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30 October 1841, Letter of Claude-André Baty to Jean-Baptiste Épalle, Māhia

Transcribed and translated by Elizabeth Charlton, September 2022.

The French transcription is on the discussion tab.

Along this path one sometimes walks from here to Wairoa, other times the rivers have broken the sand dam and flowed impetuously into the sea. When I passed there, one was open. I crossed it on guard. I only made a short trip to Wairoa because I was thwarted either by Parata, the Oxford student, made an Anglican priest (William Williams) in London and finally fixed in Turanga where the good people believed the lies, or because I wanted to be here at the time that the Bishop said he would be back from the south. When I arrived here he was expected day by day, and I wanted to be here when he arrived, I was even forced to be here by the natives who wanted to hear both parties. He finally arrived on the 11th and we had a conference on the 13th, to which I will return. On the 18th I left the same day but before William Williams to go to Wairoa, it is one of the most charming places of New Zealand with the great disadvantage that there is no port, the river is even sometimes closed at the mouth and the sea is very bad all along this auxbay[?Hawke’s Bay?]. Wairoa is what its name means: beautiful river forming a pretty bay in the interior of the sand which separates it from the sea, close to the width of the Saône, then higher up a little narrower and retaining this width goes up to about two days or more inland. A European told me that 40 to 50 miles back towards its source it divides into two parts, one of which runs northwards and the other southwards. The first is populated by heretics and the second by Catholics. There are many xxxx. Those at the mouth of the river had begun to pray a little before I arrived there xxx xxx 100. They received me with all the outward appearance of the most joyful, the son of the great chief whom I had seen here made me a present of a large pig, at last I left them in good spirits, provided that the Oxford doctor who crossed with me on my way back did not go and stir up trouble.
I went up the river about two leagues; I saw the chapel of the others as I had seen on the way and as there is one here near this station; we were called to a heretical kainga where I gave a good instruction. I went up another ¾ hours higher by land to see the country and I found by chance a neutral kainga where a girl who was formerly a Protestant and had fallen ill was about to die. I had the good fortune to baptize her with the name of Philomena and her kainga turned to the faith. As I was in a hurry to return I could not carry on high enough to see another Catholic pa where they are, say the naturals, more than a hundred; two days further inland on the lake of Waikare they are about 100. It seems that at the source of the northern river there are remains of the xxxx. W. Williams has a bone believed to be from a bird larger than an ostrich, the Italian botanist, my neighbour, said. There is a moa, man covered in feathers who feeds on wind. As this story comes from the Maoris it is null and void until further notice from the may be comes ilimoa as they say here make the moa to mean tranquillity or laziness. In the mountains there are lizards these animals are depicted here on the front of the houses in several places. Back to the shore, after Wairoa ends the sand below. It makes you travel away from the shore. A short day away are Catholics. I don't know the number. Two days from there (a journey by land) there are Catholics for the most part or perhaps xxx emigrated from here a year ago I think. Under the leadership of the redoubtable Hapuka, it is from this place that we pass into the interior to go to Taupo. I don't know the number of Catholics in this place. Perhaps Fr. Seon is closer than I am. Taupo is the country around the Tongariro volcano. Going further south along the coast I do not know of any other place where there are Catholics than Wairarapa where the people of Mikaere are. Returning to Wairoa we go inland and on the road to Opotiki there are many Catholics, according to the natives. We saw some of them in Opotiki.
P.S. The pain I feel in my seat makes me want to get to the end quickly and I realise as I finish that I have not told you anything about the komiti. My arrival here caused a great stir among the Maoris, the others came to see me in great numbers, and in the conversations you can tell what it was all about. I said that I would put forward the same things in front of Parata [William Williams], the one led, led, finally it was decided among all the Maoris that there would be komiti. I continually said that I did not want to make any advances, that if they wanted a conference they should provoke it; on the arrival of Wiremu they did so and on the 12th I received two notes, one in English and the other in Maori, in which the doctor from Oxford told me that, having learned that I wanted to have a conference with him, he had come to propose it for the following day; that not having his books with him I had to have a New Testament in Greek, the Vulgate Bible Jeromé, the French bible. So much suixxxe made me almost tremble, indeed as I did not have a Greek New Testament, important point, I feared some bad tricks on behalf of my redoubtable, which had not made good effect in front of the natural. I recommended the whole to the Virgin Mary and while throwing the eyes on my books I remembered the commentary of Menochius where there is some Greek as well as on the Council of Trent, that was indeed useful for the following day although one complained that Greek words were takitahi. I was prepared and so was he, for he arrived the next morning with a note for the texts on the subjects he had chosen for discussion and to which I made him add others. He arrived on the 13th about 9 or 10 o'clock in the morning with about three hundred naturals, many of whom carried their books in their baskets. There were about 60 naturals from my party, they were separated from each other and the two athletes were standing in front of my hut, an old Maori kitchen where no fire was made nevertheless, a small box was used as a takotoranga for the books. We talked for 5 or 6 hours, the fruit of which was that the Catholics were no longer ashamed to pray, they said that we had two Maori(?) mouths, that they understood everything that was said. Mine said that I had defended myself well, the others only paid attention to the texts brought against me without even having the thought, I think I could answer them. Only one article fixed the attention of all and put the doctor on the thorns, it was the prayer to the saints, but he saved himself from the shipwreck by clinging to the fact that he did not want to take a roundabout route while he had a straight one nor a rotten boat while he had new one, finally he said that we had left the scriptures to speak of mouth. I went back there, he didn't want to continue I wanted to make him admit publicly that he was wrong he was careful not to do so. He was much more reasonable on other points, he admitted that Nepukaneha or Nebuchadnezzar was not Catholic. He admitted that their church did not exist before Wesley, Luther, etc., but he said that ours had deviated in the sixth century. I had a good field against him if we had argued over our gods?. I spread out the 12 volumes of church history but he said there is plenty to look up that will help, so I showed him. To get to the point, that Wicklifites had killed Catholics he would not admit my story and that made my victory, at least for my people, for he refused to look at my books! He did not disavow the apostolic tree, he allowed me to reject the word of pride to look for Prince of the apostles the one whom Our Lord called Satan, the one renounced his Saviour, who was taken back by St. Paul etc. until he proved me the contrary that St. Peter was not chief of the apostles.
For my part I granted him that we had only one mediator, I made him see this in the Council of Trent; that we did not adore the saints. I made him see in the Council of Trent, he brought me as proof of the contrary the book ko nga henga o te hahi o Roma whose words on this article are, he says, taken from the Council of Trent. The next day he asked me for the Council of Trent. I also lent him Cobbett and asked him for his feelings on this book. He replied that most of the assertions in this book were false, etc., and urged me to examine my beliefs carefully and to get out of the captivity in which our education puts us. He told me that he would be very happy if I wanted to pursue the correspondence further. I told him that if all Cobbett's assertions were false, he could not prove the divinity of the Anglican Church. I went into some detail and finally told him that as I might not have to stay here long it was useless to pursue the correspondence any further, but that I would always receive his letters with pleasure. Since I left, he left after me and I do not know what he did, only that he went to Wairoa from where he must return to Turanga. One more word. To prove that his bible was not stolen he says that he did not take it from the church of Rome, but from the hiparu and kariki church that in the past there were several churches that did not recognise the church of Rome as their master, those named in the Apocalypse etc. So he did not draw from our fountain, and why should he draw from it, he says, since there are so many beautiful waters elsewhere etc. etc.
A few days before this committee I had been ably defeated by a Maori, the one who brought the religion here from Rotorua, about 3 to 4 years ago. After I had explained to him the abridged history of the religion he took the floor in his turn and made his questions to me v.s. absolutely wanted me to consent to say with him there are three Gods - Jesus Christ has a father who is the holy spirit etc. then writing on the ground 1 3 7 told me what is the kingship of my numbers te kimitanga. I suspected the first two, but already moved by his pride in making and supporting his proposals I laughed at him and would not give him any answer. Unhappy as I was, my religion was no longer worth anything, I had been defeated! I did not know: there is only one God, 3 Pers. God rested on the 7th day he then told me but out of this conversation to remake the cord of my shoe I made him provide what he said. Unhappy again, I did not know that God had commanded Moses to take off his shoes. This conference made a great noise and saddened the Catholics very much, but it was an opportunity to show them, on Sundays, how childish they are, etc. etc. They laughed at their folly and were especially angry at this naturalness. Previously they used to say of me that I was a child, if the bishop had been here he could have answered. Thanks to God my reputation is restored. In his ardent visit, the learned doctor left only those male adults to be baptized whom he could not force, true to the letter, or came to seek some in my house who were running away. For old women and children, what does it matter if they die badly? That he is learned is above all charitable.
Now that his Maoris have received the faith of the spirit they are furious to preach. Last Sunday they went xxx xxx to all the Catholic kainga. I had to chase one of them out of the house where I pray. He was after one of the big chiefs. He had a terrible fright at the first word I said to him and left saying he was not afraid and once outside he turned around and crouched at the door and said a few more words then finally left.