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Alexandre-Antonin Taché

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First Archbishop of St. Boniface, Manitoba, missionary, prelate, statesman, and writer of Western Canada, b. at Fraserville, Province of Quebec, 23 July, 1823; d. at St. Boniface, 22 June, 1894. By his father, Charles Taché, he belonged to one of the principal French Canadian families, and through his mother, Louise Henriette de La Broquerie, he was a descendant of Lavérendrye, the discoverer of the country in which he was to pass forty-nine years of his life. His classical studies were made at the College of St. Hyacinthe, whence he went (1 Sept., 1841) to the seminary of Montreal to study for the priesthood. Thence he passed to the novitiate of the recently-arrived Oblates of Mary Immaculate, and when Bishop Provencher obtained the co-operation of this Institute for his distant missions of the Red River, Brother Taché, though still a novice, was chosen to accompany thither Father Pierre Aubert, O.M.I. After two months' journey through Canadian territory, Taché arrived at St. Boniface on 25 August, 1845. On the first Sunday following he was ordained deacon by Bishop Provencher, and, on 12 October of the same year, was promoted to the priesthood, pronouncing the final vows of an Oblate on the next day. For nine months he studied the Saulteux language; this knowledge, however, was not to be of assistance to him until years later, for in July, 1846, he was sent to Ile-à-la-Crosse. There he spent four years, learning the language of the Chippewayans, his new flock, among whom he laboured, literally changing the morals, no less than the creed, of the northern aborigines. On snow-shoes and by canoe he made long journeys for the benefit of the Crees, Chippeways, Athabaskans, and Caribou-Eaters, until, at the age of twenty-seven he was chosen as the coadjutor and future successor of Mgr. Provencher. In obedience to the founder of his congregation, Bishop de Mazenod, he crossed over to Marseilles, and was consecrated (23 November, 1851) titular Bishop of Arath. On 27 June, 1852, he was back at St. Boniface, and on 10 September, 1852, he arrived at Ile-à-la-Crosse. He then continued his missionary life, which was rendered locally all the more useful as the Indians had resented his departure and the presence of priests not familiar with their language.

So absorbed was Taché in his apostolic labours that on the death of Bishop Provencher (7 June, 1853) he did not deem it incumbent upon himself to immediately return to St. Boniface. He went on with his peregrinations among the Indians and halfbreeds until in the course of 1854 he proceeded south to officially take possession of his see. On 5 June, 1855, he returned north, going as far as Great Slave Lake, where he established a mission for the benefit of another Dene tribe. Then, as his diocese was becoming too large for one man to administer, he had one of his priests, Father Vital J. Grandin, O.M.I. appointed his coadjutor. Between 1860 and 1861 Mgr. Taché resumed his journeyings among the natives, and, nine miles from Edmonton, decided upon the site of a new mission which Father Lacombe was to establish under the name of St. Albert. Returning to St. Boniface, he learned of the destruction by fire (14 December, 1860) of his residence and the cathedral, the latter, whose bells have been sung of by the Quaker poet Whittier, was the pride of the settlement. He then passed into Canada, as the East of the present Dominion was called, and, by his appeals, secured the means of commencing a new and more modest cathedral. He even went as far as Europe, and procured the erection, in the most northern part of his immense diocese, of a new vicariate Apostolic which was entrusted to the care of Bishop Faraud.

This division enabled Mgr. Taché to give more attention to the home, or southern, missions and the embryonic parishes of what is today Manitoba. This territory, then called Assiniboia, was peopled by a mixed population under the paternal rule of the Hudson Bay Company, assisted by a legislative body of which the Bishop of St. Boniface was a member. A restless alien element, hailing mostly from Ontario, was at that time striving to change a political regime which was satisfactory to all classes of the local society, French and English, Catholic and Protestant. When the provinces of the east had been united into a confederation, one of the first cares of the new power resulting from the 1867 Act was to obtain from the Imperial Government the transfer, in consideration of £300,000, of Assiniboia and surrounding regions which had previously belonged to the Hudson Bay Company. Not only were the inhabitants of those territories not consulted as to the advisability of this transportation, but the emissaries of Ottawa in the valley of the Red River acted so rashly and in such a domineering way towards the French and Catholic part of the population, at a time when the Federal authorities whom they represented had not as yet any jurisdiction over the country, that the discontent they caused culminated (11 October, 1869) in open revolt under Louis Riel.

The Federal authorities begged Taché, who was then attending the Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, to come and intervene in the interest of peace. On his way home the prelate had interviews with the governor-general and his ministers, and was assured by them of a full amnesty for the métis in arms if the latter would only send delegates to Ottawa to treat of the matters in dispute and would not oppose the coming of the military expedition that was dispatched to Red River under Wolseley. In the meantime the Provisional Government, regularly formed there by the properly elected representatives of both portions of the population, had found it necessary to execute a troublesome character named Thomas Scott. The bishop's arrival (9 March, 1870), five days after the execution, was timely, inasmuch as Riel had manifested his intention of resisting the progress of the Anglo-Canadian troops. After Taché's intervention, which was based on the promise of an amnesty received at Ottawa, the métis could no longer be relied on to pursue an aggressive policy. Delegates were sent to the Federal capital, their efforts resulting in the Manitoba Act.

Unfortunately, the authorities took the execution of Scott, a rabid Orangeman, as an excuse for refusing the amnesty to which they had solemnly pledged themselves. This was a great blow to Mgr. Taché's prestige among his people. For years he laboured to secure for the leaders in the movement of resistance against the unwarranted aggression of the representatives of Ottawa that meed of justice to which he thought they had a right. He would probably have been more successful had he shown himself less confident in their honesty in his dealings with politicians, and required written assurances when it was scarcely possible to refuse them. It was not till the end of October, 1874, that a partial amnesty was proclaimed, but not before one of Riel's lieutenants, A.D. Lépine, had been condemned to death, a sentence which Mgr. Taché had had commuted into eighteen months' imprisonment. Taché had been appointed Archbishop of St. Boniface on 22 September, 1871. Thenceforth his efforts were mostly directed towards bringing in Catholic immigrants to the new ecclesiastical province and founding new parishes within his own archdiocese. In the midst of these labours the Saskatchewan Rebellion of 1885, under the same L. Riel who had directed the legitimate rising of 1869 (see SASKATCHEWAN AND ALBERTA), took place. Taché wrote (7 Dec., 1885) a little pamphlet, "La Situation", a masterpiece of its kind, in which he deplored the rebellion, yet remained to the end sympathetic to his former protege. The latter had paid with his life (16 Nov., 1885) for excesses that were due to good intentions rendered ineffective by the failure of an overworked brain. From 13 to 24 July, 1889, were held at St. Boniface the sessions of its First Provincial Council. But soon after this joyful event the separate schools which were guaranteed by the provincial Constitution were ruthlessly abolished. The archbishop made numerous attempts to obtain redress, publishing several letters and pamphlets to show the injustice done his people; he also had appeals taken to the various courts, but the findings were contradictory, and therefore futile, until the Privy Council of the Empire acknowledged the reality of the grievances and pointed out the Federal Parliament as the party which had power to redress them (29 Jan., 1895). Taché did not live to see this tardy justice. The anxieties of the last few years had accentuated the ravages of a malady which carried him off, to the regret of friends and foes alike. Apart from the respectful tributes of the press, some 15,000 Protestants publicly testified after his death their recognition of his worth.

Archbishop Taché had to a considerable extent shaped the destinies of the Canadian West. He was a writer of no mean order. His literary productions have a special aroma of delicacy and, at times, quiet wit, which denote the well-bred gentleman, and his French is remarkably pure and free from foreign elements. Of his first book, "Vingt Annéesde Missions" (Montreal, 1866), 15,000 copies were sold, and it now very rare. A short time later he published his "Esquisse sur le Nord-Ouest de l'Amerique", almost a classic on the subject; besides a second edition, it had the honour of an English translation. The harassing school persecution which began in the year 1890 was responsible for several public documents of Archbishop Taché's, prominent among which is "A Page of the History of the Schools in Manitoba"; this document was published in English and French, and is regarded as a model of close dialectics and irrefutable logic.


DAVID, Monseigneur Alexandre-Antonin Taché (Montreal, 1883); HARGRAVE, Red River (Montreal, 1871); HILL, Manitoba (Toronto, s.d.); HULOT, De l'Atlantique au Pacifique (Paris, 1888); JONQUET, Monseigneur Grandin (Montreal, 1903); BENOIT, Vie de Mgr Taché (2 vols., Montreal, 1904); MORICE, Dict. historique des Canadiens et des Metis Francais de l'Ouest (Quebec, 1908); IDEM, Hist. of the Catholic Church in Western Canada (2 vols., Toronto, 1910); SAVAETE, Vers l'Abime, VII (Paris, 1910); ROUTHIER, De Quebec a Victoria (Quebec, 1893); LAMOTHE, Cinq mois chez les Francais d'Amerique (Paris, 1879).

About this page

APA citation. Morice, A. (1912). Alexandre-Antonin Taché. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Morice, Adrian. "Alexandre-Antonin Taché." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Thomas M. Barrett. Dedicated to the Poor Souls in Purgatory.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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