Page images

the levels were taken in English feet, in the other in French metres (3.281 English feet). Of the accuracy of these operations there can be no scepticism. The mean ocean surface line was perfectly established at New York, while the Auctuations of the lakes had been officially recorded for a series of years, so their mean height was simply a matter of careful calculation. It was in this deliberate manner that the elevations of the lakes have been established by the United States Government. Previous to these operations the U.S. records were about 3 feet 6 inches astray as to the altitude of lake Ontario ; and nearly 8 feet as to lakes Huron and Michigan, referred to mean tide at New York as datum.

The heights recognised in Canada were arrived at by no such process. The datum taken was tide water at Three Rivers, since known to be 15 feet higher than the mean surface of the ocean.

For the engineering work of the Dominion this datum was sufficiently satisfactory, and if the levels based upon it had been systematically and carefully taken, the recorded Canadian levels of the several lakes would shew the same differences as those of the United States, with the constant divergence throughout of being 15 feet lower. The table I append shews such not to be the case.

The fact is, the heights of the lakes of Canada, and previous to 1875 it was the same in the United States, had been formed by the adoption of several series of unconnected levels, arithmetically compounded to furnish the general result, hence the incorrectness which has prevailed. The following are the true heights of the several lakes above tide level in New York as determined by the United States operations above referred to. I give the decimals, that record being due from the extreme nicety and deliberation with which the figures are established. Lake Ontario.

246.60 feet above mean ocean level. Erie....

572.90 Huron and Michigan.

581.30 Superior ...

601.80 A comparison between the levels hitherto accepted and the true levels may thus be stated :

[blocks in formation]




Feet. Ontario.


246.60 2.40 Erie ....


6.10 Huron and Michigan 574


7.70 Superior ....


601.80 13.20 It will be seen by the above table that the difference of datum, 15 feet, is in no way maintained, and that the difference of level of each lake in every case varies


or less from the true elevation : thus the several lakes are relatively incorrectly described.




The height of lake Champlain above the given datum is 100.84 feet as established long since by the Northern Canal levels.

Lake George, determined by official United States surveys is 158 feet above mean level of lake Champlain. In Vol. VI., p. 115, I have mentioned the portage to be overcome at lake George as being 260 feet in height. These figures, taken as the record of the height above mean ocean level, are incorrect. The height of the portage to be overcome in about a mile is, generally speaking, the difference of the water level, 158 feet.

I have entered into these details from the conviction that the time has arrived when the heights of the lakes should be stated in accordance with the true elevation, not as they were incorrectly set forth half a century back, and that they should be referred to a common datum in use throughout the continent, the height of the mean ocean line in New York harbour. We all know that the United States mariners will navigate only according to the longitude derived from the meridian of Greenwich. At the international congress at Washington in 1884, at which Canada was represented by Mr. Sandford Fleming, M.I.C.E., the ques. tion arose as to the advisability of adopting a common central meridian in the determination of the question of universal time. It was resolved that longitude should be reckoned from the meridian of Greenwich, and that the solar passage of the anti-meridian of Greenwich should be the zero of time. The United States commissioners unanimously advocated this choice as due to the assured correctness and long continued astronomical investigation of Great Britain ; especially from the advisability of the navigators of Great Britain and the United States following one common principle regardless of nationality. The International Congress consisted of the representatives of twenty-five nations, and their decision was almost unanimous.

Equally in Canada we are bound to accept with the United States one common basis, from which geodetic and other scientific data can be derived. Throughout the continent the height of the several lakes should be referred to one datum, and it can now be easily effected. Each province of Canada independently will be able to carry on its operations in accord with the established levels. In no long time the levels of the chain of lakes to be found between lake Superior and lake Winnipeg have to be authoritatively determined, and it is important that the work should be performed with precision.

In this view I take upon myself to bring the subject to the notice of the premier, Sir John Thompson, known to possess scientific tastes, so that his government may adopt measures for this state of confusion and misconception to cease, and that official recognition may be given by the Dominion government to the elevation of the lakes as established by the United States operations.


The charge against Haldimand of having caused harsh and unnecessary arrests for political purposes, still repeated and emphasized, calls for careful examination, especially as it is affirmed that his government was one of terrorism. An examination of this accusation shews that it is without foundation. The number arrested was less than twenty ; those in the humbler positions of life were not retained in custody. Du Calvet, the most unscrupulous assailant of Haldimand, can furnish only nineteen names ; ten of those persons mentioned by him cannot be traced in the records of the time. I have already expressed the opinion that Du Calvet is entitled to no credence, and I have given the ground for this belief. +

In 1774, congress had issued from Philadelphia an address to the people of Canada, I which had been translated and published by Fleury Mesplet. In 1776, Mesplet himself arrived in Canada and started the first printing press in Montreal, for until this period the printing had been executed in Quebec. Whatever his design was in establishing himself in the province, the reverses experienced by the congress troops in June of that year caused Mesplet to live quietly, and in no way to provoke the authorities. He is now recollected as being the printer of the first books in Montreal. Previous to the departure of Carleton in 1778, probably in April,

* “ Voilà l'horrible situation sous laquelle a gémi et gémit encore la Province de Québec. Je pouvais y compter par centaines les compagnons de mes fers, tirés, des classes les plus respectables des citoyens. Voici les noms de quelquesuns des principaux.” Nineteen names follow, with a suggestive "etc.”

“Appel à la justice de l'Etat, ou Recueil des Lettres au Roi,” etc., [p. 151] Du Calvet, 1784.

+ [Ante., Vol. VI., pp. 476-482]. I (Ante., Vol. V., p. 250.]

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

Mesplet had requested permission to publish a weekly
paper. * It had appeared on the 3rd of June, and had been
conducted without causing trouble, until Haldimand arrived
on the 12th of August. Mesplet belonged to the clique that
favoured the then threatened invasion. Whether or not his
design in starting the printing press in Montreal was to aid
the cause of congress, he became an opponent of the govern-
ment as far as he was able, and was thrown into association
and active relationship with Du Calvet. The principal writer
for his paper was an attorney named Jotard, a Frenchman,
who fully partook of the feeling of the French of that day,
the desire to humble England. +

During the occupation of the city by the congress troops,
Jotard had acted in some form as secretary to Wooster, and
had been appointed by him a notary public. As an attorney,
he had become useful to Du Calvet and conducted much of
his business, and from his own feelings and prejudices had
acted with him politically. The litigious character of Du
Calvet led him frequently to be engaged in law suits ; in this
respect Jotard had rendered him much service. What led to
the arrest of Mesplet and Jotard was an attack on the
judiciary as acting unjustly and in disregard of law and right.

* [Can. Arch., B. 185.1, p. 73.]

+ We have a portrait of Jotard by Laterrière. I reproduce it, leaving the reader to form his own estimate of it. “L'éducation de ce Jotard était solide sans être accomplie. Il était satirique et sophistique comme un avocat, avec un front d'airain que rien n'étonnoit, ivrogne, faux et menteur comme le diable et grand épicurien. Il haissoit tout ce qui étoit anglois, pour quelle raison ? Je ne l'ai jamais pu savoir. En outre il étoit plein de préjugés, jésuite surtout, et fort mauvais ami." [p. 118.]

Laterrière also describes Mesplet. “Mesplet différoit de Jotard par l'éducation, son talent c'étoit d'être ouvrier imprimeur ; il avoit des connaissances pourtant : mais il s'en faisoit accroire et ne parloit que d'après son rédacteur ; d'ailleurs fourbe et menteur presqu'autant que celui-ci, et d'un génie méchant; si son épouse qui étoit très respectable ne l'avoit pas adouci, il auroit été coupable de bien des choses indignes d'un honnête home.” [p. 118.)

He likewise places his impressions on record relative to Charles Hay, whose name appears in connection with Du Calvet. “Il (Hay) avoit été éduqué au collége d’Edinbourg (quoiqu'il exercât la tonnellerie); il étoit doux, sobre et fort obligeant, père d'une nombreuse famille et époux d'une très jolie et respecto able femme, mais très ambitieux et homme à hauts sentiments.”

After their attack on the bench, the two proceeded to the court and took their seats there, as if to set the judges at defiance and to prove to the people that they had nothing to fear from the course they were following,* as Haldimand wrote, they “had been defaming the king's officers and trying to throw the colony into confusion.” + These men were following the example of the Boston agitators previous to the revolution, and were endeavouring to create discontent and turmoil. The government had patiently deferred acting with vigour, in the hope that repressive measures would be unnecessary. As it became apparent that no good result could be obtained by temporizing, the two men were arrested on the 3rd of June, 1779, instructions being given to send them as prisoners to Quebec. It was hoped that this summary proceeding would put a stop to sedition. Haldimand, when reporting the arrest, expressed his doubts that there would be legal evidence to establish any charge against them. But he felt it necessary to secure their persons, to prevent them sowing the strife and discord they wished to propagate. At the same time he complained of the native born Frenchman in the province as “exhibiting the petulance characteristic of the nation." The parties arrested in Montreal, Du Calvet, Mesplet and Jotard, the leaders of the movement, were Frenchmen, not British subjects, and they were carried away by a powerful sentiment to obtain repossession of the province by the French. I

Laterrière, another Frenchman, had been arrested at Three

[Can. Arch., B. 205, p. 45.] + Haldimand to Rouville, Ist June, 1779. [Can. Arch., B. 185.1, p. 90.]

Three arrests only were made in Canada in 1779, but four prisoners were sent up from Detroit to be added to them.

In 1780 the further arrests took place which have furnished the basis of the accusations against Haldimand of having imprisoned hundreds of Canadian citizens. It is proper to bear in mind that those who had been arrested in 1779 were not British subjects at all.

S A volume of Laterrière's memoirs published in 1873 for private circulation. Edition intime" by some means has become generally well known. The work is extremely rare. The MS. came to the notice of Abbé Casgrain, who recommended its publication. The volume contains a note that the questionable grammar

« PreviousContinue »