New Caledonia an island of the South Pacific Ocean, belonging to France, and lying about 720 miles east-north-east of the coast of Queensland, in Australia, in lat. 200-220 30' S., long. 1640-1670 E., is about 200 miles in length, 30 miles in breadth, and has a population estimated at 60,703. New Caledonia is of volcanic origin, is traversed in the direction of its length, from north-west to south-east, by a range of mountains, which in some cases reach the height of about 8000 feet, and is surrounded by sand-banks and coral-reefs. There are secure harbors at Port Balade and Port St. Vincent, the former on the north-east, the latter on the southwest part of the island. In the valleys the soil is fruitful, producing the cocoa-nut, banana, mango, breadfruit, etc. The sugar-cane is cultivated, and the vine grows wild. The coasts support considerable tracts of forest, but the mountains are barren.
The inhabitants of New Caledonia, who resemble the Papuan race, consist of different tribes. They speak a language kindred to the Australian tongues, and are hospitable and honest. They are a well-formed people, tall and robust, but indolent. Their skin is deep black, and their hair coarse and bushy. They are fond of painting their faces, and even in settlements they wear but little clothing. Their huts, built of spars and reeds, thatched with bark, and entered by a very small opening, bear some resemblance to beehives.
New Caledonia was discovered by captain Cook in 1774. In 1853 the French took official possession of it, and it is now comprised under the same government with Otaheite and the Marquesas Isles. New Caledonia has hitherto been scarcely visited by Protestant missionary enterprise. Some teachers from Samoa attempted to form a community on the Isle of Pines about 1852, but were driven away. French Roman Catholic priests have, however, labored in this quarter for many years with great zeal and courage, worthy of better results than they have secured. It is not easy to obtain a connected view of these attempts from the loose and disjointed statements contained in the Annales de la Propayation de la F'oi, the only authority to which we have access. We find that for several years there have been a vicar apostolic of Melanesia and Micronesia, whose head- quarters have varied according to circumstances. One of these dignitaries, bishop Epalle, was murdered in 1846, in the exercise of his vocation, at the Solomon Islands, in the neighborhood of New Guinea. The priests, his companions, absolutely forbade the reprisals which a French officer would fain have exercised for his death, and the mission in that quarter has since been abandoned. Bishop Epalle has been succeeded in his vicariate by monseigneur Collomb, titular bishop of Antiphelle, whose head-quarters for some time were in New Caledonia. In 1845 and in 1846 we find priests laboring with very indifferent success among these intractable savages; and in 1847 a ferocious onslaught was made on their little quarters in Balad. in which two priests were killed, and bishop Collomb himself narrowly escaped with his life. The assault was wholly unprovoked; but one of the party seems to have unfortunately exhibited a gun in self-defense, which heightened the exasperation of the assailants. Violent though deserved retribution was taken for it by the crew of a French vessel of war. The French occupation in this instance seems therefore to have been preceded for some years by the missionary efforts of their ecclesiastics. Very recently the labors of the Roman Catholic missionaries have been crowned with greater success than heretofore. Several thousand natives have embraced Christianity, and formed prosperous settlements, where are now cultivated a variety of vegetables and fruits, including wheat and barley, besides the raising of live-stock. The number of islanders who have embraced Christianity is estimated at 5000. They are proving industrious and temperate citizens. During the last French revolutionary movement the Commumists condemned to penal life were sent to this island. See the (London) Quarterly Review, 1854, pt. 1, p. 97 aq.