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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 40 | Chapter Index

Chapter 41: 1850-1851

In October, 1850, the Papal briefs advancing the bishops of New York, Cincinnati and New Orleans to the archiepiscopal dignity reached this country. Dr. Hughes decided to go at once to Rome to receive the pallium from His Holiness, as did Dr. Purcell.

The Archbishop, Dr. Hughes, had not been long in Rome before it was reported, on what seemed good authority, to quote Mr. Hassard, that he was about to be advanced to the dignity of a cardinal. The matter was certainly discussed unofficially among the dignitaries of the papal court. It originated, however, not at Rome, but at Washington. It had not escaped the notice of the American government that Pius IX was disposed to make the College of Cardinals more catholic than it had lately been, and it was thought by some of the cabinet that certain personal and political interests might be sub-served by having an American prelate presented for this dignity. The United States minister at Rome actively promoted the scheme, though perhaps not strictly in his official character. It was generally understood that if it should be carried into effect, Archbishop Hughes would be the nominee most acceptable to all parties. So certain seemed his appointment that the Leopoldine Society in Vienna actually offered to present him with a suitable outfit. Another American prelate, who was in Rome at this time, introduced the subject during an audience with the Holy Father.

"I will tell you," said the Pope smiling, "what there is of that. It is true that your government did ask me for a cardinal non pas celui la, mais un cardinal" emphasizing the indefinite article, "and I told them, which was true, that there was no place of cardinal priest vacant."

In the meantime the Archbishop of Baltimore had written to Rome to say that in his judgment it was inexpedient to create an American cardinal, and it is understood that other bishops of the United States, as well as the Pope himself, were of the same opinion.

"The ceremony of conferring the pallium was performed on the 3rd of April, not, as was customary, by the Cardinal vicar of Rome, but by the Holy Father himself. On the 3rd of May Archbishop Hughes left Rome, having first on that morning celebrated Mass in the ancient subterranean chapel of Santa Croce, in Gerusalemme. From Germany he passed to England and sailed from Liverpool on the 11th of June, the Catholics of Liverpool having entertained him at dinner on the eve of his departure. He landed in New York on the 20th, and on the 21st of July the Catholics of New York gave a grand banquet in his honor at the Astor House on the City Hall Park.

Archbishop Hughes was a very powerful speaker and sustained the government during the Civil War even in the pulpit; he was strong in prosecuting Catholic claims, as he showed in his endeavor to have the church schools recognized and subsidized by the State; he was a trenchant controversialist, as appears from his debate held in the New York City Hall with the preacher Breckenridge and from his many letters to the press on religious topics, for he neglected no means of defending religious truth or vindicating his flock. His style was at times so tart that his adversaries called him "Cross John," from the episcopal mark or cross he made use of in his signature. But though chiefly taken up with fighting the battles of the Church and her immigrant children in the metropolis, he could turn to literary composition and even poetry; his description of a "Storm at Sea" is a picture in words, and some of his hymns, printed elsewhere in this book, show many-sided ability.

Archbishop Purcell was perhaps better educated than Archbishop Hughes and resembled him in his devotion to the Union during the great controversy of '61. He held public debate with the head of the Campbellite sect, but we do not happen to be acquainted with any other literary production of his. He led a most enterprising and arduous life, which, however, as we shall see, closed in extreme disaster.

The Commencement was June 25th, 1851. Mr. Fisher discoursed on "The Idle Hours of Genius;" Adelard Boucher, of Montreal, on the "Eloquence of the Fine Arts;" Howell Hebb, on the "Rise and Fall of Empires;" Luke Tiernan Chatard, on the "Abolition of Slavery in Europe;" Edward Seghers, on the " Evidence of a Deity in Nature." William Seton (3rd) received nine premiums. There were three graduates. The valedictory was by Augustine Fisher.

Among the prefects for the year 1851-1852 we find Henry McMurdie and William Cook. Among the pupils were three grandsons of Mrs. Seton, children of her son Capt. Wm. Seton (2nd), U. S. N. These were William Seton (3rd), LL. D. (died 1905), who became a scientist and litterateur, writing several historical romances and some works on physical science; Major Henry Seton, U. S. A., who died in 1904; and Robert, Archbishop Seton. John and William (4th), sons of Henry, were students at the College in the 90's, but both died in their young manhood; John was a soldier, U. S. A., and William a physician. They were the only great-grandsons of Mrs. Seton bearing the Seton name and left no issue.

"The Mountaineer," vols. 23 to 29, is found between the years 1850 and 1858. The articles are anonymous, the title-page neat and artistic, and the penmanship shows care. All is in manuscript.

The St. Cecilia Society is found holding meetings every first Sunday of the month. It gave public concerts on Nov. 22 in conjunction with the Philomathian, and also on Dec. 27th and Feb. 22d, on Pilgrims' Day, May 10th, and on Commencement Day. The initiation fee was one dollar and the dues fifty cents semi-annually. There was a librarian, a curator, etc.

On Sunday, May 5th, 1850, confirmation was administered at St. Joseph's church, Emmitsburg, by the Archbishop of Baltimore, Rev. Thomas McCaffrey, ex-'38, pastor, singing the solemn High Mass, assisted by ecclesiastics from the Mountain.

Bishop Kenrick laid the corner-stone of a new church at Waynesboro on May 9th and preached by invitation in the Methodist meeting-house the same day, visiting our College in the evening and staying there that night himself and the Archbishop. Next morning Bishop Kenrick went to York. As all the traveling was by stage, and there were no pikes, one may imagine what fatigue he had to undergo.

A priest writing in The Catholic Miscellany of Charleston, July 20, 1850, speaks of George Miles' address at the Commencement this year: "The orator of the Philomathian Society, George Henry Miles, won all votes while he satirized the vices of the times, and of our own country in particular. His subject was 'Reverence'; the want of reverence and the consequent evils were the burden of his complaint. Statesmen, authors, editors, parents, sons and daughters, came in for about equal shares of his bold and scathing censure. He referred all the evils of modern society, in a great measure, to that cry which was raised in the sixteenth century, 'Down with authority! Away with the past!' It was amusing, though edifying, to see so young a man, so boyish in appearance, ruling for the time all minds, impelling so numerous and diversified an assemblage to condemn along with him their own vices and follies, and even their prejudices and predilections." Miles was a veritable pupil of his godfather, Dr. McCaffrey, and they both were heart and hand with Brown-son in assertion of these Catholic principles. Cardinal Gibbons in 1906 declared to the country that lack of reverence was one of our failings.

We cannot say whether the "Catholic Institute" be the same as the "Young Catholic Friends' Society " which flourished then in Baltimore, but Archbishop Hughes, as well as George Miles and other Catholics of prominence, lectured under its auspices. The literary form was naturally the first that societies among Catholic young men took, and the priests established them everywhere, they being the only ones that priests in general from their training were inclined or able to direct.

It is noticeable that before this period commencement speeches were made not in English only, but in French, Spanish, Latin and Greek. For fifty years this language feature has been looked for in vain at our commencements.

On June 27th, 1851, the ecclesiastical superior of the sisters of Emmitsburg, Father Mailer, gave notice that the sisters, who had been with us from early days and had retired for a while the previous year, would be withdrawn, probably in July. It was understood that, as in the case of New York referred to in Archbishop Hughes' letter, the rule received from France did not allow the sisters to take charge of boys. The College authorities decided to ask Sister Felicitas Brady to remain and retain charge of the women of the house.

Archbishop Eccleston had died (April 22, 1851) and was succeeded by the Bishop of Philadelphia, Francis Patrick Kenrick, who writes to the President about local matters.

Archbishop Kenrick to Rev. J. McCaffrey.

Baltimore, 18 Dec., 1851.

Rev. and dear Sir: If you see a fair chance of raising funds for the building of a church in Mechanicstown (Thurmont) I have no objection to the lot being accepted. ... I think it will be well to give the Lazarists charge of the Emmitsburg congregation, where they will probably establish their headquarters. I leave, however, to yourself and brother the choice of the time when you make the transfer. You can communicate your views to Very Rev. M. Mailer and arrange with him, as I hereby give my consent. I leave you Rev. Wm. Elder. . . . The French priests whom you have just received can easily supply Father Xaupi's place; but if he return, you would, I am sure, give him a home at the Mountain, since he has labored so long and faithfully.

I wish you a happy Christmas, and remain, your sincere friend, Francis Patrick Kenkick, Abp.

Early in 1852 the President proposed that the priests assemble for prayers in the drawing-room at nine in the evening, and this was agreed to.

Charles W. Hoffman, of Frederick, was allowed to graduate, although thrown back in his studies by the new arrangement of the course. This gentleman died in 1898 and made the College his residuary legatee of an estate amounting, it was said, to eighty thousand dollars, with the onus of building a new church on the site of the old one on the hill, in which he had received the gift of faith. He had been a Lutheran and was converted to the faith at the College. Seven persons were to enjoy annuities from the estate, and five of these still survive in 1908. Not till the death of the last of these is the money payable to the College.

Richard Gilmour had been a student here and left on account of sickness. He asked to return, and though advised by his physician not to study nor stay long here, was received. He afterwards became Bishop of Cleveland, and was a very strong specimen of Mountaineer.

It was decided that any seminarian whose services would be desirable might spend his last year of theology free from "duties" if he promised to spend two years after ordination in the service of the College.

Nov. 22. Today, St. Cecilia's Feast, the Philomathians presented Dr. Dielman a beautiful gold medal, inscribed "To Henry Dielman, Musical Doctor, from the Philomathian Society."

Father Damphoux, who probably had left the Sulpicians, came to board at the College.

Prof. Alphonse was engaged to give lessons in gymnastics for three weeks at a dollar and a half for each student taking them.

Considerable trouble with boys, expulsion, flogging, etc., are frequent in the preceding decade. Edward S. Taney, who was here from '45 to '48, says that incorrigible boys were sent to us on account of the national reputation for heroic discipline enjoyed by Fathers McCaffrey and McCloskey, and in 1851 circumstances were such that the President was formally empowered to get rid of all undesirable boys made dictator as it were. The echoes of European revolt were reverberating on our shores and the spirit of "Liberty" claimed college students, as usual, among the first of her adherents. Hence Dr. McCaffrey's strong utterances quoted a few pages back. Still it was not considered expedient to compel the boys to attend Mass daily.

Chapter 42 | Chapter Index

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