From Marist Studies
Jump to: navigation, search

30 June 1853 — Father Charles-Eugène Mathieu to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Rewa, Fiji

Translated by Peter McConnell, April 2011

Based on the original sent, APM OF 208 (Fiji) Mathieu

[p. 4]
[ In the handwriting of Poupinel]
Reva, archipelago Viti, 30 June 1853 § Fr Mathieu
[p. 1]
[ In an unknown hand]
Rewa § Fr Mathieu

Viti-Levu, Reva – 30 June 1853.
Very Reverend Father,
[1 ]
When Saint Paul whose feast day we are celebrating today, was a little overwrought with troubles, he claimed his rights of citizenship and that helped him considerably. I thought I should do the same thing here and complain of the insults which we have suffered here as Frenchmen. So I wrote to the American consul to that effect. He wrote his report as he had to do to the government and I also wrote a long report with explanations and suggestions on the Fiji Islands. I am sending you all that so that you can weigh up the matter before that report goes to his address or that you can keep everything as you see fit. I have taken on my own account and on the advice of my colleagues to send an example of it to the governor of Tahiti. I don’t think that there is anything in the document I have written which could compromise us or which is contrary to the spirit which should move us. If this report does not reach its intended goal, at least it will be useful for you and for the Marist society which will come here to replace us. On the contrary, if you think it a good report, you will pass it on to His Majesty Napoléon who will do with it as he pleases. I have also written a letter to Reverend Father Poupinel in response to a letter which he had the kindness to send me. I beg you kindly to read it too.
Our schooner had not yet arrived. I have been waiting for it for a short time and hope that it will bring me some answer to the letters I have sent you at the beginning of my being in Fiji. I want it ever so much, being without anybody to advise me here. I am also waiting for the bishop who is probably going to do his rounds this year.
Reverend Father, do help us and sustain us with the help of your advice and your prayers. We will do everything we can to make ourselves worthy children of the Society of Mary.

I am with the greatest respect, very Reverend Father,

your very humble
and obedient servant
Mathieu, missionary
PS. Because the consul has sealed his letter and because my letter is inside it, here is a copy of it.
The Consul
Having no agent of the French nation in this archipelago, I am taking the liberty of writing to you begging you to be so good as to inform my government officially of our present status as Frenchmen in these islands.
Our flag has been ripped down and trampled underfoot at Viwa and when Bishop Bataillon was landing he was repelled and insulted by the people gathered around. The chief of Bau gave orders for us to be repelled from his lands wherever we went to introduce ourselves. A conspiracy was made not to pilot any ship flying our flag so that the Genoese brick la Rosa , which arrived recently, was included in this proscription because its flag resembled ours.
My vessel carrying my gear and flying a French flag was attacked by an armed mob of natives and obliged to defend itself by force. On several other occasions and in other places, the same ship was fired on by the natives.
You know how much our nation has been vilified and scoffed at in these islands and regarded by the inhabitants at times as an invading power which has to be turned away and with whom any dealings must be avoided, and at other times as a purely fantastic power against whom everything is allowed without any fear of revenge.
I won’t mention the insults which have been made against us being French missionaries. That is not what I am complaining about. All I am asking is that please, please be so good as to inform the French government of the present state of affairs in this archipelago so that it should take efficacious measures as much for the honour of our flag as for the security of French ships which would come to these shores.
I am---
The report from the consul is in English. He supports and elaborates on everything I have said and insists strongly on the need to send warships here. ---If you think that my report is a good one, send it all to the emperor and have one of the priests in Paris take it to him.