Br Jacques Peloux to Fr Victor Poupinel, Savai, 6 January 1850
D’après l’expédition, APM ON 208 (Samoa) Peloux
Clisby Letter 83. Girard doc. 862
Introduction and translation by Br Edward Clisby FMS
In 1850 Jacques was stationed with Violette at Lealatele, from which he regularly visited Salelavalu, the other station on Savai’i, to help the priest there. Joseph Mugniery (6) had been in Samoa since the end of 1846, mainly at Mulinu’u. He was not a professed member of the Society and when, finding the climate too much, he returned to France in 1852, he went back to work in his diocese of Belley as a secular priest (Heslin p 29).
Because of their isolation, the missionaries on Savai’i had to rely on their confreres on Upolu for news. Marists passing through Apia, like Douarre on his return to the Pacific in mid 1849, would have brought the latest from Europe, and it was probably from him, or even from recent mail, that Padel had received the news he was passing on in his letter (4). There are the inevitable misreportings. It was to Gaeta in the Kingdom of Naples, not to Avignon in France, that Pius IX fled in November 1848, following the assassination of his Prime Minister. A French expedition under General Oudinot was sent to restore him but its first attacks on Rome were beaten off. In June 1849, with reinforcements and artillery, the general tried again and succeeded in taking the city. The Roman Republic surrendered at the beginning of July, and the Pope received a popular ovation on his return to the Vatican the following spring. The rising in Poland was no more successful. The country had been partitioned among Russia, Germany, and Austria for over 50 years, the Kingdom of Poland created by the Congress of Vienna in 1815 being in effect a client state of Russia. The Poles rose a number of times, notably between 1830 and 1863, but they did not regain independence until after the collapse of the three empires in 1918.
Bataillon had not displayed much interest in his Samoan mission, but was content to appoint as his Pro-vicar there Antoine Dubreuil, recently appointed Visitor to the Marists of Central Oceania after his return from Europe (3). Dubreuil remained in Samoa until his death in 1869. The bishop was concentrating on his colleges on Wallis and Futuna which he hoped would provide, among others, the native Brothers capable of replacing the European Marists in the stations (rf L 71). Jacques is insultingly dismissive of the possibility (7).
The translation has been made from a photocopy of the original text in the APM (ON 208).
Text of the Letter
- Reverend Father,
- I have been wanting to write to you for a long time, but I haven’t found an opportunity. Actually, I still haven’t found one, but I am writing this letter to take advantage of the first sailing for Upolu, even if it’s only a Samoan canoe. Then I will seize the opportunity to send my letter to Fr Padel. He will be happy to take responsibility for it. Fr Violette and I are in a spot quite remote from anywhere. There is no boat here, no European, except for some brethren of the coast, who call on us in passing more to get a slice of yam or root,  if you prefer, than for anything. Still, they perform some little service for us.
- It was with real pleasure that I received the letter you wrote me. I have read it over and over a great number of times. I am very grateful, my reverend Father, for the news you have been so good to send me, especially about St Bonnet and my relatives. We know that the bishop of Amata passed through Upolu nearly five months ago and that Fr Dubreul, who has been appointed Visitor for the vicariate of Central Oceania, was with him, but that’s all. No other news. Yet it is now nearly three years since His Lordship of Enos visited us!
- We have heard from a letter Fr Padel wrote to us, that the Sovereign Pontiff has withdrawn to Avignon because of troubles in Rome. A French army, far too small, crossed the Alps and was cut to pieces, and then 250,000 troops were sent to bombard Rome and take control of the city. We were told that it was probable that the Pope was on his way back to Rome. We were also very pleased at the news that Poland had regained its independence after eleven bloody battles against Russia.
- We are very grateful for the clothing you have so kindly sent us. That’s proof you are not forgetting us. Fr Violette had only the one soutane, and we had no more shoes. The clothes are a bit too fine for brothers who have taken the vow of poverty. I have enough now to last me for a long time, except for trousers. But I can’t say the same for shoes since they are always the first to wear out. Twice I have had to walk the track to Salelavalu bare foot. I am not telling you this by way of complaint, but if no one informs you about it you would hardly guess. If it was no trouble, I would prefer to receive more shoes and less clothing. You would need to advise the shoemakers to be extra careful with the stitching, since the seams are where they first start to come apart.
- We are building a new church. It is not finished yet. It will be quite pretty for this country. God’s work progresses, but slowly. The missions are in much the same state as they were two years ago, except that we have risen in the estimation of the natives. I can give you no other details, for what the Fathers here give you is more accurate than anything I can provide myself. Fr Violette and I are both well. As for Fr Mugnery, it is some time since we have seen him. However, I am going to visit him this week to do his laundry and perform any other little services he needs done.
- I am always very content in my vocation, reverend Father. I am very grateful to you as well as to the very reverend Fr Maitre-pierre. But I am still the only Brother in the Navigators. That is not enough. They tell you that the natives can take the brothers’ place, but that’s a bit like someone telling you that men can be replaced by monkeys.
- Time is running out on me, Father. It seems to me that (in writing) I am actually with you, but my occupations force me to terminate my letter. Please continue to write to me when you have the opportunity. You cannot know the joy I feel when I receive your letters. If you have occasion to see any of my relatives, please pass on news of me, for I haven’t time to write to them. You can say I am still in very good health and that I pray for them and hope they do the same for me. I commend myself to your prayers. Please do not forget me, especially at the holy sacrifice.
- Farewell, my reverend Father. I am with very profound respect,
- your very humble and obedient servant,
- Farewell, my reverend Father. I am with very profound respect,
- J. Peloux.
- Br SM
- The French here reads: “un petit coup de l’ign (name?) ou rack (?).” I offer a meaning that fits the context.
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