The New York Cathedral Again: Letter From Mr. Hassard

NEW YORK, February 22, 1879.


SIR, — I learn from the March number of The Atlantic that Mr. Clarence Cook has written me a letter in reference to grants by the public authorities for the benefit of the Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum in this city. Tf I had been invited to a public discussion of this or any other topic I should have declined the distinction. When Mr. Cook asked my leave to print, as an act of justice, a private note which I had sent him in friendly correction of his mistake about the cathedral property, I did not suspect that in a public epistle addressed to me. without my knowledge, he would bring a fresh charge against the Catholics (no better founded than the first), and virtually challenge me to answer it.

Admitting that the Catholics did not " jockey ” the city out of the cathedral land, he complains that they did nevertheless jockey it out of the land for an orphan asylum. I should think that the difference between a grant to a church and a grant to a. free orphan asylum ought to be tolerably plain ; but Mr. Cook says of the donation to the charity : " From a point of view outside of any sect or party, I cannot see any defense or excuse for the transaction I have described. The men who were at the head of the city government at the time had no right to give away or to lease in perpetuity, for the benefit of any body of men, secular or religious, lands that belonged to the whole people. Nor could the bargain have been proposed and consummated except by crafty and unscrupulous men. That was a dark day for our city politics, and I am much mistaken in your character if you do not agree with me that it was a time in the history of the Catholic church in this city which its best friends must prefer not to have dragged into the light.”

(1.) If Mr. Cook means that the public authorities have no right to give public property to charitable institutions, I can only say that the contrary opinion has uniformly prevailed here, both in the common council and in the various churches. Besides the per capita allowances made annually from the public funds to a great variety of benevolent societies, representing many creeds and no creeds, both the city and the State have always appropriated lands and money of the taxpayers for the endowment of institutions of charity or education, Protestant and Jewish, as well — to say the very least—as Catholic. The grant to the Catholic Orphan Asylum differs in no respect from numerous grants to other charities which are not Catholie I could cite a multitude of anti-popery precedents for the transaction which Mr. Cook is unable to defend or excuse; but not to trespass on your space, I confine myself to cases which seem to me the most exactly in point. The Colored Orphan Asylum, in which the religious instruction is Protestant, although no particular denomination controls it, obtained from the common council in 1842 a grant of twenty lots on Fifth Avenue, between Forty - Third and Forty-Fourth streets. The Hebrew Orphan Asylum (exclusively Israelite) obtained from the common council in 1860, for the consideration of one dollar, a deed of the land which it occupies, measuring three hundred feet on Seventy-Seventh Street and one hundred feet on Third Avenue, and in 1864, for a similar consideration, a further grant of adjoining land, one hundred by one hundred and twenty feet in extent. Are we to understand that these “bargains ” could not “ have been proposed and consummated except by crafty and unscrupulous men ”? The legislature granted endowments of twenty-five thousand dollars in 1867, and other liberal sums in other years, to the House nf Mercy of the Protestant Episcopal sisterhood of St, Mary. Bishop Potter was — and I suppose is — president of the board of trustees of that institution ; I hope nobody is going to call him a crafty and unscrupulous jockey.

(2.) Mr. Cook is mistaken in my character, or in something else; for I do not agree with him that there is any “ time in the history of the Catholic church in this city which its best friends must prefer not to have dragged into the light.” Very re spectfully, your obedient servant,