List Of Contents | Contents of Roughing it in the Bush, by Susanna Moodie
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year into one particular locality, and afterwards into another.
Both these results, neither of which was foreseen by any one,
unfortunately for me, ensued just at that time. It seemed natural
that emigrants should flow into a fertile tract of land, and
emigration was confidently expected steadily to increase; these
were our anticipations, but neither of them was realised. Were it
suitable to the character of these sketches, I would enter into the
subject of emigration and the progress of improvement in Canada,
respecting which my judgment has been matured by experience and
observation; but such considerations would be out of place in
volumes like the present, and I shall therefore proceed with my

I had obtained my cleared farm on easy terms, and, in so far as the
probability of procuring a comfortable subsistence was concerned,
we had no reason to complain; but comfort and happiness do not
depend entirely on a sufficiency of the necessaries of life. Some
of our neighbours were far from being agreeable to us. Being fresh
from England, it could hardly be expected that we could at once
accommodate ourselves to the obtrusive familiarity of persons who
had no conception of any differences in taste or manners arising
from education and habits acquired in a more refined state of
society. I allude more particularly to some rude and demoralised
American farmers from the United States, who lived in our immediate
neighbourhood. Our neighbours from the same country were worthy,
industrious people; but, on the whole, the evil greatly predominated
over the good amongst them.

At a few miles' distance from our farm, we had some intelligent
English neighbours, of a higher class; but they were always so
busily occupied with their farming operations that they had little
leisure or inclination for that sort of easy intercourse to which
we had been accustomed. If we called in the forenoon, we generally
found our neighbour hard at work in the fields, and his wife over
head and ears in her domestic occupations. We had to ring the bell
repeatedly before we could gain admittance, to allow her time to
change her ordinary dress. Long before this could be effected, or we
could enter the door, sundry reconnoitring parties of the children
would peep at us round the corners of the house, and then scamper
off to make their reports.

It seems strange that sensible people should not at once see the
necessity of accommodating their habits to their situation and
circumstances, and receive their friends without appearing to be
ashamed of their employments. This absurdity, however, is happily
confined to the would-be-genteel people in the country, who visit
in the towns, and occasionally are ambitious enough to give large
parties to the aristocracy of the towns. The others, who do not
pretend to vie with the townspeople in such follies, are a great
deal more easy and natural in their manners, and more truly
independent and hospitable.

Now that we are better acquainted with the country, we much prefer
the conversation of the intelligent and unpretending class of
farmers, who, though their education has been limited, often possess
a rich fund of strong commonsense and liberality of sentiment, and
not unfrequently great observation and originality of mind. At the
period I refer to, a number of the American settlers from the United
States, who composed a considerable part of the population, regarded
British settlers with an intense feeling of dislike, and found a
pleasure in annoying and insulting them when any occasion offered.
They did not understand us, nor did we them, and they generally
mistook the reserve which is common with the British towards
strangers for pride and superciliousness.

"You Britishers are too superstitious," one of them told me on a
particular occasion.

It was some time before I found out what he meant by the term
"superstitious," and that it was generally used by them for

New settlers of the lower classes were then in the habit of
imitating their rudeness and familiarity, which they mistook for
independence. To a certain extent, this feeling still exists amongst
the working class from Europe, but they have learnt to keep it
within prudent bounds for their own sakes; and the higher class have
learnt to moderate their pretensions, which will not be tolerated
here, where labourers are less dependent on them for employment. The
character of both classes, in fact, has been altered very much for
the better, and a better and healthier feeling exists between
them--much more so, indeed, than in England.

The labouring class come to this country, too often with the idea
that the higher class are their tyrants and oppressors; and, with
a feeling akin to revenge, they are often inclined to make their
employers in Canada suffer in their turn. This feeling is the effect
of certain depressing causes, often remote and beyond the reach
of legislation, but no less real on that account; and just in
proportion to the degree of poverty and servility which exists among
the labouring class in the particular part of the United Kingdom
from which they come, will be the reaction here. When emigrants have
been some years settled in Canada, they find out their particular
and just position, as well as their duties and interests, and then
they begin to feel truly happy. The fermentation arising from the
strange mixture of discordant elements and feelings gradually
subsides, but until this takes place, the state of society is
anything but agreeable or satisfactory.

Such was its state at C---, in 1832; and to us it was distasteful,
that though averse, for various reasons, to commence a new
settlement, we began to listen to the persuasions of our friends,
who were settled in the township of D---, about forty miles from
C---, and who were naturally anxious to induce us to settle among

Mrs. Moodie's brother, S---, had recently formed a settlement in
that township, and just before our arrival in Canada had been joined
by an old brother officer and countryman of mine, Mr. T---, who was
married to Mrs. Moodie's sister. The latter, who like myself, was a
half-pay officer, had purchased a lot of wild land, close to the
farm occupied by S---.

Mr. S--- S--- had emigrated to Canada while quite a youth, and was
thoroughly acquainted with the backwoods, and with the use of the
felling-axe, which he wielded with all the ease and dexterity of a

I had already paid some flying visits to the backwoods and found
the state of society, though rude and rough, more congenial to
our European tastes and habits, for several gentlemen of liberal
education were settled in the neighbourhood, among whom there was a
constant interchange of visits and good offices. All these gentlemen
had recently arrived from England, Ireland, or Scotland, and all
the labouring class were also fresh from the old country and
consequently very little change had taken place in the manners or
feelings of either class. There we felt we could enjoy the society
of those who could sympathise with our tastes and prejudices, and
who, from inclination as well as necessity, were inclined to assist
each other in their farming operations.

There is no situation in which men feel more the necessity of mutual
assistance than in clearing land.

Alone, a man may fell the trees on a considerable extent of
woodland; but without the assistance of two or three others, he
cannot pile up the logs previous to burning. Common labours and
common difficulties, as among comrades during a campaign, produce
a social unity of feeling among backwoods-men. There is, moreover,
a peculiar charm in the excitement of improving a wilderness for
the benefit of children and posterity; there is in it, also, that
consciousness of usefulness which forms so essential an ingredient
in true happiness. Every tree that falls beneath the axe opens a
wider prospect, and encourages the settler to persevere in his
efforts to attain independence.

Mr. S--- had secured for me a portion of the military grant of four
hundred acres, which I was entitled to as a half-pay officer, in his
immediate neighbourhood. Though this portion amounted to only sixty
acres, it was so far advantageous to me as being in a settled part
of the country. I bought a clergy reserve of two hundred acres,
in the rear of the sixty acres for 1 pound per acre, for which
immediately afterwards I was offered 2 pounds per acre, for at that
period there was such an influx of settlers into that locality that
lands had risen rapidly to a fictitious price. I had also purchased
one hundred acres more for 1 pound 10s. per acre, from a private
individual; this also was considered cheap at the time.

These lots, forming altogether a compact farm of three hundred and
sixty acres, were situated on the sloping banks of a beautiful lake,
or, rather, expansion of the river Otonabee, about half-a-mile wide,
and studded with woody islets. From this lake I afterwards procured
many a good meal for my little family, when all other means of
obtaining food had failed us. I thus secured a tract of land which
was amply sufficient for the comfortable subsistence of a family,
had matters gone well with me.

It should be distinctly borne in mind by the reader, that uncleared
land in a remote situation from markets possesses, properly
speaking, no intrinsic value, like cleared land, for a great deal of
labour or money must be expended before it can be made to produce
anything to sell. My half-pay, which amounted to about 100 pounds
per annum of Canadian currency, was sufficient to keep us supplied
with food, and to pay for clearing a certain extent of land, say
ten acres every year, for wheat, which is immediately afterwards
sown with grass-seeds to supply hay for the cattle during winter.
Unfortunately, at this period, a great change took place in my
circumstances, which it was impossible for the most prudent or
cautious to have foreseen.

An intimation from the War-office appeared in all the newspapers,
calling on half-pay officers either to sell their commissions or to
hold themselves in readiness to join some regiment. This was a hard
alternative, as many of these officers were situated; for a great
many of them had been tempted to emigrate to Canada by the grants
of land which were offered them by government, and had expended all
their means in improving these grants, which were invariably given
to them in remote situations, where they were worse than worthless
to any class of settlers but those who could command sufficient
labour in their own families to make the necessary clearings and

Rather than sell my commission, I would at once have made up my mind
to join a regiment in any part of the world; but, when I came to
think of the matter, I recollected that the expense of an outfit,
and of removing my family--to say nothing of sacrificing my property
in the colony--would render it utterly impossible for me to accept
this unpleasant alternative after being my own master for eighteen
years, and after effectually getting rid of all the habits which
render a military life attractive to a young man. Under these
circumstances, I too hastily determined to sell out of the army.
This, of course, was easily managed. I expected to get about 600
pounds for my commission; and, before the transaction was concluded,
I was inquiring anxiously for some mode of investing the proceeds,
as to yield a yearly income.

Unfortunately, as it turned out, I made a bargain with Mr. Q--- for
twenty-five shares, of 25 pounds each, in a fine steamer, which had
just been built at C---, and which was expected to pay at least
twenty-five per cent. to the shareholders. This amount of stock Q---
offered me for the proceeds of my commission, whatever amount it
might be sold for; offering at the same time to return all he should
receive above 600 pounds sterling. As I had nothing but his word for
this part of the agreement, he did not recollect it when he obtained
700 pounds, which was 100 pounds more than I expected.

Some boats on Lake Ontario, while the great emigration lasted, and
there was less competition, yielded more than thirty per cent.; and
there seemed then no reason to doubt that the new boat would be
equally profitable.

It is possible that Q--- foresaw what actually happened; or, more
probably, he thought he could employ his money better in land
speculations. As soon as the steamer began to run, a quarrel took
place between the shareholders who resided at C---, where she
was built, and those who lived at the capital of the Upper
Province--York, as it was then called. The consequence was that she
remained idle a long time, and at last she came under the entire
control of the shareholders at York, who managed the boat as they
liked, and to suit their own interests. Afterwards, though the boat
continued to be profitably employed, somehow or other all her
earnings were consumed in repairs, &c., and for several years I
never received a penny for my shares. At last the steamer was sold,
and I only received about a fourth part of my original stock. This,
as may be supposed, was a bitter disappointment to me; for I had
every reason to think that I had not only invested my money well,
but very profitably, judging from the profits of the other boats on
the lake. Had I received the proceeds of my commission, and bought
bank stock in the colony--which then and still yields eight per
cent.--my 700 pounds sterling, equal to 840 pounds currency, would
have given me 60 pounds per annum, which, with my own labour, would
have kept my family tolerably well, have helped to pay servants,
and have saved us all much privation and harassing anxiety.

Having thus supplied the painful details of a transaction, a
knowledge of which was necessary to explain many circumstances in
our situation, otherwise unintelligible, I shall proceed with my

The government did not carry out its intention with respect to
half-pay officers in the colonies; but many officers, like myself,
had already sold their commissions, under the apprehension of being
compelled to accept this hard alternative. I was suddenly thrown
on my own resources, to support a helpless and increasing family,
without any regular income. I had this consolation, however, under
my misfortune, that I had acted from the best motives, and without
the most remote idea that I was risking the comfort and happiness
of those depending upon me. I found very soon, that I had been too
precipitate, as people often are in extraordinary positions; though,
had the result been more fortunate, most people would have commended
my prudence and foresight. We determined, however, to bear up
manfully against our ill-fortune, and trust to that Providence which
never deserts those who do not forget their own duties in trying

It is curious how, on such occasions, some stray stanzas which hang
about the outskirts of the memory, will suddenly come to our aid.
Thus, I often caught myself humming over some of the verses of that
excellent moral song "The Pilot," and repeating, with a peculiar

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