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January 1847 − Father Gilbert Roudaire to the Abbot F. de Meydat, canon and secretary to the Bishop of Clermont, Apia

Based on the document, APM ON 208 (Samoa) Roudaire.

Translated by Peter McConnell, October 2010

Seventeen sheets of paper and one small sheet, comprising seventy written pages.


Copy of a letter from Father Roudaire, missionary of the Society of Mary, to the Abbot F. de Meydat, canon and secretary to the Bishop of Clermont. [1]

Apia on the island of Upolu (archipelago of Samoa), 1847, at the beginning of the year.

My dear and well loved colleague ,
May these first few lines reassure you that my heart feels greatly comforted by the fact that I have accomplished a duty that gratitude and justice have imposed on me for a long time. Firstly I expect to hear you say that after such a long demise, I have at last emerged from the tomb; but I also hope that you will be firmly convinced that if my letters have too rarely brought you reassurance of my constant affection, my memory and my heart will not permit me to forget you, nor all those dear people who are kind enough to take an interest in me. The memory of you and of them remains with me as strongly as the day I made my last farewells and I have no greater pleasure than to remember you all every time I am able to celebrate Holy Mass. Since I left France, you have not received much news of me, either because of lack of opportunity, or because I have had nothing very interesting to communicate, or finally because the few letters that I have written have not reached their destination. In the last few months I have received, all at once, around fifteen, and amongst them I found yours and those of all the people who still think of me. I must say they have been like a gentle dew after the stifling heat; they have recalled for me my homeland, pleasantly leading my thoughts and my heart to those beloved places, to the company of that society of friends from whom I have had to separate myself because of my love of God. Truly, you cannot imagine the full value of a letter from France for the poor missionary, who lives with his memories, as with something that henceforth form an indispensable part of himself. Besides, how could he possibly forget France, that great homeland of generous hearts and souls, that land of devotion, charity and love; you know that the captive Jews in Babylon hung their musical instruments on willow trees as witness of their exile, because they could not bring themselves to sing their hymns in a foreign country; [2] it is not like that for the missionary; voluntarily exiled, because of love, he has no greater simple pleasure than to have ring out in a new language the glory and goodness of his God and to add, in this way, a new level of truth to these words from our holy books: non sunt loquelae neque sermones, quorum non audiantur voces eorum. [3] And when he succeeds in teaching the words of a hymn to some novices, born into a new life, believe me my friend, the missionary would not exchange his happiness for all the gold in the world. Such today are our hopes for the future, which is beginning to take shape around me.
But before arriving at this period of my young apostolic career, your interest in what I am doing here makes it my duty to give you some details about the 2 or 3 years which precede this time, even though they may not merit your attention: in this way I will also satisfy the wishes of numerous friends of mine, who you know, in asking you to be my interpreter for them. If you find my that my letter is too long, you will understand that I need to catch up, as much as possible, on the long silence for which you certainly have the right to reproach me.
There is probably no point in repeating the details of our first voyage aboard the Uranie as far as the Marquesas, as you know already that it was most pleasurable. Having arrived at Nukahiva, our next passage was on the Bucéphale, whose commander and crew treated us with much kindness. This second crossing surpassed the first with its calm seas and the upcoming interest it held for us.
On 21st October 1843 we approached the islands of Tongatapu, where we were fortunate enough to see our religion flourishing in the care of Fathers Chevron and Grange, after they had worked with commendable patience. Our visit had a positive effect on the natives and fostered courage and hope in our two colleagues, whose poverty, without getting the better of them, intruded in a most irksome manner into their apostolic work. Relationships quickly established themselves between the crew and the local people; gifts were exchanged between them; they parted company very happy with each other.
We continued our route towards Wallis, where we were fortunate to be the first witnesses of the first consecration of a bishop in these distant parts. Father Bataillon was established there, having struggled with heroic courage for several years, seeming abandoned by his own people and battling the intractable nature of a people who were wicked, proud, corrupt, ignorant and stubborn. His patience had overcome all obstacles and vanquished and subjugated all resistance. With the exception of a few obstinate folk, who fled to Tonga, then returned after a few months, bringing trouble and war, the entire population of Wallis bowed down under the salutary pressures of baptism and submitted their hearts to the teachings of the Gospel. The memory of the former madness of paganism no longer stirred feelings other than those of ridicule and horror and they had no interest other than for the word of God, of which they were beginning to appreciate the value. Therefore, who could imagine the joy of this little population when they learned the purpose of our arrival in their midst and that the missionary whose toil had made this land fruitful, when for so long it had been rebellious, was going to be raised to the highest ranks of the church. As time was short, all the preparations were somewhat improvised, as we tried to provide, for the solemnity of the consecration, all the trappings that we could create with our slender means. Part of the crew of the Bucéphale made their contribution. Foreign and French flags, that they had on board, served to decorate the interior of the little church and by a remarkable coincidence, gave the impression that all the European nations were present at the consecration of a Catholic bishop.
After all the arrangements were finalised between the two bishops, Bishop Douarre continued on his way to New Caledonia, leaving me in the hands of Bishop Bataillon to establish a printing works, which was becoming essential to the progress of our religion. We parted company on board the Bucéphale at the time of her departure. I do not need to tell you just how painful this was; but I myself had taken on this enterprise; I must suffer the consequences. Four more months passed by before the arrival of the necessary materials.
The ship that was bringing these materials finally arrived in the month of May, 1844. Bishop Bataillon made use of the time of waiting to make a tour of the neighbouring islands; the trip lasted two months, during which time I was charged with having a printing house constructed; when his Lordship returned, it was finished. It was the natives themselves who made the boards and the floors. This work was long and arduous; but these poor people put no price on their work, as they desperately wanted to have some books, so as not to have to be left without an answer to the protestants, who boasted about having books and who endlessly criticised our folk for having adopted an ignorant religion that did not know how to make them. At the end of a few weeks, all our materials were ready. Each village having its consignment of planks to produce, the workers remained in the woods until their quota was filled. Their way of producing them consisted of chopping down a tree, splitting it in two along its length, then trimming it along each side so as to make only two planks. You can imagine the number of trees felled and the number of blows of the axe that were needed. Nevertheless, on the agreed day, they could be seen arriving, singing as they always did when working, each one carrying the planks and the other supplies of wood necessary. On the morning of the following day nearly 200 men gathered to begin the construction of the building, in the way that everything is done here, by the method of setting the main columns in the ground to support the roof and framework. The king himself presided over the work, which advanced with such speed that, without any nails, saws or hammers, the house was framed, closed in and covered before nightfall of the same day. This work was concluded with a communal meal, as is the habit for these sorts of occasions. Kava was handed around to all the workers, as well as a portion of fish and the flesh of two enormous turtles, the fruits of a specific fishing trip which had taken place especially.
As soon as the building was finished, we got to work installing all the machines for the printing works, helped by 3 or 4 young Wallis islanders who we hoped to later train as printers and our hopes in this regard have not been disappointed. Within 5 or 6 weeks three thousand copies of the first alphabet primer in the language of Uvea had been printed. Straight away schools were established in all the villages. Six months later, a book of prayers and a stations of the cross were published. So then approximately a thousand people, young and old, were able to read in their own tongue.
Some public exams were suggested by Bishop Bataillon. You would have seen, with much pleasure, my dear friend, a fine spirit of competition establish itself amongst a people who were, not long ago, ignorant and barbarous; you would no doubt have admired these poor little girls, just really small, who would read as fluently as an already practiced European and then challenge her companions to beat her. So a beautiful blouse from Europe and a beautifully bound book became the prize for the winner. If, at the finish of this peaceful challenge, which was such a new thing for this country, you had proceeded to the church, you would have seen 10, 20, or 30 people, sometimes more, book in hand, methodically following all the stations of the cross.
Every Friday during Easter and at certain other times during the year a certain ceremony takes place, in an even more solemn manner. The Bishop with his clergy are preceded by the children of the choir, dressed in albs and carrying the cross and flaming torches; all the people follow, responding all together to the different prayers at each station and finishing with the usual verse of stabat mater, to the tune: Let us follow to the holy mountain. Here is the translation in the native language:
Malia hau kole oita [atu]
Keke tohi i sioku loto
Si mamelu o tou alo
Ke nofo (bis) mau mo au
Mary may I pray to you;
Please inscribe on my heart
The sufferings of your son,
So that they will stay with me always.
Truly, it is a deeply touching spectacle for anyone who witnesses it; so Wallis already seems like a European parish, where fervour is in contest with regular attendance.
The Wallisians today are happy to talk about God at any time, to attend the sacraments and to regularly follow the numerous religious ceremonies. It is not that I wish to compare them favourably with European Christians; they still have a long way to go to equal them in merit, but they are heading in the right direction and one cannot deny that they have made good progress. From sunrise, when the bell rings, you see them arriving at the church to take part in holy mass. Prayers are recited aloud by one of the head catechists. After the introibo, the choir master leads the usual hymns, to which the men’s and women’s choirs respond alternately.
If it is a Sunday or a day of special celebration, such as Easter or Corpus Christi, everything takes on a similar mode; several weeks in advance the women are busy making new garments for their families. It is not the finish of these garments which is their value, but the number. Each one surrounds herself with all the types of garments that she possesses, sometimes as many as five or six of each; and you notice that, as a note of national pride, it is not the European fabrics, even if they are of golden or silver hue that hold the place of honour. They are always hidden under a mat or other native fabric.
It is especially at wedding masses that one notices this abundance of garments. The couple present themselves at the railing, burdened with a huge piece of gatou [4] a native fabric which, rolled about twenty times round their bodies, makes them look like two walking towers. The upper part, above the waist remains naked, but completely coated with a perfumed oil, whilst the hair is dusted, in symmetrical lines, with a sweet-smelling powder and it is thus that they present themselves at the church, with great solemnity. The men are on one side and the women on the other. At the front , near the railing, are two choirs, one of men and one of women. They sing l’asperges me, kirie, Gloria in excelsis, credo, sanctus, Tantum ergo, o salutaris hostia, ave maris stella, according to the occasion; the intervals are filled with their country’s chants sung to tunes that are well known in France.
On the evening before the holy sacrament, the sea and the land are involved to embellish the celebration. A stretch of sand a half league in length, that the sea has left uncovered, is marked out on the beach; the neighbouring forest contributes all she can in the way of shrubs with beautiful foliage which, planted out at equal distances, form a green alleyway which ends in an altar of repose, made up of garlands plaited by the women, who have gathered in village groups, competing to see who will produce the most beautiful. All the area to be traversed is decorated with greenery; the church, decorated with all the most beautiful things the mission owns, is pleasantly scented with the numerous perfumed fruits that the country produces. The choirs, with hymns they have been practising for a long time, ready themselves to make the praises of God ring forth, this God that they are so happy now to know. They have never seen anything so beautiful; thus everything is carried out with enthusiasm and careful consideration. The procession, led by the cross and banners which are carried by all the country’s highest nobles, parades through a double row of young people who present arms, eager to make the impressive sounds of their musketry heard. The evening prayer, with the sermon and solemn benediction of the blessed sacrament, completes the day; nothing is lacking, not even a motet sung in parts and reasonably executed by the country’s best singers. When everything is finished at the church, all withdraw to their family groups to recite the rosary together, then finish with a standard hymn to the Holy Virgin; so that while heading back from the church to the presbytery, one can hear on all sides about thirty different vocal groups who respond to each other, take over from each other, join in with each other until they have finally finished then take pleasure in recounting the stories of the day whilst waiting for sleep to come to them. You will perhaps be saying now, my dear friend, that I am trying to make all this sound rather poetic, but truly I have only described to you what I have seen.
There is yet another spectacle, no less interesting, that I would like to say a few words about; I want to speak about the solemn first communion which I have only witnessed once. Those children studying the catechism, who have been named by the pastor after a very thorough exam, are admitted to an eight hour retreat, during which they take part, three times during the day, in preparatory instruction; for the rest of the time they remain under the supervision of their respective catechists, in a communal house, where they attend other instruction in devotion. On the seventh day, they are sent to their respective villages to ask the forgiveness of their families for all the troubles that they have caused them. When they arrive, they find everyone already assembled in the public place, in family groups. Nobody misses this meeting, as no one wishes to miss this opportunity to be reconciled with their happy child. The child then kneels and, hands joined, asks to be pardoned; instead of replying to him, they start to weep. The oldest member of the family speaks on behalf of everyone: What are you doing he asks and why are you asking us for forgiveness? you have done us no harm; at birth you saw the light of day and you have known God all your life; rather it is us who are the unfortunate ones; born into wrongdoing, folly and lying, our eyes were already closed when we began to understand the truth; come now, we pardon you, etc….. Then they embrace each other in the manner of their country, which consists of pressing their noses together; everyone gets up, wipes away their tears and goes off; the women and the sisters gather up the white fabric, which can be used for clothing for young children and the men prepare the fattest pig and the very best yams, which will be served at the communal meal which will complete the ceremony the following day. The time having arrived and the final bell for the mass having sounded, you can see the young children and the little girls emerge from their respective houses, come forward in two rows and form, on both sides of the church, two white rows, closely followed by the whole population of the island. Each one goes and takes his or her place with suitable modesty and reverence; everyone listens to the sermon with great attention and one can see tears flow from nearly everyone’s eyes, this from a people who are naturally tough, insensitive and formerly incapable of feeling moved by the cries of one of their victims; everything takes place with a faith and an attentiveness difficult to describe.
So you can see, my dear friend, Wallis is no longer a mission to be established; it is a lively parish to be managed; the reshaping of thoughts and hearts has been activated and we are now in the process of completing it; those who providence will send to finish this work will have nothing more to do than to distribute the daily bread to the new children of the church, and their task, one must say, could scarcely be more simple. There is no doubt that nothing will equal the respect and love of the Uveans for their priests. But as they begin to better understand the truths of religion, they appreciate equally that it must be the behaviour of the priest from whom they demand a devotion bordering on heroism; to such a degree that the least fault shown by us could only have very upsetting consequences. Nevertheless, there is a great simplicity in the relationships between the missionaries and the faithful.
Every morning after mass, they wait for us in a room of the presbytery to offer us some kava root; it is difficult to know how to avoid presenting oneself; sometimes it is the king, sometimes one of the most highly ranked women, by way of birth, who come to visit us. First they present us with the kava root, which is then distributed in small portions to those who are assembled, who should then chew it in our presence; it then comes out of their mouthes as a little pellet about as big as an egg. Each person then deposits this product of their chewing on a small banana leaf, to then throw it into a large wooden bowl, where it is mixed, by hand, with a quantity of water, this being relative to the amount of the substance and the number of people present. This liquid, when steeped, is then purified, using a small bundle of the local hemp, which serves as a strainer to filter out the residue and as a sponge to pour it into the cups. The liquid is served, addressing each person by name and starting always with the highest dignitary, then continuing down through the inferior ranks until there is none remaining.
It is during the preparation of the kava, which is always very lengthy, that conversations of all types take place, whether it is a question of business, the exchange of news or the preparation of undertakings. It could be said that here are the true bonds of the society, where all the functions of their public and private lives are presented, begun and completed. It is during these gatherings that we are asked all sorts of questions about Europe and France, about how big it is, whether the sea can be seen from everywhere, if there are fish, yams, coconut trees, breadfruit trees and taro. These good people are truly pained to understand how we could live without all these things. One day I greatly surprised my listeners by telling them that a man who walked without stopping would take about three weeks to go from my country to the seaside and that to make a tour right around France without stopping would take about four months. What surprised them most of all, was the extraordinary number of Europeans. To tell them that France had more inhabitants than there are coconuts on the island and that if they all came to Wallis, they could not all be accommodated, not even if they were crammed in like they are in church; this exacts gestures of stupefaction and even disbelief, to see themselves as so small and so few in number. National pride, which is well developed in Wallis, is ruffled by such a statement and they do not accept it willingly.
There are some amongst them who want more specific details. Many times I am asked if I still have my mother and father and what they are called. And how many brothers have you? What are their names? Are there any priests like you amongst them? Did they not weep when they saw you leave? Yes, I tell them, my father, my brothers and my friends wept bitterly when they saw me leaving and they were even very fearful that I might be eaten if I came here. This statement was greeted with great bursts of ironic laughter; and just who do they take us for then? “Are we savages? Tell them, Silipede, (Gilbert), when you write to them, tell them that they need not be afraid. Here we do not eat people”.
Among them there some who are even more curious, who do not dare to pose their questions in public, for fear of being a nuisance and being criticised by the others, but they seize the moment when you are alone in your room to come to the window and pose all sorts of questions, completely at their ease. One day a woman, having noticed at the back of my room a portrait that I had hung there, asked, Who is this saint then? She is not yet a saint, I told her, but she is working towards becoming one, it is my sister. What is she called? Maria Ladovia (Marie Louise). - Is she married? - No, and she does not want to be. Well, why not then? Because she wants to love only God. Ah! How she is to be envied; I feel my heart ache with love for her.
So, my dear friend, a thousand questions of this nature and a thousand similar ways of replying; thus it is in these little exchanges that, without paying special attention, one gets an idea of their previous follies and of the origin and nature of the former cult of idols, of their little secrets and of lots of things that happen on the island. All these confessions are painful for them and they cannot be obtained except by roundabout means which they do not suspect.
Up till now we have not been able to find out anything precise about their genealogy, or their conception of the creation of man and of the world, nor of the way their island came to be populated. Their ideas about this are so confused and their way of recounting it so varied, that it is impossible to form an idea of a logical and comprehensible system. There is however a general tradition, widespread and recounted similarly throughout the islands of Polynesia, which seems to have a closeness to Genesis, where it is a question of the separation by which God made the land rise up from the bosom of the seas. The god Vokahu, they say, going fishing one day, felt his hook was caught on something very heavy, he imagined that it was a huge fish and he began to pull with all his strength; there was great resistance, but the god did not give up and was pleasantly surprised to see appear on the surface of the water a beautiful land covered with coconut palms, breadfruit trees and many other trees. Enchanted with such a wonderful happening and by the sight of a land that was so pleasing to his eyes, the god, who wished to be the master of a huge empire, continued to pull on his line, but the line unfortunately broke. If this had not happened, the land, instead of a small island, would have become a vast continent.
Following the god Vokahu, who was their first, they also recognise a large number of other troublemaking spirits, who enjoy the evil pleasure of tormenting mankind. It is them who bring forth illnesses, famines and hurricanes. If someone happens to fall ill in a family, for instance that of the king, it is the gods who are angry and the people seek to appease them with gifts of kava, foodstuffs or fabrics, which they go and leave in an isolated little house where he resides. If death carries off the sick person, then the god’s anger was great; the entire family and sometimes even the entire nation is threatened.
This fact was announced by the male and female jugglers, to whom public belief attributed, according to them, the gift of being inspired by a god. These jugglers , like real Robert-Macaires, [5]. knew how to exploit everything for their profit. The gods are displeased because they have been neglected: you are no longer bringing kava, woven mats or foodstuffs, this is a problem for the country and the people. On hearing this, everyone was gripped with fear and they began acts of reparation and supplication which would sadden hearts less insensitive than those of the gods of Wallis; at a signal from the chief, people armed themselves with knives, stones or sharp-edged reeds, with which they cut off their little fingers and offered them to the angry gods, begging them to kindly be satisfied and leave them the rest of their fingers. No one was exempt from this barbarous operation. It was even carried out on babies still being breast fed. I leave you to imagine the spectacle that this people would present in times of mourning, some striking their faces with large stones, others tearing at their chests and arms with sharp edged shells, with each blow leaving a large wound on the skin. Others would burn different parts of the body with burning sticks; a whole multitude of people covered with blood and uttering horrifying cries and screams ….. until such time as the sorcerer or the prophetess might declare that the god should find himself satisfied. Then these acts were stopped, but for several days people came regularly from all the villages, in turn, bringing food for the god or for the family of the deceased. If you should come to Wallis, you would see in fact that almost all the adults have the little finger missing from both hands; I have sometimes amused myself by asking what it is about. They reply in great confusion: It is the devil who is responsible for the small number of them who still have their hands intact, they would tell you: they certainly wanted to cut off my fingers too, but I was afraid and I ran away into the woods.
Such are the irrationalities and there are many more, that religion has saved them from; nowadays the death of a man is no longer attributed to the malice of evil spirits, but rather to the acts of a man himself, who has committed a sin, for which he finds himself thus punished, and also to the other miseries of present day life. But death today is no longer death, it is rather a better life than this present one; and you would indeed be edified to see with what courage and calm they await it and how they talk about it at all times. They have an extraordinary respect for the dead, especially since they have learned, according to their faith, the future destiny of our human remains. As soon as a sick person has breathed his last, the relatives and friends gather at his house, no longer to batter their faces and tear at their limbs, but to recite the rosary and sing hymns throughout the night, without stopping; the deceased is dressed in his very best clothes, but the face remains uncovered until the moment when the priest comes for the removal of the body. Only then, after everyone has kissed it, it is finally wrapped in fine mats and lengths of new fabric, which are prepared, as a pleasure and a duty and are destined for this usage; everyone goes to the church for the service and from there to the communal cemetery; the ceremony is completed with a few rifle shots, which are fired in his honour.
It is also in the same manner that they now announce the birth of an infant and especially with lavish and solemn drinking of kava. It is not the same here as in France, as here, the larger the number of family members, the richer the family; power and consideration in this country come from the number of family members, it is by this means that the family acquires more or less supremacy in public affairs. Their food supplies increase according to the number of hands available to cultivate the plants that produce it.
Authority, which is absolute, rests uniquely with the king, who, as a despot, rules over life, death and the wealth of his subjects. They obey like slaves and dare not even consider that things could be any different. The chiefs, in general, imagine themselves to be of a superior breed to the rest of the people, the king believing himself to not be inferior to the gods of the country and he pushes his claim, where this is concerned, so far as to believe himself capable of exerting a determining influence on events just by the inward power of his will. So he has been heard to say, more than once, that a certain thing will not happen, because the gods and I do not wish it. All these prejudices, caused by ignorant pride and such an absurd form of slavery, have lost and continue to lose their influence since the introduction of christianity.
It was, as you know, Father Bataillon, now Bishop of Enos, who first came to Wallis in 1837 to preach the gospel. He had the good fortune to be welcomed by one of the nephews of the king, [6] who was still very young, but not lacking in good sense and even less in ambition. It was he who protected the missionary against all the other chiefs, whose intention was to snuff out the seeds of religion by chasing Father Bataillon from the island. The young Tungahala already foresaw that the island could well become completely christianised and that he, by protecting the missionary, could then find the means to create for himself a powerful position in the country, even if he later exploited the new religion to his advantage by directing it according his views. The mission in fact prospered, the whole island becoming Catholic; but the new religion did not permit men to have several wives and they must obey the legitimate king, even if he was unfaithful; Tungahala did not find this exactly to his liking; at the same time he saw that the influence of the priest was going hand in hand with his own; he jealously took umbrage at this and from then on there was, on his part, a series of obstacles and of bizarre harassments, though not openly declared, against this religion, of which he had been the first supporter. His bad behaviour and lack of goodwill prevented him from being admitted to a general baptism, which was carried out some time later. Men are the same everywhere; if this little despot had found sympathetic support one would imagine that, according to all that he aspired to, he would have become a new poor man’s Henry V111; his only aim was to completely submit religion to the will of his minor civil powers, which would have had the final say on what was permitted and what was not, what should be believed and what should not; truly, if he was not afraid of compromising himself, there was in this Tungahala’s head, all the seeds of a little state councillor, established to judge the cases for appeal and of abuse …. which proves to us how in all the countries of the world, the state encroaches on the rights of the church. Tungahala sought to draw the king into his way of thinking, by instilling him with his suspicions; but the king, who was happy to reign without governing, entertained himself by journeying around the island, waging war against the pigs, which he speared with a javelin, then ate with his support group; so he thus left to his ambitious nephew the task of making himself a fortune, which he, the king, no longer had the power to counterbalance.
This was more or less the state of affairs when we were visited, in June 1845 by the corvette Rhin, which had come from New Zealand, bound for New Caledonia. For me it would be one the happiest of occasions in the world, to meet up again with Bishop Douarre and I hoped that this would be the case. But this was not Bishop Bataillon’s intention. For a long time the main object of his concern had been to establish a mission in the islands of Samoa. One was not unaware of the obstacles of more than one type that would cause problems in the introduction of christianity to these islands, which had for twelve years become, so to speak, the prey of heresy, where there were a dozen ministers and at least one hundred native catechists, all perfectly trained in their metier and carrying out very efficiently their role as fierce guardians, who would forbid us entry. Nevertheless, recently received news, allowed us to foresee the possibility of being admitted in certain districts, less receptive than the others to the teachings of their earlier masters and it was resolved that I would be sent there with Father Violette, who had recently arrived from France, and an assistant Brother. All that was needed then was to get a foothold somewhere and wait for the Good Lord to do the rest. Nevertheless, there was always the intention to let me leave for New Caledonia as soon as this would be possible. Therefore, we made our preparations; for a while we hoped that the corvette would be able to take us to our destination, by making a small detour. The refusal we received was based on reasons that I found satisfactory, as well as others that we were not told. But what surprised me somewhat was to see others of my compatriots trying to dissuade us from going to Samoa, on the pretext that there were already missionaries there, that christianity had already been introduced and that this would be taking war to a place where peace reigned. What was no less astonishing was that those offering this advice wanted to pass for good Catholics. I was obliged to reply that Jesus Christ, when sending his ministers to preach the gospel all around the world, had not designated the Samoan Islands as excluded from his love, that heretical sects divided up territories as was their nature; they themselves are born out of division, but the religion of Jesus Christ is catholic, its nature is to be everywhere, that war is inevitable where there are mistakes and the destiny of the church is to fight it everywhere and always; as for wars with blood and death, the church suffers them, but does not cause them. That proves to me, my dear friend, the way in which we are judged by a certain group of our compatriots, even when the facts, which are plainly to be seen by them, should enlighten their judgement and that the prejudiced people are usually those who wish, even so, to accuse us of it…. and as for Pritchard, they also added, do not be afraid of coming across him in Samoa. It is said that he has set out to go there. Mr Pritchard, I replied, terrible though he may be, or has been made out to be, is not a reason for preventing us from going on our mission. He is a celebrity who we should wish to know and yet another reason to go to where he is. Truly, it is pitiful to see with what unravelling of common sense and reasoning philosophy appreciates these judgments and directs its values! But let philosophy talk nonsense to a level of madness and let us get back to our upcoming preparations for our departure for these islands, which should be forbidden to us, like a new garden of Hesperides. [7]
On 12th August 1845, we left the port of the Wallis Islands, on board a small schooner which had been constructed in the islands; there was a crew of four men, two children from Wallis who had been taken on as sailors and two others with their wives; These two were natives from Samoa who had been established on Wallis for a long time, where they had married; they were accompanying us as catechists, very flattered to be the companions of the first missionaries bearing the flame of the true faith to their native land; in all we were thirteen persons. Coming out of the pass, we had three hours of good passage; but soon, the wind having turned back to the East and blowing quite strongly, combined with strong breezes that had been blowing on the preceding days, this was all that was needed to make the sea very rough and to have us suffer all the difficulties associated with an unpleasant passage, with none of the compensations that could make it more bearable; continual contrary winds and currents, very rough sea, continuous rain from which we had no shelter on this little schooner and which could be regarded as a shower bath of sea water, made our progress as much backwards as forwards. Added to this was a small quantity of poor quality food supplies, which would soon be used up. Such was our position on this short passage, whose relative brevity had surpassed by a long way, in discomfort, my long voyage from France to Oceania. It was on the fourteenth day after our departure from Wallis that we were at last able to discern the Western point of the main island of Savai’i. This sight revived our courage, enabling us to anticipate the hope of soon ending our tribulations; but we were still far from our goal, for the extraordinary currents which flow around these types of islands, kept us distant from land for several days. They become more and more turbulent as one approaches the coast and when we were three miles distant, we were kept there for two full days, enduring the torment of Tantalus, having the land we so desired within eyesight, the men walking about, the water lapping on the beach, the canoes paddling around the shore, without, ourselves, being able to get any nearer. Nevertheless, we were very keen to know what they were thinking of us and what sort of reception we would receive. I imagined that a bearer of the truth, knowing our desire to find out what the country’s attitude towards us might be, might come aboard to enlighten us.
Here is more or less what he would say to us: “You have arrived in a land where you are expected, but not welcomed. For many years your arrival here has been predicted; but it is regarded as the greatest of calamities that could afflict a people; so we will redouble our prayers and beseech Jehovah to ward off this curse, to drive off into the distance this ship that is bringing you. Your religion is presented as a source of wrong ideas and lies; you no longer love God, but the Pope and the saints, Mary…..You prostrate yourselves before statues, images, medals; in a word you are idolaters. Your behaviour is no better than your doctrine; you are charged with everything that is evil in the sects of the Adamites and Manicheans. Once you are established here, you will make large underground tunnels which take you unseen towards hidden houses, where you will imprison the most beautiful girls in the country and there commit crimes and with impunity hide all traces of this shameful conduct. In the outside world you will be clothed in lambskins to better mislead the people; but in your inner world and in reality you will be wolves devouring those in the sheepfold. The goal that leads you here is even worse than your religion and your behaviour; your intention is no less than to take over the country, killing and chasing the inhabitants into the mountains. You will precede by only a short time your warships, which will not delay in following you in pillaging the country, abducting the women, massacring and burning alive those who you can capture. And these are the things that are not only said and preached in the churches, but are printed in the books that are distributed to the people. Two sects who have come from England, the Independents and the Methodists, more or less share the population here; they are enemies of each other and quarrel constantly. The first here wish to remain the only ones in Samoa and the others do not wish to leave the country; but as soon as you arrive they will unite against you, like Herod and Pilate when they made their peace so as to persecute the Saviour of the World. If you persist in the struggle, you will have to deal with enemies battle-hardened with lies and slander, which they have formed into a sort of unpolluted cordon to keep out the scourge. However, let me tell you another true fact: it is that the people who fear you do not like the first missionaries any better, as their demands and their tyranny have dulled the enthusiasm of a people who naturally dislike work and constraints. I would even say to you that the thousands of lies uttered against you, whilst frightening the masses of people, leave it possible to meet, especially among the chiefs, minds that have been hard to convince and who will perhaps be easy to put to the test.”
Such are, in fact, my dear friend, the actions that the heretics employ to maintain their doctrine and combat ours. You will see, from what follows, that all the preceding information has been put into action to close off our entry into the country, or to incapacitate our efforts. But before relating to you the story of our entry into the archipelago, I need to tell you something of the geography of these islands, which is little known in France; that will clarify a little for you all that I have to tell you.
The archipelago of Samoa is made up of seven islands and here are their names in order of their spread on the map: Savai’i, the largest of all and the most Western, has about a 50 to 60 leagues circumference, with one small anchorage, which is quite good for the prevailing winds, but not very sure in winds from the North-West, which stir up very large waves, which on one occasion cast me onto the shore; other small passes allow entry for small schooners, but in general the island is not often frequented by Europeans, for the simple reason that it is not very approachable for big ships, so this protects it from contact that is much more disastrous than useful. Of a population of 25 to 30 thousand souls, the great majority is divided between the two sects mentioned above; the remaining small number are still pagans or belong to a new religion, a sort of small time Mohammedanism, minus the violence, that was introduced into the archipelago a few years ago by a native of this very country. [8] The missionaries there are still only two in number, assisted by a much larger number of native catechists, who, on the whole, are on an equal footing, for self-importance, stupidity and pride, with most of the ministers, such as those we generally see here is these islands. Incapable of discerning the truth themselves, they have accepted as irrefutable and not to be given up, all that their masters have taught them; so that generally they believed they were doing something pleasing to God by rejecting the Catholic religion, seen by everybody as the enemy of gods and men. In the minds of Samoans, it is only ridiculous or perverse people who could accept the idea of receiving popés (papist) missionaries. But let us get back to the geography. The island of Savai’i is separated from the other large island, Upolu (pronounced oupolou) by a channel 9 to 10 miles wide, in the middle of which is the small island of Maouna, only about three miles in diameter, but covered with huts all around its circumference and with a population of around 3 thousand souls. The inhabitants always have a great influence on public affairs, since they have never been defeated in battles around the archipelago. It must also be said that they have always been esteemed and loved by everyone, as they are indeed kind and hospitable. There, as everywhere else, the two heretic sects share between them more or less the entire population. The independents support a minister and the Wesleyans a catechist from Tonga.
Upolu is a large island, being 18 to 20 leagues in length, by 7 wide, with a population of about 5,000 souls, added to which there about one hundred Europeans of various nations. It is on this island that one finds the three biggest harbours of the archipelago as well as 3 or 4 smaller ones; the port of Apia is the most frequented. Since a Protestant missionary and the English and American consuls have established their residences there, more than one hundred whaling ships and others have come into port there to relax and take on food supplies. It is from one of the headlands that form this port, called the Devils point, that I am writing to you. On this island of Upolu there are about a dozen English ministers spread out over all areas, where they have had beautiful and very comfortable stone houses built and very cheaply too, which suits them well; they have a very well set up printing works, from which they produce, in the local language, gospels, epistles and a small monthly journal, as well as a host of other small texts full of lies, which they pass for truths to these poor folk, who understand nothing of what it is all about. They have a seminary, with about fifty young people, to whom they teach, so they say, history, geography, arithmetic, the bible and above all the misinformation and machinations of the papists. It is from this teaching establishment that they have produced, up till now, numerous catechists, who they have sent out into all the islands to prepare the way for them. Most of the Europeans who are established in Samoa come from whaling ships, from which they have come ashore, leaving a harsh and hazardous life for one that is gentler and more peaceful; some of them take up different occupations, sawing planks, constructing small boats, sometimes even small schooners, which can travel between the neighbouring islands. The two consuls, English and American, also run a small shop with European goods; the English consul is the renowned Mr Pritchard, who caused such a stir in France, over the affair in Tahiti; the American consul is a Mr William, son of the other William, missionary in Tahiti, who showed a magic lantern show, with the Pope and bishops roasting Protestants and who was himself roasted in the New Hebrides. But as far as I am concerned, I have nothing but praise for Mr Pritchard and Mr William. Finally, the shop that Mr Marceau has recently established, on the same island, is situated on the Devil’s Point. I have to say that this name was given to it by the protestant ministers, although they have of course never wished to become His followers. Besides, it is a habit formed by these preachers to have come from the Devil and return to him everything that does not come from them and with them…
In fourth place comes the island of Tutuila (toutouila) at 18 leagues to the East. It is an island that is 5 leagues long and from half to two leagues in width, with a good port and a population of four thousand inhabitants, the most fanaticised in the whole archipelago. There, it is said, there is a prison with cells, where the ministers have the power to incarcerate all those who displease them; the people there are completely enslaved by terror, under the willpower of the missionary, who makes use of universal rules and often national law. What a shame that this is not the doing of a Catholic missionary! How pleasing that would be to certain people. … The abuse of power is an evil everywhere and eventually turns against the guilty party; I hope that the missionary of Tutuila will not be long in finding this out at his expense.
Finally there remain the three small islands of Manua (Manoua), the most Eastern of the group; they are named Nanua tele, Fitintu and Olosinga, [9], with about 1200 inhabitants and their minister of the Independents sect, a former ships deserter, behaving, it is said, like a drunkard in Samoa. He was affected by Protestant influence, they having need of another minister; this man was judged worthy of investiture and he was given the mission for the Manua Islands, where a native wife helps him to bear the cares of the ministry; it is said that he lives peacefully among this small population, like a father in the midst of his family…. The captain of a small English schooner who was there, a few weeks ago, told me that the good man in question, having come aboard, had no difficulty in accepting a large glass of rum, swallowed down in one gulp, even though he had sincerely repented of his former penchant and been received as a member of the temperance society. The strength of the liquor acting upon him, he wished to prove his zeal by counselling the captain to not let himself become too influenced by drink and assuring him that he, himself had never touched anything of this nature for six years. The captain pointed out to him that he had no less than five minutes ago given proof to the contrary; but the liquor had already formed a fog so thick where the eyes and ears of the zealot for temperance were concerned, that he could neither see nor hear the remark directed at him. Now let us get back to our arrival in these islands….
We were, as I have already told you, beset by a calm out from the village, and unable to approach and this was 25th August, the day of St. Louis; the next day towards two o’clock, a light breeze from the South West gave us just enough momentum and time to get in close enough to drop anchor in a small creek, where a ship had never been seen before; so, very little time passed before we received a visit from an entire population of curious folk. There is no doubt that if they had known who we were, we would have remained in the same solitude as the night before; but they did not yet know. Numerous canoes circulated around us unsuspectingly; the first expressions of reciprocal friendship were exchanged in good faith, they posed some questions about who we were, where we had come from, where we were going and what we were intending to do. Then we had to say who we were and what our intentions were. They are popé (papists), said some, who were more up to date with what was going on; then we saw their faces take on a new expression; among those who had come aboard, quite a number seemed astonished to have been able to approach us so closely without having as yet felt any sense of threat to their lives or freedom, others felt it would be prudent to go back to shore and the rest, the more daring or less informed, continued to be no less friendly in their interactions with us. Besides, nothing in our outward appearance conformed with the grim pictures that had been painted of us. But among the first visitors, there were not those who had an interest in us, or had a mission to represent us as something that we were not; however, the more cautious, those who had a reputation in the country for being more informed, did not see this event with such an accepting eye; so they did not hesitate to sound the alarm, restating all the absurdities that had done the rounds concerning these undesirable popés. Yet, their system of intimidation did not have as much success as they would have desired; there were continual comings and goings, from the shore to the ship and from aboard ship to the shore. We had some letters for a man from Wallis, who had lived in this part of Samoa for many years, where he had married the daughter of a chief. This alliance, combined with the rights of the mother, who was also of the chiefly family, gave him authority in the country. He came to see us, with his whole clan and accompanied by Methodist and Independent catechists.
These latter were no doubt brought along because of pastoral concern, for, to their way of thinking, if the wolf had not yet entered the fold, the lambs should take their chances in the home of the wolf. The chief in question had the first interview with Améliana, wife of Constantin, one or our catechists; she was a close relative, about the same age as him. After having greeted each other, for a time, with tears and without saying anything, as is the usual practice in such circumstances in Polynesia, the chief indicated to his cousin how pleased he was to receive her; but, he said to her, how have you happened to come with these popés? Do you not know that they are wicked, traitors, members of an evil religion? What is this you are telling me, Améliana retorted immediately, with a gesture of dignity and energy that could perhaps be reciprocated. Stop speaking to me like that; it is the truth that we are bringing you, you do not know how to utter anything but lies. And she continued, telling him what had happened on Wallis since his departure; she spoke to him about his parents, his friends; she elaborated on all the compliments, all the messages of past memories and friendship, which she had especially been asked to bring him. All these things take place in Oceania, amongst these people who are called savages, in the same way and in the same terms as they are practiced in Europe. The tone of voice of this woman and everything that she said, had such an aspect of interest and truth that the biased view of this chief was wiped clean of all his prejudices in one single act; he asked to see these popés missionaries and to touch their hands. I then presented myself, bringing a kava root from Wallis, which was accepted with pleasure and distributed immediately to be prepared as a drink, about which you know.
All was going more smoothly; no more unfavourable comments were made; reciprocal confidence seemed to have been established on both sides, when another chief, a zealous supporter of the Independent sect, set about, very cleverly, to question the wisdom of forming such bonds, which from his point of view were so dangerous. We saw him come aboard with an air of both fear and anger, indicating to all the crowd his urgent business where we were concerned and he succeeded, by his actions, in overcrowding a ship that was already too small; he delivered his reprimand, indicating to everyone that they should return to shore and he himself set the example, which was followed by most of the people; the only ones remaining aboard were the Wallisian chief and his entourage.One of those who was leaving said to me mockingly: tofa, pope, lotu sese (farewell, papist, religion of mistakes). I immediately replied to him: tofa, heletico, lutu moli male pepelo (farewell, heretic, religion of big wigs and lies). Everyone started to laugh on seeing the arrogance of the humiliated, insolent little man.
After several hours of discussions on board, Constantin and Joachim, our two catechists and their wives followed their cousin to shore; the people gathered in a crowd around them to air their objections and grievances about us. Constantin told them that the Papist missionaries did not teach untruths but the truth, that they had no other weapons or guns except the word of God, which they used to target our souls, so as to draw us away from sin and win us for God, that an infinity of lies and calumnies had been poured out in Samoa, but that soon they would know the truth and besides, if there was someone in the gathering who wished to argue with him they should simply show themselves.
During this time, there was a constant coming and going of canoes; some natives came aboard and others just cruised around. Despite my lack of knowledge of their language, I tried to make conversation with those who seemed the most suitable; I asked what questions I could and they tried to reply. The people are afraid of you, one of them said, as it is said that you have come to kill us and take over our country….that you worship statues and images and that you do not know the true God. Another added; when will you leave here? We are afraid of you; we have had some fonos (general assemblies where the laws of the country are decided), directed against you to declare war on whoever dares to receive you. All these confidences, as you can see, my dear friend, were not of the type to reassure us of the goodwill of these people; but we had confidence in he who had sent us, knowing very well that he is the master of hearts and that he knows how to open them as he sees fit.
We resolved to leave as soon as possible for Tatulafai, where the head chiefs of the archipelago live, on the East coast of Savai’i; it is there that Bishop Bataillon had sent us and it was also the home territory of Constantin and where his father had, in the past, enjoyed great influence. After everyone had left the ship, we returned to the open sea, so as to reach our destination as soon as possible and warn them there of the news, that our enemies would not fail to profit from and use against us, by creating new obstacles for us. What a vain hope! On the very day we left, a courier had left with letters from catechists, carrying the great news to the missionaries; they passed it on from one to another with the speed of telegraphy, which only they were capable of. In every corner of the archipelago it was already known that the popés had arrived, whilst we were still struggling, as before, without success, against the wind and currents. We had a prolonged run of two and a half days, just within in sight of land, hoping that, on going about, we would have a favourable wind for Savai’i. We were bitterly disappointed to find ourselves several miles to leeward of our point of departure. So then we tried another idea, to progress along the coast in short tacks, and this method, although longer and more tiring, worked for us better than our first method.
After four days of tacking, with progress of about 8 leagues along an uninhabited coast, we reached the small bay of Sanfondi, [10] where we were obliged to drop anchor to take on fresh supplies of food, wood and water, as they were almost finished. The natives of this area, even though they had been forewarned like everyone else, had not been immediately worried, as they imagined that we would not be stopping there. So they came out to us and we went ashore for the first time, Father Violette and I, to take possession, in God’s name, of a land that seemed to want to caste us out far from her. No sooner had we landed on shore than we were surrounded by a hundred or so men, women and children, who crowded around us, but with such fearful faces that we really felt both fear and pity. At the least gesture, at the least step that we took, this crowd stepped hastily back, as if we intended to devour them all. Un popé! This was certainly the most feared creature in the world. But when they saw that neither of us either killed or devoured anyone and that it was even difficult to distinguish in our appearance anything that could inspire such terror, their first conceptions disappeared little by little; their inspection became less circumspect; they even managed to shake our hands, not nevertheless without fearing for the first who dared to do this. I have seen some who, having met me by chance on a small track, have lost all composure. You could easily see, through their copper-coloured skin, a red flush of fear spreading over their faces. I am sure that they would have wished to hide themselves under the ground; but as there was no way to avoid the encounter, from as far away as they could see me, they would hold out their hand in the most acceptable way, as if to shield the rest of their body in case of attack. They would have acted very differently if they had known the motivation that had brought me amongst them.
When we were back on board, we found the port crowded with natives, amongst whom we noticed two young chiefs from the tribe who stood out, because of their very honest appearance and manner. They were friendly towards us during the whole length of our stay in their bay; they were even ready to supply us with the provisions that we had come to seek. But we were already, without knowing it, under the immediate surveillance of an English missionary who lived two leagues from there. As soon as we arrived, he had called on the help of one of his compatriots, established as a blacksmith in one of the neighbouring villages. His work was a plausible pretext for this person to come aboard our ship. We received him as best we could, hoping to obtain some help and information from him. However, his awkward demeanour, like a man playing a part, his repeated questions about subjects which seemed to be foreign to him, his watchful perusal, his flat face, with two small, black eyes, almost invisible under bushy eyebrows, through which we could see them gleaming like those of a cat, a large pointed nose over thin, elongated lips, in fact everything about his person made me suspect that he was a spy, in which case we would have reason to adopt a similar strategy. What succeeded in convincing us was that since his arrival in our company, the chiefs were no longer talking about selling us the supplies we needed. The person in question had had the time, before they went ashore, to tell them that the missionary Batt [11] formally disapproved of any type of communication or exchange with these popé; from then on it became useless for us to wait for any food supplies and we had to arrange everything for our imminent departure.
We were about to raise the anchor when another chief, a sort of colossus, beside whom I came just up to his armpit, said to me with a mysterious air: tell me then solopale, I would like to join your religion, when will you come back to see me? Soon, I replied, just wait till I have reached the place that I have been sent by the head of the missionaries, then I will come back to you. Very well, he said, go, you have a destiny. When you have finished there, come back here to establish your religion in my village. But I am very afraid that you will forget me. - No, I will not forget you, I will return one day and, with this last response, he left after having lifted a hand to his lips. He was already in his canoe when he returned again to say to me; I am very afraid that you will forget me. No, rest assured that I will not forget you, I added. Then our schooner was directly over our anchor, which was caught under a rock. A heavy swell struck and broke the chain and we were drifting towards the shore; but our natives from Wallis and the local natives jumped into the sea and grabbed a cable, that they tied to the broken end to serve as a chain. Agile divers managed to free the anchor from under the rock where it was caught and we were able to set sail again, with no idea where we would be able to find people who had not been warned against us and who would be willing to provide us with provisions at any price.
Two more days passed with us making short tacks to gain only 6 or 7 miles, constantly struggling against contrary winds and currents. Then we found ourselves out from a pretty little bay called Mautautu and in front of us we saw the residence of the English missionary Batt, who we knew about. Alongside his house, we saw another large white building, with an endless number of windows, such as one would see in Europe in a cotton spinning factory, or a rubber factory; we were told that it was a Protestant church .
As you can easily imagine, my dear friend, it was not our intention to stop in this place; and anyhow what could we do there, if not meet with a new rejection, even more marked than the first, or present ourselves as a spectacle to people who wished to see us far removed. But it did not need to be this way. God had led us here so that we could find rest, here where we were not expecting anything except warfare or hatred. After having discussed our position, we decided that, after all, it would be better to anchor near this island and await a favourable wind, than to spend several weeks, unable to make any progress; and we counted ourselves very fortunate to be able to approach before nightfall.
Just before we entered the channel, we were hailed by an English whaling ship which had come in close to us: Who are you? Schooner from Wallis. - Where are you going? Here, to Samoa. - How long at sea? Twenty eight days. A great burst of laughter greeted our response. 28 days to cover 80 leagues! We felt ashamed to see ourselves like rats in a horrible tub, alongside of an absolute colossus.
But at last, when we were anchored in 7 fathoms, on a seabed of sand, we began to forget our weariness and no longer think about our humble size and we savoured a taste of leisure. Nevertheless, we could not lose sight of the fact that we needed provisions of more than one kind and that we were not sure of finding them here. Our suspicions were speedily confirmed, from the very mouth of an English resident in the bay, when he told us about the hostile attitude of the missionary and his people towards us; they had placed a ban on all the bays and prohibited all types of communication with us; thus not a single native from the area dared to come aboard during our entire stay.
But we were frequently visited by the man with the demeanour of a spy, a man I have already spoken about. From the very day we entered the port, we saw him arrive in his canoe with a small pig. It was, he said, a gift that he was giving us, without wanting repayment, but in return he wanted to know what our intentions were, if we had come to preach our religion, if we would be leaving soon and where we were intending to establish ourselves. To all these questions we replied that we did not know and that we could not understand why, in a country where English missionaries had been established for a long time and whose country was renowned for its hospitality and tolerance, people not only refused to sell us the provisions we needed, but that if was actually forbidden. He did not really know what to say to this, if not that it was the idea of the chiefs. However the other Englishman, who was not a spy, informed us on the side, of where this idea had come from.
After two days of absolute solitude, we saw coming towards us the first canoe to approach us. It was an act of generosity from the minister, who had sent us a fairly plump pig, some taro, some coconuts and some yams, with a letter to the captain of the schooner, couched in these terms: “Captain, the people of this area do not seem to be of a friendly disposition towards you. Mr Batt asks you to kindly accept the little that it is possible for him to offer you on this occasion”. We had to deliberate on how we should receive this offer from a man who, whilst accusing his followers of a harshness of which he was the cause, wished nevertheless to exhibit an air of generosity towards us and to also thus provide us with the means to leave more quickly. The captain especially wanted to return the gift to its sender, with a not very flattering message; what had put him in a bad humour was that during the morning he had gone ashore to cut a new sail; everyone had fled at his approach, as if he was carrying out some evil plan. A new incident occurred, which put an end to our hesitation.
Suddenly, at the end of the headland we saw a large canoe appear, paddled with vigour by a dozen natives, singing an improvised song in honour of the popés and sounding a trumpet right under the windows of the minister. They came straight towards us; in the bottom of the canoe there were some pigs, bananas and yams all jumbled together. All of this was for us and they apologised for the fact that it was so little. Who were they then, these new visitors who were so kindly disposed towards us and so very unexpected? They were relatives of Joachim, our catechist, who had gone to visit them last evening. “Since then, he told me on arriving, I have not closed my eyes; I had to pass the entire night telling them about myself and all of you. The chiefs of their villages gathered together in consultation and they have sent messages to ask you to visit them and establish your religion there, before you go elsewhere”. As soon as he heard this news, our captain was tempted to send back to Mr P. [12] his gifts and a short letter to thank him for them. Our new friends were striving to show us signs of the greatest affection. This should not surprise anyone, when we knew that Samoans had always been friends of the Europeans, taking pleasure in welcoming them into their homes and sometimes extending this goodwill much further than the interests of hospitality demand.
Finally we were invited, on behalf of the chiefs, to visit their home as soon as possible, to establish the Catholic religion there. That is not where we had been sent; but all that was happening and all that we already knew made it essential that we should not pass up this first opportunity that presented itself to establish ourselves in this country; for the place we were heading for may not receive us and this one, which was inviting us, was perhaps the only place where our arrival had not been anticipated. So we did not waste a moment; although it was already late, we went ashore to present ourselves immediately to the village of Alatele [13] which was the place in question. We walked for more than a league, surrounded by huts, spaced out all along the shore. As night was falling, at the end of this village, we met four of five more deputies who had come to encourage us to walk faster, as the matter was decided. We redoubled our pace, leaving behind us the huts and following a road into the interior, which we found very interesting; we found ourselves suddenly transported into an enchanted land, like the gardens of Hesperides; the path we were following was made up of soil, carried and heaped up by hand by the natives, in the middle of a plain and overlooking it to a height of two metres and a width of three. I did not think I could see any marked out route, but I was continually mislead about this, by a double row of young coconut palms which lined this route and whose branches met overhead to form a continuous cover that protected us admirably from the rays of the sun. To right and left prairies stretched out, interspersed with clusters of trees with a blending of different types of leaves, giving the impression of an infinite number of islands in a sea of green. Truly, if more serious concerns had not been the object of my mission, I would have found it difficult to pass through this beautiful area so quickly. But we were at full speed; the barking of dogs informed us that we were about to arrive. Suddenly, we found ourselves in a sort of public place, around which, at last, we could see many huts, that the foliage and shade of breadfruit trees had at first hidden. Most of these huts were built on a sort of square platform, made of stones arranged with order and precision.
All those in the village who were still keeping watch, approached us and those who were sleeping promptly got up; their assembled numbers formed a large crowd around us and they regarded us with much curiosity, but also with goodwill. Whilst waiting for the chief of the area, who someone had gone to alert, we were escorted to the large communal hut. Mats were brought for us to sit on and all the people positioned themselves around us in the interior of the building. You can imagine, without difficulty, that we would have dearly loved to know the language of the country, so that we ourselves could conduct the conversation, which was going to be important. It would be necessary to tell these people who we were, where we came from, why we had come, what was the true nature of our religion and of our position regarding these people: two things which had been so distorted here by lies and heresy. But time alone could put right the unfortunate position we found ourselves in; our two catechists, Constantin and Joachim, responded for us to the thousands of questions which were addressed to us. Although I was not able to engage in a conversation in Samoan, my knowledge of the language of Wallis, of which the principles and many of the words are the same, gave me the ability to understand the basis of the questions asked and the accuracy of the replies. I was easily able to note those that made the greatest impression on the assembly. - Where are the wives of these missionaries? asked one of the chiefs. They do not have wives, replied Constantin: that is forbidden for them. - Why? Because they are like Jesus Christ and the apostles, who went and preached the gospel without wives. You would not believe, my dear friend, what a magical effect was produced on these poor folk by these few words and especially on the older people who were capable of thinking about it. They discussed it amongst themselves: Why did their missionaries have wives, when it seemed that not having them was a position more in keeping with that of Jesus Christ and the apostles and more suited to the preaching of the word of God. I even saw people who, not having known us before, except from all the bad things said about us, suddenly lose their insolent look when they learned this distinctive fact; they found themselves, so to speak, overwhelmed, crushed by some sort of extraordinary emotion, which they could not master, If we had been ordinary foreigners, papalangui, like the others, we would have been immediately surrounded by young people, playful and lighthearted whose intentions would soon have been made clear to us…..But the lack of comprehension of a situation so new to them and nevertheless in accordance with their ideas of religion was like an invincible barrier against the superficiality and indiscretions of human malice.
During all these discussions we hardly opened our mouths, but our eyes wandered pleasantly about, taking in the house we were in. It gave me much pleasure to see the beauty of the whole place and I found myself almost proud to have come amongst a people who seemed to have such taste and who already seemed to me to be very intelligent. When we were tired of the discussions, they retired to their own houses to let us sleep. Two young women, almost as light skinned as Europeans, prepared for each one of us five or six mats, that they spread out one on top of the other to make the bed softer and they also placed sweet smelling flowers round about. A large mosquito net, made from the fabric of the country was erected over our heads, so as to enclose us, as if in a small hut, in the middle of the big one. I was quite astonished by all this care and thoughtfulness shown towards us by a people reputed to be wild and savage, according to some of our travellers. As my acquaintance with these people of Samoa progressed, I realised more and more that they had the right to reject the title of savages attributed to them, with so little justification, by all these Europeans and that the only thing savage about them was the idea that people had of them.
We passed a reasonably peaceful night, although we were visited from time to time by a few annoying mosquitos, who, in spite of our precautions, managed to slip under the folds of our covering. Early the next morning, we continued our journey, because the first village was still not the one where we were expected; however we arrived there after another half hour. We were received by the chief himself, in another large, brand new hut even more handsome than the first one. The chief, called Tuala (touala), was not unaware of the responsibility that he was going to have to carry and all the contradictions with which he was going to be assailed in receiving in his village the cult of the papists. Whether he himself had been convinced the previous night by the words of our Joachim, who was a relative, or whether he was convinced himself that we did not seem as wicked as had been said, or finally that with the desire that was common to all the Samoan chiefs, he wished to stand out from the others, by being the first to do what no other had yet done, and even more so something that all the others condemned, he resolved to take his chances and took all the steps towards this end. He called his family together to announce his plan; it was decided that on the very next day, a public declaration of Catholicism would be made by the celebration of Holy Mass. Having been notified of this decision, I left Father Violette among our new friends and I had nothing more pressing to do than to return on board to get everything ready. I again had the irritation of meeting our spy, who seemed to compliment me on this first success, but taking no notice of his comments, I hurried about my preparations, so as to be able to get back before nightfall.
I was not the only one to be busy; the idea of heresy had caused a cry of alarm, the ministers had spent all night working on a neighbouring population, very influential because of its large number of chiefs and its long established supremacy on this part of the island. Early in the morning, large numbers of them arrived in the area where we were, on the pretext of seeking a reconciliation over a long standing enmity that existed between the two villages, but really to have the chance to speak against us and to prevent, if possible, the commitment of the chief Tuala; and indeed, having spoken at length about forgetting the past and about reconciliation and friendship, they insisted that we were traitors who were coming to ruin the country; they begged Tuala not to fall into the trap, to reverse his decision so as not to bring misfortune upon himself, his family and the country as a whole. While these serious questions were being debated publicly, we hastily prepared a small alter in the main hut. Everything was ready, but the deliberations dragged on. After the neighbouring chiefs had left, another council of family and friends was convened at the hut of Tuala to re-examine the question. Another three hours passed in discussing and refuting everything that they had heard; the attitude of the chief seemed more precarious than ever, but in the end God’s will won him over.
It was two o’clock in the afternoon when I saw Tuala approaching, with all the members of his family and his friends bedecked in superb fine mats, the ends of which trailed behind creating a very imposing sight; and I had the pleasure of saying the first mass in this archipelago on 15th September, the eighth day after the birth of Mary. The following days were full of trials for poor Tuala, on whom everything was tried (but in vain), prayers, threats, anything to make him renounce his plan. Even after such a genuine step, he was shaken for a while, because threats, more than sufficient to shake his resolve were used against him.
Some Polynesians came to his aid; immediately he felt himself more committed than ever; I was assured that I could continue on my way, that nothing would be able to shake him, that if anyone definitely wanted to declare war on him, he would flee into the woods, which were quite extensive, and live there, if he was driven from his home. We profited from his good will by continuing our travels through a forest of huge trees on a pathway of stones that had been laid, closely packed, by the hands of men some time in the past. This work must have caused them a lot of effort, as it was at least four leagues long; but it is probable that they were obeying the orders of a feared chief, who did not know how to make them use their idle time. So as to eliminate any idea of ever making them undertake another such task, they invented a story of two devils who each made half of the path, which was one day found fully formed, without any one of them having lifted a hand. Whatever might be made of this story, we were very relieved, for the sake of our poor feet, to leave the devil’s road and walk a further three hours on a smooth beach, where we had a magnificent route, shaded by coconut palms and continuously refreshed by a breeze from the open sea. Here it was just a continuous, uninterrupted series of villages and huts, around which there were clusters of breadfruit trees, with large leaves and heavy with fruit.
This last part of our walk would have been agreeable had we not been troubled by the inconceivable fear that we caused everywhere. No sooner had we appeared near to the edge of a village than everyone fled as fast as their legs would carry them, as if to avoid being pursued. They rushed out of their houses from all around and gathered together in groups, to watch us pass through a small gap that was left free. Imagine an angry bear who has just left his hide; at the sight of him everyone flees, all doors are shut and it is only through the cracks that one dares to look at this terrible animal. Such was our progress through these new villages; from all sides we heard cries of the papists, as we would cry out “a bear”. A group of women who were seated alongside the path, not having seen us until we were close to them and believing themselves lost, fled like lightening, crying out loudly, having left or thrown aside all their belongings. In doing this they were only following the instructions of the English missionaries, who had expressly given this instruction.
In this way we arrived at Salotulafaré [14] where Bishop Bataillon had recommended that we establish ourselves if possible; it was the residence of the principal chiefs and had a large population whose superiority in the last war had left them as the main influence in the archipelago. It was also the home territory of our catechist, Constantin; he had at first thought that as soon as he appeared all doors and all hearts would be open to him, but he soon learned that he had flattered himself too much. Even before our arrival, while we were still at sea, one of his young cousins who was one of the principal catechists of the Independents, came to meet him, coming aboard our ship during the night. This young man, with the awareness and self-effacement of a Protestant, certainly believed himself superior to all who he then found around him. He warmly congratulated his cousin on the fact that God had protected them both, so that they were able to meet up and see each other again. He informed them that the whole population and all their family had embraced the gospel, that they were impatient to see him again, but how horrified they were that he had had the misfortune to fall into the hands of the papists; that all his friends were committed to separating him from these wicked people. At first Constantin answered him in good humour about the ideas he had of the papists. - Stop telling me these lies from the children of Luther, he said to him, the papists are my friends and yours. The young man repeated that they were resolved, throughout the country to not receive the papists. - That is all the same to me, said Constantin, in a serious but vexed manner, I will nevertheless come to see you with the missionaries who accompany me. You were very small when I left Samoa on a papalangui ( European) ship; I was already a Protestant like you; I went to New Zealand, Sydney and Tonga. There I became a Methodist and I was a catechist for two years; finally I arrived in Uvea (Wallis). It was there that, for the very first time, I saw a true missionary of the true religion arrive. For a long time, I had only one fear, that a might die before being able to accompany the first of these men to come to Samoa; I wanted to have my family share in the same happiness that I had experienced in finding, at last, the true religion. But you are telling me that you do not want it; Oh well! All the same I am content. If we are refused a house, we will make one in the bush; those who still have some friendly feeling towards us will give us some yams and some taro for food. If you are angry with me, I will leave the missionaries to debate with you, they understand suffering and awaiting the will of God; as for me, I will once again say goodbye to you and go off to a foreign land; but, as for religion, my many friends will console me where you are concerned. These words were very harsh for people like the Samoans, who are very easily touched by the bonds of family. Our young fanatic could not help weeping on hearing them. At Constantin’s request, he consented to letting us use the house and soon after he boarded his canoe to go and report on his interview with the Papists.
When we arrived, it was little more than two hours since the schooner had moored in front of Constantin’s house; we found ourselves in the midst of a gathering of chiefs and friends , who wished to be present at the reception for their relative; this gathering was very cool; according to the customs of the country, you could not dispense with a friendly welcome when celebrating the return of a family member. Despite an obvious aversion, they were obliged to give us a dozen small pigs and other food supplies for the ship that had brought back Constantin; they stated to the latter that they were resolved to keep him, but that, as for the missionaries, there was nothing for them to do but go away elsewhere; the country was already all Christian. Anyhow, there were still many pagan countries, to which we could direct our efforts. In spite of this statement, we announced that we wished to remain in this area, to which we had been sent and that we were going to unload our possessions at Constantin’s house. We were given to understand that if our goods were brought ashore, they would be thrown into the sea. Constantin, calling on his powers of eloquence, declared that he had come following the missionaries, from whom he did not wish to be separated and that if they were driven away, he also would be driven away; the matter was already decided. The next day we shook the dust from our heels, going around knocking on other doors; but we did not have a great deal of choice.
Before nightfall on the same day, we received a message from a neighbouring chief, telling us that we should not stop at Satutulofa, [15] but come and install ourselves with him. I departed right away to go there, even though it was already night. After an hour and a half of inevitable walking, I arrived at Salelavola [16] the home of the old chief called Sua (Soua), and his brother called Moetaupumu, [17] who was a little younger than him. Sua was still a pagan as were most of his tribe; the Protestants had not yet been able to persuade him to join them, as he had always said that he wanted to await the arrival of the Papists. Moetaupumu was a former priest of the false gods, and had become Methodist several years ago, but who definitely wanted to become a Papist and he put himself forward to take the entire responsibility upon himself alone . Of a lively, well-rounded, positive personality, he was not a character to let himself be controlled by his compatriots, nor take into account any reasoning that might perhaps have slowed down anyone but him; full of life, generous, friend of the Europeans, who he had always treated well, he had the well stated intention of always continuing to do the same.
As soon as it was known in the camp of the heretics that the chiefs of Salelavalu had decided in favour of the Papist missionaries, they put into action a plan to stop this being carried out. The acceptance of the Catholic cult in the village, which was part of the large district of Faasaleleaga, and which had won the last general war, should be, for the less powerful tribes, an encouragement and a very tempting pretext to declare themselves for us when they felt ready. Then our detractors could not try to create all sorts of obstacles; they held council day and night, one could almost say permanently, trying to find a means to stop what they called a public disaster.
On this subject, a first message was sent to the two chiefs, our friends, to let them know the wishes of all the other chiefs and of the whole population, whose anger they were going to incite if they followed up on their resolve. The aged Sua, who did not wish to break permanently with them, said with pique: In the past you wished me to recognise the true God, you have often reproached me for following the wrong path and here we are today, when I wish to change direction, you continue to harass me, so as to stop me from accepting religion. Oh well! So be it! I am going to die in bad grace, but as for my brother, he is free to do whatever he wishes.
The messengers, amongst whom was the brother of the most important chief in the archipelago, believed that after having won over Sua, they would have no trouble with his brother; but they were mistaken in their expectation. The latter replied at first with gentleness and honesty that Sua might well abandon his project, but as for him, he would never abandon it. In this matter, he told them, I am only exercising a right common to all the chiefs in Samoa; they have all chosen the religion that they wanted. Just look, some are Methodists, others are Independents, others are Jeéorélien; [18] Oh Well! As for me I wish to be Papists. You say that they are bad; I wish to find out for myself; they need to all be tried out. If the papists are bad, we will drive them away and we will keep the English; If the English are bad, we will drive them away and keep the Papists. If the Papists are in my territory, they will stay here . This first deputation went away not very satisfied with their first attempt; they came back to the assault a second and third time, without obtaining any more success. A fourth message arrived and it was more pressing then ever. Then our Moetaupumu, exasperated with the tyranny of the other chiefs, replied to them in an angry tone: Go and tell the chiefs that I am master in my domain, as they are in theirs; the first messenger of this sort that they send me, I will smash in his head. I will set fire to my house and leave with the Papists. As they were not unaware of his very determined character, they finally left him in peace and we were able to see to the unloading our possessions as soon as possible, so as to be able to continue our journey as far as the other large island (Upolu).
Our captain, having been alerted, set sail immediately to come and moor out from Salelavala. [19]. Making way, the schooner struck a rock hard enough to detach the false keel which came up and floated alongside. Our adversaries profited from this incident to spread the rumour that we had done this deliberately so as to be obliged to stay in their country, but with as little success as usual. The chief, Moetaupunu, knowing that we could not come in any closer, came several times, with two or three large canoes to collect our possessions and carry them ashore. There we were once again in the home of the relatives of Joachim, our catechist. Moetaupunu was his uncle, who had cared for him when he was very young; therefore he reasonably assumed that his nephew would not take the risk of bringing the papists into his home if they were as wicked as people wished to say.
It will perhaps seem to you, my dear friend, that after having, so to speak, begun to establish ourselves, we would be able, prudently, to stay there for the time being and await fresh reinforcements and to proceed further if possible. But the knowledge that we already had of the area and the state of mind of the people led us to understand that we would have great difficulty in maintaining ourselves on Savai’i, if we did not also have a foothold on Upolu. It is on this latter island that Protestantism had made the most progress, it is there that they have established their centre of activity. They have there a complete printing works, a dozen missionaries and their main area of influence. Consequently, it is there that it the most important to sound out the territory and to present ourselves to be seen. Thus, I left Brother Jacques Peloux with Joachim, his wife and the wife of Constantin at the home of the chief Moetaupumu, to protect our possessions and to await news of us.
On Sunday 23rd September, we left for the other island, sailing through the passage which is very deep with a very strong current. We came across an outcrop of coral, that very nearly brought us to a stop right there. We would have undoubtedly been thrown against it and smashed on the neighbouring rocks if we had not formerly had the good fortune to lose our false keel; we got away with putting our rudder, which had been displaced, back in position. But after having travelled for an hour or two outside the reefs, we struck a calm. The current was once again carrying us straight onto the coral reef of the small bay of Manono which is situated between two large bays. To avoid the reefs we had to lash on our two galley oars and row till we were all exhausted; a light evening breeze took pity on us and came to help us reach the open sea, where we passed a fairly tranquil night.
The next day another reasonably favourable breeze allowed us to arrive in the port of Apia, where we moored. Three or four whaling ships were there. When a ship enters the port for the first time it naturally becomes an object of general attention. All glasses and all eyes are directed towards it, its flag is inspected, its sails, its progress, its manoeuvring; in a word, everything about it serves as fodder for speculation and criticism. So I was led to believe that we would be much talked about. How would we measure up beside the other ships that were in the port, especially alongside the English for whom poverty, as with the ancient Romans, is a form of degradation and modesty a type of lowliness? We displayed the flag of Wallis, which was quite new to them; it covered almost half of our schooner; I would have wished that it was even bigger, so as to be able to entirely cover it; but aside from pride, this was not what would prevent us from reaching our goal. If on the one hand we were examined, we were not failing to examine all that was happening around us.
We had hardly lowered our anchor when we received a visit from an English whaling ship’s captain, who had previously been in Wallis, where he had been very supportive of the missionaries. His visits and his good relationship with us should have been favourable to us where the local inhabitants were concerned and should have discredited somewhat the network of cowardly slanders directed towards us by people who call themselves disciples of the bible. The preachers considered the situation as did we and as they were aware of all that went on, we could sense soon after, by the change in attitude of the captain, that he had been warned on this subject.
Then we went ashore to go and see a French businessman who had been there four months. He had had a lot of difficulty in being accepted, as a Frenchman and Papist, as the two were considered inextricable. Finally he was allowed to establish himself in an isolated hut; but his business was nonexistent and he was about to quit the country to go and seek his fortune elsewhere.
The first news we heard concerning ourselves was that, despite the tiny size of our little tub, we were supposed to have left on Savai’i six hundred Frenchmen who had taken possession of the island. All these first impressions considered, we had to conclude that the public attitude towards us was no more favourable and no less anticipated than on the other island. A large number of canoes were moving around the harbour, going from one ship to another selling fresh provisions, such as bananas, pineapples, yams, taro and coconuts; several passed close to us without stopping. We saw one, directed by a man already rather pale, heading straight towards us and seeming to wish to board us; but at a distance of a few feet it stopped and the man, who stood up, examined us with great attention and an air of anxiety. It was the man called Pea, chief of the bay. He had heard that the papists were men so dangerous and cunning and so untrustworthy, that he felt he should come and examine us incognito, so as not to expose himself to the influence of our calling. Our modest size and our small amount of gear did not seem to support the idea that he had formed of us; but it is likely that as a prudent man he thought he should still be suspicious of our activities and, sitting unmoving in his canoe, without advancing or retreating, despite our desire to see him on board he seemed to be thinking of the rat in the fable: Nothing seems to smell like flour and as you are the sack, I will not come any closer. In fact, he preferred to lose his prize position and returned ashore without having dared to ask to come aboard.
Others were not as cautious as him and some young people, more daring and more self-assured, had no problems with coming aboard. We could see on their faces an expression of circumspection that showed their state of mind. A few words, exchanged here and there, with a few jokes from us about the wickedness of the Papists, the fear shown by the Samoans and especially the liveliness of the Protestant missionaries, gained us their confidence to such an extent that the next day they came in larger numbers. These young people belonged to a neighbouring tribe, whose district was called Faleata. [20] They told us that amongst them there were still a few pagans and a large number of Jiouviliens, whose head chiefs wished to commit to the Papists; now is the time to say a few words to you about this type of religion, which still has quite a large number of followers in the archipelago.
The Jiouvilisme, [21] except for some minor violence, is a minor form of Mohammedanism that was introduced, very peacefully, into Samoa about twelve years ago by a native called Siouvile. [22]. This was not his real name, but he adopted it when he returned to this country after a voyage he had made to Tonga and during which, he said, he received knowledge in a supernatural way of the religion that he had brought back. Some people claimed that this individual, having met Mr D’Urville during one of his ports of call had, according to custom, changed names with him and from this encounter had come the name of Siouvili or D’Urville, as translated in the Samoan way. To give himself authority where his compatriots were concerned, and understanding their gullibility, he assured them that he had frequent discussions with a spirit, who instructed him in all that he was to tell them. So as to establish in the hearts of his disciples the faith they needed to believe in him, he announced one day that he was going to have an especially long and very important audience with his special spirit; The top of a very high tree was designated as the place for the conference. Don’t be worried, he said, about my clothing or my food while I remain up there, it is the spirit’s God that will take charge of feeding and clothing me. Several days had already passed with him at the top of the tree without food or drink. To the great astonishment of everyone, he came down seeming very well and loaded with a quantity of garments which he said had been presented to him by the god. He was very careful not to tell them that he himself, the day before his ascent, had carried up the tree, during the night, all the garments that they had seen and the necessary food supplies for the time he had resolved to stay there. No one dared to suspect his deception, they preferred to take his word and the number of his followers increased considerably. I could not begin to tell you what their doctrines were about. They called upon Jehovah and regarded Jesus Christ as God; they had meetings where they sang a few hymns composed in island style and imitating those of the Protestants; after that each one started to preach according his imagination and his whim, but following a general formula where they spoke of a fabulous land where the supreme chiefs of their cult lived. As they did not know how to read, they had acquired a large placard with a list of English customs charges. They claimed that it was a letter that had come to them from that fabulous land where their patriarch lived. At the end of his sermon their preacher circulated this placard, saying to them: Here is the letter that contains all the things that I have told you; at other times it is an English bible which, he tells them, contains their complete doctrine. They open the book and look at it with an air of interest, without seeing anything but black and white, while proclaiming that their religion is good and truthful. But in the final analysis they announced that shortly some French missionaries, who were their relatives, would come to them and would succeed in instructing them in the truth. I have even heard say that, bored with waiting so long, the people of Faleata, [23] where I found myself at the time, had composed a letter that they had sent to France, to hasten the arrival of their missionaries.
There is something else to be said about this tribe, that initially is not exactly in their favour, it is that from time immemorial there seems to have been a spirit of contradiction and levity, which makes them often do the opposite to everyone else. In all the districts the Wesleyan and Independent missionaries have been welcomed with enthusiasm; the people of Faleata [24] have never wanted to hear it talked about and have even claimed that their religion, begun in Samoa, had more value than one coming from overseas. Everywhere people rejoiced over the fact that Jehovah had shined the true light on the archipelago before the arrival of the Papists, who were regarded as a source of misinformation and misfortune; those of Faleata said: - The rest of you, you do not want anything to do with the Papists, well they are here for us. Nothing was more absurd where the rest of the country was concerned than to think of receiving only the missionaries of the Roman religion, which had been disparaged and ridiculed in every way and yet the believers of the two sects were saying, in the bitterness of their apprehensions: You will see that these imbeciles of Faleata are going to make another change in their direction. They have already done it once, but instead of repenting they are very proud, at the moment, of having taken a risk of which they themselves did not predict the happy outcome it would have for them.
We had already been eight days in port, without having any positive news on the attitudes of the tribe that was said to be favourably inclined towards us. After several interactions amongst the head chiefs, they organised a special messenger to invite me to go to their place to hear about their thoughts. First of all they made me swear that all that everyone said about the papists was untrue; then they said to me that if I was willing to promise them that we would not make them build stone houses, nor bring any horses or cows into the country, as these animals would eat the bark of the breadfruit trees, then they would receive me into their community and pronounce themselves Catholics. I promised them everything they wanted and two days later was designated as the time to receive their solemn acknowledgement. To explain their horror of stone houses and the aforementioned animals, I must tell you that the Protestant missionaries had made their followers, who were very willing, carry against their bare skin, which became very lacerated, all the stone required to build fifteen spacious houses on the most beautiful sites in the country and as well, their horses and cattle had killed off a large number of breadfruit trees, with no one daring to chase them off for fear of committing a sin. This happened to such an extent that several whole districts look like a country ravaged by war. Although I had been unaware of this devastation, of such unpleasant tyranny and of such blatant abuse of these innocent people, I felt shamed to see such a situation. … Not only did I have no trouble in promising them that I would never introduce animals capable of causing such destruction, but I also told them that in England as in France no missionary would have the right to let animals that could be destructive to the public good run wild and that if such a thing occurred the owner of the animals would be obliged to repair the damage that they had caused. As for the stone houses, I told them, you are very much in charge of whether you will do it or not; nowhere in the gospels does it say that a missionary will inhabit a stone house built by his followers; I told them that I found their own houses very suitable and that I would be very happy with one. After a communal meal, that we ate together as was their way, I went back on board to wait for the nominated day.
When the decision of the chiefs of Faleata became known elsewhere, the same actions were taken towards them as had been taken towards Tuala and Moetaupunu, to make them change their minds. All night long there was much coming and going of all the people in the neighbourhood who were considered influential, using their eloquence, one after the other against the Papists; this was so effective that our three chiefs, so as to pacify everyone and stall for time with the problems that arose on all sides, promised to delay their decision for a little longer. I knew nothing of what had happened during the night and I arrived in the morning to set the time for the ceremony the following day. But I soon saw that the mood had changed; the chiefs assured me that they still wished to be our friends; however, they felt that they should put back their acceptance of our religion till a later date.
I did not wish to insist, which would have been neither clever nor useful. I told them that I had just bought a canoe from an Englishman and that I would leave for Sava’i, where I would wait for them to be willing to declare themselves Catholics. They replied that I would be wise to stay there and look for an available house of some European; that they felt that for the moment they should remain separate from us. This response pained me greatly, because it put me in a very embarrassing situation; the most unpleasant aspect of all this was that we were going to seem to have something to blame ourselves for, in what we had done. We would therefore have to return to Sava’i with the reputation of having failed in Upolu. We had much to fear from the negative effect this would produce and we were completely distressed, having no idea of how we could extract ourselves from this dilemma.
But God had provided for us from fifteen years ago, you will see how. Around the years 1830 to 1833, one of the head chiefs called Mataafa, whose ancestor had been the one and only king of the entire archipelago, went to visit a branch of his family who lived on the island of Tutuila, 18 leagues from Upolu. Just as they were about to arrive, a gust of wind made them unable to see the island and carried the canoe away, despite the efforts of the eight paddlers on board. Night fell and they had great difficulty in preventing the canoe from sinking. When daylight came, there was no land to be seen on the horizon and the wind was still very strong. They could do nothing but travel on before the wind. Perhaps, they said to themselves, we will soon see land and from there we will be able to return to Samoa. A week passed thus, without them seeing any land and their food supplies were finished. Three days of complete fasting so weakened them that they could only await death, then finally they saw, to the West, a land that in no way resembled Samoa. This sight restored some hope to them; but one of them had suggested that this could well be cannibal territory, where they would be killed and eaten, so this greatly reduced their happiness. However they would just have to take the chance or else be doomed to die at sea. This last option was the worst of all; they decided to proceed through the passage that was in front of them. At first they did not dare to go ashore without having previously examined any signs that might suggest that they should either fear or hope. Having seen absolutely nothing but coconut palms, whose fruit they greatly coveted, two of them went ashore. They were covering themselves with some foliage when a local man called out to them from a distance, asking who they were and where they came from. We are from Samoa they replied and a storm has carried us here, with our chief, to a land which is not known to us and our chief is still in our canoe. Please excuse us; but tell us if your land is favourable. This is Wallis, replied the native; the land is favourable and you have nothing to fear. So then they approached one another; the Samoan language, although having many different words, was similar enough in a basic way to that of Wallis, so that they could understand each other where the basic questions of necessity were concerned. The Wallisians encouraged Mataafa and all his companions to come ashore; other local people, alerted to what was happening, left the work they were doing in that part of the island to come and see the strangers. They hurried to bring fabric to cover them and some food for them to eat. The king Lavelua, who had also been alerted, sent a message to the newcomers to come to his place as soon as possible. Mataafa, a Samoan chief, was more than sufficient recommendation for him to turn on all the special procedures that were accorded to himself. Within the confines of the words, one could say that he received on Wallis a right royal hospitality; more than two months passed in this way for him, with almost constant festivities, after which Lavelua made him the gift of a double hulled canoe to transport him back to his native land.
From that time on, Mataafa never forgot the wonderful treatment that he had received in a land where he had believed for a time that he might be killed and eaten. Everyone who arrived from Wallis and from Lavelua was very welcome; and so that was why I was accorded a somewhat similar standing when I presented myself to him in the name of, and with a letter from, his old friend. He made me wait a little, but that was so that he could bedeck himself in all his best finery, so as to honour me as much as possible. I finally saw him appear clad in an English infantryman’s helmet, with a belt from the Fijian islands, which was greatly valued in the country. Mataafa is a man of about forty-five years of age, of good height, with regular features and a gentle expression and a general bearing lacking in neither nobility nor solemnity. He extended a friendly hand, smiling and inviting me to be seated beside him; he was visibly suffused with pleasure by this visit, made in the name of Lavelua. I then presented him with the letter from Lavelua, which begged him to receive in a friendly manner the missionaries that he had sent and declared himself accepting of the Catholic religiion; he told him that it was the only true one. The whole house was already filled with people whose curiosity had drawn them to come and see us, amongst them the catechist from the Methodists, to whom Mataafa belonged. After having exchanged news for a time, Mataafa presented us with a fine bunch of bananas, which were ripe and which we ate with hearty appetites and much pleasure. After this we rose to go back to our ship, but another chief who was there asked us to stay longer to give him the time to examine us, saying that in Samoa so much had been said about the Papists that they were not sure whether we were beasts, demons or just men; we gave him the time to convince himself that we were the same as all the other humans.
The next day, early in the morning, we saw Mataafa approaching in a canoe, in his costume of the previous day and he came aboard to bring us a small gift, consisting of a small, plump pig and ten baskets of taro. We wished to apologise to him because all our belongings had been left on Sava’i and we had nothing to offer him. I did not come for that, he said, I am rather ashamed to bring so little myself, but this land of Faleata, where I find myself now is not my true home; this is why I am poor nowadays. After saying this he left, asking us to come to see him again.
It was about twelve days ago that we had had this first meeting with Mataafa. Since then, the chiefs of the tribe of Faleata had decided to declare themselves for us, but now they wanted to desist and did not even want to give me shelter with them for a few weeks, as had previously been the case; so I went away feeling very embarrassed, then the idea came to me to go again to the home of Mataafa whose house was only a short way from there on the pathway. He asked me where we were going. Constantin, who was with us told him. Then Mataafa said to us; this house is small, but all the same it can accommodate all of you. I did not wait for him to repeat such an opportune offer, in the current circumstances. I even had trouble hiding the pleasure that it gave me. I thanked Mataafa for his friendship towards me and Lavelua; I told him that I would take advantage of it this very day, as our schooner should be leaving the following day. All indications were that we should not waste time, so as not give the enemy the time to come and wipe out this last support that was offered to me.
I had guessed correctly, for scarcely an hour later, when I had left to go and look for my scant belongings, they arrived at the home of Mataafa and made respectful but pressing demands regarding the fact that he was receiving me at his home. Mataafa, whose generous nature was greatly shocked by these approaches, replied that he did not accept the religion of the Papists, but that he could not forgo being fair towards Lavelua, who had received him so kindly in his territory, when he believed himself lost. Nevertheless, Mataafa sent me a message not to bring my belongings to his place, but to leave them at the home of a European whose house was nearby. I had so little with me that, without taking notice of his advice, I arrived with a small mat and a small barrel containing a few pounds of biscuits, some figs, some tobacco, three bottles of rum and some salt. I took with me a young Walisian, Selasemo (Anselme) who had accompanied us as a sailor, as his presence was very useful to me when dealing with Mataafa.
Then our schooner, having completed its mission, left the next day with Father Violette and Constantin, who we would leave at Alatele, at the home of Tuala. They arrived on Sunday morning at the port of Matautu, from which point the Father would reach his destination overland. When they arrived they saw the large house of the chief crowded with people, in the middle of whom was the Protestant minister, P., who was arguing about the wrong they had done in receiving the Papists and was still trying to discourage them by once again restating all the slanderous things, of which he had no shortage. Father Violette, seeing what was happening, proceeded into the middle of the gathering with Constantin. Their unexpected arrival gave courage to our novices, who were having difficulty defending themselves against the invectives of the minister and contained the effrontery of the latter somewhat.
The chief Tuala, taking the floor, said to Father Violette: Here is the missionary; we have been arguing about for an hour, he tells us that you Papists do such and such things; we other Samoans, we do not understand it at all; but since you are here, let him speak to you so that you can discuss it with him yourself. Then the minister began to question Father Violette in English. The latter replied to him in English, that he understood him well, but that the people did not understand English and that it was not considered suitable to speak in a language which was unknown to those listening. The minister took no notice of this suggestion and continued his abuse in his own language. No, said Father Violette in the few words of Samoan that he knew and which were understood by the gathering; it is not suitable to speak in English, as neither Tuala nor anyone here will know what we are saying. Speak in Samoan; it is true that I do not know it well enough to reply to you, but Constantin is here and he will replace me. The minister wished to say a few words, but Constantin replied to him quite plainly that everything he said was nothing but lies, invented because of jealousy. He even made use of a comparison that was very well understood by everyone: it is like a beautiful woman, he said, who has two suitors; the first claimant says many bad things about the second, because he is afraid that he will win the heart of his beloved. The beautiful woman, she is our Samoan islands; it is you the English missionaries who are unsettled by fear and jealousy. The later arrivals are the Catholic missionaries, about whom you say many bad things, because you are afraid that the Samoan people will love them more than you. This comparison caused laughter at the expense of the minister, who stood up abruptly and went off home, thus leaving Father Violette with a territory that he could not defend.
From all this preceding activity, my dear friend, you will already have some idea of the general state of affairs in the Samoan archipelago, which has been so badly depicted and so little known up until today. There is great independence there and a freedom of spirit and action in everything that is not contrary to the accepted customs of the country; nothing is more respected than this mutual independence in their relationships with each other. It is like the pupil of the eye, which one cannot touch except with the greatest of delicacy. So it requires all the fanaticism of the Protestant missionaries to dare to innovate in this area when employing terms or methods that are much less controlled than those already in use. They have succeeded in some areas; in others they have failed. There is no doubt that without the reciprocal independence which exists between the chiefs, if power had been in the hands of one single chief such as Taïti, there would have been a resurgence here of the events which have caused so much talk about this place. [25] If things have taken a more peaceful turn, it is not thanks to the Protestant missionaries, whose words, full of venom and wickedness, would have been sufficient to cause these gullible islanders to commit some excesses if the islanders had not been more moderate and wiser than their new masters. Since their arrival in these islands, the English missionaries have had just one goal, to render the name of the Catholic religion undesirable and they have grouped them all together as popé or papists. Especially since the business with Taïta, they have redoubled the harshness of their language, to frighten the people. Their goal was to rejoin the two sects into one, as had been carried out in London between the sects of the Independents and the Methodists, [26] referring in this scheme to the example of Abraham and Lot who separated from each other so as not to give rise at dissension among their followers. [27] They divided up the islands, promising not to go into each others territory and this was probably to carry out the word of Our Lord, who said to his apostles to go out and preach to all nations. [28] The Samoan Independents then made every effort to bring the Methodists into their camp, so as to carry out, as soon as possible, a plan they had conceived and which they felt was urgently necessary; it was a question of organising a gathering of all the chiefs and all those in authority in the archipelago to decide by unanimous agreement that Catholic missionaries would never be admitted anywhere in the country. But here we are after all, we the Papists! We have the temerity to go wherever they are, in the country that they think belongs to them because they were here first. We just want to supplant them and to sow chaff where they have sown wheat! [29] What a shame that we have had the impudence to arrive a bit too soon in Samoa; without that everything would be simple, they would be the only ones allowed into the country which would become their empire and we would be permanently excluded. How inconsiderate of us to have come so inconveniently to interrupt such a beautiful future! Just today they have come to realise that it is much better for them to seem friendly towards bad people, for to the Samoan mind, one has more to lose than gain when one wishes to speak or act in the interests of an idea that is too exclusive. They had already done enough, with the responsibility of all the lies that they had uttered or printed, without risking more by making up new ones.
There I was then, as you know, at Mataafa’s place, with my young companion Selasemo; we had no trouble finding subjects of conversation, as Mataafa wanted to know all the news about the people he had known on Wallis and we repeated to him more than once the very detailed story of his voyage and his stay on that island. He found it very difficult to believe that Lavelua would have sent him some Catholic missionaries, if he saw in them anything similar to what was said of them in Samoa. His personal dealings with Selasemo regarding what had happened on Wallis since the conversion of the inhabitants left him in no doubt about the matter; and so, what astonished him, was the ignorance or ill will of these so-called missionaries, who preyed upon these gullible and ignorant people, telling them all sorts of lies and slander.
Where do they come from then, he asked me one day, all these bad things that they say about you? Is it to make we Samoans afraid? Well! They will not gain by doing something that God forbids in the sacred book. You Europeans should only be occupied with enlightening us, we who are born in the shadows, yet here we are with you increasing our problems so much that we no longer know who we should follow. That is true, I said to him, mistakes and lies have been brought to you from Europe, in the name of truth, but the truth will come to you too, if you have the sacred book. You should know that this is how it should be, for Jesus proclaimed that false prophets [30] would come in his name, but they should not be listened to; this is the situation now; it is for you to examine which of these people presents the doctrine and the conduct that is closest to the scriptures. - Mataafa, who has common sense and is upright of character could appreciate all the facts that I presented to him. Above all, he understood perfectly that jealousy was the sole basis for the untruths spread about us; he especially could not bear the intolerance of the Independent missionaries. They are arrogant, he said; since they have been here, they have done nothing but speak ill of everyone; first it was the Methodists, who they wanted to drive out so as to be the only ones here. After that they set themselves against the Jiouviliens; [31] and now, because they are tired of belittling the Jiouviliens, they are concentrating on the Papists; personally I would never join them.
It is from these daily contacts and from reading the New Testament, printed by the Protestants, that I steadily gained a knowledge of the language. I could easily perceive that Mataafa had a special liking for the stories of the old testament of which he had had several extracts printed and took pleasure in recounting the story of Cain and Abel, of Noa and the flood, of Jacob and his twelve children and especially of Joseph, sold and recognised by his brothers; The exodus from Egypt, the battles of Samson and David.
At the same time he became certain that the Protestants had maligned us in saying that we had rejected the bible and that reading it was forbidden. What liars they are! he said, with an air of indignation. It is probably the same for everything else …. and each time that he discovered a new lie, his face showed evidence of anger and scorn.
I also noticed that day by day his friendship for me was growing, he wished to share all his best things with me and hardly wanted me to share them with the family. I must not leave out here a characteristic which I will always remember and, modest as he is about himself, he nevertheless showed every sensitivity and sincerity in his treatment of me. It is the custom of the country when one is welcomed into a family to share all rights, but there should be no particular favours for any one member, each one takes his share of the food, which is distributed and eaten together. At the time that I am talking about, my adoptive family had only two little pigs left, which would suffice for everyone for three of four days. Despite the food shortage, Mataffa wanted to have two of these pigs killed and salted just for me, so that I would have something good to eat each day; so neither he nor his people would wish to accept their share; at meal time I was the only one eating meat; Mataafa himself even had trouble accepting some small pieces of my biscuit, as I only had a small quantity left.
I don’t believe, my dear friend, that in any European country one would see the same hospitality displayed. However, Mataafa was from time to time hearing murmurings about us; he defended himself by saying that he had welcomed the Papists, but had he not, as well, welcomed their religion; and besides everyone was free to choose in such matters. One of their relatives, who was living in his native land and who had quite an influence on Mataafa as well as everyone else, wrote him a letter expressing his anxiety and fear at seeing him thus exposed to the company of Papists. Mataafa showed me this letter saying: This talkative woman! She should occupy herself with making mats not writing letters. When there were only the two of us, he often said to me, Silipele ( Gilbert ), forgive me for not declaring myself a Catholic; but it is not possible yet, all my family would be against me, it is I who have kept the catechists and the religion of Tonga (Methodists) here. We must continue to wait until the people are disabused; then I will be able to make up my mind in a manner more suitable to a chief. - Not only that, I said to him, I would prefer it to be that way, for I have come to bring you the only true religion, which was founded by Jesus Christ and the apostles and the only one that has continued since their death; it is suitable that you do not embrace it until you are completely convinced of the truth, so as to remain truly attached heart and soul; it would not be suitable for the true religion to be like the two sects that you already know; with these, one can leave one for the other without gaining or losing; whereas with the true faith one loses everything if one does not embrace it completely and one gains nothing if one does not embrace it in an unshakeable manner.
Every day I had similar discussions with him and they were reintroduced every time that another chief came to visit him. He never failed to give value to my efforts to reason with him; so that it was easy to see what would be the outcome of his taste for the new religion. It is the habit with the Methodists for the head of the family to read aloud, every morning and evening, the communal prayer. In one part they ask for the blessings of Jehovah on travellers, the sick, the poor and all sorts of things. Mataafa always added this: Lord Jehovah, bless also Silipele and his works. May his stay here be happy and peaceful. It was my young Selasemo who first noticed this particularity and repeated it to me, laughing heartily.
Mataafa did not attend the sermons of his Methodist catechist any less often. One day, when coming out of the church, which was very close to the road, he approached me with a preoccupied air and said to me, smiling: Well now Silipele, you can’t imagine what has just happened; our catechist has just said a prayer for you. Fifteen days before your arrival here, he said: Lord Jehovah, the Papists are coming to Samoa; divert them to a place far from here, for they will bring terror and calamities. Today this is what he said: Lord Jehovah the Papists have arrived; it seems that their religion is good, and so! Let us all remain here in peace together. We could not help laughing heartily at this story and Mataafa added, with a sort of exclamation of vexation: Ah! Ah! Ah! What does that mean then, to pray sometimes for and sometimes against? Those folk there seem to me to be charlatans. No, I said to him, it is probably that they do not understand. Oh well! If they do not understand why do they talk about it?
It was round about the same time that I received, for the first time, a visit from another chief, who will come to be mentioned more than once by the end of this letter. His name is Mana and he lives in a neighbouring district called Vaimanga, in the local language. [32] This chief is one of the ones who had most warmly embraced the cause of the Independent missionaries. He was the first to receive them, gave them land and, as much by his natural enthusiasm as by his influence, which is huge in the archipelago, contributed as much as anyone in bringing them a considerable number of adherents in almost all the districts that he visited with them, exhorting everyone, pagans and others to declare themselves in their favour. It is thus that he himself became one of their catechists and they could certainly not find anyone more capable, too capable even, as in the early days, he seemed to discover things which did not seem to him as applicable to the Protestants as to the Catholics in the teachings of the gospel, which he knew quite well. Like all of his compatriots, he had heard all the slanderous things said about the Papists; but without following the blind credulity of most of the others, he still privately maintained the idea of examining things himself one day when the occasion presented itself. Thus, he came to see me while I was still with Mataafa. There was, at the time, still serious consideration amongst the Protestant ministers of a project which, according to them, would keep them forever in possession of their spiritual and material influence in these islands and protect them from the tentatives of the papists. At least that is what they presented to the people as the only means of salvation left to them, to save them from earthly slavery and eternal death. The scheme was simply to adopt the flag of their nation, by which means any Papist who might come to threaten Samoa would be forced, on seeing it, to immediately take flight.
In approaching me, Mana said to me, with a slightly scornful air towards those who had spread all these absurd stories: I come to you fearing for my life, for we are assured that you have come here to kill us all and to take over our country, but I wanted to hear from your own mouth whether this was really true. It is rather difficult, I told him, for I am alone and there is a large number of you; I am quite small and you are large and strong. The first boy of fifteen years of age who tried, could easily get the better of me. (Laughter broke out all around). - But have you not come first to investigate the situation and are there not large “mamias” (war ships) full of soldiers following close behind? I have never heard any such thing, except here in Samoa and I am certain that no one in France knows that I am here with you; it is not the French king who sends me but the Supreme Pontiff, the head chief of the religion which has followed Saint Peter, established by Jesus Christ himself, who I obey and who has given me the power to come to you and preach the true religion. But have you not rejected the holy book? Do you not worship Mary and other people who are dead? Do you not burn alive those who wish to serve God? Do you not have underground places to shut away women? Not only do we not reject the holy book, but we preserve it as our most precious treasure, we give it to people and explain it to them. We are it’s guardians and we have had it handed down from the apostles, who we have followed in an uninterrupted line for 1800 years, we forbid the worship of Mary and the saints because they are not God, but we ask that they be respected, because God loves them and honours them himself; we do not burn anyone, on the contrary, if someone was being burned, we would go to their aid, even if they were wicked and did not wish to listen to us. As for underground prisons for women, you know all about them and the women who are in them; it would be easy to recognise those who disappear and where they are. I tell you these words had a profound effect on the person I was speaking to; his astonishment and surprise was shown by exclamations and tongue noises which were very indicative of approval for me and disbelief for our accusers.
He did not dare make any more accusations of this nature; but he broached the main subject for which he had come. The other chiefs of his district, which is entirely devoted to the Independent missionaries, had in their mistaken simplicity, approved the raising of a flag to the Saviour, which was in readiness for the following Sunday. But Mana imagined that in a matter of this importance, it would be good to consult everyone. Silipele, he said to me, I want you to tell me exactly what you think about this flag that they wish to erect in my territory. We Samoans, we are ignorant about all these European things and we do not know what they signify. It is you, the missionaries who should instruct us. It is not really the business of the missionaries, I told him, to interfere too much in these matters; but since you want me to tell you the significance of a flag, this is it: a flag is the symbol of a nation. Each country has its own, by which we recognise those who belong to it and those who respect it. They are raised on fortresses, in ports, on ships and at the head of armies, to show that all these things belong to a particular nation whose flag is being flown; so if the French flag was flown here in Samoa, that would mean that Samoa belonged to the French and it would be the same for other nations. Well, why put a European flag here, cried Matafoa, who was present. Is it the Europeans who have created our land of Samoa? Is it the Europeans who have sent us here, we the chiefs? You are quite right, I told him, and that is why, if it was my concern and I was a chief like you two, I would warmly welcome all foreigners to my land, but I would not wish to receive their flag, as that would not end up being good for you and would only lead to disagreements. Why is that, said Mana? Because if, for example, you receive the French flag, neither the English nor the Americans will be your friends, and the same applies to the French and others, If you accept the flag of a third nation and if later the nation whose flag you have accepted is at war with another, the latter nation will also wage war with you, because you are an ally of the enemy. It is much better to be friends with everyone and not be submissive to anyone. That is true, cried Mana, yes, that is very true, but we are told that it is to protect us against the Papists. It is great to be protected when one is threatened and one cannot protect oneself, but what is the use of being protected when one is not threatened by anyone if not the protector himself? Listen to the story of a fish that I am going to tell you: there were three fishermen who went fishing with their nets. The first of the three who came across a fish said to it in a friendly manner, Fish my friend, do you see those two men over there, do not go near them, for they are here to catch you and they will fry you. What should I do then, said the first fish? Come with me, replied the fisherman, I have an excellent net, come on in; I will protect you from them. You will protect me, no doubt, but once I am in your net you will also be easily able to fry me. It is best that I go away to where neither you nor your friends can come and catch me. This is just a comparison with what you are concerned about. The fish, that is you and these islands, the Europeans are the fishermen and their flag is the net. Now do whatever you wish; do not believe however, I added, that the queen of England has ordered the missionaries to raise their flag in your islands; it is them and not her who wish to do it; they are not even of her religion and I am quite sure that she would be very angry if she knew all the stupid things that they have said about the French people, with whom this great queen wishes to live in peace and friendship. (Thus was my first exchange with the chief Mana, about a subject which was distasteful to me at first, but which I could not express in any other way, nor take a position which was more suitable).
I found out later, from another chief, to whom Mana had recounted this conversation, that immediately after this exchange the latter had gone to find the European who was organising this plot. On encountering him, he had said to him: William, I have come to tell you that you must not raise the flag. Well, why not? Is it not something we have decided together? Yes, but now I have decided against it. What is it that is stopping you and what has caused you to change your mind like a child? I have seen Silipele (the missionary) of Faleata and he has told me things that seem too reasonable to not be true; so no flag. What, unfortunate man, you went to talk with these liars of Papists, who are here to mislead you; you have made a great mistake, my poor Mana, you are a very great sinner. Well, I am as much a sinner as you wish, but we will not have a flag until we are better informed about this.
Several days later, there was also a great assembly of chiefs from all the surrounding tribes to discuss this subject. They proposed the raising of the flag and the expulsion of the Papists. When it was the turn of Mataafa to take the floor he said: We talk of putting up a flag to protect our islands from the Papists; what is the use of doing this when we do not understand it? Do we really know what this means, we the Samoans? For a long time now we have been made to fear the Papists; Well, they have arrived here now and there is no way of making them leave; is this a bad thing? Certainly not; we can get to know them ourselves and then we will know what we have to do. But for the moment I do not want a flag, we do not need that to protect us. Everyone was of the same opinion; but a more fervent catechist still wanted to speak against the Papists. Then an eula fale (leading subordinate) called Sepouté, still a heathen, came to our defence with enthusiasm: What, he said, you wish to drive out our Papists? No, you will not drive them out, you will more likely be driven out yourself. Off you go. But really, no one will be chased out, neither those who wanted to chase others away, nor those who did not want it.
But the time had arrived for me to return to Sava’i, given that the sloop that I had acquired was at last ready and the six weeks that I had spent here had been sufficient for me to make a devoted friend of Mataafa, who would always provide me with hospitality, even if all the others might reject me. And to give the other chiefs of Faleata time to realise that they had been wrong to let themselves be intimidated by threats when they had, for the first time, wished to declare themselves Catholics. When I said farewell to everyone, they all made me promise to come back as soon as possible. Mataafa was waiting for me to go with him to his native land, right to windward of the island and the other chiefs were waiting to make their solemn profession of faith. If anyone on Sava’i asks what we did on Upolu, you will tell them that the chiefs of Faleata, Faumuina, Seuili ma Papalice (are all Papists), that is exactly what I did when I arrived at Salelavalu, as it was the first thing that they asked me.
I found, at the home of the chief Moe-Taupume, our Brother Jacques Peloux, who I had left there to watch over our belongings. He had found the length of my absence very trying, for at first we only expected to be away for a fortnight and almost two months had passed since our separation. During this time he had at all times been well treated by our chief; he had also been able to occupy himself with some small carpentry tasks, such as two bed frames, two tables, two benches and shelves for the ornaments and this had gained him a fine reputation for skill in the community. New ploys had been tried with chief Moe-Taupune for him to abandon the Papists, but he continued to refuse. You see, he said to them, the tattoo on my body; well, I have another which has been made on my soul by Silipele, one can no more easily be effaced than the other. For to rid yourself of a tattoo, there is no other way than to peel off the skin of a person.
I also met up with the messenger from Tuata, who came to find me on Upolu with a letter from Father Violette, telling me that, with the growing number of novices at Alatele, the chiefs had decided to have a small church constructed and they wanted me to come as soon as possible to discuss it with them. Nothing could have been more pleasing to me than this news, nor more encouraging to us all. I had all the goods destined for Father Violette put on board the sloop, to be transported by sea, whilst I organised myself to take the same route that I had followed the first time, through the villages, where we had caused such great fear. This time only the children fled, but the adults did not seem very troubled. We had to follow, once again, this widely known path of the devil, that the Samoans claimed to have been incapable of constructing and to which they left all the prestige of having done this work to the evil spirit, so that no one would ever be tempted to try to make them undertake another such task.
I can well assure you, my dear de Meydat, that it was a very great pleasure for me to meet again with these novices, who had been the first to consent to receive us in their area and the first to be able to support me and my colleague, Father Violette, of whom you would have a very high opinion if you knew him. We rejoiced in the Lord that in spite of so many obstacles, the future seemed to be looking very favourable; the chief Tuala and all the people were very encouraged when they learned of the resolution of the chiefs of Faleata. We conferred together on this subject, about which they had sent me their message; the next day all those who were capable of working went off into the forest to cut the uprights and the other timber necessary for the church. They consented to allow Father Violette and me to be the architects, despite the fact that they thought themselves very capable in this area. After we had cut the lengths and taken all the timber to the site in advance, they were not a little surprised to see that, having placed each of the uprights in its hole and all the timbers in place, all the framework was level and in line, without any need to revisit it; this is something that rarely happens when they make their own houses, as they do not have a general plan and work only on the reliability of the eye. They are often obliged to keep an upright which is taller or more curved than the others, or to lengthen of shorten the other pieces of the building on the spot, except for the arches that are used to support the little rafters of their roofs. This is the work of talented carpenters, who know how to trace out and prepare their work on the ground before putting it in place. This first demonstration of our skill earned us a huge reputation.
While we were all busy with this work, we saw the spy, who I have already told you about, appear again; this time he had to sort out with the chiefs a quarrel which ended with him being expelled from the village. He had been foolish enough to say something which, in the minds of our people, would disgust Father Violette enough to make him not wish to stay with their tribe and to go away and live elsewhere. While I was inside the house, I heard angry words that sounded like a riot, so I went out immediately to see what was going on and I saw the chief Tuala, the tulafale [33] and many others doing battle with this individual. Tuala, seeing me arrive, said to me: Silipele, [34] this is a bad man who we must drive out from here; he has said to Father Violette that this country is worthless, there is no fresh air, no water and lots of mosquitos; he should leave. Off you go, he shouted at him with all his might, indicating the path from his residence. Others were saying amongst themselves: What has this little man with eyes like a pig come here for. As for me, I laughed heartily at the misadventure that this individual so richly deserved.
Finally the time for me to return to Upolu and arrived, I gave the order to the European who was captaining our boat to set off for Solelavalu, while I departed on foot. He tried, in fact twice, to set sail, but the currents were strong and the wind so unfavourable that he gave up the idea and came back ashore to tell me that it was not possible to do otherwise and that he would no longer take charge of anything, after which he went off to another island with some of the natives. As I had an indispensable need of the boat to take my belongings to Solelavalu and transport them to Upolu, I set out myself, with Brother Jacques and four natives, to try and transport them. An English resident in the area offered his services as master, with the promise of leading us safely to port.
So we left the small anchorage where we were, by the passage which allows entry to only small craft about the size of ours, which would have the capacity of about two or three tons. We had great difficulty in maintaining any progress against the swell; the wind which was not very favourable had dropped somewhat and it was only with the help of our two oars, energetically manoeuvred by the strong arms of our four natives, that we were able to avoid being hurled and smashed on the rocks by the current, the rocks being only separated from us by about eighteen or so feet; but having avoided these dangers we were still not out of trouble. To have to pass the night without any provisions, with the chance of being carried far away by the current or a contrary wind, was not a reassuring situation for any of us. We felt we should seek refuge in the bay of Mataota which was about a mile and a half further on, the same bay where we had anchored the first time with our schooner and where we had received Alatele’s messengers [35] who invited us to come to their village. Our Englishman was the most anxious to take up this advice; however, his knowledge of the area should certainly have reminded him that the bay in question was not tenable, even for large ships, if the northwest wind had been blowing for even half a day.
Huge swells like hillsides form, then suddenly drop onto precipitous rock faces. It is precisely these unfavourable north-west winds that had been blowing for the three days that had preceded our departure. Thus when we believed we had found a safe haven in port, we became aware of our dangerous misjudgement when there was no time to rectify it. Instead of finding ourselves in a bay that we had hoped would be calm and tranquil, we found ourselves suspended on the crest of a mountain of water whose speedy withdrawal dropped us into a deep valley, then we found ourselves, a moment later, once again suspended on high. What to do in such a situation? We dropped anchor, but what good could that do us? Anchor, chain and boat were all lifted up like a feather by each swell, which carried us nearer and nearer to the rocks, which surrounded us like a wide band of white water and which the swell surged against, breaking on it with fury, the noise seeming similar to a continual and uninterrupted rolling of distant thunder. Suddenly our Englishman started to make a bundle of his shirt and jacket, keeping on only his trousers. Why are you doing that, I asked him. To save myself, he said, and I think that all of us have nothing more important to do than to try and find a way out of this situation. He even suggested immediately letting go the chain so as to be borne onto the rocks and thus be able to start swimming when we were as near to land as possible. We did not exactly want to follow this advice. We preferred to raise the anchor and steer our boat towards a small opening between two rocks that formed a sort of channel, which the local canoes passed through. We managed this with the help of the single oar that was left to us, the other having been carried away by the sea; but by misfortune we arrived at the opening at the moment when the swell, after having subsided and rolled along the beach front came back to the open sea through the channel, forming a swift current which was going to finish up by flowing round the steep rock face where it had first broken. So we found ourselves just about head on to the face of this precipitous rock wall, which was a foot higher than the level of the water when the swell ebbed and was five or six feet under water when it flowed in. We were in no doubt about our imminent danger, our only hope was to recommend ourselves to the Holy Virgin, whilst awaiting the next swell, which was going to decide our fate. We saw it coming, a little less violent than the preceding ones and it contented itself with lifting the front third of our boat onto the edge of the parapet, leaving the rest to fall back, like a man who would find himself tipped backwards, half of his legs caught on the edge of a roof with his head and back cast backwards towards the street. The next time round, the wave could break over us and swallow us up in the depths, or else coming up under us, carry us up onto the rocks where there was no further risk to our lives; it is this last thing that happened to us. Without having the time to look behind us, we found ourselves enveloped in a sort of cloud of damp spray produced by a final wave that broke around us and which, in withdrawing, left us practically high and dry on the reef.
As if by some stroke of magic, I found myself alone on the boat; The Englishman, the Brother and the natives had fled in the direction of dry land. I did not exactly share their fear, but clung to the mast which was leaning first to one side, then to the other. The young Sebesemo, who was first to see me, came straight away to rescue me. I wanted to wait a little longer; he took me by the hand and made me jump into the water which was sometimes halfway up my body and sometimes up to my shoulders; then I lost touch with the bottom and with my balance and I had trouble battling against the current. A chief of the area, who was on the beach with all the inhabitants, who were Methodists, ordered his men to come to my aid. Some twenty men came forward and, each grabbing hold of part of me, pulled me ashore. Of all those who had been drawn to the beach by curiosity, to see what was happening, not one could explain how we had been able to escape this danger. The Protestant minister himself also came to share with us his suspicion that we were all going to perish. He offered a change of clothing. I thanked him, telling him that I had my belongings in a trunk that had not been soaked and that I wanted to stay with my men, who had been somewhat upset by this event. The natives, who numbered about eighty all set to work to pull the boat onto dry land. It then served us as a hotel where we could store our small amounts of sea-going provisions, after which I left everything under the guard of the local chief and I left with all my people.
Arriving at Solelavalu on 24th December, the chief Moe announced to me that he and his family wished to make their profession of faith before I left for Upolu, and this took place the following day, Christmas day, with the celebration of Holy Mass, in the house where we were staying. A family meal, in the local style, ended the day in an almost European way, because of the memories that all this stirred up in us, then the following day was occupied with making our preparations for departure. Moe made available his large canoe and chose his team of paddlers; as for me, I chose a trunk holding the most necessary of belongings and a small box with a few medical supplies.
Although we were going to have to cross a strait of 4 to 8 leagues in open sea, the promising weather conditions and the skill of our natives eliminated any feelings of fear. I was installed in the place of honour in the bow of the canoe, which went flying over the sea to the sound of a new song, improvised in honour of the Papists and here is more or less the meaning: Come, let us strike on the log, day is breaking, love to the Papists, against whom the missionaries have gathered assemblies; here are the words in Samoan: tui le pogaï, tau puao, ma talofa i la popa ua fono ai fai feaa. All along our route, we were regaled with numerous other similar songs, for this is the way the Samoans always travel. If there are no songs, they can no longer paddle in rhythm, the enthusiasm wanes and the speed diminishes.
After travelling for two days we arrived at Mulinuu (pronounced Moulinouou); this is the name of the point where I lived with Mataafa and the other chiefs of Faleata. Mataafa was no longer there; tired of waiting for me, he had, as we had agreed, left for his home territory, after having assigned someone to tell me that he was waiting for me.
The other chiefs of Faleata, no doubt a little vexed that they had been prevented from meeting me on the first occasion and that I had nevertheless stayed in the area with others, rather than with them, made up their minds immediately to make their public declaration of religious commitment. They even wished to do this the day after my arrival, but as the first day of the year was near, I wanted to have the pleasure of starting the new year in this way and to be able to offer to our Lord the new beginnings for these poor people. It was the house of the chief Faumiuna, [36] which served as a chapel. The gathering was made up of about forty people from all the sects in the archipelago, that is to say Independents, Methodists, Jiouviliens [37] and pagans, there were chiefs, brothers, sons, wives, sisters or daughters of chiefs who were easily recognisable by the finery of their outfits, especially worn for this occasion. The chiefs were 1. Faumaina; his wife Sinaloa; his daughter Tuli, now called Amelia etc. etc; 2. Papalii; his wife Faletaa; his daughter Malia Louisa, etc. etc; 3. Seiceli; his wife Teva, etc; 4. The secondary chiefs or tulafola, Falausa, Leapaii, Aumao, Misi, Tinfea, Llitinifua, and their wives etc. The gathering was not very large, but it was suitable for the occasion. I can assure you that I would not have wanted to change places with anyone else and the day passed very pleasantly and very successfully. Towards evening there was another gathering for supper, where everyone brought his contribution of food, which was distributed to each one according his rank.
From then on most of my novices come every evening, in the same way and for the same purpose. In doing this they had a double purpose, to feed their missionary and to learn prayers at the same time. We began to explain things to them. I also composed for them, in the same way as on Wallis, a little hymn to the tune of Lucis creator optime, etc. In a few days it was learned by half a dozen young girls, in whom I later observed an ability and taste for singing. [38]
Whilst waiting for a house to be put at my disposal, I had to settle myself at the home of Faumina. A small corner was sufficient for me, as I had nothing but a small trunk and a few medications that had come with me in the canoe of Moe-Taupumu. So I thus became a true member of a Samoan family, but the most honoured and most well cared for, during all the time that I remained there. I can say that these good people did not let me lack for anything, as much as was possible for them. The best bananas, the finest fish, the most sort after and carefully chosen shellfish were for me. When the chief became aware that the food supplies would arrive late, he went fishing himself and returned with several fine fish; then Sinaloa, his wife, hastened to prepare them and bring them to me. I could not praise this good woman to you enough; apart from her natural goodness, she possessed many other qualities that gave her a very great influence within the family and elsewhere as well. Daughter of one of the great chiefs, she had elegant manners which made her easily stand out. In a word, she took great care of me and she did everything in a gracious manner such as one would be surprised to find in a people reputed to be savage. I would rarely pass a day without her bringing me something to eat, sometimes three of four times. She would ask me if I wished to eat or, at other times, when she had something good or to my taste, she would prepare it without saying anything. Everything was placed on a small mat which was used for this purpose; in the middle was a fine fish, well roasted, a small piece of pork, some lobsters or prawns; [39]. in one corner a freshly opened coconut, ready to drink from; she spread all this out at my feet and sat down before me, a fan in her hand to chase away the flies, which are very numerous. When I had finished, the leftovers and debris were removed in the same way, leaving nothing on the table. Most of the time, Sinaloa apologised for the late arrival of the food, or for the poor quality or the small amount of the food, telling me that Samoa was a poor country where there was little to eat. This was true by European standards, but a chief of the country would not have been treated as well; so it would have been an injustice and a gross lack of politeness on my part to not seem satisfied.
At that time I had begun, over a period of several weeks, to distribute some medicines for the children and other sick people. In France it is forbidden for the carers of the soul to involve themselves in curing the body, but here it is the absolute opposite. Our Samoans would not have understood a missionary who was not able to give them some remedies. It became an absolute necessity for me to become a doctor whether I wanted to or not, as long as my scientific ability did not do them any harm. Despite all this, I soon became aware that my reputation and my clientele was steadily growing. Every day new patients arrived from round about and even from far away; Canoes queued up in front of my hut, just like cars at the door of famous doctors in the capital. There was a time when areas all around the point had become like so many hospitals ready to receive the sick who were brought in from all over the island. I spent all my time seeing them and giving them simple medications. Nevertheless, I was frightened and fatigued by all this business, as I had nothing with which to prepare cures for all these people and I was exposing myself to the unfortunate situation of building a reputation that had no basis. As I had not wanted to create this situation, I thought that perhaps God had allowed it to happen so as to gradually wear away the prejudices that had formed around me and to give me the chance to baptise several small children who are now in the company of the angels; I let things flow along in their own way and I kindly welcomed everyone.
However it was not the same thing with the chiefs and my novices. They were proud to see so many people coming to their area, after having been blamed at first for welcoming the Papists; but when they noticed among those begging for medicines some who had spoken against them and us, they then addressed them in very unflattering terms: How is it that you come and ask for medicines from the Papists? Aren’t you afraid of being killed or poisoned; you were saying that we were tyrants and yet you come and ask for our remedies? Is it because they cost nothing here and you are upset at having to take pigs and taro to your own missionaries to pay them? Off you go to your own people; here you will be killed or burned alive. I tried to calm their ill humour, telling them that they should forgive, following the example of Jesus Christ. Oh yes, they said, you missionaries can forgive because you are very educated and accustomed to religious things; but we Samoans, it causes us a stomach ache to associate with those who have spoken ill of you. Oh well! I said to them, I have water for stomach aches and I will give you the very best. That made them laugh and they stopped thinking about being angry. One day though, I was not in control; two young women came to ask for water for a sick person; this is what they called the remedies, no matter whether they were liquid or solid, it was always water for the head, the eyes or the stomach, etc. The chief Faumuina recognised them and said to them: Is it for so and so? Yes. Silipele, he then said to me, let me deal with this; the young man for whom they are asking for water is a bad type; he spoke against you while you were saying mass; he said that you drank and ate on your own without sharing with others; let me attend to it, I will see to giving him water. Then he spoke to the messengers, but before he had finished his sentence they were already far away.
Among all these sick people, there were some whose problems would have needed the care of someone experienced and others who only had minor problems which were not very serious and were easy to treat or give reassurance for, but amongst them there were also those who found the odour of the camphorated alcohol very enticing. They pretended to have a headache or a painful arm or leg to obtain a few drops, with which they rubbed themselves with excessive sensuality. One day I refused it to a young man who had no more need of it than I did. He angrily threw his container to the ground and broke it with his heel; some other young people of Faleata, taking this act as an insult to me, fell upon him and would have treated him very roughly if the chief and I had not intervened. So this tells you clearly enough, my dear friend, that I am not at all at risk amongst these people, and that whoever might not behave well towards me, in either words or deeds, would be exposed to serious consequences. The same thing happened to Father Violette when he was residing at Alalea. [40]
Caring for the sick and distributing medicines was still not the thing that put us in contact with the largest number of people. Most were drawn by curiosity and the novelty of seeing a Papist in Samoa and above all a Papist who did not harm anyone and where the ministers and their catechists did not hesitate to suggest that this was precisely our most dangerous aspect. We knew how to cleverly disguise the feelings of a wolf under the innocent guise of a lamb , the timeo danaos et dona ferentes [41] and this was exploited by them in the public arena and in secret committees; however curiosity was even stronger than all their preaching.
I laughed heartily one evening on hearing the response of some folk who had come some fifteen leagues, with a canoe full of sick people. We have heard say, they asserted, that the Papist missionary can do what our Saviour did, that he cures, for nothing, the sick, the blind and the lame and we have come to you; and the common sense of the Samoans had overcome their fear.
There are many amongst them and especially amongst the chiefs, who like to see for themselves. The point of Mulinuu is a place of passage for all the canoes of the archipelago that are travelling from one place or one island to another. There is not a chief who does not go once or twice to visit the other members of the family who live in other districts. The point where I was situated, the most central in all the archipelago, was where all the groups of travellers had the habit of stopping for the night or for a part of the day. Consequently, no one missed the opportunity to come to the hut where I was staying; even though I am not a sight worthy of the angels I can assure you that I was put on show for all these many people, who passed me in review during the course of ten months; almost every day I saw strangers enter my hut, sit down without saying anything and gaze at me. I alway tried to be pleasant towards them and to start a conversation.
It is especially on these sorts of occasions that I have been able to notice more than once the sensitivity and refined attentions of my dear hostess, the worthy Sinaloa; she continually kept her eye on me and always listened attentively to what I was saying. If the visitors were hardly worth bothering about, she went about her work at the rear of the hut behind the partition, but if she heard any unsuitable conversation she came out. She was very skilled at putting a stop to it and calling the troublemaker to order. When the visitors were chiefs or maybe wives or daughters of important chiefs of the country and if I was not there, she came to alert me; she was very expert at emphasising everything that could be favourable to me, whether in what I said or in the way in which I acted. If it happened that another person said to her: Well! Is our missionary good, are you satisfied? I am sure of it, she would reply and why would we not be satisfied? He provides water for all our sick people, etc. etc. But what about all that is said about the Papists. - Come now! It is disgusting! Like all of us in Samoa we are gullible! We have been told lies to make us afraid. It is the absolute opposite that should be said, for it is rather the missionaries who came here first who have done all the things that the papists have been criticised for; you can see, my dear, it is unbelievable the number of sick people who come here and yet they all go away with their medicine without paying anything and that is not all, for Silipele does not act like the other missionaries who refuse to give remedies even when a person is very unwell. You know very well that we Samoans do not like to be told that our relatives are going to rot and that that is how it is, that is what always happens. Here is his cure: God will do whatever he wishes. How good is that! As Silipele says, this child is very sick. Certainly! This is not like some of the other missionaries who always says: Ho! Ho! Ho! Why give medicine to this sick person who is going to die? - Yes, That is the absolute truth, our missionaries behave like that; I know a person who went one day to ask Mr Pritchard for some medicine for her mother. What is the problem, he asked. - She has a stomach ache. Give her a yam and a nice piece of pork to eat, that will cure her stomach ache. Another time he was asked what things should not be eaten following medication. He said, taro, pork, fish, fruit, everything is forbidden; only stones are allowed. Don’t you see how gross that is? As if we do not know that there is no need to forbid stones. I overheard this little conversation. This is why Sinaloa was able to sing our praises amongst people of her rank. I am well aware that she has disabused them of a good number of prejudices that they held against us. I would never get to the end of it if I wanted to recount to you all the little rumours of this sort that I have been witness to.
What is more, I was very occupied myself, replying to all the questions I was asked about the origins of the lotu popé (Catholic religion). Papist is not the name of our religion, I told them. It is called the Catholic religion. - What is the Catholic religion, what does catholic mean? That means that our religion is like the sun and like the sea. You see, the sun and the sea are everywhere, all around the world; in the same way, without having changed since the very beginning, they are catholic or universal. It is the same for our religion. It is catholic because it has always existed since the time of Jesus Christ and the apostles. It has not changed. It is everywhere and maintains all the truths that Jesus Christ and the apostles taught and the head of this religion is called the Supreme Pontiff or the pope if you like, in English. And that means father; that is how the great head of our religion should be regarded, as the father of all Christians, who are his children. Peter, who you know of, was the first pope, then his replacement was the second; then another followed and so on. There have been 262 since Jesus Christ, right up to Gregory XVI, who has just died and now we have Pius IX, his successor, who we obey just as the first faithful obeyed Peter. All of you, you call all those who are Catholics Papists. Well! Paul, Timothy, James, John, Andrew, Matthew, Luke and Mark, who wrote the holy scriptures, they were all Papists; they gave their books to their successors after having passed on to them all the other matters about religion that were not written down and explained to them everything that was in their books. All these things have remained with us since that time and that is what makes up the Catholic religion.
Do you know the holy book? Our missionaries have told us, in their books and in their discussions, that you forbid the reading to the word of God! … Not only do we not forbid the reading of the holy book, but we also teach people to read it correctly. Everyone in our country has one or two in their homes and we rebuke those who do not have one or who do not read it.
But if you know the word of God, why do you worship statues and images? We have been told that you regard Mary, Peter, Paul and other saints who are dead, as gods. That is a straight out lie, invented through malice or ignorance. We know perfectly well that there is only one God and because God himself has honoured and loved these saints, so they are with him now in his company, in the same way that we, here below, respect the father and the friends of a chief so as to give pleasure to that chief who loves them; as for the images and statues, we know that they are just paper, ink and wood or metal. We do not worship these things, but we use them to bring back the memories of those who we should love. You have seen the home of William; there are pictures of his father, his mother and his friends; they serve to remind him of them, because they have been precious to him and because they are good people. Well, we make use of the crucifix to remind us of the goodness of Jesus, who died for us. The images also remind us of Mary and the saints, who are certainly more perfect than us, or William’s family, or lots of other people. Once again, you can see that this habit is not evil. As for we Samoans, we did not know much more about it; but we can clearly see that we have been misled, because what you tell us is good. …
At this point, I showed them a crucifix , which was passed from hand to hand to be examined with the greatest of amazement. “You have heard readings from the bible, I said, where one spoke of Jesus Christ. It is a book for you to listen to, from which you can learn of the sufferings of Jesus and from which you will learn to know God. Well! The crucifix and a book to read too, where you can learn about the Saviour of the world, who died on the cross to save us all. Your ears and your eyes are equally useful for learning to love Him, as it is He who has given us both of them. Then, everyone showed signs of approval. That is not all, I added. Also, I have made use of this crucifix throughout the day during my time here. You know that much has been said against me here in Samoa; it has been said that I am a worshipper of idols, a lier, a tyrant and a traitor. I should be angry with you and wish you ill, but when I see my crucifix I dare not be angry with you any longer, because Jesus, on the cross, forgave his torturers and wished well to those who had harmed him”. - On hearing these words, they looked at each other and said amongst themselves that that seemed fair and reasonable.
Silipele, they sometimes said to me, why do you not come, like the other missionaries, to visit all our villages and speak to us about religion. Then we would know the truth! - That is not necessary, I told them. Look, I have not left this area and yet I have seen almost all the chiefs of the country! You do not know me well enough yet, you are afraid of us, If I visited your homes, you would flee into the mountains and I do not want to cause you all that trouble. Wait a bit longer till you know me better; when you are no longer afraid of me, then I will come and visit you; I will come into your homes, we will converse together peacefully and we will drink kava together. - Conversation of this sort did not fail to cause favourable reactions. Everyone heaped ridicule on the unnecessary fears that people had of us and these were the sorts of exchanges that I had, almost every day, with new acquaintances.
But, as I have already told you, the ecclesiastical celibacy was what struck them the most; they never failed to ask me: Why are you not married? If I was married, I replied, you would not be able to come into this hut. The chief Faumena and his wife would be obliged to leave so as to leave space for my wife and children - general laughter! - and then, instead of giving you free medicines, I would have to sell them at a high price so as to be able to buy dresses, ice creams, clothing and sweets for my wife and children. I would not be able to go and visit your sick people. … That is certainly true, they said, so it is to imitate Jesus Christ and the apostles that you do not marry! … Yes, no doubt, but Peter was married, because Jesus came one day to heal his mother-in-law. He was married before he knew Jesus Christ; but after, he gave up everything to follow him. Yes, but, why then do our missionaries have wives? It is their whim to have them, just as it is to their taste to call themselves missionaries, even though they are not; they have not been given the legitimate right by anyone to preach the gospel, so they have only taught you, up till now, their personal opinions and the lies that they have invented, because of jealousy of us. … A branch from the true vine that I brought, has served me well in making them see the uninterrupted succession of legitimate pastors and the shameful origins of the sects that are enemies of the faith. Nothing conforms better with the ideas of these people than the order of the hierarchy and the teachings of the Catholic religion. Thus it has not failed to make an impression on all the chiefs who have come to visit me.
Several of them have made a positive request of me to send them a missionary as soon as there is one available and have returned to their homes, making it clear that they newly approve of the Papists; nothing more is needed to awaken the worries of the heretics. Immediately, vague threats and urgent pleas were brought to bear on the chief, who was forced to put off his project; he no longer talked of becoming a Catholic, leaving it until such time as was more suitable. Each one of the chiefs was like a trickle of water that wants to flow from a pond, one can easily stop one, but when the pond is too full it can easily overflow from various places and cannot be stopped.
Out of all the examples, I will never forget the words of one chief, who came to say farewell to me after having spent some time at Mulieum [42] with his relatives. Silipele, he said to me, I am the only one to make the oil. One needs to know that the Independent missionaries, in exchange for their enthusiasm in preaching the gospel in Samoa, have instilled into all their followers the obligation to bring them coconut oil, which they gather in their barrels and put on board their ships to be sent to London; they have deliberately rejected all the festivities that honour our Saviour and instead have established an annual occasion which is celebrated in the month of May, specifically to gather coconut oil. The service begins with a sermon by the minister to excite and encourage the generosity of the faithful and the ceremony ends with the pouring of the oil into the barrels. … It was a widespread belief and willingly adopted, that heavenly goodwill was measured according to the quantity of oil, here on earth, that each one would have poured into the hands of these ministers. … At the time that we arrived, they were concluding a jubilee; it had been suggested by the head of the sect in London. The news of it had arrived in Samoa via their new mission ship; the people were invited to celebrate in advance an approaching jubilee, whose significance they did not yet understand, but which would be explained to them without delay. The result was that with I do not know how much goodwill, they gathered a great abundance of oil, which we saw with our own eyes. We saw a few small samples, in three or four large containers, full to overflowing. A progress report of the works of the mission for the year 1846, printed in English and Samoan had these words to say: The mission has prospered this year, more than ever, we have gathered fifty barrels of coconut oil, etc. A worthy result for a jubilee! Although it should be remembered that a jubilee was formerly, for the Jewish people, a year of celebration because, during that year, they had remitted their debts and gained tax relief from their liabilities; whilst in Samoa, it is to the contrary a year of debts and taxes. … This probably comes from the fact that the ministers who know their scriptures and have learned from the experience of the unwise virgins, [43] do not wish to find themselves off their guard, because of a lack of oil. This is why they load up their barrels, their houses and their ships. Tell me now if the worship of oil is not easily equated to the worship of money. … More than once, too, I have heard the Samoans exclaim naively; I do not know what our missionaries want to do with so much oil; this is why the chief, of whom I spoke previously, felt the desire to have a missionary who did not need oil.
As the reputation of the Papist missionary spread far and wide, the confidence and the affection of the people of Faleata grew daily. Every Sunday, I saw at mass, new faces who presented themselves for the following reason; to make their commitment to Catholicism. Already the chief’s house was not big enough to hold the one hundred novices that I had by then; at this juncture, a European Catholic was obliged to leave his land and house because of a dispute he had had with a chief, a zealous Protestant. This latter person, probably fearing that the European would attract people to himself, seized this opportunity to take over the house and make him leave the area. The poor unfortunate, who is a very peaceful man, not wishing to have any further disputes, gifted the land and the house to me and left to live with the tribe of his wife. I was not able to claim the land, as it was said the title was worth nothing, but the house was not disputed.
My chiefs of Faleata with their young people, most of them still pagans or Siouviliens, set out one morning to go and get it in their canoes. Some of them went into the enclosure of Mr Pritchard and even into his house, to have a look; Mrs Pritchard, no doubt shocked by their temerity, ordered them to leave; they obeyed, but in departing one of them made the mistake of turning his back on the lady, who claimed to have been insulted by having this immodest action committed within her sight . The next day, I saw the Her Majesty’s British consul, in opera hat, braided uniform and sword at his side, come to demand reparation for such an outrage. Everyone denied having committed an insult towards whoever it might be, unless one was going to take as an outrage the everyday dress of the islanders. Mr Pritchard was not satisfied. He replied to the chief Papalo [44] that he would hold him responsible for all this upset and refer it to those on the English ship that was about to arrive. Nothing is more annoying to these people than such threats of violence, for they wanted me to understand that if I had not been there they would have laid hands on these papalangui ( Europeans) ia pala, [45] being especially vexed that they had been threatened with a warship. “Calm down, I said to them, this story will end up as a joke and it will not be you who is laughed at”.
When the hut, which had been the cause of all this upset was finished, I divided it into two parts, the first at the front, to serve as a chapel, and the other at the back to serve as my lodgings. I left to Brother Charles Aubert, who had recently arrived from Wallis, the other small hut that I had on the sea front; The Brother took over the care of the sick and I was then able to work in the more specialised area of the instruction of our novices.
I taught them the 0ur father, the hail Mary and the apostles creed, some hymns to the tunes Lucis creator optime, Christe decreta et statuta Dei, and Venez divin Messie, Jésus paraît en vainqueur, and O filii et filie ….and to recite the rosary. … On Sundays there was mass and instruction, in the evening the recitation of the rosary and singing of hymns and every evening at nightfall there was instruction and, as was done on Wallis, prayers, the rosary and a hymn were recited and sung in each family; our Samoans are very fond of ceremonies and religious festivals. Most of them have a talent for singing and learn with great ease and cooperation. The fast for the Friday of Easter, the Pentecostal mass and the midnight mass please them even more, as these do not take place in the other sects; I have already been able to introduce some small details of the sacred history, the creation, the patriarchs, the laws of Moses, the coming of the Messiah, the apostles, the church, its constitution, its hallmarks, the heresies, the origins of Protestantism and its consequences and the sacraments. They especially admired the rites of baptism, extreme unction and the holy orders. - Where baptism is concerned, they recalled with criticism and disgust the carelessness of the Protestants who allow babies and old people to die without the rites of baptism. Nothing made a greater impression on them than the sacrament of extreme unction, to prepare the sick to die in peace and the presence of the priest at the burial. … As for the holy orders, the practice of preparing young people for the priesthood by distancing them from the everyday world, the tonsure as a mark of their calling, the cassock that covers the entire body, the bearing … all this has given them an impressive idea of the Catholic vocation and made them utter the word despicable, when speaking of Protestantism; what is remarkable is that several of them, having at first only wished to make a farce of becoming a Papist, have found themselves astonished to find that it was all to the good that they have become lotu (disciples of the religion).
I received news that the church at Alatele [46] was finished; they were waiting for me to come and hold the inauguration. The civil celebration took place on Saturday, with the distribution of foodstuffs prepared for the occasion; there were considerable amounts of taro, yams, coconuts, and one hundred and fifty roast pigs. We had ten for our serving and the rest provided a treat for all the families in the country for a whole week, as everybody, Methodists, Independents, Simianistimes, [47] Catholics, everyone had contributed. The religious festivities took place the next day with a procession, which greatly pleased the young people, a benediction of the church and the celebration of holy mass. For several weeks the novices had worked to build a house for Father Violette; this hut is very well made, quite comfortable and built very close to the chapel.
I left Brother Jacques there to finish off the building and returned to Upolu, passing by Manua, [48] a small island situated between the two large islands. I received hospitality from a talafale [49] who was very powerful in the area and who wished to become a Catholic, despite the mass opposition of all the rest of the population. I also saw there another chief, who had expressed the same intentions and who paid me a compliment which made it clear that he lacked neither intelligence nor good taste. There was no kava left in the house except the one root from which the surrounding shoots had already been removed; they apologised for the small quantity available. Please give it to our guest, said the chief, turning towards me, it is good that it be presented to you, who belong to the very roots of religion. I clearly understood what he wanted to say to me. I thanked him, approving of his comparison; we conversed lengthily about different cults. Why did you not come earlier, he asked me, we are all with you now; still it does not matter, if your religion is the true faith, we will all be part of it one day.
Having arrived at Mulinuu, I found my little team, still the same and very happy to see me again. We continued our little practices, the singing of hymns and discussion of the catechism as in Wallis.
A few weeks later, I learned with pleasure of the return of my old friend, Mataafa and his family, who had come back to spend some time at Mulinuu. Two months previously I had gone myself to see him in his home territory. Almost all the other chiefs, zealous Protestants, had forbidden their people to shake hands with me under threat of a fine of ten pigs; but almost all of them could not resist coming to shake my hand. So this family of Mataafa's was a true circle of friends for me. In spite of this, he still did not pronounce himself a Catholic, for reasons that I found fair, but he committed his tealafale, [50] called Poëpoë, his wife, his niece, who was about 10 years of age and his only son, Tui, who was about 13 years old, to join with us, which they did without hesitation. Mataafa’s son is the most handsome child in Samoa, with his regular features, his happy disposition, his very pale skin and his excellent character. He will perhaps one day be the most powerful chief in the archipelago, as his father is one of the most respected at the moment and his mother and sister are among the most powerful of all those named Maliitoa, in the Independent sect.
The relatives of Mataafa, both Methodists and Independents, came several times to make urgent representations about the fact that he had committed his son to become a Papist. He said to them, do you wish me to prevent my son from doing as he wishes? Is religion a matter in which one man can dictate to another? No one has the right to decide except God alone and the person concerned. I do not prevent you from being whatever you wish. I also want to enjoy the same freedom. Do not speak to me about this again. The rumour spread around later that he was about to declare himself a Catholic. His younger brother, a senior catechist in the Independent sect came too, in tears, to plead with him, asking him how this could be, that he wished to embrace an evil religion whose followers worshipped images etc. Mataafa could scarcely contain his anger. He started to refute these libels. “But there are also images in your books (their books are in fact filled with them). If something is wrong for the Papists, it is wrong for you too…. and the book itself, after all, is it not an image, since it represents in letters the written word of God? We wished to continue to insist, but Matualafa could no longer keep up: Come now, young man, he said to his brother, I will never join your religion and seeing that you want to know, I am telling you that I do not want any other religion than that of the Papists. You can let your family on your side know where you stand; as for me, I have already made my intentions clear to all those on the other side”. All these little features and many others that I cannot recall should be able to give you a good idea of the willing spirit and forward thinking of the Samoans?
About this same time, I received a letter from Tahiti in which Mr Marceau informed me of the fruition of a project which I knew of and of his coming arrival in Samoa on the Arche d’Alliance, with several Marist missionaries on board. [51] I cannot begin to tell you the joy this happy news brought me. [52]
The arrival of the Arche was a time of rejoicing and hope for us all and at the same time a period of edification that will leave lasting memories. Without mentioning the Europeans, our islanders themselves were not slow to appreciate the worthy commander Marceau, whose reputation is now universal. A solemn mass was celebrated aboard the Arche d’Alliance, with all our novices present. The following Sunday the same event took place on shore. Mr Marceau felt sorry for our poor little chapel; he gave us a large quantity of coloured fabric with which to decorate it and wanted to take the trouble of arranging it himself, as well as contributing three pictures in golden frames, thus succeeding in giving it a more suitable appearance. Our novices wanted to welcome their new family; they brought a dozen pigs and some baskets of yams to Mr Marceau. As for me, I hadn’t the pleasure of being able to offer him even the most meagre breakfast as I had neither the place nor the means; instead I was received on board almost every day like an important person. Furthermore, I was enlightened by everything that was happening before my very eyes; the morning and evening prayers delivered by the commander, with the officers and all the crew making a profound impression on me. In a word, I could see nothing finer than such an enterprise and no one more worthy or more capable of accomplishing it. Mr Marceau thought it acceptable to submit to a request that I made to him, to establish a commercial premises in Samoa; a hut was set up and a person in charge of business installed.
Two missionaries were also put ashore, as I could not remain alone, 15 leagues away from Father Violette and at risk of perishing if I went to see him. [53] So the two Fathers stayed whilst awaiting the return of the Arche d’Alliance, which left for Wallis then soon returned with Bishop Bataillon, who dealt with everything according to his views; and the more the Protestants added fuel to the flames, hoping that no new Papist missionaries would stay, the more I persisted in not letting them have that satisfaction.
After six weeks, the Arche returned, bringing Bishop Bataillon and a new missionary for Samoa. [54] His lordship arrived at the time when an epidemic caused the deaths of at least 150 people in the archipelago. All our people were laid low in their huts. The Bishop himself was badly struck down. We had not a moment’s rest from seeing to all our sick people. This was a true time of trial for the mission, for the only son of our highest chief, Faumuina, died and there was no lack of people, far and near saying that it was a punishment for his having accepted the evil religion of the Papists. This misfortune was of a nature to gravely compromise the mission, but God had strengthened the heart of the chief. Realising that his son was going to die, he came in haste to find me, saying that at least he must not be allowed to die without baptism. This young man, who was a very handsome boy, did not behave in a very edifying manner. He hesitated to declare himself a Christian, but on his death bed, giving in to the tears and the earnest supplications of his father, he told me himself that he wished to be baptised and give up his undesirable lifestyle, if he could only return to good health. I carried out the suitable offices; he replied in a full state of consciousness and I baptised him; a moment later a more violent crisis seized him and he passed away, despite all the care that we had given him. The pain was intense for a family who were still catechists; but it only served to augment their attachment to religion, in the hopes that they would find again, through it, he who they mourned today. This gave the Protestant minister in Apia the occasion to preach a sermon on the absurdities of Papism. He claimed that I had baptised a dead person and he compared a corpse to a plank. If you baptise a corpse, he said to his congregation, is it not the same thing as baptising a plank? Well this is what the Papist missionary in Mulinuu has just done. ….
There was great outrage amongst the heretic congregation, but even greater was the astonishment and indignation amongst our people when they heard of this impudent lie, for they knew perfectly well that we did not baptise the dead, but that we fervently wished to not let a person die without baptism. The heretics comprehended this with the indifference of those who allow a host of infants and adults to die and be buried like animals. …It has also happened that several times I have baptised some very ill children, without saying anything to their parents for fear of receiving a refusal, because of their prejudice against us. When our people have learned of this and the reason for this silence, they have not failed to express their satisfaction and their gratitude. …
The epidemic having run its course, Bishop Bataillon seized the first possible opportunity to go to the island of Savai’i where he had been expected for a long time, but only after having made arrangements with our chiefs to prepare the timber for a church to be built on the point where we were established. During his absence we saw the English frigate La Junon arrive in the port. It’s presence had been requested some time ago by the consul Mr Pritchard who wanted a helping hand in the exemplary punishment he wished to dispense, for certain insults that he claimed had been levelled at him by the natives and especially to have damages paid, for problems he also claimed to have been caused by them. …It was a question, as I have already told you earlier, of a young man who had shown his back to Mrs Pritchard … and of a mare which had been killed with spears.
On the subject of the insult directed towards Mrs Pritchard, our chief Papalii received a summons to present his explanations or his excuses. He replied with a letter to the commander of the frigate and to Mr Pritchard saying there was no insult on the part of the young man, that such was the everyday custom of the Samoans to not be clothed at the back, that he was being exposed to unpleasant bickering and that there was no need for him to explain.
Two or three days later, a large gathering was held to discuss the matter of the mare in the presence to the commander and of Mr William, the American consul, who acted as interpreter and also in the presence of the tribal chiefs. They first returned to the insult made to Mrs Pritchard. The chief Papalii got to his feet and said that there had been no insult, that Mrs Pritchard was either mistaken or lying and besides he was going to show them what had taken place. Then he arranged his clothing as the young man had been dressed, posed as a young man would as he passed through a door, with his back turned towards the commander and the commander burst out laughing, saying that there was nothing more to be said about the matter. …
The business of the mare was heatedly discussed on both sides. Mr Pritchard had already received a first compensation but he wanted a much more substantial one of up to 1000 francs; this the natives did not want to pay unless they were equally compensated for all the breadfruit trees that the mare had eaten, alleging that such was the custom in Europe and that they wished to follow it. The interpreter wanted to reply, but a man called Sepute shouted at him thus: “ Tell us then William, do you not have a religion? You are still a pagan? You came, so you told us at first, to bring us religion and it is warfare that you have brought. … Look at all our breadfruit trees that are dead, our land that is not as depleted when we are at war. …You still tell us that the Papists are tyrants, but it is you who tyrannise us. …No, we will not pay for the mare until you pay us for our breadfruit trees”.
A friendly arrangement was concluded between the two parties. As for the officers from the English frigate, they were mortified to have come from so far away to 1. Punish a ridiculous insult of which there was not sufficient proof and 2. To avenge the death of a mare that had the unfortunate habit of eating the bark of the breadfruit trees, one of the principal subsistence crops of the country.
During the visit of the Junon, the mission’s schooner, which had gone to take two missionaries to the island of Rotuma arrived; the people did not wish to receive them, but they allowed them to leave [55] on the schooner, which continued her route towards Fiji, where she found the two Fathers and Brother Annet Pérol reasonably content, with about a hundred people preparing for baptism. From there, she came to anchor in our port of Apia, just in time to catch a gust of wind and a surge of the tide such as had never been seen before. Despite her three or four anchors, she was thrown ashore onto a raised mound from which it was impossible to get her back into the water without a great deal of assistance. In these circumstances, the commander of the Junon, who had already received me very graciously aboard, sent a party of his crew with some equipment for the task. The English and American consuls showed great urgency in helping to direct operations. The difficulty was in trying to combine these forces with those of our three hundred natives who had gathered for this purpose. They wished to go about it in their own way to show that they were just as strong as the Europeans, their pride having been wounded by the fact that their neighbours had said that they would never succeed; they were anxious to prove them liars.
From six o’clock in the morning, they toiled without respite to clear, pull and push the ship; finally towards six o’clock in the evening, with a final effort, the schooner was afloat. A spontaneous shout of victory was like a signal and our people, triumphant, set off running towards their headland in search of food, as they had eaten nothing during the whole day.
This success consoled us a little where the accident was concerned, but it interrupted the work on our church which was already not progressing very rapidly. When the Bishop was back, we pushed them so vigorously that in less than three weeks we were in a position to be able to begin the construction. The structure would be 80 feet long and 30 feet wide, with a hight of 25 feet in the centre of the roof.
At first I had trouble getting them to cut trees big enough to serve as the uprights. They claimed, as a reason, that the whole tribe would not be capable of erecting them; we had to persuade them, by promising to get them in place with only six men, in the way that the Europeans did it. Not a single person wanted to miss out, on the day chosen for this work. They were greatly astonished and satisfied to see that with the help of a simple trestle and a double cable we held these enormous pieces of wood suspended in the air and placed them without difficulty in the holes prepared for them. This earned us, in their opinion, the reputation of very clever people, especially as on the same occasion we spared them the trouble of such heavy labour.
Not long before the construction of this church began, we were visited more frequently than usual by the chief Mana, about whom I have spoken earlier and I was given to think that he was pondering internally whether he might soon become a Catholic, but it was obvious that he feared the obstacles to be overcome and perhaps also that he would be no better received than the first time; this latter fear disappeared nevertheless with the understanding of his honest spirit, which allowed him to see in the Catholic religion, whose origins and principles he understood, the true religion as taught by Jesus and preached by the apostles. For quite a long time, even from just a few months after my arrival he had made obvious his leaning towards favouring Papism. A fono (general assembly) regarding the matter was held, where it was a question of deciding whether we would ever be accepted, whether it was necessary for others to accept us and even whether we should be driven out if possible.
When it was the turn of Mana to speak, here is what he said: “You have just spoken critically of the Papists; there was much talk of this before their arrival in Samoa and now that they are here you talk of driving them out. As for me, I say neither yes nor no, but I will remind you of what happened in the time of the apostles, when the chiefs of that time also held their fono to try to prevent them from preaching, just as we ourselves are doing today with the Papists. There was in the fono a man called Gamaliel, who spoke thus: “You chiefs, why do you torment yourselves about these people, let them be; if their doctrine is not good, it will fail and if it comes from God, there is nothing you can do! [56] Well then, it is the same thing today in Samoa, if the Papists bring a bad religion, then no matter what they do, it will not become established here; but if it is a good religion, you will be very comfortable in accepting it. So, stay calm and let the missionaries do what they will. Later on we will certainly know who was right and who was wrong”.
Most of the those listening welcomed the wisdom of these words, but heretics are not capable of moderation. One of the zealots of the sect replied to Mana: “Yes, we know very well, he said, you only speak like this because you want to become friends with the Papists; thus you will be the first to repent of this, as your name will be written in their books and when their warships come, their first blows will fall upon you and your country”. (They claimed that we took the names of chiefs and sent them to France so that they would be recognised and seized first by the war makers who would come to ransack their country). “Well, when my name is written down, replied Mana, what will happen then. Wasn’t the name of Pea (chief of the same tribe) taken down when the Papist ships came here for the first time ten years ago. (The Astrolabe and the Zéléé, commanded by Mr Dumont d’Urville). Did that cause deaths amongst us? It is not the habit of the Europeans to write down the names of what they see. They see a mountain, a river, a beautiful tree and they record the names. They record the names of fish, dogs and pigs and no harm comes to all these animals. It would be the same thing for me.
“When the papist ships come, do you know what will happen? I will go to Silipele, and he will protect me, because he knows that I love him, but for you who have spoken ill of him, watch out! You will all be killed without one of you escaping”.
In this way, the gathering concluded, with a great burst of laughter rather than an edict against the Papists, which was what had been expected.
All this happened during the first visit of the Arche d’Alliance to Samoa. Later on, Mana came to see Bishop Bataillon at our residence in Mulinuu to ask him if it was a sin to take a walk on Sunday. No, that is not a sin, the bishop said, as long as the walk is not too long and you do not fail to attend the services.
Then why has the English missionary told us in his sermon last Sunday that you have committed a sin if you go walking on that particular day. He claimed that you have trampled under foot the Lord’s day? “ It is probably that he felt like speaking ill of me”. At the same time Mana placed his hand on the gospel according to St Matthew in Samoan that he himself had lent to the Bishop to help him learn the language.
By chance he happened upon the chapter that begins thus: On a day of the sabbath when Jesus was walking with his apostles etc. etc.[57] How can it be, he exclaimed, that what the Saviour was doing with his apostles could be called a sin? … I can no longer put up with these lies … and he returned to his family very angry, saying to whoever wanted to hear him that he would not hesitate to become a Papist and that he would have for his missionary Father Savelio (Xavier). Indeed he had asked the Bishop several times to let him have Father Xavier Vachon. What still made him hesitate, was finding the means to be able to resist the opposition of the entire tribe. Finally he risked this dangerous undertaking by paying a visit to The American consul who lived in his domain and who also carried out the function of missionary. Here is how Mana approached the problem: “William, he said, I have come to say goodbye to you! - Why is that? Are you going away somewhere? - No, but it is because of religion that I am separating myself from you; we will no longer be together. I am going to take on another. Why is this? Have you found that ours is not good? - Yes, I believe that it is not good, it is not that of Jesus, but of Luther, who invented it 300 years ago. - What are you saying? Ours is certainly the religion of Jesus Christ, it is exactly the same thing.
No, that cannot be so, because Luther had never seen Jesus or the apostles. They died 1500 years before him and as well I know that Luther was at first a Papist. He let wicked desires grow in his heart and to fulfil them he left his religion to introduce a new one according to his liking. [58]
You are very wrong there my poor Mana, you have been grossly misled . - So which do you think is the best then? It is that of the Papists, it says in the same book that it is the oldest and I consider that it must be the best, because it is the closest to Jesus Christ and the apostles. - But can you not see right there how false that religion is? So you do not remember all that you have been told about it? - Yes, I have read all that and I have not forgotten, no more than all that you have told us; but I have also read in the gospel that Jesus Christ has said: He who wishes to follow me, he should leave his father, his mother, his wife etc. [59] I see that the Papists, in order to follow Jesus Christ and preach the gospel like him do not take wives. Why then do you others not leave your wives too? Do I not leave my wife to go and preach? You can perfectly well see that she does not come into the pulpit with me. - And also I certainly leave my wife when I go for a walk, but I join her again when I return. That is not what the scriptures mean by leaving your wife; so let us not talk about it any further, it is something that is decided. I am parting company with you because of religion, because I want to be saved; but do not be angry about it, we will always be friends. I will always bring you bananas. I will help you build your houses when you need help. You will pray for me and I will pray for you so, that we will always be friends. That is fine! Since that is your wish, do as you like, as long as we always remain friends. Following this they parted company and Mana came to report to me on the outcome of this discussion.
From then on, his resolve was no longer a secret from the members of his tribe, nor from the whole population of the island, on whom it made a marked impression. They tried everything they could that they thought might be able to stop him, but he had an answer to everything and reduced to nothing all the manoeuvres that they used to oppose him. One day when a small gathering was held to settle a question of local interest, all the women of his family and of the village began to weep; Mana asked them what was the matter. We are weeping for you, they said, how has it happened that you, who were a chief so knowledgeable and esteemed by all, are going lose yourself in an evil religion that will make you despised by all? We cannot help but weep for your misfortune. Daughters of Jerusalem, Mana said to them, do not weep for me, but for yourselves and your children. [60] For myself, I have found the right religion and I am accepting it. As for you, you can keep the wrong one; but you will be delighted one day to come to know the right one. Do you really want to separate yourself from us, they added? If you become a Papist, we will leave you and we will no longer bring you, or the chiefs who come to visit you, your food supplies. We will do nothing for you; you will no longer be our chief. Oh well! As you wish, replied Mana, if you behave like that, you will do what Jesus Christ says in the gospel: I have come to separate the father from his son, the mother from her daughter, the brother from his sister. [61] It is much better that I lose you than that I lose God. From then on there was nothing more to be decided; Mana came to inform us of his determination to declare himself a Catholic the following Sunday.
During the week, Bishop Bataillon left to go and visit the island of Tutuila, but he left me with the task of going to say the first mass and to install Father Vachon at Vaïlele, which is the residence of Mana, two leagues further on than Mulinuu. Of course, I allowed Father Vachon the satisfaction of saying the first mass in his future parish; the members of this small new group were Mana, his wife, three tulafale [62] of lesser chiefs and two or three young people, in all 7 people. I delivered a short talk on the Church, God’s work and the difficulties it encounters and on the wild mustard seed, which is so small and grows into a large tree. [63]
Mana wasted no time in building the house for his missionary. He required the help of the men of the village with the large timbers and that of the women for the preparation of the leaves for the roof. No one wanted to help him; he and his five companions had to undertake this work on their own. To go and gather the leaves and sew them together is a task essentially done by the women, but it was too much for just one. Mana did not shrink from this new difficulty; he set himself the task of carrying and sewing the leaves like a simple woman. All his relatives and the other women of the village wept with shame and vexation to see their chief working like one to them, but they did not dare to bring down the anger of the Protestant minister, who had strictly forbidden them to help in housing the Papist missionary. Several days later, there was another meeting in which Mana reproached all his people for their conduct towards him; he spoke lengthily about Luther who he said was a fornicator and his religion a religion of fornication. At these words, cries, tears and lamentations were heard throughout the gathering; people blocked their ears so as not to hear this blasphemy. It is all the same to me, Mana finished by saying, I am not angry with you and when you are tired of avoiding me, perhaps then you will come back. He was right to speak to them like this, for they were not capable of remaining separated from him for long. As well, a more profound knowledge of the Papist missionary and of his religion, which were the grounds for this separation would prevent a reconciliation. Hardly three weeks had passed when already excuses were being made. And these were from those who had been first to express the most lively opposition. At the present time, all has been reconciled; The little flock has grown and, as in many other regions of this archipelago, all signs are for a comfortable future for religion. A few words about the character of the Samoans, their social structures, their customs and their ingenuity will round out these details. …
These islands, as you know, are five in number, they are: Savai’i, Manono, Upolu, Tutuola and Manua. They follow each other in a line from East to West. One very remarkable thing is that where the islands end in a gentle slope and stretch out endlessly along the shoreline, the land is protected by a ring of coral reefs, raised enough to cause the waves to break, but not to prevent the water from stretching out gently towards the beach, leaving between the reef and the beach a sort of tranquil lake three or four feet deep and of considerable width, with a lovely sandy bottom, where one can bathe or catch innumerable fish and shellfish and safely paddle about in canoes. In the places where there are no coral reefs, the islands rise up in sheer rock faces, similar to old crenelated fortresses, which allow them to withstand the fury of the waves and cause the eye of the spectator to recognise the amazing aptitude of a providence which has been able to combine the astonishing variety of structures on the land with its usefulness and benefit to those who live there. There are certain places in these rock structures where the waves crash with such force that they have formed very deep caverns where they surge in with a sound similar to artillery firing or even a clap of thunder. Near to Alatele, there is one of these chasms above which nature or time has formed a sort of path where the water casts itself up like the flame of a volcano and falls back in a light foam, where one can see, each time, all the colours of the rainbow. The natives tell the story of a woman who, having slipped, through carelessness, into the opening was never seen again.
The temperature usually remains around 21 to 25 “reaumur”. [64] During the day the air is continually refreshed by the trade winds, [65] which come from the open sea; towards nightfall, the breeze from the ocean suddenly drops and the heat which has been absorbed during the day by the mountains is released as a light land breeze which blows all night, circulating around the islands.
As far as the produce of the country is concerned, it is similar to the that of the other Polynesian islands, that is, banana palms, of which there are 12 to 14 varieties, sugar cane, whose leaves serve to cover the houses, yams of which one type is very sweet and floury, taro or arunu esculantum whose root is succulent and preferred to the rest of the plant and whose leaves serve to make fabric, and a type of spinach, which is cooked in coconut milk with a little salt water. There is the tuber of the arrowroot [66] similar to a potato, but which must be reduced to a flour to be used as a foodstuff, small quantities of sweet potatoes, the vi, a large tree as tall as an old oak whose yellow fruit resembles a pear and has the taste of a reine-claude plum, the precious breadfruit tree, a sort of fig tree bearing on oval fruit as big as the head of a ten year old child and which lacks almost nothing in the way of nourishment. It is cooked over the open fire, or else reduced to a paste which can be kept in the ground for times when food is short.
And finally the incomparable coconut palm, which sends up into the air a single stalk, straight and bare, at the top of which the palm leaves unfold in the shape of a parasol to protect the clusters of young coconuts which develop at their base and thus form a sort of crown for this aerial monarch. Nothing is more outstanding than the daily and endless usefulness of this plant. From it alone one can clothe, house, feed and give light to the inhabitants of these islands, who often have no other resources. The root of this tree, divided into little strands serves as a fibre to make belts, the wood of the trunk, which is very hard, provides the beams and the roof rafters for houses and spears for fishing or fighting; The plaited leaves make mats to carpet the floors or cover the roofs and baskets in which to carry foodstuffs or other objects. One or two of its branches placed upright in a canoe can serve as a sail. Their spines, that resemble thin strips of wicker, serve as brooms for the house and are bought by ships and the local combs are made from them. The first covering of the coconut has a wadding of fibres that is used to make a firm and solid matting, with which all the bindings for canoes and for houses are made, thus usefully eliminating the use of nails. Ropes of different thicknesses and for different uses are also made. Under this first layer of the nut comes the gourd or more precisely the shell, which encloses the flesh, which covers the entire inside surface, leaving all the centre empty for the coconut milk. A single small natural opening is situated at the top from which the fruit, attached to stem, is filled with liquid coming from the trunk. When the nut is fully ripe and aged, the fibrous outer layer is removed, the little opening is pierced to allow the juice, which is no longer good to drink, to flow out and ordinary water is put in to soak the flesh, which is reduced to a paste that is easy to extract and the gourd becomes a fine, round solid container to store water which stays fresh and clear. This article is of indispensable use to the people, as it replaces for them all the utensils that pottery and barrels provide for us. When it is not needed for a pitcher, the shell is broken in half, the flesh grated with the help of a shell shaped like a comb. This extracts a sort of milk which is used daily for the preparation of foods or else it is exposed to the sun for some time. It provides, when squeezed, oil for their lamps of for trading. The two halves of the shell can also be used as cups or for many other uses of this sort, but when the coconut has not yet reached maturity, it is then that it is gathered to provide a drink during meals or on voyages. The shell is easy to open; it is so full of a clear, limpid liquid that from the smallest crack the milk flows in a stream onto your hands, or covers your face. Nothing equals the sweet freshness of this liquid, which is never in short supply in the hot tropical regions; the heat sometimes makes the rare springs that come from the earth dry up, but the inhabitants can find thousands of sources that nature provides, perpetually hanging above their heads.
To the plants mentioned above, one can also add those called siapo, [67] a sort of hibiscus whose bark, beaten and stretched out, can easily be glued together, so as to form large pieces of fabric which can be used in general for clothing and mosquito nets for the nightime.
All the central area of the islands is dominated by high mountains covered with thick vegetation, varied and vigorously growing. This, I think, spoils somewhat the healthy atmosphere of the country, because of the humidity and the fumes given off by the decomposition of the plants that fall and rot. The islanders, nevertheless, avoid situating their homes in the low lying, humid areas. They prefer the higher areas where the air can circulate freely. The whole population, which consists of seventy thousand souls, is divided more or less equally between the two hundred and fifty villages that are spaced out at intervals along the shore, all around the islands, like a sort of belt. Everywhere one finds the same language, the same customs, the same habits; there is no problem in moving from one area to another.
All around the huts is an open space, covered with fine sand and small black stones arranged symmetrically or even a green lawn. You can distinguish the houses of the chiefs by a square platform raised by two or three feet, constructed of large stones piled up evenly, on which the house is built and that provides a public place where gatherings are held.
The villages are grouped politically in districts, separated and independent from each other, having their own chiefs and their delineated territories, but the same fears and interests hold them together in a sort of confederation. Apart from this primary division into districts or cantons, there is also another more widespread region that somewhat corresponds to a department. Thus, in the island of Upolu, all the eastern area which is called Aana, embraces several districts, each one having several villages. The central area where Faleata and Mulinuu, are situated and where I live, is called Tuamusage; that in the East which is dominated by Mataafa is called Atua. These sorts of departments are the business centres for the affairs that affect everyone and they negotiate in the place that is seen as the capital; while the affairs of the district or the village are discussed only in the residence of the chief of that district or village.
This reciprocal independence of the districts does not, however, prevent some being recognised as enjoying a more or less general influence on the whole country, such as Mateetoa, Masaata and Lufi Eufi. The power is shared between the head chiefs, who are called alii [68] and the lesser chiefs, who are called tulafale [69] which in the grammatical sense of the word means base of the house. The alii receive and pass on their powers and their name through heredity in the same way as in Europe, but it is necessary for them to hand on this power in conformity with the understood usage and in a totally paternal manner. They must be obeyed and respected. If it happens that a chief wants to behave like a despot, he will soon be in strife with the people who will not be hesitant in telling him to depart; this person will be obliged to leave and will have to wait till those who sent him away come to invite him back. It could be said that they are there only to receive honours and to sort out representations. Their stature mainly allows them to distribute as much wealth as possible to their subordinates, especially in certain circumstances, such as a birth, marriage or death amongst the members of their family. Their power comes from the friendship that their people have for them. If someone insults them, the people rise up, all together, to defend them; if the people insult them, it is for them to immediately defend themselves. It is their duty to announce gatherings and to indicate the subjects that are to be discussed. They are, so to speak, the kings of the country; but the tulafale [70] who come below them, closely resemble the powerful lords in feudal times, though they differ in that they support the common cause of the people and consider themselves part of the people in the presence of the chiefs. Their power however is not less and is often even greater than that of the chiefs. They are given the right to order the distribution of food supplies, which are shared out in common; they send each one their portion, beginning with the chief. The right of discussion in the fonos or legislative assemblies is exclusively theirs, because of their great numbers, their identification with the main body of the people and the rights that custom accords them. The premier chiefs only take the floor when required, nothing is done here in a despotic or arbitrary fashion, but all the questions, large or small are freely and publicly discussed in both large and small fonos. If the thing to be decided concerns several districts, the chiefs and tulafale gather at a designated place and each one takes his place around the public area so as to form a large circle, with the centre left empty.
Before starting the discussion, each district choses its orator and more or less forms a committee to decide with him the subjects to be discussed and indicate to him the motions that he is going to be most insistent about. When his turn comes to speak, he stands and steps forward, holding a spear in his right hand. He begins his discourse with the usual ritual of greetings. This ritual consists of naming the influential chiefs, whose names are famous throughout the islands, without omitting a single one and bidding them welcome, even if they are absent. It is in this way that, at a fono held at Alatele for the benediction of the church, I heard the Supreme Pontiff greeted and spoken to as he were present and wished a warm welcome. After these indispensable preliminaries, the orator introduces the subject, puts forward his viewpoint with all the eloquence he can muster and when he is finished, he returns to his place to cede the floor to someone else. I have sometimes been present at these gatherings and I can assure you that there are things that really excite one’s interest and curiosity. Apart from the formality, the solemnity and the silence, the whole business in fact of what precedes or accompanies these sessions does not fail to be fairly imposing.
It reminds one clearly of the legislative assemblies of constitutional governments in Europe, but with this difference that, for the Samoans, theirs have existed from time immemorial with all the integrity and freedom of their mandate, whereas with us it is still something new, made up of elements susceptible to being influenced by upsets and distractions, or often even falsified by influences contrary to those that were the primary issue. There are civilised countries where there is more talk about freedom than actually exists. Here it is little talked about but enjoyed in all its fullness without problems or dangers.
Will you be asking me now if the Samoans are a civilised people? If by civilisation one means perfection of the arts, superb edifices, railways, luxurious clothing and tableware, theatres, armies always ready for action, police always on duty, prisons always full, gangsters, strong-minded people who mock God and man, then certainly the poor Samoans would not get far with their claims; but if by civilisation you mean recognition of human rights such as obedience to the law and customs whether written or unwritten, total tolerance, hospitality, courteous and civil use of language, duty towards family, relatives and friends, known, cherished and respected, then you would find all these things in them. If you consider enumerating crimes, you would find that in a period of fifty years, 2 or 3 proper murders would be committed in a population of 70 to 75 thousand souls, whilst for a European population, over the same period of time, the proportion of crimes would grow in a much more noticeable way. As for thefts and the use of other people’s goods, the difference is even greater; in Europe a thief often escapes punishment, here it is almost always discovered; the accused is taken before the chiefs in a full fono where he is questioned in every form and manner. If he is convicted, a fine or punishment is imposed. The same happens for maligning someone, the source is sought out by questioning from group to group until the culprit is found and the punishment follows soon after the fault. These people have no idea of all the crimes that are committed in our country, for if they did I am sure they would be horrified and would regard us as barbarians, unless they could also make allowances for all the virtues that are not known to them.
For them hospitality is a duty and a sort of national rite that is carried out reciprocally every day. Each family has relatives, friends or allies living elsewhere in the island, so not a year passes when visits are not exchanged once or twice, all the family, even the suckling infants taking part. So, when the family is numerous, three or four canoes are needed to transport them. When everything is ready, the procession departs and will not return for five or six weeks, as they never cover more than three or four leagues per day and it is often even less. The neighbouring tribe, who knows in advance the day and hour of the arrival stands by ready to receive them and to cook their foodstuffs, prepare the mats, the night-time mosquitos [71] and gather a large quantity of dried coconut palm leaves, which help to maintain the fires and provide light for the evening. Each village has one or several large huts where the chiefs of the area live. It is one of these huts that they provide for the travellers. They take possession as if it belongs to them. The true owners retire for the night to another one, so as to leave their guests in complete freedom and comfort. As soon as the food is cooked, all the members of the tribe come, singing as they arrive, one behind the other like a procession, carrying baskets of food that each one deposits at the feet of the chief of the group, then withdraws immediately without saying a word. Towards evening, the chiefs and tulafale [72] of the country, if they have not got a secret enmity for the visitors, come to the hut to converse, to ask for news, make new acquaintances and renew old friendships. … Before the introduction of christianity, part of the night was spent dancing, but since then all dancing has been given up. Around ten o’clock everyone retires, after having taken leave of the company, because the next day, at daybreak, the group will set off again to go and receive the same welcome two or three leagues further on. You could say that these journeys are, for them, times of pleasure, good will and respite; so they do not miss any legitimate occasion to indulge in them. Those who have asked to be taken along so as to live more comfortably on the work of others would soon stand out and they would be so heaped with ridicule that it would be impossible for them to continue.
Now nothing is more unusual than the forms of politeness employed in conversation. They never fail to greet each other with all the titles that their position in the country requires; thus the premier chiefs have the title of afioga [73] and susuga, [74] which is equivalent in French to the word majesty. The tulafale [75] have the title alaala, that is to say lord or his lordship. All women in general are called fafine [76] but out of politeness, when speaking to women of quality, they are called tamaitai, [77] which means a lady. The daughters of high chiefs are tausala. [78] If you address yourself to someone who you do not know, you use the word matalii which is the equivalent of mister. In conversation, you hear all these titles used again and again amongst families where one is required to apologise for what one is going to say, especially if one is going to relate something that is painful or not very appropriate. Finally, there is the situation where you would wish to see the person to whom you are speaking relieved of certain worries, thus when you speak before the chiefs, the tulafale [79] or people of the opposite sex, you say: Excuse me, to the chiefs, the tulafale and the women present; a certain misfortune has occured. If it is a Sunday or near to the church or even in the presence of a missionary, you excuse yourself for doing this on Sunday, before God’s house and before the missionary. When one directly addresses the chief or someone of note, one always begins with these words: With all due respect to your majesty, your lordship. These forms are used so much that even the children put them into practice.
The chief distinguishes himself from the general populace by his choice of language and in the bearing and gestures of his whole body, which are solemn and serious. You very rarely see him say or do childish things; clownish joking is also banished from conversation. You would not do these things without making yourself seem contemptible. It is also forbidden to whisper in someone’s ear, to speak to someone privately or speak in a language that is not known to the gathering. In all honesty, they would not tell you that these things upset them; but they would not fail to think you were lacking in graciousness if you did not understand the customs, a situation that I have observed more than once; also a thoughtless word, freely used, a word that would suggest ill humour or even the criticism of a fault someone else has committed would create an unfavourable impression, as they never speak of their enemies unless it is necessary. Nor do they like their names spoken without reason, or even the use of them in relation to something else. When a chief enters his house, or the house of someone else, mats are immediately brought so that he can be seated, and the others take their places to right and left all around the hut after the customary greetings. The people never fail to bring food if there is any, or to apologise if they have none. To pass an object to another person, when there is someone between them and you, you would turn away and pass it behind or if this is not possible you would pass it in front but at the level of the feet of even lower if possible. If you need something, you apologise for having to have it brought; if someone happens to sneeze, you wish him a long life, almost in the same way as we do in France.
If the evening is warm and calm, it is preferably spent in the public square. The chiefs arrive, each one carrying on his arm a baton on which there is a tame pigeon, which is made to fly around from time to time. The bird takes flight, but when it has flown as far as its leash allows, it has to return to its perch; four or five such flights stimulate its appetite; its master prepares large lumps of breadfruit which it amuses him to make the bird struggle to eat. This is about the only amusement left to grown men, out of all the things they used to have, because, since the introduction of Christianity (if, mind you, it is not a blasphemy to call the whims of a pathetic sect Christianity), they have generally given up, though regretfully, their evening dancing and other pleasures, some of which do not seem to me to be as bad as they have been made out to be. Hunting pigeons is a pastime favoured by the chiefs. It is done in the mountains, with the help of a large net shaped like a pointed pocket, mounted on a long pole, the same as those used to catch butterflies, but much bigger. A tall, compact tree is chosen, one in which the pigeons like to perch because of the seeds that they find there. Amongst the large branches a little hut of leaves is built, where the hunter hides himself with a tame pigeon to call the others. When they arrive, a sweep of the net immediately takes them prisoner and they will then serve as amusement or food for their captors.
The young people also have ways of amusing themselves, the most interesting being to gather together in groups to set themselves riddles, in the same way that it is done in Europe. One day I approached one of these groups where the following riddle was presented: five brothers have a house, five other brothers have a similar house. The first one they carry night and day, then leave it to go and sleep elsewhere. Guess what. No one solved it, so it is over to you: Yes , well, it is five toes in their shoe. Everyone burst out laughing. They have many other similar games that are no less useful to their imagination and their language.
Would you now like to have an idea of their work load? Here is what it is made up of. For the men, it is the construction of houses and canoes, the making of nets, fish hooks, certain types of large wooden platters for the kitchen and other small utensils for daily use, personal and public fishing and the cultivation of local plants. The huts in Samoa are the most beautiful in all of Oceania. They are not made in one or two days, without a choice of woods and without planning or symmetry as is done in Wallis, Futuna and elsewhere; it sometimes takes a whole year to finish one, the chief or the family who are having it built only have to occupy themselves with two things, acquire breadfruit trees of good quality and provide the necessary food supplies for the carpenter. This man will be one of the natives who is well known in the country for his work. He comes with several other members of his family or even his son, if he has one to whom he wishes to pass on, as a legacy, the skills of his profession. During the entire time that the work lasts, they must be fed with the best of everything and given in payment many fabrics and various treasures according to the length of time taken by the work. Otherwise, as they have the monopoly on their skills, they will leave the enterprise unfinished, thus casting embarrassment and ridicule on the owner, something that he greatly fears. It is the same with the construction of canoes which also have their specialist carpenters and which, no less than the houses, draw the attention and admiration of foreigners.
Although the making of nets is practised by nearly everyone, it is nevertheless a specialist occupation for those who live in certain small villages in the interior. They can be seen at certain times coming down to the sea front and visiting the houses to show their merchandise and be given in exchange mats, knives, axes and European fabrics that the locals are more likely to be able to acquire from ships.
The chiefs mainly have the privilege of making the hooks for fishing for bonito and other fish. This is because, with the basic material being rare and precious, they are about the only ones able to procure it. It is a piece of mother-of-pearl of the width and length of a little finger, that is rubbed against a stone to give it the shape of a small fish with a tail made of a cock’s feather and the attachment formed from a piece of tortoise shell shaped to a curved point and tightly bound to the little mother-of-pearl fish. This is one of the main things that the chiefs like to give to their friends as gifts. Individual fishing is done with a hook and line by a single individual in his canoe out on the reefs.
Group fishing has more the character of a noisy and jolly hunting party; all the men gather together with all of the tribe’s canoes and nets so as to form one single group. The small flotilla sets out as one. When they arrive at the fishing spot, the two extremities of the group stretch out and then around to form a large circle with the net that they have dropped during this manoeuvre. Then everyone jumps out of his canoe with the water just up to his armpits, holding in his hand another net with a large opening which ends like a sheath. As the two extremities of the large net are gathered in, the space within shrinks; the fish crowd in from all sides and finding no way out they try to hurl themselves out of the water over the top of the net, but fall back into a much narrower trap that leaves them truly captive. Nothing is more entertaining than this fishing spectacle that I have several times watched right in front of my dwelling. Custom requires that in such circumstances the fishermen cannot pass in front of you without offering you some of their catch or without apologising if the fishing has not been fruitful. The fish caught in this manner are mullet, similar to a pike of 3 or 4 pounds or other fish of the same size, all of which have a delicate flesh. There are some that are striped with beautiful and varied bright colours and are of excellent flavour. Skate and lobsters are common; tortoises are rare and are reserved for the chiefs, who have the sole right to dispose of them. It is in this way that I have been able to appreciate, more than once, the friendship of the two chiefs, who have each brought me one. …
The women’s work mainly consists of caring for the children, a duty that they carry out with great care and attention. Besides that they are busy plaiting coarse mats to cover the floors of the huts, and fine mats, which are valued like gold and are given as gifts or payment for houses and canoes, at the birth or death of a member of the family, and especially as a marriage dowry. The fabric produced in the country, called siapo, and made from the bark of a small shrub, is one of the main sources of their work. It is from this material that the everyday garments for everyone are made. On Wallis, they made huge pieces, which were then cut up as required; but here small pieces, of one or two arms lengths are made, long enough to wrap around the body. The Samoans know how to dye them with a black substance that has the gloss of Chinese lacquer, and they create a thousand varied little patterns like those of mosaics in various colours. On Sundays or festive days everyone is dressed in one on these new pieces of fabric, which creates an air of solemnity that is very suitable. For grand festivities and on special occasions such as the visit of a powerful tribe, the benediction of a church, or a marriage, they spread out all the most beautiful fine mats they possess, mats bordered with parrot feathers in a bright red colour, almost scarlet, or even another sort of fabric, plaited by hand in such a way as to leave on the outside, on one side only, all the threads, which gives the appearance of a beautiful merino fleece, dazzling in its whiteness. Add to this the hair combs, the scented oils to rub on the body, little baskets for use in the home to hold small objects, fans for times of great heat and you will have a fairly comprehensive idea of the occupations that the women of these islands pursue. Let us come now to relationships with foreigners. …
Anyone who knows the Samoans intimately could not help but say that they are a kind and hospitable people; nevertheless, the first contacts they had with Europeans were not peaceful, but that relates to particular circumstances, or rather it is only attributable to a few individuals. So when La Peyrouse [80] was the first to arrive on the island of Tutuila, he had the crews of his first boats massacred on shore. The Samoans, who I questioned on this matter, do not blame the French for any aggressive actions, but they say that a major war had just taken place on the archipelago. The victors were still in Tutuila, where they were behaving like tyrants at the expense of the vanquished. They were gathering up all the best mats, fabrics, canoes and other provisions in the riotous and undisciplined aftermath of their victory. They thought themselves stronger than the entire universe and to prove this they attacked our compatriots, because of their handsome garments which excited their greed. Later on, when visits from Europeans had become a little more frequent, three or four murders were also committed by some ill-intentioned individuals; whilst in general, in almost all of the archipelago, the white men, whose number was growing by the day, were well received everywhere. Every chief wanted to welcome one into his home and gain prestige amongst his compatriots and to keep him there and eventually have him as a son-in-law. The son-in-law need not ask for more than to exchange a hard, demanding and dangerous life for an alternative which would satisfy his desire for rest and lack of responsibility. The contacts with these seafarers were not ones where the natives had the most to gain, but they learned to understand them enough to work out their worth.
Around 1833 to1834 the Protestant missionaries arrived, amongst them a man named William, [81]. the same man who had held a magic lantern show in Tahiti, and had also shown it in Samoa and this device is still to be found today at the home of his son, a missionary, merchant and American consul in the same area. [82] Whilst the father had gone several years ago to the island of Horomanga [83] in the New Hebrides, where he was roasted and eaten, these newcomers talked about religion and God, saying that they are his envoys. They were favourably welcomed by the people here who stand out from all the others for their natural leaning and sincere inclination towards religion. The work of these ministers succeeded as they wished. They were accepted everywhere as men of God and enthusiasm was so great that they had no difficulty in organising a sort of relay of men who replaced one another from place to place to carry the litter on which the missionaries were seated, a means of transport that they greatly favoured. They had no wish to disabuse these good people of their right to this honour. As well, they have since tried to claim other benefits from them, in each taking their pick of the sons and daughters of the chiefs, some twenty or so each, as young valets and servants to carry out for them all their domestic duties. Today the more frequent exposure to Europeans has eliminated the prestige that was attributed to them when they first arrived. The Samoans have learned to judge the worth of these foreigners, who have visited or remained in their land. It is not that they despise them, but that they are no longer willing to suffer at their hands.
The port of Apia is now almost never without some whaling ships, most of which are American. There are often eight to ten at a time. The natives bring them pigs, hens, turkeys, ducks, yams, bananas, coconuts and shellfish; in exchange they are given fabrics, knives, axes, spades, tobacco, rifles, gunpowder and lead, but nowadays they especially want coins, as they have learned to understand their value. Handshakes and gestures of friendship are now commonplace amongst them. They use them as often as we do. Strong drink has not yet found many enthusiasts, whilst the bad examples of Europeans generally make little impression. Nevertheless religious zeal has lost a lot of its intensity. All those who have carried the missionaries on litters avoid confessing to it today. They do not even want their daughters employed to carry children about, the main reason being that they object strenuously to the very humiliating services that they felt themselves obliged to carry out in the past.
Our arrival in the archipelago could not fail to cause emotional reaction after all that had been said about us; but our friends became aware, to their great surprise, that in receiving us they could well have made better connections than they at first thought possible. Also, as our enemies observed us, they saw things that could make them suspect that our religion was not so evil and that it could even be the right one. A sort of indifference, a time of inaction then began to manifest itself among the four or five religions that were known on the archipelago; each one said: I have changed two or three times already and I am no further ahead for all that. First the Wesleyan missionaries came and they said to us: Here is the religion of Jesus, which you must embrace if you want to be saved; we abandoned paganism and followed the religion of the Messiah. Later on the Independent missionaries came and said to us: We are the ones who follow the true religion of Jesus; the Wesleyans are wrong; leave them and come to us if you wish to be saved; several listened to them and joined their cult. Now here are the Papists; they also say that the Wesleyans and the Independents are wrong and that they alone are the true religion. They also say that their religion is the one that can save us. What can we do to be saved and which should we believe? If the Europeans cannot agree among themselves, what should we do, we Samoans who have been born in the shadows? Should we praise them for having preached religion to us or should we blame them for having brought us discord? This is the response of several people with whom I have had discussions about religion and they have every good reason to speak to me like that. Nevertheless, I hope that the good sense of these people will triumph over all the obstacles.
Only a knowledge of the origins of Catholicism, as compared with that of the different sects that proliferate around the world, will give them an invincible argument in favour of the truth. Nothing has interested them more than a branch of the true vine on which I showed them the uninterrupted line of successors of Saint Peter right up to Gregory XVI and Pius IX who holds office today; I showed them the number of people converted by the emissaries of Rome and who adhere to the legitimate teaching, as the branch clings to the trunk from which it receives life, whilst the dead branches that have become separated perish miserably from lack of moisture and from isolation….they seized upon all that as evidence that left no room for doubt. There were also comparisons made regarding heresy but the good sense of the Samoans refuted that. They freely admit that the Catholic religion is the oldest, the stock from which all the others have risen; according to them, the stock has rotted and been replaced by all these offshoots. Look at a banana palm, a minister said one day, the stem sprouts, grows, bears its fruit, falls, dies and rots, while from its roots young shoots arise to replace it. The first shoot is the religion of the Papists, which has fallen, rotted and is dead; we, with the other protestant religions are the offshoots, full of vigour and hope. A catechist repeated this comparison in front one of our people. The comparison, our man said to him, does not seem very fair for several reasons: firstly, you are comparing religion and the word of God, which never dies, with a banana palm which always dies, which is born to die; this is not fair, especially as Jesus Christ himself said that religion will last forever. You say that the Papists are the first shoot which is dead, but on the contrary they are the most lively and the most numerous everywhere, whilst the other religions and the Protestants are like the young shoots of the banana palm; in this way, they should all resemble each other, just as all the shoots are the same; but on the contrary they do not resemble each other at all, because they are always fighting with each other. The shoots of the banana palm resemble the stem from which they have sprouted; they come to life whilst remaining attached to their roots, but with you it is the contrary. If you know anything about religion, it is not you who has invented it; you have learned from the Papists, who knew it before you; in every case, the offshoots of the banana palm behave like the stem, they grow, fall and rot. If religion resembles it, as you say, it is also going to fall and rot. That makes it obvious to me that it has no other value, or else your comparison is an error of judgement. The poor unfortunate catechist did not know what to reply.
It is the same person who asked me a question, which made it obvious that he classed the Catholic priests as philistines. The ministers had translated the old testament where it is a question of the word philistine or pilisiti in the local language; they had also translated the word priest as pilisiti, so that in their minds priests and philistines were the same thing, that is enemies of God and of his people.
Another person also said to me that he had realised that our religion was the same as that of the patriarchs, which had been practised before the coming of Jesus Christ, but that it had been replaced by the one that Jesus Christ himself had introduced and that had been taught to them by the ministers in Samoa. I had no trouble in making it clear to him that his beliefs had mistakes and suppositions in them and that the genealogical tree of the true vine could tell him much more than my words could.
Others, more impatient to know the truth, demanded to have public gatherings where the Protestant and Catholic missionaries would come and debate the religious issues in front of them, in their own language. We told them that that was of no use in trying to find the true religion and that arguments generally did not solve anything because in the end everyone claimed to be right; that eventually we did not ask more than to convince them when we knew the language better, but that we expected a refusal from the Protestants. That is all right, they said, a refusal would provide a fine discussion; we would know which we favoured. The chief Mana in particular was in favour of this outcome. Finally he asked bishop Bataillon if there would be any problem in putting this proposition to a fono: Do whatever you wish, the bishop told him; and a few days later he did not fail to suggest it at a full assembly, in front of several Independent catechists, so that they could inform their ministers about it. And what use are such things, said the catechists, do you not know enough already about religion? Besides, we know that our missionaries will not come because it is forbidden in the holy scriptures to associate with evil people and sinners such as the Papists. That is true, added Mana, the Papists are sinners and they admit it in the same way as the tax-gatherer, so as to be pardoned like him; but are not the ministers also like the arrogant Pharisees who went away more guilty than before. [84].
Despite the lack of interest shown in this wide split in religious matters and despite an air of mistrust that it seems to have cast on religion itself, the Protestant and Catholic missionaries are today the only Europeans that the Samoans accept with pleasure and consideration. As well, even though, at the outset, things were difficult and unfavourable to the Catholic priests, it has been easy since, to notice in the language and expressions used by those who know them, something more respectful and appropriate in their interactions with them than in their rapport with the Protestant ministers, all of whom are married men like themselves and in whom they see nothing better or worse than themselves, whilst the position of the priests is logical and seems to them in harmony with the position of Jesus Christ himself, the words of the scriptures and the teachings of the apostles, whose words are available for them to read every day. I have made them aware of the extraordinary number of young people in all the Catholic nations who have renounced worldly things to consecrate themselves to God in their virginal state, following the example and the words of Saint Paul and all the members of the priesthood, whilst with the Protestants they do not even know yet where these ideas have come from. That, I can tell you, made a great impression in favour of the true faith.
Now I have forgotten to tell you, when I started these latest details, that the Samoans are in general tall, well built and robust, with regular features and not very dark skin. What is remarkable is that almost all the chiefs are the most handsome men in the country. There are also some men less favoured by nature, some with hunched backs or deaf and quite a number are blind. Among these there are even infants still being suckled; there is a white film that gradually forms on the eye or even both eyes at the same time, the same as with people who have cataracts. Among the women you could say that there are two categories in almost equal numbers: Some have a mass of bloated deformed flesh and are of excessive size. The others, on the contrary, have remarkable proportions, so much so that one could imagine new Helens restarting the Trojan wars here.
The moral character of these people is even more admirable than all these physical attributes. They have an open and happy nature and love justice, uprightness and truth, especially where religion is concerned. They have a free spirit and jealously guard their independence; but this does not lead to pride or self esteem in them. They have the good sense to admire something well made or unusual even if it is foreign. So they love to see a handsome ship enter or leave their harbour or a European house with all its comforts … and they are not afraid to recognise our superiority as opposed to theirs. They are very different in this from the inhabitants of Wallis or Tongatapu, where excessive national pride maintains absurd and ridiculous pretensions.
Before the arrival of La Peyrouse in Tutuila, the Samoans had no knowledge of Europeans and their only knowledge of geography was limited to the Tongan Islands, whose hardy navigators sometimes reached their shores, to the Fijian Islands and to a few other savage and cannibalistic territories whose inhabitants ate human flesh, something that they talked about with shuddering and horror.
Among the items of historical knowledge that the people of Oceania received from Europe first, I believe, and the one that is most widely known, is the merit and courage of Napoleon. It is not perhaps surprising that this name is known, but what is unusual is that in most places around here he is accepted as an English general. …The historical recollections in this country are extremely confused. They are restricted to recalling a few wars in general and ones that are not far removed from the present generation. They also mention a country where the land was all aflame. This would seem to indicate the volcano that covered almost the entire island of Savai’i with lava.
Nothing is more vague than their theology and the way in which they explain the creation of the world. Each tribe and even each family has its own god or particular demon that they honour in their own particular way. For some it is a will-o’-the-wisp which sometimes appears above humid areas where there is something putrefying; for others it is a tree or a bird. - They have a story to explain the introduction of fire into Samoa; before that, they say, the inhabitants ate all their food raw. It was the son of one of their chiefs who went down into a very deep cavern in the middle of the land, to the home of the god who was the only one with a knowledge of fire. The young man asked him for some fire for he and his brothers, but he received only a refusal followed by a struggle, in which the god received a broken leg and a twisted arm; to obtain mercy after this, he had to give the victor permission to carry off as much fire as he wished. It is from this time on that the Samoans have been able to cook their vegetables and tarago. Another rather bizarre story recalls the successive creation of beings by an all powerful God, as well as some instances of flooding, with all these stories mixed up together. They recount that before all things there was only a god, all alone and a bird called Tuli who flew continually over the seas. Weary of flying endlessly, the bird rose up towards the home of the god, who said to him: Do you not have enough space to live down below? Yes, replied the bird, I have plenty of space to fly, but nowhere to rest. Oh well! Go down now and have a look, then you can tell me what you think. The bird flew down and saw a rocky point that only just showed itself above the water. He rested there for a moment and then flew up again to the god who said to him: Well! What do you think of what you found down there? It is fine, he replied, but when I alighted, the waves that cover the rocks, hastened my departure. - Go back and look again, then come back and talk to me again. The bird flew away again, descended and saw a large stretch of land with mountains and streams. Then he went back up again. Well! What do you think this time? It is better, replied the bird; I can rest without being afraid of being wet by the sea, but there is not a tree to protect me. This time the bird saw threes that covered the sides of the mountains and the depths of the valleys. It is very good, he said, when he reappeared before the god, but very lonely. There needs to be some men to inhabit such a beautiful country. And the god created men and women, from whom all the others came.
I said to you earlier on, that the Samoan language is the softest of all the Oceanic tongues. This is because there is neither the letter h nor the aspirate h, which are so common in the other languages; that is to say the Sandwich Islands, the Marquises, Tahiti, New Zealand, Tonga, Samoa, Wallis and Futuna which resemble each other in their articles, the names of numbers, the names of body parts and everyday utensils, but with this difference, that some put a t where the others put a k or perhaps an aspirate h where the others put an f. For the great majority of words, the first four dialects mentioned above, which resemble each other in other ways, differ completely from the last four. These latter, in their turn of phrase, are similar in their content and form and in their expressions: Wallis and Tonga are more or less the same, but these two dialects have a third of their words different from Samoan, which stand somewhere in the middle of the two. Thus the way in which the words in one of these languages differs from the other makes it similar to the third or fourth and vice versa; they would all be able to compliment each other and be understood by each other. Here is the alphabet of Samoa: The five vowels, a e i o u and the nine consonants, f g l m n p s t v are like a summary of the language. I add at the bottom of this page a hymn to the tune of Come Divine Messiah, with the literal translation.
There, my dear friend de Meydat, is everything I have been able to remember in the way of details. They are now in your care. Cut, cross out, erase and correct anything you feel needs it, as much for the content as for the style. Being obliged to live with and talk to the natives, you finish up by becoming a little like them yourself. I have shown you the shiny side of the medal, but you will be thinking that there is also the reverse side. I do not exactly say no, but I am not required to display it; those who wish to know everything will come to see for themselves. For me it is sufficient to have told you only the truth and that I can guarantee, as I only relate what I have seen.
I finish with a warning to you, that little credit should be given to the stories of certain travellers. Their observations, made during speedy transits, are as inexact as the words of the language that one sometimes sees appear in ridiculous situations. This brings to mind the story about the first Protestant minister who came to Tonga; his zeal knew no bounds. As he wished to preach, he went off, notebook in hand, to ask the natives for all the words that he needed for his sermon. They wished to have a joke; instead of replying to him with exactly the words corresponding to heaven, soul, strength, love, goodness and power, they told him all the strangest and most embarrassing things they could think of. After having written his sermon with the information given, the minister went off to deliver his message in the most solemn manner, in the presence of a large number of listeners amongst whom one group burst out laughing and the other muttered about the minister having committed a public scandal.
If my letter is too long, please take from it my desire to totally satisfy the curiosity of a friend, whose justifiable reproaches I have been dreading. All good wishes to you forever, my dear friend,
Your very devoted servant in our Lord,
Roudaire, Missionary Apostolic.
ete afio mai
mesia e tele lisa
fauolo mai
lise lise lise
please Lord come to us
with speed oh messiah,
so as to save us
come fast, fast.
Atofa i le tagata
ta oto ile oti
talu mai lana sala
ele afio mai
have pity on the man
who lies dying
having been condemned
please Lord hear our prayer
matou tagi atu
i pio motou tiga
dete lea lofa mai
ete api o mai
we cry out to you
in our pain
will you not have pity on us
please Lord hear our prayer
de tele faologai
somatou fetagisi
ma lamatou a laga
ete afio mai
are you not listening
to all our weeping
and our despair
please Lord hear our prayer
ua saisaina
ia matou atoa
ete afio misi
we are trapped
all at the same time
in Satan’s power
please Lord hear our prayer
ile pule a satana
faamo lemale mai
lamatou agasalo
ae afio mai
forgive us
our sins
please Lord hear our prayer
ua au faatai
temonio uma lava
faaoleole mai
ete afio mai
all the demons
are gathered together
to deceive us
please Lord hear our prayer
faipe foupefea
a matou a tuna
matou lemalaia
ete afio mai
what will become of us
now we are going to be caught up
in misfortune
please Lord hear our prayer
aine mea leaga
o le mafa faatiga
i ifeli ma satana
ete afoi mai
alas what misfortune
to remain in suffering
in hell with Satan
aue selo lelai
o lamatou fanua
matou taase ai
ete afio mai
alas! beautiful heaven
which is our true home
will we be separated from you
please Lord hear our prayer
a e afio ilalo
ua matou olai
ete afio mai
but if you come down to us
we will be strong
and we will come back to life
please Lord hear our prayer
ia vave vaveifo
i lou fia mavave
i le sala male oti
ete afio mai
yes, come to us without delay
because we wish to be
separated from sin and death.
please Lord hear our prayer


  1. Louis-Charles Féron, bishop of Clermont-Ferrand, 1834 - 1879 (cf. Ritzler and Sefrin, vol. 7, p.153 ).
  2. Cf. Ps 136 (137). 1-4.
  3. Ps 18 (19).4: non sunt loquelae neque sermones, quorum non audiantur voces eorum. (This is not a story, there are no words, their voice is not heard).
  4. Wallisian word, gatu = fabric made from the bark of a type of bramble
  5. Robert Macaire is a deceitful character, a crook. Originally, he was a character in a melodrama in 1823, L’Auberge des adrets, where the actor Frédérick Lemaître introduced elements of satire and comedy into the role that he played. In 1834, Lemaître rewrote the play that he called Robert Macaire, this cynical rascal of crime. Henri Daumier, on seeing this comedy played, recognised in Lemaître’s Macaire an attack against the oligarchy of the men in financial power, under the July monarchy; the series of caricatures that he depicted, of this type of personality, received wild acclimation. Robert Macaire thus passed into the domain of popular culture. The Physiologie de Robert Macaire, of J. Rouseau with vignettes by Daumier, published in 1842, contributed to this popularisation. (cf. Alexander Zevin, “Panoramic Literature in 19th Century Paris: Robert Macaire as a Type of Everybody,” internet article).
  6. Tuugahala (spelt Tungahala further down) who was not a nephew but a cousin of King Vaimua Lavelua and by his marriage to Naukovi, one of the daughters of the former, his son in law (cf. doc. 28, §19, n.40).
  7. In Greek mythology, nymphs who guarded, with the help of a dragon, the garden of the gods.
  8. Sio Vili (cf. doc. 28, § 15, n. 24).
  9. The islands of Manu’a now have the names: Ta’u, Ofu and Olosega; Nuutele is an islet near to the island of Ofu.
  10. Should no doubt read: Safune, a bay on the North coast of the island of Savai’i.
  11. no doubt read Pratt (see doc. 28, § 15, n. 24
  12. George Pritchard or George Pratt (Batt) (cf. supra, § 44, 46, 51; infra, § 85).
  13. Lealatele, but also spelt Alatele of Latele (cf. doc. 498, § 36, n. 8).
  14. should probably read : Safotulafai
  15. this is not Safotulafai, as Roudaire left from there to go to Satutulofa.
  16. Read Salelavalu (cf. below, § 67, n. 18; and doc. 620, § 10).
  17. This is how the copyist has written this name here and in § 66 and 68; but he writes Moetaupunu in § 67 and 78, Moe-Taupume in § 102, and just a short Moe in § 110.
  18. Sect begun by Sio Vili (cf. doc. 28, § 15, n. 24; 449, § 9, n. 6; also below in the present document, § 75, 89, 113).
  19. Read Salelavalu
  20. Another name: Faleula.
  21. Sect started by Sio Vili (cf. doc. 28, § 15, n. 24; 449, § 9, n. 6; also in the present document § 66, 89, 113).
  22. Read Soi Vili (cf. doc. 28, § 15, n. 24).
  23. Otherwise: Faleula.
  24. Or Faleula.
  25. Cf. doc. 398, § 11, n. 6.
  26. Cf. doc. 413, § 12 et n. 10.
  27. Cf. Gen 13.2-9.
  28. Cf. Mt 28.19.
  29. Cf. Mt 13.24-30.
  30. Cf. Mt 7.15.
  31. Sect begun by Sio Vili (cf. doc. 28, § 15, § 24; 449, § 9, n. 6; also in the current document § 66, 75, 113).
  32. Should probably read Vaimaangu.
  33. Samoan word, tulafale = the name of a class of chiefs who have special attributes; chiefs of the second order
  34. no doubt the Samoan form of the name Gilbert, christian name of the author
  35. usually written : Lealatele.
  36. This is no doubt the chief of Faleata, whose name was written by the copyist as Faumuina ( in § 101, above, and § 117, 143, below), but also as Faumaina (further of in this same paragraph), Faumina (in § 115) and Faumena (in § 128).
  37. Sect started by Sio Vili (cf. doc. 28, § 15, n. 24; 449, § 9, n. 6; also in the current document § 66, 75, 89).
  38. At this point in the manuscript there are six pages ( one leaflet and one sheet of paper sewn together with white thread) written by a second copyist. At the top of the first of these pages is written “(ooe) Tenth sheet”. Later in the text (after the § 140), the first copyist inserts a note: “at this point come the six pages ooe”, and it is there that the text of these six pages is placed.
  39. should read crevettes
  40. Read: Alatele or more exactly Lealatele.
  41. Virgil, Eneide, 2, 49: I fear the Greeks, even when they bring offerings.
  42. Read: Mulinu’u.
  43. Cf. Mt 25.1-13.
  44. Probably Papalii (cf.elsewhere in this document, § 113 and 146).
  45. Papalagi ia pala, is a curse in the Samoan language: The prefix ia emphasises the word that it accompanies; pala means “rotten”; so the phrase is swearing in the sense: “Rotten Europeans” (information received from Sister Soana Talia’uli, S.M.S.M., who speaks fluent Samoan, via the intermediary Rafaele Qalove, S.M.)
  46. Read: Lealatele
  47. The Jeoviliens (cf. doc. 449, § 9, n. 6; 621, § 7 and n. 6), that the author calls Siouviliens above (§ 132).
  48. Should no doubt read: Manono, an island actually situated “between the two large islands” (Upolu and Savai’i); the three islands of Manu’a (Ta’u, Olosega and Ofu) are situated in the Eastern part of the archipelago, between the island of Rose and the island of Tutuila.
  49. Should no doubt read tulafale (a Samoan word) = the name of a group of chiefs who have special attributes; chiefs of a second class,
  50. should probably read tulafale (Samoan word); see preceding note.
  51. The fourteen missionaries - amongst them five Brothers, one lay person (Marie-Françoise Perroton), seven Fathers and Jean-Georges Collomb ( who was soon to be ordained bishop of Melanesia) - were in Tahiti from 8th July to 27th August 1846 (cf. doc. 551, § 2; 621, § 1). They were to have a respite of eight days, from 7th September 1846 on the island of Tutuila in the Samoan archipelago (cf.doc. 551, § 7, 9; 609, § 2; 621, § 1). On 15th or 16th September 1846, they will arrive in Apia on the island of Upolu, where Fathers Padel and Mériais will stay with Roudaire, the head person in Samoa (cf. doc. 551, § 10, 15; 563, § 1-3; 609, § 2; 621, § 2).
  52. Here the transcriber adds between the lines the note: It is here that the 6 pages ooe come”. these are the §141-162 (cf. note 36, above).
  53. The “two missionaries” were Louis Padel and Joseph Mériais: they arrived on 15th or 16th September 1846 on the island of Upolu on board the Arche d’Alliance with Collomb and several other missionaries, these two being retained by Roudaire, the head man in Samoa; Padel stayed on Upolu whilst Roudaire took Mériais to the mission on Savai’i in November 1846 (doc. 563, § 1-3; 609, § 2; 621d, § 2).
  54. On 12th December 1846, Bataillon arrived on the Arche d’Alliance with Collomb and his companions. In fact, Bataillon kept three of these latter (and not just one) for Samoa, the Fathers Joseph Mugniéry (destined for the island of Savai’i with Violette) and Joseph-Xavier Vachon and Brother Gérard Fougerouse (installed on the island of Upolu), but he took Mériais from Savai’i to place him in the college on Wallis (doc. 609, § 4; 621, § 3).
  55. Here the text for the rest of the sentence seems confused; perhaps the transcriber has missed several words.
  56. Cf. Acts 5. 34-39.
  57. Cf. Mt 12.1; Mk 2.23; Lk 6.1
  58. In the following paragraph the writing of the first transcriber begins again with the annotation “11 page” in the middle of the page (cf. notes 36 and 51, above).
  59. Cf. Lk 14.26 - 27; also Mt 8.21 and 10.37-39.
  60. Cf. Lk 23.28.
  61. Cf. Lk 12.52-53; Mt 10.35-36.
  62. Samoan word, tulafale = name of a class of chiefs who have special attributes; chiefs of the second class.
  63. Cf. Mt 13.31, Mk 4.31-32, Lk 13.19.
  64. That is 26º C and 31º C.
  65. Read: alizé(s): constant wind blowing all year round from the East, in the eastern part of the Pacific and of the Atlantic, situated between the parallels 30º north and 30º South.
  66. Read arrowroot.
  67. Samoan word, siapo = fabric made from the bark of the mulberry tree, beaten, glued and painted.
  68. Samoan word, alii = lord, master, noble.
  69. Samoan word, tulafale = name of a class of chiefs who have special prerogatives; chiefs of the second strata.
  70. Samoan word, tulafale; see preceding note.
  71. Should read : mosquito nets.
  72. Samoan word, tulafale, = the name of a class of chiefs who have special duties; chiefs of a second class.
  73. Samoan word, afioga = majesty or excellence.
  74. Samoan word, susuga = chiefly title.
  75. See notes 68 and 71 above.
  76. Samoan word = woman.
  77. Samoan word, tamaitai = madam, miss; used for the wives and daughters of chiefs.
  78. Samoan word, tausala = titled chief’s daughter or title of high chief’s daughter.
  79. see notes 68 and 71 above
  80. Jean-François de Galaup, Count of La Pérouse (cf. doc. 621, § 1, n. 1).
  81. John Williams, missionary of the London Missionary Society (cf. doc. 28, § 15, n. 24; [[ 413, § 12, n. 10; 902, § 26, n. 37).
  82. John Chauncer Williams (cf. doc. 489, § 41, n. 12; 902, § 26, n. 37).
  83. Read: Eromanga (auj. Erromango).
  84. Cf. Lk 18.13-14.