Report on the Affairs of British North America/Public Lands
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Disposal of Public Lands. Emigration
Worst method of disposing of public lands.I have mentioned the peculiar importance which, in newly-settled societies, is attached to works for creating and improving the means of communication. But in such communities, and especially when only a small proportion of the land has been occupied by settlers, there is a still more momentous subject of public concern. I allude to an operation of Government, which has a paramount influence over the happiness of individuals, and the progress of society towards wealth and greatness. I am speaking of the disposal, by the Government, of the lands of the new country. In old countries no such matter ever occupies pubUc attention; in new colonies, planted on a fertile and extensive territory, this is the object of the deepest moment to all, and the first business of the Government. Upon the manner in which this business is conducted, it may almost be said that every thing else depends. If lands are not bestowed on the inhabitants and new comers with a generous hand, the society endures the evils of an old and over-peopled state, with the superadded inconveniences that belong to a wild country. They are pinched for room even in the wilderness, are prevented from choosing the most fertile soils and favourable situations, and are debarred from cultivating that large extent of soil, in proportion to the hands at work, which can alone compensate, in quantity of produce, for the rude nature of husbandry in the wilderness. If, on the other hand, the land is bestowed with careless profusion, great evils of another kind are produced. Large tracts become the property of individuals, who leave their lands unsettled and untouched. Deserts are thus interposed between the industrious settlers; the natural difficulties of communication are greatly enhanced; the inhabitants are not merely scattered over a wide space of country, but are separated from each other by impassable wastes; the cultivator is cut off or far removed from a market in which to dispose of his surplus produce, and procure other commodities; and the greatest obstacles exist to co-operation in labour, to exchange, to the division of employments, to combination for municipal or other public purposes, to the growth of towns, to public worship, to regular education, to the spread of news, to the acquisition of common knowledge, and even to the civilizing influences of mere intercourse for amusement. Monotonous and stagnant indeed must ever be the state of a people who are permanently condemned to such separation from each other. If, moreover, the land of a new country is so carelessly surveyed that the boundaries of property are incorrectly or inadequately defined, the Government lays up a store of mischievous litigation for the people. Whatever delay takes place in perfecting the titles of individuals to lands alienated by the Government, occasions equal uncertainty and insecurity of property. If the acquisition of land, in whatever quantities, is made difficult or troublesome, or is subjected to any needless uncertainty or delay, applicants are irritated, settlement is hindered, and immigration to the colony is discouraged, as emigration from it is promoted. If very different methods of proceeding have effect in the same colony, or in different parts of the same group of colonies, the operation of some can scarcely fail to interfere with or counteract the operation of others; so that the object of the Government must somewhere, or at some time, be defeated. And frequent changes of system are sure to be very injurious, not only by probably displeasing those who either obtain land just before, or desire to obtain some just after, each change, but also by giving a character of irregularity, uncertainty, and even mystery, to the most important proceeding of Government. In this way settlement and emigration are discouraged; inasmuch as the people, both of the colony and of the mother country, are deprived of all confidence in the permanency of any system, and of any familiar acquaintance with any of the temporary methods. It would be easy to cite many other examples of the influence of Government in this matter. I will mention but one more here. If the disposal of public lands is administered partially—with favour to particular persons or classes—a sure result is, the anger of all who do not benefit by such favouritism (the far greater number, of course), and consequently, the general unpopularity of the Government.
Best method of disposing of lands.Under suppositions the reverse of these, the best, instead of the worst, effects would be produced; a constant and regular supply of new land in due proportion to the wants of of a population increasing by births and immigration; all the advantages to which facilities of transport and communication are essential; certainty of limits and security of title to property in land; the greatest facilities in acquiring the due quantity; the greatest encouragements to immigration and settlement; the most rapid progress of the people in material comfort and social improvement, and a general sense of obligation to the Government. What a contrast do the two pictures present! Neither of them is over coloured; and a mere glance at both suffices to show that in the North American Colonies of England, as in the United States, the function of authority most full of good or evil consequences has been the disposal of public land.
Measures taken for inquiry.Impressed, before my departure from England, with a sense of the great importance of this subject, and indulging a hope, founded on the very remarkable success of a new method of disposing of public lands in Your Majesty's Australian Colonies, that I might be able to recommend beneficial reforms in the North American Provinces, I took precautions for instituting a thoroughly efficient inquiry into the whole subject generally, and in detail. And I was the more disposed to do this, because while an inquiry by a Select Committee of the House of Commons in 1836 furnished abundant information on the subject, as respects most parts of Your Majesty's Colonial Empire, the North American Provinces had been specifically excluded from that inquiry; and I could not obtain in England any authentic or, at least sufficient, information as to the disposal of public lands in any of them. Within a very short time after my arrival in Canada, the expediency of a searching inquiry into the subject became more than ever apparent to me. A common belief in the great extent of my powers revived innumerable complaints of abuse, and applications for justice or favour, which had slumbered during previous years. During my residence in the Canadas, scarcely a day passed without my receiving some petition or representation relating to the Crown Lands' Department; and matters belonging to this branch of Government necessarily occupied a far larger proportion than any other of my correspondence with the Secretary of State. The information which I now possess was chiefly obtained by means of a commission of inquiry, which, having regard to the probable advantages of an uniform system for the whole of British North America, and to the deep and universal interest taken in this subject by the colonists, Commission, Appendix (B)I issued in Your Majesty's name, and made applicable to all the Provinces. Minutes of the Evidence given before the Commissioners are appended to the present Report, together with a separate Report, containing the outline of a plan for the future administration of this all-influential department of Government. If that plan, or any other founded on similar principles, should be adopted by Your Majesty and the Imperial Legislature, I do firmly believe that an impulse will be given to the prosperity of Your Majesty's North American possessions, surpassing what their most sanguine well-wisher, if unacquainted with the facts, would be capable of imagining; and more calculated than any other reform whatever to attach the people of British North America to Your Majesty's Throne, and to cement and perpetuate an intimate connexion between the colonies and the mother country. I shall have to return to this point hereafter. I have mentioned it here, for the purpose of inviting Your Majesty's attention, and awakening that of Your Ministers and of Parliament to a theme which, however little it has hitherto interested the Imperial Government, is the object of constant and earnest discussion in the colonies.
Practice of United States;In the United States, ever since the year 1796, the disposal of public land not already appropriated to particular states, has been strictly regulated by a law of Congress; not by different laws for the various parts of the country, but by one law for the whole of the public lands, and a law which we may judge to have been conducive to the prosperity of the people, both from its obvious good effects, and from its almost unquestioned continuance for so many years. of Great Britain.In the British North American Colonies, with one partial exception, there never has been, until quite recently, any law upon the subject. The whole of the public lands have been deemed the property of the Crown, and the whole of the administration for disposing of them to individuals, with a view to settlement, has been conducted by officers of the Crown; under instructions from the Treasury or the Colonial Department in England. The Provincial Assemblies, except quite recently in New Brunswick and Upper Canada, have never had any voice in this matter; nor is the popular control in those two cases much more than nominal. The Imperial Parliament has never interfered but once, when, leaving all other things untouched, it enacted the unhappy system of 'Clergy Reserves'. With these very slight exceptions, the Lords of the Treasury and Colonial Secretary of State for the time being have been the only legislators; and the provincial agents of the Colonial Secretary, responsible to him alone, have been the sole executors.
Efficiency of system of United States.The system of the United States appears to combine all the chief requisites of the greatest efficiency. It is uniform throughout the vast federation; it is unchangeable save by Congress, and has never been materially altered; it renders the acquisition of new land easy, and yet, by means of a price, restricts appropriation to the actual wants of the settler; it is so simple as to be readily understood; it provides for accurate surveys and against needless delays; it gives an instant and secure title; and it admits of no favouritism, but distributes the public property amongst all classes and persons upon precisely equal terms. That system has promoted an amount of immigration and settlement, of which the history of the world affords no other example; and it has produced to the United States a revenue which has averaged about half a million sterling per annum, and has amounted in one twelvemonth to above four millions sterling, or more than the whole expenditure of the Federal Government.
No system in the American Colonies.In the North American Colonies there never has been any system. Many different methods have been practised, and this not only in the different colonies, but in every colony at different times, and within the same colony at the same time. The greatest diversity and most frequent alteration would almost seem to have been the objects in view. In only one respect has there been uniformity. Every where the greatest profusion has taken place, so that in all the colonies, and nearly in every part of each colony, more, and very much more land has been alienated by the Government, than the grantees had at the time, or now have the means of reclaiming from a state of wilderness; and yet in all the colonies until lately, and in some of them still, it is either very difficult or next to impossible for a person of no influence to obtain any of the public land. More or less in all the colonies, and in some of them to an extent which would not be credited, if the fact were not established by unquestionable testimony, the surveys have been inaccurate, and the boundaries, or even the situation of estates, are proportionably uncertain. Every where needless delays have harassed and exasperated applicants; and every where, more or less, I am sorry but compelled to add, gross favouritism has prevailed in the disposal of public lands. I have mentioned but a part of the evils, grievances, and abuses, of which Your Majesty's subjects in the colonies justly complain, as having arisen from mal-administration in this department. Those evils remain wholly unremedied, most of those grievances are unredressed, and not a few of those abuses are unreformed at this hour. Their present existence has been forced on my conviction by indisputable evidence. If they had passed away, I should scarcely have alluded to them. If I had any hope of seeing them removed, otherwise than by means of giving them authentic publicity, I should have hesitated to speak of them as I have done. As it is, I should ill perform the duty which Your Majesty was pleased to confide to me, if I failed to describe them in the plainest terms.
Contrast with United States.The results of long misgovernment in this department are such as might have been anticipated by any person understanding the subject. The administration of the public lands, instead of always yielding a revenue, cost for a long while more than it produced. But this is, I venture to think, a trifling consideration when compared with others. There is one in particular which has occurred to every observant traveller in these regions, which is a constant theme of boast in the States bordering upon our colonies, and a subject of loud complaint within the colonies. I allude to the striking contrast which is presented between the American and the British sides of the frontier line in respect to every sign of productive industry, increasing wealth, and progressive civilization.
Picture of the American side.By describing one side, and reversing the picture, the other would be also described. On the American side, all is activity and bustle. The forest has been widely cleared; every year numerous settlements are formed, and thousands of farms are created out of the waste; the country is intersected by common roads; canals and railroads are finished, or in the course of formation; the ways of communication and transport are crowded with people, and enlivened by numerous carriages and large steam-boats. The observer is surprised at the number of harbours on the lakes, and the number of vessels they contain; while bridges, artificial landing-places, and commodious wharves are formed in all directions as soon as required. Good houses, warehouses, mills, inns, villages, towns and even great cities, are almost seen to spring up out of the desert. Every village has it schoolhouse and place of public worship. Every town has many of both, with its township buildings, its book stores, and probably one or two banks and newspapers; and the cities, with their fine churches, their great hotels, their exchanges, courthouses and municipal halls, of stone or marble, so new and fresh as to mark the recent existence of the forest where they now stand, would be admired Of the in any part of the Old World. Of the British side.On the British side of the line, with the exception of a few favoured spots, where some approach to American prosperity is apparent, all seems waste and desolate. There is but one railroad in all British America, and that, running between the St. Lawrence and Lake Champlain, is only 15 miles long. The ancient city of Montreal, which is naturally the commercial capital of the Canadas, will not bear the least comparison, in any respect, with Buffalo, which is a creation of yesterday. But it is not in the difference between the larger towns on the two sides that we shall find the best evidence of our own inferiority. That painful but undeniable truth is most manifest in the country districts through which the line of national separation passes for 1,000 miles. There, on the side of both the Canadas, and also of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, a widely scattered population, poor, and apparently unenterprising, though hardy and industrious, separated from each other by tracts of intervening forest, without towns and markets, almost without roads, living in mean houses, drawing little more than a rude subsistence from ill-cultivated land, and seemingly incapable of improving their condition, present the most instructive contrast to their enterprising and thriving neighbours on the American side. I was assured that in the Eastern Townships of Lower Canada, bordering upon the line, it is a common practice for settlers, when they wish to meet, to enter the State of Vermont, and make use of the roads there for the purpose of reaching their destination in the British Province. Major Head, the Assistant Commissioner of Crown Lands' Inquiry, whom I sent to New Brunswick, states, that when travelling near the frontier line of that Province and the State of Maine, now on one side and then on the other, he could always tell on which side he was by the obvious superiority of the American settlements in every respect. Where the two countries are separated by the St. Lawrence and the Lakes, this difference is less perceptible; but not less in fact, if I may believe the concurrent statements of numerous eye-witnesses, who had no motive for deceiving me. For further corroboration, I might refer indeed to numerous and uncontradicted publications; and there is one proof of this sort so remarkable, that I am induced to notice it specially. A highly popular work, which is known to be from the pen of one of Your Majesty's chief functionaries in Nova Scotia, abounds in assertions and illustrations of the backward and stagnant condition of that Province, and the great superiority of neighbouring American settlements. Although the author, with a natural disinclination to question the excellence of government, attributes this mortifying circumstance entirely to the folly of the people, in neglecting their farms to occupy themselves with complaining of grievances and abuses, he leaves no doubt of the fact.
This view is confirmed by another fact equally indisputable. Throughout the frontier, from Amherstburg to the ocean, the market value of land is much greater on the American than on the British side. In not a few parts of the frontier this difference amounts to as much as a thousand per cent., and in some cases even more. Difference in value between British Provinces and United States.The average difference, as between Upper Canada and the States of New York and Michigan, is notoriously several hundred per cent. Mr. Hastings Kerr, of Quebec, whose knowledge of the value of land in Lower Canada is generally supposed to be more extensive and accurate than that of any other person, states that the price of wild land in Vermont and New Hampshire, close to the line, is five dollars per acre, and in the adjoining British townships only one dollar. On this side the line a very large extent of land is wholly unsaleable, even at such low prices; while on the other side property is continually changing hands. The price of two or three shillings per acre would purchase immense tracts in Lower Canada and New Brunswick. In the adjoining States it would be difficult to obtain a single lot for less than as many dollars. In and near Stanstead, a border township of Lower Canada, and one of the most improved, forty-eight thousand acres of fine land, of which Governor Sir R. S. Milnes obtained a grant to himself in 1810, was recently sold at the price of two shillings per acre. Mr. Stayner, the Deputy Postmaster General, one of the largest proprietors of wild land in Lower Canada, says:—'Twenty years ago, or thereabout, I purchased wild land at what was then considered a low price, in the natural hope that it would be gradually increasing in value, and that, whenever I might choose to sell, it would be at such a profit as would afford me a fair return for the use of the money employed. So far, however, from realizing this expectation, I now find, after the lapse of so many years, when the accumulated interest upon the money invested has increased the cost of the land 150 per cent.—I say I find that I could not, if compelled to sell this land, obtain more for it than it originally cost me.' I learned from others besides Mr. Kerr, but quote his words, that 'the system pursued in granting Crown Lands in Lower Canada has been such as to render it impossible to obtain money on mortgage of land, because there is no certainty as to the value: when a sale is forced, there may be a perfect glut in the market and no purchasers.' Similar statements might be cited in abundance. It might be supposed by persons unacquainted with the frontier country, that the soil on the American side is of very superior natural fertility. I am positively assured that this is by no means the case; but that, on the whole, superior natural fertility belongs to the British territory. In Upper Canada, the whole of the great peninsula between Lakes Erie and Huron, comprising nearly half the available land of the Province, consists of gently-undulating alluvial soil, and, with a smaller proportion of inferior land than probably any other tract of similar extent in that part of North America, is generally considered the best grain country on that continent. The soil of the border townships of Lower Canada is allowed, on all hands, to be superior to that of the border townships of New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire; while the lands of New Brunswick, equal in natural fertility to those of Maine, enjoy superior natural means of communication. I do not believe that the universal difference in the value of land can any where be fairly attributed to natural causes.
Re-emigration from British Colonies to the border states.Still less can we attribute to such causes another circumstance, which in some measure accounts for the different values of property, and which has a close relation to the subject of the public lands. I mean the great amount of re-emigration from the British Colonies to the border States. This is a notorious fact. Nobody denies it; almost every colonist speaks of it with regret. What the proportion may be of those emigrants from the United Kingdom who, soon after their arrival, remove to the United States, it would be very difficult to ascertain precisely. Mr. Bell Forsyth, of Quebec, who has paid much attention to the subject, and with the best opportunities of observing correctly in both the Canadas, estimates that proportion at sixty per cent, of the whole. Mr. Hawke, the chief agent for emigrants in Upper Canada, calculates that out of two-thirds of the immigrants by the St. Lawrence who reach that Province, one-fourth re-emigrate chiefly to settle in the States. It would appear, however, that the amount of emigration from Upper Canada, whether of new comers or others, must be nearer Mr. Forsyth's estimate. The population was reckoned at 200,000 in January 1830. The increase by births since then should have been at least three per cent, per annum, or 54,000. Mr. Hawke states the number of immigrants from Lower Canada, since 1829, to have been 165,000; allowing that these also would have increased at the rate of three per cent, per annum, the whole increase by immigration and births should have been nearly 200,000. But Mr. Hawke's estimate of immigrants takes no account of the very considerable number who enter the Province by way of New York and the Erie Canal. Reckoning these at only 50,000, which is probably under the truth, and making no allowance for their increase by births, the entire population of Upper Canada should now have been 500,000, whereas it is, according to the most reliable estimates, not over 400,000. It would therefore appear, making all allowance for errors in this calculation, that the number of people who have emigrated from Upper Canada to the United States, since 1829, must be equal to more than half of the number who have entered the Province during the eight years. Mr. Baillie, the present Commissioner of Crown Lands in New Brunswick, says, 'a great many emigrants arrive in the Province, but they generally proceed to the United States, as there is not sufficient encouragement for them in this Province.' Mr. Morris, the present Commissioner of Crown Lands, and Surveyor General of Nova Scotia, speaks in almost similar terms of the emigrants who reach that Province by way of Halifax.
Public opinion against the present mismanagement.I am far from asserting that the very inferior value of land in the British Colonies, and the re-emigration of immigrants, are altogether occasioned by mismanagement in the disposal of public lands. Other defects and errors of government must have had a share in producing these lamentable results; but I only speak the opinion of all the more intelligent, and, let me add, some of the most loyal of Your Majesty's subjects in North America when I say that this has been the principal cause of these great evils. This opinion rests upon their personal acquaintance with numerous facts. Some of these facts I will now state. They have been selected from a much greater number, as being peculiarly calculated to illustrate the faults of the system, its influence on the condition of the people, and the necessity of a thorough reform. I may add, that many of them form the subject of Despatches which I have addressed to Your Majesty's Secretary of State.
Much wild land out of control of Government.I have observed before that nearly all of the different methods pursued by the Government have had one mischievous tendency in particular; they have tended to place a vast extent of land out of the control of government, and yet to retain it in a state of wilderness. This evil has been produced in all the Colonies alike, to what extent, and with what injurious consequences, will be made apparent by the following illustrative statements.
Quantity of public land already alienated.By official returns which accompany this Report, it appears that, out of about 17,000,000 of acres comprised within the surveyed districts of Upper Canada, less than 1,600,000 are yet unappropriated, and this amount includes 450,000 acres the reserve for roads, leaving less than 1,200,000 acres open to grant; and of this remnant, 500,000 acres are required to satisfy claims for grants founded on pledges by the Government. In the opinion of Mr. Radenhurst, the really acting Surveyor General, the remaining 700,000 consist for the most part of land inferior in position or quality. It may almost be said therefore, that the whole of the public lands in Upper Canada have been alienated by the Government. In Lower Canada, out of 6,169,963 acres in the surveyed townships, nearly 4,000,000 acres have been granted or sold; and there are unsatisfied but indisputable claims for grants to the amount of about 500,000. In Nova Scotia, nearly 6,000,000 of acres have been granted, and in the opinion of the Surveyor General only about one-eighth of the land which remains to the Crown, or 300,000 acres, is available for the purposes of settlement. The whole of Prince Edward's Island, about 1,400,000 acres was alienated in one day. In New Brunswick, 4,400,000 acres have been granted or sold, leaving to the Crown about 11,000,000, of which 5,500,000 acres are considered fit for immediate settlement.
Clergy reserves.Of the lands granted in Upper and Lower Canada, upwards of 3,000,000 acres consist of 'Clergy Reserves', being for the most part lots of 200 acres each, scattered at regular intervals over the whole face of the townships, and remaining, with few exceptions, entirely wild to this day. The evils produced by the system of reserving land for the clergy have become notorious, even in this country; and a common opinion I believe prevails here, not only that the system has been abandoned, but that measures of remedy have been adopted. This opinion is incorrect in both points. In respect of every new township in both Provinces, reserves are still made for the clergy, just as before; and the Act of the Imperial Parliament, which permits the sale of clergy reserves, applies to only one-fourth of the quantity. The Select Committee of the House of Commons on the Civil Government of Canada reported, in 1828, that 'these reserved lands, as they are at present distributed over the country, retard more than any other circumstance the improvement of the Colony, lying as they do in detached portions in each township, and intervening between the occupations of actual settlers, who have no means of cutting roads through the woods and morasses, which thus separate them from their neighbours.' This description is perfectly applicable to the present state of things. In no perceptible degree has the evil been remedied.
The Constitutional Act.The system of clergy reserves was established by the act of 1791, commonly called the Constitutional Act, which directed that, in respect of all grants made by the Crown, a quantity equal to one-seventh of the land so granted should be reserved for the clergy. A quantity equal to one-seventh of all grants would be one-eighth of each township, or of all the public land. Instead of this proportion, the practice has been, ever since the Act passed, Violation of law for benefit of the clergy in Upper Canada.and in the clearest violation of its provisions, to set apart for the clergy in Upper Canada a seventh of all the land, which is a quantity equal to a sixth of the land granted. There have been appropriated for this purpose of the 300,000 acres, which, legally, it is manifest, belong to the public. And of the amount for which clergy reserves have been sold in that Province, namely £317,000 (of which about £100,000 have been already received and invested in the English funds), the sum of about £45,000 should belong to the public.
The same violation in Lower Canada.In Lower Canada, the same violation of the law has taken place, with this difference—that upon every sale of Crown and clergy reserves, a fresh reserve for the clergy has been made, equal to a fifth of such reserves. The result has been the appropriation for the clergy of 673,567 acres, instead of 446,000, being an excess of 227,559 acres, or half as much again as they ought to have received. The Lower Canada fund already produced by sales amounts to £50,000, of which, therefore, a third, or about £16,000, belong to the public. If, without any reform of this abuse, the whole of the unsold clergy reserves in both Provinces should fetch the average price at which such lands have hitherto sold, the public would be wronged to the amount of about £280,000; and the reform of this abuse will produce a certain and almost immediate gain to the public of £60,000. In referring, for further explanation of this subject, to a paper in the Appendix which has been drawn up by Mr. Hanson, a member of the Commission of Inquiry which I appointed for all the Colonies, I am desirous of stating my own conviction that the clergy have had no part in this great misappropriation of the public property, but that it has arisen entirely from heedless misconception, or some other error, of the civil government of both Provinces.
Objection to clergy reserves.The great objection to reserves for the clergy is, that those for whom the land is set apart never have attempted, and never could successfully attempt, to cultivate or settle the property, and that, by that special appropriation, so much land is withheld from settlers, and kept in a state of waste, to the serious injury of all settlers in its neighbourhood. But it would be a great mistake to suppose that this is the only practice by which such injury has been, and still is, inflicted on actual settlers. In the two Canadas, especially, the practice of rewarding, or attempting to reward, public services by grants of public land, has produced, and is still producing, a degree of injury to actual settlers which it is difficult to conceive without having witnessed it. The very principle of such grants is bad, inasmuch as, under any circumstances, they must lead to an amount of appropriation beyond the wants of the community, and greatly beyond the proprietor's means of cultivation and settlement. In both the Canadas, not only has this principle been pursued with reckless profusion, but the local executive governments have managed, by violating or evading the instructions which they received from the Secretary of State, to add incalculably to the mischiefs that would have arisen at all events.
Grants of land in Upper Canada.In Upper Canada, 3,200,000 acres have been granted to 'U. E. Loyalists', being refugees from the United States who settled in the Province before 1787, and their children; 730,000 acres to militiamen, 450,000 acres to discharged soldiers and sailors, 255,000 acres to magistrates and barristers, 136,000 acres to executive councillors and their families, 50,000 acres to five legislative councillors and their families, 36,900 acres to clergymen as private property, 264,000 acres to persons contracting to make surveys, 92,526 acres to officers of the army and navy, 500,000 acres for the endowment of schools, 48,520 acres to Colonel Talbot, 12,000 acres to the heirs of General Brock, and 12,000 acres to Doctor Mountain, a former Bishop of Quebec; making altogether, with the clergy reserves, nearly half of all the surveyed land in the Province. In Lower Canada.In Lower Canada, exclusively of grants to refugee loyalists, as to the amount of which the Crown Lands' Department could furnish me with no information, 450,000 acres have been granted to militiamen, to executive councillors 72,000 acres, to Governor Milnes about 48,000 acres, to Mr. Gushing and another upwards of 100,000 acres (as a reward for giving information in a case of high treason), to officers and soldiers 200,000 acres, and to 'leaders of townships' 1,457,209 acres, making altogether, with the clergy reserves, rather more than half of the surveyed lands originally at the disposal of the Crown.
Small portion of land occupied by settlers.In Upper Canada, a very small proportion (perhaps less than a tenth) of the land thus granted has been even occupied by settlers, much less reclaimed and cultivated. In Lower Canada, with the exception of a few townships bordering on the American frontier, which have been comparatively well settled, in despite of the proprietors, by American squatters, it may be said that nineteen-twentieths of these grants are still unsettled, and in a perfectly wild state.
Land-jobbers.No other result could have been expected in the case of those classes of grantees whose station would preclude them from settling in the wilderness, and whose means would enable them to avoid exertion for giving immediate value to their grants; and, unfortunately, the land which was intended for persons of a poorer order, who might be expected to improve it by their labour, has, for the most part, fallen into the hands of land-jobbers of the class just mentioned, who have never thought of settling in person, and who retain the land in its present wild state, speculating upon its acquiring a value at some distant day, when the demand for land shall have increased through the increase of population.
Abuses of Grants.In Upper Canada, says Mr. Bolton, himself a great speculator and holder of wild land, 'the plan of granting large tracts to gentlemen who have neither the muscular strength to go into the wilderness, nor, perhaps, the pecuniary means to improve their grants, has been the means of a large part of the country remaining in a state of wilderness. The system of granting land to the children of U. E. loyalists has not been productive of the benefits expected from it. A very small proportion of the land granted to them has been occupied or improved. A great proportion of such grants were to unmarried females, who very readily disposed of them for a small consideration, frequently from 2l. to 5l. for a grant of 200 acres. The grants made to young men were also frequently sold for a very small consideration; they generally had parents with whom they lived, and were therefore not disposed to move to their grants of lands, but preferred remaining with their families. I do not think one-tenth of the lands granted to U. E. loyalists has been occupied by the persons to whom they were granted, and in a great proportion of cases not occupied at all.' Mr. Radenhurst says, 'the general price of these grants was from a gallon of rum up to perhaps 6l., so that while millions of acres were granted in this way, the settlement of the Province was not advanced, nor the advantage of the grantee secured in the manner that we may suppose to have been contemplated by Government.' He also mentions amongst extensive purchasers of these grants, Mr. Hamilton, a member of the Legislative Council, who bought about 100,000 acres; Chief Justices Emslie and Powell, and Solicitor General Grey, who purchased from 20,000 to 50,000 acres; and states that several members of the Executive and Legislative Councils, as well as of the House of Assembly, were 'very large purchasers.'
Evasion of regulations by 'leaders and associates'.In Lower Canada, the grants to 'Leaders and Associates' were made by an evasion of instructions which deserves a particular description.
By instructions to the Local Executive immediately after the passing of the Constitutional Act, it was directed that, 'because great inconveniences had theretofore arisen in many of the Colonies in America from the granting excessive quantities of land to particular persons who have never cultivated or settled the same, and have thereby prevented others, more industrious, from improving such lands: in order, therefore, to prevent the like inconveniences in future, no farm-lot should be granted to any person being master or mistress of a family in any township to be laid out, which should contain more than 200 acres.' The instructions then invest the Governor with a discretionary power to grant additional quantities in certain cases, not exceeding 1,000 acres. According to these instructions 200 acres should have been the general amount, 1,200 the maximum, in special cases, to be granted to any individual. The greater part, however, of the land (1,457,209 acres) was granted, in fact, to individuals at the rate of from 10,000 to 50,000 to each person. The evasion of the regulations was managed as follows:—A petition, signed by from 10 to 40 or 50 persons, was presented to the Executive Council, praying for a grant of 1,200 acres to each person, and promising to settle the land so applied for. Such petitions were, I am informed, always granted, the Council being perfectly aware that, under a previous agreement between the applicants (of which the form was prepared by the then Attorney General, and sold publicly by the law stationers of Quebec), five-sixths of the land was to be conveyed to one of them, termed the leader, by whose means the grant was obtained. In most cases the leader obtained the whole of the land which had been nominally applied for by 50 persons. A Report of a Committee of the House of Assembly, known to have been drawn up by the present Solicitor General, speaks of this practice in the following terms: 'Your Committee, unwilling to believe that the above-mentioned evasions of His Majesty's gracious instructions had been practised with the knowledge, privity or consent of His Majesty's servants, bound by their oaths, their honour and their duty to obey them, instituted a long and patient investigation into the origin of these abuses. They have been painfully but irresistibly led to the conclusion, that they were fully within the knowledge of individuals in this Colony, who possessed and abused His Majesty's confidence. The instruments by which this evasion was to be carried into effect were devised by His Majesty's Attorney General for the time being, printed and publicly sold in the capital of this Province; and the principal intermediate agent was His Majesty's late Assistant Surveyor General.'
Rewards to militiamen.In order to reward militiamen in Lower Canada, who men. had served on the frontier during war, the Duke of Richmond, acting, as it would appear, under instructions from the Home Government, but of which no copy is extant in the public offices at Quebec, promised grants of land to many thousand persons inhabiting all parts of the Province. The intentions of the Home Government appear to have been most praiseworthy. How effectually they have been defeated by the misconduct of the Local Executive will appear from a Report on the subject in the Appendix (A.)Instructions to Commissioners., and the following copy of the instructions given to Commissioners whom I appointed in order to expedite the settlement of militia claims. I would also refer to the evidence of Mr. Kerr, Mr. Morin, Mr. Davidson, and Mr. Langevin.
- To the Commissioners of unsettled Militia Claims.
Castle of St. Lewis, Quebec, 12 Sept. 1838.
I am directed by his Excellency the Governor General, in furnishing you with some instructions for your guidance in disposing of unsettled militia claims, to state the view which he takes of this subject, and has represented to Her Majesty's Government.
His Excellency is of opinion that, if any reliance is to be placed on the concurrent testimony of all from whom he has derived information on the subject, the report of the Commissioner of Crown Lands and Emigration, on which his recent proclamation is founded, contains but a faint description of the injury inflicted on this Province, and of the cruel injustice done to the militiamen, by the manner in which the intentions of the Home Government with respect to these claimants have been defeated by the local executive.
It appears to his Excellency that the intentions of the Prince Regent in awarding land to those officers and men of the militia who had loyally and gallantly served during the last American war, were, in part, to promote the settlement of wild lands, and the consequent prosperity of the Province, but chiefly, there can be no doubt, to bestow upon that body of loyal and gallant men some extraordinary recompense for the privations and dangers which they had cheerfully incurred in defence of the country. His Excellency is satisfied that neither result was obtained in any but so slight a degree as to be scarcely worth notice. But the Governor General perceives, on the other hand, that results occurred, as to the great majority of cases, precisely opposite to those which the Home Government had in view. The official delays and obstacles interposed between the militia claimants and the grants to which they were entitled—the impossibility, in many cases, of ever obtaining a grant, even after the most vexations impediments and delays—the mode of allotting the land in such a manner, that the grant, when obtained, was often worth nothing at all, and seldom worth the trouble and expense of obtaining it—the necessity of employing and paying agents acquainted with the labyrinths of the Crown Lands and Surveyor General's departments—the expense, uncertainty and harassing trouble attendant upon the pursuit of such a claim; all these circumstances, for which his Excellency is compelled to believe that the public offices were alone to blame, had the effect, he is convinced, in the majority of cases, of converting what the Prince Regent had intended as a boon into a positive injury to the militiamen. He is assured, as might have been expected, that the militiamen disposed of their claims, often for a mere trifle, to land speculators, who never intended to settle upon the grants, and who have for the most part kept the land in a state of wilderness; thereby defeating the only other intention with which the Home Government could have determined on making these grants. From a careful inspection of the evidence taken on this subject from official gentlemen, as well as others, his Excellency is led to concur entirely in that part of the Commissioners' report, which states, that 'there has been the maximum of injury to the Province, with the minimum of benefit to the militiamen'.
This crying grievance his Excellency finds has been over and over again, and in various forms, represented to the Government, but without any attempt, as far as he can discover, to provide an adequate remedy for it. He is encouraged to hope that the measure on which he has determined, may, as respects the claims yet unsettled, be the means of carrying into effect, however tardily, the objects of the Prince Regent, by conferring a considerable boon on these meritorious but long disappointed claimants, and conducing to the settlement of the lands which may thus be alienated by the Crown.
The Governor General further directs me to make you acquainted with his confident expectation that you will proceed, with the utmost despatch not incompatible with accuracy, to determine all unsettled claims; that, in awarding orders to persons whose claims could not have been admitted under the original proclamation, but will now be held valid, you will take care not to admit any claims except those of the six battalions, and of others who actually served for the same period, and precisely in the same manner as the six battalions. His Excellency cannot doubt, moreover, that you will spare no pains in endeavouring to secure to the class of militiamen the advantage which was intended for them alone, and which they ought long since to have received. As one means of this most desirable end, his Excellency is of opinion that you should explain to all claimants that the orders for a nominal amount of money which you may award, will have the full value of money at future sales of Crown lands, and ought therefore to be exchangeable for money, if not for the whole sum named in them, still for one of nearly the same amount.
I am, &c.
Chas Buller, Chief Secretary.
Instructions of 1827, for discontinuance of grants.The purposes of the Home Government, judging by the general instructions which they gave to the local executive, would seem to have been dictated by a sincere, and also an enlightened, desire to promote the settlement and improvement of the country. As respects Upper Canada, instructions, dated July 1827, established as a general rule for the disposal of public lands in future, that free grants should be discontinued, and that a price should be required for land alienated by the Crown. The quantity of land disposed of by sale since those instructions were given amounts to 100,317 acres; the quantity disposed of during the same period by free grant, all in respect of antecedent claims, is about 2,000,000 acres, being above 19 times as much as has been disposed of according to the new rule.
Intention to establish a new system.The instructions were obviously prepared with care for the purpose of establishing a new system, and placing the whole of the disposal of Crown lands in the hands of a Commissioner, then for the first time appointed. The Commissioner never assumed the control of any other portion of these lands than such as were included in returns made to him by the Surveyor General, amounting to no more than about 300,000 acres. All the rest of the land open for disposal remained, as previously, under the control of the Surveyor General as an agent of the Government for locating free grants. The salary of the Commissioner was £.500 a year, besides fees; the whole service during ten years was the superintendence of the sale of 100,000 acres of wild land. The same person was also Surveyor General of Woods and Forests, with a salary of £.500 a year, and agent for the sale of Clergy Reserves, with £.500 a year.
Lord Godrich's regulations of 1831.In Lower Canada, under instructions from the Treasury, dated in November 1826, which were confirmed and further enforced by Lord Goderich in 1831, who manifestly intended to supersede the old system of free grants by an uniform system of sale, 450,469 acres have been sold, and 641,039 acres have, in respect of antecedent claims, been disposed of by free grant; and the object of the new rule of selling was defeated by the large amount of free grants. Even at this moment, in the two Provinces, where I was assured before I left England that the system of selling had been uniformly established by Lord Goderich's regulations of 1831, there are unsettled, but probably indisputable claims for free grants, to the amount of from 1,000,000 to 1,300,000 acres. The main alteration which Lord Goderich's regulations would have made in the system intended to have been established by the Treasury Instructions of 1826, was to render the price more restrictive of appropriation, by requiring payment in less time, and the payment of interest in the meanwhile. Disregard of direction as to payment.This direction appears to have been totally disregarded in both Provinces. As respects Lower Canada, the head of the Crown Lands Department gives the following evidence on the subject:
'Q. How did it happen that this instruction was not acted upon?—A. In consequence of a representation from Mr. Felton, the Commissioner of Crown Lands to Lord Aylmer, the Governor of the Province, stating that the terms imposed were too severe, and amounted, in fact, to exacting the whole purchase-money down. Lord Aylmer, upon this, authorized Mr. Felton to continue the former practice, and, it is understood, reported the circumstance to the Home Government. This was in 1832, and the system of longer credit without interest continued to be acted upon until the receipt of Lord Glenelg's Despatch of 1837, which required payment in ready money at the time of sale.'
Importance of accurate surveys.I have already pointed out the importance of accurate surveys of the public land. Without these there can be no security of property in land, no certainty even as to the position or boundaries of estates marked out in maps or named in title deeds. In Nova Scotia, says the present Surveyor General, 'there are very many instances of litigation in consequence of inaccurately defined boundaries.' Mr. M'Kenzie, a draftsman of the Surveyor General's office at Halifax, who is also employed to conduct surveys in the field, says, he 'has found it impossible to make correct surveys in consequence of inaccuracy as to former lots of land, from which of necessity he measures, and also from surveys being inaccurately made by persons not qualified. In many cases, also, the boundaries of land granted have never been surveyed or laid out at all. The present state of surveys is inadequate and injurious to the settlement of the land'. In New Brunswick, says the present Surveyor General, 'no survey of the Province has ever been made, and the surveys of the old grants are extremely erroneous, and expose errors and collisions which could not have been supposed to exist. It frequently has occurred that different grants are made for the same lot of land. I think this system pernicious, and it will some day be very injurious. The usual practice cannot be relied on as giving a settler a grant of land that cannot be disturbed, without great care and a greater expense than a poor settler can afford.' In Upper Canada, Mr. Radenhurst asserts that 'the surveys throughout the Province generally are very inaccurate. This inaccuracy was produced in the first instance by the deficiency of competent persons, and the carelessness with which the surveys were conducted. Latterly the practice introduced by Sir Peregrine Maitland, in spite of the results being pointed out by the then Surveyor General, of letting out the surveys to any person who was willing to contract for them for a certain quantity of land, produced extreme carelessness and inaccuracy. The surveyors just hurried through the township, and of course made surveys, which, on the ground, are found to be very inaccurate. There are instances in which scarcely a single lot is of the dimensions or in the position actually assigned to it in the diagram. The consequences of this have been confusion and uncertainty in the possessions of almost every man, and no small amount of litigation'. As to Lower Canada, the evidence is still more complete and unsatisfactory. The Commissioner of Crown Lands says, in answer to questions, 'I can instance two townships, Shefford and Orford (and how many more may prove inaccurate as questions of boundary arise, it is impossible to say), which are very inaccurate in their subdivision. On actual recent survey it has been found, that no one lot agrees with the diagram on record. The lines dividing the lots, instead of running perpendicularly according to the diagram, actually run diagonally, the effect of which is necessarily to displace the whole of the lots, upwards of 300 in number, from their true position. The lines dividing the ranges are so irregular as to give to some lots two and a half times the contents of others, though they are all laid down in the diagram as of equal extent; there are lakes also which occupy nearly the whole of some lots that are entirely omitted: I have heard complaints of a similar nature respecting the township of Grenvile. I have no reason for believing that the surveys of other townships are more accurate than those of Shefford and Orford, other than that in some parts of the country the same causes of error may not have existed, whether physical causes, such as that of magnetic attraction, where there really was a survey, or, in cases where there was no actual survey, the negligence of the surveyor. The inaccuracy of which I have spoken is confined to that part of the Province which is divided into townships. There are 109 townships of about 100 square miles each, including all the land which has been disposed of by the British Government, except the seigniories which were erected by that Government shortly after the conquest. Similar difficulties to those which might arise in settling a question of title between the Crown and an alleged squatter, arising from the inaccuracy of the township surveys, would extend to all grants and sales by the Crown, and also to all questions of title between persons claiming to have a grant, or to have purchased from the Crown, and alleged squatters on the land asserted to be theirs, and more or less to all cases in which different persons should claim to have received or purchased the same piece of land from the Crown. It is a general observation that this state of the Crown surveys must prove a source of interminable litigation hereafter; it is impossible to say how many cases may arise of double grants of the same land under different designations, arising from the defective state of the surveys. None of such cases have come before me in an official shape, but I apprehend that questions of that nature are waiting in great numbers until lands shall have become more valuable, when the Crown will be called in upon every occasion to defend its own grant, and, considering the state of the surveys, will be without the means of such defence, unless measures to prevent the evil should be adopted before its occurrence. In common with every person who has ever reflected on the subject, I consider this a subject of very high importance, and demanding the immediate attention of Government.'Mr. Daly, the secretary of the Province, says:—'An accurate survey of the whole of the ungranted lands in the Province I believe to be extremely desirable and necessary to quiet doubts that have arisen in the minds of many new settlers as to the correctness of their boundaries.' Mr. Patrick Daly, commissioned surveyor of the Province, gives the following evidence:—
You are just come to Quebec to make a representation as to the state of the township of Durham?—I am.
What is the point which you wish to ascertain?—Whether I can have authority to establish a new line between the 6th and 7th ranges of the township of Durham.
What would be the consequence of such a change?—In consequence of a part of the old range-line being found incorrect to the extent of 60 perches, whereby the 7th would lose about one-fifth of its dimensions, and the same amount would be improperly added to the 6th; the change I wish to make would set this right.
How did you discover that the line was incorrect?—In consequence of having been employed by Capt. Ployart, of Durham, to run the side lines of lot No. 15, in the 6th range, in order to determine the extent of his property, he being the proprietor of that lot, I discovered that the line was incorrect, as I have described already; and I cannot proceed to rectify the error without authority from the Governor, or some person appointed by the Governor, as we have not any laws in the Province to enable me to make a new range-line, as the old range-line is not to be found, with the exception of a small part, which is in the wrong place, as I have described.
Would a new line have the effect of taking away land, in actual possession, from any person, and giving it to another?—Yes, it would.
Do you suppose that the other range-lines in this township are correct or incorrect?—Some are correct, but they are generally incorrect; my attention, however, has not been particularly called to them.
Are not the proprietors of the other lots which are incorrect anxious to have the limits of their property settled?—Yes, very anxious; more particularly the inhabitants of the 3d range, about one quarter of whose property is taken by the inhabitants of the 2d range, through the means of an erroneous old range-line, as has been proved by various subsequent surveys duly sworn to. I am requested by all the inhabitants of the 3d range to take steps to obtain a new range-line.
Have they ever applied before for this rectification of the survey?—Yes; they applied to the Surveyor General's department, by a statement made by me, and now in the Surveyor General's office; but the answer was, that there was no law in the province to authorize the changing of a range-line, however incorrect, without the consent of all the parties concerned.
Then all parties did not concur in this case?—No, they did not.
Why not?—Because many of those who improperly gained by the error wished to retain what rightly belonged to their neighbour.
As the former application was fruitless, upon what ground do you now proceed?—Upon the confidence that as Lord Durham has greater powers than other Governors, he may be pleased to consider this great loss of property to the people, and give orders to correct the evil.
Are you acquainted with other townships?—Yes.
Have you found the surveys of them generally correct or incorrect?—I have found the surveys of the township of Windsor as incorrect, or even more so, than that of the township of Durham, which can be proved by the most reliable testimony. Generally, with the exception of the township of Wickham, I have found them quite incorrect. I speak only from my personal experience, and not from what I have heard.
Mr. Sewell, recently Chief Justice of the Province, says:—'I have known of many defects in the surveys, which have appeared in many cases before me, and am apprehensive that they are very numerous. I can only state, from my own opinion, two remedies by which these defects may be in some degree remedied: the one is by running anew the outlines of the several townships; the other an Act to give quiet possession, such as has been heretofore passed in other provinces. I am afraid that running the outlines of the townships would not be of any great benefit beyond exposing the errors.' Mr. Kerr says:—'It is generally understood the surveys in many of the various townships are very inaccurate; and many of the surveys have been found to be so. I had in my hand the other day a patent for four lots in the township of Inverness, three of which did not exist, granted to a Captain Skinner. Three of the lots were decided not to be in existence; and I received compensation for them in another township. A great error was discovered in the original survey of the township of Leeds. The inaccuracy of the surveys is quite a matter of certainty, I could cite a number of townships, Milton, Upton, Orford, Shefford, &c., where the inaccuracy has been ascertained. Inconvenience from the inaccuracy of the surveys has been felt; but it is only now beginning to be so seriously. As the settlement of the country advances, and land acquires a greater value, great inconvenience must arise in the shape of endless questions of title: and of this many people are so well aware, that they refuse to sell with a guarantee of title.'
Insufficiency of Surveying Department.I may add, generally, that I found the surveying department in Lower Canada so thoroughly inefficient in its constitution, as to be incapable of any valuable improvement; and that I therefore abstained from interfering with it, trusting that the whole future management of the public lands would be placed on a new footing, calculated to remedy this, as well as all the other evils of the present system.
Delays in completing Titles.Another of those evils requires some notice here. In the United States, the title to land purchased of the Government is obtained immediately and securely on payment of the purchase-money. In all the British Colonies, there is more or less of useless formality and consequent delay in procuring a complete title to land which has been paid for. Dr. Baldwin, speaking of Upper Canada, says:—'I do not know that there was any more constant subject of complaint on the part of individuals, against the Government, than the delays of office, especially in connexion with land-granting. It frequently happened to myself, and I believe to others also, that, during the time when free grants of land, of small amount, were made to actual settlers, persons who had spent their money in waiting for the completion of the grant, have applied to me for employment while the patent was being perfected, and I have furnished it for a short time. The most striking instance that occurred in my knowledge, in which an individual was injured by the delay to which he was exposed in this respect, was that of a man of the name of Burnes, who, in Sir Peregrine Maitland's time, having fallen in debt to some persons whom he had employed, was pressed by them for the money. At this time, a patent was in progress through the offices for him. He applied to his creditors to give him time till his patent was completed, which would enable him to raise money to pay them. The creditors were willing, and waited for some time, but at last became impatient, and they arrested him, and he was compelled to go to prison. The patent had passed through the offices, but he was compelled to remain in prison a fortnight, while the patent was sent over to the Governor for his signature, at his residence, near the Falls of Niagara.' A recent Act of the Legislature of Upper Canada has greatly mitigated this evil, which however remains in full force in Lower Canada. Mr. Kerr says, 'As soon as the purchaser has paid the last instalment, he is referred by the Crown Lands' Officer, to whom the payment is made, for patent, to the Surveyor General for the necessary specification. Then the specification, with the reference, is sent to the Commissioner of Crown Lands. These documents are next sent to the Secretary of the Governor or Civil Secretary, who directs the Provincial Secretary to engross the patent. The fees are then levied, and, upon the payment of fees, the Provincial Secretary engrosses. On engrossment being made, the Governor signs the patent, and the great seal of the Province is attached to it. This signature is procured by the Provincial Secretary. The patent is then sent to the Commissioner of Crown Lands to be audited. At present one of the Commissioners audits: this used to be done by the Auditor, but the office of Auditor has been abolished. When the audit is made, the title is said to be perfected. The effect of having to refer to so many persons has been the total loss of many references, and the papers connected with them, in one or other of the offices. There have been cases in which I was referred three times for the same patent, all the papers having been lost twice successively. In some cases the papers are found again, but at too late a period to be available. The shortest time within which I have known a title to be perfected is about six weeks, and the longest about eight years. More than ordinary diligence was used in the case of six weeks. I obtained an order from the Governor for a special reference for my patent, to take priority of all others then in the office. The average period required for completing a title, after the purchase has been completed by the payment of the whole of the purchase-money, is full 15 months. I am satisfied that the present system is a serious impediment to the settlement of the country; and that no extensive measure for that purpose can work well, unless the mode of obtaining titles, after purchase, be rendered much more simple. Immediate despatch with title is what is required to encourage purchasers, and prevent uncertainty and discontent. I have been directed by purchasers to apply for the return of their purchase-money from the Crown, because of the delay which has occurred. The present system is so profitable to agents, that, speaking as an agent, I should be sorry to see it abolished. One of the inconveniences to the public is the necessity of employing agents acquainted with the labyrinths through which each reference has to pass.'
Illustration of results of mismanagement.The results of this general mismanagement are thus illustrated by the chief agent for emigrants in Upper Canada.
'The principal evils to which settlers in a new township are subject result from the scantiness of population. A township contains 80,000 acres of land; one-seventh is reserved for the clergy and one-seventh for the Crown; consequently five-sevenths remain for the disposal of Government, a large proportion of which is taken up by grants to U. E. loyalists, militiamen, officers and others: the far greater part of these grants remain in an unimproved state.' These blocks of wild land place the actual settler in an almost hopeless condition; he can hardly expect, during his lifetime, to see his neighbourhood contain a population sufficiently dense to support mills, schools, post-offices, places of worship, markets or shops; and without these, civilization retrogrades. Roads under such circumstances can neither be opened by the settlers, nor kept in proper repair, even if made by the Government. The inconvenience arising from want of roads is very great, and is best illustrated by an instance which came under my own observation in 1834. I met a settler from the township of Warwick on the Caradoc Plains, returning from the grist mill at Westminster, with the flour and bran of thirteen bushels of wheat; he had a yoke of oxen and a horse attached to his waggon, and had been absent nine days, and did not expect to reach home until the following evening. Light as his load was, he assured me that he had to unload wholly or in part several times, and, after driving his waggon through the swamps, to pick out a road through the woods where the swamps or gullies were fordable, and to carry the bags on his back and replace them in the waggon. Supposing the services of the man and his team to be worth two dollars per day, the expense of transport would be twenty dollars. As the freight of wheat from Toronto to Liverpool [England] is rather less than 2s. 6d. per bushel, it follows that a person living in this city could get the same wheat ground on the banks of the Mersey, and the flour and bran returned to him at a much less expense than he could transport it from the rear of Warwick to Westminster and back—a distance less than 90 miles. Since 1834 a grist-mill has been built in Adelaide, the adjoining township, which is a great advantage to the Warwick settlers; but the people in many parts of the Province still suffer great inconvenience from the same cause.'
Large waste grants have caused the abandonment of settlements.Mr. Rankin, Deputy Land Surveyor, says, 'The system of making large grants to individuals who had no intention of settling them, has tended to retard the prosperity of the colony, by separating the actual settlers, and rendering it so much more difficult, and in some cases impossible, for them to make the necessary roads. It has also made the markets more distant and more precarious. To such an extent have these difficulties been experienced, as to occasion the abandonment of settlements which had been formed. I may mention, as an instance of this, the township of Rama, where, after a trial of three years, the settlers were compelled to abandon their improvements. In the township of St. Vincent, almost all the most valuable settlers have left their farms from the same cause. There have been numerous instances in which, though the settlement has not been altogether abandoned, the most valuable settlers, after unavailing struggles of several years with the difficulties which I have described, have left their farms.' This witness, who was for ten years employed by Government as Deputy Surveyor in the western district, which I have before described as the finest grain country in North America, states that 'nine-tenths of the land granted by the Crown in that district are still in a state of wilderness.'
For illustration of the same kind as respects Lower Canada, I would refer to the testimony of the Commissioner of Crown Lands, Mr. Kerr, the Deputy Postmaster General, Mr. Russell, Major Head, Mr. Keough, the late Chief Justice, and Mr. Lemesurier.
Settlers have sold their farms for a third or forth of the money expended in improving them.Mr. Kerr says, 'The main obstacle to the speedy settlement and cultivation of all the more fertile parts of the Province is private land remaining wild; inasmuch as the land of the Crown is open to purchase, which is not generally the case with that of private individuals, excepting at too exorbitant a price. So injurious is the existence of this quantity of wild land, in the midst or in the neighbourhood of settlement, that numerous cases have occurred in which a settler, after several years' residence upon his property, and having expended, in money and labour, from £.20 to £.50 in clearing part of it and building his house, has been driven to abandon the farm, and to sell it for one-third or even one-fourth of the sum that he had expended upon it. I have myself bought farms which have been abandoned in this way for the merest trifle. One, I recollect now, consisted of 100 acres, in the township of Kingsey, a beautiful part of the district of Three Rivers, with rather more than 20 acres cleared, and a good house and outhouses erected upon it, for which I paid under £.30. I could give very many instances of a similar kind, where I have either purchased myself, or have had a personal knowledge of the circumstances.'
Profusion of Grants in Prince Edward's Island.One of the most remarkable instances of evils resulting from profuse grants of land is to be found in Prince Edward's Island. Nearly the whole of the island (about Edward's 1,400,000 acres) was alienated in one day, in very large grants, chiefly to absentees, and upon conditions which have been wholly disregarded. The extreme improvidence which dictated these grants is obvious: the neglect of the Government as to enforcing the conditions of the grants, in spite of the constant efforts of the people and the legislature to force upon its attention the evils under which they laboured, is not less so. The great bulk of the island is still possessed by absentees, who hold it as a sort of reversionary interest, which requires no present attention, but may become valuable some day or other through the growing wants of the inhabitants. But in the mean time, the inhabitants are subjected to the greatest inconvenience, nay, to the most serious injury, from the state of property in land. The absent proprietors neither improve the land, nor will let others improve it. They retain the land, and keep it in a state of wilderness. I have in another place adverted to the remedy proposed, and the causes, which have long retarded its adoption. The feelings of the colonists on the subject are fully expressed in the evidence of Mr. Lelacheur, Mr. Solicitor General Hodgson, and the Governor, Sir Charles Fitzroy. I may add, that their testimony was confirmed by that of the delegates from the Island who visited me at Quebec.
Influence of disposal of lands on public prosperity.In the above enumeration of facts, I do not profess to have exhausted the long catalogue of evils and abuses which were brought to my notice. But I have stated enough, I trust, to establish the position with which I set out,—that the disposal of public lands in a new country has more influence on the prosperity of the people than any other branch of Government; and further to make it evident, that the still existing evils which have been occasioned by mismanagement in this department, are so great and general as to require a comprehensive and effectual remedy, applied to all the Colonies, before any merely political reform can be expected to work well.