legislation ofthe previous century, and local officials initiated sporadic attacks, particularly in the south of France where Protestants were numerous.
Forms of Catholic dissent were also discriminated against, though without the harshness directed against Protestants. The papal bull Unigenitus (1713) condemning certain tenets attributed to Jansenism had the French crown's blessing and substantial, if mixed, support from the French episcopate. Towards the mid-eighteenth century, depending on the position taken by local bishops and parish priests, some Jansenists even found themselves restricted in their access to the sacraments and effectively transformed into a community of suffering not unlike that of the French Calvinists.
From the mid-1750s onwards, however, growing royal indifference to Protestants at home and diplomatic relations with Protestant countries abroad converged with favourable changes in elite public opinion to diminish the severity of religious persecution. Despite several notorious executions of Protestants in Toulouse (the case of Jean Calas was made famous by Voltaire's Treatise on Tolerance, 1763), these decades witnessed a tacit recognition by the government of the right of Protestants to exist, and in this freer atmosphere, Protestants and dissident Catholics alike began to flourish. Protestants grew bolder in the organization of regional and national synods, while by mid-century French Jansenists were largely free from the discriminatory effects of Unigenitus, particularly with respect to their freedom to receive the sacraments. In their struggle against the Roman Catholic imposition of sacramental uniformity, both Jansenists and ph.ilosoph.es appealed to traditional Gallican liberties and the rule of law that respected individual conscience. Though Jansenists were troubled by the religious indifference of the philosophes, concern over the suffering of Protestants helped forge unexpected alliances. For example, the abbe Jacques Tailhe and Gabriel-Nicolas Maultrot in their Questions on Toleration (1758) adopted aspects of Montesquieu's The Spirit of the Laws (1748) on natural law while elaborating their own Jansenist arguments.1 Writings supporting civil toleration for French Protestants appeared frequently after the late 1750s, and culminated in the Edict of Toleration signed by Louis XVI in 1787. The edict did not allow Protestants freedom of public worship or recognize Reformed ministers, but it did grant Reformed Protestants civil authentication of births, marriages, and burials, and it promised them freedom to pursue business without disturbance, thereby securing them a measure of legal and social legitimacy.
Similar impulses towards religious uniformity were found in the absolutist Habsburg Empire. The Habsburg emperor traditionally saw himself as the leader of Catholic Europe. Moreover, with the threat of further Ottoman
Was this article helpful?