From a Far Country
Camisards and Huguenots in the Atlantic World
Publication Year: 2009
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.
Published by: University of Georgia Press
INTRODUCTION. Camisards and Huguenots: Old and New World
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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...
ONE. Crisis in the Cévennes
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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...
TWO. Survival Strategies: Prophets, Preachers, and Paradigms
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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...
THREE. The Testimonials: The French Prophets and the Inspirés of the Holy Spirit
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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...
FOUR. “From a Farr Countrie”: An Introduction to the French Protestant Experience in New England
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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...
FIVE. Protestant and Profiteer: Gabriel Bernon in the New World
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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...
SIX. Cotton Mather, Ezéchiel Carré, and the French Connection
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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...
SEVEN. Elie Neau and French Protestant Pietism in Colonial New York
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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...
CONCLUSION. “A Habitation Elsewhere”: Huguenots, Camisards, and the Transatlantic Experience
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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...
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Page Count: 186
Publication Year: 2009