Thomas F. Mulledy
|Born||August 12, 1794|
Romney, Virginia, U.S.
|Died||July 20, 1860 (aged 65)|
Washington, D.C., U.S.
|Buried||Jesuit Community Cemetery|
Thomas F. Mulledy (August 12, 1794 – July 20, 1860), occasionally spelled Mullady,[a] was an American Catholic priest from Virginia. He entered the Society of Jesus and was educated for the priesthood in Rome. He went on to become twice the President of Georgetown College in Washington, D.C. He also served as provincial superior of the Maryland province of the Jesuit order, during which time he orchestrated the sale of the province's slaves to settle its debts. This resulted in severe censure by the church authorities and his temporary exile from the United States. Following his return from Europe, he served as the first President of the College of the Holy Cross and oversaw its establishment, including the construction of its first building.
Thomas Mulledy was born on August 12, 1794 in Romney, Virginia (today part of West Virginia) to Irish immigrant parents. His father, also named Thomas Mulledy,[a] was a poor farmer. Before receiving any formal education, he and his brother, Samuel Mulledy, taught at the Romney Academy in their hometown. He later enrolled as a student at Georgetown College in Washington, D.C. on December 14, 1813, having to pay for his own education, like his brother. However, he left the school in February 1815 in order to travel with nine others to White Marsh, Maryland, where they entered the Society of Jesus. He returned to teach at Georgetown in 1817. While there, he contracted a disease that was unknown to the physicians of the time, and he feared death. In his debilitated state, he received the viaticum, and was thereafter restored to health, a turn of events that some considered miraculous. He was in 1818 appointed by the Virginia General Assembly to the board of trustees for the town of Romney.
In 1820, he was sent to study philosophy in Rome; on the voyage, he was accompanied by Charles Constantine Pise, James Ryder, and George Fenwick. In Rome, he studied at the Pontificio Collegio Urbano de Propaganda Fide for two years, and subsequently spent another two years as a tutor to the crown prince of Naples. Alongside his priestly studies, he was exposed to literature and science, and became regarded as among the most eminent scholars of Italian language and literature in the United States. Mulledy was ordained a priest in Rome in 1825, and remained in Italy until 1828. It was not until December 1827 that the Society raised enough money to pay for his and others' return to the United States, and that the Jesuit Superior General was satisfied that the Jesuits had regained a footing in the United States after their suppression. He then returned to Georgetown and was made the prefect of studies.
Mulledy was appointed President of Georgetown College on September 14, 1829, following Fr. John William Beschter's brief leadership of the school. When he assumed the presidency, the state of Georgetown was poor; the number of students had dropped precipitously to only 45. By 1834, this number had rebounded to 140. During his presidency, the Jesuit Ratio Studiorum was more fully implemented, primarily under the direction of the prefect of studies, Fr. George Fenwick. In May 1830, the first observation in the United States of the Month of Mary was undertaken by Georgetown's chapter of the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin, which had been founded in 1808 as the first chapter of the sodality in the United States. With a growth in the number of books owned by the university under Mulledy's presidency, he undertook to organize the 12,000 volumes in a single library room in Old North on February 16, 1831.
With the steady increase in the number of students during his presidency, Mulledy oversaw construction of a new building in 1831, which came to contain a refectory, chapel, study hall, and dormitories. Erection of this building was enabled by a loan of $7,000 from the widow of Stephen Decatur. During Mulledy's presidency, "the Walks," which were a serious of scenic paths through the backwoods of the campus, were created. They were the result of Joseph West, a Jesuit brother's, purchase of the land for the College. Following Congress' grant of land to Columbian College in 1832, Georgetown requested similar benefits. The legislature eventually awarded Georgetown lots across the city worth $25,000, title of which was transferred to the college on February 20, 1837.
Mulledy had a reputation for being relatively lax in enforcing discipline at the college. In 1833, a rebellion was staged whereby a group of several plotted to ambush and assault the prefect of studies. This was in response to the prefect's reporting of a student who imbibed to the point of intoxication at taverns when the class took a trip to the Capitol. This plot was discovered and thwarted, and Mulledy responded by expelling several students. In March 1833, Pope Gregory XVI chartered Georgetown College as an ecclesiastical university, the first such institution in the United States. This authorized it to grant canonical degrees in philosophy and theology. The college narrowly escaped destruction by fire on December 10, 1836, when a carpenter's shed near the Walks became engulfed in flames. All the students and faculty worked to contain the fire and prevented it from spreading to the nearby dormitory.
Over the course of his tenure, Georgetown became an institution that was frequently visited by congressmen and senators. On the whole, he was viewed as having effectively managed the college. His first presidency of Georgetown ended in 1837, and he was succeeded by Fr. William McSherry.
Mulledy again took up the presidency of Georgetown on September 6, 1845, following his brother Samuel Mulledy. Soon thereafter, President James K. Polk requested that the Catholic Church send chaplains to minister to Catholic soldiers in the Mexican–American War; as a result, Mulledy's vice president and procurator left for the Rio Grande to minister to General Zachary Taylor's army.
In 1848, due to popular uprisings in Rome, many Jesuits fled the country and took refuge for a time at Georgetown College, including the famed astronomer Angelo Secchi and scientist Giambattista Pianciani. That same year, Mulledy resigned as president of the college, and was succeeded by Fr. James Ryder.
In October 1837, Mulledy was appointed the provincial superior of the Maryland province of the Jesuits. He succeeded William McSherry, the province's first provincial, and who in turn succeeded Mulledy as president of the college.
In 1838, Bishop Benedict Joseph Fenwick appointed Mulledy vicar general of the Diocese of Boston, which he held contemporaneously as provincial superior. He was considered by Bishop John Dubois as one of the potential choices for coadjutor bishop of New York, but ultimately John Hughes was selected over him in 1838.
Mulledy's building program left Georgetown College—and, by extension, the Maryland Jesuits—with considerable debt. Compounding the financial insecurity was the fact that the Maryland Jesuits' plantations had been mismanaged and were not generating sufficient income to support the college. In order to rectify the province's finances, Mulledy, as provincial, sold nearly all the slaves owned by the Jesuit Maryland province to two planters in Louisiana. This plan had been authorized by the Jesuit Superior General in Rome, Jan Roothaan, in late 1838 on the condition that the slave families not be separated and that they be sold to owners that would allow them to continue in their Catholic faith. Mulledy executed the sale of 272 slaves to Jesse Batey and Henry Johnson on June 19, 1838. Despite Roothaan's order, it soon became evident that families were, indeed, separated.
This sale provoked outcry among many of the province's Jesuits, who were opposed to slaveholding by the Jesuits and supported manumission of the slaves. These Jesuits sent graphic accounts of the sale to Roothaan, who was inclined toward removing Mulledy as provincial superior. William McSherry convinced Roothaan to delay his decision and, along with Samuel Eccleston, tried to persuade Mulledy to step down. Roothaan even contemplated expelling Mulledy from the Society of Jesus, but was persuaded otherwise by Eccleston. By August 1839, Roothaan ordered McSherry to inform Mulledy that he had been removed, for the twofold reasons of disobeying orders and of promoting scandal. However, by the time Roothaan came to this decision, McSherry had already convinced Mulledy to step down in late June and to go to Rome to explain himself to the church authorities. When Roothaan's letter reached Mulledy, he resigned the same day; McSherry was made the acting provincial, and was later elected provincial despite being severely ill and near death. Following Mulledy's meeting with Roothaan in Rome, he was assigned to teach English in Nice to young boys, effectively as censure for his conduct in the slave sale affair. From Nice, Mulledy wrote to Roothaan of his loneliness and of feeling forgotten.
During the course of this incident, Mulledy had developed a problem of alcoholism, and subsequently resolved to observe a year of abstinence. With the intensity of the controversy waning, in the winter of 1841 and 1842, the province petitioned Roothaan to allow Mulledy to return to the United States, which request was granted.
Bishop Benedict Joseph Fenwick of Boston established the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1843. Following Roothaan's permission for Mulledy to leave Europe, Fenwick requested that Mulledy be appointed the first president of the college in 1843. Mulledy accepted this position and first arrived at Worcester on March 13, 1843. He oversaw the construction of the school's first building, whose cornerstone was laid on June 21, 1843. Originally known as the College building, it was later named Fenwick Hall, and was also entirely destroyed by fire in 1852. Regularly inspecting progress on the construction, he eventually moved to Worcester permanently on September 28, 1843. He first lived in a farmhouse at the foot of the hill on which the college was built, along with a Jesuit candidate and a Jesuit brother. The college building was finally completed on January 13, 1844.
Relations between Mulledy and Fenwick were somewhat strained by the fact that Mulledy wished to have independence in deciding to accept candidates for the Jesuit novitiate. Mulledy eventually prevailed on this matter. Moreover, within three months of the college's opening, Mulledy received directions from Fenwick to significantly curtail the college's expenses, admonishing him to exercise greater frugality. Mulledy soon found it impossible to offset operating costs with the monies received as tuition and other income. In light of steadily increasing enrollment and accompanying overcrowding, the college was greatly aided by a donation of $1,000 from Andrew Carney in March 1844. Mulledy's presidency came to an end in 1845, and he returned to Georgetown; he was succeeded by Fr. James Ryder.
In the fall of 1854, Mulledy was again sent to the College of the Holy Cross, where he was made the prefect of studies and spiritual prefect. He remained in this position until 1857. When asked to teach Latin and Ancient Greek, he declined on the grounds that his competence in the subjects had diminished with age. Instead, Mulledy much preferred to deliver sermons, of which he compiled a file.
With the rise of the Know Nothing movement across the United States, and the 1854 victory of the party in winning control of the Massachusetts General Court, a Joint Special Committee on the Inspection of Nunneries and Convents was formed to investigate Catholic institutions. A rumor began circulating in July of that year that Holy Cross was being used as a weapons depot for an eventual Catholic revolution. Consequently, the committee arrived in March to investigate the college, and was escorted around the premises by Mulledy. Upon finding no truth to the rumor, they left.
In 2015, a series of student protests at Georgetown University over the name of Mulledy Hall due to its namesake's connection with slavery resulted in the building being temporarily renamed Freedom Hall. In 2017, the president of the university, John DeGioia, announced that the hall would be permanently renamed Isaac Hawkins Hall, taking the first name listed on the register of slaves sold in 1838.
In similar fashion, Mulledy Hall at the College of the Holy Cross, which was opened in 1966, was renamed Brooks-Mulledy Hall in 2016. The intent of this dual name was to retain its recognition of Mulledy as a founder of the college, while simultaneously recognizing Fr. John E. Brooks, who worked to integrate the campus of Holy Cross in 1968 and who later served as its president.
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