Massacres of the South
At length Louis XIV, bowed beneath the weight of a reign of sixty years, was
summoned in his turn to appear before God, from whom, as some said, he
looked for reward, and others for pardon. But Nimes, that city with the heart of
fire, was quiet; like the wounded who have lost the best part of their blood, she
thought only, with the egotism of a convalescent, of being left in peace to regain
the strength which had become exhausted through the terrible wounds which
Montrevel and the Duke of Berwick had dealt her. For sixty years petty ambition
had taken the place of sublime self-sacrifice, and disputes about etiquette
succeeded mortal combats. Then the philosophic era dawned, and the sarcasms
of the encyclopedists withered the monarchical intolerance of Louis XIV and
Charles IX. Thereupon the Protestants resumed their preaching, baptized their
children and buried their dead, commerce flourished once more, and the two
religions lived side by side, one concealing under a peaceful exterior the memory
of its martyrs, the other the memory of its triumphs. Such was the mood on which
the blood-red orb of the sun of '89 rose. The Protestants greeted it with cries of
joy, and indeed the promised liberty gave them back their country, their civil
rights, and the status of French citizens.
Nevertheless, whatever were the hopes of one party or the fears of the other,
nothing had as yet occurred to disturb the prevailing tranquillity, when, on the
19th and 20th of July, 1789, a body of troops was formed in the capital of La
Gard which was to bear the name of the Nimes Militia: the resolution which
authorised this act was passed by the citizens of the three orders sitting in the
hall of the palace.
It was as follows:--
"Article 10. The Nimes Legion shall consist of a colonel, a lieutenant-colonel, a
major, a lieutenant-major, an adjutant, twenty-four captains, twenty-four
lieutenants, seventy-two sergeants, seventy-two corporals, and eleven hundred
and fifty-two privates--in all, thirteen hundred and forty-nine men, forming eighty
"Article 11. The place of general assembly shall be, the Esplanade.
"Article 12. The eighty companies shall be attached to the four quarters of the
town mentioned below--viz., place de l'Hotel-de- Ville, place de la Maison-Carree,
place Saint-Jean, and place du Chateau.
"Article 13. The companies as they are formed by the permanent council shall
each choose its own captain, lieutenant, sergeants and corporals, and from the
date of his nomination the captain shall have a seat on the permanent council."
The Nimes Militia was deliberately formed upon certain lines which brought
Catholics and Protestants closely together as allies, with weapons in their hands;
but they stood over a mine which was bound to explode some day, as the
slightest friction between the two parties would produce a spark.
This state of concealed enmity lasted for nearly a year, being augmented by
political antipathies; for the Protestants almost to man were Republicans, and the