The Matanzas Massacre: Those Who Justify
History has a sad way of immortalizing perpetrators and forgetting victims. Worse yet, sometimes events are twisted and turned so appallingly in the history books that those who ought to be remembered as the persecuted are made into the enemies. As I have always felt a great amount of compassion for the hundreds of French Huguenots slaughtered near St. Augustine, Florida, in 1565, it is particularly difficult for me to hear some of the theories that have been set force by laymen and professionals alike.
One prevailing theory is “it had to be done.” Many believe that everyone in Menéndez’s colony would have starved because there was not enough food for the Spanish colonists and French prisoners. That is the same as telling a group of ten people that one of them must die because there is only food for nine. I cannot ascribe to that theory. Violence is never justified. God makes a way.
Another theory states that Menéndez would have had no adequate way to protect himself, his men, and his colony if he simply allowed the men to go free . . . he took their lives “as a matter of necessity.” This is extremely offensive to the memory of the martyrs of Matanzas; it is a horrific thought in my mind that these French Protestants were so expendable that it was “all right” for them to be killed simply as a matter of convenience.
It grieves my heart more than words can say when I hear justification for this horrific chapter in American history. “Thou shalt not kill” has no loopholes and no small print. As Christians, we ought to be disgusted with the idea that it was all right to harm someone even if those in charge felt they were a threat. These men were weak from shipwreck and had been divested of their weapons. There was very little they could have done to defend themselves, let alone to attack others.
Another argument I have often heard is that the massacre at Matanzas was politically-based and had little or nothing to do with religion. I cannot believe this. First, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, St. Augustine’s founder, plainly expressed his hatred of the French Huguenots and their religion various times. He stated he had come to La Florida to “hang and behead all Lutherans <Calvinists>” he might discover there. And, when the men were captured at Matanzas, he asked if any were of the Catholic faith. These Menéndez rescued. The rest were ordered to be put to death. No reason. No justice. No protest.
I firmly believe this was a martyrdom and that it was not “unavoidable” or “justifiable” or “necessary.” There is always a choice. Even if religion were not involved, I still cannot believe it is viable to make martyrs of over two hundred men simply because your food supply is low or you worry there are too many men to sufficiently guard. Those are not reasons. Those are excuses. I mourn that not only did the Frenchmen of Matanzas suffer so much heartache during their lifetime but that their executioners’ actions are all-too-often defended centuries after their death.
(c) 2012 Joyously Saved