University of Notre Dame

The Story of Notre Dame
Notre Dame: Foundations, 1842-1857 / by John Theodore Wack

Chapter VII
A Crisis Resolved, 1855-1857


The old quarrel between the mission at New Orleans and Notre Dame du Lac broke out once more. Sorin had had little to do with the foundations in that city (they had been taken from his jurisdiction after his resignation and returned to France), and there was ill-feeling between those in New Orleans, who had taken the part of Father Gouesse in that old affair, and Father Sorin. But circumstances in New Orleans made it necessary for Moreau once again to place the southern mission under the jurisdiction of Sorin.{1} This move was most unwelcome to the community in New Orleans, who protested. immediately, and the mails were filled again with accusations and counter-accusations, demands and manifestoes, as the two American foundations argued their case with the Motherhouse. Moreau tried compromise, but this was not at all satisfactory to Sorin, who demanded a definitive settlement of the affair this time, and the quarrel lasted through 1856.{2}

Nor was this the only quarrel. Another developed over a foundation which had been recently made in New York City, where a few of the Sisters then attached to the community of Ste. Croix had been assembled to begin a new house which would care for orphans in the city of New York.{3} At the core of the new controversy was the question of jurisdiction: did Sorin, once again Provincial of the United States, have authority over the new foundation or was it directly responsible, as the Sisters there insisted, to Moreau? This affair, too, dragged on through 1856 and into 1857.{4}

It is plausible that at the bottom of the embarrassing controversies between Notre Dame du Lac and the foundations in New Orleans and New York lay misunderstandings and jealousies which had arisen between the French-born members of Holy Cross and those who were American-born or American-assimilated. The New Orleans orphanage was staffed by a number of religious from France in a city of French character; New York's orphanage was established by a Sister from New Orleans at the request of "a group of Catholic ladies of French origin."{5} It had been already apparent that there were those Frenchmen and Frenchwomen who came to Notre Dame and who resisted the Americanization that Sorin had adopted and which he used so skillfully. Brother Gatian was a notable example of those who complained that Sorin was becoming too much of an American.{6} Is it not possible that this lay hidden in the relationship of Gouesse and Sorin, and that it colored the relationship between Sorin and the foundations at New Orleans and New York, just as the lack of understanding of the American milieu most certainly affected the relationship between Notre Dame de Ste. Croix and Notre Dame du Lac? Unfortunately, there are no documents which tell of the extent in which this factor played a part in these controversies, but the crescendos which were reached in the accusations and counter-accusations indicate that strong emotional factors were present.{7}

Nonetheless, these controversies had little direct effect on the University of Notre Dame du Lac except to eat up much of Sorin's time and patience, and to cause some damage to the reputation of Holy Cross (and, indirectly, to the reputation of the college) in the eyes of Archbishop Hughes of New York and of other members of the American hierarchy.{8} A more immediate result was the loss of students from the New Orleans area. Fourteen students had come from there in 1854-55, but only five registered in 1855-56, and by 1858-59, only one Louisianan remained at Notre Dame.{9}

The academic year ended in peaceful anonymity -- or at least little distinguished the close of the college year which was found to be worthy of recording. There was one project underway. Work had begun on an expansion of the church (which had been built in 1848). Early in June, 1856, it was decided to add three chapels to the existing structure; a choir chapel at the altar end, and one on each side of this, completing the church in the shape of a cross.{10} One of the side chapels was to be dedicated in memory of Father Cointet and the other of William Phelan, who had died that March and was then buried in the cemetery at Notre Dame.{11} A year later, after these chapels were completed, the remains of Father Cointet, William Phelan, and the two Indian missionaries, Fathers Deseille and Petit, were reinterred in the crypt of the church, under the new choir chapel.{12}

The summer held one additional surprise. In an accord with Bishop O'Regan of Chicago, Sorin and his community agreed to make a major foundation in the city of Chicago, a foundation which, it was hoped, would serve as a stimulus to the continued growth of the University of Notre Dame du Lac. The contract, which was signed in September, 1856, had two major provisions. First, for an annual rent of $2000 a year for a fifty year period, the Holy Cross community was to receive the rights to and use of a small "college," St. Mary's of the Lake. Here they were to maintain a good high school and also they might add any additional school for Brothers or Sisters, or any trade school.{13} The college of St. Mary's (like Notre Dame du Lac, its chartered title was that of a university -- the "University of St. Mary's of the Lake") had been established in 1844 by Bishop Quarter; perhaps the Bishop was moved to action by the example of the foundation of Notre Dame du Lac not even one hundred miles away from his proposed school. St. Mary's of the Lake was chartered in the same year as its foundation, 1844, which also was the year in which Notre Dame had received its charter; however, the Chicago school was not yet completed and did not open until 1846. The Diocese of Chicago attempted to administer the school, but they met with little success, and now the Bishop decided to release the college (if, indeed, it can be called that) to the ministration of those at Notre Dame du Lac who had, it seemed, proven their ability as college builders.{14}

It would appear from Father Sorin's notes that it was desired to institute only a high school or preparatory school there, with an obvious intent to send potential college students on to their studies at Notre Dame du Lac.{15}

The second provision was also of importance in recruiting students for Notre Dame du Lac. It was declared that all of the Catholic schools of Chicago were to be staffed by the Holy Cross Brothers and the Holy Cross Sisters, both those schools already in existence and those which would be built in the future; the religious from Notre Dame and from St. Mary's Academy in South Bend were to move into these schools as rapidly as postulants could be found, trained, and professed as Brothers or Sisters.

This was a major undertaking. Chicago already had over 100,000 inhabitants, many of them Catholics.{17} Possession of these schools could mean a steady supply to the University of Notre Dame of well-prepared college students, seminarians, and novice Brothers -- as well as, of course, young women to be students and novice Sisters at St. Mary's Academy -- all directed there by contacts with the religious from Notre Dame who would teach in the parochial schools of Chicago. Sorin noted that there were at that time fifty boarding students at Notre Dame du Lac from Illinois, many of whom had come from the Chicago area.{18} The contract with Bishop O'Regan was signed, and soon there were two priests, five Brothers, and fifteen Sisters at the University of St. Mary's of the Lake, from which they operated three boys' grammar schools and three for girls, and, in addition, taught thirty-five young men who came as day-students (there were no boarders) to St. Mary's of the Lake.{19}

In September, 1856, the situation at Chicago must have appeared to be ideal to Sorin, a giant step toward the all-encompassing system of American education which he had envisioned. As a matter of fact, although the move rather over-extended the personnel of Notre Dame du Lac and seems to us now excessively optimistic in its belief that the Holy Cross religious could staff all of the schools in Chicago, one must remember that no one then could know that Chicago would grow, almost out of control, into a metropolis housing millions of people. Nor could Sorin have sensed the approach of the economic breakdown which would nearly paralyze the nation in a little more than a year. In his little corner of the world, at Notre Dame du Lac, financial matters were on a definite upswing. At the time, the move to Chicago was not an ill-advised one, although it was somewhat of a gamble -- but then this was Sorin's forté. But the grim circumstances of the future would, in a few years, make the move seem to have been foolhardy.

There was good reason For Sorin's present optimism. All of the novitiates at Notre Dame du Lac -- priests', Brothers', and that of the Sisters at St. Marys -- were filled with novices.{20} Notre Dame itself had a large enrollment of students; about 140 boarders, on the average, attended the college, and a total of 190 students registered there in the course of the year of 1856-1857, compared to 128 registrants the previous year, an increase of one third.{21} The new enrollment was almost all from the local area; southern Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois account for 140 of the 190 registrants,{22} indicating both the increased Catholic settlement in the Old Northwest and the growth in the "word-of-mouth" reputation of Notre Dame du Lac as an established college.

The cost of an education at Notre Dame was not unusually high, although it had increased by some $25 since the 1840's.{23} From 1855 to 1862, well into the Civil War, the basic cost of room, board, laundry, and tuition was $125.00 a year in the "English Course," and an additional $20.00 was charged to the student of the classical or "Latin Course." There were other incidental fees (some not so incidental -- for example, there was a $5.00 charge for the use of a bed) which could cause the total tuition to rise; these included a doctor's fee, entrance fee, a fee for instruction in a modern language (French, Spanish, Italian, or German), and a fee for musical instructions.{24} If a student arrived at Notre Dame as a boarder, he was required to pay for at least a five months stay, or, in other words, one half of his fee for the year.{25} This requirement was a necessary innovation in a school where students arrived and. departed at different times in the fall and spring. Fees were to be payable in cash, but often they were not paid in advance or were not paid at all; by the fall of 1857, Notre Dame was owed over $35,000 in debts which it was doubtful would be collected.{26} This was a sum approximately equivalent to the whole income from tuition in 1855-56 and 1856-57, taken together.{27} It is apparent why Notre Dame du Lac was in constant need of operating capital.

In the fall of 1856, however, there was no unusual concern with the unpaid bills of the students, but instead there was considerable concern for unpaid bells. In September, 1856, a carillon of twenty-three bells arrived at Notre Dame du Lac. These bells had been cast in the foundry of Ernest Bollée at LeMans in France at a cost of well over $3000 (18,000 francs).{28} The bells were another example of Sorin's audacious brand of college-building. As they rang out across the fields and forest, playing a hymn at Angelus, caroling the old French songs at Christmas, they must have brought beauty and wonderment to the whole area.{29} They were reputed to be the largest carillon in America,{30} and this fact alone would have added to the reputation of Notre Dame du Lac in size-conscious America.

Once again, Sorin was following his favorite dictum: in America, one must attract public attention to achieve success. In a country which did not deeply revere learning, but which boasted of its many colleges, a twenty-four{31} bell set of chimes, even playing Papish hymns, was a sure sign of success. It would be difficult to top this -- except, perhaps, by painting the college building gold, and Sorin would get around to that a little later.

The carillon did smack of a certain ostentatious display, melodically suggesting the elegance and refinement of the college, as well as hinting more broadly of the power and wealth of the institution which could afford to import such a wonder with no more practical purpose than to fill the air with sacred music. This is what those outside of the college (and, perhaps, many of those within) must have concluded, but the real truth was that the purchase of the bells, while perhaps a masterstroke of public relations, was also a dangerous financial risk.

The chimes were not ordered as an outcome of the relative affluence of the college in 1855-1856; they had been ordered in 1852, at a time when the college was in a poor financial condition, and when those at the college were deeply embroiled in the Gouesse affair.{32} The money for the chimes was not on hand then, but it was to come from a large sum which had been promised to Notre Dame by a seminarian,{33} the same sum of money which Sorin had intended to use to finance the buildings which he erected in 1853.{34} The departure of this seminarian from the community left the college in debt. Sorin planned to halt the casting of the bells, but, he reasoned, while Bollée bad made only a little progress on the order, some work had been done and some expense was involved. Sorin concluded that "in justice" he must allow the work to continue.{35} The carillon, however, was not fully completed until over three years had passed. Now the bells had arrived at Notre Dame du Lac and Bollée awaited payment; three thousand dollars must go to him from the hard-pressed treasury. It was Sorin's good fortune that the Phelan donation gave the college the wherewithal to pay for the carillon; had it been completed a year earlier or a year later it could have rung out the ruin of the college.

The chime was installed in the bell towers which had been built as early as 1851 in front of the church; there were two towers, each twelve feet square and one hundred-twenty feet high, standing independent of the church so that one former student commented, on hearing of the plans for the towers, that they would look like "two barber's poles" and he recommended that they be greased on exhibition days when the slippery towers would "afford a wide field for gymnastic demonstrations & feats."{37} On November 12, there was a convocation for the blessing of the bells. Archbishop Purcell, who of all of the hierarchy was the most friendly toward Sorin, was there to invoke the blessing, and he was joined by Bishop Henni of Milwaukee and many other guests.{38} The ceremony was suitably impressive, but it was marred by a tragic accident; a young man of twenty, one of the most popular of the students, lost his right arm in an accidental explosion. He was loading a cannon which presumably was to play some part in the celebration when the charge prematurely fired; this occurred the evening before the blessing of the bells.{39}

Tragedy was almost a commonplace in those days, and the people, inured by their experiences on the frontier, on the pioneer farms, or the passage from Europe, accepted it as a fact of life. Violent accidents were reported in every newspaper; flood, plague, fire -- these were often annual occurences in many communities. Plague had nearly destroyed Notre Dame, and fires, notably the one in 1849, had cost the institution dearly. No matter how successful a college, no matter how substantial, how well endowed, how talented her students, how capable her faculty, a natural disaster could in minutes bring all her success to naught.

At 2:00 A.M. on December 17, 1856, on a night of severe cold, a fire broke out in the college stable, a wooden building which stood near the south shore of St. Mary's Lake, close by the small brick building which had been the first building built in 1843 and which now served as a farmhouse.{40} Possibly the fire started near the horse stalls in a small room of the stable which had been used for candle making. It spread through the whole stable, killing two horses and destroying a good quantity of farm equipment and stored feed and provisions. The Brothers could not extinguish the fire in the stable, but managed to keep it from spreading to the farm house, just twenty feet away, or to the granary, which was also nearby and filled with the fall's harvest. The fire gutted the building in nearly an hour, spurting fifty feet above the ruin, and showering sparks which were carried east by the wind so that "a constant cloud of burning materials was passing over the church and the college, a rain of fire falling on the roofs."{41} Father Sorin, seeing his dream literally in danger of going up in smoke, could not bear to stay to fight the fire, but he instead climbed the west bell-tower of the church and the college, expecting any moment to see one or more of them ignite from the sparks. "Then," he wrote a few weeks later, "there would have been an end to Notre Dame du Lac."{42} But the fire burned down before dawn, and the college itself was saved; the stable and all of its contents were lost, valued at near $3,000 (15,000 francs). There was no insurance.{43}

The near-tragedy of the fire may well have taken some of Sorin's self-confidence, giving him, on that cold night high in the bell tower, a heart chilling insight into the precarious nature of the structure which he had built. He undertook no more expansive steps that year, but was content to strengthen what he already had begun. Both the college and the academy at St. Mary ' s were prosperous, with many new students, ". . . a considerable number of the students belonging to a higher and. more comfortable class. Consequently more order and greater respect for rules were seen, discipline was more vigorous, and the confraternities{44} were never more regular. The university, taken as a whole, gained more than in any previous year.{45}

Student life, of course, was not so regular that disturbances did not take place; nevertheless, the minutes of the Faculty Council (which had been recreated that fall) are quite unlike those of the old "Council of Professors" of the 1840's (perhaps in part because of the absence of the young gadfly, Brother Gatian).{46} Meetings were infrequent and less quarrelsome; attention was centered exclusively on the college, particularly the academic and social life of the students. In short, the new Council had a more professional tone.

The more stringent discipline did effect some outburst from the students. Early in February of 1857 there was some sort of general disorder among the boarders, resulting in "a spirit of insubordination" which so moved one of the young men that he insulted two of his teachers (it is not recorded in what manner this was done). Five of the Council voted for his immediate expulsion, while six felt he should have one more chance. Finally it was decided he should undergo "a severe lecture, public recantation, & at least one day's meals on his knees."{47} This is a far cry from the discipline of the late 1840's when the complaint was often heard that unruly students went unpunished. It may be concluded that the position of the college being somewhat more secure, Sorin had now returned to the rigorous discipline which would characterize Notre Dame for the next hundred years. This is confirmed by action taken the following year in a more consequential case:

Feb. 14, 1858: Mr. Goldsbury suggested to the faculty that some of the prot(estant) members of his class had refused to kneel during the prayers before & after Class & that he thought this an innovation, in point of discipline, which might have bad Consequences; as upon the same principle all the prot. students might refuse to comply exteriorly with the several religious practices which are required of all the protestant students for the sake of order by the rule of the College.{48}

In this several members of the faculty agreed with Mr. Goldsbury & thought it ought to be strictly required of all to kneel as no prot. can have a reasonable objection to kneel in prayer, but other members, with the Rev. Father Gillespie, who presided at the Council, thought it would be more prudent to overlook these deliquents, as they might think we were trying to compel them to religious practices . . . .

Feb. 20, 1858: The question contested at the last council, vis. Concerning those who refused to kneel during prayer was not spoken of in Council, as the question had already been decided by V. Rev. F. Superior who gave them the alternative of obedience to the rules or expulsion from the college. They chose the latter which took place immediately.{49}

This prompt dismissal by Sorin, besides revealing his peremptory use of authority, was a far cry from his easy-going attitude of earlier years toward the whims of the students, especially the Protestant boys, for fear of distressing public opinion.

Sorin's renewed interest in the students did not merely take a negative form. On February 1, 1857, he came to the meeting of the Faculty Council where he admonished the professors that they did not well enough know the capabilities of their students, and he gave the faculty instructions to increase the number of examinations, testing the students on a competitive basis, these "competitions" to be held every two weeks.{50} The new system was heartily accepted neither by the students nor by the faculty. The Senior students, in November of the next semester, presented a petition through Professor Downing to the Faculty Council requesting that all such "competitions" be abolished. After a discussion of the faculty present, the petition was denied.{51} That all of the faculty did not agree with Sorin's system of competitive examinations was revealed in the minutes of the next weeks' meeting, where Gillespie stressed his dissatisfaction that some of the faculty had expressed different opinions concerning the competitions outside of the Council meeting from those which they had previously expressed within the meetings, but obviously some of the faculty were reluctant to speak out publicly on a subject on which Sorin had already taken a prominent position. Thus the issue died and the "competitions" continued to plague the students.

Competition was to be found everywhere at Notre Dame du Lac; it could almost be called a basic method of education in all of the schools of the institution. It entered all phases of academic life for the students: these bi-weekly examinations, the awards and premiums given at the end of the year; oratorical competitions, and even the "Table of Honor" at which certain students, chosen for their academic and social good conduct by a meeting of the Faculty Council, were seated in the dining hall.{53} Sorin must certainly have thought well of the notion of educating a student by fostering competition with his peers. Such a pedagogical practice would, in truth, have been naturally attractive to his own competitive character.

In the spring of the year came momentous news for the religious at the college. The little congregation which had been founded by Father Moreau had anxiously awaited the necessary sanction and approval by the Papacy for many years. Now came news from France that the approval had been granted. The form was somewhat different than they had anticipated, however, for there were to be two separate communities, both governed by Moreau as Superior-General. The Sisters were to form one community with a separate constitution and a separate legal existence; they were to be styled the "Marianites" or, more officially, the "Daughters of Mary of the Seven Dolours." The Brothers and Priests were together to form the "Congregation of Holy Cross," the Priests of Holy Cross to be known as the "Salvatorists" and the Brothers as the "Josephites".

Moreau used the occasion of the approval of the constitutions of Holy Cross to give him an excuse to take ship to America to make a personal visitation of the the foundations which had been established there in the past fifteen years. This was a trip he had often planned,{55} but some circumstance had always risen to prevent it. It was a visit which, as we have seen, had been eagerly desired by those at Notre Dame du Lac who had always felt that the personal acquaintance of the Superior-General with Notre Dame du Lac and with America would dissipate the fog of incomprehension which so often descended on the relationships between the two Notre Dames -- and the fog had been growing dense in the past years.

It was not any one conflict whose failure of solution was causing taut lines to be drawn once again between those at Notre Dame du Lac and the rest of the religious community, rather it was that the barriers between them had never been truly broken. The confrontation between Moreau and Sorin in 1853 and Sorin's subsequent acquiesence had seemed, at the time, to put an end to the whole affair, but Sorin was now back in America, and Sorin's position there was still too alien for those in France to find empathy with it. In his own turn, Sorin, feeling mistrusted and misunderstood, tended to keep his own counsel and to act with excessive independence.{56} The situations in New York and in New Orleans had worsened, and now, in the highly emotional state of things, hope for a satisfactory solution was weak. Sorin, in fact, had gone so far as to close the house in New York in October, 1856, which action was within his authority, but which was a step rather hastily taken. The Motherhouse was not informed of the action until it was accomplished.{57}

And, as a constant in the controversy, there was always the question of money. The central monetary issue this time was the 15,000 francs sent to Ste. Croix late in 1855. Sorin requested that the money be repaid, for he considered it to have been a loan; Moreau, although he had to admit that he had spoken of the sum as a loan, was hurt by Sorin's obvious irritation and his apparent lack of gratitude which was expressed in his abrupt demand that the debt be met -- moreover, the Superior-General hoped that Sorin would come to the conclusion that the money should be considered an outright gift from Notre Dame du Lac to Notre Dame de Ste. Croix.{58} The exchange of letters between the two raised all of the old questions concerning financial affairs between the two establishments, and the matter had still found no solution by the beginning of 1857.

This heightened tension was the true reason for Moreau's journey to America. He left the harbor of LeHavre accompanied by Louis Letourneau, who was returning to Notre Dame du Lac from his studies in Rome. The two men arrived in New York on August 11 and then traveled on to the Holy Cross establishment of Saint-Laurent in Canada. After completing a successful visit there, Moreau left by train for Notre Dame du Lac on August 23.{60}

On the morning of August 26, after a journey much swifter than the long one which Sorin and the Brothers had made on their way to Indiana sixteen years before, the Superior-General stepped out of a carriage at the portals of Notre Dame du Lac, and, as the news of his arrival spread he was given a tumultuous welcome, punctuated by the chiming of the new carillon.{61} Notre Dame du Lac was nearing the close of its summer vacation. The academic year of 1856-1837 had been completed with little fanfare, but it had been a year of considerable success, and the college was awaiting its September reopening with the expectation of another good year. The official Visit of Moreau was the primary concern of the religious community, with little direct effect on the college, but, by helping to bring peace within the community, it could only benefit the college.

The day after his arrival, Moreau began his Visit as Superior-General of the Congregation of Holy Cross. He called together the religious community of Brothers and priests and announced his appointments. Sorin was ill and was absent for two days from these meetings{62} -- a circumstance which reveals the depth of his illness, for Sorin would not willingly have allowed Moreau to examine Notre Dame du Lac unless he could be there to guide Moreau and interpret the American scene for his Superior-General. The positions of Superior of Notre Dame du Lac and of Vicar Provincial of the foundations in the United States were once again assigned to Sorin (although in his absence), and a new Council of Administration was created for the community and for the college. Sorin, as Superior, was its President, Granger was Assistant Superior and Master of Novices for the seminary, Patrick Dillon was the new Steward of the Community, Brother Lawrence was made Purveyer and Under-Steward, Letourneau was to be Master of Novices for the Brothers, and Brother Aemedius was to be the Steward of the College.{63}

The concern of Moreau with the financial state at Notre Dame du Lac and his mistrust of Sorin's independence of action were made manifest in his next pronouncement, which was to define the financial powers of the Council of Administrators, carefully limiting them by assigning to them only the power "to vote all extraordinary expenses without however having the power to alienate real-estate above the value of a thousand francs ["dollars" written in above in the MS] nor can the Council undertake any new building without the consent of the Superior-General."{64} It was quickly explained to Moreau that to adhere to the first part of this restriction would cause unusual difficulties. Various pieces of land had been given to Notre Dame in payment of tuition or as donations. These plots were being held to await an opportune moment for sale at a good price, the cash to be used to meet those extraordinary expenses of the institution which could not be met by normal income. Hearing this, the Superior-General willingly agreed to add certain exceptions: land outside St. Joseph County could be sold as needed, as well as land within the County which had already been subdivided into lots, provided none of it was a part of the original donation of 524 acres.{65}

It was necessary that such an exception be made, for expenses had been mounting at Notre Dame du Lac, and, once again, there were thin pocketbooks at the college. It can be too easily imagined that the sums of money which the college had received in the past two years had solved forever its monetary problems. These donations, to be sure, had been of immense importance in preserving both Notre Dame du Lac and St. Marys and in encouraging their growth, but they did not constitute an inexhaustible pool of cash or credit. A re-examination of the financial transactions of the institution in the past two years reveals some startling facts.

Over and above the tuition of the students (which income could barely cover the daily expenses of the college), there had been little money coming to the college except the three donations: Foley's, Phelan's, and Letourneau's. Foley's town lots sold for $4000, but $1000 of it was intended to pay tuition already owed to the college and cannot be considered a donation. The remaining $3000, while immediately useful, also was a payment for future tuition, and thus not unencumbered. Letourneau's lot was evaluated at $6000, but the records do not show the price for which it was sold, if it was sold at all. Phelan's donation totalled almost $90,000 but it too was not in cash. Over $70,000 was in land and property and the remainder was invested in notes, mortgages, stocks, and bonds, most of them speculative in nature and possibly uncertain of collection. The Phelan properties were already mortgaged to the tune of $22,500; payments on this must be made or the land would be lost. The Phelan farm, which had been expected to sell for $30,000, brought only $23,700, barely covering the mortgages. In total, these donations brought in a potential $75,000 or so to the college treasury -- but this was estimated value, for the most part, and it would be difficult to convert even a major part of it to ready cash without taking losses.

Sorin had made rapid use of the donations he had received, mortgaging and selling what he could. But his expenses had been high these past two years, for he had begun a number of projects, counting on the funds from the donations, and he had also met with some unexpected reverses. The immediate need for funds had been as payment for the Rush farm and for the relocation of St. Marys. The farm had cost $8000, $1000 of it in cash, and the rest to be repaid in installments. The move of the Sisters to the new land had required over $3000. The new carillon had cost nearly $3000, and $3000 was also owed each year to the Phelans (or to Mrs. Phelan after the death of her husband) as their pension. The acquisition of St. Mary's of the Lake in Chicago called for an annual rent of $2000, plus the expense of underwriting the new foundation there. There were unexpected expenses: the failure of the crops in the summer of 1855 involved a loss of some $2000; the loan to France came to nearly $3000; the cost of transporting the French Sisters to America was an additional $2000; and the fire in 1856 had burned up $2800 in property and stores, which had had to be replaced. This already came to a total of nearly $29,000 spent in a little over two years; some of it, of course, such as the debt on the Rush farm, was not paid out immediately but extended over a period of years.

But $29,000 was not the full total; there were other expenses for which the records give no total costs: the expansion of the college church, the purchase of another farm near Notre Dame, and the establishment of a dairy at St. Marys. Nor had the college been free from debt before the donations; there were old notes to be met, interest to pay on old loans and mortgages, and old creditors who awaited their payment for sundry bills.

One can only conclude that Sorin had very quickly gone through the major portion of the donations and that what remained unspent was heavily mortgaged and difficult to sell at this time. The money which had been realized from the donations had been well enough used, especially in the reestablishment and rebuilding of St. Marys, but now it was nearly depleted.

Father Moreau was most particularly concerned about this question of the financial structure of Notre Dame du Lac. Since the earliest years of the American foundation, complaints had been heard in France concerning Sorin's accounts and his seeming eagerness to plunge his new institution into heavy debt. Moreau now had an opportunity to examine the accounts first hand, and much of his visit to Notre Dame du Lac was spent as an auditor.

On August 28, at the second meeting of the Council of Administrators (Sorin was still ill and not present), Moreau asked to see the account books of the institution, and, when they were produced, he found them to be both vague and confusing. Most alarming of all, there was no general balance given for the college to show its present financial state, nor was the Council able to make any accurate estimates of the total debt or total assets of the whole institution. Brothers Vincent and Lawrence, after going off to consult with Sorin, announced their estimation that some one million, two hundred thousand francs (over $200,000) had been spent by those at Notre Dame du Lac since its inception, and Moreau accepted this figure as a start in unraveling the financial enigma.{67} But when he asked for the record of the income of the institution and the debts which it owed, he was told that there was no such record available, and Father Patrick Dillon, as the new Steward, was promptly put to work preparing some sort of a final account, which he presented to Moreau on September 10.

The days in the meantime were spent with a multitude of affairs; the promulgation of the Constitutions, interviews, consultations, group discussions, a Visitation to the Sisters at St. Marys, and so forth. One of the sensitive areas which was covered concerned the 15,000 francs which had been sent by Notre Dame du Lac for the aid of Notre Dame de Ste. Croix. The question of the "loan" came up at a meeting on August 29, the first which Sorin attended. The situation was a delicate one. Sorin had borrowed the money in America at a high rate of interest by mortgaging a piece of the Phelan property; he now needed money to pay off the mortgage and to hold the property. Moreau felt that Ste. Croix was not in a position to repay the debt, if debt it was, and, of course, secretly he must have been displeased with what appeared to him to be the callousness of Sorin, especially in view of the apparent affluence of Notre Dame du Lac which he saw around him. One can understand, however, that it was not the question of whether it was a loan or a gift which so troubled Sorin, arousing his native stubbornness. It should be remembered that Sorin had abruptly called for the repayment of the loan at the height of his anger with the Motherhouse over what he then and now considered undue interference with his authority over New Orleans and New York. Although his Council agreed to consider the debt to be cancelled, Sorin flatly refused to do so, and he insisted on a stubborn compromise which would allow the righteousness of his position to go unchallenged. He had just then come into his patrimony, his share in his father's estate, and he used this sum, which was roughly equivalent to 15,000 francs, to cancel the debt of Notre Dame de Ste. Croix -- in effect, he would give his patrimony to the Motherhouse in place of the 15,000 francs he had sent to France from America. And so the affair was settled, but Moreau could not have been happy with the attitude which Sorin had taken.

The days passed with Moreau busy with minor aspects of his Visit while Dillon furiously attacked the tangled account books. On September 10, the results of this hurried audit were presented to the Superior-General, and they must have been a surprise not only to him, but to all who listened to the reading of the accounts.{69} The debt of Notre Dame du Lac, to be sure, was ominously large, over $63,000. But its assets (real estate, moveable property, and accounts receiveable) totalled over $222,000 ($258,000 if doubtful and worthless debts were included), leaving a net value of $159,000.{70} Moreau was pleased and gratified to learn of the solidity of the foundation, but he was rightly concerned about the size of the debt. To overcome this Moreau granted the Council permission to sell non-essential lands worth $66,300.{71}

The Visit now came to an end; on September 17, after some final discussion of affairs at Notre Dame du Lac, Father Moreau took leave of Notre Dame du Lac, confident, it would seem, of the success of the younger priest's enterprise, but perhaps not as confident of Sorin himself as had been the case back in 1840, when Sorin had left France as a naive and eager young priest. Yet one hopes that Moreau now understood both Sorin and America a bit better, realizing that Sorin had grown and had changed with the new country to which he had been sent and that some of this growth and change, like that of almost all men, had been for the good and some for the worse. The Superior-General took ship from New York on September 19 and returned to Notre Dame de Ste. Croix.{72}

One may now comment that the wealth of Notre Dame du Lac which Moreau had seen in Dillon's account was more apparent than real, and such a comment would be undeniably true. The assets were in land, difficult to sell in any haste, and in college and religious buildings and fixtures, difficult to sell at all, and the debt was all too real, much of it in mortgages which demanded constant payments of interest. But even this cannot take away from Sorin's astounding success. This accounted evaluation of the physical worth of Notre Dame du Lac clearly uncovers the mangitude of Sorin's accomplishment. From the original grant of 524 acres, building on loans, tuition, gifts, and sheer nerve, Sorin had raised this structure in just fifteen years. The sacrifice and hardship, the loneliness in a strange land, the fear of disease and fire and violent death, all had been endured with this happy result: a substantial and solid edifice whose influence was already being felt by Catholics throughout the expanding states of the Midwest. In an intellectual sense, as a seat of higher learning, Notre Dame du Lac's success was much more humble, but a beginning had been made, a vessel had been created for the intellectual wine to fill. Most important, transcending almost all other considerations, Notre Dame du Lac had survived its infancy where many other colleges had failed.

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