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Simon Brute ““ An “˜American’ Saint

Immigration is in the news today, but in 1835 it was different. The Naturalization Act of 1802 “directed the clerk of the court to record the entry of all aliens into the United States. The clerk collected information including the applicant’s name, birthplace, age, nation of allegiance, country of emigration, and place of intended settlement, and granted each applicant a certificate that could be exhibited to the court as evidence of time of arrival in the United States. It is unclear how this affected the entry of so many French and German priests entering the United States and in particular, the State of Indiana.

March 7th marks a significant event in the life of one of those immigrants, Servant of God, Simon Brute. On that day, after 25 years already spent in the United States, Simon Brute officially became a citizen of the United States of America. Prior to this event there is no evidence that he made any effort to become a citizen. Once he became Bishop of Vincennes in 1834, he needed to acquire land for his new diocese.

Writing in his 2005 dissertation, Fr. Albert Ledoux, said:

“Brute formally embraced United States nationality almost a quarter century after first stepping foot onto a Baltimore pier. He appeared in Vincennes’ Knox County Circuit Court, 7 March 1835 and forevermore renounced “˜all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty whatsoever, but particularly to Louis Philip, King of France.’ Whatever antipathy he may have still felt toward the Orleanist monarch who had deposed the elder branch of his beloved Bourbons, Brute was far more likely motivated by considerations of United States civil law that in many states impeded a non-citizen’s right to hold substantial amounts of property. In fact, within two years, when worrying about the identity of his potential successor as bishop of Vincennes, one of Brute’s chief concerns lay in the fact that none of his principal candidates had been naturalized or had even made the first attempt at doing so.” 1

In other words, the whole idea of non-citizen’s rights, or lack of rights, when it came to property was perhaps the primary reason for Brute’s citizenship.

A search of Land records shows that within two years of his citizenship, Brute had begun purchasing land in Knox, Daviess and Perry County. Here is one example of the purchase of Indiana lands. These purchases were made in accordance with the 1820 act of Congress allowing for the sale of public lands.

Simon Brute, truly an American Saint…

  1. Fr. Albert Ledoux,”The Life and Thought of Simon Brute Seminary Professor and Frontier Bishop” (PhD dissertation, Catholic University of America, 2005), 392.[]

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