SALABERRY (Irumberry de Salaberry), MELCHIOR-ALPHONSE DE, soldier, lawyer, and politician; b. 19 May 1813 at Saint-Jean-François-Régis (Saint-Philippe-de-Laprairie), Lower Canada, son of Lieutenant-Colonel Charles-Michel d’Irumberry* de Salaberry, the “victor of Châteauguay,” and Marie-Anne-Julie, daughter of Jean-Baptiste-Melchior Hertel* de Rouville, legislative councillor; d. 27 March 1867 at Quebec.
Melchior-Alphonse de Salaberry was offered responsible and prestigious posts when he was very young because of his father’s renown and the good name enjoyed in government circles by the families from which he was descended. Indeed he was barely 16 when his mother declined on his behalf the invitation of Lord Aylmer [Whitworth-Aylmer*] that he assume a rank in the army. Five years later, on 14 Aug. 1834, he was made aide-de-camp extraordinary. On 6 June 1836 he was appointed commissioner for small causes for the parish of Saint-Joseph-de-Chambly, and on 22 March 1837 was reconfirmed in his post. A few weeks earlier, on 24 February, he had been called to be a member of the grand jury summoned at the opening of the criminal court of the district of Montreal. On 22 August he became a member of the Legislative Council, but since the constitution was suspended on 27 March 1838 he did not take his seat.
Appointed lieutenant-colonel on 23 March 1837, Salaberry had commanded the 2nd battalion of Chambly militia during the autumn disturbances, and prevented the Patriotes from seizing Fort Chambly. During the ensuing months, however, five militiamen cast doubt upon his zeal in fighting the Patriotes. Four of them, John Pool, Thomas Cary, Louis Chaloux, and Jean-Baptiste Poudrette, in a joint statement dated 9 Jan. 1838, attributed his lack of eagerness to “downright pusillanimity and astonishing cowardice,” and deplored that they still had to serve under such an officer. Nevertheless, it was apparent from Chaloux’s retraction on 4 Feb. 1837 that one of Salaberry’s officers, Lieutenant John McCutcheon, was responsible for this manœuvre. As early as November 1837 the latter had refused to comply with orders of his superior. On 15 January McCutcheon took up the charge of faintheartedness, giving as particular ground for complaint that around 10 November Salaberry had refused to sign a declaration of loyalty to the government. However, McCutcheon’s accusations proved to be without foundation and he was relieved of his post on 10 February.
Salaberry had the opportunity, three years later, to prove his loyalty. In 1841, in the first elections after the union, he stood as a candidate in the county of Rouville, and just managed to win over Timothée Franchère in a violent campaign that resulted in one death. In the Legislative Assembly, Salaberry and Alexandre-Maurice Delisle* were the only French-Canadians to support Lord Sydenham [Thomson*] and the government. In June 1841, for example, they voted against an amendment by John Neilson* seeking the repeal of the union by the British government. Salaberry remained in the assembly for only a short time. In June 1842 he had to resign to face the electorate again, because he had accepted from the government the lucrative office of clerk of the court for the district of Richelieu. He was defeated by William Walker, who was to support the same parliamentary group. Salaberry was called to the Montreal bar on 4 Feb. 1845, and for some time practised with Robert-Shore-Milnes Bouchette*, before he was appointed on 23 April 1847 to work with Joseph Jones as coroner of Montreal. He gave up this post to accept, on 26 June 1848, that of assistant adjutant-general of the militia for Lower Canada. He held this high executive and administrative position until his death.
On 22 Sept. 1846 Melchior-Alphonse de Salaberry had married at Montreal Marie-Émilie Guy, daughter of Louis Guy, a legislative councillor. Eight children were born of this union. The son of a seigneur, Salaberry enjoyed a privileged existence; his very birth destined him to live in an exclusive social environment and to accede at an early age to positions that few people of more modest origins could hope to occupy. Like his father, he remained aloof from the Canadian nationalist movement of the day. At the time of the confrontation between Patriotes and British troops, Salaberry was already moving in the influential circles which would assure his personal future.
ANQ-Q, QBC 25, Événements de 1837–38, nos.3023, 3754–55, 3757, 3767, 3769–71, 3776, 3779–81, 3783, 3785. PAC, MG 24, G45, 5, p.1462; 6, p.1480; MG 30, D62, 27, p.309; RG 9, I, A5, 15; I, C6, 6. G. Turcotte, Cons. légisiatif de Québec, 19, 123–24. Thérèse d’Irumberry de Salaberry, Regards sur la famille d’Irumberry de Salaberry; ses origines lointaines, sa branche canadienne (Paris, 1953). Monet, Last cannon shot. P.-G. Roy, La famille d’Irumberry de Salaberry (Lévis, Qué., 1905), 119–22.