Historical account of Lisbon college/Chapter 7

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CHAPTER VII.

To return from this digression. On the death of Father Jones, Father Manley once more succeeded him in the office of President, which, as related above, on his first appointment he had with such humility and self diffidence resigned.

When after seven years of labour on the Mission he was named by Bishop Petre successor to Father Jones, the Chapter expressed its appreciation of his virtue and high character by electing him, in a general assembly, Archdeacon of the Counties of Essex, Hertfordshire, and Bedfordshire. He arrived at the College on October 13, 1739, and entered on the exercise of his office on the Twenty-eighth of the same month.

This second period of his Presidency was destined to bring to him much trouble, pain and annoyance. For some time previous to the death of Father Jones a spirit of insubordination amongst the students had manifested itself, and though it was occasionally repressed by the energetic measures adopted by him towards offenders, it did not fail to break forth afresh under the mild rule of Father Manley in every form of disobedience, contumacy and insult. No wonder that in his account to his friends, he repeatedly complained of the outrages inflicted on his feelings by those from whom he had reason to expect the most cordial attachment. To add to his perplexities he found the Establishment almost entirely destitute of pecuniary resources, the School of Divinity without a Professor, and no one of his subjects having the capacity or inclination to undertake the office of Vice- President. To supply this last deficiency he made application to the President of Douay who, in compliance with his request, sent to Lisbon Dr. Gerard Barnard, a man of eminent learning and abilities, who had lately taken degrees in the Sorbonne University. It was, however, particularly unfortunate, that at the time when the spirit which formerly had animated the Community was almost extinct, the internal direction of it should have been entrusted to a stranger. Ignorant of the peculiar mode of discipline, of the feeling and wants of the College, Dr. Barnard certainly did not meet with that success in his administration which might have been expected from his abilities, and the Lisbon Community still continued to reflect a sad but faithful image of the unsightly and half finished structure in which it resided.

Such was the state of the College when, in the year 1755, Father Manleyfell among the innumerable victims of one of the most dreadful earthquakes recorded in History. On all Saints Day, about ten o'clock in the morning the hour at which High Mass was to begin, the first shock was felt. The President had just been to Confession and was taking a few turns under the arcade near to the sacristy door. Occupied with his devotions he had not perceived the first concussion, but observing several of the students rushing forward in the direction of the street, he immediately followed to ascertain the cause of so unusual a proceeding. But before he had time to reach the threshold the second shock, still more violent than the first, had commenced. The ground everywhere undulated in the most terrific manner. Twice he fell, and whilst a second time he was attempting to rise a turret, or belfry, which was the only part of the old building which had been left standing when the new one was erected, fell and buried him in its ruins. Such of the Community as had fled into the street, after incurring a thousand dangers from falling houses, at length reached the river in safety, and found means to be conveyed to an English ship, on board of which they were kindly received. Besides the turret just mentioned, the wall of the church, against which stood the High Altar, was thrown down and with it fell in the greater part of the roof of the building. The other parts of the house. as they were strong and newly erected, withstood the shocks, and none of those who remained within received any serious injury. As for the body of Father Manley, it was extricated with great labour and difficulty three days after, bruised and lifeless.

But a difficulty now occurred how to procure subsistence, in the general calamity and consternation, for so great a number of persons. Besides, who would venture to repose under the walls and dislocated beams of a building which had lately experienced so rude a shock? It is true the edifice stood, but the frequent commotions that succeeded the three great shocks seemed to indicate that another still more dreadful concussion might be expected. In this emergency the resolution was adopted of sending the entire Community to the country residence, or Quinta, on the south side of the Tagus, with the exception of one or two of the Superiors who were to be left in charge of the College. The expedient, however well judged, involved a certain amount of peril. In the midst of the general calamity, a mulitude of thieves from all parts of the country were seen prowling amongst the ruins and loading themselves with booty. To prevent the escape of these inhuman plunderers, the Authorities issued an order forbidding any boats to pass to the other side of the river, without having first obtained their express permission. The College fugitives, either ignorant or in their haste to quit the scene of peril and calamity, disregarded the decree and embarked without the necessary permit. The boat which conveyed them was no sooner observed from the land than the alarm was given. The guns, which were kept ready loaded, were directed upon them, and discharge after discharge followed them as they proceeded. A single shot striking the boat would have sent it to the bottom with its living freight, but Providence watched over their preservation. They reached the shore and arrived in safety at Pera. Those who were left in charge of the College, following the example of the other inhabitants, erected tents in the open air at a convenient distance from the walls and building. One of these tents was set aside as a temporary church, in which leave was obtained to celebrate Mass and perform the other duties of religion.

After some time the Community returned from the country residence, and entered again on the regular duties of the College, but without venturing for the present to reside within its walls. In the meantime many of the poor families of the neighbourhood who had, by the late calamity, been deprived of shelter took possession of the ground apartments, which were arched and strong, of the deserted edifice, and after the lapse of three quarters of a century there existed in the vicinity many a venerable sire who owned for his birthplace the lower corridor of the English College.

After the tragical end of Father Manley, Dr. Barnard, as head Superior, undertook the government of the House, and in the following year, 1756, received the deed of his promotion to the Presidency, becoming thus the thirteenth President. But if before the earthquake, and under the rule of Father Manley, the prospects of the Establishment were anything but cheering; under his successor they were still more gloomy. It has already been hinted that the management of domestic discipline and economy was not the province in which the talents of Dr. Barnard were calculated to shine, and the late calamity had rendered indispensable the incurring of several fresh and heavy monetary obligations.

The Catholics in England, indeed, occasionally came forward with pecuniary assistance in favour of the Establishment, yet even with this addition its means were found barely sufficient to meet the current expenditure of a very limited number of students.

In this emergency recourse was had to the ruinous expedient of borrowing a very considerable sum at a high rate of interest, and the consequence was, that without any signal permanent advantage, a new and oppressive burden was entailed upon the College. In this state of depression affairs continued for the space of twenty years, from 1757 to 1777, when new and brighter prospects began unexpectedly to open. Low as was the ebb of the fortunes of the College during this period, yet it produced two of Lisbon's most brilliant and devoted sons—John Preston and Jerome Allen, names which deserve to be perpetuated and their memory cherished and honoured by all Lisbonians.