16 MAY 1840, Page 17


TIIIS traveller went to Canada in the latter end of 1836, and re- sided there from 1837 to 1839 : he describes himself as of the " Government service at 'Toronto;" but in what capacity he does not say, nor does he tell the circumstances which took him to Canada or induced him to leave it ; though we opine he belonged to the Cotnmissariat. Ilowever, he has written a book of what he saw and what he thought ; the disquisitions occupying a much larger space than the observations, unfortunately; for Mr. PRESTON is better qualified to describe individual objects that pre- sent themselves to his sight, or facts of which he has positive know- ledge, than to analyze that multifitrious thing " the social, com- mercial, and political condition" of a people. The narrative of Mr. PRESTON commences with the terrific gale of November 1836, which took the New York liner in which he bad embarked in the Channel, and nearly wrecked her : escaping this danger and the Channel, after three weeks struggling, the vessel was delayed by baffling calms, adverse winds, and other mishaps, till the steerage-people very nearly reached starvation, and the cabin-passen- gers had to eke oat short commons from a cargo of corn which was luckily on board. Reaching New York at last, our author travelled thence to .Montreal, by coach and sleigh, as roads, ice, and snow per- mitted, in the depth of winter ; and be strongly advises none else to do time like if they can possibly help themselves. In Lower Canada he seems to have remained till the breaking out of' the first rebellion : at all events he was there at its commencement ; and he gives an ac- count of it, but too disquisitional and too stale to have much in- terest, unless when he speaks as an eye-witness to particular inci- dents. Front 'Montreal he journeyed to' Toronto, passing King- ston on his route ; and the descriptions of these cities and their environs, with a sketch of Montreal and Quebec, and a finv inci- dental notices of the country and its people, form the whole of Mr. PRESTON'S pictures from time life.

His disquisitions, or what may pass as such, comprehend a va- riety of subjects. He fitvours the reader with his opinion on the pretty well exhausted subject as to the causes of the insurrection in Canada ; which happens to coincide with Lord DURHAM'S Report, and may possibly have been taken from it. He points out the errors of the preceding systems of government from the time of the conquest by Worwe, as many others have done. lie describes the conduct or alleged conduct of the Americans on the border ; gives an account of a secret society which was formed by them, including secrets and all; he indulges in many vague and some justifiable censures on both the American government and people, and plunges into the vast and to him unfathomable seas of Democracy, the policy and diplomacy of the United States and Russia, and the true policy of this country. He also reads Governor HEAD a lecture fur time imprudence he displayed in allowing the rebellion to break out ; and maintains, which others have said too, that had MactinNzte. been as courageous and decisive in his military leader- ship as he had shown himself skilful as a demagogue, Upper Canada, and perhaps, as a consequence, the whole of our North American possessions, would lucre been lost. Besides these topics, he enters into the local politics of Upper Canada, and the commer- cial and monetary affairs of both countries. In the course of so wide a field of discussion, he occasionally makes a shrew d remark, and frequently brings forward some curious facts ; but Mutterer value they possess is the value of parts, not of wholes. The sub- jects are above Mr. PRESTON, who is only what is called a imprac- tical man," not acquainted with the principles of matters which form his daily business, and quite at a loss as soon as he leaves them—so that the natural results of every-day laws in political economy seem to him wonderful or monstrous, because they appear in an unaccustomed shape. He however gives some useful in- formation as to the coins, currency, and modes of barter in Upper Canada.

A similar defect—the defect of narrowness—is visible in some aids descriptions of reality ; which are frequently rather flat and literal, especially when he deals with time dramatic points of dia- logue, or jocose characteristics. In more level subjects he is, however, sufficient to form a pleasing companion. Here are a few examples.


Generally speaking., I think that there exists in the States less desire to pilfer than in most other countries; partly, no doubt, because there is less general want on the part of the community, and consequently less temptation to be dishonest, and partly because there prevails amongst them a greater de-

gree of pride and self-respect. A striking illustration of this remark came within my own experience. I had dropped, unconsciously, in a vehicle, in the process of alighting from it, my pocket-book containing a considerable sum of money. Whilst the passengers were seated at dinner, the driver appeared with the pocket-book in his hand, and inquired if any one of us owned it. My right to it was soon established ; and the tinder, of course, rewarded for his conduct, though I had great difficulty in inducing him to accept any thing. Had he chosen, as he might readily have done without the fear of detection, to appropriate the money to his own use, my embarrassment would have been great in the extreme; for, until I could have obtained a remittance from my friends, I should have been left wholly without the means to prosecute my journey.


The signs of progression and of stationary habits are nowhere more strik- ingly conspicuous than at Quebec and Montreal ; and nowhere, perhaps, arc domestic contrasts of almost every kind exhibited in more varied shapes.

Side by side are seen the modern commercial store and the ancient secluded convent. Here appears the harbour enlivened by an array of British shipping: there, the lingering remnants of primitive inactive life. Jostling each other on the narrow causeway, or grouped in the wider square or market-place, are the red-coated soldier of England and the cowled priest of France; the anti- quated habitant of the country in his homespun suit of gray, and the spruce denizen of the town attired in the latest European fhshion ; the swarthy abori- gine of the soil enveloped in his blanket, with his squaw carrying lwr papoose at her back, (the little creature not always exhibiting in lineament a purity of race,) and the British artisan or labourer in his peculiar garb; while, to crown the whole, the alternate sound of two conflicting languages breaking on your ear at every step you take, leaves you momentarily undecided as to whether you be not in some provincial town of France or England ; the first impression, moreover, being strengthened by the general appearance of the streets and houses, and the last by the British designation of many of the thoroughfares, and the preponderance of British names along their line of frontage.


Tormito, though exhibiting little to bear out its pretensions either as a city OF a capital, and still less to justify the metropolitan airs which the elite of its denizens assume, is a place bearing (unlike Kingston) the appearance of hav- ing been much improved within these last few years ; but it as yet possesses only one good street, which runs east and west, and this is in some parts advantageously set off with an array of well-tilled shops and stores. At the western extremity of such street, on opposite sides of the road, stand a sort of overgrown party-coloured cottage, dignified by the name of " Govern- ment House, and a neat assemblage of red brick buildings, comprising the schoolhouse and private dwellings appertaining to "Upper Canada College," of whose history I shall hereafter speak. Between the Government House and the bay an unseemly mass of brickwork, encasing the legislative chambers and various of the public offices, rears its head; while a mile beyond this again, is an ill-constructed stockade sort of fort, with an incommodious barrack within its circuit.

Eastward, Toronto's chief edifices are, a church, a bank, a town-hall, (hav- ing behind it a market.place,) and lastly, a sessions-house and gaol, besides a second prison-house in progress of construction, to signify the moral improve- ment of the people. This end of the town is much eschewed as vulgar, by the high order of patricians ; whose abodes, consisting in many cases of good-sized, substantial, though isolated houses, are for the most part situated in the three opposite directions. Of these, the Yonge Street Road, running north, is decidedly the most eligible locality ; and a few miles out it exhibits some very pretty scenery. Nevertheless, the city of Toronto will not bear mentioning in the same breath with either of the American towns Rochester or Buffalo, (both, I be- lieve, of later origin,) though I am aware that in making this assertion I incur the risk of being thought tasteless, not to say a rebel in disguise, by the majority of those amongst whom I have been so lately dwelling ; since they would consider as derogating from their city's dignity the mere institution of any comparison. Speaking generally, however, of contrasts between Canadian and American objects indicative of relative progressive improvement, I lament to add my bumble testimony to that of many other visitors to both countries, that the comparison is immeasurably in favour of the States ; and the fact is rendered strikingly apparent to the unbiassed observer, not simply by his passing through the States on his way to Canada, but by his residing in the latter country for a lengthened period, then traversing the neighbouring States, and afterwards returning to the British territory.

Several of the incidental touches in the description of the Cana- dian war call to mind some characteristics of the little republics of Greece, or of Italy in the middle ages ; the analogous circumstances of a small population in a certain stage of advancement inducing analogous effects. There is the same intense feeling of partisanship or patriotism almost amounting to individual passion, the same personal emulation, and the same unity which causes a vibration throughout the whole body if a single part be touched. Judging from the incidental remarks of Mr. PRESTON, the society of' Lower Canada is superior to that of the Upper Province ; more steady, more settled, more respectable, and in fact more natural. However irritated in feeling and violent in conduct the different parties may have been, there are no indications of the bully or the blackguard. In Upper Canada, there appears in many places much more coarseness, arising from the vicinity of the States and the number of Americans settled in Upper Canada, as well as from the character of many of the later emigrants. There is also a sort of social fungus, which affects to imitate the old aristocracy of Europe, without aristocratical means. Its members look down upon commerce and agriculture as beneath them, all aspiring to professional pursuits or public employment. This is the class which Mr. PRESTON conceives Lord DURHAM designated by the phrase of the Family Compact : and however high may be the credit of individuals, the body seems scarcely entitled to the character of respectability because they occupy a false position with means dis- proportioned to their purposes, since, whatever may be the number of colonial places, the placehunters are still more numerous. The position of Mr. PRESTON may perhaps have induced him to examine this class with the eye of a rival, but his statements amount to this. They consider all public employment as their patrimony, and fill up vacant offices from among themselves with- out regard to fitness, or even appearance of qualification in regard to age and other obvious points. They oppose with all their power, and would doubtless resent as an injury if they could, all appointments of new, that is British talent. Hence

offices are frequently filled by very incompetent persons ; and be- sides this injury to the public, the clique acts injuriously um opinion by producing attempts at gentility ill-suited to the income of the persons or the character of the country. Whatever be the cause, it appears that Upper Canada is in a state of insolvency,—if it is insolvency to have a debt which cannot cboemde.

discharged, and an expenditure considerably exceeding the in-

" According to printed statements of the Legislature of Upper Canada, the public debt of that Province, consisting of outstanding debentures, amounts to upwards of a million sterling, requiring an annual provision for interest of about 60,000/. ; while the annual permanent expenditure of the civil govern. must, amounting at a moderate estimate to about as much more, the yearly charge upon the Province, may be set down in round numbers at 120,000!. To meet such a charge, the utmost amount of revenue available does not ap. parently much exceed 70,000/. ; so that a deficit of nearly 50,0001. remains to be supplied from extraordinary resources."

This debt has been contracted for public works, part of which have been executed with money granted by the Imperial Parlia- ment in addition to that borrowed by the Province. None of these undertakings pay any interest ; some do not pay their expenses ; one is nearly useless, another quite so : they were of course ab- surdly, perhaps corruptly planned.


The Welland Canal, overcoming, as it is known, with a length of twenty. eight-miles and three hundred and forty feet of lockage, the difference of de. vatioa between Lakes Erie and Ontario, though in active operation for several years, has been so injudiciously constructed as to involve annual ex• penditure, in repairs alone, surpassing the whole amount derived from it in tolls, notwithstanding that these have been steadily increasing. necessity of

locks being built of timber in lieu of stone, sufficiently accounts for t time heavy outlay mentioned ; but the facility of getting timber does not pal- liate the oversight which led to such a mode of structure.

The original dimensions of this canal were adapted only to the passage of ordinary canal-boats ; but they were afterwards enlarged so as to admit of that of the lake schooners not exceeding an individual burden of two hundred tons. It was commenced by a private company, who expended on it 117,000/. ; but the bulk of the outlay on the work, as it now stands, has been defrayed from other sources, viz. 275,0001. from the public debt of the Province, 73,000/. from the British Government, and 25,0001. from Lower Canada; making, with the item first mentioned, a suns total of 460,000/. currency. The adaptation of the canal to future exigencies could probably alone be effected at the cost of as much more ; since the locks, now tint falling to decay, would require to be rebuilt of stone, and the channel sufficiently enlarged for the passage of steam-boats of a large size. But if these improvements were made, it is no exaggeration to predict, that the increased profits arising from the superior navigation afforded would amply repay, at no distant period, (contingent always upon immigration,) the whole expense of the undertaking from first to last, and yield besides a large surplus revenue.

This would appear to have been a Canadian absurdity : it has its home match upon a larger scale, the Foreign Office first of all causing a necessity, and the Colonial Office undertaking to supply it in this fitshion.


The unwise cession by Great Britain to the United States of an island in the St. Lawrence termed " Barnhardt's Island," having brought such portion of the navigable channel of that river within the limits of the Republic, led in a great measure to the construction by the British Government, at the cost of more than a million sterling, of the great military work known as the Rideau Canal, which serves to connect the waters of Lake Ontario with those of the river Ottawa.

The utility of this canal, though complete to an extent, is rendered on the whole imperfect, by the want of proper adjunct links between Bytown, where the canal strikes the Ottawa, and that river's mouth. The canal itself is navi.

oublefor a small class of steam-boats ; but on parts of the line of the Ottawa .

forming its continuation such is not the case ; the channel termed the Gren- ville Canal, and also that at the Rapids at St. Ann's, (one lock of which is owned by a private company,) admitting of the passage only of small canal- boats of the usual kind.

According to Mr. PnicsTosT, the society of Upper Canada is in an undeveloped or rather in a chaotic state, and must receive some strong impress by immigration from the United States or Great Britain before it will possess any national character. As regards political feelings, he conceives that the British party is only united on the subject of British connexion, and would ditibr on many subordinate points. He also holds, in opposition to Governor HsAn, that there is a strong Republican party in the country, who wish to change the form of govertunent, and who must thom necessity coalesce with the Americans if they should ever effect their object.

Our author occupies a good deal of space with his suggestions to remedy the present evil state of things ; all which resolve them- selves into good government and extensive immigration on a well- conducted plan. His leading projects, however, are—to put the land sales on a proper footing ; to devote their produce to the in-

troduction of labour; and to complete the best of the public works we have alluded to, by a loan, whose interest, till the estimated .returns come in, should be paid by new taxes on imported goods, as recommended by Governor THOMSON.