Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Bishop Lynch's Civil War Pamphlet on Slavery

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Bishop Lynch's Civil War Pamphlet on Slavery

Article excerpt

David C.R. Heisser*

President Jefferson Davis in 1864 appointed Bishop Patrick Neison Lynch of Charleston, South Carolina, to be Commissioner of the Confederate States of America to the States of the Church. An ardent Confederate, Bishop Lynch undertook a mission to Europe to win recognition by the Holy See. As part of his contribution to the Southern cause he wrote a tract on slavery which was published in Italian, German, and French, but never in English.' This article discusses Lynch's participation in the Confederate propaganda effort, considers his ideas in the context of the time, and presents representative selections from his original English text.

Lynch accepted appointment on March 3, 1864; on April 4 Secretary of State Judah P Benjamin instructed the Bishop to seek recognition and, more importantly, to work for "enlightening opinions and molding impressions" of European leaders. Lynch was to receive a monthly salary of $1,000 plus $500 for travel.2 In Patrick Lynch the Confederate government chose an acknowledged leader of the Catholic Church in America. Born in Ireland, he was brought up in South Carolina and studied for the priesthood at the seminary of the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (Propaganda Fide), the department of the Roman Curia that administered the Catholic Church in America. Lynch had received his doctorate in Rome and spoke fluent Italian. He knew Alessandro Cardinal Barnabo, Prefect of the Propaganda Fide and an influential advisor to Pope Pius IX.3 When Fort Sumter fell to the Confederates Lynch ordered a Te Deum sung in his cathedral.4 He championed Southern independence in a public exchange of letters with Archbishop John Hughes of New York.5 Jefferson Davis admired Lynch for his work with sick and wounded servicemen and prisoners of war, and the Bishop was a member of the President's entourage during the latter's 1863 visit to Charleston.6 In an appeal to his faithful for prayers for peace Lynch praised the Confederate government and armies.7

During April, 1864, the Bishop ran the blockade and sailed to Europe.8 In Paris he met with Confederate agent John Slidell and propagandists Henry Hotze and Edwin De Leon, a fellow South Carolinian. Emperor Napoleon III gave Lynch an audience on June 14, and a few days later the Bishop traveled to Rome, arriving on the 26th.9 He took lodgings in that city, where he was to entertain prominent people and acquire a reputation for hospitality.'o To Giacomo Cardinal Antonelli, Papal Secretary of State, he communicated the Confederacy's desire for recognition. Antonelli was polite but non-committal. On July 4 Pope Pius IX received Lynch in private audience as Charleston's ordinary, but not as Confederate representative. Pius said of North and South, "It is clear that you are two nations," expressed willingness to mediate and opposition to sudden emancipation. "But still," remarked the Pontiff, "something might be done looking to an improvement in [the slaves'] position or state, and to a gradual preparation for their freedom at a future opportune time."" The Bishop had subsequent, cordial conversations with Pius and Antonelli, but made no progress toward recognition. Antonelli assured United States Minister Rufus King that Lynch was received only as a bishop making his ad limina visit.12 Just after his first audience with the Pope, Lynch wrote Benjamin, "I am now engaged in drawing up a paper on the actual condition and treatment of slaves at the South, at the request of Msgr. [Francesco] Nardi, one of the judges of the Rota, or supreme court of the papal States."13

All Confederate agents contended with the bad name slavery gave their country. These agents had organized a propaganda effort in Europe. Henry lotze edited and published the Index, a London newspaper presenting the Southern perspective. Across the Channel, the Emperor and his supporters generally favored the South, and progovernment newspapers reflected this, but Napoleon III had to pay close attention to French public opinion. …

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