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Fr Forest to Fr Colin, Bay of Islands, 3 Feb 1844

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, August 2005

APM Z 208 3 February 1844

10th letter from New Zealand

JMJ, Bay of Islands, 3 February 1844

To the Very Reverend Father Superior General

Very Reverend Father

My ninth and most recent letter that I had the honour of writing to you, was dated Bay of Islands 4 November 1843. It was sent to you through Father Tripe who left here on 5 November 1843 to go back to France. I entrusted to him a good number of other letters which I hope will all get to you, but perhaps a bit late, because I have just found out that this poor Father Tripe is still in Sydney, [and] that he cannot find any way of getting to France because he had not enough money when he left this [word illegible – place?]. The Bishop could give him only a very small amount of money, enough, at the most, to get him from London to France; in the hope that he would find at Sydney some French ship which would take him either at no charge or would give him credit until he got to France. But it seems that he hasn’t found anything, and has been forced to wait until Divine Providence comes to his help. Really I do not know how he will get on. The French corvette Le Rhin, which carried our Fathers Bernard, Morreau [sic – Moreau] and Chouvoit [sic – Chouvet] to Hobertown [sic: Hobart Town] arrived on the evening before All Saints’ Day and delivered to the Bishop eight thousand francs which the Fathers, on leaving the ship, had left in the care of the commanding officer. The extraordinary [word illegible] which you have just sent us, and which has got to Nicolson[1] more than three months ago will not be sent to us for perhaps three months from now (all of that because of lack of communication, says the Bishop). I really think however, that we could have had it a bit sooner with a bit more effort.

I have learned with great pleasure, through a letter from Father Lagniet, that you are deeply involved in setting up a house in Boulogne, [and] another in London. If now you set up another in Sydney I think everything would go very well. This house in Sydney would be able to handle all the correspondence from the missions in New Zealand and those in the tropics, with London and France. This Sydney house would be like a general business house for the missions in the tropics and those in New Zealand. Sydney is the only central place from which can easily be brought, both to New Zealand and the tropics, all the things needed for the mission. Frequently you can find at Sydney ships going to every land, while it is very unusual to find any in New Zealand going to the islands where our Fathers are. This house in Sydney could, as well, serve as a little college or seminary for the Oceania missions. According to Father Petit-Jean, many men could be found in Sydney who could become confrères and even missionaries. A new British governor has just arrived in New Zealand[2] to replace the one who died more than a year ago. The latest [governor] like the first does not appear to want to favour Catholicism. Nothing surprising. He is a fervent Protestant. The place where he lives will be the same as his predecessor’s – that is to say, Auckland (in Maori Waitemata). The Bay of Islands has been almost abandoned. Everyone is leaving either for Auckland or Sydney. I think that in a few months there will be left here only the mission house and a few cottages, three or four for the American whaling ships which still come here, close to their Consul, who lives here at the Bay of Islands. We do not see any more French ships – they are all going either to Akaroa or to the Marquesas – or to Haiti. The French colony which was at Akaroa, New Zealand, has fallen. The British have taken it over entirely, as all New Zealand. Now New Zealand is entirely, in fact, a British colony. All the time new emigrants are arriving in crowds. Soon everything will be as in Sydney and in England, with this difference, that there will still be more wretchedness here than elsewhere, the country being extremely poor.

The Protestant missionaries, [soutenus? – sustained or supported] by the government, aroused and excited by an [p2] Anglican Bishop who arrived more than a year ago,[3] are making unbelievable efforts against our poor New Zealand Catholics. They are sparing neither effort nor travel, neither money nor gifts: everything is brought to bear in order to destroy Catholicism here, if the good God did not support it in an invisible way. They are very many, and we are very few in number. Their Bishop is a dauntless man who ceaselessly travels by land and sea.[4] He is setting up schools everywhere, and we have as yet only one small one, in Auckland, for European children. Everywhere he is building superb chapels and churches in brick, in wood, and we can have only small ones, even in raupo. Protestantism is very much getting the upper hand over us – in workers, chapels, financial resources, human resources – I would say even, in followers, unfortunately. It is making progress – it is making progress. The natives are real children. They give themselves and go over to those who offer them the most (a certain number, however, give us consolation through their [fermeté? – steadfastness] and perseverance). But this number is small. The number of natives is diminishing remarkably while the European population grows. Hidden [sécretes] illnesses (venereal illnesses) contracted through the loose living of Europeans with these poor natives, who do everything that [the Europeans] wish, provided they give them some sticks of tobacco, cause them to die quickly. Many of the natives’ children die soon after birth because of these illnesses. If the [dépunissment/dépanissement? – diminution?] goes on (and it is even to be believed that it will increase) we will soon find ourselves [two illegible words] faced with an almost totally heretical European population. The New Zealand mission holds no very encouraging prospect, nothing very assuring – on the other hand the European Catholics would like to have priests from their countries because, they say, our priests understand our language well, they know us well, they are familiar with our laws and customs, they often [preunent/pressent? – take/urge?] our defence in our trials [support us in our trials?], they guide us in our [word illegible] while the French do not understand us, they do not know our customs, our habits, our laws.

Last Sunday, one of our most fervent Catholics here said to me in my room: will not some English priests come to us soon? – we really need them – they have made the same request to the Bishop several times. I hope that the good God will bring it about that one day, which I hope is not far distant, Rome [envoie? will send] British Bishops and priests – and then everything will, perhaps, go better. We can be and appear quite neutral in political matters as much as we like. We are French. That is enough. There reigns between the two nations an insurmountable enmity which has lasted up to the last of the [word illegible]. Besides I do not believe that the government will put up with us very long. It will try [adroitement? – skilfully] sooner or later to have British priests for the British countries, as has happened everywhere else. Those, Very Reverend Father, are my little thoughts, which don’t add up to much, but with you I always like to say what I think. A word more on our Fathers and Brothers who are here in New Zealand. All are generally going well. Brother Colomb alone, at this time, is giving well founded reason for concern. Several Fathers have written to me letters about him which are not reassuring about the way he carries on. This poor Brother is very imprudent both with Europeans and natives. Some mature women have told the Bishop and some of our Fathers (Father Bernard) that he had solicited them to a sexual offence [au crime]. Is it true? The Brother denies it. He is now here at the Bay of Islands. If he does not change, the Bishop will be forced to send him back to France. Brother Michel has recently come back to the mission. For some time we had been asking Father Chanel for this grace.

Right now Father Baty is in Sydney to make sure of the money come from France [and] to appoint correspondents there. When he returns he has to go and replace Father Petit-Jean in Auckland. The latter will come here to be with the Bishop. Father Garin is at Kaipara on his own, [p3] and without a Brother. Father Petit is at Hokianga with Father Moreau and Brother Florentin. Father Rozet is at Wangaroa [sic: Whangaroa] with Brother Michel. In Auckland Father Petit-Jean is on his own; at Tauranga are Father Bernard and a Frenchman;[5] at Wakatane Father Lampila and a Frenchman; at Opotiki Father Chouvet and Brother Justin; at Matamata Father Pézant with a Frenchman; at Rotorua Father Reignier with Brother Euloge; at Nicolson[6] Father Comte with Father O’Reily, an Irish priest. Here at the Bay of Islands I am on my own for the time being, but soon perhaps Father Séon will come and will be given responsibility for the Procure. Brothers Emery, a tailor, Luc, a carpenter, Colomb, a carpenter, Basile, a shoemaker, Claude-Marie, a cook, Elie, some Maori catechists; Mr Yvert, a printer; there you have the staff of the Bay of Islands station.

The Bishop has just leased a vessel of 85 tonnes to go and visit the whole southern part of New Zealand. He is due to leave in about a week. His journey will last, I think about four or five months. His vessel will cost him 55 pounds sterling per month – five pounds less than the Sancta Maria. I have heard it said that you had the intention of having New Zealand divided into two bishoprics. I hope you succeed. I believe you would save a lot of money. Travelling here is very expensive.

I am writing to you today a bit in haste. I will make some effort to write at greater length about a lot of things which seem very important to me.

The Bishop has made out a budget for all his mission stations. He has allocated to each Father a certain sum for the upkeep of the station. Here is what he has allocated to each one. At Hokianga, to build a [formée? – completed] chapel and to maintain a school and the station - £155; in Auckland for a school and the maintenance of the station £100; at Kaipara – to Father Garin £85; at Wangaroa to build a chapel and maintain the station £120; at Tauranga to build a house and maintain the station £140; at Opotiki, to build a house and maintain the station £130; at Matamata for the upkeep of the station £70; at Rotorua for the upkeep of the station £70; at Wakatane, to build a little house out of raupo and to maintain the station £75; at Nicolson to maintain Father Comte £70: total £1030. The ship is leaving.

Pray for me, who have the honour to be

Very Reverend Father.
Your very humble and devoted servant

PS We have no news of the new Bishops people have told us about in letters from France.


  1. sic: Port Nicholson – Wellington
  2. Robert Fitzroy arrived in Auckland 26 December 1843 to replace Shortland, acting governor since Hobson’s death in 1842 - translator’s note
  3. Augustus Selwyn, first Anglican Bishop of New Zealand, arrived about April or May 1842 - translator’s note
  4. Indeed so. According to the article on him in the Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966 Vol III p 220, on his first visitation, in six months of 1842-3, he visited every settlement and mission station in the North Island, travelling 2,277 miles, of which 1180 were by ship, 249 by canoes or boat, 86 on horseback and 762 on foot. His second episcopal tour took him 3000 miles, mainly by sea in tiny schooners, and he visited all the settlements in the South Island, including sealing stations on Ruapuke and Stewart Islands and even the Chathams - translator’s note
  5. this man was some sort of domestic servant - translator’s note
  6. Wellington - translator’s note