First Letter to his Brothers
MONTREAL, July 20, 1808.
I have written to all of you since the navigation opened, and the only letters I have received from any of the family for several months came from Irving, who, to do him justice, is infinitely the most attentive and regular correspondent among you.
My appointment to be brigadier I first announced by the March mail. Those who feel an interest in my prosperity will rejoice in my good fortune, as this distinguished mark of favor affords undeniable proof that my conduct, during the period of my command, was approved;—a great gratification, considering the many difficulties I had to encounter. I once thought I should be ordered to the upper province, but General Ferguson being among the newly appointed major-generals, will not now probably visit this country. In that case, I stand a very good chance of succeeding him, both in rank and in the command of Quebec, where it was intended he should be stationed.
What will be the result of our present unsettled relations with the neighbouring republic, it is very difficult to say. The government is composed of such unprincipled men, that to calculate on it by the ordinary rules of action would be perfectly absurd. We have completely outwitted Jefferson in all his schemes to provoke us to war. He had no other view in issuing his restrictive proclamation; but, failing in that, he tried what the embargo would produce, and there he has been foiled again. Certainly, our administration is deserving of every praise for their policy on these occasions. Jefferson and his party, however strong the inclination, dare not declare war, and therefore they endeavour to attain their object by every provocation. A few weeks since, the garrison of Niagara fired upon seven merchant boats passing the fort, and actually captured them. Considering the circumstances attending this hostile act, it is but too evident it was intended to provoke retaliation: these boats fired upon and taken within musket shot of our own fort; their balls falling on our shore, was expected to have raised the indignation of the most phlegmatic; fortunately, the commandant was not in the way, as otherwise it is difficult to say what would have happened. A representation of this affair has been made at Washington, and, for an act certainly opposed to existing treaties, we have been referred for justice to the ordinary course of the law! If our subjects cannot command impunity from capture under the guns of our own forts, it were better to demolish them at once rather than witness and suffer such indignity. By the treaties which have expired, the navigation of the waters that divide the two countries is regulated and stipulated to be still in force, although every other part should cease to be obligatory.
I get on here pretty well, but this place loses at this season the undoubted advantage it possesses over Quebec in winter. Great additions are making to the fortifications at Quebec, and, when completed, the Americans will, if I mistake not, think it prudent not to trouble the place, for they can have no chance of making any impression upon it during the short period which the severity of the climate only permits an enemy to lay before it. I erected, as I believe I told you before, a famous battery, which the public voice named after me; but Sir James, thinking very properly that any thing so very pre-eminent should be distinguished by the most exalted appellation, has called it the King's Battery, the greatest compliment, I conceive, that he could pay to my judgment. Not a desertion has been attempted by any of the 49th for the last ten months, with the exception indeed of Hogan, Savery's former servant. He served Glegg in the same capacity, who took him with him to the Falls of Niagara, where a fair damsel persuaded him to this act of madness, for the fellow cannot possibly gain his bread by labour, as he has half killed himself with excessive drinking; and we know he cannot live upon love alone. The weather has been exceedingly hot the last week, the thermometer fluctuating from 94 degrees to 100 degrees in the shade. The embargo has proved a famous harvest to some merchants here. It is certainly the most ridiculous measure imaginable, and was evidently adopted with the view of pleasing France; but no half measure can satisfy Napoleon, and this colony has been raised by it to a degree of importance that ensures its future prosperity.