Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

parties of pleasure in their calashes or canoes, and in winter they drove their carioles upon the snow or skated upon the river. Hunting was practised, not only for sport but profit. No rusticity in language or behaviour was exhibited, from the Bishop to the most obscure menial of the church, from the aristocratic partner to the humblest voyageur of the sur trade. The Canadians, says Charlevoix, “ drew in with their native breath the air of freedom." The agricultural classes were contented with their lot, while the noblesse, a chivalrous race, boasted of their ancestral honors, and exulted in their own military achievements. The French languaye was spoken with the utmost accuracy and elegance. At stated intervals, the settlements were enlivened by the traders, who returned from the depths of the wilderness, accompanied by the savages, who would sweep down, across the waters of the upper lakes, hold their carnival in the market-place, and fill the storehouses of the merchants with furs.

We do not design to enter into a minute account of the military operations of that period. They were confined mainly to expeditions against the English colonies and the Iroquois. About the year 1688, these tribes had landed twelve hundred warriors upon the Island of Montreal, and massacred about a thousand of the French ; and in a second attack, the lower part of the Island had been devastated. The Council, which had been held with the Iroquois at Onondaga, resulted in no permanent league. The massacre at Schenectady, on the 8th of February, 1690, by a body of two hundred Canadians and Indians, who travelled through a wilderness covered with deep snow, to perpetrate one of the most horrible butcheries on record, was followed by belligerent projects on the part of both nations, which, however, were prosecuted by neither to any important result.

In 1709, England and France being at war, hostilities were re-commenced in their American colonies, which continued until the treaty of Utrecht in 1712. It had been long the effort of the English to obtain a foothold on the northwestern lakes. They had in fact endeavoured, without success, to establish a post at Detroit, for the prosecution of the fur trade. The French establishment, made at Detroit in 1701, had scarce obtained a permanent footing, when the Ottagamies or Foxes were instigated by the Iroquois, probably backed by the English, to attack it. That post was deemed a most im

portant point, as it commanded a vast region of country along the chain of upper lakes, extending to the Mississippi. The attack of the fort at Detroit, however, was unsuccessful ; the besiegers became the besieged; the Foxes, obliged to escape at night during a snow storm, were pursued, and most of their number were either massacred or taken prisoners. This discomfiture of the Foxes prevented the English from making their settlement on the western shore of Lake Erie, as they had intended, in order to secure the trade. After the treaty of Utrecht, the French strengthened their garrison at Detroit, which then commanded the great line of communication along the lakes, embracing the territory of the Illinois, Louisiana, and the Mississippi. In 1714, there were only about four thousand five hundred men in Canada able to bear arms. Subsequent to that time, however, comparative peace was enjoyed by the province; beneficial changes were made in the laws; and the fur trade was prosecuted with increased vigor.

Such, substantially, as we have described it, continued to be the condition of things down to the period of the conquest of Canada by the English.* Hostilities were from time to time committed by the English and French against each others' settlements, backed by Indian allies and bodies of rangers, who were trained by the English to the hardships of the forest, or what was termed the wood service.” The French constantly kept in view the conquest of Cape Breton and Nova Scotia, and the devastation of New England; and the English, the subjugation of Canada. At the end of a succession of administrations, the Marquis Du Quesne was in 1755 succeeded by the Sieur de Vaudreuil Cavignal, in the office of Governor-General of Canada. In that year occurred the defeat of Braddock; and in the following, the Marquis de Montcalm advanced with great energy against the English posts. On the other hand, the splendid genius of the Earl of Chatham having projected a vigorous campaign against the French colonies, twelve thousand troops were sent over, under the command of General Amherst. Louisburg, Oswego, and Crown Point were successively captured ; and though Ticonderoga was attacked without success, the design of the French to surround the English with a chain of posts from Quebec to the mouth of the Mississippi was baffled, and their ascendency on this continent was finally overthrown by the defeat of Montcalm on the plains of Abraham by the forces of General Wolfe, and the surrender of Montreal in November, 1760, by the Marquis of Vaudreuil, to General Amherst. By this capitulation, Detroit, Michilimackinac, and all other places within the government of Canada, then remaining in the possession of the French, were surrendered to the crown of England.

* In 1745, an edict was passed, which accounts for the peculiar form of the old French plantations which are scattered along the banks of the rivers. It ordained, that no country houses should be built on farms of larger dimensions than one acre and a half in front, and forty acres in depth; and in consequence, the settlements were confined along the shores of the principal streams.

The internal condition of Canada was not much changed by its conquest. The fur trade was transferred to the English, who employed French agents in its prosecution, and the French were encouraged to remain in the country, in the enjoyment of their civil and religious rights. Soon after the peace of 1763, Governor Murray established civil and criminal courts, in which the laws of England were introduced. We subjoin an extract from a letter written by him in 1765, to the Lords of Trade and Plantations, which exhibits the condition of the province at that time.

“ It consists of 110 parishes, exclusive of the towns of Quebec and Montreal. These parishes contain 9722 houses, and 54,575 Christian souls; they occupy of arable land 955,755 arpents. They sowed, in the year 1765, 180,300minots of grain; and that year they possessed 12,546 oxen, 22,724 cows, 15,039 young horned cattle, 27,064 sheep, 23,976 swine, and 13,757 horses, as appears by the annexed recapitulation taken in the

year 1765.

“ The towns of Quebec and Montreal contain about 14,700 inhabitants. The savages who are called Roman Catholics, being within the limits of the province, consist of 7400 souls; so that the whole, exclusive of the King's troops, amount to 76,275 souls, of which in the parishes are nineteen Protestant families ; the rest of that persuasion (a few half-pay officers excepted) are traders, mechanics, and publicans, who reside in the lower towns of Quebec and Montreal. Most of them were followers of the army, of mean education, or soldiers disbanded at the reduction of the troops. All have their fortunes to make; and I fear few are solicitous about the means, when the end can be obtained. I report them to be, in general, the most immoral collecVOL. XLVI. No. 99.

55

tion of men I ever knew ; of course little calculated to make the new subjects enamoured with our laws, religion, and customs, and far less adapted to enforce those laws which are to govern them.

“On the other hand, the Canadians, accustomed to arbitrary, and a sort of military government, are a frugal, industrious, and moral race of men, who, from the just and mild treatment they met with from his Majesty's military officers, who ruled the country for four years, until the establishment of civil government, had greatly got the better of the natural antipathy they had to their conquerors.

“ They consist of a noblesse, who are numerous, and who pique themselves much upon the antiquity of their families, their own military glory, and that of their ancestors. These noblesse are seigneurs of the whole country; and though not rich, are in a situation, in that plentiful part of the world, where money is scarce, and luxury still unknown, to support their dignity. Their tenants, who pay only an annual quit rent of about a dollar for one hundred acres, are at their ease and comfortable. They have been accustomed to respect and obey their noblesse. Their tenures being military, in the feudal manner, they have shared with them the dangers of the field ; and natural affection has been increased in proportion to the calamities which have been common to both, from the conquest of this country.". McGregor, Vol. 11. pp. 156, 157.

The Canadian jurisprudence was again altered by the law of 1774, denominated the “Quebec Act.” By this measure, the administration of the colony was committed to a governor and council appointed by the English crown; and while the old French laws, according to the Coutûme de Paris, continued to have authority in civil cases, all criminal matters were ordained to be adjudged by the laws of England. The system of seignorial revenues was preserved, and the Catholic church was secured in all the immunities which it had enjoyed under the French domination. In 1778, the declaratory act renounced, on the part of the parent country, the right of taxing the colonies. The last important measure, affecting the condition of Canada, prior to the present century, was the “Constitutional Act" of 1791, which divided the province of Quebec into the two provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, granting to each a legislative government, composed of a Governor, Council, and House of Assembly, while the old French laws, as established by the Quebec Act, were ordained to remain in full force.

ART. VI. — 1. Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott,

Bart., by J. G. LOCKHART. Five Vols. 12mo.

Boston. Otis, Broaders, & Co. 1837. 2. Recollections of Sir Walter Scott, Bart. 16mo. Lon

don. James Fraser. 1837.

THERE is no kind of writing, which has truth and instruction for its main object, so interesting and popular, on the whole, as biography. History, in its larger sense, has to deal with masses, which, while they divide the attention by the dazzling variety of objects, from their very generality, are scarcely capable of touching the heart. The great objects on which it is employed, have little relation to the daily occupations, with which the reader is most intimate. A nation, like a corporation, seems to have no soul; and its chequered vicissitudes may be contemplated rather with curiosity for the lessons they convey, than with personal sympathy. How different are the feelings excited by the fortunes of an individual, one of the mighty mass, who in the page of history is swept along the current, unnoticed and unknown. Instead of a mere abstraction, at once we see a being like ourselves, “ fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer?

We place ourselves in his position, and see the passing current of events with the same eyes. We become a party to all his little schemes, share in his triumphs, or mourn with him in the disappointment of defeat. His friends become our friends. We learn to take an interest in their characters, from their relation to him. As they pass away from the stage, one after another, and as the ud of misfortune, perhaps, or of disease, settle around the evening of his own day, we feel the same sadness that steals over us on a retrospect of earlier and happier hours. And when at last we have followed him to the tomb, we close the volume, and feel that we have turned over another chapter in the history of life.

On the same principles, probably, we are more moved by the exhibition of those characters, whose days have been passed in the ordinary routine of domestic and social life, than by those most intimately connected with the great pub

as we are.

« ForrigeFortsett »