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IN ENGLAND, 1781-1803








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Vol. II.





•Wibil ©bstat

F. Thomas Bergh, O.S.B.,

Censor Deputatus,


•i> GuLiELMUS Arindelensis,

Vicarius Generalis.

Westmonasterii, die 15 Januarii, 1909




XIX. Arrival of the First French Refugee Priests

(1792) ......... I

XX. Subscriptions for the French Refugee Priests

(1792-1793) . . ... . . .19

XXI. Mission of Monsignor Erskine (1793-1795) • 37

XXII. The Cisalpine Club (1792-1830) ... 51

XXIII. Dissolution of the English Colleges and

Convents on the Continent (1793-1795) • 69

XXIV. Foundation of Colleges in England (i 793-1 795) 95

XXV. The Convents Established in England (1794-

1795) 115

XXVI. Bishop Berington and Propaganda (1795-1797) 130

XXVII. Revival of Controversies (1797-1798) . .- 145

XXVIII. The French Refugee Priests, continued (1795-

1800) ........ 163

XXIX. Events in Rome. Fall of the English College

(1795-1799) 176

XXX. Political Events at the Close of the

Eighteenth Century (i 799-1800) . . 194




XXXI. Pius VII. and the Concordat (1800-1802) . 218

XXXII. Final Pacification of the Midland District

(1801-1803) 235

Appendices 257

Chronological Table of Events . . . 297

Index 307


Right Rev. John Douglass, Bishop of Centuria, Vicar

Apostolic of the London District (i 790-181 2) Frontispiece
From a painting at St, Edmund's College.


MoNSEiGNEUR DE LA Marche, Bishop of St. Pol dc L^on 4

From an engraving by Skelton of a painting by Danloux, a French
emigre artist.

The King's House, Winchester 26

The engraving in Milner's History of Winchester, /rowt which this is
taken, was copied from the original drawings of Sir Christopher
Wren; but a large part of the building shown was never com-
pleted. The whole was destroyed by fire some years ago.

Monsignor Charles Erskine 38

From a painting at Blairs College, Aberdeen.

Sir John Throckmorton, Bart 44

From a painting at Coughion, the family seat in Warwickshire,

Rev. John Bew, D.D. 56

The original, rather larger than a miniature, is at Oscott.

The Old College, Oscott 102

This shows old Oscott before Milner's additions. It is taken from a
painting in the Guest Room at New Oscott.

The Rev. John Milner {aetat c. 45) 122

From a painting in possession of the Benedictine Community estab-
lished by Milner at Winchester, now at East Bergholt, Suffolk.
The book of the Rule of St, Benedict lies open before him. The
Gothic design of the chair and other furniture is noteworthy, and
in keeping with the architectural style of his church at



The Convent at Hammersmith 128

From a print in possession of the Benedictine Community formerly at
Hammersmith, now at Teignmouth in Devonshire,

The Rev. John Kirk ....... 148

The original of this, painted by Mackey, used to hang in the Refectory
at Sedgley Park School. It is now at St. Wilfrid's, Oakamoor,
its lineal descendant.

The Abb^ Guy Toussaint Carron 174

The bust from which this is taken is in the church which he built
at Sotners Town.

St. Edmund's College, Old Hall, Ware . . -194

This shows the College as in the early part of the nineteenth century
before the addition of Pugin's chapel, etc. The original was
painted by Mr. Kenelm Digby, who used to visit the College
when an undergraduate at Cambridge about the year 1820.

Bishop Thomas Hussey, F.R.S., Bishop of Waterford and
Lismore, 1797-1803 ; Chaplain to the Spanish Ambassa-
dor in London ........ 200

From a painting by Gainsborough at the Spanish Place Presbytery,

Rev. Arthur O'Leary, O.S.F. 208

From a painting at the Irish Dominican Monastery, Lisbon,

The Abbe Jean Jacques Morel, Formerly Director of the

" Petit Seminaire " at Evreux, Normandy . . . 234

The painting from which this is taken hangs in the Sacristy of the
church built by him at Hampstead.

Alexander Geddes, LL.D. ...... 248

From a painting at Thorndon Hall, the seat of Lord Petre.

Bishop Milner, Vicar Apostolic of the Midland District,

1803-1826 254

The miniature from which this is taken is preserved at Oscott, and
is the earliest picture of Milner as a Bishop.





During the latter half of the year 1792, English Catholics
became occupied about new and unexpected events, which
not only had the most desirable effect of distracting them
from their own internal disputes, but likewise brought about
results which had a permanent and far-reaching influence on
the future of Catholicity in this country. This was the arri-
val of the French refugee priests, most of them in a state
of poverty or even destitution, which brought forth one of
the greatest national acts of charity recorded in our history.
The English people had always been regarded as the here-
ditary enemies of the French, They differed from them in
race, sympathy and religion. Yet as soon as they understood
the true meaning of the events which were happening on the
other side of the Channel, and recognised that the refugees
who arrived in such vast numbers were in truth the victims of
religious persecution, they rose as one man, irrespective of
religion or party, and joined together in making a supreme
effort to relieve the wants of the poor suffering exiles, and to
give them a home in this country until such time as affairs in
France should mend. Hundreds and thousands of English-
men, Protestants as well as Catholics, helped the French
refugee clergy by their money and by their personal service,
and by their influence on public opinion, all of which con-
duced to alleviate the unavoidable hardships of exile.

It was impossible for any one living in England at that
time to be indifferent to the events that were happening in

VOL. 11. I



France. Some followed Fox and his party, in looking upon
the Revolution as a blessing, inasmuch as it had brought
about the fall of a tyrannical government; others, with those
who were more conservative, saw in it only a severe blow
to all social order and religion. The publication of Edmund
Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France in 1 790, went
far to influence public opinion in the latter direction. What-
ever view was taken, however, of its ultimate effect, such an
upheaval so close to home could not but fill thoughtful minds
with apprehension, if not even alarm.

The English Catholics were more closely concerned than
the rest of the nation. Many of them, including the majority
of their clergy, had been educated among the Catholics of
France, and had learnt to regard them as their brethren.
Some of their most important foreign establishments were in
that country, several in Paris itself, so that to the motives which
others had for anxiety must be added in their case apprehension
for the personal safety of many near and dear to them.

From an early period in the progress of the Revolution,
Frenchmen began to look to England as the land of liberty
and peace, where those who were expelled from their country
could take refuge. In 1789 and 1790 a considerable number
both of laity and clergy had come to this country. These
were the emigres properly so-called, supporters of the " Ancien
Regime^' who went into voluntary exile on account of the
Revolution, and whose property in France was declared con-
fiscated in consequence. In May, 179 1, Edmund Burke,
speaking in the House of Commons on the Quebec Govern-
ment Bill, took occasion to express his warm sympathy with
the clergy and others who were suffering in France for their
religion, and his remarks were received with cheering in the
House. This seems to have been the signal to direct the eyes
of the suffering priests towards England, and when numbers
of them were banished or deported out of the country in 1792
and the following years, many bent their steps thither.

The events which were to lead up to this result may be
said to have begun when the law of the Civil Constitution of
the Clergy was passed, on July 12, 1790. By this law the
priests of France were called upon to take the so-called " Civic
Oath," by which they professed themselves servants of the
State. The Oath was cleverly drawn up, and at the outset


not every one realised that it was definitely schismatical. The
great majority of the clergy indeed refused it ; but a certain
number thought that it might be taken without open rupture
with the Church. We may quote as an example, Abb6
D'Ancel, a distinguished Professor at the College d'Harcourt,
at Paris, well known during his exile in England, and for seven
years Professor of Philosophy at St. Edmund's College. When
the law was first made, he not only took the Oath himself,
but wrote a pamphlet to prove its lawfulness. Very soon,
however, he changed his opinion ; he retracted as publicly
as he could, and afterwards proved his sincerity by going with
the others into exile. In two briefs, dated respectively March
10 and April 13, 179 1, Pope Pius VI. decided definitely
against the lawfulness of the Oath, and from that time for-
ward no Catholic was able to take it in good faith. Those
who took it afterwards did so chiefly from worldly motives,
for great inducements in the shape of speedy preferment were
held out to them by those in power, while to refuse it the
Oath meant apparent prospect of starvation. In the event,
in Paris out of about 800 priests, some 200 took the Oath,
and in the Provinces about 10,000 out of 60,000. Many of
these, however, afterwards retracted and went into exile.
Indeed, one of the great difficulties to be dealt with later on
when the French priests were in England was that a certain
number of them had taken the Civic Oath, and it was con-
sidered necessary that they should in some way publicly repair
the scandal they had caused before they could be absolved
from their censures. Out of all the French episcopate, only
four took the Oath.

On November 27 in the same year, a further law was passed,
by which all '■'■ pretres fonctionnaires" that is those who held
any office or benefice, if they refused to take the Oath, should
be considered as ^^ refractaires" and forfeit it; and any per-
son exercising such functions after his post had been sup-
pressed, should be liable to prosecution as a disturber of the
public peace. This last provision was due to the difficulty
which arose in consequence of the small number who took the
Oath. It became manifestly impossible to fill all even of the
chief ecclesiastical posts with " Constitutional Priests," as they
became called, and there was no alternative but to suppress

1 *


a large number of the parishes, and some of the episcopal

Among the bishops whose sees were suppressed was one
who was destined to take a leading part in connection with the
reception of the exiled clergy in England — Monseigneur de la
Marche, Bishop of St. Pol de Leon, a small town in Brittany-
near St. Malo. He was among the first to leave France, and
is called by Plasse^ the "Precursor". A short account of his
history and antecedents will be our best introduction to his
remarkable personality.

Count Jean Francois de la Marche was born at Quimper, in
Brittany, in 1729. When a youth he was destined by his
parents for a military career, and he fought in the War of the
Austrian Succession. Being wounded in the battle of Piacenza,
like another St. Ignatius, he forthwith determined to resign his
commission, and devote himself to the service of the Church.
He was ordained priest in 1756, and became Bishop of St. Pol de
L^on in 1 772, so that he had already occupied that position nearly
twenty years when in consequence of a dispute with the civil
power he found himself obliged to take refuge by secret flight.

The quarrel arose out of a demand made in July, 1 790, by
the municipality of Brest to have the use of his cathedral for
a celebration in honour of the anniversary of the taking of
the Bastille. The demand was met by a curt refusal on the
part of the bishop. A state of rupture resulted between him
and the civil authorities. In P"ebruary, 1791, his see was sup-
pressed under the new law, and as he continued to exercise his
office, he became liable to punishment. A company of twenty
gendarmes were sent to his house to arrest him. Escaping by
a back door, the bishop concealed himself for some days at the
house of a friend, till an opportunity offered of quitting the
country. A party of English smugglers were about to set out
from the neighbouring sea-coast village of Roskoff, and they
consented to take the bishop with them. We can see the small
party, consisting of Mgr. de la Marche and a few friends, walk-
ing along the shore at eleven o'clock on the night of February 27
in rough and threatening weather. The boat is still ashore ; but
in an hour or two the rising tide will float it. All precautions

' F. X. Plasse, Titular Canon of Clermont, whose work, Le Clerge Franqais
refugie en Angleterre, published in 1886, is the standard authority on the subject.


Bishop of St. Pol de Leon.


are taken to avoid attracting attention, and before sunrise the
bishop has taken leave of his diocese and of his country, never
to return.

The storm that had been gathering, soon after arose, and
kept the boat out at sea for two days and nights. At times the
whole party were in imminent danger of perishing ; but God had
other designs in store for the bishop, and the weather having
moderated, they came in sight of the English shore, on the even-
ing of Tuesday, March i. Owing to the difficulty of evading
the customs, they were prevented from landing all Wednesday,
and it was not till two o'clock on Thursday morning that they
cast anchor in Mount's Bay, on the Cornish coast. By an
extraordinary coincidence, or as we should prefer to say, by a
remarkable providence of God, the bishop on that very morn-
ing fell in with an old acquaintance, who now offered him
every assistance in his distress, for he had been continually
exposed to the weather, and almost without food since his
departure from France. He took some rest and refreshment,
adding in his diary, " I had the more need of this, as I had
spent three nights in a vile leaky boat, in very bad weather,
without any bed except some sail-cloth and sailors' clothes on
planks and barrels of brandy. But providentally " (he adds)
" I was not sea-sick : otherwise I could not have borne it,
joined to the cold and the uneasiness of my feet." ^

After recovering from the effects of his voyage, the bishop
proceeded to London, arriving there during the progress of the
disputes between the bishops and the Committee, as the Relief
Bill was going through Parliament. He retired again to the
West of England, and we find him resting at Wardour and
afterwards at Lulworth, in both of which places he found peace
and seclusion and a religious atmosphere as Catholic as that of
the country he had just left.

The following year was to the Bishop of St. Pol de Leon
one of comparative quiet, during which he was preparing him-
self, as it turned out, for work more important and more con-
tinuous than any which he had previously had to do in his own
diocese. During this year priests were already arriving from
France in sufficient numbers to call for considerable exertion
in order to provide for them. The first London priest to devote

^ Gentleman's Magazine, February, 1807, p. 100.


his time and work to their assistance was Rev. Thomas Meynell,
the ex-Jesuit. He worked in conjunction with Dorothy Sil-
burn, a widow lady, afterwards well known as the devoted
friend of the French exiled clergy. She was a native of Durham
— her maiden name was Robinson — and being left a widow
without children, before the age of forty, she determined to
devote the rest of her life to the assistance of the exiled priests.
A private subscription among her friends realised over ;^400,
which, added to her own income, was sufficient for a commence-
ment. Her house at 10 Little Queen Street, Bloomsbury, be-
came the centre of relief, and was known by them as the " Pro-
vidence ". From the first the Bishop of St. Pol de Leon was a
frequent visitor there, always ready by his counsel and active
co-operation to show sympathy with the work. Most probably
he foresaw that there was every likelihood of a large increase
in the number of exiles at no distant date, and he wished to be
prepared for all contingencies.

The next great development of affairs in France was on
August 10, 1792, when the great attack on the Tuilleries
Palace took place, with its attendant massacres. The king
was now a prisoner. The following day search was made
throughout Paris for priests, and all who were found were
imprisoned, either in the church of the Carrnes in the Rue
Vaugirard, or in the Seminary of St. Firmin, or in company
with laymen in the common prisons of Paris. By no means
all of these priests belonged to Paris. Many from the pro-
vinces had found their way to the capital, where hitherto
ecclesiastics had been more leniently treated. They were
now to suffer for their mistaken confidence.

The National Assembly having by this time become
supreme, on August 26 they passed a law by which all "■ pre-
tres fonctionnaires''' who refused to take the Civic Oath, were
ordered to leave their residences within eight days, and to quit
the country within a fortnight afterwards, in default of which
they were to be deported to French Guiana, in South America.
Every priest was free to select the country of his exile, and
was required to inform the directory of the district of his choice,
when he would be provided with a passport, and an allowance
for travelling. This allowance was the miserable sum of three
livres or francs a day, for which they were required to travel


at least three leagues. Any who returned became liable to
ten years' imprisonment. The sick and those over sixty years
of age were exempt from banishment, but they were not
allowed to remain at their homes, being commanded to as-
semble in a central house in each district.

Within the prescribed time the great majority of the clergy
had left their parishes. A few only remained here and there,
who endeavoured to pass their lives in secret and to minister
to the faithful at the risk of imminent peril.

Many of the priests who set out never reached the frontier.
The early days of September were marked by the horrible
massacres which began in Paris, and were taken up throughout
the country. On the evening of September 2, nearly all the
180 priests who were imprisoned at the Carvies, including the
venerable Archbishop of Aries, and three other bishops, the
General of the Benedictines, several Jesuits and Capuchins,
and many cures and vicaires belonging to the secular clergy,
were murdered in cold blood. The Abbe Pannonie, who
escaped in an almost miraculous manner, had been close to the
archbishop at the moment of his martyrdom, and on coming
to London was able to give a full account of the horrible
scene. Within thirty-six hours the ninety-two priests im-
prisoned in the Seminary of St. Firmin had shared the fate of
their brethren at the C amies ; and many priests and laymen
were put to death in the other prisons of Paris. In all, it is
said that over 1,400 persons lost their lives in Paris during
those days.

Similar massacres followed in the provincial towns of
France, marked with equal cruelty and suddenness. Under
these circumstances many of the clergy considered that by
applying for passports they would become marked men, with
little chance of escape. The Jacobins themselves openly spoke
of the passports as " death-warrants," and most of the priests
preferred to take the risk of journeying without them. They
would set out secretly by night, and make the best of their
way by a circuitous route to the frontier, in the hope of escap-
ing out of the country unperceived. The sick and the aged
likewise preferred the chance of reaching a place of safety to
the hardships with attendant risks which were the lot of those
complying with the requisition of the law. All who were not


physically unable took this course, so that among the exiles
were some in extreme old age, or in a state of decrepitude.
Many also were absolutely destitute, having parted with all
their worldly goods when they left their homes.

The clergy naturally made in each case for that frontier
which was nearest to their own places of abode. Those in the
South of France went to Spain and Italy. In the Papal States
alone there were over 12,000' refugee priests. Those in the
East of France resorted to Switzerland or Germany. The
priests who came to England were for the most part from
Brittany, Normandy, Picardy, or Paris itself. The majority of
the first exiles from the North of France took refuge in the
Channel Islands, where the similarity of race was combined
with the liberty of English rule. The people of Jersey and
Guernsey were for the most part Calvinists : there were practic-
ally no Catholics there. Under these circumstances, the open-
handed way in which they received the exiled priests, who at
one time numbered over 2,000, is not a little remarkable.

In England the number of priests who arrived with the
first stream of exiles was estimated at about 3,000, including
sixteen bishops. The first-comers did not create quite a
favourable impression. This may have been partly due to
religious prejudice, or perhaps to national feeling. We read
of their being jeered at as they walked through the streets, or
even pelted with stones or brick-bats. The English boatmen
charged exorbitant prices for landing the refugees, threatening
if they refused to pay, to send them back to P" ranee. These
incidents, however, did not continue. The educated laymen
were able to look below the surface, and public opinion, as
shown by the newspapers and correspondence of the day, soon
became firmly sympathetic towards the exiles. We can quote
a specimen of each in illustration of what is here said. In the
Gentleman's Magazine for September, 1792, appeared a letter
signed by " A Detester of Anarchy and Injustice," of which the
following is an extract : —

" A persecution equal to any exercised by Papists against
Protestants, or Christians against Jews and Moors, is revived
in our time, when we thought such horrors had ceased for
ever. ... It is a national act, and a reformation of the State

1 According to a letter from Rev. R. Smelt.


is alleged as the cause of so many enormities. The greatest
crime of these unhappy men is their innocence and helpless-
ness. The outcry is raised that they are priests and they are
hunted down like wild Indians. Once more, let us not hesitate
for a moment to make the cause our own ; and that charity
which has been so liberally exerted in relief of every distress,
domestic or foreign, will press forward to comprehend these
miserable objects. No person can perish for want in this
Christian, this Protestant country. We shall lose the profes-
sions and the characters in the men, and while we feel the
woes and wrongs of the most distant of our kind, we shall
stretch forth the arms of Christian charity to those who from
the nearest shore are barbarously driven into them." ^

The other example we shall cite is from a letter of one
Mr. John Pugh, who was active in London on behalf of the

Online LibraryBernard WardThe dawn of the Catholic revival in England, 1781-1803; (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 30)