Proslavery oration by Rev. James Ryder, SJ, August 30, 1835

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Proslavery oration by Rev. James Ryder, SJ, August 30, 1835


Proslavery- Christianity; Catholic Church-Slavery; Georgetown College


Rev. James Ryder, SJ, then a professor at Georgetown, gave this anti-abolitionist, proslavery speech in Richmond, Virginia, in 1835.

Ryder would go on to become president of Georgetown from 1840-1845 and again from 1848-1851. He founded Georgetown's Philodemic Society, and was a renowned public speaker.

The "R" in LXR , a residential hall on the Georgetown campus, stands for Ryder.


Georgetown Slavery Archive


Richmond Examiner, September 4, 1835


Georgetown Slavery Archive




David Collins, Adam Rothman, Elsa Barraza Mendoza, Jenna Clifford, Kelly Skeen








Newspaper article



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Meeting of the Roman Catholic Congregation of the City of Richmond and County of Henrico.

In conformity with a Circular addressed to the clergy of the City of Richmond and county of Henrico, by the Committee of Correspondence of the Committee of Vigilance, a meeting of the Roman Catholics of said city and county was convened at their Church, after divine service, on Sunday evening, the 30th August, 1835:

The meeting was organized by calling Mr. John J. Chevallie to the Chair, and appointing Mr. James Heron, Secretary.

The circular, together with the Resolution to which it refers, being submitted to the meeting by the Rev. Pastor of the Church, were then read by the Secretary.

When, on motion of the Rev. T. O’Brien, a Committee of three was appointed by the venerable Chairman, to take the same into consideration, and to draft resolutions expressive of the views of this meeting on the momentous subject for which it was convened.

The Committee consisted of the Rev. T. O’Brien, Mr. G. Picot, and Mr. P. Devereux –who, after retiring for a short time, returned and reported the following resolutions; which were read seriatim, and unanimously adopted by the meeting:

1st. Resolved, By the members of this congregation, individually, and collectively, that we view with abhorrence, the unholy and unprincipled interference of some Northern Fanatics, and their associates, between the masters and their slaves in these Southern States.

2nd. Resolved, That such interference is condemned by the Constitution, under which we live, and cannot be otherwise than injurious to the slave and to his master.

3rd. Resolved, That we approve the determination our Southern brethren, in not condescending to discuss the question of slavery with those fanatics.

4th. Resolved, That we hold as an enemy to this Commonwealth, any and every individual, who directly or indirectly, aids in this unholy crusade against the rights of property and the sanctity of social order.

5th. Resolved, That while we view slavery in the abstract, as an evil, we hold it to be our first duty as Christians and citizens, to support the civil institutions of our country.

6th. Resolved, That copies of these resolutions be sent to the Editors of the Courier, the Enquirer and the

Richmond Whig, with a request that they would publish them in their respective papers, as containing the sentiments of the Roman Catholics of the City of Richmond and the county of Henrico.

(signed) J.A. Chevallie, Chairman.
Jas. Herron, Secretary.

The following remarks embrace the substance of a very eloquent address delivered by the Rev. James Ryder. The orator yielded with great reluctance to their publication, induced thereto by the urgent solicitations of the venerable Chairman and others, who heard him.

Mr. Chairman; Although a stranger in the Capital of the Old Dominion, I am no stranger to the doctrines of the Old Religion, and may therefore be allowed, on an occasion like the present, to express my entire approval of the spirit and object of the resolutions which have just been read. I consider this meeting a Catholic meeting, convened in obedience to the Circular addressed by “the Committee of Vigilance” to the respected pastor of this Congregation; and as the doctrines it now gives utterance are those of the Catholics throughout the wide extent of the Union, on a subject involving the dearest interests of this community, I am happy, opposed as I should otherwise be to take any part in political discussions, in having the opportunity of assuring my fellow citizens of the South that the Catholic body, both clergy and laity, North of the Potomac, will go heart and hand with them in defence of the Constitution, for the maintenance of social order, and in resistance to the unholy efforts of incendiary fanatics to mar the peace and happiness of this distinguished portion of our common country. The fidelity of Catholics to the laws of the land cannot be misunderstood. For centuries, they have bled under the lash of imperial tyrants, without one expression of resistance to constituted authorities; for centuries their creed has been outlawed and persecuted, and its professors subjected to every species of oppression and injustice by the British government; and yet, the fidelity of Catholics has been proof against every temptation to ameliorate their condition by revolt against their oppressors. When but last year the fires of fanaticism were lighted up from the dismantled Convent of pious and accomplished Virgins –on that spot where the fires of the Revolution were first enkindled to give us the light and warmth of Civil and Religious liberty, twenty-five thousand able bodied sons of St. Patrick; whose nerve and prowess no one can doubt; burned with holy indignation, as became men, at the outrage offered to helpless females, and to the creed which they professed; but because they valued more the preservation of order and due submission to the laws, they raised not a hand to avenge their wrongs, patiently awaiting the dispensations of justice, at the hands of their country. And when the mockery of law was superadded to the other outrages, they still continued faithful to their duty, sacrificing the dearest feelings of nature to the dictates of religion.-

If then the Catholic in the North, despite of such powerful provocation, has baffled the malignity of designing fanatics, who, under the cloak of religious zeal, brandished the torch of persecution, how can the Catholics of the South be other than faithful in defending the rights and property of that chivalrous people, always distinguished for their love of liberty, and their high minded liberality, amongst whom he enjoys all the blessings of our happy Constitution? He has too long been the victim of persecution, not to feel an intense interest in the preservation of that order of things, under which he enjoys religious and civil-liberty. The Catholic feels his obligations to his country, and is willing to prove his gratitude whenever an occasion occurs. He knows that love of country is a sacred and holy passion, which reason and religion approve; that his altars and his country’s rights are identified; and that he cannot be faithful to his God, if deficient in fidelity to his country, which “embraces all the charities of all.” He is convinced too, that the day which shall witness the overthrow of our glorious system of national independence, will date the persecution of catholicity. It is for this reason that he hates bigotry in every shape and color.

The wicked interference of some would be philanthropists, who are jeoparding the peace of our flourishing country, in order to carry out their visionary schemes of emancipation, is too alarming to the liberty and prosperity of our national institutions; to be looked upon with indifference by the friend of this country. The Catholic that could countenance such conduct would be looked upon by his brethren as a madman or a traitor. They never will join in fellowship with the miscreant that would sacrifice his country to his wild speculations, however they may be greeted by the names of religion and philanthropy. They will shrink from shaking the polluted hand that would sow the seeds of confusion and horror in the fair fields of the South, rifling the domestic happiness of the master and his slave. It is not religion- it is not piety- it is a profanation of the gospel of peace and charity to allow so fell a spirit to be called religious!

God is a God of order- his religion secures order, and the ministers of that religion should be the ministers of order. How horrifying is the spectacle of a man clothed in the garb, or speaking the language, of religion, prowling about the humble habitations of our unsuspecting slaves, and, in the name of God, seducing them into rebellion and murder; and by intoxicating their minds with the poison of religious fanaticism, make them renew the scenes of Southampton, as beneficial to themselves and pleasing to heaven!

Could my feeble voice reach these misguided abettors of disorder, I would ask them, what possible advantage they can anticipate from the spread of their favorite system of Abolition? Can they hope to better the condition of the slave? Let them look to the disgusting state of morals among the colored free in the Northern Cities- where they are, for the greater part, a nuisance to the white population in almost every department of life; and then let them look to the peaceful, and contented, and secure condition of the Southern slave, under the gentle sway of an upright master. Here the slave has a home –he is clothed, maintained, and protected by his master, who looks upon him as a portion of his family- in sickness he is attended with medical aid, and frequently solace by the maternal kindness of his compassionate mistress.

His sickness and sufferings are a loss to his owners, and it is their interest to relieve him if they can. Nothing of this falls to the lot of the free man of color, who must depend on his own resources for the sustenance of life. Where, then, is the humanity of driving the slave to seek for misery by a change of condition?

Mr. Chairman, I need not go more fully into the subject. My object in appearing before this respectable meeting, was only to second the resolutions of my Catholic brethren; and I now conclude, with a hope that the united expressions of their fidelity to their country, may be received with the same feelings of cordiality by their brethren of every denomination, with which it is made by the Catholics of Richmond.

Original Format




Georgetown Slavery Archive, “Proslavery oration by Rev. James Ryder, SJ, August 30, 1835,” Georgetown Slavery Archive, accessed May 27, 2024,