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FRANCE 

AND THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE 
AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

The Myth of French Interference 
(1783-1784) 




INSTITUT FRANgAIS DE WASHINGTON 



FRANCE 

AND THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE 
AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

The Myth of French Interference 
(1783-1784) 



Nihil Obstat: 

EDWARD F. COYLE, Censor 

Imprimatur: 

SB MICHAEL J. CURLEY, 

Archbishop of Baltimore 



LONDON: HUMPHREY MILFORD 
OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS 

PARIS: LIBRAEEUE E. DROZ 




MOST REVEREND JOHN CARROLL 

First Archbishop of Baltimore 



INSTITUT FRANCAIS DE WASHINGTON 

FRANCE 

AND THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE 
AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

The Myth of French Interference 
(1783-1784) 

BY 

JULES A. BAISNEE 




BALTIMORE 

THE JOHNS HOPKINS PRESS 
1934 



COPYRIGHT 1934, THE JOHNS HOPKINS PRESS 






FEINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMEEICi 
BT J. E. FUBST COMPANY, BALTIMORE, MARYLAND 



-vr C ^ - A 



10978 






" Certainly, if produced separately without its connec- 
tion and the realistic setting of its lights and shades, the 
statements, implications and insinuations which belong to 
[a document] are to the extent of their detachment from 
supplementary facts, serenely independent as well of control 
as possibly of truth." 

T. HUGHES in The History of the 
Society of Jesus in North America, I: 1158. 



TABLE OF CONTENTS 



PAGE 

INTRODUCTION l 

CHAPTER 

I. BACKGROUNDS OF THE NEGOTIATION 

A. The Problem Confronting the Holy See ... 7 

B. The Problem Confronting American Catholics . . 11 

C. The French Problem and the French Attitude . . 15 

II. ROMAN INITIATIVE, 1783 21 

APPENDICES 

1. Instructions for the Nuncio in Paris, January 15, 

1783 45 

2. The Nuncio in Paris to the Cardinal Prefect of 

the Propaganda, February 10, 1783 ... 48 

3. The Cardinal Prefect to the Nuncio, March 19, 

1783 49 

4. Note of the Nuncio to Franklin, July 28, 1783 . 49 

5. Franklin's Observations on the Note of the 

Nuncio (undated) 50 

6. Franklin's Note on American Catholics (un- 

dated) 51 

7. The Nuncio to the Cardinal Prefect, September 

1, 1783 52 

8. The Cardinal Prefect to the Nuncio, September 

27, 1783 54 

9. The Nuncio to the Cardinal Prefect, October 20, 

1783 57 

10. Franklin to the Comte de Vergennes, December 

15, 1783 57 

11. The Archbishop of Bordeaux to Franklin, De- 

cember 27, 1783 58 

12. (a) The Archbishop of Bordeaux to the Comte 

de Vergennes, December 27, 1783 (trans- 
lation) 59 

(b) French original of above 60 

13. The Comte de Vergennes to the Archbishop of 

Bordeaux, January 8, 1784 (draft in French) 61 

vii 



viii TABLE OF CONTENTS 

CHAPTER PAGE 

14. French original of Talleyrand's Observations on 
Franklin's letter of December 15, 1783 (un- 
dated) 61 

III. FRENCH COOPERATION, MAY 1784 .... 63 

APPENDICES 

1. La Luzerne to the Comte de Vergennes, Janu- 

ary 31, 1784 79 

2. The Cardinal Prefect to the Nuncio, April 7, 

1784 80 

3. The Nuncio to the Comte de Vergennes, May 

12, 1784 80 

4. (a) The Nuncio to la Luzerne, May 12, 1784 

(translation) 80 

(b) French original of above 81 

5. The Nuncio, in the name of the Prefect, to la 

Luzerne, May 12, 1784 82 

6. The Nuncio to a Missionary in America, May 

12, 1784 84 

7. The Nuncio to the Cardinal Prefect, May 17, 

1784 84 

8. The Cardinal Prefect to the Nuncio, May 29, 

1784 87 

9. The Nuncio to the Cardinal Prefect, May 31, 

1784 87 

10. (a) Barbe-Marbois to the Comte de Vergennes, 

August 15, 1784 88 

(b) French original of above 89 

11. (a) Barbe-Marbois to the Comte de Vergennes, 

March 27, 1785 (translation) ... 90 
(b) French original of above 92 

12. Otto to the Comte de Vergennes, January 2, 

1786 94 

IV. ROMAN DECISION, JUNE 1784 95 

APPENDICES 

1. Memorandum respecting Catholic Missions in 

the United States (undated) 113 

2. The Cardinal Prefect to the Nuncio, June 9, 

1784 114 

3. The Cardinal Prefect to John Carroll, June 9, 

1784 117 



TABLE OF CONTENTS ix 

CHAPTER PAGE 

4. The Cardinal Prefect to Bishop James Talbot, 

June 19, 1784 118 

5. The Cardinal Prefect to the Nuncio, June 30, 

1784 119 

6. Extract from Franklin's Private Journal, July 1, 

1784 120 

7. Charles Plowden to John Carroll, July 3, 1784. 120 

8. The Nuncio to the Cardinal Prefect, July 5, 1784 122 

9. The Nuncio to John Carroll, July 5, 1784 . . 123 

10. The Cardinal Prefect to the Nuncio, July 31, 

1784 124 

11. Franklin to the Nuncio, August 18, 1784 . . 125 

12. The Nuncio to the Cardinal Prefect, August 23, 

1784 125 

13. The Cardinal Prefect to the Nuncio, September 

25, 1784 .126 

14. The Cardinal Prefect to the Nuncio, December 

11, 1784 127 

15. Instructions to the Nuncio Dugnani, May 24, 

1785 128 

V. AMERICAN REACTION, October 1784 and Aftermath 129 

APPENDICES 

1. Charles Plowden to John Carroll, September 

2(?), 1784 145 

2. John Carroll to Charles Plowden, September 15, 

1784 146 

3. Barbe-Marbois to John Carroll, October 27, 1784 147 

4. Memorial to the Holy Father, November 1784. 148 

5. John Carroll to Father Thorpe, February 17, 

1785 149 

6. John Carroll to the Nuncio, February 27, 1785. 153 

VI. THE MYTH OF FRENCH INTERFERENCE 

A. Bernard U. Campbell (1844) 155 

B. De Courcy-Shea (1856) 157 

C. John Gilmary Shea (1888) 159 

D. Thomas O'Gorman (1895) and Thomas Campbell 

(1899) 166 

E. Peter Guilday (1922) 170 

BIBLIOGRAPHY 181 



INTRODUCTION 

No period in the history of a nation or of an organization 
is more fascinating than that of its origin, and, for its mem- 
bers, no task is more sacred and inviting than that of search- 
ing and describing in their most minute details the events 
which marked its birth, and the influences which helped to 
shape its destiny; hence the multitude of recent researches 
into the origin of the American Colonies, the great ordeal of 
the War of Independence, and of the first working out of 
democratic institutions in the United States, hence also, on 
the part of American Catholics, the number of historical 
studies on the early missions and the causes and vicissitudes 
of the growth of the Church on the American Continent. 

One problem the establishment of the Catholic hier- 
archy has particularly engaged the attention of Catholic his- 
torians in the United States. As early as 1844, Bernard U. 
Campbell dealt with it in his " Memoirs and Times of the 
Most Reverend John Carroll," published serially in the 
United States Catholic Magazine; in 1856, John Gilmary 
Shea gave his first version of the event in an enlarged edition 
of Henry de Courcy's The Catholic Church in the United 
States. Pages of its History, and in 1888, fhe same his- 
torian devoted to it two long chapters of his Life and Times 
of the Most Rev. John Carroll, Bishop and First Archbishop 
of Baltimore. He was followed a few years later by Thomas 
O'Gorman, Professor of Church History in the Catholic Uni- 
versity, who gave to the American Church" History Series a 
History of the Catholic Church in the United States (1895), 
and by Thomas J. Campbell's paper on " The Beginnings of 
the Hierarchy in the United States," contributed to The His- 
torical Records and Studies of the United States Catholic 
Historical Society, Volume I (1899). The last author to 
speak with authority on the subject was Dr. Peter Guilday, 



2 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

also of the Catholic University, who, in 1922, published his 
Life and Times of John Carroll (1735-1815). 

In comparing accounts o the event given by these six his- 
torians, one is struck by the great difference between the 
earlier and later authors. While Bernard U. Campbell and 
Henry de Courcy express their satisfaction over the happy 
manner in which American Catholics gained their religious 
independence, Shea, O'!Gorman, Thomas Campbell and 
Guilday are regretful of the obstacles that had to be over- 
come before the Catholic Church in America could enjoy 
real autonomy. 

" It is strange," writes Gilmary Shea, 1 " that so much effort was 
required, and so many difficulties prevented the Catholic body in the 
United States, with their ancient churches and regular succession of 
priests, from obtaining a concession [the appointment, immediately 
after the successful ending of the War of Independence, of an eccle- 
siastical Superior, Prefect, Vicar Apostolic or Bishop] which had, 
through the influence of Spain, been granted to Dr. Camps for his 
little flock in Florida, to the superior of the Franciscans in New 
Mexico, and, about this very time, to the superiors of the same order 
in Texas and California." 

And, looking for the sources of these difficulties, the author 
traces them to an attempt made by France at this juncture, to 
capitalize for her political prestige the friendship of the 
United States; he even goes so far as, bitterly to denounce 
the French " scheme for the enslavement of American Catho- 
lics." Thomas O'Gorman, Thomas Campbell and Dr. Guil- 
day echo Shea's plaint; the first exposing what he considers 
to be an attempt made at " de-Americanizing the Church in 
the United States at its very birth by making it a dependency 
of the Church of France" (p. 261), the second denouncing 
" the machinations of Marbois to get control of everything 
ecclesiastical [in America] for political purposes " (p. 273), 
and the last devoting a whole chapter (XIII) of his work to 

1 Life and Times of the Most Rev. John Carroll, p. 223. 



INTRODUCTION 3 

the " French Ecclesiastical Interference in the American 
Church." 

Two men in particular are held responsible for this 
" meddling " in the internal affairs of the United States: 
Barbe-Marbois, who in June 1784, upon the retirement of 
the Chevalier de la Luzerne as French Minister to the United 
States, was promoted from the office of Consul General to 
that of Charge d' Affaires, and de Talleyrand-Perigord, 
Bishop of Autun, who held the post of Minister of Eccle- 
siastical Benefices in the Comte de Vergennes' cabinet. The 
former is charged by Gilmary Shea, O'Gorman, and Thomas 
Campbell with having conceived the scheme of subjecting 
American Catholics, not to a superior chosen from among 
them, but to one nominated by the French Court and resid- 
ing in France; the latter is suspected by Dr. Guilday of hav- 
ing elaborated a plan through which France would find in 
her control over the Church in the United States a partial 
recompense for the sacrifices she had made for the triumph 
of the cause of American independence. 

But it is not only Church historians who resent this alleged 
act of French interference in the affairs of American Catho- 
lics; other historians have seized upon the seeming abuse of 
America's natural gratitude towards its first and only ally to 
belittle the motives of French intervention in the War of In- 
dependence, and to denounce the so-called French policy of 
intrigue and selfish nationalism. Typical of this attitude are 
the remarks with which Carl Russell Fish prefaces his collec- 
tion of " Documents relative to the Adjustment of the Roman 
Catholic Organization in the United States to the Conditions 
of National Independence, 1783-1789 " : 2 

The correspondence furnishes another illustration of the di- 
vergence of French and American interests which was, apparent in 
the peace negotiations. The French government was undoubtedly 

3 American Historical Review, Vol. XV (October 1909 to July 1910), 
p. 801. 



4 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

influenced in making its liberal offers of educational assistance by 
the desire to strengthen in America the party which favored the 
French alliance, and it was only the protest of the American Catho- 
lics which prevented their being brought into closer dependence upon 
France. 

Naturally there was no dearth of students more familiar 
with the real character of the French policy towards the 
United States in the years of the Revolution, who resented the 
unjust severity of this presentation of the role of France; but 
the story of French meddling in the affairs of American 
Catholics went practically unchallenged for half a century, 
and it seemed reasonable to yield to the authority of a thesis 
presented with all the apparatus of the most exacting his- 
torical criticism. It was therefore almost reluctantly and fear- 
ing to undertake a futile task, that I allowed myself to be 
persuaded by a friend whose faith in the integrity of France 
had not faltered, to attempt a reexamination of the evidences 
of the case. I was also prompted by a sense of duty, not only 
to truth but to international understanding, for this supposed 
instance of French interference has been accepted without 
discussion by many history teachers. 

I began the work of assembling all available documents, of 
arranging them chronologically, and endeavored in their light 
to reconstruct the whole negotiation on which has been based 
the charge of French intrigue and interference; and as I read, 
with the one desire of discovering the truth, pleasant or un- 
pleasant, conviction grew to certainty that this accusation was 
altogether unfounded, and that the " scheme " indignantly 
denounced by Gilmary Shea was purely imaginary. Far from 
attempting to use religion as a means to secure her influence 
in the United States, France in 1783-4 showed only a gener- 
ous and disinterested cooperation with the Holy See and the 
American representative in trying to provide for the needs of 
the Church in the land she had been the first to befriend and 
recognize as an independent nation. 



INTRODUCTION 5 

The account of this episode in Franco-American relations 
is based solely on contemporary evidence and supported by 
documents at the end of each chapter; indeed many pages 
of the narrative are merely transcriptions of these documents 
which speak for themselves and contain first-hand informa- 
tion regarding the negotiations by the men who conducted 
them. 

Most of the documents have already appeared in print. 
Bernard U. Campbell, John Gilmary Shea, and Dr. Peter 
Guilday have given many of them in extenso, others are 
found in Bancroft's History of the Formation of the Consti- 
tution of the United States of America (New York, 1882) , 
and in various publications. Of first importance is the col- 
lection of " Propaganda Documents " published in their origi- 
nal languages, in the American Historical Review, July 1910, 
by Carl Russell Fish, and in translation by E. P. Devitt, S. J., 
in the Records of the American Catholic Historical So- 
ciety of Philadelphia, December 1910. The principal contri- 
butions to the dossier of the affair contained in this present 
volume are a note endorsed January 4, 1784, from the Bishop 
of Autun, and an important postscript to la Luzerne's letter 
of January 31, 1784. Published translations of Latin, French 
and Italian documents have been used, with only minor cor- 
rections made in collating them with the originals. 

I wish to acknowledge a debt of gratitude to Miss Eliza- 
beth S. Kite, who first called my attention to the use John 
Gilmary Shea made of Barbe-Marbois' letters, which has 
given a semblance of truth to the popular legend of French 
interference; to Dr. Gilbert Chinard, to whom I owe the let- 
ter of the Bishop of Autun and the postscript of la Luzerne's 
letter; and to Dr. James Brown Scott, without whom the 
Institut Frangais de Washington would not have come into 
being and carried on its publication of Franco- American His- 
torical Documents. 



CHAPTER ONE 

BACKGROUNDS OF THE NEGOTIATION 

It may be assumed that the reader is familiar with the 
political and religious situation in America at the time the 
negotiation leading ultimately to the establishment of the 
American Hierarchy was undertaken; but a clearer idea of 
the true character of this negotiation and a fairer estimate of 
the French part in it may perhaps be formed by giving a brief 
sketch of its historical background. As three parties either 
took a hand in it, or were interested in its outcome, an 
attempt will be made always in the light of contemporary 
documents to outline the role of the Holy See, of the 
American Catholics themselves, and of the French Govern- 
ment, in the solution of the problem of supplying an organi- 
zation for the new national church in the United States. 

A. THE PROBLEM CONFRONTING THE HOLY SEE 

Attention has already been called to Gilmary Shea's sur- 
prise at the slowness with which the Holy See proceeded to 
give a hierarchy to the Catholics of the United States, 
whereas the Catholics of the colonies returning to Spain were 
promptly provided with ecclesiastical superiors. This sur- 
prise must be ascribed to the author's failure to recall the 
great difference between conditions existing in the thirteen 
States, and those obtaining in the southern provinces, at the 
end of the Revolutionary War. The Spanish colonies had 
suffered only a temporary separation from the mother- 
country; when they returned to the authority of Spain's 
Catholic government, they were assured of a support readily 
granted to them and, in view of which, the Holy See quickly 
proceeded to the establishment of a regular hierarchy in 
those provinces. The problem confronting the Holy See in 

7 



8 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

the new American republic was, however, decidedly different. 
The United States had won their independence from England 
through a long and bloody conflict which had left unhappy 
memories and not a little rancor in the hearts of many 
Americans. The religious, as well as the political allegiance 
of Catholics and non-Catholics had been severed, and a new 
order had to be established for the American church, with 
no friendly government ready to lend its assistance. 

The situation, perfectly understood in Rome, 1 is very 
neatly stated in the first Roman document relative to the 
matter. Thus, it may be read in the Instructions sent by the 
Prefect of the Propaganda under date of January 15, 1783: 2 

. . . The independence of the United Provinces of America hav- 
ing been established, and it being possible to foresee that some 
other country or province may pass under a new rule, it seems expe- 
dient that the Holy Father take thought and care for the exercise and 
for the maintenance of the Catholic religion in those states. 

To this end, it is necessary that Monseigneur the Nuncio be in- 
formed that all the possessions of England on the continent, or on 
the islands, of America were in spiritual dependence upon the Vicar- 
Apostolic of London, not only in accordance with a very ancient 
custom, but, also, upon the authority of the decrees of the Sacred 
Congregation of the Propaganda, approved by several of the Sover- 
eign Pontiffs; to which, however, there is the exception of Canada, 
where, after the territory had passed under British dominion, its own 
Bishop was left to it, at Quebec, as under French rule, conformably 
with article IV. of the treaty that was signed at Paris on the 10th 
of February, 1763. All the missionaries of the remainder of those 
vast territories received their powers for the exercise of the apostolic 
ministry from the Vicar-Apostolic of London. The number of 

1 The Sovereign Pontiff was Pius VI, who, in 1775, had succeeded Clement 
XIV. Cardinal Borromeo was his Secretary of State, and Cardinal Antonelli 
was Prefect of the Congregation of the Propaganda. The Papal Nuncio in 
Paris was Prince Doria Pamphili, Archbishop of Seleucia, who held this 
office until the Spring of 1785, when he was elevated to the Cardinalate, and 
replaced in Paris by Monsignor Dugnani. Most of the information contained 
in this volume will be taken from the official correspondence between the 
Cardinal Prefect and the Nuncio. 

* See Chap. II, Appendix No. 1, p. 45. 



BACKGROUNDS OF THE NEGOTIATION 9 

Catholics in those English possessions, and the extent to which the 
Catholic religion flourishes there, are not known with precision. . . . 
. . . Now, as the approaching declaration of the independence 
of all these provinces will destroy the bonds of their political and 
civil subordination to the British government, it will thereby destroy 
all bonds in religious matters, and therefore, the Vicar- Apostolic of 
London will be deprived of the influence and direction that he has 
exercised, until now, in the religious affairs of those provinces. 

The Holy See had to consider not only the new American 
nationalism, but also the religious bigotry which was wide- 
spread throughout the liberated colonies, and affected 
Anglican as well as Catholic organizations. Any attempt at 
establishing a hierarchy might be expected to arouse the 
latent opposition of many Protestants to the very idea of an 
episcopate. This must have been realized by the Roman 
authorities, who surely were not unaware of the failure of 
the mission entrusted ten years previously (1772) to the 
Bishop of Quebec, to administer the sacrament of Confirma- 
tion in the English colonies outside his own diocese. In a 
letter of April 22, 1773, addressed to that Prelate, Father 
Farmer, one of the Jesuit missionaries of Philadelphia, said: 3 

It is incredible how hateful to non-Catholics in all parts of 
America is the very name of Bishop, even to such as should be mem- 
bers of the Church which is called Anglican. Whence many con- 
sidered it a most unworthy measure that a Bishop be granted to the 
Canadians; and, as for several years past the question is being 
agitated in England of establishing in these Provinces a Protestant 
Bishop of the Anglican Communion, so many obstacles were found, 
due especially to the character of the Americans (of whom most of 
the early colonists were dissidents from the Anglicans, not to men- 
tion such as left our own faith) that nothing has as yet been effected. 
Hardly I can persuade myself that the Right Reverend (Bishop) 
might succeed in obtaining from the Governor of Canada or from 
the King, the faculty of exercising his power beyond the limits of 
the Provinces belonging formerly to the Canadian government, and 
lately ceded by treaty to the English. 

8 See Guilday, Life and Times of John Carroll, pp. 160-61. 



10 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

An appreciation of this condition enables one to under- 
stand why the first step taken by the Prefect of Propaganda 
towards the establishment of the American hierarchy should 
be a proposition directed to Congress, whose agreement 
thereto was deemed requisite. And, assuming the consent of 
Congress, the Holy See had to survey the resources, in men 
and in money, upon which it could count to restore normal 
Catholic activities in the new Republic. Rome knew that, 
for some time at least, owing to the severance of the political 
and religious bonds between the United States and England, 
no English clergyman would be welcome in America espe- 
cially should he come vested with official jurisdiction. 
Moreover, ten years had elapsed since the suppression of the 
Society of Jesus, to which belonged the missionaries of 
Maryland and Pennsylvania, and even if there was no 
accurate information as to the number of those missionaries, 
Rome must have rightly guessed that they were few, im- 
poverished by the war, and lacking educational facilities for 
training young men to fill the gaps that death had created in 
their ranks. It was therefore not unnatural that the Holy See 
should think of France, with her long tradition of faith and 
missionary work, France who had won the friendship of the 
new Republic by espousing the cause of its independence. 
So the Cardinal Prefect sought the good offices of the French 
Court, confidently expecting the patronage of His Most 
Christian Majesty " for concerting a plan of missions and 
missionaries for the service of Catholics in the Republic," 
and, for the support of these missionaries looking not only 
to the charity of the faithful, but to the " liberal munifi- 
cence " of the king. Such, six months before the actual 
opening of negotiations, was the Roman conception of the 
problem, and of its solution. 



BACKGROUNDS OF THE NEGOTIATION 11 

B. THE PROBLEM CONFRONTING AMERICAN 
CATHOLICS 

How did the American Catholics view this problem which 
caused such concern to the Holy See ? * Dr. Guilday 5 gives a 
detailed account of the attempts made several years prior, 
both in Rome by the Propaganda, and in London by Bishop 
Challoner, the Vicar-Apostolic, to establish a regular hier- 
archy in the American colonies, and of the steadfast opposi- 
tion to this project by the American Catholics. The reasons 
upon which both clergy and laity based their opposition can- 
not be discussed here, but one fact is unmistakably clear: at 
this time, no bishop or vicar apostolic was wanted by Ameri- 
can Catholics. " We therefore," concludes the remonstrance 
sent July 16, 1765, by the American laity to the English 
Jesuit Provincial, "by all that is sacred, intreat you, H[on- 
ored] Sir, as head of the Gen[tleme]n we have for our teach- 
ers, that you will be pleased to use all y(ou)r interest to 
avert so fatal a measure, & as far as you judge necessary or 
proper for that purpose, to transmit copys hereof to all it may 
concern." On the same day, Charles Carroll, who was one of 
the signers of the remonstrance, wrote a personal letter to 
Bishop Challoner, in which he urged the same arguments 
against the appointment of an American bishop or vicar 
apostolic: 

*From John Carroll's Report to the Propaganda, March 1, 1785, it is 
learned that the Catholic population of the colonies was some 24,500, to 
which should be added about 14,500 whom Barbe-Marbois counted in the 
region from the Illinois to the southern States. There were twenty-four ex- 
Jesuits, with Father Lewis as their superior, ministering to the first group. 
Of these, John Carroll was one of the youngest, and it is from his corre- 
spondence with his confreres, Charles Plowden of London, and Father Thorpe 
of Rome, that most of the information used in this study regarding the 
attitude and activities of the American clergy has been drawn. 

5 " Opposition to the American Bishopric, 1765-1784," Life and Times of 
John Carroll, Chapter XI. 



12 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

Should an Apost[olic] Vicar, or Priest of any other Denomination 
be sent amongst us, I am fearful ye peace & harmony w[hi]ch has 
so long subsisted, will be very soon banished. I have many reasons 
to alledge ag[ain]st such a step, too tedious to trouble you with, and 
of w[hi]ch many must be obvious to y[ou]r L[or]dship. Y[ou]r 
L[or]dship must know, y[a]t [that] for many years past attempts 
have been made to establish a Protestant Bishop on this continent, 
and y[a]t such attempts have been as constantly oppos'd thro the 
fixed avertion ye people of America in general have to a person of 
this character. If such is the avertion of Protestants to a Protestant 
Bishop, with w[ha]t an eye will they look upon an Apost[olic] 
Vicar? I am confident no one here has ever thought such a person 
necessary. 6 

Mention has already been made of the protest raised by 
Father Farmer, of Philadelphia, against the proposed visit of 
the Bishop of Quebec to the English colonies in 1773, for the 
purpose of administering the sacrament of Confirmation. The 
conviction that the Puritan spirit then dominant in the 
colonies was hostile to all hierarchy, seems to have been gen- 
erally held, not only among American Catholics, but even 
among the Anglicans. It must have been deeply impressed 
upon Barbe-Marbois, French Charge d' Affaires, as a result of 
his close association with Charles Carroll and other members 
of the Church, and inspired the cautious action he was to 
counsel in 1785. 

Turning from the American Catholic laity to the clergy, 
the same attitude of opposition to an American bishopric is 
apparent; but to the general reasons weighing on the minds 
of the laymen, the clergy could add special reasons plain to 
the reader if he recalls the suppression of the Society of Jesus 
in 1773, and the character of some of the Roman Congrega- 
tions at the end of the eighteenth century. Under pressure of 
the European Catholic Powers led by Pombal, the Prime Min- 
ister of Portugal, Pope Clement XIV had sacrificed the 
Jesuits and suppressed their Society. The psychological effect 

' Guilday, pp. 155-56. 



BACKGROUNDS OF THE NEGOTIATION 13 

of that terrible blow upon all members of the Company, and 
particularly upon the missionaries whose labors in far lands 
were so absolutely free from all suspicion of political in- 
trigue, may be easily imagined. The Society, from its founda- 
tion, had always been at the vanguard for the defence and 
propagation of the Catholic faith, and the Jesuits could not 
but feel aggrieved at the weakness shown by the Holy See in 
their behalf; it was therefore not unnatural that they should, 
henceforth, be suspicious of any project regarding them which 
emanated from the Congregation of the Propaganda. So ut- 
terly unacceptable was the idea of the irreparable extinction 
of their Society that many ex- Jesuits throughout the world 
still entertained the hope of seeing its restoration after the 
passing of the devastating storm; and that hope was particu- 
larly strong in the hearts of the American Jesuits, who looked 
upon their rich Maryland plantations as a means left in their 
hands by Providence for the reorganization of their mission- 
ary and educational activities in more auspicious days hence 
their fear of losing control over their estates, their almost 
instinctive distrust of the Propaganda, and the precautions 
they felt in duty bound to take against any possible encroach- 
ment upon their rightful possessions. 

Among the resolutions passed by the delegates of the clergy 
at Whitemarsh in October 1784, one was to the effect that 
" a bishop is at present unnecessary," and another, that " if 
one be sent, it is decided by the majority of the chapter that 
he shall not be entitled to any support from the present es- 
tates of the clergy." 7 And in a letter dated September 26, 
1783, to Charles Plowden, John Carroll wrote: 8 

Your information of the intention of Propaganda gives me con- 
cern no farther, than to hear that men, whose institution was for 
the service of religion, should bend their thoughts so much more to 
the grasping of power and the commanding of wealth. 

'Campbell, United States Catholic Magazine, Vol. Ill (1844), p. 373. 
8 Guilday, p. 167, note. 



14 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

One may well ask how this attitude agrees with the pro- 
fession of the Catholic loyalty; for the Pope is, the center of 
Catholic unity, and no one vested with pontifical authority 
could arouse such suspicions on the part of men loyal in the 
practice of their religion. The answer to this puzzling ques- 
tion may be found in the same letter of John Carroll, where 
he expresses himself ready to recognize the spiritual author- 
ity of the Pope, but no less disposed to resist any encroach- 
ment of the Congregation of the Propaganda. In words 
which betray a deep feeling, he declares he will go as far as 
appealing to the civil power to prevent or correct any attempt 
of that Congregation to exercise control over the temporal 
possessions of the American clergy; and the reason for his 
attitude is clearly stated. Like his fellow-Catholics, he was 
keenly conscious of his non-Catholic compatriots' " republi- 
can jealousy " of foreign meddling in American affairs, and 
he was unwilling to risk arousing their prejudices against the 
small body of American Catholics. 

One may wonder at the distinction which that loyal but 
prudent churchman made between the Pope, and the Con- 
gregation through which the Pope exercised his authority; but 
this wonder will vanish when it is recalled that at the end of 
the eighteenth century the Pope was not only the head of the 
Church, but also a temporal monarch. As head of the 
Church, he commanded and received unswerving loyalty 
from all; the faithful, but as a temporal power he ruled a 
State whose interests might conflict with those of other States. 
Some of the Roman Congregations (which are so many de- 
partments of the Church administration) were occupied with 
purely spiritual problems, and others with purely temporal 
affairs; and there was yet a third group whose jurisdiction, 
whether purely spiritual or involving some element of tem- 
poral power, viewed from so great a distance it was difficult 
to determine. Such seems to have been the view taken of the 
Propaganda by the Catholics of the American colonies during 



BACKGROUNDS OF THE NEGOTIATION 15 

the years immediately preceding and following the Revolu- 
tion, and every expression of protest against alien jurisdiction 
and " foreign meddling " to be found in the correspondence 
of John Carroll and his English friends may be regarded as 
directed against the Roman Congregation of Propaganda. 

C. THE FRENCH PROBLEM AND THE FRENCH 
ATTITUDE 

The problem of the reorganization of the Church in the 
United States was one affecting solely the Holy See and the 
American Catholics. Congress had adopted a policy of non- 
interference with religious bodies, and it was on his own ini- 
tiative and responsibility that Franklin dealt for a few months 
with a problem which, as United States Minister to the French 
Court, was not of his province. He acted, however, in re- 
sponse to advances made to him by the representative of the 
Holy See; and it was also the representative of the Holy See 
who brought the French government and members of the 
French hierarchy into a negotiation to which they might have 
reasonably expected never to have become parties. It is there- 
fore fitting that an attempt should be made to understand the 
spirit in which the French officials participated in that 
negotiation. 

The foreign affairs of France were at that time conducted 
by the Comte de Vergennes, who has come down in history 
as one of the ablest of French ministers, and as negotiator of 
the Treaty of Alliance with the United States. He was a man 
of high integrity, and the Nuncio's correspondence contains 
frequent expressions of admiration for his character, and 
appreciation of the cooperation he lent to the plans of the 
Holy See regarding the American Church. In this matter he 
was assisted by the Due de Talleyrand-Perigord, Bishop of 
Autun and Minister of Ecclesiastical Benefices, who, in 1782, 
had been elected General Agent for the Assembly of the 



16 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

French clergy. The French minister to the United States was 
the Chevalier de la Luzerne, praised by the Nuncio for his 
uprightness and absolute loyalty to the interests of the 
Church. He held his post from 1779 until June 1784, when 
he was replaced by the Marquis de Barbe-Marbois. That 
French intervention in the War of Independence had been 
partly motivated by considerations of national interest, 
need not be questioned; the loss of the colonies to England 
was undoubtedly advantageous to France, Great Britain's 
great rival as a world power. Nevertheless, the friendship 
shown towards Americans, not only by French volunteers, 
but by the French government, was genuine and truly merited 
the numerous tributes of gratitude penned by Benjamin 
Franklin. In writing, for instance, July 22, 1783, 9 to Robert 
Livingston, then Secretary of State, Franklin laments the lack 
of confidence shown towards France by some of the American 
delegates to the peace conference, and doubts the continuance 
of Franco-American amity, while he appreciates in these 
terms the disinterestedness of the Comte de Vergennes' 
policy: 

The judgment you make of the conduct of France in the peace, 
and the greater glory acquired by her moderation than even by her 
arms, appears to me perfectly just. The character of the court and 
nation seems, of late years, to be considerably changed. The ideas 
of aggrandizement by conquest are out of fashion, and those of 
commerce are more enlightened and more generous than before. . . . 
The wise here think France great enough; and its ambition at pres- 
ent seems to be only that of justice and magnanimity towards other 
nations, fidelity and utility to its allies. 

And a year later, May 12, 1784, 10 he pleads with Samuel 
Mather for the preservation of that friendship: 

This powerful monarchy continues its friendship to the United 
States. It is a friendship of the utmost importance to our security 
and should be carefully cultivated. 

9 Sparks, The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. IX, p. 536. 
Ibid., Vol. X,p. 84. 



BACKGROUNDS OF THE NEGOTIATION 17 

One may, then, understand the legitimate pride expressed by 
the Chevalier de la Luzerne, when, having returned to France, 
he reviewed his work and his impressions in a letter, Novem- 
ber 6, 1784, to Vergennes: " 

The just, generous, and, I may say, novel conduct which his 
Majesty has pursued has smoothed all the difficulties which I had 
foreseen. It has been easy for me to cause his character to be re- 
spected, and himself personally to be cherished, since his benefac- 
tions and services exceeded the expectations and the demands of his 
allies. The independence of the United States is the work of the 
king; this is an established truth which the Americans do not seek 
to dissimulate and it is, perhaps, the most memorable event which 
can honor the history of a nation or a reign. 

The Comte de Vergennes would, indeed, have been very 
happy to see the friendship which had been cemented by 
blood shed on the same battlefields, subsist between the two 
nations, but he had no illusion as to the permanence of the 
American sentiment, and although he continued to aid the 
United States financially, even after the signing of the pre- 
liminaries of peace and at great inconvenience to the realm, 
he soon realized what Franklin had felt bound to report to 
the American Secretary of State, namely, that forces were at 
work to destroy that sympathetic understanding. Early in the 
year 1783 (on February 6th), the French minister, la Lu- 
zerne, had written to Paris for instructions as to the future 
conduct of France towards the United States: 12 

In this state of things the question is asked, What ought to be the 
conduct of France? England will, no doubt, endeavor to deprive 
France of its new ally or make it useless. To the well-known causes 
of a reconciliation between that power and its ancient colonies there 
may be opposed perhaps jealousy, resulting from neighborhood, and 
even the interest of the United States; but these last considerations 
will have weight only in congress. It is in that body that the attach- 
ment to France will be preserved, while the inclination of habits, 
language, and customs will incline the people to England. 

11 Bancroft, History of the Constitution of the United States, Vol. I, p. 391. 
., p. 293. 
2 



18 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

La Luzerne's query anticipated a similar question in the 
mind of the Comte de Vergennes, who, only a few days later 
(February 27th) , wrote to the French minister in the United 
States: 1S 

Peace establishes a new order of things in America. The Ameri- 
cans, acknowledged henceforth by all the powers of Europe, will 
without doubt employ themselves in fixing the principles to serve 
as the basis of political and commercial relations which they will 
seek to establish everywhere, and principally with their former 
mother country. You will feel yourself, sir, that it is important 
for the king to be informed on this subject with the greatest prompti- 
tude, because his future conduct ought to be traced on the system 
that the United States will develop; although we do not count in 
any degree on the gratitude of the Americans, we nevertheless look 
upon our alliance with them as unalterable. 

The most explicit statement of the French attitude of non- 
intervention in the internal affairs of the United States, 
adopted on the eve of the negotiations to be initiated by the 
Papal Nuncio with Franklin, is found in a letter of the 
Comte de Vergennes to la Luzerne, July 21, 1783. 14 It was 
probably written in answer to the latter's request of February 
6th for directions, and reveals the deep feeling of the Prime 
Minister towards the American allies. If a tone of disap- 
pointment can be detected in that document, it nevertheless 
furnishes unmistakable evidence of the statesman's resolution 
not to attempt to influence the domestic arrangements reli- 
gious as well as political of the United States. The minister 
expressed regret at Franklin's application to Congress for his 
recall, and his hope that Congress might reject the petition, 
" for it would be impossible to give Mr. Franklin a successor 
so wise and so conciliating as himself." He then said: 

The representations that you have made to Mr. Morris, to prevent 
him from demanding of us new funds, have been fruitless. This 
superintendent of finance, abusing the facilities he has found on 

" Bancroft, p. 297. " Ibid., pp. 324-25. 



BACKGROUNDS OF THE NEGOTIATION 19 

our part up to the present time, has so multiplied his drafts that they 
exceed by nearly two millions the six that the king has granted for 
the present year. It would have certainly been very agreeable to the 
king to assist by new succors the finances of the United States ; but 
his majesty could not increase the burdens which weigh on his people 
for a nation which rejects, with unexampled obstinacy, every expe- 
dient thus far proposed to put an end to its distress. We have never 
founded our policy with regard to the United States on their grati- 
tude; this sentiment is infinitely rare among sovereigns, and repub- 
lics do not know it. Thus, sir, all that we have to do with regard to 
Americans is to let matters take their natural course, and for our- 
selves not to depart from the noble, frank, and disinterested march 
we have kept up to the present time with regard to the Americans. 
And if we cannot direct them according to the great principles which 
serve for the basis of our alliance with them, to take in season the 
necessary measures not to be the dupes of their ingratitude and of 
their mistaken policy. . . . We are without the means of influencing 
the domestic arrangements of the United States ; and, under all cir- 
cumstances, we can but be tranquil spectators of the commotions 
that their constitution and their internal relations can meet with. 

These texts give an insight into the character of the rela- 
tions existing between the French and the American govern- 
ments at the opening of the negotiations for the establish- 
ment of a Catholic hierarchy in the United States. The role 
of France will be better appreciated if it is borne in mind 
that America had clearly manifested her intention to be mis- 
tress in her own house, and that the French authorities had a 
perfect understanding of that attitude. They would lend 
their friendly offices, if requested to do so; but they wisely 
realized that they were " without the means of influencing 
the domestic arrangements of the United States," and they 
adhered faithfully to the line of conduct given by the Prime 
Minister to his representative in the new republic, namely, 
" to let matters take their natural course, and for ourselves 
not to depart from the noble, frank, and disinterested march 
we have kept up to the present time with regard to the 
Americans." 



CHAPTER TWO 
ROMAN INITIATIVE, 1783 

The peace preliminaries between the United States and 
England were signed at Paris, November 30, 1783. The 
Holy See, which had been watching the outcome of the con- 
flict between the colonies and the mother country, seized the 
opportunity now offered to secure the interests of the Catholic 
Church in the new nation; indeed as early as January 15, 
1783, Cardinal AntonelU, Prefect of the Propaganda, directed 
most precise instructions to Prince Doria Pamphili, the Papal 
Nuncio in Paris. An examination of this document, 1 initiat- 
ing the course of negotiations towards the organization of 
the Catholic Church in the United States, reveals the spirit in 
which the Holy See was to act in the whole affair, and the 
way in which France was brought into it. 

The Prefect informed the Nuncio that the Holy See did 
not consider the peace about to be concluded of sufficient im- 
portance to justify sending a legate to the peace congress. 
" Nevertheless," he wrote, " the independence of the United 
Provinces of America having been established, and it being 
possible to foresee that some other country or province may 
pass under a new rule, it seems expedient that the Holy 
Father take thought and care for the exercise and for the 
maintenance of the Catholic religion in those states." The 
Prefect then recalled the ecclesiastical status of the colonies, 
heretofore under the jurisdiction of the Vicar-Apostolic of 
London. He was unable, however, to describe the religious 
situation in the States, inasmuch as " the report of 1756, 
... is the last on this subject that the Vicar-Apostolic of 
London sent to the Congregation of Propaganda," but he 
foresaw that " as the approaching declaration of the inde- 

1 Appendix No. 1, p. 45. 

21 



22 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

pendence of all the provinces will destroy the bonds of their 
political and civil subordination to the British government, it 
will thereby destroy all bonds in religious matters." 

In the present circumstances, the Prefect mentioned the 
Holy See's having experienced " the efficacy of the protection 
that the King of France has given to religion when similar 
treaties of peace were to be concluded," and he instructed 
the Nuncio as follows: 

1) He should " effectively engage the zeal and piety of 
His Most Christian Majesty, to the end that, through the in- 
fluence which he has with the leaders of the American Con- 
gress, he may be pleased to procure an article concerning the 
free exercise and the maintenance of the Catholic Religion, in 
the solemn convention of peace, which is to be guaranteed by 
the public faith." 

2) " The task then should be to seek the patronage of His 
Most Christian Majesty for concerting a plan of missions and 
missionaries for the service of Catholics living in that 
republic." 

3) " The most obvious and the most desirable plan would 
be to establish in one of the principal cities a Vicar- Apostolic, 
with episcopal character, chosen from among the subjects of 
the new republic, ... if the leaders of the American Con- 
gress should be loath to admit a bishop into their country, 
there might be substituted, instead, a general prefect of those 
missions, ... if natives should be found available, they 
should always be preferred . . . but, if available natives 
should not be found, there should be permission to appoint 
foreigners, always, however, from among the most impartial 
and acceptable to the government." 

4) " There should be, also, an agreement concerning 
means for the temporal subsistence of these evangelical mis- 
sionaries," but as " it is doubtful . . . that the government 
will concur to that end . . . the Congregation of the Propa- 



ROMAN INITIATIVE, 1783 23 

ganda will be ready to assign an allowance to the bishop or 
to the prefect vicar-apostolic, hoping that the other mission- 
aries will receive their support from the charity of the faith- 
ful, and especially that if they be Frenchmen and for the 
service of subjects of His Most Christian Majesty, they will 
receive it from his royal and liberal munificence." 

These instructions are too clear to require comment. They 
reveal that the initiative in the negotiations was taken by the 
Holy See and that, from the beginning, the French govern- 
ment was counted upon to lend its good offices and give its 
material support to the undertaking; and this condition will 
obtain throughout the entire affair, whether the appeal for 
French cooperation and assistance comes from the Holy See, 
from Franklin, or, at a later date, from the American Jesuits 
themselves. 

On February 4, 1783, 2 the Nuncio " informed the Count 
of Vergennes of the solicitation that was transmitted" to 
him by the Cardinal Prefect. Regarding the first point of the 
instructions, the royal minister had already taken pains " to 
secure peace in religious matters for those subjects who re- 
turn to British rule," that is, for Canada; but regarding the 
United States, " which, in future, are to be recognized as a 
new sovereign republic," the minister declined to intervene 
between the American Government and their Catholic sub- 
jects. They had not been under French rule, and the French 
statesman, always a stickler for diplomatic proprieties, felt 
that he would not be justified in attempting to bring pressure 
on a French ally in a matter of purely internal policy. How- 
ever, the Nuncio was able to report that " the count promises 
himself that, as all religions, and their public practice, are 
tolerated in that country, upon principle, there will be con- 
sent, not only to the presence of Catholic missionaries, but, 
also, to the appointment of one of the citizens of that country 

'Appendix No. 2, p. 48. 



24 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

as Vicar-Apostolic with episcopal character." The Nuncio 
had ended his interview by begging the Comte de Vergennes 
" to inform Mr. Franklin . . . that I would have spoken to 
him of this matter, as I will do, when I shall have heard from 
the Count of Vergennes what Mr. Franklin may have had to 
say on the subject." When or whether, the projected inter- 
view between the Nuncio and Franklin took place cannot, in 
the absence of any reference to it in available documents, be 
ascertained; but even at this early stage of the proceedings 
the French minister had no doubt that Congress would ap- 
prove the appointment of a native American as Vicar- Apos- 
tolic with episcopal character. 

The next document for consideration is a letter dated 
March 19, 1783, 3 wherein the Cardinal Prefect expresses his 
gratification at the steps taken by Vergennes to secure in the 
treaty of peace with England, " the tranquility of our holy 
Catholic religion," and at the hope expressed by the Prime 
Minister, " not only that Catholic missionaries will be toler- 
ated in the United States of America, but that a native Vicar- 
Apostolic, with episcopal character, may be elected for that 
country." 

The mission entrusted to the Nuncio was indeed delicate; 
one need not be surprised if the papal representative waited 
until the end of July to deliver a formal note to the Ameri- 
can minister. The ground had to be prepared and, possibly, 
objections had to be removed from Franklin's mind before 
the Nuncio felt it prudent to approach him on a matter 
which seemed to lay outside the scope of the diplomat's 
mission. For that period no document has been found to 
permit a reconstruction of the Nuncio's activities, or the 
steps taken by the French minister to help him attain his 
object. 

Meanwhile the need of attempting, on their own initiative, 

"Appendix No. 3, p. 49. 



ROMAN INITIATIVE, 1783 25 

a reorganization of their spiritual and temporal administra- 
tion was felt by the clergy of Maryland and Pennsylvania. 
Bernard U. Campbell records that, 

A letter from several of the clergy having been addressed to Rev. 
Mr. Lewis, vicar of the bishop of London for Maryland and Penn- 
sylvania, etc., and superior at the time of the dissolution of the 
Society of Jesus, praying that he would attend a meeting which they 
conceived to be absolutely necessary for the preservation and well 
government of all matters and concerns of the clergy, and the service 
of religion in those countries, Mr. Lewis expressed his entire appro- 
bation of the design, and notice was accordingly given to the clergy 
generally of the time and place of meeting, and their attendance 
requested. 4 

Nine delegates met at Whitemarsh, Maryland, on June 27, 
1783. Their object " was agreed to be, to establish a form of 
government for the clergy, and lay down rules for the ad- 
ministration of their property." The first draft of the " form 
of government " was made at that meeting; it was to be 
revised at a subsequent meeting to be held the following No- 
vember, and it was finally adopted a year later, October 1784. 
It is important to bear these dates in mind, in order to form 
a correct idea of the mutual relations between the two plans 
for reorganization of the American missions one of which 
may be called the Roman plan, since it was conceived in 
Rome and carried out in Paris by the Roman Nuncio, while 
the plan of the ex-Jesuits may be called the American plan 
for the dates show whether the plans were antagonistic or 
merely parallel, and whether their respective authors were 
sufficiently informed of the existence and, especially, the char- 
acter of the other plan to be tempted to thwart it. 

The Roman plan was conceived at least six months before 
the other began to take form, and at a time when Roman 
authorities complained that they had long been without direct 
or indirect information of what was going on in the Ameri- 

4 Op. fit., VI, pp. 370-71. 



26 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

can missions. The American plan was under consideration 
when the news first reached America that the Roman authori- 
ties had formulated their views and sent their instructions to 
the Paris Nuncio ; but, as will be shown, even the announce- 
ment of John Carroll's selection as Prefect of the American 
missions, did not alter the views of the clergy on the oppor- 
tuneness of establishing an American episcopate. 

On July 28, 1783, the Nuncio addressed to Franklin a 
formal note 5 which embodied the proposals contained in the 
Prefect's instructions of January 15th. Realking that the 
dependence of American Catholics on the Vicar-Apostolic 
resident in London " can not be continued," and urging it to 
be " essential that the Catholic subjects of the United States 
have an ecclesiastic to govern them in what concerns their 
religion," the Congregation of the Propaganda " has deter- 
mined to propose to congress the installation of one of their 
Catholic subjects, in some city of the United States of North 
America, with the powers of vicar-apostolic, and with the 
character of bishop or simply as prefect apostolic." Prefer- 
ence is expressed for a Bishop Vicar Apostolic, " and as it 
might happen, at times, that no one be found among the 
subjects of the United States qualified to be entrusted with 
the spiritual government, whether as bishop or prefect 
apostolic, it would be necessary in such cases that congress 
be pleased to consent that the choice be made among the 
subjects of a foreign nation, the most friendly to the United 
States." 

Two points of this note must be stressed. The first is the 
Propaganda's determination to propose to Congress the 
appointment of " one of their Catholic subjects " as head of 
American Catholics; the second is the anticipation of the 
need of having recourse to the assistance of a foreign nation, 
in case that " no one be found among the subjects of the 
United States qualified to be entrusted with the spiritual 

8 Appendix No. 4, p. 49. 



ROMAN INITIATIVE, 1783 27 

government." Here we see exemplified the policy of the 
Holy See, both in its regard for national amour-propre, and 
in its concern for the needs of the Church. 

After reading the Nuncio's communication and " reflecting 
upon it maturely," Franklin despatched his " Observations 
on the Note of M. the Apostolic Nuncio," 6 and a little later, 
a " Note on American Catholics." T 

From the " Observations " we learn Franklin's first reac- 
tion to the proposal he had received from the Nuncio. He 
believed that " it would be absolutely useless to send it [the 
note] to the congress " ; but he gave as his personal opinion 
" that the Court of Rome may take, of its own initiative, all 
the measures that may be useful to the Catholics of America." 
He went even further than the Nuncio. The latter had 
merely expressed the hope that if no native American priest 
were qualified for the office of Vicar-Apostolic Congress 
would approve the appointment of an alien from a friendly 
nation. Franklin makes bold to express his belief " that 
Congress will not fail to give its tacit approval to the choice 
that the Court of Rome, in concert with the minister of the 
United States, may make of a French ecclesiastic, who, 
residing in France, may regulate the spiritual affairs of the 
Catholics ... in those States, through a suffragan residing 
in America." Franklin does not state what he considers the 
" many political reasons that may make that arrangement 
desirable," nor does he intimate how he himself came to 
amplify the plan which had been submitted to him in the 
name of the Propaganda. The fact is that it is under his 
pen we find the first and only recommendation of appointing 
a French bishop to regulate from Paris the affairs of 
American Catholics. 

Franklin's proposal has for a long time puzzled historians 
of the Catholic Church in the United States, and some have 
attempted to trace to French influence its formation in his 

8 Appendix No. 5, p. 50. T Appendix No. 6, p. 51. 



28 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

mind; but, in the absence of any actual reference to, or even 
hint of such influence in the correspondence of the Nuncio, 
of Franklin himself, or of any of the French officials taking 
part in the negotiation, this is a pure conjecture. Even such a 
conjecture is belied by the set policy of non-intervention in 
the internal affairs of the United States outlined, on the one 
hand, by Vergennes' instructions to la Luzerne, and on the 
other by the Nuncio's rejection of that part of Franklin's 
answer. One may even wonder whether it was brought to 
the Comte de Vergennes' attention before the month of 
December, when Franklin urged it on the Prime Minister, 
and the latter turned it over to the Bishop of Autun for 
examination. As to the Nuncio, his unfavorable reaction is 
evidenced in the report he sent, September 1st, to the 
Cardinal Prefect: 8 

" In this connection," he wrote, " I am of the opinion that, rather 
than a French ecclesiastic, the apostolic nuncio for the time being in 
France, in concert with that Sacred Congregation, might, himself, 
invest an ecclesiastic with the character of bishop, of prefect, or of 
vicar-apostolic for the government in question [of American 
Catholics]." 

In other words, he thought at once of reserving the rights 
and prerogatives of the Holy See. 

Franklin was evidently quite taken by the business, new 
to him, of helping to solve the problem of the reorganization 
of the Church in America for, in spite of the pressure of 
work which must have fallen upon him on the eve of the 
signing of the peace treaty (which was to take place Septem- 
ber 3rd) , he found time to devise further plans for the main- 
tenance of the American clergy, and for the education of 
American seminarians. To this end he addressed a second 
Note to the Apostolic Nuncio. 9 He begins with a statement 
of what he conceives to be the policy of Congress in matters 
of religion: " The unity of the present government seems to 

8 Appendix No. 7, p. 52. 'Appendix No. 6, p. 51. 



ROMAN INITIATIVE, 1783 29 

require that those bonds [between the Catholics of America 
and Great Britain] be diminished and weakened by taking 
from the British ministry all influence over the subjects of 
the United States." He then proceeds to the practical prob- 
lem facing American Catholics: the lack of an endow- 
ment for the clergy and the impossibility of making their 
support a public charge, and the lack of a Catholic insti- 
tution in the United States for training ecclesiastics. A 
solution occurred to the American minister: Why should 
not the King of France take over the four establishments 
of English monks in France, and apply their revenues to 
the training and support of ecclesiastics who would be sent 
to America? And "better to secure this object," Franklin 
renews his suggestion of appointing a French bishop, who 
would be one of those named by the Holy See, and who, 
residing in France, would always be in a position to act in 
concert with the Nuncio of His Holiness and the American 
minister, and to adopt, with them, those means for training 
the ecclesiastics most " agreeable to Congress and useful to 
American Catholics." A slight difference is to be remarked 
between the suggestion embodied in this note and that con- 
tained in the preceding one. While in his " Observations " 
Franklin conceived it to be the task of the French ecclesiastic 
" to regulate the spiritual affairs of the Catholics " of 
America, he here limits that task to seeing, in accordance 
with the Papal Nuncio and the American minister, to " the 
means of training the [American] ecclesiastics." The fluidity 
of Franklin's views are a proof that they represented his quick 
and spontaneous reactions, and so preoccupied was he with 
the practical financial side of the affair, that he failed to see 
the incongruity of a plan which would bring American 
Catholics under the jurisdiction of a French bishop and, 
apparently, he saw no injustice in the confiscation, at the 
end of a Franco-British war, of property belonging to British 
subjects resident in France. 



30 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

The Nuncio's report to the Cardinal Prefect gives his 
opinion of Franklin's plan. 10 He emphatically rejected the 
suggestion of confiscating the four English Benedictine estab- 
lishments. It " could not, and should not, be proposed, much 
less accepted." On the contrary, the Nuncio thought that the 
plan of appointing a French bishop with the limited charge 
of looking after the means of training the ecclesiastics, " de- 
serves all attention, tending, as it does, to the attainment 
of desirable ends." The same report adds that, " in order to 
take time to send a categorical reply to Mr. Franklin," the 
Nuncio merely acknowledged the receipt of his two notes 
and, moreover, " thought it well to give information of the 
contents of these papers to the Count of Vergennes, a true 
statesman, full of zeal and attachment for our holy Catholic 
religion." Whether or not the project of appointing a 
French bishop was mentioned by the Nuncio, and the im- 
pression it may have made at that time on the mind of the 
French minister is not known, as the report is silent on this 
point; but when the Nuncio " begged of him to facilitate 
the means of establishing a college in France for the educa- 
tion of as many priests as might be necessary," the royal 
minister assured him that he would " give all the assistance 
that it may be in his power to lend in that connection." And 
passing without delay to the manner of carrying out his 
promise of help, Vergennes directed the Nuncio to speak to 
" Monseigneur the bishop of Autun ... in order that he, 
by his lights, and by his good offices, may assist in the estab- 
lishment of the proposed college." He even suggested some 
city near the seashore as the most suitable place, and called 
the Nuncio's attention to the necessity of obtaining funds, of 
ascertaining the needs of the American missions, and of 
finding out whether America would supply candidates for 
the priesthood. 

The interview with the Bishop of Autun, who was, as we 

10 Appendix No. 7, p. 52. 



ROMAN INITIATIVE, 1783 31 

know, Minister of Ecclesiastical Benefices, took place on 
August 27, 1783, and the two prelates agreed to confer 
again, together with the Comte de Vergennes, the following 
Saturday, August 30th. This conference took place at Ver- 
sailles, and the Nuncio found both the Prime Minister and 
the Bishop of Autun " most desirous of obtaining the funds 
necessary" for the education of American missionaries. 
Here, also, it is interesting and important to observe that no 
reference was made to Franklin's suggestion of the appoint- 
ment of a French bishop. The entire attention of the Roman 
Nuncio and the French members of the conference was given 
to the problem of providing American Catholics with mis- 
sionaries. To facilitate the realization of that part of the 
project the Nuncio begged the Cardinal to obtain from " the 
prelate who is in charge of that mission " the Vicar Apos- 
tolic of London the information requested by Vergennes 
and the Bishop of Autun, and he announced his intention of 
writing " in quest of this information " to the Chevalier de 
la Luzerne, " who has been minister plenipotentiary of the 
Most Christian King to the United States of North America 
for the last three years, and who is much esteemed and loved 
there." Realizing that discretion at this stage of the proceed- 
ings was imperative, and fearing lest the bruiting of what 
was as yet a mere project might cause its frustration by those 
who would regard it with disfavor, the Nuncio ends his 
letter with the request that the Prefect " inform neither the 
ecclesiastic just mentioned [the Vicar- Apostolic of London], 
nor any one else, with the exception of the Holy Father," of 
his negotiation with Vergennes and the Bishop of Autun. 

On September 3rd, two days after the Prelate sent his 
report to Rome, the peace treaty confirming the recognition 
of the United States as an independent nation was signed at 
Versailles. It contained no reference to freedom of religion 
such as the Prefect of the Propaganda had hoped for, but 
the confidence expressed by Vergennes and the promise 



32 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

made by Franklin that the Holy See would be unhampered in 
any measure it might take of its own initiative for the welfare 
of the Catholics of America, were destined to see their 
fulfilment in a regime of religious liberty which has become 
a most cherished American tradition. 

It will be recalled that Franklin, upon receiving the Nun- 
cio's note, had decided that " it would be absolutely useless 
to send it to the congress," because that body, " according to 
its powers and its constitutions, can not, and should not, in 
any case, intervene in the ecclesiastical affairs of any sect or 
of any religion established in America." After further reflec- 
tion, however, he changed his mind, and on September 13, 
1783, transmitted the note to the President of Congress. " I 
send also," he wrote from Passy, 11 " a copy of a note I 
received from the Pope's Nuncio. He is very civil on all 
occasions, and has mentioned the possibility of an advanta- 
geous trade America might have with the Ecclesiastical State, 
which he says has two good ports." This letter, written in the 
Fall, explains how the news of the proceedings undertaken 
by the Nuncio with Franklin reached America, and how it 
was that as early as January 31, 1784, la Luzerne could make 
it the subject of one of his reports to Vergennes. 

The last days of September 1783 bring us back to America, 
where the clergy were considering the " plan of govern- 
ment " outlined by their delegates, June 26th, at Whitemarsh. 
On September 23rd, seven members of the Southern Dis- 
trict met at Newton, and elected the Reverend Mr. Lewis 
superior. Of this meeting, John Gilmary Shea writes that 
" it showed less jealousy of the superior in spirituals than 
had been manifested at the general meeting." 12 However, 
news of the Propaganda's plan for the reorganization of the 
missions, and of the Paris negotiations begun with Franklin 
by the Papal Nuncio, must have reached England from Rome 

11 John Bigelow, The Complete Works of Franklin, Vol. VIII, p. 356. 
" Shea, pp. 217-218. 



ROMAN INITIATIVE, 1783 33 

or from Paris and been reported to the American clergy, for 
on September 26th John Carroll, in answer to Charles Plow- 
den, wrote: 1S 

As to what Father Thorpe reports, that designs are entertained of 
obtaining all the goods of the extinct Society in America as well 
as in England, your information of the intention of Propaganda 
gives me concern no farther than to hear that men, whose institu- 
tion was for the service of Religion, should bend their thoughts so 
much more to the grasping of power and the commanding of wealth. 
For they may be assured that they will never get possession of a 
sixpence of our property here; and, if any of our friends could be 
weak enough to deliver any real estate into their hands or attempt 
to subject it to their authority, our civil government would be called 
upon to wrest it again out of their dominion. A foreign temporal 
jurisdiction will never be tolerated here; and even the spiritual 
supremacy of the Pope is the only reason why in some of the United 
States the full participation of all civil rights is not granted to the 
Roman Catholics. They may therefore send their agents when they 
please ; they will certainly return empty-handed. 

The tone of the writer's denunciation of the supposed 
intention of the Roman Congregation is in sharp contrast 
with the tone of his reference to America's French allies, 
which we find in the same letter : 14 

You have adopted the language of some of the prints on your side 
of the water, by representing us under imperious leaders, and the 
trammels of France. ... As to the trammels of France, we cer- 
tainly never have worn her chains, but have treated with her as 
equals, have experienced from her the greatest magnanimity and 
moderation, and have repaid it with an honorable fidelity to our 
engagements. By both of us proceeding on these principles, the 
war has been brought to an issue, with which, if you are pleased, all 
is well, for we are certainly satisfied. 

From another extract of the same letter it is seen that John 
Carroll was concerned with the very same need that had led 

18 The text of this extract given by Guilday (p. 167 note) has been here 
completed with words quoted by Hughes (pp. 615, 627-628). 
" Quoted by Bernard U. Campbell, op. cit., Vol. Ill, p. 364. 

3 



34 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

the Papal Nuncio to confer with Vergennes and the Bishop 
of Autun. 15 " The object nearest to my heart is to establish 
a college on this continent for the education of youth, which 
might at the same time be a seminary for future clergymen. 
But at present I see no prospect of success." On this matter 
of training missionaries, which was of prime importance for 
the future of the Church in America, there was a spontaneous 
agreement between the American Jesuit and the representa- 
tive of the Holy See; and when the latter appealed to France 
for assistance in a task which the American Catholics felt 
they were not yet able to undertake themselves, he was un- 
consciously meeting the wishes of John Carroll and his 
confreres. 

John Carroll's letter to Charles Plowden was hardly on 
its way when, on September 27th, the Prefect of the Propa- 
ganda acknowledged the Nuncio's first Report. 16 The Prefect 
assured the Nuncio that the Holy Father commended him 
for his zeal and sagacity " in having interested the Count of 
Vergennes and Monseigneur the bishop of Autun in this 
salutary work." He praised the former as a " worthy prime 
minister," and the latter for the " subsistence " he was insur- 
ing, in view of his ministry of ecclesiastical benefices, for the 
new American workers. The Cardinal insisted, however, 
that the Congregation would abide by its original offer to 
assist in the support of the Vicar- Apostolic or of the Bishop 
" whom it will be necessary to put at the head of the Catho- 
lics in the United States." Then, summing up the results of 
the negotiation at that stage, he took as established the 
following points: 

1) Rejection of Franklin's proposal to confiscate the four 
monasteries of English Benedictines. 

2) Rejection of Franklin's proposal to appoint a French 
prelate to regulate the affairs of American Catholics; the 

" Quoted by Hughes, op. fit., p. 615. le Appendix No. 8, p. 54. 



ROMAN INITIATIVE, 1783 35 

supervision of the American missions should belong to the 
Papal Nuncio who would always be "in formal correspon- 
dence " with the American minister; the appointment of a 
French ecclesiastic "in private correspondence" with that 
minister is " desirable," inasmuch as the American govern- 
ment is not expected for some time at least, to establish 
diplomatic relations with the Court of Rome. 

3) " The superior, who is to have jurisdiction over all the 
Catholics of the American Republic [should] be invested 
with the character of bishop, with the title of Vicar-Apos- 
tolic, or, if acceptable, that he be the bishop of a diocese in 
that country." 

4) " Present conditions seem clearly to indicate that they 
[candidates for the episcopacy as well as for the missions] 
should be taken from among the ecclesiastical subjects of His 
Most Christian Majesty " ; but, when available for the sacred 
ministry, natives should be ordained. 

5) A college would be most useful, but " the magnitude 
of the idea would make its realization difficult " ; great and 
expensive things should not be sought. 

6) Therefore it might be better to increase the income of 
some seminary where a reasonable number of students, say 
eight or ten to begin, would be maintained. 

7) It will be possible, if there be a desire to form a 
national clergy, to establish two or three places for Americans 
at the college of the Propaganda. 

As regards the information requested by the Nuncio, the 
Prefect has this to write: 

The number [of the faithful in the United States] is not pre- 
cisely known to this Holy Congregation, which is also without 
exact information of the number of the old workers, who for the 
greater part, were of the 1 suppressed Society of Jesus; for neither 
directly, nor through the Vicar-Apostolic of London, has news 
been received concerning those Catholics. 



36 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

Finally, trusting the Nuncio's zeal and activity, and his better 
information on the state of affairs, the Prefect leaves it to 
his judgment to decide " which of the points noted above 
should be communicated to the minister, and which not." 
This latter direction may well arrest attention for an under- 
standing of the role of France, and whether in anything she 
had taken the initiative, or had merely, although willingly, 
complied with the wishes of the Roman authorities. Prima- 
rily, the Prefect seems to have had in mind simply coopera- 
tion in the form of material assistance from France. Although 
at Franklin's suggestion he was willing to consider the 
appointment of a French ecclesiastic to serve as bishop or as 
agent de liaison between the Holy See and the United States 
through the American minister at Paris, he was nevertheless 
determined to maintain the prerogatives of the Holy See in 
matters of Church government. The Nuncio faithfully car- 
ried out the directions he received; he kept Vergennes in- 
formed of the progress made, but it was he who continued 
to treat with Franklin. In answer to the Prefect's letter, he 
wrote, October 20th, from Fontainebleau: 1T 

After informing the Count of Vergennes of all that Your Emi- 
nence has been pleased to suggest . . . concerning the missions 
that it is proposed to establish in the provinces of the new republic 
... I will continue to treat on this subject till its conclusion with 
Mr. Franklin, minister plenipotentiary of that republic. 

The second meeting of the delegates of the clergy of 
Maryland and Pennsylvania took place at Whitemarsh on 
November 4th, and was devoted to a thorough discussion and 
revision of the plan of government of the clergy framed at 
the June meeting. A committee was appointed to draw up a 
petition to the Holy See requesting confirmation of the 
Reverend John Lewis as ecclesiastical superior and, " until 
otherwise provided for this mission by His Holiness," to vest 

17 Appendix No. 9, p. 57. 



ROMAN INITIATIVE, 1783 37 

him with the power of confirming, and of consecrating 
chalices, altar-stones and the oils for Extreme Unction. 18 
The reasons set forth in this petition are worth mentioning, 
as they indicate the feeling of the American clergy at that 
date towards the new American government: 

Placed under the recent supreme dominion of the United States, 
they can no longer have recourse, as formerly, for necessary spiritual 
jurisdiction to the Bishops and Vicars Apostolic residing in different 
and foreign states (for this has very frequently been intimated by 
the rulers of this Republic) , nor recognize any one of them as their 
ecclesiastical superior, without open offence of this supreme civil 
magistracy and political government. 

As asking for confirmation of their choice of superior 
appeared rather bold to some members of the clergy, another 
committee was appointed (of which John Carroll was a 
member) to draft a second petition to the Holy See, request- 
ing permission to elect their own superior, and adding that 
the United States Government would not permit the presence 
of a bishop in the country. The clergy were keenly conscious 
of the " republican jealousy " of Protestant Americans 
against the episcopacy. 

Father Carroll, in carrying out his instruction to forward 
the second petition to Rome through one of his friends, 
added the following comments: 19 The toleration accorded 
Christians of all denominations makes it imperative for 
Catholics to avoid giving " jealousies on account of any 
dependence on foreign jurisdiction more than that which is 
essential to our religion, an acknowledgment of the Pope's 
spiritual supremacy." He recognized that American Catholics 
would not be suffered to continue under the jurisdiction of the 
Vicar Apostolic of London, any more than the Anglicans 
under that of the Bishop of London; hence he saw the 
necessity of " soliciting the Holy See to place the episcopal 

18 Guilday, pp. 170-71. " Ibid., p. 172. 



38 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

powers, at least such as are most essential, in the hands of 
one amongst them," and suggested as most desirable Father 
Lewis, the superior pro tempore. He then added these words, 
so significant for an understanding of the role which Ameri- 
can Jesuits, as well as Roman prelates, expected France to 
play: " We shall endeavor to have you aided in this applica- 
tion by a recommendation, if possible, from our own country 
and the minister of France." Had the American clergy in 
those fateful days entertained a distrust of France, it is 
hardly likely that they would have turned to her then, and 
again later, for assistance. Towards the end of May 1784 
the two petitions of the American clergy reached Rome and 
brought about the decision to appoint John Carroll as Prefect 
Apostolic. It preceded by few days a similar recommenda- 
tion, written by the Paris Nuncio May 12th, at Franklin's 
suggestion. 

Franklin, before abandoning his plan, had written at least 
two letters on the subject one addressed to Vergennes, and 
the other to Jerome Marie Champion de Cisse, Archbishop 
of Bordeaux. To Vergennes, December 15, 1783, he dis- 
closed his motive for wishing that " one should be appointed 
[superior of the American clergy] who is of this nation and 
who may reside here among our friends." 20 He said: 

I understand that the bishop or spiritual person who superin- 
tends or governs the Roman Catholic Clergy in the United States of 
America resides in London, and is supposed to be under obligations 
to that court and subject to be influenced by its minister. This 
gives me some uneasiness. 

The American statesman was merely repeating what he had 
written in reply to the Nuncio's note of July 28th: 

The American Revolution, by separating the interests of the 
colonies from those of the mother country, changes the relations 
that bound the Catholics of America with those who live under 

20 Appendix No. 10, p. 57. 



ROMAN INITIATIVE, 1783 39 

English dominion. The unity of the present government seems even 
to require that those bonds be diminished and weakened by taking 
from the British Ministry all influence over the subjects of the 
United States. 

The motive, as might be expected from a secular statesman, 
was a purely political one, and there was not the least intima- 
tion that the proposal made to Vergennes was intended by 
Franklin as a reward for services rendered by France to 
America. His only concern was to secure more completely 
his country's independence from England. 

Franklin's letter to the Archbishop of Bordeaux unfortu- 
nately has not been found, but it contained a similar request 
for French assistance, and elicited a prompt reply, December 
27th, 21 in which the prelate spoke of his " eagerness to 
second your views ... by the help of the [French] Catho- 
lics of whose assitance I can easily assure you." The Arch- 
bishop then requested the American Minister to secure such 
practical information as would enable him to facilitate that 
assistance, viz: 

1. How has the service of Catholics been up to the present? 

2. If the powers of the Catholic priests come directly from Rome, 
or if the Bishop of Quebec has any jurisdiction in America? 

3. If the living (subsistence) of the Catholic Priests is assured 
and by what means? 

On the same day the Archbishop informed Vergennes 22 
that the object of Franklin's request was "to secure to 
religion among the Catholics of the United States more 
order and facility in the number and choice of the necessary 
ministers." He continued: "Mr. Franklin . . . seems to 
desire that to attain more securely what they propose, they 
should have in France an accredited ecclesiastic, appointed 
to provide for the needs of religion." Champion de Cisse 
assuming that in this matter Franklin interpreted the attitude 

"Appendix No. 11, p. 58. "Appendix No. 12, p. 59. 



40 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

of his Catholic compatriots, found two reasons for recom- 
mending the plan: besides furthering the interest of relig- 
ion, by providing for its adequate administration, it would 
strengthen the bonds of friendship between the two nations. 
He therefore urged the Prime Minister not to let pass this 
opportunity of serving " at the same time our faith, our 
Prince, and the two nations." He awaited Vergennes' in- 
structions before giving a definite answer to Franklin, and ex- 
pressed his readiness to lay before Vergennes such means as 
he thought might accomplish the desired end. In replying, 
January 8, 1784, 23 the Prime Minister merely informed the 
Archbishop that he had laid the matter before the Bishop 
of Autun. 

Extreme caution seems to have marked Vergennes' reac- 
tion to Franklin's proposal at this time. 24 Before answering 
the American minister's letter he communicated it to the 
Bishop of Autun, who on January 4, 1784, forwarded his 
" Observations on the letter of M. Franklin to Comte de 
Vergennes under the date of December 15, 1783." This 
document seems to have escaped the researches of the authors 
who, so far, have written on the subject. It speaks for itself: 

The sole object of M. Franklin is to obviate the political incon- 
venience resulting from the residence in London of the Bishop or 
ecclesiastical superior of the Roman Catholics of the United States 
of America. He asks for a French subject who should reside on 
the spot and had no relation with the Court of London. 

Msgr. the Nuncio wishes that the King's kindness might prompt 
him to make the religious establishment of a mission in behalf of 

" Appendix No. 13, p. 61. 

" On Franklin's letter there are two marginal notes in the writing of M. 
de Rayneval, the minister's secretary. The first analyzes the letter: "M. 
Franklin represents that the Bishop charged with the direction of the Catholic 
Clergy in America residing in London, it is of our interest to name for this 
post a person who may reside in the United States." Franklin had said, 
"here," i.e., in France. The other marginal note is as follows: "Sent for 
translation to M. the Bishop of Autun." 



ROMAN INITIATIVE, 1783 41 

the same Catholics, and, to that end, that subjects destined to form 
and maintain these establishments might be educated in France. 

According to that plan, twenty boys of different ages would be 
needed, who should be educated, as formerly " les enfants de lan- 
gues," twelve in a college and eight in a seminary. Their educa- 
tion would last till they were twenty-four, and would cost the state 
20.000 livres a year, at the rate of 1.000 L. per subject. Every year 
there would be two of these students coming to the end of their 
studies, and ready to be sent to America. 

It would also enter into the plan of Msgr. the Nuncio that the 
king might grant 12.000 L. a year for the endowment of a Bishop, 
or of the Prefect Apostolic, who would be appointed superior in 
those parts. 

It is likely that Msgr. the Nuncio would besides submit this 
nomination to the Propaganda. 

It is very important to examine the plan of Msgr. the Nuncio 
under all its aspects and to adapt it to the views of M. Franklin, 
before taking a final decision. 25 

That decision was long coming, for the following May 
Vergennes wrote to the French minister in the United States 
that he had conferred with the Nuncio " on the project of 
establishing a bishop or apostolic vicar in America," and that 
he had not yet " sufficient information to form a proper 
resolution." 28 

If we pause to review the development of the negotiation 
for the reorganization of the American missions in its initial 
phase, which covers the year 1783, a clear idea is obtained 
of the part played by the French officials the Comte de 
Vergennes, the Bishop of Autun, and the Archbishop of 
Bordeaux who were brought into it. The matter was 
broached by the Roman authorities who, from the beginning, 
counted on the generous cooperation of that Catholic country 
which had been the first to lend its aid to the struggling 
colonies in their war for independence. When Franklin was 
in possession of the Nuncio's note, his fertile mind formed 

26 For French original see Appendix No. 14, p. 61. 
aa Bancroft, p. 360. 



42 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

projects intended to render secure even in religious matters 
America's freedom from England; and realizing the pov- 
erty of the American Catholics in money, and perhaps in 
men, he, like the Nuncio, turned to France with plans neces- 
sitating for their execution the cooperation of a friendly 
nation. These plans, when submitted to the French 
officials, did not, however, all elicit the same approval; 
educational projects and those for the maintenance of mis- 
sionaries met with immediate promises of financial assistance, 
but when it was a question of conferring upon a French 
prelate authority over American missions, the men respon- 
sible for the policy of the French government exhibited a 
reserve which continued throughout the whole negotiation 
and was reflected, as will be shown, in the attitude of the 
French diplomatic agents in the United States. 



APPENDICES TO CHAPTER II 

1. Instructions for the Nuncio in Paris, January 15, 1783 

2. The Nuncio in Paris to the Cardinal Prefect of the Propaganda, 

February 10, 1783 

3. The Cardinal Prefect to the Nuncio, March 19, 1783 

4. Note of the Nuncio to Franklin, July 28, 1783 

5. Franklin's Observations on the Note of the Nuncio (undated) 

6. Franklin's Note on American Catholics (undated) 

7. The Nuncio to the Cardinal Prefect, September 1, 1783 

8. The Cardinal Prefect to the Nuncio, September 27, 1783 

9. The Nuncio to the Cardinal Prefect, October 20, 1783 

10. Franklin to the Comte de Vergennes, December 15, 1783 

11. The Archbishop of Bordeaux to Franklin, December 27, 1783 

12. (a) The Archbishop of Bordeaux to the Comte de Vergennes, 

December 27, 1783 (translation) 
(b) French original of above 

13. The Comte de Vergennes to the Archbishop of Bordeaux, 

January 8, 1784 (draft in French) 

14. French original of Talleyrand's Observations on Franklin's 

letter of December 15, 1783 (undated) 



43 



1. INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE NUNCIO IN PARIS * 

Instructions for His Lordship the Nuncio to France, sent with a 
letter of the Congregation, on the 15th of January, 1783, with 
the approval of the Holy Father. 

On the occasions when a general peace has been concluded among 
the princes of Europe, the Holy See has watched with all solicitude 
for the interests that are common to the faith, or for those that are 
special to itself, namely, its patrimony and its jurisdiction. Where- 
fore, it has sent to the various peace congresses, either cardinals, as 
legates a latere, or prelates with the character of Apostolic nuncios. 
The peace that is to be concluded, now, by the belligerent powers 
of Europe is not of sufficient importance for the adoption of such 
measures, either in itself, or in its relation to the faith in general, 
or to the rights of the Apostolic See in particular. Nevertheless, 
the independence of the United Provinces of America having been 
established, and it being possible to foresee that some other coun- 
try or province may pass under a new rule, it seems expedient that 
the Holy Father take thought and care for the exercise and for the 
maintenance of the Catholic religion in those states. 

To this end, it is necessary that Monseigneur the Nuncio be in- 
formed that all the possessions of England on the continent, or on 
the islands, of America were in spiritual dependence upon the 
Vicar-Apostolic of London, not only in accordance with a very 
ancient custom, but, also, upon the authority of the decrees of the 
Sacred Congregation of the Propaganda, approved by several of the 
Sovereign Pontiffs; to which, however, there is the exception of 
Canada, where, after the territory had passed under British do- 
minion, its own Bishop was left to it, at Quebec, as under French 
rule, conformably with article IV. of the treaty that was signed 
at Paris on the 10th of February, 1763. All the missionaries 
of the remainder of those vast territories received their powers for 
the exercise of the apostolic ministry from the Vicar-Apostolic 
of London. The number of Catholics in those English posses- 
sions, and the extent to which the Catholic religion flourishes 
there, are not known with precision. According to the report of 
1756, which is the last on this subject that the Vicar-Apostolic of 
London sent to the Congregation of the Propaganda, there were in 

1 Devitt, Propaganda Documents, op. tit., pp. 186-190. 

45 



46 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

Maryland ten thousand Catholic communicants, assisted by twelve 
priests of the suppressed Society of Jesus; in Pennsylvania, five 
thousand, who, also, were under the care of Jesuit missionaries, of 
whom there were four; in Virginia, New York, and Jersey, there 
were only Catholics scattered here and there about the country, and 
the Vicar was not informed whether they had priests to administer 
the sacraments to them, or whether the practice of their religion was 
tolerated. Now, as the approaching declaration of the independence 
of all these provinces will destroy the bonds of their political and 
civil subordination to the British government, it will thereby destroy 
all bonds in religious matters, and therefore, the Vicar-Apostolic 
of London will be deprived of the influence and direction that he 
has exercised, until now, in the religious affairs of those provinces. 
Under the present circumstances, therefore, the effort of the Apos- 
tolic Nuncio to the court of France should be to effectively engage 
the 2eal and piety of His Most Christian Majesty, to the end that, 
through the influence which he has with the leaders of the Ameri- 
can Congress, he may be pleased to procure an article concerning 
the free exercise and the maintenance of the Catholic religion, in 
the solemn convention of peace, which is to be guaranteed by the 
public faith; all the more, since the Catholic religion may have 
made some progress in that country, on account of the stay of the 
French troops there. 

Besides these general interests, which the most Christian king, 
as her first born, should make his own for the development of the 
Catholic Church, there is the consideration that many subjects of 
His Majesty, either remain in those provinces, have places there, 
or frequently go there for commercial reasons, and it should be 
near the heart of His Majesty that his subjects find in that country 
priests who may administer the sacraments to them and assist them 
in all their other spiritual needs. 

On other occasions, the Holy See has had experience of the 
efficacy of the protection that the king of France has given to reli- 
gion when similar treaties of peace were to be concluded. The 
fourth article of the treaty of Ryswick, signed in 1697, may be a 
sufficient example. Louis XIV had invaded with his victorious 
armies all the states of the Palatinate, which were infested with 
heresy; and as the Catholic religion had made progress through the 
sojourn of the French troops in those lands, the fourth article of the 
treaty in question was agreed upon as follows: "But the Roman 



APPENDICES TO CHAPTER II 47 

Catholic religion, in the places so restored, will remain in the state 
in which it now is." And the fourth article of the treaty of Paris 
of 1763, mentioned above, is not less favorable or efficacious, see- 
ing that the Catholic religion is maintained, and flourishes, by it, in 
Canada, a country governed by a heretical power. On the other 
hand, if the opportunity should be found at the court of France 
for the insertion of an article directed toward the preservation of 
the public exercise of the Catholic religion in the republic of the 
United Provinces of America, the task then should be to seek the 
patronage of His Most Christian Majesty for concerting a plan of 
missions and missionaries for the service of Catholics living in that 
republic. As these have been subject, until now, to the Vicar- Apos- 
tolic of London, the most obvious and the most desirable plan would 
be to establish in one of the principal cities a Vicar- Apostolic, with 
episcopal character, chosen from among the subjects of the new 
republic, who should receive from the Holy See powers for the 
spiritual government of the Catholics of all those regions, and who, 
thereafter, should receive the charge of establishing various mis- 
sionary stations, more or less numerous, according to the require- 
ments of each province. A bishop Vicar- Apostolic is proposed, be- 
cause he would be able to supply all needs, whether of the adminis- 
tration of the sacrament of confirmation, or of the ordination of 
clerics among the subjects of the new republic, and national jealousy 
would thus be obviated, by not constraining these new republi- 
cans to receive those sacraments from foreign bishops. But, if for 
other reasons the leaders of the American Congress should be loath 
to admit a bishop into their country, there might be substituted, in- 
stead, a general prefect of those missions, who, receiving the same 
title and powers of Vicar-Apostolic, could perform the episcopal 
functions in all, except in the administration of holy orders. If 
natives should be found available, they should always be preferred, 
whether for the vicariate-apostolic with episcopal character, or for 
the simple prefecture, as also, for the office of missionary; but, if 
available natives should not be found, there should be permission 
to appoint foreigners, always, however, from among the most im- 
partial and acceptable to the government. 

There should be, also, an agreement concerning means for the 
temporal subsistence of these evangelical ministers. It is doubtful, 
however, that the government will concur to that end, no matter 
how much the interests of a people require that it be sufficiently in- 



48 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

structed in the rule which it is allowed to profess and that those 
who are intrusted with the care of such instruction, which makes 
men good and faithful citizens and which is inseparable from the 
public good, be supported by the public. But, not to allow tem- 
poral obstacles to stand in the way of the spiritual interests of so 
many of the faithful, the Congregation of the Propaganda will be 
ready to assign an allowance to the bishop or to the prefect vicar- 
apostolic, hoping that the other missionaries will receive their sup- 
port from the charity of the faithful, and especially that if they be 
Frenchmen and for the service of subjects of His Most Christian 
Majesty, they will receive it from his royal and liberal munificence. 

2. THE NUNCIO IN PARIS TO THE CARDINAL PREFECT 
OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE PROPAGANDA 2 

At the conference of Tuesday [February 4] of last week, I in- 
formed the Count of Vergennes of the solicitation that was trans- 
mitted to me through Your Eminence, with the Holy Father's com- 
mand, of the Congregation of Propaganda Fide, for the insertion of 
some article, directed towards the preservation and extension of the 
Catholic religion, in the treaty that is about to be concluded among 
the powers that have recently been at war. That royal minister has 
already taken pains to secure peace! in religious matters for those 
subjects who return to British rule, by article VIII of the pre- 
liminaries of peace that were signed at Versailles by him, as minister 
plenipotentiary of the Most Christian King, and by Mr. Alleyne 
Fitz-Herbert, minister plenipotentiary of the king of Great Britain; 
and he will have the same interest at heart in the formulation of the 
treaty of peace, to which end he will have in mind the stipulations 
of the treaty of 1763, bearing upon religion. As regards the United 
States of North America, which, in future, are to be recognized as 
a new sovereign republic, the count promises himself that, as all 
religions, and their public practice, are tolerated in that country, 
upon principle, there will be consent, not only to the presence of 
Catholic missionaries, but, also, to the appointment of one of the 
citizens of that country as Vicar- Apostolic with episcopal character. 
I begged him to inform Mr. Franklin, minister plenipotentiary of 
the republic of the United States of North America, that I would 
have spoken to him of this matter, as I will do, when I shall have 

a Devitt, Propaganda Documents, op. cit., pp. 190-191. 



APPENDICES TO CHAPTER II 49 

heard from the Count of Vergennes what Mr. Franklin may have 
had to say on the subject. Expecting to inform Your Eminence of 
the result of my course in the premises, and ever ready to follow 
your respected commands, I am happy to be, with all homage, 

Of Your Eminence 
the very Humble, Devoted, and Grateful Servant, 

G. Archbishop of Seleucia. 
Paris, February 10th, 1783. 

3. THE CARDINAL PREFECT TO THE NUNCIO 

AT PARIS. 8 
To Mgr. the Archbishop of Seleucia, Apostolic Nuncio at Paris. 

March 19th, 1783. 

It has been a great consolation to me to learn of the solicitude 
that this worthy minister, the Count of Vergennes, has to secure, in 
the treaty of peace with England, the tranquility of our holy Catho- 
lic religion, and of the hope that he gives us, not only that Catholic 
missionaries will be tolerated in the United States of America, but 
that a native Vicar-Apostolic, with episcopal character, may be 
elected for that country, which may greatly promote the welfare of 
souls and the propagation of the faith. Meanwhile, I shall await 
with impatience the result of the interview that you expected to 
have, in this connection, with Mr. Franklin, minister plenipotentiary 
of that republic. . . . 

4. NOTE OF THE NUNCIO TO FRANKLIN.* 

[July 28, 1783] 

Before the revolution that has just been consummated in North 
America, the Catholics and the missionaries of those provinces were 
in spiritual dependence upon the Vicar-Apostolic residing at Lon- 

8 Devitt, Propaganda Documents, op. cit., p. 192. 

* Ibid., p. 195. This note was accompanied by the following letter: " The 
Apostolical Nuncio has the honor to send Mr. Franklin the enclosed note, 
which he requests he will be pleased to forward to the Congress of the 
United States of North America, and to support it with his credit." Bigelow, 
The Complete Works of Franklin, Vol. VIII, p. 321. 
4 



50 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

don. It is obvious that this arrangement can not be continued; but, 
as it is essential that the Catholic subjects of the United States have 
an ecclesiastic to govern them in what concerns their religion, the 
Congregation of Propaganda Fide, which exists at Rome, with a 
view to the establishment and preservation of the missions, has 
determined to propose to the congress the installation of one of 
their Catholics subjects, in some city of the United States of North 
America, with the powers of vicar-apostolic, and with the character 
of bishop, or simply as prefect apostolic. The establishment of a 
bishop vicar-apostolic seems to be preferable, all the more, since 
this would enable the Catholic subjects of the United States to re- 
ceive Confirmation and Holy Orders in their own country, instead 
of being obliged to go to foreign countries to receive those sacra- 
ments; and as it might happen, at times, that no one be found 
among the subjects of the United States qualified to be entrusted 
with the spiritual government, whether as bishop or as prefect 
apostolic, it would be necessary in such cases that congress be pleased 
to consent that the choice be made among the subjects of a foreign 
nation, the most friendly to the United States. 

5. FRANKLIN'S OBSERVATIONS ON THE NOTE OF M. 
THE APOSTOLIC NuNcio. 5 

[Undated] 

Mr. Franklin, after reading the note of M. the Nuncio and re- 
flecting upon it maturely, believes that it would be absolutely use- 
less to send it to the congress, which, according to its powers and 
its constitutions, can not, and should not, in any case, intervene in 
the ecclesiastical affairs of any sect or of any religion established in 
America. Each particular State has reserved to itself by its own 
constitutions the right to protect its members, to tolerate their reli- 
gious opinions, and not to interfere with the matter, as long as they 
do not disturb civil order. 

Mr. Franklin is therefore of opinion that the Court of Rome may 
take, of its own initiative, all the measures that may be useful to the 
Catholics of America, without disregard to the constitutions, and 
that Congress will not fail to give its tacit approval to the choice 
that the Court of Rome, in concert with the minister of the United 
States, may make of a French ecclesiastic, who, residing in France, 

' Devitt, Propaganda Documents, op. cit., p. 196. 



APPENDICES TO CHAPTER II 51 

may regulate the spiritual affairs of the Catholics who live, or who 
may come to establish themselves, in those States, through a suffragan 
residing in America. 

Besides many political reasons that may make that arrangement 
desirable, M. the Apostolic Nuncio must find in it many others that 
may be favorable to the intentions of the Court of Rome. 

6. FRANKLIN'S NOTE ON AMERICAN CATHOLICS. 

[Undated] 

The American Revolution, by separating the interests of the 
colonies from those of the mother country, changes the relations 
that bound the Catholics of America with those who live under 
English dominion. The unity of the present government seems 
even to require that those bonds be diminished and weakened by 
taking from the British ministry all influence over the subjects of 
the United States. 

In the greater number of the colonies, there is no endowment, 
no fixed revenue, for the support of a clergy of whatever denomina- 
tion; legislation, viewing this subject from the standpoint of a more 
general freedom, has been unwilling to make a public charge of a 
tax that should [could] be only voluntary and private. 

Neither is there a coflege or public establishment where a Catholic 
ecclesiastic may receive necessary instruction; these are two equally 
essential points to be considered. 

There are in France four establishments of English monks, the 
total revenues of which may amount to 50,000 or 60,000 livres. 
These monks are few. The want of subjects makes those who remain 
useless, at least. 

It is [might be] possible that the king of France, to please the 
Court of Rome and to strengthen the bonds of friendship with the 
United States, would permit these establishments [to be used] to 
train, instruct, and in part support the ecclesiastics who would be 
used in America. 

It would be expedient [better to secure this object] that one of 
the bishops named by the Holy See should be a subject of the king, 
residing in France, in a position, always, to act in accordance with 
the Nuncio of His Holiness and the American minister, and to 

'Devitt, Propaganda Documents, op. cit., pp. 196-197; the words in 
brackets are our corrections. 



52 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

adopt with them the means of training the ecclesiastics, which might 
be agreeable to Congress and useful to American Catholics. 

7. THE NUNCIO TO THE CARDINAL PREFECT. T 

I have the honor of transmitting to Your Eminence, herewith, 
three papers, marked A, B, and C, respectively, and relating to the 
establishment of apostolic missions in the new republic of the United 
States of North America, which matter was committed to me. The 
first is the copy of a note, or memorandum, that I sent to Mr. Frank- 
lin, minister plenipotentiary of the new republic; the second and 
third are copies of a note of Mr. Franklin and of some observations 
made by him on the subject of my note just mentioned. In order to 
take time to send a categorical reply to Mr. Franklin, I merely ac- 
knowledged the receipt of these papers, in which Your Eminence 
will find Mr. Franklin to be of opinion that our court, or, in other 
words, the Sacred Congregation of the Propaganda, will be free to 
take all measures that may be useful to the Catholics of America, 
without infringing the constitutions, and that the congress will not 
fail to tacitly approve the choice that the Sacred Congregation may 
make, in concert with the minister plenipotentiary of the United 
States, of a French ecclesiastic, who, residing in France, may regu- 
late the affairs of Catholics in America, through a suffragan there. 
In this connection, I am of the opinion that, rather than a French 
ecclesiastic, the apostolic nuncio for the time being in France, in 
concert with that Sacred Congregation, might, himself, invest an 
ecclesiastic with the character of bishop, of prefect, or of vicar- 
apostolic for the government in question. There being in America, 
as Mr. Franklin says in his note C, no college or establishment in 
which a Catholic ecclesiastic may receive the instruction that it is 
necessary for him to have, nor the hope of a public appropriation 
for such a purpose, Your Eminence will recognize that recourse must 
be had to other means in this connection, and that those suggested 
by Mr. Franklin in his note C, concerning the four establishments of 
English Religious that exist in France, could not, and should not, be 
proposed, much less, accepted. The last paragraph of that note 
deserves all attention, tending, as it does, to the attainment of desir- 
able ends. I have thought it well to give information of the contents 
of these papers to the Count of Vergennes, a true statesman, full of 

7 Devitt, Propaganda Documents, op. cit., pp. 192-195. 



APPENDICES TO CHAPTER II 53 

zeal and attachment for our holy Catholic religion; and as I begged 
of him to facilitate the means of establishing a college in France for 
the education of as many priests as may be necessary for the spiritual 
welfare of the Roman Catholics who now are, or may come to be, 
in the States of the new republic, the royal minister, assuring me 
that he will give all the assistance that it may be in his power to 
lend in that connection, suggested that I speak to Monseigneur the 
bishop of Autun, minister of ecclesiastical benefices of this realm, 
in order that he, by his lights, and by his good offices, may assist in 
the establishment of the proposed college, at St. Malo, Nantes, 
I'Orient, or any other city of France, near the coast, it being neces- 
sary, however, first to obtain the requisite funds, and to know, ap- 
proximately, the number of priests that the Roman Catholics of the 
United States may need, and whether there be in that country, indi- 
viduals inclined to undertake the studies and to adopt the ecclesiasti- 
cal state. Accordingly, I had an interview with Monseigneur the 
bishop of Autun, on Wednesday, and we agreed to confer together, 
on Saturday of last week, with the Count of Vergennes. To this 
end, on the day appointed, I went to Versailles, and the Count of 
Vergennes, as well as the above named prelate, showed himself to 
be most desirous of obtaining the funds necessary for so important 
an end. While this matter is being thought over, I trust that Your 
Eminence will give me what information you have in regard to the 
mission of North America, and will obtain further information from 
the prelate who is in charge of that mission, requesting him to give 
the number of priests that there are in those states, and the number 
of them that may be needed there. In quest of this information, 
after receiving the answer of Your Eminence, I will endeavpr to 
obtain that the Count of Vergennes write to the Chevalier de la Lu- 
zerne, who has been minister plenipotentiary of the Most Christian 
King to the United States of North America for the last three years, 
and who is much esteemed and loved there. On the other hand, 
Your Eminence will deign to inform neither the ecclesiastic just men- 
tioned nor any one else, with the exception of the Holy Father, of 
my negotiations with the Count of Vergennes and with Monsei- 
gneur the bishop of Autun, since it is question, as yet, of a mere 
project, of which it would not be well to speak before it be realized, 
or developed sufficiently not to be frustrated by any one who may 



54 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

regard the proposed establishment unfavorably. Ready ever to com- 
ply with the revered commands of Your Eminence, I subscribe my- 
self, with all homage, 

Of Your Eminence, 
the Very Humble, Devoted, and Grateful Servant 

G. Archbishop of Seleucia. 
Paris, September 1st, 1783. 

8. THE CARDINAL PREFECT TO THE NuNcio. 8 

To Monseigneur the Archbishop of Seleucia, Apostolic Nuncio at 

Paris. 

September 27th, 1783- 

Your Lordship has so well begun the great matter of a plan for 
missions in the provinces of the new republic of the United States 
of North America that I do not doubt that you will soon bring it to 
a most happy termination. The Holy Father, who has been informed 
of your action, has greatly commended your zeal, and your sagacity 
in having interested the Count of Vergennes and Monseigneur the 
bishop of Autun in this salutary work, the former, for his protection 
as worthy prime minister, the latter, for the subsistence of the new 
workers, in view of his ministry of ecclesiastical benefices in that 
kingdom. This Holy Congregation, however, does not withdraw 
from its original offer to assist in the support of the Vicar- Apostolic 
endowed with the episcopal character, or of a bishop, if this should 
be preferred, whom it will be necessary to put at the head of the 
Catholics in the United States. 

Conformably with the judicious suggestions of Your Lordship, 
the following points should be established: 

I. The proposition of Mr. Franklin, to suppress the four monas- 
teries of English Benedictines that exist in France, should be rejected, 
without further discussion. Besides the odium that would be aroused 
in that nation, which would be highly displeasing to the pacific and 
generous spirit of His Most Christian Majesty, grievous injury would 
be done to the missions of England, if the four monasteries in ques- 
tion should be suppressed, since the English Benedictine congrega- 
tion, which furnishes nearly forty missionaries who work for the 
good of souls in England, would be reduced to the one monastery 

8 Devitt, Propaganda Documents, op. tit., pp. 198-202. 



APPENDICES TO CHAPTER II 55 

that, -with the four in France, constitutes the total number of the 
convents of that worthy congregation. 

II. The Nuncio to France, as Your Lordship opportunely sug- 
gested to Mr. Franklin, should have the supervision of these Ameri- 
can missions, as is the case with the Nuncio at Brussels for the mis- 
sions of Holland, and he would come to an understanding with the 
minister of the United States at Paris, whenever it was necessary to 
act in accordance with him for the greater good of those missions. 
This arrangement would also be compatible with an agent of the 
Vicar- Apostolic, or of the Bishop to be established in the United 
States, at Paris, in the person of some French ecclesiastic, who, upon 
occasion, would act in concert with the minister of those States and 
with the nuncio. It is to be desired that, some day, this new republic 
may have a Catholic minister at Paris; but, in the present circum- 
stances, in which the minister is heretical, possibly Presbyterian, or 
Non-Conformist, which are the dominant sects in those states, it 
would be desirable to have a French ecclesiastic in private corre- 
spondence with the head of that mission, saving always the formal 
correspondence between the nuncio and the minister. 

III. It was suggested above, and is repeated now, that it appears 
very necessary to establish that the superior, who is to have jurisdic- 
tion over all the Catholics of the American Republic, be invested 
with the character of bishop, with the title of Vicar- Apostolic, or, if 
acceptable, that he be the bishop of a diocese in that country. He 
may take his title from any city in the provinces of that republic that 
may seem to be the one best adapted for his residence. As the greater 
number of Catholics are in Maryland and in Pennsylvania, it would 
appear that the residence should be established in one of these two 
states; but it will be better to determine this point according to 
what may be most satisfactory to the minister and to the states. There 
is no doubt that all the missionaries should depend upon the Vicar- 
Apostolic, or bishop, and receive from him their powers and desti- 
nation among the various stations, according to requirements. And, 
to that end, the Prelate will be invested with the most ample powers, 
as for instance, those of the first formula. 

IV. As to the subjects to be chosen, for the vicariate apostolic, 
or the episcopacy, as well as for missionaries, present conditions seem 
dearly to indicate that they should be taken from among the eccle- 
siastical subjects of His Most Christian Majesty. But if in time any 
native should be found available for the sacred ministry, there is no 



56 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

doubt that the Vicar or Bishop would be free to ordain him and to 
employ him in the missions. 

V. It would be most useful to establish a college for the sole 
benefit of these missionaries, at Nantes, St. Malo, 1'Orient, or some 
other place, near the Ocean ; but it may be foreseen that the magni- 
tude of the idea would make its realization difficult. It is clearly 
understood that Monseigneur d'Autun, by his favor, could overcome 
all obstacles; but great and expensive things, as would be the crea- 
tion of a new college, should not be sought. 

VI. Consideration might be given, therefore, to the idea of in- 
creasing to some extent the income of the Seminary of Foreign Mis- 
sions, where ecclesiastics, already, are trained for the East Indies; 
or, better still, the seminary of Saint Esprit, the ecclesiastics of which 
are destined to the missions of South America, at Cayenne and 
Guiana, imposing upon it the obligation of maintaining there, for 
the present, a reasonable number of ecclesiastics, to be sent under the 
suggested authority in America to the provinces of the United States. 
If, to begin, eight or ten missionaries are sent, besides the vicar, or 
bishop, this will provide sufficiently for the needs of the faithful in 
question, the number of whom is not precisely known to this Holy 
Congregation, which is also without exact information of the number 
of the old workers, who, for the greater part, were of the suppressed 
Society of Jesus; for, neither directly, nor through the Vicar- Apos- 
tolic of London, has news been received concerning those Catholics, 
of whom some information was sent to Your Lordship in the in- 
struction of the 15th of January of the present year. 

VII. If the number of workers suggested should prove to be 
insufficient, it will be time, then, to think of other means of study 
for a greater number of subjects, and it will be possible, even, if 
there be a desire to form a national clergy, to establish at the college 
of the Propaganda, here, two or three places for Americans, as has 
been done for so many nations of Asia, Africa, and Europe. 

Your Lordship, however, who is better informed of the state of 
affairs, will know which of the points noted above should be com- 
municated to the minister, and which not; upon this point, His 
Holiness and this Congregation repose on your known zeal and 
activity, of which there are so many exceptional proofs ; and thank- 
ing Your Lordship for the letter which you enclosed from Mon- 
seigneur the Vicar-Apostolic of London, I remain, with all esteem, 
heartily yours. 



APPENDICES TO CHAPTER II 57 

9. THE NUNCIO TO THE CARDINAL PREFECT." 

After informing the Count of Vergennes of all that Your Emi- 
nence has been pleased to suggest in your honored communication 
of the 27th of last month, concerning the missions that it is proposed 
to establish in the provinces of the new republic of the United States 
of North America, I will continue to treat on this subject till its 
conclusion with Mr. Franklin, minister plenipotentiary of that repub- 
lic, rejoicing, meanwhile, that the Holy Father and the Congregation 
be pleased with what I have done so far. When Mr. John Thayer, 
native of Boston, presents himself to me with the recommendation 
of the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda Fide, I will receive him 
well; and if he persevere in the intention of adopting the ecclesiasti- 
cal state, to serve his country as a missionary, and Mr. Franklin 
offers no objection to it, I will make use of the faculties with which 
I am invested by the Pontifical rescript that Your Eminence has for- 
warded to me. 

Of Your Eminence, the Very Humble, Devoted, and Grateful 
Servant 

G. Archbishop (of Seleucia) . 

Fontainebleau, October 20th, 1783. 

10. FRANKLIN TO THE COMTE DE VERGENNES." 

Envoye a la Traduction a Passy, Dec. 15, 1783 

Mer 1'Eveque d'Autun Sir, 

le 29 Xbre 1783 I understand that the Bishop or spiritual 

M.deR[ayneval] Person who superintends or governs the 

Roman Catholic Clergy in the United 

M. franklin represente States of America resides in London, and 

que 1'Eveque charge de la is supposed to be under obligation to that 

direction du Clerge Catho- Court, and subject to be influenced by its 

lique en Amerique, residant Minister. This gives me some uneasiness, 

a Londres; il est de notre ^ j cannot but w ; sh ^ Qne should ' be 



interet de nommer a cette inted tQ ^ officj who is of 

place une personne qm ^ ^ who reside ^ ^ 

puisse demeurer dans les . J 

Etats unis our Frien( * s - * e S vour Excellency to 



9 Devitt, Propaganda Documents, op. tit., p. 202. 

10 From the original in the Archives du Ministere des Affaires Etrangeres: 
Etats-Unis, Vol. 26, p. 200. 



58 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

think a little of this Matter, and to afford 
me your Counsels upon it. With the great- 
est Respect, I am 

Sir, 

your Excellency's most 
obedient and most humble servant 

B. FRANKLIN 

His Excellency 

the Count de Vergennes. 

11. THE ARCHBISHOP OF BORDEAUX TO FRANKLIN. 11 

Paris, 27 Dec., 1783 

I have received, Sir, the letter which 1 you have done me the honor 
to write me on the subject of the American Catholics. You can rest 
assured, in this case as in all the others, of my eagerness to second 
your views both by the help of the Catholics of whose assistance I 
can easily assure you, and of the favor of M. 1'Abbe de la Roche, 
whom I love and esteem. I need at present some information which 
undoubtedly you can give me. I wish to know: 

1. How has the service of Catholics been up to the present? 

2. If the powers of the Catholic priests come directly from Rome, 
or if the Bishop of Quebec has any jurisdiction in America? 

3. If the living (subsistence) of the Catholic Priests is assured 
and by what means? 

This information will help me in proposing my views to you in 
the future. Do not doubt, I pray you, of the sincere and respectful 
affection with which I have the honor to be your most humble and 
most obedient servant, 

J. M., Archbishop of Bordeaux.* 2 



11 Translation by Martin I. Griffin, The American Catholic Historical Re- 
searches, 1910, p. 345. Griffin wrongly dates it 27 Sept. 

12 The Archbishop of Bordeaux at this time was Jerome Marie Champion 
de Cisse. 



APPENDICES TO CHAPTER II 59 

12 (a). THE ARCHBISHOP OF BORDEAUX TO THE 

COMTE DE VERGENNES. 18 

Paris, 27 December, 1783. 

I regard it a duty, Count, to inform you of the proposition just 
made me by Mr. Franklin. The object is to secure to religion among 
the Catholics of the United States more order and facility in the 
number and choice of the necessary ministers. I have reason to 
believe that in this matter Mr. Franklin is the interpreter of the 
wishes of his Catholic fellow-citizens. He seems to desire that to 
attain more securely what they propose, they should have in France 
an accredited ecclesiastic, appointed to provide for the needs of reli- 
gion. This care of a prudent and solicitous Legislature deserves the 
attention of all, but the support it promises to Religion renders it 
even more respectable in our eyes ; I find in it further claims on our 
attention. I think that it offers a means of uniting more strongly by 
the powerful bonds of Religion, those bonds happily already formed 
between France and the United States. Never, perhaps, will a more 
favorable occasion present itself to serve at the same time our faith, 
our Prince, and the two nations. This occasion you should not let 
pass. I thought it my duty to point it out to you before giving a 
definite answer to Mr. Franklin. In answering him, I content myself, 
for the moment, with asking him some questions relative to his 
proposal and which I must see answered. I have the greatest confi- 
dence in your lights and your counsels will always be precious to me, 
whether you consider that proposition in itself or in connection with 
its accessory results. In the latter case I could submit to you the 
means which have occurred to me to carry out the work more per- 
fectly. You know, Count, the sentiments of respectful attachment 
with which I have the honor to be your most humble and obedient 
servant. 

JER MAR. Arch, of Bordeaux. 



"Endorsed: "M. de R[aynevall replied January 8, 1784." Translated 
from the Archives du Ministere des Affaires Etrangeres, Vol. 26. 
" Jerome Marie Champion de Ciss6. 



60 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

12 (b). L'ARCHEVEQUE DE BORDEAUX AU CoMTE 
DE VERGENNES. 15 

Paris le 27 Xbre 1783 

Je me fais un devoir, Monsieur le Comte, de vous instruire de la 
demarche que M. franklin vient de fake aupres de moi, elle a pour 
objet d'assurer a la Religion, parmi les Catholiques des Etats Unis, 
plus d'ordre et de facilite, dans le nombre et le choix des ministres 
qui lui sont necessaires. je presume avec raison qu'a cet egard M. 
franklin est 1'interprete de ses concitoyens Catholiques. il paroit 
desirer que pour atteindre plus surement la fin qu'ils se proposent, 
ils ayent en france, un Ecdesiastique attitre, qui seroit charge de 
pourvoir aux besoins du culte. ce soin d'une Legislation sage et 
attentive merite bien 1'interet general, mais I'afrermissement qu'il 
promet a. Religion le rend encore plus respectable pour nous : je 
lui trouve meme des droits ulterieurs a votre attention, elle me 
paroit offrir un moyen de resserrer avec plus d'energie par les liens 
puissans de la Religion, ceux que la politique a deja si heureusement 
formes entre la france et les Etats unis. jamais peut-etre, il ne 
reparoitra de moment plus favorable de servir en meme tems la foi, 
le Prince et les deux Nations, ce moment la ne doit point vous 
echapper. j'ai cm devoir vous 1'indiquer avant de repondre decisive- 
ment a M. franklin, je me borne avec lui pour cette fois a quelques 
questions qui tiennent a la nature de sa proposition et dont la solu- 
tion m'est necessaire. j'attendrai vos instructions pour dormer une 
suite a mes idees et les combiner d'apres les votres. j'ai la plus 
grande confiance en vos lumieres et vos conseils me seront toujours 
pretieux soit que vous consideries cette operation en elle meme, soit 
que vous y reunissies ses effets accessoires. dans cette derniere suppo- 
sition il me seroit possible de vous developper les moyens qui se 
sont presentes a mon Esprit, pour la plus grande perfection de cet 
ouvrage. Vous connoisses, Monsieur le Comte, les sentimens du 
respectueux attachement avec lequel j'ai 1'honneur d'etre, votre tres 
humble et tres obeissant serviteur. 

* jer. Mar. arch, de Bordeaux 



16 Endorsed: " M. de RCayneval] repd. le 8 Jv. 1784." Archives du 
Ministere des Affaires Etrangeres, Vol. 26. 
18 Jerome Marie Champion de Cisse 1 , 



APPENDICES TO CHAPTER II 61 

13. LE COMTE DE VERGENNES A L'ARCHEVEQUE 
DE BORDEAUX. 17 

A Versailles, le 8 Janvier 1784 
M. 1'Archeveque de Bordeaux. 

J'ai recu, M., la lettre que vous m'avez fait 1'honneur de m'ecrire 
le 27 du mois D[ecembre] ; elle est relative a I'etablissement propose 
par M. franklin d'un ecclesiastique en france qui seroit charge de 
pourvoir aux besoins du culte de la religion Cque [Catholique] dans 
les Etats unis de 1'Amerique S. p. le [Septentrionale] . J'ai ecrit en 
dernier lieu sur cet objet a M. 1'Eveque d'Autun et je m'en occuperai 
avec ce prelat avec d'autant plus de zele, que je partage 1'opinion 
que vous avez de son importance. 

14. OBSERVATION SUR LA LETTRE DE M. FRANKLIN 

A M. LE COMTE DE VERGENNES EN DATTE 

DU 15 XBRE 1783. 18 

L' unique objet de M. franklin, est de parer a 1'inconvenient 
politique, qui resulte de la residence a londres, de 1'Eveque ou 
superieur Ecdesiastique des catholiques remains des Etats unis de 
1'Amerique. II demande un sujet francois qui residat sur les lieux, 
et qui n'eut aucun rapport avec la cour de londres. 

M. le Nonce voudroit que la bonte du roi le portat a faire 1'etablis- 
sement Religieux d'une mission, en faveur des memes catholiques, 
et pour cela, qu'on elevat en france les sujets destines a former et 
soutenir ces etablissemens. 

Selon ce plan, il faudroit vingt enfants de differents ages, qu'on 
eleveroit comme autrefois les enfants de langues, savoir douze dans 
un college et huit dans un seminaire. leur Education dureroit jusqu'a 
vingt quatre ans, et couterait a 1'etat 20 000 # par an, a raison de 
1 000 # par chaque sujet, tous les ans il y auroit deux de ces eleves 
dont 1'Education finiroit et qu'on pourroit faire partir pour 
1'Amerique. 

17 From the original draft of Vergennes" answer to the Archbishop of Bor- 
deaux. Ministere des Affaires Etrangeres, Etats-Unis, Vol. 27, p. 21. 

18 Endorsed: " Le 4 Janvier 1784 par M. 1'Eveque d'Autun. M. de 
RCayneval]." Archives du Ministere des Affaires Etrangeres, Etats-Unis, Vol. 
27, p. 15. 



62 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

II entreroit encore dans le plan de M. le Nonce que le roi accordat 
12 000 # par an, pour la dotation d'un Eveque, ou du prefet apos- 
tolique, qui seroit etabli superieur en cette partie. 

II est vraisemblable que M. Le Nonce proposerait encore de 
soumettre cette nomination a la propagande. 

II est tres important d'examiner le plan de M. le nonce, sous tous 
les Rapports et de 1'adapter aux vues de M. franklin, avant que de 
prendre une resolution definitive. 



CHAPTER THREE 

FRENCH COOPERATION, MAY 1784 

Franklin's letter to the President of Congress, conveying 
the proposition he had received from the Papal Nuncio, 
reached America in the late Fall of 1783, and although 
Congress deferred sending a formal answer until the follow- 
ing May, a communication of the Chevalier de la Luzerne to 
the Comte de Vergennes under date of January 31, 1784, 
shows the reactions of the members of that body to the 
suggestion. 1 The French minister to the United States wrote: 

The congress has respectfully welcomed that overture; it has been 
unable, however, to take action in this matter, which is not of the 
competency of Congress. It is a matter that concerns Catholics alone. 

He was, nevertheless, able to gather from the opinions of 
congressmen who spoke to him on this subject that, " a 
Catholic Bishop would be very well received in the state of 
Pennsylvania, and much more so in Maryland, where there 
are many Catholics, providing the prelate carefully avoided 
to assume any temporal jurisdiction or authority." La 
Luzerne added in a postscript to be found in the original of 
his letter, and which seems to have been overlooked by 
American historians: " The Catholics would not be pleased 
with a foreign Bishop, but they could very well choose the 
worthiest of their priests and present him to His Holiness 
for consecration, if he judges him qualified for the episcopal 
functions." 

A comparison of these last lines with the text of the second 
petition sent to Rome after the second meeting of the clergy 
in November 1783, and in which it was stated as " imperative 
for Catholics to avoid giving jealousies on account of any 

1 Appendix No. 1, p. 79. 

63 



64 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

dependence on foreign jurisdiction more than that which is 
essential to our religion, an acknowledgment of the Pope's 
spiritual supremacy," reveals an identity of views expressed 
by the Chevalier and the American clergy; the minister finds 
quite natural the preference of American Catholics for one 
of their own priests, and this view, expressed as early as 
January 1784, was shared the following August, by his 
successor, Barbe-Marbois, 2 who urged Vergennes not to 
allow the choice of a bishop to fall upon a French priest. As 
la Luzerne saw the situation, it would be sufficient if the 
bishop to be appointed would avoid assuming " any temporal 
jurisdiction and authority," and he went on to say that " the 
congress, in general, would be pleased at the residence of a 
prelate, who by conferring the sacrament of Holy Orders on 
the priests of these parts, would relieve them of the necessity 
of receiving it in London or in Quebec, as has been done in 
the past." 

La Luzerne's letter to the Comte de Vergennes, which 
brought to Paris the first intimation of the attitude of Con- 
gress to the proposed establishment of a Catholic hierarchy 
in the United States, reached the French capital on April 23, 
1784. 3 A few days earlier, April 7th, the Prefect of the 
Propaganda had written to the Paris Nuncio,* expressing his 
satisfaction that the Prelate had postponed other matters " to 
the much more important one concerning the establishment 
of missions in the united provinces of the new American 
republic." Though there is a wide gap from October 20, 
1783 to April 7, 1784, in the correspondence between the 
Prefect and the Nuncio which has come to our hands, this 
letter shows that the Nuncio had maintained his activities 

2 It was stated in the Secret Journals of Congress, February 11, 1784 
(Vol. Ill, p. 493), that "the Sieur de Marbois is appointed Consul General 
for the thirteen United States." He was to become French Charge d' Affaires 
upon la Luzerne's return to France in June, 1784. 

3 This is learned from a marginal note on the document by M. de Rayneval. 

4 Appendix No. 2, p. 80. 



FRENCH COOPERATION, MAY 1784 65 

in the said establishment. The Prefect awaited with a con- 
cern that may well have been imagined by the Nuncio, " the 
result of the conference with Monseigneur the bishop of 
Autun and with the royal minister, count of Vergennes," 
which the Nuncio had arranged, or was arranging at that 
time. As a matter of fact, on April 26th, three days after la 
Luzerne's letter arrived in Paris, the Nuncio was able to 
inform the Cardinal that he had arranged such a conference 
for May 3rd. 

Before giving an account of that most important con- 
ference, it is well to consider what had been the reaction of 
American Catholics to the Roman plan for the reorganiza- 
tion of the Catholic missions, after they learned the con- 
tent of the Nuncio's note to Franklin. John Carroll, in a 
letter to Charles Plowden written on the eve of the meeting 
arranged in Paris by the Papal Nuncio, and dated April 10, 
1784, said. 5 

Dr. Franklin has sent into congress a copy of a note delivered him 
by the nuncio at Paris, which I shall enclose in this. I did not see it 
before congress had sent their instructions to their minister in answer 
thereto; and the answer, I am well informed, is, that congress have 
no answer to give, the matter not being in their department, but 
resting with the different states. But this you may be assured of; 
that no authority derived from the Propa[gan]da will ever be admit- 
ted here; that the Catholic Clergy and laity know that the only con- 
nection they ought to have with Rome is to acknowledge the Pope as 
Spiritual] head of the Church; that no Congregations existing in 
his States shall be allowed to exercise any share of his Spir[itua]l 
authority here, that no Bishop Vicar Apostolical shall be admitted, 
and, if we are to have a Bishop, he shall not be in partibus (a 
refined political Roman contrivance), but an ordinary national 
Bishop, in whose appointment Rome shall have no share: so that 
we are very easy about their machinations. Our Brethren have, in a 
meeting held last October, settled or nearly settled a plan of internal 

5 This quotation is from Bernard U. Campbell, op. cit., Vol. Ill, p. 376, 
completed and corrected in the light of Hughes' text, op. cit., pp. 619-620 
note. 

5 



66 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

government, which will meet with your approbation, being founded 
on Christian and rational principles. 

Two points of this document are to be noted. Though 
Carroll claims to be well informed, he is mistaken when he 
says that Congress had already sent their answer to Franklin, 
for that answer was not to be sent until May llth. Its tenor 
is well known to all: 

Resolved, that Doctor Franklin be desired to notify to the apostolic 
nuncio at Versailles, that Congress will always be pleased to testify 
their respect to his sovereign and state; but that the subject of his 
application to doctor Franklin, being purely spiritual, it is without 
the jurisdiction and powers of Congress, who have no authority to 
permit or refuse it, these powers being reserved to the several states 
individually. 

In the second place, the letter reflects the deep-rooted oppo- 
sition of the American clergy to the jurisdiction of the Propa- 
ganda over the United States, and regardless of the nation- 
ality American or foreign of the bishop who might be 
appointed; it was the jurisdiction of the Propaganda itself 
that they considered foreign and were prepared to resist. 

A very full report from the Nuncio to the Cardinal 
Prefect, May 17, 1784, 6 makes it possible to follow in all its 
details, what occurred at the meeting of May 3rd, arranged 
by the Nuncio between himself, the Comte de Vergennes, 
and the Bishop of Autun. At that first meeting, the Prime 
Minister read an extract from la Luzerne's report of January 
31st which had just reached him. The Nuncio recalled the 
instructions he had received in the Prefect's letter of Septem- 
ber 27, 1783, and, in response to a question which had been 
put to him in the Fall by Vergennes, stated that both the 
Roman Congregation and he were without information on 
the number of Catholics in the United States and that, conse- 
quently, it would be impossible, at this time, to fix the num- 

* Appendix No. 7, p. 84. 



FRENCH COOPERATION, MAY 1784 67 

her of missionaries and students for whom France had been 
asked to provide. He also reported the Propaganda to be of 
opinion that for the present eight missionaries would be 
sufficient, that eight or ten students might be sent to France 
for their education, and the Propaganda would take two or 
three more under its care. He ended by stating the Congre- 
gation's intention to support these three students, and also 
the bishop in partibus or Vicar- Apostolic who would be sent 
to Maryland. 

The question of the most desirable place for the education 
of American seminarians then came up for discussion. Paris 
was excluded on the grounds that the seminaries of the 
French capital did not include humanities in their curriculum, 
that the colleges were too expensive, and that the seminaries 
of Foreign Missions and of the Saint-Esprit were both inade- 
quate. Thereupon the Bishop of Autun proposed that the 
students be sent to Bordeaux " a great, rich, and populous 
city, near the ocean, to which there come, among other mer- 
chants, those of North America, with their ships laden with 
merchandise " and that the archbishop of that See, an inti- 
mate friend of his, should place those students in one of the 
seminaries of that city. He believed that the fees would 
amount to about one thousand livres a year for each student. 
No doubt the Nuncio also reported to the Prime Minister 
and the Bishop of Autun " the favorable information that 
Mr. Franklin has given me of the merits and good reputation 
of Mr. Carrol ... a subject who, if, in equality of merits, 
he should be selected as the vicar-apostolic to be sent to Mary- 
land, would be very welcome to many members of Congress, 
and especially, to Mr. Franklin, who has recommended him 
to me with great solicitude," since in the letter which it was 
unanimously decided the Nuncio should write to la Luzernc, 
the French minister was to be requested to inquire about 
John Carroll's qualifications for the office. 

Is it rash to see in la Luzerne's f eelings regarding the pref- 



68 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

erence of American Catholics for a native Bishop, the expres- 
sion of which had been read at the beginning of the meeting, 
no less than in Franklin's warm recommendation of John 
Carroll, the motive of that decision? As shown by the Nun- 
cio's detailed account, the main business of the meeting was 
to provide for the education of American missionaries. No 
allusion was made to Franklin's project of appointing a 
French bishop, or even a French agent de liaison between the 
Nuncio and the American minister. Nothing was heard of 
that project after the Bishop of Autun's " Observation " on 
Franklin's letter, January 4, 1784. The reasons which may 
have caused the American diplomat to change his mind are a 
matter of pure conjecture. 

The Nuncio lost no time in drafting his Note and the let- 
ter to la Luzerne which had been decided upon. According to 
his report of May 17th, on the llth of that month " Tues- 
day of last week " he informed Vergennes of the content 
of these documents, and the Prime Minister undertook to 
send them, with his ordinary despatch, to the Chevalier or, 
in the latter's absence (for he was about to return to Europe) 
to whosoever should be in charge of His Most Christian 
Majesty's affairs in the United States. The documents, with a 
recommendation from the Prime Minister, were to go on 
Tuesday of the third week of May, which that year fell on 
the 18th. From Paris the Nuncio went to Passy to see Mr. 
Franklin, who was then suffering from an attack of gravel, 
and he informed the American minister of all that had trans- 
pired at the meeting of May 3rd, and of all he had written 
to la Luzerne. He thanked the Doctor for his obliging kind- 
ness in informing Congress and requested his continued good 
offices for the success of the undertaking. Franklin expressed 
his satisfaction and his pleasure, and assured the Nuncio that 
his Republic would be most grateful to have two or three of 
its subjects' students of the College of the Propaganda. 

The Archives of the Propaganda and the Archives du Min- 



FRENCH COOPERATION, MAY 1784 69 

istere des Affaires Etrangeres have yielded a crop of docu- 
ments permitting us to form a very clear idea of the spirit in 
which all those who had attended the meeting of May 3rd 
interpreted their duty. The first is a covering letter dated 
May 12, 1784, from the Nuncio to Vergennes, 7 requesting 
the Prime Minister to transmit to la Luzerne: a letter to the 
Chevalier, a note to the French minister in the United States, 
and a letter for one of the oldest missionaries in the United 
States. All bear the same date, May 12, 1784. 

The letter to la Luzerne 8 stresses the fact that " by order 
of my Court [the Roman Court] " the Nuncio is in agree- 
ment with the Minister of His Most Christian Majesty and 
with the Minister of the United States. The Prelate explains 
why he addresses himself " only to your [la Luzerne's] pru- 
dence " on the important and delicate point of the selection 
of the future American bishop or vicar apostolic; he requests 
the French minister to give him information concerning " Mr. 
Carrol of Maryland," and to let him know whether he con- 
siders the Jesuit missionary " worthy to be named bishop in 
partibus and vicar-apostolic." This part of the Nuncio's let- 
ter explains how, the following August, Barbe-Marbois, in 
answering the communication addressed to his predecessor, 
came to express the view that the choice should not fall upon 
a French ecclesiastic, and recommended the same John Car- 
roll as eligible for the episcopal see. 

The note to the Chevalier de la Luzerne 9 was written by 
the Nuncio " in the name of the Cardinal Prefect," in order 
" that two months of time should not be lost." It begins with 
a history of the negotiations which the Nuncio had under- 
taken by order of the Propaganda. Upon the American diplo- 
mat's answer to the Nuncio's proposal of July 28, 1783, His 
Holiness, instructed the Congregation to agree with Franklin 
and the French ministers upon the most desirable means of 

7 Appendix No. 3, p. 80. Appendix No. 5, p. 82. 

8 Appendix No. 4, p. 80. 



70 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

giving the North American missions the stability and develop- 
ment of which they might be capable. The Nuncio then asks 
for information upon four specific points: 1. Which of the 
missionaries now in North America would be most worthy to 
be created bishop in partibus; 2. a native would be preferred, 
but a Frenchman would be sent when the provinces lacked 
missionaries; 3. a numerical and geographical census of 
Catholics was needed; 4. whether there were Latin schools 
for the preparation of students to be sent to France or to 
Rome for their theological studies. The consistency of the 
policy inaugurated by the Propaganda and carried out by the 
Papal Nuncio, from the first Instructions given in January 
1783 down to this stage of the negotiations, is thus clearly 
shown. Whenever the question of establishing a Catholic 
hierarchy in the United States arose, preference was invaria- 
bly expressed for a native candidate and the appointment of 
an alien considered only in case a suitable native were not 
available; moreover, we have seen from the letter accom- 
panying this note that the Nuncio's attention had already 
been called to John Carroll. These points must be borne in 
mind for a correct understanding of the letter Barbe-Marbois 
was to write, the following August, in reply to these com- 
munications from the Papal Nuncio. 

The Nuncio's letter to " One of the missionaries living in 
America 10 asked for detailed information regarding the con- 
dition of American missions, the number of missionaries that 
would be necessary, the names of the provinces where there 
were Catholics, and whether there were among the natives 
" subjects available to receive holy orders and to exercise the 
functions of missionary." The answer to these questions 
would enable the Roman authorities to supplement, and pos- 
sibly to check, information that would be supplied by the 
French minister. No mention is made, however, in that letter 
of the project of appointing a bishop. If this preference 

10 Appendix No. 6, p. 84. 



FRENCH COOPERATION, MAY 1784 71 

shown by the Papal representative for the French minister, 
on whose prudence he relies concerning the selection of the 
bishop vicar-apostolic, causes surprise, it should be remem- 
bered that, in matters of such importance, it is not the prac- 
tice of the Holy See to deal directly with the clergy over 
whom authority is to be established. 

All the documents entrusted to the Prime Minister were 
immediately forwarded to la Luzerne and, in the letter ac- 
companying them, we find these significant words showing 
once more, how the French government had been brought 
into the affair: " I have conferred with the nuncio on the 
project of establishing a bishop or apostolic vicar in America, 
and you will find annexed a letter that this prelate writes to 
you on the subject. You will see that we have not sufficient 
information to form a proper resolution. 11 

The packet addressed to la Luzerne was on its way to 
Lorient when the Nuncio, on May 17th, reported to the Car- 
dinal Prefect all that occurred in these days which marked 
the culmination and the end of the Paris phase of the nego- 
tiation for the establishment of a Catholic hierarchy in the 
United States. This capital letter 12 reveals the Nuncio as 
faithfully informing the Prefect of every step he has taken 
to carry out the instructions received from Rome. In his 
eagerness to serve, he anticipates every wish of his superior; 
he informs him, for instance, as guidance for future corre- 
spondence with America, that a packet leaves the port of 
Lorient on Tuesday of every third week. He is anxious to 
win the approval of the Congregation and expresses the hope 
that it will be pleased with the result of the meeting of May 
3rd, with the information written by la Luzerne regarding the 
attitude of Congress and of American Catholics, with the 
tenor of his own letters to the French minister, and, finally, 
with the favorable information received from Dr. Franklin 

11 Bancroft, p. 360. " Appendix No. 7, p. 84. 



72 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

of the merits of Mr. Carroll. He expects further orders to 
bring to its desired end the arrangement for the education of 
American seminarians, " in which the Count of Vergennes, 
seconding the pious and religious intentions of the Most 
Christian King, takes great interest." He also reports that he 
has kept Franklin informed of all that he has done and 
written. 

In all this may be recognized the punctilious manner in 
which the agent of the Holy See dealt with the Roman Con- 
gregation and with the representatives of the two nations, 
French and American, and it shows, as do the previous docu- 
ments, the disinterestedness of the French officials called 
upon to lend their assistance to the efforts the Nuncio made 
in the name and by order of the Holy See. If, as has been 
alleged, the plan of appointing a French bishop was a 
point of French policy, conceived by the Minister or some 
subordinate, it is hard to understand the lack of even a hint 
of that project in the whole of their correspondence. 

Meanwhile the Cardinal Prefect was growing anxious to 
learn the result of the Paris meeting of May 3rd. On May 
29th he wrote to the Nuncio: 13 

According to what Your Lordship was pleased to suggest in your 
letter of the 26th of April, the interview concerning the matter of 
the United States of the new American republic should have taken 
place several days ago, and therefore, I am awaiting the result of it 
with the interest that Your Lordship can imagine. 

This letter crossed the Report directed May 17th to the 
Propaganda, and another letter, dated May 31st, 1 * in which 
the Nuncio assured the Prefect that the Comte de Vergennes 
"was pleased ... to inform me of the solicitude with 
which he had seconded my action," in forwarding to the 
United States all the documents entrusted to him by the 
Nuncio. 

13 Appendix No. 8, p. 87. " Appendix No. 9, p. 87. 



FRENCH COOPERATION, MAY 1784 73 

These documents, when they reached America, were not 
received by the Chevalier de la Luzerne. About the time of the 
Paris meeting, the French minister was preparing to return to 
Europe, and we learn from a letter of Edward Bancroft to 
William Frazer of Philadelphia, under date of May 28th, 15 
that he had hired a ship to carry himself and his suite to 
Lorient, and expected to sail the 15th of June. The docu- 
ments therefore came into the hands of Barbe-Marbois, who 
became Charge d' Affaires upon the departure of La Luzerne, 
and in this quality made the inquiry requested. His report 
must have been made with the utmost care, judging from the 
fact that after writing a first and rather brief answer on 
August 15, 1784, he waited until March 27, 1785, to direct to 
the Comte de Vergennes a detailed survey of the situation. 

The part of the first letter relative to the present issue 16 
states the sentiments of Catholic Americans. The Charge 
d' Affaires finds them in general ill-disposed towards the 
Revolution, but is pleased to mention notable exceptions 
one of them being Charles Carroll, with whom he has dis- 
cussed the future of the Church in the United States. The 
whole Catholic body is anxious to have a bishop or vicar- 
apostolic, but it will be difficult to unite the faithful, who are 
widely dispersed and have no regular correspondence among 
themselves. Barbe-Marbois advises his government to use 
" a great deal of reserve " in engaging in the task of helping 
American Catholics and, above all, he believes that they 
" ought not to think of making the choice fall upon a French 
priest. The men of this country would make him experience 
all sorts of difficulties, and, respectable as might be his char- 
acter and his conduct, there would be little probability of suc- 
cess in his apostolic labors." Charles Carroll is the one en- 
trusted with the Nuncio's letter for the oldest missionary, 



" See Bancroft, p. 370. 

16 Document No. 10, p. 88. Translated and quoted by Bancroft, p. 420. 



74 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

and in answer to the Prelate's reference to John Carroll, 
Barbe-Marbois unhesitatingly writes: 

This priest, whose personal acquaintance I do not possess, enjoys 
a good reputation; and I believe that it would be desirable that the 
chief of the churches of Pennsylvania and Maryland should concur 
with the intention of his Holiness to raise him to the episcopal see. 

These two recommendations of the Charge d' Affaires the 
first, against the choice of a French bishop for the American 
Church, the second, in favor of John Carroll, show how se- 
riously he took the directions given July 21, 1783, to the 
Chevalier de la Luzerne." 

When Barbe-Marbois wrote his fuller report of March 27, 
1785, M John Carroll had been appointed superior of the 
American missions and prefect apostolic. The Charge d' Af- 
faires expressed his satisfaction over this choice, than which, 
he said, none could have been more agreeable to Catholics of 
the United States, and he reiterated that he had no doubt 
Carroll's elevation to the episcopate would be welcomed by 
them. Nevertheless, he was as keenly conscious as they of 
the difficulties arising from " republican jealousy " against 
foreign dependence, even in matters of religion, and he there- 
fore advised that the Holy See should proceed slowly, and 
relax, as much as possible, its authority in the United States. 
He counselled waiting until the Episcopalians, who were 
facing a similar problem, had paved the way for the intro- 
duction of the episcopate in the new republic; " then," said 
he, " it would appear odious to refuse the same advantage to 
the Catholics." But until then he believed it would be " for 
the advantage of religion not to precipitate anything." Re- 
garding the method to be followed in the establishment of 

17 " We are without the means of influencing the domestic arrangements 
of the United States; and, under all circumstances, we can but be tranquil 
spectators of the commotions that their constitution and their internal rela- 
tions can meet with." See Chapter I, p. 19. 

"Appendix No. 11, p. 90. 



FRENCH COOPERATION, MAY 1784 75 

the hierarchy, he considered the election of a bishop by the 
churches of the different States " more analogous to the 
spirit of the country," though he foresaw the difficulty of 
arranging such an election. His last recommendation was to 
" raise by degrees to the episcopacy a person who has been 
for some time known as the chief, and whose nomination, 
therefore, would astonish no one." He ends his report with 
a brief census of American Catholics according to the differ- 
ent States. 

The wisdom of Barbe-Marbois' recommendations will ap- 
pear when they are compared with the plea, made about the 
same time and along the same lines, by John Carroll himself. 
Once more the spirit of disinterested cooperation is shown by 
the Government of France and her representative in the 
United States. To dissipate persisting doubt as to whether 
any French official entertained the thought of using religion 
as a means to secure influence in the new republic, mention 
may here be made of a letter written January 2, 1786, to Ver- 
gennes by Otto, who had been appointed French minister to 
the United States. 19 Far from wishing to establish French 
ecclesiastical domination in the United States, this diplomat 
opposed even the establishment of a French mission. " We 
are essentially interested," said he, " that there should not 
be in America a French church, since it would be one motive 
the more to excite the subjects of His Majesty to emigrate." 



18 Appendix No. 12, p. 94. 



APPENDICES TO CHAPTER III 

1. La Luzerne to the Comte de Vergennes, January 31, 1784 

2. The Cardinal Prefect to the Nuncio, April 7, 1784 

3. The Nuncio to the Comte de Vergennes, May 12, 1784 

4. (a) The Nuncio to la Luzerne, May 12, 1784 (translation) 
(b) French original of above 

5. The Nuncio, in the name of the Prefect, to la Luzerne, May 12, 

1784 

6. The Nuncio to a Missionary in America, May 12, 1784 

7. The Nuncio to the Cardinal Prefect, May 17, 1784 

8. The Cardinal Prefect to the Nuncio, May 29, 1784 

9. The Nuncio to the Cardinal Prefect, May 31, 1784 

10. (a) Barbe-Marbois to the Comte de Vergennes, August 15, 

1784 
(b) French original of above 

11. (a) Barbe-Marbois to the Comte de Vergennes, March 27, 

1785 (translation) 
(b) French original of above 

12. Otto to the Comte de Vergennes, January 2, 1786 



77 



1. LA LUZERNE TO THE COMTE DE VERGENNES. 1 

Extract of the communication of the Chevalier de la Luzerne to the 
count of Vergennes under date of Annapolis, January 31st, 1784. 

Monseigneur the Apostolic Nuncio has made some propositions in 
the name of His Holiness to Doctor Franklin in regard to the send- 
ing of a bishop, or vicar-apostolic, whom the Holy Father desires to 
place over the Roman Catholic churches of this continent. The con- 
gress has respectfully welcomed that overture; it has been unable, 
however, to take action in this matter, which is not of the compe- 
tency of Congress. It is a matter that concerns the Catholics alone; 
and the delegates who have spoken to me on the subject have as- 
sured me that a Catholic bishop would be very well received in the 
state of Pennsylvania, and much more so in Maryland, where there 
are many Catholics, providing the prelate carefully avoided to assume 
any temporal jurisdiction or authority. The congress, in general, 
would be pleased at the residence of a prelate, who by conferring 
the sacrament of Holy Orders on the priests of these parts, would 
relieve them of the necessity of receiving it in London or in Quebec, 
as has been done in the past. Some of the delegates even believed 
that a Catholic bishop would not refuse to confer Holy Orders on 
the Anglican ministers of America, who, until now, have been 
obliged to procure their ordination at London ; but this practice does 
not seem to me to be compatible with the profession that those who 
receive Holy Orders must make, or with the examination that they 
must undergo. The State Legislatures and Congress refrain from 
entangling themselves with religious matters. 

P. S. The Catholics would not be pleased with a foreign Bishop, 
but they could very well choose the worthiest of their priests and 
present him to His Holiness for consecration, if he judges him quali- 
fied for the episcopal functions. 2 



1 Devitt, Propaganda Documents, op. c'tt., pp. 203-204. 

a The letter is endorsed, " M. de RCayneval]. Recu le 23 avril." The post- 
script, hitherto unpublished, is taken from the Archives du Ministere des 
Affaires Etrangeres, Vol. 27, p. 77, and in the original French reads as 
follows: " P. S. Les Catboliques ne verroient pas avec plaisir un Eveque 
etranger, mats 'tis pourront bien choisir le plus digne de leurs pretres et le 
presenter a S. S. pour qu'elle le jasse consacrer, si elle juge qu'il est en etat 
de remplir les fonctions episcopales." 

79 



80 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

2. THE CARDINAL PREFECT TO THE NuNCio. 3 
To Monseigneur Doria, Archbishop of Seleucia, Apostolic Nuncio 

atPa " S - April 7th, 1784. 

Your Lordship has acted very wisely, according to your habit, in 
postponing the matter of Monseigneur Miroudot to the much more 
important one concerning the establishment of missions in the 
united provinces of the new American republic. I shall await, with 
the concern that you may imagine, the result of the conference with 
Monseigneur the bishop of Autun and with the royal minister, 
count of Vergennes, hoping no less in the zealous activity of Your 
Lordship than in the merit of the cause, to see so important a matter 
happily concluded. 

3. THE NUNCIO TO THE COMTE DE VERGENNES.* 



xr -c 11 
Your Excellency; 

I have the honor of forwarding to Y[our] E[xcellency] a packet 
addressed to Mr. Chevalier de la Luzerne and containing the Letter 
I agreed with Y[our] Exc[ellency] to write to him, a Note and a 
letter for one of the oldest Missionaries established in the Provinces 
of the United States of America. Y[our] Exc[ellency] will find 
herewith a copy of these papers which you were so kind to ask from 
me. I have the honor to be with a perfect attachment, Sir, Your 
most humble and obedient servant. 

J. Archbishop of Seleucia. 

H. E. Comte de Vergennes, Minister of Foreign Affairs, at the Court. 

4 (a). THE NUNCIO TO LA LuzERNE. 5 

Copy of a letter of Monseigneur the Nuncio to the Chevalier de la 
Luzerne, minister plenipotentiary of His Most Christian Ma- 
jesty to the United States of North America. 

Paris, May 12th, 1784. 
I have the honor of directing to you a note relating to the estab- 

8 Devitt, Propaganda Documents, op. cit., p. 204. 

* Endorsed, " Repl. May 25." Archives du Ministere des Affaires 
Etrangeres, Etats-Unis, Vol. 27, p. 344. 

1 Devitt, Propaganda Documents, op. cit., pp. 206-207. 



APPENDICES TO CHAPTER III 81 

lishment of the missions in the United States of North America. 
The count of Vergennes has assured me that Your Lordship will be 
pleased to procure for us the information to which the note refers 
and which may assist us to take desirable measures for the forward- 
ing of a plan concerning which, by order of my court, I am in 
agreement with the ministers of His Most Christian Majesty and 
with the minister of the United States, on a subject of so much im- 
portance for the Catholic religion. I am happy to be able to address 
myself to Your Lordship in relation to this matter. Your discern- 
ment and zeal assure me of the precision of the information in ques- 
tion, for which my court will be thankful to you. I take the liberty of 
inclosing a letter that I have written by order of the Congregation 
of the Propaganda, which I beg you will deliver to one of the oldest 
missionaries of those provinces. You will see by it that I seek of 
such missionary some points of information, without, however, re- 
ferring to the article concerning the bishop vicar-apostolic and to 
the selection of the latter. On so important and delicate a point, I 
have thought well to address myself only to your prudence, [I must 
add] 6 that the ex- Jesuit, Mr. Carrol of Maryland, has been 
spoken of to me with eulogy. [I have been assured that he] was 
educated at St. Omer and, in 1776, was sent by the Congress 
to Canada, with Mr. Franklin and other commissioners. I hope that 
Your Lordship will be pleased to give me information concerning 
him, and will let me know whether you consider him worthy to be 
named bishop in partibus and vicar-apostolic. 

4 (b) . LE NONCE A LA LUZERNE. T 

Copie d'une lettre de M. le Nonce a M. le Chev. de La. Luzerne, 
Ministre Plenipotentiaire de Sa Majeste tres Chretienne en 
Amerique. 

Paris ce 12 Mai 1784. 

J'ai 1'honneur de vous envoyer, M. une note relative a 1'etablisse- 
ment des Missions dans les Etats unis de 1' Amerique Septentrionale. 
M. le Cte de Vergennes m'a fait esperer que vous voudrez bien 
nous procurer les edaircissemens detailles dans cette note et qui 
pourront nous mettre en etat de prendre les arrangemens con- 
venables pour I'execution du plan dont je suis convenu par ordre 
de ma Cour avec les Ministres de Sa Majeste tres Chretienne et celui 

8 These words were omitted in the translation. 

7 Archives du Ministere des Affaires Etrangeres, Etats-Unis, Vol. 27, p. 342. 
6 



82 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

des Etats-Unis sur un objet aussi important pour la Religion Je me 
felicite M. de pouvoir m'adresser a vous dans cette affaire, vos 
lumieres et votre zele m'assurent de 1'exactitude de ces renseigne- 
mens dont ma Cour aura une veritable obligation, je prends la 
liberte de joindre ici une lettre que j'ecris par ordre de la Con- 
gregation de la Propagande et que je vous prie de vouloir bien faire 
remettre a 1'un des plus anciens missionnaires qui se trouvent dans 
ces Provinces. Vous y verrez M. que je lui demande quelques 
edaircissemens, sans entrer cependant avec lui dans 1'article qui a 
rapport a 1'Eveque et Vicaire apostolique et a son choix. j'ai cru 
devoir me rapporter uniquement a votre sagesse sur cet article aussi 
delicat qu'important, je dois ajouter que Ton m'a parle avec eloge 
de M. Carrol de Maryland ci devant Jesuite. on m'a assure qu'il a 
etc eleve a St. Omer et que le Congres 1'a envoye en 1776 dans le 
Canada avec M. Franklin et les autres commissaires. 

J'espere que vous voudrez bien me donner votre avis sur ce sujet, 
et me dire si vous le juges digne d'etre nomme Eveque in partibus et 
Vicaire Apostolique. 

J'ai 1'honneur &c, &c. 

5. THE NUNCIO IN THE NAME OF THE CARDINAL 
PREFECT TO LA LUZERNE." 

Copy of the note sent to the Chevalier de la Luzerne, May 12th, 
1784. 

Before the American revolution, the Catholics and missionaries 
of those states, in what concerns religion, were under the vigilance 
and direction of the Vicar- Apostolic residing in London. That revo- 
lution having separated the interests of the United States from those 
of England, and having entirely changed the government of those 
States, the Sacred Congregation of the Propaganda has seen the 
necessity of taking other measures for the government of these mis- 
sions: whence, Monseigneur the Archbishop of Seleucia, apostolic 
nuncio at Paris, was charged by this Congregation to make on that 
subject to the Congress of the United States some propositions, not 
less useful to religion and to the spiritual assistance of the Catholics 
than acceptable to the government of those States. 

Monseigneur the Nuncio mentioned the matter to Mr. Franklin, 
who, however, answered that, having seriously reflected on it, he 

* Devitt, Propaganda Documents, op. cit., pp. 204-206. 



APPENDICES TO CHAPTER III 83 

considered it absolutely useless to refer the question to the congress, 
which, by its constitutions and faculties, could not, and should not, 
entangle itself in ecclesiastical affairs, and consequently, that it 
was in the power of the Court of Rome to take all measures that 
might be of advantage to the Catholics in America, without offend- 
ing the constitutions. After receiving this answer, the Congrega- 
tion, by order of His Holiness, instructed Monseigneur the Nuncio 
to agree with the ministers of His Most Christian Majesty, and with 
the minister of the United States, upon the most desirable means 
of giving to the missions of North America the stability and develop- 
ment of which they might be capable. 

His Most Christian Majesty having wished, on such an occasion, 
to give a new proof of his piety and of the interest that he takes in 
the preservation and extension of the Catholic religion in all parts 
of the world, found no difficulty in agreeing to a plan that is no less 
useful to the Catholics of the United States than to the government 
of those provinces; but, to establish a stable condition of things, 
and to forestall all the objections and difficulties that might present 
themselves in its realization, ft is necessary to have certain informa- 
tion that may make it possible to compass that object. 

1st. To have exact knowledge of the conduct and capacity of the 
ecclesiastics and missionaries who are in the various provinces of 
North America; which one of them would be the most worthy, and 
the most acceptable to the assembly of those provinces, to be created 
bishop in partibus and invested with the character of vicar-apostolic, 
considering that it will be desirable to fix the residence in that prov- 
ince in which there is the greatest number of Catholics. 

2d. If there be among those ecclesiastics a native of the country 
who may be among the most worthy, in equality of merits he would 
be preferred to any of another nationality; and whenever the prov- 
inces should be in lack of missionaries, a Frenchman will be sent to 
establish himself there, residing in the province suggested above. 

3d. To know the number of the ecclesiastics and missionaries, as, 
also, that of the Catholics in the different provinces, and their area, 
assuming that the greater number of them is to be found in Penn- 
sylvania and in Maryland. It would be well, however, to know the 
same in regard to the other provinces. 

4th. To know if there be schools in those provinces, where the 
Latin language may be learnt, and where those youths who wish to 
prepare for the ecclesiastical state may have studied the humanities 



84 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

before repairing to France or to Rome for the study of philosophy 
and of theology. 

6. THE NUNCIO TO A MISSIONARY IN AMERICA. 9 

Copy of a letter of Mgr. the Nuncio to one of the Missionaries liv- 
ing in America, dated May 12th, 1784. 

The interests of religion requiring that new information be had 
of the missions that are established in the United States of North 
America, the Congregation of the Propaganda has ordered me to 
ask you for detailed information of the present condition of those 
missions. I beg of you to let me know, at the same time, what 
number of missionaries would be necessary for the service of those 
stations and to secure spiritual assistance to the Catholic subjects of 
the United States; which are the provinces where there are Catho- 
lics, and where the greatest number of Catholics are to be found; 
and lastly, whether there be, among the natives of that country, sub- 
jects available to receive holy orders and to exercise the functions 
of missionary. I will be very thankful to you, personally, for the 
precision and celerity with which you may be kind enough to procure 
and to forward this information for me. 

I have the honor, etc., etc. 

7. THE NUNCIO TO 'THE CARDINAL PREFECT. 10 

As I announced to Your Eminence in my respectful communica- 
tion of the 26th of April, the meeting concerning the very im- 
portant matter of the establishment of the missions in the provinces 
of the new republic of the United States of North America took 
place at Versailles, on the 3d of the present month, between the 
count of Vergennes, Monseigneur the bishop of Autun, and myself. 
The count of Vergennes read an extract from a dispatch of the 
Chevalier de la Luzerne, minister plenipotentiary of the Most Chris- 
tian King near that republic, under date of Annapolis, January 31st, 
1784, of which, afterwards, he was kind enough to give me a copy 
that I have the honor of transmitting to Your Eminence, herewith, 
in order that you may see by it that, although Mr. Franklin ex- 
pressed the belief that it was absolutely useless to send to the con- 

' Devitt, Propaganda Documents, op. cit., pp. 211-212. 
w lbid., pp. 207-211. 



APPENDICES TO CHAPTER III 85 

gress the note that I addressed to him, he, nevertheless, forwarded 
it to that body, while the latter received well and with respect the 
proposal of the Holy Father, made by me, to send a bishop or a 
vicar-apostolic, and that a bishop would be very well received in 
the state of Pennsylvania and especially so, in the state of Mary- 
land, where there is the greatest number of Catholics; but that the 
congress has been unable to take cognizance of this matter, which is 
in no way of that body's competency. 

At the meeting, I conveyed all that Your Eminence was pleased 
to suggest to me in your letter of the 27th of September, 1783, and 
called attention to the fact that the Sacred Congregation of the 
Propaganda, and I, were uninformed of the number of Catholics in 
the United States of the American republic, and that, consequently, 
it was not possible to fix that of the missionaries and of the stu- 
dents, but, that it was believed that eight missionaries, for the pres- 
ent, would be sufficient, and that eight or ten students might be 
educated in France, and two or three, at the college of Propaganda, 
which will see to the support, not only of these two or three stu- 
dents, but, also, of the bishop in partibus vicar-apostolic to be sent 
to Maryland and it was unanimously agreed that, in view of the 
declaration of the Chevalier de la Luzerne, I, without loss of time, 
should forward to him a note, together with a letter of mine, to 
him, and another letter from me to one of the missionaries living in 
America, of the general tenor of the enclosed copies. I informed 
the count of Vergennes of the contents of this note and letters on 
Tuesday of last week, in order to be in accordance with that royal 
minister, who willingly undertook to recommend and to send them 
with his dispatches to the Chevalier, or, in the absence of the latter, 
who is about to return to Europe, to whoever is in charge of His 
Most Christian Majesty's affairs; they go by the packet, which leaves 
1'Orient for North America on Tuesday of the third week of each 
month, and which goes and returns in the course of three months; 
this may serve that Sacred Congregation as guidance, when it may 
have occasion to send a letter to those parts. There was discussed 
the question of what would be the most adequate and desirable place 
for the education of the students who, when duly prepared, are 
to go to those missions. It was shown that, in the seminaries of 
Paris, only philosophy, canon and civil law, and theology are taught, 
not grammar, the humanities, mathematics, and rhetoric, for which 
latter studies there are colleges here, in which the fees are certainly 
higher than in those of the provinces, and that the Seminary for 



86 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

Foreign Missions and that of Saint Esprit, in this capital, would be 
inadequate, for the same reasons, for those students who were not 
sufficiently well grounded in the Latin language to begin at once 
the study of philosophy, law, and theology. Monseigneur the 
bishop of Autun therefore proposed that the students who may be 
thought necessary, after receiving the answers from America, could 
be sent to Bordeaux, which, as Your Eminence is well aware, is a 
great, rich, and populous city, near the ocean, to which there come, 
among other merchants, those of North America, with their ships, 
laden with merchandise, and the archbishop of that see, an intimate 
friend of Monseigneur d' Autun, could place those students in one 
of the seminaries of that city, the latter prelate believing that the 
fees would amount to about one thousand lire, for each student, per 
year. I hope that His Holiness and, also, the Sacred Congregation 
will be pleased, not only with what transpired at the meeting to 
which I refer, and with what was written by the Chevalier de la 
Luzerne, but, also, with all that I have said in the letters and not 
already mentioned, since this is related with the faculties that were 
communicated to me by the above-mentioned letter of Your Emi- 
nence of the 27th of September, 1783, and with the favorable in- 
formation that Mr. Franklin has given me of the merits and good 
reputation of Mr. Carrol, an ex- Jesuit of the state of Maryland, who 
was sent by the congress to Canada, in 1776, with Mr. Franklin and 
the other commissioners, a subject who, if, in equality of merits, he 
should be selected as the vicar-apostolic to be sent to Maryland, 
would be very welcome to many members of Congress, and espe- 
cially, to Mr. Franklin, who has recommended him to me with 
great solicitude. When Your Eminence shall have seen the exposi- 
tion that I have made in the name of the Sacred Congregation, with- 
out incurring any obligation, and without informing that Congrega- 
tion beforehand, in order that two months of time should not be 
lost, I will expect he further orders that I should follow, to bring 
to its desired end the present matter, in which the Count of Ver- 
gennes, seconding the pious and religious intentions of the Most 
Christian King, takes the greatest interest. I will not omit to in- 
form Your Eminence that, as Mr. Franklin is suffering from the 
gravel, his nephew goes now, in his stead, to Versailles, and as, on 
that account, I was unable to find him there, last Tuesday, I went to 
see him at his house in Passy, and I informed him of all that had 
transpired at the above meeting, as well as of what I had written 
to the Chevalier de la Luzerne, while I thanked him for the obliging 



APPENDICES TO CHAPTER III 87 

kindness of informing the congress, and asked him to use his good 
offices. He showed himself to be penetrated with the utmost grati- 
tude, and to be pleased, and he assured me that his republic will be 
most grateful that two or three of its subjects become students in the 
college of Propaganda at Rome, being assured that the sciences are 
taught there in the highest degree of perfection, and that, in this 
way, there would be capable subjects for the good of religion and of 
the state. And finally, awaiting the further venerated commands of 
Your Eminence, I subscribe myself, with the most respectful homage, 

Of Your Eminence, the Very Humble, Devoted, and Grateful 
Servant, 

G. Archbishop of Seleucia. 

Paris, May 17th, 1784. 

8. THE CARDINAL PREFECT TO THE NUNCIO." 
To Mgr. the Archbishop of Seleucia, Apostolic Nuncio at Paris. 

May 29th, 1784. 

According to what Your Lordship was pleased to suggest in your 
letter of the 26th of April, the interview concerning the matter of 
the United States of the new American republic should have taken 
place several days ago, and therefore, I am awaiting the result of it 
with the interest that Your Lordship can imagaine. 

9. THE NUNCIO TO THE CARDINAL PREFECT. 12 

I having sent to the count of Vergennes, with a letter, written on 
the 12th of May, the; letters that I wtrote to the Chevalier de la 
Luzerne, minister plenipotentiary of the Most Christian King near 
the states of the new American republic and to One of the mission- 
aries in that country, respectively, and the note, copies of which 
I sent to Your Eminence on the 18th of the present month, the 
above named royal minister was pleased to acknowledge receipt 
of them, and to inform me of the solicitude with which he had 
seconded my action, by a letter of which I enclose a copy. I for- 
ward it to Your Eminence, with the assurance that you will be glad 
to read it and to preserve it with the other papers that concern the 
establishment of the missions in the above republic. And pene- 

"Devitt, Propaganda Documents, op. tit., p. 212. 
pp. 212-213. 



88 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

trated with the most respectful homage, while I await the honor of 
your valued commands, I remain ever 

Of Your Eminence, the Very Humble, Devoted, and Grateful 
Servant, 

G. Archbishop of Seleucia. 

Paris, May 31st, 1784. 

10 (a). BARBE-MARBOIS TO THE COMTE DE 

VERGENNES. 13 

Philadelphia, August 15, 1784. 
Monseigneur, 

I have received Despatch No. 2 which you addressed to the 
Chevalier de la Luzerne. It was delivered to me by the Marquis de 
la Fayette just when I was recovering from an acute fever, which is 
common enough in this country, but attacked me for the first time 
in the five years of my residence here. For more than ten days it 
prevented me from attending to business and has left me extremely 
weak. 

Next November, Monseigneur, I shall inform Congress of the 
permission His Majesty graciously grants to the United States ships 
to stop over at Ile-de-France. This favor, of which I have notified 
the traders in advance, is very important for them, and will prob- 
ably attract to our Islands part of that commerce which was begin- 
ning to take the direction of the Cape of Good Hope. 

14 The Catholics, always directed by the Jesuits in this country, 
have been ill-disposed to the revolution; they are not much better 
disposed toward us. But several persons of consideration have not 
the same prejudices. One of them, Mr. Carroll, the largest capi- 
talist and the richest landholder in Maryland, has even [often] 
spoken to me of the desire of the whole congregation to be directed 
by a bishop or apostolic vicar. He is a pious, wise, and prudent 
man, who feels the necessity of uniting under one chief the indi- 
viduals of our religion scattered through Maryland and Pennsyl- 

18 The first part of this letter, hitherto unpublished, is found in the Doysie 
Transcripts of the Manuscript Division, Library of Congress: Affaires Etran- 
geres, Correspondance Politique, Etats-Unis, Vol. 28, folios 140-143. The 
remainder of the letter was in cipher and is quoted from Bancroft's trans- 
lation, op. cit., Vol. I, pp. 378-379. 

"The cipher begins here; the words in brackets are our corrections. 



APPENDICES TO CHAPTER III 89 

vania; but he foresees great difficulties on account of their disper- 
sion, and because there has never been a particular and regular corre- 
spondence between the Catholics of the two states. If we take any 
part in this matter it ought to be with a great deal of reserve; and I, 
above all things, believe that we ought not to think of making the 
choice fall upon a French priest. The men of this country would 
make him prove [experience] all sorts of difficulties, and, re- 
spectable as might be his character and his conduct, there would be 
little probability of success in his apostolic labors. I am sending to 
Mr. Carroll the letter of the nuncio for the oldest missionary, and 
I have the honor to address to you a copy of that which I wrote to 
him at the same time. This prelate makes mention in his letter to 
M. de la Luzerne of the Abb Carroll, one of the relations of him 
of whom I spoke to you. This priest, whose personal acquaintance 
I do not possess, enjoys a good reputation; and I believe that it 
would be desirable that the chief of the churches of Pennsylvania 
and Maryland should concur with the intention of his Holiness to 
raise him to the episcopal see. 



10 (b). BARBE-MARBOIS AU COMTE DE 

VERGENNES. 15 

Philadelphie le 15 aoiit 1784. 
Monseigneur, 

J'ai recu la Depeche No. 2 que vous aves ecrite a Mr. le Chever 
de la Luzerne. Elle m'a etc remise par Mr. le Marquis de la Fayette 
au moment ou je sortois d'une fievre aigue asses commune dans ce 
pais-ci, mais qui m'a attaque pour la premiere fois depuis cinq ans 
que j'y reside, elle m'a empeche pendant plus de dix jours de 
m'occuper d'affaires et m'a laisse une faiblesse extreme. 

Je feray part au Congres, Monseigneur, au mois de Novembre 
prochain de la permission que Sa Majeste veut bien accorder aux 
navires des Etats-Unis de relacher a 1'Isle de France. Cette faveur 
que j'ai annoncee d'avance aux commergans leur est tres importante, 
et elle attirera probablement vers nos Isles une partie de ce com- 
merce qui commencoit a se diriger ver le Cap de Bonne esperance. 

"Rayneval's endorsement shows that this letter was received September 
24th. Doysie Transcripts, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress: Affaires 
Etrangeres, Correspondance Politique, Etats-Unis, Vol. 28, folios 140-143. 



90 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

18 Les Catholiques toujours diriges par les Jesuites dans ce pais-ci, 
Msgr, ont etc en general mal disposes pour la revolution. Us ne le 
sont pas mieux pour nous, mais plusieurs particuliers considerables 
n'ont pas les memes prejuges. M. Caroll 1'un d'eux le plus grand 
capitaliste et le plus grand Fermier du Maryland m'a souvent parle 
du desir que toute la congregation avoit d'etre dirigee par un eveque 
ou un vicaire apostolique ; c'est un homme pieux, discret et prudent 
qui sent la necessite dd reunir sous un chef les individus epars de 
notre religion dans le Maryland et la Pennsylvanie; mais il prevoit 
de grandes difficultes soit a cause de leur dispersion ; soit parce qu'il 
n'y a jamais eu de correspondance reguliere entre les Catholiques 
des deux Etats. Si nous prenons quelque part a cette affaire, ce doit 
etre avec beaucoup de reserve ; et je crois surtout que nous ne devons 
pas songer a faire tomber le choix sur un pretre francois. Ceux de ce 
pais-ci lui feroient eprouver toute sorte de difficultes, et quelque 
respectable que fut son caractere et sa conduite, il auroit peu d'ap- 
parence de succes dans ses travaux apostoliques. J'adresse a Mr. 
Caroll la lettre de Msgr le Nonce pour le plus ancien missionnaire 
et j'ai 1'honneur de vous adresser copie de celle que je lui ecris en 
meme temps. Ce Prelat fait mention dans sa lettre a Mr le Chever 
de la Luzerne de M. 1'abbe Caroll, 1'un des parents de celui dont je 
viens d' avoir 1'honneur de vous parler. ce Pretre que je ne connais 
personnellement, jouit d'une bonne reputation et je crois qu'il seroit 
a desirer que le chef des Eglises de Pensylvanie et du Maryland put 
concourir avec les intentions de sa Ste pour 1' clever au siege episcopal. 

Je suis, etc. 

DE MARBOIS 

11 (a). BARBE-MARBOIS TO THE COMTE DE 
VERGENNES." 

Philadelphia, March 27, 1785. 

The enclosed packet for the prince Doria Pamphili, has been 
addressed to me, and particularly recommended by Mr. Carroll, the 
superior of the Missions. The holy see could not make a choice more 
agreeable to Catholics of the United States; and if circumstances 
permit his elevation to the episcopacy, I doubt not their general satis- 
faction. But all Catholics whose zeal is moderated by prudence 
desire that this measure should not be taken until the people shall 

18 D'ici jusqu'a la fin de la lettre en chiffre. 

17 Bancroft, pp. 420-421. The words in brackets are our corrections. 



APPENDICES TO CHAPTER III 91 

have been sufficiently prepared for it. Nothing would be more easy 
for the ill-disposed than to spread an alarm touching the spiritual 
and temporal authority of the pope. Catholics have had seats in 
congress, and several members of the assembly of Maryland in like 
manner profess our religion; but it is only on the supposition that 
they are not dependent on any foreign power. The articles of the 
confederation do not permit any one of the officers of the United 
States to receive gifts, titles, or employments of any kind whatever 
from a king, prince, or foreign power. Republican jealousy would 
infallibly apply this prohibition to ecclesiastical offices; and with- 
out particular address in the management of this affair, religion 
would lose more than it would gain by the nomination of a bishop. 
Thus the holy see is sure to extend its progress in relaxing its juris- 
diction as much as the good of the faith can permit ; and a different 
practice would not fail to stop its own propagation and to augment 
the other sects on which the civil honors and authorities will 
[would] devolve to the exclusion of the Catholics. The Anglicans 
themselves will prepare the bill [people] for the introduction of the 
episcopate. They have never wished to receive a bishop before the 
revolution; but today they feel the difficulty of having their minis- 
ters ordained in England. The laws accord them the free exercise of 
their religion, and consequently everything which is necessary to 
this free exercise. They infer from it they have the right to have 
bishops ; and they probably will soon have them. Then, my lord, it 
will [would] appear odious to refuse the same advantage to the 
Catholics; but till then, I believe it is for the advantage of religion 
not to precipitate anything. His Holiness could nevertheless nomi- 
nate probably [in advance] an apostolic vicar; and, when circum- 
stances should be entirely favorable, raise him to the episcopacy. I 
cannot say if the choice ought to emanate purely and simply from 
the holy father, or if the churches of the different states ought to 
propose a candidate. This last form is undoubtedly [the] most 
analogous to the spirit of this [these] people. But the Catholics are 
not here united under a common chief; those of one state have not 
[any] relation with those of another, and I do not see how they 
could have one at [bring 1 about] an election. It is one motive the 
more to raise by degrees to the episcopacy a person who has been 
for some time [known as] the chief, and whose nomination, there- 
fore, would astonish no one. The first choice once made, it will be 
less difficult to organize our church than [under] actual conditions. 
The number of Catholics in the United States merits, in fact, the 



92 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

attention the holy see gives to it. There are in [the States of] New 
England about 600 ; [of] New York and New Jersey 1700 ; [of] 
Pennsylvania and Delaware, 7,700; [of] Maryland, freemen 
12,000, slaves, 8,000-20,000; in the states of the South, about 2,500; 
at the Illinois, Kaskaskia, and several other establishments purely 
French, on the Mississippi, 12,000 ; total, 44,500. 

The Catholics of New York have [had] no priest, but an Irish 
almoner from [Chaplain for] the ships of his Majesty, who has no 
permission to be absent from his convent. He has made a supposi- 
titious one which I have recognized to be false; yet he has obtained 
powers [faculties] from Mr. Carroll, who was [is] not informed of 
these circumstances. For the rest, the establishment of the chapel 
of the legation of New York gives to the Catholics of this city all 
the (spiritual) resources that they can [have] desire [d]. 

11 (b). BARBE-MARBOIS AU COMTE DE 

VERGENNES. 18 

a Philadelphie le 27 mars 1785 
Monseigneur, 

Le paquet ci-joint pour Mr. le Prince Doria Pamphili, m'a etc 
adresse et particulierement recommande par Mr. Caroll, superieur 
general des missions. 

Le St. Siege ne pouvoit faire un choix plus agreable aux Catho- 
liques des Etats-Unis; et si les circonstances permettent de 1'elever 
a 1'episcopat je ne doute pas qu'ils n'en ayent une satisfaction ge- 
nerale. Mais tous les Catholiques dont le zele est modere par la pru- 
dence, desirent que cette mesure ne soit prise qu'apres que les peuples 
y auront etc sumsamment prepares; rien ne seroit plus facile a des 
mal-intentiones, que de repandre 1'allarme touchan 1'autorite spiri- 
tuelle ou temporelle du pape. Quelques Catholiques ont siege dans le 
Congres et plusieurs membres de 1'assemblee du Maryland profes- 
sent egalement notre religion ; mais ce n'est que dans la supposition 
qu'ils ne sent pas dans la dependance d'aucune puissance etrangere. 
les articles de la confederation portent meme qu'il ne sera jamais 
permis a aucun des officiers des Etats-Unis de recevoir des dons, 
titres ou emplois de quelque espece qu'ils soient, d'un Roi, prince, ou 
d'une puissance etrangere. la jalousie republicaine appliqueroit in- 

18 Doysi6 Transcripts, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress: Affaires 
Etrangeres, Correspondance Politique, Etats-Unis, Vol. 29, folios 123-125. 



APPENDICES TO CHAPTER III 93 

f ailliblement cette prohibition meme aux offices ecdesiastiques ; et a 
moins d'une adresse particuliere dans le maniement de cette affaire, 
la religion perdroit plus qu'elle ne gagneroit a la nomination d'un 
eveque. Ainsi le St. Siege est sur d'en etendre les progres en 
relachant sa juridiction autant que le bien de la foi peut le permet- 
tre; et une pratique differente ne manqueroit pas d'en arreter la 
propagation et d'augmenter les autres sectes auxquelles les honneurs 
et 1'autorite civile seroient devolus a 1' exclusion des Catholiques ; au 
reste, les anglicans eux-memes prepareront le peuple a. 1'introduction 
de 1'episcopat; ils n'ont jamais voulu recevoir d' eveque avant la 
revolution ; mais aujourd'hui ils sentent tous les inconveniens de faire 
ordonner leur ministres en Angleterre, les lois leur accordent le libre 
exercice de leur religion, et par consequent tout ce qui est necessaire 
a ce libre exercice; ils en conduent qu'ils ont le droit d'avoir des 
eveques, et ils en auront probablement bientot. Alors, Monseigneur, 
il paroitroit odieux de refuser le meme avantage aux Catholiques. 
Mais jusque la je crois qu'il est de 1'avantage meme de la religion 
de ne rien precipiter. Sa Saintete pourroit neanmoins nommer prea- 
lablement un vicaire apostolique et quand les circonstances seroient 
entierement favorables, 1'elever a 1'episcopat. Je ne puis dire si le 
choix doit emaner purement et simplement du St. Pere ou si les 
eglises des differens etats doivent proposer un sujet; cette derniere 
forme est sans doute la plus analogue a 1'esprit de ces peuples-ti; 
mais les Catholiques n'y sont pas reunis sous un chef commun: ceux 
d'un etat n'ont aucune relation avec ceux d'un autre; et je ne vois 
nullement comment on pourroit parvenir a une election. C'est un 
motif de plus pour clever par degres a 1'episcopat un sujet qui soit 
depuis quelque terns connu comme le chef, et dont la nomination 
n'etonne personne. Ce premier choix une foix fait, il sera moins 
difficile d' organiser notre eglise que dans 1'etat accuel. 

Le nombre des Catholiques dans les Etats-Unis merite en effet 1'at- 
tention que le St. Siege leur donne. II y a dans les Etats de la 

Nouvelle- Angleterre environ 600 

New-York et N. Jersy 1700 

Pennsylvanie et Delaware 7700 

en Maryland: hommes libres 12000 

: esclaves 8000 

dans les etats du Sud a peu prs 2500 

aux Illinois a Kaskaskia sur le Mississipi 12000 

44500 



94 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

Les Catholiques de New- York n'avoient pour Pretre qu'un Irlandois 
aumonier des Vaisseaux de Sa Majeste qui n'a point la permission 
d'etre absent de son couvent et qui en a suppose une que j'ai recon- 
nue fausse. II a cependant obtenu des pouvoirs de Mr. Carroll qui 
n'est pas informe de ces circonstances. Au reste 1'etablissement de 
la chapelle de la legation a New- York donne aux Catholiques de 
cette ville toutes les ressources spirituelles qu'ils ont pu desirer. 

Je suis etc. 

DE MARBOIS 

12. OTTO TO VERGENNES. 19 

New York, 2 Jan., 1786. 

All Christian sects enjoy in America an entire liberty. The Jews 
have the exercise of theiri religion only; but they make efforts to 
enter into the legislative assemblies. It would be very remarkable if 
this people, after having suffered the contempt of all ages and 
nations, should succeed in America in taking part in the affairs of 
government. But this revolution is not yet ripe; and although, 
according to the terms of several of the constitutions, it is enough 
to recognise a God to enter the assembly, prejudices are still too 
strong to enable the Jews to enjoy the privileges accorded to all their 
fellow-citizens. But whatever may be the tolerance of the different 
states in the United States, religious zeal awakens so soon as one 
sect dares to take the lead over another. The Presbyterians of Penn- 
sylvania and Massachusetts have not yet been reconciled to the 
Anglicans; and when a preacher announces some exaggerated pre- 
tensions, it is enough to inflame the opposite party. The small num- 
ber of Catholics has not yet given umbrage; but it is believed here, 
as in England, that this religion is contrary to political liberty; and, 
if it is augmented by the aid of any foreign power, they will not 
fail to oppose its increase with vivacity. Moreover, we are essentially 
interested that there should not be in America a French church, since 
it would be one motive the more to excite the subjects of his Majesty 
to emigrate. Mr. de la Valiniere assembles the French who are in 
his house. He preaches regularly to them every Sunday, and he 
assured me that he is persuaded that, if there were a French church 
here, it would, without doubt, attract a great number of his 
countrymen. 

18 Bancroft, p. 476. 



CHAPTER FOUR 

ROMAN DECISION, JUNE 1784 

At the very time the negotiations in Paris for the reorgani- 
zation of the American Church were taking a turn which 
augured a happy conclusion of the entire affair, Rome caused 
the abandonment of the portion of it pertaining to the 
appointment of a superior; the problem of providing for 
and training American missionaries, which had to an even 
greater degree engaged the attention of the Nuncio and the 
Bishop of Autun, was not, however, to be dropped. 

Before the report of the meeting of May 3, 1784 had 
reached Rome, and Barbe-Marbois had received the docu- 
ments analyzed in the preceding chapter, a letter dated June 
9th from the Prefect advised the Nuncio that " some letters 
were received by this Congregation from the missionaries of 
Maryland and Pennsylvania, informing it of the present state 
of the Christian establishment of those parts, and requesting 
that Mr. Lowis [sic] be put in charge of it, he being the same 
to whom the Vicar-Apostolic of London had given that 
charge." These, it will be remembered, were the two petitions 
which had been directed to Rome after the second meeting at 
Whitemarsh in November 1783. The Cardinal Prefect, in 
answer to the Nuncio's request for information regarding 
the Catholic situation in America, forwarded to him the 
memorandum respecting the missions. 1 He likewise advised 
him of the appointment of the Reverend John Carroll as 
superior of the Mission in the thirteen United States of North 
America, with the faculty of administering the sacrament of 
Confirmation in those provinces during his superiorship. 

What motives led the Congregation to take this rather 
sudden decision before receiving the Nuncio's report, for 
which the Prefect had written only a few days prior (May 

1 Appendix No. 1, p. 113. 

95 



96 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

29th) that he was " waiting with interest " ? Who induced 
the Roman authorities to select John Carroll, whose name 
Dr. Franklin had recommended to the Nuncio " with great 
solicitude " ? Various conjectures have been offered in answer 
to these questions. Writing to John Carroll three months 
later (September 2nd) 2 Charles Plowden gave the credit to 
their mutual friend, Father Thorpe: 

Our friend Thorpe's memorial, delivered to the pope along with 
your petition, by Cardinal Borromeo, convinced the Propaganda that 
the introduction of an alien would overthrow the mission. 

But Father Thorpe made no such claim for his intervention. 
In a letter to Carroll dated June 9, 1784, informing him of 
his appointment as superior of the missions, he said: 8 

When the nuncio, M. Doria, at Paris, applied to Mr. Franklin, the 
old gentleman remembered you; he had his memory refreshed 
before, though you had modestly put your own name in the last 
place of the list. 

Then again, about a year later, July 5, 1785, he wrote: 

The affair was certainly in agitation before the petition made in 
the name of the five missionaries was here presented. I do not know 
by what means it was introduced. 

Perhaps it is simpler to take the Prefect's own account of 
the affair. 4 When he wrote to the Paris Nuncio, June 9th, 
the very day Carroll's nomination was approved by the Pope, 
and forwarded to him copies of all the documents relative 
to the matter, he stated the reasons which had prompted the 
choice of Mr. Carroll. He had noticed that on the petition 
of the American missionaries Carroll's name appeared in 
the last place, and stated to the Nuncio: " This fact shows 
that Carroll had not cooperated with the earnest solicitation 
of Mr. Franklin in his behalf, and consequently, it has 

3 Campbell, op. tit., Vol. Ill, p. 376. 

8 Ibid., p. 379. 

* Appendix No. 2, p. 114. 



ROMAN DECISION, JUNE 1784 97 

helped to give him preference over Lowis, who, moreover, 
being 64 years of age, as the letters in question show, would 
seem to deserve rest. For the establishment of a new system 
of missions, not only experience is necessary, but, also, the 
age of activity, to work and to do. We are not informed of 
the age of Carroll [he was then forty-nine], but it may be 
assumed to be a much more vigorous one than that of Lowis, 
since he is named last in the petition." Although it is not 
possible, in the light of available documents, to ascertain 
when and through what channels Franklin conveyed to the 
Holy See an " earnest solicitation " in behalf of John Carroll, 
it must be inferred from the Cardinal's words that the 
American minister actually intervened, and the same words 
may be considered as proof that Father Thorpe was right in 
saying the affair had been " in agitation " before the petition 
of the American clergy reached Rome. 

Although the decree declaring " the Rev. John Carroll, 
secular priest, Superior of the missions in the thirteen United 
States of North America, with the authority to exercise the 
functions which regard the government of the missions," 
was not issued until the " 9th day of June," three days 
earlier, June 6th, the Secretary of the Propaganda was 
received in audience by Pope Pius VI, and on the latter' s 
report " the Holy Father granted to the Rev. John Carroll, 
Superior of the Mission in the thirteen United States of 
North America, the faculty of administering the sacrament 
of Confirmation in the same provinces during his superior- 
ship." 

On the same 9th of June Cardinal Antonelli, who issued 
the decree, informed Carroll of this decision in a letter B of 
which a few extracts may be given as they throw light on the 
Prefect's intentions and his manner of dealing with the new 
superior. The Sovereign Pontiff and the Congregation, he 
says, " have thought it extremely proper to designate a pastor 



6 Appendix No. 3, p. 117. 

7 



98 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

who should, permanently and independently of any eccle- 
siastical power, except the same Sacred Congregation, attend 
to the spiritual necessities of the Catholic flock." On Sep- 
tember 27, 1783, in answer to Franklin's proposal contained 
in the Note on American Missions that the Court of Rome, 
in concert with the minister of the United States, might 
choose a French ecclesiastic, who, residing in France, would 
regulate the spiritual affairs of American Catholics the 
Cardinal had insisted that the Nuncio in France should have 
the supervision of these American missions. Here he em- 
phasized that the only ecclesiastical power on which the 
superior of these missions would depend would be the 
Congregation of Propaganda. 

Continuing his account, the Prefect states the reasons 
which led the Congregation to choose Carroll in preference 
to Father Lewis: 

You have given conspicuous proofs of piety and zeal, and it is 
known that your appointment will please and gratify many members 
of that republic, and especially Mr. Franklin, the eminent individual 
who represents the same republic at the court of the Most Christian 
King. 

Moreover, " these arrangements are meant to be only tem- 
porary. For it is the intention of his Holiness soon to charge 
a Vicar-Apostolic, invested with the title and character of 
bishop, with the care of those states, that he may attend to 
ordination and other episcopal functions." Carroll was there- 
fore requested to forward to Rome as soon as possible " a 
correct report, stating carefully the number of Catholics in 
each state; what is their condition, their piety and what 
abuses exist; also how many missionary priests labor now in 
that vineyard of the Lord; what are their qualifications, their 
zeal, their mode of support. For, though the Sacred Congre- 
gation wish not to meddle with temporal things, it is im- 
portant for the establishment of laborers, that we should 
know what are the ecclesiastical revenues, if any there are, 



ROMAN DECISION, JUNE 1784 99 

and it is believed there are some." Without mentioning the 
plans, still in abeyance in Paris, for the education of Ameri- 
can seminarians in France, the Prefect ends his letter by 
requesting the new superior to choose two youths to be 
educated at the expense of the Congregation in the Urban 
College. 

The Prefect's letter to John Carroll was transmitted on 
the same day to the Paris Nuncio, 6 who was charged to for- 
ward it through the good offices of the French officials in 
Paris and the United States, to Carroll, with the other docu- 
ments. After calling the Nuncio's attention to the prompt- 
ness with which " His Holiness and this Sacred Congregation 
have seconded the desire shown by Mr. Franklin, as well as 
by many members of the congress, that said Carroll be placed 
at the head of the missions ... of the United States of 
North America, thus withdrawing them from the dependency 
upon the Vicar-Apostolic of London," the Prefect sums up 
the results of the negotiations the Nuncio had carried on in 
his name: the establishment of a bishop or vicar-apostolic, an 
offer of scholarships, and provisions for a more extensive 
education of evangelical workers through French coopera- 
tion. He takes this occasion to commend " the diligence and 
zeal of your Lordship in the management of all this im- 
portant matter," and finally, directions for future action being 
in order, and in view of the fact that " the congress sees 
well that Church affairs are not of its competency," he 
informs the Nuncio that it has been decided henceforth 
to deal with this matter directly with American mission- 
aries, and, for the present, with Mr. Carroll who has been 
constituted their head. Exception is made, however, in regard 
to the young men who, it is hoped, will be received in the 
seminaries of Bordeaux, and therefore, on this subject the 
Nuncio will continue to negotiate with the Bishop of Autun 
or with whosoever else can assist to the desired end. 

6 Appendix No. 2, p. 114. 



100 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

This letter of the Cardinal Prefect furnishes new evidence 
of the consistency of the Roman policy. The Holy See deals 
only with constituted authorities, and no trace has been found 
of direct communication with American missionaries before 
the final severing of their religious dependence on London; 
but no sooner was an authority established in the person of 
John Carroll, than the Roman authorities put aside their 
intermediary, namely the French minister in the United 
States, even though they continued for a while to use his 
good offices to transmit whatever documents they wished 
conveyed to the American missionaries. The Prefect's direc- 
tion to the Nuncio not to fail to convey the satisfaction of 
the Holy Father to the Comte de Vergennes, Mr. Franklin 
and " the Bishop of Autun, when the conclusion of the ques- 
tion of scholarships at Bordeaux will have been reached," 
reveals once more the role that the French officials had been 
called to play in the whole affair a role of benevolent co- 
operation in a program conceived at Rome and in which the 
Paris Nuncio had succeeded in interesting the French Govern- 
ment and those among the French bishops without whose 
assistance it could not have been realized. In connection with 
this letter one should read the notice sent June 19th 7 by the 
same Cardinal Prefect to the Vicar-Apostolic of London in- 
forming him of the cessation of his jurisdiction over Ameri- 
can Catholics. The first motive given for such a decision on 
the part of the Holy See is that " the Catholics inhabiting the 
thirteen United States of America have been forbidden by 
the magistrates of that Republic to have any longer as theii 
Superiors Vicars-Apostolic dwelling in foreign countries." 

June 29th, upon receipt of the Prefect's letter,* the 
Nuncio called on the Prime Minister and, without com- 
municating to him "the contents of the respected let- 
ter that your Eminence was pleased to write to me on the 

7 Appendix No. 4, p. 118. 

8 See the Nuncio's reply, July 5th, Appendix No. 8, p. 122. 



ROMAN DECISION, JUNE 1784 101 

9th of last month concerning the matter of the missions in 
the provinces of the new republic of the United States of 
North America," brought him the news of Carroll's appoint- 
ment, and informed him of the purpose of the Congregation 
to elect that clergyman Vicar-Apostolic " when proofs of his 
ability and capacity will have been received, together with 
the information requested of the Chevalier de la Luzerne, 
minister plenipotentiary of the Most Christian King near 
the states of the aforesaid republic, who will be in France in 
a few days." The same news was communicated to Franklin 
who, like Vergennes, was pleased though he " would have 
wished that Carroll had already been elected." On Franklin's 
assurance that the American Congress would be "most 
pleased," the Nuncio, " not to make Mr. Franklin believe 
that financial considerations entered into the business," re- 
frained from speaking of the cost of living for a bishop in 
the United States, but contented himself with inquiring about 
the cost of transportation for two students. Vergennes, on 
his side, undertook to send with his own despatch the letters 
addressed to Carroll by both the Prefect and the Nuncio, and 
reiterated his promise that the King would defray the ex- 
penses of eight or ten students at Bordeaux, though the 
Bishop of Autun was still uncertain about the establishment 
of a special fund for that purpose. 

The next day, June 30, the Prefect acknowledged to the 
Nuncio 9 the " prompt information of the happy results of 
the assistance lent in the United States of America by the 
Chevalier de la Luzerne " an assistance to be given, not by 
the Minister, who had already left his post, but by the Charge 
d' Affaires, Barbe-Marbois. The Cardinal renewed his request 
that the Nuncio thank in the name of His Holiness, " that 
worthy Count of Vergennes for the efficiency with which he 
has lent himself to the establishment of those missions." 
He directed the Nuncio " in view of the favorable reply of 

8 Appendix No. 5, p. 119- 



102 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

the Chevalier," to acknowledge those offices also, and ex- 
pressed the hope that " direct correspondence having been 
established with Mr. Carroll . . . matters, little by little, 
will be made smooth, without further annoyance and in- 
convenience to that minister." More explicit words could 
not have been used by the Roman Prelate to make clear that 
in the whole affair the French agent in the United States, as 
well as the Prime Minister himself, only gave their services 
and endeavored to meet the wishes of the Holy See. 

Nevertheless, the Prefect remained anxious regarding the 
scholarships to be established at Bordeaux. He wished to 
know whether the Bishop of Autun had consented to assign 
a fixed income to those scholarships, for, he pleaded, " the 
Sacred Congregation is not in a position to undertake the 
burden of them, while that of the scholarships at the college 
[of Propaganda] and of the supplements for the support of 
the bishop or Vicar-Apostolic in America, would be of con- 
siderable weight." France, it is clear, was looked upon as 
the generous provider of such funds as would be needed. In 
the light of the Prefect's expectation the following lines of a 
letter addressed by Vergennes to la Luzerne on the day the 
Prefect wrote to the Nuncio, are significant. France had 
almost exhausted her resources in helping the colonies in 
their struggle; she had not only lent or donated money, but 
had endorsed the loans the Americans had secured from 
Holland, and on these loans she had to pay the interest due 
by the United States. So the Prime Minister writes to the 
Chevalier: 10 

I was not aware that Mr. Franklin had suffered drafts of Mr. 
Morris to be protested. I am not sorry, because that will serve as a 
lesson to the Americans. They think our resources inexhaustible for 
them, while they do not deign to take trouble about providing means 
for themselves, nor for the reimbursement of the advances that we 
have made to them, and procured for them. I think nothing of the 

10 Bancroft, p. 375. 



ROMAN DECISION, JUNE 1784 103 

loss of the subjects of the king for having placed confidence in 
American people. This article alone has done an almost irreparable 
injury to the reputation of the Americans. If congress cannot pro- 
cure money to balance their account with us, it is important for us, 
at least in this moment, that it should put us in condition to meet 
the interest of the loan in Holland. 

The main points of the story of Carroll's appointment as 
Superior of the American Missions find their confirmation 
in an entry of Franklin's Private Journal under date of 
July 1, 1784. Franklin states without reservation that the 
Nuncio " acquainted me that the Pope had, on my recom- 
mendation, appointed Mr. John Carroll superior of the 
Catholic clergy in America," and that he assured the Nuncio 
that the American government would not take offense at 
Carroll being consecrated by a bishop of an English province 
" unless the ordination by that bishop should give him some 
authority over our bishop." To the surprise of the American 
minister, the Nuncio protested that once ordained, the 
American bishop " would be independent of the others, and 
even of the Pope; which I did not clearly understand." Of 
course, the Nuncio referred not to spiritual but to temporal 
independence. The Prelate confirmed to Franklin the Con- 
gregation's agreement " to receive, and maintain and instruct, 
two young Americans," and Franklin notes he had been 
already told " that more would be educated gratis in France." 
The interview ended with the Nuncio's incidental assurance 
that the American government would find that " the Catho- 
lics were not so intolerant as they had been represented, and 
that the Inquisition in Rome had not so much power as that 
in Spain." 

Meanwhile news of Carroll's appointment had reached 
England, and on July 3rd Charles Plowden directed to his 
friend a letter which reveals his persistent distrust of the 
Congregation of Propaganda: M 

"Appendix No. 6, p. 120. "Appendix No. 7, p. 120. 



104 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

It appears, however, to me, a great incongruity that a negotiation 
should be carried on between the American States and the Court of 
Rome upon affairs of the Catholic Religion without the participation 
of the priests who are actually in the country. If Dr. Franklin 
reflects, he must see the impropriety of such an act and be sensible 
that your civil and ecclesiastical rights may be much prejudiced by it. 

As a matter of fact, one of Franklin's main objects in those 
days was, as shown by his second note to the Nuncio, that 
" the bonds [between American and English Catholics] be 
diminished and weakened by taking from the British ministry 
all influence over the subjects of the United States." 

In view of this one wonders how Franklin received the 
representatives sent from England by American missionaries 
at Plowden's instigation, " to entreat him not to concur in 
any proposal which might be detrimental to the tranquility 
and prosperity" of the American Church. The English 
Jesuit had been careful not to write, himself, as he felt that 
" a confidential representation will come with better grace 
from American Catholic clergymen than from British-born 
priests." 

Plowden informs Carroll that " Mr. Thorpe and the 
Cardinal (Borromeo) judged the Memorial which came to 
Rome in the name of Messrs. John Lewis and his associates 
could not be presented in its own full shape; it demanded 
too much, it demanded it in a manner too immethodical." 
Carroll could not be unaware that " prudence was highly 
requisite as well to obtain your request as to remove every 
occasion to the gentlemen of Propaganda introducing their 
own pretensions." 

He ends with a final thrust at the Propaganda whose 
intentions must be suspected even when they award honors: 

They must have some motive for delegating you with plenitude of 
power while the negotiation between Doria and Franklin is yet 
undetermined. Perhaps they feared that it might result in the estab- 
lishing a Bishop in Ordinary which would at once withdraw the 
Americans Missions from their control. 



ROMAN DECISION, JUNE 1784 105 

On July 5, 1784, the Nuncio, reporting at length to the 
Cardinal Prefect the result of his visits to Vergennes and 
Franklin, congratulated himself " that the matter is admira- 
bly well under way and that nothing is wanting except to 
receive the information asked from America, which will 
probably be furnished by the Chevalier de la Luzerne," who 
would be in France in a few days. Whether the Chevalier, 
who had left America before receiving the letters directed to 
him May 12th from Paris, was able when he reached the 
Capital to give, at least in part, the information desired, can 
not be ascertained; but on the same day the Nuncio for- 
warded to John Carroll the packet committed to him by 
the Propaganda, with a covering letter 13 evidencing once 
more the Prelate's caution in conducting the business. While 
he gives full direction for sending the two American students 
who were to be received at the College of the Propaganda, 
he refrains from mentioning the plans under consideration 
for the free education in France of eight or ten more students. 
No doubt the Nuncio felt then as he did on September 1, 
1783, that the question was as yet " of a mere project, of 
which it would not be well to speak before it be realized, or 
developed sufficiently not to be frustrated by any one who 
might regard the proposed establishment unfavorably." 

On the last day of July 1784 the Prefect conveyed to the 
Paris Nuncio 14 the praise of the Holy Father for his wisdom 
in conducting " the matter, happily begun, of the establish- 
ment of the missions " in America, and especially " for 
securing the education, at one of the seminaries of Bor- 
deaux, of eight or ten young Americans, who are to be sup- 
ported by the liberality of His Most Christian Majesty." He 
therefore directs him " to send, without delay, an official 
letter of thanks to Monseigneur the bishop of Autun, to 
whose department the Matter belongs." Even then, holding 
firmly to bis cherished idea of a permanent establishment 

" Appendix No. 9, p. 123. " Appendix No. 10, p. 124. 



106 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

for that purpose in France, under the same favorable condi- 
tions, the Prefect insists on the necessity of exercising more 
pressure on the Minister of Ecclesiastical Benefices: 

If you deem it expedient, take advantage of this opportunity to 
suggest to that Prelate that a fixed fund would be more expeditious 
and less subject to variations. 

He commends the Nuncio's wisdom " in the matter of in- 
forming the Count of Vergennes and Mr. Franklin of the 
selection of Mr. Carroll as the new superior of the above 
mission." 

This may be taken as new evidence that the main object of 
the Prefect's appeal to France all through the negotiation 
was to secure from her financial assistance for the support 
and training of American missionaries. 

On August 15th, about the time that this letter reached 
Paris, Barbe-Marbois sent his first reply to the questions 
which had been put to the Minister, la Luzerne. This reply, 
in which the Charge d' Affaires urged discretion in the matter 
of appointing a bishop for the United States, and speaks 
against the choice of a French bishop, has already been 
quoted. 15 He vouched for Carroll's good reputation and 
eligibility for the American episcopacy, and informed the 
minister that he had directed to Charles Carroll's relative the 
letter addressed to " one of the missionaries living in 
America." 

Strangely enough, it was not until August 18, 1784, that 
Franklin forwarded to the Nuncio 16 " a copy of the instruc- 
tion of Congress," which had been voted May llth. It was, 
therefore, from la Luzerne's letter of January 31, 1784, 
received in Paris April 23rd, that the Nuncio and, through 
him, the Roman authorities, obtained their first intimation of 
the response made by Congress to his application of July 28, 
1783. 

" See Chapter III, Appendix 10, p. 88. le Appendix No. 11, p. 125. 



ROMAN DECISION, JUNE 1784 107 

This chapter on the Roman phase of the negotiation may 
end by calling attention to four documents: the first emanat- 
ing from the Nuncio under date of August 23, 1784, the 
second and third from the Cardinal Prefect dated September 
25th and December llth respectively, of the same year, and 
the last, of May 24, 1785, containing the instructions given 
to the Nuncio Doria Pamphili's successor. 

The Nuncio acknowledged the compliments received from 
the Cardinal Prefect and promised to convey the thanks of 
the Holy Father to the Bishop of Autun. 17 He felt bound, 
however, to warn his superior regarding the matter the 
Prefect seemed to have so much at heart, namely, the estab- 
lishment of a fund for the education of American semi- 
narians in France: 

I do not allow myself to hope that he [the Bishop of Autun] will 
be willing to establish a fixed fund, because it is not certain that, as 
time goes on, the American Republic will continue to be grateful 
for the signal favors and services of France. 

We have here an echo of the philosophy expressed by the 
Comte de Vergennes in his instructions to the Chevalier de 
la Luzerne, July 21, 1783: "We have never founded our 
policy with regard to the United States on their gratitude; 
this sentiment is infinitely rare among sovereigns, and repub- 
lics do not know it." 18 The Nuncio promised to inform 
Franklin of the Propaganda's intention to hasten Carroll's 
consecration, and also that it looked forward with pleasure 
to the coming of the two American students. He transmitted 
to Rome Franklin's letter containing the note of Congress of 
May llth, and expressed his conviction that the attitude of 
Congress would please both His Holiness and the Congre- 
gation. 

The first letter of the Prefect 19 is a mere acknowledgment 
of the Nuncio's message; the next, 20 to be followed shortly 



17 
18 



Appendix No. 12, p. 125. " Appendix No. 13, p. 126. 

Bancroft, p. 325. 20 Appendix No. 14, p. 127. 



108 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

by the Nuncio's recall to Rome and his elevation to the 
Cardinalate, contains a warm expression of gratitude on the 
part of the Prefect and the Congregation to the Papal repre- 
sentative " for the promptness with which you conduct 
its urgent business matters to their required ends, which 
is due, not only to your zeal, but, also to the prudent skill 
and to the masterly efficiency of your Lordship." 

The instructions given May 24, 1785 21 to Monseigneur 
Dugnani, who succeeded Prince Doria Pamphili as Papal 
Nuncio in Paris, were to convey " an idea of the course until 
now of the matters with which the Sacred Congregation of 
the Propaganda had been dealing through the intermediary 
of the nunciature of France." They are a summary of the 
negotiations which had occupied the past two years and 
represent the view taken of them by the Roman authorities: 

The Nuncio should know of the establishment that it has been pro- 
posed to give to Catholicism in the new republic of the United 
provinces in America. This matter crowned the nunciature of the 
Most Eminent Doria, to whose zeal and activity is due the merit of 
the entire work 

It has been determined to establish a vicar-apostolic in that part 
of the new republic that may appear to be the most desirable for 
the purpose. The Sacred Congregation has promised to contribute to 
the support of the Vicar, who will be invested with the character of 
bishop also. The subject for this dignity has been selected; he is a 
certain Mr. Carroll, who is a missionary in that country, and of whom 
the Congregation has received the best reports. The selection of this 
subject was ardently desired also by the minister Mr. Franklin, who 
is residing at Paris. 

But, in order to have new workers among those Christians, the 
Eminent Doria thought of obtaining from the munificence of the 
Most Christian King an assignment for eight or ten young men, to 
be brought from America to be educated at one of the seminaries 
of Bordeaux, and received full assurance of its granting from 
Monseigneur d'Autun, who has the ministry of ecclesiastical 
benefices. . . . 

"Appendix No. 15, p. 128. 



ROMAN DECISION, JUNE 1784 109 

All of this plan was accepted with pleasure by Mr. Franklin, and 
also by the congress in America, to which, it was recommended by 
the worthy count of Vergennes. 

The final impression resulting from a study of what may 
be called the Roman phase of the negotiation is a confirma- 
tion of the conviction formed in studying its French phase. 
Throughout the proceedings the initiative remained in the 
hands of the Roman authorities; France was merely called 
upon to lend her assistance and to provide not only her good 
offices in facilitating the transactions between the Holy See 
and the American authorities, but also her financial aid in the 
realization of the plan which was of such prime importance 
in the eyes of the Holy See, for training and maintaining 
missionaries who were to carry on the Catholic apostolate 
in the United States. 



APPENDICES TO CHAPTER IV 

1. Memorandum respecting Catholic Missions in the United 

States (undated) 

2. The Cardinal Prefect to the Nuncio, June 9, 1784 

3. The Cardinal Prefect to John Carroll, June 9, 1784 

4. The Cardinal Prefect to Bishop James Talbot, June 19, 1784 

5. The Cardinal Prefect to the Nuncio, June 30, 1784 

6. Extract from Franklin's Private Journal, July 1, 1784 

7. Charles Plowden to John Carroll, July 3, 1784 

8. The Nuncio to the Cardinal Prefect, July 5, 1784 

9. The Nuncio to John Carroll, July 5, 1784 

10. The Cardinal Prefect to the Nuncio, July 31, 1784 

11. Franklin to the Nuncio, August 18, 1784 

12. The Nuncio to the Cardinal Prefect, August 23, 1784 

13. The Cardinal Prefect to the Nuncio, September 25, 1784 

14. The Cardinal Prefect to the Nuncio, December 11, 1784 

15. Instructions for the Nuncio Dugnani, May 24, 1785 



111 



1. MEMORANDUM RESPECTING CATHOLIC MISSIONS 
IN THE UNITED STATES/ 

[Undated.] 

The Catholic Mission in the regions of North America then sub- 
ject to the dominion of Great Britain was begun and founded before 
1640, during the reign of Charles I, by priests of the English Prov- 
ince of the Society of Jesus, who cultivated it at their own expense 
with manifold and great labors, at the beginning on the seacoast of 
Maryland, and afterwards they extended it to the interior and remoter 
parts of the same Province and also here and there into Virginia 
and Pennsylvania, with great increase everywhere of faith and reli- 
gion. They and their successors of the same Society and Province, 
though harassed by various and multiplied vexations, persevered con- 
stantly in spreading the Catholic faith through the aforesaid regions, 
and in promoting everywhere the salvation of the inhabitants, until 
towards the end of 1773, by the authority of the Congregation de 
Propaganda Fide the Brief suppressing the Society of Jesus was 
announced to them all the missionaries being members of the said 
Society. But, since there were no other priests whatsoever at hand, 
nor could others be obtained from elsewhere to aid this mission then 
in extreme peril, the same missionaries, although deprived of the 
aid of their brethren and religious institutes [religionis legibus~[, in 
order that they might not abandon the faithful scattered in widely 
separated districts, and deprived of all spiritual succors amidst the 
troubles of a war constantly breaking out in hostilities [every day] 
on every side, with the approbation of the Vicar-Apostolic of the 
London District, held their stations, and with unabated zeal and 
industry persevered in cultivating the vineyard of the Lord amid 
many perils, and they still persevere in this work. But, being reduced 
in number, and of those who remain some being broken down by 
labor, others being advanced in years, they invited to the harvest 
those priests especially who being natives of North America were 
lately living in England and elsewhere. The number of those who 
are now laboring on this mission scarcely goes beyond twenty; but 
when duly authorized [propria] ecclesiastical jurisdiction is once 
established, many worthy priests will more easily be joined to them. 
For, liberty of conscience being granted and confirmed by the laws 
of the Republic, the Catholic faith at length seems to breathe freely 

1 Devitt, Propaganda Documents, op. cit., pp. 217-218. 
8 113 



114 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

\hlc around here], and the number of the faithful is daily increasing 
in all directions; furthermore, many Catholic families are now get- 
ting ready to emigrate from the more thickly settled sections of the 
country and to join the new settlements [ad colonias deducendas~\ 
in the rich prairie lands along the Mississippi River, which recognize 
the United States Government. All these families earnestly ask for 
Catholic priests to accompany them to their new homes, and to 
remain there permanently with them. 

2. THE CARDINAL PREFECT TO THE NuNcio. 2 

To Monseignetir the Archbishop of Seleucia, Apostolic Nuncio at 

Paris. 

June 9th, 1784. 

From the subjoined letter that Your Lordship will be kind enough 
to forward to Mr. Carrol, you will see how promptly His Holiness 
and this Sacred Congregation have seconded the desire shown by 
Mr. Franklin, as well as by many members of the congress, that said 
Carrol be placed at the head of the missions in the provinces of the 
new republic of the United States of North America, thus withdraw- 
ing them from the dependency upon the Vicar- Apostolic of London, 
to whom they were originally entrusted. 

Prior to the last dispatch of Your Lordship of the 17th of last 
May, some letters were received by this Congregation from the mis- 
sionaries of Maryland and Pennsylvania, informing it of the present 
state of the Christian establishment of those parts, and requesting 
that Mr. Lowis be put in charge of it, he being the same to whom 
the Vicar-Apostolic of London had given that charge. From the 
copies of these letters that I forward to Your Lordship, you will 
see that by the subjects who ask for Lowis as superior, Carrol's name 
appears in the last place. This fact shows that Carrol has not co- 
operated with the earnest solicitation of Mr. Franklin in his behalf, 
and consequently, it has helped to give him the preference over 
Lowis, who, moreover, being 64 years of age, as the letters in ques- 
tion show, would seem to deserve rest. For the establishment of a 
new system of missions, not only experience is necessary, but, also, 
the age of activity, to work and to do. We are not informed of the 
age of Carrol, 3 but it may be assumed to be a much more vigorous 
one than that of Lowis, since he is named last in the petition. Three 

a Devitt, Propaganda Documents, op. tit., pp. 213-217. 
8 He was then 49 years of age. 



APPENDICES TO CHAPTER IV 115 

points, then, were shown in the proposal that was sent to you with 
our dispatch of the 27th of September, 1783. The first was the estab- 
lishment of a bishop, or of a Vicar- Apostolic invested with the epis- 
copal character, in the states of the new American republic. His 
Holiness has this point at heart, and wishes that it be reduced to 
practice as soon as possible. It was said that the Holy Congregation 
would supply from its treasury an allowance for that bishop or vicar- 
apostolic. From the letter that is being sent to Mr. Carrol, Your 
Lordship will see that, with some delicacy, he is asked for informa- 
tion concerning the funds that may be available for those missions in 
America, not that there be a refusal to supply the amount needed, 
but, to examine carefully the amount to which this assistance may 
rise, all the more, since there is no information of what the living 
of a bishop or Vicar-Apostolic in America may cost. Until now, the 
Sacred Congregation has had no expenditures in that part of the 
world, and consequently, there is need of special information, to 
serve as guidance on this subject, which may be furnished by no one 
better than by Your Lordship who has managed the entire matter 
with so much zeal and dexterity. The habitual stipends of bishops 
and of vicars-apostolic who are supported by the Sacred Congrega- 
tion in the other three parts of the world, are of 200 or 300 dollars 
a year, at most, over and above the other, uncertain income that, even 
in the most barbarous countries, is obtained by him who, as pastor, 
bears all their responsibility. When the point of the supplement for 
the maintenance of the bishop or vicar-apostolic is determined, there 
will remain that of determining his selection. The latter might be in 
favor of Mr. Carrol, if he be endowed with the necessary require- 
ments ; and in this, it is necessary that Your Lordship seek light for 
our guidance. Meanwhile, the authority resting upon him will reveal 
the conduct of the man and the satisfaction that it gives, not only to 
the Catholics, but, also, to the congress, which, although it wisely 
purposes not to interfere in the affairs of our holy religion, deserves, 
nevertheless, and should have, all possible consideration, for the pro- 
tection which should be expected from the congress, itself, upon 
occasion. When these two points will have been dilucidated [eluci- 
dated], the destination of the bishop or vicar-apostolic will be deter- 
mined as may appear to be to the better interest of those Christian 
communities. 

The second point was the offer of the scholarships in our Collegio 
Urbano; and this point requiring no further investigations, Mr. 
Carrol is told, in the letter to him, that, for the present, he send two 



116 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

young men to be educated there. With this mission, our college will 
glory in the Lord that it lends itself to the education of the youth of 
the four parts of the world. It is suggested only to said Carrol that 
he form a plan for the expenses of the voyages, and this plan will 
serve as a guide for future stipends. 

Finally, the third point concerned provision for a more extensive 
education of evangelical workers, by procuring from the generous 
piety of His Most Christian Majesty a retreat, in some seminary of 
France, for a greater number of young Americans. The proposal 
that Monseigneur the bishop of Autun made to you on this subject, 
that is, to use one of the seminaries at Bordeaux, a city that is near 
the sea, and in commercial relations with North America, is excel- 
lent, and is quite pleasing to His Holiness. There is one thing that 
was not made dear in the dispatch of Your Lordship, it is whether 
Mgr. d' Autun meant, by his proposal to you, to assign some fund for 
the maintenance of these scholarships which were sought for eight 
or ten young Americans. If this be the case, the wishes of the Holy 
Father are accomplished ; in the contrary event, the Holy Congrega- 
tion being unable to assume the burden of this expense, it would be 
well for Your Lordship to make a new effort to succeed in the 
premises, facilitating matters in relation to the number of the young 
men, proportionately with the offers made, so that if it were not 
possible to arrange for eight or ten, there might be received, for the 
present, four or six, to be supported with some pension or ecclesiasti- 
cal fund, to be assigned by that Most Christian Monarch. It is very 
necessary to have further light on this subject, for our peace and 
guidance. 

For the rest, His Holiness and the Holy Congregation have greatly 
commended the diligence and the zeal of Your Lordship in the man- 
agement of all this important matter; and as the congress sees well 
that church affairs are not of its competency, it has been decided to 
deal with this matter by letter, directly with the American mission- 
aries, and for the present, with Mr. Carrol, who has been constituted 
their head, except in what concerns the young men who, it is hoped, 
will be received in the seminaries of Bordeaux, for which Your Lord- 
ship may continue to negotiate with Monseigneur d' Autun, or with 
whoever else can assist to the desired end. On the other hand, Your 
Lordship will not fail to convey to the Count of Vergennes, as well 
as to Mr. Franklin, the satisfaction of the Holy Father and of this 
Congregation in the entire matter; and likewise, to Monseigneur 
d' Autun, when the conclusion of the question of the scholarships at 



APPENDICES TO CHAPTER IV 117 

Bordeaux will have been reached. While reiterating the assurance of 
our great obligation, I heartily offer myself to you, and remain. 

3. THE CARDINAL PREFECT TO JOHN CARROLL.* 

Rome, June 9, 1784. 
Very Rev. Sir: 

In order to preserve and defend Catholicity in the Thirteen United 
States of North America, the Supreme Pontiff of the Church, Pius 
VI, and this Sacred Congregation have thought it extremely proper 
to designate a pastor who should, permanently and independently of 
any ecclesiastical power, except the same Sacred Congregation, attend 
to the spiritual necessities of the Catholic flock. In the appointment 
of such a pastor, the Sacred Congregation would have readily cast its 
eyes on the Rev. John Lewis if his advanced age and the labors he 
has already undergone in the vineyard of the Lord had not deterred 
it from imposing on him a new and very heavy burden; for he seems 
to require repose rather than arduous labor. As then, Rev. Sir, you 
have given conspicuous proofs of piety and zeal, and it is known 
that your appointment will please and gratify many members of that 
republic, and especially Mr. Franklin, the eminent individual who 
represents the same republic at the court of the Most Christian King, 
the Sacred Congregation, with the approbation of His Holiness, has 
appointed you Superior of the Mission in the thirteen United States 
of North America, and has communicated to you the faculties, which 
are necessary to the discharge of that office; faculties which are also 
communicated to the other priests of the same States, except the 
administration of Confirmation, which is reserved for you alone, as 
the enclosed documents will show. 

These arrangements are meant to be only temporary. For it is the 
intention of His Holiness soon to charge a Vicar- Apostolic, invested 
with the title and character of bishop, with the care of those states, 
that he may attend to ordination and other episcopal functions. But 
to accomplish this design, it is of great importance that we should be 
made acquainted with the state of the orthodox religion in those 
thirteen states. Therefore we request you to forward to us, as soon 
as possible, a correct report, stating carefully the number of Catholics 
in each state; what is their condition, their piety and what abuses 
exist ; also how many missionary priests labor now in that vineyard 
of the Lord; what are their qualifications, their zeal, their mode of 

* Guilday, pp. 203-204. 



118 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

support. For though the Sacred Congregation wish not to meddle 
with temporal things, it is important for the establishment of labor- 
ers, that we should know what are the ecclesiastical revenues, if any 
there are, and it is believed there are some. In the meantime for 
fear the want of missionaries should deprive the Catholics of spiritual 
assistance, it has been resolved to invite hither two youths from the 
states of Maryland and Pennsylvania, to educate them at the expense 
of the Sacred Congregation in the Urban College; they will after- 
wards, on returning to their country, be substitutes in the mission. 
We leave to your solicitude the care of selecting and sending them. 
You will make choice of those who have more promising talents and 
a good constitution, who are not less than twelve, nor more than 
fifteen years of age; who by their proficiency in the sanctuary may 
give great hopes of themselves. You may address them to the excel- 
lent Archbishop of Seleucia, Apostolic Nuncio at Paris, who is 
informed of their coming. If the young men selected are unable to 
defray the expenses of the voyage, the Sacred Congregation will pro- 
vide for them; we even wish to be informed by you frankly and 
accurately of the necessary traveling expenses, to serve as a rule for 
the future. Such are the things I have to signify to you; and whilst 
I am confident you will discharge the office committed to you with 
all zeal, solicitude and fidelity, and more than answer the high 
opinion we have formed of you, I pray God that he may grant you 
all peace and happiness. 

L. CARD. ANTONELLI, 

Prefect. 
STEPHEN BORGIA, 

Secretary. 



4. THE CARDINAL PREFECT TO BISHOP JAMES 

To his Lordship James Talbot, Bishop of Birtha, Vicar- Apostolic in 

the Kingdom of England. 

London, June 19, 1784. 

As the Catholics inhabiting the thirteen United States of America 
have been forbidden by the magistrates of that Republic to have any 
longer as their Superiors Vicars- Apostolic dwelling in foreign coun- 
tries, and as for the preservation of religion the missionaries dwell- 
ing there have petitioned the Holy See to provide for their spiritual 
necessities, the Sacred Congregation of the Propaganda with the 

6 Devitt, Propaganda Documents, op. cit., pp. 219-220. 



APPENDICES TO CHAPTER IV 119 

approbation of His Holiness Pius VI, has appointed as Superior of 
said Mission John Carroll, a man of approved virtue and ability, and 
has granted to him all necessary and proper faculties independently 
of any ecclesiastical jurisdiction save that of the Sacred Congrega- 
tion. Furthermore, His Holiness judges it fitting to appoint, and 
intends shortly to appoint for those provinces a Bishop or Vicar- 
Apostolic with episcopal title and character who shall have power to 
administer to the faithful all the offices of religion that require Epis- 
copal authority. I, therefore, hasten to communicate this to Your 
Lordship, to whom the spiritual care of those Catholics was formerly 
entrusted; not doubting that the foresight of this Congregation in 
providing for the welfare of religion will be most pleasing to Your 
Lordship also, I pray that God may prolong your life, and protect 
you. 

5. THE CARDINAL PREFECT TO THE NUNCIO." 

To Monseigneur the Archbishop of Seleucia, Apostolic Nuncio at 
Paris. 

June 30th, 1784. 

I owe to the attested diligence of Your Lordship this prompt infor- 
mation of the happy results of the assistance lent in the United States 
of America by the Chevalier de la Luzerne, minister of the court of 
France to those states. I have already begged Your Lordship to 
thank, also in the name of His Holiness, that worthy count of Ver- 
gennes, for the efficiency with which he has lent himself to the estab- 
lishment of those missions. In view of the favorable reply of the 
above Chevalier, Your Lordship will be able to acknowledge those 
offices also. Meanwhile, direct correspondence having been estab- 
lished with Mr. Carroll, who has been put at the head of those mis- 
sions, matters, little by little, will be made smooth, without further 
annoyance and inconvenience to that minister. The only point await- 
ing solution, as I wrote to you, was as to information from Mon- 
seigneur d'Autun concerning the scholarships in one of the semi- 
naries of Bordeaux, that is, whether the Prelate consented to assign 
to those scholarships a fixed income, for the Sacred Congregation is 
not in a position to undertake the burden of them, while that of the 
scholarships at this college and of the supplements for the support 
of the bishop or Vicar-apostolic in America will be of considerable 
weight. 

8 Devitt, Propaganda Documents, op. fit., p. 220. 



120 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

6. EXTRACT FROM FRANKLIN'S PRIVATE JOURNAL. 7 

July 1st. [1784] The Pope's Nuncio called, and acquainted me 
that the Pope had, on my recommendation, appointed Mr. John Car- 
roll superior of the Catholic clergy in America, with many of the 
powers of a bishop ; and that probably he would be made a bishop 
in partibus before the end of the year. He asked me which would 
be more convenient for him, to come to France, or go to St. Do- 
mingo, for ordination by another bishop, which was necessary. I 
mentioned Quebec as more convenient than either. He asked 
whether, as that was an English province, our government might not 
take offence at his going thither? I thought not, unless the ordina- 
tion by that bishop should give him some authority over our bishop. 
He said, not in the least ; that when our bishop was once ordained, 
he would be independent of the others, and even of the Pope ; which 
I did not clearly understand. He said the Congregation de Propa- 
ganda. Fide had agreed to receive, and maintain and instruct, two 
young Americans in the languages and sciences at Rome (he had 
formerly told me that more would be educated gratis in France). 
He added they had written from America that there are twenty 
priests, but that they are not sufficient, as the new settlements near 
the Mississippi have need of some. 

The Nuncio said we should find that the Catholics were not so 
intolerant as they had been represented ; that the Inquisition in Rome 
had not now so much power as that in Spain ; and that in Spain it 
was used chiefly as a prison of state. That the Congregation would 
have undertaken the education of more American youths, and may 
hereafter, but that at present they are overburdened, having some 
from all parts of the world. He spoke lightly of their New Bos- 
tonian convert Thayer's conversion; that he had advised him not to 
go to America, but settle in France. That he wanted to go to con- 
vert his countrymen; but he knew nothing yet of his new religion 
himself, etc. 

7. CHARLES PLOWDEN TO JOHN CARROLL.* 
[Extract] 

[July 3, 1784] 

It appears, however, to me, a great incongruity that a negotiation 
should be carried on between the American States and the Court of 

7 Bigelow, Vol. VIII, p. 509. " GuildaF, p. 174. 



APPENDICES TO CHAPTER IV 121 

Rome upon affairs of the Catholic Religion without the participation 
of the priests who are actually in the country. If Dr. Franklin reflects, 
he must see the impropriety of such an act and be sensible that your 
civil and ecclesiastical rights may be much prejudiced by it. It is not 
improbable that the ultimate answer of the States and of Franklin 
will be that your country is open to the Roman Catholic as well as to 
other religions, leaving the manner of establishing it to the Pope, 
that is, to the Propaganda. This is just the answer lately given by 
the King of Sweden during his residence at Rome. In consequence of 
it a Vicar-Apostolic is named to go to Stockholm, and a sum of 
money is given to build a Catholic Church. Now, as Franklin may 
be presumed to be less informed than we could wish upon these mat- 
ters, I have desired Messrs. Sewall, Hoskins, and Mattingly to write 
to him with a view of giving him information, and as you are per- 
sonally acquainted with him, I trust you will zealously do the same. 
A confidential representation will come with better grace from 
American Catholic clergymen than from British-born priests ... I 
have suggested to them to entreat Franklin not to concur in any pro- 
posal which may be detrimental to the tranquillity and prosperity 
[of your Church] ... I have had the consolation to receive infor- 
mation that on the 9th of last month the Propaganda had sent off 
ample faculties, according to the tenor of the petition, with power 
to give the Sacrament of Confirmation to you, and that you are to be 
appointed Bishop and Vicar- Apostolic as soon as proper information 
can be procured from America. I heartily congratulate with reli- 
gion, you and your country. Mr. Thorpe and the Cardinal judged 
that the Memorial which came to Rome in the name of Messrs. John 
Lewis and his associates could not be presented in its own full shape ; 
it demanded too much, it demanded it in a manner too immethodi- 
cal, and it would have given occasion to too many comments which 
at such a distance from information could not well be answered. 
You cannot be ignorant that prudence was highly requisite as well 
to obtain your request as to remove every occasion to the gentlemen 
of Propaganda introducing their own pretensions . . . They must 
have some motive for delegating you with plenitude of power while 
the negotiation between Doria and Franklin is yet undetermined. 
Perhaps they feared that it might result in the establishing a Bishop 
in Ordinary which would at once withdraw the American Missions 
from their control. Our friends at Rome have taken much pains to 
inculcate the danger of introducing any alien or foreigners with 
spiritual powers into your Missions, and, it seems, with some success. 



122 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 
8. THE NUNCIO TO THE CARDINAL PREFECT. 9 

Without communicating to the Count of Vergennes the contents 
of the respected letter that Your Eminence was pleased to write to 
me on the 9th of last month, concerning the matter of the missions 
in the provinces of the new republic of the United States of North 
America, on Tuesday, I told him that the Congregation of Propa- 
ganda Fide, with the approval of the Holy Father, had chosen Mr. 
Carroll for superior of those missions, and that, accordingly, the 
Sacred Congregation was sending to Carroll, with an official letter, 
all the necessary faculties and instructions, reserving the purpose to 
elect him vicar-apostolic with the character of bishop, when proofs 
of his ability and capacity will have been received, together with the 
information requested of the Chevalier de la Luzerne, minister pleni- 
potentiary of the Most Christian King near the states of the aforesaid 
republic, who will be in France in a few days. The Count of Ver- 
gennes, and Mr. Franklin, showed themselves to be most pleased 
with this information, and charged me to thank you for it, most 
especially; the Count of Vergennes undertook to send with his dis- 
patch the letter of Your Eminence, and one from me, to Mr. Carroll. 
Mr. Franklin would have wished that Carroll had already been 
elected bishop, assuring me that the American congress will be most 
pleased with such a consummation, and will not oppose Mr. Carroll's 
going to Canada for his consecration by Monseigneur the bishop of 
Quebec, the nearest place, and not as inconvenient or expensive as it 
would be to come to France, or to go to the Island of Santo Domingo. 
In order not to make Mr. Franklin believe that financial considera- 
tions entered into the business, I abstained from speaking of the 
cost of living for a bishop, or Vicar-Apostolic with episcopal char- 
acter. I did ask Mr. Franklin, however, how much it would cost, 
approximately, to bring two young men from America to France; 
he answered that, as the passage is not yet reduced to regular tariff, 
he could not give me a specific answer, but, that it could not be 
more than 70, or 80, Louis d'or, which is equivalent to from 1680 
to 1920 livres. With regard to the eight or ten young Americans 
whom, as I had the honor of informing Your Eminence by my letter 
of the 17th of May, Monseigneur the bishop of Autun proposes to 
establish in one of the seminaries of Bordeaux, to pursue there the 
necessary studies to become able missionaries, their expenses will be 

* Devitt, Propaganda Documents, op. cit., pp. 220-222. 



APPENDICES TO CHAPTER IV 123 

defrayed by the Most Christian King, who has it very much at heart 
to provide those missions with capable subjects; but Monseigneur 
d'Autun is not yet certain whether a special fund will be destined to 
this purpose, or whether he will give a sum each year, for eight, ten, 
or more students, .according to requirement; wherefore, I limited 
myself to saying that " two or three students may be received at the 
college of the Propaganda, which latter will not only support these 
students, but, will provide for the support of the bishop in partibus, 
vicar-apostolic, to be sent to Maryland." Your Eminence will see, 
therefore, that the matter is admirably well under way and that noth- 
ing is wanting, except to receive the information asked from 
America, which will probably be furnished by the Chevalier de la 
Luzerne. This is all that occurs to me of which to inform you, while 
with all homage I have the honor to be 

Of Your Eminence, the Very Humble, Devoted, and Grateful 
Servant 

G. Archbishop of Seleucia. 

Paris, July 5th, 1784. 

9. THE NUNCIO TO JOHN CARROLL. 10 

Paris, July 5th, 1784 

I have the honor, Sir, to send you the packet herewith which the 
congregation of the propaganda have committed to me. I am much 
gratified at the confidence which his holiness places in you, and the 
esteem in which he holds your merit. You will see by the letter 
which that congregation writes you, that it empowers you to send 
two young Americans to Rome, there to be raised to the ecclesiastical 
state, and to fill one day the functions of missionaries in your coun- 
try. I do not doubt that you will give all attention in their choice, 
because they should be competent to the object for which they are 
destined. I beg you will procure their passage with the least possible 
delay, and accompany them with an open letter in Latin or French. 
This letter will serve to make them known to the bishop or other 
ecclesiastical superior of any port of France in which they may arrive, 
to whom they can have recourse in case of need. If they arrive in 
the port of 1'Orient, or that of Nantes, or any other near Paris, they 
can present themselves in that capital, where I will assume the care of 

10 Bernard U. Campbell, op. cit., Vol. Ill, pp. 795-796, incorrectly dated 
1783. 



124 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

forwarding them to Rome. If it be Bayonne or Bordeaux, they can 
take the route to Marseilles, and there present themselves to Mr. 
Ranzoni, consul of his holiness, whom I shall previously instruct to 
facilitate their passage to their destination. Nothing can be added to 
the sentiments of esteem and consideration with, which I have the 
honor to be, 

Sir, your very humble servant, 

J. DORIA PAMPHILI, archbishop of Seleucia, nuncio 
of the pope. 

To M. L'Abbe Carroll of Maryland, apostolic missionary. 

10. THE CARDINAL PREFECT TO THE NuNcio. 11 

To Monseigneur the Archbishop of Seleucia, Apostolic Nuncio. 
Paris. 

July 31st, 1784. 

The attested wisdom of Your Lordship has so well conducted the 
matter, happily begun, of the establishment of the missions in the 
provinces of the new republic of the United States of North America, 
that His Holiness, to whom full relation of all has been made, has 
not only been much pleased, but, has praised you a great deal for it, 
and especially for securing the education, at one of the seminaries of 
Bordeaux, of eight or ten young Americans, who are to be supported 
by the liberality of His Most Christian Majesty. His Holiness desires, 
accordingly, that Your Lordship will be pleased to send, without 
delay, an official letter of thanks to Monseigneur the bishop of 
Autun, to whose department the Matter belongs. If you deem it 
expedient, take advantage of this opportunity to suggest to that Pre- 
late that a fixed fund would be more expeditious and less subject to 
variations. Your Lordship acted with great wisdom in the matter of 
informing the count of Vergennes and Mr. Franklin of the selection 
of Mr. Carroll as the new superior of the above missions. Let Mr. 
Franklin not doubt that, in what depends upon us, it will be sought 
to invest Mr. Carroll with the episcopal character as soon as he has 
informed us of the status of the Catholic religion in those provinces 
and of the system to be adopted. Meanwhile, the two young Ameri- 
cans called to our college will be expected, and Your Lordship, who 

11 Devitt, Propaganda Documents, op. cii., pp. 222-223. 



APPENDICES TO CHAPTER IV 125 

is in correspondence with Mr. Carroll, can request him to send them, 
and undertake in our name responsibility for the reembursement of 
the expenses of their voyage. Which is all that occurs to me to sug- 
gest to you, and reiterating the assurance of our great obligation, I 
heartily offer myself to you, and remain. 



12 



11. FRANKLIN TO THE NUNCIO. 

Mr. Franklin assures His Excellency the Nuncio of his respect and 
sends him a copy of the instruction of Congress which he had the 
honor of communicating to him, yesterday, with a translation which 
he seemed to desire. 

Passy, August 18th, 1784. 

12. THE NUNCIO TO THE CARDINAL PREFECT. 13 

Your Eminence may be well assured of the consolation that I 
derive from seeing by your worshipful letter of the 31st of July that 
the Holy Father deigned to be content with the course that I have 
followed to bring this matter of the establishment of the missions in 
the provinces of the new republic of the United States of North 
America to its desired end, and that he was especially pleased with 
the assurance of an education, at one of the seminaries of Bordeaux, 
of eight or ten young Americans, who are to be supported by the 
liberality of the Most Christian King. I will forthwith comply with 
the order that Your Eminence was pleased to give me in the name 
of His Holiness, to send an official letter of special thanks to Mon- 
seigneur the bishop of Autun for the part that he takes in the estab- 
lishment of these young Americans; but I do not allow myself to 
hope that he will be willing to establish a fixed fund, because it is 
not certain that, as time goes on, the American Republic will con- 
tinue to be grateful for the signal favors and services of France, and 
that revolutions will not occur, similar to that of Canada. It is neces- 
sary to accept with pleasure what may be obtained, and to be con- 
tent with it, and to leave the future to what it will please God to 
dispose. 

I will inform Mr. Franklin that the Congregation of Propaganda 
Fide, for its own part, is very much disposed to hasten the conse- 
cration of Mr. Carrol as bishop, as soon as he shall have given an 

1S Devitt, Propaganda Documents, op. cit., pp. 223-224. 
18 Ibid., pp. 224-225. 



126 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

account of the status of the Catholic religion in the provinces of his 
republic of America and of the order of things to be established 
there; and, also, that the same Sacred Congregation expects with 
pleasure that the coming of the two young Americans who are called 
to its college will be hastened, and has already instructed me to 
defray the expenses of their voyage. 

Mr. Franldin having communicated to me an extract of the 
instructions had from Congress under date of the llth of May, 
1784, concerning the request that I made of him, I begged him to 
furnish me a copy and a translation of it. He sent me both, with a 
note under date of the 18th of the present month; and I herewith 
transmit them to Your Eminence. I do not doubt that His Holiness 
and the Congregation will be pleased to learn through the above 
extract of the respectful sentiments of Congress towards His Holi- 
ness and towards the Pontifical State, and that the body in question 
declares that the affair, relating, as it does, to purely spiritual matters, 
is foreign to the powers and jurisdiction of Congress, which has not 
authority to grant or to refuse the request, that power being reserved 
to each state individually. And, ever more anxious to follow the 
most esteemed commands of Your Eminence, with all homage I 
subscribe myself 

Of Your Eminence the Very Humble, Devoted, and Grateful 
Servant 

G. Archbishop of Seleucia. 

Paris, August 23d, 1784. 

13. THE CARDINAL PREFECT TO THE NUNCIO." 

To Monseigneur the Archbishop of Seleucia, Apostolic Nuncio in 

Paris. 

September 25th, 1784. 

I have seen with great satisfaction the answer that the Congress of 
the United States of America gave to Mr. Franklin in regard to the 
request that you made of him, and the Supreme Pontiff has been 
informed of the sentiments of respect which that Congress entertains 
for His Holiness and for the Pontifical State. I give you exceptional 
thanks for such gracious courtesy, and thank you also for the further 
offices that you had in mind in relation with Mr. Franldin, in regard 
to informing him of our disposition for the investiture of Mr. Car- 
roll with the episcopacy. 

14 Devitt, Propaganda Documents, op. cit., pp. 225-226. 



APPENDICES TO CHAPTER IV 127 

In that connection, I should inform you of the pleasure of this 
Sacred Congregation at the arrival" of two young men from Mada- 
gascar, to be educated at this Collegio Urbano, hoping that in due 
course they may be of great assistance to the newly established mis- 
sion of that island, in regard to which several opportune measures 
have already been taken. I will not omit, therefore, to recommend 
again to the attested zeal and efficiency of Your Lordship the re- 
newal, to the Marshal de Castries, of those offices in this relation to 
which I referred in my letter of the 7th of July last ; and promising 
myself the most happy results through your masterly management, I 
heartily offer myself to you, and remain. 



14. THE CARDINAL PREFECT TO THE NUNCIO." 

To Monseigneur the Archbishop of Seleucia, Apostolic Nuncio at 
Paris. 

December 11th, 1784. 

It was the source of greatest satisfaction to me to receive the news 
that Your Lordship was pleased to send me, concerning Mr. John 
Thayer, native of Boston, to the effect that, after trying and causing 
to be tried the stability of his vocation for an ecclesiastical life, Your 
Lordship, in view of the faculties granted to you by His Holiness 
under date of the 21st of September, 1783, had conferred the clerical 
tonsure upon Mr. Thayer in your private chapel, and further, that 
you had succeeded in obtaining that Monseigneur the Archbishop of 
Paris should place him in the seminary of Saint Sulpice, where he 
may continue the studies that are necessary in the state that he has 
adopted. I could not express to Your Lordship the gratitude of this 
Holy Congregation for the promptness with which you conduct its 
urgent business matters to their required ends, which is due, not only 
to your zeal, but, also, to the prudent skill and to the masterly effi- 
ciency of Your Lordship. Nevertheless, I will not omit to offer you 
the most expressive and affectionate thanks, assuring Your Lordship 
of the absolute satisfaction and most lively gratitude of these my 
Most Eminent Lords and my own. Expecting of your accustomed 
diligence some consoling development, I heartily offer myself to you, 
and remain. 

16 Devitt, Propaganda Documents, op. cit., pp. 227-228. 



128 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 
15. INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE NuNCio. 16 

Instructions to Monseigneur Dugnani, new nuncio to France, May 
24-th, 1785. 

In order that Monseigneur Dugnani, the new nuncio to Paris, may 
have an idea of the course until now of the matters with which the 
Sacred Congregation of the Propaganda has been dealing through 
the intermediary of the nunciature of France, it is necessary that he 
be informed of the fact that there are at Paris two well known semi- 
naries that are in correspondence with the Propaganda, these are the 
Seminary of Foreign Missions and that of Saint-Esprit. . . . 

Finally, Monseigneur the Nuncio should know of the establish- 
ment that it has been proposed to give to Catholicism in the new 
republic of the United provinces in America. This matter crowned 
the nunciature of the Most Eminent Doria, to whose 2eal and activity 
is due the merit of the entire work. 

It has been determined to establish a vicar-apostolic in that part of 
the new republic that may appear to be the most desirable for the 
purpose. The Sacred Congregation has promised to contribute to 
the support of the vicar, who will be invested with the character of 
bishop also. The subject for this dignity has been selected; he is a 
certain Mr. Caroll, who is a missionary in that country, and of whom 
the Congregation has received the best reports. The selection of this 
subject was ardently desired also by the minister Mr. Franklin, who 
is residing at Paris. 

But, in order to have new workers among those Christians, the 
Eminent Doria thought of obtaining from the munificence of the 
Most Christian King an assignment for eight or ten young men, to 
be brought from America to be educated at one of the seminaries of 
Bordeaux, and received full assurance of its granting from Mon- 
seigneur d'Aurun, who has the ministry of ecclesiastical benefices. 

In view of this, the Congregation, also, opened in its Collegio 
Urbano two scholarships for as many young Americans to be edu- 
cated there at its expense. 

All of this plan was accepted with pleasure by Mr. Franklin, and 
also by the congress in America, to which, it was recommended by 
the Worthy count of Vergennes; but the answers awaited from the 
said Mr. Caroll have not yet been received. 

Monseigneur the Nuncio will see what the course of this matter 
has been, by the original letters, which are furnished him. This 
being all etc. 

18 Devitt, Propaganda Documents, op. cit., pp. 228-229. 



CHAPTER FIVE 

AMERICAN REACTION, OCTOBER 1784 AND 
AFTERMATH 

We might stop at this point, when the problem of the 
establishment of the American hierarchy had received its 
solution by the appointment of John Carroll as superior of 
the Catholic missions in the United States, and when that of 
the education and support of American students in a French 
seminary appeared to be on the way to a happy settlement 
through the promised cooperation from the French Govern- 
ment and Episcopate. We are not directly concerned with 
the reception of the Holy See's decision by the American 
clergy. John Carroll's hesitations, his misgivings about the 
exact import of the powers with which he had been vested, 
the persistent opposition of the majority of the clergy to a 
vicar-apostolic dependent upon the Congregation of the 
Propaganda interest us only insofar as they may throw some 
light on the character of the French intervention in the 
whole affair. 

A point worthy of notice is that only after many months 
did the news reach America of the choice of a French 
seminary for the education of American seminarians and the 
establishment of a royal fund to defray their expenses. The 
discretion once recommended by the Nuncio seems to have 
been observed in this plan regarding the American clergy by 
all the parties cooperating in its elaboration; neither the 
Cardinal Prefect nor the Nuncio in their correspondence 
with John Carroll, nor the Prime Minister in his letters to his 
representative in the United States seems to have alluded to 
it. The first intimation appears to have come to the new 
Prefect Apostolic from his friend Father Thorpe, who, 
August 31, 1785, wrote from Rome: x 

1 Campbell, op. tit., Vol. Ill, p. 802. 

9 129 



130 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

The business of your nomination ... as bishop in ordinary, or 
as apostolic vicar, depended on letters that were expected from 
France, when I was with Mr. Borgia, who also told me that His 
Christian Majesty had graciously offered eight free places in the 
seminary of Bordeaux for North American Catholic youths, born 
subjects of the United States. 

Whether John Carroll ever thought of taking advantage of 
this offer, we have not been able to ascertain. 

The first report of his appointment had come to John 
Carroll from Father Thorpe, who had written, as has been 
stated, on the very day the decree was issued in Rome. John 
Carroll received it August 20th, in his country mission at 
Rock Creek, Maryland, and replied at once, thanking his 
correspondent for his active and successful endeavors: 2 

I say successful, not because your partiality, as I presume, joined 
to that of my old cheerful friend, Dr. Franklin, suggested me to the 
consideration of His Holiness, but because you have obtained some 
form of spiritual government to be adopted for us. 

Father Thorpe, however, refused to take the credit for 
Carroll's appointment. 

The same report had reached England and elicited from 
Charles Plowden, in a letter to John Carroll of September 
2nd of the same year, 3 comments betraying the animus he had 
formerly shown towards the Roman authorities. He cannot 
help questioning the motives which may have determined the 
Holy See to confer upon his friend the superiorship of the 
American missions: 

I must repeat that there are certainly some oblique views, most 
probably directed to the property of the American mission, and to 
the obtaining superiority over the missionaries. 

In view of the correspondence exchanged between the Pro- 
paganda and the Paris Nuncio, and the Prefect's first letter 

3 Appendix No. 5, p. 149. 

3 This is the date given by Campbell. Guilday gives September 21st. 
Appendix No. 1, p. 145. 



AMERICAN REACTION AND AFTERMATH 131 

to John Carroll (June 9, 1784) in which he states that the 
Congregation " wish not to meddle with temporal things," 
one may judge how gratuitous and unjust are the English 
Jesuit's suspicions against the Roman Congregation. Far 
from coveting the property of the Order in America, Cardinal 
Antonelli had made it clear to the Nuncio and to Franklin 
that the Propaganda was ready to assume at least part of the 
burden of supporting the new bishop and educating the 
seminarians. 
Charles Plowden continued: 

The note delivered to the nuncio proves their wish to exclude 
every Jesuit from trust or honor, and equally betrays the policy of 
the French ministry (" the nation most friendly to congress ") who, 
by bringing forward a Frenchman, or perhaps an Irish-Frenchman, 
would use religion as an instrument to increase their own influence 
in America. 

Is it rash to trace to those words of the English Jesuit the 
origin of the legends of French interference in the affairs of 
the American Church and of the French scheme to make the 
nascent Church a dependency of the French Church ? He was, 
in fact, altogether mistaken in ascribing to the French 
ministry the intention to exclude every Jesuit from trust or 
honor, since they and their Charge d' Affaires in the United 
States had concurred in recommend ing the appointment of 
John Carroll. Neither was he justified in imputing to them 
a plan to use religion as an instrument of influence in 
America by appointing a French bishop, for the note to the 
Nuncio to which he evidently refers emanated from Franklin 
who, in his anxiety to break every bond between American 
and English Catholics, wished to take from the British 
ministry, as he said, ail influence over the subjects of the 
United States, and thereby to secure the unity of the Ameri- 
can government; 4 indeed, on the contrary, Vergennes and 
the Bishop of Autun demurred from taking Franklin's pro- 

*See Chapter II, Appendix No. 6, p. 51. 



132 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

posal under consideration, and the French Charge d' Affaires 
advised most strongly against making the choice fall upon 
a French ecclesiastic; finally, it was Vergennes' policy, most 
explicitly stated in his instructions of July 21, 1783, to the 
Chevalier de la Luzerne, not to attempt to influence the 
internal affairs of the United States. Plowden's words 
deserved the rebuke which John Carroll had, on another 
occasion, administered to his friend when he warned the 
latter not to adopt " the language of some of the prints on 
your side of the water, by representing Americans under 
imperious leaders and the trammels of France." 

But Plowden, in this letter to Carroll, soon turns from the 
French to the Romans and denounces the whole policy of the 
Holy See in appointing vicars-apostolic who administer 
Catholic missions under the authority of the Propaganda. 
He quotes from a letter of one of his friends: 

With respect to the views of Rome upon America, all that I can 
tell you is that there is a treaty on foot to establish a vicar apostolic 
for the thirteen states, which treaty, I suppose, is near conclusion. 
I know not what the Americans will think of this plan, whether 
they would fear a too great dependence on Rome. This I know, 
that many English priests whom I have the honor to know here, 
think that apostolic vicars are the ruin of Catholicity in England, 
and that bishops properly established, would be the fit instruments 
of building a solid edifice, both here and in America. 

He continues: " Make your own comments, my dear friend, 
on this extract, substitute a less violent word to rum, and 
we shall easily agree with the writer." One last thrust at 
the " Romans," at the end of the letter seems to exonerate 
the French, even in the eyes of Charles Plowden, of responsi- 
bility in the affair: 

The Romans have got scent of your promotion, and according to 
their custom have strangely distorted the whole business, even your 
name. They bring in the French king to figure in it, and talk of 
congress and your provincial assembles as if they were so many 
conseils souverains in France. 



AMERICAN REACTION AND AFTERMATH 133 

This letter crossed one written September 15th to Plowden 
by John Carroll, who had not yet received from Barbe- 
Marbois the official notice of his appointment, as it was not 
forwarded to him until October 27th; he had, however, had 
time to ponder over the information received from Father 
Thorpe. Carroll's letter shows his mixed feelings and his 
very natural anxiety at the thought of the responsibility 
placed upon him. He is even tempted to decline the office: 

I do assure you, dear Charles, that nothing personal to myself, 
excepting the dissolution of the society, ever gave me so much con- 
cern ; and if a meeting of our gentlemen, to be held the 9th of Octo- 
ber, agree in thinking that I can decline the intended office without 
grievous inconvenience, I shall certainly do so. 

The true import of these words is found in a letter to the 
same friend written after the 26th of November: 5 

I have before told you that nothing, since the dissolution of our 
poor society, ever gave me so much uneasiness as the first account of 
my being appointed a bishop. Luckily, the despatches from Rome 
only mention that the pope's intention is, hereafter, to appoint a 
vicar apostolic; but no intimation is given of time or person. 

Coming back to his letter of September 15th, we find 
Carroll objecting to the plan of appointing a vicar-apostolic 
instead of a bishop in ordinary: 

To govern the spiritual concerns of this country as a mission is 
absurd, seeing there is a regular clergy belonging to it; and with 
God's assistance there will be in time a succession of ministry to 
supply their places as they drop off. ' 

These lines show that at least in this connection the discre- 
tion advised by the Nuncio had an unfortunate effect, for 
had Carroll known that a plan was being considered by the 
Roman Prelate and Franklin, with the cooperation of the 
French authorities, to provide for the education of American- 
born seminarians, his resentment would not have been so 

8 Campbell, op. cit., Vol. Ill, p. 801. 



134 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

keen. But the fact that the Roman authorities had chosen to 
deal directly with Franklin, without consulting the American 
clergy, gave John Carroll the greatest offense: 

Nothing can place in a stronger light the aversion to the remains 
of the society, than the observation made by you of a negotiation 
being carried on, relative to the affairs of religion, with Dr. Franklin, 
without ever deigning to apply for information to the Catholic 
clergy in this country. 

We can understand Carroll's resentment of an apparent 
slight, although he might have remembered the Roman 
tradition of not dealing directly with such as are not clothed 
with authority; as a matter of fact, however, he was on the 
eve of receiving through Barbe-Marbois, the Nuncio's letter 
directed to " one of the missionaries living in America." His 
very natural wish to see the clergy consulted had been anti- 
cipated. 

That the prejudice against the Propaganda was shared by 
the English as well as by the American clergy appears from 
the letter dated September 21, 1784, from Bishop Talbot, 
Vicar-Apostolic of London, to John Carroll after his notifica- 
tion of the withdrawal of the American clergy from his 
jurisdiction. 6 He wrote: 

You have indeed obviated the chief difficulty I wished to caution 
you against, viz. that of being under the authority of the Propa- 
ganda. Your reasons are special, and Rome must come in at last 
to grant a jurisdiction ordinary. 

The mind of the American clergy is fully revealed in the 
account of the meeting held at Whitemarsh October 11, 
1784, the main object of which was to give final approval to 
the constitutions of the clergy. 7 Carroll, as has been seen, 
was full of misgivings as to the manner in which his appoint- 
ment would be regarded by his confreres. Attention was 
first directed to the " form of government " which was 

8 Hughes, Vol. 1, part 2, p. 624. 

7 See Bernard U. Campbell, op. cit., Vol. Ill, pp. 371-373; Guilday, p. 205. 



AMERICAN REACTION AND AFTERMATH 135 

agreed to be by chapter and by a general procurator, and the 
delegates stressed the distinction between the procurator, 
who was to look after the temporal, and the superior in 
spiritualibus. Article XIX of the Regulations provided that: 

The person invested with spiritual jurisdiction in this country, 
shall not, in that capacity, have any power over, or in the temporal 
property of the clergy. 

When Father Thorpe's letter informing Carroll of his 
appointment he was not to receive the official notice until 
November 6th was laid before the Chapter, it led to the 
discussion of the question of a bishop for the United States. 
The delegates deemed a superior in sptritualibus adequate 
and therefore considered a bishop unnecessary, for the time 
being. In any case, if a bishop were sent, he should not be 
entitled to support from the present estates of the clergy; and 
a committee was appointed to draw up a petition to the Holy 
See against his appointment. The delegates were evidently 
concerned with the hope of restoring their Society, and bent 
on safeguarding the properties which might make that 
possible. 

When this resolution was passed John Carroll had left the 
meeting. Writing on February 17, 1785, to Father Thorpe, 
he very pointedly calls his friend's attention to his absence at 
that time: 8 

At the same meeting, but after I had left it thro' indisposition, 
a direction was given to Messrs Diderick, Merely and Matthews to 
write you a letter (I believe likewise a memorial to the Pope), 
against the appointment of a bishop. 

On October 27, 1784," two weeks after the Whitemarsh 
meeting, the French Charge d' Affaires directed to John 
Carroll the Roman documents afferent to his appointment, 
and having learned " by the address of that letter that his 
holiness has concluded his choice in regard to the head of 

8 Appendix No. 5, p. 149. 9 Appendix No. 3, p. 147. 



136 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

the Catholic church on this continent," Barbe-Marbois con- 
gratulated himself " in being one of the first to assure you 
that this choice will give general satisfaction." He ended his 
letter by placing himself at the new Prefect's service, if the 
latter's nomination " should produce any other communica- 
tions between our court and the holy see." This offer of 
assistance was not a mere gesture. The Charge d' Affaires 
and other French officials in the United States were always 
disposed to help their fellow-Catholics in every possible way. 
Dr. Guilday quotes 10 a certain Father Whelan's application 
for faculties dated January 28, 1785, which was sent to the 
Papal Nuncio with a letter of recommendation from Hector 
Saint-Jean de Crevecceur, then French Consul General in 
New York the same who had applied to the Mayor of 
New York " comme Consul de France et comme Frangois " 
to obtain for Catholics a place of worship, when Roman 
Catholic worship was still proscribed in that city. The Irish 
priest pays this tribute to the Consul: 

The French Consul Mr. St. John is a strenuous good friend to 
religion and advances our cause as much as possible and introduced 
me to the Marquis de La Fayette, who zealously recommended me 
to the Governor and Magistrates, and also engaged their protection 
in my behalf. His Excellency Monsieur de Marbois is arrived here 
which will be additional support to our cause. 

The reasons alleged by the clergy in the memorial which 
they sent to Rome after the Whitemarsh meeting, 11 entreat- 
ing His Holiness " not to persist in the design of conferring 
the episcopal dignity upon any individual in these parts, 
unless the necessary provision be made in some other quarter 
for his support," are strikingly similar to those given three 
months later, March 27, 1785, 12 by the French Charge 
d' Affaires when he touched on the same question. The dele- 
gates maintained that, " The majority of the Protestant 

10 Guilday, pp. 250-251. " See Chapter III, Appendix No. 11, p. 90. 

11 Appendix No. 4, p. 148. 



AMERICAN REACTION AND AFTERMATH 137 

population here are averse to a Roman Catholic prelate, and 
for this reason the episcopal office if introduced would most 
likely awaken their jealousy against us." The other reasons, 
namely, the lack of means " to support a bishop in a manner 
becoming his station, and at the same time to supply the 
necessary wants of our fellow laborers in the ministry," and 
their inability to provide for the passing of a number of 
missionaries to this country, had been anticipated, as has 
been shown, by the Propaganda's offer of support for the 
bishop, its appeal to the generosity of the French King, and 
by Franklin's efforts to interest the government of France in 
the cause of the American missions. 

None of the letters of the American Jesuits contains the 
least hint of their fear of coming under the jurisdiction of a 
French bishop; their great concern, like that of their English 
brethren, was to avoid, if possible, coming under the juris- 
diction of the Propaganda, and this is made plain from a 
number of extracts from their correspondence at that period, 
of which some of the most significant will be quoted. 

Writing to John Carroll, February 2, 1785, Charles Plow- 
den stated his belief that Carroll's " nomination as prefect 
apostolic was hastened by Antonelli for fear the American 
clergy would exercise their right and elect a bishop over 
whom they [i. e. the Propaganda] would have no control." 13 
On the 17th of the same month, Carroll wrote a lengthy 
letter to Father Thorpe, 14 which is perhaps the most reveal- 
ing statement of the views then prevailing among the 
American clergy. He is anxious " to avoid giving the Congre- 
gation, or any other person the smallest reason to suspect 
a cabal to defeat their measures; and if plain and honest 
representation will not succeed with them, I should fear the 
effects of intemperate obstinacy." Nevertheless he states 
very candidly his objections to the Roman plan for govern- 
ment of the Church in America: 

13 Guilday, p. 259. " Appendix No. 5, p. 149. 



138 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

1 ) The lAmerican clergy conceive their situation no longer 
that of missioners; they have become a national clergy and 
propose to see to the training of Catholic youth in a seminary. 
They are not in immediate want of a bishop, but when the 
time comes they " conceive that it will be more advantageous 
to Religion and less liable to give offence that he be an 
ordinary Bishop, and not a Vicar-Apostolic, and be chosen 
and presented to his Holiness by the American Cath[olic] 
clergy." 

2) For two reasons they think it improper to be subject 
in their ecclesiastical government to the Propaganda: " the 
first is, that not being missioners, we conceive ourselves, not 
a proper object of their institutions; and the second is, that 
tho' their free and tolerant forms of Government (in Vir- 
ginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania) admit us to equal civil 
rights with other Christians, yet the leading men in our 
respective States often expressed a jealousy of any foreign 
jurisdiction; and surely will be more offended about sub- 
mitting to it in matters not essential to our faith." Carroll 
hopes " they will never object "to our depending on the Pope 
in things purely spiritual," but he is sure " there are men, at 
least in this State [Maryland], who would blow up a flame 
of animosity against us, if they suspected that we were so 
much under the government of any Cong[regatio]n at Rome, 
as to receive our Superior from it, commissioned only during 
their good will; and that this Superior was restricted from 
employing any Clergyman here, but such as that Congrega- 
tion should direct." He dreads " so much the consequences 
of its being known that this last direction was ever given, 
that I have not thought it proper to mention it to several of 
my Brethren." 

It is enough to note in connection with this letter that by 
" foreign jurisdiction," Carroll and his confreres understand 
jurisdiction of the Propaganda, and that his reasons, like 
those stated in the memorial " the jealousy of Protestant 



AMERICAN REACTION AND AFTERMATH 139 

Americans " will be echoed a few weeks later, March 27th, 
by Barbe-Marbois, in his report to Vergennes. 15 How deeply 
the newly appointed Prefect felt on this question may be 
divined from his letter to Charles Plowden. 16 It is undated, 
and refers to the letter to Father Thorpe just analyzed: 

Your sentiments concerning our rights as a national clergy coin- 
cide entirely with my own. I am so happy to find these sentiments 
adopted by our gentlemen here, I have written to Cardinal An- 
tonelli, that the dependence of the Roman Catholics of this coun- 
try on any foreign tribunal or office, as to their appointment of their 
ecclesiastical superior, will not be tolerated by our jealous govern- 
ments; that if the clergy are not allowed to choose, and present for 
approbation, the person whom in their judgment they approve as 
best qualified, the consequences to religion may be fatal. I have 
written very fully to our common friend, Mr. Thorpe, on all these 
matters. 

And a few days later, February 27th, in a letter to the Papal 
Nuncio in Paris, 17 he insists that: 

The Revolution from which we have just emerged has procured 
us this advantage, but the circumspection we are obliged to use is 
extreme, so that no pretext for interfering with our rights be given 
to those who hate us. This is especially necessary now, because the 
prejudice entertained for so long a time is deep-rooted. The opinion 
above all which many have formed that our faith exacted a subjec- 
tion to His Holiness incompatible with the independence of a sov- 
ereign state, entirely false though it be, gives us continual worry. 

Finally, in his letter of acceptance written February 27, 1785, 
to Cardinal Antonelli, Carroll develops the same idea: 18 

The Most Eminent Cardinal may rest assured that the greatest 
evils would be borne by us rather than to renounce the divine au- 
thority of the Holy See; that not only we priests who are here, but 

16 See Chapter III, Appendix No. 11, p. 90. 
16 Bernard U. Campbell, op. tit., Vol. HI, p. 801. 
"Appendix No. 6, p. 153. 
18 Guilday, pp. 219-222. 



140 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

the Catholic people seem so firm in the faith that they will never 
withdraw from obedience to the Sovereign Pontiff. The Catholic 
body, however, think that some favor should be granted them by 
the Holy Father, necessary for their permanent enjoyment of the 
civil rights which they now enjoy, and to avert the dangers which 
they fear. From what I have said, and from the framework of pub- 
lic affairs here, your Eminence must see how objectionable all for- 
eign jurisdiction will be to them. The Catholics therefore desire 
that no pretext be given to the enemies of our religion to accuse us 
of depending unnecessarily on a foreign authority; and that some 
plan may be adopted for this country, in such a way as to retain 
absolutely the spiritual jurisdiction of the Holy See, and at the same 
time remove all ground for objecting to us, as though we held any- 
thing hostile to the national independence. . . . The Holy Father 
will perhaps see more dearly what is to be done in this matter, if 
he considers the Sixth of the Articles of Perpetual Confederation 
between the States, which enacts that no one who holds any office 
under the United States, shall be allowed to receive any gift, office 
or title of any kind whatsoever from any king, prince or foreign gov- 
ernment, and though this prohibition seems to extend only to those 
who are appointed to offices in the republic, it will perhaps be 
wrested by our opponents to apply also to ecclesiastical offices. We 
desire, therefore, Most Eminent Cardinal, to provide in every way, 
that the faith in its integrity, due obedience towards the Apostolic 
Sea and perfect union should flourish, and at the same time that 
whatever can with safety to religion be granted, shall be conceded 
to American Catholics in ecclesiastical government. 

A comparison of this plea for a greater measure of inde- 
pendence of the nascent American Church with Barbe- 
Marbois' suggestion of March 27, 1785, that " the holy see 
is sure to extend [the progress of religion in the United 
States] by relaxing its jurisdiction as much as the good of 
the faith can permit," would almost lead to the belief that 
the French Charge d' Affaires had read Carroll's letter, or 
had gone over the matter with the Prefect. He used the 
same arguments and expressed the same hope that in the 
character of the authority to be established and in the manner 
of choosing the subject on whom the authority would be con- 



AMERICAN REACTION AND AFTERMATH 141 

ferred, every precaution should be taken to avoid giving 
offense to the " jealousy " of the republican country. At 
any rate, it brings into a stronger light the truth of the thesis 
that whatever objection was raised by the American clergy 
against the Holy See's plan of reorganization of their Church, 
it was not occasioned by a fear of coming under the domina- 
tion of France. 

About a year later it is learned from a letter of Prefect 
Carroll to Charles Plowden dated July 11, 1786, 19 that the 
Congregation had begun to relax its jurisdiction by according 
him latitude in the matter of employing any clergymen he 
liked, and of granting dispensations. He then refers to the 
subject he had so much at heart: 

The nomination of a Bishop is suspended, till I shall please to 
say he might be serviceable ; his appointment by a foreign tribunal is 
given up; and, whenever one is to be nominated, the clergy here 
may chuse two of their number, one of whom shall be Bishop. 

and he speaks of employing the interval until a bishop is 
really needed, in obviating a danger that of the final nomi- 
nation to the bishopric being made by a " foreign juris- 
diction." 

In this manner was allayed the fear which had weighed 
so heavily on the minds of John Carroll and the Catholic 
clergy and laity of the United States: that their coming under 
the jurisdiction of the Roman Congregation of the Propa- 
ganda might arouse the animosity of their compatriots. The 
reader who has followed the account will doubtless share the 
conviction that American opposition to " foreign jurisdic- 
tion" was directed, not against France, but against the 
Roman Congregation. Not once did American priests or 
laymen express the fear that a French ecclesiastic might come 
and rule over them. Towards France, on the contrary, in 
the years following the signing of the peace, they felt the 

" Hughes, Vol. I, part 2, p. 635. 



142 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

same friendship that had animated the citizens of the two 
countries during the hard years of the war. To her they 
turned confidently for cooperation, not only in transmitting 
the correspondence exchanged between them and the Cardi- 
nal Prefect or Paris Nuncio, but even to secure the fulfil- 
ment of their hope for the establishment of a truly national 
episcopate. A few lines from Father Thorpe's letter to 
John Carroll 20 dated December 2, 1786, leave no doubt 
about it, and may serve as a summing up of the argument: 

" My concern," writes the Roman Jesuit, " chiefly arose from the 
humour of Rome, or rather from the spirit of the Propaganda Con- 
gregation which does not easily acquiesce to have bishops in Ordi- 
nary established in new countries, unless it be influenced by some 
powerful court. Without such interest and also well supported, it 
will be in vain to attempt the obtaining of an Ordinary for North 
America. If the States would not directly employ their authority in 
this business they might perhaps suffer its being promoted by the 
French ministry." 



' Guilday, p. 258. 



APPENDICES TO CHAPTER V 

1. Charles Plowden to John Carroll, September 2(?), 1784 

2. John Carroll to Charles Plowden, September 15, 1784 

3. Barbe-Marbois to John Carroll, October 27, 1784 

4. Memorial to the Holy Father, November, 1784 

5. John Carroll to Father Thorpe, February 17, 1785 

6. John Carroll to the Nuncio, February 27, 1785 



143 



1. CHARLES PLOWDEN TO JOHN CARROLL. 1 

[September 2, 1784] 

Although I know you to be incapable of mistaking the right line 
of conduct upon this occasion, yet, I think it the part of a friend to 
send you whatever information I can obtain. My meaning is not to 
advise or instruct you, but only to enlarge your prospect. I must 
repeat that there are certainly ,some oblique views, most probably 
directed to the property of the American mission, and to the obtain- 
ing superiority over the missionaries. The note delivered to the 
nuncio proves their wish to exclude every Jesuit from trust or honor, 
and equally betrays the policy of the French ministry (" the nation 
most friendly to congress"), who, by bringing forward a French- 
man, or perhaps an Irish-Frenchman, would use religion as an in- 
strument to increase their own influence in America. Our friend 
Thorpe's memorial, delivered to the pope, along with your petition, 
by Cardinal Borromeo, convinced the propaganda that the introduc- 
tion of an alien would overthrow the mission; I wish you may 
quickly be turned into an ordinary from a bishop in partibus, and 
am persuaded the pope could not refuse you the powers, &c., if your 
election by your own clergy, were abetted by your provincial assem- 
bly. We wish you to be as free as the bishop of Quebec, or the new 
archbishop of Mohilow. I wish to know in what light the leading 
men in the states consider your appointment. If they are disposed 
to tolerate it surely they would be more willing to admit a bishop 
only dependent on the holy see, than one who must be subject to 
the prefect and secretary of a congregation. If they can be brought 
to relish such a prelate, it is but one step more: you want not 
talents or spirit to take it, and all difficulties are at once removed. 
The business has been hitherto treated at Paris, with uncommon 
secrecy, by the nuncio. 

Mr. Thayer, who lives in Navarre college, wrote lately thus, to 
our friend Thorpe: "With respect to the views of Rome upon 
America, all that I can tell you is that there is a treaty on foot to 
establish a vicar apostolic for the thirteen states, which treaty, I sup- 
pose, is near conclusion. I know not what the Americans will think 
of this plan, whether they would fear a too great dependance on 
Rome. This I know, that many English priests whom I have the 

1 Bernard U. Campbell, op. tit., Vol. Ill (1844), pp. 376-377. 
10 145 



146 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

honor to know here, think that apostolic vicars are the ruin of 
Catholicity in England, and that bishops properly established, would 
be the fit instruments of building a solid edifice, both there and in 
America." Make your own comments, my dear friend, on this ex- 
tract, substitute a less violent word to ruin, and we shall easily agree 
with the writer. He is noticed by the archbishop of Paris and 
other dignified clergymen of the greatest merit, and much com- 
mended by the superior of Navarre college, in whose house he lives 
gratis. He appears to be sincere, and zealous for the promotion of 
religion in America, and we hope he will not be misled, &c. 

If your friends here were better informed of your concerns, they 
might occasionally yield you service. Upon the first rumor that a 
vicar apostolic was to the appointed, I prevailed upon Mr. Hoskins 
to write to Dr. Franklin to expose to him the degree of respect and 
consideration due to the missionaries now in America, and to desire 
that no proposals might be admitted without the participation and 
consent of you in particular, of the other missionaries, and the prin- 
cipal Catholic gentry in the country. At Mr. Thorpe's desire, the 
same has been written to him by Messrs. N. Sewell and Mattingly, 2 
with other information relative to the origin and actual state of the 
American missions. Mr. Thorpe is all alive in your service; and 
wishes that his endeavors may be useful to the common cause, and 
approved by you. The Romans have got scent of your promotion, 
and according to their custom have strangely distorted the whole 
business, even your name. They bring in the French king to figure 
in it, and talk of congress and your provincial assemblies as if they 
were so many conseils souverains in France. 

2. JOHN CARROLL TO CHARLES PLOWDEN. S 

[September 15, 1784] 

I do assure you, dear Charles, that nothing personal to myself, 
excepting the dissolution of the society, ever gave me so much con- 
cern; and if a meeting of our gentlemen, to be held the 9th of 
October, agree in thinking that I can decline the intended office 
without grievous inconvenience, I shall certainly do so. ... To 
govern the spiritual concerns of this country as a mission is absurd, 
seeing there is a regular clergy belonging to it; and with God's 

3 Two ex- Jesuits, natives of Maryland, then in Europe. 
"Bernard U. Campbell, op. cit., Vol. Ill (1844), pp. 377-378. 



APPENDICES TO CHAPTER V 147 

assistance there will be in time a succession of ministry to supply 
their places as they drop off. 

Nothing can place in a stronger light the aversion to the re- 
mains of the society, than the observation made by you of a nego- 
tiation being carried on, relative to the affairs of religion, with Dr. 
Franklin, without ever deigning to apply for information to the 
Catholic clergy in this country. You have my sincere thanks for 
all the zeal you exert and express in our concerns. Continue to do 
so, and God will be your reward. . . . 

When I first heard that the nuncio was treating with my old 
friend, Dr. Franklin, I had thoughts of writing to him, and should 
certainly have done it, had I not been afraid of placing myself in a 
conspicuous point of view, and brought upon myself what I now 
find is come to pass. Had I received timely information, before 
congress sent their answer, I flatter myself it would have been even 
more satisfactory to us than the one which was sent, though a good 
one. My brother's triennium in congress had just expired ; and Mr. 
Fitzsimmons, the only Catholic member beside, had just resigned; 
these were unfortunate circumstances. 

3. BARBE-MARBOIS TO JOHN CARROLL.* 

New York, October 27, 1784. 

Sir: I have the honor to transmit to you a letter which I have 
received with the despatches of M. le Comte de Vergennes. I 
judge by the address of that letter that his holiness has concluded 
his choice in regard to the head of the Catholic church on this con- 
tinent. I congratulate myself in being one of the first to assure you 
that this choice will give! general satisfaction. I am about to set 
out for Trenton, and desire earnestly that Maryland may be repre- 
sented in congress by one of your relations. If your nomination 
should produce any other communications between our court and the 
holy see, I will exert myself to contribute to your service. I am with 
respect, M. 1'Abbe, 

Your very humble and very 

Obedient servant, 

DE MARBOIS. 
To Rev. John Carroll. 

4 Bernard U. Campbell, op. cit., Vol. Ill (1844), p. 794. 



148 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

4. MEMORIAL TO THE HOLY FATHER/ 

[November, 1784] 
Most Holy Father: 

Of the twenty-two secular priests living in the thirteen United 
States of North America, six were appointed a few months ago to 
deliberate together upon the welfare of the Catholics in this part of 
the world. Having assembled for this purpose, they expressed the 
opinion that there is not the least necessity for a bishop in this coun- 
try, because there is no institution as yet for the education of youth, 
and their subsequent preparation for holy orders. I, Bernard Dide- 
rick, have been requested by the committee to notify your holiness 
of this sentiment, and to acquaint you also with the following 
circumstances: 

1. The majority of the Protestant population here are averse to a 
Roman Catholic prelate, and for this reason the episcopal office if 
introduced would most likely awaken their jealousy against us. 

2. We are not able to support a bishop in a manner becoming 
his station, and at the same time to supply the necessary wants of 
our fellow laborers in the ministry; moreover, the Catholics can- 
not be induced to aid us with their means in effecting this object. 

3. Were it even admitted that the two points just mentioned 
would present no difficulty, we are entirely at a loss to see how the 
greater number of missionaries, whose cooperation would be so very 
desirable in this immense region, could be furnished with the means 
of passing to this country. 

We therefore humbly entreat Your Holiness not to persist in the 
design of conferring the episcopal dignity upon any individual in 
these parts, unless the necessary provision be made in some other 
quarter for his support. Should Your Holiness entertain a different 
view, it Would be a source of much affliction to us, while at the 
same time we are convinced that it will be much more detrimental 
than otherwise to the interest of religion ; for as it has pleased Your 
Holiness to appoint one of our body to administer confirmation, 
consecrate altar-stones, bless the holy oils, and grant dispensations 
in the prohibited degrees, this appointment is equally advantageous 
for the good of religion. 



' Guilday, p. 176. 



APPENDICES TO CHAPTER V 149 

5. JOHN CARROLL TO FATHER THORPE 6 

Maryland, near Georgetown, Feb. 17, 1785. 

The official information of the advices sent by you June 9th, 
1784, was only received Nov. 26th. I did myself the honour of 
writing to you on the subject, immediately after receiving your letter, 
which was about the 20th of August, and of thanking you most 
cordially for your active and successful endeavours to render service 
to this country. I say successful, not because your partiality, as I 
presume, joined to that of my old and cheerful friend Dr. Franklin 
suggested me to the consideration of his Holiness; but because you 
have obtained some form of spiritual government to be adopted for 
us. It is not indeed quite such as we wish; and it cannot continue 
long in its; present form. You well know, that in our free and 
jealous government, where Catholics are admitted into all public 
councils equally with the professors of any other Religion, it will 
never be suffered that their Ecclesiastical Superior (be he a Bishop 
or Prefect- Apostolic), receive his appointment from a foreign State, 
and only hold it at the discretion of a foreign tribunal or congrega- 
tion. If even the present temper, or inattention of our Executive 
and legislative bodies were to overlook it for this and perhaps a few 
more instances, still ought we not to acquiesce and rest quiet in 
actual enjoyment; for the consequence, sooner or later, would cer- 
tainly be, that some malicious or jealous-minded person would raise 
a spirit against us, and under pretence of rescuing the State from 
foreign influence and dependence, strip us perhaps of our common 
civil rights. For these reasons, every thinking man amongst us is 
convinced, that w.e neither must request or admit any other foreign 
interference than such, as being essential to our religion, is implied 
in the acknowledgment of the Bishop of Rome, by divine appoint- 
ment, head of the universal Church; and the See of St. Peter being 
the centre of ecclesiastical unity. 

I am well aware that these suggestions will sound ungrateful at 
Rome, and that the mention of them from us will be perhaps im- 
puted by some of the officers of the propaganda to a remaining spirit 
of Jesuitism; but I own to you, that tho' I wish to treat with them 
upon terms of sincere unanimity and cordial concurrence in all 
matters tending to the service of Religion, yet I do not feel myself 

8 Guilday, pp. 208-212. 



150 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

disposed to sacrifice to the fear of giving offence the permanent 
interests of Religion. I mean candidly and respectfully to state our 
present situation; the spirit of our people; and the sentiments of 
the R. Catholics, the principal of whom are ready and desirous to 
transmit to Rome their opinion on the probable consequences of 
such a spiritual government, as is laid down in my dispatches from 
yr city. Whether I shall transmit their opinion under their own 
signature, I am yet uncertain ; I would wish to avoid giving the Con- 
gregation, or any other person the smallest reason to suspect a cabal 
to defeat their measures ; and if plain and honest representation will 
not succeed with them, I should fear the effects of intemperate 
obstinacy. 

That you may judge of these matters yourself, I must inform you, 
that my dispatches contained, 1st the decree of the Congn. of the 
Propgda., appointing me Superior of the Missions in the Thirteen 
U. States, ad suum beneplacitum . . . cum auctorse ea exercendi, 
quae ad earundem Missionum regimen pertinent, ad proscription 
decretorum sacrae Congnis, et facultatum eidem [mini] concessarum 
et non alias nee alio modo. 2-ly. An order from his Holiness, 
empowering me to administer Confirmation. 3-ly. A letter from 
Cardl. Antonelli, advising that His Holiness has extended to these 
States the Jubilee of 1776. 4-ly. Another letter from him and 
one likewise from the, Nuncio at Paris, desiring me to send two 
youths to be educated in the College of the Propgda. 5-ly. In the 
same letter Cardl. Antonelli wishes to know the number of our 
Clergy, and the amount of their incomes: for tho' the Congregation 
means not to meddle in temporalibus, yet conceiving and believing 
there are Church possessions here, it is proper for them to know 
how many Clergymen can be maintained from them. 6-ly. He 
further informs that his Holiness means hereafter to appoint a 
Bishop Vicar-apostolic ; but neither insinuates when or whom. 7-ly. 
In the faculties sent me, which with respect to matrimonial dispensa- 
tions, are too much restricted, for our exigencies, I am particularly 
charged to grant no powers or faculties to any who may come into 
this country, but those quos sacra Congregao. destinaverit et appro- 
baverit. Thus you see the outlines of our future Ecclesiastical gov- 
ernment, as it is planned at Rome. 

Our objections to it are 1st. We conceive our situation no 
longer as that of missioners ; and the Ecclesiastical constitution here 
no longer as that of a mission. By acquiring civil and religious 



APPENDICES TO CHAPTER V 151 

rights in common with other Christians, we are become a national 
Catholic Clergy; Colleges are now erecting for giving general and 
liberal education; these Colleges are open, both to masters and 
scholars of every religious denomination; and as we have every rea- 
son to believe, that amongst the youth trained in these different Col- 
leges, there will be frequently some inclined to the Ecclesiastical 
State, we Catholics propose instituting a Seminary to form them to 
the virtues of their future state, and to instruct them in Divinity. 
Thus we shall in a few years, with the blessing of providence, be 
able to supply this country with labourers in the Lord's vineyard, 
and keep up a succession, if we are indulged in a Bishop. We are 
not in immediate want of one, and it will be more agreeable to 
many of my Brethren not to have any yet appointed ; but whenever 
the time for it comes, we conceive that it will be more advantageous 
to Religion and less liable to give offence that he be an ordinary 
Bishop, and not a Vicar-Apostolic, and be chosen and presented to 
his Holiness by the American Cath. Clergy. 2-ly. For two reasons 
we think it improper to be subject in our Ecclesiastical government 
to the Propaganda: the first is, that not being missioners, we con- 
ceive ourselves, not a, proper object of their institutions; and the 
second is, that tho' our free and tolerant forms of Government (in 
Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania) admit us to equal civil rights 
with other Christians, yet the leading men in our respective States 
often express a jealousy of any foreign jurisdiction; and surely will 
be more offended about submitting to it in matters not essential to 
our faith. I hope they will never object to our depending on the 
Pope in things purely spiritual but I am sure there are men, at 
least in this State, who would blow up a flame of animosity against 
us, if they suspected that we were to be so much under the govern- 
ment of any Congn. at Rome, as to receive our Superior from it, 
commissioned only during their good will; and that this Superior 
was restricted from employing any Clergyman here, but such as that 
Congregation should direct. I dread so much the consequences of 
its being known that this last direction was ever given, that I have 
not thought it proper to mention it to several of my Brethren. 

With respect to sending two youths, I shall inform Propaganda 
that it would surely be very acceptable to have children educated 
gratis in so religious a seminary; and very acceptable to us all to 
have a succession of ministers of the altar thus provided for: but, 
as I suppose, they will not receive any into their College, but such 



152 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

as shall afterwards be subject to their government; and it being yet 
uncertain what effect my representations may produce, I shall delay 
that measure till further information. 

I shall in the meantime request permission to give faculties to 
other Clergymen, than those sent by the Propgda., of whose virtue 
and talents I shall have sufficient documents. For want of this 
power, the Catholics in the Jersies, N. Y., the great Western Coun- 
try, bordering on the lakes, and the Ohio, Wabash, and Mississippi 
(to say nothing of many in the N. England States and Carolinas) 
are entirely destitute of spiritual succours. The Catholics in some 
of these Settlements, have been at the expense of paying the pas- 
sage of some Irish Franciscans, providing for their subsistence, and 
in erecting places of worship. These men have brought good testi- 
monials ; but I am precluded from giving them any spiritual powers. 

I should deem it a singular happiness to have an opportunity of 
conferring with a person of your experience of the air of Rome, 
before these representations are given in. But our distance is so 
great, that I must act according to the best of my own and Brethren's 
judgment, and commit all I can to your prudent management. At 
a meeting of some of us last autumn, it was ordered that 20-0-0 
should be remitted to you as a feeble acknowledgement of our sense 
of your services and to defray your expence of attendance, etc. Mr. 
Ashton, who is chosen to be our Manager general, either has or soon 
will transmit the necessary orders for it. Tho', since my late ap- 
pointment, I do not intermeddle in our temporal concerns, yet I 
shall not fail to suggest the propriety of fixing on you, as our agent, 
a permanent salary: it will be proportioned, not to your zeal and 
services, but to our poor ability. At the same meeting, but after I 
had left it thro' indisposition, a direction was given to Messrs. 
Diderick, Mosely, and Matthews to write you a letter (I believe like- 
wise a Memorial to the Pope) against the appointment of a Bishop. 
I hear that this has displeased many of those absent from the meet- 
ing, and that it is not certain, whether the measure is to be carried 
into execution. Mr. Diderick has shown me a copy of his intended 
letter to you, of his Memorial, and of a letter to Cardl. Borromeo. 
He has no other introduction to write to this worthy Cardinal than 
the information communicated to me by our common friend Plow- 
den, of his great worth and friendly disposition to you. I made 
objections to some parts of his letters; and I cannot tell as I men- 
tioned before whether they will be sent. It is matter of surprise to 



APPENDICES TO CHAPTER V 153 

me that he was nominated to the commission of Three ; he is truly 
a zealous, painstaking Clergyman; but not sufficiently prudent, and 
conversant in the world, or capable of conducting such a business 
with the circumspection necessary to be used by us towards our own 
Government, and the Congn. of the Propaganda. 

My long letter must have tired you. But it has been so earnestly 
recommended to me to give you very minute intelligence, that I have 
ventured to trespass on your patience. I have two things more to 
request: 1st. that you would please to present us all, and myself in 
particular, to Cardl. Borromeo, as penetrated with a lively sense of 
his virtue, and earnestly suing for his good offices to the service of 
Religion in this Country, wherever they can be usefully employed. 
2-ly. that you would let Mr. Thayer know (for I hear from Plowden 
that he is at Paris, and corresponds with you) that I shall be happy 
in being favoured with an epistolary intercourse with him: and in 
confidence of your introduction, I shall probably write to him before 
I have your answer. 

The little leisure I have lately had, has been taken up in writing 
and publishing an answer to Wharton's pamphlet, which was held 
up as unanswerable by our adversaries, whom the elegance of his 
language, and their ignorance in Religious controversy equally con- 
tributed to deceive. I have desired Mr. Talbot to transmit you a 
copy by the first opportunity. I doubt, I have not made my court to a 
certain party at Rome by my note on the destruction of the Society. 
Be pleased to charge with us all postage and other expences on our 
acct. A credit shall be placed in England for discharging them. 

With perfect esteem, 

I have the honour to be, Dr. Sir, 
Mr. Thorpe: etc. etc. 



6. JOHN CARROLL TO THE NuNCio. 7 

[February 27, 1785] 8 

Your Excellency will understand the delicacy of my position, by 
recalling the jealously of our government towards all jurisdiction of 
a foreign kind, a jealousy which heretofore has led to the exclusion 

7 Guilday, p. 237. 

8 This is the date given by Gilmary Shea, p. 261. 



154 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

of Catholics from any share in the civil administration of several of 
our States. Catholics are indeed tolerated everywhere to-day, but 
so far, it is only in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Vir- 
ginia, that they enjoy equal advantages with their fellow-citizens. 
The Revolution from which we have just emerged has procured us 
this advantage, but the circumspection we are obliged to use is ex- 
treme, so that no pretext for interfering with our rights be given to 
those who hate us. This is especially necessary now, because the 
prejudice entertained for so long a time is deep-rooted. The opinion 
above all which many have formed that our faith exacted a subjec- 
tion to His Holiness incompatible with the independence of a sov- 
ereign, state, entirely false though it be, gives us continual worry. 
To dissipate this prejudice time will be our best aid, as also will 
Divine Providence, and the experience of our fellow-citizens in our 
devotion to our country and to its independence. The wisdom of 
the Holy See will not fail us in this difficult matter. Your Excel- 
lency can rest assured that the Apostolic Chair does not possess in 
the world children more devoted to its doctrines and more pene- 
trated -with respect for all its decisions. 



CHAPTER SIX 
THE MYTH OF FRENCH INTERFERENCE 

The documents upon which this account of the role of 
France in the early stages of the negotiation leading to the 
establishment of the American hierarchy has been based 
reveal the highmindedness of the French statesmen and eccle- 
siastics called upon by representatives of the Holy See in its 
efforts to secure both educational facilities and financial sup- 
port for the young Church; but inasmuch as a comparison of 
the interpretations of this attitude by Church historians shows 
a sharp contrast between the earlier and later versions of the 
event, the last pages of this study will be devoted to a brief 
survey of the six main authors dealing with this problem, 
namely, Bernard U. Campbell, Henry de Courcy, John Gil- 
mary Shea, Thomas O'Gorman, Thomas Campbell and Dr. 
Peter Guilday. 

A. BERNARD U. CAMPBELL (1844) 

When he wrote his Memoirs of the Life and Times of the 
Most Reverend John Carroll, Campbell had at his disposal 
only the Baltimore Cathedral archives in which the corres- 
pondence of Archbishop Carroll had been preserved, the 
account of the Whitemarsh meetings, the text of the Nun- 
cio's note to Franklin with the answer thereto by Congress, 
and a few entries in Franklin's journal. None of the letters 
between the Cardinal Prefect of Propaganda and the Paris 
Nuncio, or between the Comte de Vergennes and the French 
Minister in the United States could have come to his knowl- 
edge, as they were buried in the Roman and Paris archives. 

Although he had not perused the documents which have 
since come to light, this author shows a perfect understand- 
ing of the complex factors of the negotiation, of the Holy 

155 



156 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

See's concern with the future of Catholicism in the United 
States on the one hand and, on the other, of the natural 
anxiety of the American Jesuits to safeguard the means of 
restoring their society, and of the hesitation of American 
Catholics to permit the establishment of a hierarchy in the 
United States. While they entertained an intense loyalty to 
the Holy Father as their spiritual leader, and to the Roman 
Congregation which embodied his authority, American 
Catholics could not forget that the Pope was also a temporal 
ruler, and they dreaded even an appearance of foreign 
meddling which might offend the susceptibilities of Con- 
gress: * 

However well intended by the holy see, the proposition to ap- 
point a bishop was not favorably received by the clergy of Mary- 
land, who, having obtained the first information of it, through the 
proceedings in Congress, were not prepared to appreciate the liberal 
views and enlightened policy of the pope. ... It was apprehended 
by some, that a Vicar Apostolic would be too much under the con- 
trol of the Congregation de Propaganda Fide. 

He displays keen psychological acumen in defining the 
grounds of opposition shown to the Roman project by the 
English Jesuits, particularly by Charles Plowden: 2 

The negotiations for appointing a vicar apostolic having been car- 
ried on in France, caused the measure to be regarded with suspicion 
by the English Jesuits, who, notwithstanding the harsh treatment 
received at home, always testified their loyalty by remaining staunch 
Englishmen in all other countries, even in their national and here- 
ditary opposition to French politics. 

and he disposes of their uneasiness in the following terms: a 

That their fears were groundless and their suspicions of improper 
influence in the affairs of the American Church unjust, will appear 
conclusively from the frank and liberal conduct of the Holy See 
in its first measures [as well] as from the deference uniformly paid 

1 Campbell, op. tit., Vol. Ill, p. 375. a Ibid. ' Ibid. 



THE MYTH OF FRENCH INTERFERENCE 157 

to the sentiments of the American Government and people, and to 
the wishes of the clergy, as soon as they were understood. 

As for France, Campbell writes in warm terms of the 
blessings of the Franco-American alliance, of the examples of 
religious devotion given by French army and naval officers, 
and of the activity of the French chaplains: 4 

The alliance with France, however, and the aid of her Catholic 
armies to the cause of American independence, dissipated some of 
the mists of prejudice, and when the French fleet approached Rhode 
Island, the laws against Catholics were repealed. When those who 
had been so far the dupes of misrepresentation and intolerance, as 
to believe that Catholics were as ignorant and debased as their 
calumniators had represented them to be beheld the accomplished 
and respectable officers of the French army and navy, and the gal- 
lant Kosciusko, Pulaski, etc., piously engaged in the most solemn 
exercises of the Catholic religion, they learned to respect what they 
had before scoffed at. The French regiments and ships were accom- 
panied by priests and chaplains, and, in the march through the 
country, Catholic worship was frequently performed in the meeting 
houses of other Christian denominations. 

B. DE COURCY-SHEA (1856) 

Henry de Courcy's historical sketch on The Catholic Church 
in the United States was written originally in French for 
the Ami de la religion and I'Univers. John Gilmary Shea 
translated and presented it to his Catholic compatriots in the 
columns of the Leader. This publication, writes Shea in his 
Preface to the second edition, " elicited the highest commen- 
dation from the Catholic clergy and the Catholic press," 
though vague charges were made against the author's 
motives and honesty, of which the translator says: "Launched 
forth in accents of passion and wrath, [they] so betray their 
source, that it would be folly to regard them," and he adds 
that " the accuracy of the work is admitted." 

De Courcy's account of the steps taken for the erection of 

* Ibid., p. 370. 



158 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

an episcopal see (Chapter V), is brief and based upon 
Campbell's more elaborate story. If his appreciation of the 
attitude of Rome towards the American Church, and of the 
French cooperation is here quoted, it is because it was fully 
endorsed, as has been seen, by his friend and translator, 
Gilmary Shea, who was later to change his own views: 5 

Franklin communicated to Congress the projects of the Court of 
Rome, and received an answer to the effect that the Federal govern- 
ment had no opinion to express on a question not in its jurisdiction. 
Religious affairs were under the control of the several States. This 
was at least showing the absence of all opposition to a Catholic 
hierarchy; and if Protestant fanaticism did not attempt to excite the 
people and irritate religious passions, it was because France was too 
necessary an ally to permit any insult to the religious feelings of 
Louis XVI. That monarch, it was known, took a lively interest in 
the spread of Catholicity in America, and France may thus claim 
the glory of having given its powerful aid to the Holy See in found- 
ing the American Episcopate. 

We have gone at some length into these little known negotia- 
tions, because we know nothing better fitted to inspire confidence 
and esteem for the tutelary authority of the Sovereign Pontificate. 
The Maryland missionaries believed it to be for the interest of reli- 
gion that the United States should be erected into a Church inde- 
pendent of England. Rome anticipates their desires, and her pa- 
ternal solicitude, inspired by the Holy Ghost, discovers the wants 
of remote churches, even before the latter express them. The mis- 
sionaries fear lest some hostile influence should disrgard their rights 
or compromise the fruit of their labors. The Holy See kindly hears 
their representations, well founded at times, and far from being 
swayed by any party^ religious or political, tries above all to secure 
the permanent interests of religion in a country whose government, 
laws, and institutions, so different from those of Europe, were then 
but imperfectly understood. Hence the prudent precaution to ob- 
tain the approval, or at least the neutrality of Congress, and the 
eagerness to choose a person named by the representative of the 
United States in Paris. The Maryland clergy desire that the Su- 
perior should be taken from among them, and Rome at once con- 
ceded it. They see no immediate opportunity for the appointment 

B De Courcy-Shea, 2nd ed., pp. 61-62. 



THE MYTH OF FRENCH INTERFERENCE 159 

of a bishop. Rome consents to postpone its projects, the wisdom 
of which is now so palpable, inasmuch as the great progress of reli- 
gion in the United States can, as all admit, be attributed only to the 
foundation of the Episcopate. But when the missionaries see that 
Rome is unchangeable, they represent that, in order not to excite 
fanaticism, the creation of a titular bishop, enjoying all his rights, 
would suit America better than a Vicar-Apostolic, whose imme- 
diate dependency on the Congregation " de propaganda fide " would 
seem to constitute a sort of religious servitude. The Holy See 
welcomed this, too, and thus this question of titular bishops, which 
has been so misunderstood in England, and considered by the par- 
tisans of the established Church as augmenting the direct authority 
of the See of Rome, this question, more justly appreciated in 
America, was presented as a means of reconciling nice republican 
susceptibilities to the foundation of a Catholic hierarchy. 

C. JOHN GILMARY SHEA (1888) 

In preparing his Life and Times of the Most Rev. John 
Carroll, John Gilmany Shea was better documented than his 
predecessors. A few years before, George Bancroft had pub- 
lished in the Appendix to Volume I of his History of the 
Formation of the Constitution of the United States of 
America, a large selection of the French diplomatic corre- 
spondence of that period and particularly the two letters of 
Barbe-Marbois dealing with the problem of the reorganiza- 
tion of the Catholic missions in the United States, and Shea 
had undertaken the task of copying both in Paris and in 
Rome, documents pertaining to the early history of the 
Church in America. He translated and used many of these 
Propaganda Transcripts which are now preserved in the 
Georgetown University archives. However, if the gathering 
of material is of prime importance, of no less importance is 
the dispassionate and objective interpretation of the docu- 
ments. In his foreword to the " Documents relative to the 
Adjustment of the Roman Catholic Organization in the 
United States to the conditions of National Independence, 
1783-1784," Carl Russell Fish refers to John Gilmary Shea 



160 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

in the following terms: " Dr. Shea seems to exaggerate the 
maliciousness of the French government, not entirely escap- 
ing that animus which influences nearly all writing on the 
subject, on whichever side." e 

It would be an interesting problem of psychology to attempt 
to determine the reasons which led John Gilmary Shea to 
depart from the position taken by Bernard U. Campbell and 
accepted by himself in his American edition of De Courcy's 
work, and to denounce as a scheme (pp. 212, 215, 220), an 
intrigue (pp. 213, 215, 217, 219), and a conspiracy (p. 215), 
a negotiation viewed by the earlier historian as perfectly 
honorable. Should we recall his novitiate in the Society of 
Jesus to explain his ardor in exculpating all the old Maryland 
Jesuits from every suspicion of the least lack of sympathy for 
the cause of the American Revolution and of the least oppo- 
sition to the plans of the Holy See for the religious recon- 
struction of North America after six long years of war and 
turmoil ? Is there more than a coincidence between the tone 
he takes against France and French statesmen and eccle- 
siastics (pp. 215, 219, 220, 266) and the anti-Jesuit policy 
of the French government in the years preceding the publica- 
tion of his biography of John Carroll ? Or was he roused by 
Bancroft's denunciation of the " rancor of the Jesuits " and 
by the same author's conception of the role of Franklin? 
Here are the words of Bancroft: 7 

The rancor of the Jesuits against the house of Bourbon for exil- 
ing them from France and Spain was relentless. The Roman Catho- 
lic clergy in the insurgent British colonies had been superintended 
by a person who resided in London ; and during the war they were 
directed by Jesuits who favored the British. The influences which 
in South America led to most disastrous results for Spain were of 
little consequence in the United States. It was Franklin's desire to 
do away with this influence unfriendly to France. The Roman see 

6 American Historical Review, July, 1910, p. 801 note. 

7 Bancroft, p. 225. 



THE MYTH OF FRENCH INTERFERENCE 161 

proceeded with caution; and a letter from its nuncio at Paris, on 
the appointment of a bishop in the United States, was communi- 
cated to congress. In May, 1786, [sic] they, in reply, expressed a 
readiness to testify respect to the sovereign and the state represented 
by the nuncio, but disavowing jurisdiction over a purely spiritual 
subject, referred him to the several states individually. 

Whatever may have caused that animus, it colored the 
view taken of the whole negotiation by our historian. First 
he denounces the " scheme " formed apparently in the 
French embassy at Philadelphia to impose on American 
Catholics a French bishop residing in Europe. "What a 
scheme," he comments in a footnote (p. 218) " for the 
enslavement of Catholics in this country." Then (p. 219 
note) he designates Barbe-Marbois as author of the scheme: 
" It seems to me from a study of the whole matter that it 
was simply a petty intrigue of Barbe-Marbois to effect the 
nomination of some French priest to the projected vicariate." 

To enable the reader, who has already read Barbe-Marbois' 
correspondence, to decide for himself the justice of this 
charge, the passage in which Shea produces what he considers 
to be the evidence of the French " conspiracy " is here given. 
After quoting Franklin's letter to Vergennes (December 15, 
1783) urging the French statesman to agree to the appoint- 
ment of a French bishop, Gilmary Shea comments (p. 215) : 

But for this positive evidence we could scarcely believe that Dr. 
Franklin lent himself to a plan for treating his Catholic country- 
men in this manner and helping a conspiracy to subject them not 
to a superior chosen from among them, but to one nominated by 
the French Court and residing in France. ... A letter of Barbe- 
Marbois, French minister to the United States, indicates that the 
whole scheme originated with him; it represents the Catholics in 
America as having been directed by the Jesuits who favored the 
British, and speaks of the rancor of the Jesuits against the House of 
Bourbons. 

He adds in a footnote: 
11 



162 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

This is Bancroft's rendering of Marbois who wrote: " The Catho- 
lics always directed by the Jesuits in this country, have been ill-dis- 
posed to the Revolution; they are not better disposed towards us." 
" La Revolution " does not mean the American Revolution at all, 
but the Voltairean ideas of the day, and he makes it mean " favored 
the British" shows . . . [Sentence incomplete']. It is inconceiv- 
able how Mr. Bancroft could have adopted this silly and mendacious 
nonsense for history and used it to malign his own countrymen. 

Barbe-Marbois' letter and the use Gilmary Shea makes of 
it deserve the closest examination, for it is the only positive 
evidence the author adduces in support of his imputation. 
The reader will notice that, even if the original was not 
before Shea, the portion translated by Bancroft gave him 
the greatest part of it, and the part which has a real import. 
Gilmary Shea quotes from that translation, discusses it, and 
no critic could therefore plead ignorance on his behalf of 
this capital document. It will also be observed that he quotes 
only one sentence of the letter, omitting three points of the 
utmost importance in it: (a) the tribute paid to Charles 
Carroll, (b) the adverse opinion regarding the advisability 
of appointing a French bishop, and (c) the recommendation 
of John Carroll for that position. One is therefore at a loss 
to discover the reason for these strange omissions, unless it 
was that the author was so riled by Barbe-Marbois' aspersions 
on American Catholics, and particularly on the Jesuits, that 
he failed to grasp the intent of the letter. 

To examine carefully Shea's presentation of his case 
against the Marquis de Barbe-Marbois, in the first place, he 
assumes that he was a partisan of the French Revolution 
(actually, he was anything but a revolutionist) , 8 and in the 

8 Barb-Marbois served as Consul General in the United States, and Charge 1 
d' Affaires after the departure of the Chevalier de la Luzerne, in June, 1784; 
he became " Intendant " for Santo Domingo and returned to France in 1789. 
After election to the " Conseil des Anciens " in 1796, he was accused of 
opposition to the regime, and was arrested and deported, 1797-1799- He held 
financial offices under Napoleon, and after the Bourbon Restoration became 
Minister of Justice, 1815-1816. 



THE MYTH OF FRENCH INTERFERENCE 163 

next place Shea does not seem to have a correct idea of the 
real position of the French representative. He calls him 
" French Minister to the United States." That post was held, 
up to June 1784 the very month of Carroll's appointment 
by the Chevalier de la Luzerne, and not until then did 
Barbe-Marbois become Charge d'Affaires. In the latter 
capacity he received the communications sent by the Nuncio 
to the French minister to the United States, May 12, 1784, 
transmitted to Charles Carroll the letter directed "to the 
oldest American missionary," and to John Carroll, shortly 
thereafter, the decree appointing him Prefect-Apostolic. 
Of his two letters to Vergennes, the first dated August 15, 
1784, is the one on which Shea bases his charge; the second, 
dated March 27, 1785, contains the report and recommenda- 
tions requested by the Paris Nuncio on May 12, 1784. This 
will be given later. 

A priori the probability of Barbe-Marbois ' meddling in 
this affair is of the slightest. It is not the custom of career 
diplomats to consult with consular agents regarding political 
business, and moreover, the documents at hand do not 
permit the belief that the first intimation of the project of 
appointing a French bishop came to Barbe-Marbois before 
the arrival of the letters of May 12, 1784, when the matter 
had already been settled in Rome by John Carroll's appoint- 
ment. The only reference to be found before that time in la 
Luzerne's correspondence is of January 31, 1784, and deals 
with the Nuncio's note to Franklin which had been trans- 
mitted to Congress. It is sufficient, however, to read Barbe- 
Marbois' whole letter of August 15, 1784, to see what would 
have been his attitude had he been given an opportunity to 
play a leading part in the matter, for, as already stated, the 
very document from which Gilmary Shea extracts the few 
lines he finds so incriminating is otherwise entirely devoted 
to the discouragement of the plan of appointing a French 



164 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

bishop, and ends with the recommendation that John Carroll 
be chosen ecclesiastical superior of the American missions. 

Shea misinterprets even the words he quotes. Barbe- 
Marbois had written: " The Catholics always directed by the 
Jesuits in this country have been ill-disposed to the Revolu- 
tion; they are not much better disposed towards us." An 
unprejudiced reader would not hesitate to understand the 
" Revolution " of which he writes in 1784, as being the 
American Revolution which had just ended, and the words 
" towards us " as referring, not to the House of Bourbon, 
but to France and the French. Not so Shea, who must at all 
cost vindicate the loyalty of each and every American Catho- 
lic, priest and layman, in the cause of American indepen- 
dence. " Revolution " for him, therefore, means the " Vol- 
tairean ideas of the day" a perfect anachronism. Who 
ever dreamt of the upheaval of 1789 in 1784, when France 
was at peace and recovering her former prestige ? Nineteenth 
century writers searching the deep causes of that political 
convulsion may have found them in " Voltairean ideas," but 
no Frenchman, and above all no official writing a diplomatic 
letter could have thought of using the term " Revolution " 
to designate current philosophical ideas. Neither is the 
" towards us " more intelligently taken to mean " the House 
of Bourbon," for the King alone, not his minister, nor a 
mere Charge d' Affaires, could have identified himself with 
the Royal House. 

But this is not the worst. Shea is not satisfied with leaving 
his readers under the impression that Barbe-Marbois mis- 
represented the attitude of the American Catholics towards 
the Revolution; he accuses him of " impeaching the loyalty 
of the Carrolls and other patriotic American Catholics, 
priests and laymen." 9 There is no doubt that Barbe-Marbois 
expressed his persuasion regarding the attitude of the 

* " Franklin . . . must have felt not a little chagrined to find himself made 
even indirectly the medium of impeaching the loyalty of the Carrolls and 
other patriotic American Catholics, priests and laymen." (p. 218). 



THE MYTH OF FRENCH INTERFERENCE 165 

majority of them. He was right or he was wrong, and in 
what measure it is difficult to determine; but one thing he 
can not be accused of, and that is of having " impeached the 
loyalty of the Carrolls," for the whole letter from which 
Shea quotes one sentence is a glowing tribute to the patriotic 
devotion of that family, which is, he informs his chief, a 
conspicuous exception to the attitude he found among 
others so much so that he sent Charles Carroll the letter for 
transmission to " the oldest American missionary." Further- 
more, he expressed the hope that " the Abbe Carroll " might 
be chosen ecclesiastical superior of the American missions. 

Had Barbe-Marbois ever entertained the idea of seeing a 
French bishop appointed to rule over the young American 
Church? Did he, as Shea believes, originate the plan to be 
examined in Paris and in Rome and given up only in face 
of the opposition of American Catholics? If the letter 
already quoted has not yet convinced the reader of the in- 
justice of the charge, his attention is invited to the other 
letter addressed by Barbe-Marbois to the Comte de Ver- 
gennes. The fact that it was written March 27, 1785, long 
after the fait accompli of Carroll's appointment as Prefect 
and his promised bishopric, might make one think that it can 
not affect the question of the negotiations concluded the year 
before. It should be remembered, however, that it is the 
official reply of the French Charge d' Affaires to a communi- 
cation addressed to la Luzerne, his predecessor, May 12, 
1784, by the Nuncio in the name of the Prefect of Propa- 
ganda on the very issue of the establishment of an American 
hierarchy, and there is no reason to believe that in a con- 
fidential letter written in code Barbe-Marbois expressed other 
than his own real view of the situation. 

It is for the reader to determine whether the author of 
these remarkable documents was a " schemer or a sane 
and honorable gentleman who did, indeed, have at heart the 
interest of his country, but who also had at heart the welfare 



166 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

of the Church and of the new Republic; and the reader will 
doubtless absolve Barbe-Marbois of this groundless charge 
brought against him by John Gilmary Shea. 

D. THOMAS O'GORMAN (1895) AND 
THOMAS CAMPBELL (1899) 

Dr. O'Gorman's History of the Roman Catholic Church in 
the United States is a brief compendium which may be taken 
as a faithful mirror of Catholic thought in the years follow- 
ing the publication of Gilmary Shea's works. 10 The author 
complacently accepts Shea's version of the negotiations of 
1783-84 and echoes his denunciation of the " French in- 
trigue": 11 

Franklin at that time represented the United States in Paris, and 
Prince Pamphilio Doria, Archbishop of Seleucia, was the papal 
nuncio there. The latter was approached on the subject of the 
American project [Petition for the appointment of Fr. Lewis as 
superior of the clergy], and wrote to Franklin that it was a matter 
that ought to be arranged between Congress and the French king, 
and that a Frenchman residing in Paris ought to be chosen the 
ecclesiastical superior of the colonies. This scheme, it appears, had 
been hatched in the French embassy at Philadelphia. It meant the 
de-Americanizing of the church in the United States at its very 
birth, and making it a dependency of the church in France. That 
country had rendered us political services, and was about to render 
us religious services for which we cannot be too grateful, but not 
at the cost of our ecclesiastical independence. Franklin for a mo- 
ment forgot his American spirit, fell in with the scheme, wrote the 
prime minister of France, Count de Vergennes, in the sense of the 
nuncio's note, and then referred the matter to the Continental Con- 
gress. ... It was not long before the intrigue came to the knowl- 
edge of European clergymen, former associates in the Society of 
Jesus of the Maryland Jesuits, and of Carroll. They hastened to 

10 This volume was prepared by Dr. O'Gorman when he was Professor of 
Church History in the Catholic University of America, and was published in 
the " American Church History Series," under the auspices of the American 
Society of Church History. 

"Pp. 261-262. 



THE MYTH OF FRENCH INTERFERENCE 167 

open the eyes of Franklin to the dishonor thus inflicted on the 
American clergy, and especially on Carroll, whom he knew well; 
for the intrigue implied, and Marbois, the French minister in New 
York, had plainly enough asserted, that the American priests were 
not worthy of trust, and had -no one among them to fit to guide 
the American church. Franklin saw at once his mistake, and thence- 
forward exerted his influence in an unofficial way for the nomina- 
tion of Carroll. At any rate, what between the refusal of Congress 
to touch the matter and Franklin's refusal to go on with it, the 
French scheme fell through. 

It is a matter o wonder how a serious author could gather 
in two short paragraphs so many erroneous statements. 
Without dwelling on unimportant points, such as calling the 
Nuncio Pamphilio Doria instead of Doria Pamphili, and 
making Barbe-Marbois French minister in New York, atten- 
tion may be called to some of the most glaring misstatements 
of fact of which O'Gorman is guilty. 

He assumes that the American project, as he calls it, was 
brought to the attention of the Nuncio and prompted him 
to bring the matter to Franklin, whereas it has been shown 
that all his dealings with the American minister were by 
order of the Prefect of the Propaganda. He charges the 
Nuncio with having written Franklin that " it was a matter 
that ought to be arranged between Congress and the French 
king, and that a Frenchman residing in Paris ought to be 
chosen the ecclesiastical superior of the colonies." The first 
statement is a pure invention, as not a word of the Nuncio's 
correspondence can receive such a construction; and the 
second repeats Shea's error in attributing to the Papal repre- 
sentative a plan first suggested to him by Franklin himself. 
He represents Franklin as writing to Vergennes in the sense 
of the Nuncio's note, and then referring the matter to Con- 
gress, whereas the note transmitted to Congress merely in- 
quired, as has been seen, whether any objection would be 
raised to establishing " in some city of the United States of 
North America, one of their Catholic subjects, with the 



168 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

powers of Apostolic Vicar, and the character of Bishop," 
and Franklin's letter to Vergennes, dated four months after 
the Nuncio's note, urged a project very near the heart of the 
American minister. O'Gorman goes even further than Gil- 
mary Shea and imputes to Barbe-Marbois the assertion that 
" the American priests were not worthy of trust, and had no 
one among them fit to guide the American church." A 
perusal of the two letters of Barbe-Marbois and a recollec- 
tion that he expressed a hope of seeing the " Abbe Carroll " 
raised to the episcopal see, will permit an estimate of this 

charge. 

* * * 

" The Beginnings of the Hierarchy in the United States," 
by Thomas Campbell, S. J., was a paper contributed to the 
Historical Records and Studies of the United States Catholic 
Historical Society. 12 Like Dr. O'Gorman, the author accepts 
without qualification Gilmary Shea's version of the Paris ne- 
gotiation and launches into a bitter tirade against Barbe- 
Marbois: 1S 

The French Ambassador at Philadelphia was M. Barbe Marbois. 
He, of his own accord, and probably to advance the interests of some 
ambitious ecclesiastical friend, began negotiations with Benjamin 
Franklin and the Apostolic Nuncio at Paris for the appointment of 
a bishop for the United States. Marbois was the individual who 
had maligned all the Catholics of this country, clergy and laity alike, 
by saying in his official reports that under the guidance of the 
Jesuits they had been strong adherents of the English, and bitterly 
averse to the Revolution a calumny which Bancroft has repeated. 
. . . This scheming politician; who thus publicly and officially en- 
deavored to fix the stigma of disloyalty upon his fellow Catholics 
and who, according to Shea, reproached the Jesuits of this country 
with not favouring the Voltairean ideas of the day, urged Ben- 
jamin Franklin, who was then ambassador at Paris, to secure the 
nomination of a French subject who should reside in France and 
administer from there the ecclesiastical affairs of the United States. 

"Vol. I (1899), pp. 251-277. "Pp. 271-273. 



THE MYTH OF FRENCH INTERFERENCE 169 

It was stipulated that he was to be acceptable to Congress. Franklin 
took up the scheme ardently, communicated it to the American Con- 
gress, which, however, threw the matter out as not of its concern, 
and probably also because there was not a man there who had any 
other feeling than that of dislike, if not hatred, for everything con- 
nected with catholicity. 

Consider what a deplorable condition of affairs that was. A schem- 
ing, self-seeking French politician, a presumable admirer of Vol- 
taire, and an enemy and calumniator of American Catholics, in union 
with a deist like Franklin, asking a Congress of our States, which 
had almost all framed most oppressive laws against Catholics, to 
name a Bishop acceptable to it who was to be a foreigner, living 
abroad under a foreign King, to administer from France the eccle- 
siastical affairs of this country; and, what is most amaang (for 
that, too, is specified) from ecclesiastics who should be acceptable 
to its notions of ecclesiastical fitness. It appears incredible did we not 
read it all in the letter of Franklin to the Nuncio, July 28, 1783, 
with the Nuncio's acquiescence, the note to the French Prime Minis- 
ter, Vergennes, the 15th of December of the same year, and the 
proposal to congress, May 1784. . . . Knowing of the machina- 
tions of Marbois to get control of everything ecclesiastical here, for 
political purposes, it would be strange indeed if some among them 
[the Fathers of Maryland] had not that view [that a bishop was not 
yet desirable] . They must have been aware that other plotters were 
at work just as well as Marbois. That such was their apprehension 
is explicitly stated by Shea, and their forebodings were fully verified 
by the events. 

After the discussion of Gilmary Shea's aspersions on Barbe- 
Marbois, it is hardly necessary to review in detail Campbell's 
admittedly second-hand account of the part played by the 
French Charge d' Affaires. Where Shea was wrong, Camp- 
bell, who follows him, cannot be right, and we see in Camp- 
bell's version an example of the length to which an author 
can go when he lets his imagination and passion obscure his 
judgment. Where did he find that Barbe-Marbois " began 
negotiations with Benjamin Franklin and the Apostolic 
Nuncio " ? What ground had he for picturing the French 
diplomat as " a presumable admirer of Voltaire " ? Where 



170 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

are the traces o Barbe-Marbois' " machinations to get con- 
trol of everything ecclesiastical " in this country, when the 
only documents of his ever found strongly advised against 
" making the choice fall upon a French ecclesiastic," and 
recommended John Carroll ? The author seems to have been 
as confused about facts as he was about references in support 
of his thesis, for it was the Nuncio who wrote to Franklin, 
July 28, 1783, initiating negotiations with the American 
minister, and not Franklin to the Nuncio; May 1784 was not 
the date on which a proposal was made to Congress, but that 
on which Congress directed its answer to the note transmitted 
by Franklin the previous Fall. 

Would that this author who, happily, has to his credit 
such fine work as Pioneer Priests of North America (1908- 
1911), had better understood the rules laid down in his 
Society for right thinking " regula ad sentiendum " to 
which he refers at the end of his article as " more properly 
laws for the development of correct instincts," because the 
instinct for truth would have prompted him to verify the 
grounds of the charges, gratuitous and unjust, which he di- 
rected against an honorable gentleman and a true friend of 
American Catholics. 

E. PETER GUILDAY (1922) 

When Dr. Guilday of the Catholic University undertook 
to revise and bring up to date the monumental work of John 
Gilmary Shea, he was in possession of practically all the 
available documents. He had access to Shea's own Propa- 
ganda Transcripts; Carl Russell Fish had published in the 
original Italian, French and Latin the " Documents relative 
to the Adjustment of the Roman Catholic Organization in 
the United States to the conditions of National Independ- 
ence, 1783-1784," 14 and these documents had appeared a 

14 American Historical Review, July, 1910, pp. 801-829. 



THE MYTH OF FRENCH INTERFERENCE 171 

few months later in English translation by the Reverend E. 
I. Devitt, S. J. 16 That same year, 1910, had seen the publi- 
cation by the Reverend Thomas Hughes, S. J. of his History 
of the Society of Jesus in North America, Colonial and 
Federal, Documents, Vol. I, part II. The learned professor, 
trained in the best methods of historical research in the 
University of Louvain, had himself carried on a diligent 
search of the archives of America, England, Rome and Paris. 
The only document that seems to have escaped him, and is 
in the present work added to the dossier of the affair, is an 
" Observation sur la lettre de M. franklin a M. le Comte de 
Vergennes en datte du 15 Xbre 1783, par M. 1'Eveque 
d'Autun," endorsed January 4, 1784. 16 

Dr. Guilday's manner of dealing with the problem shows 
on his part an earnest attempt at fairness and objectivity. 
He indeed confesses (p. 179) that " it is hard to enter upon 
the story of the effort made in France at this time (1783- 
1784) to give an organized hierarchy to the Church in the 
new Republic without considerable suspicion of all con- 
cerned." But his whole interpretation of the negotiations is 
based upon mature consideration of the evidences of the case. 

Unlike Gilmary Shea, who seems rather bent on belittling 
the real Catholicity of France and her government of that 
period, and who views the French Court as a place " where 
a pretended philosophy was sapping all religious faith," 
Dr. Guilday recognizes that at that time France was " a great 
Catholic country," and Louis XVI " a most Christian King 
in more than name." He does justice to the character of the 
Comte de Vergennes, and to the Chevalier de la Luzerne. 
His aspersions on the " notorious " Talleyrand and his 
readiness to incriminate Barbe-Marbois are probably the 
natural reaction of his recollection of the part played by the 

15 In the Records of the American Catholic Historical Society of Phila- 
delphia, Vol. XXI, pp. 185-236. 

18 Chapter II, Appendix No. 14, p. 61. 



172 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

former during the French Revolution. Dr. Guilday shows no 
little courage in obeying the precept laid to the Catholic his- 
torian by Leo XIII, " Ne quid veri non audeat," when he 
produces documents revealing in the colonial Catholics, 
clergy and laity, a diffidence towards Rome, and particularly 
towards the Congregation of the Propaganda, which might 
shock those who lack a thorough acquaintance with real con- 
ditions in Rome and America at the end of the eighteenth 
century. He rightly traces the Jesuits' attitude to the weak- 
ness with which Rome yielded to political pressure in 1773, 
in the suppression of the Society of Jesus. " Their confidence 
in Rome had received a body-blow but ten years before and 
they had no special reason to encourage the establishment of 
a ' foreign power ', such as the Congregation de Propaganda 
Fide was considered to be, over the American Church " (p. 
168) . To mention only one more important point, Dr. Guil- 
day corrects (p. 185) Gilmary Shea's attributing to a French 
source Franklin's note to the Nuncio suggesting " the choice 
that the Court of Rome in concert with the minister of the 
United States may make of a French Ecclesiastic who, resid- 
ing in France, may regulate the spiritual affairs of the Catho- 
lics ... in America." 

Nevertheless on the essential point of the role of France 
in the negotiation Dr. Guilday follows Gilmary Shea. He 
devotes a whole chapter (XIII) of his book to the account 
od the " French Ecclesiastical Interference in the American 
Church," and having adopted Shea's thesis, he adopts also 
Shea's characterization of the whole negotiation. It is a 
"scheme" (pp. 187, 195, 199), an "intrigue" (pp. 173, 
175, 177, 188, 189, 199, 212, 230, 240, 241). The terms 
" conspiracy " and " enslavement " are brought only in quo : 
tations from Shea (pp. 177, 194) . There is no doubt in the 
author's mind that a scheme or intrigue was concocted, al- 
though he does not seem quite certain of the identity of its 
originator. At times he refrains from naming that person 



THE MYTH OF FRENCH INTERFERENCE 173 

(pp. 187, 241), at other times he ascribes the intrigue to 
some French source (pp. 142, 173, 175, 177, 192, 212, 241) ; 
he points an accusative finger at Barbe-Marbois (p. 240), 
but again lays the responsibility to the Nuncio (p. 189), and 
to Cardinal Antonelli (p. 239). 

For the sake of brevity and clarity Dr. Guilday's reading 
of the facts will be stated as faithfully as possible, and fol- 
lowed by what we believe to be the true version of these 
facts; we shall then proceed to an examination of the 
grounds on which the American historian bases his conten- 
tion, and shall answer his arguments one by one. 

Dr. Guilday's thesis is as follows: When the Prefect of 
the Propaganda's instructions to the Paris Nuncio for the 
reorganization of the Church in America at the end of the 
Revolution were brought to the attention of the French gov- 
ernment, someone conceived the plan of using this opportu- 
nity to establish more firmly France's influence in the United 
States, and Franklin was persuaded to lend his support to 
that plan. 

"France," writes Dr. Guilday (p. 182), "had been forced to 
give up so much for the hard-won independence of the new Republic 
that it is not surprising to find Franklin willing, probably anxious, 
partially to recompense France by allowing the French Government 
to have control over the Church in the United States." 

This object could be attained in two ways: first, a French 
ecclesiastic, residing in France, would "regulate the spiritual 
affairs of the Catholics who live, or who may come to estab- 
lish themselves, in those States, through a suffragan residing 
in America." The suffragan might preferably be an Ameri- 
can, but, if no native were available, he would be chosen from 
among the citizens of a friendly nation, /'. e. France. The sec- 
ond way would be the establishment of " an American Semi- 
nary ... in one of the sea-coast towns of France " (p. 188) 
for the education of American seminarians, which would 
be supported (in Franklin's mind) by the revenues of the 



174 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

English monastic establishments in France that were to be 
confiscated for this purpose, or (in the mind of the Nuncio 
seconded by the French minister and the Bishop of Autun) 
by the liberality of the French king. This " intrigue," made 
known to the American Jesuits through their former English 
associates, was foiled by the move of the American Jesuits 
petitioning the Holy See for the appointment of one of their 
own as ecclesiastical superior, and the designation of John 
Carroll as Prefect Apostolic. 

Our reconstruction of the negotiation is very different. 
For us, at no stage of the negotiation did French authorities 
take the initiative or make suggestions that would justify his- 
torians in denouncing their interference in American Church 
affairs and a fortiori their scheme for the enslavement of 
American Catholics. Their part in the whole affair was one 
of generous cooperation with the plans of Rome in a spirit of 
friendliness to their allies and their fellow-Catholics in the 
United States. It was the Prefect of Propaganda Fide who, 
anticipating the lack of American clergymen qualified for 
the episcopate, suggested in his first Instruction the possi- 
bility of having recourse to a French ecclesiastic. It was upon 
his instructions reiterated again and again, that the Nuncio 
pleaded with Vergennes and the Bishop of Autun for the 
admission of American seminarians in a French institution, 
and for the establishment of a fund to support them. Frank- 
lin submitted to the Nuncio the project of a French ecclesi- 
astic residing in France, charged with the regulation of the 
spiritual affairs of America, and Franklin, in his anxiety to 
secure the unity of the American government by breaking 
the bonds between American and English Catholics, and " by 
taking from the British ministry all influence over the sub- 
jects of the United States," begged the Comte de Vergennes 
to agree to the appointment of a bishop " who is of this Na- 
tion and who may reside here among our Friends " (Letter 
to Vergennes, December 15, 1783). When called upon to 



THE MYTH OF FRENCH INTERFERENCE 175 

express his opinion upon Franklin's request, the Bishop of 
Autun advised caution, as the Nuncio had already claimed 
for the representative of the Holy See the privilege of exer- 
cising supervision over the American Church, and Barbe- 
Marbois advised even against the appointment of a French 
bishop in America. Rather little attention was given to that 
part of the project; the Nuncio's main effort in dealing with 
the French authorities was directed to finding means of sup- 
port for the seminarians to be brought to France for their 
education. The French response to this effort was prompt 
and generous; hence the French part in the negotiation 
should not be regarded as one of interference or intrigue, but 
as one of cooperation, which might, no doubt, redound to 
the benefit of France, but which was not inspired by mean 
political motives. 

Only a reading of all the documents can bring out in its 
full force the correctness of this interpretation of the facts. 
Here, an examination of the main arguments upon which Dr. 
Guilday seems to have based his thesis must suffice. 

These arguments do not appear to be explicitly stated in 
any part of Dr. Guilday's story of the negotiation, and the 
reason is obvious. His method of writing is the positive 
method, and his thesis (which is that of Gilmary Shea) had 
not been contested since the publication of Shea's Life of 
Archbishop Carroll. It had all the appearances of an estab- 
lished historical truth. Dr. Guilday himself had printed in 
the Catholic Historical Review (July 1920) , his chapter on 
" French Ecclesiastical Interference in the American Church," 
without raising any question as to the correctness of his 
views; he could therefore assume that he had given the true 
version of the negotiations. 

On reading Dr. Guilday's account more closely, however, 
it appears that his conviction can be traced to four main 
sources which will now be examined. 

The first is the authority of John Gilmary Shea. It is from 



176 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

Shea that Dr. Guilday borrows his estimate of the role of 
Barbe-Marbois. He quotes Shea when the latter denounces 
the " conspiracy to subject [American Catholics] not to a 
Superior chosen from among themselves, but to one nomi- 
nated by the French Court and residing in France " (p. 194) , 
and when Shea describes Franklin as bound to feel " not a 
little chagrined to find himself made even indirectly the me- 
dium of impeaching the loyalty of the Carrolls and other 
patriotic American Catholics " (p. 199). But it is shown in 
the preceding section how manifestly wrong Gilmary Shea 
was in his estimate of Barbe-Marbois, and we are assured 
that Dr. Guilday feels we have proven our case in favor of 
the French Charge d' Affaires. 

The second source of Dr. Guilday's conviction seems to 
have been the authority of Father Charles Plowden, the Eng- 
lish Jesuit. He writes (p. 189) : " We know that the French 
vicar-apostolic project was first made known to Carroll 
through former English associates." There does indeed exist 
a letter from Plowden to Carroll 17 in which he speaks of the 
note delivered to the Nuncio as betraying " the policy of the 
French ministry ('the nation most friendly to congress'), 
who, by bringing forward a Frenchman or perhaps an Irish- 
Frenchman, would use religion as an instrument to increase 
their own influence in America." In the next place we must 
take into account the fact that Plowden had no first-hand 
information of the nature of the negotiation, and that John 
Carroll does not seem to have allowed himself to be in- 
fluenced by his friend's report of the French intrigue, since 
he continued to depend on the friendly cooperation of the 
French agents in the United States. 

The third ground of the author's suspicion of French in- 
terference is Talleyrand's participation in the negotiation. 
What good could be expected from this notorious character? 
And yet the part he played reveals rather wisdom and gener- 

" Chapter V, Appendix 1, p. 145. 



THE MYTH OF FRENCH INTERFERENCE 177 

osity. When the Comte de Vergennes referred the Nuncio 
to him on the matter of the education and support of the 
American seminarians, he gave unstinted cooperation to that 
object; and when the Minister submitted to him Franklin's 
insistent request for the appointment of a French bishop for 
the United States, he maintained a prudent reserve. 

Perhaps the most compelling factor of Dr. Guilday's 
conviction that the Paris negotiations had the char- 
acter of intrigue is the secrecy with which they were con- 
ducted. The Doctor sees a connection between the White- 
marsh meeting of June 27, 1783, and the request at the end 
of the Nuncio's letter to the Prefect of September 1, 1783. 
He writes (pp. 188-189) : 

News of the proceedings of the June meeting had no doubt been 
reported to the Nuncio, for his letter of September 1, 1783, as has 
been seen above, contains a rather emphatic suggestion that silence 
on the whole plan should be kept: " On the other hand, Your Emi- 
nence will deign to inform neither the ecclesiastic just mentioned 
(the superior of the Mission in the United States) nor any one else, 
with the exception of the Holy Father, of my negotiations with the 
Count de Vergennes, and with Monseigneur the Bishop of Autun, 
since it is a question as yet, of mere project, of which it would not 
be well to speak before it be realized, or developed sufficiently not 
to be frustrated by anyone who may regard the proposed establish- 
ment unfavorably." 

There is no doubt that if these lines are read by one who 
has already accepted the idea of an intrigue in which the 
Nuncio was implicated, such a recommendation of secrecy 
will appear as a strong confirmation of the suspicion that the 
parties to the affair were really scheming and conscious that 
their scheme was bound to meet with opposition. That in- 
ference, however, would not be legitimate, as the reader will 
doubtless admit, if he considers the real object of the 
recommendation. 

In the first place, it is extremely doubtful that scarcely two 
months after the Whitemarsh meeting, news of its proceed- 



178 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

ings could have reached Paris. None of the official messages 
we have been able to trace in that period crossed the ocean in 
so short a time, and one wonders through what channel the 
news could have reached the Nuncio. But what was the tenor 
of the Nuncio's letter, and what was the object of his nego- 
tiations with the French minister and the Bishop of Autun 
regarding which he advises secrecy? The letter is the first 
report of the Nuncio to the Prefect after his exchange of 
notes with Franklin. Of the several suggestions made to him 
by Franklin he rejects that of appointing a French bishop to 
regulate the spiritual affairs of American Catholics, as well 
as that of confiscating the English Benedictine establishments 
in France. He retains only the project of entrusting to a 
French bishop the task of providing means for the training 
of missionaries for America, and this is the one suggestion of 
Franklin that he reports having discussed with the Comte de 
Vergennes and Talleyrand. 

Why, then, should secrecy be observed regarding a project 
which placed France in the honorable position of a bene- 
factor? Discretion is quite natural at the first stage of a ne- 
gotiation. It was as yet a mere project, and the Nuncio did 
not wish to see jeopardized by untimely publicity the success 
of the plan to which he and the Prefect attached such impor- 
tance throughout the entire proceedings. Discretion was im- 
perative regarding the prelate in charge of the American 
mission, because he was the Vicar-Apostolic of London. He 
could hardly be expected to look favorably upon steps taken 
by the Holy See for the consummation, on ecclesiastical lines, 
of a break between the American colonies and Great Britain 
before the actual signature of the treaty recognizing the inde- 
pendence of the United States, and this in conformity with 
the wishes expressed by the American minister, and with the 
cooperation of France. 

The same discretion was observed towards the London 
prelate a few months later by the Holy See when it proceeded 



THE MYTH OF FRENCH INTERFERENCE 179 

to the appointment of the American Prefect Apostolic, for it 
contented itself with notifying Bishop Talbot of the cessation 
of his jurisdiction over the United States. It was likewise 
observed by the American clergy themselves; they did not 
think it necessary to seek the approbation of the Vicar- Apos- 
tolic from whom they had received their faculties, before they 
proceeded in their own way to reorganize their missions 
along purely national lines. The discretion of which Dr. 
Guilday makes capital appears quite natural, and not as an 
evidence of intrigue. 

We have dealt with such grounds of Dr. Guilday's thesis 
as can be gathered from his presentation of the case in his 
Life of John Carroll. "With his permission we shall now ex- 
amine some other grounds of his conviction to which he has 
not given expression in his writings. 

He wonders whether we make enough of the fact that the 
pourparlers in Paris might have resulted in the appointment 
over American Catholics of a bishop (presumably a French 
ecclesiastic) , living in France and training his future clergy 
in a French seminary, and might thus have retarded if not 
altogether jeopardized the establishment of a truly independ- 
ent American hierarchy. Remembering the close association 
between the Church of France and the American ex- Jesuits, 
practically all of whom had been educated in the French 
college of St. Omer, and the French clergy's contribution to 
the American cause in 1780, he is inclined to connect in his 
mind these facts with what looks on the surface like an 
attempt to set up in France ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the 
American Church, and to feel that the Bishop of Autun, 
who was one of the chief officials in the Assemblee du 
Clerge, may have been prompted by the thought of the 
French clergy's contribution to desire to man the American 
Church. The French missionaries might have shown the truly 
apostolic zeal that animated the great Bishop Cheverus and 



180 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

the saintly Bishop Flaget, but the American Church might 
have become a dependency of the Church of France. 

As Dr. Guilday rightly concludes, "This is a mere sur- 
mise." All these motives may have influenced the Bishop of 
Autun and the other Frenchmen who took part in the nego- 
tiation, but there is no evidence that they did. It can only be 
repeated here, that the reading of all available evidence has 
led to the conclusion that at no stage of the proceedings did 
French officials take the initiative of proposing what might 
be called a French scheme, that their attitude all through 
those months was one of response, now prompt, now rather 
cautious, to the appeals presented to them either by the Papal 
Nuncio or by the American Minister, and that they should be 
absolved of the charge of intrigue or undue interference. No 
doubt they played a part in the project, but it was a part that 
could be expected, under the circumstances, from a nation 
whose Catholic faith disposed her to meet the desires of the 
supreme authority in the Church, and whose friendship made 
her ready to assume new burdens in behalf of the sister- 
nation she had helped render independent. 

No doubt, had John Gilmary Shea lived, he would have 
retracted his indignant denunciation of the role of France in 
the establishment of the American hierarchy, and regretted 
having charged her with scheming " the enslavement of 
American Catholics," and it is earnestly to be hoped that Dr. 
Guilday, in a new edition of his TJje and Times of John 
Carroll will not perpetuate the myth contained in his present 
chapter on " French Ecclesiastical Interference in the Ameri- 
can Church." 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 

I. MANUSCRIPTS 

1. Archives du Ministere des Affaires Etrangeres, Etats-Unis, Paris 

Vol. 26, p. 200. Franklin's letter of December 15, 1783, to the Comte 

de Vergennes, with Rayneval's marginal note. 
Letter of the Archbishop of Bordeaux to the Comte 

de Vergennes, December 27, 1784. 
Vol. 27, p. 15. Observations sur la lettre de M. Franklin a M. le 

Comte de Vergennes en datte du 15 Xbre 1783. 
p. 21. Draft of the Comte de Vergennes' answer to the 

Archbishop of Bordeaux. 

pp. 74-77. Lettre de la Luzerne au Comte de Vergennes, 31 Jan- 
vier 1784. 

p. 342. Copie d'une lettre de M. le Nonce a M. le Chevalier 

de la Luzerne, Ministre Plenipotentiaire de sa Ma- 

jeste tres Chretienne en Amerique; Note attachee 

a la lettre de M. le Nonce, 12 mai 1784. 

p. 344. Lettre du Nonce au Comte de Vergennes, 12 mai 1784. 

2. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington 

Doysie (French) transcripts of the correspondence between the French 
Plenipotentiary in Philadelphia, and the Comte de Vergennes. Affaires 
Etrangeres. Carres pondance Politique. Etats-Unis: 

Vol.28, folios 140-143. Barbe-Marbois au Comte de Vergennes, 15 
aoiit 1784. 

Vol. 29, folios 123-125. Barbe-Marbois au Comte de Vergennes, 27 
mars 1785. 

II. PUBLISHED SOURCES 

l. DOCUMENTS 

Bancroft, George, History of the Formation of the Constitution of the United 
States, New York, 1882. Vol. 1, Appendix. 

Bigelow, John, The Complete Works of Benjamin Franklin. Putnam's, 1888. 

Vol. 8. Nuncio's letter, p. 321, and Franklin's letter to Congress, p. 

356, Extract from Franklin's Journal, p. 509. 
Devitt, E. I., Propaganda Documents. Appointment of the First Bishop of 

Baltimore. (Translation of Carl Russell Fish's Documents.) Records 

of the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia, December, 

1910, Vol. 21, pp. 185-236. 

181 



182 FRANCE AND THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY 

Fish, Carl Russell, " Documents relative to the Adjustment of the Roman 

Catholic Organization in the United States to the Conditions of 

National Independence, 1783-1789. American Historical Review, July 

1910, Vol. 15, pp. 801-829. 
Griffin, Martin I., translation of the letter of the Archbishop of Bordeaux to 

Franklin. American Catholic Historical Researches, Vol. 27, p. 345. 
Hughes, T., The History of the Society of Jesus in North America, Colonial 

and Federal. Documents. New York, 1910. Vol. 1, part 2. 
Secret Journals of Congress. Boston, 1821, Vol. 3. 
Smyth, Albert Henry, The Life and Writings of Benjamin Franklin. Mac- 

Millan Co., 1906, Vol. 9. 
Sparks, Jared, The Works of Benjamin Franklin. Chicago, 1882. Vol. 1, 

fragment of Franklin's Journal; Vol. 9, correspondence. 
Wharton, Francis, The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the 

United States. Washington, 1889. 

2. HISTORICAL WORKS 
Campbell, Bernard U., " Memoirs of the Life and Times of the Most Rev. 

John Carroll," published serially in the United States Catholic Maga- 
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Campbell, Thomas J., "The Beginnings of the Hierarchy in the United 

States," Historical Records and Studies, U. S. Catholic Historical 

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Bishop and first Archbishop of Baltimore. New York, 1888. 



INSTITUT FRANgAIS DE WASHINGTON 
700 Jackson Place, Washington, D. C. 



EXTRACT FROM THE ACT OF INCORPORATION 

" An association to promote in the United States of America the 
study of French civilization and history, literature and art, and to 
preserve the memory of French contributions to the development of 
American civilization by endowing or otherwise aiding in the estab- 
lishment of Professorships, Courses of Lectures, Fellowships and 
Scholarships, prizes and awards, libraries, archives and museums, in 
cooperation with Universities, Colleges, Learned Societies or Indi- 
viduals, and by publishing documents, special studies and periodicals." 

The certificate of incorporation was signed at Washington, D. C., 
on the 22nd day of December, 1926, the one hundred and fiftieth 
anniversary of the day when Benjamin Franklin arrived in Paris to 
negotiate a Treaty of Amity and Commerce between the United 
States of America and France. 

HONORARY PRESIDENT 

GENERAL JOHN J. PERSHING 

OFFICERS 

JAMES BROWN SCOTT GEORGE W. WICKERSHAM 

President Vice-President 

JULES A. BAISNEE THOMAS H. HEALY 

Secretary General Treasurer 

TRUSTEES 

JULES A. BAISNEE THOMAS H. HEALY 

GILBERT CHINARD GEORGE NEELY HENNING 

FREDERIC A. DELANO HENRI HYVERNAT 

MRS. JAMES CARROLL FRAZER Miss ELIZABETH S. KITE 
WALTER P. GARDNER JAMES BROWN SCOTT 

GEORGE W. WICKERSHAM 

EDITOR 

GILBERT CHINARD 



BX 

1406 

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Baisa&e Lf~n -^ 

^rance and the estab- 
lishment of the American 
catholic heirarchy.., 

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