The Englishwoman in America, by Isabella Bird

Chapter 14.

Concluding remarks on Canada — Territory — Climate — Capabilities — Railways and canals — Advantages for emigrants — Notices of emigration — Government — The franchise — Revenue — Population — Religion — Education — The press — Literature — Observations in conclusion.

The increasing interest which attaches to this noble colony fully justifies me in devoting a chapter to a fuller account of its state and capabilities than has yet been given here.

Canada extends from Gaspe, on the Gulf of St. Lawrence, to Lake Superior. Its shores are washed by the lakes Huron, Erie, and Ontario, and by the river St. Lawrence as far as the 45th parallel of latitude; from thence the river flows through the centre of the province to the sea. Canada is bounded on the west and south by the Great Lakes and the United States; to the east by New Brunswick and the ocean; and to the north by the Hudson’s Bay territory, though its limits in this direction are by no means accurately defined. Canada is but a small portion of the vast tract of country known under the name of British America, the area of which is a ninth part of the globe, and is considerably larger than that of the United States, being 2,630,163,200 acres.

Canada contains 17,939,000 occupied acres of land, only 7,300,000 of which are cultivated; and about 137,000,000 acres are still unoccupied. Nearly the whole of this vast territory was originally covered with forests, and from the more distant districts timber still forms a most profitable article of export; but wherever the land is cleared it is found to be fertile in an uncommon degree. It is very deficient in coal, but in the neighbourhood of Lake Superior mineral treasures of great value have been discovered to abound.

Very erroneous ideas prevail in England on the subject of the Canadian climate. By many persons it is supposed that the country is for ever “locked in regions of thick-ribbed ice,” and that skating and sleighing are favourite summer diversions of the inhabitants. Yet, on the contrary, Lower Canada, or that part of the country nearest to the mouth of the St. Lawrence, has a summer nearly equalling in heat those of tropical climates. Its winter is long and severe, frequently lasting from the beginning of December until April; but, if the thermometer stands at 35° below zero in January, it marks 90° in the shade in June. In the neighbourhood of Quebec the cold is not much exceeded by that within the polar circle, but the dryness of the air is so great that it is now strongly recommended for those of consumptive tendencies. I have seen a wonderful effect produced in the early stages of pulmonary disorders by a removal from the damp, variable climate of Europe to the dry, bracing atmosphere of Lower Canada. Spring is scarcely known; the transition from winter to summer is very rapid; but the autumn or fall is a long and very delightful season. It is not necessary to dwell further upon the Lower Canadian climate, as, owing to circumstances hereafter to be explained, few emigrants in any class of life make the Lower Province more than a temporary resting-place.

From the eastern coast to the western boundary the variations in climate are very considerable. The peninsula of Canada West enjoys a climate as mild as that of the state of New York. The mean temperature, taken from ten years’ observation, was 44°, and the thermometer rarely falls lower than 11° below zero, while the heat in summer is not oppressive. The peach and vine mature their fruit in the neighbourhood of Lake Ontario, and tobacco is very successfully cultivated on the peninsula between Lake Erie and Lake Huron. It seems that Upper Canada, free from the extremes of heat and cold, is intended to receive a European population. Emigrants require to become acclimatised, which they generally are by an attack of ague, more or less severe; but the country is extraordinarily healthy; with the exception of occasional visitations of cholera, epidemic diseases are unknown, and the climate is very favourable to the duration of human life.

The capabilities of Canada are only now beginning to be appreciated. It has been principally known for its vast exports of timber, but these constitute a very small part of its wealth. Both by soil and climate Upper Canada is calculated to afford a vast and annually-increasing field for agricultural and pastoral pursuits. Wheat, barley, potatoes, turnips, maize, hops, and tobacco, can all be grown in perfection. Canada already exports large quantities of wheat and flour of a very superior description; and it is stated that in no country of the world is there so much wheat grown, in proportion to the population and the area under cultivation, as in that part of the country west of Kingston. The grain-growing district is almost without limit, extending as it does along the St. Lawrence, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario, to Windsor, with a vast expanse of country to the north and west. The hops, which are an article of recent cultivation, are of very superior quality, and have hitherto been perfectly free from blight.

Vast as are the capabilities of Canada for agricultural pursuits, she also offers great facilities for the employment of capital in manufacturing industry, though it is questionable whether it is desirable to divert labour into these channels in a young country where it is dear and scarce. The streams which intersect the land afford an unlimited and very economical source of power, and have already been used to a considerable extent. Lower Canada and the shores of the Ottawa afford enormous supplies of white pine, and the districts about Lake Superior contain apparently inexhaustible quantities of ore, which yields a very large percentage of copper. We have thus in Canada about 1400 miles of territory, perhaps the most fertile and productive ever brought under the hands of the cultivator; and as though Providence had especially marked out this portion of the New World as a field for the enterprise of the European races, its natural facilities for transit and communication are nearly unequalled. The Upper Lakes, the St. Lawrence, the Ottawa, and the Saguenay, besides many rivers of lesser note, are so many natural highways for the conveyance of produce of every description from the most distant parts of the interior to the Atlantic Ocean. Without these natural facilities Canada could never have progressed to the extraordinary extent which she has already done.

Great as these adventitious advantages are, they have been further increased by British energy and enterprise. By means of ship-canals, formed to avoid the obstructions to navigation caused by the rapids of the St. Lawrence, Niagara, and the Sault Sainte Marie, small vessels can load at Liverpool and discharge their cargoes on the most distant shores of Lake Superior. On the Welland canal alone, which connects Lake Erie with Lake Ontario, the tolls taken in 1853 amounted to more than 65,000l. In the same year 19,631 passengers and 1,075,218 tons of shipping passed through it: the traffic on the other canals is in like proportion, and is monthly on the increase. But an extensive railway system, to facilitate direct communication with the Atlantic at all seasons of the year, is paving the way for a further and rapid development of the resources of Canada, and for a vast increase in her material prosperity. Already the Great Western Company has formed a line from Windsor, opposite Detroit, U. S., to Toronto, passing through the important towns of Hamilton, London, and Woodstock: a branch also connects Toronto with Lake Simcoe, opening up the very fertile tract of land in that direction. Another railway extends from Fort Erie, opposite Buffalo, to Goderich on Lake Huron, a distance of 158 miles. A portion of the Grand Trunk Railway has recently been opened, and trains now regularly run between Quebec and Montreal, a distance of 186 miles. When this magnificent railway is completed it will connect the cities of Quebec, Montreal, and Toronto, where, joining the Great Western scheme, the whole of Upper and Lower Canada will be connected with the great lakes and the western States of the neighbouring republic. The main line will cross the St. Lawrence at Montreal by a tubular bridge two miles in length. The Grand Trunk Railway will have its eastern terminus at Portland, in the State of Maine, between which city and Liverpool there will be regular weekly communication. This railway is, however, embarrassed by certain financial difficulties, which may retard for a time the completion of the gigantic undertaking.

Another railway connects the important city of Ottawa with Prescott, on the river St. Lawrence, and has its terminus opposite to the Ogdensburgh station of the Boston railway. Besides these there are numerous branches, completed or in course of construction, which will open up the industry of the whole of the interior. Some of these lines, particularly the Great Western, have a large traffic already, and promise to be very successful speculations.

The facilities for communication, and for the transit of produce, are among the most important of the advantages which Canada holds out to emigrants, but there are others which must not be overlooked. The healthiness of the climate has been already remarked upon, but it is an important consideration, as the bracing atmosphere and freedom from diseases allow to the hardy adventurer the free exercise of his vigour and strength.

Communication with England is becoming increasingly regular. During the summer months screw-steamers and sailing vessels ply between Liverpool and Quebec, from whence there is cheap and easy water communication with the districts bordering on the great lakes. From Quebec to Windsor, a distance of nearly 1000 miles, passengers are conveyed for the sum of 31s., and have the advantage of having their baggage under their eyes during the whole journey. The demand for labour in all parts of Canada West is great and increasing. The wages of farm-servants are 4l. per month with board: day-labourers earn from 4s. to 5s. per diem, and in harvest 10s., without board. The wages of carpenters and other skilled workmen vary according to their abilities; but they range between 7s. and 12s. 6d. per diem, taking these as the highest and lowest prices.

The cost of living is considerably below that in this country; for crockery, cutlery, &c., 50 per cent. advance on home retail prices is paid, and for clothing 50 to 75 per cent. addition on old country prices, if the articles are not of Canadian manufacture. The cost of a comfortable log-house with two floors, 16 feet by 24, is about 18l.; but it must be borne in mind that very little expenditure is needed on the part of the settler; his house and barns are generally built by himself, with the assistance of his neighbours; and a man with the slightest ingenuity or powers of imitation can also fabricate at a most trifling expense the few articles of household furniture needed at first. I have been in several log-houses where the bedsteads, tables, and chairs were all the work of the settlers themselves, at a cost probably of a few shillings; and though the workmanship was rough, yet the articles answer perfectly well for all practical purposes. Persons of sober, industrious habits, going out as workmen to Canada, speedily acquire comfort and independence. I have seen settlers who went out within the last eight years as day-labourers, now the owners of substantial homesteads, with the requisite quantity of farming-stock.

Canada West is also a most desirable locality for persons of intelligence who are possessed of a small capital. Along the great lakes and in the interior there are large tracts of land yet unoccupied. The price of wild land varies from 10s. to 10l. per acre, according to the locality. Cleared farms, with good buildings, in the best townships, are worth from 10l. to 15l. an acre: these prices refer to the lands belonging to the Canada Land Company; the crown lands sell at prices varying from 4s. to 7s. 6d. per acre, but the localities of these lands are not so desirable in most instances. The price of clearing wild lands is about 4l. 5s. per acre, but in many locations, particularly near the railways, the sale of the timber covers the expenses of clearing. As has been previously observed, the soil and climate of Upper Canada are favourable to a great variety of crops. Wheat, however, is probably the most certain and profitable, and, with respect to cereals and other crops, the produce of the land per acre is not less than in England. In addition to tobacco, flax and hemp are occupying the attention of the settlers; and as an annually increasing amount of capital is employed in factories, these last are likely to prove very profitable.

In addition to the capabilities of the soil, Lake Huron and the Georgian Bay present extensive resources in the way of fish, and their borders are peculiarly desirable locations for the emigrant population of the west of Ireland and the west Highlands of Scotland.

With such very great advantages, it is not surprising that the tide of emigration should set increasingly towards this part of the British dominions. The following is a statement of the number of persons who landed at Quebec during the last five years. The emigration returns for 1855 will probably show a very considerable increase:—

1850 32,292
1851 41,076
1852 39,176
1853 36,699
1854 53,183

It may be believed that the greater number of these persons are now enjoying a plenty, many an affluence, which their utmost exertions could not have obtained for them at home. Wherever a farmstead, surrounded by its well-cleared acres, is seen, it is more than probable that the occupant is also the owner. The value of land increases so rapidly, that persons who originally bought their land in its wild state for 4s. per acre, have made handsome fortunes by disposing of it. In Canada, the farmer holds a steady and certain position; if he saves money, a hundred opportunities will occur for him to make a profitable investment; but if, as is more frequently the case, he is not rich as far as money is concerned, he has all the comforts and luxuries which it could procure. His land is ever increasing in value; and in the very worst seasons, or under accidental circumstances of an unfavourable nature, he can never know real poverty, which is a deficiency in the necessaries of life.

But in Canada, as in the Old World, people who wish to attain competence or wealth must toil hard for it. In Canada, with all its capabilities and advantages, there is no royal road to riches — no Midas touch to turn everything into gold. The primal curse still holds good, “though softened into mercy;” and those who emigrate, expecting to work less hard for 5s. a day than at home for 1s. 6d., will be miserably disappointed, for, where high wages are given, hard work is required; those must also be disappointed who expect to live in style from off the produce of a small Canadian farm, and those whose imaginary dignity revolts from plough, and spade, and hoe, and those who invest borrowed capital in farming operations. The fields of the slothful in Canada bring forth thorns and thistles, as his fields brought them forth in England. Idleness is absolute ruin, and drunkenness carries with it worse evils than at home, for the practice of it entails a social ostracism, as well as total ruin, upon the emigrant and his family. The same conditions of success are required as in England — honesty, sobriety, and industry; with these, assisted by all the advantages which Canada possesses, there is no man who need despair of acquiring independence and affluence, although there is always enough of difficulty to moderate the extravagance of exaggerated expectations.

The Government of Canada demands a few remarks. Within the last few years the position of this colony, with respect to England, has been greatly changed, by measures which have received the sanction of the Imperial Parliament. In 1847 the Imperial Government abandoned all control over the Canadian tariff, and the colonial legislature now exercises supreme power over customs duties, and all matters of general and local taxation. This was a very important step, and gave a vast impulse to the prosperity of Canada. The colony now has all the advantages — free from a few of the inconveniences — of being an independent country. England retains the right of nominating the Governor–General, and the Queen has the power, rarely if ever exercised, of putting a veto upon certain of the acts of the colonial legislature. England conducts all matters of war and diplomacy, and provides a regular military establishment for the defence of Canada; and though she is neither required to espouse our quarrels, or bear any portion of our burdens, we should be compelled to espouse hers in any question relating to her honour or integrity, at a lavish expenditure of blood and treasure. It appears that the present relations in which Canada stands to England are greatly to her advantage, and there is happily no desire on her part to sever them.

The Governor–General is appointed by the Crown, generally for a term of five years, but is paid by the province; he acts as viceroy, and his assent to the measures of the Legislature is required, in order to render them valid. His executive council, composed of the ministers of the day, is analogous to our English Cabinet. The governor, like our own Sovereign, must bow to the will of a majority in the Legislature, and dismiss his ministers when they lose the confidence of that body. The “second estate” is the Legislative Council. The governor, with the advice of his ministry, appoints the members of this body. They are chosen for life, and their number is unrestricted. At present there are about forty members.

The functions of this council are very similar to those of our House of Peers, and consist, to a great extent, in registering the decrees of the Lower House. The “third estate” is denominated the House of Assembly, and consists of 130 members, 65 for each province.* The qualification for the franchise has been placed tolerably high, and no doubt wisely, as, in the absence of a better guarantee for the right use of it, a property qualification, however trifling in amount, has a tendency to elevate the tone of electioneering, and to enhance the value which is attached to a vote. The qualification for electors is a 50l. freehold, or an annual rent of 7l. 10s. Contrary to the practice in the States, where large numbers of the more respectable portion of the community abstain from voting, in Canada the votes are nearly all recorded at every election, and the fact that the franchise is within the reach of every sober man gives an added stimulus to industry.

* [The members of the Legislative Council and the House of Assembly receive six dollars (24s. sterling) a day for their attendance. The members of the Executive Council are paid at the rate of 1260l. per annum.]

The attempt to establish British constitutional government on the soil of the New World is an interesting experiment, and has yet to be tested. There are various disturbing elements in Canada, of which we have little experience in England; the principal one being the difficulty of legislating between what, in spite of the union, are two distinct, nations, of different races and religions. The impossibility of reconciling the rival, and frequently adverse claims, of the Upper and Lower Provinces, has become a very embarrassing question. The strong social restraints, and the generally high tone of public feeling in England, which exercise a powerful control over the minister of the day, do not at present exist in Canada; neither has the public mind that nice perception of moral truth which might be desired. The population of Upper Canada, more especially, has been gathered from many parts of the earth, and is composed of men, generally speaking, without education, whose sole aim is the acquisition of wealth, and who are not cemented by any common ties of nationality. Under these circumstances, and bearing in mind the immense political machinery which the Papacy can set to work in Canada, the transfer of British institutions to the colony must at present remain a matter of problematical success. It is admitted that the failure of representative institutions arises from the unworthiness of constituencies; and if the efforts which are made by means of education to elevate the character of the next generation of electors should prove fruitless, it is probable that, with the independence of the colony, American institutions, with their objectionable features, would follow. At present the great difficulties to be surmounted lie in the undue power possessed by the French Roman Catholic population, and the Romanist influences brought to bear successfully on the Government.

There is in Canada no direct taxation for national purposes, except a mere trifle for the support of the provincial lunatic asylums, and for some other public buildings. The provincial revenue is derived from customs duties, public works, crown lands, excise, and bank impost. The customs duties last year came to 1,100,000l., the revenue from public works to 123,000l., from lands about the same sum, from excise about 40,000l., and from the tax on the current notes of the banks 30,000l. Every county, township, town, or incorporated village, elects its own council; and all local objects are provided for by direct taxation through these bodies. In these municipalities the levying of the local taxes is vested, and they administer the monies collected for roads, bridges, schools, and improvements, and the local administration of public justice.

According to the census taken in 1851, the population of Upper Canada was 952,000 souls, being an increase since 1842 of 465,945. That of Lower Canada amounted to 890,000, making a total of 1,842,000; but if to this we add the number of persons who have immigrated within the last four years, we have a population of 2,012,134.

Of the population of Lower Canada, 669,000 are of French origin. These people speak the French language, and profess the Romish faith. The land is divided into seigneuries; there are feudal customs and antiquated privileges, and the laws are based upon the model of those of old France. The progress of Lower Canada is very tardy. The French have never made good colonists, and the Romish religion acts as a drag upon social and national progress. The habitans of the Lower Province, though moral and amiable, are not ambitious, and hold their ancient customs with a tenacity which opposes itself to their advancement. The various changes in the tariff made by the Imperial Government affected Lower Canada very seriously. On comparing the rate of increase in the population of the two provinces in the same period of twelve years, we find that for Upper Canada it was 130 per cent., for Lower Canada only 34 per cent. The disparity between the population and the wealth of the two provinces is annually on the increase.

The progress of Upper Canada is something perfectly astonishing, and bids fair to rival, if not exceed, that of her gigantic neighbour. Her communication between the Lake district and the Atlantic is practically more economical, taking the whole of the year, and, as British emigration has tended chiefly to the Upper Province, the population is of a more homogeneous character than that of the States. The climate also is more favourable than that of Lower Canada. These circumstances, combined with the inherent energy of the Anglo–Saxon races which have principally colonised it, account in great measure for the vast increase in the material prosperity of the Upper Province as compared with the Lower.

In 1830 the population of Upper Canada was 210,437 souls; in 1842, 486,055; and in 1851 it had reached 952,004. Its population is now supposed to exceed that of Lower Canada by 300,000 souls. It increased in nine years about 100 per cent. In addition to the large number of emigrants who have arrived by way of Quebec, it has received a considerable accession of population from the United States; 7000 persons crossed the frontier in 1854. The increase of its wealth is far more than commensurate with that of its population. The first returns of the assessable property of Upper Canada were taken in 1825, and its amount was estimated at 1,854,965l. In 1845 it was estimated at 6,393,630l; but in seven years after this, in 1852, it presents the astonishing amount of 37,695,931l.! The wheat crop of Upper Canada in 1841 was 3,221,991 bushels, and in 1851 it was 12,692,852; but the present year, 1855, will show a startling and almost incredible increase. In addition to the wealth gained in the cultivation of the soil, the settlers are seizing upon the vast water-power which the country affords, and are turning it to the most profitable purposes. Saw-mills, grist-mills, and woollen-mills start up in every direction, in addition to tool and machinery factories, iron-foundries, asheries, and tanneries.

Towns are everywhere springing up as if by magic along the new lines of railway and canal, and the very villages of Upper Canada are connected by the electric telegraph. The value of land is everywhere increasing as new lines of communication are formed. The town of London, in Upper Canada, presents a very remarkable instance of rapid growth. It is surrounded by a very rich agricultural district, and the Great Western Railway passes through it. Seven years ago this place was a miserable-looking village of between two and three thousand inhabitants; now it is a flourishing town, alive with business, and has a population of 13,000 souls. The increase in the value of property in its vicinity will appear almost incredible to English readers, but it is stated on the best authority: a building-site sold in September, 1855, for 150l. per foot, which ten years ago could have been bought for that price per acre, and ten years earlier for as many pence.

In Upper Canada there appears to be at the present time very little of that state of society which is marked by hard struggles and lawless excesses. In every part of my travels west of Toronto I found a high degree of social comfort, security to life and property, the means for education and religious worship, and all the accessories of a high state of civilization, which are advantages brought into every locality almost simultaneously with the clearing of the land. Yet it is very apparent, even to the casual visitor, that the progress of Canada West has only just begun. No limits can be assigned to its future prosperity, and, as its capabilities become more known, increasing numbers of stout hearts and strong arms will be attracted towards it.

The immense resources of the soil under cultivation have not yet been developed; the settlers are prodigal of land, and a great portion of the occupied territory, destined to bear the most luxuriant crops, is still in bush. The magnificent districts adjoining Lake Huron, the Georgian Bay, and Lake Simcoe, are only just being brought into notice; and of the fertile valley of the Ottawa, which it is estimated would support a population of nine millions, very little is known. Every circumstance that can be brought forward combines to show that Upper Canada is destined to become a great, a wealthy, and a prosperous country.

The census gives some interesting tables relating to the origins of the inhabitants of Canada. I wish that I had space to present my readers with the whole, instead of with this brief extract:—

Canadians, French origin 695,000
Canadians, English origin 651,000
England and Wales 93,000
Scotland 90,000
Ireland 227,000
United States 56,000
Germany 10,000

Besides these there are 8000 coloured persons and 14,000 Indians in Canada, and emigrants from every civilised country in the world.

As far as regards the Church of England, Canada is divided into three dioceses — Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec — with a prospect of the creation of a fourth, that of Kingston. The clergy, whose duties are very arduous and ill-requited, have been paid by the Society for Propagating the Gospel, and out of the proceeds of the clergy reserves. The Society has, in great measure, withdrawn its support, and recent legislative enactments have a tendency to place the Church of England in Canada, to some extent, on the voluntary system. The inhabitants of Canada are fully able to support any form of worship to which they may choose to attach themselves. Trinity College, at Toronto, is in close connexion with the Church of England.

The Roman Catholics have enormous endowments, including a great part of the island of Montreal, and several valuable seigneuries. Very large sums are also received by them from those who enter the convents, and for baptisms, burials, and masses for the dead. The enslaving, enervating, and retarding effects of Roman Catholicism are nowhere better seen than in Lower Canada, where the priests exercise despotic authority. They have numerous and wealthy conventual establishments, both at Quebec and Montreal, and several Jesuit and other seminaries. The Irish emigrants constitute the great body of Romanists in Upper Canada; in the Lower Province there are more than 746,000 adherents to this faith.

The Presbyterians are a very respectable, influential, and important body in Canada, bound firmly together by their uniformity of worship and doctrine. Though an Episcopalian form of church government and a form of worship are as obnoxious to them as at home, their opposition seldom amounts to hostility. Generally speaking, they are very friendly in their intercourse with the zealous and hard-working clergy of the Church of England; and, indeed, the comparative absence of sectarian feeling, and the way in which the ministers of all denominations act in harmonious combination for the general good, is one of the most pleasing features connected with religion in Canada.

In Upper Canada there are 1559 churches, for 952,000 adherents, being one place of worship for every 612 inhabitants. Of these houses of worship, 226 belong to the Church of England, 135 to the Roman Catholics, 148 to the Presbyterians, and 471 to the Methodists. In Lower Canada there are 610 churches, for 890,261 adherents, 746,000 of whom are Roman Catholics. There is therefore in the Lower Province one place of worship for every 1459 inhabitants. These religious statistics furnish additional proof of the progress of Upper Canada. The numbers adhering to the five most important denominations are as follows, in round numbers:—

Roman Catholics 914,000
Episcopalians 268,000
Presbyterians 237,000
Methodists 183,000
Baptists 49,000

Beside these there are more than 20 sects, some of them holding the most extravagant and fanatical tenets. In the Lower Province there are 45,000 persons belonging to the Church of England, 33,000 are Presbyterians, and 746,000 are Roman Catholics. With this vast number of Romanists in Canada, it is not surprising that under the present system of representation, which gives an equal number of representatives to each province, irrespective of population, the Roman Catholics should exercise a very powerful influence on the colonial Parliament. This influence is greatly to be deplored, not less socially and politically than religiously. Popery paralyses those countries under its dominion; and the stationary condition of Lower Canada is mainly to be attributed to the successful efforts of the priests to keep up that system of ignorance and terrorism, without which their power could not continue to exist.

More importance is attached generally to education in Upper Canada than might have been supposed from the extreme deficiencies of the first settlers. A national system of education, on a most liberal scale, has been organised by the Legislature, which presents in unfavourable contrast the feeble and isolated efforts made for this object by private benevolence in England. Acting on the principle that the first duty of government is to provide for the education of its subjects, a uniform and universal educational system has been put into force in Canada.

This system of public instruction is founded on the co-operation of the Executive Government with the local municipalities. The members of these corporations are elected by the freeholders and householders. The system, therefore, is strictly popular and national, as the people voluntarily tax themselves for its support, and, through their elected trustees, manage the schools themselves. It is probable that the working of this plan may exercise a beneficial influence on the minds of the people, in training them to thought for their offspring, as regards their best interests. No compulsion whatever is exercised by the Legislature over the proceedings of the local municipalities; it merely offers a pecuniary grant, on the condition of local exertion. The children of every class of the population have equal access to these schools, and there is no compulsion upon the religious faith of any. Religious minorities in school municipalities have the alternative of separate schools, and attach considerable importance to this provision. Although what we should term religious instruction is not a part of the common school system, it is gratifying to know that both the Bible and Testament are read in a very large majority of these schools, and that the number where they are used is annually on the increase. They are in Upper Canada 3127 common schools, about 1800 of which are free, or partially free. The total amount available for school purposes in 1853 amounted to 199,674l., and magnificent sum, considering the youth and comparatively thin population of the country. The total number of pupils in the same year was 194,136. But though this number appears large, the painful fact must also be stated, that there were 79,000 children destitute of the blessings of education of any kind. The whole number of teachers at the same period was 3539, of whom 885 were Methodists, 850 were Presbyterians, 629 were Episcopalians, 351 were Roman Catholics, and 194 belonged to the Baptist persuasion. The inspection of schools, which is severe and systematic, is conducted by local superintendents appointed by the different municipalities. There is a Board of Public Instruction in each county for the examination and licensing of teachers; the standard of their qualifications is fixed by provincial authority. At the head of the whole are a Council of Public Instruction and a Chief Commissioner of Schools, both appointed by the Crown. There are several colleges, very much on the system of the Scotch Universities, including Trinity College at Toronto, in connection with the Church of England, and Knox’s College, a Presbyterian theological seminary. There are also medical colleges, both in Upper and Lower Canada, and a chair of agriculture has been established in University College, Toronto. From these statements it will be seen that, from the ample provision made, a good education can be obtained at a very small cost. There are in Lower Canada upwards of 1100 schools.

Every town, and I believe I may with truth write every village, has its daily and weekly papers, advocating all shades of political opinion. The press in Canada is the medium through which the people receive, first by telegraphic despatch, and later in full, every item of English intelligence brought by the bi-weekly mails. Taking the newspapers as a whole, they are far more gentlemanly in their tone than those of the neighbouring republic, and perhaps are not more abusive and personal than some of our English provincial papers. There is, however, very great room for improvement, and no doubt, as the national palate becomes improved by education, the morsels presented to it will be more choice. Quebec, Montreal, and Toronto have each of them several daily papers, but, as far as I am aware, no paper openly professes republican or annexationist views, and some of the journals advocate in the strongest manner an attachment to British institutions. The prices of these papers vary from a penny to threepence each, and a workman would as soon think of depriving himself of his breakfast as of his morning journal. It is stated that thousands of the subscribers to the newspapers are so illiterate as to depend upon their children for a knowledge of their contents. At present few people, comparatively speaking, are more than half educated. The knowledge of this fact lowers the tone of the press, and circumscribes both authors and speakers, as any allusions to history or general literature would be very imperfectly, if at all, understood.

The merchants and lawyers of Canada have, if of British extraction, generally received a sound and useful education, which, together with the admirable way in which they keep pace with the politics and literature of Europe, enables them to pass very creditably in any society. There are very good book-stores in Canada, particularly at Toronto, where the best English works are to be purchased for little more than half the price which is paid for them at home, and these are largely read by the educated Canadians, who frequently possess excellent libraries. Cheap American novels, often of a very objectionable tendency, are largely circulated among the lower classes; but to provide them with literature of a better character, large libraries have been formed by local efforts, assisted by government grants. Canada as yet possesses no literature of her own, and the literary man is surrounded by difficulties. Independently of the heavy task of addressing himself to uneducated minds, unable to appreciate depth of thought and beauty of language, it is not likely that, where the absorbing passion is the acquisition of wealth, much encouragement would be given to the struggles of native talent.

Canada, young as she is, has made great progress in the mechanical arts, and some of her machinery and productions make a very creditable show at the Paris Exhibition; but it must be borne in mind that this is due to the government, rather than to the enterprise of private exhibitors.

Taken altogether, there is perhaps no country in the world so prosperous or so favoured as Canada, after giving full weight to the disadvantages which she possesses, in a large Roman Catholic population, an unsettled state of society, and a mixed and imperfectly educated people. It is the freest land under the sun, acknowledging neither a despotic sovereign nor a tyrant populace; life and property are alike secure — liberty has not yet degenerated into lawlessness — the constitution combines the advantages of the monarchical and republican forms of government — the Legislative Assembly, to a great extent, represents the people — religious toleration is enjoyed in the fullest degree — taxation and debt, which cripple the energies and excite the disaffection of older communities, are unfelt — the slave flying from bondage in the south knows no sense of liberty or security till he finds both on the banks of the St. Lawrence, under the shadow of the British flag. Free from the curse of slavery, Canada has started untrammelled in the race of nations, and her progress already bids fair to outstrip in rapidity that of her older and gigantic neighbour.

Labour is what she requires, and as if to meet that requirement, circumstances have directed the attention of emigrants towards her — the young, the enterprising, and the vigorous, are daily leaving the wasted shores of Scotland and Ireland for her fertile soil, where the laws of England shall still protect them, and her flag shall still wave over them. Large numbers of persons are now leaving the north-east of Scotland for Canada, and these are among the most valuable of the emigrants who seek her shores. They carry with them the high moral sense, the integrity, and the loyalty which characterise them at home; and in many cases more than this — the religious principle, and the “godliness which has promise of the life which now is, and of that which is to come.”

Taken as a whole, the inhabitants of both provinces are attached to England and England’s rule; they receive the news of our reverses with sorrow, and our victories create a burst of enthusiasm from the shores of the St. Lawrence to those of Lake Superior. As might be expected, the Anglo–French alliance is extremely popular: to show the sympathy of Canada, the Legislature made the munificent grant of 20,000l. to be divided between the Patriotic Funds of both nations, and every township and village has contributed to swell a further sum of 30,000l. to be applied to the same object. The imperial garrisons in Canada have recently been considerably diminished, and with perfect safety; the efforts of agitators to produce disaffection have signally failed; and it is stated by those best acquainted with the temper of the people, that Canada will not become a separate country, except by England’s voluntary act.

At present every obstacle to her further development seems to be removed — her constitution has been remodelled within the last few years on an enlarged and liberal basis — her religious endowments have just been placed on a permanent footing — all the points likely to cause a rupture with the United States have been amicably settled — and important commercial advantages have been obtained: the sun of prosperity shines upon her from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the distant shores of the Ottawa and the Western Lakes. She requires only for the future the blessing of God, so freely accorded to the nations which honour Him, to make her great and powerful. The future of nations, as of individuals, is mercifully veiled in mystery; we can trace the rise and progress of empires, but we know not the time when they shall droop and decay — when the wealthy and populous cities of the Present shall be numbered with the Nineveh and Babylon of the Past. It may be that in future years our mighty nation shall go the way of all that have been before it; but whether the wise decrees of Providence doom it to flourish or decline, we can still look with confident hope to this noble colony in the New World, believing that on her enlightened and happy shores, under the influence of beneficent institutions and of a scriptural faith, the Anglo–Saxon race may renew the vigour of its youth, and realise in time to come the brightest hopes which have ever been formed of England in the New World.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52