Jesuits in the American Colonies and the United States, 1700–1899

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Catherine O'Donnell
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Catherine O'Donnell Last modified: March 2017

As the eighteenth century began, a handful of Jesuits served the British mainland colonies. They were an obscure part of a province, the English, that itself lay far from the center of church life. Clustered in Maryland, these Jesuits ran plantations as they struggled to support themselves and offer pastoral care to a Catholic population that stood below twenty thousand souls. By the end of the nineteenth century, much had changed. After the Society’s suppression and restoration, after political revolutions on both sides of the Atlantic, and after waves of immigration, the Society of Jesus in the United States claimed hundreds of members, ran educational institutions across the continent, undertook missions at home and abroad, and confidently participated in international discussions about the future of the global church. A developing historiography traces the dramatic transformations of the Jesuits while also revealing the changing purposes and methodologies of historians of American Catholicism.

By 1700, Jesuits in the colonies had abandoned their original purpose of evangelizing American Indians and focused their attention on the Catholics of European descent living in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York. Long journeys on horseback allowed members of the Maryland mission to offer Mass and the sacraments to their far-flung flock, despite limited resources and severe restrictions on Catholic worship. In the first decades of the eighteenth century, despite the persistence of those restrictions and despite the fact that Catholics were a minority even in Maryland, the wealth and confidence of the colonies’ Catholics grew. Children of the Catholic gentry began to enter orders in Europe, including the Society of Jesus. Jesuits established new plantations on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, started an academy for boys, and had a church built in Baltimore. By the second third of the century, Jesuits were increasingly active in Philadelphia, and a few ministered to German-speaking farmers in the southeastern part of Pennsylvania. Yet the mission remained tiny, consisting of fewer than two dozen priests and attracting little interest from the English province. Despite their scant numbers and modest ambitions, the little band provoked mistrust. Protestant colonists believed Jesuits conspired to provoke slave rebellions and leagued with Indians and the French; they and all Catholics were thought to be enemies to liberty and patriotism. New York City enjoyed annual Guy Fawkes parades in which the pope was burned in effigy, and colonists read and contributed to a transatlantic print culture of mockery and condemnation.1

In 1774, news of the Society’s suppression arrived in Maryland in the midst of an imperial crisis that would soon send the colonies lurching toward independence. The combined events returned a former Jesuit and scion of Catholic Maryland, John Carroll (1735–1815), to the colonies. Carroll came from one of the most prominent Maryland Catholic clans and had lived in Europe, first as a student and then as a novice and Jesuit, since he was twelve. A supporter of independence, Carroll emerged from the revolution determined to create a vibrant American church while preserving the possibility of a restored Society. He organized the ex-Jesuits into the Select Body of the Clergy, a civil body intended to safeguard Jesuit properties, keep alive the Ignatian spirit, and tend to American Catholics. Under Carroll’s guidance, the Select Body had its Maryland properties incorporated by the state (after which it was often referred to as the Corporation) and founded the nation’s first Catholic-run college, Georgetown.

Carroll was consecrated as the new nation’s first bishop in 1790, and by 1808, appointed as the country’s first archbishop, his jurisdiction effectively stretched from northern New England through the Louisiana Territory, with some of the West Indies thrown in for good measure. During this era, anti-popery remained common in American political rhetoric and there were still printed forays directed at Catholicism and Jesuits; in 1788, to Carroll’s horror, an itinerant Irish priest named Patrick Smyth (dates unknown), who had just returned to Ireland after ministering in Maryland, published a pamphlet that attacked Jesuit reliance on slavery and insisted that within that reliance lay the seeds of a more general corruption.2 Nonetheless, Catholics enjoyed expanding civil liberties and growing numbers. As bishop and archbishop, Carroll wrestled with the question of how to nurture the American church while supporting ex-Jesuit efforts to maintain their properties and prerogatives, and conflicts flared over issues such as the assignment of priests and the control of Georgetown. All the while, American Jesuits anxiously sought news about possible restoration. In 1805, five former Jesuits in Maryland were permitted to join the Russian province, and Carroll signed over the former Jesuit estates to the newly configured group. Conflict continued over resources and governance until, in 1814, a year before Carroll’s death, word arrived of the full restoration of the Society.


At the time of the restoration, there were fewer than thirty Jesuits in the United States. About a dozen were the aged survivors of the original order; others had entered the novitiate established at Georgetown after the affiliation with the Russian Society and still others had arrived in the United States already a part of that body. Some belonged to the Corporation and others belonged only to the ecclesiastical body, the Society of Jesus. Conflicts over governance and how best to revive the Society were inevitable, and matters became only more complex as European Jesuits, often escaping new waves of opposition to the Society, began to arrive in the United States. Intense disagreements emerged over the extent to which Jesuits should adapt to the nation’s pluralist democracy. Debates over the legitimacy of miraculous cures reported in the 1820s and 1830s also divided the Jesuits along national lines, with English and American-born Jesuits evincing more skepticism than others. During the same decades, Jesuits debated the justice of slave ownership and struggled with prelates.

In the early 1830s, several important changes occurred. The Corporation ceded all authority to the Society and the Maryland mission was raised to the status of a province. Second, in an effort to clear themselves of debt and extricate themselves from the plantation economy, American Jesuits sold all of their slaves. Lastly, American Jesuits received formal permission to charge tuition at educational institutions. The order had long been centered in the rural South, its resources drawn from plantations and its efforts concentrated on Georgetown and the pastoral care of white and black southern Catholics. The changes meant that the Society, its ranks swelled mainly by European immigrants, would now turn its attention to the nation’s growing cities and expanding western territories.

With the support of Superior General Jan Roothaan (1785–1853, in office 1829–1853), American Jesuits sought to create in their Rocky Mountain and Oregon Missions a successor to the famous Jesuit reductions of Paraguay, while also ministering to indigenous peoples in Maine and the Great Plains. The greatest energies of the American Jesuits, however, went to creating a network of colleges and high schools. Throughout the nineteenth century, Jesuits founded a remarkable number of institutions, from St. Louis University (1818) to Holy Cross in Worcester (1843) to Gonzaga (1887) in Spokane, Washington. The schools educated non-elite Catholics as well as elites, and welcomed Protestant boys, too. By 1900, there were twenty-five Jesuit colleges (most of which also functioned as high schools) throughout the United States, far outstripping other orders and secular clergy in their role in American higher education. The myriad institutions, along with western missions, were challenging to staff and some feared that Jesuit formation suffered. The lack of a central training facility also left the American provinces dependent on European institutions. A central theologate was temporarily established in Boston during the Civil War (giving way to the foundation of Boston College in 1863), and in 1869, classes for scholastics began at the newly founded Woodstock College twenty miles west of Baltimore, where they would continue for over a century.

As the Jesuit order grew, it attracted hostile commentary from observers who believed it committed to the promotion not only of Catholicism—itself considered by many a religion founded in superstition and oppression—but also of political tyranny. The prominent minister Lyman Beecher (1775–1863) publicly excoriated the Jesuits, as did the inventor Samuel F.B. Morse (1791–1872); Americans read anti-Jesuit novels published at home and abroad. In the 1840s, nativism and an allied anti-Catholicism surged as a wave of immigrants from Ireland and Germany arrived in eastern ports. Jesuits faced denunciation on the floor of Congress and physical threats from anxious Americans. Jesuit efforts to reduce the dominance of the King James Bible in American public education provoked heated controversy, and traveling lecturers, including the Italian ex-priest Alessandro Gavazzi (1809–89) and the New England-born Protestant minister Theodore Parker (1810–60), implored Americans to be alert to the threat Jesuits and Catholicism posed to liberty. Opposition to the Jesuits also came from Catholics themselves, particularly immigrants who had fled Europe because of the failure of the 1848 revolutions and were appalled to find Jesuits at work in their adopted land. Some abolitionists portrayed Jesuits as defenders of slavery as well as tyranny, a view that found potent expression in Jean Claudius Pitrat’s 1851 publication Americans Warned of Jesuitism. 3  Despite considerable rhetoric directed against them, Jesuits continued to be granted entry to the United States even as they found themselves expelled from historically Catholic countries, a fact not lost on members of the Society who might otherwise have had little but condemnation for the country’s Protestant majority and its constitutional separation of church and state. Confidently, Jesuits continued founding and staffing educational institutions and European Jesuits living in the United States helped to craft the doctrine of papal infallibility during the 1840s.

During the Civil War, American Jesuits, like the American church, took no official position; the superior general in fact forbade Jesuits from voting in the election of 1860 and from expressing any preference between the sides once the conflict began. During the war, Jesuits ministered to both Confederate and Union troops. Afterwards, although they continued to avoid direct political activism, Jesuits in the United States tended to oppose anything that seemed to assault private property or to glorify science and technology. They subscribed and contributed to the Civiltà cattolica, the Jesuit journal founded in 1850, at the pope’s request and with papal funding, to combat what the Society deemed pernicious elements and effects of modernity. In contrast to the more restrained Anglo-Catholicism of the colonial and early national eras, Jesuits in the late nineteenth century also sought to offer the laity a Catholicism rich in material culture and unabashed in its devotion to Mary and the saints. Jesuits opposed Bishop John England’s (1786–1842) efforts to seek cooperation between Catholics and public school systems, convinced that England’s nationalism and democratic ideals blinded him to threats to the church. Undaunted and even energized by such battles, Jesuits continued to resist demands that national loyalty circumscribe Catholic teachings and allegiance. In 1899, as the century drew to a close, Jesuits rejoiced at the issuing of an apostolic letter, Testem benevolentiae. The document asserted the universal applicability of church teachings and cautioned against an “Americanism” that demanded innovations not authorized by Rome. To Jesuits in the United States, the future seemed secure, and it was to be beholden to the past.

Early Treatments of American Jesuits

Among the earliest published sources on the American Jesuits, and still among the most fruitful, are works emerging from the Society’s own efforts at commemoration and reflection. From 1872 to 1969, the Woodstock theologate published a journal of memoirs, reviews, and documents. The Woodstock Letters offer a window onto the colleges and missions of the Society throughout the Americas, as well as into the lives of the theologate’s many European exiles. Some Letters contain missionary reminiscences and first-person accounts of historical events. Others are of interest as secondary sources, although they often do not follow modern scholarly convention. The Letters continue to be an invaluable source of information about Jesuit work, lives, and worldviews.4

Throughout the later nineteenth century and into the twentieth, scholars with ties to the Society also produced significant works mingling primary sources with interpretation. A foundational figure in these efforts was Felix Martin, S.J. (d.1886) who argued that those who wished to understand the church must find and publish documents much as archaeologists unearth and preserve relics. Martin inspired the efforts of a young American named John Gilmary Shea (1824–92), who left the Jesuit novitiate and became a prolific historian of the Catholic Church. Shea’s analysis, rooted in an explicit allegiance to church teachings and a reverence for his subjects, feels limited, but his works reproduce documents essential to study of the order in North America.5 Karen H. O’Connell has provided a useful analysis of Shea’s prodigious collecting work and a partial bibliography of his publications.6

As the twentieth century began, Thomas Hughes, S.J. published a multi-volume History of the Society of Jesus in North America. His narrative covers the arrival of Jesuits in the colonies through the Society’s suppression, and the collected documents include sources from the early seventeenth century through 1838, reproduced in their original languages and copiously annotated. Hughes is faithful to church teaching and partisan to the Jesuits, and modern scholars will find most of his analysis a revealing reflection of Hughes’s own thought, rather than a congenial interpretive framework. The documents, however, remain an invaluable starting point for any exploration of the Society.7 Peter Guilday, longtime editor of the Catholic Historical Review, mined European archives and his biography of John Carroll and other works boast a rich evidentiary base. Scholars will be grateful to find that Guilday reproduces primary sources, although his preference for detail over argument and his pious editorial observations separate the work from modern scholarly convention. Gilbert J. Garraghan, S.J. produced a detailed three-volume narrative history of decades he rightly deems “crowded with every sort of ministerial and educational activity.” Garraghan’s tone is one of intimate admiration for Jesuits and the United States, each of which, he believes, has demonstrated the “ultimate success” of “the melting-pot.” Garraghan’s volumes, with their copious quotation from innumerable sources and detailed notes, are a cornucopia for researchers, and he points the way to sources—housed not only in Jesuit and archdiocesan archives, but also in civil repositories such as the Bureau of the Interior’s Indian Office—that can be mined in ways Garraghan himself did not.8 A more limited but still fascinating publication from this era is H.M. Chittenden and A.P. Richardson’s edited collection of documents from the life of Pierre-Jean de Smet, S.J. (1801–73), the nineteenth century missionary and cartographer who evangelized indigenous peoples throughout the midwestern and western United States and Canada.9

At mid-century, Annabelle Melville began publication of a series of biographies relevant to the Society’s history in the early national period. Melville’s studies of figures including John Carroll and the Sulpician William Dubourg (1766–1833) are more smoothly narrative than Guilday’s or Shea’s, as well as freer of factual errors and more nuanced in their exploration of intra-church and intra-Jesuit conflict. Although she does not reproduce documents as did the earlier generation of scholars, her extensive notes point scholars to invaluable primary and secondary sources, and occasionally hint at the need for work in areas Melville herself was unwilling to explore, such as scandals in New York City.10 Anthony Kohlmann (1771-1836), Leonard Neale (1746-1817), and John Grassi (1775-1849), Jesuits who were rough contemporaries of Carroll, have also been the subject of study, and John J. Hennesey has efficiently described Marylanders who entered the Jesuit novitiate during the colonial period.11

John Carroll and Other Prominent Jesuits

Because John Carroll was instrumental in forming the original ethos and institutions of the American church, he has inspired a rich body of scholarship. In his deeply researched history of the Baltimore archdiocese, Thomas W. Spalding emphasizes the compatibility of Carroll’s early national church with republican principles; Joseph Agonito portrays a prelate who adeptly sought harmony with Protestant countrymen even as he worked to create stable lines of ecclesiastical authority. Both attend to the fact that Carroll was a Jesuit but do not place it at the center of their analyses.12 Ronald Binzley, by contrast, focuses on the ongoing relationships between Carroll and members of the English province and argues for the importance of Carroll’s Jesuit formation and allegiance.13 Eamon Duffy analyzes Carroll’s participation in arguments simmering among English clergy over whether and how to accommodate faith to society, and Thomas Jodziewicz illuminates the ways in which American circumstances did and did not challenge Carroll’s understanding of Catholic practice and allegiance.14 Gerald Fogarty argues that Jesuit ownership of plantations in Maryland profoundly affected American Catholic claims of civil and religious liberty, while Catherine O’Donnell explores Carroll’s thought and that of his English brethren, as the former Jesuits worked to coax Rome into creating the first American see.15

In 1976, a three-volume collection of Carroll’s outgoing correspondence was published. Thomas W. Spalding’s John Carroll Recovered offers a cataloging and abstracts of the documents omitted and corrects errors of identification and dating in the Carroll Papers. Together, the Papers and Carroll Recovered provide ready access to documents and give a sense of the immense range of activities—political, pastoral, economic, diplomatic—in which Carroll and his contemporaries engaged.16 Analyses of the Jesuits in the United States have also been enriched by use of Finbar Keneally’s index to American documents in the Propaganda Fide archives and Luca Codignola’s Guide to Documents Relating to French and British North America in the Archives of the Sacred Congregation “de Propaganda Fide” in Rome, 1622–1799.17 Collecting work and scholarly analysis of the English province is also of great use. Geoffrey Holt has compiled information on Jesuits and ex-Jesuits in the colonies and the United States, while also giving a useful sense of the collections from which the dictionary was compiled.18 Maurice Whitehead’s illuminating discussions of Jesuit education in the English province reveal the curriculum and pedagogy in which many American Jesuits participated as students and instructors.19

Although the seventeenth-century French Jesuits known as “the North American martyrs” fall just outside the chronological boundaries of this essay—and those who labored only in Canada outside its geographical boundaries—they have long been venerated by American Catholics and have inspired innovative scholarship of use to those investigating Jesuits in the United States. Alan Greer explores the painful, productive mingling of Jesuit and Mohawk worldviews in his study of Catherine Tekakwitha’s life and commemorations, and Emma Anderson illuminates the martyrs’ cult as it unfolded across centuries in Canada and the United States.20

The Society in the post-restoration era has been productively analyzed in biographies and broader accounts. Cornelius Buckley, S.J. has authored nuanced, deeply researched studies of the Jesuit artist and missionary Nicolas Point (1799–1868), of French Jesuits instrumental to the creation of colleges in the American West, and of Stephen Larigaudelle Dubuisson (1786–1864), whose life Buckley turns into a lens through which to examine the Society’s effort to create an order faithful to church teaching, compatible with American circumstances, and undivided by ethnic and national rivalries. Buckley has also translated the letters of a Civil War chaplain, Louis-Hippolyte Gache, S.J. (1817–1907).21 Thomas H. Clancy, S.J., Donald Hawkins, S.J., and Anthony Kuzniewski, S.J. are among those who have also offered useful, short biographies of Jesuits in the nineteenth-century United States.22 Other scholars have taken a regional approach. Francis X. Curran, S.J. offers a series of evidence-rich essays on Jesuits in the eastern United States. Warmly appreciative of the Society and animated by attention to individuals, Curran nonetheless provides useful state, national, and international context.23 The West has also found its scholars: John Bernard McGloin, S.J. offers an admiring study of James Bouchard (1823–89), a Delaware Indian who became a Jesuit, while Jay Miller mines Bouchard’s autobiography for its ethnographic and literary content.24 McGloin has also recounted the Society’s efforts in San Francisco; Gerald McKevitt, S.J. uses a wider lens: his Brokers of Culture: Italian Jesuits in the American West, 1848–1919, follows hundreds of Jesuits who emigrated in the wake of Italian unification, arguing for their success in adapting European educational traditions to the restless, diverse populations of the American West. Thomas H. Clancy describes the work of Jesuits in the New Orleans province (which formerly extended from Florida to Rocky Mountains), Diana Everett explores debates over schooling in New Mexico, and Karl Markus Kreis offers a fascinating collection of documents from South Dakota, most penned by Jesuits and Franciscan sisters. Angelyn Dries’s Missionary Movement in American Catholicism includes attention to Jesuits in its early chapters and is sensitive to the existing spiritual lives and cosmologies of those whom Catholics evangelized.25

Slaveholding, Schools, and Spirituality

Recently, Jesuits have figured significantly in works whose primary focus is not Catholicism but rather American culture, society, and politics. Ronald Hoffman investigates the tangle of transatlantic allegiances that supported the Society and colonial church as he narrates the development of Maryland’s social and political order.26 Maura Farrelly explores conflicts between Jesuit and secular clergy in England and suggests that from those conflicts and from the desire to be simultaneously English and Catholic, emerged habits of mind that would enable British colonial Catholics to pledge allegiance both to their faith and to “the basic tenets of Enlightenment liberalism.” Jenny Franchot investigates the fascination and repulsion with which mainline Protestants regarded Catholicism and Jesuits, the latter becoming “an invisible, impenetrable figure of celibate masculine power.” Such work enhances our ability to see Jesuits as actors (and as tropes) within broad political, economic, and social contexts.27

In recent decades, scholars of Jesuits have explored how the Society has shaped and been shaped by broader developments in American Catholic history. Raymond A. Schroth, S.J. engagingly narrates the Society’s transformations, while efficiently sketching both the transatlantic and the local contexts in which they occurred.28 A recent edited volume includes essays exploring the changing ways Jesuits used music in Maryland, New France, and at Georgetown.29 Robert Emmett Curran, S.J. has published an array of learned, gracefully written works exploring the Society’s transformations and its members’ struggles over ecclesiastical governance, property ownership, slaveholding, and the extent to which the Society should adapt to American circumstances and ideals.30

Jesuit slaveholding has proved capable of drawing together questions of interest to historians of the Society with those of interest to historians of the United States. Among the most useful treatments is that of Thomas Murphy, S.J., whose Jesuit Slaveholding in Maryland, 1717–1838 explores issues including Jesuit justifications of slaveholding and efforts to mitigate harm without destroying profits. Randall L. Miller offers glimpses of religious practices among the enslaved, and argues that southern Catholics knit themselves into a largely Protestant society using agreement over the legitimacy of a slave economy as one tool.31 C. Walker Gollar has explored Catholic slaveholding in Kentucky.32 Michael Pasquier argues that daily contact with enslaved populations shaped Sulpician and Jesuit perceptions of and acculturation into the United States.33 James M. O’Toole’s fascinating account of the children of a Catholic slaveholder and enslaved woman, three of whom attended Holy Cross and one of whom became president of Georgetown, points to the desirability of further studies of Jesuits and race in the slaveholding and post-slaveholding eras.

Many authors have penned engaging accounts—largely although not exclusively celebratory—of the founding and early conduct of Jesuit educational institutions.34 Robert Emmett Curran’s history of Georgetown colorfully depicts the priests and students who populated the institution while also discussing the college’s role in influencing and resisting social, intellectual, and political change.35 Gerald McKevitt analyzes the development of the University of Santa Clara from its origins in the imagination of an immigrant Italian Jesuit to its flowering as an institution that by its centennial boasted over 7,000 students. In his important accounts of the American Jesuits’ first century of higher education, Philip Gleason explains John Carroll’s view of higher education as the crucial support of American Catholicism and the subsequent spread of Jesuit institutions. Gleason explains that numerous schools were launched from five “staging areas – Georgetown, St. Louis, San Francisco, central Kentucky, and Buffalo,” and he investigates ways in which the Jesuits’ status as an order led them to have a “cosmopolitan” rather than “local” approach to their schools and colleges, rendering their efforts both attractive and threatening to bishops. In this essay and in other works, Gleason also explores the challenges Jesuits faced as the ethos and specifics of the Ratio studiorum clashed with Americans’ desire for a specialized, technical, and vocational form of higher education. Christa R. Klein has further explored those challenges in works describing the efforts of Jesuits in New York City—many of them French—to educate Irish and German Catholic boys in ways acceptable to their parents and to the civil institutions increasingly governing New York education. Gerald P. Fogarty connects arguments between the national hierarchy and Jesuits to the development of educational institutions and the budding Americanist crisis in his account of Jesuit opposition to the 1889 founding of Catholic University.36

Although much attention has been given to Jesuit institution-building, scholars have also collected and analyzed texts expressive of Jesuit spirituality. Robert Emmett Curran’s American Jesuit Spirituality: The Maryland Tradition, 1634–1900 offers sermons, letters, reflections, and other documents penned by Jesuits ranging from John Carroll to Edward Holker Welch. Curran’s introduction illuminates continuities and contrasts as well as suggesting ongoing challenges in reconciling the Ignatian tradition with American ideals and circumstances. Joseph Chinnici offers scholarly, nuanced explorations of belief and practice in American Catholic life, painting a portrait of a Jesuit-influenced “Enlightenment Catholicism” characterized by a largely interior piety, a belief that much religious knowledge is discernible through reason, and a confidence that the truth of Catholic doctrine will emerge without use of the coercive instruments of the state.37 Joseph Linck analyzes Catholic sermons from the colonial era, finding that Jesuits consistently sought to promote moral behavior in their congregants and to encourage them to follow their faith despite the challenges of Protestant neighbors and restrictions on worship.38 Tricia Pyne has combed an extraordinary array of historical and archaeological evidence, in order to limn the sacramental and ritual life of Catholics in colonial Maryland. Necessarily speculative, Pyne’s work is nonetheless illuminating and attentive to the experience of the laity and of enslaved Catholics, as well as to the purposes and practices of the Jesuits who sought to direct their scattered flock.39 Turning to the mid-nineteenth century, Patrick J. Hayes has analyzed a Jesuit’s promotion of the miracle-working of a recently canonized member of the Society, arguing that his efforts must be understood within the context of immigrant Catholicism and religious identity formation in a diverse nation.40

Since the mid-twentieth century, scholars who have been instrumental in aligning Catholic history with the disciplinary methods and standards of secular historiography have penned ambitious surveys of the American church. Although Jesuits appear in these volumes as missionaries, shapers of the early national institution, and nineteenth-century educators, analysis of the Society tends not to be central to the books’ purposes or arguments. Such works include Jay P. Dolan’s American Catholic Experience, which influentially depicts John Carroll’s ethos as a “Republican interlude” between an English Catholicism and a European model imported by immigrant priests and laity, James Hennesey, S.J.’s American Catholics, John Tracy Ellis’s American Catholicism, James O’Toole’s The Faithful, and Patrick Carey’s Catholics in America. (The Society is likewise ancillary to Carey’s influential study of trusteeism, People, Priests and Prelates: Ecclesiastical Democracy and the Tensions of Trusteeism.) The Jesuits also appear in but do not shape the conceptual framework of James M. Woods’s A History of the Catholic Church in the American South, 1513–1900.41 The Society is addressed more directly and analytically throughout Catholicism and American Freedom: A History, in which John T. McGreevy explores the concatenation between the communal, international visions of nineteenth-century Catholics and the patriotic and individualistic ideals constitutive of the United States and, McGreevy suggests, of modernizing nations more generally.42

Peter D’Agostino’s Rome in America: Transnational Catholic Ideology from the Risorgimento to Fascism portrays an American Catholicism that is Rome-centric, anti-liberal, and often anti-Semitic; among the many research avenues opened up by this provocative and important book are those exploring anti-modernist Jesuit worldviews and actions in the late nineteenth century.43 John T. McGreevey’s Jesuits and the World: How an Embattled Religious Order Made Modern Catholicism Global, integrates discussions of theology with analysis of philosophy, political allegiance, and socioeconomic change. McGreevy moves gracefully between developments in the United States, Rome, and elsewhere as he explores, among other subjects, American Jesuits’ role in shaping Rome’s response to American pluralism and democracy and in creating a more “globalized” Catholicism in which “an orientation toward Rome made daily Catholic life across the world more uniform in 1914 than in 1814.”44 Chapters on the nineteenth century focus on the conservative, even reactionary nature of the Society, but McGreevy also seeks to uncover the path from that ethos to the kind of optimistic engagement with the United States and world advocated by John Courtney Murray (1904–67).

Much work remains to be done in the history of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Jesuits in the United States. A 2014 conference at Loyola University Chicago featured papers on post-restoration Jesuits’ work in urban cores, among indigenous peoples, and in collaboration with women religious, and forthcoming publications will deepen our understanding of those areas.45 More work is called for on subjects including Jesuit influence on male and female lay piety through education and outreach, Jesuit views of American expansionism, and Jesuits’ response to labor movements, domestic political parties, de jure and de facto racial hierarchies, and anti-Semitism. Such work will not only augment our understanding of the Society, but also build bridges to the historiography of immigration, civil rights, labor, and gender, arenas of scholarship that too often overlook the role Jesuits and Catholicism have played in the unfolding story of the United States.


1 A prominent example of colonial anti-popery is Jonathan Mayhew, Popish Idolatry: A Discourse Delivered at Harvard College (Boston: R & S Draper, Edes & Gill, and T. and J. Fleet, 1765). On anti-popery in the colonies and early nation, with some attention to Jesuits, see Francis D. Cogliano, No King, No Popery: Anti-Catholicism in Revolutionary New England (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1995); Robert Emmett Curran, Papist Devils: Catholics in British North America, 1574–1783 (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University Press of America, 2014) and Jason K. Duncan, Citizens or Papists? The Politics of Anti-Catholicism in New York, 16851821 (New York: Fordham University Press, 2005).

2 The Rev. Patrick Smyth, The Present State of the Catholic Mission, Conducted by the Ex-Jesuits in North America (Dublin: P. Byrne, 1788).

3 John Claudius Pitrat, Americans Warned of Jesuitism: Or the Jesuits unveiled (New York: J.S. Redfield, 1851).

4 The Institute for Advanced Jesuit Studies at Boston College is preparing a digital version of the letters. The Letters are currently available as Woodstock Letters, 1872–1969, See also Woodstock Letters Index, Vol. 180, comp. by George Zorn, S.J. (Woodstock Press, Woodstock, MD, 1960), also available at A useful description of the early days of the theologate is Patrick J. Dooley, Woodstock and Its Markers (Woodstock, MD: The College Press, 1927).

5 See, for example, John Gilmary Shea, History of the Catholic Church in the United States, 4 vols. (New York: J.G. Shea, 1886–92); Shea, Life and Times of the Most Rev. John Carroll, Bishop and First Archbishop of Baltimore… (New York: J.G. Shea, 1886).

6 Karen H. O’Connell, “The Library of John Gilmary Shea: Exploring the Book Collecting Mind of a Nineteenth-Century Historian,” (MA thesis, Georgetown University, 2011).

7 Thomas Hughes, S.J. History of the Society of Jesus in North America: Colonial and Federal , 2 vols. in 4 (New York: Longmans, Green, & Co., 1907–17). See Robert Emmett Curran, S.J. “From Saints to Secessionists: Thomas Hughes and The History of the Society of Jesus in North America ,” in Studies in Catholic History in Honor of John Tracy Ellis, ed. Nelson H. Minnich et al. (Wilmington, DE, Michael Glazier, 1985), 239–59 for an analysis of Hughes’s project.

8 Gilbert J. Garraghan, S.J., The Jesuits of the Middle United States , 3 vols. (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1938), here 1:v and 77. Gilbert’s Chapters in Frontier History (Milwaukee: The Bruce Pub. Co., 1934) is not devoted exclusively to Jesuit history but contains discussions of figures such as Pierre-Jean de Smet and Nicolas Point; see also his The Catholic Church in Chicago, 1673 –1871: An Historical Sketch (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1921). A much less professional and ambitious local study that nonetheless reproduces documents of interest to scholars is Edwin Warfield Beitzell, The Jesuit Missions of St. Mary’s County, Maryland (Abell, MD: privately published, c.1960).

9 H.M. Chittenden and A.P. Richardson, eds., Life, Letters, and Travels of Father Pierre-Jean de Smet, S.J., which offers documents from the Missionary Labors and Adventures among the Wild Tribes of North America… (New York: Francis P. Martin, 1905).

10 Annabelle M. Melville, John Carroll of Baltimore, Founder of the American Catholic Hierarchy (New York: Scribner, 1955); Melville, Elizabeth Bayley Seton, 17741821 (New York: Scribner, 1960); Melville, Louis William DuBourg: Bishop of Louisiana and the Floridas, Bishop of Montauban, and Archbishop of Besançon, 17661833 (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1986).

11 Wilfrid Parsons, S.J., “Rev. Anthony Kohlmann, S.J. (1771–1824) ” Catholic Historical Review 4, no. 1 (1918): 38–51; Arthur J. Arrieri, S.J., “The Memoirs of Father John Anthony Grassi, S.J. ” ed. Arthur J. Arrieri, S.J., Historical Records and Studies 47 (1959): 196–232; M. Bernetta Brislen, “The Episcopacy of Leonard Neale, Second Archbishop of Baltimore,” Historical Records and Studies 34 (1945): 20–111; James J. Hennesey, S.J., “First American Foreign Missionary: Leonard Neale in Guyana,” Records of the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia 83 (1972): 82–86; John J. Hennesey, S.J., “Several Youth Sent from Here: Native Born Priests and Religious of English America, 1634–1776,” Studies in Catholic History: In Honor of John Tracy Ellis, ed. Nelson H. Minnich, et al. (Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier, Inc., 1985).

12 Thomas W. Spalding, The Premier See: A History of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, 17891994 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995); Joseph Agonito, “Ecumenical Stirrings: Catholic-Protestant Relations during the Episcopacy of John Carroll,” Church History 45, no. 3 (1976) 358–73; Agonito, Building an American Catholic Church: The Episcopacy of John Carroll (New York: Garland, 1988). See also Thomas O’Brien Hanley, S.J., The American Revolution and Religion in Maryland 17701800 (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America, 1971) and Charles Carroll of Carrollton: The Making of a Revolutionary Gentleman (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America, 1970).

13 Ronald A. Binzley, “Ganganelli’s Disaffected Children: The Suppressed English Jesuit Province and the Shaping of American Catholicism, 1762–1817 ” (PhD diss., University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2011); Binzley, “Ganganelli’s Disaffected Children: The Ex-Jesuits and the Shaping of Early American Catholicism, 1773–1790,” U.S. Catholic Historian 26, no. 2 (2008): 47–77.

14 Eamon Duffy, “Ecclesiastical Democracy Detected: I (1779–1787),” Recusant History 10 (1969–70): 193–207; “Ecclesiastical Democracy Detected: II (1787–1796),” Recusant History (1969–70): 309–31; “Ecclesiastical Democracy Detected: III, 1796–1803,” Recusant History (1975): 123–48. Thomas W. Jodziewicz, : “‘A Short Account […] of the Consecrating of the Right Rev. Dr. John Carroll’ (1790): Two Interesting Roman Catholic Stories, ” Catholic Social Science Review 12 (2007): 253–71; Jodziewicz, “The Wharton-Carroll Controversy and the Promise of American Life,” in Studiorum Speculum: Studies in Honor of Louis J. Lekai, O. Cist., ed. Francis R. Swietek and John R. Sommerfeld (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1993), 135–54.

15 Gerald P. Fogarty, “Property and Religious Liberty in Colonial Maryland Catholic Thought,” Catholic Historical Review 72, no. 4 (1986): 573–600. Catherine O’Donnell, “John Carroll and the Origins of the American Catholic Church,” William and Mary Quarterly 68, no. 1 (2011): 101–26.

16 John Carroll Papers, 3 vols., Thomas O’Brien Hanley, ed. (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1976); Thomas W. Spalding, John Carroll Recovered: Abstracts of Letters and Other Documents Not Found in the John Carroll Papers (Cathedral Foundation Press, 2000).

17 Finbar Kenneally, et al., United States Documents in the Propaganda Fide Archives, 12 vols. (Washington, DC: Academy of Franciscan History, 1966–2002); Keneally, Index to United States Documents in the Propaganda Fide Archives: Index to Calendar Vols IVII (Washington, DC: Academy of American Franciscan History, 1981); Luca Codignola, Guide to Documents Relating to French and British North America in the Archives of the Sacred Congregation “de Propaganda Fide” in Rome, 1622–1799 (Ottawa: National Archives of Canada, 1991).

18 Geoffrey Holt, S.J., The English Jesuits, 16501829: A Biographical Dictionary (London: Catholic Records Society, 1981); Holt, “The English Province: The Ex-Jesuits and the Restoration,” in Promising Hope: Essays on the Suppression and Restoration of the English Province of the Society of Jesus, ed. Thomas McCoog, S.J. (Rome: Institutum Historicum Societatis Iesu, 2003). See also Holt’s generous and scholarly presentation of letters from John Thorpe to Charles Plowden “Letters from Rome of John Thorpe, S.J. to Charles Plowden, S.J.: March 1781–March 1784,” Recusant History 23, no. 3 (2007): 434–57, which identifies useful primary sources and outline some of the arguments and events leading to the creation of an American see. See also Bernard Basset, The English Jesuits: From Campion to Martindale (London: Burns & Oates, 1967); John Bossy, The English Catholic Community, 15701850 (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1975).

19 Maurice Whitehead, English Jesuit Education: Expulsion, Suppression, Revival and Restoration, 1762–1803 (London: Ashgate Publishing, 2013); Whitehead, “‘A Prolific Nursery of Piety and Learning’: Educational Development and Corporate Identity at the Académie Anglaise, Liège and Stonyhurst, 1773–1803,” in Promising Hope, ed. McCoog, 127–49.

20 Allan Greer, Mohawk Saint: Catherine Tekakwitha and the Jesuits (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005); Emma Anderson, The Death and Afterlife of the North American Martyrs (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press 2013).

21 Cornelius Buckley, S.J., Nicolas Point, His Life and Northwest Indian Chronicles (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1989); Buckley, When Jesuits were Giants: Louis-Marie Ruellan, SJ (18461885) and Contemporaries (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999); Buckley, Stephen Larigaudelle Dubuisson (17861864) and the Reform of the American Jesuits (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2013); Buckley, A Frenchman, A Chaplain, A Rebel: The War Letters of Pere Louis-Hippolyte Gache, S.J. (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1981). See also François Roustang, Jesuit Missionaries to North America: Spiritual Writings and Biographical Sketches (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006); Joseph P. Donnelly, ed. Wilderness Kingdom: Indian Life in the Rocky Mountains, 1840–1847; The Journals and Paintings of Nicholas Point, SJ (Chicago: M. Joseph, 1967).

22 Thomas Clancy and Donald Hawkins, “Father Theobald Butler (18261916): Americanizing the Jesuits,” in Religious Pioneers: Building the Faith in the Archdiocese of New Orleans, ed. Dorothy Dawes and Charles Nolan (New Orleans: Archdiocese of New Orleans, 2004); Anthony J. Kuzniewski, “Francis Dzierozynski and the Jesuit Restoration in the United States,” The Catholic Historical Review 78, no. 1 (1992): 5173.

23 Essays are collected in Francis X. Curran, The Return of the Jesuits: Chapters in the History of the Society of Jesus in Nineteenth-Century America (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1966). See also Vincent A. Lapomarda, S.J. The Jesuit Heritage in New England (Worcester, MA: Jesuits of Holy Cross College, 1977).

24 John Bernard McGloin, S.J., Eloquent Indian: The Life of James Bouchard, California Jesuit, with a Foreword by Robert J. Armstrong (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1949); Jay Miller, “The Early Years of Watomika (James Bouchard): Delaware, Jesuit, ” American Indian Quarterly 13, no. 2 (1989): 16588.

25 John Bernard McGloin, S.J. Jesuits by the Golden Gate: The Society of Jesus in San Francisco, 1849–1969 (San Francisco: University of San Francisco Press, 1972); Thomas H. Clancy, S.J., “The Antebellum Jesuits of the New Orleans Province, 18371861,” Louisiana History 34, no. 3 (1993): 32743; Karl Markus Kreis, Lakotas, Black Robes, and Holy Women: German Reports from the Indian Missions in South Dakota, 1886–1900 (Lincoln, NE: Nebraska University Press, 2007); Angelyn Dries, The Missionary Movement in American Catholicism (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1998).

26 Ronald Hoffman, Princes of Ireland, Planters of Maryland: A Carroll Saga, 1500–1782 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000). See also Hoffman, et al., eds., Dear Papa, Dear Charley: Peregrinations of a Revolutionary Aristocrat…, 3 vols. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 200115).

27 Maura Farrelly, Papist Patriots: The Makings of an American Catholic Identity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 47. Jenny Franchot, Roads to Rome: The Antebellum Protestant Encounter with Catholicism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), 64. Nancy Lusignan Schultz, Mrs. Mattingly’s Miracle: The Prince, the Widow, and the Cure that Shocked Washington City (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011), is an example of an historian narrating an incident traditionally of interest only to church historians in a way intriguing to those broadly interested in the early republic.

28 Raymond A. Schroth, S.J. The American Jesuits: A History (New York: New York University Press, 2007).

29 Music as Cultural Mission: Explorations of Jesuit Practices in Italy and North America, ed. Anna Harwell Celenza and Anthony Del Donna (Philadelphia: Saint Joseph’s University Press, 2014).

30 Many of Curran’s essays are collected in Shaping American Catholicism: Maryland and New York, 1805–1915 (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2012). See also his edited volume, with Joseph T. Durkin and Gerald P. Fogarty, The Maryland Jesuits 1634–1833 (Baltimore: Corporation of the Roman Catholic Clergymen, 1976) and other Curran works cited in this essay.

31 Thomas Murphy, S.J., Jesuit Slaveholding in Maryland, 1717–1838 (New York: Routledge, 2001); Randall M. Miller, “The Failed Mission: The Catholic Church and Black Catholics in the Old South,” in Catholics in the Old South: Essays on Church and Culture, ed. Randall M. Miller and Jon Wakelyn (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1983), 14970. See also Miller, “A Church in Cultural Captivity: Some Speculations on Catholic Identity in the Old South,” in Catholics in the Old South, ed. Miller and Wakelyn, 1152; the final chapter of Tammy K. Byron, “A Catechism for Their Special Use: Slave Catechisms in the Antebellum South” (PhD diss., University of Arkansas, 2008); Edward F. Beckett, “Listening to our History: Inculturation and Jesuit Slaveholding,” Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits (St. Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1996). An early work is Madeleine H. Rice, American Catholic Opinion in the Slavery Controversy (New York: Columbia University Press, 1944).

32 C. Walker Gollar, “The Role of Father Badin's Slaves in Frontier Kentucky,” American Catholic Studies 115, no. 1 (2004): 124; Gollar, “Father John Thayer: Catholic Antislavery Voice in the Kentucky Wilderness,” Register of the Kentucky Historical Society 101, no. 3 (2003): 27596; Gollar, “Catholic Slaves and Slaveholders in Kentucky,” Catholic Historical Review 84, no. 1 (1998): 4262.

33 Michael Pasquier, “Though Their Skins Remain Brown, I Hope their Souls will Soon be White: Slavery, French Missionaries, and the Roman Catholic Priesthood in the American South, 17891865,” Church History 77, no. 2 (2008): 33770.

34 Alumni Association of the College of St. Francis Xavier, The College of St. Francis Xavier: A Memorial and a Retrospect, 1847–1897 (New York: Meany Printing Co., 1897); Charles A. Brady, The First Hundred Years: Canisius College, 1870–1970 (Buffalo: Canisius College, 1969); John M. Daley, S.J., Georgetown University: Origin and Early Years (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 1957); Charles F. Donovan, S.J., et al. A History of Boston College from the Beginnings to 1990 (Chestnut Hill, MA: Boston College, 1990); Joseph T. Durkin, S.J., Georgetown University: The Middle Years (1840–1900) (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 1963); Thomas C. Hennessey, S.J., How the Jesuits Settled in New York: A Documentary Account (New York: Fordham University Press, 1998); Hennessy, S.J., Fordham: The Early Years (New York: Fordham University Press, 1998); Thomas J. Jablonsky Milwaukee’s Jesuit University: Marquette 1881–1981 (Milwaukee, Marquette University Press, 2007); Anthony Kuzniewski, S.J., Thy Honored Name: A History of the College of the Holy Cross, 1843–1994 (Washington DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1999); William J. McGucken, S.J., The Jesuits and Education (Milwaukee, WI: Bruce, 1932); Gerald McKevitt, S.J., The University of Santa Clara: A History, 1851–1977 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1979); Dennis A. Mihelich, The History of Creighton University, 1878–2003 (Creighton NE: Creighton University Press, 2005); David P. Miros, “Rudolph J. Meyer and Saint Louis University: A Study of the Society of Jesus’ Theological and Educational Enterprise at the Turn of the Century, 18851915 ” (PhD diss., Saint Louis University, 2005); Edmund G. Ryan, S.J., “An Academic History of Woodstock College in Maryland [18691944]: The First Jesuit Seminary in North America ” (Phd diss., Catholic University of America, 1964); Raymond A. Schroth, S.J., Fordham: A History and Memoir (Chicago: Jesuit Way, 2002); Nicholas Varga, Baltimore’s Loyola, Loyola’s Baltimore (Baltimore, MD: Maryland Historical Society, 1990).

35 Robert Emmett Curran, S.J., The Bicentennial history of Georgetown University: From Academy to University, 1789–1989 , 2 vols. (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 1993).

36 Philip Gleason, “The Main Sheet Anchor: John Carroll and Higher Education,” Review of Politics 38, no. 4 (1976): 576613; Gleason, “The First Century of Jesuit Higher Education in America,” United States Catholic Historian 25, no. 2 (2007) 3752, here 44; this essay contains a bibliography of works addressing Jesuit education throughout American history; Gleason, Contending with Modernity: Catholic Higher Education in the Twentieth Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 5161 and Gleason, “American Catholic Higher Education: A Historical Perspective,” in The Shape of Catholic Higher Education, ed. Robert Hassenger (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967). Christa R. Klein, “Jesuits and Boyhood in Victorian New York,” U.S. Catholic Historian 7, no. 4 (1988): 37591; Klein, “The Jesuits and Catholic Boyhood in Nineteenth-Century New York City: A Study of St. John’s College and the College of St. Francis Xavier, 19461912 ” (PhD diss., University of Pennsylvania, 1986). Gerald P. Fogarty, The Vatican and the American Hierarchy from 1870 to 1965 (Stuttgart: Anton Hiersemann, 1982), Chapter 2.B.

37 Joseph P. Chinnici, Living Stones: The History and Structure of Catholic Spiritual Life in the United States (New York: Macmillan, 1989); see also Chinnici, The English Catholic Enlightenment: John Lingard and the Cisalpine Movement, 1780–1850 (Shepherdstown W VA, Patmos Press: 1980); Chinnici, “American Catholics and Religious Pluralism, 1775-1820,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 16, no. 3 (1979): 72746; Chinnici, “Organization of the Spiritual Life: American Catholic Devotional Works, 17911866,” Theological Studies 40, no. 2 (1979): 22955.

38 Joseph C. Linck, Fully Instructed and Vehemently Influenced: Catholic Preaching in Anglo-Colonial America (Philadelphia: Saint Joseph’s University Press, 2002); Raymond J. Kupke, Preaching and Piety in the Time of John Carroll (Washington, DC: University Press of America, 1991).

39 Tricia T. Pyne, “Ritual and Practice in the Maryland Catholic Community, 16341776,” U.S. Catholic Historian 26, no. 2 (2008): 1746; Pyne, “The Maryland Catholic Community, 16901775: A Study in Culture, Region, and Church ” (PhD diss., The Catholic University of America, 1995); Beatriz Betancourt Hardy, “Papists in a Protestant Age: The Catholic Gentry and Community in Colonial Maryland, 16891776 ” (PhD diss., University of Maryland, 1993); John D. Krugler and Timothy B. Riordan, “'Scandalous and offensive to the Government': The 'Popish Chappel' at St. Mary's City, Maryland, and the Society of Jesus, 16341705,” Mid-America: An Historical Review 73, no. 3 (1991): 187208; Thomas E. Wangler, “Daily Religious Exercises of the American Catholic Laity in the Late Eighteenth Century,” Records of the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia 108, no. 34 (1997-1998): 122.

40 Patrick J. Hayes, “Jesuit Saint Making: The Case of St. Peter Claver’s Case in Nineteenth-Century America,” American Catholic Studies 117, no. 4 (2006): 132.

41 Jay P. Dolan, The American Catholic Experience (New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2011); Patrick Carey, People, Priests and Prelates: Ecclesiastical Democracy and the Tensions of Trusteeism (South Bend, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1987); John Tracy Ellis, American Catholicism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969); James J. Hennesey, S.J. American Catholics: A History of the Roman Catholic Community in the United States (New York: Oxford University Press, 1981); James M. O’Toole, The Faithful (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009); James M. Woods, A History of the Catholic Church in the American South, 1513–1900 (Jacksonville: University Press of Florida, 2011).

42 John T. McGreevy, Catholicism and American Freedom: A History (New York: WW Norton and Co., 2011).

43 Peter D’Agostino, Rome in America: Transnational Catholic Ideology from the Risorgimento to Fascism (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004). David G. Schultenover, A View from Rome: On the Eve of the Modernist Crisis (New York: Fordham University Press, 1993) explores the roots of “anti-modernism” using an anthropological lens and focusing on a voluminous diary kept by Luis Martín (in office 1892–1906), Jesuit superior general as the crisis approached.

44 John T. McGreevy, Jesuits and the World: How an Embattled Religious Order Made Modern Catholicism Global (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016), 2.

45 The conference program can be found at: (accessed July 13, 2016). A volume of conference proceedings will be published by Brill’s series of Jesuit Studies.

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