Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER II.

THE BACK-WOODS.

Among the list of hackneyed expressions which for years I have been in the habit of repeating to myself, there is no one that comes oftener uppermost in my mind than the words—

"England, with all thy faults, I love thee still!"

At times when I have seen our merchants of London lend millions after millions of money, first, to countries in South America, whose geographical position I had reason to know they could not, with any one of their fingers, point out on a chart of the globe; and then, nothing daunted by defeat, to northern states in the same hemisphere, whose institutions everybody knows to be recipient, without ability to repay; when again I witnessed the mania this country evinced for working transatlantic mines, and which it still evinces for expending hundreds of millions of money in the projection of British and of foreign railroads, the capital of the empire has not power to construct, I own I have occasionally found it difficult to maintain the feelings of respect so justly due to the monosyllables "John Bull." On the other hand, "with all his faults," it is, I think, impossible for his bitterest enemy to help acknowledging that there is something generous and

amiable beyond description—noble and high-minded beyond example—and evidently productive of farsighted political results, in the fact, that every day, be the weather what it may, Jane, his beloved wife, presents to him one thousand babies more than the number he had requested of her to replace those members of his family who had just died!

Now inasmuch as this deliberate increase to our population of 365,000 babies a year (which equals the number of men, women, and children in the counties of Hampshire or of Essex) as clearly evinces a desire, as it creates a necessity, for Great Britain to people, by emigration, some of those vast regions of the globe which, since the creation of the world, have remained uninhabited, it is wonderful to observe how admirably Nature has parcelled out to the different nations of mankind the cultivation of those territories which are best suited to their respective characters and physical strength.

For instance, the indolent inhabitants of Old Spain and of Portugal were led, apparently by blind chance, to discover, in the New World, plains of vast extent, situated in a genial climate, which, without any culture, were fitted for the breeding of almost every animal that forms the food of man.

On the other hand, by the same mariner's compass, the Anglo-Saxon race were conducted to a region visited by intense cold, and covered with trees of such enormous size that emigration to this country has justly been termed "War with the Wilderness;" and certainly any man who has experienced in it the amount of fatigue to be endured in cutting down a single tree, in ploughing among its roots, and in sowing and reaping around its stump, must feel that it required a strong, healthy, hardy race of men to clear a country in which the settler has, as it were, to engage himself in a duel with each and every individual tree of the interminable forest that surrounds him.

But, on the discovery of America, Nature not only led the British to the battle-ground I have described, but by instinctive feeling she has since conducted, and continues to conduct to it, the individuals of our country best suited to the task.

It would be incorrect to state that the many thousands of emigrants that have annually sailed for our North American provinces have been particularly athletic; but, as the French army truly say, "C'est le cceur qui fait le grenadier," so it may accurately be stated that, with a few exceptions, they must have been persons of rather more enterprising disposition than their comrades whom they left at home; indeed, when I have reflected on the expense, anxiety, and uncertainty attendant upon emigrating to a new world, I have often felt astonished that labourers, tethered to their parish by so many ties and prejudices, should ever have summoned courage enough to make up their minds to sail with their families in a ship for countries in which, to say the least, they must land ignorant, friendless, and unknown.

But besides a certain amount of enterprise, there has, I believe, existed in the minds of all emigrants some little propulsive feeling or other—oftener good than bad—that has tended to put them on, as it is termed, their mettle, and to make them decide on a change of scene; indeed, when I was in Canada I often thought that it would have been as amusing to have kept a list of the various different reasons that had propelled from England those who were around me, as it is to read in Gil Bias the dissimilar causes which had brought together the motley inmates of Eolando's cave.

For instance, one very gallant naval officer told me that, after having obtained two steps in his profession, by actions with the enemy, he waited on William IV., when he was Lord High Admiral, to ask for a ship, in reply to which request he was good-humouredly told that " he was too young."

That about two years afterwards, on making a similar request to Sir James Graham, who had just succeeded to be First Lord of the Admiralty, with grave dignity he was told " that the policy of the Government was to bring forward young men, and that * he was too old;' and so," said my friend, " I instantly turned on my heel, and, declaring I would never again set my foot in the Admiralty till I was sent for, I came out to Canada."

The inability of the Government to attend to every just claim brought before its consideration drove crowds of distinguished officers of both services to the back-woods. Many fine fellows came out because they could not live without shooting, and did not choose to be poachers; a vast number crossed over because they had "heavy families and small incomes;" and one of the most loyal men I was acquainted with, and to whose protection I had afterwards occasion to be indebted, in answer to some questions I was inquisitively putting to him, stopped me by honestly saying, as he looked me full in the face, "My character, Sir, won't bear investigation!"

Of course, a proportion of the emigrants to our North American Colonies belong to that philanthropic class of men who, under the appellation of Socialists, Communistes, or Liberals, are to be met with in every corner of the Old World. Their doctrine is, Community of goods: but they have no goods at all. They preach—Division of property: but they have no property to divide. So that their principle is;—not so much to give all they have (for they have nothing to give) to other people;—as that other people should give all they have to them.

Propelled by these motley reasons, feelings, grievances, and doctrines, many thousands of families and individuals of various grades (in 1842 their number exceeded 42,000) have annually taken leave of the shores of Great Britain to seek refuge in the splendid wilderness of Canada, or, in other words sick of " vain pomp and glory," have left the old world for what they hoped would be a better.

Now, just as seafaring men declare that after Thames soup has undergone fermentation—during which process it emits from the bung-hole of the casks which contain it a gas highly offensive, and

« ZurückWeiter »