The Romance of the Taschereaus

A Remarkable French-Canadian Family, whose Members have been Conspicuous in the Public Life of the Country for Nearly Two Centuries

W. A. CRAICK April 1 1914

The Romance of the Taschereaus

A Remarkable French-Canadian Family, whose Members have been Conspicuous in the Public Life of the Country for Nearly Two Centuries

W. A. CRAICK April 1 1914

The Romance of the Taschereaus

A Remarkable French-Canadian Family, whose Members have been Conspicuous in the Public Life of the Country for Nearly Two Centuries


“Civilization on this continent is founded on work and foresight; on work which produces and on foresight which accumulates what is produced. I am not given to flattery. I love my fellow-countrymen too well to conceal from them the truth. I would wish that my tongue should be tied to the roof of my mouth if I should ever hide from them the conviction of my heart. Yet it must be confessed that up to now we have been lacking in these two attributes of greatness. It is seldom that we can find here two generations of ivorkers. It is rare that the patrimony gained by the father is not squandered by the son. Look at our ancient noblesse; behold the splendid part that they might have played with their knowledge and wealth. To-day, extinct! Almost entirely vanished.

“There are doubtless some exceptions. There is at least one famous exception among us. Which, in your opinion, is the finest name among the French race in Canada? Is it Papineau? Is it Lafontaine? Papineau and Lafontaine have been like meteors in the night. But there is among us a lasting illustration, which has for me an ever-increasing glory.

“The finest name of the French race in Canada is that of that distinguished family, in ivhich talent, character, honor, strength and labor have been hereditary ; which through every generation for a hundred years has furnished patriots and workers, whose impression has been set on the people and the affairs of their time; which at the opening of the century had the honor to count in its number a martyr to the cause of liberty in the prisons of Governor Craig; which has given five judges to the bench, an archbishop to the Church in Canada and a cardinal to the church universal. Let us salute the glorious name of Taschereau! Let vs salute it with respect, because it is the symbol of those manly virtues which alone make great races and great nations.”

—Sir Wilfrid Laurier at Sacerdotal Jubilee of late Cardinal Taschereau.

IT was in the year 1726, during one of the short spells of peace the warracked French colony enjoyed, that the first Taschereau landed in Canada. Thomas Jacques Taschereau, Sieur de Sapaille, came to the colony as secretary to Claude Dupuy, the Intendent of New France at that time. The Sieur was forty-six years of age, having been born in 1680 in the city of Tours. Dupuy only remained a couple of years in New France, when he was recalled and returned home. Taschereau might well have followed his master back to his native land, but he had become interested in Canada and elected to remain. His reward came four years later, when he was offered and accepted the post of treasurer of the marine and troops or deputy treasurer-general. Shortly afterwards he was raised to the dignity of membership in the Superior Council.

M. Taschereau had meanwhile fallen in love with and married one of the belles of New France, Marie Claire Fleury de la Gorgendiere, a daughter of the Seigneur de Deschambault and a granddaughter of that enterprising Frenchman, Louis Joliet, the discoverer of the Mississippi River. There is a legend to the effect that Marie Claire was one of a family of thirty-two children, consisting principally of girls, and that she and her sisters married all the leading men of the colony. One brother-in-law at least was a man of considerable prom-

inence, being Rigaud de Vaudreuil, the last governor of New France. All the cir cumstances in the life of the first Canadian Tasche r e a common-place though they may seem.

carry the mind far back to the years before the conquest, when the French ruled Quebec and the old city was the scene of many a romantic occurrence. Probably no other family in Canada today can bridge the gap so perfectly, nor show an uninterrupted descent through all the intervening years.

From the year 1732 down to the present day, when one of Thomas Jacques Taschereau’s descendants holds office as minister of public works in the Province of Quebec, there has not been a time when a member of this remarkable family has not occupied some position of authority in church or state in Canada. It has given at least half a dozen judges to the Bench, numerous legislators to Parliament and a succession of dignitaries to the ecclesiastical life of the country. The passing years do not seem to have sapped its strength or lessened its mentality and. while other distinguished families have sunk into insignificance, there are still enough representatives of the Taschereaus in positions of prominence to render the family name one of continued importance.

To deal adequately with the family achievements would be to write the history of Lower Canada. So intimately have the lives of the Taschereaus been interwoven with those of all the leading families of Quebec that no event of any moment has occurred in that part of the country without some member of the

connection being concerned in its outcome. They have been leaders in the work of colonization and development; they have fought and bled for their country and their principles; they have contested many momentous elections and engaged in political struggles; above all they have dispensed justice with an equal hand, alike in tneir own native county, in the provincial courts and at Ottawa.

So numerous has been the progeny of the Taschereaus from generation to generation and so widespread the ramifications of the family tree, that only an enthusiast in the pursuit of genealogies would derive any satisfaction from tracing out in detail all the branches of the parent stem. As with most French-Canadian families, the number of their children has been large and, while many died in early youth, enough grew to manhood and womanhood to make each succeeding generation more extensive than the last. Through marriages with other families, connections were established with practically all the best French-Canadian houses in Quebec, and to-day the number of the descendants of the originator of the family is almost beyond computation.

The long association of the Taschereaus with the seigneury of Ste. Marie de la Beauce dates back to the time of Thomas Jacques Taschereau. In 1736, along with his father-in-law, Joseph Fleury de la Gorgendiere, and his brother-in-law, Rigaud de Vaudreuil, he petitioned for a concession in fief of three leagues of front and two of depth on both sides of the Chaudière River, commencing where the grants of land already made left off. In return he and his associates agreed to build roads along the St. Lawrence to Point Levy. The petition was granted and M. Tasschereau was placed in possession of three leagues on both sides of the Chaudière, beginning at the Islet aux Sapins. The grant contained the present parish of Ste. Marie and parts of five other parishes.

Nor was the first Taschereau without enterprise of another sort. He was well in the van of the men of his day in the matter of industrial development. One finds that the year after he obtained his seigneury, he formed a society or company to operate the forges of St. Maurice, the first iron works in Canada. He was granted a royal charter for the purpose and for three or four years he and his associates carried on the enterprise. Then they found it was an unprofitable venture and returned the charter to the king, thereby restoring the property to the sovereign.

Thomas Jacques Taschereau had a family of fourteen children, of whom, strange to say, the thirteenth proved to be his heir. Seven of them died in infancy or early childhood. Of those who reached maturity Charles Antoine was the most distinguished. He was a youth of eighteen when Wolfe captured Quebec and in the campaign which preceded and followed this event, he took a prom-

inent part under Montcalm and Levis, being commander of the artillery at Three Rivers. On the conclusion of peace he was sent to France as a prisoner of W'ar and never returned to his native land.

Charles Taschereau thereupon took up soldiering as a profession and engaged in various military expeditions, including one to America during the Revolutionary War, when he fought under de Grasse against the British. Later in life he was raised to the rank of a Chevalier of Saint Louis and received a pension in recognition of his services. He died in France in his eightieth year, but leaving no children, his line became extinct.

Another son of Thomas Jacques Taschereau also participated in the defence of New France in 1759. This was Pierre Francois, then but a lad of seventeen. Fortunately the fate of his brother did not befall him and he was not transported. He took up a mercantile career as soon as peace had been concluded and was doing well when he suddenly eon-

tracted an illness within four months of his marriage and died.

In this way the continuance of the Taschereau line narrowed down to Gabriel Elzear, the thirteenth child. He had been born in 1745 and, when Wolfe landed at Quebec, was just fourteen years of age. Notwithstanding his tender youth he was called upon to bear arms in his country’s defence, a circumstance which surely illustrated to what straits the beleaguered garrison were At the conclusion of peace he swore fidelity to the English government and later on showed that his loyalty to the British crown was genuine by joining in resistance to the invasion of the Ameri-

That Gabriel Elzear Taschereau commanded the esteem of the British rulers of Quebec and was regarded as a man of ability, was proved by several distinctions which were conferred upon him. Governor Carleton made him paymaster of the forces and, under the provisions of the Quebec Act of 1774, ap-

pointed him judge of common pleas for the district of Montreal. When in 1791, the first Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada was elected, M. Taschereau was returned for Dorchester. He became shortly afterwards overseer of the district of Quebec and, being elevated to the rank of legislative councillor, was made superintendent of post offices, a position he held until his death.

The Taschereau genealogy begins to become somewhat complicated when the third generation is reached. Gabriel Elzear Taschereau was the progenitor of four branches of the family, all of which are extensively represented at the present day. He had, as a matter of fact, eleven sons and daughters, eight being children of his first wife, Marie Louise Bazin, and three of his second wife, Louise Françoise, daughter of the Seigneur de Beauport. Four children died young. His eldest son entered the church and became a cure. His eldest daughter married Jean Perrault, the son of a Quebec merchant, who became a lawyer, was raised to the Bench and achieved great distinction as a public man in Lower Canada.

The heir to the seigneuries of Sainte Marie de la Beauce and Joliet and the founder of the elder branch of the family was Thomas Pierre Joseph Taschereau, second son of Gabriel Taschereau. Like his father he became early interested in the militia and during his lifetime saw some active service. When the British troops were removed from Quebec to take part in the Napoleonic wars, young Taschereau volunteered to join the forces which were raised on that occasion to take their place. He was stationed for some time at Niagara. Later on, when the War of 1812 broke out, one finds him serving as commanding officer of the 4th Battalion of Canadian militia and doing good work in the defence of the frontier. He was made a legislative councillor of Lower Canada in 1818 and given the position of inspector of roads and streets in the district of Quebec.

His three brothers, founders respectively of the second, third and fourth branches of the family, were also men who took a very prominent part in the public life of Quebec. Particularly was this true of Jean Thomas Taschereau, head of the second branch. When only twenty-two years of age he was elected to the Assembly for Dorchester, practically succeeding his father in the representation of this constituency. He became interested in journalism to the extent of helping to establish Le Canadien, a radical organ which proposed to fight vigorously for popular rights. But the paper and the man back of it ran counter to Governor Craig, who bitterly resented their attacks on his administration, and in 1810 their arrest was ordered. Soldiers took possession of Le Canadien office and Taschereau and his friends were seized and imprisoned. However, it being impossible to convict the agitators of any crime, the Governor was persuaded to take the part of wisdom and release them.

Soon after, the War of 1812 intro-

duced another and more serious topic for consideration and in military service young Taschereau forgot his troubles.

He was invested with the office of deputy adjutant-general of the militia of Lower Canada and did effective work in this capacity. Like his brother, he later rose to the dignity of a seat in the Legislative Council of the province and was ultimately made a judge of the Court of King’s Bench for Quebec. He died at the comparatively early age of 54 years.

In the history of Canada the memory of at least two men of the Taschereau name will be long preserved.

One is the late Chief Justice Sir Henri Elzear Taschereau; the other is the late Cardinal Taschereau. In a family which has produced many famous sons, these two stand out with special prominence. The former is a descendant of the first branch of the family and the latter of the second branch.

The late Chief Justice was a grandson of that Thomas Pierre Joseph Taschereau, who has already been described as having commanded the 4th Battalion of Quebec militia in the War of 1812. He was bom in 1836 and at the age of twenty-one years was called to the bar. Again the desire for public life early manifested itself, and at twenty-five one finds that he was sitting in the Parliament of Canada as member for Beauce. He took an active part in the negotiations leading up to Confederation, but on seeking election to the House of Commons afterwards was defeated. He was soon after made a judge of the Superior Court of Quebec, a position he held for seven years, when he was transferred to the Supreme Court bench at Ottawa, succeeding his cousin Jean Thomas Taschereau, as a puisne judge. He became Chief Justice in 1902, following the death of Sir Henry Strong, and was knighted and made a member of the Privy Council the same year.

The Chief Justice was twice married and had a family of ten children. His eldest son, Adolphe Robert Elzear Taschereau, who is now head of the Taschereau family in Canada, is joint librarian and French librarian of the Supreme Court. His second son, Antoine, entered the Church and is now cure of Cap St. Ignace, County Montmagny. His eldest daughter married M. Tache, a lawyer, while his second daughter became the wife of Frank Beard, chief clerk in the adjutant-general’s department. Another daughter married Major Alphonse Eugene Panet of the Royal Engineers and has been living in India for many years. Incidentally it might be mentioned that their son, Henri, who is now attending the Royal Military College at Kingston, obtained the highest total of marks on entering that institution yet recorded.

The elder branch of the Taschereaus has contained other names of scarcely less prominence than that of the Chief Justice. Two uncles at least of Sir

Henri Taschereau were men of rank in Lower Canada. A particularly interesting character was the Hon. Joseph Andre Taschereau, at one time solicitorgeneral. He became eventually a judge of the Superior Court of the province, but, while as a young man he was quite active politically, in his later years he became a recluse, shutting himself up in the library of the old manor house at Beauce, shunning all society and devoting himself to his books. He never married and died in 1867 in his sixty-first year.

Another uncle, Thomas Jacques, had the distinction of being the father of eighteen children. He too was a lawyer and for many years was collector of customs and sheriff of Beauce. The extent of his family is to-day almost beyond computation. His eldest son, who succeeded him as sheriff of the county, had twelve children and his second son was similarly blessed. A third son, who went to Manitoba and settled there, had a family of seven. Another son took up soldiering as a profession and became an

officer in B Battery, Kingston, rising to the rank of lieutenant-colonel. Yet another son, Thomas Liviere, became a lawyer in Quebec, where he was highly esteemed ; he was a conservative in politics, therein differing from the rest of the family, and for a time represented Beauce at Ottawa.

Of the Chief Justice’s brothers, the most distinguished was Eugene Arthur. He. too, started out in life as a lawyer but became enamoured of the military profession. Going to Mexico in 1867 he there served under the Emperor Maximilian. On his return to Canada he was appointed aide to Sir N. Belleau, lieutenant governor of Quebec, and when the present governor-general, then Prince Arthur of Connaught, visited Canada in 1869, he acted as his aide as well. He died in 1871, wh^n only thirty years of age.

Passing now to Cardinal Taschereau and the second branch of the family, it may be noted that this distinguished prelate was the younger of the two sons of Jean Thomas Taschereau, grand-uncle of the late Chief Justice. The Cardinal was born in 1820 nnd at eight years of age entered the Seminary at Quebec, where he soon distinguished himself as a student. He visited Rome as a youth, where he was almost persuaded to enter a Benedictine monastery, but other counsels prevailed and he returned to Quebec, there to continue his studies. He was ordained a priest in 1842 at the parish church of Ste. Marie de la Beauce and from then on until he was raised to the archbishopric, his interests were mainly centred in educational work. He was for many years a professor in the Seminary, later becoming rector of Laval University, and a member of the Council of Public Education.

The Cardinal’s Heroism The deed for which Cardinal Taschereau will be most favorably remembered was his fearless service as assistant to Father Moylan, the Grosse Isle chaplain, during the plague year of 1847. When others shunned the dreadful spot and the poor Irish immigrants were dying there by the hundred, Father Taschereau, then a young priest of twentyseven, volunteered to go to the Island to aid the resident chaplain. He labored on until he himself was stricken down with the plague, escaping death by only a hair’s breadth. This fine work for humanity was never forgotten by the Irish Roman Catholics in Canada, who continued to hold a warm spot in their breast for the future cardinal.

Father Taschereau, who had acted for some time as secretary and theologian to Archbishop Baillargeon and had accompanied him on various occasions to Rome succeeded him in the archiépiscopal

see o£ Quebec in 1871. He was made a cardinal in 1S87, the first and only Canadian to receive this dignity. It was a mark which was carried with becoming grace, and Canadians in general appreciated the honor which had been done to one of their foremost churchmen.

The cardinal’s elder brother was almost as distinguished in civil affairs as was the prelate in the church. Jean Tilomas Taschereau was six years his brother’s senior. He pursued the study of the law and after practising with great success for several years was created an assistant judge of the Superior Court of Quebec at an unusually early age. He was eventually made a regular judge of the Court, and in 1873 was transferred to the Court of Queen’s Bench. A signal honor was done him in 1875. In that year the Supreme Court of Canada was established. It became necessary by the provisions of the Act creating the Court to name two judges from the Province of Quebec. Without any hesitation one of these judgeships was offered by the Government to Judge Taschereau. He accepted and for two years served at Ottawa. Ill-health, however, compelled him to resign and he retired from the bench in 1878.

Judge Taschereau married twice. His first wife, by whom he had five children, was a daughter of the Hon. Annable Dionne. His second wife, who was the mother of seven children, was a daughter of the Hon. R.

E. Caron, lieutenant-governor of Quebec, and a sister of the Hon. Adolphe Caron and of Lady Fitzpatrick, wife of the present Chief Justice of Canada, Sir Charles Fitzpatrick. The eldest son, Henri Thomas Taschereau, was almost as brilliant a jurist as his father. He, too, became a judge of the Superior Court and later Chief Justice of the Court of Appeal. In his earlier years he cherished political ambitions, and when only twenty-two years of age ran against Hector Lange vin in Dorchester but without success. He was returned to the House of Commons for Montmagny in 1872 and sat for that constituency until he was made a judge.

The family of the last-mentioned Judge Taschereau consisted principally of daughters who made some good matches. His eldest daughter is Lady Pope, wife of Sir Joseph Pope. His second daughter married a son of the late John Carling, of London. A third daughter was the wife of the late Colonel Vidal, inspector-general of the Canadian militia. Of the sons, Marie Robert Andre Panet Taschereau, who is now one of the most prominent of the younger generation of lawyers in Montreal. is the eldest survivor.

Gains Seat in Cabinet

Cardinal Taschereau had several other nephews and nieces besides Henri Thomas Taschereau. Of these, special reference should be made to the Hon. Louis Alexandre Taschereau, who is unquestionably the most distinguished member of the family alive at the present tinie. Like his father, lie began to

study law at an early age and was soon practising his profession in Quebec in partnership with Sir Charles Fitzpatrick and the Hon. S. N. Parent. He came to the front rapidly and to-day is the possessor of what is probably the largest legal practice in Quebec, as head of the firm of Taschereau, Roy, Cannon, Parent and Fitzpatrick. He appears in most of the big Quebec eases and is heard frequently before the Supreme Court.

When he was just twenty-five years of age, Mr. Taschereau entered politics, running in the County of Dorchester against the present postmaster-general, the Hon. L. P. Pelletier. On this occasion he suffered defeat, but making a second attempt in 1900 in the County of Montmorency he was returned to the Legislature. So gifted a young man could not long remain without notice from the ministry and in 1907 he was

offered and accepted the portfolio of public works, which he still holds. He is an eloquent speaker and, when he addresses the House, is sure of an attentive house and a full gallery.

The Hon. Mr. Taschereau had a brother, Joseph Edouard Taschereau, his senior by four years, who gave promise of enjoying a brilliant career as a lawyer, but his untimely death before he liad reached his thirtieth year, cut short this prospect. There are at least two other brothers, who are doing good work in the legal profession, the whole family showing a special aptitude for this vocation.

Why India Hoards Gold

“What does India do with all her gold?” A partial answer to this question which has been puzzling students of finance was given recently by Mr. M. R. Sundaram Aiyar, of Madras, tes-

tifying before the Royal Commission on Indian currency and finance.

It is well known that in the past year India has taken almost one-tenth of all the gold production in the world ($475,000,000), and still the discount rate of the big Indian banks has been raised, and smaller banks are failing to such an extent that the Government is seeking to put into operation a new banking and currency bill, analagous in many respects to the bill now before Congress in Washington.

“Hoarding in India,” Mr. Aivar said, “is to be traced to the peculiar social conditions and the laws that govern the people, and not merely to a barbarous instinct to hoard. Under Hindoo law and under existing conditions it is not possible to make any provision for the female members of one’s family, either wife, daughters, or sisters. The wife, who enjoys all the privileges of the house so long as her husband is alive, is as a widow entitled to only 71/2 rupees per month or to her board and residence in the family house. Were she to claim a greater sum the members of her husband’s family would object, and the court would not allow more. She is entitled to live in the house or to receive ten shillings per month. Then, if one wants to make provision foi one’s daughter during her married life one cannot bequeath to her any landed property for her use. Any alienation made by the father to his wife or to his daughter can be impeached in a court of law even 20 or 30 years after the alienation. This rule applies only to ancestral property, but the distinction between ancestral and self-acquired property is very delicate. One hundred sovereigns strung on a gold thread become the personal property of the wife, over which the son has no control, while 100 sovereigns presented in pieces or its worth of immovable property will be impeached as a void alienation. So that in every household, poor or rich, the girls of the family are being presented with sovereigns, and they store them up until a sufficient quantity is collected for making them into ornaments. The jewels cannot be sold for the husband’s •debts. When the husband dies the Hindoo widow can neither remarry nor wear any kind of ornament, and the jewels are then sold and invested for her use.

Personal credit is almost unknown in India. Borrowing is either by mortgage of immovable property, or by the pledge of jewels. Eighty per cent, of the population are agriculturalists, and the land revenue is collected before the harvest is over, and every agriculturist to pay his land revenue has to borrow until his grain is sold. The mortgage of immovable property for raising a loan is rather cumbersome, so that the only way that is open to the agriculturist is to go secretly to the next village and pledge his wife’s or daughter’s jewels to raise the necessary sum, which can be returned in a month.