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Beginning of February 1848 — Father Charles-Eugène Mathieu to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Wallis

Translated by Mary Williamson, May 2016

Based on the document sent, APM OW 208 Mathieu.


Sheet of paper forming four pages, three of which are written on, the fourth having only the address. This document is not dated, but provides several points of reference:

(1) Rougeron and the others who escaped from the attack in New Caledonia, 18th-19th July 1847 (cf. doc. 675, § 18-19), only arrived at the procurators office in Sydney on 12th September 1847, along with Chaurain, who was then able to communicate the sad news to Colin (cf. doc. 663, § 2-3). Now we know that it was the warship the Sultane that carried the news of the disaster to Wallis, but we cannot pinpoint the time of departure of the schooner nor the date of its arrival in Wallis. No doubt it would have taken a certain time (perhaps more than three months) for the information to arrive in Wallis and it was not long after that Mathieu wrote this letter (cf. below § 1).
(2) Mathieu mentions (cf. below, §4 ) the departure of Brother Charles Aubert from the mission, but he knows nothing of what follows, which is that this Brother arrives at the procurator’s office in Sydney before 30th November 1847 (cf. doc. 681, § 2); it is likely that the presence of the Brother in Sydney was not known in Wallis until the month of January 1848.
(3) The current letter arrived in France at the beginning of August 1848. Now, we know that a letter sent from Wallis on 30th July 1845 did not arrive in Lyon until 28th February 1846, a delay of seven months. We can perhaps suppose that Mathieu wrote the current letter about seven months before August 1848, so about the beginning of February 1848.

[p.4] [Address]
Mr / Mr Collin superior / general of the Society of Mary / Saint Barthélemy Rise / Lyon / France

[Post Marks]


My Reverend Father,
I have just learned from the warship, the Sultane, that the mission’s establishment in New Caledonia has been completely laid waste and destroyed by the natives. The missionaries and Bishop Collomb, who was with them, were only saved by the providential arrival of the corvette the Brillante. Captain Dubousey, the officers and all the crew of this ship showed the greatest of courage in the battle that they were obliged to wage against the natives, in order to save the Fathers. Five of their men were wounded. Only one of the mission’s men died. Mr Dubousey, in his letter, says that it was a lay Brother.[1] I am not too sure whether it was one of our Brothers, or one of the Frenchmen working for the mission. The natives began by attacking the house in Ballade, which they burned down, then they travelled to Puebo where the Fathers had taken refuge. It was in this latter place that the crew of the Brillante came to their rescue at the moment when they were about to lose their lives. All their provisions, belongings etc. were lost.

The Brillante then took Bishop Collomb to San Cristobal. I do not know whether or not she left the missionaries from New Caledonia there. The letters simply say that there are no longer any missionaries in New Caledonia; they do not say where they have been taken. Captain Dubousey left six months-worth of supplies with Bishop Collomb. I believe this event took place on 10th of last August. The corvette Ariane had left three days before to come and visit us, when the news reached Tahiti in a letter from Bishop Collomb and Captain Dubousey. The Governor immediately sent the schooner Sultane, which had, just the day before yesterday, joined the corvette Ariane here in Wallis, to give them the news. I was able to give the news to Captain Marceau at the very moment when he was raising anchor to leave. — It is very likely that by the time that my letter arrives you will already know all the details of this event. I nevertheless thought I should write to you, fearing that the first letters might not arrive, for it is very important that Bishop Douarre should be informed of this. If however he is still in France.
Let the good Lord be praised then, my Reverend Father, he who counts us worthy of suffering a few persecutions for his glory. — Alas, the plans that we make, the good Lord destroys them very quickly, he who wishes that everything should be based on poverty and the cross. So always pray for us, so that we may worthy and capable of further suffering and to do more good works.
Nothing very important has happened on Wallis since the last letters that were sent to you. The Bishop is still on Futuna where he is busy with Father Chanel’s concerns. — Poor Brother Charles has left us and fled to Samoa. [2] We do not know what has become of him. Father Mériais is very busily engaged here with his small college. There are about a dozen students.
I am very respectfully,
My Reverend Father,
your very humble
and obedient servant,
Mathieu (missionary)


  1. Brother Blaise Marmoiton.
  2. Brother Charles Aubert left Savai’i (Samoa) in September 1847 (cf. doc. 709, § 8, n. 6; see also the introduction to this present document).

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