American Minute with Bill Federer

Huguenots "their strong religious...motivations inspired them." Fort Caroline, Florida
The Pilgrims fled England to Holland.

When Spain threatened to invade Holland, the Pilgrims considered sailing to Guyana in South America, as they heard of its tropical climate.

Pilgrim Governor William Bradford wrote in Of Plymouth Plantation:

"Some...had thoughts and were earnest for Guiana... Those for Guiana alleged that the country was rich, fruitful, and blessed with a perpetual spring..."

But the Pilgrims were reminded of how close Guyana was to the "Spanish Main," the Caribbean Sea controlled by Spain, and the massacre of the French settlement of Fort Caroline, Florida.

William Bradford added:

"...but to this it was answered, that it was out of question...

If they should there live, and do well, the jealous Spaniard would never suffer them long, but would displant or overthrow them, as he did the FRENCH in FLORIDA."

The French attempted a settlement in Florida in 1564 on the banks of St. John's River.

It was the first French settlement in area of present-day United States.

Named Fort Caroline, it was founded by French Protestant Christians known as Huguenots, who came for religious freedom.

Huguenots were escaping the Wars of Religion which ravaged France for nearly a century.

During this era, national governments of Europe dictated the religious beliefs of their citizens and would wage war on those not complying.

This led to the notorious religious wars from 1524 to 1648, where tragic injustices were committed by both Protestants and Catholics upon each other.

Though several million died, the number of deaths pale in comparison to the hundreds of millions that died from Islamic and atheistic genocides, purges, expulsions and ethnic cleansing.

Government persecution against Huguenots for their religious beliefs increased after:

the Massacre of Vassy on March 1, 1562;

the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre on August 23-24, 1572; and

the assassination of King Henry IV on May 4, 1610.

When Louis XIII became the French king in 1610, he had as his Chief Minister, Cardinal Richelieu.
Cardinal Richelieu consolidated State power, crushed dissent, confiscated lands, and laid the ground-work for the creation of an absolute monarchy in France.

Cardinal Richelieu destroyed the castles of the princes, dukes, and lesser aristocrats so they could not rebel.

Cardinal Richelieu imposed burdensome taxes, censored the press, and had such a broad network of internal spies spying on citizens that it is considered the origin of the modern secret service.

Arresting and executing his political rivals, Cardinal Richelieu was portrayed as a power-hungry villain in Alexandre Dumas' The Three Musketeers (1844).

Cardinal Richelieu's strengthening of the French state led to the absolute rule of Louis XIV - the "Sun King," who is credited with saying "L'État, c'est moi" ("I am the state"). He reigned over 72 years (1643-1715), longer than any major monarch in European history.

France's power led to the eventual bankrupting and decline of the powerful Spanish-Austrian Habsburg Dynasty and Holy Roman Empire in Europe.

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Commemorating the French Huguenots and their attempt at seeking religious freedom in America, Rep. Charles E. Bennett sponsored a bill on September 21, 1950, to establish the Fort Caroline National Memorial.

In 1989, Rep. Charles E. Bennett recited the history:

"The 425th anniversary of the beginning settlements by Europeans...renamed from Fort Caroline to San Mateo, to San Nicolas, to Cowford and finally to Jacksonville in 1822...

Three small ships carrying 300 Frenchmen led by Rene de Laudonniere anchored in the river known today as the St. Johns."

Charles Bennett continued:

"On June 30, 1564, construction of a triangular-shaped fort...was begun with the help of a local tribe of Timucuan Indians...

Home for this hardy group of Huguenots...their strong religious...motivations inspired them."

The French Christian Huguenots in Florida set a day of Thanksgiving and offered the first Protestant prayer in North America on JUNE 30, 1564:

"We sang a psalm of Thanksgiving unto God, beseeching Him that it would please Him to continue His accustomed goodness towards us."

Rep. Bennett related the colony's unfortunate end:

"Fort Caroline existed but for a short time...

Spain...captured...the fort and...slaughtered most of its inhabitants in September of 1565."

The Spanish Governor of Florida, Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, then founded St. Augustine, Florida, in 1565 - the first permanent settlement in North America.

Other first settlements were:

1607-English Colony of Jamestown;
1608-French Colony of Quebec;
1624-Dutch Colony of New Amsterdam (New York); and
1638-Swedish Colony of New Sweden (Delaware & New Jersey)

Adam Smith wrote in The Wealth of Nations, 1776: 

"The Spaniards, by virtue of the first discovery, claimed all America as their own, and...such was...the terror of their name, that the greater part of the other nations of Europe were afraid to establish themselves in any other part of that great continent...

But...the defeat...of their Invincible Armada...put it out of their power to obstruct any longer the settlements of the other European nations.

In the course of the 17th century...English, French, Dutch, Danes, and Swedes...attempted to make some settlements in the new world."

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