Ministering Angels in Human Form: Mathew Carey's Benevolent Appeal

Team Members/Contributors

Karen Kauffman Villanova University Contact Me

About this project grant for researchers

During periods of extreme economic upheaval, opportunities to extend the Gospel are often thwarted by two countervailing reactions: Those few, whose fortunes remain intact, recoil into self-righteous complacency. For many others, however, the despair of financial failure fabricates a sense of exclusion from the love of God, and they turn away from the church in frustration or shame. Both trends characterized the first decades of nineteenth-century America. My examination of the charitable crusade of Irish Catholic immigrant, Mathew Carey, who possessed neither proper religious nor ethnic pedigrees but rose to become the republic's most important publisher and a significant political commentator, highlights how one social misfit's commitment to serve Christ through ecumenical compassion sought to save an entire generation of lost souls and stablize the infant nation through the process.

In an age, very much like our own, Carey simply attempted to unify the esteemed and the displaced within the heart of the Gospel: After unconditional love to God, we are to love our neighbors -- all of them -- as ourselves. Facing apathy and denigration and losing almost all of the wealth and social influence he had worked so hard to achieve, he died believing that serving as a "ministering angel" to the poor was worth it. Mathew Carey's fiery example illuminates our own journey as we navigate through similar challenges of faith and responsibility.

Once my biography is published, I will reach through the written word, as well as oral presentations at future scholarly conferences, community gatherings and classroom lectures, very wide audiences interested in America's founding in general as well as those who specifically study the impact of religion on the development of American culture.