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7 December 1839 — Bishop Jean-Baptiste-François Pompallier to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Bay of Islands

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, August 2013

Father Colin, priest, Superior-General of the Society of Mary, at Lyons
4 St Barthelemy Rise,
entrusted to M Lateste, ship’s captain


St Mary’s Mission, New Zealand Bay of Islands, 7 December 1839

To Reverend Father Colin, Superior-General of the Society of Mary, in Lyons

Reverend Father
I am writing briefly to you today, but soon I will send you a letter with detailed and good news, I hope. The mission is still continuing to overwhelm the workers with tasks to be done, since God is giving it so much growth.
Today I am writing to you only about the plan, very important even indispensable for the mission: to have a ship and a good captain to take it to the places under my jurisdiction. Without this means I would have the inexpressible sorrow of seeing many islands and island groups ravaged by the errors of heresy which are spreading everywhere by way of the ships that belong to it.
Mr Lateste who is to be the bearer of this letter, and whose qualities I have come to appreciate here, could very well be the captain of the ship I have in mind: he has the knowledge and the qualifications appropriate for the task, he has stopped over at the Bay of Islands twice in the French whaling ship Le Nère,[1] he is an educated man and would be really pleased to be employed as captain of the mission’s ship. I am sending him to you so that you can, on my behalf and yours, see what arrangements would be appropriate to come to with him to achieve this effect, so he can come to the Bay of Islands with a ship bought in France for the use of the Western Oceania mission and mainly for the Vicar-Apostolic’s use. For the matter of purchasing this vessel I would totally rely on Mr Le Normand of Le Havre[2] - he is a good Christian man and one of the most highly esteemed ship builders in Europe. If he took on the responsibility of building the ship, it would certainly be very appropriately and strongly built. But it would take many months before it was ready for us to use. I only ask that he be kind enough to devote himself to buying a brig of 100 to 120 tons, ready made, costing between 20,000 and 24,000 fr [about £800 to £1,000]. Interiorly, the brig should be designed more for taking passengers than cargo, because it is not destined for trade, but for carrying missionaries and goods for the mission. So at least half of the interior should be given over to cabins for the passengers, and the other half for transporting goods. With a ship like that not only could journeys be easily made between places within my jurisdiction, but even to Europe and back without difficulty. What a saving for the mission! What ease of communications in every respect! The undertaking will be a bit expensive to start with, but really economical at the same time. Because the money needed to buy the ship is hardly enough to bring six missionaries and their effects from Europe to here. With a ship belonging to the mission the first voyage would be a bit more expensive, but the ship would belong to it. But I will not be giving my agreement to purchasing this so necessary thing, unless the Vicar-Apostolic has completely free control over it and that the captain be under his control or under that of the priest or the priests in the mission who are expressly delegated by him.
I also want you to take steps, Reverend Father, or that you have them taken, to obtain from the ministry of Marine in France[3] a special protection for the ship destined for our mission. Mr Leteste, an informed and well educated man, can be employed, with M Le Normand, in buying the ship, and in obtaining from the government the protections I am asking for. Very soon I myself will write to the minister of marine, mainly about my plan and the protection I am asking for, and for favours for the captain himself. This plan is preferable to another which I sent you beforehand. Anyway, if the first was accepted, I would be happy about that anyway. I am expecting hourly the four priests and the catechist that you are sending me, and who have written to me from Sydney, from where they must have left to get here at the Bay of Islands. All yours, Reverend Father, in Jesus and Mary.
+ J B François, Bishop, vic(ar) ap(ostolic)
(In the margin and written crosswise)[5]
PS The arrangement made with the captain should not be completed in France but left until he has come back to the Vicar-Apostolic, when more precise and definitive arrangements will be made with him. It could be that if in France the captain was granted the right to put freight on the ship, that would be enough for his arrangement.


  1. No doubt Le Nerée – cf Doc 46 [1]
  2. Jacques-Augustin Normand (cf Doc 36 [1] f/n 1)
  3. Vice-Admiral Claude-Charles-Marie du Campe de Rasamel, minister of Marine at the time Pompallier left France, had given him at that time letters of protection (cf Doc 4 [13]); the latter had written to him on 9 August 1837: on 31 March Jean-Marguerite, Baton Tupinier, was appointed Minister of Marine, and from 12th May Victor Guy, Baron Duperré, occupied this position (Cf Dictionnaire des ministers p131, 181, 193)

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