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HINTS TO EMIGRANTS: LETTER XXII

LETTERS FROM PERTH,
UPPER CANADA.
BY THE
REV. WILLIAM BELL


LETTER  XXII


SHIPS BOUND FOR Montreal generally make a short stay at Quebec till they are entered at the customhouse. Emigrants have then an opportunity of going ashore to see the city and fortifications, to procure necessaries, and to transact business. Should an unfavourable wind, or other cause, detain the vessel longer than they wish to remain, they may proceed to Montreal by one of the steam-boats, which leave Quebec two or three times a-week during the summer. The distance is 180 miles; but one day, or perhaps a little more, will bring them to Montreal. There, at the Emigrants' Office, they may procure much useful information, or they may purchase whatever stores and necessaries they may be in want of. Tea, sugar, spirits, bread, &c. are cheaper than in Britain, but articles of clothing and hardware are dearer. Those who wish to settle near Montreal will find abundance of land, either to be let or sold, but it will be dearer than that at a distance. Those who intend to proceed to the upper province, must procure carts to convey their baggage to La Chine, which is nine miles higher up. The river, all the way, is full of dangerous rapids, but a canal is now cutting between Montreal and La Chine, which, when finished, will obviate that difficulty. At La Chine boats may be hired to Kingston, which is 200 miles above Montreal, or to any shorter distance. A steamboat sails three times a-week between Prescott and Kingston, a distance of sixty-eight miles. Two hundred and eighty from the latter place, the steamboat Frontenac, sails every week during the summer, to York and Niagara. Those who intend to proceed farther, will have to travel eighteen miles by land and then embark at Chippewa, and traverse Lake Erie, or if they prefer it, they can proceed all the way to the Talbot Settlement by land.
           Those who intend to reside in the Perth or Lanark Settlement ought to land at Brockville, which is 132 miles above Montreal. They can easily procure waggons to carry them to Perth, which is forty-two miles, or to Lanark, which is fifty-six miles from Brockville. The expense of conveyance from Montreal to Perth is about two dollars a cwt. In these new settlements lands may, at any time, be purchased or rented at a moderate rate, and no place in Canada presents a more agreeable residence for British emigrants. Those who prefer the Richmond Settlement, may either come by Perth, or, which is a nearer way, proceed from La Chine up the Ottawa, and land at the point of Nepean, which is about 120 miles above Montreal. The distance from the point or landing place to Richmond, is about twenty miles. From this settlement, a considerable quantity of both timber and staves have been exported during the present year, 1823.
           The county of Carleton, in which the military settlements are situated, did not, till 1816, receive any settlers except a few in the township of Nepean, but so rapidly has its population, since that time, increased, that in 1823 it contains about 5000. At present it may be viewed as an inland place, but it is watered by several fine rivers which fall into the Ottawa. These, by a little improvement, will be rendered navigable for boats, by which a communication may be carried on with Montreal at a moderate expense. The military road, too, which is now opened from the Point of Nepean to Kingston, and the canal which is soon to be commenced, will all tend to render it one of the most thriving districts in Upper Canada.
           After so much has been said and written on the subject of Canada, any geographical description of it may seem quite superfluous. Take, however, the following brief notices. They may be interesting to some, if not to all, whose reading is not extensive. Its extent has never been accurately defined, but it may be averaged at 1500 miles in length and 200 in breadth. It is divided into two provinces, called the Upper and the Lower: the Ottawa, in a great part of its course, forming the boundary line between them. Canada is bounded by the United States on the south and east, and by Indian lands, little known, except by fur traders, on the north and west. The St. Lawrence, one of the largest rivers in the world, rises near its western boundary, and, after running 2000 miles, and forming a number of large lakes in its course, falls into the ocean at the Island of Cape Breton. This noble river intersects the lower province nearly in the middle, and is the principal source of its wealth and prosperity.
           On approaching Lower Canada from the sea, one is apt to form a very unfavourable opinion of it. The shores are bold and rocky, the forest extends to the water's side, and the snow lies in some places till the end of May. On advancing a little way, however, the aspect of the country improves, the land is more level, the climate more mild, and thriving settlements appear scattered along the south bank of the river. The soil of the lower province is exceedingly various. About Quebec it is a dark brown loam; higher up it is sandy; and above Montreal a stiff clay prevails.
           Quebec is the capital of the province, and a place of considerable trade. It is built upon a rocky hill, on the north bank of the St. Lawrence, About 400 miles from its mouth. It contains about 20,000 inhabitants, and sends four members to the provincial parliament. It is strongly fortified, both by nature and art, and is capable of withstanding a regular siege. Being the principal port, all the shipping have to enter and clear out at the custom-house. The method here employed, of collecting all the duties at one place, is a great saving in expense. Part of the imports being consumed in the upper province, its government receives a share of the revenue according to a proportion previously agreed on. The French language still prevails; the English inhabitants forming much the smallest part of the population.
           The city of Montreal stands on the east side of an island of the same name, twenty-one miles long, and fourteen broad at the junction of the Ottawa and the St. Lawrence. Its population increased rapidly during the last war, and many enriched themselves by the lucrative trade which they carried on with the upper province and the United States. They amount to about 30,000, and send four members to the provincial parliament. About one half are of French, and the other half of English extraction; but the greater part can speak both French and English. They are distinguished by hospitality, activity, and enterprise, as the inhabitants of commercial cities generally are. Orchards abound in the neighbourhood, and the Agricultural Society, established in 1817, has given considerable encouragement to the farming interest, which was previously in a very low state.
           The town of Three Rivers stands on the north bank of the St. Lawrence, half way between Quebec and Montreal. It contains about 4000 inhabitants, the most of whom speak the French language. At a short distance from the town there are extensive iron works, which furnish cast goods of various kinds, both for domestic use and for exportation. Besides the above, there are in the lower province a few towns, or villages, of some importance, of which the principal are William Henry, forty-five miles below Montreal, Laprarie opposite to that city, and Chambly, nearby on the Richlieu River, sixteen miles farther east.
           The St. Lawrence is navigable for the largest ships to Quebec, for trading vessels to Montreal, and for batteau and Durham boats to Prescott, where sloop navigation again begins. The original French settlers were instructed by their government to found a city as far up the river as trading ships could ascend; and in this they have strictly complied with their orders; for Montreal, which has its name from a mountain in the middle of the island, is built close to the bottom of the first dangerous rapids. There is indeed a considerable current below the city, but ships can ascend it with a strong east wind. The La Chine canal joins the river just below this current where no doubt warehouses will be built and ships unloaded.
           Lower Canada is divided into seventeen counties which, together with the towns, send fifty members to the provincial parliament. This branch of the legislature has been dissolved four times since the year 1808, before the period prescribed by the constitution, in consequence of their opposition to the measures of government. The Legislative Council, which may correspond with the House of Peers in England, consists of thirty-three members. The Governor General is Commander of the Forces.
           The present inhabitants of Lower Canada, being chiefly descended from the original French settlers, speak the French language, profess the Roman Catholic religion, and cultivate their land in the old French fashion. They still retain all the gaiety, hospitality, and thoughtlessness of that nation. But though the Canadians are Roman Catholics, they discover very little of that intolerance of other denominations, which has often marked the character of that communion in other parts of the world.
           Upper Canada, though more elevated than the lower province, yet, being more to the south, possesses a milder climate; and, in consequence, offers better encouragement to agricultural pursuits. The first settlers being discharged soldiers and loyalists, who had lands assigned them at the end or the first American war, settled along the north bank of the St. Lawrence, about forty years ago. Since that time the population has received accessions every year of emigrants, both from Great Britain and the United States. From the former, indeed, it received few, till within the last eight years, being overlooked as a place of little or no importance; but of late many thousands, who could well be spared from home, settled upon its plains, and are now employing their energies with advantage, both to themselves and their country. The English language is, of course, generally spoken through the province.
           York is the seat of government, and has already assumed the appearance of a town, though it was laid out only in 1797. It was taken and partly burnt by the Americans during the late war. Its population is something short of 1500, though some travellers have represented it as amounting to more than twice that number. The town stands on a plain, at the head of a bay, on the north shore of Lake Ontario. It is 175 miles west from Kingston, and 375 from Montreal. It contains a handsome building, lately erected, for the accommodation of the two houses of Assembly. The country in the neighbourhood is well cultivated, and supplies its market with abundance of provisions at a moderate rate.
           Kingston, which is situated at the outlet of Lake Ontario, though not the seat of government, is both the oldest and the largest town in the province. It is built on a point of land formed by a bay on the one side, and the lake on the other. It was laid out in 1784, and contains, in 1823, a population of 2000, besides the garrison. The houses are mostly built of limestone, which is found in the neighbourhood in the greatest abundance, and of an excellent quality. When first dug, it is of an azure colour, but after exposure to the air for some time, it becomes nearly white. The fort and the naval dock yard are situated about a mile to the eastward of the town, on the opposite side of the bay. Here the little navy, employed upon the lake during the last war, is dismantled, and rests in peace. The largest vessel is the St. Lawrence, built for 100 guns.
           Niagara is the next town in importance. It is pleasantly situated on the west side of the St. Lawrence, or Niagara River, where it falls into Lake Ontario. Queenstown is eight miles higher up, and is the place where goods intended for the upper part of the province are landed, to be carried beyond the falls. It is a thriving and agreeable place, and already contains many good houses, though it was burnt by the American army during the last war. The celebrated falls of Niagara are seven miles above Queenstown; but I need add nothing to what has already been said of them by travellers.
           The county of Lincoln, which lies on the west side of the Niagara River, is by far the most populous in the province, and contains 14,000 inhabitants. The province is divided into twenty five counties, contains 120,000 inhabitants, and sends forty members to the House of Assembly. Each county, the population of which does not exceed 4000, sends one representative, but if it has more than that number, it sends two. The legislative council consists of twelve members. The members of the House of Assembly are chosen by British subjects, who possess a freehold of forty shillings of clear annual value in the country, or of £5 clear annual value in a town, or renting a house of at least £10 a-year. Any British subject may offer himself as a candidate, who is possessed of a freehold estate in the province, of the assessed value of £80, free of an encumbrance. The members are paid for their services at the rate of two dollars a-day. An election takes place once in four years, but the House of Assembly may be dissolved any time at the Governor's pleasure.
           Since the year 1792, all the benefits of the British constitution have been enjoyed by this colony. It was then divided into two provinces, and had a House of Assembly and Legislative Council constituted in each. They have power with the consent of the Governor, to make laws, provided they are not contrary to British acts Of Parliament. If any of the bills they pass seem doubtful, they are reserved for the King's approbation, who may refuse his assent any time within two years.
END OF LETTER XXII.          BACK TO START OF LETTER

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