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The Story of the Mountain
Mount Saint Mary's College and Seminary

Mary E. Meline & Edward F.X. McSween

Published by the Emmitsburg Chronicle, 1911

Chapter 21 | Chapter Index

Chapter 22: 1831

The existence of the College was again threatened at this time by the avowed intention of the Archbishop to withdraw permission to teach Theology. Had he carried out his intention the teachers among the seminarians would, of course, have been lost to the Institution. Mr. Jamison visited Baltimore and writes thus to Mr. Purcell.

Baltimore, Jan. 3, 1831.

My Brother: I hare with Mr. Brute’ called on the Archbishop, who after every mark of kindness and promise of protection has come to this conclusion:

1st. Mr. Whelan can join our association but must be, as all of us are, under the control of Abp. 2nd. Messrs. Butler and Sourin can also join us without their exeats but for the future, subjects of other bishops wishing to become members must have their exeats. 3rd. The Abp. will not decide until June on the subject of Theology further than what he has already said but promises that if we can convince him then that Theology is essential to the existence of the College he will grant the teaching of the same to as many only as shall be necessary to carry on the School. This is all he will say at present.

P. S. The Archbishop, instead of June, now agrees to decide before the 1st. of April, so that we can arrange honestly with Dr. Shorb. I write this at the side of the Archbp. who has read it and approves of it.

Very sincerely your friend and brother, F. B. Jamison.

The Charter was also a subject of anxiety at this time, the original one not being acceptable. It was the wish of the Faculty to be incorporated under the title of the "Religious and Literary Association of Mount St. Mary's"; indeed they had for some time proposed forming a regular community.

Father Jamison wrote in Jan., 1831, a very earnest letter to Brute, his "friend and father ", asking the latter to draw up a set of rules or at least to help him to do so by notes, loan of books, etc., to which Brute’ replied, that Dubois had thought of the project; Archbishop Marechal had proposed the rule of St. Charles; Eagan had written to Purcell in France for the Lazarist Rule; McGerry spoke of future rules, etc. He advised that a beginning should be made by having more system in recording College transactions, and refers to the fact that " three boards have succeeded one another in less than five years." We should begin to lead a regular life before pretending to draw up rules for it; and so on.

The little fly leaves containing Father Brute’'s notes, with dates but without connection, are numerous, relating to matters and things in and about the College at this time. But their want of sequence makes them, however valuable as relics simply maddening to the historian. They are revelations of the anxiety of him who so well deserved the title of "Guardian Angel of the Mount" as to the well-being and future success and continuance of his beloved institution, threatened as it was with ruin.

We gather from a note of Jan. 9, 1831 that there was a misunderstanding between himself and Father Purcell; [the latter's letter of Jan. 29, '30, to the Archbishop implies as much] that no formal meetings were held nor council minutes kept; that in the business of incorporation his name was used, though it had not been expressly authorized; he was not consulted at least in the formal way he thought desirable and necessary, etc.

Meanwhile efforts were made to obtain a better charter, and great difficulties arose. One proposal was to name the College the American Institute and to limit its property rights still further; another to retain power to alter or amend the charter, so that non-Catholics might be appointed its managers if the majority of the Legislature so willed, etc. The College sought advice of the best lawyers in the State, and, in petitioning the legislature for a charter, set forth that the property, real, personal and mixed, amounted to about one hundred thousand dollars, five-sixths of which consisted of the College itself with its equipment, the land seven hundred acres, in great part mountain land, being of little value in itself, as it is rather of the " kildeer " species. " The debt left us by our predecessors, amounts to more than forty-five thousand dollars, yet we every year educate children gratuitously to the am't. of several thousand dollars; in 1830, though the number educated free was less than the preceding year, upwards of six thousand dollars was appropriated to the educating of indigent youths without regard to their religion. ..."

From Brute's notes, Mar. 9, 1831, we learn that Purcell, Jamison and Hitzelberger, priests; Sourin and Th. Butler, subdeacons; McCaffrey and Parsons, minor and tonsured, were the first petitioners and members of "Mt. St. Mary's Institute." Brute’ was informed by the President on the day previous to this date, that " they all desire that I assist them not as deliberating but advising to the formation of their constitution and rules." Brute insisted that no step at all should be taken nor rules adopted without the approval of the Archbishop. "I advised also," continues Brute, " not to proceed to reform and discuss any matter, before being fully organized avoiding to create uneasiness between the incorpd. and not incorpord. masters. To consider on the practice of calling the masters to account for their grievances and punishment inflicted before the boy cross examine both respectively and award to both their respective blame I think it for most cases susceptible of more inconvenience than good it would suppose boys too virtuous, to have the courage to forego their good chance of lies, evasions, recrimination etc., etc., and plead guilty with the proper and good grace."

Here we have an example of the extent to which the principle of equality was carried in those days and in this house. Even from immemorial time and when present mildness in college discipline was unheard of, boys were never obliged to go out walking unless when they pleased, nor unless with companions and with a prefect of their own selection. It was a thoroughly American institution.

The regular community projected was never formed, or at least did not endure. Brute was never of it, nor, it seems, did he approve of it, for it was his principle never to do things a priori or by anticipation, but along the lines marked out by Providence; and he thought and often said that, judging from their individual manner of living and acting, praying, etc., Providence was not forming the Mountain ecclesiastics for such close union and rule-governed life.

A letter of March 8, 1831, from John A. Washington of Mount Vernon, refers to College matters in connection with his ward George W. Washington, and displays the exact business methods for which the Father of His Country was himself noted. He objects to certain items in the bill and proposes arbitration.

There was at this time in the Seminary a young subdeacon named Pelissier, who was wasting away with disease, but M. L'Homme, S. S., writes, Mar. 29, 1831, that the Abp. would " go up to the Mountain at the time promised and that he has no objection to impose his hands on the dear Mr. Pelissier. I have no doubt that the sacrifices he will offer up to God, though perhaps they may be few, yet will be very agreeable to the divine Majesty. And if really it be the will of God that he shall pass shortly to a better world, it will be said of him, with reason, that' consummatus in brevi explevit tempora multa."' How wonderfully are faith, hope and charity exemplified in this.

In the Spring of 1831, accordingly, the Archbishop repeated his visit and ordained on Low Sunday the following gentlemen to deaconship, Messrs. Hilary Parsons, John McCaffrey and Thos. R. Butler, and raised Rev. Mr. Pelissier to the priesthood, the latter the first to be ordained a priest in the Old Church on the Hill.

Meanwhile the advice of Mr. Roger B. Taney (afterwards Chief Justice of the United States) had been asked by the College in regard to the charter and his reply was under date March 31, 1831 from Baltimore.

. . . The last Section in the Act of Assembly incorporating Mount St. Mary’ s Institute, which reserves to the Legislature the power to alter and amend the Charter, is one of so much importance that I have delayed answering your letter for a few days that I might give to it a careful consideration.

The provision is a new and unusual one in charters of this description, where the whole fund for the purpose of education is furnished by the individuals who are incorporated and our courts have never been called on to decide upon the effect of such a reservation on the part of the State. But in my opinion if the Charter is accepted the Legislature will have power at any future time to remodel the Charter to remove the Trustees now appointed and their successor's and to substitute another body of Trustees in their place. And the result of this change would be to put the whole corporate property under the control of the substituted Board and give them the management and direction of the Institution. I am satisfied that the Legislature in making this reservation of power could not have contemplated any injustice of this sort. But the trust you hold is too high and important to be surrendered to any Legislative body, and my advice to you most decidedly is not to accept the Charter . . .

The College authorities therefore petitioned the Legislature, as they could not accept the Charter, to be allowed to "confer degrees and literary honors in each and all of the liberal arts and sciences as is usual in colleges and universities in this country and Europe."

Rev. Richard Whelan afterwards Bishop of Richmond and later of Wheeling, Va., returned from Paris May 1, 1831 and began his ten years term as teacher in the College.

Father Brute still amused himself and recruited his health by physical exercise. He has a complete account of the terrace before the Church on the Hill, and its various developments, and made pen-pictures of these. His conservative spirit is evident in his warning on this matter: "Don't destroy and change too soon. Enlarge the street behind the Church, that is the point. If we change places too often, before seeing their development, all will be continual tossing and spoiling as in Penelope's work." The observatory has not yet been built, nor the rest of the plan completely carried out.

Although the Charter had not been accepted, as it read, still the title of College was adopted, that of Academy being relegated by the proud Mountaineers to their cousins over Tom's Creek, and Francis L. Higgins of Norfolk, '31, had the honor of heading the graduates' roll of his Alma Mater. He had entered Nov. 24, 1825. Several others, however, had received A. M. in February, 1830, under the Charter as first drawn, and many others received this degree at the Commencement of 1831.

President Purcell to Vice-President Jamison:

Baltimore, July 1st, 1831, 10 p. m.

Rev. dear Brother: We are all thanks to a kind Providence safe at Beltzoover's, yet not without having paid what had well nigh been a sad tribute to the dangers of traveling. The Stage Xo. 1 upset a little at this side of Taneytown, with a dreadful crash. Mr. Duffy, Mr. O'Beilly and all hands were "spilled" out and bit the red dust, but suffered no other mishap. The accident was a good deal to be attributed to the carelessness of the Agent who drove No. 1 but perhaps the nature of the ground on which it occurred should bear all the blame. Angue was awfully scared and Billy Nichols least so I should have said above that the back of his coat was torn like mine on the way to Mr. Hobbs'. The day was otherwise among the happiest I ever spent gratitude to God for the miraculous preservation of so many valued lives made me enjoy every little incident which ordinarily wd. afford but little pleasure, but when fear subsides man like the rabbit and the hare is only the more disposed to joy. Bev. Mr. Hughes (one of those who had come down for his M. A.) is sadly disappointed by finding that his trunk has been left behind. Do please see to it and have it sent on on Sunday or Monday to my address at Beltzoover's. Tell Sr. Eugenia to send on Logan's cap. Mr. Parsons (the Procurator) did not give me money enough ... I have had to pay 24 dollars for expenses down to this place; 10 more for caps for Laroque, Clota, Graham, Angue to give Graham 10 dollars to take him to N. York; five to Mr. Butler for a hat; five to Sumter Cox is not to be found, and I shall have to advance Clota's expenses to Boston and Laroque's to Montreal with Miller's and I know not how many others to Philadelphia. I really should feel puzzled if I wd. let any thing puzzle me. But I know he could not help doing as he has done according to the necessary order of the day, economy. Have the list of premiums sent as soon as possible. I might have it published, were it here, in tomorrow evenin’ s Gazette.

This town is in uproarious confusion in consequence of the awful riot on the railroad a day or two ago. The poor workmen defrauded of their wages by one of the contractors and knowing that the company are not responsible for such defalcation, tore up their own work and were reduced to order only by the military and Rev. Mr. Pise. [How often before and since has the priest done similar service for law and order!] I must conclude with respects and affete. remembrances to Brothers, Sisters, friends, all ...

Baltimore, 7th July, 1831.

Rev. Brother: . . . The duties of my office are not otherwise very hard, than because they require constant attention, but lo! a domestic, internal malady throws me on my back and villainously laughs at me. Oh! what humility it was in the great Solomon, our predecessor in wisdom and afflictions, to say that he came into this world squalling like other children and that he should live and die like other victims of disease and dissolution and humiliation.

It really was worse than my disorder to see the dry and uninteresting manner in which so splendid a Commencement was to be made known to the public . . . The Archbishop is very kind. Mr. Butler and McCloskey (Card.) got through their dreaded functions of deacon and subdeacon at the Cathedral last Sunday most gloriously. Their voices sounded stentorian notes under the great dome. Tell Mr. McCaffrey and Mr. Parsons the Archbishop could not ordain them on the loth, of Aug. but he is much disposed to visit us early in the Fall and will then confer orders on all we may think prepared and worthy to receive them. What do you think of Mr. Schreiber's soliciting the Archbishop to let him have Mr. MeCaffrey, that he may open a School in Richmond? The Archbishop asked if we cd. spare him. Aug. Walbach is going back next year to Emmitsburg, much to the delight of his Matt Bev. Uncle.

The writer of the following was one of the very early seminarians who, as we shall see, honored his Alma Mater exceedingly by his valiant work. Father Geo. A. M. Elder to Father Jamison.

St. Joseph's College, July 10, 1831.

My dear friend: Many years ago and we were both young and sportive now grave and seriously occupied. Then scholars now managing scholars. Then we talked and played together since that no word has passed between us. Why so? No one knows. This is intended as a banter to the V. President of Mt. St. Mary's by the President of St. Joseph's College in Bardstown (Kentucky) I shall not say anything of our affaire in this. Messrs. Hickey and Cahill, who go to the Mountain, will take pleasure in setting forth the magnificence of our dwelling etc. etc . . We calculate on finishing our examinations in fifteen days.

Away during vacation, President Purcell writes to Mr. Jamison.

Philadelphia, July 14, 1831.

Rev. Dr. Brother: . . There are here two very well recommended subjects for the holy ministry adopted by Dr. Kenrick. They will pay each $100 and clothe themselves, until found useful as teachers, if we receive them. Do, please ask the sense of our brothers at the Mount on the subject. I think an opinion was unanimously expressed at one of our past meetings that when seminarians could free us of any expense, we would receive a few more in addition to our numbers. The size of the study room is however not to be forgotten. The number of Theological students will always give an imposing character to the House and deter the-Archbishop from breaking up the teaching of Theology, besides giving more heart to Revd. Mr. Brute’.

So many competitors appealed for the honor of our staying with them, that I have adhered to my original purpose of taking boarding-house accommodations. We sleep at Mrs. Wiseman' s . . Mrs. Ewing is only offended at our not staying at her residence . .

York, July 20, 1831.

My dear Brother: We arrived here last evening, after having been tired all to but complete exhaustion from coursing the long streets of Phila. Our friends here, you will know, are exceedingly affectionate and if a day of great fatigue were not an ill preparation for a musical party until late at night, our time should have passed as agreeably as the delight of three senses sight, taste, and hearing, could make it ... I left directions with Mr. Butler to have the organ sent on as soon as possible.

27th, Saratoga: We arrived here at noon. I proceed tomorrow with McGlinsey and Ogier to Montreal via Caldwell and Lake George. Mrs. Ogier is to sail in a day or two for Charleston. I go to Montreal in consequence of a letter from Mr. Laroque which reached me a few days ago . . . Our boys are very well and very good.

7 o'clock. Just returned from a ride to Congress and Hamilton and Flat-rock and High Rock Springs with a young parson ; with the wife of the Prest. of the Bible Society in New York, her daughter, etc. O temporal I have got some specimens from the rocks and minerals about here for our valued Mend the doctor.

Have all things in order for the retreat and pray for Yr. attached brother J. B. Prurcell.

Warmest remembrance to Revd. Brothers Messrs. Brute, Wiseman, Pelissier, McCaflrey, Parsons, all at home.

The references to the Charter indicate a survival of that spirit which for a hundred years before the Revolution refused to the children of the Church that liberty which these had granted to those who turned around later and oppressed their hospitable benefactors. This "Know-Nothing" temper was rampant in the '50's also, and breaks out now and then even at the present day.

Rev. Thomas Gegan was ordained in Philadelphia, Mar. 6, 1831. At this time a round sum of three hundred and fifty dollars was paid for board at the College, tuition, extras, clothing, everything except pocket money.

The Saint Cecilia Society was founded in 1831 by Prof. Joseph Gegan. It used to give a concert on the Saint' s Day, and was associated with the most distinguished musicians in the country. In a Philadelphia paper of 1834 we read an announcement inviting honorary members to attend a regular public meeting of the Society to be held as usual the day of the annual commencement of the College-The Society gave a performance in the Study Hall once a mouth.

Chapter Index | Chapter 23

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