Who was Emmanuel Bailly?

Francisco Javier Fernández ChentoAt the time of Frédéric Ozanam, Lay Vincentians BiographiesLeave a Comment

Author: Ralph Middlecamp · Source: Vincentian Encyclopedia.
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“You have accustomed us to look upon you as the rallying point, the advisor and friend of young Christian youth. Your past favors have given us the right to count on future ones. Those you have done for me encouraged me to hope for the same for my friends.”
– Frederic Ozanam, written to Emmanuel Bailly, November 3, 1834.

Emmanuel Bailly was born in Bryas, in Pas de Calais – near the northernmost tip of France – on March 9, 1794. The family of his father, Andre Joseph, had a deep devotion to the memory and spirituality of St. Vincent de Paul.

Emmanuel’s father was a loyal friend of the Lazarists, as the French know St. Vincent de Paul’s Congregation of the Mission – from the name of Vincent’s original priory. The Lazarists entrusted the elder Bailly temporarily with a collection of Saint Vincent’s original letters and documents during the Revolution. He treasured those items and returned them after the troubles ceased. Andre’s brother, Nicholas Joseph (1764-1793), was a Lazarist priest who was killed during the Revolution. He was the last superior of the major seminary at Amiens before the Revolution. Fr. Bailly was captured while saying Mass and – while still vested – was thrown into prison. This young priest of 29 died in prison in Amiens on November 16, 1793.

Emmanuel attended seminary in Amiens, as had his older brother, Amable-Ferdinand- Joseph Bailly. Fr. Dominique Hanon was the new superior at the seminary of Amiens; he would later become Superior General of the Lazarists. Hanon took an interest in Ferdinand’s education. This was not surprising as Hanon was the successor of the Bailly brothers’ martyred uncle. Because at the time in France the Congregation did not legally exist – suppressed for the second time, as it was, from September 1809 to February 1816 – Ferdinand was unable to become a Vincentian. He began to teach at the seminary in 1806, at age 21, although he was not ordained a priest until April 6, 1811. During this time, Ferdinand probably had his brother Emmanuel as a student. Ferdinand took vows with the Congregation in Paris on November 16, 1819, in the new Priory of Saint Lazare. He was the first Vincentian to do so after the Revolution. Unfortunately, he took his vows during the period between the nomination and formal approval of the new Superior General by the Holy See. This state of doubt about the validity of the vows, in addition to questionable management of finances, would contribute to Ferdinand Bailly’s eventual removal from the Congregation.

Emmanuel Bailly received a good education in theology at the seminary at Amiens and also studied philosophy with the Jesuits at Acheul. He began a novitiate with the Lazarists but at same time his brother came to Paris to take vows at St Lazare, Emmanuel left the seminary and came to live in Paris. At age 25 he choose a vocation to serve the Church as a lay person.

In November 1819 he rented a house at #7 Rue Cassette, where he took in seven young university students who, like him, were Catholics from the north of France. He was teaching philosophy at a private institution but also had a vision of creating a living environment for university students that was supportive of faith and intellectual inquiry. This was an aspiration in which he was influenced by the methods he had observed being practiced by the Jesuits at Acheul.

The next spring Emmanuel was admitted to the ranks of the Congregation of the Blessed Virgin – frequently referred to simply as the “Congregation.” The Congregation’s members participated in several divisions, including the Society of Good Studies and the Society of Good Works. At its founding in 1801, the Congregation brought together about 100 lay men who sought to combine intellectual studies and spirituality with good works. On April 1, 1820, Bailly was entered on the organization’s rolls as the 776th member.

Bailly participated in the division of the Congregation in which members visited hospitals. After several years he provided leadership as the division’s president. There were also divisions with members who visited prisons and orphanages. The divisions of Good Works and Good Studies combined in 1828 and operated out of Bailly’s building on Place de l’Estrapade. As a Congregation member, Bailly encountered students anxious to combine their academic efforts with religious formation. After the repressions that followed the fall of Charles X, the Congregation ceased to exist. Bailly went on, however, to found a new smaller organization, the Conference of History. This initiative allowed him to become acquainted with some of the most brilliant young people of his day: Lacordaire, Ozanam, Lenormant, Alzon and Baudelaire.

Bailly’s boarding house, or “pension,” attracted a growing number of young men – so much so that in 1821 he needed to add a second house. He contacted an old friend and seminary classmate, George Marino Leveque, about opening the second house at 17 Rue Saint-Dominique d’efer. The two houses operated jointly, with Leveque being responsible for the administration and Bailly the studies and meetings. Both provided “moral supervision” of their respective sites. In addition to the residents, they encouraged other students to participate in the discussions, and they operated a reading room at 4 Rue Saint-Dominique. There, for a fee, students living in the area could come and read the news of the day. Bailly’s boarding houses outgrew their locations after several years, and in 1825 he acquired a large facility at 11 Place de l’Estrapade that had lodging quarters but also a dining facility and meeting rooms. Bailly then lived in the apartment next door, at 13 Place de l’Estrapade.

On July 20, 1830, when Bailly was in this late 30s, he married Marie-Apolline-Sidonie Vyrayet de Surcy. At the request of her father – to help preserve that family name – he added her surname to his. Therefore, he has frequently been referred to as Emmanuel Bailly de Surcy. Bailly was married only days before the July Revolution of 1830, which led to the downfall of Charles X. The regime that followed suppressed organizations such like as the Congregation and the Society of Good Works. The discussions and forums offered at the Pension Bailly were also suspended until 1831. During this period, Emmanuel and his wife found refuge with her parents in Berteaucourt (Somme), nine miles southeast of Amiens in northern France. The Baillys’ first daughter, Marie- Adrienne, was born there on September 4, 1831.

By November 1831 Bailly returned to Paris with his family to begin a new newspaper and to reestablish his Pension Bailly, at which he tried to create a new version of the suppressed Society of Good Studies. He had begun his first effort at newspaper publishing, Le Correspondant, the year before the Revolution. In 1831 he replaced it with Revue Européenne and then launched the La Tribune Catholique on January 15, 1832. He started that paper to offer a moderate alternative to the liberal religious paper L’Avenir, which had been published by Fr. Lammenais until it was discontinued out of deference to a disapproving Vatican.

Several months after Bailly returned to Paris with his wife and daughter, cholera broke out in Paris. The Latin Quarter, where they were living, was especially hard hit. The Baillys’ infant daughter, Marie-Adrienne, was stricken in April, and the family moved back to the home of Madame Bailly’s parents. Marie-Adrienne recovered after several months, but now expecting a second child, the Baillys chose to keep the family in Berteaucourt until after the birth of Andre-Marie Vincent de Paul on December 2, 1832. It is likely that Emmanuel stayed in Paris much of that time because he needed to manage his business interests.

The Baillys eventually had six children. Eldest Marie-Adrienne became a Carmelite nun and died in Poland when she was just 22. The Baillys’ eldest and youngest sons became priests in the newly founded Assumptionist order, but Emmanuel didn’t live long enough to see either of them ordained. Their middle son, Bernard (1835 – 1920), founded a fisherman’s aid society and – following the family’s journalistic tradition – became for many years a contributing editor to Le Cosmos, a magazine reviewing scientific developments of the day. A daughter, Marie (1837 – 1906), became Superior of the Daughters of Chlotilde. The youngest daughter was Sidonie (1840 – 1866).

Emmanuel’s priest sons, Vincent de Paul (1832 – 1912) and Benjamin, who took the name Emmanuel when he was ordained (1842 – 1917), became significant members of the newly founded order of the Augustinians of the Assumption, founded in Nimes by Emmanuel Alzon. It may be expected that his sons would have joined the Congregation of the Mission, but the relationship between that order and the Baillys turned bitter while the sons were young men. Having been a member of the Societe de Bonne Etudes in 1830, Emmanuel Alzon, founder of the Assumptionists, was a friend of Emmanuel Bailly. After a very promising eight-year career with the Bureau of Telegraphy, Emmanuel’s oldest son did not pursue a priestly vocation until later in life. Vincent de Paul Bailly was an active member of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul from his youth and was a member of the Society’s Paris Central Council in 1855. The last half of his first career was spent as the private telegrapher to Emperor Napoleon III. He was entrusted with many important missions – private and diplomatic. To improve his international correspondence he began to study law. A promising career certainly seemed to lie ahead, but he developed other ambitions. In October 1860 he entered the Congregation of the Assumption; his younger brother Emmanuel joined him seven months later, shortly after the death of their father.

Fr. Vincent de Paul Bailly was one of the earliest members of the Assumptionist Order. While stationed in Nimes early in his telegraphic career, Vincent de Paul resided with the order’s founder. He was very much influenced by Fr. Alzon, whose views on the place of the Catholic faith in society were closely aligned to his. Like his father, he became a journalist dedicated to defense of the faith. He was founder and publisher of the order’s newspaper, LaCroix, which is still published today. His aggressive stance would embroil him in the Dreyfus Affair in the 1880s. His opinions were stridently anti-Semitic and contributed to the eventual banning of the order from France for several years. His younger brother, Fr. Emmanuel Bailly, became the third Superior General of the Assumptionists. Presiding over the order’s reestablishment in France and expansion through out the world, he traveled to the Orient and North America.

The political environment stabilized by mid-1832 under the reign of Louis-Philippe, and the cholera subsided. Catholicism was tolerated in the new regime but was not considered favorably – especially in Paris. Dedicated to protecting the reputation of the Catholic Church, Bailly continued to operate his boarding house for Catholic students from the provinces and encouraged gatherings there for discussion. It was also during this time that he confirmed his career change from teacher to publisher.

Bailly made his newspaper office a place where students could gather, and he provided a wide selection of newspapers there for them to read and keep up on current events. This hospitality created an environment that promoted lively discussion, in which Bailly avidly participated. It was, therefore, quite natural that Frederic Ozanam and his five friends should come to Bailly in April of 1833 to submit their plans for undertaking charitablework. Bailly provided them with a meeting place in the editorial offices of his newspaper, La Tribune Catholique. When the Society outgrew that space, he offered his large meeting room at Place de l’Estrapade. He encouraged them to define their ideas and agreed to guide their efforts. He arbitrated differences and provided guidance and continuity for the plans of the young founders. Having a great devotion to St. Vincent de Paul and also being familiar with his writings, Bailly linked the young men’s “Conference of Charity” to the Vincentian spiritual family.

In November 1833, Emmanuel Bailly decided to merge his newspaper, La Tribune Catholique with a new startup paper – L’Univers Religioux. Father Jacques-Paul Migne had written a compelling prospectus for L’Univers in October 1833. He obtained more than 800 subscriptions, while Bailly’s paper printed just over a hundred copies and gave many of them away. Bailly and Migne both wrote for the merged paper, but in 1835 Fr. Migne was publicly accused of plagiarizing his contributions from other newspapers. He was also was convicted of bribing a French postal official. He sold his interest out to Bailly for 5,000 francs in 1836. (Fr. Migne’s interesting career is documented in the book “God’s Plagiarist”). Bailly by this time had moved his offices to 2 Place de la Sorbonne. The manager of the newspaper and printing works was Henri Vrayet de Surcy, Bailly’s brother-in-law. The presses were not at these editorial offices but they were located at 12 Rue du Pot de Fer St. Sulpice. Emmanuel continued as publisher until 1839. The Congregation of the Mission was an investor in the paper – probably through Bailly’s brother Ferdinand. By 1838 the paper was in financial trouble and on the verge of bankruptcy, until Count Montalembert invested in it.

In 1844 L’Univers came to be directed by the talented but strident Louis Veuillot, who became an antagonist to the more liberal Frederic Ozanam and would also turn on Count Montalembert, whose investments had saved the paper.

In 1844 Bailly retired as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s President General. The presidency was placed into the capable hands of Jules Gossin, who also was an older, well-respected member of the Society. Gossin was actually five years older than Bailly. At this point Bailly was 50 years old. He had lost ownership of the newspaper and still had six children at home between the ages of 2 and 13. Emmanuel had also just come out of a well-publicized confrontation with the Congregation of the Mission’s Superior General, who had defamed his reputation, and Bailly’s financial position was precarious. Both of these situations resulted from questionable financial investments made by his brother, Fr. Ferdinand Bailly, in Emmanuel’s businesses and properties with funds from the Congregation.

The case between the Congregation of the Mission and Fr. Ferdinand has many tangled aspects, beginning with a spiteful disposition of the Superior General, Fr. Nozo, toward the elder Bailly. Ferdinand had been a contender for the position of Superior General and held some views opposed to those of Nozo and his supporters. Fr. Bailly was not without fault. There was the disputed legitimacy of his vows, an unwillingness to be accountable to the Congregation for questionable financial expenditures and outright disobedience, all of which led to Fr. Nozo dismissing Bailly in 1838. Humiliated and confused, Ferdinand left his position as Superior of the Seminary at Amiens, where he had worked for more than 30 years. Eventually, to justify his position, he initiated a campaign that would end in a public trial. Fr. Bailly won his lawsuit and an appeal and collected 30 years of unpaid wages and other earnings totaling several hundred thousand francs.

Emmanuel Bailly would be pulled into this convoluted case, as would Sister Rosalie Rendu, a key mentor to the young members of the new Society in the ways of charity. To defend the reputation of his order after losing the law suits, Nozo printed 3,000 pamphlets and distributed them to every French diocese, to magistrates and to many governmental departments, particularly in Paris and in Pas de Calais, where the Bailly family originated. In 1840 Emmanuel decided to sue Nozo for defamation of the Bailly family’s reputation. In his complaint against Nozo’s brief, he objected most strongly to the allegation that he got the money improperly from his brother Ferdinand to purchase a house and a business.

Sister Rosalie became involved in these cases several times. She tried to help the Lazarists by getting Archbishop Affre of Paris to use his influence to mediate the disputes. She asked the Archbishop to persuade Emmanuel Bailly to drop his suit. Although she was a friend of Bailly, she disliked the scandalous publicity and was unsure of the veracity of some of Emmanuel’s claims. Her efforts were too late to be of any use in the defamation suit. She continued to intervene with the Archbishop, however, on matters pertaining to the Congregation of the Mission, and her “meddling” was not appreciated by the leadership of the order.

After losing the defamation case to Emmanuel Bailly, Fr. Nozo paid damages of more than 150,000 francs and was forced to withdraw the brief within five days. He also was required to sign – in the presence of the Archbishop – a document that read, “I declare that I sincerely regret the insertion of the passage in question in the brief of May 1st of this year, and I will henceforth regard the passage as suppressed.”

It may be assumed that Bailly used this settlement money to acquire the property that the newly married Frederic and Marie Ozanam rented from him in 1841 at 41 Rue Madame on the corner of Rue de Fleurus in Paris. This building was a mansion near the Luxemburg Gardens that had been the former residence of the King of Naples, Emperor Napoleon’s brother-in-law. Hoping that revenues it would generate could support him in his retirement, Bailly purchased the mansion and rented out apartments in it. This was one more ill advised business decisions that would ruin him financially. Fortunately, through all of this, the relationship of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul with the Lazarists was not significantly harmed.

The disputes between the Lazarists and the Bailly family were not over, however. Fr. Nozo and his council agreed to legal arbitration on the back-wages lawsuit, as did Fr. Ferdinand Bailly. After winning two judgments, Fr. Bailly lost the arbitration on nearly all points. By this time, the case was widely discussed throughout Paris and had the attention of the Vatican. On September 23, 1840, the arbitrators overturned the previous judgment and determined that Fr. Bailly was not due the sum previously awarded. Consequently, Fr. Bailly had to pay back the Congregation almost 400,000 francs, withdraw his brief and pay the costs of arbitration. He also had to sign various declarations clearing up financial transactions. Undoubtedly out of charity, the Lazarists’ council agreed, however, to pay Fr. Bailly an income for the rest of his life. His business affairs and those of his brother Emmanuel were in trouble. Fr, Bailly’s possessions had to be put up for auction, probably due to bankruptcy, and he wrote that he lived – at least for a time – in humiliation and poverty. Details about his later life are lacking, although it is known that at the end of his life, he was living in the parish of the Parisian suburb of Neuilly – and was nearly blind. He died there on April 15, 1864.

Emmanuel stayed active with the General Council of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul at the insistence of his successors. He kept in contact with Ozanam and several of the other founders and remained a member of the Council almost until the end of his life in 1861. In 1848 he enlisted in the National Guard, which defended Paris and the new Republic against roving rioters. He was serving with Ozanam and Cornudet (a past vice president of the General Council of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul) when, on June 25, they took the initiative to approach Archbishop Affre to ask him to try to quell the rebellion. He agreed to do so. Ozanam and Bailly accompanied the Archbishop to the office of General Cavaignac, who reluctantly approved the effort. Archbishop Affre would not allow Ozanam and Bailly to accompany him further. When he climbed the barricades to address the crowd, he was accidentally shot and died in the effort.

Bailly lived almost eight years after Frederic Ozanam died. These years were marked by a very public debate about who founded the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. It began innocently enough with a testimonial to Ozanam after his death by Fr. Lacordaire; in that address the priest attributed the founding to Ozanam. Even with Ozanam in the grave, his antagonist, Louis Veuillot, was not willing to let this stand and wrote multiple articles in L’Univers disputing the claim. The issue resurfaced again in an article written after Sr. Rosalie’s funeral by Leon Aubineau and published in the February 11, 1856 L’Univers This debate was considered very detrimental by the General Council. Two weeks after Sr. Rosalie’s funeral, Bailly was present at the General Council meeting of February 25, 1856, as Council members tried to defuse the issue. He repudiated “in measured terms” all claims to be the founder and agreed that it was necessary to “drop the polemic” but to publish nothing more on the question. Nevertheless, it was decided to publish a note in the Society’s “Bulletin” to affirm the collective founding of the organization.

The effort was not quite successful. After the hardships Emmanuel had experienced, it is not surprising that his sons, especially Vincent de Paul, would adamantly defend their father’s claim to the honor of founder. It is a controversy that continued to haunt the Society – especially in Paris, where both Ozanam and Bailly were well-known – even after the latter’s death. These two friends were noted for their humility, and we could expect that they would have preferred to avoid this controversy. Today, we have come to a better understanding of the roles of both men. There is little argument against the claim that Frederic Ozanam was the principal founder, or animator, of the organization as we know it today, but clearly Emmanuel Bailly presided with wisdom over the Society’s development during its first decade. Emmanuel died in Paris on April 12, 1861.

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