PROPAGANDIZERS AND CRITICS OF JESUIT ACCOMMODATION
After the anti-Christian persecution of 1664-1668 and the recall of most of the Jesuits from exile in Canton in 1671, the leading Jesuit, Ferdinand Verbiest ( 1623- 1688) was struck by the rich harvests which awaited the Mission in China, could they but find the right missionaries1. Fr. Verbiest expressed these thoughts in several letters to Europe, one of which is said to have impressed Louis XIV. Besides, the French king saw a means of increasing the influence of France while breaking the shaky Portuguese monopoly of ecclesiastical patronage. He and his advisers saw that the most effective political means of achieving this would be to capitalize on the scientific interests of the age, which were manifested in the widely publicized activities of the Académie des Sciences. For King Louis, the Académie could serve ably as a vehicle for science, God and France. Consequently, he ordered the mission organized in what was one of the earliest uses of a scientific and religious mission for the political interests of a modern nation-state.
The Jesuits were requested to supply six of their number with appropriate scientific skills for this purpose. The Jesuit Jean de Fontaney ( 1643- 1710) had distinguished himself as a teacher of mathematics and astronomy at the Collège Louis le Grand and by publishing several pieces on astronomical subjects in the widely read Journal des sçvans and Mémoires de l'académie des sciences2. Fr. Fontaney was assigned the task of finding other skilled young Jesuits and under his leadership the following missionaries were enrolled: Bouvet, Jean-François Gerbillon , ( 1647- 1707), Louis-Daniel Le Comte ( 1655- 1728), Guy Tachard ( 1648- 1712) and Claude de Visdelou ( 1656- 1737). All were members of the Collège Louis le Grand and therefore had a special identification with the French king. Prior to departing, Fontaney and three other Jesuits were admitted to the Académie des Sciences and were equipped with instruments to____________________