some time, thinking there would be no other way, I pretended to go away not to return. After going some distance, and remaining some time, thinking they had probably left the place, I returned; but to my mortification found they had concealed themselves to see whether I would come back. They now, more urgently than before, insisted on my removing to some other place, where I might he comfortable. They continued to question me; but I became distressed in a degree I cannot describe, hardly knowing what I did. At last I called the oldest gentleman aside, and told him something of my history. He expressed great interest for me, offered to take me anywhere I would tell him, and at last insisted that I should go with him to his own house. All these offers I refused; on which one proposed to take me to the Almshouse, and even to carry me by force if I would not go willingly.
To this I at length consented; but some delay took place, and I became unwilling, so that with reluctance I was taken to that institution, which was about half a mile distant. [Footnote: See the affidavit of Mr. Hilliker, in Appendix. The letter to which he refers I had forgotten to mention. It contains a short account of the crimes I had witnessed in the nunnery, and was written on paper which “little Tommy” had bought for me.]
Reception at the Almshouse–Message from Mr. Conroy, a Roman priest in New York–His invitations to a private interview–His claims, propositions, and threats–Mr. Kelly’s message–Effects of reading the Bible.
I was now at once made comfortable, and attended with kindness and care. It is not to be expected in such a place, where so many poor and suffering people are collected and duties of a difficult nature are to be daily performed by those engaged in the care of the institution, that petty vexations should not occur to individuals of all descriptions.
But in spite of all, I received kindness and sympathy from several persons around me, to whom I feel thankful.
I was standing one day at the window of the room number twenty-six, which is at the end of the hospital building, when I saw a spot I once visited in a little walk I took from my hiding-place. My feelings were different now in some respects, from what they had been; for, though I suffered much from my fears of future punishment, for the sin of breaking my Convent vows, I had given up the intention of destroying my life.
After I had been some time in the Institution, I found it was reported by some about me, that I was a fugitive nun; and it was not long after, that an Irish woman, belonging to the Institution, brought me a secret message, which caused me some agitation.
I was sitting in the room of Mrs. Johnson, the matron, engaged in sewing, when that Irish woman, employed in the Institution, came in and told me that Mr. Conroy was below, and had sent to see me. I was informed that he was a Roman priest, who often visited the house, and he had a particular wish to see me at that time; having come, as I believe, expressly for that purpose, I showed unwillingness to comply with such an invitation, and did not go. The woman told me further, that he sent me word that I need not think to avoid him, for it would be impossible for me to do so. I might conceal myself as well as I could, but I should be found and taken. No matter where I went, or what hiding-place I might choose, I should be known; and I had better come at once. He knew who I was; and he was authorized to take me to the Sisters of Charity, if I should prefer to join them. He would promise that I might stay with them if I chose, and be permitted to remain in New York. He sent me word farther, that he had received full power and authority over me from the Superior of the Hotel Dieu Nunnery of Montreal, and was able to do all that she could do; as her right to dispose of me at her will had been imparted to him by a regular writing received from Canada. This was alarming information for me, in the weakness in which I was at that time. The woman added, that the same authority had been given to all the priests; so that, go where I might, I should meet men informed about me and my escape, and fully empowered to seize me wherever they could, and convey me back to the Convent, from which I had escaped.
Under these circumstances, it seemed to me that the offer to place me among the Sisters of Charity, with permission to remain in New York, was mild and favourable. However, I had resolution enough to refuse to see the priest Conroy.
Not long afterward, I was informed by the same messenger, that the priest was again in the building, and repeated his request. I desired one of the gentlemen connected with the Institution, that a stop might be put to such messages, as I wished to receive no more of them. A short time after, however, the woman told me that Mr. Conroy wished to inquire of me whether my name was not St. Eustace while a nun, and if I had not confessed to Priest Kelly in Montreal. I answered, that it was all true; for I had confessed to him a short time while in the nunnery. I was then told again that the priest wanted to see me, and I sent back word that I would see him in the presence of Mr. Tappan, or Mr. Stevens; which, however, was not agreed to; and I was afterwards informed, that Mr. Conroy, the Roman priest, spent an hour in a room and a passage where I had frequently been; but through the mercy of God; I was employed in another place at that time, and had no occasion to go where I should have met him. I afterwards repeatedly heard, that Mr. Conroy continued to visit the house, and to ask for me; but I never saw him. I once had determined to leave the Institution, and go to the Sisters of Charity; but circumstances occurred which gave me time for further reflection; and I _was saved from the destruction to which I should have been exposed_.
As the period of my accouchment approached, I sometimes thought that I should not survive it; and then the recollection of the dreadful crimes I had witnessed in the nunnery would come upon me very powerfully, and I would think it a solemn duty to disclose them before I died. To have a knowledge of those things, and leave the world without making them known, appeared to me like a great sin: whenever I could divest myself of the impression made upon me, by the declarations and arguments of the Superior, nuns, and priests, of the duty of submitting to every thing, and the necessary holiness of whatever the latter did or required.
The evening but one before the period which I anticipated with so much anxiety, I was sitting alone, and began to indulge in reflections of this kind. It seemed to me that I must be near the close of my life, and I determined to make a disclosure at once. I spoke to Mrs. Ford, a woman whose character I respected, a nurse in the hospital, in number twenty- three. I informed her that I had no expectation of living long, and had some things on my mind which I wished to communicate before it should be too late. I added, that I should prefer to tell them to Mr. Tappan, the chaplain, of which she approved, as she considered it a duty to do so under those circumstances. I had no opportunity, however, to converse with Mr. T. at that time, and probably my purpose, of disclosing the facts already given in this book, would never have been executed but for what subsequently took place. It was alarm which had led me to form such a determination; and when the period of trial had been safely passed, and I had a prospect of recovery, anything appeared to me more likely than that I should make this exposure.
I was then a Roman Catholic, at least a great part of my time; and my conduct, in a great measure, was according to the faith and motives of a Roman Catholic. Notwithstanding what I knew of the conduct of so many of the priests and nuns, I thought that it had no effect on the sanctity of the Church, or the authority or effects of the acts performed by the former at the mass, confession, &c. I had such a regard for my vows as a nun, that I considered my hand as well as my heart irrevocably given to Jesus Christ, and could never have allowed any person to take it. Indeed, to this day, I feel an instinctive aversion to offering my hand, or taking the hand of another person, even as an expression of friendship. I also thought that I might soon return to the Catholics, although fear and disgust held me back. I had now that infant to think for, whose life I had happily saved by my timely escape from the nunnery; and what its fate might be, in case it should ever fall into the power of the priests I could not tell.
I had, however, reason for alarm. Would a child destined to destruction, like the infants I had seen baptized and smothered, be allowed to go through the world unmolested, a living memorial of the truth of crimes long practised in security, because never exposed? What pledges could I get to satisfy me, that I, on whom her dependence must be, would be spared by those who I had reason to think were then wishing to sacrifice me? How could I trust the helpless infant in hands which had hastened the baptism of many such, in order to hurry them to the secret pit in the cellar? Could I suppose that _Father Phelan, Priest of the Parish Church of Montreal_, would see _his own child_ growing up in the world, and feel willing to run the rink of having the truth exposed? What could I expect, especially from him, but the utmost rancor, and the most determined enmity against the innocent child and its abased and defenceless mother?
Yet, my mind would sometimes still incline in the opposite direction, and indulge the thought, that perhaps the only way to secure heaven to as both, was to throw ourselves back into the hands of the Church, to be treated as she pleased. When, therefore, the fear of immediate death was removed, I renounced all thoughts of communicating the substance of the facts in this volume. It happened, however, that my danger was not passed. I was soon seized with very alarming symptoms; then my desire to disclose my story revived.
I had before had an opportunity to speak in private with the chaplain; but, as it was at a time when I supposed myself out of danger, I had deferred for three days my proposed communication, thinking that I might yet avoid it altogether. When my symptoms, however, became more alarming, I was anxious for Saturday to arrive, the day which I had appointed; and when I had not the opportunity on that day, which I desired, I thought it might be too late. I did not see him till Monday, when my prospects of surviving were very gloomy; and I then informed him that I wished to communicate to him a few secrets, which were likely otherwise to die with me. I then told him, that while a nun, in the convent of Montreal, I had witnessed the murder of a nun, called Saint Francis, and of at least one of the infants which I have spoken of in this book. I added some few circumstances, and I believe disclosed, in general terms, some of the other crimes I knew of in that nunnery.
My anticipations of death proved to be unfounded; for my health afterward improved, and had I not made the confessions on that occasion, it is very possible I never might have made them. I, however, afterward, felt more willing to listen to instruction, and experienced friendly attentions from some of the benevolent persons around me, who, taking an interest in me on account of my darkened understanding, furnished me with the Bible, and were ever ready to counsel me when I desired it.
I soon began to believe that God might have intended that his creatures should learn his will by reading his word, and taking upon them the free exercise of their reason, and acting under responsibility to him.
It is difficult for one who has never given way to such arguments and influences as those to which I had been exposed, to realize how hard it is to think aright after thinking wrong. The Scriptures always affect me powerfully when I read them; but I feel that I have but just begun to learn the great truths, in which I ought to have been early and thoroughly instructed. I realize, in some degree, how it is, that the Scriptures render the people of the United States so strongly opposed to such doctrines as are taught in the Black and the Congregational Nunneries of Montreal. The priests and nuns used often to declare, that of all heretics, the children from the United States were the most difficult to be converted; and it was thought a great triumph when one of them was brought over to “the true faith.” The first passage of Scripture that made any serious impression upon my mind, was the text on which the chaplain preached on the Sabbath after my introduction into the house–“Search the Scriptures.”
I made some hasty notes of the thoughts to which it gave rise in my mind, and often recurred to the subject. Yet I sometimes questioned the justice of the views I began to entertain, and was ready to condemn myself for giving my mind any liberty to seek for information concerning the foundations of my former faith.
Proposition to go to Montreal and testify against the priests– Commencement of my journey–Stop at Troy, Whitehall, Burlington, St. Alban’s, Plattsburgh, and St. John’s–Arrival at Montreal–Reflections on passing the Nunnery, &c.
About a fortnight after I had made the disclosures mentioned in the last chapter, Mr. Hoyt called at the Hospital to make inquiries about me. I was introduced to him by Mr. Tappan. After some conversation, he asked me if I would consent to visit Montreal, and give my evidence against the priests and nuns before a court. I immediately expressed my willingness to do so, on condition that I should be protected. It immediately occurred to me, that I might enter the nunnery at night, and bring out the nuns in the cells, and possibly Jane Ray, and that they would confirm my testimony. In a short time, arrangements were made for our journey, I was furnished with clothes; and although my strength was but partially restored, I set off in pretty good spirits.
Our journey was delayed for a little while, by Mr. Hoyt’s waiting to get a companion. He had engaged a clergyman to accompany us, as I understood, who was prevented from going by unexpected business. We went to Troy in a steamboat; and, while there, I had several interviews with some gentlemen who were informed of my history, and wished to see me. They appeared to be deeply impressed with the importance of my testimony; and on their recommendation it was determined that we should go to St. Alban’s, on our way to Montreal, to get a gentleman to accompany us, whose advice and assistance, as an experienced lawyer, were thought to be desirable to us in prosecuting the plan we had in view: viz. the exposure of the crimes with which I was acquainted.
We travelled from Troy to Whitehall in a canal packet, because the easy motion was best adapted to my state of health. We met on board the Rev. Mr. Sprague of New York, with whom Mr. Hoyt was acquainted, and whom he tried to persuade to accompany us to Montreal. From Whitehall to Burlington we proceeded in a steamboat; and there I was so much indisposed, that is was necessary to call a physician. After a little rest, we set off in the stage for St. Alban’s; and on arriving, found that Judge Turner was out of town. We had to remain a day or two before he returned; and then he said it would be impossible for him to accompany us. After some deliberation, it was decided that Mr. Hunt should go to Montreal with us, and that Judge Turner should follow and join us there as soon as his health and business would permit. [Footnote: Mr. Hunt was recommended as a highly respectable lawyer; to whose kindness, as well as that of Judge Turner, I feel myself under obligations.]
We therefore crossed the lake by the ferry to Plattsburgh, where, after some delay, we embarked in a steamboat, which took us to St. John’s. Mr. Hunt, who had not reached the ferry early enough to cross with us, had proceeded on to —-, and there got on board the steamboat in the night. We went on to Laprairie with little delay, but finding that no boat was to cross the St. Lawrence at that place during the day, we had to take another private carriage to Longeuil, whence we rowed across to Montreal by three men, in a small boat.
I had felt quite bold and resolute when I first consented to go to Montreal, and also during my journey: but when I stepped on shore in the city, I thought of the different scenes I had witnessed there, and of the risks I might run before I should leave it. We got into a caleche, and rode along towards the hotel where we were to stop. We passed up St. Paul’s street; and, although it was dusk, I recognised every thing I had known. We came at length to the nunnery; and then many recollections crowded upon me. First, I saw a window from which I had sometimes looked at some of the distant houses in that street; and I wondered whether some of my old acquaintances were employed as formerly. But I thought if I were once within those walls, I should be in the cells for the remainder of my life, or perhaps be condemned to something still more severe. I remembered the murder of St. Francis, and the whole scene returned to me as if it had just taken place; the appearance, language, and conduct of the persons most active in her destruction. Those persons were now all near me, and would use all exertions they safely might, to get me again into their power.
And certainly they had greater reason to be exasperated against me, than against that poor helpless nun, who had only expressed a wish to escape. [Footnote: My gloomy feelings however did not always prevail. I had hope of obtaining evidence to prove my charges. I proposed to my companions to be allowed to proceed that evening to execute the plan I had formed when a journey to Montreal had first been mentioned. This was to follow the physician into the nunnery, conceal myself under the red calico sofa in the sitting-room, find my way into the cellar after all was still, release the nuns from their cells, and bring them out to confirm my testimony. I was aware that there were hazards of my not succeeding, and that I must forfeit my life if detected–but I was desperate; and feeling as if I could not long live in Montreal, thought I might as well die one way as another, and that I had better die in the performance of a good deed. I thought of attempting to bring out Jane Ray–but that seemed quite out of the question, as an old nun is commonly engaged in cleaning a community-room, through which I should have to pass; and how could I hope to get into, and out of the sleeping-room unobserved? I could not even determine that the imprisoned nuns would follow me out– for they might be afraid to trust me. However, I determined to try, and presuming my companions had all along understood and approved my plan, told them I was ready to go at once. I was chagrined and mortified more than I can express, when they objected, and almost refused to permit me. I insisted and urged the importance of the step–but they represented its extreme rashness. This conduct of theirs, for a time diminished my confidence to them, although everybody else has approved of it.]
When I found myself safely in Goodenough’s hotel, in a retired room, and began to think alone, the most gloomy apprehensions filled my mind. I could not eat, I had no appetite, and I did not sleep all night. Every painful scene that I ever passed through seemed to return to my mind; and such was my agitation, I could fix my thoughts upon nothing in particular. I had left New York when the state of my health was far from being established; and my strength, as may be presumed, was now much reduced by the fatigue of travelling. I shall be able to give but a faint idea of the feelings with which I passed that night, but must leave it to the imagination of my readers. Now once more in the neighborhood of the Convent, and surrounded by the nuns and priests, of whose conduct I had made the first disclosures ever made, surrounded by thousands of persons devoted to them, and ready to proceed to any outrage, as I feared, whenever their interference might be desired, there was abundant reason for my uneasiness.
I now began to realize that I had some attachment to life remaining. When I consented to visit the city, and furnish the evidence necessary to lay open the iniquity of the Convent, I had felt, in a measure, indifferent to life; but now, when torture and death seemed at hand, I shrunk from it. For myself, life could not be said to be of much value. How could I be happy with such things to reflect upon as I had passed through? and how could I enter society with gratification? But my infant I could not abandon, for who would care for it if its mother died.
I was left alone in the morning by the gentlemen who had accompanied me, as they went to take immediate measures to open the intended investigation. Being alone I thought of my own position in every point of view, until I became more agitated than ever. I tried to think what persons I might safely apply to as friends; and though still undecided what to do, I arose, thinking it might be unsafe to remain any longer exposed, as I imagined myself, to be known and seized by my enemies.
I went from the hotel, [Footnote: It occurred to me, that I might have been seen by some person on landing, who might recognise me if I appeared in the streets in the same dress; and I requested one of the female servants to lend me some of hers. I obtained a hat and shawl from her with which I left the house. When I found myself in Notre Dame street, the utmost indecision what to do, and the thought of my friendless condition almost overpowered me.] hurried along, feeling as if I were on my way to some asylum, and thinking I would first go to the house where I had several times previously found a temporary refuge. I did not stop to reflect that the woman was a devoted Catholic and a friend to the Superior; but thought only of her kindness to me on former occasions, and hastened along Notre Dame street. But I was approaching the Seminary; and a resolution was suddenly formed to go and ask the pardon and intercession of the Superior. Then the character of Bishop Lartigue seemed to present an impassable obstacle; and the disagreeable aspect and harsh voice of the man as I recalled him, struck me with horror. I recollected him as I had known him when engaged in scenes concealed from the eye of the world. The thought of him made me decide not to enter the Seminary. I hurried, therefore, by the door; and the great church being at hand, my next thought was to enter there. I reached the steps, walked in, dipped my finger into the holy water, crossed myself, turned to the first image I saw, which was that of Saint Magdalen, threw myself upon my knees, and began to repeat prayers with the utmost fervour. I am certain that I never felt a greater desire to find relief from any of the Saints; but my agitation hardly seemed to subside during my exercise, which continued, perhaps, a quarter of an hour or more. I then rose from my knees, and placed myself under the protection of St. Magdalen and St. Peter by these words: “_Je me mets sous votre protection_”–(I place myself under your protection;) and added, “_Sainte Marie, mere du bon pasteur, prie pour moi_”–(Holy Mary, mother of the good shepherd, pray for me.)
I then resolved to call once more at the house where I had found a retreat after, my escape from the nunnery, and proceeded along the streets in that direction. On my way, I had to pass a shop kept by a woman [Footnote: This was Mrs. Tarbert.] I formerly had an acquaintance with. She happened to see me passing, and immediately said, “Maria is that you? Come in.”
I entered, and she soon proposed to me to let her go and tell my mother that I had returned to the city. To this I objected. I went with her, however, to the house of one of her acquaintances near by where I remained some time, during which she went to my mother’s and came with a request from her, that I would have an interview with her, proposing to come up and see me, saying that she had something very particular to say to me. What this was, I could not with any certainty conjecture. I had my suspicions that it might be something from the priests, designed to get me back into their power, or, at least, to suppress my testimony.
I felt an extreme repugnance to seeing my mother, and in the distressing state of apprehension and uncertainty in which I was, could determine on nothing, except to avoid her. I therefore soon left the house, and walked on without any particular object. The weather was then very unpleasant, and it was raining incessantly. To this I was very indifferent, and walked on till I had got to the suburbs, and found myself beyond the windmills. Then I returned, and passed back through the city, still not recognised by anybody.
I once saw one of my brothers, unless I was much mistaken, and thought he knew me. If it was he, I am confident he avoided me, and that was my belief at the time, as he went into a yard with the appearance of much agitation. I continued to walk up and down most of the day, fearful of stopping anywhere, lest I should be recognised by my enemies, or betrayed into their power. I felt all the distress of a feeble, terrified woman, in need of protection, and, as I thought, without a friend in whom I could safely confide. It distressed me extremely to think of my poor babe; and I had now been so long absent from it, as necessarily to suffer much inconvenience.
I recollected to have been told, in the New York Hospital, that laudanum would relieve distress both bodily and mental, by a woman who had urged me to make a trial of it. In my despair, I resolved to make an experiment with it, and entering an apothecary’s shop asked for some. The apothecary refused to give me any; but an old man who was there, told me to come in, and inquired where I had been, and what was the matter with me, seeing that I was quite wet through. I let him know that I had an infant, and on his urging me to tell more, I told him where my mother lived. He went out, and soon after returned accompanied by my mother, who told me she had my child at home, and pressed me to go to her house and see it, saying she would not insist on my entering, but would bring it out to me.
I consented to accompany her; but on reaching the door, she began to urge me to go in, saying I should not be known to the rest of the family, but might stay there in perfect privacy. I was resolved not to comply with this request, and resisted all her entreaties, though she continued to urge me for a long time, perhaps half an hour. At length she went in, and I walked away, in a state no less desperate than before. Indeed, night was now approaching, the rain continued, and I had no prospect of food, rest, or even shelter. I went on till I reached the parade-ground, unnoticed, I believe, by anybody, except one man, who asked where I was going, but to whom I gave no answer. I had told my mother, before she had left me, that she might find me in the parade- ground. There I stopped in a part of the open ground where there was no probability of my being observed, and stood thinking of the many distressing things which harassed me; suffering, indeed, from exposure to wet and cold, but indifferent to them as evils of mere trifling importance, and expecting that death would soon ease me of my present sufferings. I had hoped that my mother would bring my babe to me there; but as it was growing late, I gave up all expectation of seeing her.
At length she came, accompanied by Mr. Hoyt, who, as I afterward learnt, had called on her after my leaving the hotel, and, at her request, had intrusted my child to her care. Calling again after I had left her house, she had informed him that she now knew where I was, and consented to lead him to the spot. I was hardly able to speak or to walk, in consequence of the hardships I had undergone; but being taken to a small inn, and put under the care of several women, I was made comfortable with a change of clothes and a warm bed. [Footnote: I afterward learnt, that the two gentlemen who accompanied me from the States, had been seeking me with great anxiety all day. I persisted in not going to my mother’s, and that was the reason why we applied to strangers for a lodging. For some time it appeared doubtful whether I should find any refuge for the night, as several small inns in the neighbourhood proved to be full. At length, however, lodgings were obtained for me in one, and I experienced kindness from the females of the house, who put me into a warm bed, and by careful treatment soon rendered me more comfortable. I thought I heard the voice of a woman, in the course of the evening, whom I had seen about the nunnery, and ascertained that I was not mistaken. I forgot to mention, that, while preparing to leave this house the next day, Mrs. Tarbert came in and spoke with me. She said, that she had just come from the government-house, and asked, “What are all those men at your mother’s for? what is going on there?” I told her I could not tell. She said, “Your mother wants to speak with you very much.” I told her I would not go to her house, for I feared there was some plan to get me into the hands of the priests. The inn in which I was, is one near the government-house, in a block owned by the Baroness de Montenac, or the Baroness de Longeuil, her daughter. I think it must be a respectable house, in spite of what Mrs. Tarbert says in her affidavit. Mrs. Tarbert is the woman spoken of several times in the “Sequel,” without being named; as I did not know how to spell her name till her affidavit came out.]
Received into a hospitable family–Fluctuating feelings–Visits from several persons–Father Phelan’s declarations against me in his church– Interviews with a Journeyman Carpenter–Arguments with him.
In the morning I received an invitation to go to the house of a respectable Protestant, an old inhabitant of the city, who had been informed of my situation; and although I felt hardly able to move, I proceeded thither in a cariole, and was received with a degree of kindness, and treated with such care, that I must ever retain a lively gratitude towards the family.
On Saturday I had a visit from Dr. Robertson, to whose house I had been taken soon after my rescue from drowning. He put a few questions to me, and soon withdrew.
On Monday, after the close of mass, a Canadian man came in, and entered into conversation with the master of the house in an adjoining room. He was, as I understood, a journeyman carpenter, and a Catholic, and having heard that a fugitive nun was somewhere in the city, began to speak on the subject in French. I was soon informed that Father Phelan had just addressed his congregation with much apparent excitement about myself; and thus the carpenter had received his information. Father Phelan’s words, according to what I heard said by numerous witnesses at different times, must have been much like the following:–
“There is a certain nun now in this city, who has left our faith, and joined the Protestants. She has a child, of which she is ready to swear I am the father. She would be glad in this way to take away my gown from me. If I knew where to find her, I would put her in prison. I mention this to guard you against being deceived by what she may say. The devil has such a hold upon people now-a-days, that there is danger that some might believe her story.”
Before he concluded his speech, as was declared, he burst into tears, and appeared to be quite overcome. When the congregation had been dismissed, a number of them came round him, and he told some of them, that I was Antichrist; I was not a human being, as he was convinced, but an evil spirit, who had got among the Catholics, and been admitted into the nunnery, where I had learnt the rules so that I could repeat them. My appearance, he declared, was a fulfilment of prophecy, as Antichrist is foretold to be coming, in order to break down, if possible, the Catholic religion.
The journeyman carpenter had entered the house where I lodged under these impressions, and had conversed some time on the subject, without any suspicion that I was near. After he had railed against me with much violence, as I afterwards learned, the master of the house informed him that he knew something of the nun, and mentioned that she charged the priests of the Seminary with crimes of an awful character; in reply to which the carpenter expressed the greatest disbelief.
“You can satisfy yourself,” said the master of the house, “if you will take the trouble to step up stairs: for she lives in my family.”
“I see her!” he exclaimed–“No, I would not see the wretched creature for any thing. I wonder you are not afraid to have her in your house– she will bewitch you all–the evil spirit!”
After some persuasion, however, he came into the room where I was sitting, but looked at me with every appearance of dread and curiosity; and his exclamations, and subsequent conversation, in Canadian French, were very ludicrous.
“Eh bien,” he began on first seeing me, “c’est ici la malheureuse?” [Well, is this the poor creature?] But he stood at a distance, and looked at me with curiosity and evident fear. I asked him to sit down, and tried to make him feel at his ease, by speaking in a mild and pleasant tone. He soon became so far master of himself, as to enter into conversation. “I understood,” said he, “that she has said very hard things against the priests. How can that be true?” “I can easily convince you,” said I, “that they do what they ought not, and commit crimes of the kind I complain of. You are married, I suppose?” He assented. “You confessed, I presume, on the morning of your wedding day?” He acknowledged that he did. “Then did not the priest tell you at confession, that he had had intercourse with your intended bride, but that it was for her sanctification, and that you must never reproach her with it?”
This question instantly excited him, but he did not hesitate a moment to answer it. “Yes,” replied he; “and that looks black enough.” I had put the question to him, because I knew the practice to which I alluded had prevailed at St. Denis while I was there, and believed it to be universal, or at least very common in all the Catholic parishes of Canada. I thought I had reason to presume, that every Catholic, married in Canada, had had such experience, and that an allusion to the conduct of the priest in this particular, must compel any of them to admit that my declarations were far from being incredible. This was the effect on the mind of the simple mechanic; and from that moment he made no more serious questions concerning my truth and sincerity, during that interview.
Further conversation ensued, in the course of which I expressed the willingness which I have often declared, to go into the Convent and point out things which would confirm, to any doubting person, the truth of my heaviest accusations against the priests and nuns. At length he withdrew, and afterwards entered, saying that he had been to the Convent to make inquiries concerning me. He assured me that he had been told that although I had once belonged to the nunnery, I was called St. Jacques, and not St. Eustace; and that now they would not own or recognize me. Then he began to curse me, but yet sat down, as if disposed for further conversation. It seemed, as if he was affected by the most contrary feelings, and in rapid succession. One of the things he said, was to persuade me to leave Montreal. “I advise you,” said he, “to go away to-morrow.” I replied that I was in no haste, and might stay a month longer.
Then he fell to cursing me once more: but the next moment broke out against the priests, calling them all the names he could think of. His passion became so high against them, that he soon began to rub himself, as the low Canadians, who are apt to be very passionate, sometimes do, to calm their feelings, when they are excited to a painful degree. After this explosion he again became quite tranquil, and turning to me in a frank and friendly manner, said: “I will help you in your measures against the priests: but tell me, first–you are going to print a book, are you not?” “No,” said I, “I have no thoughts of that.”
Then he left the house again, and soon returned, saying he had been in the Seminary, and seen a person who had known me in the nunnery, and said I had been only a novice, and that he would not acknowledge me now. I sent back word by him, that I would show one spot in the nunnery that would prove I spoke the truth. Thus he continued to go and return several times, saying something of the kind every time, until I became tired of him. He was so much enraged once or twice during some of the interviews, that I felt somewhat alarmed; and some of the family heard him swearing as he went down stairs: “Ah, sacre–that is too black!”
He came at last, dressed up like a gentleman, and told me he was ready to wait on me to the nunnery. I expressed my surprise that he should expect me to go with him alone, and told him I had never thought of going without some protector, still assuring, that with any person to secure my return, I would cheerfully go all over the nunnery, and show sufficient evidence of the truth of what I alleged.
My feelings continued to vary: I was sometimes fearful, and sometimes so courageous as to think seriously of going into the Recollet church during mass, with my child in my arms, and calling upon the priest to own it. And this I am confident I should have done, but for the persuasions used to prevent me. [Footnote: I did not make up my mind (so far as I remember), publicly to proclaim who was the father of my child, unless required to do so, until I learnt that Father Phelan had denied it.]
A Milkman–An Irishwoman–Difficulty in having my Affidavit taken–Legal objection to it when taken.
Another person who expressed a strong wish to see me, was an Irish milkman. He had heard, what seemed to have been pretty generally reported, that I blamed none but the Irish priests. He put the question, whether it was a fact that I accused nobody but Father Phelan. I told him that it was not so; and this pleased him so well, that he told me if I would stay in Montreal, I should have milk for myself and my child as long as I lived. It is well known that strong antipathies have long existed between the French and Irish Catholics in the city.
The next day the poor Irishman returned, but in a very different state of mind. He was present at church in the morning, he said, when Father Phelan told the congregation that the nun of whom he had spoken before, had gone to court and accused him; and that he, by the power he possessed, had struck her powerless as she stood before the judge, so that she sunk helpless on the floor. He expressed, by the motion of his hands, the unresisting manner in which she had sunk under the mysterious influence, and declared that she would have died on the spot, but that he had chosen to keep her alive that she might retract her false accusion. This, he said, she did, most humbly, before the court; acknowledging that she had been paid a hundred pounds as a bribe.
The first words of the poor milkman, on revisiting me, therefore, were like these: “That’s to show you what power the priest has! Didn’t he give it to you in the court? It is to be hoped you will leave the city now.” He then stated what he had heard Father Phelan say, and expressed his entire conviction of its truth, and the extreme joy he felt on discovering, as he supposed he had, that his own priest was innocent, and had gained such a triumph over me.
A talkative Irish woman also made her appearance, among those who called at the house, and urged for permission to see me. Said she, “I have heard dreadful things are told by a nun you have here, against the priests; and I have to convince myself of the truth. I want to see the nun you have got in your house.” When informed that I was unwell, and not inclined at present to see any more strangers, she still showed much disposition to obtain an interview. “Well, ain’t it too bad,” she asked, “that there should be any reason for people to say such things against the priests?” At length she obtained admittance to the room where I was, entered with eagerness, and approached me.
“Arrah,” she exclaimed, “God bless you–is this you? Now sit down, and let me see the child. And is it Father Phelan’s, God bless you? But they say you tell about murders; and I want to know if they are all committed by the Irish priests.” “Oh no,” replied I, “by no means.” “Then God bless you,” said she. “If you will live in Montreal, you shall never want. I will see that neither you nor your child ever want, for putting part of the blame upon the French priests. I am going to Father Phelan, and I shall tell him about it. But they say you are an evil spirit. I want to know whether it is so or not.” “Come here,” said I, “feel me, and satisfy yourself. Besides, did you ever hear of an evil spirit having a child?”
I heard from those about me, that there was great difficulty in finding a magistrate willing to take my affidavit I am perfectly satisfied that this was owing to the influence of the priests to prevent my accusations against them from been made public. One evening a lawyer, who had been employed for the purpose, accompanied me to a French justice with an affidavit ready prepared in English, for his signature, and informed him that he wished him to administer to me the oath. Without any apparent suspicion of me, the justice said, “Have you heard of the nun who ran away from the Convent, and has come back to the city, to bear witness against the priests?” “No matter about that now,” replied the lawyer hastily; “I have no time to talk with you–you will take this person’s oath now or not?” He could not read a word of the document, because it was not in his own language, and soon placed his signature to the bottom. It proved, however, that we had gained nothing by this step, for the lawyer afterward informed us, that the laws required the affidavit of a nun or minor to be taken before a superior magistrate.
Interview with the Attorney General of the Province–Attempt to abduct me–More interviews–A mob excited against me–Protected by two soldiers–Convinced that an investigation of my charges could not be obtained–Departure from Montreal–Closing reflections.
Those who had advised to the course to be pursued, had agreed to lay the subject before the highest authorities. They soon came to the conviction that it would be in vain to look for any favour from the Governor, and resolved to lay it before the Attorney General as soon as he should return from Quebec. After waiting for some time, he returned; and I was informed, in a few days, that he had appointed an interview on the following morning. I went at the time with a gentleman of the city, to the house of Mr. Grant, a distinguished lawyer. In a short time a servant invited us to walk up stairs, and we went; but after I had entered a small room at the end of the parlour, the door was shut behind me by Mr. Ogden, the Attorney General. A chair was given me, which was placed with the back towards a bookcase, at which a man was standing, apparently looking at the books; and besides the two persons I have mentioned, there was but one more in the room, [Footnote: Unless another was concealed–as I suspected.] Mr. Grant, the master of the house. Of the first part of the interview I shall not particularly speak.
The two legal gentlemen at length began a mock examination of me, in which they seemed to me to be actuated more by a curiosity no way commendable, than a sincere desire to discover the truth, writing down a few of my answers. In this, however, the person behind me took no active part. One of the questions put to me was, “What are the colours of the carpet in the Superior’s room?”
I told what they were, when they turned to him, and inquired whether I had told the truth. He answered only by a short grunt of assent, as if afraid to speak, or even to utter a natural tone; and at the same time, by his hastiness, showed that he was displeased that my answer was correct. I was asked to describe a particular man I had seen in the nunnery, and did so. My examiner partly turned round with some remark or question which was answered in a similar spirit. I turned and looked at the stranger, who was evidently skulking to avoid my seeing him, and yet listening to every word that was said. I saw enough in his appearance to become pretty well satisfied that I had seen him before; and something in his form or attitude reminded me strongly of the person, whose name had been mentioned. I was then requested to repeat some of the prayers used in the nunnery, and repeated part of the office of the Virgin, and some others.
At length, after I had been in the little room, as I should judge, nearly an hour, I was informed that the examination had been satisfactory, and that I might go.
I then returned home; but no further step was taken by the Attorney General, and he refused, as I understood, to return my affidavit, which had been left in his hands to act upon.
Besides the persons I have mentioned, I had interviews with numbers of others. I learnt from some, that Father Phelan addressed his congregation a second time concerning me, and expressly forbade them to speak to me if they should have an opportunity, on pain of excommunication. It was also said, that he prayed for the family I lived with, that they might be converted.
I repeated to several different persons my willingness to go into the nunnery, and point out visible evidences of the truth of my statements; and when I was told, by one man, who said he had been to the priests, that I had better leave the city, or I would be clapped into prison, I made up my mind that I should like to be imprisoned a little while, because then, I thought I could not be refused a public examination.
Some Canadians were present one day, when the mistress of the house repeated, in my presence, that I was ready to go into the nunnery if protected, and, if I did not convince others of the truth of my assertions, that I would consent to be burned.
“O yes, I dare say,” replied one of the men–“the devil would take her off–she knows he would. He would take care of her–we should never be able to get her–the evil spirit!”
A woman present said–“I could light the fire to burn you, myself.”
A woman of Montreal, who has a niece in the nunnery, on hearing of what I declared about it, said that if it was true she would help tear it down.
Among those who came to see me, numbers were at first as violent as any I have mentioned, but after a little conversation, became mild and calm. I have heard persons declare, that it would be no harm to kill me, as I had an evil spirit.
One woman told me, that she had seen Father Phelan in the street, talking with a man, to whom he said, that the people were coming to tear down the house in which I stayed, intending afterward to set fire to it in the cellar. This story gave me no serious alarm, for I thought I could see through it evidence of an intention to frighten me, and make me leave the city. [Footnote: I felt very confident, from some circumstances, that this woman had been sent to bring such a story by Father Phelan; and such evidence of his timidity rather emboldened me. I was in another room when she came, and heard her talking on and abusing me; then coming out, I said, “How dare you say I do not speak the truth?” “God bless you,” said she, “sit down and tell me all.”] I was under great apprehensions, however, one day, in consequence of an accidental discovery of a plan laid to take me off by force. I had stepped into the cellar to get an iron-holder, when I heard the voices of persons in the street above, and recognised those of my mother and the Irish woman her friend. There was another woman with them.
“You go in and lay hold of her,” said one voice.
“No, you are her mother–you go in and bring her out–we will help you.”
I was almost overcome with dread of falling into their hands, believing that they would deliver me up to the Superior. Hastening into a room, I got behind a bed, told the lady of the house the cause of my fear, and calling to a little girl to bring me my child, I stood in a state of violent agitation. Expecting them in the house every instant, and fearing my infant might cry, and so lead them to the place of my concealment, I put my hand upon its mouth to keep it quiet.
It was thought desirable to get the testimony of the mistress of the house where I spent the night after my escape from the nunnery, as one means of substantiating my story. I had been there the day before my visit to the house of Mr. Grant, accompanied by a friend, and on my first inquiring of her about my nunnery dress, she said she had carried it to the Superior; speaking with haste, as if she apprehended I had some object very different from what I actually had. It now being thought best to summon her as a witness before a magistrate, and not knowing her whole name, we set off again towards her house to make inquiry.
On our way we had to pass behind the parade. I suddenly heard an outcry from a little gallery in the rear of a house which fronts another way, which drew my attention. “There’s the nun!” exclaimed a female, after twice clapping her hands smartly together, “There’s the nun, there’s the nun!”
I looked up, and whom should I see but the Irishwoman, who had taken so active a part, on several occasions in my affairs, on account of her friendship for my mother–the same who had accompanied me to Longeuil in a boat, when I set out for New York, after making arrangements for my journey. She now behaved as if exasperated against me to the utmost; having, as I had no doubt, learnt the object of my journey to Montreal since I had last spoken with her, and having all her Catholic prejudices excited. She screamed out: “There’s the nun that’s come to swear against our dear Father Phelan. Arrah, lay hold, lay hold upon her! Catch her, kill her, pull her to pieces.”
And so saying she hurried down to the street, while a number of women, children, and some men, came running out, and pursued after me. I immediately took to flight, for I did not know what they might do; and she, with the rest, pursued us, until we reached two soldiers, whom we called upon to protect us. They showed a readiness to do so; and when they learnt that we were merely going to a house beyond, and intended to return peaceably, consented to accompany us. The crowd, which might rather be called a mob, thought proper not to offer us any violence in the presence of the soldiers, and after following us a little distance, began to drop off, until all had disappeared. One of the soldiers, however, soon after remarked, that he observed a man following us, whom he had seen in the crowd, and proposed that instead of both of them going before us, one should walk behind, to guard against any design he might have. This was done; and we proceeded to a house near the one where I had found a refuge, and after obtaining the information we sought, returned, still guarded by the soldiers.
All our labour, in this, however, proved unavailing; for we were unable to get the woman to appear in court.
At length it was found impossible to induce the magistrates to do any thing in the case; and arrangements were made for my return to New York. While in the ferry-boat, crossing from Montreal to Laprairie, I happened to be standing near two little girls, when I overheard, the following conversation.
“Why do you leave Montreal so soon?”
“I had gone to spend a week or two; but I heard that Antichrist was in the city, and was afraid to be there. So I am going right home. I would not be in Montreal while Antichrist is there. He has come to destroy the Catholic religion.” I felt quite happy when I found myself once more safe in New York; and it has only been since my return from Montreal, and the conviction I had there formed, that it was in vain for me to attempt to get a fair investigation into the Hotel Dieu Nunnery, that I seriously thought of publishing a book. Under some disadvantages this volume has been prepared, and unfortunately its publication has been delayed to a season when it will be difficult to transmit it promptly to all parts of the country. I am sure, however, that in spite of all, no material errors will be found in it uncorrected, though many, very many, facts and circumstances might have been added which would have proved interesting. Indeed I am persuaded, from the experience I have already had, that past scenes, before forgotten, will continue to return to my memory, the longer I dwell upon my convent life, and that many of these will tend to confirm, explain, or illustrate some of the statements now before the public.
But before I close this volume, I must he indulged in saying a word of myself. The narrative through which the reader has now passed, he must not close and lay aside as if it were a fiction; neither would I wish him to forget the subject of it as one worthy only to excite surprise and wonder for a moment.
It is desired that the author of this volume may be regarded, not as a voluntary participator in the very guilty transactions which are described; but receive sympathy for the trials which she has endured, and the peculiar situation in which her past experience, and escape from the power of the Superior of the Hotel Dieu Nunnery, at Montreal, and the snares of the Roman priests in Canada, have left her.
My feelings are frequently distressed, and agitated, by the recollection of what I have passed through; and by night, and by day, I have little peace of mind, and few periods of calm and pleasant reflection. Futurity also appears uncertain. I know not what reception this little work may meet with; and what will be the effect of its publication here, or in Canada, among strangers, friends, or enemies. I have given the world the truth, so far as I have gone, on subjects of which I am told they are generally ignorant; and I feel perfect confidence, that any facts which may yet be discovered, will confirm my words, whenever they can be obtained. Whoever shall explore the Hotel Dieu Nunnery, at Montreal, will find unquestionable evidence that the descriptions of the interior of that edifice, given in this book, were furnished by one familiar with them; for whatever alterations may be attempted, there are changes which no mason or carpenter can make and effectually conceal; and therefore, there must be plentiful evidence in that institution of the truth of my description.
There are living witnesses, also, who ought to be made to speak, without fear of penances, tortures, and death; and possibly their testimony, at some future time, may be added to confirm my statements. There are witnesses I should greatly rejoice to see at liberty; or rather there _were_. Are they living now? or will they be permitted to live after the Priests and Superior have seen this book? Perhaps the wretched nuns in the cells have already suffered for my sake–perhaps Jane Ray has been silenced for ever, or will be murdered, before she has an opportunity to add her most important testimony to mine.
But speedy death, in respect only to this world, can be no great calamity to those who lead the life of a nun. The mere recollection of it always makes me miserable. It would distress the reader, should I repeat the dreams with which I am often terrified at night; for I sometimes fancy myself pursued by my worst enemies; frequently I seem as if shut up again in the Convent; often I imagine myself present at the repetition of the worst scenes that I have hinted at or described. Sometimes I stand by the secret place of interment in the cellar; sometimes I think I can hear the shrieks of helpless females in the hands of atrocious men; and sometimes almost seem actually to look again upon the calm and placid countenance of Saint Francis, as she appeared when surrounded by her murderers.
I cannot banish the scenes and characters of this book from my memory. To me it can never appear like an amusing fable, or lose its interest and importance, the story is one which is continually before me, and must return fresh to my mind, with painful emotions, as long as I live. With time, and Christian instruction, and the sympathy and example of the wise and good, I hope to learn submissively to bear whatever trials are appointed for me, and to improve under them all.
Impressed as I continually am with the frightful reality of the painful communications that I have made in this volume, I can only offer to all persons who may doubt or disbelieve my statements, these two things:–
Permit me to go through the Hotel Dieu Nunnery, at Montreal, with some impartial ladies and gentlemen, that they may compare my account with the interior parts of that building, into which no persons but the Roman Bishop and the priests, [Footnote: I should have added, and such persons as they introduce.] are ever admitted; and if they do not find my description true, then discard me as an impostor. Bring me before a court of justice–there I am willing to meet _Lartigue, Dufresne, Phelan, Bonin_, and _Richards_, and their wicked companions, with the Superior, and any of the nuns, before ten thousand men.
_New York, 11th January, 1836._
“AWFUL DISCLOSURES BY MARIA MONK”
1. _Early means used to discredit the took. Different of objectors_.–It was anticipated that persons who know little or nothing of the changeless spirit and uniform practices of the Papal ecclesiastics, would doubt or deny the statements which Maria Monk has given of the Hotel Dieu Nunnery at Montreal. The delineations, if true, are so loathsome and revolting, that they exhibit the principles of the Roman priesthood, and the corruption of the monastic system, as combining a social curse, which must be extinguished for the welfare of mankind.
From the period when the intimations were first published in the Protestant Vindicator, that a Nun had escaped from one of the Convents in Canada, and that a narrative of the secrets of that prison-house for females was preparing for the press; attempts have occasionally been made to prejudice the public judgment, by fulsome eulogies of the Roman Priests and Nuns, as paragons of immaculate perfection; and also by infuriated denunciations and calumnies of all persons, who seriously believe that every human institution which directly violates the constitution of nature, and the express commands of God, must necessarily be immoral.
The system of seclusion and celibacy adopted in Convents is altogether unnatural, and subverts all the appointments of Jehovah in reference to the duties and usefulness of man; while the impenetrable secrecy, which is the cement of the gloomy superstructure, not only extirpates every incentive to active virtue, but unavoidably opens the flood-gates of wickedness, without restraint or remorse, because it secures entire impunity.
Since the publication of the “Awful Disclosures,” much solicitude has been felt for the result of the exhibitions which they present us: but it is most remarkable, that the incredulity is confined almost exclusively to Protestants, or at least, to those who pretend not to be Papists. The Roman Priests are too crafty to engage directly in any controversy respecting the credibility of Maria Monk’s narrative. As long as they can induce the Roman Catholics privately to deny the statements, and to vilify Christians as the inventors of falsehoods concerning “the Holy Church and the Holy Priests!” so long will they laugh at the censures of the Protestants; and as long as they can influence the Editors of political papers vociferously to deny evangelical truth, and to decry every attempt to discover the secrets of the Romish priestcraft as false and uncharitable, so long will the Jesuits ridicule and despise that incredulity which is at once so blinding, deceitful, and dangerous.
The volume entitled “Awful Disclosures by Maria Monk,” has been assailed by two classes of Objectors. Some persons affirm that they cannot, and that they will not believe her narrative, because it is so improbable. Who is to judge of the standard of improbabilities? Assuredly not they who are ignorant of the whole subject to which those improbabilities advert. Now it is certain, that persons who are acquainted with Popery, are generally convinced, and readily agree, that Maria Monk’s narrative, is very much assimilated to the abstract view which a sound judgment, enlightened by the Holy Scriptures, would form of that antichristian system, as predicted by the prophet Daniel, and the apostles, Peter, Paul, and John.
2. _The question of Probability_.–But the question of probabilities may be tested by another fact; and that is the full, unshaken conviction, and the serious declaration of many persons who have lived in Canada, that Maria Monk’s allegations against the Roman Priests and Nuns in that province, are precisely the counterpart of their ordinary character, spirit, and practice. There are many persons now residing in the city of New York, who long dwelt in Montreal and Quebec; and who are thoroughly acquainted with the situation of affairs among the Canadian Papists–and such of them as are known, with scarcely a dissenting voice, proclaim the same facts which every traveller, who has any discernment or curiosity, learns when he makes the northern summer tour. It is also indubitable, that intelligent persons in Canada generally, especially residents in Montreal and Quebec, who have no inducement either to falsify or to conceal the truth, uniformly testify, that the nunneries in those cities are notorious places of resort for the Roman Priests for habitual and unrestrained licentiousness; that, upon the payment of the stipulated price to the Chaplain, other persons, in the disguise of Priests, are regularly admitted within the Convents for the same infamous purpose; and that many Infants and Nuns, in proportion to the aggregate amount of the whole body of females, are annually murdered and buried within their precincts. All this turpitude is as assuredly believed by the vast majority of the enlightened Protestants, as well as by multitudes of even the Papists in Montreal and Quebec, as their own existence; and judging from their declarations, they have no more doubt of the fact, than they have of the summer’s sunshine, and the winter’s frost and snow. Of what value, therefore, is the cavil of ignorance respecting improbabilities?
But it is also objected, that the British government would not tolerate such a system of enormous wickedness. To which it is replied, that the inordinate licentiousness of the Roman Priests and Nuns in Canada, is demonstrated to be of long standing by the archives of that Province, as may be seen in Smith’s History of Canada; year 1733, Chapter 5, p. 194.
The author of that work is Secretary of the Province; and his narrative was compiled immediately from the public documents, which are under his official guardianship and control. He thus writes:–“The irregularities and improper conduct of the Nuns of the General Hospital had been the subject of much regret and anxiety. Contrary to every principle of their institution, they frequently accepted of invitations to dinners and suppers, and mixed in society, without considering the vows which restricted them to their Convent. The king of France directed a letter, Maurepas’ letter of April 9, 1733, to be written to the Coadjutor of Quebec, by the minister having the department of the Marine; importing that the king was much displeased with the Nuns–that regularity and order might be restored by reducing the nuns to the number of twelve, according to their original establishment–and that, as the management and superintendence of the community had been granted to the Governor, Prelate, and Intendant, the Coadjutor should take the necessary measures to prevent them from repeating conduct so indecent and improper.”
The entire affair seems to have been this; that the Nuns of Quebec at that period preferred the gallant military officers, and their bewitching festivities, to the coarser and less diversified indulgences of the Jesuits; upon which the latter murmured, and resolved to hinder the soldiers from intruding into their fold, and among the cloistered females, to visit whom they claimed as their own peculiar privilege, inseparably attached to their priestly character and ecclesiastical functions. It is infallibly certain that after a lapse of 100 years, neither the Jesuits nor the Nuns in Canada, are in the smallest particle reformed.
The British government, by the treaty made upon the surrender of that province to them, guarantied to the Papal Ecclesiastics, both male and female, their prior exemptions and special immunities. Many of the officers of the Government in Canada, who have long resided there, are anxious to see the nunneries and their adjuncts totally extirpated; and it may be safely asserted that they know the character given of those institutions by Maria Monk is a graphical picture of their continuous doings.
The British government, for the purpose of retaining their supremacy over the province, have not only connived at those irregularities, but have always enjoined that the public sanction should be given to their puerile shows, and their pageant, pompous processions by the attendance of the civil and military officers upon them, and by desecrating the Lord’s day with martial music, &c. In this particular affair, the executive officers of the Provincial Government are fully apprised of all the substantial facts in the case; for an affidavit of the principal circumstances was presented to Mr. Ogden, the Attorney General of Canada, and to Mr. Grant, another of the King’s counsellors: and afterward Maria Monk did undergo an examination by those gentlemen, in the house of Mr. Grant, at Montreal, in the presence of Mr. Comte, one of the superior order of priests of that city; and of another Priest, believed to be either Phelan or Dufresne, who was concealed behind the sofa.
It is also incontrovertible, that the nominal Papists in Canada, who, in reality, are often infidels, notwithstanding their jocose sneers, and affected contempt, do generally believe every title of Maria Monk’s narrative. This is the style in which they talk of it. They first, according to custom, loudly curse the authors; for to find a Papist infidel who does not break the third commandment, is as difficult as to point out a moral Roman Priest or a chaste Nun. They first swear at the author, and then, with a hearty laugh, add the following illustration:– “Everybody knows that the Priests are a jolly set of fellows, who live well, and must have license, or they would be contrary to nature. They have the privilege of going into the nunneries, and they would be great fools if they did not use and enjoy it!” Such is the exact language which is adopted among the Canadians; and such are the precise words which have been used by Canadian gentlemen in New York, when criticising Maria Monk’s volume. It affords stronger proof than a direct attestation.
The other class of persons who verily believe the “Awful Disclosures,” are the religious community in Canada. We think that scarcely a well- informed person can be discovered in Montreal or Quebec, who does not feel assured, that the interior of the Hotel Dieu Nunnery is most faithfully depicted by Maria Monk. Many persons are now inhabitants of New York who formerly resided in Montreal, some of whom have been upon terms of familiar intimacy for years with those Roman Priests, who are specified as the principal actors in the scenes depicted in that book; and they most solemnly declare, that they have no doubt of the truth of Maria Monk’s narrative.
Mr. _Samuel B. Smith_, who has been not only a Roman Priest, but has had several _cages of nuns_ under his sole management, questioned Maria Monk expressly respecting those affairs, customs and ceremonies, which appertain only to nunneries, because they cannot be practiced by any other females but those who are shut up in those dungeons; and, after having minutely examined her, he plainly averred that it was manifest she could not have known the things which she communicated to him unless she had been a nun; not merely a scholar, or a temporary resident, or even a novice, but a nun, who had taken the veil, in the strictest sense of the appellative. This testimony is of the more value, because the conclusion does not depend upon any conflicting statements, of partial or prejudicial witnesses, but upon a fact which is essential to the system of monachism; that no persons can know all the secrets of nunneries, but the Chaplain, the Abbess, and their accomplices in that “mystery of iniquity.” Mr. Smith’s declaration in one other respect is absolutely decisive. He has declared not only that Maria Monk has been a nun, but also that the descriptions which she gives are most minutely accurate.
Mr. Smith also testifies that the account which Maria Monk gives of the proceedings of the priests, the obscene questions which they ask young females, and their lewd practices with them at auricular confession, are constantly exemplified by the Roman Priests; and he also confirms her statements, by the testimony of his own individual experience, and actual personal acquaintance with the Canadian nunneries, as well as with those in the United States, and especially of that at Monroe, Michigan, which was dissolved by Mr. Fenwick, on account of scandalous impurity, several years ago.
Mrs. —-, a widow lady now in New York, who formerly was a Papist in Montreal, and was recently converted to Christianity, solemnly avers, that the Priest Richards himself, conducted her from the Seminary through the subterraneous passage to the nunnery, and describes the whole exactly in accordance with the statement of Maria Monk.
_Mr. Lloyd_, who was in business a number of years adjacent to the nunnery, and who is intimately acquainted with those priests, their characters, principles, and habits, avows his unqualified conviction of the truth of the “Awful Disclosures.”
_Mr. Hogan_, who was eighteen months in the Jesuit Seminary at Montreal, and in constant intercourse and attendance upon Lartigue and his accomplices, unequivocally affirms, that Maria Monk’s complex description of those Priests are most minutely and accurately true.
One hundred other persons probably can be adduced, who, during their residence in Canada, or on their tours to that province, by inquiries ascertained that things in accordance with Maria Monk’s delineations are the undoubted belief of each class of persons, and of every variety of condition, and in all places which they visited in Lower Canada.
_Mr. Greenfield_, the father of the gentleman who owns the two steamboats on the river St. Lawrence, called the Lady of the Lake, and the Canadian Eagle, who is a citizen of New York, avows his unqualified assent to all Maria Monk’s statements, and most emphatically adds– _”Maria Monk has not disclosed one tenth part of the truth respecting the Roman Priests and Nuns in Canada.”_
Fifty other persons from that province, now residing in New York, likewise attest the truth of the “Disclosures.”
At Sorel, Berthier, and Three Rivers, the usual stopping-places for the steamboats on the River St. Lawrence, the Priests, if they have any cause to be at the wharf, may be seen accompanied by one or more children, their _”Nephews,”_ as the Priests _facetiously_ denominate their offspring; and if any person on the steamboat should be heard expatiating upon the piety, the temperance, the honesty, or the purity of Roman Priests and Nuns, he would be laughed at outright, either as a _natural_ or an ironical jester; while the priest himself would join in the merriment, as being a “capital joke.”
We are assured by the most indisputable authority in Montreal, that the strictly religious people in that city do generally credit Maria Monk’s statements without hesitation; and the decisive impression of her veracity can never be removed. If it were possible at once to reform the nunneries, and to transform them from castles of ignorance, uncleanness, and murder, where all their arts are concealed in impervious secrecy, into abodes of wisdom, chastity, and benevolence to every recess of which all persons, at every hour, might have unrestricted admission– that would not change the past; it would leave them indelibly branded with the emphatical title applied to the nunnery at Charlestown, “FILTHY, MURDEROUS DENS.”
3. _Who are those who deny the truth of the book? Case of Father Conroy. Father Conroy’s deception._
In addition to the objections from improbability, another series of opposition consists of flat, broad denials of the truth of Maria Monk’s “Awful Disclosures.” This mode of vanquishing direct charges is even more invalid than the former futile cavilling. It is also remarkable, when we remember who are the persons that deny the statements made by Maria Monk. Are they the Roman Priests implicated? Not at all. They are too crafty. The only persons who attempt to hint even a suspicion of the truth of the secrets divulged in the “Awful Disclosures,” are editors of Newspapers: some of whom are ever found on the side of infidelity and vice; men always reproaching religion; and directly calumniating, or scornfully ridiculing the best Christians in the land; and profoundly ignorant of Popery and Jesuitism, and the monastic system.
It is true that Priest Conroy of New York, has contradicted in general terms the truth of the statement respecting himself, and his attempt to abduct Maria Monk from the Almshouse. But what does he deny? He is plainly charged, in the “Awful Disclosures,” with a protracted endeavor, _by fraud or by force to remove Maria Monk from that institution_. Now that charge involves a flagrant misdemeanor, or it is a wicked and gross libel. Let him answer the following questions:
Did he not frequently visit the house, and lurk about at various times, for longer and shorter periods, expressly to have an interview with Maria Monk?
Did he not state that he was acquainted with her by the name she bore in the nunnery, _Sainte Eustace_.
Did he not declare that he was commissioned by Lartigue, Phelan, Dufresne, Kelly, and the Abbess of the Hotel Dieu Nunnery at Montreal, to obtain a possession of her, that she might be sent back to the abode of the Furies?
Did he not offer her any thing she pleased to demand, provided she would reside with the Ursulines of this city?
Did he not also declare that he would have her at all risks, and that she could not escape him?
Did he not persevere in this course of action, until he was positively assured that she would not see him, and that the Priest Conroy should not have access to Maria Monk?
Was not the priest Kelly, from Canada, in New York at that period, prompting Conroy; and did not that same Kelly come on here expressly to obtain possession of Maria Monk, that he might carry her back to the Hotel Dieu Nunnery, there to murder her, as his accomplices have smothered, poisoned, and bled to death other victims of their beastly licentiousness?
All these questions are implied in Maria Monk’s statement, and they involve the highest degree of crime against the liberty, rights, and life of Maria Monk, and the laws of New York, and the charge is either true or false. Why does not the Priest Conroy try it? Why does he not demonstrate that he is calumniated, by confronting the Authoress and Publishers of the book before an impartial jury. We are assured that the Executive committee of the New York Protestant Association will give ten dollars to any Lawyer, whom Mr. Conroy will authorize to institute a civil suit for libel, payable at the termination of the process. Will he subject the question to that scrutiny? _Never_. He would rather follow the example of his fellow priests, and depart from New York. Many of the Maynooth Jesuits, after having fled from Ireland for their crimes, to this country, to avoid the punishments due to them for the repetition of them in the United States, and to elude discovery, have assumed false names and gone to France; or in disguise have joined their dissolute companions in Canada.
It is also a fact, that the Priest, named Quarter, with one of his minions, did visit the house where Maria Monk resides, on the 13th day of February, 1836; and did endeavor to see her alone, under the false pretext of delivering to her a packet from her brother in Montreal; and as an argument for having an interview with her without company, one of the two impostors did protest that he had a parcel from John Monk; which “he had sworn not to deliver except into the hands of his sister in person.” Now what object had Mr. Quarter in view; and what was his design in going to her residence between nine and ten o’clock at night, under a lying pretence? Mr. Quarter comes from Canada. He knows all the Priests of Montreal. For what purpose did he assume a fictitious character, and utter base and wilful falsehoods, that, he might have access to her, with another man, when Maria Monk, as they hoped, would be without a protector? For what ignoble design did he put an old Truth Teller into a parcel, and make his priest-ridden minion declare that it was a very valuable packet of letters from John Monk? That strange contrivance requires explanation. Did Priest Quarter believe that Maria Monk was in Montreal? Did he doubt her personal identity? Does not that fact alone verity that all the Roman Priests are confederated? Does it not prove that her delineations are correct? Does it not evince that the Papal Ecclesiastics dread the disclosures?
4. _The great ultimate test which the nature of this case demands. Challenge of the New York Protestant Association_.–It is readily admitted, that the heinous charges which are made by Maria Monk against the Roman priests cannot easily be rebutted in the usual form of disproving criminal allegations. The denial of those Priests is good for nothing, and they cannot show an alibi. But there is one mode of destroying Maria Monk’s testimony, equally _prompt_ and _decisive_, and no other way is either feasible, just, or can be efficient. That method is the plan proposed by the New York Protestant Association.
The Hotel Dieu Nunnery is in Montreal. Here is Maria Monk’s description of its interior apartments and passages. She offers to go to Montreal under the protection of a committee of four members of the New York Protestant Association, and in company with four gentlemen of Montreal, to explore the Nunnery; and she also voluntarily proposes that if her descriptions of the interior of the Hotel Dieu Nunnery are not found to be true, she will surrender herself to Lartigue and his confederates to torture her in what way they may please, or will bear the punishment of the civil laws as a base and wilful slanderer of the Canadian Jesuit Ecclesiastics.
When Lartigue, Bonin, Dufresne, Phelan, Richards, and their fellows, accede to this proposition, we shall hesitate respecting Maria Monk’s veracity; until then, by all impartial and intelligent judges, and by enlightened Protestants and Christians, the “Awful Disclosures” will be pronounced undeniable facts. The scrutiny, however, respecting Maria Monk’s credibility comprises two general questions, to which we shall succinctly reply.
1. _Was Maria Monk a Nun in the Hotel Dieu Convent at Montreal?_– In ordinary cases, to dispute respecting a circumstance of that kind would be deemed a most strange absurdity; and almost similar to an inquiry into a man’s personal identity when his living form is before your eyes. Maria Monk says she was a nun, presents you a book descriptive of the Convent in which she resided, and leaves the fact of her abode there to be verified by the minute accuracy of her delineations of arcana, with which only the visiting Roman Priests and the imprisoned nuns are acquainted. That test, neither Lartigue nor the Priests will permit to be applied; and therefore, so far, Maria Monk’s testimony cannot directly be corroborated. It is however not a little remarkable, that no one of all the persons so boldly impeached by her of the most atrocious crimes, has, even whispered a hint that she was not a nun; while the priest Conroy has confirmed that fact far more certainly than if he had openly asserted its truth.
5. _The Testimony of Mrs. Monk considered._–The only evidence against that fact is her mother. Now it is undeniable, that her mother is a totally incompetent witness. She is known in Montreal to be a woman of but little principle; and her oath in her daughter’s favour would be injurious to her; for she is so habitually intemperate, that it is questionable whether she is ever truly competent to explain any matters which come under her notice. Truth requires this declaration, although Maria, with commendable filial feelings, did not hint at the fact. Besides, during a number of years past, she has exhibited a most unnatural aversion, or rather animosity, to her daughter; so that to her barbarous usage of Maria when a child, may be imputed the subsequent scenes through which she has passed. When appealed to respecting her daughter, her uniform language was such as this–“I do not care what becomes of her, or who takes her, or where she goes, or what is done to her, provided she keeps away from me.” It is also testified by the most unexceptionable witnesses in Montreal, that when Maria Monk went to that city in August, 1835, and first made known her case, that Mrs. Monk repeatedly declared, that her daughter had been a Nun; and that she had been in the Nunneries at Montreal a large portion of her life. She also avowed, that the offer of bribery that had been made unto her, had been made, not by Protestants, to testify that her daughter Maria had been an inmate of the Hotel Dieu Nunnery; but by the Roman Priests, who had promised her one hundred dollars, if she would make an affidavit that Maria had not been in that nunnery at all; and would also swear to any other matters which they dictated. Now there is little room for doubt, that the affidavit to the truth of which she finally swore was thus obtained; for she has not capacity to compose such a narrative, nor has she been in a state of mind, for a number of years past, to understand the details which have thus craftily been imposed upon the public in her name. When she had no known inducement to falsify the fact in August, 1835, before the Priests became alarmed, then she constantly affirmed that her daughter had been a Nun; but after Lartigue and his companions were assured that her daughter’s narrative would appear, then the mother was probably bribed, formally to swear to a wilful falsehood; for it is most probable, that she either did not see, or from intoxication could not comprehend, the contents of the paper to which her signature is affixed. Her habitual intemperance, her coarse impiety, her long- indulged hatred and cruelty towards her daughter, and her flat self- contradictions, with her repeated and public declarations, that she had been offered a large sum of money by the Montreal Priests, thus to depreciate her daughter’s allegations, and to attest upon oath precisely the contrary to that which she had previously declared, to persons whose sole object was to ascertain the truth–all those things demonstrate that Mrs. Monk’s evidence is of no worth; and yet that is all the opposite evidence which can be adduced.
6. _Testimony in favour of the book_.–Mr. Miller the son of Adam Miller, a well known teacher at St. John’s, who has known Maria Monk from her childhood, and who is now a resident of New York, solemnly attests, that in the month of August, 1833, he made inquiries of Mrs. Monk respecting her daughter Maria, and that Mrs. Monk informed him that Maria was then a _Nun!_ that she had taken the veil previous to that conversation, and that she had been in the nunnery for a number of years. Mr. Miller voluntarily attests to that fact. He was totally ignorant of Maria Monk’s being out of the Nunnery at Montreal, until he saw her book, and finally by searching out her place of abode, renewed the acquaintance with her which had existed between them from the period when she attended his father’s school in her childhood. See the affidavit of William Miller.
When Maria Monk made her escape, as she states, from the Hotel Dieu Nunnery, she took refuge in the house of a woman named Lavalliere in Elizabeth street, Montreal, the second or third door from the corner of what is commonly called “the Bishop’s Church.” Madame Lavalliere afterward admitted, that Maria Monk did arrive at her house at the time specified, in the usual habiliments of a Nun, and made herself known as an eloped Nun; that she provided her with other clothing; and that she afterward carried the Nun’s garments to the Hotel Dieu Nunnery.
After her escape, Maria Monk narrates that she went on board a steamboat for Quebec, intending thereby to avoid being seized and again transferred to the Nunnery, that she was recognised by the Captain, was kept under close watch during the whole period of the stay of that boat at Quebec, and merely by accident escaped the hands of the Priests, by watching for an unexpected opportunity to gain the shore during the absence of the Captain, and the momentary negligence of the female attendant in the cabin. The woman was called Margaret —-, the other name is forgotten. The name of the Master of the steamboat is probably known and he has never pretended to deny that statement, that he did thus detain Maria Monk, would not permit her to go on shore at Quebec, and that he also conducted her back to Montreal; having suspected or ascertained that she was a Nun who had clandestinely escaped from a Convent.
7. _Corroborative evidence unintentionally furnished by the opponents of the book_.–After her flight from the steamboat, she was found early in the morning, in a very perilous situation, either on the banks, or partly in Lachine Canal, and was committed to the public prison by Dr. Robertson, whence she was speedily released through the intervention of Mr. Esson, one of the Presbyterian ministers of Montreal. Upon this topic, her statement coincides exactly with that of Dr. Robertson.
But he also states–“Although incredulous as to the truth of Maria Monk’s story, I thought it incumbent upon me to make some inquiry concerning it, and have ascertained where she has been residing a great part of the time she states having been an inmate of the Nunnery. During the summer of 1832, she was at service at William Henry; the winters of 1832-3, she passed in this neighborhood at St. Ours and St. Denis.”
That is most remarkable testimony, because, although Papists may justly be admitted to know nothing of times and dates, unless by their Carnivals, their Festivals, their Lent, or their Penance–yet Protestant Magistrates might be more precise. Especially, as it is a certain fact, that no person at Sorel can be discovered, who is at all acquainted with such a young woman in service in the summer of 1832. It is true, she did reside at St. Denis or St. Ours, as the _Roman Priests can testify_; but not at the period specified by Dr. Robertson.
For the testimony of a decisive witness in favour of Maria Monk, see the statement of an old schoolmate in Appendix.
8. _Summary view of the evidence_.–Let us sum up this contradictory evidence respecting the simple fact, whether Maria Monk was a resident of the Hotel Dieu Nunnery or not?
Her mother says–“I denied that my daughter had ever been in a Nunnery.” Dr. Robertson informed us–“I have ascertained where she has been residing a great part of the time she states having been an inmate of the Nunnery.” That is all which can be adduced to contradict Maria Monk’s statement.
This is a most extraordinary affair, that a young woman’s place of abode cannot be accurately discovered during several years, when all the controversy depends upon the fact of that residence. Why did not Dr. Robertson specify minutely with whom Maria Monk lived at service at William Henry, in the summer of 1832?–Why did not Dr. Robertson exactly designate where, and with whom, she resided at St. Denis and St. Ours, in the winters of 1832 and 1833? The only answer to these questions is this–_Dr. Robertson cannot_. He obtained his contradictory information most probably from her mother, or from the Priest Kelly, and then embodied it in his affidavit to regain that favour and popularity with the Montreal Papists which he has so long lost. We are convinced that neither the evidence of Mrs. Monk, nor Dr. Robertson, would be of a feather’s weight in a court of justice against the other witnesses, Mrs. —-, and Mr. William Miller.
Maria Monk asserts, that she was a resident of the Hotel Dieu Nunnery during the period designated by Dr. Robertson, which is familiarly denominated the Cholera summer. In her narrative she develops a variety of minute and characteristic details of proceedings in that Institution, connected with things which all persons in Montreal know to have actually occurred, and of events which it is equally certain did happen, and which did not transpire anywhere else; and which is impossible could have taken place at Sorel or William Henry; because there is no Nunnery there; and consequently her descriptions would be purely fabricated and fictitious.
But the things asserted are not inventions of imagination. No person could thus delineate scenes which he had not beheld; and therefore Maria Monk witnessed them; consequently, she was a member of that family community; for the circumstances which she narrates nowhere else occurred. At all events, it seems more reasonable to suppose that an individual can more certainly tell what had been his own course of life, than persons who, by their own admission, know nothing of the subject; and especially when her statements are confirmed by such unexceptionable witnesses. There are, however, two collateral points of evidence which strongly confirm Maria Monk’s direct statements. One is derived from the very character of the acknowledgments which she made, and the period when they were first disclosed. “A death-bed,” says the Poet, “is a detector of the heart.” Now it is certain, that the appalling facts which she states, were not primarily made in a season of hilarity, or with any design to “make money” by them, or with any expectation that they would be known to any other person than Mr. Hilliker, Mr. Tappan, and a few others at Bellevue; but when there was no anticipation that her life would be prolonged, and when agonized with the most dreadful retrospection and prospects.
It is not possible to believe, that any woman would confess those facts which are divulged by Maria Monk, unless from dread of death and the judgment to come, or from the effect of profound Christian penitence. Feminine repugnance would be invincible. Thus, the alarm of eternity, her entrance upon which appeared to be so immediate, was the only cause of those communications; which incontestably prove, that Nunneries are the very nurseries of the most nefarious crimes, and the most abandoned transgressors.
The other consideration is this–that admitting the statements to be true, Maria Monk could not be unconscious of the malignity of Roman Priests, and of her own danger; and if her statements were fictitious, she was doubly involving herself in irreparable disgrace and ruin. In either case, as long as she was in New York she was personally safe; and as her disclosures had been restricted to very few persons, she might have withdrawn from the public institution, and in privacy have passed away her life, “alike unknowing and unknown.” Lunacy itself could only have instigated a woman situated as she was, to visit Montreal, and there defy the power, and malice, and fury of the Roman Priests, and their myrmidons; by accumulating upon them charges of rape, infanticide, the affliction of the tortures of the Inquisition, and murders of cold- blooded ferocity in the highest degree, with all the atrocious concomitant iniquities which those prolific sins include.
Now it is certain, that she was not deranged; and she was not forced. She went deliberately, and of her own accord, to meet the Popish Priests upon the spot where their crimes are perpetrated, and the stronghold of their power. Whether that measure was the most prudent and politic for herself, and the most wise and efficient for the acquisition of the avowed object, may be disputed; but the exemplary openness and the magnanimous daring of that act cannot be controverted.
The narrative, pages 116 to l27, respecting the cholera and the election riots at Montreal, both which scenes happened at the period when Dr. Robertson says Maria Monk was at William Henry, or St. Denis, or St. Ours; could not have been described, at least that part of it respecting the wax candles, and the preparation for defence, except by a resident of the Nunnery.
It is a public, notorious fact, that “blessed candles” were made, and sold by the Nuns, and used at Montreal under the pretext to preserve the houses from the Cholera, and to drive it away; that those candles were directed so to be kept burning by the pretended injunction of the Pope; and that large quantities of the Nunnery candles were dispersed about Montreal and its vicinity, which were fixed at a high price; and whoever suffered by the Cholera, the Nuns and their Masters, the Priests, could truly say–“By this craft we have our wealth.” Acts 19:25. It is obvious, that a young Papist woman at service at William Henry, could know no more of those matters, than if she had been at Labrador; for the incidental remark with which that part of the narrative commences, is one of those apparently superfluous intimations, which it is evident a person who was writing a fiction would not introduce; and yet it is so profoundly characteristic of a Canadian Convent, that its very simple artlessness at once obliterates Dr. Robertson’s affidavit. “There were a few instances, and only a few, in which we knew any thing that was happening in the world; and even then our knowledge did not extend out of the city.” We cannot be infallibly certain of Maria Monk’s description of the interior of the Nunnery; but that unpremeditated remark, so minutely descriptive of the predominating ignorance among the Nuns of all terrestrial concerns exterior of the Convent, is satisfactory proof that the narrator was not sketching from fancy, but depicting from actual life.
From those testimonies, direct and unintentional, it is fully evident, that Maria Monk was a long resident, and is profoundly acquainted with the doings in the Hotel Dieu Convent at Montreal.
II. What collateral evidence can be adduced of the truth of the “Awful Disclosures” by Maria Monk?
1. One corroborative testimony is derived from the _silence of the Roman Priests and their avowed partisans_. Months have passed away since the first statements of those matters were made, and also the defence of the Priests, with the affidavits and other connected circumstances, were presented to the public in the Protestant Vindicator. One of the persons in Montreal, who was in favour of the Jesuits, Mr. Doucet, stated that “the Priests never take up such things; they allow their character to defend itself.” There was a time when that contemptuous course would have sufficed, or rather, when to have spoken the truth of the Roman Priests would have cost a man his life, and overwhelmed his family in penury, disgrace, and anguish. The Canadian Jesuits may be assured that time has passed away, never more to return. They must take up this thing; for their characters cannot defend themselves; and every enlightened man in Canada knows, that in a moral aspect, they cannot be defended.
Argument, denial, affidavits, if they could reach from Montreal to New York, and the oaths of every Papist and Infidel in Canada,–from Joseph Signay, the Popish Prelate of Quebec and Jean Jacques Lartigue, the Suffragan of Montreal, down to the most profligate of the half-pay military officers, among whom are to be found some of the dregs of the British army, all of them will avail nothing. They are not worth a puff of wind against the internal evidence of Maria Monk’s book, in connexion with the rejection of the proposal of the New York Protestant Association, that the Nunnery shall undergo a strict and impartial examination. It is one of the remarkable evidences of the extraordinary delusion which blinds, or the infatuation which enchains the public mind, that men will not credit the corruptions and barbarities of Romanism. To account for this stupefaction among persons who are wide awake to every other system of deadly evil, is almost impossible. Popery necessarily extirpates the rights of man. It ever has destroyed the well-being of society. By it, all municipal law and domestic obligations are abrogated: It always subverts national prosperity and stability; and it is the invincible extinguisher of all true morality and genuine religion. Notwithstanding, men will give credence neither to its own avowed principles, character, and spirit; nor to the unavoidable effects which constantly have flowed from its operations and predominance.
In any other case but one exposing the abominations of Popery, such a volume as Maria Monk’s “Awful Disclosures” would have been received without cavil; and immediate judicial measures would have been adopted, to ascertain the certainty of the alleged facts, and the extent and aggravation of their criminality. But now persons are calling for more evidence, when, if they reflected but for a moment, they would perceive, that the only additional evidence possible, is under the entire control of the very persons who are criminated; and to whom the admission of further testimony would be the accumulation of indelible ignominy.
The pretence, that it is contrary to their rules to allow strangers to explore the interior of a nunnery, only adds insult to crime. Why should a Convent be exempt from search, more than any other edifice? Why should Roman Priests be at liberty to perpetrate every deed of darkness in impenetrable recesses called nunneries? Why should one body of females, shut up in a certain species of mansion, to whom only one class of men have unrestricted access, be excluded from all public and legal supervision, more than any other habitation of lewd women, into which all men may enter? As citizens of the United States, we do not pretend to have any authoritative claim to explore a convent within the dominion of a foreign potentate. The Roman Priests of Canada, exercise a vast influence, and are completely intertwined with the Jesuits, in this republic. Therefore, when they remember the extinction of the nunneries at Monroe, Michigan, Charlestown, and Pittsburg; and when they recollect, that the delineations of Maria Monk, if they produce no effect in Canada, will assuredly render female convents in the United States very suspicious and insecure; if they have any solicitude for their confederates, they will intrepidly defy research, and dauntlessly accept the offer of the New York Protestant Association: that a joint committee of disinterested, enlightened and honorable judges, should fully investigate, and equitably decide upon the truth or falsehood of Maria Monk’s averments. Their ominous silence, their affected contempt, and their audacious refusal, are calculated only to convince every impartial person, of even the smallest discernment, of the real state of things in that edifice; that the chambers of pollution are above, and that the dungeon of torture and death are below; and that they dread the exposure of the theatre on which their horrible tragedies are performed.
It is also a fact publicly avowed by certain Montreal Papists themselves, and extensively told in taunt and triumph, that they have been employed as masons and carpenters by the Roman Priests, since Maria Monk’s visit to Montreal in August, 1835, expressly to alter various parts of the Hotel Dieu Convent, and to close up some of the subterraneous passages and cells in that nunnery. This circumstance is not pretended even to be disputed or doubted; for when the dungeons under ground are spoken of before the Papists, their remark is this: “Eh bien! mais vous ne les trouverez pas, a present; on les a cache hors de vue. Very well, you will not find them there now; they are closed up, and out of sight.” Why was the manoeuvre completed? Manifestly, that in urgent extremity, a casual explorer might be deceived, by the apparent proof that the avenues, and places of imprisonment and torture which Maria Monk describes are not discoverable. Now that circumstance might not even been suspected, if the Papist workmen themselves had not openly boasted of the chicanery by which the Priests, who employed them, expected to blind and deceive the Protestants. For in reference to the Romanists, a Popish Priest well knows that nothing more is necessary than for him to assert any absurdity, however gross or impossible, and attest it by the five crosses on his vestments, and his own superstitious vassal believes it with more assurance than his own personal identity. But the filling up and the concealment of the old apertures in the nunnery, by the order of the Roman Priests are scarcely less powerful corroborative proof of Maria Monk’s delineations, than ocular and palpable demonstration.
2. Some of the circumstances attending Maria Monk’s visit to Montreal, in August, 1835, add great weight in favour of the truth, which no cavils, skepticism, scorn, nor menaces, can counterbalance.
We will however state one very recent occurrence, because it seems to us, that it alone is almost decisive of the controversy. A counsellor of Quebec–his name is omitted merely from delicacy and prudential considerations–has been in New York since the publication of the “Awful Disclosures” His mind was so much influenced by the perusal of that volume, that he sought out the Authoress, and most closely searched into the credibility of her statements. Before the termination of the interview, that gentleman became so convinced of the truth of the picture which Maria Monk drew of the interior of the Canadian Nunneries, that he expressed himself to the following effect:–“My daughter, about 15 years of age, is in the Ursuline Convent at Quebec. I will return home immediately; and if I cannot remove her any other way, I will drag her out by the hair of her head, and raise a noise about their ears that shall not soon be quieted.”
That gentleman did so return to Quebec, since which he has again visited New York; and he stated, that upon his arrival in Quebec, he went to the Convent, and instantly removed his daughter from the Ursuline Nunnery; from whom he ascertained, as far as she had been initiated into the mysteries, that Maria Monk’s descriptions of Canadian Nunneries, are most minutely and undeniably accurate.
We have already remarked, that Mrs. —-, Mr. Lloyd, Mr. Hogan, and Mr. Smith, who was a Papist Priest, with scores of other persons who formerly resided in Montreal, all express their unqualified belief of the statements made by Maria Monk. Mr. Ogden’s acquaintance with the facts, as Attorney General, and that of other officers of the Provincial Government, have also been noticed. The ensuing additional circumstances are of primary importance to a correct estimate of the value which should be attached to the crafty silence of the Roman Priests and the impudent denials of infidel profligates.
Mr. Bouthillier, one of the Montreal Magistrates, called at Mr. Johnson’s house where Maria Monk stayed, in the month of August, 1835, when visiting Montreal.
He addressed her and said:–“There is some mystery about Novices–What is it? and asked how long a woman must be a novice before she can take the veil?” Having been answered, Mr. Bouthillier then desired Maria Monk to describe the Superior of the Hotel Dieu Nunnery. As soon as it was done, he became enraged, and said–“Vous dites un mensonge, vous en savez. You lie, you know you do?”–Mr. Bouthillier next inquired–“Was Mr. Tabeau in the Holy Retreat when you left the Convent?” She answered “Yes.” To which he replied in French–“Anybody might have answered that question.” Something having been said about the Hotel Dieu Nuns being confined to their convent, Mr. Bouthillier declared, that they were allowed to go about the streets. He was told that could not be the case, for it was a direct violation of the rules for Nuns to depart from the Hotel Dieu Nunnery. He replied–“Ce n’est pas vrai. That is not true,” Mr. Bonthillier then became very angry, and applied to Maria Monk some very abusive epithets, for which a gentleman in the room reproved him. It was evident, that he lost his temper because he had lost his argument, and his hopes of controverting her statements.
On the Lord’s day after Maria Monk’s arrival in Montreal, and when the matter had become well known and much talked about, Phelan, the Priest, at the end of mass, addressed the Papists, who were assembled to hear mass, to this effect: “There is a certain nun in this city who has left our faith, and joined the Protestants. She has a child of which she is ready to swear I am the father. She wishes in this way to take my gown from me. If I knew where to find her, I would put her in prison. I mention this to guard you against being deceived by what she may say. The Devil now has such hold upon people that there is danger lest some might believe her story.” He then pretended to weep, and appeared to be overcome with feeling. A number of the people gathered around him, and he said: “That nun is Antichrist. She is not a human being, but an evil spirit, who got among the Catholics, and _was admitted into the nunnery_, where she learned the rules.” He also stated, that “in that nun, the prophecy respecting the coming of Antichrist is fulfilled, to break down the Catholic religion.” Such was Phelan’s address to the people. He declared that Maria Monk had been a nun. Now he knew her, for he saw her in Montreal, where she could not know him. It would have saved all further inquiry and research, if, instead of denouncing her after mass, he had merely assented to Maria Monk’s proposition, to be confronted with those Roman Priests and nuns before impartial witnesses in the Hotel Dieu Convent.
One of the most impressively characteristic circumstances which occurred during Maria Monk’s visit to Montreal in Aug. 1835, was an interview at Mr. Johnson’s house with a carpenter who had heard Phelan’s denunciation of Maria Monk after mass.
The heinous destruction of all domestic confidence and of all female purity, is known to be the constant and general practice, not only in Canada, but in all other Popish countries, and among Papists in every part of the world. For in truth it is only fulfilling the authentic dogmas of their own system. The following authoritative principles are divulged in the Corpus Juris Canonici, which contains the Decretals, Canons, &c. of the Popes and Councils; and other participants of the pretended Papal infallibility. “If the Pope fall into homicide or adultery, he cannot be accused, but is excused by the murders of Samson, and the adultery of David.” Hugo, Glossa, distinc. 40 Chapter, Non vos. –“Likewise if any Priest is found embracing a woman, it must be presupposed and expounded that he doth it to bless her!”–Glossa, Caus. 12. Quest. 3. Chapter Absis. According to the Pope’s bull he who does not believe those doctrines is accursed.
As that carpenter was completely overcome by the recollection of the Priest’s information and caution about his marriage, he desisted from any further questions; but upon Maria Monk’s declaration, that she was desirous to go into the convent, and prove all her accusations against the Priests and Nuns, he withdrew. Soon after he returned, and stated, that he had been to the Convent, to inquire respecting her; and that he had been informed, that she had once belonged to the Nunnery; but that they would not any longer own or recognise her. Afterwards he exhibited the most contradictory emotions, and first cursed Maria Monk; then reviled the Priests, applying to them all the loathsome epithets in the Canadian vocabulary. Subsequently, he went to make inquiries at the Seminary; and after his return to Mr. Johnson’s house he declared, that the persons there had informed him, that Maria Monk had lived in the Nunnery, but not as a Nun; then he offered to assist her in her endeavours to expose the Priests; and finally disappeared, swearing aloud as he was retiring from the house; and apparently thinking over the conduct of the Priest to his wife before their marriage. “Oh, sacre!”–he repeated to himself–“c’est trop mechant!”
Similar facts to the above occurred frequently during the time of Maria Monk’s visit to Montreal–in which strangers who called upon her, cursed and reviled her; then believed her statements and assented to them–and displayed all the natural excitement which was necessarily comprised in the working of their own belief and convictions of the iniquity of the Priests, and the dread resulting from their own superstitious vassalage, and the certainty of a heavy penance.
But in connexion with the preceding collateral evidence is another remarkable circumstance, which is this: the extensive knowledge which Maria Monk has obtained of the Canadian Jesuits. Those with whom she has been acquainted, she affirms that she could instantly identify. For that object, she has given a catalogue of those Priests whose names and persons are in some degree familiarly known to her. As the Priests are often changing their abodes, and many of them residents in Montreal until a vacancy occurs for them in the country parishes, in those particulars there may be a trifling mistake; but Maria Monk solemnly avers, that the Priests, whether dead or living, who are enumerated in the subsequent catalogue, either have dwelt or do yet reside in the places specified. When unexpectedly and closely examined in reference to the Priests of the same name, she particularly distinguished them, and pointed out the difference between them in their persons, gait, &c.; thus precluding all objection from the fact of there being more than one Priest with a similar appellative. This circumstance particularly is illustrated by the Priests named Marcoux, of whom she says there are three brothers or first cousins–two called Dufresne, &c.: each of whom she graphically depicts. It is also certain, because she has done it in a great variety of instances, and in the presence of many different persons, all of whom are well acquainted with them, that she describes Lartigue; Dufresne; Richard; Phelan; Bonin; Comte; Bourget; McMahon; Kelly; Demers; Roux; Roque; Sauvage; Tabeau; Marcoux; Morin; Durocher; and all the Roman Priests around Montreal, with the utmost minuteness of accuracy; while the Chaplain of the Ursuline Nunnery at Quebec, Father Daule, is as exactly depicted by her, as if her whole life had been passed under his _surveillance_. Some of the appellatives in the ensuing catalogue may not be correctly spelt. Scarcely any thing is more difficult than to acquire proper names in a foreign language; and especially where the pronunciation itself is provincial, as is the case with Canadian French; and when also those titles have to be transcribed from the mouth of a person who knows no more of orthoepy and orthography than a Canadian Nun. However, Maria Monk attests, that the Priests to whom she refers did reside at those places which she has designated, and that she has seen them all in the Hotel Dieu Nunnery–some of them very often, and others on a variety of occasions.
Nothing is more improbable, if not impossible, than that any Papist girl should have such an extensive acquaintance among Roman Priests. In Canada especially, where the large majority of females have little more correct knowledge of that which occurs out of their own district than of Herschel’s astronomical discoveries, young women cannot be personally familiar with any Priests, in ordinary cases, except those who may have been “Cures” of the parish in which they reside, or of the immediate vicinity, or an occasional visitor during the absence, or sickness, or death of the resident Curate or Missionary. Notwithstanding, Maria Monk delineates to the life, the prominent features, the exact figure, and the obvious characteristic exterior habits and personal appearance of more than one hundred and fifty of those Priests, scattered about in all parts of Canada; Among others she particularly specifies the following men: but some of whom she notes as dead. Others she has named, but as her recollections of them are less distinct, they are not enumerated. Jean Jacques Lartigue, Bishop of Telmese, Montreal. The Irish Priest McMahon, who has resided both in Montreal and Quebec. M. Dufrense, St. Nicholas. L. Cadieux, Vicar General, Three Rivers. F. F. Marcoux, Maskinonge. S. N. Dumoulin, Yamachiche. A. Leclerc, Yomaska. V. Fournier, Baie du Febre. J. Demers, St. Gregoire. C. B. Courtain, Gentilly. T. Pepin, St. Jean. Ignace Bourget, Montreal. The Priest Moor, Missionary. J. C. Prince, Montreal. J. M. Sauvage, Montreal. J. Comte, Montreal. J. H. A. Roux, Vicar General, Montreal. J. Roque, Montreal. A. Malard, Montreal. A. L. Hubart, Montreal. A. Satin, Montreal. J. B. Roupe, Montreal. Nic. Dufresne, Montreal. J. Richard, Montreal. C. Fay, Montreal. J. B. St. Pierre, Montreal. F. Bonin, P. Phelan, Montreal. T. B. M’Mahon, Perce. J. Marcoux, Caghuawaga. C. De Bellefeuille, Lake of two Mountains. Claude Leonard, Montreal. F. Durocher, Lake of two Mountains. G. Belmont, St. Francis. F. Demers, Vicar General, St. Denis. J. O. Giroux, St. Benoit. J. B. St. Germain, St. Laurent. J. D. Delisle, St. Cesaire. J. M. Lefebvre, St. Genevieve. F. Pigeon, St. Philippe. A. Duransau, Lachine. O. Chevrefils, St. Constant. Joseph Quiblier, Montreal. Francis Humbert, Montreal. J. Arraud, Montreal. O. Archambault, Montreal. J. Larkin, Montreal. F. Sery, Montreal. R. Larre, Montreal. A. Macdonald, Montreal. F. Larkin, Montreal. J. Beauregard, Montreal. R. Robert, Montreal. J. Fitz Patrick, Montreal. J. Toupin, Montreal. W. Baun, Montreal. T. Filiatreault. Montreal. J. Brady, Montreal. P. Trudel, St. Hyacinth. John Grant, St. Hyacinth. J. Delaire, Chambly. J. Desautels, Chambly. P. D. Ricard, St. Joachim. Jan. Leclaire, Isle Jesus. F. M. Turcot, St. Rose. C. Larocque, Berthier, T. Brassard, St. Elizabeth. J. B. Keller, St. Elizabeth. J. Ravienne, Lanorate. J. T. Gagno, Valtrie. Gasford Guingner, St. Melanie. L. Nicholas Jacques, St. Sulpice. J. Renucalde, St. Jaques. T. Can, St. Esprit. C. J. Ducharme, St. Therese. J. Valliee, St. Scholastique. J. J. Vinet, Arganteuil. M. Power, Beauharnois. J. B. Labelle, Chateauguay. E. Bietz, St. Constant. P. Bedard, St. Remi. C. Aubry, St. Athanase. L. Vinet, Noyon. J. Roque, Noyon. J. Zeph, Carren. F. Berauld, St. Valentia. A. Maresseau, Longueuil. P. Brunet, —-. J. Odelin, Rounilli. J. B. Dupuis, —-. L. Nau, Rouville. A. O. Giroux, St. Marc. G. Marchesseau, —-. J. B. Belanger, St. Ours. H. Marcotte, Isle du Pads. E. Crevier, Yamaska. G. Arsonault, —-. Eusebe Durocher, —-. D. Denis, St. Rosalie. F. X. Brunet, St. Damase. J.A. Boisond, St. Pie. M. Quintal, St. Damase. L. Aubry, Points Calire. P. Tetro, Beauharnois. B. Ricard, St. Constant. M. Morin, Maskonche. J. Crevier, Blairfindie. P. Grenier, Charteaguay. A. Darocher, Pointe aux Trembles. P. Murcure, La Presentation. R. Gaulin, Dorchester. H. L. Girouard, St. Hyacinthe. J. Paquin, Blairfinde. E. Brassard, St. Polycarpe. J. Boissonnault, Riviere des Prairies. F. N. Blanchet, Soulanges. E. Lavoie, Blairfindie. J. B. Kelly, Sorel. E. Morriset, St. Cyprian. H. Hudon, Argenteuil. M. Brudet, St. Martin. P. P. Archambault, Vaudreuil. J. B. Boucher, La Prairie. J. Quevillion, St. Ours. A. Chaboillez, Longueuil. P. J. Delamothe, St. Scholastique. T. Lagard, St. Vincent. J. Durocher, St. Benoit. Antoine Tabeau, Vicar General, Montreal. J. F. Hebard, St. Ours. F. A. Trudeau, Montreal. M. J. Felix, St. Benoit. L. Lamothe, Bethier. J. Moirier, St. Anne. F. J. Deguise, Vicar General, Varennes. J. B. Bedard, St. Denis. R. O. Brunsau, Vercheres. F. Portier, Terrebonne. P. D. Ricard, Berthier. L. Gague, Lachenaie. Joseph Belanger, Chambly. M. Blanchet, St. Charles. P. M. Mignault, Chambly. F. Labelle, L’Assumption. F. Marcoux, St. Barthelemi. N. L. Amiot, Repentigny. J. B. Boucher, Chambly. P. Lafranc, St. Jean Baptiste. P. Robitaille, Monnie. F. De Bellefeullie, St. Vincent. M. Brassard, St. Elizabeth. P. Cousigny, St. Mathias. J. D. Daule, Quebec.
It is readily admitted, that any person could take one of the Ecclesiastical Registers of Lower Canada, and at his option mark any number of the Roman Priests in the catalogue, and impute to them any crime which he pleased. But if the accuser were closely examined, and among such a multitude of Priests, who in all their clothing are dressed alike, were called upon minutely to delineate them, it is morally impossible, that he could depict more than a hundred Priests dispersed from the borders of Upper Canada to Quebec, in as many different parishes, with the most perfect accuracy, unless he was personally and well acquainted with them.
Maria Monk, however, does most accurately describe all the Priests in the preceding catalogue, and repeats them at the expiration of weeks and months; and the question is this: how is it possible that she could have become acquainted with so many of that body, and by what means can she so precisely depict their external appearance?–The startling, but the only plausible answer which can be given to that question is this:– that she has seen them in the Nunnery, whither, as she maintains, most of them constantly resorted for licentious intercourse with the Nuns.
One other connected fact may here be introduced. Maria Monk well knows the Lady Superior of the Charlestown Nunnery. That acquaintance could