Peter Guilday.

The life and times of John Carroll, Archbishop of Baltimore, 1735-1815 (Volume 2) online

. (page 44 of 48)
Online LibraryPeter GuildayThe life and times of John Carroll, Archbishop of Baltimore, 1735-1815 (Volume 2) → online text (page 44 of 48)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

of his fellow-citizens . . . with pride would I obey a call which honours
me so much, tho' at all times it would exceed my power to do it justice;
but now more particularly at my advanced period of life, and with a half-
cxtinguished voice, I must unavoidably fall so much below the solemnity
of the occasion and public expectation, that respect for the supereminent
Washington, and for my fellow-citizens compels me to offer my excuse
to the Committee. *8

Archbishop Carroll was taken to Georgetown at this time, with
the hope that the change would benefit his health; but early in
July, 181 5, he returned to Baltimore, and towards the end of
November became so feei)le that the approaching end of his life
was recognized by all about him at St. Peter's. "The best

*• Baltimore Cathedral Archives, Special C-Dio,

826 The Life and Times of John Carroll

medical aid was summoned, but it was soon evident that there
was a general decay of the vital forces arising from the weakness
of advanced age." ^" On Noveml)er 22, 181 5, Bishop Neale was
sent for from Georgetown to visit the venerable prelate and when
it was known that his recovery was despaired of, his illness
became the general concern of the city where he had so long
enjoyed universal respect, veneration, and esteem. The day
following, at six in the evening, Carroll received the last Sacra-
ments in the presence of the clergy of his household and of the
seminarians from St. Mary's. After a few moments of thanks-
giving, he made a pathetic address to these young Levites on the
beauty of the vocation to which they were called. In the Balti-
more Cathedral Archives, there is a paper in Marechal's hand-
writing describing this affecting scene:

Archbishop Carroll being very sick on the 23d Nov., 1815, he received
at six o'clock in the afternoon the last Sacr. Rev. Mr. Fenwick admin-
istered to him.

1°. They prepared a table in his room — i crucifix and two candle-
sticks upon it, and the necessary linen for reposing on it the Blessed
Sacrt. The Archb. had his rich stole on and his head uncovered.

2°. Mr. Fenwick accompanied by Mr. Tessier, Moranville, Mertz.
Marechal, Joubert, Harent, Babad, Damphoux and five or six seminarians,
went into the church to take the Blessed Sacr*. They all went in a
procession; at the head of it was two Acolytes, saying the Psalm

3*. After Mr. Fenwick had given the Sick, Holy Water, he was
asked by the Archb. to read the prayers of the administration in Distinct
Audible Voice. Then he made a sign that he wanted to speak, which
he did in a weak but distinct manner:

"My Reverend Brethren, I have frequently and earnestly begged your
prayers, but I beg them particularly at this moment. To all appear-
ances I shall shortly appear before my God and my Judge. Entreat
His infinite mercy to forgive me my sins. The abuse I made of His
graces and the bad example I may ever have given, the Sacraments I
have received without sufficient respect, the days in my life which I
ought to have consecrated only to the promotion of His honour and
glory. I was appointed to extend His holy religion in this country and
to gain over to His service and love multitudes of Souls. Ah! if any
(here the Archbishop raised his eyes and hands to Heaven) Ahl if any
one should be lost through my fault, beg Heaven to forgive me. I
repose all my confidence in the goodness of God and the merits of our

" Shea, op. cit., vol. ii, p. 674.

Last Years 827

dear Lord, J. C. I recommend myself to the powerful intercession of
His Blessed Mother and of all the saints, in hope that they will obtain
for me the pardon of my offenses.

4'. After this exhortation he received the Blessed Sacrament. . . .

5*. He received Extreme Unction. He did not expect that they would
give him that Sacrament. He put on the stole he had already taken oflf
after the prayers were over. He gave his solemn blessing to the assist-
ants, who went away reciting the Te Deutii.

6*. Tho' sick he seemed to be very fatigued. Too many people were
suffered to enter the room. He nearly fainted away and the room had
to be cleared.*'

During the week which followed before his death, he was sur-
rounded by the priests of his household. His sister, who had
come from Washington, watched at his bedside. His nephew,
Daniel Brent, Consul of the United States at Paris, has given us a
page describing his illustrious uncle's last days. Baltimore then
as now felt that its archbishop belonged to herself ; and all day
long a throng of reverent and prayerful friends, among them
some of the distinguished Protestant clergymen of the city, came
to take a last farewell. "His mind is as vigorous as it ever was,"
his nephew wrote at the time, "and whenever any person goes to
his room, you would be pleased and astonished at his readiness in
adapting his conversation and questions to the situation and cir-
cumstances of the person introduced. At times he is not only
cheerful, but even gay, and he is never impatient or fretful." *"
Robert Walsh is the authority for the following incident which
occurred just before his death.

His life was almost at the last ebb, and his surrounding friends were
consulting about the manner of his interment. It was understood that
there was a book in his library which prescribed the proper ceremonial,
and it was ascertained to be in the very chamber in which he lay. A
clergyman went as softly as possible into the room in search of it. He
did not find it immediately, and the Archbishop heard his footsteps in
the room. Without a word having passed he called to the clergyman,
and told him that he knew what he was looking for ; that he would find
the book in such a position on a certain shelf; and there accordingly it
was found. '°

** Case 12-V1 (Copy-book); printed in the Researches, vol. xxii, pp. 260-^61.

*• Brent, op. cit., pp. 207-208.

" In the Records (vol. xxviii, pp. 176-180) there is printed a manuscript, now in
the Catholic Archives of America, at the University of Notre Dame, which presumably
came from the Baltimort Cathedral Archives, containing an account of the last illness

828 The Life and Times of John Carroll

Archbishop John Carroll died on Sunday, December 3, 181 5,
in his eighty-first year.

On the Tuesday following, the Solemn Mass of Requiem was
chanted in St. Peter's pro-Cathedral, and he was laid away in
the vault of the Seminary chapel. Here his body remained until
the completion of the present Cathedral, when in 1824 it was
removed to its present resting-place, beneath the altar of that
historic edifice. Shea says :

Posterity has retained the veneration and esteem entertained in this
country for Archbishop Carroll, and the calm scrutiny of history in our
day recognizes the high estimate of his personal virtues, his purity, meek-
ness, prudence, and his providential work in moulding the diverse ele-
ments in the United States into an organized church. His administrative
ability stands out in high relief when we view the results produced by
others who, unacquainted with the country and the Catholics here, rashly
promised themselves to cover the land with the blossoms of peace, but
raised only harvests of thorns. With his life of large experience in civil
and religious vicissitudes, through whose storms his faith in the mission
of the Church never wavered, closed a remarkable period in the history
of the Church in the United States. ^^

Brent, his first biographer, has collected the sketches of Arch-
bishop Carroll which appeared at the time of his death. Never
before in the city of Baltimore was there witnessed a funeral pro-
cession "where so many of eminent respectability and standing
among us, followed the train of mourners," wrote one eye-

Distinctions of rank, of wealth, of religious opinion, were laid aside in
the great testimony of respect to the memory of the man. . . . According
to the particular disposition of every one, we heard the venerable Ardi-
bishop praised and lamented. The extent of his knowledge and the enlarge-
ment of his mind, fastened upon the men of liberal science. The
liberality of his character, and his Christian charity, endeared him to his
Protestant brethren, with whom he dealt in brotherly love. He was a
patriot and loved his native land, nor should Americans forget that his
exertions and benedictions as a man and as a Christian prelate were
given to the cause and independence of his country.

The praise heaped upon him after his death does not, however,
help us to see the man himself. To say that his manners and

and death of Archbishop Carroll. It is nothing more than Walsh's tribute which is
quoted here.

" Op. cit., vol. ii, p. 678.

Last Years 829

deportment — to quote one witness-^ were a model of the clerical
character, dignified, yet simple, pious, but not austere — is to
picture him as many an ecclesiastic since his day might be pic-
tured. His purity of life, his tenderness to the poor, and his
affectionate attachment to all of his Faith and opposing faiths, are
the principal notes struck at the time of his death. Robert Walsh
gives us an insight into the man himself :

No being that it has ever been our lot to admire, ever inspired us witli
so much reverence as Archbishop Carroll. The configuration of his head,
his whole mien, bespoke the metropolitan. He bore his superior facul-
ties and acquirements, his well-improved opportunities of information and
refinement, abroad and at home, his professional rank and his daily
honours, we will not say meekly, but so courteously, happily and un-
aflfcctedly that while his general character restrained in others all pro-
pensity to indecorum or presumption, his presence added to every one's
complacency, and produced a universal sentiment of earnest kindness
towards the truly amiable and truly exalted companion and instructor. . . .
He was wholly free from guile, uniformly frank, generous and placable;
he reprobated all intolerance ... his patriotism was as decided as his
piety ... he entertained no predilection for Great Britain or her govern-
ment. He loved republicanism ; and so far preferred his own country,
that if ever he could be excited to impatience or irritated, nothing would
have that effect more certainly than the expression of the slightest prefer-
ence, by any American friend, of foreign institutions or measures. He had
joined with heart and judgment in the Revolution; he retained without
abatement of confidence or favour, the cardinal principles and American
sympathies and hopes upon which he then acted.''^

Flaget could write from the pioneer surroundings of Kentucky,
when he heard the news of Carroll's death : "This holy man has
run a glorious career ; he was gifted with a wisdom and prudence
which made every one esteem and love him," ^^ but then come
words of praise that run into panegyric and so spoil the effect of
his eulogy. Du Bourg, with whom he had more than one mauvais
quart d'heiire over the project of St. Mary's College, wrote from
France, probably from Bordeaux : "He has certainly finished a
beautiful and glorious career; and we should rejoice for his sake
that God has called him to the recompence of his long labors."
Father Grassi in his Memorie ( 1818) has summed up Archbishop
Carroll's character in the following words: "To his courtesy of

" Cited by Brent, op. cU., pp. 310-213.
»» Spalding, Flaget, p. 146.

830 Thg Life and Times of John Carroll

demeanour was joined a rare goodness of heart, qualities which
won him the merited esteem and respect of the pubhc, not only
Catholic, but non-Catholic most hostile to the name of Roman
Catholic. In the eyes of some he was not cautious enough in
his choice of confidants, and he was prone to give in to Protes-
tants more than he should have done, and to appoint trustees
over churches when he could have done well without them, and
so averted all the troubles which our missionaries suffered at
the hands of those same persons, with damage to religion itself."

This, Father Hughes, the Jesuit historian, takes to be a fair
estimate of his character." But John Carroll did not create the
trustee system, nor did he approve it; he suffered it because it
was necessary as an American legal institution for the protection
of church property. Nor did he create all the methods employed
by the Corporation of the Clergy to protect the Jesuit estates
during the days of the Interim.

But with one phrase from Grassi, the word-picture of
America's first bishop might begin — rare goodness of' heart.
"Some may impute to me a too easy credulity," he wrote to
Plowden (June 2, 1809), "and the want of discernment in judg-
ing of mankind" (at the time of the difficulties between himself
and the revived Society), "but I have great difficulty in per-
suading myself that men whose whole lives have been devoted to
the service of religion and who, under trying occasions, have
served it successfully, can be acting a false and dishonorable
part." ^^ This ingenuousness he never lost until the end. The
treachery of priests to whom he confided important posts in the
Church of God in this country ; the deception practised upon him
by influential leaders in the Church ; the impossible trustees ; and
the difficulty he experienced when a foreign vanguard arrived to
restore the American province of his old Society — these and other
misunderstandings down the years of his leadership never seem to
have chilled the natural tenderness of the man's heart or to
have blighted the ecclesiastic's optimism.

During the whole of his spiritual reign, he ruled the flock
entrusted to him unperturbedly, despite the constant checks upon
its progress and its harmony. With the troublesome, the rebel-

" op. cit., Documents, vol. i, part ii, p. 830, note 46.
** Ibid., pp. 830-831.

Last Years 831

lious, the schismatic, and the scandal-giving, he acted with caution
and deh'cacy; but with such firmness that misrule saw no chance
to succeed within the borders of his government. Frankness was
his chief defect in a world bristling with chicanery and deception.
His piety does not obtrude, nor are his letters to his friends chan-
nels for the devout expressions so common to a certain kind of
religious correspondence. The devout priest of God is often
revealed from beneath the pallium which designated his power to
rule; as for instance on his death-bed, when he told Father
Grassi: "Of those things that give me most consolation at the
present moment is, that I have always been attached to the
practice of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, that I have
established it among the people under my care, and placed my
Diocese under Her protection." °" Archbishop Carroll's last will
and testament contain many personal bequests, among them
being "four hundred pounds sterling in five per cent stock" for
Georgetown College; "four shares of the stock of the Potomac
Company" to his nephew, Daniel Brent of Washington, D. C, to
whom he bequeathed also "my black servant Charles, to be how-
ever manumitted within twelve months after my decease, unless I
should do so previously thereto" ; his horses, carriages and har-
ness to his sister, Elizabeth Carroll ; and to Fathers Enoch Fen-
wick and Grassi the books he had recently ordered from

One unpublished estimate of Archbishop Carroll should be
given a place in these pages. It is that by Robert Gilmore,
written on May 9, 1844, ^"^ sent to the historian, B. U. Camp-
bell: "I was too young when he came to reside here in 1786 to
know much about him. It was somewhere between '95 and 1800
that I became intimate with him, from the kindness which he
always showed to young people which won their affections. He
was so mild and amiable and always cheerful, that we all took
delight in his society. My father esteemed him highly, and I
have often met him at his table, as well as those of most of the
gentlemen in town. He had great conversational powers, derived
from his extensive reading and his long stay abroad in England

°* United States Catholic UagaaiHg, vol. ii, p. 310.

" The will is dated, Baltimore, November a, 1815 (Baltimore Cathedral Archives,
Caa* 11-I4; printed in the Researches, vol. viii, pp. sa-5S).

832 The Life and Times of John Carroll

and on the continent. There were few subjects he was not
master of. He enjoyed the pleasures of the table in moderation,
and cheerful as he was, he never lost his dignity, but always
commanded respect and attention without the slightest appear-
ance of claiming either. It was impossible to treat him with
disrespect or even levity, for he had spirit enough to resent any
improper liberties taken with him and awed by his manner any
approach to impertinence. . . . The Archbishop in fact was a
thoroughbred, and a polished gentleman who put everybody at
their ease in his company while delighting them with his con-
versation." ^®

As the charioteer whom God set over the American Church —
so Cheverus had addressed him in 1810 at the establishment of
the hierarchy, using as his text the words addressed by Eliseus
to Elias — Pater mi, Pater mi, currus Israel et auriga ejus. As
charioteer he led the army of God through every danger with
a courage that none could gainsay, and with a success which is
his perennial memory in the annals of the Catholic Faith in the
Republic he had helped to create and to mould.

" Baltimore Cathedral Archives, Special C-Dio.




There is no complete bibliographical guide for church history
in general or for the general history of the Catholic Church in
the United States. The latest contribution to the subject — Mode,
Source Book and BihUograplucal Guide for American Church
History (Menesha, Wis., 1921) — is of very minor value to the
student of Catholic American history. Dr. Mode speaks of
"Rev." John Gilmary Shea ; and his selection of references dis-
plays not only a vague acquaintance with current Catholic his-
torical literature, but also a lack of technical knowledge of
archival source-material. We have for the Catholic Church in
the United States no book similar in character to the Guide
to the Study and Reading of American History by Channing-
Hart-Turner (Boston, 1912). It must be remarked however,
that this excellent bibliographical work systematically ignores
the subject of Catholicism in this country. Finotti's catalogue
of 'works written by Catholics and published in these United
States" has a misleading title: Bibliograpliia Catholica Amer-
icana (New York, 1872), since it includes only works pub-
lished from 1784 to 1820. The book has, however, a bibliophile
interest of a high degree. The bibliography printed in O'Gorman,
History of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States
(New York, 1907), is compiled without method and shows no
discrimination between works written by scholars and those by
amateurs. We have not, for example, for the eastern part of the
United States, such a critical disquisition on the source-material,
as will be found in Engelhardt, Missions and Missionaries of
California (cf. vol. ii, part i, pp. 21-46. San Francisco, 1912),
Shea gives no bibliographical list in any of his four volumes on
the History of the Catholic Church in the United States (1886-


834 The Life and Times of John Carroll

1892). His references are not always to be trusted and they are
given for the most part without method. The bibHographical
guides published in the Catholic Historical Review are of two
kinds: the "Catholic Encyclopedia" Diocesan Bibliography,
where under the Dioceses of Baltimore, New York, Boston,
Philadelphia, Bardstown and New Orleans, a very inadequate list
of authorities is printed (cf, vol. iv, pp. 264-265, 267-272, 391-
392) ; and the Guide to the Biographical Sources of the Amer-
ican Hierarchy, where under the names of Carroll, Neale,
Cheverus, Egan, Flaget, Concanen, Connolly and Du Bourg,
archival material as well as printed sources are listed {Ibid., vol.
vi). An admirably chosen bibliographical summary, of value for
the years of Carroll's life, is in O'Daniel, Life of Bishop Fen-
wick, pp. 445-452 (Washington, D. C, 1921). The Register and
Notices of the Sources, published in Hughes, History of the
Society of Jesus in North America, Colonial and Federal {Text,
vol. i, pp. 1-45; vol. ii, pp. 19-25. New York, 1907-1917), is
without doubt one of the most important contributions to Cath-
olic American bibliography in recent years. The range of
Father Hughes' searches was world-wide; and, although the
Register is compiled for the distinct purpose of studying the his-
tory of the Jesuits in colonial and national America, the citations
are invaluable for the student of this period. The English
colonies were (1634- 1773) exclusively a Jesuit Mission. The
support of the Church during the American Interim (1773-1806)
came largely from the revenues of the incorporated Jesuit estates ;
and during the remaining years of Carroll's hfe (1806-1815),
the restored Society had almost reached its former prestige as
the chief missionary body in the country, Hughes' two lists of
books on American Catholic life is the most complete published up
to the present day. The best general description of works on
American Catholic history is that contained in Shahan, L'Histoire
de I'Eglise Catholique aux Etats-Unis in the Revue d'Histoire
Ecclesiastique (Louvain), vol, i, pp, 679-684. Bishop Shahan
has classified the writings in American Church history under
the following heads: Relations with the Holy See; Conciliar
Legislation; History of the Missions; State of the Clergy;
Catholic Press; Catholic Historical Societies; and Archival
Depots. "Rien ne nous manque," he says at the end of his essay,

Critical Essay 835

"tant qu'une bibliographie generale de notre histoire ecclesias-
tique." The members of the American Church History Seminar
at the CathoHc University of America, Washington, D. C, have
in preparation a Guide to the Printed Sources for American
Church History, which will include all printed documents, books,
and periodical material on the history of the Catholic Church
within the present Iwrders of the United States, from 1492
to 1920.


The earliest Life of Carroll is that by Brent, Biographical
Sketch of the Most Rev. John Carroll, First Archbishop of Balti-
more, with Select Portions of his Writings (Baltimore, 1843).
This is a hastily compiled account of little historical worth and of
no literary value. It contains a few letters which are now lost,
but it cannot be wholly trusted. Bernard U. Campbell published
a series of articles entitled Memoirs of the Life and Times of the
Most Rev. John Carroll, in the United States Catholic Magazine
(Baltimore), vol. iii (1844), pp. 32-41, 98-101, 169-176, 244-248,
363-379. 662-669, 718-724; vol. V (1846), pp. 595-601, 676-679;
vol. vi (1847), pp. 31-34, 100-104, 144-148, 434-436, 482-485,
592-599; vol. vii (1848), pp. 91-106. From letters now in the
Baltimore Cathedral Archives Special C-D. i-io), it is evident
that Campbell pursued his subject in a systematic and methodical
manner. His queries to those then living who were able to
enlighten him on the events of Carroll's episcopate, are clearly
those of a scholar, and it is to be regretted that he never completed
his work. (Our citations in these pages to the United States
Catholic Magazine are to Campbell's Memoirs.) From Camp-
bell's time down to that of John Gilmary Shea, no attempt seems
to have been made to study Carroll's life. Shea's volume, The
Life and Times of the Most Reverend John Carroll (being vol.
ii of his History of the Catholic Church in the United States),
was published at New York in 1888. Shea used the Baltimore
Cathedral Archives, and secured copies in Rome and elsewhere
of many of the documents necessary for his subject. These now
form the Shea Transcripts in the Georgetown College Archives.
Shea was a pioneer in this field and one of the earliest of our

836 The Life and Times of John Carroll

historians to recognize the necessity of going back to the sources.
As the father of American Church history, Shea's volumes are a
monument to himself and to his inspirers. Here and there, in his
Life of ArchbisJwp Carroll, he has marred his work with bias,
and occasionally the former Jesuit scholastic prevails over the his-
torian. His method is somewhat haphazard, and the chronological
rigidity which prevails in his Life of Carroll often produces
curious juxtapositions of facts and persons. Shea wrote quickly;

Online LibraryPeter GuildayThe life and times of John Carroll, Archbishop of Baltimore, 1735-1815 (Volume 2) → online text (page 44 of 48)