Br Marie-Nizier (Jean-Marie Delorme) to Fr Jean-Claude Colin, Futuna, 20 August 1851
APM OW 208 Delorme, Marie-Nizier
Clisby Letter 93. Girard doc. 1044
Introduction and translation by Br Edward Clisby FMS
After two months on Futuna, Bataillon was about to move on to Fiji. Marie-Nizier took advantage of the opportunity to write another letter to Colin.
His central topic is the dethronement of the king, Petelo Keleataona. This was the young chief Sam who had made such a good impression on Pompallier in the beginnings of the mission and whom the bishop sponsored as king of the island after the conversion of the Futunans in 1842 (Pomp 79). Baptised with the name of Peter in June that year, although not of the royal lineage, he replaced both Filipo Meitala, Niuliki’s successor, and Alefosio Tamole, son of Vanae, former king of Sigave. In this case, Pompallier’s judgement seemed to have failed him, for Petelo proved an unsatisfactory Christian and an unpopular king. After repeated warnings, the people of Sigave took the matter in their own hands and dethroned him on 3 June 1851, replacing him with Alefosio. Petelo’s authority had long been effectively limited to Sigave, Filipo Meitala keeping the loyalty of the people of Tua. Servant treats this affair in detail in his writings (ES 288-293).
Marie-Nizier’s other concern is his books. If they were sent out with Dezest’s group (1849), he had to wait over a year before they reached him. If these are not the same books mentioned in , it would appear that several despatches reached him at the same time. For the reasons for the delays, rf par. 7 and his letter of 20 September 1850 (L 86).
This letter is in the collection of the brother’s correspondence now in the AFM and has been reproduced by Ronzon, LMN 80-1.
Text of the Letter
- Very Reverend Father,
- I am not able to write to you every time I have an opportunity. But I have one now I am very happy to take advantage of, with the departure of His Lordship, Monsignor Bataillon, who has just spent about two months here.
- I will give you a little news about our little island of Futuna, although you probably know everything that has happened here recently, particularly with regard to the former king Petelo Keleataona. He was raised to the kingship in 1842 on the enthusiastic recommendation of Monsignor Pompallier. For quite some time he gave the appearance of being the protector of the Faith and of practising what it prescribed. But, unfortunately, it was all a front concealing a secret life of scandal which eventually became public. Then every means was tried to get him to return to the right path, but in vain. He became more and more brazen. He vowed he would reestablish paganism on the island, or at least among his kindred. Vilifying the faith and its ministers, the most revolting behaviour, attempts at seduction of all kinds, even on married women, etc. etc., threats he would never return to Sunday Mass (which he kept) etc. - he employed all these means to carry out his devilish enterprise. But God’s hand was there. At the very moment he believed success was in his grasp, the inhabitants of the western part of the island (who provided the members of his government), tired of his continuing tyranny, resolved to dethrone him unless he changed his ways. We cannot, they declared, obey a pagan king who is not of the royal line, now we are good Christians. He refused to listen. They carried out their threat. At the beginning of June last, they announced he had been stripped of his authority, and they elected another king to the general acclamation of the people. You could hear singing and shouts of joy all night after the election. There has been no show of hostility towards him or his family. My only regret is that I did not witness with my own eyes this change so ardently desired. I was in the other parish that day those good revolutionaries made so memorable. But I found some compensation on my return on seeing every face alight with joy and satisfaction. ‘We are alive again!...We can breathe again!’ they said. Nothing can express how pleased they were. They couldn’t even find words themselves. They are still congratulating themselves on their coup d’etat, and rightly so.
- I forgot to tell you that the new king is the son of the one killed in the war of 1839. It is the same man who did all he could to help me get away after Father Chanel’s death.
- I have just received the books you were kind enough to send me with the departure of Fr Dezest. I ask you to accept once more my sincere thanks.
- I cannot give you any other news just now, very reverend Father. I have a lot to do preparing for the departure, and this prevents me spending long away from my work.
- Be so good, my very reverend Father, as to accept the expression of my regard, and my prayer to recommend me in a special way to the good God and our good Mother.
- I have the honour of being, with profound respect, my very reverend Father, your very humble, very submissive and unworthy son in J and M,
- Br Marie-Nizier. cat.
- PS Petelo made a show of conversion during Monsignor’s retreat, but there are serious doubts about its sincerity.
- I have just learned that some books have arrived for me, and from the titles of some of them I have been given I recognise they are the ones I asked for in 1847.  I cannot find the words to express my gratitude - accept my silence as thanks. As they were mixed with others which have been landed at Wallis, they tell me people chose the books they wanted in good faith. But I don’t want to reclaim them without first hearing that you approved the whole list, or if you sent only some, or if all the things requested were included. I would like clarification on that point if you would be so kind.
- We have no letter of Marie-Nizier for 1847. Ronzon has 1849, but if the books were sent in response to the brother’s letter of 13 June 1849, as he believes (LMN 81), they could hardly have come with Dezest’s group which left France the same month. As this was the last group to sail to the Pacific until 1855, they must have reached Wallis by a different means.
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