Biography of Joseph Tasse, M.P.

One of the rising young men of much promise in the Province of Ontario, is Joseph Tasse, one of the members of Parliament for Ottawa. He is a native of the Province of Quebec, son of Joseph Tasse, senior, and Adelina, nee Daoust, and was born in Montreal, on the 23rd of October, 1848. He received a complete classical education at Rigaud, county of Vaudreuil; studied law one year, (186s-66) with Rouer Roy, Q.C., Montreal; a short time with Messrs. Palmer, Weed and Holcomb, of Plattsburg, N.Y., and one year at Ottawa, and then abandoned the law for journalism, which is evidently more congenial to his taste, he having a decidedly literary turn of mind and remarkable facility with the pen.

In 1868 Mr. Tasse became the editor of Le Canada, a tri-weekly Conservative paper, published at Ottawa, and, a year later, associate editor of La Minerve, of Montreal, the leading French organ in the Province of Quebec, where he began to show his great versatility of talents as a journalist. It is not unlikely that he worked too hard, for in 1872 his health failed and he resigned the editorial chair. He was very soon afterwards offered a situation as one of the French translators in the House of Commons.

In the same year Mr. Tasse was appointed president of the French Canadian Institute of Ottawa, a literary association, and was re-elected the following year. He it was, who, as president of that prominent institution, took the initiatory steps towards the erection of the splendid building which stands on York street, and which cost $20,000, a property of which the institution may well be proud. A few years afterwards he was the prime mover in originating a literary convention, which met at Ottawa, and which opened with great eclat under the auspices and in the presence of His Excellency Lord Dufferin, being composed of delegates from various literary societies of Canada the first meeting of the kind ever held in the city. It was a perfect success, calling together the leading speakers and litterateurs, most of whom took an active part in its deliberations.
In 1873, Mr. Tasse visited France, England, Belgium, Switzerland and Italy, and published a graphic and highly interesting account of his extended tour through those countries. Just prior to his departure for the old world he published two pamphlets, one on the Ottawa valley and the other on the Canada Pacific railroad the latter being the first French essay on that transcontinental highway. His essay on the Ottawa valley has been partly reproduced in the book recently published at Paris by M. H. de Lamothe: Cinq Mois chez les Francais d’ Amerique.

On the following year Mr. Tasse was elected president of the St. Jean Baptiste society, the national society of the French element, and was re-elected the next year. Be was also a delegate to the grand French convention, held in Montreal in 1874, in which he took an active part, and at which were present a great many delegates from the various French societies of Canada and the United States.

In 1878, Mr. Tasse published his chef d’oeuvre, Les Canadiens de l’Ouest, in two volumes of 400 pages each, with more than twenty engravings an elaborate work, the fruit of ten years’ careful labor and indefatigable research. It is full of fresh material and allimportant facts in the discovery and settlement of the west, and shows in a very clear light the important part played by the French element, in what Washington Irving long ago called the “Far West.” The work has been received with remarkable favor, two editions being already exhausted. The press everywhere has given it a cordial greeting and a splendid introduction to the reading public. The best European notices of the work have been given by such French publications at Paris as the Journal Oficiel de la Republique Francaise, Le Monde, and in American magazines such as the Magazine of American History, and The American Catholic Quarterly Review. This last review (October, 1879) had a twenty page notice of the work over the signature of a well known American author, Gilmary G. Shea. We make an extract.

“What Ferland, Garneau, Daniel, Casgrain, Gaspe, Laverdiere did for the earlier period, the Wisconsin Society began to do for the voyageurs and pioneers of the west. A State Historical Society, limited in its scope, treated only of the field embraced by its territorial limits, but Mr. Joseph Tasse, in his recent work, Les Canadiens de l’Ouest, has taken up the whole subject in a series of biographies which embrace the most distinguished of these western pioneers. Mr. Tasse writes well, and has treated his interesting subject with skill and literary tact. We are not surprised that his work has already reached a second edition. It has all the charm of a romance, and yet he does not exaggerate. He paints his characters to the life, avowing their faults as frankly. as he describes their actions of merit. The Canadians of the West must, ere long, be reproduced in English, and will then find a permanent place in our historic literature, far more attractive reading to the general public than most of our local histories.”

The main biography found in the work here mentioned, and which contains over one hundred pages, that of Charles de Langlade, the pioneer settler and founder of what is now the State of Wisconsin has been translated by Mrs. Fairchild Dean, for the Collections of the Wisconsin Historical Society. The Hon. M. Chauveau, the leading literary gentleman of Quebec, has published in the Revue de Montreal., an extended and exhaustive review of this work, which it is understood he is soon to issue in pamphlet form, and which will make a volume nearly one-third as large as the two volumes reviewed.
As early as 1874, when twenty-six years of age, Mr. Tasse was invited by his Conservative friends in Ottawa to become their candidate for the House of Commons, but declined. Four years later, however, complying with their more urgent solicitations, he was elected by a majority of more than 500 votes. In the first session of Parliament, of which he was a member, he was selected to second the address in answer to the speech from the throne (February, 1879) the first French speech delivered in the fourth Parliament. It was a brilliant effort, and all parties congratulated himnone more heartily than his political opponents, the leading Liberals, who pressed around him at the close of his speech to give him their hand. The press, too, was quick to discern the merits of his oratorical effort, and lavish in its praise of the same. The Canadian Illustrated News, in speaking of his speech, said that “a new star had risen in Parliament” by no means a random or meaningless assertion. Time will be likely to prove its correctness. We translate a short extract of that speech, in which Mr. Tasse describes the brilliant future reserved to the Northwest country in connection with the building of the Pacific railway. It is a fair specimen of his elegant style:

“The Pacific railway will be the best engine of colonization in these immense solitudes, by drawing in its train, as by magic, thousands of emigrants, and the day is not distant when the hunting grounds of the buffalo and antelopes will become vast cultivated fields supporting innumerable herds of domesticated animals. On the shores of our great lakes, real inland seas, will arise great cities rivaling St. Paul, Milwaukee, and Chicago; and these watery wastes which have hitherto borne only the frail bark canoe of the Indian, will be furrowed by thousands of vessels freighted with the products of that inexhaustible region. Then, when borne on the wings of steam, the locomotive will climb the Rocky Mountains, and make its powerful voice heard for the first time in the pine forests of British Columbia among the distant electors represented by the right honorable the leader of the Government, we shall then be able to congratulate ourselves upon having established Confederation upon a solid basis, secured its commercial independence, and executed the most gigantic work that a people of our numbers ever had the boldness to conceive, and still more the good fortune to accomplish. We shall then have completed an enterprise whose effects upon the commerce of the world it is difficult to foresee, for we shall have constructed the shortest route between Europe and Asia; we shall then have realized the dream of Christopher Columbus, of Jacques Cartier, and many other discoverers, and pursuing their idea, we shall have reached, marching always towards the West, that ancient Orient whose riches, ever coveted by Europeans, constitute so large a portion of the wealth and power of England.”

Mr. Tasse has since made, in English, other able speeches, specially on the tariff question; he being a strong protectionist. He is at home on almost every subject that comes up in the House, being remarkably well read in politics and on collateral subjects, for a man of his age. He often lectures on literary and historical topics, and has a highly creditable standing among litterateurs. He is the chief editor of Le Canada, a daily paper published at Ottawa, since 1879, and which occupies already a prominent rank in the French press. He has just published, in French, a neat little pamphlet, on Lord Beaconsfield and Sir John A. Macdonald, entitled “Un Parallele,” with the portraits of these political celebrities vis-a-vis; and the pamphlet shows the resemblance of the parties in more than one respect. It is a beautiful tribute to the statesmanship of the two eminent men.

On the 31st of August, 1870, he married Miss Alexandrine Victoire Georgiana, daughter of J. P. M. Lecourt, Esq., Architect, Ottawa, and they have three daughters living, and have lost one son.



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