Biography of Joseph Charles Tache

Joseph Charles Tache was born at Kamouraska, in the Province of Quebec, on the 24th December, 1820. He is the elder son of Charles Tache, Captain of Voltigeurs in the war of 1812, and of Henriette de La Broquerie. The subject of this notice has two brothers, and no sisters, the elder of the former being Louis Tache, a Notary, and Sheriff of the District of St. Hyacinth; and the younger, His Grace the Archbishop of St. Boniface.

Mr. Joseph Charles Tache received his classical education in the Seminary of Quebec, and his professional education also at Quebec, he followed the medical courses and attended practice at the Marine and Emigrant Hospital; he was licensed to practice medicine by the Medical Board of Lower Canada, in 1844, and settled at Rimouski, where he continued to follow his profession, and remained until the end of the year 1856. He was married in 1847, to Miss Francoise Lepage, of Rimouski, from which union six children were born; three of whom, two sons and a daughter, survive. During his sojourn of little over twelve years in the County of Rimouski, he represented this constituency in the Canadian Legislature, for a period of ten years, till he resigned his seat in the House of Assembly, at the time of his leaving Rimouski to settle in the city of Quebec, as editor of Le Courrier du Canada, a paper founded by persons of high standing, and of which it has been said, “It marked the beginning of a new era in the French journalism of Canada.”

In 1855, Mr. Tache, the member for Rimouski, was appointed Commissioner to the Paris
Exhibition, on the occasion, and at the conclusion, of which he was made Knight of the Legion of Honor.

In December, 1859, Mr. Tache was asked by Sir George Cartier to accept the situation of Member of the Board of Inspection of Asylums, Prisons, and other Public Establishments, of which Board he became Chairman, at the death of his senior colleague, Dr. Nelson.

In August, 1864, Mr. Tache was made Deputy of the Minister of Agriculture, a situation which he still holds. In 1867, Mr. Tache was, for the second time, sent to Paris as Commissioner to represent Canada at the Paris Exhibition.

During his whole life, from the time he left college, Mr. Tache followed the career of a writer. Besides extensive current writings in the Press, and various series of lively polemics, he is the author of important Parliamentary and Administrative documents, of many brochures, and of several books on various subjects. Speaking of Mr. Tache as a writer, Mr. Larean in his “Histoire de la Literature Canadienne,” says, “The author has attached his name to works which will live as long as the French language is spoken along the shores of the St. Lawrence.”

We shall content ourselves here to notice some of these numerous productions, with mention of the opinions expressed on them by several reviewers and critics, both Canadian and European.

He is the author of the ” Report of the Special Committee on the state of Agriculture,” (1850). The importance of this document is shown by the fact that it has been quoted, extracted from, and commented upon, by almost every writer, to this very day, who has under taken to treat, or even to speak somewhat extensively on the subject mentioned; it is, in one word, a standard book on the question therein propounded.

In 1854, Mr. Tache published a book, entitled “De la tenure seigneuriale au Canada, et projet de commutation suivi de tableaux des Fiefs et Seigneuries du Bas Canada.” The first edition of this work was a private enterprise; but, at the session subsequent to its publication, the book was thought of so much utility and value, that the House of Assembly, with the consent of the author, ordered a second French edition and an English translation of it to be published at the public expense.

This last work was soon followed by the publication, in partnership with M. Chauveau, of a political satire, called, “La Pleiade Rouge,” which has been republished in several editions, and is still fresh in the memories of the political men of the Province of Quebec.

While in Paris, Mr. Tache published a book on Canada: ” Esquisse sur le Canada considere sous le point de vue economise.” This work, which had two editions in French, and one in English, has been eulogistically reviewed, both in France and in Canada. The author of ” L’Histoire de 1’Exposition Universelle de 1855,” Mr. Robin, says of it, ” C’est un ouvrage ” concis, nourri de faits substantiels, un tableau anime de ces contrees fertiles et pittoresques,” &c., &c.

The principal work of M. Tache as a political writer, is the book entitled, “Des Provinces de l’Amerique du Nord et d’une Union Federale,” which was written and first published, in series, in 1857, and subsequently in 1858, republished in a volume. It is in relation to that book, that the late Dean of the French Academy, the illustrious M. Biot, in a letter to the Honorable M. Chauveau, said: ” Veuillez en faire mes compliments a M. Tache; son livre est plus qu’un bon livre, c’est une bonne action.” The author was also complimented by the Count de Montalambert on the occasion of the publication of that book, and M. Rameau, the well known author of “Acadiens et Canadiens,” and of other reputed productions, says of it: “c’est ce qu’il y a de mieux dit et de plus complet sur la matiere.” It is interesting to compare the project of Confederation, proposed in this book of M. Tache ten years in advance of Confederation itself, with the general features, and even minute details, of our present constitution, as embodied in the ” British North America Act.” It is such comparison which prompted the Honorable M. Blanchet, the present Speaker in the House of Commons, to say, in his speech on the occasion of the Confederation debate, in Quebec: ” M. Tache wrote a book which was almost prophetic on this question.”

In the domain of purely literary compositions, the principal works of M. Tache are, “Trois Legendes,” a kind of trilogy on the social and religious state of the Red Indians at three different periods of their history; “Le Braillard de la Montagne,” a legend in verse; “Forestiers et Voyageurs,” being a picture of the life, travels, ideas and habits of the French Canadian Lumbermen and Voyageurs, with landscape descriptions of Canadian nature and legends. That work, published in 1863, is very often republished, en feuilleton, in French newspapers and periodicals.

As a polemist, M. Tache has had several of the liveliest contests which the French Press of Canada has experienced, and one writer of the liberal persuasion, who went under the nom de plume of Placide Lepine, says of him: ” Quand on ne le lit pas de plaisir, on le lit de rage.”

M. Tache has published a number of pamphlets, memoirs and papers on philosophical, medical, social, economical and scientific questions; his historical and archeological searches are quoted by M. Laverdiere and Mr. Francis Parkman, in their works on Canadian History, and by Professor Wilson, in his papers on anthropology. M. Tache is the framer of our Quarantine, Patent, Trade Marks and Copyright Laws, the latter of which has been the first successful step toward the final settlement of a long standing and vexed question, and is regarded, in England, in such high estimation, that Mr. Daldy, a member of the “Royal Commission on; Copyright,” and one of the very best authorities on the subject at home, says of it (Report of 1878), ” I have great hopes that before long, they (the Americans) will be prepared to accept an arrangement on the basis of the Canadian Act.. * * * * In fact, I should be very glad to see our Government explain to them the basis of that Act, and tender that basis as the basis of a Treaty between the two countries.”

The last administrative and scientific production of the subject of this sketch is the work of “Canadian Statistics,” commonly called “The Census,” in five volumes, the materials for which were collected under his direction and supervision by many officers and employes, the principals of whom are mentioned in the letter of presentation of the work to the Minister, printed at the head of the first volume. The order, name, economy, arrangement and control of the whole are the idea of M. Tache, whose time, for several years, has been in a great part occupied in bringing it to the result now attained. These volumes contain the returns of the first Census of the Dominion, but, especially, the retrospective statistics of the country; it is, in fact, the numerical History of Canada which forms the matter of the two last volumes of this series. The value of that work can only be fully appreciated by those engaged in, and conversant with such subjects, a surmise of which can, nevertheless, be easily obtained by anyone by the careful perusal of the introduction which begins each volume.

We have restricted ourselves, in this short sketch, to facts, and given only such opinions as have been uttered by critics of standing certain that such a course will be more acceptable to all concerned, than any eulogy or commentaries which we could here offer.



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