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McMaster, James Alphonsus


Editor; b. Duanesburg, N.Y., April 1, 1820; d. Brooklyn, N.Y., Dec. 29, 1886. The son of Gilbert MacMaster, a Presbyterian minister, and Jane (nee Brown), he graduated from Union College, Schenectady, N.Y., in two years (1839) and read law at Columbia College, N.Y., until studying for the Episcopal ministry at General Theological Seminary, New York City (184044). Professors and students alike were under surveillance because of "Romanizing influences"a phase of the "American Oxford Movement." McMaster was outspoken against such repression and was forced to leave. Under the influence of the Redemptorist priest Gabriel Rumpler, he was converted to Catholicism (1845) and resolved to become a Redemptorist. With Clarence Augustus walworth and Isaac Thomas hecker he sailed to the novitiate at Saint-Trond, Belgium, visiting John Henry newman on the way.

Advised that he had no vocation, McMaster returned (1846) to New York City practically friendless and took up journalism. His association with the New York Free-man's Journal and Catholic Register, the official paper of Abp. John hughes edited by James Roosevelt bayley, was a turning point in his life; in July 1848, he became sole owner and editor until his death. He married Gertrude Fetterman (1856) and had seven children, three of whom became nuns.

McMaster was a militant editor; he fought Protestantism and free thought as vigorously as he denounced the policies of Lincoln. His paper was called treasonable and seditious by the U.S. Postmaster General and withheld from the mails (August 24, 1861April 19, 1862), and he was imprisoned at Ft. Lafayette (September 16October 23, 1861). He criticized the handling of vatican council i by the secular press. His "Jus" letters (186870), which urged full canonical rights for U.S. pastors, put him at odds with members of the hierarchy, notably Bishops Bernard mcquaid, Peter Baltes, John L. spalding, and Amadeus Rappe.

Bibliography: McMaster Papers, Archives of the University of Notre Dame. c. a. walworth, Oxford Movement in America (New York 1895). m. a. kwitchen, James Alphonsus McMaster (Washington 1949).

[m. a. kwitchen]

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