The Greatest Writer of the 19th Century » Brownson's Writings » A Tribute to the Death of Brownson

A Tribute to the Death of Brownson

Taken from the Catholic World, August, 1876

“Dr. Brownson”

Some three or four years ago a daughter of one of Dr. Brownson’s intimate friends, who was visiting his family, after gazing intently at him for some minutes, exclaimed: “Is he not just like a great lion”! Nothing could be more graphic or accurate than this sudden and happy stroke of a child’s wit.  We never saw Dr. Brownson or read one of his great articles without thinking of the mien or the roar of a majestic lion; we have never seen a remarkably fine old lion without thinking of Dr. Brownson.  His physique was entirely correspondent to his intellectual and moral power, and his great head, crowning like a dome his massive figure, and surrounded in old age with a mass of white hair and a beard like a snowy Alp, made him a grand and reverend object to look at, such as we might picture to ourselves Zoroaster or Plato, St. Jerome or St. Bruno.  The marks of infirmity which time had imprinted upon him, with the expression of loneliness and childlike longing for sympathy, added a touch of the pathetic to the picture, fitted to wake a sentiment of compassion, tempering to a more gentle mood the awe and admiration excited by his venerable appearance.  Mr. Healey has painted a remarkably good portrait of him as he was at about the age of sixty, in which his full maturity of strength is alone represented.  The most perfect one, however, is a mere photograph, taken in haste and by accident by Mr. Wallace, an artist of great promise, who died at a very early age, leaving unfinished a marble bust of Dr. Brownson which he had commenced.  The young artist met the doctor by chance in the studio of a photographer, who happened at the moment to be absent.  Asking him to sit down, he placed him in position for a profile and took the photograph, one of the most successful specimens of this kind of art we have ever seen, and much superior to any other photographic likeness of Dr. Brownson- indeed, as we have said, the best likeness which exists, and the one above all others from which an engraver should copy.

The lion is dead; his thunderous voice is forever hushed.  The farewell utterance which closed his career as an editor with so much dignity and pathos was his valedictory to life and to the world.  It is pleasant to think that, before he died, a response full of veneration and affection came back to him from the organs of Catholic opinion and feeling in America and Europe, and that he has gone to his grave in honor and peace, where his works will be his monument, and his repose be asked for by countless prayers offered up throughout all parts of the Catholic Church, in whose battles he had been a tried warrior and valiant leader for thirty years.

It is not an easy task to give a perfectly just and impartial estimate of such a man and such a career.  The intimate relations between Dr. Brownson and those who have been the chief conductors of this magazine, together with the very active and extensive share which he had in their efforts to establish it and raise it to its present position, impose an obligation of personal friendship and gratitude somewhat like that which affects the relatives and family friends of a great man in the memorials which they prepare for the honor and fame of one whom they regard with a veneration and affection precluding the free exercise of critical judgment.  On the other hand, the difference of opinion which afterward severed the connection between Dr. Brownson and the Catholic World, and the controversy we have had with him on some important theological and philosophical questions, may give to the expression of anything like a discriminating judgment the appearance of an adverse plea against an opposing advocate in favor of our own cause.  Nevertheless, as the motive of our friendship was chiefly sympathy in the great common cause of the Catholic Church, which was not essentially altered by a disagreement that produced no bitterness or animosity, we trust that our mood of mind is not influenced by any partial and personal bias, so as to produce either exaggeration or diminution of the just claims the great deceased publicist possesses on the admiration of his fellow-men.  We may fail from want of capability, but we cannot avoid making the attempt to satisfy in part the desire which all Catholics everywhere must feel to know what those who have been near to Dr. Brownson during his public life have seen, and what they think, of his character and his career, more especially since his conversion.

Dr. Brownson has told the world a great deal about his own history in the book which he published in 1857, entitled The Convert.  The salient facts of his life are generally known to the public, and have been summarily  stated in the obituary notices of the leading newspapers, so that we have no need to take up much of our limited space in recounting them.  The principal interest they possess is in their relation to the formation of his mind, his character, his faith, and his opinions.  He was not baptized in his infancy, but was nevertheless brought up strictly and religiously according to the old-fashioned Puritan method, in their simple, humble cottage at Royalton, Vermont, by an elderly couple, distant relatives of his family, who adopted the fatherless boy when he was six years old.  A wonderful child he must have been, and we can see in his brief narrative of his early years, as in the instances of St. Thomas Aquin and Chateaubriand, though under circumstances as different as possible from theirs, a most interesting example of Wordsworth’s aphorism, “The child is father of the man.” From the dawn of reason he was a philosopher, never a child, thinking, dreaming in an ideal world, reading the few books he could find- especially King James’ English Bible, which he almost learned by heart- never playing with other children, and enjoying very scanty advantages of schooling.  After his fourteenth year he lived near Saratoga, in New York State, and worked hard for his own maintenance.  At nineteen we find him at the academy in the town of Ballston- a privilege which we believe he purchased with the hard earnings of his industry.   At this time, from an impulse of religious sentiment, he sought for baptism and admission into the Presbyterian church, which he soon found an uncongenial home and exchanged for another sect at the opposite pole of Protestantism, that of the Universalists, among whom he became a preacher at the age of twenty-one.  The subsequent period of his life until he had passed somewhat beyond his fortieth year, - that is, until 1844- was marked by various phases of rationalism, and filled with active labors in preaching, lecturing, writing, and editing various periodicals, all carried on with restless energy and untiring industry.  He was married early in life to an intelligent and amiable lady who was a perfect wife and mother, and after her conversion a perfect Christian; and the six children who lived to grow up, five of whom were sons, all received an excellent education.  The eldest son, his namesake, has passed his life as a teacher and farmer in a remote State, living the life of a good Catholic with the spirit of a recluse, altogether uninterested in the affairs of the world.  Two others were lawyers and died young.  The fourth, after passing some years with the Jesuits, entered the Army of the United States at the breaking out of the war as a captain of artillery, was severely wounded, and after the close of the war was admitted to the bar, married, and began the practice of law at Detroit.  He is known to the literary world as the translator of Balmes’ Fundamental Philosophy.   The youngest son also served gallantly as an officer of the army of the republic during the civil war, and died on the field of battle in the flower of his youth.  The only daughter, who is the wife of a most worthy and respectable gentleman, before her marriage published several works, and particularly the Life of Prince Gallitzin, a biography of very considerable merit.  All the fruits of the intellectual labors of Dr. Brownson were absorbed in the support and education of his family and some dependent female relatives, and beyond these simple means of keeping up his plain and unostentatious household, the great and patriarchal philosopher received no pecuniary recompense from his long and severe labors in the field of literature.  His true profession was that of an editor and reviewer.  The exercise of the functions of the Protestant ministry  was not to his taste, and five years before his conversion to the Catholic Church, which took place in 1844, he founded a Review at Boston, which was, with a change of title, continued during his residence in that city, then transferred to New York and sustained until 1864, revived once more by a kind of dying effort in 1873, and finally closed a few months before the end of Dr. Brownson’s mortal career.  An Active part in politics was taken by Dr. Brownson during several years of his early public career, but his restless, impetuous, independent spirit made it impossible for him to remain long within the ranks of any political party.  Until his conversion he was an agitator, a reformer, associating by turns with Fanny Wright, Robert Dale Owen, the leaders of the working-men’s party, Channing, Parker, and the Boston clique of world-reformers, captivated by the theories of Leroux and St. Simon, and even fancying himself the providential Messias who was to do away with all old things and renovate the world.  At least he became convinced that Jesus Christ founded the Catholic Church as the perpetual teacher, guide, and ruler of men and nations, and settled himself in his only true vocation as an exponent and advocate of her doctrines and order by means of his written works.  It was only as a Catholic publicist that he became a truly great man, and achieved a great work for which he deserves to be held in lasting remembrance.  To this work the last thirty years of his life were devoted with a gigantic energy, which diminished toward the end under the influence of advancing age and enfeebled health, but never wholly flagged until the approach of death gradually quenched and at last extinguished the vital flame of his physical existence.  During the last seventeen years of his life his residence was at Elizabeth, New Jersey, with the exception of a few months which he passed with his son, Henry F. Brownson, Esq., of Detroit, in whose house he died, and from which he was carried to his last resting-place in the Catholic cemetery of that town.  His last years were filled with sufferings from severe physical infirmities, the sudden deaths of several of his children, above all from the death of his tenderly-loved and devoted wife, and from the desolation and loneliness which is usually the cloud in which the setting sun of genius goes down, especially when one survives the period of his great activity, and finds himself, as it were, walking among the graves of friends and past works, drawing always nearer to his own sepulchral resting-place.  His death occurred on the morning of Easter Monday, April 17, 1876, when he was in the middle of his seventy-third year, and his obsequies were celebrated on the following Wednesday.  From the time of his conversion he was not only a loyal but a pious and practical Catholic, constantly receiving the sacraments, and making his own salvation the chief object to be attained in life.  There can be no doubt that he lived and died a just and good man, full of merit, and sure of a high place in heaven, as well as on the scroll of honor where the names of the great men of the age are inscribed by the verdict of their fellows. If we were allowed to stop her, our task would not have any of that difficulty or delicacy which we said at the outset must necessarily belong to an effort at estimating Dr. Brownson’s character and career as a Catholic publicist.  That he built on the true foundation as a master-builder, with gold, silver, and precious stones, much solid and fine work able to withstand the fire and deserving a reward both on earth and in heaven, we can affirm with conscientious fidelity to our own conviction, and without fear of contradiction.  That there was no wood, hay, or stubble in the great mass of materials which he used in his many and extensive works we dare not assert.  The difficulty lies in discrimination, and in the relative estimate of a man certainly great and good, in comparison with other great champions of the Catholic faith, and  with the standard of perfection.  It must be remembered that Dr. Brownson was a self-made man, and, until he was past thirty, was in circumstances most unfavorable to his intellectual culture.  He received in his youth only the rudiments of an education, was associated during his early manhood with vulgar sectaries and demagogues, engaged in rude, turbulent struggle for a living and a position as a religious and political leader, as well as in a perpetual search after truth, without adequate means of satisfying the cravings of his restless intellect and passionate heart.   He came into contact with intellectual and cultivated men for the first time in Boston after he joined the Unitarians.  His efforts to educate himself were certainly strenuous.  He acquired the Latin, French, German, and Italian languages sufficiently well to read books written in all those languages, and his knowledge of English authors was, of course, very wide and extensive.  Nevertheless, the want of a systematic education in his early youth, and of regular, symmetrical intellectual training, was always a great disadvantage, as it necessarily must be to every self-made man.  Moreover, the necessity of perpetually speaking and writing on the most important subjects as a teacher and guide of others, before he had thoroughly learned what he had to teach, made him liable to hasty and crude statements, to inaccuracies and errors, to changes and modifications in his views and opinions, and to a certain tentative, erratic course of thought.  He was like a great ship making its way by warring and tacking, often changing its course, and frequently stopping for soundings, but on the whole making steady headway towards one definite point, escaping many dangers, and at last arriving on open sailing ground by the genius of its pilot, notwithstanding insufficient charts and an unknown coast.  In certain favorite branches of study- as, for instance, in history, the history of philosophy, political ethics, and English philology- his knowledge was not only extensive, but extremely accurate.  Of scholastic metaphysics and theology he had a considerable but by no means a minutely precise and complete knowledge; and with the physical sciences he was still less acquainted.  In the belles-lettres he was extremely well versed, and of works of fiction he was an omnivorous reader.  For a number of years before his death he was prevented by the weakness of his eyes from reading very much, and was therefore, in the last series of his Review, thrown back on his old resources.  On the whole, the mass of knowledge acquired by study which is displayed in his written works is more like a grand, complex structure, imposing in magnitude of outline, sublimity of design, variety of details, yet irregular in plan and incomplete in many of his parts, than like a finished, scientifically-constructed, and elaborately-completed edifice.

In his calibre of mind we think Dr. Brownson may be classed with those men whose capacity is only exceeded by a very small number of minds of the highest order of genius.  Intellect, reason, imagination, and memory were alike powerful faculties of his mind, and his great weight of brain, with a corresponding nervous and muscular strength, made him capable of the most concentrated, vigorous, and sustained intellectual labor.  Within the scope of his genius there was no work, however colossal, which he was not naturally capable of accomplishing.  His gift of language, and ability of giving expression to his thoughts and sentiments, whether original or borrowed, was even greater than his power of abstraction and conception; and his style has a magnificent, Doric beauty seldom surpassed, rarely even equalled.  Although Dr. Brownson was not an orator, and Mr. Webster was not a philosopher, there is, nevertheless, a striking similarity in the style of the two men, who mutually admired each other’s productions with the sympathy of cognate minds.  In argument, but especially in controversial argument and philippics, Dr. Brownson wielded the hammer of Thor.  His defect was in subtlety of thought, fineness of discrimination, completeness of induction, and minute, accurate analysis.  In the capacity of grasping a first principle and following it out on the synthetic method lay his great power.  Whenever he had these great first principles and fundamental ideas, either from reason or faith, he was unrivalled in the grand and mighty exposition of the truth, irresistible in the demolition of sophistical, inconsequent, and false theories and their advocates, many of whom he laid low with the ease and force of the blow of Richard Cour de Lion on the cheek of the unlucky clerk of Companhurst.  Humor, wit, and sarcasm were also at his command, as well as serious argument; nor were they always sparingly used, although generally with the good humor of a giant conscious of his strength.

When we consider the absolute and permanent value of Dr. Brownson’s writings as a contribution to Catholic literature, not merely in respect to their quality as the productions of a great mind, but as to their substance; and estimate the effective worth of his efforts as a publicist in the promotion of Catholic truth and law, we cannot avoid taking into view the moral characteristics of the man and of his career.  He was a man of great passions as well as of great intellect.  He lacked a wholesome,  sound moral and religious discipline during more than half his life, and was under the influence of ideas, associates, circumstances, most dangerous and injurious, but especially hostile to the fundamental virtues of humility, reverence for authority, intellectual moral and self-control, submission to a fixed, unvarying rule of conscientious obligation.  After a stormy and turbulent life, he submitted himself to the authority of the Catholic Church over his mind and conscience, when he was more than forty years of age.  He was always true in his allegiance, and in many respects morally heroic in the practice of the Christian virtues.  His previous life was not wanting in nobility, and in his subsequent life as a Catholic there is magnanimity, a generosity, a superiority to petty, selfish motives and considerations, such as wealth and popularity; a patient endurance of toil, privation, and suffering; a steady loyalty to the Holy See; a royal scorn of baseness and wrong, and sympathy with the things which are good, just, true, and honorable, worthy of a Catholic of the best medieval type.  He remained, however, as many of the old, heroic Christians who were converted from heathenism did, more or less, the lion of the forest, with many of the idiosyncrasies and other characteristics, the product of his past history, but partially subdued and modified.  He was sui generis, and his works are like himself.  To describe him we ought to borrow, if we may hint at such an impossible supposition, the pen with which Carlyle has described his heroes.  The pen being unattainable, we decline the attempt.  A few things we must say, in order to prepare the way for the estimate we are striving to make of his career and works.

Dr. Brownson was liable to be fascinated by some great writer, and for a time to surrender his mind almost completely to his influence with an impetuous enthusiasm which hindered calm deliberation.  When the first fervor had passed, he would reconsider the matter, and sometimes end by a severe castigation of his late master.  Like St. Christopher, he went in search of the strongest man to serve, whereas those whom he successively tried and abandoned were really weaker than himself.  Cousin, Leroux, and at last Gioberti were those to whom he was most specially devoted, and the influence of the last-named author was so strong over him that he never wholly freed himself from its detrimental effects.  In many other ways the judgment of Dr. Brownson was liable to bias from prejudice, passion, and moods of feeling.  In his judgment of men, and also of books, he was hasty, partial, capricious, swayed by accidental influences, and variable.  It was the same in regard to theories, opinions, and doctrines which he regarded as open questions.  Where his faith, his conscience, or his matured, deliberate reason were firmly settled he was steady and immovable.  If he was thoroughly convinced that he had made a mistake or fallen into error, he would retract.  But his old habit of roving all over the world of thought, and the lack of the regular, consistent and intellectual and moral discipline of a systematic Catholic culture and education, made him restless of keeping steadily in one course of thought, fond of novelty, and ready to adopt or abandon ideas without due deliberation.  This variability and want of steady balance in his intellectual operations detracted very much from his influence as a writer, and counteracted to a great extent the effect which his solid and weighty arguments might have otherwise produced. 

He has himself made a frank though not a contrite acknowledgment of his one great moral fault in the Convert: “I am no saint, never was, and never shall be a saint.  I am not and never shall be a great man; but I always had, and I trust I always shall have,  the honor of being regarded by my friends and associates as impolitic, as rash, imprudent, and impracticable.  I was and am in my natural disposition frank, truthful, straightforward, and earnest, and therefore have had, and I doubt not shall carry to the grave with me, the reputation of being reckless, ultra, a well-meaning man, perhaps an able man, but so fond of paradoxes and extremes that he cannot be relied on, and is more likely to injure than to serve the cause he espouses.”  To the last statement we must, to a great extent, demur.  It is so far true, however, that is was extremely difficult to act in concert with Dr. Brownson, and impossible to count with security upon his movements.  Like the lions described so vividly by Jules Gerard, who would be heard by him roaring in the night at distant points within a circuit of twenty miles, you could not foresee from what quarter the thunder of his voice would be next heard, or calculate his range.  Many Cathlolics were alarmed at one time, lest he should stray beyond the boundaries of the faith.  He had even so far lost the confidence of the hierarchy and the Catholic public, in the year 1864, that he was unable to keep up his Review.  Complaints were lodged against him before the Roman tribunals, and the celebrated theologian Cardinal Franzelin, then professor in the Roman College, was deputed to examine his writings.  The result is that they were not found worthy of censure, and the case was dismissed with a kind admonition to be guarded in his language on one or two points, conveyed through a well-known priest and Roman doctor of New York, who was at the same time directed to console him in his afflictions and encourage him to persevere in his labors.  Like Montalembert, Lacordaire, De Broglie, and many other illustrious Catholic priests as well as laymen, and even a few bishops, Dr. Brownson was for a time dazzled by the specious phantom of liberalism;  but he soon freed himself from this illusion, and no one has more thoroughly and heartily defended the decisions of the Council of the Vatican, and of the Encyclical and Syllabus of 1864, than he has done, especially in the last series of his Review.  He wavered for a time respecting the necessity of an uncompromising defense and maintenance of the temporal princedom of the Sovereign Pontiff, and an unfortunate expression to that effect even slipped into the Catholic World from his pen through an oversight of the editor.  But in this and every other respect in which he had been led astray for a time, he never failed in a right intention; and for all errors into he was misled he made full and ample amends, even far beyond what could justly have been expected.

In regard to some points of Catholic doctrine he was rigoristic and exaggerated, sometimes censuring the most orthodox theologians as lax in their interpretation of dogmas.  A satisfactory and systematic exposition of the complete theology of the Catholic Church cannot, therefore, be said to have been accomplished by Dr. Brownson.  Nor, indeed, can we award to him the meed of success in constructing a system of metaphysics.  That he made valuable contributions both to theology and metaphysics we are very glad to admit; and, moreover, we ascribe his imperfect achievement, not to the want of intellectual ability, but to other causes which we have explained already.  In point of fact, the great scheme always before his mind of the synthetic exposition of faith and science, reason and revelation, dogma and philosophy, was too vast even for his capricious mind and gigantic powers, without a preparation and a possession of materials which he did not and could not have at command.  In our opinion, some parts of this great work have been much better done in our own time by other men than by Dr. Brownson.  Whether any man will arise who will accomplish the complete work and produce another Summa Theologiae, we cannot say; but such a man, if he appears, will be a second Angelic Doctor.  On this head Dr. Ward, in the Dublin Review, has already written so well that we need not add anything more.  He has also in the number for January, 1876, while paying a most cordial and generous tribute to the genius and virtue of Dr. Brownson, pointed out in very clear, explicit terms the great defect in his method of metaphysical reasoning.  This defect is traceable to Kant, and found expression in his perpetual criticism of the analytic method of the schoolmen, and insistence for the substitution of a synthetic process beginning from an a priori synthetic judgment.  Dr. Brownson’s great mistake lay in his attempting to reconstruct philosophy and theology from the foundation, instead of applying himself to learn both from the traditional scholastic system, which needs to be reconstructed and completed only where certain portions have been proved by real scientific discoveries to be weak or have been left unfinished.  But we will not weary our readers with any further remarks on such abstruse topics.  We have said enough to those who are familiar with them the grounds of our judgment on certain portions of Dr. Brownson’s writings, and for others the requisite explanation would occupy far more space than we are at liberty to appropriate.

While a considerable part of these writings belonging to domestic controversy will, in our opinion, be forgotten except at literary curiosities, there are others which deserve to remain as a portion of our standard Catholic literature, and to be studied while the English language itself endures.  We are disposed to consider the various essays on the subjects belonging to the department of political ethics as the most consummate productions of the great publicist.  His work entitled The Great Republic is the most extensive and complete of these essays, but there are numerous other single pieces, making together a great collection, to be found in various parts of his own Review and of this magazine.  The articles on the controversy with Protestants and various kinds of free-thinkers, those on transcendentalism, the autobiography  entitled The Convert, and the whole series of articles contributed to the Catholic World, with the exception of a few of minor importance, may be placed in the same category of excellence and permanent value.  The quantity of literary labor accomplished by Dr. Brownson was literally astounding, especially for our day.  A great part of that which he published during his fifty years of active life was necessarily ephemeral.  But there might be selected from his extant publications as a Catholic reviewer a mass considerable enough to fill several volumes of the best quality of matter in the most excellent, admirable, and enduring form.  Such competent judges as Lord Brougham, Cardinal Wiseman, Mr. Webster, Mr. Ripley, and the editors of the principal reviews in England, France, and Germany, have pronounced the highest eulogiums upon the masterpieces of Dr. Brownson’s pen, either in respect to the power of thought and beauty of style which are their characteristics, or the intrinsic value of their argument as an exposition or defense of great truths and principles.  The terse logic of Tertullian, the polemic crash of St. Jerome, the sublime eloquence of Bossuet, are all to be found there in combination or alteration, with many sweet strains of tenderness and playful flashes of humor.  There are numerous passages in his writings not to be surpassed by the finest portions of the works of the great masters of thought and style, whether in the English or any other language, in the present or in any past age.  They render certain and immortal the just and hard-earned fame of their author, who labored not, however, as least not principally, for fame and honor, but for the love of truth, the welfare of mankind, and the approbation of heaven.

Dr. Brownson is the most remarkable of all the converts to the Catholic Church in the United States, and among the most remarkable in the group of illustrious men who have paid homage to her authority in the present age.  His conversion was a great event and made an epoch.  What the amount of good which has been and will be effected by his works may be, it is utterly impossible to estimate; for such things have no statistics, no criterion of measurement, no data for calculation.  The weight of his testimony and the  conclusiveness of his arguments have been slightly treated, and represented as not worthy to be considered, on the plea that he was capricious, changeable, and possessed of a kind of marvellous art, a sort of intellectual magic, by which he could persuade himself, and make a plausible show of proving to others, that any theory, doctrine, or scheme which took his fancy was solid truth; somewhat as Kant attributes an illusory power to nature, by which all sorts of paralogisms are made to seem equally true and real to reason, whereas they are only phenomenal forms.  To a great number of persons Dr. Brownson was an intellectual phenomenon, a sort of philosophical comet of the most eccentric orbit, a prestidigitator with magical formulas, a Prospero having a magic wand, a being such as the popular superstition of old represented Albertus Magnus.  That a mind which is searching for the truth which it does not possess and after a supreme good which it knows not except as an object of vague longing, should wander, is not strange.  It is the principle of Protestantism, and of the rationalistic, skeptical philosophy which it has produced, to be always doubting, questioning;  “ever seeking and never coming to the knowledge of the truth,” unless by the substitution of another, higher principle.  That there was a law in his mental aberrations, a progressive movement in his eccentric orbit, a “method in his madness,” even in its utmost extravagance, a careful perusal of his autobiography will show.  It requires intelligence and patience, however, to read that book.  His intellect was one always quaerens causas altissimas(seeking ultimate causes).  When he become once convinced of the truth of the Catholic religion, and surrendered his mind to the supernatural light of faith, although his faith was fides quaerens intellectum, he never changed or wavered in his belief of the grand dogmas of Catholic Christianity.  That such a mind and disposition as his could be firmly held under the dominion of authority with the full assent of the understanding and the joyful submission of the will, is no weak proof that the authority is divine which subdued so restive a spirit.  Pegasus in the yoke with his wings tied was an unruly, troublesome steed; but when Apollo mounted on his back and cut his cords, he was docile to his rein, while with all the joy of liberty he flew through the air, proud to obey such a master.

Dr. Brownson’s demonstration of the divine institution and authority of the church is unanswered and unanswerable.  It is childish trifling, unworthy of rational men, to ignore his arguments and escape from his logic by petty criticisms on his person.  Reason is objective and real; the subjective qualities of the reasoner have nothing to do with its authority.  Several years before Brownson’s conversion, the writer heard several of the professors of Princeton express their opinion that he was the ablest and most dangerous antagonist of Christianity in this country.  Like Saul of Tarsus, he was changed from an enemy to a champion of the cause of Christ and his church.  Though somewhat sudden, his conversion was form rational conviction and the purest motives.  It is impossible to deprive it of its significance or deny its importance.  It is one of many instances proving that now, as ever, the Catholic Church has power to win and master the strongest and most fearless minds, the most generous and disinterested hearts.  Dr. Brownson was generous and disinterested.  He obeyed his conscience, devoted himself to truth and justice, served God and his fellow-men, without price, in poverty, and with a total neglect of popularity and worldly honor, comfort, enjoyment, and every sort of earthly pomp and ostentation.  In a merely natural point of view he was like the simple old men of the Greek and Roman heroic age, and the early fathers of our degenerate commonwealth.  His austere figure is an example and a reproach to a frivolous, luxurious, skeptical, perfidious generation.  What a contrast between his incorruptible integrity  and unpurchasable allegiance to truth and right, to virtue and honesty, to order and liberty, and the venal trafficking of our so-called statesmen, who swindle soldiers and artisans, rob the country and the poor, barter and trade in votes and offices, renounce their faith for political preferment, bid for honors by appeals to sectarian animosity, sell the most sacred rights and interests for their own selfish advantage, flaunt in a vulgar magnificence which is maintained by theft, and abscond to escape the punishment due to their felonies!  Amid this mean crowd he stands out like Aristides among the demagogues of Athens; and compared with that other brood which has settled down on the domain of the press and the lecture-hall, the professors of atheistic materialism, he is like Socrates among the sophists.  Detected swindlers, defaulters and robbers are despised and denounced, disgraced and punished, if it is money and material goods which they administer fraudulently or appropriate unjustly.  They are the small cattle-thieves of Waverly, but the great lifters escape unpunished and are honored.  Tyrants who rob their subjects of their rights or neighboring states of their possessions; defaulters to faith, conscience, and God, who abuse their gifts and power to debauch and degrade the minds of their fellow-men; swindlers in the priceless goods of the soul and eternity; the prophets of falsehood and licentiousness; are enriched and applauded.  Neglect, aversion, martyrdom, are the portion of the genuine heroes, sages, and patriots, lovers and benefactors of the race; and whatever homage they receive is extorted, reluctant, scanty in proportion to their worth and merit.  Even when they are admired and praised, their teaching is not heeded or their example followed by the fickle, frivolous crowd.  Morally, when not literally, exile and the cup of Hemlock are their portion.  Those who literally encounter death and receive the palm of martyrdom are the happiest and most favored among them.  But these are the men who redeem the race, and are the only lasting glory of the age in which their task of laboring and suffering is fulfilled.  Among these crusaders Dr. Brownson enlisted when he abandoned the camp of infidelity and revolution to receive the cross.  The corps de’elite of Catholic laymen distinguished by their eminent superiority and illustrious services to the church, in this century, is a confraternity even more chivalrous and honorable than the Order of the Temple in its purest, brightest days.  Gorres, O’Connell, De Gerlache, Rossi, Lamoriciere, Montalembert, Veuillot, Dechamps, Marshall, Ward, Garcia Moreno, Mallinkrodt- these are names which represent a great battalion of more or less renowned warriors in the sacred cause of Christ, of his Vicar, of true religion, science, civilization, and man’s eternal welfare.  The unshaken, loyal fidelity of Abdiel among the innumerable hosts of revolted angels shines forth, not with solitary lustre, but like the splendor of the cohort seen in the vision recorded in the Machabees: Peracra equites discurrentes, auratas stolas habentes, et aureorum splendorem armorum.  The Catholic laity of the United States have furnished one illustrious champion to this band.  He loved the church first of all, and next his country.  He deserved well of both, for Christian and civic virtues, sacrifices on the altar of God and the battle-field of the republic, wise and eloquent pleading for Catholic law in the Christian commonwealth, and constitutional right, freedom, and order in the American state.  We trust that his instructions and example will always be a light and an encouragement, a glory and a model, to the Catholic laymen of the United States, and especially to the young men of education who aspire to intellectual culture and feel the impulse to act valiantly and usefully their part as citizens of this republic and Christian gentlemen.