« PreviousContinue »
this is the case, the Jamaica sugar will always have the preference.
Before closing this account of the trade of Canada, I must mention a district of it, called the Inferior district of Gaspi. It is situated to the southward of the river St. Lawrence, from Cape Chat downwards, and comprehends a considerable extent of country on the west coast of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, in which are found two deep bays, viz. Gaspi Bay, and Chaleur Bay.
The district of Gaspe has a governor appointed by the king, and there is an inferior court of King's Bench for the decision of such civil suits as do not exceed 201. and to take cognizance of criminal matters that are not capital.
At present the population, if you reckon resident settlers only, is^ not more than 3,500. In the summer time a great many more are attracted for the purpose of carrying on the fishery, which is done in all its different stages.
The bays and coasts of Gaspi abound with codfish, salmon,, and many other sorts of fish. There are several fishing stations along the coast; those of most im
portance are at PercS and Chaleur bay. The trade employs annually about a dozen square rigged vessels, besides a great many small craft. Fish, to the value of 60,0001. a year, including what is sent to Quebec to be re-shipped for the West Indies, and elsewhere, or used in the country, are cured and sent to a market. The greatest part, however, is sent direct from Gaspe to the West Indies or Mediterranean.
So much for the production and exports of Canada; and I wish I could, in addition, give you a correct idea of the character of the mercantile men of this country. I will venture to make a few observations. They are very industrious, and by no mean& extravagant in their expences and style of living; and yet, I will venture to say, that there is no place on either side of the Atlantic where there have been so many bankrupt estates. It is a surprising circumstance, and no less true than surprising, that of the great variety of mercantile houses which have been established here during the last forty years, not above jive in a hundred of them have paid their debts. I have seen a list of the whole, and the manner in which they made their exit; else, really, I could not have believed it possible. These houses have been almost wholly British. Very few of the Canadians have ever engaged in foreign commerce, and those who have tried it, have generally failed in the attempt.
I have endeavoured to discover the causes of the great number of failures in this country; to enable one to do so, it is necessary to look back a little, to the events which have occurred.
When we acquired the Country, the population was trifling; and from the previous derangements in the French treasury, the people were very poor, The mercantile adventurers from England, who came to the country, were strangers to the people, and to the kind of goods which suited them; of course, they sold their goods to great disadvantage. They persevered for a year or two, but bankruptcy very frequently ensued. When they began to be a little acquainted with the sort of goods that were wanted, and the people that might be trusted, and when the general state of the country had been considerably ameliorated, the American war broke out: it threw every thing back, and put a stop in a great measure to business; the goods that were imported, from the high rate of freight and insurance, came to an immense price; and when peace took place, there were many sufferers. Another calamity befel the country, of rather an uncommon kind to produce bankruptcy, viz. a great facility in making remittances. A public officer drew bills on government to a great amount from time to time, which he gave to the merchants on credit—'they calculated on paying for them when they collected their debts in the course of the winter; many of them never did pay; but the worst of it was, that calculating on the facility of getting bills, they gave large orders, which were executed with promptitude, as the English merchant, having received remittance of government bills, supposed that what he had received were bona fide bills, paid for; and that his correspondent was a-man of property. As soon as the supply of government bills stopped, from a want of punctuality in fulfilling engagements, remittances failed, and bankruptcy ensued.^
A great many bankruptcies may be traced up to these causes, which were however of a temporary nature, and are not likely ever to recur. There are other causes of bankruptcy which arise out of the nature of the country, and might have operated in aid of the preceding .temporary causes. Perhaps, the long continuance of the winter lessens their power of dokig business to the extent they would be able to do, were the navigation of the St. Lawrence open all the year. During six months of the year, from November till May, no business is done except by those engaged in the dry goods line, who continue to supply the wants of the shopkeepers; but these are not great, for the country people have laid in their winter stock before the navigation closes. An important cause of bankruptcy, I should suppose, has been the want of capital to begin with, aided sometimes by their not being acquainted with the laws and customs of the people, and aided also by the bad custom which has got into general use of giving long credits to the country shopkeepers. Credit is easily procured in England by the foreign merchant, but it is not procured for nothing. Interest is charged after a certain time, and runs on during winter as well as during summer. If long credits are given here to the shopkeepers,