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26 March 1853 — Father Philippe Calinon to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Tahiti

Translated by Peter McConnell, April 2011

A Monsieur § Monsieur l’abbé Colin § montée S(ain)t Barthélemi no 4 § Lyon France.
[In Poupinel’s handwriting]
Tahiti 26 March 1853 § Fr Calinon to Reverend Father General

[p. 1]

J(esus) M(ary) J(oseph)
Tahiti, 26 March 1853.

Very Reverend Father,
I suppose you have received the news that I or others have sent you up until last December concerning our mission station in Tonga, and that you have also received more recently the letter of the Bishop of Tahiti, a letter in which the prelate informs you that he and we have to wait for the protection of the French government in these islands. I will tell you right now that the French Government sent the French corvette The Moselle to Tonga to learn the facts related in my report and I have sent you a copy of it. I am informing you that that corvette, which is captained by a Protestant has done us less harm, I believe, than it was intended to. That comes from the difficulty albeit the impossibility of our enemies of the government of Tahiti towards us. I daren’t go further at this moment because such is the state of affairs here that this letter could very well be seized before its departure. The one I want to talk about thinks it is in his interest for written material which could spoil his promotion getting to France before him. That is already occurring because if I believe the irritation I see in all the classes, he will get by as he wishes. Be that as it may, public opinion here is that our affairs as well as that of other people can’t expect justice except from the emperor.
I think I told you in my letter of last December sent from Sydney that I was in that city because the route of The Moselle had taken me there and that I was returning to Tahiti to see how our affairs were turning out, seeing that the enquiry made in Tonga seemed to us to be at least tainted with partiality. Everything seems clear now, although the governor said nothing to me about the Marists in the visit he paid us when he arrived. As he passes for a deeply secretive man, it is possible for him to visit Bishop Bataillon in the Navigator Islands; but according to many opinions that would be only to deceive him. It is only in France that the Prelate can raise what has fallen and maintain what is still standing. I have written to him in that vein from Sydney. Here’s hoping he receives my letter!
In what way is my presence here essential now that we know what to expect of the intentions of the ... In that in Tonga we are awaiting a new expedition, in that this expectation sustains our people and slows down at least the wrath of our enemy. If I were to return alone, this would cause our people (the faithful ones who still remain) to lose all hope and would cause the persecutors to lose all fear of France. I have written in that vein to Bishop Bataillon and Father Chevron. I beg you to give me your instructions also in the event that you should consider it opportune to write to me in Tahiti where it seems likely that I will have to stay a long time.
The enquiry in question consisted in presenting to King George [of Tonga] the facts related in my report. There was also a letter of complaints against him made by Mr Desclos, captain of the whaler from Le Havre. The said King George together with some Protestant ministers has denied nothing, as far as I know, except that, according to what the captain of the Moselle told us, he would have tried to establish his rights based on the following points: (1) he had offered to allow us to leave the fort of Pea before the war; (2) that we had fed the rebels during the siege; (3) that we must have supplied them with munitions, weapons, etc. I will soon send you a statement based on authentic facts to show you and whoever has a right to know the worth of such excuses.
You received of course the official notification of the death of Father Nivelleau; it occurred during our sailing from Tonga to Sydney. We needed to work strenuously together with the intervention of the French consul in Sydney to prevent the naval authorities sending to the family of the deceased his personal effects. I am telling you this so that you can judge whether it would be wise to engage young colleagues leaving France to make their will in order to avoid all botheration which I have just experienced in my account. I have truly promise myself that I will never travel from now on without taking that precaution.
Pray for me, very Reverend father, Courage and confidence in Mary--- I hope that our salvation will derive from our very many troubles more especially that our cause is becoming identified with that of many others. It is in union with your holy sacrifices that I beg you, very Reverend Father, to believe that I am your most respectful and most obedient son,
If you were to write to me, a word too please for the bishop of Tahiti who showers me with kindness and especially if you see him in France.