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Br Florentin to Fr Poupinel, Meanee Flat, 4 October 1867



By this date the farm at Meanee had become a flourishing concern, as Reignier’s letters and Poupinel’s observations confirm, largely due to the efforts of Florentin and Basile. The former was manager, kept the records and accounts, and did most of the buying and selling of land and stock. Some complaints had been made about these transactions, possibly by Viard, and Poupinel had written to Reignier expressing his concern. Reignier had passed on his observations to Florentin, prompting him to write this letter.

As will be seen from his reply (L 191), Poupinel concedes that part of the problem lies with Viard’s lack of interest in the financial and administrative aspects of the mission. That combined with Reignier’s lack of experience and his frequent absence from the station on pastoral visitations, have placed a big burden on the brother’s shoulders. There is certainly no question that he is able to carry it; rather it is a matter of his taking on himself some things without the necessary authorization. These include trips to Auckland for the stock sales [2,3]. It was a serious matter for a religious to be away from his house overnight, and although he had Reignier’s permission, Poupinel makes it clear in his reply that he thought the local superior was wrong to give it.

One of the dangers Florentin was exposed to in his business dealings was drink. In an earlier report to Favre, Poupinel had written: “He sometimes drinks too much. Three times he has forgotten himself on going to do business in the town… So he is no longer sent there.” (letter of 7 April 1862, APM OP 418). It would appear that, with his resolution not to drink, he had been permitted to renew his business trips to Napier, as well as further afield [6].

The translation was made from the photocopy of the original in the Munro selection of correspondence from the Sydney procure.

Text of the Letter

My very Reverend Father,
It is already a long time I have been wanting to write to you and tell you my troubles as you told me to, but I think it is better still to put up with them patiently than to complain about them. Besides you know them: they are great and numerous.
It is fifteen years ago that I wrote to Monsignor Viard and laid out for him some of my problems. He replied that he was expecting some news from Rome and that when he had it, he would relieve me. Did he receive it, I have no idea. All I know is that he has not answered me. He is not concerned about the farm, no more than the Reverend Father Reignier. They want the eggs but they don’t want the hens. Father Reignier made known to me some of the observations that you made him in one of your letters, this among others, brother Forentin is not superior. No, very Rev. Father, believe me, I am not the superior. I am merely Fr Reignier’s beast of burden. I repeat, I am not the superior, that is Fr Reignier. I am only the rock which people hide behind when things go wrong. The trips I made to Auckland, I did not make of my own accord. I made them with the permission of my Superiors. They made the mistake and it is not my fault.
I will say to you only one thing about the first trip to Auckland. It was last year. We had forty four cattle to sell. They were all the product of the farm and not of speculation. Here we were offered only 300 pounds which was only half their value. So it was decided that we should sent them to Auckland. I was made responsible for preparing the way. Twenty four hours were enough for me to get them put aboard the SS Star of the South; and twenty four hours more they were all sold for the sum of 658 pounds, 17 shillings and 10 pence. And twenty four hours later I had placed the sum in the hands of Rev Father Reignier.
My very Reverend Father, I do not share the opinion of those who say that a servant or even an outsider is more suitable to do the business of the mission. If a member of the mission has the interests of the mission no more at heart than an outsider, he is not worthy of being counted among the family.
Very Reverend Father, please have the charity to tell me if you have been able to read my letter, for I have no skill in writing. If you have been able to read it I will write to you again and give you more details about the farm and our way of running it.
I have not made the pledge, I have only taken the resolution of not drinking, and I am not drinking. I wish that the Brothers would come quickly and take over the burden which I cannot carry.
My very Reverend Father, pray believe me to be your very devoted servant,
Br Florentin

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