Friday, May 18, 2012

The Rule of the United Provinces of the Midi (Theonomy Applied)

"Huguenot" by Armand Le Veel

After the hecatomb of the St. Bartholomew, when royal power authorised the assassination of about 20,000 French Huguenots in August 1572, the Reformed of the South started to organise themselves to face the new raising of arms. The Calvinists redressed themselves after the torment. “We saw new Genevas, saint cities, arise everywhere in the kingdom, whose virtue and bravery defied the decadence of the court” (Jacques Madaule, Histoire de France, Tome I, p. 315). Commando raids give the Reformed many necessary strategic points for creating a vast defensive dispositive.

At the same time, political assemblies take place in Realmont (High-Languedoc), St. Antonin and St. Pierre-de-Salles (Cevennes) in the fall to give an institutional and legal basis to this movement. The Catholic Governor of Guyenne, Honorat of Savoy, reports mobilisations of “confederates” to his suzerain the King of France. In February 1573, a first bulky congress takes place in Anduze (Low-Languedoc) with representatives of multiple Occitan provinces (Albigeois, Quercy, Rouergue, etc.). The assemblies continue in Realmont in March, Montauban and Nimes in August, again in Anduze in November, and finally an Estates-General seating in Millau (Aveyron) in December endorse if its most of the legislation approved in the preparatory assemblies.

At Millau, the Southern Huguenots decide to establish a true civil power to steward their operational military structure. We call this confederation of cities and territories the “United Provinces of the Midi”. According to the laws in vigor in this sovereign authority, Municipal Councils (elected by communal suffrage) delegate deputies to the Provincial Assemblies whom in turn delegate deputies to the General-Estates or General Assembly. These different levels of government each named their respective Permanent Councils.

Suggested map of the United Provinces of the South respecting the boundaries of the former provinces of the kingdom of France, 1573-1594

  • Light blue = controlled provinces United Provinces of the Midi (including Catholic cities such as Toulouse and Bordeaux)
  • Dark Blue = State Calvinist independent Béarn-Navarre
  • Yellow-orange = provinces controlled by the monarchy of Valois and / or the Catholic League
  • Green = current French regions not part of France in the late sixteenth century
  • Brown = other countries

Historians have debated whether or not the United Provinces of the Midi really formed a secessionist republic of the kingdom of France. The study of the Rule (in French Règlement, the constitutive text) of the United Provinces indicates that the Calvinists of Western Occitania (they were not numerous enough to resist in Provence) did not consider that they were operating a total secession from the kingdom of France, their homeland to which they remain attached. They wish to restore “the greatness of its renown, the integrity of its state with the firmness of law” to France, while the arch-Catholic party has thrown “opprobrium and dishonor” in “time of peace and solemn jubilation under a nuptial crown” on the “famous noun of Valois and the French nation” (so says the preamble quoted further). The medium term goal of their enterprise therefore had the aspect of a mission of national renovation.

However, in the short term, the United Provinces of the Midi did represent a true temporary secession from Parisian power, as the second article of the Rule reveals: “by provision and while waiting the restoration of a good state, the public power and authority will be restrained, kept and conserved by the country [controlled by the Union] on the advice and deliberations of the Estates[-General].”

Apart from this, notwithstanding an eventual restoration of a trustful relationship between the Parisian monarchy and the subjects-citizens of the South East, the Huguenots wished, not only to have Charles IX recognize the permanency of the political institutionalization of Calvinism in the Midi, but even more, to have the king recognize the integration of this new system in an international alliance of Reformed states (this is what a request sent by the Assembly of Montauban to Charles IX in August 1573, cf. Janine Garrisson, Protestants du Midi, p. 177-224 and 339-348, which is the main source for this study.) Therefore, the architects of the United Provinces of the Midi saw their construction as a definitive reengineering of the European political space. They were ready to cooperate with Paris, but didn’t plan to dissolve themselves immediately after an arrangement would by found with the monarch of the North. This informal republic (the nobility, bourgeoisie and commoners shared the offices) prepared the terrain for a potential effective secession (Conner, 2002, p. 136), which was attempted to erase too late, in 1621-1628 (Charles Weiss, 1853, p. 13-24).

The legislative, executive and judicial powers were clearly distinguished in the political constitution of the United provinces of the Midi (a long time before Montesquieu!). It is pertinent to underline the theonomic principles in this Calvinist historical documentation. Since the Millau text (December 1573) expressively refers to the authority of the anterior versions of the Rule (and copies its content), I allow myself to firstly refer to the Anduze text as an official legislation of the United Provinces of The Midi. We will come back to the Millau text (which is more definitive but not numbered in the version we have) later on.

Here are non-exhaustive excerpts. In the translating process, I have modernised the punctuation somewhat, but I have left the old phraseology and syntax intact (for the most part). The subtitles are my addition (but not the article titles).

Rule of the United Provinces of the Midi
Enacted by the Interprovincial Assembly of Anduze
February 7, 1573 AD

To all present and to come,

Take note that today, February Seventh, 1573, the peasants and inhabitants of the country of Languedoc [and Occitania at large] – as much from the nobility as the commoners – professing the Reformed faith, convened and assembled [...] in the city of Anduze after having invoked the name of the Lord for the assistance and virtue of the Holy Spirit, have unanimously advised, concluded and arrested what follows.

[...] They protest and swear hand raised before God and His angels [...] that they have not undertaken this uprising and do not pursue the path of arms neither by hate nor by ambition or other bad affection.

[... by diplomatic precaution, the redactors then pretend to grant the presumption of innocence to Charles IX for the St. Bartholomew massacre, even if they are fully aware that he is half guilty ...]

In these just occasions, the peasants and inhabitants of the country have resolved to prevent from their part [Catherine of Medici and the Duke of Guise] the inconvenients which seem leaning on our heads, they will take and hold all the weapons to in their hands to become stronger than these monsters of inequity, conspirating enemies of God and kingship, dishonesty of public law and of common rest. And if they can weaken or divert them from their wickedness, they have deliberated [the Huguenots] to join to some force with which they can help each other and employ themselves to chase away the consuls authors and feeders of the tyranny exercised upon the youth, the state and the will of the king [...] they also wish by this mean and accessory weapon conserve the freedom of predication of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, [and] the advancement of His reign [...].

Article I — [preliminary explanation]:

And to route all things to this good and praise-worthy end, by a good order has been arrested and the advice of many of the main magistrates of justice who are of the Reformed religion preserved like a residue in province [remember that the Huguenot party had recently been decapitated in Paris] with which the deputies of the Assembly have to this effect conferred.

Ensuring the morality of the leaders

Article VII — Police of the cities and places:

For the police of the cities and places, the elections of the consuls will be made according to custom without distinction of religion in the places where the Catholics will have behaved reasonably, and in the other places, between those of the reformed religion solely.

Article XVII — Confirmation and nomination of the captains:

[We] will make them be presented to the Counsel of the country so we can recognize by testimony their past manners, conditions and behavior and upon this apprehend or refuse them as they will see expedient.

Limitation of taxation

Article XI — Prohibition on imposition:

No general or particular imposition will be made without express commission or ordinance of the [Confederal] Estates [...].

Lawlessness of fiscal corruption

Article XVI — Touching the Governor general of the country:

[…] A general [and?] provincial Governor will be elected and the [confederal and provincial?] Estates will know its actions in case there is complaint against it for embezzlement or other thing important to the safety of the country, in all things general and particular.

Alienation of the material possessions of the pagans warring against God’s people:

Article XXIII — Goods of the papists:

As for the goods of the papists making war or favouring it, each city may do to its discretion.

Submission of the magistrates to the law

Article XXIX — Observations and ordinances:

The general and particular governors will be obliged to enforce the respect of this ordinance [XXVIII: on the distribution of legitimate booty].

Civic duty of the subjects-citizens

Article XXXVI — Exhortation to all to declare themselves for the cause:

All the gentlemen and others apt to the public service of this cause will be exhorted to declare themselves for it and to employ without differing otherwise, and if they don’t do so they will be held as deserters and enemies.

Military structuring of the civic body

Article XLIIII — The enrollment of men:

Will be enrolled in every place [...] all the men apt to bear weapons and [...] [those who do not have weapons shall] procure some within three days after the summoning [...and those who have the means shall help the one who don’t.]

Article XLV — Injunction to the consuls for the enrollment of men:

[It is] enjoined to the consuls and syndics of the cities and places [...] to “reduce” the all [organise the able-bodied men] in companies, in which their will by at least one hundred men, commanded by a captain, [...].

The army lives on its logistics and not on looting

Article XLV — [continued]:

[...The companies...] will march when the governor will command them, without using of oppression against anybody and without oppressing their hosts by an unfavourable treatment.

Article XV — For the Provost:

In each [civil] diocese a Provost of the Marshal will be ordained and a stopover and dwelling commissioners which will be mandated to furnish the lodging of the companies both on foot and on horse.

Article XXI — Supply commissioners:

Some supply commissioners will be ordained for the army when it will march, one well testified for each [civil] diocese, and each will serve for his diocese or viguerie [medieval administrative jurisdiction in Occitania] with some controllers.

Property and economic rights

Article LI — Labourers and commerce:

The labourer and his journeymen will not be troubled in their labouring, labour tools and labour cattle or likewise the commerce of merchandise which will not be contraband.


Following the horrible  St. Bartholomew Day's Massacre sanctioned by
Catherine de Medici (depicted above), the French Huguenots  formed
the United Provinces of the Midi to defend themselves from future massacres.

Rule of the United Provinces of the Midi
Enacted by the Estates-General of Millau
December 16, 1573 AD


Having judged very necessary that the salvation and conservation of all those of the reformed religion depends on the union, good intelligence and correspondence that must be between them and narrowly kept and sweared [...] all and each of the assistants and deputies in the said Assembly [of Millau ... have] contracted union, full association, and mutual fraternity, perfect and forever continuing, in all thing saint and civil, [...] and to constantly persevere until death to make together only one body.

Powers, competences and prerogatives of the United Provinces

Between all and by all generally, all laws divine [religious] and humane, constitutions ecclesiastical as military, of justice, police and finance, made by all legitimate assemblies, and especially by this present [confederative Assembly], shall have superiority and dominion over all, [...] that all the rest of the persons making profession of the Reformed religion, of whatever state and condition they be, must respectively answer to them [the legitimate assemblies], under penalty of being substracted from the civil union of the Reformed church above sweared.

Protection of public modesty and private morality

Misters the ministers of the Word of God and other [members] of the [parish] consistories will be exhorted to monitor the crimes and dissolutions that are committed daily to denounce them and give warning to the judges [of the] Presidials or to the Lieutenant or Seneschal Syndic and the cause or other [information] which will belong [to the case], give the instructions and means [necessary to] verify the denounced cases, so that the proper punishment ensues.

And likewise the generals and Counsels will be enjoined to provide that in all the cities and other places that are of the reformed religion, the exercise of it will be established to contain all kind of persons under the censorship and discipline of the church.

Political autonomy of local collectivities

Police will be administered by the consuls and other public officers of the cities and villages [...] so they cannot be troubled or precluded neither by misters the generals and Counsel, nor similarly by the diocesan governors, but will be kept to this end all the municipal privileges and statutes, franchises and liberties of the city bodies and other places that are in the obedience of the reformed religion.

Reproduced in Eugene & Emile Haag, La France protestante, Volume 10 : Pièces justificatives, p. 121-126.


Janine Garrisson, partly relying on precedent historians, made the following observations on the accomplishments and aspirations of the United Provinces of the Midi in the above-mentioned work:

The city is the essential base of the envisaged political organisation. [...] The city and its countryside are organised in an autonomous cell.” (181)

The gentlemen charged with making war have a limited power.” (186)

According to the Millau Rule, [the Estates-General] unite twice a year. [...] The Estates-General possess kingly rights. [...] The Millay Assembly therefore constitutes the first Estates-General of the Protestants, and its Rule, the first legislative work of this sovereign instance.” (186)

The relative flexibility of the deputation that presides the assemblies testifies that at the origin of the Protestant state, there really is a confederation of autonomous cities and countries.” (202)

The United Provinces have ensured an administrative continuity in the South of the kingdom. [...] The vigor of the Protestant financial administration also appears in [...the account books], an impeccable order reigns in them. [...] The Huguenot state also ensured the continuity of justice [...and...] contributed to maintaining the unity of the South of the kingdom.” (211-213)

In Dauphine, the troops of the Union commanded by Lesdiguières stopped the invasion army thrown by the Duke of Savoy. [...] In the entire Midi, the aggressions of the [Catholic] League, from 1588 and especially 1589, are fought back by the forces of the United Provinces. [...] The defense of the churches has been, as it should be, the essential work of the Union. [...] Thus, a force ratio where Protestants are in an advantageous position is established.” (214)

In 1585, […] the ministers united in synod in Privas [Vivarais] go to the Protestant [political] assembly which is seating at the same time in the same city. […] The pastors suggest a precise program of good Christian conduct and especially the prohibition of ‘blasphemy, […] of profane, vile and dirty talking’, the punishment of ‘larceny and extortion’. This plan of moral recovery is heard by the assembly. Jacques of Chambaud, the President, [...] then replies in the name of all: ‘The assembly praises greatly the said ministers and synod and for the care they have for their flocks and thanks them a lot for the remonstrances and excitements that they were pleased to do by the said articles [...] which the assembly receives with a very good heart and in all humility as coming from their true and legitimate pastors, servants of God and annunciators of his saint Word’.” (217)

The final success of the Huguenot political project would have brought the Meridional provinces towards a Swiss or Dutch becoming.” (220)

[It’s] a new kind of republic, composed of all its parts and separated from the rest of the [French] state, which had its laws on religion, civil government, justice, military discipline, liberty of commerce, tax levying and financial administration.” (220)

In Huguenot Heartland: Montauban and Southern French Calvinism during the Wars of Religion, Philip Conner explains that the Edict of Nantes of 1598 (granting Calvinists freedom of conscience in all the kingdom and freedom of religion in a number of cities and areas) was the fruit of the efforts f the Huguenot republic (pages 136 and 139). Effectively, after that the Protector (top magistrate) of the United Provinces, Henri IV (since 1575), illegitimately ordered this state to dissolve itself (this totally exceeded his legal prerogatives), the personnel of the Union prepared to enter war against the depraved monarch. The old diplomat of Henri IV (and author of the famous Monarchomach pamphlet Vindia Contra Tyrannos), Philippe of Mornay, warned him that “our people [...] will cheerfully pass the Rubicon.” Henri IV, cornered, then accepted to negotiate a new edict with the Permanent General Assembly of the United Provinces of the Midi, who kept a strong pressure on Paris from 1596 until 1598 (Léonce Anquez, 1859, p. 62-71).

At the Estates-General of Ste-Foy-la-Grande in 1594, the United Provinces had expanded their representative dispositive to the whole of France, thus becoming a parallel state to the monarchy or, with the Edict of Nantes, literally a state within the state. This situation continues for the three next decades. During the sixty years of the Huguenot’s state existence, its constitutional legislation didn’t cease to evolve, but its founding principles were never repudiated. The commentary of Anquez is instructive on this issue: “[The Rule] established the periodicity of the assemblies and determined their attributions with a precision that no [other] law of that time offers an example” (supra, p. 68).

+ + + + +·

Non-exhaustive list of the Estates-General of the United Provinces of the Midi:

  • 1573: Montauban (Tarn)
  • 1573: Millau (Aveyron)
  • 1554: Millau (Aveyron)
  • 1575: Montauban (Tarn)
  • 1581: Montauban (Tarn)
  • 1582: St-Jean d'Angely (Saintonge)
  • 1588: La Rochelle (Aunis)
  • 1593: Mantes (Ile de France)
  • 1594: Ste-Foy-la-Grande (Perigord)
  • 1595: Saumur (Maine-et-Loire)
  • 1596-1598: Loudon (Poitou) + Vendome (Loir-et-Cher) + + Châtellerault Saumur (Poitou)

For the original article, visit The Monarchomaque here. To read the article in English, click the "translate" option.
Photo credit: "Huguenot" by Armand Le Veel (HaguardDuNord/CC BY 3.0)

Note about the Theonomy Applied Series: In quoting any particular law, we do not necessarily endorse every aspect of that law as biblical, whether it be the prohibition, sanction, court procedure, etc. Rather, we are merely showing the more or less attempt to apply biblical law in history, whether or not that application was fully biblical. Moreover, in quoting any particular law, we do not necessarily consider those who passed and/or enforced such a law as being fully orthodox in their Christian theology. Professing Christian rulers in history have ranged in their theology from being orthodox (that is, Reformed Protestants) to heretical (for example, Roman Catholics). 

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