CANADA THE POOR MAN'S COUNTRY. -- DISADVANTAGES OF INEXPERIENCE. -- TOWNSHIP OF HARVEY SETTLEMENT. -- PAUPER EMIGRATION. -- SUPERIOR ADVANTAGES OF THE LABOURER COLONIST. -- TEMPERANCE AND TEMPERANCE SOCIETIES. -- A DRY ANSWER TO WATERY ARGUMENTS. -- BRITISH AND FOREIGN TEMPERANCE SOCIETY.
THERE is no colony belonging to the British Crown better adapted for the poor industrious emigrant than the Canadas, particularly the Upper Province, which is essentially the poor man's country. Twenty-five years ago, the expense of the voyage out to Quebec, and the difficulty, delay, and additional outlay of the inland journey put it completely out of the power of the needy agriculturist or artizan to emigrate; the very classes, however, who, from their having been brought up from their infancy to hard labour, and used to all sorts of privations, were the best fitted to cope with the dangers and hardships attending the settlement of a new country. The impossibility of the working hand raising funds for emigration, confined the colonists to a set of men less calculated to contend with difficulties--namely, half-pay officers and gentlemen of better family than income, who were almost invariably the pioneers of every new settlement.
Many high-spirited gentlemen were, doubtless, tempted by the grants of land bestowed upon them by the Government, which made actual settlement one of the conditions of the grant. It followed, as a matter of course, that the majority of these persons were physically disqualified for such an undertaking, a fact which many deserted farms in the rear townships of the county in which I reside painfully indicate.
Eighteen or twenty years ago a number of gentlemen located themselves in the township of Harvey. The spot chosen by them was one of great natural beauty; but it possessed no other advantages, except an abundance of game, which was no small inducement to them. They spent several thousand pounds in building fancy log-houses and making large clearings which they had neither the ability nor industry to cultivate. But, even if they had possessed sufficient perseverance, their great distance from a market, bad roads, want of knowledge in cropping after they had cleared the land, lack of bridges, and poor soil, would have been a great drawback to the chance of effecting a prosperous settlement. In a few years not a settler remained of this little colony. Some stayed till their means were thoroughly exhausted; others, more wise, purchased ready-cleared farms in the settlements or followed some profession more congenial to their taste, or more suited to their abilities.
The only persons fit to undertake the hardships of a bush-life, are those who have obtained a certain degree of experience in their own country upon the paternal estate or farm. Men who have large families to provide for, and who have been successful in wood-clearing, are generally willing to sell their improvements, and purchase wild land for their families, whose united industry soon places them in a better farm than they owned before. They are thus rendered greater capitalists, with increased means of providing for their children, who soon take up their standing in society as its favoured class. Indeed, I would strongly advise gentlemen of small capital to purchase ready-cleared farms, which can be obtained in most parts of the country, with almost every convenience, for half what the clearing of bush-land would cost, especially by an inexperienced settler. In fact, since grants of land are no longer given to the emigrant, there is less inducement to go so far back into the woods.
Since 1826, a steady influx of the working classes from Great Britain and Ireland has taken place. This has tended much to the prosperity of the country, by cheapening labour, and the settlement of vast tracts of wild land.
Several experiments have been made by Government in sending out pauper emigration: that from the south of Ireland, under the superintendance of the late Hon. Peter Robinson in 1824, was the most extensive, and came more immediately under my own observation. I have understood that some most obnoxious and dangerous characters were shipped off in this expedition--no doubt to the great comfort of landlords, agents, and tithe-proctors.
The Government behaved very liberally to these settlers. A grant of a hundred acres of good land was given to each head of a family, and to every son above twenty-one years of age.
A good milch cow, and rations of pork and flour were assigned to each emigrant family. These provisions they continued to receive for upwards of eighteen months, besides a variety of stores, such as axes, hammers, saws, nails, grindstones, &c. A good log-shanty was also built on each settler's lot. These people have done as well as could be expected, considering the material of which they were composed. It has been observed that, whenever these people were located amongst the Protestant population, they made much better settlers than when remaining with Catholics.
In fact, a great improvement is perceptible in the morality, industry and education of the rising generation, who grow up more virtuous and less bigoted to their exclusive religious opinions.
As a general rule, the English, Scotch, and north of Ireland men make much better and more independent colonists than emigrants from the south of Ireland.
Seven years after the location of Robinson's emigrants, a colony of Wiltshire people settled in the township of Dummer under many more disadvantages than those placed by Government in the township of Douro.
The Dummer people had no shanties built for them, no cows, and were given much worse land; and yet they have done much more in a shorter time. An air of comfort and cleanliness pervades their dwellings, and there is a neatness about their farms and homesteads which is generally wanted in the former.
It must, however, be borne in mind that paupers sent out by the Government, or by their own parishes, are not a fair specimen by which to judge the working classes, who emigrated at their own expenses. Of the latter, I know hundreds who, upon their arrival in the Upper Province, had spent their last shilling, and who, by persevering industry, are now worth hundreds of pounds. No person need starve in Canada, where there is plenty of work and good wages for every man who is willing to labour, and who keeps himself sober. The working man with a family of grown children, when fairly established on his farm, is fully on a par, as regards his prospects, with the gentleman, the owner of a similar farm, and possessing an income of 100 pounds per annum. The reason is obvious. The gentleman and his family have been used to wear finer clothes, keep better company, and maintain a more respectable appearance, and if he has children, to give them a more expensive education.
Then, again, the gentleman and his family are physically less qualified to undergo the hardships and toil of a practical farmer's life. On the other hand, the working man thinks it no degradation to send his sons and daughters out to service, and the united product of their wages amount, probably to eight or ten pounds per month. He is contented with home-spun cloth, while the spinning and knitting--and sometimes weaving--required by the family, are done at home. Labour, indeed, is money; and hence in a few years the gentleman with his income is soon distanced, and the working hand becomes the man of wealth, while his children eventually form a part of the aristocracy of the country, if the father gives them a suitable education.
There is one thing, however, to be said in favour of the gentleman--namely, his education, which fits him for offices and professions which must remain for ever out of the reach of the half-ignorant. It is, therefore, only in agricultural pursuits, and mechanical operations, that the working man is able to obtain a superiority; and then only if he be sober and industrious, for whiskey has been the great bane of the colony. Hundreds of our cleverest mechanics, and many of gentler blood, have fallen victims to its influence.
It is said that temperance societies have done a great deal towards checking this evil, and that the new society, the "Sons of Temperance," will complete what the others began. I am quite willing to admit it as a fact, because I believe that the practice of temperance has gained ground, both in Canada and the United States. But I am unwilling to allow that the means taken to effect that much-desired object are the best that might be adopted. Indeed, I think, in some instances, the endeavour to prohibit the use of fermented drink altogether, has been carried to unchristian lengths.
I believe that, if the same amount of money had been expended in propagating the gospel, as has been laid out by these total abstinence societies, more real converts to temperance would have been gained, because principle and true religion would have been the bases on which the reformation was founded.
Throughout the whole Bible and Testament, there is not a single command to abstain totally from either wine or strong drink; but there is a positive one respecting the abuse, and dreadful denunciations against the drunkard. Then in respect to the prohibition, the false prophet has, in the Koran, forbidden his followers to use wine at all. Now, which do we profess to follow,--the precepts of Jesus Christ, or those of Mahomet? But some will say, if your brother offends by his intemperate habits, you should abstain altogether, that you may become a good example to him. By the same rule, if my brother is a glutton, I should abstain from food also. Now, I believe with the Apostle, "that all the creatures of God are good," and lawful for us to use; but we are not to abuse them, "but to be temperate in all things," thus acting up to the rule of scripture, and setting a better example than if we wholly abstained from fermented drink. Any other rule, excepting in cases of notorious drunkenness, is, in my opinion, anti-scriptural, and therefore wrong.
The new American society, "The Sons of Temperance," which now takes the lead of all other temperance or tee-total societies, is a secret and benefit society, having its signs and pass-words. In the hands of clever leaders and designing men, may not a society of this kind become a great political engine?
Sometimes very ludicrous scenes occur at temperance meetings. A few years ago, when this question was first agitated in Canada, a meeting was held in a school-house on the English line, in the township of Dummer. The lecturer, on that occasion, was an itinerant preacher of the Methodist persuasion. After descanting some time in a very fluent manner, on the evils arising from intemperance, and the great numbers who had lost their lives by violent means, "for my part," said the lecturer, "I have known nearly three hundred cases of this kind myself."
This broad assertion was too much for one of the audience, an old Wiltshire man, who exclaimed, in his peculiar dialect, "Now, I know that 'ere be a lie. Can you swear that you did ever see three out of them three hundred violent deaths you speak on?"
"Well, I have heard and read of them in books and newspapers; and I once saw a man lying dead on the road, and a jar, half full of whiskey, beside him, which, I think, you will allow is proof enough."
"I thought your three hundred cases would turn out like the boy's cats in his grandmother's garden. Now, I will tell thee, that I did know three men that did kill themselves by drinking of cold water. There was John H-----, that over-heated hisself, walking from Cobourg, and drank so much water at the cold springs, that he fell down and died in a few minutes. Then there was that workman of Elliott's, in Smith, who dropped in the harvest-field, from the same cause; and the Irishman from Asphodel, whose name I forget. So, you see, that more people do die from drinking cold water than whiskey." Then he turned round to a neighbour, who, like himself, was not over-fond of cold water, and said, "I say, Jerome, which would you rather have, a glass of cold water, or a drap of good beer?"
"I know which I would take," exclaimed Jerome; "I would like a drap of good beer best, I do know."
This dialogue raised such a laugh against the apostle of temperance, that the meeting was fairly broken up, leaving the Wiltshire man triumphing in his victory over cold water and oratory, in the person of the lecturer. The dryness of his arguments prevailed against the refreshing and copious draughts of the pure element recommended by his discomfited opponent.
A good joke is not, however, a good argument, though it stood for one at this meeting. Total abstinence is the best plan to be adopted by habitual drunkards, who, if they can get at strong drink at all, seldom keep their pledge of sobriety. The British and Foreign Temperance Society, in fact, advises the habitually intemperate to abstain altogether, while, at the same time, it aims at bringing the man to repentance and reformation, by the renovating influence of the gospel. If I differ in some respects from that society, in its prohibition against the use of spirits altogether, in such a climate as Canada, I still must consider its views far more liberal, and more consistent with scripture rules, than that of any other for the promotion of temperance, as, indeed, possessing more of that charity, without which even the most fervent zeal is worse than useless.
Last revised 2005-03-04