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CHAPTER THE FOURTEENTH.
THE LOWER TOWN-EARLIEST NOTICE OF IT-ITS
TRADE, AND MANNERS IN 1700—DESCRIPTION IN 1720-PRESENT STATE AND PUBLIC BUILDINGS.
It has been stated that the Lower Town of QUEBEC is built principally upon ground either gained by excavation from the rock on which the Upper Town stands, or, in the course of time, redeemed from the water's edge. As the early inhabitants had recourse to neither of these expedients, the site of their buildings in the Lower Town must have been very confined. Before the establishment of the Royal Government in 1663, a few scattered houses, magazines and stores, occupied all the River side, from the foot of the Sault-au-Matelot to the base of Cape Diamond. The oldest account of the Lower Town is to be found in the Latin work of Father Do Creux, who came to New France about 1625, and whose book is dated in 1664. He
.66 Below the Citadel, from the Sault-au-Matelot to Cape Diamond, there is a level space, convenient for landing merchandise, and the cargoes of vessels. This, if protected by a wall of masonry, would be evidently well adapted for a harbor, since the road is every way proper for ships, the force of the waves being broken by the interposition of the Isle of Orleans.
On this level space are the magazines of the French merchants: at some distance apart, the store-houses of some distinguished French gentlemen; and, now and then, some habitations of Frenchmen, who have exchanged Old for New France.”
In the Voyage de l'Amerique of LA POTHERIE, who visited the Province in 1698, there is an engraved representation of the Upper and Lower Town. From this it appears that the River then washed the foot of the cliff along St. Paul Street; and very few houses are seen from the point to the centre of Sault-au-Matelot Street. number are in the vicinity of the Place de Notre Dame, or Lower Town Market-place, where they were rather thickly clustered. Sous le Fort Street is plainly delineated, as well as the Queen's Wharf, which was then a platform planted with trees, where there was a battery level with the water. Towards the west, the buildings extended but a little way beyond the King's Wharf.
TRADE OF QUEBEC in 1700.
As an interesting recollection in the present advanced condition of Colonial trade,-now that the commercial character of the British population is fully developed, -we shall give an account of the early traffic of the Lower Town, on the authority of LA POTHERIE. The houses, in which the merchants lived for the convenience of business, were well built, and of cut stone. All persons, except the Clergy, and some of the Officers, Civil and Military, were engaged in commerce, the revenues of their lands being insufficient to maintain their families; and the country being in too rude a state to supply
all the conveniences of life. The principal trade was in peltry, which chiefly consisted of the produce of the beaver, Those who were fortunate enough to take these valuable animals, carried them to the Farmer's Office, Bureau de la Ferme, the Director of which paid for them in Bills of Exchange on France. In 1700, these Bills amounted to three hundred and thirty thousand livres. The trade in merchandise was by no means considerable; and was only profitable to a few foreign merchants who brought with them, or every year imported from France, goods to the amount of seven or eight thousand francs. Some few imported to the amount of twenty thousand; but they found it difficult to obtain a sale during that year. Greater sales were made of wine and brandy, than of any other commodity.
The period of most active business at Quebec, in the olden time, was during the months of August, September and October, in which the vessels arrived from France; so that at that time, one passage outward and inward was all they were able to accomplish. After the arrival of the vessels, there was a kind of fair in the Lower Town-every shop and store displayed newly imported treasures—and nothing was heard in the streets but the buz of the shopkeepers recommending their wares, and of customers endeavoring to make the best bargains they could. About the end of October, the Habitans came in from the country to make purchases. Every one endeavored to arrange his business before the departure of the vessels; as the Captains naturally took advantage of the fine weather, fearful of a gale from the north-east, which generally came a few days before or after Allsaints' day. They considered that by postponing their departure until
November, they ran some risk of meeting with ice in the River. From this reasoning of the shipmasters of that day, it would appear that there has been no change in the climate for the last century, since the Captains at present always hurry their departure after the 10th November; and various proofs might be adduced from the old writers to show that it was quite as mild, and the spring as early, in the time of CHAMPLAIN as at present.
La Potherie remarks the change in the appearance of the Lower Town after the departure of the shipping : “ The road,” he says, “ which is all at once left without craft has somewhat of a melancholy appearance. All is still, and we are left in the situation of ants, having nothing to do but to lay in our provisions for the winter, which is very long."
MANNER OF PASSING THE WINTER IN 1700.
About the end of September they began their preparations by preserving vegetables for their soup. Other vegetables and sallads were arranged in their cellars, which appeared like so many kitchen gardens. Every one, according to his means, provided himself with butchers' meat, poultry and game; which when frozen they preserved all the winter. The snow fell in quantities about the middle of November-all trade was at an end, and the greatest part of the shops were closed. While the snow continued to fall, people remained at home, La Potherie adds, as it were in their dens ; but it was widely different when it became hard on the surface. Then every body was in motion, carioles began to
run, vehicles which were found extremely commodious, and which are described exactly as they are used at present. They were then, perhaps, handsomer than now, being adorned with paintings and armorial bearings.
Advent was passed with all the observances of religion. On New Year's day, they interchanged visits of friendship and congratulation, as at present. The visiting season, however, than extended to eight days, during which time every one was in motion, and nothing was seen but gentlemen on foot and in carioles running from house to house. As there was no business to do, this was by no means a disagreeable method of killing a week during a long winter-now, it would be found difficult to devote so long a period even to so pleasant an employment. Until Lent, the time was passed agreeably enough. Joy and pleasure held undisputed reign : handsome entertainments were given : some there were so aristocratic and exclusive, that persons were only invited who were unexceptionable as to haut ton. People were entertained on other days according to their rank in life : one day, Officers of Government and their Ladies-on another, Councillors and their wives-on a third, the citizens generally. The women of the tiers etat in those days are represented very favorably, and as far superior to persons of the same condition in the Provinces of OLD FRANCE, and even in Paris itself. LA POTHERIE says, they spoke perfectly well, and with good accent. They had no dialect, which indeed is generally lost in a Colony. They had wit, delicacy, good voices, and loved dancing to excess. They were naturally prudent, and little addicted to trifling—so that when