"I rejoice that the matter of the negroes is concluded": Fr. Roothaan to Fr. Mulledy, March 4, 1839

Dublin Core


"I rejoice that the matter of the negroes is concluded": Fr. Roothaan to Fr. Mulledy, March 4, 1839


Catholic Church--Clergy--Correspondence;
Society of Jesus;
Maryland Province;
Slavery--sale of slaves


The Jesuit Superior General, Fr. Jan Philip Roothaan, writes to Fr. Thomas Mulledy, the Maryland Provincial, to express his satisfaction that the sale of the Maryland Jesuits' slaves had been completed, but he also expresses dissatisfaction with the fact that the principal from the sale had been spent.

"Father R-" is probably Rev. James Ryder, SJ.

The original letter is in Latin, and was transcribed and translated by Prof. Josiah Osgood of the Georgetown Classics Department, with assistance from the students in Prof. Osgood's CLSL 101 Intermediate Latin class in the Fall 2018 semester.


Maryland Province Archives, Society of Jesus


Georgetown Slavery Archive




Professor Josiah Osgood and the students in Georgetown University's CLSL 101 (Intermediate Latin) Fall 2018 semester; Adam Rothman


Maryland Province Jesuits


GSA86Fr. Roothaan, S.J. lays out the conditions for the sale of slaves, 27 December 1836

GSA294: "sell all our landed property and slaves": Fr. McSherry to Fr. Roothaan, March 13, 1837

GSA295: "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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Rome, 4 March 1839

Reverend in Christ Father

Pax Christi

This week, Father Vespre leaves from us and will soon return to you, not without sadness and inconvenience for us, but to your benefit.  May his ministry be truly useful to this troubled Province of yours – which will now depend on Your Reverence.

I received your letter of 16 December.

What they report about Philadelphia, and about the ministry done there of necessity by Father McElroy: I approve. – As things are now, perhaps that Father will be able to return to his College at Frederick.  – What Your Reverence says about the hope of harvesting a great crop at Philadelphia, I hope that it will actually be confirmed. Why Father Dubuisson was not sent back there I do not know. The station at Philadelphia certainly is worthy of such a missionary rather than other stations of less importance.

I rejoice that the matter of the negroes is concluded and the lands have been leased to good men.  May they truly be good men, that is, upright men, the sort who make good their debt to justice at the proper times.  And so at last this Province will be able to escape from its current hardships, nor will it any more have need of charity, which it is not satisfactory to take equally from the other missions that truly are very needy – not, as with you, my Fathers, because of a lack of economy, but because truly they have nothing.

I for my part regret that part of the principal which arose from the sale has already been sold, for only the interest ought to have been spent, the capital never.  If this had been done elsewhere, you would have met with ecclesiastical censures. And also this was done against our express instruction. The business has been settled with the most Reverend Archbishop.  But has he reported this to the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith? If this has not been done, we are exposed to the risk that at some point his successor may create new tangles.

About Father R. – – – What am I to say?  I truly fear that he is not the only one but in fact that worse things have happened with one or several others.  For where the spirit is lacking, the flesh must be stronger.  I am resolved that offenses of this sort, if they ever should emerge from the shadows, exclude even professors from the society.  For the society cannot protect disgraces of this sort within its embrace. In such a case, I must deal with the supreme Pontiff, who has never denied me the necessary access in similar case. – Since the situation of Father R. is still unclear, and doubt remains, I, for now anyway, think it should be deferred.  – But – – – I greatly fear for the future, not only in regards to him, but also the others, if the spiritual condition is not better looked after among them.  There are many in the Province, who for a long time ought to have advanced [i.e., be admitted to final vows], and have not been able to be promoted because of their faults.  There ought to be an end to this. Oror – In this category are Fathers Barber, Lilly, Mudd, Finnegan, Grace, and perhaps many others.  – Let the vine be pruned, so that it may bear more fruit.

What Your Reverence writes about his last Exercises was a great consolation to me.  By this most powerful means in particular, but also by this means alone, a remedy can be hoped for.  May at last all of them do these well!

By the Most Holy Sacraments I commend myself

To Your Reverence

A Slave in Christ

Iohannes Roothaan

P.S.  We have not yet received your catalogue.

Brother Rieselman for a long time has sought a mission among the natives.  – Now Ours in Missouri are devoting their ministry among those wretched people.  I want that brother to be sent, so long as nothing serious stands in the way. Do let him know that I have remembered him and have written this.

To Reverend Father Thomas Mulledy, Society of Jesus Provincial Father, Georgetown


Romae 4. Mart(iis) 1839

Rev(eren)de in C(hris)to Pater

P(ax) C(hristi)

Hac hebdomade P(ater) Vespre, non absque nostro dolore et incommodo, sed in auxilium vestrum, decedet a nobis, brevi ad vos futurus redux.  Utinam eius opera afflictae isti Prov(i)nc(iae) sit efficaciter utilis; id quod nunc quidem ab R(everentia) V(estra) pendebit.

Accepi suas litteras d(e) d(ato) 16 (decem)bris.

Quae de Philadelphia nuntiant, deque adhibita ibi necessario opera P(atr)is McElroy – probo. – Iam nunc fortasse poterit ille Pater ad suum Collegium Fredericopolitanum redire.  – Quod R(everentia) V(estra) dicit de spe magnifructus Philadelphiae colligendi, spero ut effectu dein confirmetur. Nescio, cur P(ater) Dubuisson non fuerit eo remissus. Philadelphiae certe statio est tali operario digna potius quam aliae minoris momenti.

Finitum esse negotium nigrorum gaudeo, et praedia locata esse bonis viris.  Utinam hic vere boni sint, i(d) e(st) probi qui iustitiae debito suis temporibus satisfaciant!  Ita aliquando ipsa Provincia emergere poterit ex miseriis temporalibus, nec ultra eleemosynis indigebit, quae non satis aeque subtrahuntur aliis missionibus vere egentissimis, non, ut apud vos, Patres mei, propter defectum oeconomiae, sed quia vere nihil habent.

Doleo equidem, partem capitalis summae, quae ex venditione provenit, esse iam alienatam, debuisset enim solum fructus expendi, capitale numquam. Hoc, si alibi factum esset, in censuras ecclesiasticicas incurrissetis. Et etiam factum est hoc, praeter expressam instructionem nostram.  Negotium cum R(everen)d(issi)mo archiepiscopo compositum est. Sed an ipse hoc nuntiavit S(acrae) c(o)n(gregation)i prop(agenda) fide? Si hoc non est factum, expositi sumus periculo, ne aliquando eius successor novas moveat tricas.

De P(ater) R. – – – Quid dicam? – Vereor valde ne non sit ipse solus – im(m)o ne peiora acciderint cum alio vel aliis.  Nam, ubi spiritus deest, caro praevaleat necesse est. Certum vero est, huis modi peccata, si umquam e tenebris prodeant, e societate excludere etiam professores. Non potest enim societas huismodi ignominias in suo sinu servare.  In tali casu agendum mihi cum summo Pontifice, qui necessariam facultatem in similibus numquam mihi negavit. – Cum casus P(atr)is R. adhuc obscurus sit, et dubium maneat, ego, nunc quidem, supersedendum existimo.   – Sed – – – multum timeo pro futuro, non modo de illo, sed et de aliis, nisi status spiritualis magis curetur apud eos. Sunt plures in Provincia, qui dudum debuissent gradum facere, et non potuerunt permoveri ob culpas suas.  Huic rei debet fieri finis. Autaut – Huismodi sunt PP. Barber, Lilly, Mudd, Finnegan, Grace et alii fortasse plures. – Purgetur vitis, ut fructum plus afferat.

Quod R(everenti)a V(ostr)a scribit de Suis Exercitiis ultimis, magno mihi solatio fuit. Hoc utique medio potentissimo sed et hoc solo, remedium sperari potest.  Utinam aliquando omnes ea bene faciant!

S(anctissimis) S(acrificii)S me plurimum commendo.

R(everenti)ae V(estr)ae

Servus in C(hris)to

Iohannes Roothaan

P.S. Catalogum vestrum nondum accepimus.  

Fr(ater) Rieselman iamdudum petit missionem ad barbaros.  – Nunc Nostri in Missouri operam suam inter miseros illos navant.  Ego fratrem illum mitti cupio, nisi quid omnino grave obstat. Ille autem sciat, me illius fuisse memorem, et haec scripsisse.

R.P. Thomas Mulledy, S(ocietatis) I(esu) Pro(vinciali) Patr(i), Georgetown



Maryland Province Archives, Society of Jesus, “"I rejoice that the matter of the negroes is concluded": Fr. Roothaan to Fr. Mulledy, March 4, 1839,” Georgetown Slavery Archive, accessed July 16, 2024, http://slaveryarchive.georgetown.edu/items/show/383.