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VIEW FROM BELIL.
To obtain a view of the country, I climbed the hill of Belœil. On the top is a cross and chapel, and it is a place of popular pilgrimage. It is a pleasant, but a steep and laborious climb. The ascent is divided into fourteen parts or stations, at each of which is, or was, a cross, bearing an inscription having reference to the journey of our Saviour, as he bore the cross to the place of crucifixion. Pious devotees, who visit the mountain in considerable numbers, rest a while at each. -as at the similar stations on the Rigi and other places of pilgrimage in Roman Catholic Switzerland—and, while they rest, repeat the appropriate prayers. These are printed and sold under the title of "Meditations and prayers adapted to the stations of the Holy Way of the Cross." Without underrating the efficacy of there devotions, the site of the chapel and place of pilgrimage are well selected. The healthful exercise, the free air, and the lovely view from the summit of the mountain, must lighten the heart, and send home the most sorrowful and careworn with a more cheerful spirit.
Looking towards Montreal, the River Richelieu flowed at my feet, far down in the valley-a long, scarcely sinuous, silver ribbon, singularly narrowing as it descends from its source in Lake Champlain on the south, to its confluence with the St Lawrence at Sorel, far away to the north. On its surface, a few specks showed where the passing craft were carrying the produce of Canada or the merchandise of Europe to their respective destinations. Villages and church-spires occurred at intervals above its banks; and far as the eye could reach, on either hand, a seemingly flat plain extended from the Richelieu to the St Lawrence, and beyond this-broken only by the height of Mont Royal-to the north-west, into the counties on the left bank of the great river, till the sky seemed to rest on the still-extending flat.
Turning towards the north-east, the same level land
THE ST LAWRENCE FLATS,
stretched away on the other side of Beloeil towards St Hyacinth; and, in the interval, flowing also towards the north, ran the smaller river Yamaska, pouring its waters into the St Lawrence in the middle of Lake St Peter, between the mouths of the Richelieu and the St Francis. Over this eastern part of the plain arose occasional isolated mountain elevations, which towards St Hyacinth in front, and in the direction of Lake Champlain on the right, appeared to thicken into clusters or ridges of loftier elevations.
This wide flat margin, of varying breadth, which on either side girdles the St Lawrence, accompanies it along a great part of its course, follows the Richelieu up to Lake Champlain, and thence stretches along its shores towards the city of Albany and the river Hudson. It is a post-tertiary region, the latest elevated part of north-eastern America, and contains the remains of marine animals, which are still living in the sea-mouths of the St Lawrence, and along the Atlantic borders of the New England States. In this part of Canada it rests on the Utica slates, and Lorraine shales of the New York geologists, through and among which, beds and domes of trap occasionally force their way, forming the isolated hills of which I have spoken. This Canadian plain exhibits, for the most part, a surface-soil of a pale yellowish-coloured clay, more or less heavy. Along Lake Champlain, however, and at higher levels in the States of New York and Vermont, and towards the Canadian border, the subjacent clay-deposit is covered with drifted sand and gravel, of various depths, which give to the available soil a more open character, degenerating in some places as between Albany and Schnectady, already described-into an almost worthless pine-bearing sand.
When first cleared, this post-tertiary belt of level clay land-the St Lawrence Flats, we may call them—pro
FORMERLY THE GRANARY OF CANADA.
duced rich harvests of wheat, and, over a very large portion of their surface, continued for many years to yield abundant crops at little comparative cost. Hence the banks of the St Lawrence were deservedly called, in former days, the granary of Canada. The lower province could then afford, therefore, to export much grain; and among lesser articles of production, linseed was one of which large quantities were at that time shipped to Europe. Now, the shipment of either of these articles, the produce of Lower Canada, may be said to have virtually ceased.
We need not inquire in Canada after any special causes for a change almost equally marked in every other part of north-eastern America which has been as long under the cultivation of European settlers. Everywhere idleness, ignorance, and an avaricious spirit, on the part of the cultivators, have led to the same results in diminishing the ability or disposition of the soil to produce good crops of wheat. To speak figuratively, the spirit of fertility is every year retiring farther towards the west, shrinking from the abusive contact of European industry, towards the head-waters of the Mississippi and the St Lawrence.
And yet the peculiar tenure of land in Lower Canada, if it be not necessary to account for the existing condition of the soil, may possibly both have aided in bringing it into that condition, and may stand in the way of an easy or rapid improvement or restoration of its productive capabilities.
Of the whole lands in Lower Canada, only eleven and and a half millions of acres have yet been disposed of; and of these, seven and a half millions are grants in fief and seigneurie by the crown of France. Of the remaining four millions of acres of granted lands, many of which are large grants--such as that of seven hundred thousand acres in the eastern counties to the British American
RESERVED RIGHTS OF THE SEIGNEUR.
Land Company--only one and three quarter millions are held by resident proprietors; and, of these, only about six hundred thousand acres are in actual cultivation. By far the largest portion-the great bulk of the land, we may say is held by the habitants under the seigneurs; and this comprises those tracts of country which, in the early settlement, were considered the most desirable in fact, all the old-settled and originally productive wheat-lands on the St Lawrence.
The rights reserved by the lords of the soil vary, I believe, in kind and amount; but a fine of one-twelfth* upon every sale or succession, the right of pre-emption by the seigneur in every case of sale, by payment of the price offered by the highest bidder, and the annual reserved rent, are the chief burdens to which the holder is subjected.
In the first instance, the seignorial tenure is an advantage to the farmer, and affords facilities for settling in life to the young man who is destitute of capital. He goes to the lord, obtains permission to occupy a portion of wild land which is measured off, on condition of paying a small annual rent; builds himself a hut with the help of his friends, and begins to clear and With a little provision, and a few tools, he can thus begin the world with scarcely a penny of money in his pocket. So far the seignorial tenure is favourable to the poor Canadian, though it is unsuited to the wants
* It is interesting to observe how important a place the payment of a twelfth or a fourteenth used to occupy in the social arrangements of our forefathers in purely agricultural districts. The Seigneur here takes one-twelfth or one-fourteenth of the corn for grinding it at his mill, to which, as on many estates still in our own island, the tenantry are bound to take their corn, and he receives a twelfth of the whole value of the land at each death or sale (tods et ventes.) In Hungary, at the present moment, near the course of the Danube, the rural labourer receives one-fourteenth for cutting the corn, and again onefourteenth for thrashing it.
AMOUNT AND EVIL OF RESERVED RENTS.
and wishes of the emigrant who, coming with a small capital, wishes to buy the fee-simple of a farm he can thenceforth call his own.
The reserved rent varies considerably. In the old grants it is fixed at a mere nominal sum. The farms, as I have already remarked, are long and narrow. They are generally three lineal arpents in breadth, fronting the road, and forty, thirty, or twenty, in depth. For these lots, the reserved rent averages about twopence sterling an acre; but, in many recent concessions, it is as high as fivepence sterling, or sixpence currency, an acre. Added to the reserved twelfths, and other privileges of the seigneur, this latter rent-charge is by no means a light one in Canada. Such a money-charge, being fixed, would not with us, in most places, seriously affect agricultural improvement; nor would it prove a serious hindrance to the introduction of a better system of culture in the exhausted flats of the St Lawrence, were it not that the farmers are already very poor. This small annual payment, therefore, is felt as a great burden, and is a source of much and general complaint -though I have not heard that they have actually, anywhere in Lower Canada, risen in special rebellion against the payment of what must be considered to be just debts, as their more enlightened and energetic Protestant neighbours, the New Yorkers, lately did in regard to the Renselaer rents. It is important, as indicating the general feeling in regard to these reserved rights, even among the French population, that in the Rebellion of 1837, Dr Robert Nelson, in his manifesto to the Lower Canadians, declared "for independence, a republican government, the confiscation of the crown and church lands and the possessions of the Canada Company, the abolition of seignorial rights, and imprisonment for debt." This promised abolition was, no doubt, intended as a bribe to those who had services