Ottawa is in Upper Canada, but crossing the suspension bridge from Ottawa into Hull, the traveler is in Lower Canada. It is therefore exactly in the confines, and has been chosen as the site of the new government capital very much for this reason. Other reasons have no doubt had a share in the decision. At the time when the choice was made Ottawa was not large enough to create the jealousy of the more populous towns. Though not on the main line of railway, it was connected with it by a branch railway, and it is also connected with the St. Lawrence by water communication. And then it stands nobly on a magnificent river, with high, overhanging rock, and a natural grandeur of position which has perhaps gone far in recommending it to those whose voice in the matter has been potential. Having the world of Canada from whence to choose the site of a new town, the choosers have certainly chosen well. It is another question whether or no a new town should have been deemed necessary.
Perhaps it may be well to explain the circumstances under which it was thought expedient thus to establish a new Canadian capital. In 1841, when Lord Sydenham was Governor-General of the provinces, the two Canadas, separate till then, were united under one government. At that time the people of Lower or French Canada, and the people of Upper or English Canada, differed much more in their habits and language than they do now. I do not know that the English have become in any way Gallicized, but the French have been very materially Anglicized. But while this has been in progress national jealousy has been at work, and even yet that national jealousy is not at an end. While the two provinces were divided there were, of course, two capitals, and two seats of government. These were at Quebec for Lower Canada, and at Toronto for Upper Canada, both which towns are centrically situated as regards the respective provinces. When the union was effected, it was deemed expedient that there should be but one capital; and the small town of Kingstown was selected, which is situated on the lower end of Lake Ontario, in the upper province. But Kingstown was found to be inconvenient, lacking space and accommodation for those who had to follow the government, and the Governor removed it and himself to Montreal. Montreal is in the lower province, but is very central to both the provinces; and it is moreover the chief town in Canada. This would have done very well but for an unforeseen misfortune.
It will be remembered by most readers that in 1837 took place the Mackenzie-Papineau rebellion, of which those who were then old enough to be politicians heard so much in England. I am not going back to recount the history of the period, otherwise than to say that the English Canadians at that time, in withstanding and combating the rebels, did considerable injury to the property of certain French Canadians, and that, when the rebellion had blown over and those in fault had been pardoned, a question arose whether or no the government should make good the losses of those French Canadians who had been injured. The English Canadians protested that it would be monstrous that they should be taxed to repair damages suffered by rebels, and made necessary in the suppression of rebellion. The French Canadians declared that the rebellion had been only a just assertion of their rights; that if there had been crime on the part of those who took up arms, that crime had been condoned, and that the damages had not fallen exclusively or even chiefly on those who had done so. I will give no opinion on the merits of the question, but simply say that blood ran very hot when it was discussed. At last the Houses of the Provincial Parliament, then assembled at Montreal, decreed that the losses should be made good by the public treasury; and the English mob in Montreal, when this decree became known, was roused to great wrath by a decision which seemed to be condemnatory of English loyalty. It pelted Lord Elgin, the Governor-General, with rotten eggs, and burned down the Parliament house. Hence there arose, not unnaturally, a strong feeling of anger on the part of the local government against Montreal; and moreover there was no longer a house in which the Parliament could be held in that town. For these conjoint reasons it was decided to move the seat of government again, and it was resolved that the Governor and the Parliament should sit alternately at Toronto in Upper Canada, and at Quebec in Lower Canada, remaining four years at each place. They went at first to Toronto for two years only, having agreed that they should be there on this occasion only for the remainder of the term of the then Parliament. After that they were at Quebec for four years; then at Toronto for four; and now again are at Quebec. But this arrangement has been found very inconvenient. In the first place there is a great national expenditure incurred in moving old records and in keeping double records, in moving the library, and, as I have been informed, even the pictures. The government clerks also are called on to move as the government moves; and though an allowance is made to them from the national purse to cover their loss, the arrangement has nevertheless been felt by them to be a grievance, as may be well understood. The accommodation also for the ministers of the government and for members of the two Houses has been insufficient. Hotels, lodgings, and furnished houses could not be provided to the extent required, seeing that they would be left nearly empty for every alternate space of four years. Indeed, it needs but little argument to prove that the plan adopted must have been a thoroughly uncomfortable plan, and the wonder is that it should have been adopted. Lower Canada had undertaken to make all her leading citizens wretched, providing Upper Canada would treat hers with equal severity. This has now gone on for some twelve years, and as the system was found to be an unendurable nuisance, it has been at last admitted that some steps must be taken toward selecting one capital for the country.
I should here, in justice to the Canadians, state a remark made to me on this matter by one of the present leading politicians of the colony. I cannot think that the migratory scheme was good but he defended it, asserting that it had done very much to amalgamate the people of the two provinces; that it had brought Lower Canadians into Upper Canada, and Upper Canadians into Lower Canada, teaching English to those who spoke only French before, and making each pleasantly acquainted with the other. I have no doubt that something — perhaps much — has been done in this way; but valuable as the result may have been, I cannot think it worth the cost of the means employed. The best answer to the above argument consists in the undoubted fact that a migratory government would never have been established for such a reason. It was so established because Montreal, the central town, had given offense, and because the jealousy of the provinces against each other would not admit of the government being placed entirely at Quebec, or entirely at Toronto.
But it was necessary that some step should be taken; and as it was found to be unlikely that any resolution should be reached by the joint provinces themselves, it was loyally and wisely determined to refer the matter to the Queen. That Her Majesty has constitutionally the power to call the Parliament of Canada at any town of Canada which she may select, admits, I conceive, of no doubt. It is, I imagine, within her prerogative to call the Parliament of England where she may please within that realm, though her lieges would be somewhat startled if it were called otherwhere than in London. It was therefore well done to ask Her Majesty to act as arbiter in the matter. But there are not wanting those in Canada who say that in referring the matter to the Queen it was in truth referring it to those by whom very many of the Canadians were least willing to be guided in the matter; to the Governor-General namely, and the Colonial Secretary. Many indeed in Canada now declare that the decision simply placed the matter in the hands of the Governor-General.
Be that as it may, I do not think that any unbiased traveler will doubt that the best possible selection has been made, presuming always, as we may presume in the discussion, that Montreal could not be selected. I take for granted that the rejection of Montreal was regarded as a sine qua non in the decision. To me it appears grievous that this should have been so. It is a great thing for any country to have a large, leading, world-known city, and I think that the government should combine with the commerce of the country in carrying out this object. But commerce can do a great deal more for government than government can do for commerce. Government has selected Ottawa as the capital of Canada; but commerce has already made Montreal the capital, and Montreal will be the chief city of Canada, let government do what it may to foster the other town. The idea of spiting a town because there has been a row in it seems to me to be preposterous. The row was not the work of those who have made Montreal rich and respectable. Montreal is more centrical than Ottawa — nay, it is as nearly centrical as any town can be. It is easier to get to Montreal from Toronto than to Ottawa; and if from Toronto, then from all that distant portion of Upper Canada back of Toronto. To all Lower Canada Montreal is, as a matter of course, much easier of access than Ottawa. But having said so much in favor of Montreal, I will again admit that, putting aside Montreal, the best possible selection has been made.
When Ottawa was named, no time was lost in setting to work to prepare for the new migration. In 1859 the Parliament was removed to Quebec, with the understanding that it should remain there till the new buildings should be completed. These buildings were absolutely commenced in April, 1860, and it was, and I believe still is, expected that they will be completed in 1863. I am now writing in the winter of 1861; and, as is necessary in Canadian winters, the works are suspended. But unfortunately they were suspended in the early part of October — on the first of October — whereas they might have been continued, as far as the season is concerned, up to the end of November. We reached Ottawa on the third of October, and more than a thousand men had then been just dismissed. All the money in hand had been expended, and the government — so it was said — could give no more money till Parliament should meet again. This was most unfortunate. In the first place the suspension was against the contract as made with the contractors for the building; in the next place there was the delay; and then, worst of all, the question again became agitated whether the colonial legislature were really in earnest with reference to Ottawa. Many men of mark in the colony were still anxious — I believe are still anxious — to put an end to the Ottawa scheme, and think that there still exists for them a chance of success. And very many men who are not of mark are thus united, and a feeling of doubt on the subject has been created. Two hundred and twenty-five thousand pounds have already been spent on these buildings, and I have no doubt myself that they will be duly completed and duly used.
We went up to the new town by boat, taking the course of the River Ottawa. We passed St. Ann’s, but no one at St. Ann’s seemed to know anything of the brothers who were to rest there on their weary oars. At Maxwellstown I could hear nothing of Annie Laurie or of her trysting-place on the braes; and the turnpike man at Tara could tell me nothing of the site of the hall, and had never even heard of the harp. When I go down South, I shall expect to find that the negro melodies have not yet reached “Old Virginie.” This boat conveyance from Montreal to Ottawa is not all that could be wished in convenience, for it is allied too closely with railway traveling. Those who use it leave Montreal by a railway; after nine miles, they are changed into a steamboat. Then they encounter another railway, and at last reach Ottawa in a second steamboat. But the river is seen, and a better idea of the country is obtained than can be had solely from the railway cars. The scenery is by no means grand, nor is it strikingly picturesque, but it is in its way interesting. For a long portion of the river the old primeval forests come down close to the water’s edge, and in the fall of the year the brilliant coloring is very lovely. It should not be imagined, as I think it often is imagined, that these forests are made up of splendid trees, or that splendid trees are even common. When timber grows on undrained ground, and when it is uncared for, it does not seem to approach nearer to its perfection than wheat and grass do under similar circumstances. Seen from a little distance, the color and effect is good; but the trees themselves have shallow roots, and grow up tall, narrow, and shapeless. It necessarily is so with all timber that is not thinned in its growth. When fine forest trees are found, and are left standing alone by any cultivator who may have taste enough to wish for such adornment, they almost invariably die. They are robbed of the sickly shelter by which they have been surrounded; the hot sun strikes the uncovered fibers of the roots, and the poor, solitary invalid languishes, and at last dies.
As one ascends the river, which by its breadth forms itself into lakes, one is shown Indian villages clustering down upon the bank. Some years ago these Indians were rich, for the price of furs, in which they dealt, was high; but furs have become cheaper, and the beavers, with which they used to trade, are almost valueless. That a change in the fashion of hats should have assisted to polish these poor fellows off the face of creation, must, one may suppose, be very unintelligible to them; but nevertheless it is probably a subject of deep speculation. If the reading world were to take to sermons again and eschew their novels, Messrs. Thackeray, Dickens, and some others would look about them and inquire into the causes of such a change with considerable acuteness. They might not, perhaps, hit the truth, and these Indians are much in that predicament. It is said that very few pure-blooded Indians are now to be found in their villages, but I doubt whether this is not erroneous. The children of the Indians are now fed upon baked bread and on cooked meat, and are brought up in houses. They are nursed somewhat as the children of the white men are nursed; and these practices no doubt have done much toward altering their appearance. The negroes who have been bred in the States, and whose fathers have been so bred before them, differ both in color and form from their brothers who have been born and nurtured in Africa.
I said in the last chapter that the City of Ottawa was still to be built; but I must explain, lest I should draw down on my head the wrath of the Ottawaites, that the place already contains a population of 15,000 inhabitants. As, however, it is being prepared for four times that number — for eight times that number, let us hope — and as it straggles over a vast extent of ground, it gives one the idea of a city in an active course of preparation. In England we know nothing about unbuilt cities. With us four or five blocks of streets together never assume that ugly, unfledged appearance which belongs to the half-finished carcass of a house, as they do so often on the other side of the Atlantic. Ottawa is preparing for itself broad streets and grand thoroughfares. The buildings already extend over a length considerably exceeding two miles; and half a dozen hotels have been opened, which, if I were writing a guide-book in a complimentary tone, it would be my duty to describe as first rate. But the half dozen first-rate hotels, though open, as yet enjoy but a moderate amount of custom. All this justifies me, I think, in saying that the city has as yet to get itself built. The manner in which this is being done justifies me also in saying that the Ottawaites are going about their task with a worthy zeal.
To me I confess that the nature of the situation has great charms, regarding it as the site for a town. It is not on a plain; and from the form of the rock overhanging the river, and of the hill that falls from thence down to the water, it has been found impracticable to lay out the place in right-angled parallelograms. A right-angled parallelogramical city, such as are Philadelphia and the new portion of New York, is from its very nature odious to me. I know that much may be said in its favor — that drainage and gas-pipes come easier to such a shape, and that ground can be better economized. Nevertheless, I prefer a street that is forced to twist itself about. I enjoy the narrowness of Temple Bar and the misshapen curvature of Picket Street. The disreputable dinginess of Hollowell Street is dear to me, and I love to thread my way up the Olympic into Covent Garden. Fifth Avenue in New York is as grand as paint and glass can make it; but I would not live in a palace in Fifth Avenue if the corporation of the city would pay my baker’s and butcher’s bills.
The town of Ottawa lies between two waterfalls. The upper one, or Rideau Fall, is formed by the confluence of a small river with the larger one; and the lower fall — designated as lower because it is at the foot of the hill, though it is higher up the Ottawa River — is called the Chaudiere, from its resemblance to a boiling kettle. This is on the Ottawa River itself. The Rideau Fall is divided into two branches, thus forming an island in the middle, as is the case at Niagara. It is pretty enough, and worth visiting even were it farther from the town than it is; but by those who have hunted out many cataracts in their travels it will not be considered very remarkable. The Chaudiere Fall I did think very remarkable. It is of trifling depth, being formed by fractures in the rocky bed of the river; but the waters have so cut the rock as to create beautiful forms in the rush which they make in their descent. Strangers are told to look at these falls from the suspension bridge; and it is well that they should do so. But, in so looking at them, they obtain but a very small part of their effect. On the Ottawa side of the bridge is a brewery, which brewery is surrounded by a huge timber-yard. This timber yard I found to be very muddy, and the passing and repassing through it is a work of trouble; but nevertheless let the traveler by all means make his way through the mud, and scramble over the timber, and cross the plank bridges which traverse the streams of the saw-mills, and thus take himself to the outer edge of the wood-work over the water. If he will then seat himself, about the hour of sunset, he will see the Chaudiere Fall aright.
But the glory of Ottawa will be — and, indeed, already is — the set of public buildings which is now being erected on the rock which guards, as it were, the town from the river. How much of the excellence of these buildings may be due to the taste of Sir Edmund Head, the late governor, I do not know. That he has greatly interested himself in the subject, is well known; and, as the style of the different buildings is so much alike as to make one whole, though the designs of different architects were selected and these different architects employed, I imagine that considerable alterations must have been made in the original drawings. There are three buildings, forming three sides of a quadrangle; but they are not joined, the vacant spaces at the corner being of considerable extent. The fourth side of the quadrangle opens upon one of the principal streets of the town. The center building is intended for the Houses of Parliament, and the two side buildings for the government offices. Of the first Messrs. Fuller and Jones are the architects, and of the latter Messrs. Stent and Laver. I did not have the pleasure of meeting any of these gentlemen; but I take upon myself to say that, as regards purity of art and manliness of conception, their joint work is entitled to the very highest praise. How far the buildings may be well arranged for the required purposes — how far they maybe economical in construction or specially adapted to the severe climate of the country — I cannot say; but I have no hesitation in risking my reputation for judgment in giving my warmest commendation to them as regards beauty of outline and truthful nobility of detail.
I shall not attempt to describe them, for I should interest no one in doing so, and should certainly fail in my attempt to make any reader understand me. I know no modern Gothic purer of its kind or less sullied with fictitious ornamentation. Our own Houses of Parliament are very fine, but it is, I believe, generally felt that the ornamentation is too minute; and, moreover, it may be questioned whether perpendicular Gothic is capable of the highest nobility which architecture can achieve. I do not pretend to say that these Canadian public buildings will reach that highest nobility. They must be finished before any final judgment can be pronounced; but I do feel very certain that that final judgment will be greatly in their favor. The total frontage of the quadrangle, including the side buildings, is 1200 feet; that of the center buildings is 475. As I have said before, 225,000 pounds have already been expended; and it is estimated that the total cost, including the arrangement and decoration of the ground behind the building and in the quadrangle, will be half a million.
The buildings front upon what will, I suppose, be the principal street of Ottawa, and they stand upon a rock looking immediately down upon the river. In this way they are blessed with a site peculiarly happy. Indeed, I cannot at this moment remember any so much so. The Castle of Edinburgh stands very well; but then, like many other castles, it stands on a summit by itself, and can only be approached by a steep ascent. These buildings at Ottawa, though they look down from a grand eminence immediately on the river, are approached from the town without any ascent. The rock, though it falls almost precipitously down to the water is covered with trees and shrubs; and then the river that runs beneath is rapid, bright, and picturesque in the irregularity of all its lines. The view from the back of the library, up to the Chaudiere Falls and to the saw-mills by which they are surrounded, is very lovely. So that I will say again that I know no site for such a set of buildings so happy as regards both beauty and grandeur. It is intended that the library, of which the walls were only ten feet above the ground when I was there, shall be an octagonal building, in shape and outward character like the chapter house of a cathedral. This structure will, I presume, be surrounded by gravel walks and green sward. Of the library there is a large model showing all the details of the architecture; and if that model be ultimately followed, this building alone will be worthy of a visit from English tourists. To me it was very wonderful to find such an edifice in the course of erection on the banks of a wild river almost at the back of Canada. But if ever I visit Canada again, it will be to see those buildings when completed.
And now, like all friendly critics, having bestowed my modicum of praise, I must proceed to find fault. I cannot bring myself to administer my sugar-plum without adding to it some bitter morsel by way of antidote. The building to the left of the quadrangle as it is entered is deficient in length, and on that account appears mean to the eye. The two side buildings are brought up close to the street, so that each has a frontage immediately on the street. Such being the case, they should be of equal length, or nearly so. Had the center of one fronted the center of the other, a difference of length might have been allowed; but in this case the side front of the smaller one would not have reached the street. As it is, the space between the main building and the smaller wing is disproportionably large, and the very distance at which it stands will, I fear, give to it that appearance of meanness of which I have spoken. The clerk of the works, who explained to me with much courtesy the plan of the buildings, stated that the design of this wing was capable of elongation, and had been expressly prepared with that object. If this be so, I trust that the defect will be remedied.
The great trade of Canada is lumbering; and lumbering consists in cutting down pine-trees up in the far distant forests, in hewing or sawing them into shape for market, and getting them down the rivers to Quebec, from whence they are exported to Europe, and chiefly to England. Timber in Canada is called lumber; those engaged in the trade are called lumberers, and the business itself is called lumbering. After a lapse of time it must no doubt become monotonous to those engaged in it, and the name is not engaging; but there is much about it that is very picturesque. A saw-mill worked by water power is almost always a pretty object; and stacks of new-cut timber are pleasant to the smell, and group themselves not amiss on the water’s edge. If I had the time, and were a year or two younger, I should love well to go up lumbering into the woods. The men for this purpose are hired in the fall of the year, and are sent up hundreds of miles away to the pine forests in strong gangs. Everything is there found for them. They make log huts for their shelter, and food of the best and the strongest is taken up for their diet. But no strong drink of any kind is allowed, nor is any within reach of the men. There are no publics, no shebeen houses, no grog-shops. Sobriety is an enforced virtue; and so much is this considered by the masters, and understood by the men, that very little contraband work is done in the way of taking up spirits to these settlements. It may be said that the work up in the forests is done with the assistance of no stronger drink than tea; and it is very hard work. There cannot be much work that is harder; and it is done amid the snows and forests of a Canadian winter. A convict in Bermuda cannot get through his daily eight hours of light labor without an allowance of rum; but a Canadian lumberer can manage to do his daily task on tea without milk. These men, however, are by no means teetotalers. When they come back to the towns they break out, and reward themselves for their long-enforced moderation. The wages I found to be very various, running from thirteen or fourteen dollars a month to twenty-eight or thirty, according to the nature of the work. The men who cut down the trees receive more than those who hew them when down, and these again more than the under class who make the roads and clear the ground. These money wages, however, are in addition to their diet. The operation requiring the most skill is that of marking the trees for the axe. The largest only are worth cutting, and form and soundness must also be considered.
But if I were about to visit a party of lumberers in the forest, I should not be disposed to pass a whole winter with them. Even of a very good thing one may have too much, I would go up in the spring, when the rafts are being formed in the small tributary streams, and I would come down upon one of them, shooting the rapids of the rivers as soon as the first freshets had left the way open. A freshet in the rivers is the rush of waters occasioned by melting snow and ice. The first freshets take down the winter waters of the nearer lakes and rivers. Then the streams become for a time navigable, and the rafts go down. After that comes the second freshet, occasioned by the melting of far-off snow and ice up in the great northern lakes, which are little known. These rafts are of immense construction, such as those which we have seen on the Rhone and Rhine, and often contain timber to the value of two, three, and four thousand pounds. At the rapids the large rafts are, as it were, unyoked, and divided into small portions, which go down separately. The excitement and motion of such transit must, I should say, be very joyous. I was told that the Prince of Wales desired to go down a rapid on a raft, but that the men in charge would not undertake to say that there was no possible danger; whereupon those who accompanied the prince requested his Royal Highness to forbear. I fear that, in these careful days, crowned heads and their heirs must often find themselves in the position of Sancho at the banquet. The sailor prince, who came after his brother, was allowed to go down a rapid, and got, as I was told, rather a rough bump as he did so.
Ottawa is a great place for these timber rafts. Indeed, it may, I think, be called the headquarters of timber for the world. Nearly all the best pine-wood comes down the Ottawa and its tributaries. The other rivers by which timber is brought down to the St. Lawrence are chiefly the St. Maurice, the Madawaska, and the Saguenay; but the Ottawa and its tributaries water 75,000 square miles, whereas the other three rivers, with their tributaries, water only 53,000. The timber from the Ottawa and St. Maurice finds its way down the St. Lawrence to Quebec, where, however, it loses the whole of its picturesque character. The Saguenay and the Madawaska fall into the St. Lawrence below Quebec.
From Ottawa we went by rail to Prescott, which is surely one of the most wretched little places to be found in any country. Immediately opposite to it, on the other side of the St. Lawrence, is the thriving town of Ogdensburg. But Ogdensburg is in the United States. Had we been able to learn at Ottawa any facts as to the hours of the river steamers and railways, we might have saved time and have avoided Prescott; but this was out of the question. Had I asked the exact hour at which I might reach Calcutta by the quickest route, an accurate reply would not have been more out of the question. I was much struck, at Prescott — and, indeed, all through Canada, though more in the upper than in the lower province — by the sturdy roughness, some would call it insolence, of those of the lower classes of the people with whom I was brought into contact. If the words “lower classes” give offense to any reader, I beg to apologize — to apologize, and to assert that I am one of the last of men to apply such a term in a sense of reproach to those who earn their bread by the labor of their hands. But it is hard to find terms which will be understood; and that term, whether it give offense or no, will be understood. Of course such a complaint as that I now make is very common as made against the States. (Men in the States, with horned hands and fustian coats, are very often most unnecessarily insolent in asserting their independence. What I now mean to say is that precisely the same fault is to be found in Canada. I know well what the men mean when they offend in this manner. And when I think on the subject with deliberation at my own desk, I can not only excuse, but almost approve them. But when one personally encounters this corduroy braggadocio; when the man to whose services one is entitled answers one with determined insolence; when one is bidden to follow “that young lady,” meaning the chambermaid, or desired, with a toss of the head, to wait for the “gentleman who is coming,” meaning the boots, the heart is sickened, and the English traveler pines for the civility — for the servility, if my American friends choose to call it so — of a well-ordered servant. But the whole scene is easily construed, and turned into English. A man is asked by a stranger some question about his employment, and he replies in a tone which seems to imply anger, insolence, and a dishonest intention to evade the service for which he is paid. Or, if there be no question of service or payment, the man’s manner will be the same, and the stranger feels that he is slapped in the face and insulted. The translation of it is this: The man questioned, who is aware that as regards coat, hat, boots, and outward cleanliness he is below him by whom he is questioned, unconsciously feels himself called upon to assert his political equality. It is his shibboleth that he is politically equal to the best, that he is independent, and that his labor, though it earn him but a dollar a day by porterage, places him as a citizen on an equal rank with the most wealthy fellow-man that may employ or accost him. But, being so inferior in that coat, hat, and boots matter, he is forced to assert his equality by some effort. As he improves in externals, he will diminish the roughness of his claim. As long as the man makes his claim with any roughness, so long does he acknowledge within himself some feeling of external inferiority. When that has gone — when the American has polished himself up by education and general well-being to a feeling of external equality with gentlemen, he shows, I think, no more of that outward braggadocio of independence than a Frenchman.
But the blow at the moment of the stroke is very galling. I confess that I have occasionally all but broken down beneath it. But when it is thought of afterward it admits of full excuse. No effort that a man can make is better than a true effort at independence. But this insolence is a false effort, it will be said. It should rather be called a false accompaniment to a life-long true effort. The man probably is not dishonest, does not desire to shirk any service which is due from him, is not even inclined to insolence. Accept his first declaration of equality for that which it is intended to represent, and the man afterward will be found obliging and communicative. If occasion offer he will sit down in the room with you, and will talk with you on any subject that he may choose; but having once ascertained that you show no resentment for this assertion of equality, he will do pretty nearly all that is asked. He will at any rate do as much in that way as an Englishman. I say thus much on this subject now especially, because I was quite as much struck by the feeling in Canada as I was within the States.
From Prescott we went on by the Grand Trunk Railway to Toronto, and stayed there for a few days. Toronto is the capital of the province of Upper Canada, and I presume will in some degree remain so, in spite of Ottawa and its pretensions. That is, the law courts will still be held there. I do not know that it will enjoy any other supremacy unless it be that of trade and population. Some few years ago Toronto was advancing with rapid strides, and was bidding fair to rival Quebec, or even perhaps Montreal. Hamilton also, another town of Upper Canada, was going ahead in the true American style; but then reverses came in trade, and the towns were checked for awhile. Toronto, with a neighboring suburb which is a part of it, as Southwark is of London, contains now over 50,000 inhabitants. The streets are all parallelogramical, and there is not a single curvature to rest the eye. It is built down close upon Lake Ontario; and as it is also on the Grand Trunk Railway, it has all the aid which facility of traffic can give it.
The two sights of Toronto are the Osgoode Hall and the University. The Osgoode Hall is to Upper Canada what the Four Courts are to Ireland. The law courts are all held there. Exteriorly, little can be said for Osgoode Hall, whereas the exterior of the Four Courts in Dublin is very fine; but as an interior, the temple of Themis at Toronto beats hollow that which the goddess owns in Dublin. In Dublin the courts themselves are shabby, and the space under the dome is not so fine as the exterior seems to promise that it should be. In Toronto the courts themselves are, I think, the most commodious that I ever saw, and the passages, vestibules, and hall are very handsome. In Upper Canada the common-law judges and those in chancery are divided as they are in England; but it is, as I was told, the opinion of Canadian lawyers that the work may be thrown together. Appeal is allowed in criminal cases; but as far as I could learn such power of appeal is held to be both troublesome and useless. In Lower Canada the old French laws are still administered.
But the University is the glory of Toronto. This is a Gothic building, and will take rank after, but next to, the buildings at Ottawa. It will be the second piece of noble architecture in Canada, and as far as I know on the American continent. It is, I believe, intended to be purely Norman, though I doubt whether the received types of Norman architecture have not been departed from in many of the windows. Be this as it may, the college is a manly, noble structure, free from false decoration, and infinitely creditable to those who projected it. I was informed by the head of the college that it has been open only two years; and here also I fancy that the colony has been much indebted to the taste of the late Governor, Sir Edmund Head.
Toronto as a city is not generally attractive to a traveler. The country around it is flat; and, though it stands on a lake, that lake has no attributes of beauty. Large inland seas, such as are these great Northern lakes of America, never have such attributes. Picturesque mountains rise from narrow valleys, such as form the beds of lakes in Switzerland, Scotland, and Northern Italy; but from such broad waters as those of Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, and Lake Michigan, the shores shelve very gradually, and have none of the materials of lovely scenery.
The streets in Toronto are framed with wood, or rather planked, as are those of Montreal and Quebec; but they are kept in better order. I should say that the planks are first used at Toronto, then sent down by the lake to Montreal, and when all but rotted out there, are again floated off by the St. Lawrence to be used in the thoroughfares of the old French capital. But if the streets of Toronto are better than those of the other towns, the roads around it are worse. I had the honor of meeting two distinguished members of the Provincial Parliament at dinner some few miles out of town, and, returning back a short while after they had left our host’s house, was glad to be of use in picking them up from a ditch into which their carriage had been upset. To me it appeared all but miraculous that any carriage should make its way over that road without such misadventure. I may perhaps be allowed to hope that the discomfiture of these worthy legislators may lead to some improvement in the thoroughfare.
I had on a previous occasion gone down the St. Lawrence, through the Thousand Isles and over the Rapids, in one of those large summer steamboats which ply upon the lake and river. I cannot say that I was much struck by the scenery, and therefore did not encroach upon my time by making the journey again. Such an opinion will be regarded as heresy by many who think much of the Thousand Islands. I do not believe that they would be expressly noted by any traveler who was not expressly bidden to admire them.
From Toronto we went across to Niagara, re-entering the States at Lewiston, in New York.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14