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War and Priests: Catholic Colleges and Slavery in the Age of Revolution


In the article “War and Priests: In Craig Steven Wilder’s “Catholic Colleges and Slavery in the Age of Revolution,” issues concerning how Catholic college systems relate to slavery during this era are discussed. In his turn, Wilder observes the role played by Georgetown College and other Catholic institutions in Maryland with slavery, revealing their links to a slave economy (Wilder, 2016). The core concept that Wilder sets is that Catholic colleges such as Georgetown in the US were deeply ingrained with slavery establishments and even benefited from the slave trade economically. He claims that slavery was a significant catalyst in the development of more advanced institutions around this era. This evaluation focuses on the author’s argument, evidence, and omissions in this article.


The author Wilder gives his first evidence to show that Catholic col, especially Georgetown College, is the inevitable part of slavery. Recognizing that Catholics had already been incorporated, the visit of President George Washington to Georgetown College in 1797 was indicative. This visit is not only an expression of catholic tolerance but also denotes the economic powers sustained by slavery on campus.

The fact that Washington toured the college whose enslaved people were owned by its faculty and officers exemplifies economic interests created through slavery. The fact that the enslaved individuals were owned by people who held influential positions in this college indicates a direct contribution and reliance on slave labour to operate it (Wilder, 2016). This mission not only gives credibility to the institution of Georgetown College but also shows that slavery yields economic advantages.

Further, the research conducted by Wilder into various Maryland slave plantations owned by Catholic clergy indicates an economic connection between church and slavery. These plantations, which included those supporting Georgetown College and St. Mary’s Seminary, directly connected the institutions with the economy of slavery. Thus, the clergy also became accomplices of slavery because they relied on slave-produced revenues from these plantations in order to keep running their missions.

Wilder reveals the financial relations between George Washington and Georgetown College. The involvement of Washington in the Potomac Company encompasses a personal relation to this college and the monetary gains brought by the establishment of slavery (Wilder, 2016). The backing of Washington on the development of Georgetown as a port implied that he knew and benefited from the output derived from college based on slavery. This further corroborates the fact that catholic colleges like Georgetown were highly associated with slavery and gained economically.

Nevertheless, the year Georgetown College was established in 1789 carries some importance. This was consistent with the ratification of the Constitution and the swearing of George Washington as president. In this way, selecting this year was intended to portray credibility and connect the college with the nation’s improvement. In support of this emerging nation’s political and economic goals through its ally, the United States, Catholic colleges such as Georgetown tried to ensure their future by aligning themselves with it (Wilder, 2016). This highlights the association between higher education, slavery, and the economic objectives of America’s empire in the Revolution Age.

Overall, Wilder’s argument in favour of his Catholic colleges and slavery thesis is deemed a convincing one. In the college in Georgetown, George Washington’s arrival to Catholic society marks an act of acceptance that slavery brings. Notably, the possession of various slave plantations by Catholic clergy in Maryland maintains their economic association with slavery. This financial connection between Washington and the college, along with the date of foundation for Georgetown College, reminds us how closely connected Catholic institutions were not just to broad morality but also to slavery. As a whole, these pieces of evidence are in support of the strong relationship between Catholic colleges and an institution perceived popularly as slavery.

Gaps and Issues:

The most apparent omission from Wilder’s analysis is that there needed to be an attempt to concentrate on the agency and subjectivity of enslaved people. Although the article digs into the economic benefits that come from the slavery of the Catholic establishment and people, it does not engage with what these enslaved individuals experienced or their resistance (Wilder, 2016). Such groups’ thinking and behaviour are essential for understanding the complete implications that Catholic establishments had with slavery. A complex and broad approach to defining the connections between Catholic schools and slavery can be made by examining both slave voices and agency.

However, this analysis still bestill broadened to review the potential participation of other Catholic institutions the s in the USA and our ability to measure how much this college contributes to the slave element economy. Although Georgetown College and its connections with slavery draw most of the attention, it can be concluded that other Catholic organizations were probably associated similarly (Wilder, 2016). It would also permit providing a more complete picture of the Catholics’ attitude towards the slave trade. This would reveal some of the patterns, trends, and variations in Catholic colleges’ participation with slavery,avery which could prompt a further understanding of that contribution from an institution building on as well as fueling the d by the slave economy.

However, another issue that would have deserved more attention is the ideological and moral justification used by Catholic clergy to bring their practice in line with what they regarded as a slaveholding religion. It will help to know how these religious leaders justified their behaviour regarding Catholic doctrines, which is an integral part of the problems with slavery and catholic colleges at this stage. It would also give details on how religious institutions dealt with moral issues resulting from their involvement in the slave economy.


In conclusion, Craig Steven Wilder’s article presents a more enjoyable reading, which establishes ties between Catholic colleges and slavery by providing supporting evidence for his argument; he sheds light on the economic benefits that these institutions got from the slave economy. However, some gaps and problems may have been analyzed in more detail. Shifting to the approach that enslaved people’s point of view and power are discussed, a more heterogeneous array of Catholic institutions would enable the use of rationalizations employed by clergy to produce an improvement. Finally, the article gives an interesting interpretation of this complex yet vital issue, allowing further research.


Wilder, C. S. (2016, November 6). War & Priests: Catholic Colleges and Slavery in the Age of Revolution” with Craig Steven Wilder. NENJP – New England Network for Justice for Palestine.


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