pp. 101-110)

    On August 20, 1697, Elie Neau, a prisoner for his faith, was forced into a gravelike cell. Air entered only through a tiny aperture; he could not walk or stand; and the hole was filled with excrement. Neau said that worms came from the walls and crawled along his body. Yet even in such circumstances, he did not despair: “My God mocks the attempts of my persecutors. I can hear His voice in my heart, telling me, as He told the prophet Isaiah, … ‘Lift up your voice like a trumpet … and declare the riches of My mercy’ …...

  11. CONCLUSION. “A Habitation Elsewhere”: Huguenots, Camisards, and the Transatlantic Experience
    (pp. 111-116)

    The case of the Cévennes Camisards is a neglected historical component of both European and colonial American narratives, one that warrants telling. Through the addition of this French dimension, the customary portrait of Protestantism in this period becomes more nuanced and complete. This inclusion enables scholars now to explore more fully the relationship between Huguenots and Camisards and to trace their impact on European and, especially, early American culture. Three influential French Protestant exiles provide focal case studies for informing and enlarging our understanding of the New World experience. Thanks to their presence and voices, scholars who had been limited...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 117-158)
    (pp. 159-170)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 171-176)