LE TAC, XISTE (Sixte), priest, Recollet, missionary; b. c. 1650 at Rouen; d. 10 Aug. 1718 in his native city.
Xiste Le Tac sailed for Canada in June 1676. He served as a priest in the Quebec region until January 1678, then went to Trois-Rivières, which was created a parish by Bishop Laval on 30 Oct. 1678; he officiated there as priest. In his first year in the parish, Le Tac supervised the building of a residence for the Recollets, and in 1682 the construction of a new church, more modest than the preceding one, which had not been completed. During this year 1682 Gaultier de Bruslon had been appointed parish priest of Trois-Rivières; Xiste Le Tac continued, however, to serve the parish as vicar. In 1683 he returned to Quebec, and remained there until 1689; for a certain time he was director of the Third Order and novice master. In June he went to Placentia (Plaisance), together with Father Joseph Denys and Bishop Saint-Vallier [LA Croix]; the latter, who wanted to establish the Recollets in Newfoundland, appointed Le Tac superior of the mission and Father Denys priest of the parish of Plaisance.
Soon after 7 September of the same year, Le Tac returned to France. His task was to deliver to the king letters from the bishop of Quebec, who was asking for Recollets for the Acadian missions. But Le Tac’s quarrel with M. Parat*, the governor of Plaisance, about the use of the fishing rooms, was perhaps the principal reason why he left for Europe. He was not to see New France again, and he died on 10 Aug. 1718 at the convent of the Recollets in Rouen.
Xiste Le Tac owes his notoriety to Eugène Réveillaud, who, having found an anonymous manuscript in the departmental archives of Seine-et-Oise, published it in 1888, stating that this Histoire chronologique was Le Tac’s work. Réveillaud based his argument on the manuscript’s writing “compared with other documents”; Berjamin Sulte corroborated the statement, after comparing the manuscript with the parish registers of Trois-Rivières, in which Le Tac had entered several certificates of baptism, marriage, and burial. Can one on that account declare so categorically that Le Tac was the author of this manuscript? This similarity of writing misled Réveillaud on another occasion. Among the documents that he published after the Histoire chronologique he attributed one to Le Tac – “Estat de la mission des PP Recollets de Canada” – which he dated 1682. But O.-M. Jouve, basing his opinion on evidence derived from a collation of documents and of statements contained in this text, concluded that the manuscript dated from the years 1685–86, and that Father Exupère Dethunes* was probably its author. Jouve’s argument seems much more convincing than Réveillaud’s explanation.
To return to the Histoire chronologique, if the author of this work is Le Tac why did he, when depicting in great detail various regions of New France, not even mention in his description of Trois-Rivières the building of a residence and a church, in which he played an active part? And why was the manuscript, which again according to Réveillaud was begun in 1689, during Le Tac’s stay in Newfoundland, and finished when he was back in France, not published before 1888? Because it was swallowed up, “without hope of ever seeing the light of day again, in the archives of the convent at Saint-Germain-en-Laye”? Yet Le Tac remained in France until his death in 1718.
The author of the Histoire chronologique de la Nouvelle-France did not write an original work. He admitted in his preface: “I found these authors [Lescarbot*, Champlain*, Sagard*, Du Creux] so obscure that I thought I would render some service to the public if I discussed in greater detail what has happened up to this time . . . and passed over a number of things that I did not believe needed to be recorded”; he did not want to follow the example of the Jesuits, and write “books crammed with tales . . . to deceive the public.” He proposed to write his history in three parts, devoting the first to “what has taken place since the French began to frequent Canada up to . . . the year 1629, and even . . . up to 1632. . . . The second [would extend] from 1632 to 1670, when the Recollet Fathers returned, and the third from 1670 until the present year.” The author finished only the first part, however, and only partially fulfilled his promise. In the first two chapters he gives us a “general idea of America and New France,” and in the 14 others he contents himself with providing a “summary” of the authors “who happened to be in his study”; he had not forgotten to mention, in his preface, that the Jesuits had crossed the sea “to bend all their zeal to the destruction of a small community of religious of the order of St Francis.”
Such is the work that Le Tac is supposed to have written: a manuscript of 47 pages which had lain dormant for perhaps 200 years in the archives until Réveillaud discovered it and published it. He attributed its authorship to Le Tac on the flimsiest evidence, if not on mere presumption. The identification proposed by Réveillaud seems doubtful, yet it is not easy to suggest another possible author. If, as Réveillaud claims, the handwriting of the 1682 document resembles that of the Histoire chronologique, then might one not conclude that Father Dethunes is the author of both? However that may be, this Histoire chronologique de la Nouvelle-France is in Biggar’s judgement – “apart from the interesting description of New France in 1689 . . . of little or no value.”
Archives des Franciscains de Québec, Dossier Exupère Dethunes; Dossier Xiste Le Tac. Archives de Seine-et-Oise (Versailles), H (clergé régulier): Chronologie de la Nouvelle-France; Eugène Réveillaud published this manuscript under the title of Histoire chronologique de la Nouvelle-France, ou Canada, depuis sa découverte (1504) jusques en l’an 1632, par le Père Sixte Le Tac, Récollet (Paris, 1888). Archives de la Seine-Maritime (Rouen), H (clergé régulier) récollet, ff.13–14. ASQ, mss 200. Recensement du Canada, 1681 (Sulte). Le Jeune, Dictionnaire. H. P. Biggar, The early trading companies of New France (Toronto, 1901), 287–90. Hugolin [Stanislas Lemay], L’établissement des Récollets de la province de Saint-Denis à Plaisance en l’Île de Terre-Neuve, 1689 (Québec, 1911); Le père Joseph Denis, premier récollet canadien (1657–1736) (2v., Québec, 1926), I, 183. Jouve, Les Franciscains et le Canada: aux Trois-Rivières. Sulte, Mélanges historiques (Malchelosse), I, 56. H.-A. Scott, “Au berceau de notre histoire,” RSCT, 3d ser., XVI (1922), sect.i, 51–54.