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Going around the world

For months the Aube had been lying for anchor in Brest, waiting until the authorities formulated their instructions to Captain Lavaud.[1] When the missionaries got to Brest, they had to wait another month, utterly bored. Finally, on 19 February 1840 the captain could hoist the sails. When the ship left the port, the four missionaries gathered in their cabin to pray. They then went on deck to wave their home country goodbye. When they came out, there was nothing they could see but a few rocks, the sky and the sea. The tears welled up in their eyes.[2]

For more than a week the Aube was battered by storms and the missionaries were violently seasick in their cramped quarters, so much so that Pezant managed to fill five pages on the horrors of sea-sickness!

The ship called at Tenerife where they had the bishop consecrate a chalice so they could say Mass on board. They had a dose of culture shock at what they saw as ‘dreadful moral corruption, laziness, dirt and shameful nakedness. I was proud to be French’. The ship called at Saint-Louis and Gorée in Senegal, where, on the advice of Captain Lavaud, they bought 30 lbs of tobacco to take to New Zealand

They underwent sea baptism at the equator although Neptune did not apply the full severity of the French navy on the bewildered missionaries. After initial reluctance they got into the spirit of the thing.[3]

On 11 May the Aube turned around the Cape of Good Hope into the Indian Ocean. For nearly two weeks they had beautiful weather but then it turned quite cold and for a month fierce storms pushed them eastwards along the 40º degree south. The Aube was heavily loaded and slow. Several times other vessels on their way to Australia overtook her.[4]

It was not a happy group. There was a Maori on board, called Etaca, serving as a sailor. Brother Claude-Marie Bertrand enjoyed the opportunity to teach him and tried to pick up the Maori language. He noted down words and little sentences, and noticed that the Maori language had no tenses like French. Pezant proved an officious sort of superior. He stopped the Brother from working with Etaca to take it on himself. Claude Marie had to swallow twice but booked it as a small sacrifice to the Lord.[5]

Brother Amon Dupeyron neglected the common spiritual exercises and was several times reprimanded by the superior, which he took badly. As Pompallier later wrote to Colin, Pezant did not know how to keep a community happy and how to get along with the Brothers.[6]
As Tripe wrote later to Terraillon, the pious Marists were often shocked at the behaviour and the language on board. There were heated discussions on religious matters with the officers and the crew that led to angry outbursts of the anticlericalism so common in France. Problems arose in part from the fact that the Brothers as well as the Fathers sat at table with the officers. Their remarks and table manners provoked espcially the younger officers.[7]

The itinerary was somewhat open. During the voyage there was talk of calling at Cape Town, but that was cancelled. Then the idea was to go directly to the Banks Peninsula on the South Island with a previous call at Hobart where the missionaries could disembark and look for a ship to the Bay of Islands. Because of the many shallows in Bass Strait the Aube passed South of Tasmania, and plans changed again. The ship did not call at Hobart and went directly to the Bay of Islands where they arrived late in the evening of 11 July 1840: after five months at sea.

Brother Claude-Marie wrote immediately to Brother François Rivat.[8] Pezant had started a letter to Colin in May at sea, but he only sent it on 4 September.[9] Pompallier announced the arrival of the fourth group to Colin on 22 July.[10]

Reporting to Rome

In March 1840 Jean Cholleton went on a voyage to Rome and Colin used the opportunity to write to Cardinal Fransoni. Cholleton had already expressed a desire to enter the Society of Mary when, after the death of Cardinal Fesch on 13 May 1839, it became clear that de Pins would not become Archbishop of Lyon, the archdiocese he had governed as apostolic administrator for twenty-five years. Colin still introduced him to Fransoni as vicar general.

The contacts of the Fathers Pezant and Tripe with the Foreign Missions of Paris had drawn Colin’s attention to the existence of Roman instructions for the missions.[11] He asks Fransoni for these documents so as to help the missionaries prepare for mission work.

Colin informs Cardinal Fransoni that the last news he has received from Pompallier was from September 1838, nineteen months ago. He complains that he had not received any news at all from Wallis and Futuna, apart from the fact that Bataillon, Luzy, Chanel and Nizier had been left on those two islands in November 1837, two and a half years earlier! Of the second group that left in September 1838, he only knows they had got as far as Tahiti. Of the third group that had left in June 1839 he only knew they had been in Tenerife and Gorée. He confesses to Fransoni that given these circumstances he is reluctant to send more missionaries. Still, a fourth group has just left in order to profit of the free transport on a naval vessel.[12]

Promoting Peter Dillon

The confusion that had arisen with the booking of Petitjean and his companions from London in June 1839[13] gave rise to new correspondence when, on 25 January 1840, Peter Dillon wrote an angry letter to Colin. Naturally assuming that the missionaries had known about his deal with Pierre Colin, he could think of no other explanation than that Heptonstall had talked them into changing to another ship. Moreover, he wrote that the other ship (the Sultan) was such a rotten old wreck that he would not send a dog with it ‘for which I had any friendship’.[14] The missionaries had caused him a lot of extra work and expenses. Recalling his early services to the Church when he planned a first mission to the Pacific with de Solages,[15] and claiming large landholdings in New Zealand, he hoped to be appointed a paid French consul in New Zealand and he asked Colin to use his influence with ministers in Paris in his favour. He must have been hard up, because he asks Colin to answer him post-paid.[16]

Also in January, Dillon’s wife died, which is probably why this letter was sent only on 24 April 1840 with another one in which he could tell Colin that the Australasian Packet with Father Petitjean and company had reached Sydney on 23 October. He again offered his services to get mission goods to Sydney and repeated his convictions that a French consul was needed in New Zealand.

On 2 May Poupinel answered on behalf of Colin, partly in English. He apologized for the confusion about the bookings: it was all our fault, we forgot to give the missionaries a copy of the letter we wrote to you confirming the booking you offered. No fault of Heptonstall![17] Poupinel assured Dillon that the Society would do its utmost to get a consul appointed, but after his vain efforts to get Éveillard appointed,[18] he was careful not to get involved in pushing another candidate.


  1. Jore, op. cit., I, pp. 188 -205, describes in great detail the political and diplomatic bungling in England as well as in France concerning the future status of New Zealand.
  2. Bertrand to Champagnat, 25.03.40. LO, Clisby015 [2].
  3. Pezant to Colin 09.03.40. Later on, Pezant advised Colin that at least on naval ships missionaries should refuse to take part in the baptisms, LRO, doc. 74 [6].
  4. According to Pezant they passed the Cape on 12 & 13 May. LRO, doc. 73 [1].
  5. Bertrand to Brother François, 18.07.40, LO, Clisby018 [10].
  6. FMO, p. 60f; LRO, doc. 70 [4], cf. Epalle to Colin 31.08.40, LRO, doc. 71 [5].
  7. Pompallier to Colin, 06.08.40. LRO, doc. 69 [2-4].
  8. FMO, p. 44.
  9. LRO, doc. 72.
  10. LRO, doc. 64.
  11. Cf. above, p. 161.
  12. CS, doc. 147.
  13. Cf. above, p. 136.
  14. In fact the ship went down with all hands shortly afterwards, CS, doc. 209, p. 334f, n.2.
  15. Cf. Wiltgen, op. cit. p. 23ff.
  16. Cf. Davidson, op. cit. p 298. Correspondence of Dillon in APM, 511.422.
  17. CS, doc. 159.
  18. Cf. above, p. 142.

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