Ursuline Nuns, Thomas Jefferson and Synchronicity

Thursday, January 9, AD 2014





I have long been amused by how often the phenomenon of synchronicity has reared its head in my life.  Synchronicity is a coincidence of events that seem to be meaningfully related.   Jungian theory hails synchronicity as an explanatory principle on the same order as causality.  Throughout my life I have seen events arise that seem completely unrelated but suddenly a connection appears.

Yesterday I had posts fisking anti-Catholic bigot Jami Stiehm here, and a post on the Ursuline nuns and their role in the battle of New Orleans here.  Today Ed Morrissey at Hot Air supplies the connection between the two:


Arguing that Jefferson would cheer federal dictates on the choices of health insurance for nuns is therefore either high ignorance or deliberate obtuseness. In fact, we have a historical record for Jefferson’s thoughts on the freedom of religious expression specifically for Catholic nuns, in his own hand. Joanne McPortland reminded us of this yesterday at Patheos:

In 1804, the Ursuline Sisters, who had fled the anti-Catholicism of the French Revolution to found schools, orphanages, and hospitals in the Louisiana Territory, wrote to President Thomas Jefferson of their concerns that the United States government, now in control of New Orleans, would interfere with their freedom to operate their institutions and set their own regulations. They were aware of Jefferson’s support of the French Revolution and of his writings concerning the “wall of separation” he saw in the First Amendment’s guarantees.

Jefferson’s letter in response–often omitted from collections of his works–is respectful, clear, and reassuring. Read the text and substitute Little Sisters of the Poor for the Ursulines, and it’s immediately apparent that Stiehm is conjuring the wrong guy.

I have received, holy sisters, the letter you have written me wherein you express anxiety for the property vested in your institution by the former governments of Louisiana.

The principles of the constitution and government of the United States are a sure guarantee to you that it will be preserved to you, sacred and inviolate, and that your institution will be permitted to govern itself according to its own voluntary rules, without interference from the civil authority.

Whatever the diversity of shade may appear in the religious opinions of our fellow citizens, the charitable objects of your institution cannot be indifferent to any; and its furtherance of the wholesome purposes of society, by training up its younger members in the way they should go, cannot fail to ensure it the patronage of the government it is under.

Be assured it will meet all the protection which my office can give it.

I salute you, holy sisters, with friendship and respect.

The letter, in Jefferson’s hand, is on display in the museum of the Ursulines in New Orleans, where I’ve seen it. It is recognized, rightly, as one of the founding documents in our American understanding of freedom of religion.

It’s difficult to see how Stiehm could have possibly been more ignorant on freedom, religion, tolerance, and the law than in her self-exposure at US News.

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10 Responses to Ursuline Nuns, Thomas Jefferson and Synchronicity

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  • Stiehm is just another radical lib who twists and spins to support her party’s agenda.

    Godincidence Donald. Your a great American and in the end they will reap the what they sow. Poor fools.

  • Well, well, well. Not only does Jefferson repudiate the notion that government can or should obstruct the internal government and charitable activities of a religious entity, he at least implicitly endorses the notion that government may positively support “the wholesome purposes of society, by training up its younger members in the way they should go” — which pretty much contradicts the leftist irrationale against such things as educational vouchers that can be used for parochial and private education.

  • Not only does the current president fail to measure up to Jefferson in the religious freedom category but neither do current Ursulines to the earlier Louisiana branch. A quick check of their zip code (which encompasses in Kentucky only their convent) with voting results shows they vote overwhelmingly for Democrats!

  • ” which pretty much contradicts the leftist irrationale against such things as educational vouchers that can be used for parochial and private education.”
    Taxes belong to the taxpayer even while administered by the administration. The idea that the “government” does the good that is done is false. The people do the good and ought to be appreciated for the good that they do, and inform the Ursulines of Louisiana and Kentucky.

  • Synchronicity is fascinating. It seems like a good idea will just be in the ether sometimes. Maybe all of our angels are talking to us!
    I don’t mean stuff that comes through mass media, but just lots of people starting to think the same thing, or to be aware of some idea- and then it seems to gel in the world.

  • Anzlyne.
    “…maybe all of our angels are talking to us.”

    I wish I could prove this point to you!
    They are talking amongst themselves and us, and praying constantly that we act ponder and trust in Gods designs for us. Keeping in mind that interference is coming in as well. That conditioning of receptivity is our life’s work as we pray sacrifice partake in works of mercy…loose ourselves to the fulfillment of Gods love, and that His Love be radiated out to our neighbors.
    We are constantly getting communication from our angels.
    How well we “hear” them is altogether inconsistent.

  • LOL, how did Thomas Jefferson wind up in this or any serious Catholic forum, never mind this writer Stiehm. Jefferson wrote one famous preamble that ran counter to the way he lived his life and saw how it should be lived, a spoiled rotten, fiscally reckless, slaveocrat. Well, to be charitable to the aloof egghead of Monticello, Jefferson did con Napoleon out of a sizeable chunk of real estate. This other person, Jami Stiehm, find better reading material to relax the nerves. We have plenty of great Catholic literature, art works to browse through websites or coffee-table books, and for the political geeks like myself, nothing beats David McCullough’s treatment of Jefferson in his book John Adams (and HBO film of the same book) not to mention Chris Matthews “Tip & The Gipper: When Politics Worked.”) Lookin’ like Jami’s lost some stiehm. Okay, bad, reaaaal baaaaaad pun.

  • “Jefferson wrote one famous preamble that ran counter to the way he lived his life and saw how it should be lived, a spoiled rotten, fiscally reckless, slaveocrat.”

    My attitude towards Jefferson will always be ambivalent to say the least. However his drafting of the Declaration of Independence and, as you note, the Louisiana Purchase, were two great services to America. It is impossible to understand the country without attempting to understand Jefferson, all his flaws notwithstanding.

  • Well, he did his best in tandem to keep Hamilton, our Caribbean-born Scot Bonaparte wannabe in check. BTW, it was Jefferson who acknowledged John Adams as the “Colossus” of the proceedings in 1776, from which our Declaration of Independence arose. LOL, would I love to do some “re-arranging” of Mt.Rushmore by replacing Jefferson with John Adams, add JQA next to him, and on the far side of Lincoln next to TR, add Teddy’s cousin, FDR.

27 Responses to Andrew Jackson and Our Lady of Prompt Succor

  • “The battle was a shot in the arm to American morale after a lack-lustre war”

    For many years afterward, the anniversary of the battle was celebrated not only in New Orleans but all over the Nation, with almost as much festivity as the Fourth of July — some called it a second Independence Day. In the 1820s and 1830s, before the first great waves of European immigration, the Eighth of January was a bigger celebration than Christmas to many Americans!

  • Our Lady of Prompt Succor has been a very powerful intercessor on behalf of New Orleans, particularly during the hurricane season.

    I’ll also add that I’ve been to the chapel in that Ursuline Convent, and still today there is a stain glass pane depicting the battle. It’s the only time I’ve ever seen the American flag in a stained glass window of a Catholic Church.

  • “After the battle Old Hickory came to the convent to thank the nuns for their prayers. “By the blessing of heaven, directing the valor of the troops under my command, one of the most brilliant victories in the annals of war was obtained.” In after years, whenever Jackson visited New Orleans, he always made a point of also visiting the Ursuline Covent.”

    How downright heartwarming. Why, Jackson was practically Catholic. I’m almost certain I remember a story about Jackson that had something to do with “mourning and weeping in the this vale of tears”.

    Oh. Wait. Check that. The story was about Jackson and all the mourning and weeping along the Trail of Tears.

    There are few in American history that I despise more than “Old Hickory”. Chief Junaluska, Jackson’s Indian ally against the “Red Stick” Creeks at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, saved Jackson’s life during that earlier battle in the War of 1812. Later Junaluska would say about Jackson “If I had known that Jackson would drive us from our homes, I would have killed him that day at the Horseshoe.”

  • Elaine: I was unaware of that. Truly fascinating! What a help to Jackson when he started the Democrat party!

    Michael: I have only seen an American flag in a stained glass window of a Catholic church in only one other place. At Saint John’s chapel at the U of I in Urbana there is depicted a World War I doughboy kneeling under a cross, and an American flag is in the scene.

  • Jackson is a mixed bag Jay, as I noted in this post:


    However, God often uses flawed instruments to work His will, and I cannot see why he could not have used Jackson to do so. As for Jackson and the Church, he was no bigot when it came to religion as his actions demonstrated:

    “As already noted, Jackson, through the influence of his wife, became more religious as he grew older, although his religion always had a bit of his rough edges about it, as this vignette demonstrates:

    ”young Nashville lawyer: “Mr. Cartwright, do you believe there is any such place as hell, as a place of torment?”

    Rev. Peter Cartwright: “Yes, I do.”

    young Nashville lawyer: “Well, I thank God I have too much good sense to believe any such thing.”

    Andrew Jackson: “Well, sir, I thank God that there is such a place of torment as hell.”

    young Nashville lawyer: “Why, General Jackson, what do you want with such a place of torment as hell?”

    Andrew Jackson: “To put such damned rascals as you are in, that oppose and vilify the Christian religion.””

    Jackson was no bigot on matters of religion as this passage in a letter to Ellen Hanson on March 25, 1835 indicates (the spelling is all Jackson):

    “I was brought up a rigid Presbeterian, to which I have always adhered. Our excellent constitution guarantees to every one freedom of religion, and charity tells us, and you know Charity is the reall basis of all true religion, and charity says judge the tree by its fruit. all who profess christianity, believe in a Saviour and that by and through him we must be saved. We ought therefor to consider all good christians, whose walk corresponds with their professions, be him Presbeterian, Episcopalian, Baptist, methodist or Roman catholic.”

    Jackson proved that this was no mere verbiage by his actions. He and his wife served as the guardian for Mary Anne Lewis, a Catholic. They made certain that she attended Mass and received instruction in the Faith. When she married, Andrew Jackson hosted the wedding on November 29, 1832, and her Catholic wedding was the first Roman Catholic ceremony performed at the White House. Next year the second Roman Catholic ceremony took place at the White House, the baptism of her son, Andrew Jackson Pageot. When the priest asked if the baby renounced Satan, President Jackson, who thought the query was being addressed to him, said in a loud voice: “I do! Most indubitably!” (Hattip to Thomas J. Craughwell for the details of this incident.)”

    (Me defending Jackson? What a confusing way to start off this day!)

  • “(Me defending Jackson? What a confusing way to start off this day!)”


    I admit to having a visceral reaction to even hearing or reading the man’s name. My dear mother, bless her heart, loves Jackson. I’ve always found him utterly repugnant. Even when I read positive stories about him, such as the ones you’ve related, all I can see is the blood on his hands and the demagogery gurgling up in his throat.

    One of my heros, David Crockett, could see him clearly for what he was, and had the audacity to oppose Jackson on his Indian policy (and other matters, as well). It cost Crockett his political career, and, ultimately, his life, as he told his former Tennessee constituents, “Y’all can go to Hell, I’m going to Texas.”

  • Over 43 years ago, I dated a girl who was a student at Ursuline Academy, the Bronx, NY.

    I shall avoid the near occasion to bash Jackson and the demagogue party. That, I’ll defer to Daniel Webster.

    From Robert L. Bartley, WSJ, 10/20/2003, “. . . In his 1832 veto of renewing the Bank’s (Second Bank of the United States) charter, Jackson complained that its profits went to foreigners and a ‘few hundred of our own citizens, chiefly of the richest class.’ Daniel Webster replied that the message was a ‘wanton attack whole classes of people, for the purposes of turning against them the prejudices and resentments of other classes.’ The tradition, of course, runs strong even today in the party of . . . ” Obama, Reid, and Weiner.

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  • The fact that he wasn’t an anti-Catholic bigot doesn’t lessen the cold cruelty of a man who made it his business to persecute the Indians of the South-East US. Jay is right. If his actions were done for the sake of revenge, it is still inexcusable. Before moving to the White House he was always warring against the Indians, making unjust treaties that they only agreed to out of fear. He up-rooted entire Indian tribes, four or five of them, and forced them to walk almost 1500 miles to Oklahoma for “relocation” I think it was the Creeks who lost over one quarter of their people (1400 dead) making the journey. He pursued this relocation policy with a vengeance. He was guilty of genocide in any book.

  • Have you ever heard “The Battle of New Orleans” by Johnny Horton? It’s a highly humorous ballad written in the ’60’s. Johnny Horton also wrote other ballads that were popular before the British Invasion, including “Sink the Bismarck,” “Comanche,” and “North to Alaska” for the John Wayne movie of the same name.

  • “The fact that he wasn’t an anti-Catholic bigot doesn’t lessen the cold cruelty of a man who made it his business to persecute the Indians of the South-East US.”

    Well, being part Cherokee and all Republican it is safe to say that I will never be a member of any Andrew Jackson fan club. I regard the Trail of Tears as a blot on our national honor. However, it is ahistorical to heap the blame for all of this on one man. Jackson was carrying out a policy of Indian removal that was strongly backed by almost all the pioneers in the Southwest. (Not all. Davy Crockett spoke out against the policy for example, as Jay noted.) The Indian wars that Jackson was involved in prior to his Presidency do not break down into simple terms of evil White and good Indians. Often the sides were mixed with Indians and whites fighting on both sides which often amounted to civil wars between tribal factions. The Creek War of 1813-1814 where Jackson first rose to prominence was certainly this type of struggle. Jackson was a major player in the conflict between Whites and Indians in the Southwest, and he used the wars to grab land for the white settlers, but I have little doubt that if Jackson had never been born precisely the same sort of wars would have been fought with the same sorts of outcomes. As for accusing Jackson of genocide, that is simply rubbish. Jackson wanted the Indians removed to across the Mississippi; he did not want them eliminated as a race.

    Jackson is the only American president to adopt an Indian child, which is what he did for a two year old Creek toddler, Lyncoya, found on the battlefield of Talladega. He lived with Jackson and his wife thereafter as their adopted son, with Jackson hoping to eventually send him to West Point. Tragically, Lyncoya died of tuberculosis in 1828. Complicated does not begin to describe Andrew Jackson.

  • “Have you ever heard “The Battle of New Orleans” by Johnny Horton?”

    Indeed I have Sandra!


  • Some of my thoughts on the ever-controversial Andrew Jackson, tied into a very good video on Old Hickory and his role in American history.


  • “As for accusing Jackson of genocide, that is simply rubbish. Jackson wanted the Indians removed to across the Mississippi; he did not want them eliminated as a race.”

    Okay, then, ethnic cleansing, which is oh so much better (although I fully concur with the genocide charge).

  • Words have meanings Jay and genocide does not fit what Jackson accomplished with the Indian Removal Act of 1830. However, if any of you palefaces wish to solace your grief for the wrong done to my Cherokee ancestors, for a reasonable monetary contribution to me I can send you out a certificate of forgiveness in Cherokee! 🙂

  • However, if any of you palefaces wish to solace your grief for the wrong done to my Cherokee ancestors, for a reasonable monetary contribution………….”

    That’s great!

    Man, you’d fit right in down here with the radical Maori grievance industry.

    Would you like a referral? 🙂 😀 😆

  • I’m only beginning Don! My Irish ancestors are still waiting for a personal apology from the Queen of England for the Potato Famine. Then my Scottish ancestors are still waiting for an apology from the Queen of England for Culloden. My Irish ancestors also are upset due to the English settling the barbarous Scots in Ulster, but then my Scottish ancestors take umbrage at this, begin muttering about drunken Irish, and then my Irish and Scottish ancestors begin to fight among themselves! At any rate, when it comes to the right to be historically aggrieved, I will take a backseat to no one!

  • As an Irishman (potato famine and otherwise being treated like $h!+ by the Brits and their American cousins for 700+ years), a Scotsman (Highland clearances), and a pinch of Native American thrown in for good measure, I’m wondering when I’m going to receive my reparations for all the ethnic cleansing we’ve suffered.

    Don, I take a backseat to no one when it comes to harboring ethnic grievances for which I hope to receive full restitution some day.


  • I’m almost certain there’s an ancient chiefdom in Ireland or Scotland of which I’ve been deprived. Surely I can be compensated for that loss by being awarded some castle or manor on a remote lough/loch (with a good village pub nearby, of course).

  • The song “Battle of New Orleans” was actually written by an Arkansas school principal named Jimmy Driftwood as a learning aid to his students; it was set to a traditional fiddle tune called — you guessed it — “The Eighth of January.”

  • Great post. Always enjoy reading your articles Don even if I somewhat disagree. I think you are correct though about what would have happened had Jackson not been born. Probably the same thing, only God knows. There were horrible atrocities. Few can match those of the Brits under Oliver Cromwell when he slaughtered 1/3 of the Irish, well funded by the Rothschilds. Some of hIs soldiers, after shooting the husband, ripped children from their mothers arm, tossed them into the air, and catch them on their swords. His statue still stands tall in Trafalgar Square (I think) in London. He is so honored with a statue for inviting the Jews back to England after they had been exiled.

  • Thank you Brian. Old Ironsides was a piece of work indeed.

  • What a great reminder of the power of prayer through the Holy Sacifice of the Mass. We have an extraordinary Catholic history, as witnessed in this account of the Battle of New Orleans. When Andrew Jackson would later, as president, make that fateful and tragic act against the native Americans, known as the “trail of tears” in 1830ff, I have no doubt that the power of the prayers of the Ursuline Sisters was with the Cheerokee people and all who suffered.

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  • My grievance over Jackson’s Indian relocation policy isn’t JUST that he did it, it’s that he did it after the Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional! So much for honor and upholding a vow to “preserve, protect, and defend” the Constitution…

  • Actually Jackson’s apocryphal response to John Marshal, “John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it!” is about the only thing I like about Jackson’s Indian Removal program. John Marshall had a bad habit of getting John Marshall and the Constitution confused.

    Contrary to popular belief, the Supreme Court in Worcester v. Georgia did not rule the Indian Removal Act unconstitutional. What it did hold is that Georgia could not ban whites from being present on Indian lands in Georgia. Marshall wrote the opinion finding that only the federal government had jurisdiction in regard to Indian lands.