Perron, Jacques Davy Du
Perron, Jacques Davy Du an eminent Roman Catholic prelate, distinguished for his learning and influence, was descended from ancient and noble families on both sides.
His parents, having been educated in the principles of Calvin, retired to Geneva; and settled afterwards in the canton of Berne, where he was born, Nov. 25, 1556. His father, who was a man of learning, instructed him till he was ten years of age, and taught him mathematics and Latin. Young Perron seems afterwards to have built upon this foundation by himself; for, while his parents were tossed about from place to place by civil wars and persecutions, he applied himself entirely to study. He learned Greek and philosophy, beginning the latter study with the logic of Aristotle, thence passing to the orators and poets; and afterwards applied himself to the study of the Hebrew language, which he attained so perfectly that he read without points, and lectured on it to the ministers. In the reign of Henry III, after the Pacification with the Huguenots, his parents returned to France, and shortly after young Du Perron was (in 1576) introduced to the king, as a prodigy of pal is and learning. His controversial talents were very great, so that none dared dispute with him, although he made many challenges to those who would have been glad to attack him. At the breaking up of the states he came to Paris, and mounted the chair in the habit of a cavalier, in the grand hall of the Augustines, where he held public conferences upon the sciences. He set himself afterwards to read the "Sum" of St. Thomas Aquinas, and cultivated a strict friendship with Philip Desportes, abbot of Tiron, who put him into his own place of reader to Henry III. Perron is said to have lost the favor of this prince in the following manner: One day, while the king was at dinner, he made an admirable discourse against atheists; with which the king was well pleased, and commended him much for having proved the being of a God by arguments so solid. But Perron, whose spirit of policy had not vet got the better of his passion for shining or showing his parts, replied, that "if his majesty would vouchsafe him audience, he would prove the contrary by arguments as solid;" which so offended the king that he forbade him to come into his presence. Perron recovered himself, however, from this fall. The reading of St. Thomas had engaged him in the study of the fathers. and made him particularly acquainted with Augustine's writings, so that he devoted himself wholly to divinity-, and resolved to abjure Protestantismm. Having discovered, or rather pretended to discover, many false quotations and weak reasonings in Du Plessis-Mornay's Treatise upon the Church, he instructed himself thoroughly in controverted points, and made his abjuration. He now labored for the conversion of others, even before embracing any ecclesiastical function, which occurred in 1577. By these arts and his uncommon abilities he acquired great influence, and was selected to pronounce the funeral oration of Mary queen of Scots in 1587. Some time after he wrote, by order of the king, A Compassion of Moral and Theological Virtues; and two Discourses, one upon the soul, the other upon self-knowledge, which he pronounced before that prince. After the murder of Henry III he retired to the house of cardinal de Bourbon, and labored more vigorously than ever in the conversion of the Reformed. He brought a great number of them back to the Church, among whom was Henry Spondanus, afterwards bishop of Pamiez; as this prelate acknowledges, in his dedication to cardinal Du Perron of his "Abridgment of Baronius's Annals." This conversion was followed by several others; and among them he claimed the agency in the conversion of Henry IV, before whom he had held at Nantes a famous dispute with four ministers, which resulted in his appointment to the bishopric of Evreux, that he might be capable of sitting in a conference which the king convened for religious matters. Perron attended with the other prelates at St. Denis, and is supposed to have contributed more than any other person to the conversion of that great prince. After this, Perron was sent with Mr. D'Ossat to Rome, to negotiate Henry's reconciliation to the holy see; which at length he effected, to the satisfaction of the king, but not of his subjects-that part of them at least who were zealous for Gallican liberties, and thought the dignity of their king compromised upon this occasion (see Jervis, 1:203 sq.). Du Perron stayed a whole year at Rome, was there consecrated to his holy office by cardinal De Joyeuse, archbishop of Rouen, Dec. 27, 1595, and then returned to France; where, by such kind of services as have already been mentioned, he advanced himself to the highest dignities. He wrote and preached and disputed against the Reformed; particularly against Du Plessis-Mornay, with whom he had a public conference in 1600, in the presence of the king, at Fontainebleau. (See for an account, Jervis, 1:218 sq.) The king resolved to make him grand almoner of France, to give him the archbishopric of Sens, and wrote to Clement VIII to obtain for him the dignity of a cardinal, which that pope conferred on him, in 1604, with singular marks of esteem. The indisposition of Clement made the king resolve to send the French cardinals to Rome; where Du Perron was no sooner arrived than he was employed by the pope in the congregations. He had a great share in the elections of Leo X and Paul V. He became a most devoted advocate of the ultramontane doctrine and a powerful champion of papal interests. In the many anxious questions which arose Du Perron's decisions always carried great weight. Thus he assisted in the congregations upon the subject of Grace, and the disputes which were agitated between the Jesuits and the Molinists; and it was principally upon his advice that the pope resolved to determine nothing with respect to these questions. He was sent a third time to Rome, to accommodate the differences between Paul V and the republic of Venice; but his health not permitting him to stay long, he was recalled to France. After the murder of Henry IV, which happened in 1610, Du Perron devoted himself entirely to the court and see of Rome, and prevented any action in France which might, displease it or hurt its interests. He rendered useless the arrst of the Parliament of Paris against the book of cardinal Bellarmine; and favored the infallibility of the pope, and his superiority over a council, in a thesis maintained in 1611 before the nuncio. He afterwards held a provincial assembly, in which he condemned Richer's book "concerning ecclesiastical and civil authority:" and, being at the assembly of Blois, he made a harangue to prove that they ought not to decide questions of faith. He was one of the presidents of the assembly of the clergy which was held at Roan in 1615; and made harangues to the king at the opening and closing of that assembly, which were much applauded. This was the last shining action of his life; for after this he retired to his house -at Bagnolet, and employed himself wholly in revising and putting the last hand to his works. He set up a printing-house there, that he might have them published correctly; in order to do which he revised every sheet himself. He died at Paris Sept. 5, 1618. Cardinal Du Perron was a man of great abilities; had a lively and penetrating wit, and a special talent for making his views appear reasonable. He delivered himself upon all occasions with great clearness, dignity, and eloquence. He had a prodigious memory, and had studied much. He was very well versed in antiquity, both ecclesiastical and profane; and had read much in the fathers, councils, and ecclesiastical historians, of which he knew how to make the best use against his adversaries. He was very powerful in dispute, so that the ablest ministers were afraid of him; and he always confounded those who had the courage to engage with him. He was warmly attached to the see of Rome, and strenuous in defending its rights and prerogatives; and therefore it cannot be wondered at that his name has never been held in high honor among those of his countrymen who have been accustomed to stand up for Gallican liberties.
The works of Du Perron, the greatest part of which had been printed separately in his lifetime, were collected after his death, and printed at Paris (1620 and 1622) in 3 vols. folio. The first volume contains his great
Treatise upon the Eucharist, against that of Du Plessis-Mornay. The second, his Reply to the Answer of the King of Great Britain, which originated as follows: James I of England sent to Henry IV of France a book, which he had written himself, concerning differences in religion. Henry put it into the hands of Du Perron's brother. who informed his majesty, from what the cardinal had observed to him, that there were many passages in that book in which the king of England seemed to come near the Catholics; and that it might be proper to send some able person, with a view of bringing him entirely over. Henry, taking the advice of his prelates in this affair, caused it to be proposed to the king of England whether or not he would take it in good part to have the cardinal Du Perron sent to him? who returned for answer that he should be well pleased to confer with him, but for reasons of state could not do it. Isaac Casaubon, however, a moderate person among the Reformed, who had had several conferences with Du Perron about religion, and who seemed much inclined to a reunion, was prevailed on to take a voyage into England; where he spoke advantageously of Du Perron to the king, and presented some pieces of poetry to him, which the cardinal had put into his hands. The king received them kindly, and expressed much esteem for the author; which Casaubon noticing to Du Perron, he returned a letter of civility and thanks to his Britannic majesty; in which he told him that, except the sole title of Catholic, he could find nothing wanting in his majesty that was necessary to make a most perfect and accomplished prince." The king replied that, "believing all things which the ancients had unanimously thought necessary to salvation, the title of Catholic could not be denied him." Casaubon having sent this answer to Du Perron, he made a reply to it in a letter, dated July 15, 1611, in which he sets forth the reasons that obliged him to refuse the name of Catholic to his Britannic majesty. Casaubon answered in the name of the kin, to all the articles of his letter; to which the cardinal made a reply, which constitutes the bulk of the second volume of his works. The third contains his miscellaneous pieces; among which are, Acts of the Conference held at Fontainebleu against Du Plessis-Mornay; moral and religious pieces in prose and verse, orations, dissertations, translations, and letters. A fourth volume of his embassies and negotiations was collected by Caesar de Ligni, his secretary, and printed at Paris in 1623, folio; but these have not done him much honor, as they do not show that profound reach and insight into things with which he is usually credited. There were also published afterwards, under his name, Perroniana, which, like most of the ana, is a collection of puerilities and impertinences. See Jervis, Ch. Hist. of France, 1:203, 216 sq., 219 sq., 279; Ranke, History of the Papacy in the 16th and 17th Centuries, vol. i (see Index in vol. ii); Gen. Biogr. Dict. s.v.; Dupin, Bibliotheque des Auteurs soclis. — 17th Siecle, s.v.