Letter from Father Van De Velde to Rev. Father Brocard

This letter is written by a Jesuit priest who had been at the White Marsh Novitiate, and expresses his concern of the moral and spiritual state of the slaves that previously belonged to the Maryland Province. These are the same slaves whose names have been recorded in the Jesuit Plantation Project. They were sold in 1838 to three plantations in Louisiana, under the condition that they would be able to continue their Christian practices. In particular , it was explicitly demanded "That they have the free exercise of the Catholic religion and the opportunity of practicing it."

In this letter, however, Father Van De Velde reports that these engagements have not been met, and presents to the Province a plan to remediate the situation. He requests that the Province of Maryland contributes $1,000 to aid the construction of a church near by one of the plantations. He argues that the Province of Maryland is still responsible for the fate and spiritual state of its ex-slaves. In one of his previous letters, Father Van De Velde already expressed the idea that: "Justice as well as charity require that their former masters should step in and aid other well disposed persons to procure them the means of salvation." But it seems that this letter was the third of the same sort written by this concerned priest, and that the Province never answered positively to his demand.

This letter was originally written in French: Original Version.

Fredericktown, 27 Nov. 1848

Rev. J. Brocard

My Rev. and very dear father,

I am taking the liberty to write to you again to pledge the cause of these poor negroes, who used to belong to your Province and who find themselves now deprived of almost any religious (support) in Louisianna.

I might be wrong, but it appears to me that the province of Maryland is morally obliged to provide them with this support and to make some sacrifices for this purpose. The text of the Holy Scripture, " Qui suorum maximi domesticorum curam non agit &c"continuously comes to my mind, whenever I think of these poor people, who little by little, especially the children, lose their religion. This is an extreme case. If justice does not order it, ( even though in my opinion it does order it in that case) at least charity asks for it. I am only asking for those who find themselves on (inhabiting / the plantation of) Mr. and Johnson and Mr. Thompson. They are pretty numerous. One of the inhabitants, the judge, Duffield, would give a piece of land to build a church there for all colored people of the vicinity; Mr Elder and the other neighbours would contribute freely for this good deed, & twice a month one would visit them from Donaldsonville, one would instruct them, &c.

All that one asks, it is that the province of Maryland contributes $1,000, the neighbours would contribute the rest; & what is $1,000 for the Province of Maryland, what is the income of so many beautiful farms, & who already received such a large sum of money for these poor exiles. The good Lord will reward you for this, and give it back with interest, & who knows, if the refusal to help them will not attract unhappiness on the Province. I myself am very concerned about it, and if I seem annoying to you, I am certain that you will pardon me for it, since it is for the good of the abandonned children that I annoy you.

In case you would decide this affair favorably for them, please contact M. l'Abbé Bouillier, Lazarist, Curé de Donaldsville. Then, send him the amount -or to begin, a part of this amount-, and be assured that it will be a great pleasure for him to begin immediatly this good deed.

In union of your SS. SS., I have the honor to be, my Rev. and very dear Father,

Your devoted Br. in Jesus Christ,

F. Van De Velde, S.J.