Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER VI.

THE LONG TROT.

When an engineer has to construct, in a foreign country, a work of magnitude upon which his reputation must stand or fall, his first object should be, by repeated trials, to ascertain the quality of the timber, iron, stone, lime, cement, and other materials of which his work is to be composed.

The same precaution is evidently necessary in' the administration of the government of an important colony; and accordingly my principal endeavour during the time I was in Canada was to make myself acquainted with the antagonist opinions, dissenting sects, and conflicting interests, as represented by the conglomerated population of the Province.

As my despatches were almost invariably written at night, for upwards of two years I was principally occupied in receiving for six days in the week, from ten in the morning till three or four o'clock in the afternoon, whoever might desire to see me; and as everybody had either some little grievance to complain of, some little favour to ask, or some slight curiosity to become acquainted with me,—in short, some small excuse for a holiday-trip to Toronto, my waiting-room was almost constantly supplied with a round-robin list of attendants, to which there was apparently no end.

I need hardly say that I had some endless, objectless, miserably-unimportant, and consequently most wearisome stories to listen to; and that the bulk of the business, if such it could be termed, would have been infinitely better transacted by written memorials, to be carefully examined and reported on, by the various departments to which each respectively belonged.

On the other hand, though I was often much fatigued by giving attention to such a variety of minute statements, many of which had neither head nor tail, and which were quite as confusedly understood by the various explainants as they were by me; yet I always felt it to be of infinite service to me thus to learn from their own mouths whatever the inhabitants of the Province might have to complain of; and that a little patience, a few sentences of explanation, and a few words of kindness, were seeds well worth the trouble of sowing.

But although by this dull routine I became personally acquainted with most of those who could afford the enjoyment of a journey to Toronto, yet there were, of course, many emigrants in the remote districts whose purses and whose occupations tethered them to their locations. From some of these I was in the habit of receiving letters on all sorts of subjects; and although it was occasionally not a very easy task to decipher them, it was very gratifying to me, after a careful analysis of their contents, to ascertain what very trifling grounds of complaint they contained: indeed, I believe that in many cases the grievance was not half equal to the trouble of describing it. Some evidently did not know in what form to begin or end their epistle; and some, who had managed to ascertain this, had really nothing to put in the middle of it. In short, I was addressed in all sorts of ways, and with all sorts of requests; as a sample of which I will insert the following very reasonable letter which I received from an old soldier of the 49th:—

"29th March, 1837.

"May it plase your Honor and glory, for iver more, Amen!

"I, James Ketsoe, Formly belonging to the 49 Regt. of Foot, was sent to this contry in 1817 by his Majesty Gorge the Forth to git land for myself and boys; but my boys was to small, but Plase your Honor now the Can work, so I hope your honor wold be so good to a low them Land, because the are Intitle to land by Lord Bathus. I was spaking to His Lord Ship in his one office in Downing Street, London, and he tould to beshure I wold Git land for my boys. Plase your Honor, I was spaking to Lord Almor before he went home about the land for my boys, and he sed to beshure I was Intitle to it.

"Lord Almor was Captain in the one Regt, that is, the Old 49th Regt. foot. Plase your Honor, I hope you will doe a old Solder Justis. God bless you and your family.

"Your most humble Sarvint,

"James Ketsoe.

"N.B. — Plase your Honor, I hope you will excuse my Vulgar way of writing to you, but these is hard times, Governor, so I hope you will send me an answer."

To these various applications I gave the clearest answers in my power; but knowing that a visit to my malcontents would give much more satisfaction than any letters I could write to them, I resolved to inspect every district in the province, and accordingly, during the two summers I was in Canada, I employed myself in this duty.

The plan I pursued was, to give notice of the time and place at which I proposed to enter each district; and accordingly, on my arrival, I generally found assembled, on horseback, people of all conditions, who, generally from good feelings, and occasionally from curiosity, had determined to accompany me through their respective townships.

The pace I travelled at, from morning till five or six o'clock in the evening, was a quiet, steady, unrelenting trot; and in this way I proceeded many hundred miles, listening sometimes to one description of politics and sometimes to another — sometimes to an anecdote, and sometimes to a complaint —sometimes to a compliment, and sometimes, though very rarely, to observations evidently proceeding from a moral region " on the north side of friendly."

I thus visited all the cities, towns, and largest villages; all the principal locations;—the Rideau, St. Lawrence, and Welland canals; all the public works, the macadamised roads, plank roads, corduroy roads, the great harbours, lighthouses, and the great rivers. I went down the rapids of the Trent in a bark canoe,—down the Ottawa water-slide on a raft, with the lumberers; in fact, I traversed the wilderness of Canada in various directions, from the extreme east to the extreme west, and visited Lakes Huron, Erie. Simcoe, and Ontario.

But although the features of the country were highly interesting, the experience I valued most of all was the moral and political information I was enabled to collect from the numerous persons who were good enough to ride along with me, and whom I always found as ready to instruct me as I was to learn; in short, quite as willing to couch from my eyes the film of ignorance and prejudice as I was to submit—so far as it could rudely be done at a trot— to the operation.

It would not only make a large volume, but an exceedingly dull one, were I to describe in detail the various public works I inspected, the scenes I visited, or the facts and opinions I collected; I will therefore briefly make but a few unconnected observations.

Although every foreigner, the instant he lands in England, is struck with the evidence displayed before him, in every direction, of the wealth and energy of the British people, yet a much more striking exemplification of both is to be seen by any one who will carefully survey a British colony.

For instance, the growth of the colony of Upper Canada demonstrates beyond all doubt the extraordinary vigour of its parent state.

Fifty years ago, the region in question, which is considerably larger than England and Wales, and which is bounded by five or six of the largest States of the adjoining republic, was a splendid wilderness

« ZurückWeiter »