Letter to his Brother William
QUEBEC, December 31, 1809.
You will long since have been convinced that the American government is determined to involve the two countries in a war; they have already given us legitimate cause, but, if wise, we will studiously avoid doing that for which they shew so great an anxiety. Their finances, you will perceive, are very low, and they dare not propose direct taxes. They must have recourse to loans at a time when they have only six frigates in commission, and about five thousand men embodied. To what a state of poverty and wretchedness would the accumulated expenses of war reduce them! But they look to the success of their privateers for a supply, and contemplate the sweeping away of all foreign debts as the means of reducing the calls upon their treasury. Whatever steps England may adopt, I think she cannot, in prudence, avoid sending a strong military force to these provinces, as they are now become of infinite importance to her. You can scarcely conceive the quantity of timber and spars of all kinds which are lying on the beach, ready for shipment to England in the spring: four hundred vessels would not be sufficient to take all away. Whence can England be supplied with these essential articles but from the Canadas? Bonaparte, it is known, has expressed a strong desire to be in possession of the colonies formerly belonging to France, and now that they are become so valuable to England, his anxiety to wrest them from us will naturally increase. A small French force, 4 or 5,000 men, with plenty of muskets, would most assuredly conquer this province. The Canadians would join them almost to a man—at least, the exceptions would be so few as to be of little avail. It may appear surprising that men, petted as they have been and indulged in every thing they could desire, should wish for a change. But so it is—and I am apt to think that were Englishmen placed in the same situation, they would shew even more impatience to escape from French rule. How essentially different are the feelings of the people from when I first knew them. The idea prevails generally among them, that Napoleon must succeed, and ultimately get possession of these provinces. The bold and violent are becoming every day more audacious; and the timid, with that impression, think it better and more prudent to withdraw altogether from the society of the English, rather than run the chance of being accused hereafter of partiality to them. The consequence is, that little or no intercourse exists between the two races. More troops will be required in this country, were it only to keep down this growing turbulent spirit. The governor will, it is foreseen, have a difficult card to play next month with the assembly, which is really getting too daring and arrogant. Every victory which Napoleon has gained for the last nine years, has made the disposition here to resist more manifest.