Mr. Ferrara observes that we have reached “only” page 16 of TCATL after fifty posts and six months. (We’re actually up to page 21, thank you very much.) For our part we observe that it has taken him that long to figure out something of what we are doing here and to share his discernment with his readers. He writes:
As Mr. Flood explains, it is not that he is trying to belabor a point. Oh no. Rather, he is seeking to “discredit the rhetorical performance of a propagandist.” Once I am discredited (so the plan goes) no one will pay any attention to the book’s actual subject: an exposé of the atrocious moral, philosophical and theological errors of the libertarian cult to which Woods and Flood belong and which Woods is relentlessly promoting as “eminently congenial to the Catholic mind.” (Woods, The Church and the Market, p. 217).
The part he got right concerns the relationship between the exposure of the propagandistic character of a writer’s treatment of evidence and the suspicion that such exposure will naturally arouse in a reader’s mind regarding the writer’s approach to the “actual subject.” After all, falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus. (In Mr. Ferrara’s case we need to modify the Roman principle to falsus in multis, . . . .)
We are not, however, exposing a series of false uno’s so that we might evade the alleged force of the rest of his omnibus of error. Just as the kinds of errors exposed in the Introduction and Chapter 1 prepared us for the kinds we found in Chapter 2, which we then criticized, so each of the fractured fairy tales we have so far encountered in Part 1 creates an expectation that the same quality of discourse will pervade Part 2, but we intend to fulfill the expectation.
On the contrary, we very much want our readers to “pay attention to” his uncharitable distortions of “the actual subject.” That’s how “the plan goes.”
Friends and foes of our enterprise must acknowledge that TCATL does not begin with a discussion of usury, or the just wage, or the epistemic weight of papal encyclicals, etc. No, several dozen pages of rhetorical misdirection, as we characterize them, set the mood. We simply cannot jump into Chapter 3 without saying something about Chapter 1 and 2. And there has been so much to say.
And so we approach the third of Mr. Ferrara’s historical “sketches,” none of which were necessary, in our view, for a critical examination of Austro-libertarianism. For his rhetorical purposes, however, all of them were necessary: bad things happened in history in the name of “capitalism,” and he wants to associate those things with us.
Although he may find it “hilarious” that we are paying so much attention to his ipsissima verba, it should be hard even for him not to discern in what we are doing a modicum of respect. Mr. Ferrara took the time to write something, to adduce alleged example after alleged example of Austrian enormity, to cite, and to quote, and to name names. And we are taking all of that with utmost seriousness. That, however, entails his being made to take responsibility not only for the “what” but also the “how” of his exercise. Reckless disregard of the standards of controversy exacts a price not only in the coin of one’s reputation, but also in that of one’s cause. This blog is all about determining the price of such carelessness.
* * *
Now, what has the foregoing to do with whether John Locke was an investor in the slave trade? If the words “actual subject of his book” have meaning, however, the question Mr. Ferrara needs to answer concerns any connection John Locke’s ethical lapse (or hypocrisy or intellectual schizophrenia) has with the philosophical and theological errors that Austro-libertarians allegedly commit. There is no such connection that we can make out, except that it creates the kind of psychologically negative impression on which Mr. Ferrara’s rhetorical performance trades. To be blunt: that Locke owned slaves has no logical bearing on the evaluation of his argument for self-ownership. (On which more in due course.)
Mr. Ferrara touches the highly charged subject of slavery in the context of defending the “Catholic Church's Teaching on Man, Economy and State” (TCATL’s subtitle), and Her spokesmen have, taught a number of contradictory things about slavery, especially the kind Locke invested in. (Not Wal-Mart “wage slavery.”) We find it disingenuous in the extreme that Mr. Ferrara mentions slavery in an apologia for empirical “Catholic Social Teaching” without having noticed in this book (not in a future column for The Distributist Review) the six-hundred pound gorilla squatting in his parlor.
We walk through the forensic door he has opened, not to hold our ancestors in the Faith up to shame—we shudder to think of the probability of our acquiescence in the enormity of slavery had we been in their shoes, having neither the insight to discern nor the courage to follow the Gospel’s abolitionist logic, which other Christian bodies were apparently more attuned to. We do it solely to undermine (in advance of our examination of) Mr. Ferrara’s criterion of “Catholic Social Teaching.” For that criterion, if applied to slavery, either counsels an embrace of that institution as ordained by God or implies a self-discrediting ethical and historical relativism. (“No more slavery, starting . . . now!”)
Not to mitigate his offense, John Locke was an absentee slave-holder, while the Jesuits of Georgetown and Baltimore “got their hands dirty,” so to speak, overseeing around 300 slaves (some estimates put it at 500) on six plantations at any one time. Having interviewed scholars involved in the “Jesuit Plantation Project” of Georgetown University’s American Studies Department, Kathryn Brand, writes:
Compared to other plantation owners in the area, when it came to slavery, “The Jesuits were no better or worse,” according to [University Dean Hubert] Cloke. Many of the slaves had been gifts from wealthy Catholic families to sustain the Church. The abolition of slavery was not an issue in the area until the early nineteenth century, when Georgetown’s Jesuits became deeply divided over the issue of slavery. “But they were not conflicted in the way you would want,” Cloke said. “They were conflicted over what to do about the threat of abolitionists.” “The Jesuits’ Slaves,” The Georgetown Voice (“Georgetown’s Blog of Record”), February 8, 2007.
Perhaps Mr. Ferrara regards “the way you would want” as presumptuous on Dean Cloke’s part, evidence of submission to the liberal Zeitgeist which Catholics admirably resisted longer than anyone else. In any case, by the 1680s (after the supply of indentured servants dried up), the Society of Jesus in Maryland “relied upon a fully developed slave system,” and American Catholics generally regarded “abolitionism” as a cussword of Protestant heretics. Father Maxwell wrote:
Already in 1836 the propaganda of Christian anti-slavery movement had achieved considerable force in North American and Europe, and at this date the lay editor of a Catholic journal considers that the Christian abolitionists should be regarded as a sect since they differ from all other Christians in believing that slave-holding is a sin against God.
John F. Maxwell, Slavery and the Catholic Church: A History of Catholic Teaching concerning the Moral Legitimacy of the Institution of Slavery (London: Barry Rose Publishers, 1975), 110. The lay editor was B. J. Webb of Catholic Advocate, in a piece published April 2, 1836.
The older generation of Jesuits had long made their peace with the surrounding non-Catholic society’s acceptance of slavery. Prefect-Apostolic (i.e., Bishop) John Carroll (1735-1815), for example, was kind to his slave (he also had a free servant) and generous to him in his will, but was no abolitionist. Emancipation would come gradually, and only at the initiative of slaveowners, if he had his way.
A year after Carroll died, John Hughes (1797-1864), the future first Archbishop of New York, arrived in the United States with his father, settling first in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Desperately in need of work, John superintended a garden for the Reverend John DuBois, future founder of Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, about fifty miles from Baltimore, in exchange for room, board, and an opportunity to enroll in St. Mary’s College, which he at last was qualified to do in 1820. (A friend of Father DuBois, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, who had established Catholic communities in Emmitsburg, was young John’s “booster.”) Hassard, Hughes’ biographer, tells us that his “force of laborers consisted chiefly of two negroes, Timothy and Peter, well-known characters, who are still remembered by old students of the Mountain [i.e., Catoctin Mountains],” but omits to indicate the legal status of these chaps. In Hughes’ own hand we find an odd moral distinction between the one sold into slavery and his or her offspring born into it. Having entertained the scenario of slavers purchasing human beings from enemies who almost certainly would have butchered them, Hughes raises what he calls the “terrific part of the question”:
. . . not only the individuals brought to the American continent or islands are themselves to be slaves, but their posterity, in like manner, for all time to come. This is the only terrific feature about American slavery. And yet it is not alien from the condition of mankind in general. Original sin has entailed upon the human race its consequences for time and eternity. And yet the men who are living now had no part in the commission of original sin.**
This view of slavery expressed here is, of course, that of the recently cited contemporaneous Instruction of the Holy Office, promulgated under the authority of Pio Nono, who initiated “Dagger John’s” rise through the American hierarchy.
The younger generation of Jesuits, though cordially anti-abolitionist, wanted to divest themselves of their holdings in this unseemly business as soon as possible, at least for economic reasons. Never did they entertain the notion that persons who ought never to have been considered property should simply be manumitted, let alone compensated. No, they thought, rather prosaically, that the money could be invested better, and elsewhere. In Catholic education up north, for instance.
Although by the mid 1830s, the plantations were beginning to turn higher profits, this did not placate the younger Jesuits, because the estates were still not seen as sufficient to support the mission. These new Jesuits had no moral quandaries selling their slaves downriver; they felt their investments should be moved to urban centers such as New York or Philadelphia. So, in 1838, at a time when the plantations were at their most profitable, the Jesuits decided to sell their slaves to Louisiana’s ex-governor, Henry Johnson, whose son was a Georgetown student. [Brand, “The Jesuit Slaves,” op. cit. It was not uncommon to see a Georgetown University student in those days accompanied by his slave.]
Now, they weren’t a cold, heartless bunch. Not at all.
Before the sale, the mission drafted “Conditions for Sale,” a set of guidelines to protect their former slaves. They determined that the slaves could only be sold to a plantation, rather than families, “so that the purchasers may not separate them indiscriminately and sell them.” In what reads like a bill of rights, the slaves were promised to be kept with their families, and those with family on other plantations were to be sold to those plantations. Those who were too old or sick to be sold were to be provided for “as justice and charity demands.” Finally, the slaves were guaranteed the right to practice religion. The document also made a demand of the Maryland Jesuits, likely an addition from the new school of Jesuits. The sale’s profit was not to pay off debts or purchases, but “must be invested as Capital which fructifies,” specifically educational centers in New York and Philadelphia. [Ibid.***]
Well, guess where those funds wound up:
[Georgetown Plantation Project Professor Edward] Curran believes that some of the older Jesuits listed their slaves on the inventory, but warned them of the sale so that they could hide in the woods when the officials came to transport them. Curran explained, “The 1840 census shows a surprisingly large number of younger slaves still on certain plantations, which supports the tradition that some slaves hid themselves then returned to the plantations once the provincial had left.”
With the sale [in 1838], the Jesuits of Maryland made $115,000**** and ended their history as a large slaveholding institution. The money from the sale was, as stipulated, invested in Xavier High School in New York and St. Joseph’s in Philadelphia. Some of the funds also went to finance Fordham University, completed in 1842 . . . . “Much of the funding for these schools came from the ignoble sales,” [Dean] Cloke said.
Talk about “the subsidy of history,” which we discussed last June: Tony Flood’s high school and Chris Ferrara’s alma mater (which was also that to several of Flood’s uncles) were seeded with profits from the sale of human beings, who should have been simply manumitted.
Well, that’s our opinion. What’s Mr. Ferrara’s?
To Be Continued
* John Rose Green Hassard, Life of the Most Reverend John Hughes, D.D., First Archbishop of New York. With Extracts from His Correspondence. D. Appleton and Company, 1866, p. 24. Accessible via Google Books. There is an interesting case of a Maryland slave named Peter, whom we cannot identify as one half of young John Hughes’ labor force, but whose situation reveals something of the educated Catholic mentality regarding slavery. Historian Thomas Murphy, himself a Jesuit, writes:
On May 5, 1801, when the [Corporation of] RCC [Roman Catholic Clergy] convened at Newtown [MD], there was concern about the plans of a Father Brasuis to free a slave named Peter. The corporation informed Brasuis that such a step would harm “that sublimation, which ought to be preserved among the other slaves.” Therefore, they advised that Peter be required to purchase his own freedom by providing security equal to the amount for which he might otherwise have been sold. The clergy felt that if Peter managed to fulfill these conditions, he would thereby demonstrate that he had earned freedom . . . rather than received it as a right. . . .
. . . the priests showed a conviction that if Peter could manage to purchase his liberty, he would thereby witness to the remaining slaves that freedom had its patient price. Hopefully, his example then would guard against slave revolts and the temptation to believe that freedom could be claimed on demand.
Jesuit Slaveholding in Maryland, 1717-1838. New York, Routledge, 2001, 75.
** Hassard, op. cit, p. 426. Emphasis added.—A.F. This is from an unsigned article in his diocesan journal in 1862. Father Maxwell commented on this passage: “Emancipation was held to be desirable because of the existence of recognized abuses in the slave-system, not because of any intrinsic injustice in the system itself; but such emancipation should be gradual. Abolitionism without compensation of the slave-masters was condemned as an unjust denial of property-rights.” Slavery and the Catholic Church, op. cit., 114.
*** Brand notes the irony of the situation: “. . . all Jesuits recognized certain basic rights for the slaves. A report from the time demanded adequate fixed rations, half of Saturday to themselves, and the promotion of morality and the administration of the sacraments. However, the report also states that for other slaves, “chastisement should not be inflicted in the house, where the priests live.” In other words, it was acceptable for priests to whip the slaves, just not in the priests’ quarters. Similarly, the document stated that pregnant women should not be whipped.”
**** The purchasing power of $115,000 in 1838 is roughly that of $2,780,000 in 2010.