Huguenots of Virginia, 1: Benjamin DeJoux

Benjamin DeJoux is, in my not so humble opinion, a wonderful person with whom to start if one wishes to understand the plight of the Huguenots (French Protestants) who came to America.

The son of a protestant pastor in France, he came from a culture of pastors and religious people who had been fighting the Catholics in what is now central and southern France and Western Italy. DeJoux made a name for himself as a young man, arguing against the Catholic authorities in public forums, and fought for the Gospel and the good of his fellow man until his last days in Virginia.

 

The Son of a Waldensian Vaudois Preacher Man

Benjamin De Joux was born in the region where his father Philibert spent most of his career as a pastor, in a region known as the Pragela. Philibert was a pastor of what the French call the “Vaudois” tradition, most aptly described in English as Waldensian, a small sect of Christians who had been fighting the Catholics since the 1100’s, being Protestant before Protestantism was cool.

The Success of the Mission of the Pragela

Right about the time De Joux was ordained at the small town of Finestrelle in what is now Italy,  there was a persecution by the Catholics against the Vaudois in the Pragela, and DeJoux, being only 19 years of age at the time, published a 200 page essay reasoning against the action of the Catholics. The book was published in Switzerland, as though the Edict of Nantes granted the protestants of France some peace and refuge, they did not have the right to publish.

 

The Success of the Mission of the Pragela was written partially in satire to demonstrate the futility of the actions of the French Catholics, and it served to launch DeJoux in to regional fame. He served on behalf of the Huguenots in many councils and continued to publicly challenge the Catholics on the point of the harassment and persecution of the Huguenot population. Such debates continued right up until he was forced to leave France.

The Revocation of the Edict Of Nantes

The Edict of Nantes was a document issued by the French king Henry IV in 1598 in an attempt to bring peace to France by granting the French Protestant Huguenots certain rights; the document issued in a period of moderate tolerance that would last more than a generation. Louis XIV revoked the edict in 1685, essentially giving French Catholics free reign to harass and persecute their Protestant brethren.

As you might guess, this caused the flight of a substantial number of French Huguenots, many of whom were part of a new middle class that was beginning to arise in Europe.

Benjamin DeJoux could count himself among the numbers of those who were forced to flee, especially after his many years of conflict with the Catholic powers of the time.

By the time DeJoux was 40, he had years of experience serving as a leader of the Vaudois, fighting with elegant language against fierce and powerful oppressive powers. As the religious landscape of France was rocked by the sudden and tremendous shift in policy, DeJoux would continue to lead, fight for what he believed to be right, and do all he could to look out for his own.

 

References:

The Protestant International and the Huguenot Migration to Virginia  

http://huguenot-manakin.org/

BENJAMIN DE JOUX—A WALDENSIAN PASTOR IN VIRGINIA, 1700-1703

Les Jesuites Dans Le Dois

The Israel of the Alps

An Historical Sketch of the Itialian Vaudois