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Voices for Tolerance

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Voices for Toleration Amidst Acts of Hate

The granting of limited toleration for Protestants in England was preceded by one of the most infamous acts of  intolerance of the age. Louis XIV had become increasingly discriminatory towards the Huguenots and in October 1685 took the step of revoking the Edict of Nantes by which Henry IV had guaranteed them limited toleration since 1598. The Revocation outlawed Protestant worship in France and resulted in horrible suffering for Huguenots. In response, nearly thousands emigrated to Britain, Switzerland, territories of the Holy Roman Empire, and the Americas.


Nonetheless, this act was contemporaneous with two of the greatest voices for tolerance, those of Benedict Spinoza and John Locke. While Spinoza's ideas on toleration were far more original, Locke's influence ensured a growing acceptance of the inappropriateness of religious persecution.


De Hooghe's polemical engraving portrays in grotesque detail the suffering of the Huguenot minority as a consequence of the intolerant policies of Louis XIV. These scenes of expulsion, torture, rape, and looting raise doubts about the triumph of reason at the end of the seventeenth century.

Romeyn de Hooghe. Tirrannien tegen de gereformeerden in Vrankyrk. Engraving, 1686.

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