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but at the close of the war retired from the bar, except as to some special cases. While arguing one of these in the Supreme Court, he fell into a fainting fit from debility, and for awhile it seemed likely that he would die at the spot which had witnessed so many of his forensic triumphs, but he was yet spared for an incomparably greater and crowning honor.
We have thus hastily sketched Mr. Ewing's career, that the grandeur of his power, the integrity of his aims, the unflinching consistency of his actions with those aims, the moral purity of his character, unblemished by thought, speech or act which could call up on his own cheeks, or those of his friends, the faintest blush of shame; his almost imperious social dignity, which commanded the high respect of all, while it prevented him from becoming a demagogue, or "popular idol," might serve as a brilliant background to that higher element of his character which prompted all these natural qualifications with a grace-like power to their fullest development, namely, his long and sincere search for the truth, which, prompted by a sincere love for Him who made and redeemed him, could not be turned aside from its pursuit by any weakness of human respect, or the treacherous opinions of a deluding and tyrannical world. How true it seems that the faithlessness of the house of Israel shall cause the sceptre to pass from it. How shameful to our generations of modern and "liberal" American Catholics, blushing to be known as possessors of the grand old faith of Jesus Christ, while noble-minded Protestants, exemplified by such men as Ewing, are by thousands and tens of thousands crushing worldly considerations and mental trials under the heel of merited contempt, to reach the goal of faith for which they so ardently long. How beautifully, too, is demonstrated in
his life the ancient truth, "the believing wife shall convert the unbelieving husband," and the impressive and constantly palpable fact, that the influence of a lively practical faith exhibited in the family, Christian household or social circle, will ultimately tell upon all around it, and finally his story proves in the success which attended him through life, crowned at last by the gift of faith, that "to him who loves God all things work together for good;" that "to him who seeks first the kingdom of God and his justice, all things else shall be added unto him."
We have seen what a hold religion held upon Mr. Ewing as a boy. His purely moral efforts had the effect of winning for him the grace of an exemption from the social vices and distinguishing weaknesses of great men, and mayhap the still greater happiness of a Catholic wife, who, if we are to judge by the rich domestic happiness and exalted social dignity which she shed around him, by the influence of her memory exerted upon him long after the grave had closed her from his sight, by the large family of children who survived her, and illustrated her worth by the steadfastness of their faith and the brilliancy of their public name, must, indeed, have been one of Solomon's "valiant women." In 1820 he married Maria, daughter of Hugh Boyle, of Lancaster, a devout adherent of the Church, and distinguished by her piety and charity. She seems to have been immediately successful in turning his religious inclinations directly upon the path of truth, for it is said that in the early part of his legal career he would, when attending court at a distance from home, frequently ride on Saturday and Saturday night forty or fifty miles in order to be at home on Sunday to attend church with his family, and when, in after years, he was incapacitated from sickness or
infirmity, he would sit at the window with his face towards the church, joining in spirit in the adorable sacrifice, and greeting his homeward coming children with the blessing of a paternal smile as they neared the family mansion. He even had a luxuriant lilac bush in his garden cut down because it impeded his view of the church. On one occasion he warned his daughter, Mrs. Sherman, against permitting her second son, Thomas, to associate with a certain family, whose acquaintance was not only desirable but advantageous, but who had ridiculed the lad for not eating meat on Friday, saying that the boy was not old enough or sufficiently matured in mind to resist such pernicious railleries. He also forbade her from sending her children to the public schools, saying that none of his grandchildren should ever attend them while he was able to prevent it. What do our progressive Catholics who wish their children taught from Protestant books, or reared under sectarian influences, think of an American statesman, a Protestant, and an old line Whig, giving such an opinion of our glorious modern enlighteners? What do our worldly Catholics think upon his views of social advantages for their children at the risk of the soul's salvation? What do heedless Catholic parents think of his views of their children having a large circle of acquaintances without regard to the morals of that circle? We will pause later for a reply.
Fifteen years before Mr. Ewing's death the wife of an eminent jurist in Washington engaged Mrs. Sherman in conversation on religion, and desired at a future occasion to renew it, but she refused to do so, because the lady had spoken disrespectfully of the Blessed Virgin. On recounting the matter to her father, he replied, after much agitation, "You should have told her that as God
knew from all eternity that the Blessed Virgin was to be the mother of his Son, He must have made and preserved her pure and perfect beyond all others." His son, Philemon Beecher Ewing, has declared that he had the best opportunities of observing the grace and predi lection which he bore through all his life in the elevation and purity of mind which adorned him, even more than the strength and vigor of his intellect; and Judge Ewing thus continues: "Through a period of more than thirty years I was much with him in the most intimate and confidential relations, through all the vicissitudes of his political, professional, and social life, and I can say with confidence that never in my whole life did I hear from his lips a profane or irreverent word. All that I ever saw or knew of him left the reverent conviction that not his words only, but his thoughts, might be photographed and read without impeachment of his observance of every known trust or duty, and without confusion in the presence of the purest and best among men."
For more than twenty-five years he kept always about him, even on his journeys, a little copy of Thomas à Kempis, presented to him by his lifelong friend, Archbishop Purcell, and his servant mentions the deep impression made on him by his master's assiduity in reading it during the long nights of his last years.
In common with the Whig statesmen of his day, though unlike many of them from moral as well as political motives, he was zealously opposed to secret societies, saying that they were totally unnecessary anywhere, and contrary to the spirit of American institutions. During the great political canvass of 1856 he wrote thus to a friend:
Mr. Ewing, in delaying his admission to the Church, was not actuated by any motives of worldly respect, and while his affections had always in life been given to Catholicity, his convictions, as is frequently the case with men of intellect, refused to follow his heart, yet with the earnestness of one who would not be rebuffed with such difficulties, he made a careful study of the history, doctrines, and discipline of the Church. His acquaintance with ecclesiastical history, and with the writings of the early fathers, was profound, and in reviewing Dr. Huntington's "Gropings after Truth," he took exception to its completeness because it did not refer to the effect the Church had conferred upon society by her devotion to the Blessed Virgin, her consequent elevation of woman, and the institution of the family. Two or three years before his death, Father Stonestreet, the well-known pastor of St. Aloysius Jesuit Church, Washington, called upon him, and spoke of the subject of religion. Some time after, referring to his interview with the venerable statesman, he said to his daughter, "I am old and gray-haired myself, but I sat with reverence before your father, and from his conversation I can only say he is very near the kingdom of heaven." Some time before this Mr. Ewing had himself said that his family could not be more anxious for him to have the faith than he himself was to possess it, and in his last hours he feelingly spoke to his children of the great blessing they had enjoyed in its lifelong possession.
charities towards the Church were commensurate with his affection, and he was largely instrumental in the erection of St. Mary's Church at Lancaster. A question having arisen as to the kind of material to be used in building the main altar, it had been suggested that it should be neither of wood nor marble, but of the rich brown sandstone of the Lancaster quarries, in order that the adorable sacrifice might be offered from an altar built of the rock furnished by nature, and that this material would be richer in ornamentation than either wood or marble. This suggestion did not meet with favor from any one until it was presented to Mr. Ewing. He approved it warmly, and said he would give for the purpose the "chestnut tree rock" on his farma huge square block of stone that had, in a remote age, been torn from its place in the ridge beyond by some giant force in nature, and placed altar-like on the crest of the hill that stood out from its neighbors, and overlooked the valley for miles on either hand, and he said that doubtless it had been set apart from the ledge more years than he could tell, to harden and bleach for this purpose.
During a social discussion on the question of Papal Infallibility, Mr. Ewing declared "that it is a logical necessity, and the trouble is not in believing but in disbelieving." A few days before his death he said to his son, General Hugh Ewing, "The young man is fortunate and happy who has Catholic faith, it is so firm and living; he may err, but if his faith remain unshaken he will come back. The priests of the Church can alone guide young men." Yet from a too exalted and exaggerated sense of his responsibility to God, he still lingered on the threshold of the temple. A few months before his death, he received a letter from Archbishop Purcell, penned, as
the writer stated, after Mass, and after placing his forehead in the dust, on his knees, on the vigil of the festival of the unbelieving and believing St. Thomas Apostle. The letter was written on the occasion of the marriage of General Hugh Ewing, at Mt. Vernon, Ohio. To this Mr. Ewing replied, reiterating his affection for the Church, but adding that he still had difficulties which one educated in the faith could hardly appreciate, and he added, "I am satisfied that the Christian religion is the greatest boon, moral and social, that heaven ever bestowed on man. This is to me the highest evidence of its truth, which would be lost if we repudiate the Catholic Church, by which it was originally taught and has been transmitted through ages." The boon so long denied, however, to the prayers of his children and his own wishes, came at last in his dying hours. For several days before his death he seemed to yearn with a restless earnestness for this precious gift. Father Dominic Young was frequently beside him, but the dying statesman was unable to make his confession, or receive holy communion. Fortunately, however, the Archbishop arrived, early on the afternoon of the 21st of October, at the church in Lancaster, and without waiting for any invitation, donned his purple cassock, pectoral cross and stole, and bearing the blessed sacrament, arrived at the Ewing mansion just as Judge Philemon Ewing was passing out to seek the priest. Entering the sick man's chamber, the venerable prelate bent over the equally venerable patriot, presenting a scene worthy an artist's pencil, as holding up the sacred elements, he exclaimed, "Mr. Ewing, I have come to bring you the crowning blessing of your life, the body and blood of your divine Redeemer; I know that you are now too ill to make a regular confession, but if
you can say to me in sincerity and truth, that you believe all the doctrines of the Holy Catholic Church and that you repent of all the sins of your past life, and beg pardon of God for them: say this to me in God's holy presence, and that is all that will be necessary in your feeble state, before giving you the bread of life." The dying man responded fervently and solemnly, that he could truly say he had a firm faith in the Church, a hope in the Redeemer, a love of God, and a sincere contrition, adding, "All this I can say from the bottom of my heart, and I will be most happy to receive the Holy Host." The absolution was conferred, and then resounded through the room those solemn words, "Corpus Domini nostri Jesu Christi custodiat animam tuam in vitam æternam." Peacefully and calmly he lingered. yet a few days, and on Thursday, October 26th, 1871, surrounded by all his children, amid the variegated coruscations of an autumn sunset, the brilliant career of Thomas Ewing closed as richly and as gently as sunk the dying orb of day. His funeral was, by a happy coincidence, blessed with the presence of two great apostles of the faith in the forest wilds, Father Dominic Young of Washington, nephew of Right Reverend Edward Fenwick, first Bishop of Cincinnati, who had married Mr. Ewing, and the venerable Archbishop Purcell, who is still happy, ruling the queen diocese of the West, and who preached to a large and distinguished concourse the funeral sermon.
In person, Mr. Ewing was largely built, with a figure developed by early physical labor, and crowned with a "dome-like" head. that made the observer immediately compare him to one of the giant oaks of his native forests; an external grandeur of mien that served but to impress the beholder more fully with the massive nobility of the soul
within. And if our brief recital of his life will but add a little spark of generous enthusiasm to those who, in the language of a recent Catholic critic, "need an education which will lift them above low and petty aims, and cause them to take an interest in things of an unselfish kind, those who must be taught that worth is better than success, and honor better than wealth, who must be taught to outgrow the narrow calculating spirit of the huckster and shopkeeper," and we may add, the disposition to use a weak man's weakest weapons, a supercilious smile or a contemptuous sneer at moral grandeur; enthusiasm in noble aims and high princi
ples of action, then not in vain will Thomas Ewing have lived and died; then not in vain will his story have been handed down to future generations, while he himself enjoys the reward of one who "waiting served," since his sentiments concerning the Church and her teachings, enunciated while he yet delayed outside her boundaries, and coming from a man of such gifted powers and large experience, cannot fail to fall on the ears of laxminded Catholics as the warning tones of a solemn prophecy, the more likely to be appreciated because the prophet was not of their own country.
AD MAJOREM DEI GLORIAM.*
As I was travelling through France, some years ago, I stopped for one night, or rather for half a day and a night, at an old-fashioned hotel, in the ancient provincial town of D.; a place abounding in traces of the piety of former ages. At every turn the eye is met either by a venerable tower, or what looks like the wall of a cloister or a church, in some cases dismantled and converted into a storehouse, or an imposing gateway bespeaking the importance of the place in bygone days. After wandering some time about the streets, and, from a terrace shaded by planes and aged elms, enjoying the refreshing breeze and the sight of a perfect sea of waving corn, bounded in the distance by vine-clad hills, I retraced my steps, and went to a church I had noticed on my way from the hotel.
*The idea of this little tale is derived from
one in M. E. de Margerie's Contes d'un Promeneur.
The front door was shut, but I found an entrance through a side alley called Impasse des Capucins.
On the opposite side from the church ran a long strip of building with a conventual appearance, on the frontispiece of which was inscribed the word Hospice. At the farthest end of the impasse stood a small gable-ended house, covered with a trellised vine, and separated from the street by a little garden literally choked up with roses, tall white lilies, and an abundance of mignonette. After spending an hour in church, partly in prayer and partly in examining its curious architecture and quaint carvings, I came out, and saw a lady standing at the gate of that little garden. I stepped forward to ask her at what o'clock mass was said on weekdays at St. Cyprien, for that was the name of the old church, which had once been attached to the monastery now turned into an hospice.
She answered in so kind and