Edited by William Byron Forbush This is a book that will never die — one of the great English classics. . . . Reprinted here in its most complete form, it brings to life the days when “a noble army, men and boys, the matron and the maid,” “climbed the steep ascent of heaven, ‘mid peril, toil, and pain.” “After the Bible itself, no book so profoundly influenced early Protestant sentiment as the Book of Martyrs. Even in our time, it is still a living force. It is more than a record of persecution. It is an arsenal of controversy, a storehouse of romance, as well as a source of edification.”
Fox’s Book of Martyrs is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
Interference of the British Government
To the credit of England, the report of these cruel persecutions carried on against our Protestant brethren in France, produced such a sensation on the part of the government as determined them to interfere; and now the persecutors of the Protestants made this spontaneous act of humanity and religion the pretext for charging the sufferers with a treasonable correspondence with England; but in this state of their proceedings, to their great dismay, a letter appeared, sent some time before to England by the duke of Wellington, stating that ‘much information existed on the events of the south.’
The ministers of the three denominations in London, anxious not to be misled, requested one of their brethren to visit the scenes of persecution and examine with impartiality the nature and extent of the evils they were desirous to relieve. Rev. Clement Perot undertook this difficult task, and fulfilled their wishes with zeal, prudence, and devotedness, above all praise. His return furnished abundant and incontestable proof of a shameful persecution, materials for an appeal to the British Parliament, and a printed report which was circulated through the continent, and which first conveyed correct information to the inhabitants of France.
Foreign interference was now found eminently useful; and the declarations of tolerance that it elicited from the French government, as well as the more cautious march of the Catholic persecutors, operated as decisive and involuntary acknowledgments of the importance of that interference, which some persons at first censured and despised, put through the stern voice of public opinion in England and elsewhere produced a resultant suspension of massacre and pillage, the murderers and plunderers were still left unpunished, and even caressed and rewarded for their crimes; and whilst Protestants in France suffered the cruelest and degrading pains and penalties for alleged trifling crimes, Catholics, covered with blood, and guilty of numerous and horrid murders, were acquitted.
Perhaps the virtuous indignation expressed by some of the more enlightened Catholics against these abominable proceedings had no small share in restraining them. Many innocent Protestants had been condemned to the galleys and otherwise punished for supposed crimes, upon the oaths of wretches the most unprincipled and abandoned. M. Madier de Mongau, judge of the cour royale of Nismes, and president of the cour d’assizes of the Gard and Vaucluse, upon one occasion felt himself compelled to break up the court, rather than take the deposition of that notorious and sanguinary monster, Truphemy: “In a hall,” says he, “of the Palace of Justice, opposite that in which I sat, several unfortunate persons persecuted by the faction were upon trial, every deposition tending to their crimination was applauded with the cries of Vive le Roi! Three times the explosion of this atrocious joy became so terrible that it was necessary to send for reinforcements from the barracks, and two hundred soldiers were often unable to restrain the people. On a sudden the shouts and cries of Vive le Roi! redoubled: a man arrived, caressed, applauded, borne in triumph–it was the horrible Truphemy; he approached the tribunal–he came to depose against the prisoners–he was admitted as a witness–he raised his hand to take the oath! Seized with horror at the sight, I rushed from my seat, and entered the hall of council; my colleagues followed me; in vain they persuaded me to resume my seat; ‘No!’ exclaimed I, ‘I will not consent to see that wretch admitted to give evidence in a court of justice in the city which he has filled with murders; in the palace, on the steps of which he has murdered the unfortunate Bourillon. I cannot admit that he should kill his victims by his testimonies no more than by his poignards. He an accuser! he a witness! No, never will I consent to see this monster rise, in the presence of magistrates, to take a sacrilegious oath, his hand still reeking with blood.’ These words were repeated out of doors; the witness trembled; the factious also trembled; the factious who guided the tongue of Truphemy as they had directed his arm, who dictated calumny after they had taught him murder. These words penetrated the dungeons of the condemned, and inspired hope; they gave another courageous advocate the resolution to espouse the cause of the persecuted; he carried the prayers of innocence and misery to the foot of the throne; there he asked if the evidence of a Truphemy was not sufficient to annul a sentence. The king granted a full and free pardon.”
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