Fr. Francis Neale describes difficulties arranging slave marriages and British pillaging during the War of 1812.

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Fr. Francis Neale describes difficulties arranging slave marriages and British pillaging during the War of 1812.


Slave Marriage; Slaves-Social Conditions; Jesuit Missions-19th c; Maryland--History--War of 1812


In this letter from 1814, Fr. Francis Neale, describes his difficulties arranging marriages for Enoch, Charles, and Nelly, three enslaved persons owned by the Jesuits in St. Inigoes, their farm in St. Marys County, MD.

This remarkable letter also offers insights on the religious life of the mission, as Fr. Neale recalls a controversial sermon by Father Rantzau, the Superior at St. Inigoes, who spoke on "the duty of masters towards their servants" causing "indignation" upon most of the congregation, and "exultation of the servants during the time."

Finally, the letter describes British pillaging during the War of 1812.


Maryland Province Archives


Georgetown Slavery Archive




Elsa Barraza Mendoza


Maryland Province, Society of Jesus









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Be not alarmed at the sight of this long letter, you out to know its contents & much more ~~~

St. Inigo’s Manor 8th July 1814

Mcd & Dr Fr xt

            I wrote to you by last post, what I then said was merely on the appearance of what I then thought. I must now enter on particulars, & I do think it advisable in you to consult Bhp Neale as he is well acquainted with farming business as well as to what is useful or detrimental. I find it necessary to change the sheep quary- if the Wt Marsh be free, would it not be better to drive them to that plantation? The wool is the chief thing we want here in case we could obtain this article, it would be more advisable for the farm to keep but few sheep & change them frequently & better for the College to be able to come out the lambs & weather in proper seasons which would be the case if the sheep were at the Wt Marsh. During Harvest we kill sheep every day. I viewed the sheep yesterday, I do not admire their looks, arising, I judge from their having been too long on the land. I have frequently crossed their breed, I now judge there ought to be an entire change.

            The English landed seven barges of men on last Monday evening & took the sheep & cattle of some few families settled on the bay side, St. Mary’s County. Viz the widow Loker, Jennifer Taylor & John Walsh. They afterwards returned under a white flag & paid the widow for all her stock of cattle, sheep, & goose the last article at 50 cents per goose. As also Jennifer Taylor for all they had taken. John Walsh not being present received no pay. The English then descended or entered the St. Mary’s river where they are now according to accounts, waiting on lurking for Barney's flotilla.

I am informed that Colonel Fenwick has proposed this farm to be a stand for his militia & our brick barn to be their farm house. I will oppose it & speak my mind to the Colonel the first time I see him. I am also informed that the English did express themselves to this purpose that as they had never been fired on from this farm, & they understand it belongs to the Church, they will not molest anything on it.

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It is, believe me, with the deepest regret, that I find myself obliged to open to you & to all whom you may be pleased to consult, some circumstances relative to this family, which I have endeavored to guide, according to the principles laid down & followed by your predecessors with which Fr. Rantzau finds fault & refuses me absolution for adhering to them. This is a circumstance which never occurred to me before & I had not the smallest presentiment on the subject for I have nothing that did or does accuse my conscience on this subject. My confession at the time was to comply with our rules & that I might participate in the indulgences. I did not expect this from a Brother. However, that yr Reverence & those whom you choose to consult may see very case wherein I could not in conscience give my consent with the existant circumstances give my con for the celebration of marriage I will here note them in as few words as possible:

1. An old man by the name of Enoch, Blacksmith, well known to Mr Bernard Spalding, George Town, he demanded permission to marry a woman living on the opposite side to us of St. Mary’s River. My answer was that I had no objection provided that the woman could be with him or could live on this side of the river. From the danger of passing the river & the many deaths thereby occasioned, it has been a regular rule with us (this is well known to Bhp Neale) never to admit of such marriages. However I did my best to purchase the woman either by exchange or otherwise. Her mistress would by no means consent & her master, whom I invited several ^ times to our house in order to bring it about, informed me that he had forbid Enoch to put his foot in his house.

The 2d. is the case of an old Negro man called Charles – He got engaged by some wicked means to an old strumpet mother of 14 children & who had never been married, she being free expected a livelihood from Charles in case she could be married to him, with all ^her spurious offspring. With what conscience could I bring such a burden upon our Family? Or expose Charles with my permission to such dangers?

The 3d and last case is of one of our slave girls, called Nelly. She expressed a desire of marrying a man named Harry, belonging

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to Colonel Fenwick, living on the opposite side of St. Mary’s river. Br Mobberly, then living here, as well as the overseer begged of me not to permit this Harry of a scandalous character to visit & much less to settle in our Family. However, I give Nelly in private, good advice, mention’d to her the public character of the man & finally concluded that if she should remain obstinate in her desires to marry the man, she must live in some other family & on the other side of the river. I offered her in sale to Colonel Fenwick, telling him the desire of his man to marry her. Mr Fenwick would not purchase her. Before last Harvest she had quitted him, made at that time to me a general confession & after sufficient time given for preparation she was admitted to Holy communion. I have enquired of several, since my present return, to know if Harry visits the Farm, they all assure me that he does not & that Nelly has not intercourse with him. Fr Rantzau has taken up a notion that Nelly & has mentioned the same to Brother Fenwick that Nelly has been married to one Michael belonging to Colonel Fenwick by a Protestant minister. This Michael has been married many years ^ past on the other opposite side of St. Mary’s river I know not by whom he was married.

It is truly is distressing to the mind to have to any spiritual or temporal affairs with a person, who obstinately adheres to opinions grounded on falsehoods. Let the Revd Rantzau express himself as he pleases, the affairs stand literally as herein stated. Before his departure he expressed to a particular person that he would not return unless things were changed; I know not what he means; but if he should return I suppose he will, he must endeavor to retrieve what he lost by the last sermon he give in our church of this place. It was on duty of masters towards their servants. I bet to be excused from nothing what is generally said on the subject, suppose it to say that it has given much alarm. His zeal was ill timed, his expressions caused several persons of other denominations to go out of the church before he concluded. These persons had admired his discourses before but at this I am tolled, they were fitted with indignation, the Catholics, who remain, (as some do inform me) suffered the  keenest sensations at his expressions & on seeing ^ at the same time, the conduct & exultation of the servants during the time.  If the expressions, which

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are said that he made ^use of they may suppose they are exaggerated or not understood as delivered & be necessary. They shall be noted in a future letter. It has been observed, that if such be the doctrine of the church, the circumstances of the times, surrounded by the English & under very strict & military laws as to the slaves, ought to have caused Mr. Rantzau to have said these things either in private, & in the absence of the slaves. On this day 8 july at a very early hour of the morning, the English visited Mrs Holton (the nearest neghbour of to Mr Dorsey’s house) took her two sons out of bed prisoners of war, kept them standing with no other dress than their linen

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while they destroyed everything in the house excepting one looking glass, which was begged of them by the youngest child in the family. Mr Holton was informed by the commanding offices, that those two sons of hers were the cause of all this destruction for firing on the British the evening before. The house was saved from fire by the humble entreats of Mrs Holton. Her two sons ^were taken on board the English. My compliments as usual.

Your obt humble servt
Francis Neale

P.S. July 11 we finished cutting wheat on the 9th at sunset shall begin this day to thrash it.

Original Format




Maryland Province Archives , “Fr. Francis Neale describes difficulties arranging slave marriages and British pillaging during the War of 1812.,” Georgetown Slavery Archive, accessed April 16, 2024,