Cotton, Peter

, a Jesuit, born in 1564, at Neronde near the Loire, of which place his father was governor, distinguished himself early in life by his zeal for the conversion of protestants, and by his success in the pulpit. He was called to the court of Henry IV. at the instance of the famous Lesdiguieres, whom he had converted, and the king pleased with his wit, manners, and conversation, appointed him his confessor. M. Mercier censures the king, for “having too peculiar a | deference for this Jesuit, a man of very moderate talents, solely attached to the narrow views of his order;” and it was commonly said, “Our prince is good, but he has cotton in his ears.” Henry was desirous of making him archbishop of Aries, and procuring him a cardinal’s hat; but Cotton persisted in refusing his offers. His brotherhood, after their recall, unable easily to settle themselves in certain towns, that of Poitiers especially, started great difficulties, and Cotton wished to persuade the king that this opposition was the work of Sulli, governor of Poitou; but Henry having refused to listen to this calumny, and blaming Cotton for having adopted it with too much credulity: “God forbid,” said Cotton, “that I should say any harm of those whom your majesty honours with his confidence! But, however, I am able to justify what I advance. I will prove it by the letters of Sulli. I have seen them, and I will shew them to your majesty.” Next day, however, he was under the necessity of telling the king that the letters had been burnt by carelessness. This circumstance is related in the “Cours d’histoire de Condillac,” tom. XIII. p. 505. After the much lamented death of Henry, Cotton was confessor to his son Louis XIII, but the court being a solitude to him, he asked permission to quit it, and obtained it in 1617, so much the more easily as the duke de Luynes was not very partial to him. Mezerai and other historians relate, that when Ravaillac had committed his parricide, Cotton went to him and said: “Take care that you do not accuse honest men!” There is room to suppose that his zeal for the honour of his society prompted him to utter these indiscreet words, and his notions on the subject appear to be rather singular. We are told that Henry IV. having one day asked him, “Would you reveal the confession of a man resolved to assassinate me?” he answered “No; but I would put my body between you and him.” The Jesuit Santarelli having published a work, in which he set up the power of the popes over that of kings, Cotton, then provincial of Paris, was called to the parliament the 13th of March 1626, to give an account of the opinions of his brethren. He was asked whether he thought that the pope can excommunicate and dispossess a king of FranceAh” returned he, “the king is eldest son of the church and he will never do any thing to oblige tae pope to proceed to that extremity” “But,” said the first president. “are you not of the same opinion | with your general, who attributes that power to the pope?” —“Our general follows the opinions of Rome where he is and we, those of France where we are.” The many disagreeable things experienced by Cotton on this occasion, gave him so much uneasiness, that he fell sick, and died a few days afterwards, March 19, 1626. He was then preaching the Lent-discourses at Paris in the church of St. Paul. This Jesuit wrote, “Traite du Sacrifice de la Messe;” “Geneve Plagiaire,Lyons, 1600, 4to; “L’Institution Catholique,1610, 2 torn, fol; “Sermons,1617, 8vo; “La Rechute de Geneve Plagiaire;” and other things, among which is a letter declaratory of the doctrine of the Jesuits, conformable to the doctrine of the council of Trent, which gave occasion to the “Anti Cotton,1610, 8vo, and is found at the end of the history of D. Inigo, 2 vols. 12mo. This satire, which betrays more malignity than wit, was attributed to Dumoulin and to Peter du Coignet, but is now given to Caesar de Plaix, an advocate of Paris. Fathers Orleans and Rouvier wrote Cotton’s Life, 12mo, and as well as Gramont, give him a high character, which from the society of the Jesuits, at least, he highly deserved. 1