Taché, Alexandre Antonin (DNB00)

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TACHÉ, ALEXANDRE ANTONIN (1823–1894). Roman catholic archbishop, son of Charles Taché, a captain in the Canadian militia, and of Henriette Boucher de la Broquerie, was born at Rivière du Loup, Canada, on 23 July 1823.

Alexandre was educated from 1833 to 1841 at the St. Hyacinth College, Quebec. Thence he passed to the theological seminary at Montreal and Chambly College. In 1842 he returned to St. Hyacinth’s as professor of mathematics, but within a few months resigned and joined the Oblate order at Montreal, volunteering at once for mission work among the Indians on the Red River, which had just been separated from the diocese of Quebec.

In August 1845, after a journey during which he endured unusual privations, Taché reached the mission of St. Boniface, and was admitted a deacon; on 12 Oct. he was ordained a priest. In July 1846 he journeyed to Ile à la Crosse, and in November went far to the north-west to preach to the Indians on the great lakes. His energy and fortitude were inexhaustible; once he travelled over a hundred miles with the thermometer 30° below zero, in the hope of converting a single Indian; during one winter he slept sixty times in the open air. His fame soon travelled beyond Canada. In 1849 he was recommended to be bishop coadjutor at St. Boniface; he was eventually summoned to France by the superior of the Oblate fathers, and on 23 Nov. 1851 consecrated bishop of Avath in partibus at the cathedral of Viviers. Thence he went to Rome before returning to Canada.

In September 1852 Taché was again at Ile à la Crosse, now the centre of his work in the North-West Territories; he began founding new missions and attracting a French population with the idea of forming a new Quebec in these regions. In June 1853 he became bishop of St. Boniface. He planted missionary stations all over the territory. By 1857 he required a coadjutor, and went to Europe to obtain the appointment of one. In 1860 his cathedral and house were burnt down, and he made another journey to France for funds. In 1868 the plague of grasshoppers ruined agriculture for a year, and threw upon him much administrative work. He had become the most influential person in the North-West Territories, and when in 1868 they were incorporated into the Dominion, he dictated to the delegates the conditions to be stipulated for.

In 1869 Taché urged upon the Canadian government the necessity of adjusting the grievances of the Métis or half-breed small owners, and protested against any hasty political changes in that district. Probably, if his advice had been taken, the revolt of 1870 might have been averted [see Riel, Louis]. In that year he had gone to Italy for the Vatican council; in his absence the trouble came to a head, and the Red River expedition became necessary. The government begged him to return and use his influence with the insurgents, and in March 1870 he was back at his post, but too late to avert the worst of the trouble (Canada under the Administration of Lord Dufferin, pp. 388 sqq.)

On 22 Sept. 1871 St. Boniface was made a metropolitan see, and Taché became archbishop of Manitoba. In his later years he was less prominent in political matters, but took a resolute stand on the Manitoba schools question. He died on 22 June 1894 at Winnipeg, and was buried in the cathedral at St. Boniface. He was gentle in temper and manner, a brilliant scholar and eloquent preacher. He largely by his own personal efforts built up a flourishing church in the North-West provinces; he advanced colonisation as well as religion. He wrote:

  1. ‘Vingt Années de Missions dans le Nord-ouest de l’Amérique,’ Montreal, 1866, 8vo; new edit. 1888.
  2. ‘Esquisse sur le Nord-ouest de l’Amérique,’ Montreal, 1869, 8vo; translated into English by D. R. Cameron, 1870.
  3. ‘La Situation au Nord-ouest,’ Quebec, 1885, 8vo.
  4. ‘Mémoire sur la Question des Écoles,’ Montreal, 1894, 8vo.

His elder brother, Jean Chales Taché (1820–1893), born at Kamouraska on 24 Dec. 1820, was educated at Quebec, entered the medical profession, held a position at the Marine Hospital, Quebec, and afterwards practised privately at Rimouski; sat in the Canadian House of Assembly from 1844 to 1854, was commissioner at the Paris Exhibition of 1855, and was created a knight of the legion of honour. He became editor of the ‘Courrier du Canada’ in 1857, and was elected to the chair of physiology at Laval University in 1860; he was British delegate to the international sanitary conference in 1881. He died in 1893. Among his works may be mentioned:

  1. ‘Esquisse sur le Canada considéré sous le point de vue économiste,’ Paris, 1855, 12mo.
  2. ‘Des Provinces de l’Amérique du Nord et d’une Union Fédérale,’ Quebec, 1858, 12mo.
  3. ‘Forestiers et Voyageurs, Mœurs et Légendes Canadiennes,’ Montreal, 1884, 8vo (Rose, Cyclopædia of Canadian Biography, p. 68).

[Rose’s Cyclopædia of Canadian Biography, p. 791; Monseigneur Taché, par L. O. David, 1883; Montreal Daily Herald, 23 June 1894; Montreal Gazette, 23 June 1894; Times, 2 July 1894.]

C. A. H.