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23 September 1853 — Father Philippe Calinon to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Tahiti

Translated by Peter McConnell, June 2011

Based on the document sent, APM OC 208 (Tonga) Calinon.

[p. 4]
[In the handwriting of Poupinel]
Tahiti 23 September 1853 § Fr Calinon.

[p. 1]

J(esus) M(ary) J(oseph) – Tahiti 23 September 1853

Very Reverend Father,
Admiral Febvrier-Despointes arrived here at the end of August. I spoke to him on two occasions when I made him au fait with what concerns us and in addition I gave him documents which concern us in Tonga. He seemed to me to be well disposed towards us, except that it is reported here that we made great efforts to outwit him and he seemed scarcely influenced at least in the way he behaved elsewhere. Yet I still have high hopes. He told me that he was waiting for instructions from France from the ministry dealing with the missions and that he hopes they would be favourable. He left at the beginning of the month only with the steamship belonging to the mission, namely Le Phoque. He told nobody where he was going and we don’t know where he is. Two of the ships which he was waiting for here arrived since then The Proné, a steamship, and the corvette The Sarcelle. We are still waiting for the steamship the Duroc and the corvette the Prévoyante, which we are expecting any day now. The despatches from the ministry have arrived too but I don’t know of their contents. I am expecting to go to Tonga on one of the vessels but I have not yet been spoken to about that. Besides I have the feeling that everything seems to indicate that the admiral will conduct his business in person and we can hope that things will be better than at the time of the first expedition. We think the admiral will return here before his departure; others guess that he is in Tonga proceeding cautiously or that he has chosen a meeting point for his ships in some other place. I will not fail in keeping you up to date as opportunities allow me.
You are of course, very Reverend Father, in a better position than I concerning the present news about Tonga. Father Rocher has written to me about it from Sydney and I think he exaggerates matters quite a lot. A letter from Father Chevron dated last April tells me consoling details too. He knows that I have such need of them. But I have to keep my point of view to appreciate those baptisms, those marriages, those returns from apostasy, etc. Humanly speaking all that depends on the prestige still attached to the name of Touitonga and we must expect that when that elderly chief dies, what has been delayed, will be the signal for the complete destruction of our mission field. Despite that, let’s hope that when Providence takes away that support, it will substitute another for it. His work is in His hands and He knows well how to support it. Our task is to try to be workers more worthy of the choice which He honours us with.
You will find enclosed a copy of three documents concerning our affairs and which I have added to since first sending them off. In particular number 2 has been redacted in several places. In my first plan I thought I was still able to excuse the commander of The Moselle and to attribute the harm he did us rather to his ignorance than to the spirit of the religious sect which he belonged to (He is a Protestant), but I have since then occasion to change my mind. It’s because although he does not give any outward sign of his religious faith, he does not bear any less of it against us up to the point of reaching hatred which heresy has vowed against Catholicism. That is why I say here and now all the truth in a document which hitherto I only hinted at.
All the documents that I have sent on to the admiral are as follows: No 1 the war of Tonga Tabou. Reports to the governor of Tahiti. You must have it. Nos 2,3 and 4 are the documents attached. No 5 Observation on the reason which made certain persons who knew us in Tonga protest against false rumors which people wanted to stir up against us in Tahiti. No 6 A sworn affadavit of Mr Mauruc, French captain. No 7 A letter of the same type from Mr Skelton, an English Protestant captain. No 8 A translation of that same letter into French. Nos 6 and 7 of those documents are in the hands of the Bishop of Tahiti who is now in France. You are most likely to, be in contact with him; perhaps you will even have the opportunity of seeing His Lordship to whom I am so indebted for his kindness to me.
I feel that you need some clarifications to allow you to see the connection between these various documents, and how they contribute to the defence of the same cause, but I haven’t time to give them to you now; that will be for later if you want them. Several people have asked me here why I did not give an entire notice on King Georges in particular. If you had the same thoughts, you would know that I did not dare take on myself the responsibility which could affect all our mission stations at the centre, for it is a very serious game attacking such a lion in his lair, while I, my fellow priests and all our faithful remain at his mercy. Besides I think I have spoken enough of him in my other messages to provide you with sufficient knowledge at least as far as the present state of things are.
Very Reverend Father, I am telling you that I thought at first I could send you these documents (attached) by way of the bishop of Tahiti, who is at present at the great seminary of Versailles. But the opportunity was missed, so be so good as to see he gets a copy, if you think it appropriate; that will be useful for him for the cause I too am bringing to the feet of Caesar. If you are in the know, you already are aware that our cause and his have more in common and can support each other.
I have no news of Bishop Bataillon. Rumour is rife here that he is in France, but I think he is still in his apostolic vicariate. I was able to write to him last April to tell him among other things not to come to Tahiti, not to write to the governor, not to trust the letters that he could receive from him, that the best thing for him to do was to go to France while we held the common enemy in check here. The prelate wrote to Father Rocher complaining about my travels. Alas, I have carried out nothing else but the orders of Father Chevron. Hitherto we have never been able to make the prelate understand the importance of troubling himself over the mission station in Tonga for the reason that it is the pivot of all the other mission stations and that, on the brink of collapsing, it could drag all stations into ruin. He can see it now for if Tonga does not survive, it is curtains for Fiji, Wallis, Futuna and all the other places. Georges will invade everything as did Mahommed. Let’s hope that it will not be like that and that God and Mary helping him, we will reach the point of repairing our losses.
In finishing I should say to you that besides the Bishop of Tahiti to whom our Society owes a debt of gratitude, I have to inform you that the same goes for the Cluniac Hospitaller Sisters of Tahiti. They have made me clothing to supplement my ones which were lost in the bag at Pea and they have provided many other services. Please be so good as to send them a word of kindness when you have the opportunity. I suppose they have possibly spend some 200 francs for me and I have not the wherewithal to pay them. It is true that they do not want to accept money but appreciation never goes amiss.
It is in union with your holy Masses that I beg you to believe, very Reverend Father, the most devoted and most obedient of our children,
Missionary priest.