Mes racines / my roots

Henri Césaire Saint-Pierre


Adéline Albina Lesieur


Napoléon Mallette


Louis Émery Beaulieu


Guillaume Saint-Pierre


Joseph Bélanger


Geneviève Saint-Pierre


Jeanne Beaulieu Casgrain


Jean Casgrain


Simone Aubry Beaulieu


Marcel Malépart


Jaque Masson


Édouard Trudeau


Rolland Labrosse


Jacques Cousineau



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Oration pronounced on Memorial Day,

This document, property of Mrs Jannice Saint-Pierre Westfall, great-grand-daughter of Henri Césaire Saint-Pierre, has been copied by Jacques Beaulieu, great-grand-son of same and Richard Beaulieu, great-great-grand-son of same.


Oration delivered by H.C. Saint-Pierre Q.C.
at the Protestant Cemetery of Mount-Royal
on the 30th May 1895,
at the gathering of the Montreal branch Hancock Post of G.A.R.

Comrades,

Every year, upon each recurring springtime, when nature robes herself in her garment of verdure bespangled with flowers of the brighest hues; when the winds are murmuring in the forest trees their songs of love; when the birds are everywhere filling the air with glee and happiness, your thoughts are carried back to days of sadness and mourning.

With that fidelity which becomes soldiers and friends each year you have repaired to "the silent camping ground," where our departed companions are now sleeping in their last repose, in order to offer to their graves your tribute of flowery gifts together with the renewed expression of your undying love and of your sorrow.

We have again met this year to perform this pious duty.

True, the lips of our fallen friends are closed for ever, and their voices can no longer be heard, but it seems to me that their spirits hovering over their tombs are today moving amongst us, and that upon our recalling to our memories the great deeds which they have achieved and the great cause which they have defended, we will again feel their encouraging influence.

It seems to me that prompted by their secret whisperings, we will on leaving this field of the dead, walk away impressed with a higher resolve to imitate their example and so do for our country, if calls the voice of that duty which they have so nobly performed in the service of the friendly republic which has been the witness of their heroism and their devotion.

Comrades,

What was it which in 1861, brought together so many combatants around the flag of Washington and Franklin? Was the soil of the fatherland threatened by the undisciplined and untutered savage of the Wild West? Was it polluted by the feet of foreign invaders? Had England, France or Germany threatened with their mighty fleets the shores of the Republic which one of its presidents has proclaimed "the sacred home of the American people"? No, Comrades, the strife was between brothers. - The fathers of the Country had proclaimed it as the fondamental principle of the Constitution that man was born equal and free and the question at issue was whether a republic founded upon such a principle could subsist.

I cannot define this question to you in more impressive and more eloquent language than that which feel from the lips of the man who was at the same time the greatest hero of the war and its last martyr, the good and noble Abraham Lincoln.

Let me quote his own words pronounced on the occasion of the inauguration of the Gettysburg Cemetery where so many of our dear comrades had fallen.

He said:

"Four scores and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We are met to dedicate a portion of it as the final resting place of those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it for above our power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work that they have thus far so nobly carried on. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from those honored dead we take increased devotion to the cause for which they, here, gave the last full measure of devotion - that we have highly resolve that the dead shall not have died in vain - that the nation shall, under God, have a new birth of freedom, and that the Government of the people, for the people, by the people, shall not perish from the earth."

What was it then, I again repeat, which brought so many combatants from so many various lands to share in the struggle for the maintenance of the Union?

I am aware that the rebellious population of the Southern States had friends and sympathisers. I am not at all surprised at the joyful hopes expressed by the men who held power of the Government in several countries in Europe when they predicted the downfall of the Republic.

These men belonged to the aristocraty and aristocrats are the natural enemies of the people. The kings and the aristocratic classes may have proved unfriendly to the cause of the Union, but the men of the people were not. They felt that in the mighty struggle which was going on, there was a cause to defend which was their cause, the cause of democracy, and under the inspiring strains of the patriotic songs "Hail Columbia" and "Three cheers for the Red, White and Blue", from almost every quarter of the globe, thousands and thousands hastened to flock around the glorious stars & stripes, the emblem of popular rights, to fight and fall, if necessary, in the defence of the American Republic.

In those days as well as now, there were in our free Canada, men of the people with strong arms and stout hearts, who did not think that they would proved disloyal to their country by giving a friendly help in the defence of the cause of the people and of humanity, and who cheerfully joined the ranks of their American brothers.

We were among the number, Comrades. Carried away by the enthousiasm of our youth, we fought and bled for the sacred cause of the people and for the abolition of slavery; and after the bloody strife once over we came back to our own homes as loyal as ever to the land of our birth, but proud of having contributed to the triumph of freedom and to the maintenance of the government of the people, by the people and for the people.

Comrades,

a little over a hundred years ago, thirteen States which then formed the nucleus of the mighty republic now known to the world as the United States of America confederated together and united their strenght to lay the foundation of a Government such as the world had never witnessed before. They proclaimed as the first article of their creed that every man was born free and that in the eyes of the law, in the eyes of the constitution every man was the equal of any other man. No privileged classes, no aristocratic distinction were admitted. The American citizen was instructed to believe himself the peer of any man, and like the Roman citizen of old who could make even a king tremble by stating his title the inhabitants of the American Union was aware that he could command the respect of the world by calling himself "an American citizen". "Civis Romanus sum" would proudly say the Roman in the days of the olden times - with no less pride and with as much assurance to command respect the man of the people from the American Republic can say, "I am an American citizen."

I have just stated that this new republic was unlike any one ever known to the world before, and History will prove my assertion.

Athens was a republic, but the extend of its territory was so restricted that its citizens instead of confiding their interests to the calm discussion of a house of representatives would even in the most momentous occasions constitute themselves into a deliberating council, and in boisterous assemblies would pronounce upon the most vital questions concerning the welfare of the state.

Rome was the mightiest Republic known to antiquity; but remember that one third of its population was composed of patrician families who would gaze with a disdainful look upon their plebeian countrymen.

The power of Government was centered into the aristocratic Senate, the authority of which was supreme. The rights of the people were limited to the election of their tribunes whose duty was to protect when abuses of authority on the part of the senate became excessive.

There was no equality there. The Patricians were the masters and the Plebeians the slaves.

Venice was a Republic and for a considerable period of time was admitted to be the Queen of the seas, but it was governed by an oligarchy, and the people had no voice in the Government of the nation.

To America was reserved the honor of being the cradle of the first exclusively democratic Government which ever existed in the world. The birth place of true Democracy was America. Any man born under the shadow of its flag, no matter if he sprung from the poorest and lowest, has the right to aspire to the proudest station in the land.

There no titled scape-grace, no aristocratic idiot can expect to command influence nor even respect, but Grant the tanner became the commanding General of an army of over one million of men and Abraham Lincoln a toiler of the soil, the "rail splitter" as his ennemies sometimes called him in derision, became the president of a mighty nation; the former proved himself a general who may be compared with the most illustrious of either ancient or modern times and the second was proclaimed the greatest man of the age.

The birth of democracy in America became a natural one, the moment the Americans had conquered the right to chose their own form of Government.

Their fathers had hailed from old England that classic land of liberty where from their very infancy they had been taught that "No Briton should ever be slave." The evolution therefore from a popular government tempered by the authority of a King and that of House of Lord such as existed in England to a purely democratic government without any King or aristocracy became a natural one and was operated almost without effort. But it was not so in other countries.

Fourteen years had hardly elapsed since the American constitution had been signed, when the most sweeping revolution known to the world broke out in Europe. - Democracy resolved to assert the rights of the people and encouraged by the example set by the Americans she rose in her might like the athlete of old in the Olympian games, bearing the arms for the deadly conflict the world ever witnessed. France became the battlefield wherein the question was to be decided whether it was true as had been affirmed in America "that every man was born free and the equal of any other man" or whether it was not better that three-fourths of the population should be the slaves of the one fourth.

Gentlemen, whilst giving this short historical analysis of the march and progress of Democracy throughout the world in order to convince you that when we fought for democracy we were fighting for a holy cause, allow me to enter in what you might call a short digression, and permit me to put before your eyes a small sketch of what the condition of France was before the revolution swept away the ancient order of things.

You will then judge for yourselves whether we were right in fighting for the maintenance of the Republic and of the great principle of the sovereignty of the people upon which it was made to rest.

King Louis XVI was sitting upon the throne of France wearing a crown and weilding an absolute sway over the nation by the authority of what he claimed to be the divine rights of Kings. "Two thirds of the land of the country" says the historian Chambers "belonged to the nobility and the clergy, and both the nobility and the clergy were exempted from taxation."

Judge from this statement of the condition of the mass of the people, the toilers of the soil.

The taxes were not collected as they are here; they were sold at public auction to the highest bidder and bought by a class of men called the King's farmers-general who in their turn would collect them from the people with unmerciful greediness. A tax was imposed upon almost every article of absolute necessity to life.

Intermarriages between the nobility and the rotheries or the people were looked upon as a stain upon the former, and the unfortunate youth who would marry a maiden of the people was cast away from his family as having brought shame and dishonor upon the hearth and home. At a pinch he could use her as his mistress however. There was hardly any shame in that; but for him to take her to his bosom as the woman of his love and the mother of his children was a crime never to be condoned.

In the armies no man who was not a nobleman could ever expect to reach a higher post than that of sergeant.

In the navies he had to be content with remaining a sailor.

Wars of the most disastrous character would be undertaken not for the protection of the country but for the benefit of the King's family connections.

The Commanders were frequently selected for the most important posts by the whymsical fancy of the mistress of the Sovereign; and the efforts and intrigues used to obtain the good graces of the gracious lady were not even attempted to be conceiled from the observation of the public.

Officers' commissions were bought and sold to the highest bidder, no matter how wreckless or unworthy the applicant might be for the position.

The son of a craftsman had no right to aspire to any higher occupation than that of his father, and if shoemaker his father was, shoemaker the son was bound to be.

Justice was shamelessly sold or influenced still more shamelessly by the King's mistress or I should rather say mistresses, for History tells us that there were many.

To crown all, upon a secret denonciation, a citizen, the father of a family could be suddenly pounced upon and lodged in the dungeons of "La Bastille" by means of a warrant called "lettre de cachet" signed by the King, without any one of the friends or of his family of the doomed man ever being made aware of his fate. One of those unfortunate victims of tyranny, Latude was kept for thirty years in that terrible prison.

Talk of Bell Island or of Andersonville, after that!

Do not fancy, gentlemen, that I am portraying to you a state of things which existed during the dark ages. No, I am referring to the condition of the people of France at the very time when the great revolution burst forth about a hundred years ago.

I have just spoken of the condition of the French people but theirs was not an exclusive one. Had I made the picture a little broader I might have included within its frame, Italy, Spain, Austria, in fact all of Europe except England and Switzerland. Every where, the people was the slave of kings and of the nobility. Nowhere except in the two countries just named were they allowed the least share of influence in the government of their respective countries.

One day the oppressed people of France felt that they could bear oppression no longer; the nation rose in a state of frenzy. The chains broke from her wrists, she snapped from the hands of her oppressors the weapons which they had so long wielded for her destruction; she picked up the sword yet crimsoned with the blood of her children and with all the power that madness inspired by fury and revenge can inspire she struck to the right and to the left. Under her mightly blows, la Bastille the hated prison crumbled down to pieces, the King in spite of his divine right feel on the scaffold never to rise again, and the blood of the nobility, (that head-strong nobility which even then, would not consent to yield an inch of its self-asserted priviledges) filled the gutters of Paris.

The Kings of Europe took alarm and trembled on their thrones at the sight of the rise of Democracy in France. They all combined together to crush it down but the vigorous French Republic was equal to the task. Organised by the genius of Carnot fourteen armies hastened to the defence of the French soil and every where the French soldier was victorious.

At the head of those armies we find men who had sprung from the people like Grant, Sheridan and Thomas. We find Napoleon Bonaparte, the son of a lawyer, Berthier a sergeant in the old army, Bessière, a private in the guards of Louis XVI, Junot, Larmes, Mortier, Pechegre all from the lowest ranks of society, Soult, Suchet, Victor, Lefebvre, Massena, all former privates in the old army.

Gentlemen, I am not ignorant of the fact that Democracy was conquered, at least for a time in France. There is however a certain degree of satisfaction in knowing that it yielded to the glittering charms of military Glory.

But see throughout the world the mighty triumph secured by the American and French revolutions.

The great principle laid down by Washington, Franklin and Jefferson and again affirmed by Mirabeau, Sieyes, Danton and Vergue, that the people should be governed by the people and for the people was accepted in every civilized country of the world, and both on the continent of America and that of Europe there is hardly a nation to-day in which the sovereignty of the people has not been recognized and in which the government is not carried on by means of a parliement or house of assembly composed of elected representatives of the people.

Some might say that the secession of the Southern States from the Union and the disruption of the Republic did not necessarily entail the downfall of Democracy in America, and that the dark forbodings of the late President Lincoln were groundless.

Gentlemen, no one can say what result might have flowed from the breaking up of the Union. If the principle had been once accepted that the pretented States Rights was to be allowed to prevail, one can affirm that some day or other under the flimsyest pretext the Western States might not have followed the evil example set to them by the Southern Confederacy. A house divided against itself cannot stand and no one can foretell what the final fate of Democracy might have been in all those small republics shorn of that strength which resulted from their Union. The motto of the United States is: "United we stand, divided we fall."

Who can say that some foreign conquerors might not have crossed the sea to crush down under foot the work of the fathers of the Republic and reduce to a state of thraldom the free people of the United States? Have you forgotten that thirty years ago a foreign army invaded Mexico, and that a foreign potentate succeeded in subverting the Mexican Republic to put its government in the hands of an Emperor? Fortunately, the people awoke to their rights, and led by their republican chiefs, they succeeded in repelling the invaders and Maximilian paid with his life the audacious enterprise of attempting to become the master of a free people. But what might not have happened had the Mexican Republic been divided against itself or broken up by partial secessions?

In defending the Union therefore we were defending our cause, the cause of the people, the cause of Democracy in America.

We fought for the Union in order that the title of American Citizen should be preserved.

We fought for the Union in order that in that land, the worker, the toiler might continue to feel that there is more nobility in honest labor than in glittering titles.

We fought for the cause of Democracy in order that no man should one day assume the right to deprieve us of our liberty or should dare to thrust any one of us into a dongeon without cause and without due process of law.

We fought for the cause of Democracy in order that our virtuous sisters, wives and mothers should not be looked down with contempt by an insolent courtisan who would believe herself a superior being from the fact that she happened to have been born of patrician parents.

This is what brought so many helping hands and devoted hearts around the flag of Washington.

But aside from the cause of Democracy, there was another of no less importance, one in fact so blended with it that the two form but one thing in reality. I am alluding to the question of slavery.

Slavery was preexistant in the Southern States to the foundation of the Republic.

The difficulties which beset the path of the framers of the constitution were by far too numerous for them to undertake the settlement of the vexed question of slavery with one stroke of the pen. They felt contented with affirming the broad principle that in the new born Republic "every man should be free" and they left to the care of the local government in each Southern State to eradicate the evil as time and circumstances would permit.

The hopes expressed then were not realised however, and slavery instead of gradually disappearing was on the contrary increasing rapidly until at last an attempt was made to introduce it into the Western States. You know the sequel, the election of President Lincoln wich took place directly on that issue, the refusal of the Slave States to accept Mr. Lincoln as their president.

The secession of the Southern States, the election of Mr. Jefferson Davis as the president of the Southern Confederacy, the attack upon fort Sumter and the war.

Gentlemen, at the same time that we were defending the cause of the Union, we also defended that of Humanity itself by fighting for the abolition of slavery.

Is there any one of us who ever regretted it?

A man may sell his labor, his ability, his skill, his learning, but he cannot sell his person. Every man is a creature of God born to do his will, but not to be enslaved under the absolute authority of another man. No one has the right to become the absolute master of another, no matter what country the latter hails from, no matter what sun may have darken his face.

Have you ever travelled the Southern States before the war? Have you ever seen a slave market? If you have seen such a sight, did you not feel your very temples throb with the deepest indignation at the degrading scenes? Dis you see the husband separated from his wife, the father from his son, the mother from her children and even from her infant babe? Could any sight be more revolting for a man harboring in his breast some feeling of respect for man and for humanity than that of those purchasers of human beings patting with their lascivious hands the forms and flesh of a young woman, just as they would do those of a beast of burden?

My blood boils at the very thought. Methinks I am present at such a scene with my old comrades of Company F of the 76th, N. Y. V. Methinks I hear my brave captain [see note at the end] swan shout to us; "Boys are we going to allow such abominations to take place before our very eyes? Are we barbarians, savages or christian soldiers? Do you not see that father taken away from his weeping children? Do you not see that little child five years old torn from the arms of his distracted mother? Do you not hear their screams, their desperate appeal for help? Is there no hope for them? Are we to remain idle in sight of such a scene? Forward boys, sweep away all that heartless crowd, seize those weeping children and bring them back to their parents." With what alacrity would the order have been obeyed? Who is the coward amongt us who would not have risked a thousand lives for the sacred cause of humanity?

"Not all the rebels in the South had born us backards then."

Gentlemen, I am done. We Canadians have been born and brought up in a free country wherein democracy rules supreme. All we know of nobility and aristocracy is only that which is found to be good in them, education, refinement of manner, politness and devotion & charity. It is though the chain of nobility that we are linked to the mother country, but that chain is made of gold and covered with flowers. Is there actually in Canada a man who has more thoroughly won the hearts of every Canadian than our present Governor General the noble Count of Aberdeen? Is there a woman more amiable, more charitable, more devoted to the interest of every thing which is truly canadian than our good Lady Aberdeen?

Ours is indeed a favored land and on this day when we are recalling to our memory what we did elsewhere for the cause of the people, we should thank heaven that we also are a free people and the inhabitants of a democratic country. Let us remember that most of our leading men have like Grant & Lincoln, sprung from the poorest of the land; that we also, w e have had our great and good men who without resources, without the succour of even a primary education have succeeded in reaching the highest position within the gift of our people, and that if Abraham Lincoln after six months schooling became the president of the United States, our Alex. McKenzie, a stone mason, without any schooling at all, became the Premier of Canada.

Let us here resolve to cultivate amongst us as a brotherly feeling and let our ambition be to see some day the star of Canada shine amongst the brightest in the galaxy of nations.


Note: The 76th New York Volunteers Company F had two Captains during its existence. John Barnard was the original Captain of Company F. He lasted for just one year, and was invalided out in September 1862. He was succeeded by James Goddard, who served from September 1862 through July 1864, when Company F was mustered out. He is the one mentionned here. (This information comes from Mike Brown. The complete roster of the regiment is found HERE .


Copy of a Single-lined typed document of nine full-scap pages
Some spelling and syntax corrections were done



Jacques Beaulieu
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