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John Moodie to Susanna Moodie
January 24 1839
Patrick Hamilton Ewing Collection of Moodie-Strickland-Vickers-Ewing Family Papers (National Library of Canada)

24th Jan'y 1839

My Dearest Susie,

Your welcome letter reached me some days ago, but I have been so unceasingly absorbed in my employment that I have actually been unable to write until this morning. I am grieved My Dearest to hear of your sufferings, and God knows how anxious I am that it might be in my power to relieve you from your comfortless situation. Though I think our frontier disturbances must lead to a War, in which case my employment would become permanent; still, until there is some greater certainty of its continuance I fear it would be imprudent to leave the farm, — or at all events to put it out of our power to re-occupy it. I trust you have entirely recovered by this time from your severest bodily sufferings, but I feel miserable to think of your uncomfortable helpless situation during the late very severe weather. Be comforted, my own Susie, and rely implicitly on that Providence which has so often befriended us, and all will yet be well with us. In spite of all our present difficulties we have always had the consciousness of doing our duty, and have been supported by hope founded on a never failing experience of the goodness of God, when all our own efforts have been fruitless. I am sorry I can send you only £2 at present as all my spare money has been expended in my journeys to Kingston and Bath and other places, and I have not yet been allowed anything for travelling expenses. Some time ago I had to go to Kingston for money for the troops and had to remain there for more than a week waiting till the Pay Lists arrived from Toronto and could be examined by the Commissariat. My trip with coach hire cost me near £5 and if I am not allowed travelling expenses my situation will be anything but profitable. I have no doubt, however, that the Govt must make me some allowance in my peculiar situation. I have to go to Kingston at least once a month to get money which the Commercial Bank do not seem inclined to allow me to draw thro' their Agent here who is entitled to 1/4 Per Cent. so I have to carry my bundle of £4000 or £5000 under my wing. I have now no difficulty whatever in managing my business, and keep regular books myself without having any clerk, as I cannot afford to pay for one. My health suffered much at first from the constant confinement but I am now much better. The kind hearted Baron often volunteers to assist me himself when he sees me working away late and early, which, of course, I will not permit. He was very much pleased with your book and takes the warmest interest in our affairs. I really think he will yet be of great service to us as he has much influence with Sir George Arthur having formerly acted as his Private Secretary. Last night I gave him a long history of our settlement and difficulties as well as of some others when he was actually affected to tears. He asked me what I would like to have and promised to use all his influence with Sir George in our favor and I know from observation that he never forgets a promise and is indefatiguable in whatever he undertakes. I really cannot help feeling a sort of brotherly affection for this man, — he has so much nobleness of soul. He never, or very seldom, gives me an order, but seems anxious to remove any feeling of dependance, leaving me to perform my duty in my own way. The greatest fault in his character is a very passionate temper and (what I have heard some ladies call them) certain amiable weaknesses, but he must in some measure be excused for these faults on account of the colour of his hair which is what his enemies would call red and his friends bright Auburn. When I tell you that he is slight and active in his make, and very handsome you will have a tollerably faithful picture of one of the best hearted men in the world. I must now tell you a piece of good news (I hope) I have just received a letter from my brother Donald. It is long and deeply interesting. He has been engaged with my friend Capt Campbell Civil Commissioner of Albany in an investigation respecting Stockinstroem the Lieut. Governor who was accused of murdering a Caffre several years ago. Just as the different witnesses had been examined and the proceedings transmitted to Cape Town, Stockenstroem arrived as the Lieut. Governor from England, where he had got the character of a philanthropist by affecting a feeling for the Caffres. He immediately [in]stituted an action against Campbell and Donald [ ] which ended in the fact of the murder being completely proved by old and respectable witnesses who saw him shoot the Caffre thro' the back while he lay concealed in a heap of brush wood. The proceedings have gone home to England, and Stockinstroem has resigned. What a subject for a tragedy! Donald has been engaged for a long time in publishing a collection of translations from Dutch records and letters found by him at Graff-Reynett which he says will throw quite a new light on the Caffre and Dutch character in former times. It seems the Colony is in a most deplorable state on the frontier in consequence of the encouragement and unjust favor shewn by our imbecile and wrong headed Ministry towards the Caffres. The Caffres (Donald says) now instead of skulking in the bushes traverse the country in large parties well mounted and armed with guns. Donald enjoys a salary of £400 Per Ann. while engaged in his work at Cape Town. He says he can hardly live on his salary as since the emigration of so many of the Dutch graziers into the interior provisions have trebled in Price in the Colony. Notwithstanding this he has succeeded in selling Groote Valley for 5000 Rix dollars or about £450 Halifax Currency payable in instalments bearing interest, but he has no security except on the place itself. If we could get this it would be a seasonable mercy.

     By the bye, you must send me down 25 or 30 Copies of your Poems for which a Commission Salesman (Mr Calder a Caithness man) at Kingston tells me there are many enquiries and that he could sell 35 copies at once. I forget what price you put upon them. I would not say less than a Dollar. I shall try if I cannot get an offer for a new volume of Poems with your Canadian poems added. I am going to Kingston tomorrow or next day for more money and shall enquire about this matter. The country about the Bay of Quinte seems to be very beautiful but the price is nearly as high as near Cobourg. I have been thinking of trying to make an exchange of wild land for a cleared farm near the mouth of the Trent. Major Meyers one of the richest landholders in Canada I think not unlikely to make a trade with me – we are pretty thick, as they say, and I think [he] would be glad to attract respectable settlers. The old loyal settlers here are a fine honest respectable sett of fellows far superior in character to the Cobourg folks who are demoralized by land speculation and other causes. My country man Fidlar is a very kind fellow. He sent his sleigh for [me] the other day to take me out to his place which is fifteen miles from Belleville. He has given me a beautiful brown partridge dog and offers to drive me up to Douro any time I like. I gave him the other Copy of your book which pleased him greatly. If you send your books to Miss Brown she will forward them to me and I can find plenty of opportunities of sending them free gratis to Kingston, as all the good people are very obliging to me in this way, my situation giving me considerable consequence in their eyes as holding the sinecure of War. I was at Bath & Amherst island the other day – at the former I met with another Country man a son of Gordon of Livineys in Caithness, who drove me to Amherst Island where the Capt Comg was an Acquaintance. They were very kind to me and sent me, on my way rejoicing. My Dear you quite distress me with the accounts of the kindness of my neighbours. I hope I am not ungrateful but these things are enough to make me bankrupt in gratitude. How I am ever to return these acts of kindness I know not, but we must contrive some way when it is in our power. The only one I had any chance of serving is James Caddy. From the time I first came down here I tried to sound the Baron about him at a distance, for I then did not know him sufficiently, but he says he will never interfere in the appointment of Subalterns to the Independant Companies. Capt Murphy who was our senior Captain in the 'Queen's Own' Commands one of these Companies and he had no Lieut. or Ensign appointed. I spoke to him the other day while he was driving me out to Brighton but it seems he will only be allowed one Lieutenant, but he told me if it had not been that he wished to get his own brother appointed, he would have been most happy to recommend James Caddy for it. I shall not, however, lose sight of him if I can see any chance for him, but I fear there is but a slight one unless we have a National War1, which from the tone of the English papers is becoming every day more probable. I am happy to hear M[rs Trai]ll is so well. Poor Traill has been very ill used in not getting even a Lieutenancy. [As for le]tting the farm I should certainly prefer James Carney who is a worthy honest quiet la[d to al]most any one I know, and if we do let the farm I should like him to have it. However Garbutt is likely to do it most justice as to farming. However my Dearest I am willing to leave this matter to your own judgement. If Mr Crawford wishes to buy the gun you may sell it at any thing like a reasonable price, say £10 or £8 or even less if you like. I shall not find fault after their great kindness to our dear brats and yourself, even if you make him a present of it. I should have no objection to make a trade with Joe Dunlop on anything like fair terms and I have no objection to your pumping Sam on the subject. He will be pleased with the job at all events for next to bleeding or drawing a tooth he delights in having a hand in a bargain. I shall leave it to you my Dear Old Woman to express my thanks for the kindness of our dear kind neighbours for it is out of my power to do so. May God bless them now and forever. If I can find an opportunity I shall send you some paper. Remember me most affectionately to the dear Traills and to all our kind and affectionate friends. Again My Dear I entreat you to be of good cheer and to hope for the best and I must now conclude by sending my love to my dear Katie and all the rest of our darling brats. Kiss them all for me and believe me ever

Your Affte husband
J.W. Dunbar Moodie

If you direct to me Via Cobourg, your letter would probably reach me sooner as the Post goes twice a week from Peterboro' to Cobourg, – but only once a week by the route thro' the back townships. Poor Mrs McLean (L.E.L.)2 is dead. Col. Landon (a retired Capt of the Army settled in Seymour) Comg at Brighton under the Baron, is a cousin of hers. He is a gentlemanly kind man, but much of Col. Brown's calibre in intellect. That unlucky and (I think) worthless wight has now I am told lost every thing, what his family are to do God only knows. He called on me twice lately while going to and returning from Kingston. The first time he gained his main object in getting a few glasses of grog – but the last time when he came drunk from Kingston and wished to play the same game telling me to call for something to drink, I fairly shewed [him] to the barroom. I was thoroughly disgusted with his impudence and heartless levity when his family were in such circumstances.


We might perhaps make a conditional bargain with James Carney to let him the farm on shares if we could not let it entirely. He is a good lad and I would be inclined to make the terms favorable for him.


1. American Patriot activities along the border, reported in the British press, generated public fears of another Anglo-American war. See Craig, Upper Canada: The Formative Years, 252; Edwin C. Guillet, 'The Cobourg Conspiracy,' in Victorian Cobourg, 122–3.

2. Laetitia Elizabeth Landon (1802–38) (DNB, 11:493–5) was a popular contributor to English annuals and magazines such as the Literary Gazette. Her death was noticed in the Kingston Chronicle and Gazette, 20 February 1839.


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