Page images
PDF
EPUB

their stoves : part they make use of themselves in the manufacture of the soap necessary for their own families (almost every family in Canada makes the soap used in their own houses): the remainder they sell to potash manufacturers, who collect it through the country, and pay in general about tenpence per bushel.

It is a pity the Canadians do not turn their attention to the manufacturing of potash; there is no want of wood, nor indeed of any thing but industry and exertion on their part; for there can be no doubt that their time is not fully occupied in the management of their farms; and were they more industrious, it would make up in some measure for the want of population.

The best ashes are made from beech, elm, and some other hard woods. None of the pine genus, nor any of the soft woods, answer the purpose.

The process of making potash is very simple: the wood ashes are collected as free from extraneous matter as possible: they are put into wooden pots of a considerable size, with small apertures in the bottom: the ashes are saturated with water, which filters through these apertures, carrying with it the salts of the ashes. More water is added, until the ashes are entirely deprived of their salts.--The water now holds in solution a very strong vegetable alkali: by boiling it in large kettles, the water is evaporated, and the salts remain : they now receive the appellation of potash. The potash is sometimes calcined to deprive it of all extraneous colouring matter: it becomes extremely white, and is denominated pearl-ash.

Potash sells in Canada usually for from 401. to 501. per ton. The pearl-ash is, in general, somewhat higher.

The fisheries of the St. Lawrence have never been followed up with spirit: an establishment has been formed on the Labrador shore; from whence considerable quantities of salmon, cod-fish, inackarel, and shad, are annually brought to Quebec, and either used in the country, or re-shipped for the West Indies. A species of herring, and a fish about the size of a salmon, called bass, are caught, salted, and sent to the West India market, in considerable quantities,

A seal and porpoise fishery has been carried on in several parts of the St. Lawrence, and was formerly very productive both in skins and oil; at present little advantage is derived from it. These articles are likewise brought from the King's posts.

The fur trade of Canada, in point of value, and of importance to Great Britain, is nearly equal to any other branch of the Canada trade. The duty paid in England on furs and skins, imported from Canada, amounted per annum on an average of four years, ending 1806, to 22,033). The lumber trade is of more real value to Britain, because timber is of more real use in society. The corn trade is, perhaps, more valuable to the Canadians than the fur trade; but the trade in furs employs a great number of people, and a large capital.

The North-west Company, who have entirely monopolized to themselves the fur trade, are a self-created company, not acknowledged by government, but who have united their capital and exertions for their mutual benefit. As they have at present no competitors in the north-west territory, they have the trade in their own power in a great measure: but they are obliged to pay a considerable price for the skins, because the Indians have been so long accustomed to the trade, that they have long ago learned that a beaver skin is worth more than a two-penny knife, or a sixpenny trinket.

The business in the north-west territory is managed by young men employed by the company; who go into the Indian country, and establish trading posts in different quarters, some of them an immense distance beyond Lake Superior ;--so far, that it requires more than one summer to send the goods to them, and get returns. These young men remain in these distant regions for several years, subject to many hardships and privations: they live almost entirely on the produce of their hunting; they never see, for years together, either bread or salt; and, what is rather surprising, although animal food is their only resource, they enjoy very good health. It is a very solitary mode of living; for there are not morethan two or three Englishmen at the same post. They have under their command several Canadians, who act as canoemen, hunters, &c. ,

These pursuits, the collecting the furs and bringing them down to Montreal, seem congenial to the common Canadian ; he appears better pleased to be employed in hunting and fishing, with all their attendant dangers, than to earn his bread quietly by cultivating the soil. Many of these voyageurs save their wages, return to their own parish, and employ themselves in clearing and cultivating the land; many of them, too, it must be allowed, acquire habits of dissipation, which they never afterwards are able to correct.

Another fur company has lately been established under the title of the South-west Company; from the furs in which they trade being brought from the south-west parts of America, in the neighbourhood of the Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio. This trade had been carried on by a variety of individuals, who, by interfering in each other's concerns, did themselves a great deal of harm, which is now avoided by their being united. They are sometimes called the Michilimackinack Company, because they have an establishment in that quarter.

The profit in the fur trade ought to be very great, for the capital employed is a long time in returning. The goods to be

« PreviousContinue »