"unfit for human beings to live in": Fr. Adam Marshall to the Father General, February 6, 1821

Dublin Core


"unfit for human beings to live in": Fr. Adam Marshall to the Father General, February 6, 1821


Catholic Church--Clergy--Correspondence
Maryland Province--Plantations
Society of Jesus--Maryland


Fr. Adam Marshall reports to the Father General in Rome the sad state of the Mission's lands and finances. He describes the slave quarters as "almost universally unfit for human beings to live in." He suggests selling property in order to ease the mission's debts.


Provincia Maryland 2 II 5, Archivum Romanum Societatis Jesu


Georgetown Slavery Archive




Cory Young, Andrew Dial


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


GSA400: "whose rule always is to work as little as possible": Fr. Marshall reports to Rome, March 5, 1821




English and Latin





Text Item Type Metadata


George Town College Feb 6 1821

Very Revd & Dr Father
P. Marshall

De misero statu rei temporalis in Miss. Americae
Causae - [unclear]- De singulis praediis etc.
About the wretched status of things temporal in the case of the American Mission
About each estate etc.]

After my appointment as Proc[urator]. of this Mission, I determined to send to your Paternity a general & circumstantial Statement of our temporal affairs, as soon as I should be able to make myself thoroughly acquainted with them. I soon found however that this would prove a much more difficult task than I had anticipated. At the time of my appointment I was totally ignorant of the condition of our temporals, and I soon found by experience that even those who had been the most actively engaged in their management were nearly as little informed of their real state in general as I was, and that they were in great confusion. I have since done what I could to gain correct information, and bring things into order as well as I know how. I have visited all our plantations and houses and examined their accounts, which I generally found to have been very incorrectly kept. Having been prevented partly by a multiplicity of business and partly by bad health, to avail myself of the present opportunity of sending you the general statement I intended, I must wait for the next, and content myself at present by giving your Paternity, some idea of the present state of our affairs. I found our plantations, with only two exceptions, in a very wretched condition, very poorly provided with the necessaries for cultivation, their buildings insufficient & in ruins, particularly those which accommodate the slaves which are almost universally unfit for human beings to live in. Many of them are in debt, and one of them that of Conewago in Pennsylvania which is by far in the best order of any, is 2700$ in debt, and in consequence of the low price of produce did not clear its own expenses last year. There are now due to us from tenants more than 3000$, but such is the difficulty of the times t[page ripped] do not think that I shall get one half of it during this year. Our current expenses for the [page ripped] t[page ripped]ill be at least 9000$ independently of our standing debts which amount to a little more than [page ripped] for which we pay interest. Our nett revenue cannot prudently be calculated at more than 5000$ leaving a deficit of at least 4000$ and all our debts unpaid. Hence it is evident that either our expenses must be diminished or our revenue increased unless we wish to see our debts accumulate every year until they overwhelm us. Our expenses cannot be sufficiently diminished unless a radical change is made in our System or our numbers lessened, there have been quite too many inefficient members admitted. There is very little prospect of an increase of revenue, rather it will decreas [sic], be cause as produce is so low we must lower our rents: our farms & tenements become every year more expensive on account of necessary repairs: moreover our farms will never become properly productive until we get people among us who are capable of managing them: we at present have not more than two or three persons whom it would be prudent to trust with the management of a farm, judging from past experience. In order to prevent an increase of debt as also to provide for our immediate wants I have advised the Trustees & Superior to permit me to sell some property: after some difficulty they consented (considering our present necessity as of that kind which has no law) that I should sell the property of the Literary Institution at New York and what we possess in Philadelphia. Since which I have discovered that we cannot sell the Lit[erary]. Inst[itute]. before we pay the whole debt as it is mortgaged: and in a letter of a few days past, the Bishop of Philadelphia tells me, that he is of opinion, that the Trustees of his Cathedral (to whom it was proposed to sell our house for their Bishop) would be disposed, some of them at least, to turn that house into a Schismatical nursery for the U.S. should they obtain it. Discord & confusion is the order of the day in the church of Phila at present. Hence I see no other prospect but an increase of debt of about 4 or 5,000$ during this year. Such is the state of our temporal affairs as nearly as I can describe it in so short a compass. The causes of this embarrassed state, as I conceive, are three. 1st The bad management on our farms, 2ly Revd. F[ather] Kohlmans New York Lit[erary]. Inst[itute]. which I expect will cost the Soc. a nett loss of 12 or 14000$ by the time we are done with it. 3ly The building of that house in Washington, which has cost at least 16 or 20,000$ and now that it is built it affords accommodations for 15
[page break]
Jesuits whose support by a calculation predicated on the experience of 3 months will cost 2800$ [could be 2300] per annum. And lastly the want of unanimity & mutual rapport, it having frequently happened, in the many changes that have happened among us, that the successor undid what his predecessors had done at great expense; to which may be added many useless expenses, in wild & abortive schemes. In thes [sic] few hasty observations, I have said enough to show your Paternity that our affairs are very much embarrassed, and that it will be very difficult to restore them. and even that is doubtful whether they will ever be restored. If we had a prudent & intelligent Superior, clothed with full authority, who by his weight of character and his knowledge of the Institute & general practices of the Soc. could conciliate to himself the confidence of all, I would entertain the hope that we might ultimately struggle thro our difficulties: but unless we soon receive such a Superior I despair of it. I have been informed that Rev[eren]d F[ather] Grassi took with him a very considerable sum of money ^ belonging to this mission when he left this country. I have made enquiries on this subject, but have not been able to learn any thing positively on this subject, I know for certain that he took with him 1300$ but have no doubt it was considerably more: report says it was about 4000$, he has
[continued at bottom of the page]
not as yet given any account how this money has been applied. I presume, as Procurator of this Mission, I have a right to enquire how much of our money F[ather] Grassi has taken with him, and how he has applied it. I have heard that he has sent a draft on us for 500$., I presume it is in part payment of 840$ which our 7 scholasticks cost us per annum, I shall accept it as such but for nothing else: and hope he will account satisfactorily for the money above mentioned before he sends another. I hope I shall be able in a short time to be able to write to your Paternity more extensively and more satisfactorily. In the mean time I beg of your paternity to accept the tender of my sincere respect.

I remain Very Revd & Dr Father with much esteem your Subject & Brother in Christ

Adam Marshall S. J.



Archivum Romanum Societatis Iesu, “"unfit for human beings to live in": Fr. Adam Marshall to the Father General, February 6, 1821,” Georgetown Slavery Archive, accessed July 14, 2024, http://slaveryarchive.georgetown.edu/items/show/470.