"as bad as a Priest's Slave": Letter from Fr. Beschter, March 27, 1829
Society of Jesus--Maryland
This letter from the Jesuit archives in Rome was written in Latin and has been transcribed and translated for the Georgetown Slavery Archive by Benjamin Driver in consultation with Professor Josiah Osgood. A digital scan of the original is available at the Booth Family Center for Special Collections at Georgetown University.
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Very Reverend Father in Christ,
I sent my last letter from the office of Consultor to Your Paternity from Baltimore, when I was still performing the office of Pastor of the Germans. Then, at the beginning of last November, since I was unequal to bearing the load any longer, on account of the loss of my voice and other ailments, I was summoned to the College by the Reverend Father Superior. I was first established as Minister there. Then, after a few months, since the Reverend Father Feiner the Rector was sick from an incurable illness of the throat that arose from the weakness of his lung, I was appointed in his place as Acting Rector by the Reverend Father Superior, though am hardly well-suited. May God spare him!
The wound inflicted on this college by those who recently were dismissed from the Society gradually begins to be healed. For all the Priests as well as the Scholastics and Professors, and the other Religious, revere the prudence, angelic patience, charity, and soundness of mind of Reverend Father Dzierozynski, our Superior. They obey him in a loving fashion and, for the most part, promptly, and they observe his teaching. The number of residential students in the college, which had declined to 12, is starting to grow; 27 residential students are now counted, and 30 from outside attend the lectures of the college for free.
Our expenses exceed our income, even though what is needed for food and clothing is obtained with great frugality. For all of us are in the same college and at the same table, Professed Fathers, Brothers, Scholastics, and Novices. Nevertheless the Reverend Father Superior recently repaid a debt of 4500 Dollars (contracted by Father Marshall, then the General Procurator, by which the White Marsh plantation was encumbered, and for which the Corporation was paying seven percent interest annually) to the Reverend Father Neill, all except for $300, in part through money sent at no cost from Bergium. Nevertheless we are still burdened by debt.
Everywhere in our missions the peoples of both sexes and [different] ages are being taught with a great zeal of spirit and profit; everywhere, many who have been recently converted from heresy and faithlessness to the truth faith are counted, amongst whom there are certain ones from the more excellent members of either sex. There is one group entrusted to our care which, by mostly spurning teaching, continues to sink; this group is made up of our slaves, who are so depraved that there is this proverbial saying amongst the locals, who wish to point out the worst sort of person: “he is as bad as a Priest’s Slave.” I think this situation arises especially because of this circumstance: the slaves of others are harshly punished for their sins, negligence, and disobedience, and when they are found incorrigible, they are sold to outsiders; but our slaves for the most part corrupt and are corrupted without punishment. Because of this the idle, the fornicators, the adulterous, the drunks, and the thieves get away with it; they know the priests will not sell them to outsiders. From this arises our poverty and the fruitlessness of our plantations. The reason for this does not escape our neighbors, and now they would not buy our slaves at half price. Often it occurs to me that those slaves who in our sight and under our care are damned would perhaps abandon their sins under harsh Masters and be saved. Perhaps these ills arose because the teaching, which seemed unproductive and not useful, was neglected by many, especially by certain Secular Priests before the restoration of the Society, who often added scandal to their negligence, and this was the beginning of the trouble.
Our Reverend Fathers who returned from Italy are profitably occupied in the College, as your Reverence will know from the letter of the Reverend Father Superior. Father Mulledy is especially useful for the observance of the Rules of the College, whereas these fathers read aloud in the college chapel alternately the Ordo Studiorum and the Customs for the Students. The good Father McSherry now performs the office of Minister, and he achieves more with his piety, humility, and good example than his eloquence from the pulpit. It remains that we pray to God that He preserve, guard, and protect the very Reverend Father for a long time. I am of the greatest reverence and submission in these prayers
son and useless servant
of the very Reverend Father.
Georgetown, 27 March 1829.
At the top of the second page:
The state of the college—praise for Father Dzierozynski.
27 residential students.--30 from outside are taught for free.
In the missions very many have been returned to the faith.
About the slaves of our estates.
Georgetown 27 March 1829.
Reverende admodum in Christo Pater,
Ultimas meas ex Consultoris officio ad Paternitatem Tuam litteras dedi ex Baltimoro, cum adhuc Germanorum Pastoris officio fungerer, inde sub initio novembris ult(i)mi, ob vocis extinctionem, aliasque infirmitates, quia ulterius ferendi onus impar eram, ad Collegium a R.P. Superiore vocatus fui, ubi primo minister constitutus, deinde post aliquot menses, aegrotante R.P. Feiner, Rectore, morbo gutturis insanabili, utpote ex defectu in pulmone orto, a R.P. Superiore designatus eius loco Vice Rector, licet minime aptus. parcat ipsi Deus!
Vulnus huic collegio, ab iis qui nuper e Societate dimissi fuerunt, inflictum nunc paulatim incipit sanari. omnes enim tam Sacerdotes quam Scholastici et Professores, caeterique Religiosi, Rev(eren)di P(a)tris Dzierozynski Superioris nostri prudentiam, angelicam patientiam, charitatem et sanitatem venerantur, ipsique adamanter plerumque prompte obediunt, et institutum observant. convictorum in collegio numerus, qui ad 12 declinaverat incipit crescere, numerantur nunc 27 convictores, et 30 externi frequentant lectiones collegii gratis.
Exspenae nostrae, licet, cum magna parsimonia, victu et vestitu necessaria comparentur, reditus nostros superant. sumus enim omnes simul Religiosi Professi, coadjutores, Scholastici, et Novitii in eodem collegio, et ad eamdem mensam, nihilominus R.P. Superior nuper Debitum 4500 Dollerorum a P. Marshal, tunc Procuratore generali, olim contractum, quo praedium White Marsh gravabatur, et pro quo corporatio Septem pro cento interesse solvebat p(er) annum; R(everen)do P. Neill totum, exceptis $300 restituit, partim ope pecuniae ex Bergio gratis missae. attamen adhuc aere alieno gravamur.
Ubique in missionibus nostris instruuntur populi utriusque sexûs et aetatis cum magno animarum zelo et fructu, plures ubique ab haeresi et infidelitate neoconversi ad veram fidem numerantur, inter quos quidam ex praestantioribus utriusque sexûs. una est classis hominum nostrae curae commissa, quae plerumque instructiones spernendo pessumire non desinit, haec ex nostris mancipiis constituitur, ita prava, ut inter incolas qui pessimum hominem designare intendunt proverbium sit dicere: “he is as bad as a Priest’s Slave.” iste est aeque impius ac sacerdotis mancipium.” quod praecipue ex eo provenire puto, quod aliorum mancipia pro vitiis, negligentia, et inobedientia dure puniuntur, et dum incorrigibilia inveniuntur extraneis venduntur, nostra vero mancipia plerumque impune corrumpunt et corrumpuntur, hinc otiosi, fornicarii, adulteri, ebrietatibus dediti et fures evadunt; sciunt enim sacerdotes illos extraneis vendituros non esse: hinc paupertas et inopia nostra cum omnibus praediis nostris oritur, huius causa vicinos nostros non latet, mancipia nostra etiam dimediato pretio non emerent. saepe mihi in mentem venit quod mancipia illa quae in conspectu nostro et sub cura nostra damnantur, forte sub Dominis duris vitia sua relinquerent et salvarentur. haec mala forte inde ortum habent quod instructio quae infructuosa et inutilis videbatur à pluribus neglecta fuit, praecipué a quibusdam presbyteris saecularbius, ante restaurationem Societatis, qui negligentiae scandalum addiderunt plerumque, et haec origo mali.
Nostri RR. PP. qui ex Italia redierunt utiliter occupantur in Collegio ut Reverentia v(es)tra ex R.P. Superioris litteris cognoscet; P. Mulledy praeprimis utilis pro observantia Regularum Collegii quoad ordinem studiorum, et studiosorum mores, alternatim hi patres in sacello collegii contionantur, Bonus P. McSherry officio ministri nunc fungitur, et plus Pietate, humilitate et bono exemplo prodest quam eloquentia ex cathedra. restat ut Deum precemur ut Admodum Reverendum Patrem diu conservet, salvet et sospitet, in his votis summa cum Reverentia et submissione sum
Reverendi admodum Patris
Georgiopoli 27 Martii 1829
Filius et inutilis servus
At the top of the second page:
Status collegii--Laudes Patris Dzierozynski.
27 convictores.--30 externi gratis docentur.
In missionibus, plurimi ad fidem traducti. De mancipiis praediorium nostrorum.
Georgiopoli 27 mar. 1829.