Archiver > HUGUENOTS-WALLOONS-EUROPE > 2004-05 > 1083675681

From: "Marc Demarest" <>
Subject: RE: [HWE] Was there a Huguenot Underground Railroad?
Date: Tue, 4 May 2004 06:10:11 -0700
In-Reply-To: <08d801c4317b$a4d6b750$0402a8c0@Cigar>

There are many questions in here, and from a social history perspective,
they're all good ones.
Unfortunately, most aren't answerable "in general"....

However, some things to consider:

1. People left of their own volition (meaning as the result of a plan) as
well as under duress
(meaning with the clothes on their backs and little more). Planful
departures of Huguenot
families look very different from the periodic flights from the repression
of the moment. I don't
believe we do ourselves a service by imagining that most Huguenots fled in
the middle of the
night, in the rain, clutching babies and a few possessions in their arms,
with rabid Catholics
on their heels. That certainly happened, but just as many (probably more,
could we count them)
made more or less planful departures to carefully chosen destinations.

2. People with means -- middle-class artisans, tradespeople and merchants --
could afford to
travel relatively large distances with significant possessions in relative
comfort. In the area under discussion (modern-day Northern France, Belgium,
Nederlans and Germany), reasonably inexpensive water-based travel allowed
families of modest means to cover significant distances (from the middle
Rhine to
Amsterdam, say) in an organized way. The road system, if you believe maps of
the period, was
extensive between major cities, but was probably quite passable in dry
seasons. In general,
water-route based travel would allow one to get from the upper reaches of
the Rhine, or
from 100+ kilometers inside northern France, to London or Amsterdam (if one
had the wherewithal)
and from either of those places to any settlement on the eastern seaboard of
what is
now the United States (and certainly anywhere between Boston and

3. Where people went, at any one time, depended on many different
variables -- the laws of the
land of their departure (whether departure of any kind was lawful, and what
economic penalties
were incurred if one departed), where standing armies and battle fronts (as
well as armed
uprisings, militia and angry mobs) were operating at the time, who was
recruiting Protestants
and with what kinds of offers, where the intelligence network maintained by
the Calvinist
International (which was extensive and apparently quite good) said it was
safe to go, where one's
fellow townsfolk or family (extended or otherwise) had already gone, etc.
Also -- and we can't
underestimate this -- choice of destination was heavily influenced by the
chances of employability.
Guilds and other kinds of occupational 'companies' could restrict the
practice of particular
crafts in particular areas to natives or people licensed by the guilds or
companies, so one
had to have a good sense, before departure, that one could practice one's
trade once one arrived.

(While I haven't seen any data on this topic -- I am sure someone has
studied it -- my sense
is also that where one was leaving FROM influenced where one went TO -- the
Huguenots of what is
today southern France went to different places than did the Huguenots of
modern-day northern
France and Belgium...)

The English and various parts of the Palatinate actively recruited
Calvinists and Lutherans at various points in time because of their craft
and trade skills, and their relatively high per-capita economic
productivity. As an example: one of my ancestors, born in modern-day
northern France, travelled from Walcheren Island, in Zeeland, in the Dutch
Republic with his wife and two children to the Palatinate city of Mannheim
in the erly 1650s, largely because Karl Ludwig, the elector of Mannheim, had
let it be known that he would welcome Calvinists in Mannheim; he remained
there for some years before taking a boat down the Rhine to Amsterdam (with
his wife and four children including a female infant) and setting sail for
New Amsterdam, in company with people bearing family names that were in his
circle of acquaintance on Walcheren and at Mannheim.

In general, the Huguenot diaspora was a network phenomenon, with travel in
the network very much
a function of power (theirs and their adversaries) and money. The more
money, information and
economic power (earning power) one had, the more options one had about when
(planned versus forced),
where (geographic distance, specific destination) and how (foot, cart, boat)
one traveled.

There are, however, some limited examples of what Americans would think of
as "underground railroads"
being run at various times, particularly across the English Channel, and for
Huguenots of
little or no financial means, usually during periods of active repression.
Samuel Smiles' book
*The Huguentos: Their Settlements, Churches and Industries in England and
Ireland* (1867) has
several interesting stories in this vein, as I recall (keep in mind that
contemporary scholars
don't think much of Smiles' accuracy, though, so read it for local color
rather than as
history per se).

-----Original Message-----
From: David [mailto:]
Sent: Monday, May 03, 2004 7:01 PM
Subject: [HWE] Was there a Huguenot Underground Railroad?

Prior to the American Civil War, escaping slaves used the "Underground
Railroad," a series of people, homes, and hideaways on their way to the
northern states. Was there something similar for fleeing Huguenots after
1685? Why did so many go to Germany? Was it safer than going to the coast?
How did they get from, for example, Frankfort to London? Were their people
sympathetic to their plight who helped them with hiding places and food as
they traveled through France?

Website for the Huguenots-Walloons-Europe list at:
Lots of information, links to other sites, surnames list.

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