THE AGRICULTURE OF this province is still in a very backward state, even in the old settlements. And no wonder, as the original settlers were mostly discharged soldiers, mixed with farmers from the United States. The best farmers are those who have recently arrived from Great Britain. Here and there you may see a farm under good management; but in general there is much room for improvement. The Canadian farmers, by which is generally meant the French settlers in the lower provinces, have made little or no improvement on the plan pursued by their great grandfathers a hundred years ago; and what effectually hinders the amelioration of their circumstances is their firm belief that no system is half as good as theirs. It is to be hoped, however, that the success of the English and Scotch farmers settled among them, will at length open their eyes to see their error.
Agricultural societies were established in 1817 in both Quebec and Montreal, and since that time in various other parts of the two provinces. These have already done much good; and it is to be hoped that, in a few years, they will be enabled to introduce a new and improved system of husbandry. It cannot be denied, however, that those who possess liberal minds, and are doing their utmost to promote the improvement of the country, have much apathy, ignorance, prejudice, and obstinacy to contend with. In some instances, the liberal premiums held out by the societies have produced no competition at all among the native farmers. But the country is so well fitted for agriculture, that among British emigrants its prosperity is not doubtful. The soil is fertile, the climate is genial; and when the timber is cleared off, and the stumps decayed, extensive plains will everywhere present themselves fit for tillage. The emigration which every year takes place from the United States to these provinces, is of itself a sufficient evidence of the advantages which they hold out to settlers.
Emigrants from Great Britain and Ireland feel quite at home in Upper Canada. The language is their own; and they everywhere meet with their countrymen, ready to welcome them to this land of freedom from tithes and tax-gatherers. They must expect to labour hard, especially for a few years at first; but the prospect of independence, and a provision for their families, will sweeten all their toils. While land is to be obtained here at a moderate rate, nothing but ignorance or prejudice can induce emigrants to prefer the United States, for there the taxes are higher and the land dearer. Canada is an extensive country, and presents a variety of situations to the choice of emigrants. I do not think, however, that any place in the province will be found more agreeable than Perth, when all circumstances are considered. Here are churches of various denominations, schools for the education of youth, stores for furnishing goods of almost every description, and society of all sorts, from the best to the worst. The inhabitants are healthy, and less subject to fever and ague, than those who inhabit the shores of the great lakes. The sky is serener and the air clearer than in Britain; and colds and coughs are much less frequent. The summer is not long; but the progress of vegetation is so rapid that our crops are good, and the productions of our gardens various. Many kinds which in Britain must be raised in hot-houses, are produced here in great perfection in the open air. Cucumbers are raised in every garden. Musk melons sometimes weigh from six to ten pounds, and water melons from twelve to twenty. Pumpkins have sometimes reached sixty pounds, and frequently from forty to fifty. These facts speak for themselves, and give a correct idea of the climate.
Emigrants coming to this country, ought, however, to be cautioned against indulging unreasonable expectations, which can never be realised. Many have supposed, that if they could be conveyed to America, their difficulties would be at an end. They would find, on their landing, someone ready to offer them assistance and employment. Whatever it may have been formerly, this is not the case now. Both labourers and mechanics are more abundant, and their wages lower than they were a few years ago. Farmers ought to bring a sum of money along with them, or they cannot expect to succeed, especially on new land; for though they should get a farm for nothing, their stock and first improvements will cost them something considerable, besides what is necessary to support their families, at least one year after their arrival. Some persons come to Canada with foolish expectations, and when they find them disappointed, they send back the most deplorable accounts to their friends, and blame the country for all the evils into which their own imprudence has plunged them. An industrious family, with a small stock of money, may soon become comfortable, but the indolent and imprudent will find themselves no better off than in Britain.
Government has sometimes given encouragement and assistance to emigrants wishing to settle in Canada. This is a very wise measure. In many parts of Great Britain and Ireland, the population has become so great as to be a burden to the country; but were those that can be spared conveyed to the colonies, and supported during the first year, they would by industry not only become comfortable themselves, but be a benefit to their country. Were the money employed in Ireland to suppress rebellions, laid out in this way, its diseases would be cured without bloodshed, and the forests of Canada would be peopled with a hardy race, ready to defend their country against invasion. It is said that some of those persons settled upon the crown-lands were formerly disaffected to government, but if they were so at home they are not so here. The relief they have obtained from taxes, abundance of wholesome food and labour, and the facility of voting for a representative in the provincial parliament have, with other causes, contributed to render them as loyal subjects as any in the British dominions.
To persons intending to emigrate to Canada, the following hints may be of use. Let them sail, if possible, from a port on the west coast. A voyage round the north of Scotland is generally very disagreeable, and often dangerous. In the fortnight that I was detained upon that coast, I suffered more than in all the rest of the passage. Let them select a ship that has good accommodations, and is not too much crowded. To most people the smell and confinement of a ship are sufficiently disagreeable, even with a moderate number, and the utmost attention to cleanliness and airing. But when there are three or four hundred on board one ship, as has sometimes been the case, it soon becomes intolerably filthy and disease is the consequence. Three or four years ago, two Dutch ships coming from Holland to the United States, crowded with passengers were rather longer on the way than they expected. Disease made its appearance among them, and, before a landing could be effected, it had carried off about ninety of its victims. If passengers find their own provisions, they will then have what is fit to eat, the captain finding only water and fire for cooking. In some ships you may find abundance of good and wholesome food for the passengers, but in others it is scarcely fit for hogs. Even when the captain engages to find provisions, as sickness may be expected, passengers would do well to carry a few necessary articles along with them, such as currant jelly, gooseberry jam, raisins, gingerbread, eggs, cheese, butter, tea, sugar, &c. A few simple medicines should also be at hand, and all should take physic whenever they come ashore, even though they should not be sick. For want of this precaution, many are laid up with a flux, for months after they arrive, and most of the children that die are carried off by that disorder.
Emigrants should bring plenty of warm clothing for winter, and some that is lighter for the summer. The winter is colder and the summer warmer than with you, and it would be very inconvenient to wear the same kind of clothes in both seasons. All kinds of clothing, indeed, as well as other necessaries, may be purchased at Montreal, but at a somewhat higher rate than in Britain. Those who have money should not lay it out in the purchase of goods expecting to get profit by them. This may have been an advantage formerly but it is seldom so now. I have even known instances of persons who brought out goods, selling them for less than they cost at home. They should bring all they have in ready cash, namely, in gold and silver, or in bills upon some good house in Quebec or Montreal. English shillings pass at 13d., half-crowns at 2s. 9d., Spanish dollars at 5s., and other silver coins in proportion – seven shilling pieces at 7s. 9d. and guineas at full weight, at 23s. 10-1/2d.
Those who wish to settle in the lower province will everywhere find opportunities of buying or renting land, but emigrants generally prefer the upper province, on account of its milder climate. In the seignories in the lower province, the feudal system still prevails, but in this, the lands granted by the crown are all freehold. Land, in its natural state in this neighbourhood, sells for from five to forty shillings an acre, according to its goodness and situation. But emigrants who have the means, will find it a better plan to buy a farm on which some improvement has already been made, than to settle upon wild lands back in the woods. A farm of a hundred acres, with a small house and a few acres cleared, may be obtained for from fifty to a hundred pounds.
The hardships of a new settlement, in a wild country, are greater than most people suppose. The north bank of the St. Lawrence was settled at the termination of the revolutionary war, about forty years ago, by loyalists and discharged soldiers. The country was then an entire forest, and the settlers were from fifty to a hundred miles from a mill, and nearly as far from a store at which necessaries could be procured. Hence they were often forced to grind their grain in coffee-mills, or boil and eat it whole. From an old and respectable officer I had the following account, which will throw some light upon the condition of the settlers, at the period to which it refers. One of his men had been constantly employed for some days, with a hand-mill, grinding wheat for the use of the rest, when he resolved to attempt providing flour at a less expensive rate. He dispatched his negro servant to Kingston mill with a horse and sleigh and a small load of wheat. Five or six others went at the same time. No road being then opened, they had to cut their way through the woods in the best manner they could. But there was a little snow on the ground and the rivers were frozen over. After about a fortnight’s absence the men returned, having effected their object, but without much benefit; for they and the horses, during their absence, had consumed the greater part of their loads. None of the settlers here are so far from a mill, yet some of them are from ten to twenty miles; and, till the roads were opened, they had to carry the grain all that distance on their backs.
A few years ago there was a post between the towns once a fortnight, and that carried slowly by a man on foot — now it comes twice a-week, and travels with the greatest dispatch, either on horseback or in the stage. The large rivers and lakes are navigated, not only by small craft, but by large steam-vessels fitted up in the most commodious manner. The Frontenac, which sails every week, during the summer, between Kingston, York, and Niagara, is 170 feet long and 32 broad upon the deck, and carries a burden of 740 tons.