Testimony of Dr. Francois Roy
July 30, 1885

FRANCOIS ROY sworn (Louis Bourget, interpreter)

Examined by MR. FITZPATRICK:

Q. You are a doctor of medicine? A. Yes.
Q. In the city of Quebec? A. Yes, I belong to Quebec.
Q. What is your position in Quebec? A. For a great number of years I have been medical superintendent and one of the proprietors of the lunatic asylum at Beauport.
Q. How long have you been connected with the asylum as superintendent? A. More than fifteen or sixteen years.
Q. You are also a member of the society of America - of the Society of the Superintendents of the Insane Asylums of America? A. Yes.
Q. During these fifteen or sixteen years your duties caused you to make a special study of diseases of the brain? Is it not true that it has been necessary for you to make a special study of diseases of the brain? A. Yes; it was my duty to go to the principal asylums in the United States and see how the patients were treated there.
Q. Had you any connection with the asylum of Beauport in 1875 and 1876? A. Yes.
Q. You were at that time superintendent of the asylum? A. Yes.
Q. In those years, or about that time, did you have occasion to see the prisoner? A. Certainly; many times.
Q. Where did you see him? A. In the asylum.
Q. Can you tell the date? A. Yes, the date was taken from the register when I left Quebec.
Q. What date is that? A. I took the entry from the register in the hospital in the beginning of this month.
Q. Was he admitted with all the formalities required by law? A. Yes.
Q. Will you tell me what time he left the asylum? A. He was discharged about the 21st of January, after a residence in the house of about nineteen months.
Q. Had you occasion to study at that time the mental disease by which the prisoner was affected at that time? A. Yes.
Q. Did you have relations with him during that time, and did you watch him carefully during that time? A. Not every day, but very often.
Q. Can you say now what mental disease the prisoner was then suffering from? A. He was suffering from what is known by authors as megalomania.
Q. Will you give the symptoms of this disease? A. Many of the symptoms of that disease are found in the ordinary maniac. The particular characteristic of this malady is, that in all cases they show great judgment in all cases not immediately connected with the particular disease with which they suffer.
Q. Will you speak from memory or by referring to the authors, what are the other symptoms of this disease? A. They sometimes give you reasons which would be reasonable if they were not starting from a false idea. They are very clever on those discussions, and they have a tendency to irritability when you question or doubt their mental condition, because they are under a strong impression that they are right and they consider it to be an insult when you try to bring them to reason again. On ordinary questions they may be reasonable and sometimes may be very clever, in fact without careful watching they would lead one to think that they were well.
Q. Was he there some weeks or months before you ascertained his mental condition? A. Yes. I waited till then to classify him as to his mental condition. We wait a few weeks before classifying the patient.
Q. Does a feeling of pride occupy a prominent position in that mental disease? A. Yes, in different forms, religion, and there are a great many with pride; we have kings with us.
Q. Is the question of selfishness or egotism prominent in those cases? A. Yes.
Q. Are they liable to change in their affections rapidly? A. Yes, because they are susceptible to the least kind of attraction.
Q. In that particular malady are the patients generally inclined to be sanguine as to the success of their projects? A. The difficulty is to make them believe that they will not have success; you cannot bring them to change that, it is a characteristic of the disease.
Q. Are people who suffer from this particular form of disease liable to be permanently cured or are they liable to fall back into the old malady? A. Generally remain in that condition; they may have sensible moments and then intermission would interfere.
Q. In a case of this kind could a casual observer without any medical experience form an estimate as to the state of the man's mind? A. Not usually, unless he makes a special study of the case; there is more or less difference in each case.
Q. What is the position of the mind of a man suffering from this disease in reference to other subjects which do not come within the radius of his mania? A. They will answer questions as any other man with the sense of reason; it is only when they touch the spot of their monomania that they become delirious.
Q. You stated that the prisoner left the asylum in l878? A. In January 1878.
Q. Have you ever seen him from that time till yesterday? A. No, never.
Q. Do you recognize him perfectly as the same person who was in your asylum in 1876 and 1878? A. Yes.
Q. Were you present at the examination of the witnesses that took place to-day and yesterday? A. Partly.
Q. Did you hear the witnesses describing the actions of the prisoner as to his peculiar views on religion in reference to his power, to his hoping to succeed the Pope, and as to his prophecies, yesterday and today? A. Yes.
Q. From what you heard from these witnesses and from the symptoms they prove to have been exhibited by the prisoner, are you now in a position to say whether or not at that time he was a man of sound mind? A. I am perfectly certain that when the prisoner was under our care he was not of sound mind, but he became cured before he left, more or less. But from what I heard here to-day I am ready to say that I believe on these occasions his mind was unsound, and that he was laboring under the disease so well described by Dagoust.
Q. Do you believe that under the state of mind as described by the witnesses and to which you referred that he was capable or incapable of knowing the nature of the acts which he did? A. No, I do not believe that he was in a condition to be the master of his acts, and I positively swear it and I have people of the same character under my supervision.
Q. Will you swear from the knowledge you have heard? A. From the witnesses.
Q. That the man did not know what he was doing or whether it was contrary to law in reference to the particular delusion? A. No, and for another reason the same character of the disease is shown in the last period, the same as when he was with us, there is no difference, if there was any difference in the symptoms I would have doubts, but if it was of the same character so well described by Dagoust, who is taken as an authority and has been adopted in France as well as in America and England.
Q. The opinion you have formed as to the soundness of his mind is based upon the fact that the symptoms disclosed by the witnesses here yesterday and to-day are to a large extent identical with the symptoms of his malady as disclosed while he was at your asylum? A. Yes.


Q. You are one of the two proprietors of the asylum? A. Yes.
Q. It is a private asylum under Government supervision? A. It has the character of a private asylum as to the condition of the board of the patients, but it is a public institution in that sense of the word. We receive patients by order of the Government.
Q. But it is a private asylum as far as its financial basis is concerned? A. No, because it is ruled by the Government.
Q. Is it owned by the Government or by the proprietors? A. By the proprietors.
Q. It is only subject to inspection by the Government? A. To inspecting and visiting besides.
Q. Is the profit or loss of the establishment borne by the proprietors. A. Yes, by the proprietors.
Q. What is the extent of your accommodation? How many patients? A. I do not know whether you have a right to ask these questions.
Q. How many patients have you got? A. Sometimes the number increases and sometimes it diminishes according to the discharges. I think there would be an average of from 800 to 900.
Q. It is from the profit of keeping these patients that the proprietors make money? A. And to pay expenses and the interest upon a large capital put in.
Q. You are paid by the Government and paid by private patients? A. When we have them.
Q. And the proprietors manage it as a place to cure, and where they board these thousand people? A. We have a place to cure and take care of those poor people who cannot take care of themselves.
Q. Who manages the institution? A. There is a medical superintendent.
Q. Who manages the financial part of the institution and looks after the bread and the butter of the patients? A. We have a treasurer to look after that.
Q. You have a medical superintendent to look after the medical department? A. Yes, and we have the rules and regulations of the house.
Q. The proprietors only have a general supervision? A. More than that, I, myself, am a specialist.
Q. You are quite a specialist in keeping a boarding house? A. No. Q. You have to look after that? A. No.
Q. Who looks after the financial part? A. My co-associates.
Q. You do not look after that? A. No.
Q. You look after the patients? A. Yes, I take a special interest in the insane and those who require treatment.
Q. Will you tell me whether you ever prescribed or looked personally after the prisoner? A. I did.
Q. Under what name was the prisoner in your asylum? A. Under the name of La Rochelle.
Q. Under what name does he appear in your books? A. That is it.
Q. Did you know his right name? A. No, I was not present when he entered the first day.
Q. Have you got the papers with you under which you held him? A. I have this memorandum book.
Q. I want to see the papers? A. No, I have not brought the books.
Q. Have you any papers showing what disease he had and under whose certificate he was confined? A. I cannot give you what I have not got.
Q. There are papers and certificates filed? A. Those papers are kept by the Provincial Secretary, and I would have had to get them from him.
Q. Where did you make that note from? A. From the register taking the exact date.
Q. Is it from that register only that you are able to speak of the case? A. No, it is only a help to my memory and so as to be exact as to dates.
Q. Among the thousand patients that were there at the time he was, you have a perfect recollection of his symptoms? A. Yes, because he was a special case and that gave me a good deal of care.
Q. Did you enquire into his former history? A. No, except as to the fact of his disease.
Q. You did not get the history of the patient? A. I asked some questions as to the condition of his character and his disease.
Q. You found out what his name was? A. He confessed to me who he was.
Q. That violence was after he was admitted into the asylum? A. Yes.
Q. All this treatment would appear in the books, there would be a history of the case? A. Not always, it depends, it is in a medical book.
Q. You have no book or copy of the book here? A. No.
Q. You have brought us nothing? A. Except what I am able to tell you from memory.
Q. You knew a long time before that you were going to be examined as a witness in this case, you had been talked to about it shortly after the capture of the prisoner? A. No, I was asked by telegraph.
Q. You were seen by the friends of the prisoner shortly after he was arrested? A. No.
Q. When were you spoken to about giving evidence at the trial? A. Some days before the trial came on.
Q. Did it strike you that it would be important to have a written history of the case, the cause of his commitment; did it not strike you that that would be a matter of importance in considering a case of this kind? A. No, I thought they would ask me my opinion of the case.
Q. That is what you thought would be satisfactory? A. I never thought of coming at all at first.
Q. At the time he was there, you attended how many cases personally in a year? A. I saw the most important cases, and took a great deal of interest in them on account of the responsibility of the treatment.
Q. And the others would carry out the treatment? A. They would consult me and I would consult them.
Q. How many superintendents have you got? A. None, co-associates.
Q. How many patients had you under your immediate treatment in the year 1877? A. I am not able to tell you.
Q. One hundred cases? A. No, we have not 100 cases of acute mania under our hands, fortunately.
Q. How many did you have under your personal treatment? A. The cases of which I made a special study are acute mania.
Q. How many of such cases would you have in a year? A. Not many, fortunately.
Q. How many in a year? A. Twenty-five or thirty would be about the average of acute cases.
Q. We will speak of 1877, can you give us the names of those men whom you treated in 1877? A. I will give you some of the names. I cannot tell you all. If you mentioned the names, I would know about them.
Q. The treatment of those persons is gone from your mind? A. More or less.
Q. You see the value of written testimony here? A. There are certain cases.
Q. You did not know that this man was Riel? A. I heard that he was, and he himself admitted to me that his name was Riel.
Q. Who put him in the asylum? A. The Government.
Q. On whose certificate? A. The Government.
Q. On what medical certificate was he put in? A. I do not know, it is the Department of the Provincial Secretary. We admit them as sent by the Government.
Q. You are paid by the Government? A. Yes.
Q. That is the Local Government of Quebec? A. Yes, they see that everything is correct; they have a special physician for that.
Q. You say the main feature of this disease is what? What is the leading feature of this disease do you say? Do you say that it is a fixed idea incapable of change? A. That is one thing I may say.
Q. Will you answer the question? Do you say that the leading feature of the disease is a fixed idea incapable of a change by reason? A. It did not succeed in changing.
Q. I ask you is that the leading feature of the disease? A. That is one of the features.
Q. Is it the leading feature? A. It is one of them--it is one of the characteristic features.
Q. A fixed idea with a special ambition, incapable of change by reasoning? A. Yes; we did not succeed in changing the idea of the patient.
Q. Well, that fixed idea is beyond his control? A. I would not be prepared to say entirely.
Q. If it is beyond his control, he is an insane man? A. Yes.
Q. Is not this fixed idea beyond his control? A. Yes.
Q. If within his control, it is an indication of sanity? A. That he was trying to get better, he may have had intermissions in which he understood his condition.
Q. If it is subject to control, it is not a fixed idea, that is what" we have agreed upon as the leading characteristic, do you understand? A. I do not know what you are after.
Q. If this idea is subject to control, then this man is sane? A. There may be intermissions when he can control himself because then the insanity disappears.
Q. And then there is a lucid interval? A. Yes.
Q. During the period of the insanity the idea possesses the man and it is not controllable? A. No.
Q. Is that the leading feature of the disease? A. Partly.
Q. Do you know of any other? A. I am not an expert in insanity.
Q. Can you give me any other leading feature of the disease? A. I have no other feature to give.
Q. That is the only one you can describe? A. I gave you the features and characteristics of the disease well enough.
Q. I am going to keep you to that unless you want to enlarge upon it. I am going to build my theory upon that. You can enlarge it as much as you like now, but do not go back upon me afterwards. Is there any other leading feature of the disease? A. I have given you the principal characteristics of his disease.
Q. I want to get the peculiar characteristic of this form of mania. A. They have intermissions sometimes for months and sometimes for days. The least contradiction excites them.
Q. There is a class of healthy intermissions. Sometimes a man likes beer and sometimes whiskey. I want to get the characteristics that distinguish him from a healthy man, not those that we have in common with the insane. A. We always answer reasonably, but when a man comes and pretends to know everything and talks nonsense we expect that, to a certain extent, he has lost his reason.
Q. We want to get at the leading characteristic. You have given us one feature. Is there only the one feature. If there are any other features say so? A. I won't give you any.
Q. Will you stick to it? A. Yes.
Q. Then what leading idea not subject to change by reason is it that you have fixed upon the evidence yesterday and to-day bringing you to the conclusion that he is of unsound mind? A. It is because of some symptoms.
Q. Tell me the symptoms that brings you to the conclusion that this man is within the rule you have laid down. Tell me the facts that bring him within that rule? A. The facts are that he has always kept that characteristic.

MR. FITZPATRICK: This witness has been speaking in English for some time past. If the witness does not understand the questions properly he should answer the questions in French.
MR. OSLER: If the man wants to hide himself under the French he can do so.
Q. You understand what I mean? A. Speak to me in French.
MR. OSLER: It will be for the jury to say whether he is making the change at his own suggestion or at that of the counsel on the other side.

Q. Having given a rule to test this insanity, what fact is there disclosed in the evidence which leads you to say that the prisoner comes within the rule? A. That part of the evidence given by the clergy to-day shows in a positive manner that the prisoner has manifested symptoms that we meet with in megalomania.
Q. That is no answer to my question. I want the fact on which you bring the prisoner within the rule that you have laid down? A. I want to take the fact proved by the evidence.
Q. Tell me the fact upon which you rely? A. The prisoner gets his theory from the idea that he has a mission.
Q. Do you understand that to be the fixed idea not controllable by reason? A. I believe so because reason has never so far succeeded in changing that idea that he has.
Q. Is that the only reason you have for saying that the prisoner is insane? A. It is, and I believe it to be sufficient.
Q. Is it consistent laboring under an idea not controllable by reason would abandon that idea for $35,000.

MR. FITZPATRICK: I object to that. That has not been proved.
HIS HONOR: What is the question?
MR. OSLER: Is it consistent with a man, having an idea not controllable by reason, that he will abandon that idea for $35,000? Let that be a hypothetical question.
MR. FITZPATRICK: I object to the question.
HIS HONOR: He can put hypothetical questions.
MR. OSLER: My learned friend must know that the question is regular, and should not interfere at a critical part of the examination so as to give the witness a cue.
MR. FITZPATRICK: I did not have any such intention. We have the right to object, and we intend to exercise that right.
MR. OSLER: You should not exercise it in such a way as to give the witness a cue. That is the second cue that you have given the witness. You gave him a cue in regard to speaking in French.
Q. Will you answer the question: Is it consistent with the leading feature of this disease, an idea not controllable by reason, that he should abandon that idea for money? A. I think it is possible that the prisoner might want to obtain the money to obtain the object he has in view.
Q. It may be consistent if he wants the money for the object which he wishes to obtain? A. Yes.
Q. Do you say that the answer is consistent with the idea that he is not able to control his actions? A. Yes, it gives it more strength.
Q. Wherein does that differ from the idea of a sound mind? A. It is very important in this case particularly. The patient shows great ability in taking the necessary means to accomplish the particular mission that he believes has been given to him. He was reasoning from a false basis, and that is a characteristic of this disease.
Q. Do you agree with this proposition: 'An insane delusion is never the result of reasoning and reflection?' A. I don't understand what you want to get at.
Q. I want you to give an answer. Do you agree with that proposition, that 'An insane delusion is never the result of reasoning and reflection?' A. I believe that he makes false reasoning from a false principle.
Q. Is delusion produced by reasoning and deduction? A. It has been by hallucinations and--
Q. That is not an answer to my question. I want to know whether a delusion - an insane delusion - may be the result of reasoning and deduction, or is it always the production of the disease? A. Sometimes, not always. Sometimes by false inspiration.
Q. Sometimes by sane inspiration? A. Yes.
Q. You won't answer my question? A. I have done my best.
Q. Have you not the capacity to understand it? A. That may be your opinion.
Q. Take an insane delusion in a man's head, can it be brought by reasoning and deduction, or is it the outcome of the disease? A. It is the consequence of his disease.
Q. And, therefore, it has nothing to do with reason and deduction? A. I believe that when the patient is under the influence of hallucination he is quite beyond control.
Q. You say it is the first principle of irresponsibility whether it is the result of disease, or whether it is the result of reason (distorted reason if you will) it is only by disease that the insane delusion is produced? A. Yes, by the disturbance of the brain which there is in every case.
Q. And it is by reason of its being a product of the disease that it is not controllable? A. It is a consequence of it.
Q. Why do you say this prisoner during this time had no knowledge of right from wrong? A. I say that the prisoner was under the influence of his delusion that he had a special mission to fulfill.
Q. From what facts in evidence do you say that the prisoner could not distinguish between right and wrong? A. They never could prove to him that that mission never existed.

MR. FITZPATRICK: It is impossible for us to accept such translation as is now being given of the evidence.
MR. GREENSHIELDS: The last two questions have not been translated properly.
MR. OSLER: We have done everything we could to procure a translator. We did not want one for our part of the evidence and it was for the defence to produce one in tendering a witness whose evidence had to be translated.
MR. FITZPATRICK: I say it is entirely wrong, it should be taken down in French.
MR. OSLER: It has been taken down in French as well as in English.
MR. FITZPATRICK: It has gone to the jury in English.
MR. OSLER: The witness can explain himself in English but was told not to do so, it is not my difficulty.
MR. FITZPATRICK: I think the- Act of 1880 provides for the use of both languages.
HIS HONOR: The court can take the best interpreter to be had.
MR. FITZPATRICK: All right, if you say so.
MR. ROBINSON: When they hear it improperly translated they should say so and it can be repeated.
WITNESS: It could not be proved to him that the mission did not exist.
HIS HONOR: Is that answer correct? A. Yes.
MR. OSLER: Is that the only reason why you say the prisoner could not distinguish between right and wrong.
HIS HONOR: The reporter had better read the question to him and see whether it has been correctly translated.
REPORTER reading from the notes: 'From what facts in evidence do you say that the prisoner could not distinguish between right and wrong?' A. They never could prove to him that the mission never existed.
HIS HONOR: Is that the proper answer? A. Yes.
Q. Is that the only reason why you say the prisoner could not distinguish between right and wrong? A. I give that as one of the reasons.
Q. Give me any other reasons? A. The reasons given by the last witness.
Q. I want you to state the facts that the witnesses spoke of from which you came to your conclusion? A. The facts are that he believed he had a mission to fulfill in the North-West.
Q. What evidence have you that that was an insane delusion because he stated that he had a letter from the bishop containing such an allegation? A. I never heard that he was inspired by such a letter.
Q. Do you say that any man claiming to be inspired is insane so as not to distinguish between right and wrong? A. It is possible.
Q. Is it a true proposition scientifically? A. The proposition, as given by the patient, is not always reasonable.
Q. Might it not be evidence of fraud on the part of the man making it? A. But when the same idea has been sustained, at different times, without reason -
Q. When the idea is sustained from time to time, it is only sustained with insanity, is that the answer? A. Yes, particularly with that kind of delirium.
Q. Do you know the history of Joseph Smith, the Mormon, would you consider him insane? A. No, I do not know his history.
Q. Do you know anything of Brigham Young. would you call him insane? A. To my mind he was more or less insane.
Q. Would you call Brigham Young's idea of prophetic inspiration inconsistent with a knowledge of what was right and wrong? A. It would require an examination. If you send him to the asylum for a few months, I will make a study of the case.
Q. Does not the whole evidence sustain the theory that it was a skilful fraud? A. I don't think so. I saw the prisoner at my place. He always retained the impression that he had a mission when he could have none and he had nothing to gain by it.
Q. I am asking the general question whether the evidence, upon which you have formed your opinion, is not consistent with a skilful fraud? A. It might be possible there might be such an understanding, but it is not my opinion.
Q. It may be that it is consistent with skilful fraud? A. There is no evidence in this case that can prove that there was fraud.
Q. Do you say the evidence is inconsistent with a skilful fraud? A. When I had the prisoner under my care ­
Q. I am asking about the facts in evidence upon which you formed your opinion? A. In the mental condition of the prisoner, I think he is not.
Q. That is not an answer at all. Can you give me any answer? A. Put another question or in another way.
Q. If you cannot answer it in English or French, I may as well let you go. You can go.

  Louis Riel Trial Homepage