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3. Records of the Corporation of Roman Catholic Clergymen, 1694-1956

 Series

Scope and Contents

Series 3, the Records of the Corporation of Roman Catholic Clergymen, documents the activity of the legal entity established in 1792 to protect Jesuit property interests in the Maryland region. The series includes minutes proceedings, by-laws, and Trustee lists from the meetings of the Corporation (1793-1956); legislative acts, property transfers, power of attorney documents, some Trustee correspondence, and the charter establishing the CRCC (1789-1918); and the wills of both Jesuits and those outside the community that documented the assets, properties, and bequests relevant of the Province (1694-1922). Subseries 3.2 also contains a letter addressed to Francis Neale, S.J., that considered the possibility of manumitting the enslaved individuals living at Bohemia (dated approximately 1817).

Series 1, the Records of the Provincial, and Series 2, the Records of the Procurator, provide more substantial documentation of the financial transactions of the CRCC.

Materials on Slavery

Some folders in this series contain references to slavery, slaveholding, and enslaved individuals. Some folders in this series contain documents addressing the Province's 1838 sale of 272 enslaved individuals. Relevant folders are noted in the finding aid.

Arrangement

Series 3 is organized into the following subseries:

  • 3.1 Minutes and Proceedings, 1793-1956
  • 3.2 Legal Documents, 1789-1918
  • 3.3 Jesuit Wills, 1722-1920
  • 3.4 Non-Jesuit Wills, 1694-1917

Background

The Corporation of Roman Catholic Clergymen (CRCC) was established in 1792 in response to the Suppression of the Jesuit order in 1772 under Pope Clement XIV. Formed by the Select Body of Roman Catholic Clergymen, a group of former Jesuits who sought to retain the property held by individuals in the order, the purpose of the CRCC was to assume the titles of properties that had been held in trust by either individual Jesuits or their allies. The measures taken by the CRCC enabled the Maryland Mission to sidestep colonial laws prohibiting real estate ownership by ecclesiastics.

In 1792, the state of Maryland issued a charter to the CRCC as the sole representative of the former Jesuits in the purchase and sale of real estate and capital investments. After the full Restoration of the Society in 1814, the CRCC became the legal body representing the Mission of the American Federation/Mission of the Maryland Province. It defended itself successfully against claims made between 1818 and 1825 by Archbishop Ambrose Maréchal of Baltimore to this real estate and the income derived from it.

The Trustees of the CRCC had sole authority to acquire real estate and initiate lawsuits; they also accepted donations of real estate and other forms of capital, including properties bequeathed by members of the Province and by other benefactors. The Trustees were under direction of the Provincial, and the Procurator served as Agent of the Corporation.

The CRCC’s authority over the enslaved people owned by the Province, however, was ambiguous. Plantation Superiors exercised discretion in the sale, hiring out, discipline, and living conditions of enslaved individuals. Nonetheless, the Corporation frequently authorized the sale of enslaved people to pay debts, including the sale of 11 individuals from St. Inigoes in 1835, and the mass sale of 272 people from St. Inigoes, White Marsh, Newtown, and St. Thomas Manor in 1838. The CRCC oversaw the proceeds from these sales, which it used to relieve themselves of the debts of Georgetown College, settle claims by the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and expand work of the Maryland Province into the Northeast.

After the 1838 sale, the CRCC maintained its investment in commercial agriculture by renting out its lands to tenant farmers. Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, the Corporation oversaw a shift in investment strategy, moving away from commercial agriculture and towards urban real estate and capital markets. By 1970, the Corporation had divested the Province from its legacy properties. The Corporation of Roman Catholic Clergymen still exists as a legal body.

Folder Descriptions

**Please note: the finding aid contains Scope and Contents notes for each folder. This folder-level description has been imported from an older finding aid. Researchers may encounter outdated or potentially offensive terminology and occasional inaccuracies. If you would like to notify Special Collections of any issues that need correcting, please contact us.**

Conditions Governing Access

Most materials dated 1900 and later have not been digitized. Materials dating 1900-1939 are available for research use at the Booth Family Center for Special Collections. All materials dated 1940 and later are restricted.

Dates

  • 1694-1956

Extent

From the Collection: 292 boxes

Language of Materials

From the Collection: Multiple languages