The refugees seen as rivals

“Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. – In 1598, Henri IV had signed in Nantes an edict allowing
French Protestants to practice their faith. In 1685, his grandson, Louis XIV revoked this edict. All over
France, the Protestants were horribly persecuted. In spite of a strict injunction, thousands of them
left the country and headed for England, Prussia, Switzerland and beyond.
In Geneva, Louis XIV had for some years established a Resident. This representative of the
Great King was essentially handling the French government’s mail, rerouting it inside Switzerland and
through to Italy but he also had the mission of supervising the Genevans and to exercise some
pressure on their Councils to stop them from doing anything contrary to French interests. Geneva, as
indeed other Swiss cantons and for that matter other European countries were under the dominance
of Louis XIV who had become the most powerful monarch in his time. Thus when unfortunate
refugees arrived at the gates of the city, nobody dared take them in as had been done for so many
years for fear of the Sun-King’s displeasure. With some secret subsidy pressed upon them, they were
moved on to other Swiss cantons. And yet many of these wretches stayed in the city; others returned
to it and the population grew considerably.
In the beginning, the refugees were treated like brothers. But gradually the people saw them
as rivals because these newcomers were generally hard-working, frugal people content with modest
salaries. They presented a less resilient local workforce with a doughty challenge. On the demand of
the burghers, the councils took against them discriminatory measures; everything was tried to
prevent them from becoming burghers and to force them to leave town. However many of them
stayed; their offspring would form a new social class, that of the Natifs that would later play an
important part in the history of the Republic [meaning that they were among the leaders of the
Democratic Revolutions].”