Archbishop John Hughes

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Hughes, John, Archbishop of New York, was born in the parish of Errigal Trough, County of Monaghan, in 1798. He has written of his boyhood: "My schoolboy days were spent among my neighbours who were not Catholics; but I think if I had been reared in the most Catholic portion of the island, I could not have been surrounded with kinder or more gallant friends than the scholars, of whom there were not a dozen Catholics." His father, a respectable farmer, emigrated to the United States in 1817, and John was placed with a florist. He devoted his spare time to study, entered a Catholic seminary in Maryland, and in 1825 was ordained a priest. As a preacher he soon distinguished himself, and was elected a member of various literary societies. In 1838 he was consecrated Coadjutor Bishop of New York, and in 1842, upon the death of Bishop Dubois, was confirmed in the see. Already he had made a tour through France, Austria, and Italy, to collect funds for the spread of his faith in the United States. In 1850 New York was made an archbishopric, and he was created the first Archbishop, as his countryman Archbishop Kenrick had been created first Primate of the United States.

He was a bitter opponent of the abolitionists, and a strenuous apologist for slavery. Drake says: "He was prominent in the effort made by the Catholics to modify the existing school-system in their favour, and was successful." In 1847 he delivered, by request, before Congress an address — "Christianity the only source of moral, social, and political regeneration." The organization and extension of Catholicism through the United States was largely due to his statesmanlike abilities. He was ever devoted to the cause of Irish nationality, and when the report reached New York in 1848 that Ireland was in insurrection, a public meeting was held to subscribe funds. "I attended," says Bishop Hughes, "to show, that in my conscience I have no scruple in aiding this cause in every way worthy a patriot and a Christian." "My contribution shall be for a shield, not for a sword," he added, "but you can contribute for what you choose." After the breaking out of the Civil War in 1861, he was by the United States government sent on a mission to Europe to counteract the intrigues of the Confederates. He does not appear to have been the author of any works beyond lectures and pamphlets. Archbishop Hughes died in New York, 3rd January 1864, aged 66. His sister Ellen (Mother Angela), who died two years after him, was for many years superioress of a New York hospital, and during the war was active in aiding the Sanitary Commission.

Sources

37a. Biographical Dictionary—American Biography: Francis S. Drake. Boston, 1876.

233. Manuscript and Special Information, and Current Periodicals.

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