Page images

land; here you are introduced at once into a majestic country: every thing is on the grand scale; mountains, woods, lakes, rivers, precipices, waterfalls, all shew the hand of nature in a vast and imposing manner: the stamp, the impression of originality, are conspicuous every where. The pigmy operations of man, the marks of civilization and of cultivation, here and there meet the eye; yet, nevertheless, the country has still the appearance of an immense forest.

When we reflect on the number of years this country has been in the possession of Europeans, we cannot help being surprised that it should still retain so much of its original rudeness: it is now about 260 years since it was taken possession of by the French. However, it must be confessed, they cannot be said to have had peaceable possession. They were very soon attacked by the Indians, who kept them in an almost constant state of warfare; they were never free from alarms; and in this perilous situation they continued for many years. The infant colony seems to have been very much neglected by Old France, who did not by any means watch over it with a motherly care.

The colonizing of Canada was for many years entrusted to private individuals, who, at their own expence, fitted out expeditions. They were usually men of rank and fortune, who took the lead in these expeditions, receiving from government an exclusive right to trade with the Indians in furs, which at first was the principal article of Canadian commerce. These leading men found no difficulty in enticing as many individuals to accompany them as their funds could provide for. But experience ever shewed that these expeditions were on too small a scale to ensure success or safety to the settlers. They were quite inadequate to putting them on a footing with their opponents, the Indians; who harassed them in such a manner by continued and reiterated incursions, that they could neither sow nor reap in safety.

From the year 1535, when Quebec was first discovered, to the year 1664, a period of 129 years, the government and trade of Canada were in the possession of private merchants holding under patents from the king of France. In the year 1664, the king assumed the government; a governor was appointed; but the trade of the country was given exclusively to the Company des Indes Occidentals.

'The English had by this time established colonies in New England, and at Boston, who did every thing in their power to weaken and annoy the French colony, which .they found interfered in their trade with the Indians. Indeed, the English attacked and took Quebec so far back as the year 1629; but it was restored to the French by the treaty of St. Germain in 1632.

The French government, even after they took the colony under their own immediate care, seem to have paid more attention to the fur trade, to exploring the interior of the country, cultivating the friendship of the Indians, and spreading the Roman catholic religion, than to the improvement of the country in agriculture, and the promotion of the arts, and the domestic pursuits of civil society.

It is surprising to think with what perseverance and industry the Roman catholic missionaries explored the interior of the country; submitting to the privation of every comfort, adopting the savage mode of life, subjecting themselves to a thousand insults, and even to death itself, which was inflicted sometimes in the most barbarous manner. Without going into the merits of the cause which prompted such perseverance,—such heroic conduct, we cannot help admiring the men who thus evinced their zeal and courage. Where the intention is good, praise is due, and we may suppose will have its reward from Him who knoweth the heart.

I shall close this, as an opportunity occurs for England. In my next you shall have some account of one of the first cities on the Continent of America, in celebrity at least, if not in extent.


Quebec, August, 1806.

Amongst the great variety of cities which I have had occasion to visit in my peregrinations through Britain, and the different countries on the continent of Europe, I think I never saw any one which has so happy a situation as Quebec*.

Samuel de Champlain, who founded it in the year 1608, deserves immortal honours for the judiciousness of his choice. It ever has been considered, and probably ever will be considered, as the capital of that immense region called the Canadas. It certainly is the key of the river St. Lawrence, which contracts suddenly opposite to the city, being only about a mile in breadth; whereas the bason of Quebec,immediately below, is from four to five miles in breadth; and the river widens immediately above the city. The grand battery of Quebec is opposite to the narrowest

* Latitude 46.55, longitude 70.10.

« PreviousContinue »