John Moodie to James Traill
March 08 1836
Patrick Hamilton Ewing Collection of Moodie-Strickland-Vickers-Ewing Family Papers (National Library of Canada)
Douro Newcastle Distt.
In my first letters from this colony, you would perceive that I indulged in a strain of sanguine anticipation, respecting my own prospects, and those of the country. Then, indeed, I had every reason to do so, and even now, notwithstanding many cruel disappointments as respects myself, and numberless individuals round me, I cannot allow my personal feelings and privations, so far to bias my judgement as to make me retract much of what I have already stated as to the future prospects of society here, or of the individuals, in general, of which it is composed. What I have erred in, is in supposing, not that emigration was in its infancy: but that it would be steadily progressive. In this opinion I was not singular as all the most shrewd and intelligent settlers here indulged the same expectations; and are now suffering in proportion as they acted upon them. Before proceeding to particulars, I will now state one broad fact, that should be always borne in mind in treating of Canada: that its present prosperity and progress in improvement must depend chiefly upon emigration and the expenditure of imported capital. This at first sight, may appear a very trite observation, but obvious as it is, due weight has never been given to the circumstance; and emigrants and travellers have generally allowed themselves to be decieved into too sanguine expectations of the country in respect to the profits of farming. Calculations on paper of the profits arising from the clearing of land and farming in this colony are always erroneous: generally as to assumed facts; and, I may say, always, they turn out to be so in practice. The truth is, that labour is so dear, and must continue so, while unoccupied land remains on the North American continent; that the profits arising from its employment are very small, and subject to many contingencies. In other words, labour is invariably high, (bearing no proportion to profits) while agricultural produce is uncertain as to quantity, and still more so as to the price it may yield. Still, there is no question that industrious farmers may, and do succeed in obtaining a tolerably comfortable subsistence for themselves, and a similar provision for their families; but it seldom happens that they can save any money from the proceeds of their farms, and only when they have labouring families to save them from the expense of hiring. The only classes who can make fortunes here are Store-Keepers, Land speculators, Millers, and I may add Lawyers: (a bad feature, by the bye, in the colony). I may state as a general fact, that farmers only profit by the labour of their own families. Most of them, however, fall into the mistake of occupying and clearing more land than they can cultivate to advantage; by which they only sink money which is never redeemed, and increase their toils and cares. It is a common error most people fall into with respect to Canada, to suppose that wild land can be improved and afterwards sold at a price proportionate to the extent of clearing and improvements. As far as my observation extends, I have remarked that although a certain degree of improvement, say, the erection of a log hut and clearing 20 or 30 acres, will greatly increase the saleable value of a lot of land, anything beyond this is so much money thrown away. This is easily accounted for when we consider, that capital here bears but a very small proportion to the quantity of land in the market. In many parts of the United States the case is otherwise, for there capital or money is much more abundant in proportion to land in the older settled States: and I have been assured by many respectable and intelligent Americans that land is easily sold there at prices equivalent to the improvements. It is quite common, I am told, in the State of New York, for industrious men to purchase wild lands, and make extensive clearings, build good houses etc. on them by their own labour aided by borrowed capital, and sell them again with a handsome profit. When things come to this state here, which they certainly will in a few years, the progress of improvement will be prodigiously accelerated. I shall now endeavour to give you some account of the present state of the colony, which is greatly changed within the last three years. When I arrived in the Colony in 1832 the emigration was very great; money in consequence was plentiful, and lands were very saleable and rapidly rising in price. Of this emigration, the Newcastle District, with its healthy climate, and magnificent chain of inland lakes and rivers, which might easily be rendered navigable, attracted a large portion. Almost unlimited credit was given by the Store-Keepers to the settlers on the security of the rising value of their lands. At the same time all who could command the requisite capital, were eagerly investing their money in land speculations, in the then well founded expectation of soon realizing a handsome return for their outlay. Could this emigration have been supported, the progress of improvement would have been most rapid and certain. All classes would have benefited by it; the Store-Keeper, and the land speculator immediately, and the farmer would have been enabled to obtain a remunerating price for his farm produce, on the spot, without incurring the expense of carrying it to market over bad roads. Everything then wore such an aspect of prosperity, that we should not wonder that most of the older settlers, as well as the newcomers, could not distinguish that portion of it which was real and permanent, from what was only temporary, liable to interruption, or entirely illusive. In this general mania, (as it now appears) the capital which in other circumstances would have been employed in internal improvements, which would have been beneficial to the community, as well as to the individual, was generally diverted to land speculations, which, if they do not always retard the settlement and improvement of the country (as many people think) certainly have not hitherto forwarded these objects. In the years succeeding 1832 emigration to this country has greatly declined, and while the local demand for produce has been much reduced, the low price of wheat in the English market, from a succession of favorable seasons, has prevented our farmers from realizing a remunerating price here for our staple article of export. Wheat which formerly sold for 5/ per bushel (colonial currency) has declined to 4/ and 3/9. The merchants of Quebec and Montreal who supply the Upper Canada Store-Keepers became alarmed, and the latter were compelled to call in all their outstanding debts. The Banks at the same time ceased to discount and a general stagnation of business of every kind was the consequence, which greatly increased the general distress. Great quantities of land were forced into the market, and farming stock of every kind was sold by the Sheriffs at less than half price. The pernicious effect of long credits, arising from the avarice of the merchants and founded on the insecure basis of emigration, now became sufficiently apparent. The want of emigration was, of course, most severely felt by the backwood settlers, who were thus deprived of a home market for their grain, which, in general, bears a much higher price in the new settlements than in the older ones, where it is raised for exportation. It may be worthwhile to enquire into the causes which have occasioned the recent diminution in the emigration from the British Islands. Some of the causes are sufficiently evident, and of the others we can here only form conjectures. The prevalence of Cholera which has now entirely disappeared, certainly operated powerfully in the first instance, and afterwards, it is probable, the disturbances in Lower Canada and the party violence in the Upper Province, which little as we think of them here, were certainly calculated to excite alarm at a distance, may have had their influence on the minds of the people at home. The low price of wheat in England, however much it affected the interests of farmers already settled in this Colony, could have no immediate influence in checking emigration, excepting in so far as the manufacturing class are concerned. There may be several minor circumstances that have operated unfavorably with respect to the colony, arising from the natural re-action after the false, exaggerated and interested accounts that have been published of the country etc. etc. which I shall not further advert to in this place. I have always thought honesty the best policy, and the more experience I have had of the world, the more I am convinced of the truth of the maxim, even in an interested point of view. In my desire to lower the extravagant expectations of intending emigrants, many people here would tell me that I am injuring the colony, and myself as a landholder in it; but on the contrary I am convinced that I am serving both effectually by so doing. What I wish to see is a steady influx of industrious and enterprizing settlers of those classes only who are likely to benefit themselves by coming here. I would lay it down as an axiom, that this colony can recieve no permanent advantage by the emigration of individuals who are incapable of hard labour, or who have not sufficient capital to benefit themselves by its application. You will percieve from what I have already stated that this colony, for the last two or three years, has been passing through a very severe ordeal, but from what I shall now state, you will see that it has been a most salutary one. From the great decline of emigration the capital that would have been entirely absorbed in land speculation, has been diverted into new and more useful channels: and people now see that their own spare capital can only be beneficially employed, and the prosperity of the country promoted by effecting internal improvements to facilitate the settlement of the wild lands, and the transportation of our superabundant produce to the markets on the sea coast. The construction of several rail-roads by private companies will immediately be commenced. One, in particular, from the town of London in the London District to the head of Lake Ontario, it is expected, will be commenced next summer; and another from Lake Huron to Lake Ontario is also in contemplation. A company has also been formed at Cobourg in the Newcastle District for the construction of a railroad from that town on the shore of Lake Ontario, to the Rice Lake. This work will be commenced as soon as the snow is off the ground.
The Legislature are now fully alive to the importance and even necessity of these improvements, and last Session a large sum of money was granted for the improvement of the navigation of the St Lawrence below Kingston, and the work is already far advanced. Unfortunately on the confines of the Lower Province we are thwarted by the narrow policy and hostile feelings of the French Canadian party, which is opposed to emigration and all improvements. The only way that the completion of the navigation of the St Lawrence can be insured, would appear to be, by attaching Montreal to the Upper Province, which by giving us a sea port would make us independent of the Lower Province altogether. Still we have a route open by the Rideau Canal which is in full operation. This present Session £16,000 has been granted to commence the canal on the River Trent, which will be continued through the Rice Lake, the Otonabee River, and an extensive chain of navigable lakes in the Newcastle District on to Lake Simcoe, and from thence to Lake Huron. The whole route has been surveyed and (though the report of the Engineer has not yet been made public) it appears that the whole route may be completed for about £500,000, and little more than half of that sum will open the navigation to Peterborough. This last mentioned work will be of immense importance to the colony, first, by opening a very extensive tract of fertile lands, and affording a profitable market for our white and red pine timber, for which there is a great demand in the U. States, to say nothing of the English market which we may lose: and also by opening the shortest and safest route to the Western States on the borders of Lakes Huron, Michigan etc. These extensive improvements will of course attract emigrants to the points where they are in progress, while they will ensure their prosperity afterwards. The great mistake committed by European settlers of the higher classes, or who do not possess sufficient labour in their own families, is locating themselves in the backwoods at a distance from markets, which they too often are tempted to do by the low price of lands in such situations. This has been a fruitful source of disappointment and misery. Handsome fortunes have been, and may be realized by men of large capital purchasing extensive tracts of wild land, and selling them again when they have raised their price by forming a small settlement as a nucleus for further improvements. But this seldom succeeds on a small scale, because the personal expenses of the projectors absorb the profits. In all cases it is a work of time attended with considerable privation and discouragement in the first instance. Persons of small capital, say with from £1000 to £3000 would generally best consult their interests by settling themselves on cleared farms in good situations, even though they should purchase them at the rate of £4 or £5 per acre; instead of purchasing wild lands in remote situations, where they would only have to pay 10/ per acre unless, as I said before, they should have working families. If they possess this latter advantage with a little spare capital to defray their first expenses, they should certainly take to the woods, and with a certain prospect of immediate success and a handsome provision for their families ultimately. One deplorable consequence of the exaggerated accounts of Canada has been that numbers of sanguine young men, the sons of gentlemen, and who, from their previous habits, are either unwilling or unable to work, have been induced to bury themselves in the woods at a great distance from markets, and where the expenses of clearing land and living have been so great that they have expended their whole capital, and have been ruined before they could reap any advantage by reselling their lands, or even obtain a bare subsistence from them. The worst of the matter is, that generally, they are so disgusted with the roguery and self-interested representations of almost every one they meet here, that they are afraid to listen to honest advice, and in attempting to judge for themselves, they, in most cases fall into the pit they wish to avoid. The only class of people who profit by wild lands (who cannot clear them by the labour of their own families) are those who never improve them, but sell them when their value is enhanced by settlements in their neighbourhood. This brings me to the subject of land speculations; and there can be no doubt that, in most cases, they have greatly retarded the settlement of the country: though I by no means think, that they should necessarily do so. In judging of this matter a distinction should be made between resident land speculators, and absentees. The evils arising from extensive tracts of land being held in an unimproved state by absentee proprietors, have been severely felt in many parts of the Colony, and the Legislature has very properly imposed a tax upon such lands, to pay which, they are sold from time to time in portions by the Sheriffs. This is an evil of the first magnitude, and I only regret that a more speedy remedy could not be found.
A great number of these absentee proprietors are officers in our Service and others in England and in different parts of the world; so that individuals who might feel inclined to purchase from them cannot possibly find them out, or even ascertain their names. The obstacles that such lands oppose to the improvement of roads, and the concentration of the population are too obvious to require any comment. The other class of land speculators, with which this Province abounds, are such as possess numerous detached tracts of wild land, and although resident in the colony do nothing towards their improvement. Of this class I may simply observe, that if they do no good, they do no harm to the country: for, in most cases, they are glad to sell their lands as cheap, if not cheaper than Government does at present. Most of these speculators have obtained their land by purchasing Military grants, and those made to U.E. Loyalists and their children who came here from the United States at the time of the American Revolution. Very few of these rights to draw land having been acted on by the original holders, they were obtained at very low rates; often for less than 1/4th of the lowest Government prices: and of course the speculators could afford to undersell the Govt with a handsome profit to themselves. In consequence of the great emigration some years ago, these speculators also purchased largely at the Government sales. These speculations were encouraged by the easy terms of payment allowed by Govt which only required one fourth of the price to be paid at the time of sale, and the remainder in three annual instalments. The Government justly considered this as an evil; but the way they took to check it was sufficiently short-sighted. They raised the upset price of wild lands in remote situations from 5/ to 10/ per acre as the minimum price. The consequence of this was that the spirit of speculation was rather increased than diminished, while the poorer settlers were at the same time driven out of the market. The natural consequence has been that the emigration reduced as it is from other causes, has been diverted in a great measure to the U. States where lands are sold much cheaper than here. Now, if instead of raising the price of wild land they had only followed the example of the U. States in making the whole price to be paid at the time of sale, their object would have been attained much more effectually than by the plan adopted. The last description of land speculators are such as purchase an extensive tract of land from Govt and being possessed of adequate capital, establish themselves on the land, and encourage others by their improvements, by making roads, erecting Mills, etc. to follow their example and buy lands from them. This is frequently done in the U. States, but not often in Canada, from want of sufficient capital. Two settlements of this kind have been formed in the Newcastle District: one by Messrs Jamieson & Wallace (gentlemen of considerable capital) at Cameron's Falls:1 and another very recently by Admiral Vansittart, brother of Lord Bexley, on Balsam Lake:2 both on the line of the Trent Canal, which when finished will amply remunerate them for their outlay and exertions, by the number of settlers it will draw to their lands. Such settlements as these are most beneficial to the country, and deserve every encouragement from our Government. These gentlemen are personally resident on their lands; and it is evident that the more individuals are interested in such enterprises, the sooner will the lands be settled. A great error, in my opinion, has been committed by our Colonial Govt in opening too many new townships at once for settlement, particularly when they are too far from markets for the superabundant produce of the settlers. So long as a constant influx of settlers can be maintained, the local demand for agricultural produce will create a temporary prosperity, but unless improvements in the means of transport keep pace with or rather in some degree precede the wants of the settlers: the first check the emigration may recieve, will necessarily produce a dreadful re-action, attended with the most ruinous consequences to the inhabitants. From the peculiar situation and form of this colony, with a long line of frontier, bounded by navigable rivers and lakes; the emigration is subjected to the most capricious changes in its direction. Sometimes emigrants crowd to one point, sometimes to another, as they may happen to be influenced by vague or interested reports: water conveyance being so cheap for passengers on the great lakes that the difference of expense is considered of small moment.3
Having already casually noticed the description of emigrants who are most likely to succeed here; as the subject is one of great consequence, both to the Colony and to several classes in Britain, who look to this country for a provision for their rising families, I think my time will not be entirely thrown away in entering more fully into particulars. Canada has often been called the country for the poor man. If it had been called the country for the laborious and industrious man; a more precise idea would have been conveyed: for the poor man here without industry, or who from habit or weakness is unable to endure hard labour is indeed in a deplorable condition, and meets with no compassion. We want labour first to clear away the woods, and capital afterwards to enable the settlers to stock their farms, and to improve the roads and other means of conveyance for the productions of the country. For the intermediate class, those who cannot or will not work, and who have but little capital (unless they betake themselves to mercantile pursuits) this country presents few advantages. This description of emigrants would better consult their interest and comfort by going to the Cape or some other Pastoral colony, provided they have sufficient capital to establish themselves; and I may observe, by the way, that the same capital that would be expended in purchasing a cleared farm, or in clearing wild land here, would establish them much more comfortably at the Cape. If such people will come to Canada, as I have hinted before, they should purchase cleared farms, and they will be cheaper even at £5 per acre, than wild land, at the lowest price, which is cleared entirely by hired labour. A single labourer can do but little in the woods. He may, indeed, chop down trees, but he requires two more labourers with a Yoke of oxen to pile the logs and burn them. Still there are a great many young men of a superior class to labourers who can find no provision in Europe, and yet do not possess sufficient capital to establish themselves on a cleared farm here, or in any more distant colony. The necessity of acquiring laborious habits is obvious in this case; and if two or three young men in this situation, would unite their means and purchase a sufficient extent of wild land, say 200 or 300 acres, and clear and cultivate them at first by their united labour, I have no doubt that with proper management and strict economy they will be successful. The younger they are when they begin their operations, the more cheerfully will they submit to the temporary privations and toil of the woods. Before they make any bargain for land, or begin to clear land on their own account, it would be a great advantage to them to make a temporary arrangement with some established settler of their own class, by assisting whom for a few months, they would have time to make a better choice of land, and acquire some knowledge of the mode of clearing land etc. and at the same time save themselves the expense of living at inns, where much of their means as well as time would be unprofitably dissipated. Next to common labourers working farmers with grown up sons will most improve the condition here, with reference to their former situation in England. With regard to settlers of the working class, or common labourers, they will at once be able to procure employment and high wages in all parts of Upper Canada, and they would do well to content themselves with working for other for a year or two, before they think of going on their own lands. In most cases they show an extreme anxiety to get to work on their own lands, but it rarely happens, that when they start on their own account, they have sufficient means to purchase provisions to support their families, until they can raise their first crops. The consequence is, that they lose a great deal of time, and are subjected to numerous unnecessary hardships in seeking occasional employment in the older settlements: whereas, if in the first instance, they merely secured their lands, and employed themselves and families in earning wages for some time, they would then be enabled to proceed uninterruptedly in the cultivation of their own farms. This is a truth acknowledged by them all after they have had some experience of the country. If they were obliged to pay up the whole price of their lands at the time of sale, the evil would in a great measure be removed, and the improvement of the older settlements, as well as of the country generally be greatly accelerated. I was much gratified to find that my suggestions with regard to apprenticing children to the settlers in this country had been adopted by the 'Children's Friend Society,' and the complete success of the experiment, should, I think, lead to a great extension of the system, and to the organization of similar societies throughout the country. One thing, however, I should observe, that it appears to me that Ten Dollars a year with clothing (which is here rather expensive) is too much to require for Girls; as, in this part of the colony girls of 14 years of age can be had for from 1 1/2 Dollars to 2 Dollars per month without clothing. I have no hesitation in saying that the system can hardly be extended too far, provided that due attention is paid to a proper distribution of the children over every part of the Colony, according to the existing demand for them; for, from the nature of the country, the more labour may be furnished to us, the more will be required in increasing ratio, until all our best lands are fully settled. Before I conclude this subject I think it is right to allude to a very common mistake: vis. that young men of idle and dissipated habits are likely to change their mode of life in Canada. The fact is, that in no country I have ever seen does drunkenness prevail to such a degree as here. 'Temperance Societies' may, for a time do some good; but in general the remedy is about as effectual as amputation of the leg would be for a sore foot. This vice prevails most in new settlements. As the country becomes improved, and the inhabitants of all classes less intermixed the people settle down into more regular habits. No class of settlers are less likely to succeed in this colony, than the sons of gentlemen of fortune in England, who are not educated with a view to some profession. But if it is found necessary to send them to the colonies for a provision, it would be wise to accustom them previously, while they are still young, to habits of personal exertion. A moderate knowledge of mercantile business would also be extremely desirable. Previously to settling in Canada they should be placed for some time with a farmer at home, where they should not only learn something of the theory of agriculture, but also learn to use their hands; for manual labour is much more required here than head work. In case of their failure as farmers, a knowledge of Book-Keeping and writing a good hand, will secure them a living as clerks to Merchants or Store-Keepers. As new settlements are formed, there is always an opening for the establishment of Stores, which afford employment to a great number of young men, who would not be likely, or have not sufficient means to succeed as farmers. The time is not far distant when these matters will be better understood in Europe, and when manual labour will be held in more respect than it is at present. I must say for Canada, that in no country in the world is honest industry held in higher estimation, or does a more sound and healthy state of feeling exist in regard to these matters. It must be admitted, (and we need not wonder at it) that the democratic feeling is often carried too far; that the man of education and talent is thought less of than the industrious labourer; but it must be remembered that learning and talent are not necessary here, to chop down trees, and prepare the way for civilization and refinement. Still on the other hand, we are free from a hundred prejudices that are prevalent in more complicated states of society. All honest occupations are held in equal honour, and the rich man dare not treat the poor man with contempt. While Canada certainly deserves the praise I have bestowed on it, there is still much in it to disgust men possessed of honourable feelings and highmindedness. There exists no high standard for character. The great mass of the population of all classes are continually under the influence of the most odious selfishness. Friends and relatives, as well as strangers are unhesitatingly sacrificed to the local interests of the settlers, and hundreds are every year misled and decoyed into misery or ruin by their false and exaggerated accounts of the country. The great mistake with regard to this colony appears to be, that individual prosperity is supposed to keep pace with the prosperity and improvement of the country, as a whole. We may clear land and produce grain, construct canals and rail-roads to an immense extent; and yet individual profits, though greatly increased, may still be small and uncertain. This is a country capable (from the abundance of fertile lands) of supporting an immense population, but from the high rate of wages (arising from the quantity of unoccupied lands, and the high price of imported goods) and the low price of grain in our home and foreign markets, profits must be almost nominal, as far as agriculture is concerned. It is notorious that wheat at the present prices hardly pays the expense of raising it. If added to this our timber trade be ruined by the reduction of duties that have hitherto protected it, the emigration will be diverted to the States, and our condition will be wretched indeed. We shall then be obliged to clothe ourselves in the coarse manufactures of the colony, as we shall not be able to buy British manufactures; and our trade will be reduced to a system of internal barter. Should matters come to this state (which God forbid) England will cease to have any interest in retaining Canada, and our boasted loyalty will rapidly evaporate. This is certainly the dark side of the picture, but it is the side presented to us at the present moment. I cannot, however, persuade myself that the country will be allowed to retrograde, or that our fields cleared with such toil will be allowed by Providence to lie waste. Many things may occur to give a stimulus to our industry. Wheat will probably rise somewhat in price: and if Potash continues to increase in value, it will soon pay the expense of clearing our lands, as it did formerly in many cases. Tobacco is already cultivated to some extent in the Western Districts of the Upper Province where the climate is favourable for its production. Our Legislature have applied for a further reduction in the duty on this article, to enable the Canadian growers to compete with those of the United States. Should any disturbance occur with Russia, it may become an important consideration whether Canada may not supply a large portion of the flax and hemp used in the British manufactures. We have already several Iron works (mines and foundries) established in the colony, and if Copper mines can be found sufficiently rich to be worked with profit; of which there is a great probability, as also coal to work them, of which there is every indication, a valuable export would be established. In speaking of coal I may mention one fact of which you may not be aware; that even in the midst of the forest, wood, from the quantity required during a long and severe winter, is a most expensive kind of fuel. About one acre of timber yearly is often consumed in a house with only two or three fires, and when it is considered that nearly one half of every 100 acres should be left uncleared for supplying firewood, the introduction of coal, besides the saving in expense, will enable the lands to support twice the population they can do at present. Canada, from the nature of its present population, cannot be expected to make such rapid and steady progress in improvement as the U. States, where a large proportion of the inhabitants are born and bred in the country. To people of the latter description, the process of clearing and cultivating new lands is better understood, and is not attended with the same degree of suffering and privation, as it is to Europeans. The great mass of our population, on the contrary are not natives of the colony; for the French Canadians are unenterprising, and have no inclination to act as pioneers of the forest. We require a division of labour in this respect here, as much as it is required in other matters in older countries. In a few years, however, when the children of the present inhabitants are grown up to manhood, the case will be altered. Then the clearing of land for sale to European farmers will become a separate occupation, and when this shall be the case, the progress of the colony will be greatly accelerated, and most of the hardships and privations attendant on new settlements will disappear. It is a circumstance worthy of observation that the first settlements are but rarely permanent ones, in so far as the individuals are concerned who form them. This by no means arises from love of change, or a passion for clearing land, as is generally supposed, but either from interest or necessity. If a fair calculation were to be made of the labour or money expended in clearing land, it would be found, that in no case, (at least in Canada) does the price obtained for improvements of this kind fully remunerate the original settlers for their outlay. But as the families of the settlers increase, the necessity of obtaining a larger extent of land to provide for them is apparent; and therefore they are obliged to sell their improved farms at the price they may be able to get for them, that they may purchase a greater extent of wild land where their improvements are recommenced. Still, there is an actual loss: but this loss falls very unequally on different classes of settlers, as money or labour only is employed. The capitalist sinks money which is never fully redeemed, and he is often when his means are limited compelled to sell his improved land to pay the debts he has incurred during the progress of his improvements. The poor man, on the other hand, whose capital is his labour, sells his 'betterments' (as the Yankees call them) for a price, which though a good deal less than he might have earned by working for a master at the common rate of wages, enables him to purchase a larger extent of land for his family, and to have also some money capital to commence with: while his capital in labour is not diminished, and in most cases increased. From this statement the following conclusions may be deduced: first that labour is [more] efficient than capital for clearing land in Canada, and therefore that the poor labourer will be more successful in the backwoods, than the capitalist without labour. Secondly: that the capitalist without labour will best consult his interest by purchasing the poor man's improvements, which as I have already stated, are generally sold somewhat I might say greatly below their actual value. As I have stated that, in all cases, there is an actual loss; or in other words, that the labourer does not obtain the marketable value of his labour, in clearing land for sale, it may be necessary to explain more fully the cause of this loss, and why it is submitted to on the part of the labourer. In the first place, the poor man just escaped from his European thraldom is eager to become his own master; and even supposing that, at first, he is aware of the hardships and privations he must encounter in the woods, he is too anxious to have land of his own to regard them. Afterwards, as his family increases, and he wishes to sell his improvements, there is not sufficient capital in the colony in proportion to the land in the market to enable him to obtain the real value of the labour expended on his farm. Now taking the wages of a good labourer in the more improved parts of the country at £30 per ann. with his board, and supposing he worked for ten years it would yield him £300. If instead of working for wages he should buy 100 acres of wild land, say at 10/ per acre = £50: and should in ten years clear 50 acres at £3 per acre (the lowest rate) = £150: then he might sell his land with the improvements for £200 but, in most cases, it would scarsely fetch this price as such wild lands as he can obtain for 10/ per acre would generally be in a remote situation with respect to markets or water communication. His expenses in the backwoods, in the latter case, in clothing etc. would be much greater both from the nature of his work, and his distance from markets. In situations where cleared farms now fetch £5 per acre the country has been settled for 20 or 30 years, and buildings have been erected which would cost some hundred pounds and moreover most of them have orchards which are worth at least £100. There are particular situations where wild lands sell much higher, as on the banks of lakes or rivers, which are navigable or will soon be rendered so, or in the right neighbourhood of old settlements; but the same calculations apply to them also. I am assured that in the State of New York on the opposite side of Lake Ontario, improved farms are frequently sold at £10 per acre; ten years being given to pay up the whole sum with interest by yearly instalments: yet people without any capital but their labour purchase these farms and pay their instalments regularly. This fact shows how very far we are behind the U. States in improvement. Such are the effects of capital, canals, and rail-roads: and I may add, an enterprising and industrious native population. This circumstance also shows how much it is our interest to cultivate an intimate commercial intercourse with our brethren on the other side of the Lakes, and I fear, unless we do so, the productive powers of Canada will not for many years be fully developed. I do not believe that the U. States as a nation, have the smallest desire to take possession of Canada, and the more they may profit by our trade, the less interest will they have in increasing their already too extensive territory, in this direction. From motives of personal interest their subjects are eager to take shares in our canals and rail-roads; and if we would allow them, by means of their capital, they would improve our country in these respects more than we are able to do without their aid. As our internal communications are extended, and a good understanding is cultivated with them, their capital will flow into the country, raise the value of our lands and facilitate their improvement. Besides the great internal demand for Wheat which the people of the States possess in their manufacturing districts, which, generally speaking, are not well adapted for the production of that article, and in the Southern States, where it is more profitable to cultivate tobacco, rice, cotton and sugar etc. they have a more ready access than the people of Canada to the West Indies, and the grazing countries of South America, and of course as producers of wheat they have a great advantage over us. Our wheat and flour when imported into the United States are subject to a heavy duty; but of late they are anxious to have them admitted free of duty for re-exportation, for the sake of the profit they will derive from its passing through the Erie canal to the Atlantic. The measure has (I believe) been proposed in Congress, and in Canada we are equally anxious to take advantage of their favorable disposition.
Taking all things into consideration, our prospects in Canada are more favorable than, judging from the present state of matters we might be led to think; and if we should have a steady emigration for a few years, we may attain to as great a degree of prosperity as our republican neighbours.
1. On 8 October 1834 the Cobourg Star reported on a visit by Sir John Colborne, accompanied by Thomas Stewart, to the 'back lakes,' including Cameron's Falls, of the Trent River system: 'of the natural advantages of the situation its proprietors, Messrs. Jamieson and Wallace, are preparing fully to avail themselves, having now in rapid course of execution extensive mills, a large substantial Building for a Hotel, &c' (Guillet, ed., The Valley of the Trent, 192).
2. In the mid-1820s Admiral Henry VanSittart purchased three thousand acres of land on the north side of Balsam Lake, which he later named Bexley Township in honour of his brother. Like Jamieson and Wallace he intended to develop an active settlement as a result of the opening of the Trent River system to full navigation.Copyright/Source