Thomas F. Mulledy

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Thomas F. Mulledy
Thomas F. Mulledy.jpg
Personal details
Born(1794-08-12)August 12, 1794
Romney, Virginia, U.S.
DiedJuly 20, 1860(1860-07-20) (aged 65)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Buried Jesuit Community Cemetery
Denomination Catholic Church

Thomas F. Mulledy (August 12, 1794 – July 20, 1860), occasionally spelled Mullady, [lower-alpha 1] 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.

Catholic Church Christian church led by the Bishop of Rome

The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2017. As the world's "oldest continuously functioning international institution", it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the Pope. Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, an enclave within the city of Rome in Italy.

Virginia State of the United States of America

Virginia, officially the Commonwealth of Virginia, is a state in the Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States located between the Atlantic Coast and the Appalachian Mountains. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" due to its status as the first English colonial possession established in mainland North America and "Mother of Presidents" because eight U.S. presidents were born there, more than any other state. The geography and climate of the Commonwealth are shaped by the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Chesapeake Bay, which provide habitat for much of its flora and fauna. The capital of the Commonwealth is Richmond; Virginia Beach is the most populous city, and Fairfax County is the most populous political subdivision. The Commonwealth's estimated population as of 2018 is over 8.5 million.

Society of Jesus male religious congregation of the Catholic Church

The Society of Jesus is a scholarly religious congregation of the Catholic Church for men which originated in sixteenth-century Spain. The members are called Jesuits. The society is engaged in evangelization and apostolic ministry in 112 nations. Jesuits work in education, intellectual research, and cultural pursuits. Jesuits also give retreats, minister in hospitals and parishes, sponsor direct social ministries, and promote ecumenical dialogue.


Early life and education

Portrait of Mulledy Father Thomas F. Mulledy, S.J.jpg
Portrait of Mulledy

Thomas Mulledy was born on August 12, 1794 in Romney, Virginia (today part of West Virginia) to Irish immigrant parents. [1] [2] His father, also named Thomas Mulledy, [lower-alpha 1] [5] was a poor farmer. [6] Before receiving any formal education, he and his brother, Samuel Mulledy, taught at the Romney Academy in their hometown. [7] [8] He later enrolled as a student at Georgetown College in Washington, D.C. on December 14, 1813, [9] having to pay for his own education, like his brother. [6] 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. [9] He was in 1818 appointed by the Virginia General Assembly to the board of trustees for the town of Romney. [10]

West Virginia State of the United States of America

West Virginia is a state located in the Appalachian region in the Southern United States and is also considered to be a part of the Middle Atlantic States. It is bordered by Pennsylvania to the north, Maryland to the east and northeast, Virginia to the southeast, Kentucky to the southwest, and Ohio to the northwest. West Virginia is the 41st largest state by area, and is ranked 38th in population. The capital and largest city is Charleston.

Irish Americans are an ethnic group comprising Americans who have full or partial ancestry from Ireland, especially those who identify with that ancestry, along with their cultural characteristics. About 33 million Americans — 10.5% of the total population — reported Irish ancestry in the 2013 American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. This compares with a population of 6.7 million on the island of Ireland. Three million people separately identified as Scotch-Irish, whose ancestors were Ulster Scots and Anglo-Irish Protestant Dissenters who emigrated from Ireland to the United States. However, whether the Scotch-Irish should be considered Irish is disputed.

Romney Academy former educational institution for higher learning in Romney, Virginia (now West Virginia)

Romney Academy was an educational institution for higher learning in Romney, Virginia. Romney Academy was first incorporated by the Virginia General Assembly on January 11, 1814, and was active until 1846 when it was reorganized as the Romney Classical Institute. In addition to the Romney Classical Institute, Romney Academy was also a forerunner institution to Potomac Seminary. Romney Academy was one of the earliest institutions for higher learning within the present boundaries of the state of West Virginia.

In 1820, he was sent to study philosophy in Rome; on the voyage, he was accompanied by Charles Constantine Pise, [11] James Ryder, and George Fenwick. [12] 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. [3] Alongside his priestly studies, he was exposed to literature and science, [13] and became regarded as among the most eminent scholars of Italian language and literature in the United States. [3] Mulledy was ordained a priest in Rome in 1825, [2] and remained in Italy until 1828. [13] 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. [6] He then returned to Georgetown and was made the prefect of studies. [14]

Rome Capital city and comune in Italy

Rome is the capital city and a special comune of Italy. Rome also serves as the capital of the Lazio region. With 2,872,800 residents in 1,285 km2 (496.1 sq mi), it is also the country's most populated comune. It is the fourth most populous city in the European Union by population within city limits. It is the centre of the Metropolitan City of Rome, which has a population of 4,355,725 residents, thus making it the most populous metropolitan city in Italy. Rome is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, within Lazio (Latium), along the shores of the Tiber. The Vatican City is an independent country inside the city boundaries of Rome, the only existing example of a country within a city: for this reason Rome has been often defined as capital of two states.

Charles Constantine Pise American priest

Charles Constantine Pise, SJ, (1801–1866) was a Roman Catholic priest and writer.

James A. Ryder 19th-century American Jesuit

James A. Ryder was an American Catholic priest and member of the Society of Jesus. While serving in a number of different teaching and administrative positions at Georgetown University, he founded the Philodemic Society and served as its first president. Ultimately, he was appointed President of Georgetown University in 1840, while simultaneously occupying the office of provincial superior of the Maryland province of Jesuits; he later served as the school's president a second time. During his presidencies, the Georgetown Astronomical Observatory was established, the School of Medicine was established as a component of the university, and Congress officially incorporated the President and Directors of Georgetown College. In the interim, Ryder was made the second President of the College of the Holy Cross in 1845, where he undertook a building project. In his later years, Ryder went to Philadelphia, where he assisted with the founding of Saint Joseph's College and became its second president. Throughout his life, Ryder was known for his oratorical skills, and he utilized them in his preaching and in traveling throughout the country to raise money for Catholic colleges.

Georgetown College

First presidency

Mulledy Hall at Georgetown University was built in 1831 Mulledy Hall 1898.jpg
Mulledy Hall at Georgetown University was built in 1831

Mulledy was appointed President of Georgetown College on September 14, 1829, following Fr. John William Beschter's brief leadership of the school. [15] 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. [16] 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. [17] 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. [18]

President of Georgetown University Head of Georgetown University

The President of Georgetown University is the chief executive officer of Georgetown University. He is ex officio one of the five members of the President and Directors of Georgetown College, the legal entity in which the university is incorporated. The president is also a member ex officio of the university's board of directors, which is responsible under the university's bylaws for managing the "property and business" and other functions of the university. The president is one of four officers of the university explicitly created by the school's charter, alongside the provost, secretary, and treasurer; the holder of the office is elected by the board of directors and may be removed by a majority vote of the whole board.

<i>Ratio Studiorum</i>

The Ratio atque Institutio Studiorum Societatis Iesu, often abbreviated as Ratio Studiorum, was a document that standardized the globally influential system of Jesuit education in 1599. It was a collection of regulations for school officials and teachers. The Ratio Studiorum relied on the classical subjects and did not contain any provisions for elementary education. The document was revised in 1832, still built upon the classical subjects but giving more attention to the study of native languages of the students, history, geography, mathematics, and the natural sciences.

May devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary Marian devotions held in the Catholic Church in May

May devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary refer to special Marian devotions held in the Catholic Church during the month of May honoring the Virgin Mary as "the Queen of May". These services may take place inside or outside. A "May Crowning" is a traditional Roman Catholic ritual that occurs in the month of May.

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. [19] 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. [20] 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. [21]

Refectory dining room, especially in monasteries, boarding schools, and academic institutions

A refectory is a dining room, especially in monasteries, boarding schools, and academic institutions. One of the places the term is most often used today is in graduate seminaries. It derives from the Latin reficere "to remake or restore," via Late Latin refectorium, which means "a place one goes to be restored".

Stephen Decatur United States Navy officer

Stephen Decatur Jr. was a United States naval officer and commodore. He was born on the eastern shore of Maryland in Worcester County, the son of a U.S. naval officer who served during the American Revolution. His father, Stephen Decatur Sr., was a commodore in the U.S. Navy, and brought the younger Stephen into the world of ships and sailing early on. Shortly after attending college, Decatur followed in his father's footsteps and joined the U.S. Navy at the age of nineteen as a midshipman.

A religious brother is a member of a Christian religious institute or religious order who commits himself to following Christ in consecrated life of the Church, usually by the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. He is a layman, in the sense of not being ordained as a deacon or priest, and usually lives in a religious community and works in a ministry appropriate to his capabilities. A brother might practice any secular occupation. The term "brother" is used as he is expected to be as a brother to others. Brothers are members of a variety of religious communities, which may be contemplative, monastic, or apostolic in character. Some religious institutes are composed only of brothers; others are so-called "mixed" communities that are made up of brothers and clerics.

Daguerreotype of Mulledy Thomas Mulledy daguerreotype.jpg
Daguerreotype of Mulledy

Mulledy had a reputation for being relatively lax in enforcing discipline at the college. [22] 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. [23] 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. [24] 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. [25]

United States Capitol seat of the United States Congress

The United States Capitol, often called the Capitol Building, is the home of the United States Congress and the seat of the legislative branch of the U.S. federal government. It is located on Capitol Hill at the eastern end of the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Though no longer at the geographic center of the Federal District, the Capitol forms the origin point for the District's street-numbering system and the District's four quadrants.

Pope Gregory XVI 254th Pope of the Catholic Church

Pope Gregory XVI, born Bartolomeo Alberto Cappellari, was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 2 February 1831 to his death in 1846. He had adopted the name Mauro upon entering the religious order of the Camaldolese.

An ecclesiastical university is a special type of higher education school recognised by the Canon law of the Catholic Church. It is one of two types of universities recognised, the other type being the Catholic university. Every single ecclesiastical university is a pontifical university, while only a few Catholic universities are pontifical.

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. [26] His first presidency of Georgetown ended in 1837, and he was succeeded by Fr. William McSherry. [27]

Second presidency

Mulledy again took up the presidency of Georgetown on September 6, 1845, following his brother Samuel Mulledy. [28] 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. [29]

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. [30] That same year, Mulledy resigned as president of the college, [9] and was succeeded by Fr. James Ryder. [31]

Maryland provincial

In October 1837, Mulledy was appointed the provincial superior of the Maryland province of the Jesuits. [11] He succeeded William McSherry, the province's first provincial, and who in turn succeeded Mulledy as president of the college. [27]

In 1838, Bishop Benedict Joseph Fenwick appointed Mulledy vicar general of the Diocese of Boston, which he held contemporaneously as provincial superior. [32] 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. [33]

Slave sale

Articles of agreement for the 1838 slave sale Articles of agreement between Thomas F. Mulledy, of Georgetown, District of Columbia, of one part, and Jesse Beatty and Henry Johnson, of the State of Louisiana, of the other part. 19th June 1838.pdf
Articles of agreement for the 1838 slave sale

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. [34] 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, [11] 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. [35] Mulledy executed the sale of 272 slaves to Jesse Batey and Henry Johnson on June 19, 1838. [36] Despite Roothaan's order, it soon became evident that families were, indeed, separated. [11]

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, [11] 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, [37] for the twofold reasons of disobeying orders and of promoting scandal. [11] 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, [38] effectively as censure for his conduct in the slave sale affair. [39] From Nice, Mulledy wrote to Roothaan of his loneliness and of feeling forgotten. [11]

During the course of this incident, Mulledy had developed a problem of alcoholism, and subsequently resolved to observe a year of abstinence. [32] 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. [11]

College of the Holy Cross


Fenwick Hall was completed in 1844 under Mulledy Fenwick Hall, Holy Cross.gif
Fenwick Hall was completed in 1844 under Mulledy

Bishop Benedict Joseph Fenwick of Boston established the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1843. [39] 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. [11] Originally known as the College building, it was later named Fenwick Hall, [39] and was also entirely destroyed by fire in 1852. [40] 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. [41]

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. [42] Mulledy soon found it impossible to offset operating costs with the monies received as tuition and other income. [43] 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. [44] Mulledy's presidency came to an end in 1845, and he returned to Georgetown; [14] he was succeeded by Fr. James Ryder. [45]

Later years

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. [14] 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. [46]

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. [47]

Death and legacy

Mulledy died of "dropsy" on July 20, 1860 at Georgetown College. [9] He was buried in the Jesuit Community Cemetery on the school's campus. [48]

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. [49]

In similar fashion, Mulledy Hall at the College of the Holy Cross, which was opened in 1966, [50] 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 racially integrate the campus of Holy Cross in 1968 and who later served as its president. [51]


  1. 1 2 The Mulledy surname is spelled "Mullady" by some older sources. [3] [4]

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  28. Shea 1891 , p. 153
  29. Shea 1891 , p. 154
  30. Shea 1891 , p. 158
  31. Shea 1891 , p. 163
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Academic offices
Preceded by
Samuel Mulledy
19th President of Georgetown College
Succeeded by
James A. Ryder
First1st President of the College of the Holy Cross
Succeeded by
James A. Ryder
Preceded by
John W. Beschter
15th President of Georgetown College
Succeeded by
William McSherry
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Vicar General of the Diocese of Boston
Succeeded by
Preceded by
William McSherry
2nd Provincial Superior of the Jesuit Maryland Province
Succeeded by
William McSherry