Epic Cruelty, Persecution, and Downtroddening.

The Third Amendment is an odd amendment to read in 2018. It is rarely brought up in legal briefs and then, generally, in very odd cases. Yet it provides the perfect entry point for our excursion into French History. And if not, you'll, I hope, forgive this History Professor for a bit of a tangent before getting to the good stuff.


British Parliament passed the Quartering Act in 1765 to ensure lodging for its troops in the colonies. The act called for troops to be fed and lodged at the expense of the colonists in colonial barracks and pubs. And if those were insufficient for their number, then the troops should be lodged at:

inns, livery stables, ale houses, victualing houses, and the houses of sellers of wine and houses of persons selling of rum, brandy, strong water, cider or metheglin...uninhabited houses, outhouses, barns, or other buildings." (Source)

The next Quartering Act (1774) that followed on the heels of the Boston Tea Party (as part of the Coercive Acts) expanded the possible places to lodge troops to include private homes. Colonists had resisted these quartering acts ever since the 1765 Act. Partly because of a long British tradition that looked at large peace time armies as dangerous to liberty; partly because colonists were notoriously cheap and reluctant to pay their fair share of the cost of empire (even when they were often desirous for the benefits of being part of that empire). And, perhaps, we could also add the experience of French Protestants into the mix (despite the fact that differences between sects in the empire was not so great, by this point, as that between Protestants and Catholics. And that is our story for today. An example of quartering far worse than anything that took place in the British colonies in North America.

Religious Tolerance Turns to Intolerance Turns to Violence

In 1598 King Henry IV imposed the Edict of Nantes to protect Protestants in their expressions and exercises of faith and bring an end to thirty-six years of bloody civil war that left 2,000,000 - 4,000,000 French subjects dead. Religious tolerance brought this to an end for a time.

Despite the edict stating that it was "unrevocable," Louis the XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685. Motivated by a desire for a united kingdom, held together by his personality and a shared Catholic faith. The revocation included a mixture of carrots and sticks.


  • Vocational retraining and lifetime pensions for clergy who convert

  • The ability to emigrate

  • The return of confiscated property


  • Destruction of all remaining Protestant churches

  • Pastors to convert within two weeks or be sent to the galleys (a death sentence)

  • NO Protestant schools

  • Confiscation of the property of Protestants who fled the country

Yet, most distressing of these "sticks" was the Dragonnades. The Dragoons, soldiers not far removed from the infantry, often crude and ill-disciplined, were stationed in towns with large Protestant populations. The dragoons commander would quarter his troops, four to ten per household, ONLY in Protestant homes and the troops were given reign to harass all members of the family until they renounced their faith and rejoined the Catholic church. Should they convert the Dragoons in their home would leave and move on to the next Protestant home to begin the process again.

What could that experience look like? Well, the soldiers

  • Broke or sold the family's furniture

  • Extracted food and pay from their "hosts"

  • Beat family members

  • Sexually assaulted women in the household

Parodies referred to the dragoons as "missionaries." A dripping sarcasm that summarized more exacting sources who wrote

The men were made aware that they might do as they had a mind, short of actually killing the inmates. “They gave the reins to their passions,” says Migault, describing the horrors of which he was eye-witness; “devastation, pillage, torture – there was nothing they recoiled at.” The details must be suppressed; they are too horrible to be read. The poor people knew not what to do; they fled to the woods; they hid themselves in the caves of the mountains; many went mad; and others, scarce knowing what they did, kissed a crucifix, and had their names enrolled among the converts. The emigration was resumed on a great scale. (Source)

Within a couple years the French King bragged of converting 800,000+ Protestants. This was surely an exaggeration, yet no doubt hundreds of thousands converted to avoid the legal penalties and violence of the Dragonnades.

Takeaways for the Writer

  • How might a ruler repress his population?

  • How might he excuse that repression in a sympathetic way?

  • How can you deal with/represent the excesses of religion?

  • Could it be played for comedic effect? Dragonnades who are not very good at terrorizing. Maybe they are polite, meek, or even helpful?

  • Maybe it is just a way of breaking down barriers in your own mind: "No one would ever do something this repressive/cruel." (unless you're George R.R. Martin, the this is all rather tame)

  • Why might societies develop peasant or popular movements to demand greater freedom or redress of grievances?

  • What obstacles stand in the way of minority movements (religious or otherwise)?

#ThirdAmendment #Quartering #QuarteringActs #Dragoons #Dragonnades #AmericanRevolution #Revolution #Protestantism #Catholicism #religiousintolerance #religioustolerance