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21 August 1847. – Letter from Jean-Georges Collomb to Jean-Claude Colin (1), New Caledonia

Based on the document sent, APM OMM 411 Collomb.

Small leaf of paper, measuring 207x160 mm. folded to form four written pages.

Translated by Mary Williamson, June 2011.

Ad majorem Dei gloriam
Dei Genitricis honorem.

Aboard the warship Brillante, in the port of Ballade,
New Caledonia, 21 August 1847.

To the Very Reverend Father Colin, Superior General of the Society of Mary, Lyon.
The extraordinary delays to my beginning the mission entrusted to my care are not the only trials that it has pleased God to present me with. In a single blow I have lost the provisions, the timber and the other goods that I bought in Sydney for my dear colleagues in San Cristobal and for the two establishments that I was preparing to found, one at Woodlark and the other at Bouka or another area. I had the honour of informing you of this mainly in my last letter, from Ballade, dated 16 July just past. If you consider it suitable, I pray that you might present the report I am sending you [1] and the extract from my diary, to the Presidents and other members of the central councils. It will place before your eyes the succession of sad events that force the missionaries of New Caledonia to withdraw, at least for a time and which have caused the mission, of which I am in charge, enormous losses. My letter to the Reverend Father, the Procurator General of missions [2] will inform you of the total sum of these losses and the serious predicament in which I will find myself, over a long period, if we cannot be allocated assistance, proportionate to our needs, from the funds for the work of the Propagation of the Faith. I know, my Reverend Father, that you will spare neither concern nor physical effort, especially in these circumstances, to be of assistance to us. Your heart is no less sensitive than mine to the sufferings of the missionaries.
I cannot wait to rejoin those who are at San Cristobal, to take them some ship’s biscuits, salt meat and rice that the Brillante is able to lend me: it is very little, but it is all that God gives me the power to provide just now. It is still my intention to leave some Fathers and Brothers at San Cristobal, if there are some who can remain there without being in danger and who are not reluctant to do so. – I plan to go with the others to try and found an establishment at Woodlark or elsewhere.
I am writing about it to the Consul in Sydney, to Mr Lavaud, governor of Tahiti and Admiral Tromelin at Valparaiso, so that, if they are thinking of sending a warship to visit us, they will know where to find us.
The incredible mistake that the manager of the French Society has made in sending neither credit, money nor a letter to Mr Marceau in Sydney has damaged the reputation of the Society. Mr Joubert, in Sydney, did not wish to make an advance of £100 sterling to the Anonyme unless our procutator’s office gave him a guarantee. It is my responsibility to anticipate a situation where we will not be visited by one of the Society’s ships: that is why, especially considering the numerous dangers to which we will be exposed, I have asked, in spite of my original aversion, that a ship from our country might visit us.
We owe enormous gratitude to Commander du Bouzet for his willingness, zealousness and kindness and for the manner in which he carried out our rescue. I would never have expected such good will, devotion and sympathy for us from these men from military headquarters: all the sailors exhibited goodwill and admirable courage.
I regret that the Brillante is not able to come to San Cristobal, as was her mission: on her way back to Sydney she is going to go to Anatome, the most southerly island of the New Hebrides, to deliver the news of our misfortunes and therefore prevent other captains who pass by from going to Ballade or Poébo, especially Mr Marceau on his return from the central islands. I leave in a day or two, aboard the Anonyme, for San Cristobal.
Mr du Bouzet thought it necessary to teach the folk of Ballade a lesson. He went this morning and burned down huts, chopped down coconut palms and destroyed plantations. The natives stayed well away: I believe only one person was injured and even that is doubtful; no French person was injured this time. We of course protested, in advance, in a joint letter, against any project of vengeance. The Commander whilst acknowledging our protest, replied to us that in deciding to deal severely with these people, he was doing it for reasons “completely foreign to us”, which were that the lives of French citizens, attracted here for “commercial interests and settled under protection of the most sacred promises have been exposed to the greatest of danger; that the French Society of Oceania has made considerable losses; that the Government property left here in storage after the shipwreck of the Seine, has been reduced to ashes by these savages driven by a blind spirit of destruction”.
One should not be surprised, in France, to see the constant difference of one day between our reports and those of the men of the Brillante: this difference comes from the fact that here we follow the date in Sydney, whereas the corvette retains the date that she has followed up till now, after coming via Cape Horn.
Allow me, my Very Reverend Father, to kindly ask you to write to us or have others write to us often. I can frankly confess that one of my disappointments is to have not received from you a single letter pertaining to our mission. I found none in Sydney and the Anonyme did not bring me any. I know very well that this is not your fault; perhaps you have even written and the letters have been lost; but please write often. No less do I beg of you the support of your prayers and the approval of the Society.
Nevertheless, may our trials not trouble your paternal heart too much. I only ask for the blessing of the Lord, to be enlightened and led by Him; I am only too happy to be associated with those who suffer for the glory of the Divine Master. Child of Mary, privileged [in the margin, on an angle] among thousands of others to have been destined for the Apostolate, it seems to me that my only ambition should be to first learn to love the Cross, so as to attract souls to Jesus Christ – I am, with much respect and affection, my Very Reverend Father,
your totally devoted servant in our Lord,
Jean-Georges, Bishop of Antiphelles,
Vicar Apostolic of Melanesia and Micronesia.


  1. C.f. doc. 651.
  2. C.f. doc 653

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