Law and History Review


‘So Foul A Deed’: Infanticide in Montreal, 1825–1850

Ian C. Pilarczyk c1

The preceding narrative is, in many ways, illustrative of the complex and contradictory phenomenon of infanticide in the district of Montreal during the first half of the nineteenth century. Although notices regarding the finding of infant bodies were frequent, discovery of twin infant bodies was not. This account was also unconventional in its tone: lacking the usual sterile narration typical of newspaper coverage of that topic, it cried out for the apprehension of the “perpetrator of so foul a deed.” Although the call for justice might have appeared strong, infanticide prosecutions were fairly rare and convictions rarer still. The prevalent view might have been to characterize the responsible party as an “unfeeling mother,” but the reality surrounding infanticide was altogether more complicated, yet fully as tragic.

(Online publication April 26 2012)



Ian C. Pilarczyk is director, Executive LL.M. Program in International Business Law, Boston University School of Law <>. He is indebted to Blaine Baker of McGill University's Faculty of Law, Nicholas Kasirer of the Court of Appeal of Québec, Richard Fox for his editing assistance, and David Tanenhaus and the Law and History Review's anonymous referees for their constructive comments.