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As it happened, Paris was around that time buzzing with rumours of projects concerning New Zealand. The claims of the self-styled Baron Charles de Thierry of having obtained vast tracts of land in New Zealand, and of being recognized by indigenous chiefs as a sort of sovereign had been discredited. Now shipping interests in Bordeaux had an eye on the Banks peninsula and the Chatham Islands while London and Paris suspected each other of planning to take possession of New Zealand. The French Navy wanted a permanent base and the Ministry of Justice a penal colony. The feeling in Paris was that France was letting the British get away too easily with establishing dominance over the Pacific. A convention was worked out in secret between French officials and the Compagnie Nanto-Bordelaise, specially founded to settle French colonists in the South Island. The convention foresaw in the appointment of a Commissaire du Roi. Even those who were not privy to the deal were convinced that the appointment of a consul with a wide mandate and the stationing of a naval vessel were the least things one could do.[1]

As Poupinel was visiting ministries and dignitaries he must have picked up some rumours. He knew of Pompallier’s contacts with the navy and he had read the bishop’s letter of 14 May 1838 with the story of the visit of the Heroine. At the Picpus head-house they would have told him of the intervention of the Vénus in Tahiti.[2] Naturally Poupinel would consider it part of his mandate to promote the good cause.

In the course of these events he met with a certain Emmanuel Eveillard, a fervent Catholic, who had already applied for the post of French consul in New Zealand. The man had been received by the foreign minister, but his written application was full of self-praise and far-fetched dreams. He argued that many of the poor British settlers as well as the Polynesians would easily rally to the French cause if only there were more French Catholic priests than Protestant ministers. There should be monks of different orders to found abbeys and develop agriculture, establish schools and take up the role of the ancient monasteries in France. His application made much of the spiritual benefit of the French presence for the Maoris. The government should actively support this development, not excluding significant financial support for the missionaries. He supported the idea of buying the Chatham Islands for the foundation of a college of higher education, including a seminary. Without telling Éveillard, the ministry quickly put his application aside. They opted for Lavaud, a diplomatic naval commander.[3]

Eveillard saw in the Marists a promising avenue to pursue his ambitions. He wrote a seven page letter to Colin expounding not only the need for a French consul in New Zealand, but also for the Society of Mary to take on the pastoral care of the penal colony he expected to be established in New Guinea.[4]

After his return to Lyon Poupinel kept up a busy correspondence with the officials he had met with in Paris,[5] with the nuncio,[6] and others.[7] From the letters received so far from the Pacific a report was composed for Marshal Soult.[8] Poupinel was evidently not aware of the decision of the ministry concerning Éveillard and in all his letters he kept pushing for free passage on government vessels and for the speedy appointment of a French consul in New Zealand, but also for Eveillard’s candidacy. He even tried to get the backing of the nuncio, of Archbishop de Pins, of McSweeney and of a prominent cleric, Olivier, who was a personal counselor of the Queen.[9]

What Jean-Claude Colin thought of Poupinel’s involvement with the high and mighty he kept to himself. He knew what was going on. It was not his style but he signed the letters, inserting little corrections here and there. When the missions and the Society were mentioned in secular papers like la Gazette and la Quotidienne he had Poupinel urge Eveillard to hold off. On the wild project for the Chatham Islands he urged that nothing be done without Bishop Pompallier’s concurrence. A commitment to pastoral care for deportees was thinkable if the government asked for it. Although the new mission secretary still needed to develop a degree of circumspection, the superior gave him plenty of room.


  1. Through bureaucratic fumbling and indecisiveness nothing came of the ambitious plans to annex at least part of New Zealand. Cf. Jore I, op. cit. pp. 188 – 205.
  2. Cf. above, p. 69.
  3. Later admiral. Jore, op. cit. I, pp. 29, 279ff.
  4. Eveillard to Colin, 15.11, Poupinel to Eveillard, 23.11, Eveillard to Poupinel, 26.11, to Colin, 07.12. Cf. CS, doc. 102, 104 & 113.
  5. Colin to Soult, 30.11, 24.12., 03.01.1840, 08.01.40, CS, docs. 106, 119, 123 & 129.
  6. Colin to Garibaldi, 22.11, 04.12 & 07.01.40, CS, docs. 101, 108 & 128.
  7. Colin to Teste ( Minister of Justice and Cult), 06.12., again 07.01.40. CS. docs. 111 & 127. Colin to Duperré (Minister of the Navy and the Colonies) 13.12, CS, doc. 115, and to Vigneti 04.01.1840, doc. 125.
  8. Dated 29 November 1839, CS, doc. 100.
  9. To de Pins, CS, doc. 107, to McSweeney, doc. 103, to Olivier, doc. 109.

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