Roughing it in the Bush/Chapter XXVIII
The preceding sketches of Canadian life, as the reader may well suppose, are necessarily tinctured with somewhat somber hues, imparted by the difficulties and privations with which, for so many years the writer had to struggle; but we should be sorry should these truthful pictures of scenes and characters, observed fifteen or twenty years ago, have the effect of conveying erroneous impressions of the present state of a country, which is manifestly destined, at no remote period, to be one of the most prosperous in the world. Had we merely desired to please the imagination of our readers, it would have been easy to have painted the country and the people rather as we could have wished them to be, than as they actually were, at the period to which our description refers; and, probably, what is thus lost in truthfulness, it would have gained in popularity with that class of readers who peruse books more for amusement than instruction.
When I say that Canada is destined to be one of the most prosperous countries in the world, let it not be supposed that I am influenced by any unreasonable partiality for the land of my adoption. Canada may not possess mines of gold or silver, but she possesses all those advantages of climate, geological structure, and position, which are essential to greatness and prosperity. Her long and severe winter, so disheartening to her first settlers, lays up, amidst the forests of the West, inexhaustible supplies of fertilising moisture for the summer, while it affords the farmer the very best of natural roads to enable him to carry his wheat and other produce to market. It is a remarkable fact, that hardly a lot of land containing two hundred acres, in British America, can be found without an abundant supply of water at all seasons of the year; and a very small proportion of the land itself is naturally unfit for cultivation. To crown the whole, where can a country be pointed out which possesses such an extent of internal navigation? A chain of river navigation and navigable inland seas, which, with the canals recently constructed, gives to the countries bordering on them all the advantages of an extended sea-coast, with a greatly diminished risk of loss from shipwreck!
Little did the modern discoverers of America dream, when they called this country "Canada," from the exclamation of one of the exploring party, "Aca nada,"—"there is nothing here," as the story goes, that Canada would far outstrip those lands of gold and silver, in which their imaginations revelled, in that real wealth of which gold and silver are but the portable representatives. The interminable forests—that most gloomy and forbidding feature in its scenery to the European stranger, should have been regarded as the most certain proof of its fertility.
The severity of the climate, and the incessant toil of clearing the land to enable the first settlers to procure the mere necessaries of life, have formed in its present inhabitants an indomitable energy of character, which, whatever may be their faults, must be regarded as a distinguishing attribute of the Canadians, in common with our neighbours of the United States. When we consider the progress of the Northern races of mankind, it cannot be denied, that while the struggles of the hardy races of the North with their severe climate, and their forests, have gradually endowed them with an unconquerable energy of character, which has enabled them to become the masters of the world; the inhabitants of more favoured climates, where the earth almost spontaneously yields all the necessaries of life, have remained comparatively feeble and inactive, or have sunk into sloth and luxury. It is unnecessary to quote any other instances in proof of this obvious fact, than the progress of Great Britain and the United States of America, which have conquered as much by their industry as by their swords.
Our neighbours of the United States are in the habit of attributing their wonderful progress in improvements of all kinds to their republican institutions. This is no doubt quite natural in a people who have done so much for themselves in so short a time; but when we consider the subject in all its bearings, it may be more truly asserted that, with any form of government not absolutely despotic, the progress of North America, peopled by a civilised and energetic race, with every motive to industry and enterprise in the nature of the country itself, must necessarily have been rapid. An unbounded extent of fertile soil, with an increasing population, were circumstances which of themselves were sufficient to create a strong desire for the improvement of internal communications; as, without common roads, rail-roads, or canals, the interior of the country would have been unfit to be inhabited by any but absolute barbarians. All the first settlers of America wanted was to be left to themselves.
When we compare the progress of Great Britain with that of North America, the contrast is sufficiently striking to attract our attention. While the progress of the former has been the work of ages, North America has sprung into wealth and power almost within a period which we can remember. But the colonists of North America should recollect, when they indulge in such comparisons, that their British ancestors took many centuries to civilise themselves, before they could send free and intelligent settlers to America. The necessity for improvements in the internal communications is vastly more urgent in a widely extended continent than in an island, no part of which is far removed from the sea-coast; and patriotism, as well as self-interest, would readily suggest such improvements to the minds of a people who inherited the knowledge of their ancestors, and were besides stimulated to extraordinary exertions by their recently-acquired independence. As the political existence of the United States commenced at a period when civilisation had made great progress in the mother-country, their subsequent improvement would, for various reasons, be much more rapid than that of the country from which they originally emigrated. To show the influence of external circumstances on the characters of men, let us just suppose two individuals, equal in knowledge and natural capacity, to be placed, the one on an improved farm in England, with the necessary capital and farm-stock, and the other in the wilds of America, with no capital but his labour, and the implements required to clear the land for his future farm. In which of these individuals might we reasonably expect to find the most energy, ingenuity, and general intelligence on subjects connected with their immediate interests? No one who has lived for a few years in the United States or Canada can hesitate for a reply.
The farmer in the more improved country generally follows the beaten track, the example of his ancestors, or the successful one of his more intelligent contemporaries; he is rarely compelled to draw upon his individual mental resources. Not so with the colonist. He treads in tracks but little known; he has to struggle with difficulties on all sides. Nature looks sternly on him, and in order to preserve his own existence, he must conquer Nature, as it were, by his perseverance and ingenuity. Each fresh conquest tends to increase his vigour and intelligence, until he becomes a new man, with faculties of mind which, but for his severe lessons in the school of adversity, might have lain for ever dormant.
While America presents the most forbidden aspect to the new settler, it at the same time offers the richest rewards to stimulate his industry. On the one hand, there is want and misery; on the other, abundance and prosperity. There is no middle course for the settler; he must work or starve. In North America there is another strong incentive to improvement, to be found in the scarcity of labour; and still more, therefore, than in Europe must every mechanical contrivance which supersedes manual labour tend to increase the prosperity of the inhabitants. When these circumstances are duly considered, we need no longer wonder at the rapid improvements in labour-saving machinery, and in the means of internal communication throughout the United States. But for the steam-engine, canals, and railroads, North America would have remained for ages a howling wilderness of endless forests, and instead of the busy hum of men, and the sound of the mill and steam-engine, we should now have heard nothing but
"The melancholy roar of unfrequented floods."
The scenes and characters presented to the reader in the preceding pages, belong, in some measure, rather to the past than the present state of Canada. In the last twenty years great changes have taken place, as well in the external appearance of the country, as in the general character of its inhabitants. In many localities where the land was already under the plough, the original occupants of the soil have departed to renew their endless wars with the giants of the forest, in order to procure more land for their increasing families where it could be obtained at a cheaper price. In the back-woods, forests have been felled, the blackened stumps have disappeared, and regular furrows are formed by the ploughman, where formerly he had not time or inclination to whistle at his work. A superior class of farmers has sprung up, whose minds are as much improved by cultivation as their lands, and who are comfortably settled on farms supposed to be exhausted of their fertility by their predecessors. As the breadth of land recovered from the forest is increased, villages, towns, and cities have grown up and increased in population and wealth in proportion to the productiveness of the surrounding country.
In Canada, it is particularly to be noted, that there is hardly any intermediate stage between the rude toil and privation of the back-woods, and the civilisation, comfort, and luxury of the towns and cities, many of which are to outward appearance entirely European, with the encouraging prospect of a continual increase in the value of fixed property. When a colony, capable, from the fertility of the soil and abundance of moisture, of supporting a dense population, has been settled by a civilised race, they are never long in establishing a communication with the sea-coast and with other countries. When such improvements have been effected, the inhabitants may be said at once to take their proper place among civilised nations. The elements of wealth and power are already there, and time and population only are required fully to develope the resources of the country.
Unhappily the natural progress of civilised communities in our colonies is too often obstructed by the ignorance of governments, and unwise or short-sighted legislation; and abundance of selfish men are always to be found in the colonies themselves, who, destitute of patriotism, greedily avail themselves of this ignorance, in order to promote their private interests at the expense of the community. Canada has been greatly retarded in its progress by such causes, and this will in a great measure account for its backwardness when compared with the United States, without attributing the difference to the different forms of government. It was manifestly the intention of the British government, in conferring representative institutions on Canada, that the people should enjoy all the privileges of their fellow-subjects in the mother-country. The more to assimilate our government to that of its great original, the idea was for some time entertained of creating a titled and hereditary aristocracy, but it was soon found that though
"The King can make a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, an' a' that,"
it was not in his power to give permanency to an institution which, in its origin, was as independent as royalty itself, arising naturally out of the feudal system: but which was utterly inconsistent with the genius and circumstances of a modern colony. The sovereign might endow the members of such an aristocracy with grants of the lands of the crown to support their dignity, but what benefit could such grants be, even to the recipients, in a country covered with boundless forests and nearly destitute of inhabitants? It is obvious that no tenants could be found to pay rents for such lands, or indeed even to occupy them, while lands could be purchased on easy terms in the United States, or in Canada itself. Had this plan been carried out, Canada would have been a doomed country for centuries.
The strongest incitements to industry are required, those of proprietorship and ultimate independence, to induce settlers to encounter all the privations and toil of a new settlement in such a country. A genuine aristocracy can only exist in a country already peopled, and which has been conquered and divided among the conquerors. In such a state of things, aristocracy, though artificial in its origin, becomes naturalised, if I may use the expression, and even, as in Great Britain, when restrained within proper limits, highly beneficial in advancing civilization. Be it for good or be it for evil, it is worse than useless to disguise the fact that the government of a modern colony, where every conquest is made from the forest by little at a time, must be essentially republican.
Any allusion to political parties is certainly foreign to the object of the preceding sketches; but it is impossible to make the British reader acquainted with the various circumstances which retarded the progress of this fine colony, without explaining how the patronage of the local government came formerly to be so exclusively bestowed on one class of the population,—thus creating a kind of spurious aristocracy which disgusted the colonists, and drove emigration from our shores to those of the United States.
After the American Revolution, considerable numbers of loyalists in the United States voluntarily relinquished their homesteads and property, and came to Canada, which then, even on the shores of Lake Ontario, was a perfect wilderness. Lands were of course granted to them by the government, and very naturally these settlers were peculiarly favoured by the local authorities. These loyalists were generally known by the name of "tories," to distinguish them from the republicans, and forming the great mass of the population. Any one who called himself a reformer was regarded with distrust and suspicion, as a concealed republican or rebel. It must not, however, be supposed that these loyalists were really tories in their political principles. Their notions on such subjects were generally crude and undefined, and living in a country where the whole construction of society and habits of feeling were decidedly republican, the term tory, when adopted by them, was certainly a misnomer. However, hated by, and hating as cordially, the republican party in the United States, they by no means unreasonably considered that their losses and their attachment to British institutions, gave them an almost exclusive claim to the favour of the local government in Canada. Thus the name of U.E. (United Empire) Loyalist or Tory came to be considered an indispensable qualification for every office in the colony.
This was all well enough so long as there was no other party in the country. But gradually a number of other American settlers flowed into Canada from the United States, who had no claim to the title of tories or loyalists, but who in their feelings and habits were probably not much more republican than their predecessors. These were of course regarded with peculiar jealousy by the older or loyalist settlers from the same country. It seemed to them as if a swarm of locusts had come to devour their patrimony. This will account for the violence of party feeling which lately prevailed in Canada.
There is nothing like a slight infusion of self-interest to give point and pungency to party feeling. The British immigrants, who afterwards flowed into this colony in greater numbers, of course brought with them their own particular political predilections. They found what was called toryism and high churchism in the ascendant, and self-interest or prejudice induced most of the more early settlers of this description to fall in with the more powerful and favoured party; while influenced by the representations of the old loyalist party they shunned the other American settlers as republicans. In the meantime, however, the descendants of the original loyalists were becoming numerous, while the government became unable to satisfy them all according to their own estimation of their merits; and as high churchism was, unfortunately for the peace of society, associated with toryism, every shade of religious dissent as well as political difference of opinion generally added to the numbers and power of the reform party, which was now beginning to be known in the colony. Strange to say, the great bulk of the present reform party is composed of the descendants of these U.E. Loyalists, while many of our most ultra tories are the descendants of republican settlers from the United States.
As may be supposed, thirty years of increasing emigration from the mother-country has greatly strengthened the reform party, and they now considerably out-number the conservatives. While the mass of the people held tory, or, I should rather call them, CONSERVATIVE principles, our government seemed to work as well as any representative government may be supposed to work without the necessary check of a constitutional opposition. Favouritism was, of course, the order of the day; and the governor, for the time being, filled up all offices according to his will and pleasure, without many objections being made by the people as to the qualifications of the favourite parties, provided the selections for office were made from the powerful party. Large grants of land were given to favoured individuals in the colony, or to immigrants who came with commendations from the home government. In such a state of matters the people certainly possessed the external form of a free government, but as an opposition party gradually acquired an ascendancy in the lower House of Parliament, they were unable to carry the measures adopted by their majority into operation, in consequence of the systematic opposition of the legislative and executive councils, which were generally formed exclusively from the old conservative party. Whenever the conservatives obtained the majority in the House of Assembly, the reformers, in retaliation, as systematically opposed every measure. Thus a constant bickering was kept up between the parties in Parliament; while the people, amidst these attentions, lost sight of the true interests of the country, and improvements of all kinds came nearly to a stand-still. As matters were then conducted, it would have been much better had the colony been ruled by a governor and council; for, in that case, beneficial measures might have been carried into effect. Such a state of things could not last long; and the discontent of a large portion of the people, terminating, through the indiscretion of an infatuated local government, in actual rebellion, soon produced the remedy. The party generally most powerful in the Legislative Assembly, and the members of which had been so long and so unconstitutionally excluded from holding offices under the government, at once obtained the position which they were entitled, and the people being thus given the power of governing by their majorities in Parliament, improvements of all kinds are steadily advancing up the present moment, and their prosperity and contentment have increased in an equal proportion.
Had the first settlement of Canada been conducted on sound and philosophical principles, much hardship and privation, as well as loss of capital in land speculations, would have been saved to its first settlers, and the country, improved and improving as it now is, would have presented a very different aspect at the present time. With the best intentions, the British government may be justly accused of gross ignorance of the true principles of colonisation, and the local governments are still more open to the accusation of squandering the resources of the colony—its lands—in building up the fortunes of a would-be aristocracy, who being non-resident proprietors of wild lands, necessarily obstructed the progress of improvement, while the people were tantalised with the empty semblance of a free government.
No sooner did emigrants from Great Britain begin to pour into Upper Canada, so as to afford a prospect of the wild lands becoming saleable, than a system of land speculation was resorted to by many of the old colonists. This land speculation has no doubt enriched many individuals, but more than any other abuse has it retarded the natural progress of the country, and the interests of the many have thus been sacrificed to those of the few. Almost all other speculations may be said, in one shape or another, to do good; but land speculation has been an unmitigated curse to Canada, because it occasions a monopoly of the soil, and prevents it from being cleared and rendered productive, until the speculators can obtain their own price for it.
The lands granted to soldiers and sailors who had served in Canada, and those granted to the U.E. loyalists, were bought up, often at merely nominal prices, from the original grantees and their children, and sold again with an immense profit to new settlers from the old country, or retained for many years in an unproductive state. A portion of the lands granted to the U.E. loyalists was, of course, occupied by the heads of families; but the lands to which their children became entitled, under the same benevolent provision of the government, were generally drawn in remote situations. By far the larger portion of these grants, however, were not located or rendered available by the grantees, but remained in the shape of U.E. rights, which were purchased at very low prices by the speculators. These U.E. rights were bought at the rate of 1s. 3d., 2s. 6d., or 3s. 9d. per acre; and it was by no means uncommon for old soldiers to sell one hundred acres of land for two or three dollars, or even for a bottle of rum, so little value did they set on such grants in the then state of Canada. These grants, though well meant, and with respect to the U.E. Loyalists, perhaps, unavoidable, have been most injurious to the country.
The great error in this matter, and which could have been avoided, was the opening of too great an extent of land AT ONCE for settlement. A contrary system, steadily pursued, would have produced a concentrated population; and the resources of such a population would have enabled the colonists, by uniting their labour and capital, to make the means of communication, in some degree, keep pace with the settlement of the lands; and Upper Canada would now have been as well provided with canals and railroads as the United States. The same abuses, no doubt, existed formerly to as great an extent in that country, but, being longer settled, it has outgrown the evil. Enough has been said on this subject to show some of the causes which have retarded improvements in Canada.
Another chief cause of the long and helpless torpor in which the country lay, was the absence of municipal governments in the various rural localities. It indeed seems strange, that such a simple matter as providing the means of making roads and bridges by local assessment could not have been conceded to the people, who, if we suppose them to be gifted with common sense, are much more capable of understanding and managing their own parish business, than any government, however well disposed to promote their interests.
Formerly the government of Upper Canada was deluged with petitions for grants of money from Parliament to be expended in improvements in this or that locality, of the reasonableness of which claims the majority of the legislators were, of course, profoundly ignorant. These money grants became subjects of a species of jobbing, or manoeuvering, among the members of the House of Assembly; and he was considered the best member who could get the most money for his county. Commissioners resident in the particular localities were appointed to superintend these public works; and as these commissioners were generally destitute of practical knowledge, these Parliamentary grants were usually expended without producing equivalent results. Nothing in the abstract is more reasonable than that any number of individuals should be allowed to associate themselves for the purpose of effecting some local improvement, which would be beneficial to others as well as to themselves; but nothing of this could be attempted without an Act of Parliament, which, of course, was attended with expense and delay, if not disappointment. The time and attention of the provincial parliament were thus occupied with a mass of parish business, which could have been much better managed by the people themselves on the spot.
When the union of the two provinces was in contemplation, it became evident that the business of such an extended colony could not be carried on in the United Parliament, were it to be encumbered and distracted with the contending claims of so many localities. This consideration led to the establishment of the District (now County) Municipal Councils. These municipal councils were denounced by the conservative party at the time as a step towards republicanism! Were this true, it would only prove that the government of our republican neighbours is better than our own; for these municipal institutions have been eminently beneficial to Canada. But municipal councils are necessarily no more republican in their nature, than the House of Commons in England. However this may be, the true prosperity of Upper Canada may be mainly attributed to their influence on the minds of the people.
Possessing many of the external forms of a parliament, they are admirable political schools for a free people. The most intelligent men in the different townships are freely elected by the inhabitants, and assemble in the county town to deliberate and make by-laws, to levy taxes, and, in short, to do everything which in their judgment will promote the interest of their constituents. Having previously been solely occupied in agricultural pursuits, it might naturally be expected that their first notions would be somewhat crude, and that they would have many long-cherished prejudices to overcome. Their daily intercourse with the more educated inhabitants of the towns, however, tended to remove these prejudices, while new ideas were continually presented to their minds. The rapidity with which this species of practical education is acquired is remarkable, and also, how soon men with such limited opportunities of acquiring knowledge, learn to think and to express their views and opinions in appropriate language. These municipal councillors go home among their constituents, where they have to explain and defend their proceedings; while so engaged, they have occasion to communicate facts and opinions, which are fairly discussed, and thus enlightened views are diffused through the mass of people.
The councillors, at first, were averse to the imposition or increase of taxation, however desirable the object might be; but pride and emulation very soon overcame this natural reluctance; and the example of some neighbouring county, with that natural desire to do good, which, more or less, influences the feelings and conduct of all public men, were not long in producing their beneficial results, even with the risk of offending their constituents. When the County Municipal Councils were first established, the warden or president of the council, and also the treasurer, were appointed by the governor; but both these offices were afterwards made elective, the warden being elected by the council from their own body, and the treasurer being selected by them, without previous election by the people.
Lately, councils have been also established in each township for municipal purposes affecting the interest of the township only, the reeves, or presidents, of which minor councils form the members of the county council. This general system of municipalities, and a late act of the provincial parliament, enabling the inhabitants to form themselves into road companies, have converted the formerly torpid and inactive townships into busy hives of industry and progressive improvement.
Our agricultural societies have also played no mean part in furthering the progress of the colony. In colonies fewer prejudices are entertained on the subject of agricultural matters than on any others, and the people are ever ready to try any experiment which offers any prospect of increased remuneration for labour. Education, of late, has also made rapid advances in this province; and now, the yeomanry of the more improved townships, though they may be inferior to the yeomanry of England in the acquirements derived from common school education, are certainly far superior to them in general intelligence. Their minds are better stocked with ideas, and they are infinitely more progressive. When we consider the relative periods at which the first settlements were formed in the United States and in Upper Canada, and the accumulation of capital in the former, it will not be difficult to show that the progress of Canada has been much more rapid.
The excavation of the Erie Canal, the parent of all the subsequent improvements of a similar nature in the United States, opened-up for settlement a vast country to the westward, which would otherwise for many years have remained a wilderness, unfit for the habitation of man. The boundless success of this experiment necessarily led to all the other similar undertakings. The superior advantages Canada enjoyed in her river and lake navigation, imperfect as that navigation was, operated in a manner rather to retard than to accelerate improvements of this kind; while the construction of the Erie Canal was a matter of prospective necessity, in order to provide for a rapidly increasing population and immigration. In the same manner, the recent completion of the works on the St. Lawrence, and the enlargement of the Welland Canal, connecting Lakes Erie and Ontario, will just as necessarily be followed by similar results, with the additional advantage of the whole colony being greatly benefitted by the commerce of the United States, in addition to her own.
We have now, thanks to responsible government, municipal councils, and common schools, no longer any reason to consider their institutions better calculated to develope the resources of the colony, than our own. Our interests are almost identical, and with our canals and railroads on both sides mutually beneficial, our former hostility has merged into a friendly rivalry in the march of intellect, and we may now truly say that, without wishing for any change in political institutions, which are most congenial to the feelings of the people where they exist, each country now sincerely rejoices in the prosperity of its neighbour.
Before concluding this chapter, I shall endeavour to give the reader a short description of the county of Hastings, in which I have held the office of sheriff for the last twelve years, and which, I believe, possesses many advantages as a place of settlement, over all the other places I have seen in the Upper Province. I should premise, however, lest my partiality for this part of the colony should be supposed to incline me to overrate its comparative advantages to the settler, that my statements are principally intended to show the progress of Upper Province generally; and that when I claim any superiority for this part of it, I shall give, what I trust the reader will consider, satisfactory reasons for my conclusion.
The settlement of a thickly-wooded country, when it is left to chance, is a most uncertain and capricious matter. The narrow views and interests of a clique in the colony, or even of an influential individual, often direct emigration out of its natural course, involving unnecessary suffering to the settler, a waste or absolute loss of capital, and a retarding of the progress of the country. The circumstances and situation of the United States were less productive of these evils than those of Upper Canada, because settlement went on more uniformly from the seacoast towards the interior. The mighty rivers and lakes of Canada, though productive of boundless prosperity, operated in the first period of its settlement, most unfavourably on the growth of the colony, by throwing open for settlement an extensive inland coast, at that time unconnected with the ocean by means of canals. Hence numerous detached, feeble, and unprogressive settlements, came into existence, where the new settlers had to struggle for years with the most disheartening difficulties.
European settlers know but little of the value of situation. In most cases they are only desirous of acquiring a large extent of land at a low price, and thus, unless restrained by the wise regulations of a provident government, they too often ruin themselves, and waste their capital in a wilderness, where it does good to no one. When emigration from the United Kingdom began to set in to Upper Canada, the pernicious speculation in wild lands commenced in earnest. As most of the land speculators possessed shares in the steam-boats on Lake Ontario, the interests of both speculations were combined. It was, of course, the interest of the steam-boat proprietors to direct emigration as far to the westward as possible; and influenced by their interested representations and those of the land speculators settled in Toronto, Cobourg, and Hamilton, the greater portion of the emigrants possessing capital were thrown into these towns, near which they were led to expect desirable locations. In the same manner the agents of the Canada Land Company, who were to be found on every steamer, were actively employed in directing the emigrants to the Huron tract.
By a simple inspection of the map of Upper Canada, it will be seen, that as the Bay of Quinte was out of the general route of the steamers, and too near the lower end of the lake navigation, it did not suit the views of the parties most interested to direct emigration to its shores. Thus the beautiful Bay of Quinte, with the most fertile land on its shores, and scenery which exceeds in variety and picturesque beauty that of any part of Upper Canada, Hamilton and Niagara alone excepted, has been passed by for years for situations much less desirable or attractive to European settlers.
The forbidding aspect of the country near Kingston, which is situated at the entrance of the bay from the St. Lawrence, where the soil has a rocky and barren appearance, has no doubt deterred emigrants from proceeding in this direction.
The shores of the Bay of Quinte were originally occupied principally by U.E. loyalists and retired officers, who had served during the late war with the United States, but the emigration from Europe has chiefly consisted of the poorer class of Irish Catholics, and of Protestants from the North of Ireland, settled in two very thriving townships in the county of Hastings. There is also a sprinkling of Scotch and English in different parts of the county. Comparatively few possessing any considerable amount of capital have found their way here, as the county town, Belleville, is not in the line of the summer travel on the lakes.
The scenery along the shores of the bay is exceedingly beautiful all the way from Kingston to the head, where a large river, the Trent, discharges itself into it at a thriving village, of about a thousand inhabitants, called Trent Port. A summer ride along the lower portion of this river presents scenery of a bolder and grander character than is often met with in Upper Canada, and it is enlivened by spectacles of immense rafts of timber descending the rapids, and by the merry chorus of the light-hearted lumbermen, as they pursue their toilsome and perilous voyage to Quebec.
Belleville was originally a spot reserved for the Mississagua Indians, and was laid out in 1816 for a village, when there were only two or three white men settled among them as traders in the place. It was only during the last year that the two frame farm-houses, situated about a quarter of a mile apart, were removed to make room for more substantial buildings. Belleville remained nearly stationary for several years, during which a few persons realised handsome fortunes, by means of large profits, not withstanding the limited extent of their business. It at length began to grow in importance as the fine country in its neighbourhood was cleared and rendered productive.
In 1839, when the county of Hastings was set apart from the Midland district, under the name of the District of Victoria, and Belleville became the District town, the population of the county, including Belleville, was about 12,000, and that of Belleville about 1500. In 1850 the population of the county had reached 23,454, of which that of Belleville was 3326. By the census just taken, on a much more correct principle than formerly, the population of Belleville in 1852 appears to be 4554, showing an increase of 1228 in two years. During the same period, from 1850 to 1852, the population of Cobourg on Lake Ontario, which town formerly enjoyed the full benefit of a large emigration, has risen from 3379 to 3867, showing an increase of only 488. The town of Dundas in the same time has increased its population from 2311 in 1850 to 3519 in 1852, showing an increase of 1208. The population of the city of Hamilton in 1850 was 10,312, and now, in 1852, it is said to exceed 13,000. In 1838 the then TOWN of Hamilton contained a population of only 3116. When I first visited that place in 1832 it was a dull insignificant village, which might, I suppose, contain a population of 1200 or 1500. I can hardly describe my surprise on revisiting it in 1849, to behold a city grown up suddenly, as if by enchantment, with several handsome churches and public and private buildings of cut stone, brought from the fine freestone quarries in the precipitous mountains or tableland behind the city.
Little need be said of the capital of the province, the city of Toronto, the progress of which has been less remarkable in the same period, for the obvious reason that its merits were sooner appreciated or known by the emigrants from Europe. The population of Toronto, then called Little York, in 1826 was 1677, while that of the now city of Kingston was 2329. In 1838 the population of Toronto was 12,571, and that of Kingston 3877. In 1850 the population of Toronto was 25,166, and that of Kingston 10,097.
These few facts will enable the reader to form some idea of the comparative progress of different towns in Upper Canada, under circumstances similar in some cases and different in others. When it is considered that all of these last-mentioned towns have for many years reaped the full benefit of the influx of emigration and capital from the mother country, while the shores of the Bay of Quinte were little known or appreciated, it will appear that the progress of Belleville has been at least equal to that of any of them. The prosperity of Belleville may in fact be almost entirely attributed to the gradual development of its own internal resources, the fertility of the lands in its vicinity, and a large exportation, of late years, of lumber of all kinds to the United States.
Having no desire unnecessarily to trouble the reader with dry statistical tables, I shall merely quote the following facts and figures, kindly furnished me by G. Benjamin, Esq., the present warden of the county of Hastings, to whose business talents and public spirit the county is largely indebted for its progress in internal improvement.
The increase of business at the port of Belleville has been most extraordinary. In 1839, the total amount of duties paid at this port amounted to 280l; and in the year (1850) the amount reached 3659l. 12s. 4d. The total arrivals at this port from the United States are as follows:
No. of Tons Hands Vessels employed British propellers ........... 8 2,400 104 British sailing vessels ...... 81 4,140 375 Foreign do. do. .............. 124 12,643 730 — — — Total ........................ 213 19,183 1209 This in addition to our daily steamers. Our exports to the United States are ............ L52,532 17 5 And British ports below Belleville .............. 153,411 16 6 — L205,944 13 11 L s d Total imports from United States 25,067 2 6 Total acceptances from United States 17,435 0 0 Total importations from lower ports, including drafts and other resources 130,294 0 0 172,796 2 6 — — Showing the balance of trade in favour of this port to be ........................ L33,148 11 5 Our exports to the lower ports are made up as follows: 3,485 barrels of Potash .................... L27,880 0 0 33,198 " Flour ..................... 33,198 0 0 357 bushels of Grass seed ................ 133 17 6 1,450 " Barley .................... 181 5 0 4,947 " Peas ...................... 594 14 0 4,349 " Rye ....................... 434 18 0 37,360 " Wheat ..................... 7,472 0 0 198 barrels of Pork ...................... 396 0 0 54 " Beef ...................... 74 5 0 1,141 Sheep-skins .......................... 114 2 0 4,395,590 feet square Timber ................... 74,903 2 6 173 kegs of Butter ....................... 540 12 6 Furs ................................. 716 0 0 Fatted Cattle ........................ 1,840 0 0 High Wines ........................... 3,098 0 0 Whiskey .............................. 1,830 0 0 — L153,411 16 6 Our exports to the United States are made up as follows: 30,686 bushels of Wheat ..................... L6,137 4 11 3,514 " Rye ....................... 351 8 0 3,728 " Peas ...................... 466 0 0 90 " Barley .................... 9 0 0 316 " Grass seed ................ 118 10 0 18,756 barrels of Flour ..................... 18,756 0 0 338 " Potash .................... 2,366 0 0 1,000 bushels of Potatoes .................. 62 10 0 92 M. Shingles .................. 23 0 0 117 M. Laths ..................... 43 15 0 18,210 lbs. Rags ...................... 190 0 0 9,912 lbs. Wool ...................... 481 19 6 466 Sheep-skins .......................... 57 10 0 61 kegs of Butter ....................... 122 0 0 19,648,000 feet sawed Lumber .................... 21,296 0 0 513 Cows ................................. 2,052 0 0 — L52,532 17 5
The River Moira passing through Belleville, where it discharges itself into the Bay of Quinte, is one principal source of its prosperity. The preceding statement will show the quantity of sawed lumber exported, most of which is furnished by the saw-mills of Belleville, or its immediate vicinity. Besides saw and flour-mills, there are cloth and paper manufactories, a manufactory of edge tools; pail manufactories, where great quantities of these useful articles are made at a low price by machinery; planing machines, several iron foundries breweries, distilleries, &c., in almost all of which establishments steam-engines, or water-power from the river, are used. A remarkable feature in Belleville, in common with other towns in Canada, is the great number of tailoring and shoe-making establishments, when compared with towns of an equal population in Great Britain. This shows, more than anything I am aware of, the general prosperity of the people, who can afford to be large consumers of such articles.
There is very little difference to be observed in the costliness of the clothing of the different classes of society in Upper Canadian towns and cities, and much less difference in the taste with which these articles are selected, than might be expected. With the exception of the lower class of labourers, all persons are well and suitably clad, and they can afford to be so.
Twelve years ago there were not more than five or six piano-fortes in Belleville. Now there are nearly one hundred of a superior description, costing from 80 to 150 pounds.
Another remarkable circumstance in Upper Canada is the number of lawyers in all the towns. In Belleville there are about a dozen, which seems to be a large number for a town containing only 4554 inhabitants, when in an English town of the same size there is often not more than one. Of course, I do not mention this as any particular advantage, but to show the great difference in the amount of transactions, and of subjects of contention, in an old and a new country. The same may be said of the number of newspapers, as indicative of commercial activity. Two newspapers, representing the two political parties, are well-supported in Belleville, both by their subscribers, and the number of advertisements.
The mouth of the Moira River, which widens out at its junction with the Bay of Quinte, is completely covered with saw-logs and square timber of various kinds during the summer months. This river, at Belleville, is often dammed up by confused piles of timber. No sooner are these removed than its waters are covered over by vast quantities of oak staves, which are floated down separately to be rafted off like the squared lumber for the Quebec market. The greater proportion of the saw-logs are, however, cut up for exportation to the United States by the various saw-mills on the river, or by a large steam saw-mill with twenty or thirty run of saws, erected on a little island in the mouth of the river. Several large schooners are constantly loading with sawed lumber, and there are two or three steamboats always running between Belleville and Kingston, carrying passengers to and fro, and generally heavily laden with goods or produce. The Bay of Quinte offers more than common facilities in the summer months for rapid and safe communication with other places; and, in the winter time, being but slightly affected by the current of the river Trent, it affords excellent sleighing.
Large quantities of wheat and other farm produce are transported over the ice to Belleville from the neighbouring county of Prince Edward, which is an exceedingly prosperous agricultural settlement, yielding wheat of the finest quality, and particularly excellent cheese and butter. The scenery on the shores of Prince Edward is exceedingly picturesque, and there are numerous wharfs at short distances, from whence the farmers roll their barrels of flour and other articles on board the steamers on their way to market. I have seen no scenery in Upper Canada presenting the same variety and beauty as that of the shores of Prince Edward in particular.
The peninsular situation of this county is its only disadvantage—being out of the line of the land travel and of the telegraphic communication which passes through Belleville. The county of Prince Edward having nearly exhausted its exportation lumber—the people are thus freed from the evils of a trade that is always more or less demoralising in its tendency and can now give their undivided attention to the cultivation of their farms. Certain it is, that more quiet, industrious, and prosperous settlers, are not to be found in the Province.
A few miles below Belleville, on the south side of the bay, is a very remarkable natural curiosity, called "The Stone Mills." On the summit of a table-land, rising abruptly several hundred feet above the shore of the bay, there is a lake of considerable size and very great depth, and which apparently receives a very inadequate supply from the elevated land on which it is situated. The lake has no natural outlet, and the common opinion is that it is unfathomable, and that it is supplied with water by means of a subterranean communication with Lake Huron, or some other lake at the same level. This is, of course, extremely improbable, but there can be no doubt of its great depth, and that it cannot be supplied from the Bay of Quinte, so far beneath its level. As a small rivulet runs into this lake from the flat ground in its vicinity, and as the soil of this remarkable excavation, however it may have been originally formed, is tenacious, I think we require no such improbable theory to account for its existence. Availing himself of the convenient position of this lake, a farmer in the neighbourhood erected a mill, which gives its name to the lake, on the shore of the Bay of Quinte, and which he supplied with water by making a deep cutting from the lake to the edge of the precipice, from whence it is conveyed in troughs to the mill.
There is a somewhat similar lake in the township of Sidney in the county of Hastings, covering some hundred acres. This lake is also of great depth, though situated on the summit of a range of high hills, from whence it gets the name of the "Oak Hill Pond."
The Bay of Quinte abounds in excellent fish of various kinds, affording excellent sport to those who are fond of fishing. When the ice breaks up in the spring, immense shoals of pickerel commence running up the Moira river, at Belleville, to spawn in the interior. At that time a number of young men amuse themselves with spearing them, standing on the flat rocks at the end of the bridge which crosses the river They dart their spears into the rushing waters at hap-hazard in the darkness, bringing up a large fish at every second or third stroke. My eldest son, a youth of fifteen, sometimes caught so many fish in this manner in two or three hours, that we had to send a large wheelbarrow to fetch them home. Formerly, before so many mills were erected, the fish swarmed in incredible numbers in all our rivers and lakes.
In the back-woods there is excellent deer-hunting, and parties are often formed for this purpose by the young men, who bring home whole waggon-loads of venison.
While speaking of Belleville, I may mention, as one of its chief advantages, the long period for which the sleighing continues in this part of the country, when compared with other places on the shore of Lake Ontario. Nearly the whole winter there is excellent sleighing on the Bay of Quinte; and on the land we have weeks of good sleighing for days in most other places. This is owing to the influence of a large sheet of frozen water interposed between us and Lake Ontario, which is never frozen.
The county of Prince Edward is a peninsula connected with the main land by a narrow isthmus of low swampy land about four miles wide. Through this neck of land it has long been in contemplation to cut a canal to enable the lake steam-boats to take Belleville in their route between Kingston and Toronto, thus affording a safe navigation in stormy weather. The effect of such a work on the prosperity of the counties of Hastings and Prince Edward would be very great, as European emigrants would have an opportunity of seeing a country which has hitherto escaped their notice, from the causes already mentioned.
Besides the usual variety of churches, there is a grammar-school, and also four large common schools, which latter are free schools, being supported by assessments on the people of the town.
Every Saturday, which is the great day for business from the country, the streets are crowded with farmers' waggons or sleighs, with their wives and pretty daughters, who come in to make their little purchases of silk gowns and ribbons, and to sell their butter and eggs, which are the peculiar perquisites for the females in this country. The counties of Hastings and Prince Edward are celebrated for female beauty, and nowhere can you see people in the same class more becomingly attired. At the same time there is nothing rustic about them, except genuine good nature and unaffected simplicity of manners. To judge by their light elastic step and rosy smiling countenances, no people on earth seem to enjoy a greater share of health and contentment.
Since the establishment of the county municipal councils, plank and macadamised roads have branched out in all directions from the various central county towns, stretching their ramifications like the veins of the human body, conveying nourishment and prosperity throughout the country, increasing the trade and the travel, connecting man with man and promoting intelligence and civilisation; while the magnetic telegraph, now traversing the whole length of the country, like the nervous system, still further stimulates the inhabitants to increased activity.
The people of this county have not been behind their neighbours in these improvements. The first plank-road which they constructed was from Belleville to Canniff's Mills, a distance of three miles over a road which at the time was often knee-deep in mud, with a solid foundation of flat limestone rock, which prevented the escape of the water. So infamous was this road, that, on some parts of it, it was a matter of serious doubt whether a boat or waggon would be the better mode of conveyance. Notwithstanding the badness of this road, it was the greatest thoroughfare in the county, as it was the only approach to a number of mills situated on the river, and to Belleville, from the back country. It was, however, with the utmost difficulty that the warden could induce the other members of the county-council to sanction the construction of a plank-road at the expense of the county; so little was then known in Canada of the effects of such works.
The profits yielded by this road are unusually large, amounting, it is said, to seventy or eighty per cent. This extraordinary success encouraged the people to undertake other lines, by means of joint-stock companies formed among the farmers. All these plank-roads are highly remunerative, averaging, it is stated, fourteen per cent. over and above all expenses of repair. More than thirty miles of plank-road is already constructed in the county. In a few years plank or gravel roads will be extended through every part of the country, and they will be most available as feeders to the great line of railway which will very soon be constructed through the entire length of the province, and which has been already commenced at Toronto and Hamilton. A single track plank-road costs from 375 to 425 pounds per mile, according to the value of the land to be purchased, or other local causes. The cost of a gravel road, laid twelve feet wide and nine inches deep, and twenty-two feet from out to out, is from 250 to 325 pounds, and it is much more lasting, and more easily repaired than a plank-road. Macadamised or gravel roads will no doubt entirely supersede the others.
In the present circumstances of the colony, however, plank-roads will be preferred, because they are more quickly constructed, and with less immediate outlay of money in the payment of labourer's wages, as our numerous saw-mills enable the farmers to get their own logs sawed, and they thus pay the greater portion of their instalments on the stock taken in the roads. In fact, by making arrangements with the proprietors of saw-mills they can generally manage to get several months' credit, so that they will receive the first dividends from the road before they will be required to pay any money. The mode of making these roads is exceedingly simple.
The space required for the road is first levelled, ditched, and drained, and then pieces of scantling, five or six inches square, are laid longitudinally on each side, at the proper distance for a road-way twelve feet wide, and with the ends of each piece sawn off diagonally, so as to rest on the end of the next piece, which is similarly prepared, to prevent the road from settling down unequally. The pieces of scantling thus connected are simply bedded firmly in the ground, which is levelled up to their upper edges. Pine planks, three inches thick, are then laid across with their ends resting on the scantling. The planks are closely wedged together like the flooring of a house, and secured here and there by strong wooden pins, driven into auger-holes bored through the planks into the scantling. The common way is to lay the plank-flooring at right angles with the scantling, but a much better way has been adopted in the county of Hastings. The planks are here laid diagonally, which of course requires that they should be cut several feet longer. This ensures greater durability, as the shoes of the horses cut up the planks much more when the grain of the wood corresponds in direction with their sharp edges. When a double track is required, three longitudinal courses of scantling are used, and the ends of the planks meet on the centre one. Very few, if any, iron nails are generally used.
The great advantage of a plank-road is the large load it enables the horses to draw. Whilst on a common road a farmer can only carry twenty-five bushels of wheat in his waggon, a plank-road will enable him to carry forty or fifty bushels of the same grain with a pair of horses. The principal disadvantage of the plank-roads is, that they are found by experience to be injurious to horses, particularly when they are driven quickly on them. They are best adapted for a large load drawn at a slow pace. I shall not attempt to describe the country in the neighbourhood of Belleville, or the more northern parts of the county. It will suffice to observe, that the country is generally much varied in its surface, and beautiful, and the soil is generally excellent. Within the last ten or twelve years the whole country has been studded with good substantial stone or brick houses, or good white painted frame houses, even for thirty miles back, and the farms are well fenced and cultivated, showing undeniable signs of comfort and independence. Streams and water are abundant, and there are several thriving villages and hamlets scattered through the county,—the village of Canniff's Mills, three miles from Belleville, and soon destined to form a part of it, alone containing a population of about a thousand.
In describing the progress of this county, I may be understood as describing that of most other counties in the Upper Province; the progress of all of them being rapid, though varying according to the advantages of situation or from causes already alluded to.
From what has been said, the reader will perceive that the present condition of Canada generally is exceedingly prosperous, and when the resources of the country are fully developed by the railroads now in progress of construction, and by the influx of capital and population from Europe, no rational person can doubt that it will ultimately be as prosperous and opulent as any country in the world, ancient or modern.
It may be said, "should we not then be hopeful and contented with our situation and prospects." And so the people are in the main, and the shrewd capitalists of England think so, or they would not be so ready to invest their money in our public works. But some deduction from this general state of contentment and confidence must be made for those little discontents and grumblings created by the misrepresentations of certain disappointed politicians and ambitious men of all parties, who expect to gain popularity by becoming grievance-mongers. Much has been done, and a great deal still remains to be done in the way of reform, here as elsewhere. But there never was any just cause or motive in that insane cry for "annexation" to the United States, which was raised some years ago, and by the tories, too, of all people in the world! The "annexation" mania can now only be regarded as indicative of the last expiring struggle of a domineering party—it would not be correct to call it a political party—which had so long obstructed the progress of Canada by its selfish and monopolising spirit, when it found that its reign had ceased for ever.
Great sacrifices have been, and will be made, by men of loyalty and principle in support of institutions, which are justly dear to every Briton and to every freeman; but this feeling necessarily has its limits along the mass of mankind; and the loyalty of a people must be supported by reason and justice. They should have good reason to believe that their institutions are more conducive to happiness and prosperity than those of all other countries. Without this conviction, loyalty in a people who have by any means been deprived of the power of correcting the abuses of their government, would be hardly rational. Canadians now have that power to its full extent. Why, then, should we not be loyal to the constitution of our country which has stood the test of ages, purifying itself and developing its native energies as a vigorous constitution outgrows disease in the human frame. The government of Canada is practically more republican than that of the mother country and nearly as republican as that of the United States. Our government is also notoriously much less expensive. Our public officers are also, practically, much more responsible to the people, though indirectly, because they are appointed by a Colonial Ministry who are elected by the people, and whose popularity depends in a great degree on the selections they make and upon their watchfulness over their conduct.
The government of the United States is not a cheap government, because all officers being elective by the people, the responsibility of the selections to office is divided and weakened. Moreover, the change or prospect of the electors being the elected inclines them to put up with abuses and defalcations which would be considered intolerable under another form of government. The British Government now holds the best security for the continued loyalty of the people of Canada, in their increasing prosperity. To Great Britain they are bound by the strongest ties of duty and interest; and nothing but the basest ingratitude or absolute infatuation can ever tempt them to transfer their allegiance to another country.
I shall conclude this chapter with a few verses written two years ago, and which were suggested by an indignant feeling at the cold manner with which the National Anthem was received by some persons who used to be loud in their professions of loyalty on former public occasions. Happily, this wayward and pettish, I will not call it disloyal spirit, has passed away, and most of the "Annexationists" are now heartily ashamed of their conduct.
GOD SAVE THE QUEEN
God save the Queen. The time has been
When these charmed words, or said or sung,
Have through the welkin proudly rung;
And, heads uncovered, every tongue
Has echoed back—"God save the Queen!"
God save the Queen!
It was not like the feeble cry
That slaves might raise as tyrants pass'd,
With trembling knees and hearts downcast,
While dungeoned victims breathed their last
In mingled groans of agony!
God save the Queen!
Nor were these shouts without the will,
Which servile crowds oft send on high,
When gold and jewels meet the eye,
When pride looks down on poverty.
And makes the poor man poorer still!
God save the Queen!
No!—it was like the thrilling shout—
The joyous sounds of price and praise
That patriot hearts are wont to raise,
'Mid cannon's roar and bonfires blaze,
When Britain's foes are put to rout—
God save the Queen!
For 'mid those sounds, to Britons dear,
No dastard selfish thoughts intrude
To mar a nation's gratitude:
But one soul moves that multitude—
To sing in accents loud and clear—
God save the Queen!
Such sounds as these in days of yore,
On war-ship's deck and battle plain,
Have rung o'er heaps of foemen slain—
And with God's help they'll ring again,
When warriors' blood shall flow no more,
God save the Queen!
God save the Queen! let patriots cry;
And palsied be the impious hand
Would guide the pen, or wield the brand,
Against our glorious Fatherland.
Let shouts of freemen rend the sky,
God save the Queen!—and Liberty!
- Reader! my task is ended.