The Late Julius Dudoit, Esq.
Seldom does the historian of passing events have a sadder task to perform than when penning obituary notices of his contemporaries; but when the subject of his notice is a person of mark,—of innocent and upright character,—the victim of a dastardly assassin; it becomes a melancholy duty to lay a last mark of esteem upon the tomb of the outraged, especially when venerable for age, and honorable for past services.
Julius Dudoit, though by birth a British subject, was a lineal descendant of one of the titled families of France, driven from their country by the fury of the reign of terror, to seek in barbarous countries, the protection of life and property far from the protecting ægis of the guilotine. The Island of Mauritius, or Isle of France, first a Portuguese then a Dutch colony, and finally a British possession in 1810, offered fair attractions to the exiled family. It had already been described to the European world, in one of the most affecting narratives of French literature, the exquisite tale of Paul and Virginia.
The commercial spirit of Great Britain pervades even her most distant dependencies, opening up a career in trade, for those minds unwilling, or unable to follow active pursuits. The subject of this notice chose to follow the sea, and about the year 1835 landed upon these Islands, which became the country of his adoption.
To the honor of Mr. Dudoit be it said that he ever felt the warmest affection for the land of his ancestry, and for that form of the Christian religion which, it must be confessed, has a right to toleration, though its teachings are alien to modern thought. Whether the Divine commission of “teaching all nations” be dependent upon the permission of ignorant rulers, incapable of a thorough understanding of the case, or not, is a knotty theological question, which affected all branches of the Christian church alike. But a French priest did not cease to be a French man, by adopting the profession of missionary. If freedom of religious teaching and belief be a right, Frenchmen were as well entitled to it as any other. In these latter days intolerance is a bad sign,—it means persecution for opinion’s sake, and persecution is not a great remove from paganism. Under such impressions the French government dispatched Du Petit Thours to these Islands, where he arrived in 1837, on which occasion he appointed M. Dudoit as Consular agent for that country, which position he filled to the perfect satisfaction of the government whose flag he represented. His services were not unrewarded. The present Sovereign of France, conferred upon his the title of Knight of the Legion of Honor, one of the most coveted distinctions in the power of Napoleon to confer.
Few men identified with the political changes of our history have better known than Mr. D. how to clearly prove their loyalty to their country, while at the same time possessing opinions largely opposed to dominant power. What may be the best means of civilizing and christianizing a youthful nation, is a question very variously solved by Americans, Birtishers, and Frenchmen. Perhaps the truth lies between them, and that all have contributed towards the elevation of this people, though the utmost sincerity of purpose does not always produce unanimity.
At all events the Roman Catholic church of these Islands is largely in Mr. Dudoit’s debt for his exertions in her behalf pledging, as he did, his property and reputation to secure the introduction of her priests into this kingdom; and as his mortal remains lay under the lofty roof of the Cathedral last Sunday, whence he had requested to be carried to his last abiding place, the reflection would crowd upon the mind that the church of his choice but honored her self, in so much as she honored the remains of a man that strenuously fought for toleration, with little sympathy for mere sectarianism.
The multitude of distinguished citizens of all creeds and no creeds that surrounded the bier, formed a noble tribute to the memory of a venerable friend of religious liberty. The clergy sung that noblest of invocations—lux luceat ei, “let light shine upon him.” No prayer comes more appropriately from the lips of men, and honorable will it be to all either individually or collectively, if our light so shine as to deserve the sincere feelings of respect of our generation, with which these lines have been written.
[Thinking tonight of my friend—lux luceat ei!]
(Pacific Commercial Advertiser, 7/28/1866, p. 2)