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24 February 1840 — Note from Father Jean-Baptiste Petit-Jean to Father Jean-Claude Colin on the copy of a letter of John Joseph Therry to Jules Dumont d’Urville, commander of the Astrolabe

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, April 2010

Paper with a watermark “T Edmonds 1837”, a big sheet forming four pages, of which two are written on, the third remaining clear of writing and the fourth bearing the address. The note in Father Petit-Jean’s handwriting, written on the second page, after the English text of the letter, explains why this letter was sent to Father Colin. This document is accompanied by a page, made of “Bath” blue paper, the French version of the Therry letter, the text of which will be given below after the English text. For the date of the document, that of Therry’s letter has been taken. The author John Joseph Therry, a priest of Irish birth, carried out ministry in Australia from 1830 (cf O’Brien p22); the addressee, Jules Dumont d’Urville, a French navigator, undertook a voyage of exploration on the Astrolabe in 1826-27, calling at Port Jackson (Sydney) from 2nd till 19th December 1826 before going on the New Zealand. In September 1837 he undertook a second great voyage on the Astrolabe, accompanied by the Zelée, visiting the west coast of Australia in February-April 1839, calling at Hobart in December 1839, and after a return to the coast of Antarctica in February 1840, sailing on to New Zealand the following month and finally returning to Toulon on 6th September 1840 (cf Dunmore, vol 2, p; 180-184, 224, 342-343, 370-381).  

Father Colin, Superior-General of the Society of Mary at Lyons
[In Poupinel’s handwriting]
Hobart Town, 24 February 1840. Copy of a letter from Father Jean Joseph Therry to M Dumon d’Urville, commanding officer, Astrolabe.
A letter containing this copy was addressed to me in Auckland by F J J Therry, and it seemed that he intended that this copy was sent to the Central Council of the [Society for the] Propagation of the Faith in Lyons.
J(ean)-Bap(tiste) Petit-Jean
Marist priest, miss(ionary) apost(olic)
[On the bottom of the page – the address]
Commodore Durville etc etc
Ship L’Astrolabe
Hobart Town, Van Diemen’s Land

Festival of St Matthias, 1840
It gives me great pleasure to observe that the French Nation, distinguished as it has been during so many ages by the cultivation of science, arts and arms, is now rendering herself much more distinguished by directing her best energies not only to the extension of the boundaries of secular science, but to diffuse far and wide the light of the Gospel, to teach the science of salvation to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death [cf Luke 1:79]. A more favourable opportunity than that which France has now embraced, for an efficient exercise of the energies of a great nation in so glorious a cause never before occurred. To improve the temporal condition and facilitate the eternal salvation of myriads of the human race, who otherwise would die in ignorance, sin and misery, is an object by the attainment of which France will attain more real glory than by a thousand victories. I am ambitious to have the honour to give some better proof than mere words of the interest I feel in this great undertaking and therefore respectfully beg permission to offer as a free gift for ever to any Trustees that may be selected by the proper Authorities twenty acres of land situate near the mouth of the only fine river in Cumberland, New South Wales, within twenty-five miles of Sydney by land, within three hours sail from it by water, and in a very fine harbour, fourteen miles north of Port Jackson, as a site for a college to provide permanently for the civilisation and conversion of the inhabitants of the various islands of the Southern Ocean, and one hundred pounds sterling as my subscription towards its erection. Should my humble offer be accepted, I would beg permission to suggest that four clergymen of the Order of Jesus, attended by some lay Brothers with books and philosophical instruments should be sent as soon as possible from France, who it is probably would soon be joined by other members of that most illustrious Order from England. I would presume to suggest also as an economical, if not a necessary precaution, that they should be accompanied by mechanics and labourers with tools, timber, cement, glass, and all other portable materials for a large building. Our excellent Bishop, the V(ery) Rev(erend) D(octo)r Polding would, I am convinced, use all his influence in forwarding the interests of such an establishment. Her Majesty’s Government, being now, thank Heaven, exceedingly liberal, would not in my opinion refuse its countenance and support.
I have the honour to be, sir,
Your most ob(edien)t humble servant,
(Signed) John Joseph Therry V(icar) G(eneral)

(Then follows the French version, in Poupinel’s handwriting, that accompanies the preceding letter.)

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