The subject of this short biographical sketch was born at Ste. Madeleine de Rigaud, during a short stay of his parents in that parish, on the 13th day of September 1842, but was brought up at Isle Bizard, on the Lake of Two Mountains, near Montreal. His father, a farmer, was Joseph Berryer-Saint-Pierre of Isle Bizard, and his mother, Demitilde Denis dit Saint-Denis, who had been born at Pointe Claire. Young Henri received his classical and literary education at the old Montreal College on College street near McGill street. 0n leaving college he was sent up to Kingston, Ontario, where he began his law course, the object in sending him up there being to give him an opportunity of improving his knowledge of the English language. Having passed the required examinations for his admission to the study of the law, he availed himself of the permission which had been granted him to go and visit Niagara Falls and the city of Buffalo. The great battle of Gettysburg had just been fought and won by the northern army, and on his arrival at Buffalo, he found the people delirious with the news of the recent victory. Our young student, who had inherited from his ancestors a marked taste for the military career (a career by the way for which there were but few openings for a young French Canadian in those days, in Canada), was altogether carried away by the enthusiastic demonstrations which he then witnessed and made up his mind to give up the doleful study of Blackstone to enter the American army. A short time later, the runaway student was a member of Company F in the Seventy-sixth New York Volunteers. At the battle of Mine Run which was fought on the 27th November, 1863, he was wounded and reported as dead at the regiment. The same report having been reproduced in the Montreal papers, the usual service for the dead was celebrated for him at the Montreal College and at Isle Bizard where his widowed mother was living. He was picked up from the field however by the southern cavalry and sent to the military prison of Belle Island in the city of Richmond from which he was later on transferred to Andersonville in Georgia. After the capture of Atlanta, he was removed with the other prisoners first to Savannah, and then to Florence and finally to Charleston's race ground in South Carolina, where he regained his liberty in the spring of 1865 on the city being evacuated by the southern troops. On his return to Montreal after the war, he resumed his legal studies first in the office of Sir George Etienne Cartier, for whom he, for a time, acted as private secretary, and later on in that of the Hon. J. J. C. Abbott who some years afterward became premier of Canada.
HON. HENRI C. BERRYER-SAINT-PIERRE
He was admitted to the bar in June, 1870. His career at the Montreal bar was a most successful and brilliant one, and he soon became one of the leading lawyers in the province of Quebec, being particularly noted for his success as a criminal lawyer. His record as such was never surpassed at least in his province and but seldom equalled anywhere. It is said that he pleaded not less than thirty-three cases of murder, securing complete acquittals in most of them. Not one of those he defended was ever found guilty of murder in the first degree and sentenced to be hanged, except Shortis who had killed two men at Valleyfield and wounded dangerously a third one. In this last case, the plea of impulsive insanity was urged for the first time in the province of Quebec as a ground of defense and proved successful in the end in spite of the verdict of the jury. Shortis is to day detained in the penitentiary of Kingston as "a dangerous lunatic." Judge Saint-Pierre frequently associated in the defence of persons accused of serious crimes with Donald MacMaster, K. C., now a member of the English parliament, who was his intimate friend.
In 1889, he was created a queen's counsel by the Earl of Aberdeen. Judge Saint-Pierre never showed any great inclination for politics but confined his labor and efforts more particularly to secure the highest position in his profession as a lawyer. Being a liberal, he consented however to be the nominee of the liberal party in the county of Jacques-Cartier, for the local seat in 1878 against the old member, but was defeated by a small majority.
He was married in 1874 to Marie Albina Lesieur, daughter of Adolphe Lesieur, a merchant of Terrebonne. She died on the 19th December, 1908, leaving five children, three boys and two girls who are all married and settled. In 1902 on the occasion of his being raised to the bench, he was made an officer of the order of the Crown of Italy upon a petition presented to the King of Italy by the Italian colony at Montreal supported by the Italian consul. Judge Saint-Pierre has been the organizer of the Canadian Veterans as a body and has been their honorary president ever since their organization some fourteen years ago.
His eminent ability as a legist led eventually to his appointment to the bench, He was first named for the district of Beauharnois on the retirement of Hon. Mr. Justice Belanger in June, 1902, and was transferred to Montreal in March, 1909, so that he is now presiding over the district of Montreal. His decisions are strictly fair and impartial and rander him the peer of the ablest men who have presided over Montreal's courts.
The Judge is a Roman Catholic of the broad liberal school. He is known to be a great admirer of British institutions though much attached to the French civil law which he holds to be superior to the common law of England.
The press has united in passing high encomiums upon him, The Montreal Herald styled him "a man of great vigor," The Montreal Star spoke of him as broad-minded and public-spirited. The Toronto Star said "Judge Berryer-Saint-Pierre is gifted with fine powers of eloquence and is broad-minded and tolerant." Perhaps his lofty patriotism is best indicated in his own utterance: "Be English, be Scotch, be French, be Irish, if you will," he often said in his public utterance, "but above and before all, let us all be Canadians." Judge Saint-Pierre's residence is at 2330 Park avenue, Montreal.