They were given civil equality, freedom of conscience and freedom of worship.
The Declaration of Human and Civil rights on 26th August 1789, granted them freedom of conscience and the Constitution in 1791, freedom of worship.
During the Revolution years, the behaviour of the Protestants was not consistent. Individuals responded differently to the Revolution. Many Protestants took part in Revolution Meetings, but there was no “Protestant group”.
During the Reign of Terror, the Dechristianisation phenomenon – September 1793 to July 1794 – did not have a great effect on the Protestant community, even though worship was suspended almost everywhere. But it did mean most pastors temporarily stopped their activity. After Robespierre’s death, on 9 Thermidor year II (27th July 1794), churches were re-opened and freedom of worship proclaimed.
Furthermore, a number of Huguenots were to benefit from the Royal Edict of 15th December 1790, which awarded French nationality to any person exiled for religious reasons.
- BOURDON Jean-François, Les pasteurs réformés face à la déchristianisation de l’An II, mémoire de maîtrise, Université Pierre Mendès-France, 1987
- VOVELLE Michel, La Révolution contre l’Église : de la raison à l’être suprême, Complexe, Bruxelles, 1988
- "Les Protestants et la Révolution française", Bulletin de la SHPF, SHPF, Paris, 1989, Tome 127
- ENCREVÉ André, "Les Protestants et la révolution française", Réformes et Révolutions, VIALLANEIX Paul (dir.), Presses du Languedoc, Montpellier, 1990, p. 192
French Protestants were granted religious freedom during the Revolution.
The restoration of religious freedom
Following the fall of Robespierre, 9 Thermidor of year II (27th July 1794), religious life proceeded in an atmosphere of freedom and equality of worship.
Jean-Paul Rabaut Saint-Étienne (1743-1793)
A champion of freedom of worship, Jean-Paul Rabaut, known as Saint-Étienne, fought against the discrimination which had excluded Protestants from French society since the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685.
André Jeanbon Saint-André (1749-1813)
André Jeanbon, known as Saint-André, came from a region, and family where the Reformed Church was strong. After beginning a career as a naval officer, he turned to the ministry. He was active during the Revolutionary period, was appointed consul, then prefect, by the New Regime and made a Baron of the Empire. He remained, and died, a member of the Reformed Church.
Dechristianisation during the Reign of Terror (1793-1794)
The wave of Dechristianisation passed across France in just a few months, between September 1793 and July 1794 (brumaire to germinal year II).
The Protestants under the French Revolution
In late 1791 in France the Revolution had answered the majority of Protestant expectations. Several Protestants were involved in the unfolding of events and took part in the different political assemblies.
Dechristianisation under the Terror meant that public worship was forbidden and many pastors resigned. The Protestants returned to their clandestine assemblies.
Worshiping survived in the chapels of Scandinavian embassies.