List Of Contents | Contents of Roughing it in the Bush, by Susanna Moodie
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earth almost spontaneously yields all the necessaries of life, have
remained comparatively feeble and inactive, or have sunk into sloth
and luxury. It is unnecessary to quote any other instances in proof
of this obvious fact, than the progress of Great Britain and the
United States of America, which have conquered as much by their
industry as by their swords.

Our neighbours of the United States are in the habit of attributing
their wonderful progress in improvements of all kinds to their
republican institutions. This is no doubt quite natural in a people
who have done so much for themselves in so short a time; but when
we consider the subject in all its bearings, it may be more truly
asserted that, with any form of government not absolutely despotic,
the progress of North America, peopled by a civilised and energetic
race, with every motive to industry and enterprise in the nature of
the country itself, must necessarily have been rapid. An unbounded
extent of fertile soil, with an increasing population, were
circumstances which of themselves were sufficient to create a
strong desire for the improvement of internal communications; as,
without common roads, rail-roads, or canals, the interior of the
country would have been unfit to be inhabited by any but absolute
barbarians. All the first settlers of America wanted was to be left
to themselves.

When we compare the progress of Great Britain with that of North
America, the contrast is sufficiently striking to attract our
attention. While the progress of the former has been the work of
ages, North America has sprung into wealth and power almost within
a period which we can remember. But the colonists of North America
should recollect, when they indulge in such comparisons, that their
British ancestors took many centuries to civilise themselves, before
they could send free and intelligent settlers to America. The
necessity for improvements in the internal communications is vastly
more urgent in a widely extended continent than in an island, no
part of which is far removed from the sea-coast; and patriotism,
as well as self-interest, would readily suggest such improvements
to the minds of a people who inherited the knowledge of their
ancestors, and were besides stimulated to extraordinary exertions by
their recently-acquired independence. As the political existence of
the United States commenced at a period when civilisation had made
great progress in the mother-country, their subsequent improvement
would, for various reasons, be much more rapid than that of the
country from which they originally emigrated. To show the influence
of external circumstances on the characters of men, let us just
suppose two individuals, equal in knowledge and natural capacity,
to be placed, the one on an improved farm in England, with the
necessary capital and farm-stock, and the other in the wilds of
America, with no capital but his labour, and the implements required
to clear the land for his future farm. In which of these individuals
might we reasonably expect to find the most energy, ingenuity, and
general intelligence on subjects connected with their immediate
interests? No one who has lived for a few years in the United States
or Canada can hesitate for a reply.

The farmer in the more improved country generally follows the beaten
track, the example of his ancestors, or the successful one of his
more intelligent contemporaries; he is rarely compelled to draw upon
his individual mental resources. Not so with the colonist. He treads
in tracks but little known; he has to struggle with difficulties on
all sides. Nature looks sternly on him, and in order to preserve
his own existence, he must conquer Nature, as it were, by his
perseverance and ingenuity. Each fresh conquest tends to increase
his vigour and intelligence, until he becomes a new man, with
faculties of mind which, but for his severe lessons in the school
of adversity, might have lain for ever dormant.

While America presents the most forbidden aspect to the new settler,
it at the same time offers the richest rewards to stimulate his
industry. On the one hand, there is want and misery; on the other,
abundance and prosperity. There is no middle course for the settler;
he must work or starve. In North America there is another strong
incentive to improvement, to be found in the scarcity of labour;
and still more, therefore, than in Europe must every mechanical
contrivance which supersedes manual labour tend to increase the
prosperity of the inhabitants. When these circumstances are duly
considered, we need no longer wonder at the rapid improvements in
labour-saving machinery, and in the means of internal communication
throughout the United States. But for the steam-engine, canals, and
railroads, North America would have remained for ages a howling
wilderness of endless forests, and instead of the busy hum of men,
and the sound of the mill and steam-engine, we should now have heard
nothing but

"The melancholy roar of unfrequented floods."

The scenes and characters presented to the reader in the preceding
pages, belong, in some measure, rather to the past than the present
state of Canada. In the last twenty years great changes have taken
place, as well in the external appearance of the country, as in the
general character of its inhabitants. In many localities where the
land was already under the plough, the original occupants of the
soil have departed to renew their endless wars with the giants of
the forest, in order to procure more land for their increasing
families where it could be obtained at a cheaper price. In the
back-woods, forests have been felled, the blackened stumps have
disappeared, and regular furrows are formed by the ploughman, where
formerly he had not time or inclination to whistle at his work. A
superior class of farmers has sprung up, whose minds are as much
improved by cultivation as their lands, and who are comfortably
settled on farms supposed to be exhausted of their fertility by
their predecessors. As the breadth of land recovered from the
forest is increased, villages, towns, and cities have grown up
and increased in population and wealth in proportion to the
productiveness of the surrounding country.

In Canada, it is particularly to be noted, that there is hardly
any intermediate stage between the rude toil and privation of the
back-woods, and the civilisation, comfort, and luxury of the towns
and cities, many of which are to outward appearance entirely
European, with the encouraging prospect of a continual increase
in the value of fixed property. When a colony, capable, from the
fertility of the soil and abundance of moisture, of supporting a
dense population, has been settled by a civilised race, they are
never long in establishing a communication with the sea-coast and
with other countries. When such improvements have been effected,
the inhabitants may be said at once to take their proper place
among civilised nations. The elements of wealth and power are
already there, and time and population only are required fully
to develope the resources of the country.

Unhappily the natural progress of civilised communities in our
colonies is too often obstructed by the ignorance of governments,
and unwise or short-sighted legislation; and abundance of selfish
men are always to be found in the colonies themselves, who,
destitute of patriotism, greedily avail themselves of this
ignorance, in order to promote their private interests at the
expense of the community. Canada has been greatly retarded in its
progress by such causes, and this will in a great measure account
for its backwardness when compared with the United States, without
attributing the difference to the different forms of government.
It was manifestly the intention of the British government, in
conferring representative institutions on Canada, that the people
should enjoy all the privileges of their fellow-subjects in the
mother-country. The more to assimilate our government to that of its
great original, the idea was for some time entertained of creating a
titled and hereditary aristocracy, but it was soon found that though

  "The King can make a belted knight,
  A marquis, duke, an' a' that,"

it was not in his power to give permanency to an institution which,
in its origin, was as independent as royalty itself, arising
naturally out of the feudal system: but which was utterly
inconsistent with the genius and circumstances of a modern colony.
The sovereign might endow the members of such an aristocracy with
grants of the lands of the crown to support their dignity, but what
benefit could such grants be, even to the recipients, in a country
covered with boundless forests and nearly destitute of inhabitants?
It is obvious that no tenants could be found to pay rents for such
lands, or indeed even to occupy them, while lands could be purchased
on easy terms in the United States, or in Canada itself. Had this
plan been carried out, Canada would have been a doomed country for

The strongest incitements to industry are required, those of
proprietorship and ultimate independence, to induce settlers to
encounter all the privations and toil of a new settlement in such
a country. A genuine aristocracy can only exist in a country
already peopled, and which has been conquered and divided among
the conquerors. In such a state of things, aristocracy, though
artificial in its origin, becomes naturalised, if I may use the
expression, and even, as in Great Britain, when restrained within
proper limits, highly beneficial in advancing civilization. Be it
for good or be it for evil, it is worse than useless to disguise
the fact that the government of a modern colony, where every conquest
is made from the forest by little at a time, must be essentially

Any allusion to political parties is certainly foreign to the object
of the preceding sketches; but it is impossible to make the British
reader acquainted with the various circumstances which retarded the
progress of this fine colony, without explaining how the patronage
of the local government came formerly to be so exclusively bestowed
on one class of the population,--thus creating a kind of spurious
aristocracy which disgusted the colonists, and drove emigration from
our shores to those of the United States.

After the American Revolution, considerable numbers of loyalists
in the United States voluntarily relinquished their homesteads and
property, and came to Canada, which then, even on the shores of
Lake Ontario, was a perfect wilderness. Lands were of course granted
to them by the government, and very naturally these settlers were
peculiarly favoured by the local authorities. These loyalists were
generally known by the name of "tories," to distinguish them from
the republicans, and forming the great mass of the population. Any
one who called himself a reformer was regarded with distrust and
suspicion, as a concealed republican or rebel. It must not, however,
be supposed that these loyalists were really tories in their
political principles. Their notions on such subjects were generally
crude and undefined, and living in a country where the whole
construction of society and habits of feeling were decidedly
republican, the term tory, when adopted by them, was certainly a
misnomer. However, hated by, and hating as cordially, the republican
party in the United States, they by no means unreasonably considered
that their losses and their attachment to British institutions, gave
them an almost exclusive claim to the favour of the local government
in Canada. Thus the name of U.E. (United Empire) Loyalist or Tory
came to be considered an indispensable qualification for every
office in the colony.

This was all well enough so long as there was no other party in the
country. But gradually a number of other American settlers flowed
into Canada from the United States, who had no claim to the title
of tories or loyalists, but who in their feelings and habits were
probably not much more republican than their predecessors. These
were of course regarded with peculiar jealousy by the older or
loyalist settlers from the same country. It seemed to them as if
a swarm of locusts had come to devour their patrimony. This will
account for the violence of party feeling which lately prevailed
in Canada.

There is nothing like a slight infusion of self-interest to give
point and pungency to party feeling. The British immigrants, who
afterwards flowed into this colony in greater numbers, of course
brought with them their own particular political predilections.
They found what was called toryism and high churchism in the
ascendant, and self-interest or prejudice induced most of the more
early settlers of this description to fall in with the more powerful
and favoured party; while influenced by the representations of the
old loyalist party they shunned the other American settlers as
republicans. In the meantime, however, the descendants of the
original loyalists were becoming numerous, while the government
became unable to satisfy them all according to their own estimation
of their merits; and as high churchism was, unfortunately for the
peace of society, associated with toryism, every shade of religious
dissent as well as political difference of opinion generally added
to the numbers and power of the reform party, which was now
beginning to be known in the colony. Strange to say, the great bulk
of the present reform party is composed of the descendants of these
U.E. Loyalists, while many of our most ultra tories are the
descendants of republican settlers from the United States.

As may be supposed, thirty years of increasing emigration from the
mother-country has greatly strengthened the reform party, and they
now considerably out-number the conservatives. While the mass of
the people held tory, or, I should rather call them, CONSERVATIVE
principles, our government seemed to work as well as any
representative government may be supposed to work without the
necessary check of a constitutional opposition. Favouritism was, of
course, the order of the day; and the governor, for the time being,
filled up all offices according to his will and pleasure, without
many objections being made by the people as to the qualifications
of the favourite parties, provided the selections for office were
made from the powerful party. Large grants of land were given to
favoured individuals in the colony, or to immigrants who came with
commendations from the home government. In such a state of matters
the people certainly possessed the external form of a free
government, but as an opposition party gradually acquired an
ascendancy in the lower House of Parliament, they were unable to
carry the measures adopted by their majority into operation, in
consequence of the systematic opposition of the legislative and
executive councils, which were generally formed exclusively from
the old conservative party. Whenever the conservatives obtained the
majority in the House of Assembly, the reformers, in retaliation, as
systematically opposed every measure. Thus a constant bickering was

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