"the sale cannot be so urgent": Fr. McSherry to Fr. Roothaan on inflation, the slave sale, and taxes, May 13, 1837

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"the sale cannot be so urgent": Fr. McSherry to Fr. Roothaan on inflation, the slave sale, and taxes, May 13, 1837


Catholic Church--Clergy--Correspondence;
Society of Jesus;
Maryland Province;
Slavery--sale of slaves
Slaves--United States--Economic conditions;
Jesuits-History-19th century


Fr. McSherry wrote to Fr. Roothaan to follow up on his previous letter urging that the Jesuits consider selling their slaves. That spring, the United States fell into the throes of the Panic of 1837. McSherry lamented that if they sold then, they would not be able to profit nearly as much as if they had sold the previous year.

McSherry also complained that neither St. Inigoes nor White Marsh had paid any of its taxes the previous year, and that the other plantations were barely breaking even.

This letter is in the Jesuit archives in Rome and is published here with the permission of the Society of Jesus.


Provincia Maryland 5 I 39, Archivum Romanum Societatis Jesu


Georgetown Slavery Archive




Cory Young, Adam Rothman


Do not republish without permission of the Archivum Romanum Societatis Jesu.











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PC Georgetown College May 13.th 1837

adm. Revd in Xto Pater,

I wrote on the 11th of March, and have not since been able to prepare the information required, respecting the landed property; the necessity of the sale cannot be so urgent at the present time, when the whole county is embarrassed beyond description in the currency. All the Banks in New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore have refused to pay specie, and even some of the banks of this place. We will be prevented on account of this from disposing of our servants. We could not at the present time obtain one tenth part of what we could have obtained last year for them.

I will however prepare answers as soon as I possibly can to the question proposed by Fr. Vespre, so that we may have the privilege of disposing of our lands, whenever there will be a favorable opportunity. My time at present is wholly taken up in endeavoring to collect what little I can to support the noviceship. I have not had in hand more than fifty dollars for one month, and have received only $250 from the farms since Mr. Vespre left this. I am not much versed in temporal affairs and have no one to consult in whose judgement I can have confidence. St. Inigoes, with ninety servants and three thousand acres of land has not paid the entire tax of 1835. White Marsh, with 100 servants and perhaps more than three thousand acres of land is in debt and unable to pay any tax, and barely able to support the servants on it. Bohemia, Newtown, St. Thomas are the only places from which any was [unclear addition] given last year, and what was given was far less than such places should be capable of giving. Had I a procurator who could aid me in the management of temporals, I would at least not be despondent, and might sustain myself. [page break]

I have not been able to discover that any decision was made in the council respecting the churches of Regulars. The Bishops may have thought it premature to come to any determination on that subject, as they have not clergymen to attend even their own missions.

There is one subject which has paniced me a little, and which I heard about the time of the Council. Bishop Kenrick of Philadelphia, proposed about the time that Fr. Dubuisson left the country, to have his diocese divided into two sees; to have St. John’s Church for the Cathedral of Philadelphia, and to place St Marys under the care of the Society. He has since given as a reason here for the withdrawal of his petition that ours claimed St. Marys Church as the property of the Society, and for this reason he thought it necessary to withdraw his petition, in order to meet our pretensions. Now he knows perfectly well that he never entered into any correspondence with me on the subject. He knows that I never spoke with him on the subject. I have never even in speaking with any^one shewed the least gratification that he had such intentions. I have asked Mr Dubuisson whether any expression was ever used in Rome which would indicate that we had a willingness to have the possession of that church; he tells me that he is not conscious of any such expression. Your Py may perhaps remember whether any such expression was used in Rome. It may be necessary to say something to the Bishop of this, and perhaps he may have written some such thing to the Propaganda.

I have nothing more to add at present except that from some slight indications, we might fear that some of ours will be nominated to a Bishoprick, and Mr. Mulledy is under the impression that Fr. Verhagen might be one of them.

I beg to be remembered in the HSS. and prayers of your Paternity

Your obt. Servant in Xt
Wm. McSherry

Original Format




Archivum Romanum Societatis Iesu, “"the sale cannot be so urgent": Fr. McSherry to Fr. Roothaan on inflation, the slave sale, and taxes, May 13, 1837,” Georgetown Slavery Archive, accessed July 14, 2024, http://slaveryarchive.georgetown.edu/items/show/275.