The Grand Trunk Railway runs directly from Portland to Montreal, which latter town is, in fact, the capital of Canada, though it never has been so exclusively, and, as it seems, never is to be so as regards authority, government, and official name. In such matters, authority and government often say one thing while commerce says another; but commerce always has the best of it and wins the game, whatever government may decree. Albany, in this way, is the capital of the State of New York, as authorized by the State government; but New York has made herself the capital of America, and will remain so. So also Montreal has made herself the capital of Canada. The Grand Trunk Railway runs from Portland to Montreal; but there is a branch from Richmond, a township within the limits of Canada, to Quebec; so that travelers to Quebec, as we were, are not obliged to reach that place via Montreal.
Quebec is the present seat of Canadian government, its turn for that honor having come round some two years ago; but it is about to be deserted in favor of Ottawa, a town which is, in fact, still to be built on the river of that name. The public edifices are, however, in a state of forwardness; and if all goes well, the Governor, the two Councils, and the House of Representatives will be there before two years are over, whether there be any town to receive them or no. Who can think of Ottawa without bidding his brothers to row, and reminding them that the stream runs fast, that the rapids are near and the daylight past? I asked, as a matter of course, whether Quebec was much disgusted at the proposed change, and I was told that the feeling was not now very strong. Had it been determined to make Montreal the permanent seat of government, Quebec and Toronto would both have been up in arms.
I must confess that, in going from the States into Canada, an Englishman is struck by the feeling that he is going from a richer country into one that is poorer, and from a greater country into one that is less. An Englishman going from a foreign land into a land which is in one sense his own, of course finds much in the change to gratify him. He is able to speak as the master, instead of speaking as the visitor. His tongue becomes more free, and he is able to fall back to his national habits and national expressions. He no longer feels that he is admitted on sufferance, or that he must be careful to respect laws which he does not quite understand. This feeling was naturally strong in an Englishman in passing from the States into Canada at the time of my visit. English policy, at that moment, was violently abused by Americans, and was upheld as violently in Canada. But nevertheless, with all this, I could not enter Canada without seeing, and hearing, and feeling that there was less of enterprise around me there than in the States, less of general movement, and less of commercial success. To say why this is so would require a long and very difficult discussion, and one which I am not prepared to hold. It may be that a dependent country, let the feeling of dependence be ever so much modified by powers of self-governance, cannot hold its own against countries which are in all respects their own masters. Few, I believe, would now maintain that the Northern States of America would have risen in commerce as they have risen, had they still remained attached to England as colonies. If this be so, that privilege of self-rule which they have acquired has been the cause of their success. It does not follow as a consequence that the Canadas, fighting their battle alone in the world, could do as the States have done. Climate, or size, or geographical position might stand in their way. But I fear that it does follow, if not as a logical conclusion, at least as a natural result, that they never will do so well unless some day they shall so fight their battle. It may be argued that Canada has in fact the power of self-governance; that she rules herself and makes her own laws as England does; that the Sovereign of England has but a veto on those laws, and stands in regard to Canada exactly as she does in regard to England. This is so, I believe, by the letter of the Constitution, but is not so in reality, and cannot in truth be so in any colony even of Great Britain. In England the political power of the Crown is nothing. The Crown has no such power, and now-a-days makes no attempt at having any. But the political power of the Crown as it is felt in Canada is everything. The Crown has no such power in England, because it must change its ministers whenever called upon to do so by the House of Commons. But the Colonial Minister in Downing Street is the Crown’s Prime Minister as regards the colonies, and he is changed not as any colonial House of Assembly may wish, but in accordance with the will of the British Commons. Both the houses in Canada — that, namely, of the Representatives, or Lower Houses and of the Legislative Council, or Upper House — are now elective, and are filled without direct influence from the Crown. The power of self-government is as thoroughly developed as perhaps may be possible in a colony. But, after all, it is a dependent form of government, and as such may perhaps not conduce to so thorough a development of the resources of the country as might be achieve under a ruling power of its own, to which the welfare of Canada itself would be the chief if not the only object.
I beg that it may not be considered from this that I would propose to Canada to set up for itself at once and declare itself independent. In the first place I do not wish to throw over Canada; and in the next place I do not wish to throw over England. If such a separation shall ever take place, I trust that it may be caused, not by Canadian violence, but by British generosity. Such a separation, however, never can be good till Canada herself shall wish it. That she does not wish it yet, is certain. If Canada ever should wish it, and should ever press for the accomplishment of such a wish, she must do so in connection with Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. If at any future time there be formed such a separate political power, it must include the whole of British North America.
In the mean time, I return to my assertion, that in entering Canada from the States one clearly comes from a richer to a poorer country. When I have said so, I have heard no Canadian absolutely deny it; though in refraining from denying it, they have usually expressed a general conviction, that in settling himself for life it is better for a man to set up his staff in Canada than in the States. “I do not know that we are richer,” a Canadian says, “but on the whole we are doing better and are happier.” Now, I regard the golden rules against the love of gold, the “aurum irrepertum et sic melius situm,” and the rest of it, as very excellent when applied to individuals. Such teaching has not much effect, perhaps, in inducing men to abstain from wealth; but such effect as it may have will be good. Men and women do, I suppose, learn to be happier when they learn to disregard riches. But such a doctrine is absolutely false as regards a nation. National wealth produces education and progress, and through them produces plenty of food, good morals, and all else that is good. It produces luxury also, and certain evils attendant on luxury. But I think it may be clearly shown, and that it is universally acknowledged, that national wealth produces individual well-being. If this be so, the argument of my friend the Canadian is naught.
To the feeling of a refined gentleman, or of a lady whose eye loves to rest always on the beautiful, an agricultural population that touches its hat, eats plain victuals, and goes to church, is more picturesque and delightful than the thronged crowd of a great city, by which a lady and gentleman is hustled without remorse, which never touches its hat, and perhaps also never goes to church. And as we are always tempted to approve of that which we like, and to think that that which is good to us is good altogether, we — the refined gentlemen and ladies of England I mean — are very apt to prefer the hat touchers to those who are not hat touchers. In doing so we intend, and wish, and strive to be philanthropical. We argue to ourselves that the dear excellent lower classes receive an immense amount of consoling happiness from that ceremony of hat touching, and quite pity those who, unfortunately for themselves, know nothing about it. I would ask any such lady or gentleman whether he or she does not feel a certain amount of commiseration for the rudeness of the town-bred artisan who walks about with his hands in his pockets as though he recognized a superior in no one?
But that which is good and pleasant to us is often not good and pleasant altogether. Every man’s chief object is himself; and the philanthropist should endeavor to regard this question, not from his own point of view, but from that which would be taken by the individuals for whose happiness he is anxious. The honest, happy rustic makes a very pretty picture; and I hope that honest rustics are happy. But the man who earns two shillings a day in the country would always prefer to earn five in the town. The man who finds himself bound to touch his hat to the squire would be glad to dispense with that ceremony, if circumstances would permit. A crowd of greasy-coated town artisans, with grimy hands and pale faces, is not in itself delectable; but each of that crowd has probably more of the goods of life than any rural laborer. He thinks more, reads more, feels more, sees more, hears more, learns more, and lives more. It is through great cities that the civilization of the world has progressed, and the charms of life been advanced. Man in his rudest state begins in the country, and in his most finished state may retire there. But the battle of the world has to be fought in the cities; and the country that shows the greatest city population is ever the one that is going most ahead in the world’s history.
If this be so, I say that the argument of my Canadian friend was naught. It may be that he does not desire crowded cities, with dirty, independent artisans; that to view small farmers, living sparingly, but with content, on the sweat of their brows, are surer signs of a country’s prosperity than hives of men and smoking chimneys. He has probably all the upper classes of England with him in so thinking, and as far as I know the upper classes of all Europe. But the crowds themselves, the thick masses of which are composed those populations which we count by millions, are against him. Up in those regions which are watered by the great lakes — Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario — and by the St. Lawrence, the country is divided between Canada and the States. The cities in Canada were settled long before those in the States. Quebec and Montreal were important cities before any of the towns belonging to the States had been founded. But taking the population of three of each, including the three largest Canadian towns, we find they are as follows: In Canada, Quebec has 60,000; Montreal, 85,000; Toronto, 55,000. In the States, Chicago has 120,000; Detroit, 70,000; and Buffalo, 80,000. If the population had been equal, it would have shown a great superiority in the progress of those belonging to the States, because the towns of Canada had so great a start. But the numbers are by no means equal, showing instead a vast preponderance in favor of the States. There can be no stronger proof that the States are advancing faster than Canada, and in fact doing better than Canada.
Quebec is a very picturesque town; from its natural advantages almost as much so as any town I know. Edinburgh, perhaps, and Innspruck may beat it. But Quebec has very little to recommend it beyond the beauty of its situation. Its public buildings and works of art do not deserve a long narrative. It stands at the confluence of the St. Lawrence and St. Charles Rivers; the best part of the town is built high upon the rock — the rock which forms the celebrated plains of Abram; and the view from thence down to the mountains which shut in the St. Lawrence is magnificent. The best point of view is, I think, from the esplanade, which is distant some five minutes’ walk from the hotels. When that has been seen by the light of the setting sun, and seen again, if possible, by moonlight, the most considerable lion of Quebec may be regarded as “done,” and may be ticked off from the list.
The most considerable lion, according to my taste. Lions which roar merely by the force of association of ideas are not to me very valuable beasts. To many the rock over which Wolfe climbed to the plains of Abram, and on the summit of which he fell in the hour of victory, gives to Quebec its chiefest charm. But I confess to being somewhat dull in such matters. I can count up Wolfe, and realize his glory, and put my hand as it were upon his monument, in my own room at home as well as I can at Quebec. I do not say this boastingly or with pride, but truly acknowledging a deficiency. I have never cared to sit in chairs in which old kings have sat, or to have their crowns upon my head.
Nevertheless, and as a matter of course, I went to see the rock, and can only say, as so many have said before me, that it is very steep. It is not a rock which I think it would be difficult for any ordinarily active man to climb, providing, of course, that he was used to such work. But Wolfe took regiments of men up there at night, and that in face of enemies who held the summits. One grieves that he should have fallen there and have never tasted the sweet cup of his own fame. For fame is sweet, and the praise of ones’s brother men the sweetest draught which a man can drain. But now, and for coming ages, Wolfe’s name stands higher than it probably would have done had he lived to enjoy his reward.
But there is another very worthy lion near Quebec — the Falls, namely, of Montmorency. They are eight miles from the town, and the road lies through the suburb of St. Roch, and the long, straggling French village of Beauport. These are in themselves very interesting, as showing the quiet, orderly, unimpulsive manner in which the French Canadians live. Such is their character, although there have been such men as Papineau, and although there have been times in which English rule has been unpopular with the French settlers. As far as I could learn there is no such feeling now. These people are quiet, contented; and, as regards a sufficiency of the simple staples of living, sufficiently well to do. They are thrifty, but they do not thrive. They do not advance, and push ahead, and become a bigger people from year to year, as settlers in a new country should do. They do not even hold their own in comparison with those around them. But has not this always been the case with colonists out of France; and has it not always been the case with Roman Catholics when they have been forced to measure themselves against Protestants? As to the ultimate fate in the world of this people, one can hardly form a speculation. There are, as nearly as I could learn, about 800,000 of them in Lower Canada; but it seems that the wealth and commercial enterprise of the country is passing out of their hands. Montreal, and even Quebec, are, I think, becoming less and less French every day; but in the villages and on the small farms the French still remain, keeping up their language, their habits, and their religion. In the cities they are becoming hewers of wood and drawers of water. I am inclined to think that the same will ultimately be their fate in the country. Surely one may declare as a fact that a Roman Catholic population can never hold its ground against one that is Protestant. I do not speak of numbers; for the Roman Catholics will increase and multiply, and stick by their religion, although their religion entails poverty and dependence, as they have done and still do in Ireland. But in progress and wealth the Romanists have always gone to the wall when the two have been made to compete together. And yet I love their religion. There is something beautiful, and almost divine, in the faith and obedience of a true son of the Holy Mother. I sometimes fancy that I would fain be a Roman Catholic — if I could; as also I would often wish to be still a child — if that were possible.
All this is on the way to the Falls of Montmorency. These falls are placed exactly at the mouth of the little river of the same name, so that it may be said absolutely to fall into the St. Lawrence. The people of the country, however, declare that the river into which the waters of the Montmorency fall is not the St. Lawrence, but the Charles. Without a map I do not know that I can explain this. The River Charles appears to, and in fact does, run into the St. Lawrence just below Quebec. But the waters do not mix. The thicker, browner stream of the lesser river still keeps the northeastern bank till it comes to the Island of Orleans, which lies in the river five or six miles below Quebec. Here or hereabouts are the Falls of the Montmorency, and then the great river is divided for twenty-five miles by the Isle of Orleans. It is said that the waters of the Charles and the St. Lawrence do not mix till they meet each other at the foot of this island.
I do not know that I am particularly happy at describing a waterfall, and what little capacity I may have in this way I would wish to keep for Niagara. One thing I can say very positively about Montmorency, and one piece of advice I can give to those who visit the falls. The place from which to see them is not the horrible little wooden temple which has been built immediately over them on that side which lies nearest to Quebec. The stranger is put down at a gate through which a path leads to this temple, and at which a woman demands from him twenty-five cents for the privilege of entrance. Let him by all means pay the twenty-five cents. Why should he attempt to see the falls for nothing, seeing that this woman has a vested interest in the showing of them? I declare that if I thought that I should hinder this woman from her perquisites by what I write, I would leave it unwritten, and let my readers pursue their course to the temple — to their manifest injury. But they will pay the twenty-five cents. Then let them cross over the bridge, eschewing the temple, and wander round on the open field till they get the view of the falls, and the view of Quebec also, from the other side. It is worth the twenty-five cents and the hire of the carriage also. Immediately over the falls there was a suspension bridge, of which the supporting, or rather non-supporting, pillars are still to be seen. But the bridge fell down, one day, into the river; and — alas! alas! — with the bridge fell down an old woman, and a boy, and a cart — a cart and horse — and all found a watery grave together in the spray. No attempt has been made since that to renew the suspension bridge; but the present wooden bridge has been built higher up in lieu of it.
Strangers naturally visit Quebec in summer or autumn, seeing that a Canada winter is a season with which a man cannot trifle; but I imagine that the mid-winter is the best time for seeing the Falls of Montmorency. The water in its fall is dashed into spray, and that spray becomes frozen, till a cone of ice is formed immediately under the cataract, which gradually rises till the temporary glacier reaches nearly half way to the level of the higher river. Up this men climb — and ladies also, I am told — and then descend, with pleasant rapidity, on sledges of wood, sometimes not without an innocent tumble in the descent. As we were at Quebec in September, we did not experience the delights of this pastime.
As I was too early for the ice cone under the Montmorency Falls, so also was I too late to visit the Saguenay River, which runs into the St. Lawrence some hundred miles below Quebec. I presume that the scenery of the Saguenay is the finest in Canada. During the summer steamers run down the St. Lawrence and up the Saguenay, but I was too late for them. An offer was made to us through the kindness of Sir Edmund Head, who was then the Governor-General, of the use of a steam-tug belonging to a gentleman who carries on a large commercial enterprise at Chicoutimi, far up the Saguenay; but an acceptance of this offer would have entailed some delay at Quebec, and, as we were anxious to get into the Northwestern States before the winter commenced, we were obliged with great regret to decline the journey.
I feel bound to say that a stranger, regarding Quebec merely as a town, finds very much of which he cannot but complain. The footpaths through the streets are almost entirely of wood, as indeed seems to be general throughout Canada. Wood is, of course, the cheapest material; and, though it may not be altogether good for such a purpose, it would not create animadversion if it were kept in tolerable order. But in Quebec the paths are intolerably bad. They are full of holes. The boards are rotten, and worn in some places to dirt. The nails have gone, and the broken planks go up and down under the feet, and in the dark they are absolutely dangerous. But if the paths are bad, the road-ways are worse. The street through the lower town along the quays is, I think, the most disgraceful thoroughfare I ever saw in any town. I believe the whole of it, or at any rate a great portion, has been paved with wood; but the boards have been worked into mud, and the ground under the boards has been worked into holes, till the street is more like the bottom of a filthy ditch than a road-way through one of the most thickly populated parts of a city. Had Quebec in Wolfe’s time been as it is now, Wolfe would have stuck in the mud between the river and the rock before he reached the point which he desired to climb. In the upper town the roads are not as bad as they are below, but still they are very bad. I was told that this arose from disputes among the municipal corporations. Everything in Canada relating to roads, and a very great deal affecting the internal government of the people, is done by these municipalities. It is made a subject of great boast in Canada that the communal authorities do carry on so large a part of the public business, and that they do it generally so well and at so cheap a rate. I have nothing to say against this, and, as a whole, believe that the boast is true. I must protest, however, that the streets of the greater cities — for Montreal is nearly as bad as Quebec — prove the rule by a very sad exception. The municipalities of which I speak extend, I believe, to all Canada — the two provinces being divided into counties, and the counties subdivided into townships, to which, as a matter of course, the municipalities are attached.
From Quebec to Montreal there are two modes of travel. There are the steamers up the St. Lawrence, which, as all the world know, is, or at any rate hitherto has been, the high-road of the Canadas; and there is the Grand Trunk Railway. Passengers choosing the latter go toward Portland as far as Richmond, and there join the main line of the road, passing from Richmond on to Montreal. We learned while at Quebec that it behooved us not to leave the colony till we had seen the lake and mountains of Memphremagog; and, as we were clearly neglecting our duty with regard to the Saguenay, we felt bound to make such amends as lay in our power by deviating from our way to the lake above named. In order to do this we were obliged to choose the railway, and to go back beyond Richmond to the station at Sherbrooke. Sherbrooke is a large village on the confines of Canada, and, as it is on the railway, will no doubt become a large town. It is very prettily situated on the meeting of two rivers; it has three or four churches, and intends to thrive. It possesses two newspapers, of the prosperity of which I should be inclined to feel less assured. The annual subscription to such a newspaper, published twice a week, is ten shillings. A sale of a thousand copies is not considered bad. Such a sale would produce 500 pounds a year; and this would, if entirely devoted to that purpose, give a moderate income to a gentleman qualified to conduct a newspaper. But the paper and printing must cost something, and the capital invested should receive its proper remuneration. And then — such at least is the general idea — the getting together of news and the framing of intelligence is a costly operation. I can only hope that all this is paid for by the advertisements, for I must trust that the editors do not receive less than the moderate sum above named. At Sherbrooke we are still in Lower Canada. Indeed, as regards distance, we are when there nearly as far removed from Upper Canada as at Quebec. But the race of people here is very different. The French population had made their way down into these townships before the English and American war broke out, but had not done so in great numbers. The country was then very unapproachable, being far to the south of the St. Lawrence, and far also from-any great line of internal communication toward the Atlantic. But, nevertheless, many settlers made their way in here from the States — men who preferred to live under British rule, and perhaps doubted the stability of the new order of things. They or their children have remained here since; and, as the whole country has been opened up by the railway, many others have flocked in. Thus a better class of people than the French hold possession of the larger farms, and are on the whole doing well. I am told that many Americans are now coming here, driven over the borders from Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont by fears of the war and the weight of taxation. I do not think that fears of war or the paying of taxes drive many individuals away from home. Men who would be so influenced have not the amount of foresight which would induce them to avoid such evils; or, at any rate, such fears would act slowly. Laborers, however, will go where work is certain, where work is well paid, and where the wages to be earned will give plenty in return. It may be that work will become scarce in the States, as it has done with those poor jewelers at Attleborough of whom we spoke, and that food will become dear. If this be so, laborers from the States will no doubt find their way into Canada.
From Sherbrooke we went with the mails on a pair-horse wagon to Magog. Cross-country mails are not interesting to the generality of readers, but I have a professional liking for them myself. I have spent the best part of my life in looking after, and I hope in improving, such mails; and I always endeavor to do a stroke of work when I come across them. I learned on this occasion that the conveyance of mails with a pair of horses, in Canada, costs little more than half what is paid for the same work in England with one horse, and something less than what is paid in Ireland, also for one horse. But in Canada the average pace is only five miles an hour. In Ireland it is seven, and the time is accurately kept, which does not seem to be the case in Canada. In England the pace is eight miles an hour. In Canada and in Ireland these conveyances carry passengers; but in England they are prohibited from doing so. In Canada the vehicles are much better got up than they are in England, and the horses too look better. Taking Ireland as a whole, they are more respectable in appearance there than in England. From all which it appears that pace is the article that costs the highest price, and that appearance does not go for much in the bill. In Canada the roads are very bad in comparison with the English or Irish roads; but, to make up for this, the price of forage is very low.
I have said that the cross-mail conveyances in Canada did not seem to be very closely bound as to time; but they are regulated by clock-work in comparison with some of them in the United States. “Are you going this morning?” I said to a mail-driver in Vermont. “I thought you always started in the evening.” “Wa’ll, I guess I do; but it rained some last night, so I jist stayed at home.” I do not know that I ever felt more shocked in my life, and I could hardly keep my tongue off the man. The mails, however, would have paid no respect to me in Vermont, and I was obliged to walk away crest-fallen.
We went with the mails from Sherbrooke to a village called Magog, at the outlet of the lake, and from thence by a steamer up the lake, to a solitary hotel called the Mountain House, which is built at the foot of the mountain, on the shore, and which is surrounded on every side by thick forest. There is no road within two miles of the house. The lake therefore is the only highway, and that is frozen up for four months in the year. When frozen, however, it is still a road, for it is passable for sledges. I have seldom been in a house that seemed so remote from the world, and so little within reach of doctors, parsons, or butchers. Bakers in this country are not required, as all persons make their own bread. But in spite of its position the hotel is well kept, and on the whole we were more comfortable there than at any other inn in Lower Canada. The Mountain house is but five miles from the borders of Vermont, in which State the head of the lake lies. The steamer which brought us runs on to Newport, or rather from Newport to Magog and back again. And Newport is in Vermont.
The one thing to be done at the Mountain House is the ascent of the mountain called the Owl’s head. The world there offers nothing else of active enterprise to the traveler, unless fishing be considered an active enterprise. I am not capable of fishing, therefore we resolved on going up the Owl’s Head. To dine in the middle of the day is absolutely imperative at these hotels, and thus we were driven to select either the morning or the afternoon. Evening lights we declared were the best for all views, and therefore we decided on the afternoon. It is but two miles; but then, as we were told more than once by those who had spoken to us on the subject, those two miles are not like other miles. “I doubt if the lady can do it,” one man said to me. I asked if ladies did not sometimes go up. “Yes; young women do, at times,” he said. After that my wife resolved that she would see the top of the Owl’s Head, or die in the attempt, and so we started. They never think of sending a guide with one in these places, whereas in Europe a traveler is not allowed to go a step without one. When I asked for one to show us the way up Mount Washington, I was told that there were no idle boys about that place. The path was indicated to us, and off we started with high hopes.
I have been up many mountains, and have climbed some that were perhaps somewhat dangerous in their ascent. In climbing the Owl’s Head there is no danger. One is closed in by thick trees the whole way. But I doubt if I ever went up a steeper ascent. It was very hard work, but we were not beaten. We reached the top, and there sitting down, thoroughly enjoyed our victory. It was then half-past five o’clock, and the sun was not yet absolutely sinking. It did not seem to give us any warning that we should especially require its aid, and, as the prospect below us was very lovely, we remained there for a quarter of an hour. The ascent of the Owl’s Head is certainly a thing to do, and I still think, in spite of our following misfortune, that it is a thing to do late in the afternoon. The view down upon the lakes and the forests around, and on the wooded hills below, is wonderfully lovely. I never was on a mountain which gave me a more perfect command of all the country round. But as we arose to descend we saw a little cloud coming toward us from over Newport.
The little cloud came on with speed, and we had hardly freed ourselves from the rocks of the summit before we were surrounded by rain. As the rain became thicker, we were surrounded by darkness also, or, if not by darkness, by so dim a light that it became a task to find our path. I still thought that the daylight had not gone, and that as we descended, and so escaped from the cloud, we should find light enough to guide us. But it was not so. The rain soon became a matter of indifference, and so also did the mud and briers beneath our feet. Even the steepness of the way was almost forgotten as we endeavored to thread our path through the forest before it should become impossible to discern the track. A dog had followed us up, and though the beast would not stay with us so as to be our guide, he returned ever and anon, and made us aware of his presence by dashing by us. I may confess now that I became much frightened. We were wet through, and a night out in the forest would have been unpleasant to us. At last I did utterly lose the track, it had become quite dark, so dark that we could hardly see each other. We had succeeded in getting down the steepest and worst part of the mountain, but we were still among dense forest trees, and up to our knees in mud. But the people at the Mountain house were Christians, and men with lanterns were sent hallooing after us through the dark night. When we were thus found we were not many yards from the path, but unfortunately on the wrong side of a stream. Through that we waded, and then made our way in safety to the inn. In spite of which misadventure I advise all travelers in Lower Canada to go up the Owl’s Head.
On the following day we crossed the lake to Georgeville, and drove around another lake called the Massawhippi back to Sherbrooke. This was all very well, for it showed us a part of the country which is comparatively well tilled, and has been long settled; but the Massawhippi itself is not worth a visit. The route by which we returned occupies a longer time than the other, and is more costly, as it must be made in a hired vehicle. The people here are quiet, orderly, and I should say a little slow. It is manifest that a strong feeling against the Northern States has lately sprung up. This is much to be deprecated, but I cannot but say that it is natural. It is not that the Canadians have any special secession feelings, or that they have entered with peculiar warmth into the questions of American politics; but they have been vexed and acerbated by the braggadocio of the Northern States. They constantly hear that they are to be invaded, and translated into citizens of the Union; that British rule is to be swept off the continent, and that the star-spangled banner is to be waved over them in pity. The star-spangled banner is in fact a fine flag, and has waved to some purpose; but those who live near it, and not under it, fancy that they hear too much of it. At the present moment the loyalty of both the Canadas to Great Britain is beyond all question. From all that I can hear, I doubt whether this feeling in the provinces was ever so strong, and under such circumstances American abuse of England and American braggadocio is more than usually distasteful. All this abuse and all this braggadocio come to Canada from the Northern States, and therefore the Southern cause is at the present moment the more popular with them.
I have said that the Canadians hereabouts are somewhat slow. As we were driving back to Sherbrooke it became necessary that we should rest for an hour or so in the middle of the day, and for this purpose we stopped at a village inn. It was a large house, in which there appeared to be three public sitting-rooms of ample size, one of which was occupied as the bar. In this there were congregated some six or seven men, seated in arm-chairs round a stove, and among these I placed myself. No one spoke a word either to me or to any one else. No one smoked, and no one read, nor did they even whittle sticks. I asked a question, first of one and then of another, and was answered with monosyllables. So I gave up any hope in that direction, and sat staring at the big stove in the middle of the room, as the others did. Presently another stranger entered, having arrived in a wagon, as I had done. He entered the room and sat down, addressing no one, and addressed by no one. After awhile, however, he spoke. “Will there be any chance of dinner here?” he said. “I guess there’ll be dinner by-and-by,” answered the landlord, and then there was silence for another ten minutes, during which the stranger stared at the stove. “Is that dinner any way ready?” he asked again. “I guess it is,” said the landlord. And then the stranger went out to see after his dinner himself. When we started, at the end of an hour, nobody said anything to us. The driver “hitched” on the horses, as they call it, and we started on our way, having been charged nothing for our accommodation. That some profit arose from the horse provender is to be hoped.
On the following day we reached Montreal, which, as I have said before, is the commercial capital of the two Provinces. This question of the capitals is at the present moment a subject of great interest in Canada; but, as I shall be driven to say something on the matter when I report myself as being at Ottawa, I will refrain now. There are two special public affairs at the present moment to interest a traveler in Canada. The first I have named, and the second is the Grand Trunk Railway. I have already stated what is the course of this line. It runs from the Western State of Michigan to Portland, on the Atlantic, in the State of Maine, sweeping the whole length of Canada in its route. It was originally made by three companies. The Atlantic and St. Lawrence constructed it from Portland to Island Pond, on the borders of the States. The St. Lawrence and Atlantic took it from the southeastern side of the river at Montreal to the same point, viz., Island Pond. And the Grand Trunk Company have made it from Detroit to Montreal, crossing the river there with a stupendous tubular bridge, and have also made the branch connecting the main line with Quebec and Riviere du Loup. This latter company is now incorporated with the St. Lawrence and Atlantic, but has only leased the portion of the line running through the States. This they have done, guaranteeing the shareholders an interest of six per cent. There never was a grander enterprise set on foot. I will not say there never was one more unfortunate, for is there not the Great Eastern, which, by the weight and constancy of its failures, demands for itself a proud pre-eminence of misfortune? But surely the Grand Trunk comes next to it. I presume it to be quite out of the question that the shareholders should get any interest whatever on their shares for years. The company, when I was at Montreal, had not paid the interest due to the Atlantic and St. Lawrence Company for the last year, and there was a doubt whether the lease would not be broken. No party that had advanced money to the undertaking was able to recover what had been advanced. I believe that one firm in London had lent nearly a million to the company, and is now willing to accept half the sum so lent in quittance of the whole debt. In 1860 the line could not carry the freight that offered, not having or being able to obtain the necessary rolling stock; and on all sides I heard men discussing whether the line would be kept open for traffic. The government of Canada advanced to the company three millions of money, with an understanding that neither interest nor principal should be demanded till all other debts were paid and all shareholders in receipt of six per cent. interest. But the three millions were clogged with conditions which, though they have been of service to the country, have been so expensive to the company that it is hardly more solvent with it than it would have been without it. As it is, the whole property seems to be involved in ruin; and yet the line is one of the grandest commercial conceptions that was ever carried out on the face of the globe, and in the process of a few years will do more to make bread cheap in England than any other single enterprise that exists.
I do not know that blame is to be attached to any one. I at least attach no such blame. Probably it might be easy now to show that the road might have been made with sufficient accommodation for ordinary purposes without some of the more costly details. The great tubular bridge, on which was expended 1,300,000 pounds, might, I should think, have been dispensed with. The Detroit end of the line might have been left for later time. As it stands now, however, it is a wonderful operation carried to a successful issue as far as the public are concerned; and one can on]y grieve that it should be so absolute a failure to those who have placed their money in it. There are schemes which seem to be too big for men to work out with any ordinary regard to profit and loss. The Great Eastern is one, and this is another. The national advantage arising from such enterprises is immense; but the wonder is that men should be found willing to embark their money where the risk is so great and the return even hoped for is so small.
While I was in Canada some gentlemen were there from the Lower Provinces — Nova Scotia, that is, and New Brunswick — agitating the subject of another great line of railway, from Quebec to Halifax. The project is one in favor of which very much may be said. In a national point of view an Englishman or a Canadian cannot but regret that there should be no winter mode of exit from, or entrance to, Canada, except through the United States. The St. Lawrence is blocked up for four or five months in winter, and the steamers which run to Quebec in the summer run to Portland during the season of ice. There is at present no mode of public conveyance between the Canadas and the Lower Provinces; and an immense district of country on the borders of Lower Canada, through New Brunswick, and into Nova Scotia, is now absolutely closed against civilization, which by such a railway would be opened up to the light of day. We all know how much the want of such a road was felt when our troops were being forwarded to Canada during the last winter. It was necessary they should reach their destination without delay; and as the river was closed, and the passing of troops through the States was of course out of the question, that long overland journey across Nova Scotia and New Brunswick became a necessity. It would certainly be a very great thing for British interests if a direct line could be made from such a port as Halifax, a port which is open throughout the whole year, up into the Canadas. If these colonies belonged to France or to any other despotic government, the thing would be done. But the colonies do not belong to any despotic government.
Such a line would, in fact, be a continuance of the Grand Trunk; and who that looks at the present state of the finances of the Grand Trunk can think it to be on the cards that private enterprise should come forward with more money — with more millions? The idea is that England will advance the money, and that the English House of Commons will guarantee the interest, with some counter-guarantee from the colonies that this interest shall be duly paid. But it would seem that, if such colonial guarantee is to go for anything, the colonies might raise the money in the money market without the intervention of the British House of Commons.
Montreal is an exceedingly good commercial town, and business there is brisk. It has now 85,000 inhabitants. Having said that of it, I do not know what more there is left to say. Yes; one word there is to say of Sir William Logan, the creator of the Geological Museum there, and the head of all matters geological throughout the province. While he was explaining to me with admirable perspicuity the result of investigations into which he had poured his whole heart, I stood by, understanding almost nothing, but envying everything. That I understood almost nothing, I know he perceived. That, ever and anon, with all his graciousness, became apparent. But I wonder whether he perceived also that I did envy everything. I have listened to geologists by the hour before — have had to listen to them, desirous simply of escape. I have listened, and understood absolutely nothing, and have only wished myself away. But I could have listened to Sir William Logan for the whole day, if time allowed. I found, even in that hour, that some ideas found their way through to me, and I began to fancy that even I could become a geologist at Montreal.
Over and beyond Sir William Logan, there is at Montreal for strangers the drive round the mountain, not very exciting, and there is the tubular bridge over the St. Lawrence. This, it must be understood, is not made in one tube, as is that over the Menai Straits, but is divided into, I think, thirteen tubes. To the eye there appear to be twenty-five tubes; but each of the six side tubes is supported by a pier in the middle. A great part of the expense of the bridge was incurred in sinking the shafts for these piers.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:55