|"The religious wars begot the hapless colony of Florida, but for more than half a century they left New France a desert." — Francis Parkman, Pioneers of France.
Their Mullahs, Our Matanzas Heritage
An America Descended of Religious Slaughter
William C. Hall/Candide’s Notebooks, August 11, 2006
— On May 1, 1562, a mere 70 years after Columbus set foot on San Salvador Island in the Bahamas, a French fleet under the command of Jean Ribault arrived at the mouth of the present-day St. Johns River. His goal was to establish New France in Florida as a haven for French Huguenots (Protestants). He named this newly found estuary the Rivière de Mai ( River of May).
Two years later, the first colonists arrived, led by René de Laudonnière. They immediately established a fortified village five miles upriver and named it Ft. Caroline after the French King Charles IX. The arrival of Laudonnière signaled the transfer of Europe’s internecine religious strife to the New World.
The Catholic governor of Cuba soon learned of the French Protestant settlement and sent a force under Pedro Menendez to the harbor of present day St. Augustine to prepare to expel the French heretics.
Jean Ribault, in turn, learned from the Timicua Indians of the arrival of Menendez at St. Augustine and immediately set out to attack the Spaniards. The Ribault fleet sailed straight into a September hurricane that destroyed the entire flotilla. The captain and the remnants of his half-drowned crew were captured near the mouth of the Matanzas River and, literally, were hacked to death by the Spaniards. Simultaneously, a Spanish force marched overland to Ft. Caroline and killed most of the remaining French. In 1565 the French returned to Ft. Caroline, renamed San Mateo by the Spanish, and avenged Ribault by killing the entire Spanish garrison.
Thus the first expression of what is now so reverently referred to as our “Christian Heritage” was the mutual slaughter of French Protestants and Spanish Catholics. The Rivière de Mai soon became the Rio San Juan, eventually translated as the St. Johns River. The name Matanzas (massacre) has been retained and reminds us of the consequences of religious hatred.
Fifty-six years after Matanzas, those God-fearing English Puritans landed at Plymouth Rock and soon acquired a fondness for torturing and murdering Quakers and others whose religious doctrines differed from theirs. The grateful Pilgrims also eradicated the descendants of the Indians who saved their colony from starvation during their first winter and, of course, the Salem witch trials (the best known of many such excesses in the colonies) enshrined hanging as a suitable method of Christian purification.
Our long and bloody history continues to this day and underscores the hypocrisy of our feigned shock and horror at the murder of innocents by Muslims and more recently by Jews, the bible’s “chosen people.” One wonders why it is so hard for us to see that mankind’s obsession with war and vengeance runs absolutely counter to our claims of being a nation founded on the precepts of the Prince of Peace.
Any ethical distinctions separating today’s Mullahs, Rabbis and Christian clergy from the outrages of our own history is illusory as we remain the world’s leading maker of war and the weapons of war. If we are to lead the world as a truly Christian nation we must become an ethical superpower. The cross and the sword are fundamentally incompatible symbols.
William C. Hall is a freelance writer. Reach him at email@example.com
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