|the Vietnamese court|
On orders from Emperor Thieu Tri, continuing policies already in place, Nguyen officials punished Christians and arrested Catholic missionaries on the grounds that they were spreading “false” and “seditious” beliefs which upset the Confucian hierarchy, disturbed the native gods and ran contrary to proper virtue and morality. Actually, such incidents were handled fairly mildly more often than not and Emperor Thieu Tri was no fool. He realized that if he came down too hard on the Christians that this would be used by the French as a pretext to move against his country. Anti-Christian outbursts throughout East Asia had often been prompted by the fact that European domination tended to come on the heels of those preaching the new religion and the powers-that-be did not want it gaining a foothold. So, to avoid trouble, Emperor Thieu Tri hoped to simply frighten the Catholics into staying away from Vietnam. Time and time again a missionary would be sentenced to death for spreading subversive beliefs only to have the Emperor spare his life and order him deported. Emperor Thieu Tri released many missionaries rather than put them to death but there were those who persisted in always coming back. Eventually, their cause was taken up by the second major threat Thieu Tri faced.
|Imperial Decree of Emperor Thieu Tri|
The second threat to the reign of Thieu Tri appeared in March of 1847 and that threat was the French Navy whose officer corps tended to be very conservative and very Catholic. So far from home, they were also liable to act on their without waiting for instructions from the King in Paris or whatever government happened to be in power when they returned. The French naval forces in Southeast Asia took up the cause of the Catholic missionaries and undoubtedly many of the officers were sincere in their motives for doing this. However, it is equally true that these same officers wanted to see the expansion of French power. They were alarmed at the growing British presence in the region (China, Malaya, Burma etc) and did not want France to lose out to Britain in the colonial race in Asia.
|Captain Rigault de Genouilly|
|Temple of Emperor Thieu Tri|