GALE, SAMUEL, lawyer and judge; b. 1783 at St Augustine (Florida), son of Samuel Gale, assistant paymaster of English forces in North America, and a Miss Wells, originally from Brattleboro, Vt; d. 15 April 1865 at Montreal, Canada East.
Samuel Gale came to Canada with his parents, ardent loyalists who left the United States after the American revolution. He received his early education at Quebec, where his father was secretary to Governor Robert Prescott*. He studied law in Montreal and was called to the bar on 8 March 1807.
An opponent of Governor Sir George Prevost*, he was critical of the latter’s actions during the War of 1812, and made veiled attacks on him in letters published in the Montreal Herald and later put together in a pamphlet entitled Nerva, or a collection of papers published in the “Montreal Herald” (1814). At the point when James Stuart* and the members representing the French Canadian majority were attacking the English judges, and particularly Judge Jonathan Sewell*, whose dismissal they sought, Nerva reminded its readers of recent events in Ireland in such a way that they could transpose them to Lower Canada. Blaming Prevost mistakenly for yielding to “factious” elements, Gale asked the authorities to take a firmer stance.
He served as lawyer for Lord Selkirk [Douglas*], founder of the Red River colony, when the latter had difficulties with the North West Company, and in 1815 he went west to defend his client’s interests. In 1817 he published Notices on the claims of the Hudson’s Bay Company and the conduct of its adversaries (Montreal).
In the spring of 1828 Gale went to London and in May and June gave testimony on three occasions before the committee of the House of Commons inquiring into the government of Canada. He represented in particular the inhabitants of the Eastern Townships, who claimed their interests were harmed because French Canadians were in a majority in the House of Assembly. On their behalf he called for better highways and asked that the courts apply English law in the region, particularly in land tenure. He also requested that the Eastern Townships be better represented in the assembly and that English immigration to them be encouraged. Finally, he declared himself in favour of the union of Upper and Lower Canada.
On 23 Aug. 1834 Samuel Gale was appointed by Lord Aylmer [Whitworth-Aylmer*] a judge of the Court of King’s Bench at Montreal, to replace Norman Fitzgerald Uniacke*, who had resigned. In 1835 he sat temporarily at Trois-Rivières. The members of the Patriote party in the assembly protested against the appointment of the man who had testified for the bureaucrat party before the House of Commons committee in 1828, and the colonial secretary, Spring-Rice, could not refrain from writing to the governor: “At all times, but more particularly at a moment like the present, I feel it of the highest importance that no persons who can be considered as strong political partizans should be placed on the Bench of Lower Canada. . . . When I advert to the line adopted by Mr Gale before the Committee of 1828, and his connection with the measures of those times, I very much fear that he will be looked upon with distrust by a very considerable portion of the community in Canada. . . . Under those circumstances . . . I am not disposed, as at present advised, to recommend the confirmation of his appointment.” Lord Aylmer persisted, and Gale remained a judge despite fresh protests by the members of the assembly. In 1837, in a detailed judgement, Gale maintained the right of the crown to establish martial law and suspend habeas corpus.
As a lawyer and judge, Gale enjoyed the respect and admiration of his colleagues even if he had adversaries. He retired on 25 April 1848 because of poor health, and died at Montreal on 15 April 1865.
[Samuel Gale], Nerva, or a collection of papers published in the “Montreal Herald” (Montreal, 1814); Notices on the claims of the Hudson’s Bay Company and the conduct of its adversaries . . . (Montreal, 1817); a second edition was published under the title: Notices on the claims of the Hudson’s Bay Company: to which is added a copy of their royal charter (London, 1819). Bas-Canada, chambre d’Assemblée, Journaux, 1835–36, app.E. Montreal Gazette, 17 April 1865. P.-G. Roy, Les juges de la prov. de Québec, 233.