MERCIER, HONORE (1840-1894), Canadian lawyer and statesman, was the son of Jean Baptiste Mercier, farmer, and of Marie Kimener, his wife. He was born in the village of St Athanase d'Iberville on the 15th of October 1840. The family came from France, and settled in the district of Montmagny, and later removed to Iberville. Mercier entered the Jesuit College of St Mary, Montreal, at the age of fourteen, and throughout his life retained a warm friendship for the society. He married, firstly in 1866 Leopoldine Boivin, and secondly in 1871 Virginie St Denis. On the completion of his course at St Mary's he studied law in the office of Laframboise and Papineau, in St Hyacinthe, and was admitted to the bar of the province in April 1865. At the age of twenty-two he became the editor of the Conservative Courrier de St Hyacinthe, and in this journal supported the policy of the Sicotte administration, which then represented the interests of Quebec, under the Act of Union (1840); but when Sicotte accepted a seat on the bench Mercier joined the Opposition, and contributed largely to the defeat of the Ministerial candidate. In 1864 he vigorously opposed the scheme of confederation, on the ground that it would prove fatal to the distinctive position held by the French Canadians. He resumed the editorship of the Courrier in 1866; but after a few months retired from journalism, and for the next five years devoted all his energy to his profession. At the commencement of the year 1871 the national party was organized in Quebec, and Mercier supported the candidates of the party on the platform. In August 1872 he was elected as a member of the House of Commons for the county of Rouville, and proved a vigorous opponent of Sir John A. Macdonald on the question of separate schools for New Brunswick. He was a candidate at the general elections in 1874; but retired on the eve of the contest in favour of another candidate of his own party. Mercier entered the arena of provincial politics in May 1879 as solicitorgeneral in the Joly government, representing the county of St Hyacinthe; and on the defeat of the ministry in October he passed, with his leader, into opposition. On the retirement of M. Joly from the leadership of the Liberal party in Quebec in 1883 Mercier was chosen as his successor. Towards the close of 1885 the French-Canadian mind was greatly agitated over the execution of Louis Riel, leader of the north-west rebellion, and in consequence of the attitude of Mercier on this question the Liberal minority in the Legislative Assembly, which had been reduced to fifteen, rapidly gained strength, until at the general' elections held in October 1886 the province was carried in the Liberal interest. In January 1887 Mercier was sworn in as premier and attorney-general, and from this moment he exercised an extraordinary influence in the province. He succeeded in passing without opposition the Jesuit Estates Act, a measure to compensate the order for the loss of property confiscated by the Crown. This act came before the Federal House for disallowance, but was carried on division. When Mercier appealed to the electorate in 1890, his policy was endorsed, and he was able to give effect to many important measures. Early in 1891 he negotiated a loan in Europe for the province, and whilst on a visit to Rome he was created a count of the Roman Empire by Leo XIII., who three years previously had conferred upon him the rank of a commander of the order of St Gregory the Great. Of commanding presence, firm, decisive, courteous in manner, convincing in argument, and deeply attached to his native province, he had all the qualities of a popular leader. For a few years he was the idol of the people of Quebec, and French Canada loomed large in the public eye; but towards the end of 1891 serious charges were preferred against his ministry, on the ground that subsidies voted for railways had been diverted to political use, and he was dismissed by the lieutenant-governor. At the subsequent elections held in March 1892 he was returned for the county of Bonaventure, but his party was hopelessly defeated. On the formation of a new government he was brought to trial, and declared not guilty; his health, however, gave way, and he never regained his former influence.
See Biographie, discours, conferences, etc., de I' Hon. Honore Mercier, by J.-O. Pelland (Montreal, 1893). (A. G. D.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)