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30 January 1841 - Father Jean Pezant to Father Pierre Colin, Akaroa

Translated by Mary Williamson, July 2019

Based on the document sent, APM Z 208.

Small sheet of paper forming four written pages.

[on an angle, p.4] [Address]
Mr Colin / Director, Marist House, Saint Barthélemy Rise, / no. 4 / Lyon / Rhône.

Jesus, Mary, Joseph

Akaroa Bay, 30th January 1841.

Sir and very dear Father in our Lord,
Please do not attribute my tardiness to negligence or indifference, but rather to various circumstances that it would take too long to enumerate and to a lack of time following this. I have only been able to write twice to the Superior and to my family to save them from worrying about our passage. I am taking advantage of the departure for France of the Oriental, a whaler from le Havre, to show you some signs of life, as has been my wish for a long time.
I prayed to the Lord, at the beginning of this year, to shower you, as well as the Superior and all our Fathers and colleagues, with the wealth of his blessings.
In case the Superior has not received our letters, I would first of all say that we arrived safely in the Bay of Islands on 11th July and we found the Bishop there with Fathers Servant and Epalle. The Bishop kept Mr Tripe with him and sent me, along with Father Compte, who he had recalled from Hokianga, to the colony at Akaroa, on Bank’s Peninsular. We left the Bay of Islands with Brother Florentin on 30th July 1840 on board the Aube, and after 17 days of a rather difficult journey, we entered the bay of Akaroa on the special day of the Assumption of our august Mother. The Compte de Paris arrived the following day very damaged by the thunderstorm that had struck her twice in the night near to the town of Hobart. [1] We have had to suffer quite a lot at the Akaroa mission: We had to construct our house ourselves from wood and plant material and we can hear the wind blowing quite clearly; we have even had a close acquaintance with hunger: However this is what makes missionaries. The colonists when they disembarked, displayed good will towards us; but that was the limit of it. Fr Compte only conducted a marriage and I a solemn baptism, the first that had been carried out in Tawai- Pounamou. [2] We are, in effect, the first Catholic Missionaries who have reached the South Island. I have been busy with schooling and teaching the catechism to the children of the colonists and I carried out the first communion for a small boy. Fr Compte baptised several children at home for private reasons: That is about the full fruit of our ministry in Akaroa and there are few hopes for the future, unless many more colonists arrive. As for the natives of this land, there only remain about thirty in this bay and about one hundred at Port Cooper, near to the isthmus. The terrible Tarauparaha, [3] French pronunciation Torobolo, warrior from the North of Tawai-Pounamou, one of the greatest of consumers of human flesh in New Zealand, has decimated the inhabitants of the peninsular. Those who remain are infatuated with the prayers of Williams, (head of the Protestant Anglican missionaries), [4] and their solid conversion cannot be hoped for unless France colonises this country. There are only fifty French colonists with a few established here, so that the pastors are almost without a flock. The entire island of Tawai Pounamou is no more populated, in proportion, than the peninsular. Apart from a few sparse areas and places where the population, corrupted by European vices is diminishing noticeably each year, all the rest is deserted. Otherwise, the country is not too bad, apart from the strong winds; Akaroa is covered with magnificent bush. Vegetation there is strong and water is abundant and of excellent quality. The strong winds are less frequent there, at least in summer, than in other New Zealand ports, even in the North Island. That is what we have noticed at Port Nicholson, in Cook Strait.
The Bishop, having bought, with the money that we brought him, an American brig-schooner, came here at the beginning of October to have it lined with copper. He stayed here for about six weeks and he obtained from the captain of the Aube two daily rations for the missionaries: thus they now have fixed resources; I forgot to tell you that the captain of the Comte de Paris [5] was of great help to us. But despite the presence and the exhortations of the Bishop, the colonists have almost all remained unshakable in their apathy. The Bishop, before he left, decided it was suitable to take me to Kororareka with him to learn the language, as my manual tasks here had not left me time to study and he left in my place Mr Tripe who he had brought with him, deciding that he would be able to do better here than me. We left Akaroa on 14th November, on board the Santa Maria (that is the name of the Bishop’s ship), and we arrived four days later, in the port of Otago (or Oxley), fifty leagues south of the peninsular. We found a good number of natives there: we stayed there more then 3 weeks to give them instruction and teach them some Catholic prayers. There was plenty of interest on their part and the Bishop was very satisfied with the attitude of these people as well as those of Moue- Raki, [6] which is only 10 leagues away and where the Bishop took me with him in a canoe steered by the high chief of Otago, Tairoa, [7] and with several other canoes that formed a sort of small squadron. Moeraki is a delightful place (apart from the terribly windy conditions in New Zealand of course) and it reminded me of the banks of the Saône. The natives, related to those in Otago, received the Bishop well and showed very touching warmth. The same with the English people, about forty in number, who are established there for the fisheries (whale hunting). We returned then to Akaroa, after having pondered whether we would go right down South, near to Stewart Island, to the Bench island or Roa-Puke, [8] where it was said that there were many natives; but being aware that the port was not very safe, in this difficult area, the Bishop feared risking the ship and he unhappily abandoned this visit. From Akaroa we left for Port Nicholson, the most populated of the English colonies in New Zealand; we arrived there on Christmas Eve and we spent fifteen days there. During this time the Bishop was busy almost of the time with baptisms, confessions and preaching: the 150 Catholics of Port Nicholson are of a different type from those of Akaroa. The Protestants welcomed the Bishop warmly and showed all kinds of consideration: Several came to Holy Mass. Then we came back here to bring the food supplies bought by two officers of the Aube. We will leave in a few days for the Bay of Islands, and we will only arrive there after having briefly passed by Maia ( East Cape) and Tauranga where Father Viard is doing marvellous work. [9] It pleases me greatly to see him with his neophytes. Serious rumours are circulating here about war between France and England. With this uncertainty, and fearing being trapped here, the corvette Aube for [10] will leave to go and search for factual news. So we do not know what will become of the colony of Akaroa. I should tell you what I was forgetting, that our voyage from France was happy; we had a month of storms; but we were saved from too much suffering from the rolling of ship. The dangers at sea are nothing; the discomforts are enormous. Nevertheless, we ran into danger aboard the schooner when going to Otago: We bumped against some reefs in a fairly strong wind: Fortunately the contact was not very forceful. The Bishop is in good health as are all his colleagues. The Bishop is hoping to find some missionaries in the Bay of Islands. I conclude by commending myself to your prayers and asking you to believe that I do not forget you or the Society. I have not yet made my solemn vows, but I want to ask to make them soon and I am more resolved than ever to not see Europe again, unless obedience requires it of me. I am very content, as I am convinced that the Good Lord wishes me to be here. I ask you to please offer my deepest respects to the Superior and to all our Reverend Fathers. I have the honour of being forever, my Very Reverend Father, with our Lord,
Your very humble and obedient servant and son in our Lord,
Jean Pezant, Priest and Missionary Apostolic.


  1. the ship was thus damaged in a storm on 14th May 1840 (cf. Buick, p. 110-111). About her arrival in the port of Akaroa, see doc. 70, § 1, n. 2).
  2. Te Wai Pounamu (“land of the green stone” Maori name for the South Island of New Zealand).
  3. Read Te Rauparaha (cf.doc. 70, § 2, n. 7).
  4. The “prayer of Williams” is the Anglican religion. Henry Williams (1792-1867) was in charge of the Anglican mission in New Zealand from 1823 up till the changes brought about by the treaty of Waitangi that, thanks to his influence, the Maori chiefs had signed on 6th February 1840 (cf. Dictionary of N.Z Biography, vol.1, p. 593-594). (About William Williams, his younger brother, also an Anglican minister, cf. doc. 114, § 6-7; 118, § 15, n. 13).
  5. Jean Langlois, founder of the Nanto- Bordelaise Company, was captain of the Comte de Paris (cf. Buick, p. 3, 30, 54).
  6. Read Moeraki, a place in the Otago region where James Watkin, a Wesleyan missionary, had settled some Maori Protestant catechists; He was troubled by the visit of Pompallier (cf. Encylopaedia of NZ, vol. 3, p. 591).
  7. for chief of Otago, read chief of Otakou; for Tairoa, read Taiaroa (cf. doc.80, § 7, n. 5).
  8. No doubt read: Ruapuke; Bench and Ruapuke are two different islands.
  9. During his missionary voyage in the first months of 1840, Pompallier visited Tauranga with Viard in March and the latter established himself there in May or June; he stayed there until the end of May 1841, often moving about amongst the Maori tribes to give instruction (cf.doc. 58, § 11; 82, § 1; 866, § 4-5). “Maia” is no doubt Mahia (Te Mahia), peninsular on the East coast of the North Island. Baty, who settled at Mahia on 30th September 1841, found not long after, in the region of his mission and notably at Wairoa, some Maoris who knew Catholic prayers(cf. doc. 110, § 4, n. 7; 114, § 9, n. 9; cf. also the unpublished letters of Baty to Jean-Baptiste Epalle of 8th October 1841 and of 30th October 1841, APM OOc 418.22), no doubt from following the small brochure of prayers that Pompallier had had distributed amongst the tribes in the middle of the North Island (cf. doc. 866, § 4).
  10. Read no doubt: will be able, or else: leaves for.