James Oliver Van de Velde (April 3, 1795 – November 13, 1855) was a U.S. Catholic bishop born in Belgium. He served as the second Roman Catholic Bishop of Chicago between 1849 and 1853. He is the Bishop who wrote the following letter to Charles Chiniquy in 1850.
On the 15th of December, 1850, I received the following letter:
“Chicago, Ill., December 1st, 1850.
“Rev. Father Chiniquy:
“Apostle of Temperance of Canada.
“Dear Sir: When I was in Canada, last fall, I intended to confer with you on a very important subject, but you were then working in the diocese of Boston, and my limited time prevented me from going so far to meet you. You are aware that the lands of the State of Illinois and the whole valley of the Mississippi are among the richest and most fertile of the world. In a near future, those regions, which are now a comparative wilderness, will be the granary, not only of the United States, but of the whole world; and those who will possess them will not only possess the very heart and arteries of this young and already so great republic, but will become its rulers.
“It is our intention, without noise, to take possession of those vast and magnificent regions of the west in the name and for the benefit of our holy Church. Our plan to attain that object, is as sure as easy. There is, every year, an increasing tide of emigration from the Roman Catholic regions of Europe and Canada towards the United States. Unfortunately, till now, our emigrants have blindly scattered themselves among the Protestant populations, which too often absorb them and destroy their faith.
“Why should we not direct their steps to the same spot? Why should we not, for instance, induce them to come and take possession of these fertile states of Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, ect. They can get those lands now, at a nominal price. If we succeed, as I hope we will, our holy Church will soon count her children here by ten and twenty millions, and through their numbers, their wealth and unity, they will have such a weight in the balance of power that they will rule everything.
“The Protestants, always divided among themselves, will never form any strong party without the help of the united vote of our Catholic people; and that party alone, which will ask and get our help by yielding to our just demands, will rule the country. Then, in reality, though not in appearance, our holy Church will rule the United States, as she is called by our Saviour Himself to rule the whole world. There is, today, a wave of emigrants from Canada towards the United States, which, if not stopped or well directed, is threatening to throw the good French Canadian people into the mire of Protestantism. Your countrymen, when once mixed with the numberless sects which try to attract them, are soon shaken in their faith. Their children sent to Protestant schools, will be unable to defend themselves against the wily and united efforts made to pervert them.
“But put yourself at the head of the emigrants from Canada, France and Belgium; prevent them from settling any longer among the Protestants, by inducing them to follow you to Illinois, and with them, you will soon see here, a Roman Catholic people, whose number, wealth and influence will amaze the world. God Almighty has wonderfully blessed your labours in Canada in that holy cause of temperance. But now the work is done, the same Great God presents to your Christian ambition a not less great and noble work for the rest of your life. Make use of your great influence over your countrymen to prevent them from scattering any longer among Protestants, by inducing them to come here, in Illinois. You will then lay the foundation of a Roman Catholic French people, whose piety, unity, wealth and number will soon renew and revive, on this continent, the past and fading glories of the Church of France.
“We have already, at Bourbonnais, a fine colony of French Canadians. They long to see and hear you. Come and help me to make that comparatively small, though thriving people, grow with the immigrants from the French-speaking countries of Europe and America, till it covers the whole territory of Illinois with its sturdy sons and pious daughters. I will ask the Pope to make you my coadjutor, and you will soon become my successor, for I already feel too weak and unhealthy to bear alone the burden of my too large diocese.
“Please consider what I propose to you before God, and answer me. But be kind enough to consider this overture as strictly confidential between you and me, till we have brought our plans into execution.
“Truly yours, Olvi Vandeveld,
“Bishop of Chicago.”