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MANACH (Manack, Manachs), JEAN (Jacques), priest of the Missions Étrangères, missionary; b. probably c. 1727 in France; ordained a priest in Paris in 1750; d. 22 Jan. 1766 at sea.

Jean Manach received his ecclesiastical training at the Séminaire des Missions Étrangères in Paris. Upon his ordination his superiors planned to send him to the Micmac missions in Acadia, but he was first to make a brief stay at the seminary of Quebec “to become stronger in the moral sciences and the other branches of knowledge which are necessary to him.” The ship which was carrying him called at Louisbourg, Île Royale (Cape Breton Island); Manach yielded to Pierre Maillard’s entreaties and went immediately to his Acadian mission in October 1750. Although this act of disobedience “mortified” his superiors, Manach stayed in Acadia. There he became an indispensable assistant to Jean-Louis Le Loutre*, whom he often replaced in his work among the Micmacs at the Shubenacadie mission, and by 1752 he had mastered the Micmac language despite its reputation of being “primitive and barbarous.”

Manach was closely involved in the border incidents which began in September 1750 while forts Beauséjour and Lawrence were being constructed on the Chignecto Isthmus. We know that he intervened in the deliberations over the exchange of deserters in April 1753, that he reprimanded the Acadian women who had gone to hang about Fort Lawrence in August of that year, and that he acted as liaison between the officers at Fort Beauséjour and the Micmacs at his mission. His attitude, in short, was that of the majority of the French priests in Acadia in the 18th century, that of a man who openly supported the cause of France. Manach’s servant at this time was a certain Daniel, a Swiss in origin, who, after acting as a double agent, went over to the English at the beginning of 1756. This man attributed to his master subversive utterances: “Every Englishman that you kill will be a step on the ladder to paradise,” the missionary was supposed to have told his Micmacs. In reporting these remarks, Abbé François Le Guerne stated specifically that they were nothing but lies. However, when we consider that the Micmacs did not accept the English peace proposals until Manach had set an example, we may presume that he had encouraged his flock to take an active part in the skirmishing on the frontiers of Acadia. When Fort Beauséjour was taken in July 1755, Manach had to flee to the region of Miramichi, along with the people who had survived Robert Monckton*’s raids. For nearly four years he remained hidden in the woods, the only priest among the Acadian and Micmac fugitives. His superiors said at that time how moved they were by his attachment to his Indians, but they were conspicuously unaware of the conditions in which he lived. Like the civil authorities, they believed that he was being well supplied by Intendant Bigot*, whereas the little group was surviving in the most wretched conditions. After 1760 Abbé Manach’s testimony was in fact added to the file on the bad administration of Canada.

On 26 Oct. 1759, when the capture of Quebec became known, Manach accepted in the name of the Acadians at Richibucto (N.B.) and Baie des Ouines (Bay du Vin) the peace proposals put forward by “Commandant Henry [Alexander?] Schomberg.” Other missionaries, such as Maillard and Joseph-Charles Germain*, likewise agreed to local capitulations. These initiatives were severely criticized by Jean-François Bourdon de Dombourg, a French officer at the camp on the Restigouche, and led him to prepare a file on the missionaries, whom he accused of treason. Informed of the file, Governor Pierre de Rigaud* de Vaudreuil contemplated having them “arrested” but decided to follow “the wisest and most prudent course on account of the importance of their position.” As early as July 1760 Manach collaborated with Maillard in pacifying the Micmacs, but in March 1761 he was arrested by the authorities in Halifax who accused him of “creating unrest among the Indians.” He was taken to New York and from there to England, where he remained a prisoner for some months in the roadstead of Portsmouth, without knowing “the reason for his detention.”

He was freed in August 1761 and went to Paris, where he was ill received at the seminary. The directors of the seminary claimed, in fact, that he had left his mission without permission, and agreed to lodge him only if he paid board. Consequently he had to obtain, through the influence of the Abbé de L’Isle-Dieu, two benefices from the court to ensure his subsistence. Manach wanted, however, to return to Acadia and increased his endeavours to this end. The Abbé de L’Isle-Dieu approached Lord Stanley, a British diplomat, in order to obtain permission for Manach to return to Acadia. Yet the directors of the Séminaire des Missions Étrangères were really contemplating placing the former missionary as a curate in a parish in Paris.

Faced with these vexations, Manach then undertook, together with Jacques Girard* who had also been a missionary in Acadia, to bring an action against the superior and directors of the Séminaire des Missions Étrangères, “appealing by writ of error or for excess of power” against the rules of the community and demanding the participation of the missionaries in the running of the seminary. According to them the directors had failed in their missionary ideal in laying down the secret regulation of 1716 which virtually relieved the directors of any obligation towards the missionaries. The results of such a regulation were inevitable: in 1762 there were 11 directors to train two young ecclesiastics. In other words the Séminaire des Missions Étrangères had become a source of benefices rather than a centre of missionary expansion. The group of missionaries, who were joined by Le Loutre, some former vicars apostolic to the East and West Indies, and some bishops, including Dosquet*, produced a number of interesting reports in the course of this affair. The directors were able, however, to interpret to their advantage the original acts of the seminary. Above all they were successful in transforming the grounds of the challenge by asking “whether the bishops, the vicars apostolic, and the missionaries who were their fellow-workers, being outside the kingdom, could form a congregation within it and be a member of any legal body within it.” The Abbé de L’Isle-Dieu considered that the directors’ position bore the stamp of “absurdity” and “irreligion.” The case was brought before the civil courts of the upper chamber of the parlement of Paris. The directors of the seminary won the case on 6 Sept. 1764, through a decree which maintained “the Superior and directors of the Séminaire des Missions Étrangères established in Paris in possession of the aforementioned seminary.”

“Wishing to do justice to oppressed virtue and innocence,” the Abbé de L’Isle-Dieu took the missionaries under his protection. On 7 June 1765 he obtained for Girard and Manach the offices of “prefect and vice-prefect in the new apostolic prefecture of the islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon,” where many Acadian refugees were living. This appointment gave proof of the regard which was shown the two missionaries, who were being entrusted in this way with some of the powers of a bishop. The ship which was carrying Manach and Girard was shipwrecked and ran aground in Martinique. Manach died on 22 Jan. 1766 during the voyage taking him back from Martinique to the mother country.

Micheline D. Johnson

AAQ, 11 B, Correspondance, III, 277; 1 W, Église du Canada, VII, 101–8, 133–36, 209–26, 229–49, 273–83. ASQ, Chapitre, 147; Lettres, M, 113, 115, 118, 120–21; P, 67; Polygraphie, V, 40; VII, 5; XI, 2–4; Séminaire, XIV, 6, no.14. AN, Col., B, 113, ff.229, 231; 115, f.242; 120, f.431; 121, f.654; 122, ff.223, 265, 586, 588; C11A, 105, ff.82–108. PAC, MG 17, A3, 26/1–2. Coll. doc. inédits Canada et Amérique, I, 47–52; II, 142–45; III, 60–87, 181–91. Placide Gaudet, “Acadian genealogy and notes,” PAC Report, 1905, II, pt.iii, 186–97, 345–56. Knox, Historical journal (Doughty), III, 353–421. Derniers jours de lAcadie (Du Boscq de Beaumont). “Lettres et mémoires de l’abbé de L’Isle Dieu,” APQ Rapport, 1935–36, 275–410; 1936–37, 331–459; 1937–38, 147–95. N.SArchives, I. Johnson, Apôtres ou agitateurs. Albert David, “Les missionnaires du séminaire du Saint-Esprit à Québec et en Acadie au XVIIIe siècle,” Nova Francia, I (1925–26), 9–14, 52–56, 99–105, 152–59, 200–7.

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Micheline D. Johnson, “MANACH, JEAN,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 3, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed February 28, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/manach_jean_3E.html.

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Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/manach_jean_3E.html
Author of Article:   Micheline D. Johnson
Title of Article:   MANACH, JEAN
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 3
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1974
Year of revision:   1974
Access Date:   February 28, 2024