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Dr. John McLoughlin
Dr. McLoughlin's Religion


When an infant, Dr. McLoughlin was baptized in the Roman Catholic Church. His father and mother were of that church. While living with the family of his maternal grandfather, he probably was brought up in the English Established Church, of which he became a member. Prior to 1841 or 1842, it was his custom, at Fort Vancouver, to read the service of that church on Sundays to the congregation of officers and employees who attended. Dr. McLoughlin was a broad man in every way. He recognized the good in all Christian sects and denominations. He assisted the Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational missionaries. Had he been a member of those churches, he could hardly have done more for them than he did. While still a Protestant, he also assisted the Roman Catholic missionaries, from their first coming to Oregon, in 1838, as he had the Protestant. He never tried to change the forms of religion of his employees an'd servants of the Company. He encouraged them in their devotion to the religions of their choice.

Archbishop Francis Norbert Blanchet in his "Historical Sketches of the Catholic Church in Oregon," says (page 68): "It is but just to make special mention of the important services which Dr. John McLoughlin - though not a Catholic -has rendered to the French Canadians and their families, during the fourteen years he was governor of Fort Vancouver. He it was who read to them the prayers on Sunday. Besides the English school kept for the children of the Bourgeois, he had a separate one maintained at his own expense, in which prayers and the catechism were taught in French to the Catholic women and children on Sundays and week days, by his orders. He also encouraged the chant of the canticles, in which he was assisted by his wife and daughter, who took much pleasure in this exercise. He visited and examined his school once a week. . . . He it was who saved the Catholics of the Fort and their children from the dangers of perversion, and who, finding the log church the Canadians had built, a few miles below Fairfield, in 1836, not properly located, ordered it to be removed, and rebuilt on a large prairie, its present beautiful site."

Dr. McLoughlin was given charge of a girl by her dying father, who was a Protestant. Dr. McLoughlin would not send her to a Roman Catholic school. He respected the religious faith of the girl's father.30 There is some question as to whether Dr. McLoughlin became a Roman Catholic in the year 1841 or 1842. In one of those years, Dr. McLoughlin read "The End of Controversy," written by Dr. Milner, and was converted by this book to the Roman Catholic faith and joined that church. He made his abjuration and profession of faith and took his first communion at Fort Vancouver in 1841 or 1842. Joining the Roman Catholic Church by Dr. McLoughlin was most impolitic, at this time, particularly on account of his land claim. But he was not a man to consider policy when there was something to be done, which he thought right, just, or proper. Otherwise, he would not have assisted the missionaries nor helped the immigrants. Joining the Roman Catholic Church only added to the opposition to Dr. McLoughlin. He was then a British subject. At that time there was great prejudice by many Americans against Great Britain as the supposed hereditary enemy of the United States. The long discussion of the Oregon Question; the election of Polk as President in 1844, largely on the popular cry of "54-40 or fight," greatly intensified this feeling. There was also great popular prejudice among many of the Protestants of the United States against the Roman Catholic Church, which had been handed down from the time of the settlement of New England and the Cromwellian revolution in England. Locally, in Oregon, a partial success of the Roman Catholic missionaries with the Indians, where the Protestants had failed, probably intensified this feeling.

In these early immigrations were many women, most of whom were wives and mothers. There were also numerous children of all ages. There were a few births on the way. When these mothers saw their children, along the Columbia River, in peril, many sick and almost famishing; when they heard their children cry for food and clothing, which these mothers could not supply; and when these perils were removed, and these necessaries were furnished by Dr. McLoughlin, and their sick children were restored to health under his orders and directions; do you think these Protestant American mothers considered it important that Dr. John McLoughlin was a Roman Catholic and a British subject? Or that they were not grateful?


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