Rome and the Negro

One of our most interesting exchanges is an “Illustrated Roman Catholic Quarterly edited and published by the Fathers of St. Joseph’s Missionary Society of the Sacred Heart,” its “Record of Missions among the Colored People of the United States.”

We need not say that we have no sympathy with Romanism and its errors, nor with the “Missionary Society of the Sacred Heart,” and its efforts to plant Romanism among the colored people of the South.

We can, however, but admire the fidelity of the church to its doctrines, and the Christian example it gives to all missionary societies in its recognition of man as man. The quotations which we make from the Roman Catholic Quarterly will account for the strong hold that Romanism is beginning to secure upon the negro race.

The following, for example, is a Roman Catholic tribute to John Brown:

On the 2nd of December next, thirty years will have passed since John Brown, in his sixtieth winter, ascended the scaffold and gave his life for the colored race.

Connecticut gave the hero birth —from heroes; New York, in her Adirondack recesses, developed in him that spirit of liberty which Ohio had nurtured, and is forever honored by his grave; while Virginia, “building better than she knew,” bestowed the martyr’s crown. It was necessary that one man should die for the people (John xviii, 14), and God arranged that he who is likewise one of the great benefactors of the human race as well as of his native land should crimson and beautify with his blood the soil that gave a cradle and a tomb to the Father of his Country.

Grand indeed is the greatness of the rock-ribbed Adirondacks where John Brown lived, prayed, thought out his great life-thought, and made his first trials in the work of emancipation, but grander is the stone there that marks the grave of him whose mighty spirit is still “marching on;” for the greatness of that soul invests the tomb with moral grandeur, and calls “all the astonishing magnificence of unintelligent creation poor.”

Fair indeed are the banks of the Shenandoah, and beautiful the landscape on which the dying eyes of the hero rested, but more lovely far the death of him and of his sons and comrades,—”even in death they were not divided” (2nd Kings i, 19), because the most beautiful thing in the world or out of it is love, and he and they died of love for their brethren, God’s children. It is truly fitting, therefore, that they who were rescued by him from bondage should love and honor his glorious name, and that we all should chant the praises of the man who was the chosen instrument of Providence in destroying out of our country the inhuman custom of human slavery.

The Southern Congregationalist, published in Atlanta, does not have a high opinion of such men as John Brown. We quote:

There are men who never are mistaken. If your opinion or plan, no matter how well sustained, differs from theirs, they solemnly greet you: “Our conscience is our monitor: we can make no concessions of principle.” The case is ended. You may as well make your humble bow and pass on, leaving them in their lofty and superior place. Such men are of little use in the world. They may have a few satellites, but that is all. It is noticeable how uniformly the conscience and principles of these men agree with their prejudices, salaries and other interests, and with changed circumstances how “concessions” distill from them gently as the dew.

We quote again from the St. Joseph’s Advocate, as to the color line:

Man was created in God’s own image and likeness. This image and likeness is, however, not a physical one, it is a spiritual or soul likeness. The likeness and image of the operation of the human soul—the mind—through the material, physical medium of the brain, is not only similar, but substantially and formally alike in every division of the human race. It thus follows that fundamentally there is an identity of mental or soul activity and action in all the human race. Neither color, nor form, nor feature, nor clime, operates a change on the formal and fundamental identity of human thought as evolved by the human mind….

It follows that the negro race, thinking the same thoughts, have the same apprehension of the perfect, good and true, and, thinking in the same lines as the Caucasian race, must needs be of the same order of creation, in the image and likeness of their Maker, although physically different in color, yet in mind and soul the same. This, too, removes the theory of the inferiority of races, and relegates it to the lumber room of the mere physicist or corporal anatomist, who, because he cannot find life in death any more than thought, would deny life as he would deny the soul, even as La Place would not admit a Creator—God— because he could not see him at the end of his telescope….

Naturally working for and under white men, their industry, versatility and submissiveness have made many people think they were an inferior race. This cannot be. Give them a fair chance in life’s battle, train their minds, fill their immortal souls with worthy conceptions of the truth as only presented by the Roman Catholic Church, and you will make of the negro race a kind, charitable, intelligent, worthy Christian people, as full of love for the country of their former enslavement as the best patriot descendant of the Revolutionary fathers. Tried in peace and in war when they have received but half the training of the white race, they have not been found wanting, but have proven themselves worthy of offices of trust and honor in every sphere of life and as good Christians as God has ever granted His divine grace to. His promises are for all nations and for all times, and necessarily for the negro as for the white man, all of whom in their souls are created in His own image and likeness from the beginning.

Apropos of Romanism among the colored people, Archbishop Janssens, of New Orleans, writes:

Last year there were baptized 3,705 colored children and 297 colored adults, which I estimate forms a population of about 75,000 Catholics in this Diocese.

We have six convents of colored Sisters, of which four are schools, one an asylum for 74 girls, and the other an asylum, for 21 old women. There are, besides, nine schools conducted by white Sisters, and eleven schools conducted by lay teachers—in all, twenty-four schools with 1,330 scholars. It is not bad.

At Emmetsburg, Maryland, the Roman Catholics report the following:

The Sisters are putting up a large and fine edifice which will be ready for business in September, and will accommodate all the Catholic children, both white-colored and black-colored in the town and vicinity. I am curious to know if this is the first instance in which children of both the dominant races will be educated under one roof.

Says the editor: “How quickly the color-line disappears in the Catholic Church.”

Signs of Progress

By Pres. R.C. Hitchcock.

Every little while, some article giving ultra views of “The Problem,” gets into the papers, sometimes painting a roseate-hued picture, and again some one, who does not find people of dusky hue all angels, writes that there is no hope; that all experiments leading to intellectual and especially to moral elevation are failures; and that she (as one wrote) is ready or almost ready, “to throw away the Bible and advise the Negroes to be honestly heathen.”

I will indicate a few plain signs of progress. The Negroes are rapidly learning self-control. Six years ago, if a package was left in the hall over night, there would be signs in the morning that it had been meddled with. The contents might be all there—I have not found them greatly given to peculation, from the first—but they did not seem to have the power to resist the temptation to peep. Now, this is never done; a package of any kind may be left where it is freely accessible for weeks, and it will be untouched.

The first time a fire occurred in our neighborhood, what a panic there was! All were screaming and tearing about, trunks were dragged out of rooms, and one boy threw his out of a second story window. It was all we could possibly do to quiet them and restore order. Since then, there has been a fire so near as to scorch the rear fence and no panic, no screaming, hardly a student left his room. Formerly, on the receipt of bad news, as the intelligence of the death of a friend, it was not uncommon for one to have a fit of hysterics or something resembling it; now, such news is received with deep feeling indeed, and with tears, but no hysterics or fit of any kind.

There is, also, a grand growth in the sister virtue of gratitude. In this, they have more to overcome, probably, than in any other matter, for here they carry an inheritance of great weight, from the old slave days. Why should they be grateful? What chance to exercise the feeling! It became, like the eyes of the fish in the Styx of Mammoth Cave, useless, and to all appearances disappeared. But the germ is there, and with light it will again come to the surface.

I could cite scores of anecdotes. I will give but one, and I give this because it also illustrates a most loveable trait of character which abounds among these people—sympathy for suffering. Mrs. H. and myself started one day, to drive from New Iberia to the Avery salt mine, some ten miles distant. It was Monday following a hard Sunday’s work speaking; it was as hot as days can be out in the Teche Country, and when a little more than half way there, I was suffering from a terrific headache. We were too far to go back, and so drove on. Arrived at the “Island,” we drove, as directed, to the boarding house, seeking a place where I could at least lie down, to find only a shed filled with tables, where the men ate, going elsewhere to sleep. I asked Mrs. H. to drive on and, holding on behind the carriage, was groping my way along, more dead than alive, when I heard a voice cry out, “Why, howdy, Professor, how ever came you here?” Glad was I to hear a friendly voice. It was that of a young girl who had been, some months before, a visitor at the University, and to whom I had given a little book and spoken some friendly words. My bread came back to me—a whole loaf for a crumb. All day long, she and her mother, who left her wash tub to attend to me, worked over my miserable head. A mile and more she ran in the burning sun for ice, and no herb that grew on “Petit Anse” from which a decoction could be made, was left untried, until ice, herbs, and a tough constitution prevailed, and I was able to ride home. I offered pay, but it was almost indignantly refused. I wish space would allow me to tell a hundred stories to illustrate their kind-heartedness, not only to each other, but to strangers, and even to their old masters and mistresses.

Their Christian faith is something wonderful. It has been my blessed privilege to be at the bedside of several young people as the death angel hovered near, and nowhere did I ever feel so near the pearly gates. Such pure faith and perfect confidence, such perfect resignation, one could almost hear the rustle of the wings as Azrael bent down to take the sweet spirit home.

They have gained much in stability of character. Frivolity and silly nonsense are not the rule. Our boys and girls who go out to teach, carry a load of responsibility with them. Some of the parishes have been almost entirely transformed by their work. Three of our boys last summer built the school houses in which they taught, the people contributing time, lumber and money, and they are the only school houses in the State, outside of the large towns, that were built for, or are fit for, the purpose. Two of them have halls above for meetings, are fitted up with blackboards, desks, etc. The stories our boys tell of their efforts to introduce modern appliances and methods, remind me of those I used to hear from the old veterans Barnard, Camp, and others, of their struggles in the early days in Connecticut.

They have grown in cleanliness and industry beyond expression. When I first came here, it was sometimes harder to get a bit of work done than to do it myself. Now, it is a pleasure to work with them.

In nothing, perhaps, has there been so great a gain as in the habit of reading. The progress in this is simply astonishing, and cannot be described in a few words. Seven years ago, there was hardly a reader in the school. Now, many of our young people come to my library and, looking over my books, talk of them and their authors as intelligently as young people of the same age in Massachusetts would.

I conclude by saying that, in this far-away corner, God has greatly blessed the efforts made by faithful teachers, and there is every cause for encouragement and hope.

The Colored Delegates

The Southern Associations were represented by six colored delegates in the National Council. Their bearing and ability won the respect and admiration of the whole Council. They were modest and manly in their deportment, prudent in their counsels and very eloquent in their speech. They showed themselves to be the peers of their white brethren, and demonstrated beyond a question the capacity of the colored man for the highest intellectual and moral training. They were a credit to the American Missionary Association, whose pupils they have been, and were a living and triumphant vindication of its work at the South.


Various. The American Missionary, Vol. 43, No. 8, August, 1889.

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