Joseph George was wrong about Charles Chiniquy.
As I wrote in my book, Who Killed Abraham Lincoln?, “Since Joseph George Jr.’s, paper, “The Lincoln Writings of Charles P. T. Chiniquy“, was published in the February, 1976 issue of the Journal of the Illinois Historical Society, most, if not all, of those commenting negatively on Chiniquy have used his work as the basis for dismissing the ex-priest’s allegations against the Catholic Church.” Joseph George Jr., however, was wrong in his dismissal of the celebrated clergyman, Charles Chiniquy. At the time his paper was published, George was chair of the history department of Villanova University, a Catholic institution.
George’s paper stopped me in my tracks when I first read it some twenty years ago. One of the personnel of the Illinois State Historical Library, now the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, very kindly gave me a copy of the aforesaid issue of the Journal of the Illinois Historical Society, gratis, and it was then that I read what George said about Chiniquy. The paper was written in such a final, conclusive manner that it made me think, for the time, that Chiniquy must have been wrong. I was disappointed and I put away my work on the clergyman and his allegations. Having put time into my research and having traveled to places like Illinois to do so though, I picked up the paper again, many months later, to see exactly where Chiniquy had gone wrong. I then discovered how George had misquoted him and all the errors of historical fact and reason the history professor had made. I will give a sentence in his paper as an example. There actually is a number of errors contained in this one sentence. On page 22 of this issue of the Journal of the Illinois Historical Society, George stated, “At that time Lincoln was hired as defense attorney and was influential in producing a key witness from Chicago who exposed Spink as a perjurer.” This presumably was regarding the fall term court action of 1856, because if it wasn’t, he would be even more incorrect.
George’s source was Charles Chiniquy’s autobiography, Fifty Years in the Church of Rome, as the paper clearly shows. As I stated in my book: “Here Professor George managed to make possibly as many as three mistakes in one sentence. First of all, Fifty Years did not state that Lincoln was influential in producing this key witness from Chicago. The witness in question was Philomene Moffat and it was another man, Narcisse Terrien, who independently contacted her and asked her to go to Urbana to testify. Lincoln was not aware of her existence until she showed up at his hotel door. Secondly, according to Chiniquy, she didn’t publicly expose anyone as a perjurer, as she didn’t end up being a witness, because Spink withdrew his charges and no more testimony was given. It appears that only Abraham Lincoln, Charles Chiniquy and his other lawyers, along with those on Spink’s side of the suit, that knew of the perjury before the case ended. Thirdly, if she had testified, she would have exposed Lebel as a perjurer, not Spink.”
George made a number of errors in his paper and it could be asked: why did he do so? Was he simply incompetent? Did he have reading comprehension problems? He seemed to suffer from blindness but I would suggest it might be a blindness that caused by his anger at Chiniquy for criticizing his religion. Regardless of the reason however, as I stated in my book, “whatever George accomplished, it definitely wasn’t a refutation of Charles Chiniquy’s allegations.” To get my full review of Joseph George’s criticism of the clergyman, as well as a review of the criticism of four other, including three academics and a Jesuit priest, get a copy of my book.