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LAVIOLETTE, PIERRE – Volume VIII (1851-1860)

b. 4 March 1794 in Boucherville, Lower Canada


Responsible Government

Sir John A. Macdonald

From the Red River Settlement to Manitoba (1812–70)

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Sir George-Étienne Cartier


The Fenians

Women in the DCB/DBC

The Charlottetown and Quebec Conferences of 1864

Introductory Essays of the DCB/DBC

The Acadians

For Educators

The War of 1812 

Canada’s Wartime Prime Ministers

The First World War

TARDIVEL, JULES-PAUL, newspaperman and author; b. 2 Sept. 1851 in Covington, Ky, son of Claude Tardivel, a joiner, and Isabella Brent; m. 5 Feb. 1874 Henriette Brunelle in Saint-Hyacinthe, Que., and they had four daughters and a son; d. 24 April 1905 at Quebec.

The man who was to become the herald of French Canadian nationalism was an American by birth, the son of recent immigrants to the United States from England and France. Jules-Paul Tardivel and his sister Anna were sent to live with a maternal aunt after their mother died. She brought them up in Covington and then in the home of their uncle, Father Julius Brent, a parish priest in Mount Vernon, Ohio. Tardivel’s aunt would always take an interest in him, paying for his education at the Séminaire de Saint-Hyacinthe and in 1881 helping him to buy a printing-press for his newspaper, La Vérité. More than 40 years after leaving him in the care of his aunt, his father, who had moved farther south to start a new life, would be reunited with him at Quebec, shortly before returning to the United States to die. Anna, who became a Dominican nun in the United States, would remain close to her brother until the end.

While Jules-Paul was growing up with his English-speaking relatives in a small Ohio village, Father Brent met some priests from Lower Canada who had come from the Séminaire de Saint-Hyacinthe to carry on their ministry in the United States and counteract the influence of Charles Chiniquy* among French Canadians in the Midwest. They persuaded Brent to send his nephew to their college. Thus in 1868, one Julius Tardeville (his Americanized name) reached the shores of the Rivière Yamaska. Because of his age and enthusiasm for his work, he was allowed to do the classical program at an accelerated rate, in four years instead of the usual six or seven. Tardivel was studying in one of the contemporary centres of French Canadian patriotism. Moreover, he entered the Séminaire de Saint-Hyacinthe at a time when the first young men, often from classical colleges, were hastening to the defence of Pope Pius IX under the banner of the Papal Zouaves. Though he was too young to bear arms, Tardivel would throughout his life be a Zouave of the pen, diligently defending the interests of the Catholic Church in the light of directives from Rome. He remembered his teachers, especially Father François Tétreau, with gratitude and loyalty.

When Tardivel finished his classical studies, he went back to the United States. The experience proved disillusioning. In the atmosphere of the Reconstruction period there, he felt like a foreigner in his native land, and he returned to the province of Quebec. In Saint-Hyacinthe early in 1873, he found employment with Le Courrier de Saint-Hyacinthe, a dyed-in-the-wool Conservative newspaper. By September he was on the editorial staff of La Minerve, the official Montreal organ of the all-powerful party of federal prime minister Sir John A. Macdonald*. The following February in Saint-Hyacinthe, Tardivel married Henriette Brunelle, the daughter of Antoine-Ambroise Brunelle, a prominent notary in the Rouville region who had strongly opposed the excesses of the English party in 1837. An energetic woman five years his elder, she would be a loyal and devoted partner. Their daughter Isabella was to marry Charles-Joseph Magnan*, later chief inspector of provincial Catholic schools; Alice wedded Omer Héroux*, a journalist known especially for his long years of service on the editorial staff of Le Devoir; Albertine became the wife of Joseph Bégin, editor and owner of the Montreal weekly La Croix, which circulated in strictly conservative Catholic circles; Paul married Gratia Pageau and would continue his father’s work until 1923, when the presses of La Vérité finally stopped turning; Georgine wedded Henri Bazin, a Quebec industrialist.

In July 1874 Tardivel began work in Quebec City on Le Canadien, another paper dedicated to the interests of the Conservative party; he would soon be joined there by Joseph-Israël Tarte. In this milieu Tardivel completed his education about the world of politics and took up literary criticism, the while not forgetting the great religious issues. He was active in the Cercle Catholique de Québec, an ultramontanist group in the archdiocese of the liberal Archbishop Elzéar-Alexandre Taschereau* [see Jean-Étienne Landry*]. When the pope died in 1878, Tardivel brought out Vie du pape Pie IX: ses œuvres et ses douleurs (Québec), an unquestioning exposition of conservative Catholic thought which was an immediate publishing success.

An American who devoted his life to the defence of French Canada, his adoptive country, Tardivel was singularly aware of the importance of linguistic excellence. In 1880 he published L’Anglicisme voilà l’ennemi . . . (Québec), and throughout his career he assailed anglicisms and defended the use of authentic French archaisms. In 1900 he would give a remarkable lecture, “La langue française au Canada,” which was widely distributed in pamphlet form.

By 1881 Tardivel, at 30 years of age, had been working as a journalist for nearly a decade. He had come to know the political scene as a parliamentary correspondent and had tried his hand at literary criticism. No doubt because he was dissatisfied with his role at Le Canadien, he dreamed of greater editorial independence. First he considered abandoning journalism to write school textbooks. Then he met Pierre-Zacharie Lacasse*, a noted Oblate apostle of colonization, who persuaded him to launch a newspaper that would be independent of political parties and entirely devoted to the defence of undiluted Catholicism and the French Canadian nationality. Tardivel, who had always taken the French author Louis Veuillot as his model, flung himself into the venture. In July 1881 the first issue of the weekly La Vérité was published at Quebec. It would continue to appear for more than 40 years, being edited until 1905 by Tardivel and after his death by his son Paul.

Although the model for La Vérité was the Paris newspaper L’Univers, and its editor, Veuillot, was Tardivel’s guiding light, there was a tradition of independent Catholic journalism in French Canada. In the Montreal of Bishop Ignace Bourget*, Le Nouveau Monde and L’Ordre had been founded in the 1860s. At Quebec, Le Courrier du Canada had also been launched. But these papers either ceased publication or ultimately gave their support to the Conservative party. Tardivel’s independent weekly would be the most enduring one and would inspire the founding of Le Devoir in Montreal, Le Droit in Ottawa, L’Action catholique in Quebec City, and other less well-known papers. La Vérité occasionally managed to defend its opinions against those of the bishops on what were called mixed questions – those open to the interpretation of individual Catholics, as many politico-religious topics were. An ultramontanist, Tardivel would often cross swords with his archbishop, the authoritarian Cardinal Taschereau, and even with Taschereau’s successor, Louis-Nazaire Bégin*, who considered the publisher of La Vérité too intractable.

Tardivel enjoyed contrasting the teachings of the pope with those of the bishops, whom he regarded as too liberal, and he had able theological advisers. The ecclesiastical authorities were especially sensitive to Tardivel’s comments since La Vérité, despite its small circulation (some 3,000 copies in its best years), was widely distributed in rectories and classical colleges. The politicians, of course, considered the newspaper a hindrance. Tardivel attacked in all directions. He relentlessly denounced Honoré Beaugrand and other radicals, who were basically anticlerical. He disapproved of Liberals such as Wilfrid Laurier*, who, in his view, were secretly undermining religion and the French Canadian nation. He was no less critical of the Conservatives at La Minerve, who were too lukewarm about religion and too lacking in French Canadian patriotism, as he noted at the time of the Riel affair [see Louis Riel*]. On that occasion Tardivel even managed to quarrel with the leader of the ultramontanist bishops, Louis-François Laflèche*, who stayed loyal to the Conservative party in the face of the challenge from Riel’s supporters. Notwithstanding his deep affinity with Henri Bourassa* he carried on in 1904 a celebrated debate with that young member of parliament on the concept of nationhood, Bourassa seeking a bilingual Canada independent of England, and Tardivel a French and Catholic state. It was not surprising that the owner-publisher of La Vérité was harshly criticized by politicians. An exasperated Honoré Mercier* would try to shut down the paper by ordering Quebec printers, who made their living from government contracts, not to print the newspaper. Tardivel’s response was to install his press in the basement of his private residence on Chemin Sainte-Foy.

The 1870s had been years of great debates about the Université Laval and undue clerical influence. Le Canadien, where Tardivel was then working, was a fierce critic of the university, which it considered a bastion of political and even religious liberalism. There was a great deal of discussion also about emigration to the United States and public education. Tardivel tirelessly denounced the American “mirage,” which he predicted would cause French Canadian emigrants to lose both their religion and their national identity. He naturally favoured church control of education. Contemporary developments in France intensified his fears that the state would increasingly wield authority over the schools in a spirit unsympathetic to religious beliefs. When Tardivel founded La Vérité in 1881, he was seeking more freedom to defend his views. He zealously encouraged colonization, which was then seen as a solution to the problem of emigration. On most of the major questions, his ultramontanist views were grist for the Conservative mill. He readily took La Minerve to task, however, when he considered it too opportunistic, and he most often found himself in agreement with L’Étendard, published by François-Xavier-Anselme Trudel*.

The mid 1880s saw painful conflicts within the Conservative camp, and especially among ultramontanists. The Riel affair came as a shock. While there were many, including Bishop Laflèche, who remained loyal to Macdonald’s party, numerous others like Trudel put their faith in the Parti National that brought Mercier to power. Tardivel initially believed that Mercier, with the right political and religious inspiration, would represent a chance for Quebec, then badly in need of provincial autonomy and reconciliation between French Canadian Liberals and Conservatives. For two years he supported him. Later, however, when he saw the premier engulfed in political scandals, he turned away and opposed him with all his might.

For ten years, from the Riel affair until 1895, Tardivel developed his plan for national autonomy. Eventually, for reasons that had as much to do with the defence of religion as with the growth and prosperity of French Canada, he came to advocate independence. His novel Pour la patrie, published in Montreal in 1895, marked the culmination of this trend in his thought, which subsequently he would merely clarify or make more explicit. For Tardivel, the religious and national solution lay in “founding a French Canadian and Catholic state.” This country, to appear when Providence so willed, would continue to carry out in North America the mission begun long ago by France: bearing witness to the Catholic faith and preserving French culture. In the short run, working for independence did not presuppose breaking ties with London, which provided protection against the machinations of English-speaking Canadians. For the time being, faced with the failure of confederation, Tardivel fought vigorously against Ottawa’s centralizing approach and its goal of legislative union, which he believed would be fatal to French Canada.

This defence of a French Canada that theoretically, in the most optimistic view, might include part of New England and Ontario, led logically to the abandonment of western French Canadians to their fate. He favoured the colonization of Quebec as a solution to overpopulation, opposed emigration to the United States, which throughout his career he described in the bleakest terms, and did not support emigration to Manitoba and the northwest, seeing it as a pure loss for French Canada. The Riel affair, followed by the school questions in Manitoba and in the North-West Territories, only confirmed him in his opinion. He would have polite but firm exchanges on this issue with archbishops Alexandre-Antonin Taché* and Adélard Langevin*, as well as with Franco-Manitoban leaders. However, because of his deep sympathy for all things French Canadian, Tardivel defended French language rights outside Quebec. He excoriated Macdonald in the Riel affair, which he saw as inspired by hatred for the French-speaking community. During the controversy over Manitoba’s schools [see Thomas Greenway], he violently attacked Laurier, who was too much the opportunist for his liking. In his last editorial, dictated on his deathbed in 1905, he denounced Laurier’s “betrayal” in giving up too many of the French-speaking population’s rights when the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta were created.

Tardivel’s enemies portrayed him as a grim man, ever ready to pounce on some new victim of his narrow sectarianism. This harsh judgement can be explained in large part by the zeal with which Tardivel denounced everyone who deviated even slightly from what he considered orthodox in religion and nationalism. The Tardivel legend stems also in part from his obsession with plots, along with a taste for mystery that he freely cultivated. Like many of his contemporaries, he was fascinated by secret societies and occultism. He often gave credence to the idea of a masonic plot, which was current especially after 1880 in conservative Catholic circles. His interest in mystery can be seen in his translation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange case of DrJekyll and MrHyde, published at Quebec in 1888. His nationalistic novel Pour la patrie shocked even conservative minds with its ready recourse to miracles and apparitions. When travelling, Tardivel had no hesitation in assuming a false identity in order to fool possibly malicious strangers.

Tardivel’s mistrust of other people was accompanied by a love of nature born of his early years in the Ohio countryside. He was an avid walker and went everywhere on foot when he was in the city. Each fall he made a pilgrimage on foot to Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré. He was tireless as a hunter and fisherman, skated gracefully, snowshoed adeptly, and enjoyed sailing off the Île d’Orléans. A city-dweller ever nostalgic for rural life, he cultivated a vegetable garden on the outskirts of Quebec that was admired by neighbours and visitors alike, and he was not above competing with local farmers in mowing contests.

Tardivel was by no means a loner inattentive to others. He always managed to surround himself with loyal friends. These included his professors at the Collège de Saint-Hyacinthe and then, at the beginning of his career, the brilliant journalist Joseph-Israël Tarte, although they eventually came to a stormy parting of the ways. Victor Livernois, a young Quebec lawyer who later became a Carthusian monk in France, was probably his best friend during his early years. La Verité would not have lasted without wise counsel and much assistance from staunch friends. Among them were agronomist Édouard-André Barnard*, parish priest François Cinq-Mars from Portneuf, and civil servant Ernest Gagnon*. Friends and supporters outside Quebec City included Bishop Laflèche of Trois-Rivières and Senator François-Xavier-Anselme Trudel of Montreal.

Around 1900, when Tardivel was most highly regarded as an authority, journalist Omer Héroux came to work with him. His home on Chemin Sainte-Foy, near Avenue des Érables, was a meeting-place for leading figures of the time. Young Henri Bourassa came to learn from his experience as a seasoned observer of the political scene. Philippe Landry*, a staunch Conservative who would become speaker of the Senate, was a frequent caller, and Alphonse Desjardins*, the founder of the caisses populaires, came to nurture his patriotism and the religion which coloured it so strongly. Other visitors included the Livernois family, lovers of nature and middle-class Conservatives, who were long-time friends of Tardivel, as well as many ecclesiastics, such as the Jesuit Joseph-Édouard Désy, founder of the nearby Villa Manrèse.

Father Joseph Grenier, a Jesuit who always worked anonymously (none of his articles in La Vérité was signed), advised and encouraged Tardivel from the early 1880s until his death. It was he who helped Tardivel to navigate the shoals of mixed questions, which involved religion and thus made him vulnerable to episcopal censure. Grenier also established a circle of supporters for Tardivel who guaranteed that his basic needs would be met. In 1888–89, for example, they financed his trip to Europe for study. Again it was Grenier who wrote the long history of La Vérité that Tardivel published at the beginning of the third volume of his Mélanges.

Jules-Paul Tardivel holds an honoured place in the history of journalism and ideas in French Canada. He was the most celebrated 19th-century representative of a press independent of political parties and dedicated to the defence of French Canada. His influence was out of all proportion to the limited means at his disposal. He remains as well the very type of the journalist dedicated to Catholicism in its uncompromising form, and through it he contributed to the upsurge of religious orthodoxy that characterized French Canada until the 1960s. This native-born American would arouse national pride in generations of young people in his adoptive country. For him, religion and nationality were essentially linked. By binding them together he furthered the survival of French Canadian culture and, at the same time, strengthened its Catholic element. Overlooking his excesses and his shortcomings, posterity has preserved an image of Tardivel which is mainly that of a pioneer in the cause of a politically independent press and a polemicist fully devoted to the defence and illustration of a Catholic and French Canadian nation in North America.

Pierre Savard

[The registration of Jules-Paul Tardivel’s birth has not been located, but the date and place are given in a sworn statement made by his cousin Samuel J. Brent of Columbus, Ohio, on 30 Jan. 1899 (ANQ-Q, P-683/2). Tardivel became a naturalized Canadian at Quebec on 21 Jan. 1896. His marriage is recorded in ANQ-M, CE2-1, 5 févr. 1874, and his death in ANQ-Q, CE1-97, 26 avril 1905.

The principal manuscript collection relating to Tardivel is ASJCF, Fonds Immaculée-Conception, which contains more than 3,600 items of correspondence and other documents. Letters, both to and by him, are also available at the AAQ, the Arch. de la Chancellerie de l’Archevêché de Montréal, the AASB, the Arch. de l’Évêché de Chicoutimi, Qué., the Arch. de l’Évêché de Trois-Rivières, Qué., and the Arch. du Séminaire de Saint-Hyacinthe, Qué., among other repositories. There are Tardivel papers at the Bibliothèque Nationale du Québec (Montréal), mss-225, and the ANQ-Q, P-683. The ASQ holds a few documents concerning the editor of La Vérité (Québec). Jean Tardivel, the grandson of Jules-Paul, wrote a 113-page manuscript full of details concerning the journalist’s personal life and on his forebears and descendants (ANQ-Q, P-683/4).

Tardivel’s most important writings are in such newspapers as Le Canadien, from 1874 to 1881, and La Vérité, from 1881 to 1905. He collected some of his articles in three volumes, Mélanges ou recueil d’études religieuses, sociales, politiques et littéraires, published at Quebec in 1887, 1901, and 1903; the introduction to the third volume includes a useful history of La Vérité. Tardivel’s copious Notes de voyage en France, Italie, Espagne, Irlande, Angleterre, Belgique et Hollande appeared at Montreal in 1890. His novel, Pour la patrie: roman du XXe siècle (Montréal, 1895), has gone through two subsequent French editions (1936; 1975) and has been translated into English by Sheila Fischman as For my country – “Pour la patrie”; an 1895 religious and separatist vision of Quebec in the mid-twentieth century, (Toronto and Buffalo, N.Y., 1975). The publication of Tardivel’s La situation religieuse aux États-Unis: illusions et réalité (Montréal, 1900) excited interest in France and the United States.

A complete listing of the manuscript and printed primary sources essential for an understanding of Tardivel as well as a full bibliography of his writings appears in the author’s Jules-Paul Tardivel, la France et les États-Unis, 1851–1905 (Québec, 1967). This study also discusses secondary works devoted to Tardivel and those dealing with various aspects of his career or relevant to it. Notable publications since 1967 include a selection of his writings, Jules-Paul Tardivel, edited by the author (Montréal et Paris, 1969); the introductions to both 1975 versions of Tardivel’s novel (John Hare’s for the French version, and A. I. Silver’s for the English); an analysis of his political thought by Réal Bélanger, “Le nationalisme ultramontain: le cas de Jules-Paul Tardivel,” in Les ultramontains canadiens-français, sous la direction de Nive Voisine et Jean Hamelin (Montréal, 1985), 267–303; and a study of Tardivel’s views on the francophones in western Canada, based on sources from that region, by Robert Painchaud, Un rêve français dans le peuplement de la Prairie (Saint-Boniface, Man., 1986).  p.s.]

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Pierre Savard, “TARDIVEL, JULES-PAUL,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed March 4, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/tardivel_jules_paul_13E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/tardivel_jules_paul_13E.html
Author of Article:   Pierre Savard
Title of Article:   TARDIVEL, JULES-PAUL
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1994
Year of revision:   1994
Access Date:   March 4, 2024