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Between the protectorate of 1895 and the colonization of 1896, the French colonists reduced to inaction because of the Menalamba, live in exasperation. Seized with spyness, they note, comment, amplify “the least of candlelight games coming from the royal residence”.
Hippolyte Laroche, resident general, responsible for security, can hardly count on them, let alone the soldiers who show the greatest misunderstanding. Although Protestant, he counted on the help of the Catholic missionaries, since in the minds of the Malagasy of the time, Catholic means French and English Protestant. He sent a letter to the superior of the Trappe de Staoueli in Algeria inviting him to send some clergymen to Madagascar, whom he promised protection and support. The objective being “the moral and peaceful conquest of a country, of which we are still only the military conquerors”.
However, the system of the protectorate alienated him the sympathy of the Jesuits who evangelize the island, especially the central provinces. Out of respect for the “native personality,” and out of mistrust of an “anticlerical metropolis,” they desire the protectorate.
On the other hand, the queen is a Protestant, as is the royal government, with whom the resident general wants and has to work. And by his attitude, “he does not confirm the ancient division of two religions that are the flags of two nations. “
Protestants, plundered and persecuted by the Fahavalo (Menalamba), see the collapse of the work of almost a century and implore the French protection. For their part, Catholics claim that they are the only victims and that the “rebels” receiving their orders from the royal Protestant government “can destroy temples only by mistake.” However, if from November 1895 to September 1896, 115 Catholic chapels and schools were burnt or sacked, more than 600 Protestant churches and institutions suffered the same fate.
Moreover, the Church does not give up the idea that the temporal power should be helped. The words, pronounced at the Sorbonne by Father Piollet, fully illustrate the Catholic position. “Was it too much to demand of her a complete freedom, mingled with a little benevolence,” he wonders.
He answers it himself. “For thirty-five years she had been fighting to support and defend French influence. This influence had come to triumph definitively: who could have complained that it took advantage of it to develop in justice and freedom under the eyes of the Administration “
Then come the reproaches. “If we had done this firmly, without weakness, but also without violence, the Catholic mission would have developed rapidly and the Protestant missions – I could not have any doubt in this regard – would have diminished quickly, would have weakened, Themselves in a relatively short space of time. Thus, we would have had an entirely Catholic colony. “
Jean Baptiste Piollet explains that this would have happened “by the mere fact that the Protestants had lost the support of the Hova government, and by the mere fact that the vast majority of our officers, employees and settlers were Catholics.”
In reply, Hippolyte Laroche wrote to Minister Lebrun. “They are fanatics, they are capable of everything to try to develop their proselytism and to defeat their emulators. They have an interest in confusing the cause of France with theirs. This confusion, if it occurs, will be fatal to the cause of France. France must observe religious neutrality. “
Like the soldiers and settlers, the Jesuit missionaries also demanded examples, that is to say, the heads of the members of the royal government. “Since the rebels claim to act in the name of the Queen, since all the people believed, it was necessary to act against the royal power, a corrupt and dilapidated power. “
Not seeing the contradiction that these statements imply, the “conquerors” are indignant at the attitude of Laroche. “By honoring the merina government, it encourages revolt. There is nothing, however, to suggest or even suspect any collusion between the queen and the rebels. The officer in charge of escorting her on the road to exile reports that she is afraid of seeing her convoy attacked by the Menalamba.