John Newton’s Journals
The following is a transcript of Newton’s journals from August 30, 1842 to January 31, 1844, the period in which he emigrated to Upper Canada and settled in Esquesing Township, near Hamilton. For the most part, the journals are quite legible and have posed few difficulties of transcription; however, some words and phrases have proved difficult or impossible to transcribe, as have several pages of the shipboard journal (Journal 8). All editorial emendations and additions have been set off in square brackets and italics, including the titles and numbers assigned to them by J. H. Hassard (see note 1 to the Introduction in the present edition).
Newspaper clippings in the John Newton Papers in the J. J. Talman Regional Collection at the University of Western Ontario indicate that Newton’s "account of [his] experience of a Canadian winter" (Journal 10) appeared in the June 10, 1843 issue of The Leinster Express and that his second letter on the subject of emigration (Journal 11) was published in the same paper three months later, on September 9. Other clippings indicate that during his Irish years (1837-1842), Newton wrote several pieces for The Leinster Express as its "Mountmelick Correspondent."
August 30, 1842
Mount Melick for Upper Canada
My wife was accompanying me to Dublin where we stayed until September 2 when I started by steamer for Liverpool where I arrived about 10 a.m. on the 3rd. I completed the booking for my passage by the Hottinguer to New York which was to sail on the 5. The preliminaries however could not be completed until the 7th on which day about 12 o’clock at noon we left Liverpool. The first day we made very good way, the wind pretty formidable and weather fine. On the following day however it began to rain, and blow rather hard. This sort of weather continued until the 11 Sunday, when the wind settled and nearly the whole of the day we had a complete calm. Up to this time I had, in common with most of the passengers been very sea sick. On the morning of Sunday however I felt a great deal better; and to-day the 12 Monday, I am quite well. The weather is most beautiful the wind is not very high, nor much in our favour, but we appear to be making pretty good headway, and it is confidently expected we shall have altogether a more than commonly favourable and short voyage. There is one thing however which appears to me much against us—the wind what we have of it has been almost continually a head of us and though the vessel is kept as nearly as possible in the proper course. She is necessarily obliged to after tack about, that is shift the sail so that we may not be much drifted from our proper course. I get quite accustomed to the voyage and believe that before we land I shall be in as good health and spirits as ever I was. I have not yet made many acquaintances on board. Nor do I think I shall, as yet I do not see many congenial souls.—Whilst I was in Dublin I received a letter from Suttcliffe to which however I did not thinkst need say back him any answer. In Liverpool I wrote to my wife, away the same time a letter to my brothers wife in which I took occasion to reveal to Suttcliffe's.
Sept. 16 The weather since my last note has frequently varied. On the morning of 14 the wind began to be very high; and the nights appeared to us landsmen really terrible. The vessel threw about in a manner truly frightful. The boxes, barrels etc. belonging to the passengers rolled about in a manner that made us laugh indeed in the midst of our fears, a good deal of them of course received much injury although nothing luckily belonging to me was injured excepting I lost my little drinking can. Yesterday the wind settled a little, and we had a better night last—it has rained heavily nearly all day, and now the rain having ceased the wind is up again and bids fair to be as on Wednesday night. We are all lashing our things that they may not roll about as before.—I have not been at all well since I wrote last-I got a very bad cold by some means or other, have had a sore throat—a bad appetite, and have not yet recovered properly although I now feel much better. The sort of food I have I don’t at all relish—I long for potatoes, and milk, and a bit of cake—I should have brought a bit of flour by all means and a few potatoes.—It is said we get on our voyage well, and that we shall be in soon. The captain however uses every exertion to this end. It is said he has laid some sort of a wager about beating in the North America, another vessel going to New York, and started out at the same time we did. On Wednesday we lost part of all our three masts of main surmize as proof that we carry too much canvas.
17. Weather still variable. Wind high during the night with occasional showers—and such as continued during the day several hail-showers—just I suppose to give us a fortelling of an American winter. I feel better in health than I have before since started out. Have read a good deal of Chambers Information about Emigraters to Canada and the United States.
21. Since writing last the weather has been variable, strong westerly winds fine sailing, until to-day, which has been a very fine day for the land warm clear and very little wind. We make very little headway just now. At twelve o’clock to-day we have been fourteen days on the voyage. If the wind gets up it’s expected we shall be in less other fourteen days. For my part I don't care how soon we be in—I am heartily tired this way of spending my life. My hopes of success when I get into Canada must think improved as I get nearer.
23. Very fine weather these two days. We make very little way. I suppose it is hardly likely we shall be in less than a fortnight and I am heartily tired already. I am not all well; my bones are very sore and stiff, and there is alternate commotion in my guts. I think though I recover a little now.
(31)21. Still get on badly—though my last night the wind was high and has not yet entirely settled. We are not yet at what they call the Banks of Newfoundland.
October 1.—Since writing above we have had a great alteration on the weather. For two nights last the wind has been higher and the sea very hi than since we came out. We had more fun although not quite so much folly as when we had the masts come down. We were more on our guard. We are now nearly over the banks of Newfoundland and it is expected that we shall be in New York in about a week. I have got a shilling worth of potatoes from the steward today and I shall consequently have a lack of agreeable food I hope until we land. During the way out I have composed a sketch of my life which I intend to copy out in a clear hand when I get a convenient opportunity on in order to show it if necessary in Canada.
2—Sunday. We are still on the famous Banks. Since yesterday a great change has taken place in the weather. Not near so cold and wind much lower—almost a complete calm just now 1 p.m. We hope we shall be at New York next Sunday. I now get quite accustomed to my [?] and I suppose? with me as with others I have read of who have experienced a sort of [?] on leaving the most dismal and uncomfortable of places.
[6 pages illegible including a draft of "Fare thee well my little dearie!" (The Emigrant 533-52) that are largely illegible because of water damage.]
[…]turn down! I suppose the work of the sailors or mate, if of the latter the captain and first Cabin passengers will most likely have a peep at it. And if so I on the whole am but sorry. If I gave a copy of it to fellow in second cabin yesterday and wished him to keep the thing no secret, but we have heard nothing from either quote yet.
14th. Landed at New York about half past three in the afternoon, after a voyage of 37 days and 3 and 1/2 hours. Could not get off luggage until following day, so must stay on board the night. Walked out into the city however in evening. Did not expect to find it so fine a place—think there is not such a place in England if we except London. After my return to the vessel wrote home to my wife, and put the letter in the Post the day following paying only a cent on putting it in.
15.—Got luggage up and passed the customs all right—about the middle of the day. After engaged passage on a steamer to Albany at 50 cents on the deck. Started from New York at five o'clock in the evening and got to Albany about seven on the evening.
16.—Sunday. Stayed on deck one of the tugged boats until the following morning, when I took a place in a tow boat for Rochester at 50 cents fare besides paying for luggage. Started from Albany at about ten o’clock on the morning of the
17.—Monday for Rochester where it is expected we shall arrive in the latter end of the week. I was not at all comfortable either on deck the steamer or the tug the two nights. Neither am I much better in the hold of the tow I have got upon; the consequence is I have a very bad cold and have a dreadful tooth ache to-day.
20. Thursday my left cheek is dreadfully swelled, although I feel much better of the cold, and the acuteness of the pain of the tooth and jaw has much decreased. I hope before I get to Toronto I shall be pretty well recovered. I got acquainted with two young men as I was coming on the steamer from New York, who are going to Toronto, and as they have been there before and are not more over above my cut, I have fallen in with them. We make tea together as we go along. This is a point however to accomplish which we had at first much difficulty. It is customary for passengers to board with the crew—as this neither suited our means nor inclination we could not agree to it, and when wanted a little hot water whereof to make our own tea, we had no little difficulty in getting it though I suppose that by this ruse they would prefer us to a compliance with their wishes. It would not do however, and now we do pretty well.
The scenery on the banks of the Hudson River quite delighted me. I had seen nothing like it before. I do not say that the ground appears to be more productive that in England.—It was the great and continued variety that pleased. There was moreover such and air of comfort, and neatness, and taste about the dwellings all along that I never saw equalled. I cannot however say much of the Erie Canal. The scenery here to my taste is too mild and [?] impresses me with an idea of dreariness. But even along here may be seen some town that appears to be in a very flourishing state. Troy is a fine place for instance, as are several others the names of which I do not at present know.
22. Saturday —Got to Rochester. The steamer goes from Rochester to Toronto at 9 a.m.—It was a little after this time before we were at this spot and the steamer had gone off. Another went to Lewiston in the evening and we determined to go by this. We got to Lewiston a little before day on Sunday morning the
23.—With much difficulty we got over the river to Queenston, being determined to make towards Broadcreek where some public work on the canals is going. When we got to Port Robinson however, 15 miles from Queenston, we made enquiry there which determined us to return and make the best of our own way to Toronto. We were told that the people of Broadcreek were dying every day of ague and fever and as I had no great fancy wantonly to expose myself to almost certain death I was soon prevailed upon to return accordingly on Monday morning.
24.—We started back towards Queenston where we had left our boxes. I had a bad shoe, and in consequence a sore foot, so was almost obliged let the two fellows go on before me—they were in time for the steamer, I too late, and was forced to stop until next day, which circumstance did not disturb me, as my money was all out, and I wanted some time to make some more. Accordingly on the morning of the
25. the Tuesday I took a few books into the country and sold Shakespeare and Watt's Logic for 2 1/2 dollars currency. This helped on the steamer as two o’clock p.m. we got to Niagara in the evening where we stopped until 12 at night and got to Toronto a little before day on the morning of Wednesday
26th—When I had got my things on a cart, almost the first fellow I saw was one of my travelling companions, and I accordingly put up at the same house as him, at a Mr. Murphy’s Cooper’s Arms, an Irishman settled here some years. I had not much spirit for business on that day, and did no more than walk about the town. On the following day
27th —I spoke to Bradley the Emigrant’s agent here. I left him the certificate got from Mr. Beale, and a paper I had composed on he sea, and returned then on the morning of that day, until the following morning and went to bed without further adventure, most heartily wishing myself as comfortably set down as I had once been in old Ireland. This notion however if indulged could only have made me home-sick and I strove to banish it as quickly as possible, and succeeded so well that I was with Mr. Bradley early on the following morning
28—Friday. He returned me my papers and advised me to make towards a Mr. Gamble about 8 miles from Toronto, and see if he could not give me something to do. Well I forthwith made off to this gentleman, but got astray, and it was dark at night before I found him out. He could give me nothing to do, but as I had told him I had been reared to sorting and combing he advised me to make towards some Barbers brothers, that carry on carding, fulling, dying, weaving cloths and blankets &c., about thirty miles in the country, at a little village called Georgetown. And I having shown him too the sketch of my life he wished me to enquire of a Mr. Montgomery I had to pass on my way of a school that was a short time before a vacancy was taken up. I stayed at a tavern near Mr. Gamble’s until morning, and started early the
29. —Saturday on the foregoing business. When I got to Montgomery’s however the school I found was taken up; I then made the best of my way to towards the Barbers; I could not reach the place although before night, and stayed at a tavern in a place called Norwal until morning the
30. —Sunday, but notwithstanding made off towards the end of my journey as I supposed or hoped it. I may observe here though that a poor Irish woman whom I accosted immediately after leaving the tavern would have me take breakfast before I proceeded farther, and that this was the first time any one had asked me to put a bite into my head since I left home. Well I got to the Barbers’ in the evening. They could not give me work. They gave me something to eat. I enquired of them too about a school now quite dispirited. They told me they believed there were three or four in the township vacant, and advised me to make towards a Mr. Burns, at some miles distant, but the same township of Esquesing. I made off there all haste, but could not get to the house the night. I called and stopped with a farmer called Nickele, a farmer from the North of Ireland, all night, and in the morning early made towards Mr. Burns’.
31. Monday. Mr. Burns I found when I got to his house was absent on school business, he being one of the school commissioners. I got breakfast with his family, and waited about until Mr. Burns’ return in the evening. He told me, as indeed I had already learned, that there was a school vacant near his own house, and after questioning me a little advised me to go sound the neighbours and invite them to a meeting to be held in the school house at one o'clock on the following day. I could not go through them all the night and stayed with Andrew Scott until the morning of the
1st November. In the morning I finished my mission. Not many attended the meeting, having other business to attend to, but most promising to give the school all the encouragement in their power. Well, it was finally agreed that I should have the school, Mr. Burns asking me some questions in his capacity of Commissioner, and being in the main quite satisfied with my answers. A mutual agreement was come to between in writing the purport of which is that I should teach a certain school in accordance with the Common School Act now in force in this province; and that in return I should receive Bed and Board, fuel for the school, and one dollar per quarter for each scholar until the money should be received from the public fund, and if such public fund should equal or more than equal the dollar per quarter for each scholar I to receive it and refund any I might have received from them, and if not equal they to make up the deficiency. I then went about getting signatures to the agreement but as I could not finish this business this day, I stayed with John Scott until morning.
2.—Wednesday. I had done what I could do at that time do about the middle of the day, and, after getting dinner with Mr. Burns, started off to Toronto for my things, and to get a few school things I should of course want. I got down to Norwal to the old woman’s house I breakfasted with as I came up, where I stayed all night.
3.—Thursday. The old woman gave me some warmed buttermilk and bread, and put one lot of bread and beef up, and I came off. It was late in the evening before I got to Toronto, I having met with a fellow on the road, who detained me no little. He called himself Matthews, was quite drunk, and towards the end of our journey I could not get him on at all. I went of course to my old quarters. As I had no money, I of course went about getting some on the following morning
4.—Friday. —I sold my blanket and pillow, and the bed tick I had on the sea the woman I topped with for fourpence more than I owed for my board and lodging. I then took out some books, intending to sell them, but either from shame or a want of encouragement I did not sell one; and came home just as I started, if I except a great falling off in my spirits. On the following morning
5.—Saturday—I spoke to some respected booksellers in the town about buying them, intending to go off if possible by the steamer at two o’clock, but I could do nothing with them. I now came home and wrote a line or two to John Gee enclosing Christy Malone’s letter in it, and after wrote one home to my wife just detailing generally the way I was getting, suppressing only the difficulties, as I have reason to believe most people do who write from America,— and then posted them without paying anything. My time was now nearly expired, and I must get up money by some means. I accordingly sold twenty vols. of books to a man in the market for 5 d. per vol., and after all when I had bought what little things I wanted, the steamer was gone off, so I must stop until Monday, the steamers not going from here on Sundays. On
6.—Sunday I employed myself in writing a couple of copies of the agreement between me and my school employers, and afterwards in writing this journal since the 22nd October,—and now I expect I will rest the remainder of the day. I must be off to-morrow.
13.—Did not leave Toronto until Thursday the 10 inst. in consequence of the badness of the weather, the steamers not being able to play upon the Lake. Came up to Oakville, left my boxes there until there be an opportunity of getting here on a waggon, and started towards here on the same evening, got to the bottom of this Township, and finished my journey next day Friday about noon; took up my quarters with Mr. Burns, and yesterday swept out the school and got in wood ready to begin to-morrow; to-day I am in the school regulating my affairs—preparing for my undertaking. I of course don't know yet how the thing will turn out—I am anxious however to begin and try what can be done. A good deal of the neighbours seem to me not to know well what a school is, and are no means decided as to whether there ought to be one, or rather are decided that if there be one, it ought to be entirely under their control, and the master consequently be no master at all, but be able to twist himself to suit all their foolish whims. Mr. Newton however will them that he is not to be so easily managed, that he will do what he takes to be right regardless of the consequences, or rather sure the consequences in such case must be in his favour.—When I left Toronto I was obliged to leave some books in payment of my bill at my lodging house; and before that I had sold my blanket and pillow, twenty vols. of Nottingham’s Library besides Shakespeare and Watts, and after all have now but a half sou in my pocket. It is impossible for me to calculate what money it has cost me since I left home; and now that I should have a few little things of clothing before winter sets in I shant be able to get a single article.
20.—Sunday.—Have been Schoolteaching a week now. On Monday I had six scholars, on Tuesday seven, and on Wednesday nine; —stopped here. It is said I shall have more to-morrow—if not I have a notion I shall not be very comfortable long. Three dollars and board a mouth will hardly do. I have a good opportunity of improving myself however, and if this should not turn out better, I shall be able with a better face to look out for a better situation. I like my boarding very well and if I in other respects was doing any way well I don’t know that this sort of life would be disagreeable to me.—The winter has commenced here, in the three last days there has been a good deal of snow with hard frost, harder than I think I ever saw at any time in the old world. I want a pair of boots to keep out the snow very badly, but I suppose I may want them a while.
27.—Sunday. —Another week has passed over me here. Since Tuesday last, I have had twelve scholars in the School; and it is said I shall have more to-morrow. I get on with my undertaking pretty well, but I am quite aware there is still much room for improvement in me yet. I was down at another School in the neighbourhood—Mr. MacIntyre’s yesterday, and could not help seeing a vast difference between his and mine, as much perhaps in regard of superior management as the much greater advancement and attentiveness of his Scholars: I have no fear however but that I shall be able soon to give a superior character to my school. The Scholars I have have been heretofore let allowed to run wild application and propriety of behaviour they don't appear to have any just idea of, and it will doubtless take some time before a proper state of things can be established. There is a great commotion among some of my patrons on account of my moral management of my Scholars, the poor things believing that nothing but continual cudgelling will do. We shall see. I am still with Mr. Burns, and he appears to approve of my conduct pretty well: and I presume he is better capable of forming a correct judgement of this matter than any other of my adjudicators.—I have not yet got my things up from Oakville. I wish I had them however. I suppose it is probable I shall be obliged to undergo a regular examination of the new Commissioners early in January, and some books I have below would I apprehend be of some service to me before this event takes place.—I of course do not hear anything from home yet. I suppose indeed it will be the latter end of February before I do. Of course I cannot but speculate about the way they are getting on, and feel that it must be bad enough with them. I suppose the youngster must have come now, whatever it be, and poor Jem is doubtless no little knocked about. Well, well we must only hope the best. It was a great blunder we did not all come together. How we might have managed it then, but when we will be able to do so now the Lord knows. I may make up my mind to wait twelve months from the time I left home before I see them here at least. The snow still continues to accumulate and the weather to get colder the story about the Canadian winter being pleasanter than the winter in the old country appears to me all stuff. But let that pass, I shall like better I doubt not when I get home.
December 4 Sunday. Another week is passed. I got two fresh Scholars in the middle of the week. Whether I shall yet have any more is doubtful. It seems I do not give entire satisfaction. A good deal of very bad feeling I find exists between the Burns' and most of the rest of the neighbours, and it seems they think partiality is shown Burns’ children. This is of course all imaginary stuff; but let it be as it may it seems to be sufficient to stop my efforts to establish myself here. I shall see however shortly how I go on and if I do not improve I suppose I must look out for something else for it would do for me to throw away my time in this way. I suppose I will leave Burns to-noon and go to John Scott’s for a few days. I like this shifting about from far to the worst of any part of my contract: if I had my wife here I must devise some other plan but for the present there is no remedy. —The weather continues much the same—except that on Friday it began to thaw a little of the frost however has set in again now.
Dec 11. Sunday. Another week past. I am still in my solitary Schoolroom with my hopes however of being able ultimately to make something out even here a little raised. My number of Scholars have been encreased during last week to 19, and it is said that I may expect more in the beginning of next week. To say that I like in this situation would perhaps be saying too far, but what could I have better? I feel to be sure that policy sometimes makes me put on the hypocrite, and to pretend to agree to do things with a good grace which my own feelings and convictions disapprove of. For the present however I see no remedy; and a in this acting I do not ignore any one and benefit or rather do not ignore myself, I do not see the great harm there is in it. Yet it is my intention to get from under all restraint as soon as possible. Nothing however can be done until I hear from home, which I do not expect to do until about the expiration of my quarter at the schooling. I live well and sleep well—I have been with John Scott during the last week—and these are no small considerations here at this time of the year, and the present depressed state of every sort of business. As far as I can see, unless I had got their Godsend, I must either have starved or very nearly during the winter.—One young fellow I have had at school during last week seems to be very much taken with me, and as I have managed to impress him with an idea of my past abilities, it is probable I shall reap a little benefit from his publishing my fame throughout all the religious round a bout. The neighbours too seem to be of opinion that I shall do now, and this change has not as it seems to me, been brought about by any new discovery of ability, but in consequence of my having got a pretty tough switch, and having used it pretty freely on several occasions during the past week.—I have not yet got up my boxes from Oakville. This circumstance is of some little inconvenience to me, more however on account of books than anything—as to clothes why I have not much of them to bring, and have as much here as my present wants require. I want a pair of shoes or what is more used and more proper here a pair of boots, as my old shoes are now almost entirely worn out. I suppose however I shall not be able to accomplish this point until I get my quarter’s pay. —The weather of course still remains much the same as it was last week —all snow, snow, snow. I had a sleigh with Mr. Burns yesterday up to a little village a couple of miles away from here for no business however of my own.
18 December Sunday. —Another week over. It is something curious that I should so anxiously count the weeks as they pass, as if time did not move fast enough to bring me in time to the commencement of eternity. The true reason however is not that I do not live fast enough but that I do not as it were live at all—my life is a sort of blank—no enjoyment that leaves its shadow, all dull listless monotony—and so I suppose it must be until I am again united with my family—I was made to live alone, although somehow I manage to conceal my real feelings so effectively that the people amongst whom I live are fully persuaded that I am perfectly happy. But enough of this—it will be Christmas day next Sunday, and I think that by then my letter will probably have reached home, and if so will I suppose be no unacceptable Christmas box.—Last week I had two more Scholars —now I have 21, and it is said that to-morrow I will have more. I appear to give more general satisfaction now than at first. I use the rod a little sometimes to some of my patrons. Well, though at first I supposed this mode of proceeding unadvisable I now begin to fancy that I see some account in it. When love will not draw my jokers to their duty I find the rod to be mean assistant in driving them to it. The weather is of course still the same I suppose we have more than 18 inches of snow.
Private Journal Commencing Dec. 25, 1842
Dec. 25 1842. Christmas day, and Sunday. What a curious being is man! To-day here and to-morrow as it were thousands of miles away. How could I have foreseen last Christmas day that I should have been here to-day, and under those circumstances! And if I take a review of what I have gone through the last year, I cannot but be much astonished and deeply impressed with the instability of every thing that concerns man. Last Christmas day I was in Dublin, and the day after got upwards of twenty pounds worth of books from Tegg & Co. on credit; in little more than three months after I was thrown out of work; in a week or two after this I went to France, stayed there a few weeks and returned to Ireland full of hope that I should be able to resume my old employment; it was not so however, and after tramping about hawking books a couple of months, sold what I could of my property, and started hither, with no certainty whatever of being able to get anything suitable to do; when I did get here however it seems I was better provided for than indeed I was ever led to expect. To be sure I am not so content as I used to be at home, nor indeed do I expect to be so until I get my wife and my young ones here. I may not indeed even then like well; but if not I shall know the better how to turn myself. Poor little James will be two years old to-morrow; how he will be able to spend it of course I am not able to say, but I fear before this time the poor fellow has often been obliged to sup on sorrow. Well, let us hope the best.—It is now seven weeks since I sent off my letter home; I should think they have got it before now, or about now indeed from the time I have hoped it would reach home about Christmas, saying it would be not disagreeable Christmas box.—It seems Christmas is not thought much of here.—I am still with Mr. Lawson but will expect shift in the beginning of next week. I got a pair of new boots yesterday so that I will be the better able to travel through the snow after my grub. This part of the system I like the work of any; I have no home, a houseless wanderer; and though I live well, and the people begin to like me, yet I feel that nothing could supply the place of home. I have got no more new Scholars yet, but I believe may expect some to-morrow.—We plastered the school inside yesterday, so that it is much warmer and comfortable; I got and made more benches and finished the double desk I began the week before last, as did some other little jobs around the school; all which I am very well pleased with, and feel assured that I shall soon begin to reap the benefit of my care. That I improve much in knowledge here I cannot say; but I fancy I get every day better able to conduct a School. Yet schoolteaching is not to my taste exactly; it is however perhaps the best thing I could turn to here at present. The weather of course is the same as this since the snow began to fall. They say there is fine sleighing.
January 1. Sunday. This is the first day of the new year. To take a review of the past year, anything full, would be impossible for me to do. No year of my preceding life has been near so pregnant with such remarkable and untimed events. Had I known last new year’s day what was in store for me, I certainly should not have borne myself through the past year with such fortitude and hope as I have done. In all my trials I have never ceased to hope that something better was soon to follow. Indeed it seems to me that man’s sojourn on earth would not be at all made happier by his knowing his terrestrial destiny. Let him be in trouble, he is always inclined to look forward to speedy relief; let him be in ill health, he never ceases to hope for and to persuade himself that his reestablishment in the full enjoyment of that which is indispensably necessary to make life agreeable is nigh; let friends betray or fly him, he instantly supplies their place, in imagination at least;—in short there is something in man that leads him ever to look forward, and sink his present and past sufferings in his anticipations of a more favourable future. What the next year will be to me I of course cannot possible foresee; but certain I am that the greater part of it has in stone for no little unhappiness and anxiety. I do now to be sure get a sufficiency of food, but with this I cannot be satisfied—I hunger and thirst after a different sort of substenence—social comfort and mental contentment. I know that it must be a good many months before my wife and (what I suppose is the case before now) children; before then I must be on others’ hearths, and on some I find I shant be at all comfortable and on some so mush so as upon my own. Well I suppose my letter must have reached home before now, and that I may at all events expect an answer in as many weeks as have transpired since I sent mine off; in the meantime I see that every week will make me more anxious. How they will spend the new year’s day, I can form some idea—but I cannot dwell on this matter. Poor James! thy troubles (like thy father’s indeed) have commenced early! and thy brother’s or sister’s more so, but for the latter I have not yet learned to feel such sympathy as for thee! Well let us hope the best. The time may shortly come when all thy troubles will have an end.—Got two more Scholars to the school last Monday; have now in all 23, and may expect more to-morrow. I gave in an account yesterday of our proceedings since we commenced, yesterday when the School Commissioners give in their offices. On Monday I understand an election of others will take place. It seems I am to be turned over to the next batch for examination. I don't know that I feel very on their account. I think I am not a greater fool than some of my brethren, and as to the Commissioners, if it is not for their ignorance, I need fear.—
January 8. Sunday. Got a letter from my wife on Thursday last, the fifth inst., in just two months from the time I put mine into the post, mine being posted on the fifth November, 1842. It brings me news, some of it of a rather unexpected nature. It seems Mary had a little son on the 19th November, and it died nine days after. Though in a worldly point of view I suppose it will be better for me at present that this is so than that the poor thing lived, yet somehow or other I cannot help wishing it had lived. It seems it was a very fine child, and according to the account I have this indeed was the cause of its death, but I cannot help thinking that there was some want of care or skill in the matter, and that had I been there at the time I might have been able to save its life by taking timely methods of doing so. Let this be as it may however, the poor little thing is dead and no remedy can be now applied. And my God who I hope has in reserve eternal happiness for the innocent and the virtuous render it capable of enjoying happiness to all eternity; and when I am called away from this scene of woe see and be known and acknowledged by it! Amen. The girl tells me that she is well now, although she has had much suffering in bringing forth the little child. James too is very well; a piece of intelligence which of course is pleasing to me. I like James nice, and as the other is gone, it is likely that my affection for him will be undivided for some time longer. She tells me too that her mother and sister have been very kind to her, which was of course to be expected, and still I suspect this mother and sister to have been at the bottom of a proceeding which would not have suffered had I been a little nearer them. But let this pass until I know more about the matter. They doubtless think this a fine opportunity to upset and overrule me, but I am not that passive thing, and I will not fail to make the proper enquiries, and act accordingly.—I am told too that Mr. Beale’s affairs are in the same state as when I left, and that all the English have left not only Mountmelick but Dublin, George Millner having stopped business. I am told moreover that Debby Pratt has had a young child, and that none but herself (if she knows) knows who is its father. Strange news! as badly as I did, I did perhaps as well as if I had wed Debby. The girl now seems to be quite willing to come to America, but thinks it would be well for her to stay until May. I think so too, but this is said in a style that has me strongly think it was put into her head. I see I shall not be able properly to manage this girl until I get her into my own hands. Will wants to know whether he should get employment if he were to come over with her. I want no one here of her kind but herself and shall therefore give Will not the least encouragement.—But enough of this matter for the present.—I still go on pretty well with the school. Have now thirty Scholars on the list, and I suppose may expect more yet. I began to keep a night-school last week; I have not had a great attendance at this yet; nor indeed do I expect or wish it.—Intended to write home again in a few days, and begin to put the copy in my Journal.
Esquesing, Jan. 15, 1843
My dear wife:
I got your letter on the 5th inst.; in exactly two months after I sent mine off, I posting mine on the 5 November, 1842. It happened by the way that the very man to whose care it was directed brought it to me, he being at present a School Commissioner and Townclerk, and having been at the post office on business on the very day it arrived, otherwise it might have been several days before I received it, the post office being seven or eight miles from me and there not being any regular daily delivery of letters as in Mt. Melick. I may farther observe that Mr. Burns (as well is indeed all the rest of my partners, except one man from the north of Ireland) is a Scotch man, that he has been settled here more than twenty years—is very well informed and in easy circumstances; he has been a magistrate eight years:— thus I stayed in his house the first month of my sojourn here;—and above all as I have every reason to believe that he is my friend—such has he been at least until now. But indeed I think I may this of all with whom I have had any dealing here as yet. I think my dear girl, I am able to say that I am already very well liked as a School master, and have every prospect of being able to make out for myself and family a good livelihood without very hard labour as people suppose. A person came in the other day and told me that my character as a school is fast spreading and that I should soon have the best school in the township. This is something eh? I have more Scholars considerably than any of my predecessors (and of those there have been several) has had, and the number increases every week. I need not say that, as we are all Scotch here, so we are all Protestants, as are all my family mind.
With regard to the matter of your letter, I could by no means describe the different sorts of feelings it excited in me. I had raised my expectations or hopes, while I have been buried in the woods with only myself to commune so high with, that I need not say it was a source of no little uneasiness to me to hear that the little child was dead. Even yet I cannot persuade myself but that if I had been there the "child had not died," notwithstanding all the care that was taken. And there are other matters connected with this circumstance which I would had been more explicitly stated. You know the sort of fellow I am, and to please me things done in my name must be managed in my absence as when I am on the spot. You understand me. But this is painful to me—I must press on. My hand trembles, my brain burns.—I am glad that you yourself have got over your difficulties (which seem indeed to have been great) so well, I hope I may now consider you entirely recovered both in body and mind. I have throughout been no little anxious on your account, and the people I am among, whom I of course made acquainted with my circumstances, have taken care that I should not long forget you.—Think not that I needed any thing more to mind me of my Jamie. If I was much more remarkable for my piety than I am, I fear loneness would make me a sort of idolator for he is the generally the first and last object that occupies my waking thoughts. I can send him nothing I would in return for your memento, so he must wait until he shall personally receive what I would give him.—So it seems there is a perfect clearing of the English people out of Ireland, and that our poor Debby is in a pleasant predicament. Will, we are perhaps only a little more lucky than the rest. —As to whether Johnny Hicky would be able to do well here, I should say that after a short time he could not fail to do so, but my experience has as yet been so limited that I can do little more than repeat what has been told me. The fact is every one who can and is willing to work well is always sure here of having plenty to eat and to wear; but in a regard of money, it is perfectly useless to expect to see much of it after you leave Europe: I have had a single farthing in my pocket ever since I came here, and I have not yet had the least use for it, so have just cleared myself one and thrown it into the corner of an old box. As to Will’s coming out, I have not the least doubt but that he would get work enough in the summer season, although labouring men are but badly off as this winter. This to be sure I am told is a worse year than any there has been for a long time. Wheat is very low—only 3 shillings a bushel—beef, pork &c. about 1 and 1/2 per pound and other exchanges in proportion—and when this is the case the farmer cannot afford to pay wages for clearing—that is chopping and burning trees to make ready for putting in seed. Of all the farmers in the neighbourhood I am in, not one has at present a hired servant. But even if there was ever so much work I would not advise Will to come here and leave his family behind him (phrase unclear). Nor indeed would I to be plain advise any elderly man who can do any way well as home to come here at all. In the first place you must leave all who have been long endeared to you—and you never prize a friend so highly as when you have lost him. And in the next place the climate is by no means so temperate as in Ireland, and what contributes more to the enjoyment of life than a favorable climate? And moreover although most of the people that have been long settled here have put themselves by immense labour and toil into pretty independent circumstances, there are others that are badly enough off, and that get but a very precarious living. I myself as far as I can see would have been as badly off as any had not I been able to undertake this job; I tramped about the country seeking work until I despaired of finding it before the idea of school teaching occurred to me. Then I found that when house and land and all is spent, learning is most excellent. Every one is not as lucky as I though. The best of men to come over here is he who has been used to hard work, and has money; that can buy and work upon it himself. As to the books—you must not sell the large Bible, the Bench Bible, Barclay’s Dictionary, nor the family’s Physician; I have not got the books I brought all to me all to, and cannot tell well what I left behind me, but if you are not under the necessity of selling the rest, keep those of a historical scientific in description, or those that I bought there or got from England. Take particular care of all my written papers and letters.—You need not prepare for yourself or James any extra clothing whatever—this can be got as cheap here as home, and any thing worn on the sea will never after be decent. You will have the big box we made, if you have it still, cut so that it will hold all your things except your need, of which you will make a package until you get to the sea. As to any one of your acquaintances coming with you, now that you have lost the little child you will manage very well by yourself. Though strange and unknown at first, you have soon companions enough on board a ship: the reason is the rest are for the most part like yourself alone and wanting someone to sympathise with. This is as much as I need say on this matter until I write again.
To mention particularly all those you say have not forgot me would be too much. You will therefore thank them all with a manner as you think I would was I there. There is one person however you have not in your list whom I wished to see—Michael Connoly; tell C Malone too I often think of him, that I have not yet further communicated with you but that it is my intention to do so. When I have got a little better settled.—If you receive a letter from my brother that requires an answer, answer it, otherwise you need not trouble yourself—I intend to write him myself when I have got something hard to tell him.
Salute James in my name: tell him if it will be of any use, that I have made a little tune to the lines I send you, and sing them almost daily: and believe me his affectionate father and your faithful and affectionate husband
Direct as before. It is supposed that letters come later not prepaid.
January 15. Sunday. Finished writing my letter to my wife to-day and have just sealed it up. What a curious being is man! Whilst I had this job in hand I felt quite happy, now I feel a sort of vacuum in my existence, which I supposed will remain unfilled up until I again hear from home. I made a few verbal alterations to the foregoing draft, and adding a little as a postscript which I had not the heart or did not necessary to transcribe. I got two or three more Scholars last week, but I apprehend two or three are going to leave me. For what reason is of course best known to themselves—such things must be it impossible to please every one—I acquit my own conscience, and if doing I do not at the same time give satisfaction, I am at any time ready to resign my post. I have been with MacAinsle during last week. To-morrow is what is called Hansel Monday. As is customary Mr. Lawson’s people make it a sort of annual jubilee—are going to have a ball to-morrow to which I am invited.
—22—Underwent an examination by the School Commissioners yesterday; and the thing passed off as I have every reason to believe to the entire satisfaction of all parties. As a proof the two Adams in the village above, who were present when the examination was going on afterwards offered me their School which is at present vacant, but which as far as I can learn offers much more favourable attendance of Scholars than this one—I believe however that I will stick by my first love—at least until I see that this cannot be made to command the legal number of Scholars. I tore open my letter to my wife yesterday and am re-writing it—it seems the mail had gone off before mine was ready to send—so I must wait now until the next.—I was at two new year’s balls in the beginning of last week, Mr. Lawson’s and John Scott’s—I was of course no little amused. Altogether I think I may say that I begin to like very well here, and every week I feel less and less inclination to return to England. We had very considerable thaw during the greater part of last week but it now seems to be over, the frost having set in again with snow threatening.
January 29.—Sunday. Another week is over. How curious that I should thus count the weeks, as if my course did not run off fast enough. Not content will explain all. Although I get better settled— accustomed—I feel as acutely as ever that I am alone. I finished the writing of my letter during the week, and now wait only an opportunity of sending it off. I suppose in three months from this I may expect an answer, and in three months more, will probably have my James and his mother. Well I must only pass the time as agreeably as possible. I have a pretty good lot of Scholars now, and have not much time to lie heavy upon me in weekdays—it is only on Sundays that I weary as the people here call it. I have now 36 Scholars on the list, and have a regular attendance of more than thirty. I do not get the money from the public fund yet; nor hear when I will do. In two weeks more I shall have been here at this job three months. I do not yet get my boxes from Oakville; I intend however if I do not get them in some other way soon to hire a team to fetch them—they will probably sustain much more damage than this would cost, and after all as it seems to me this must be done—besides I might make something with bookbinding, and if I had my books I could spend my heavy hours much more agreeably.—During last week I wrote another paper for Ellen Lawson, this about the plagues of Egypt. I have managed to ingratiate myself into the good graces of these people marvelously considering the bad beginning I made.
To be sung to the tune of "Auld Lang Syne"
There’s health and wealth to all
February 7. Tuesday. I could not get up to the school on Sunday to make an entry in my journal, in consequence of an immense fall of snow that continued the whole day. On Monday morning when I was obliged to come up to go on with my business, I experienced no little difficulty in doing so; and this morning much more. This morning the snow was so much drifted that I could scarcely get here at all. It cannot be less than two feet deep on an average—what must it be then where it drifts? I was very nearly giving up the Ghost when I got here, and most heartily wished myself in old Ireland again. I believe indeed I will go somewhere from here—but let this be until I get the family here—I have not yet got off my letter. I get no more Scholars since. I have been near a quarter here now but have not yet heard of the main thing—money.
Le Journal privé commensent 20 Février, 1843
Common School, No. 8
February 20, 1843.—Though among strange people and in a strange land, my life becomes now quite monotonous: a description of one day might very well do for all the rest. I continue to go on as usual with the School—if anything perhaps my number of Scholars decreases; and I suppose I may now calculate upon losing the greater part of the bigger ones in a very short time now, the sugar season being expected to commence about the end of this month. These last three weeks have been intensely cold—so much so that those who have been settled here a good many years are of opinion that they have not before seen such cold weather; and if so with them I must be rather astonished with the thing. The ink in the school if laid close to the fire would be frozen quite stiff in the morning. I got a pair of drawers from Mr. Burns, and since I have borne the cold much better.—I got my boxes from Oakville on Friday evening last—by Mr. Burns. Luckily no material injury was done anything—the person in whose charge they were left having brought them out of the Lighthouse before the bad weather set in. I have now work enough for the winter.—I sent my letter off home more than a week ago, and I believe it is now on its way for England as according to advertisement a mail was to be made up in Toronto on the 19 inst.—I may note that I got a Leinster Express in the beginning of the last week. It informs me that there was to be a sale of the rest of the property of Messrs. Beale & Co. about Christmas; and also that a few days before its publication John Dunne the builder, Mount Melick was buried.
27. —Monday. Another week over. Nothing more than ordinary to note. The weather has begun to be a little milder, yet it does not seem that there is going to be a regular thaw yet, for it snowing this morning. I read a lot of novels during last week. I brought down the British Plutarch and the French on Chemistry on Saturday, and intend to peruse them over this week. I think indeed if I had the wife here now I should like pretty well—as it is however I still feel myself not at home. I was with Nickele’s last week and am still.
12 March.—Sunday. Still going on in the old fashion. Losing a good deal of my Scholars though now, although the sugar making has not yet commenced. The season is much more backward I am told this year than usual. It is indeed still very cold. I have not yet got any money for my teaching. There is some of the public money to be distributed next Saturday I suppose, and I expect I shall get some of it. I got a newspaper from my wife in the beginning of last week: don't hear anything otherwise from her yet. I suppose she has about got my letter now. I have thought of sending for her as soon as I could muster up money enough whether I heard before or not, but this notion I have laid aside.
Mars 19. Dimanche. Une autre semaine est passe. Personne il se est [sic.] passe durant la semaine passe de beaucoup de consequence, à regard de moimeme. Un accident affreux est arrive sur le soir de le 17 Mars. Un homme, nomme Thomas Nickele, qui viat de L’Irelande l’été passé, et avec qui j’étais assez bien familier, fais[?] tue pas le tomber d’une arbre dans un bois pres de la maison ou je logais. J’etais sur la place en un breu de moment après et je assistais lui a prendre chez Mr. Thomas Somerville, pour qui [?] N. travaille, et je demeure la tour du nuit. Le pauvre homme mauvais sur hier, ennson une heure après midi. Il était a été tout-a-fait un conscious of anything from the time he was hurt until he died. It seems his head was jambed between two logs, and his skull[?] was dreadfully fractured. He is to be buried to-morrow.
I suppose a division of the school money was made yesterday, but as I did not go near, and as I did not see Mr. Burns after, I have not yet heard what is to fall to my share. I suppose my letter has got home now, and if I get money enough to bring out my wife, I suppose I shall be anxious to receive an answer that I may send for her. It is not my intention however to send for her until I hear from her.—My Scholars fall off, although as yet the sugar season has not commenced, the weather being still very cold.
26 March. Sunday. Another week over—of course like all the rest. My Scholars begin to fall off fast now, although the weather is still very cold, and the sugar making not yet begun. The season is said to be more backward and severe than has been known for a great many years. I have been with Lawson awhile now—near three weeks—but intend to change to-morrow—to go to Stalker’s. Don’t hear anything mine yet from home. I suppose my letter must have arrived before now, and if I get an answer in as short a time as I did before, I may expect an answer in the middle of next month. I am much better content now than I was. Have a pretty good deal of leisure and read a good deal. I fancy moreover that I get much more handy at schoolteaching than I was. Whether I follow the craft or not, I see it will be of no little use to me, let me be in whatever situation after. As I note last, the money has been in part received from the fund for the common Schools, and half the amount was distributed by the Commissioners on Saturday last. I have not got any however yet. Mr. Burns called in the School in the beginning of the week, and told me he had got 26 dollars; and at the same time suggested that there ought to be a meeting of the neighbours called. I suppose to see how it is to be disposed of, he doubtless having forgot the agreement we entered into when I began this business. I intend to remind him of it however. I however shall give every encouragement to get up the meeting, as when learned gentlemen get assembled I intend to submit certain proposition to them relative to my future proceedings. The meeting I intend to be on the first day of April if possible.
April 2, Sunday.—On Tuesday last put on the door of the School the following notice.
"The parents of children under sixteen years of age, who have attended this School during the winter or who, if there be an opportunity, are likely to attend during the summer, are requested to meet here on Friday, 31st inst., at seven o’clock in the evening, to decide upon matters connected with the conducting of said School."
Friday happened to be a very snowy day, and but three individuals in consequence attended. Very little was done, and no final decision was come to. The agreement entered into when I began the School was read—a great disposition to set some of it aside shown, which I did not oppose, and a great deal of nonsense was talked. There is to be another meeting Tuesday next when I suppose some final decision will be come to as to what I am to receive for my past services, as well as what I am to get in future. Before the last meeting separated I submitted to it the following; which as might be expected threw a little consternation into the parties present—Mr. Burns, John Scott, and Nickele.
The few months of experience I have had show me that the system I am going upon is not suitable to my disposition on circumstances; and I therefore propose the adopting one or other of the following plans:
1—To teach on exactly the same conditions as before—only let the quarter dollar per month be paid monthly and in advance.—On the principle "that short reckonings make long friends", and that "a certainty is much preferable to an uncertainty."
Or 2.—To have fuel for the School, bed and board, as before, and one dollar per quarter each for all children under sixteen, and I to forfeit all claim to what is called public money; the money in this case also to be paid monthly, and in advance.
Or 3.—To have found fuel for the School as before, but to board myself and to receive for each Scholar at the rate of one dollar and a half per quarter (having no claim to anything from public sources); to take one fourth of the amount in food or clothing as may be agreed upon if required, and the rest in money—the payment in this case to be monthly, and in advance.
As no one has yet offered me any money, I see some plan of the above description is necessary to my getting on at all, and I have therefore determined to insist upon the principle contained in them being kept in view in our next agreement, which as the old one was to expire when the first installment should be received from the public funds, must be made at the meeting on Tuesday next. In the meantime I have done about the matter.—I receive nothing more from home yet.—The weather is still not broken. There cannot be less than three and a half feet of snow on the ground now—on the second of April! Nearly five months before the snow began to stop on the ground. I think of writing a letter to the Editor of the Leinster Express, detailing what has occurred to me while I have been here, thinking that I might say something that would be of some use to intending emigrants.
Esquesing, U.C., Apr. 2, 1843.
I trust some account of my experience of a Canadian winter will not be deemed unacceptable to yourself or your readers, especially from what I am inclined to consider myself, an old acquaintance. This consideration, together with the hope that I may be able to say something useful to those who have made up their mind to cross the Atlantic in search of a surer means of supporting themselves and families, lead me to hope that no lengthy apology will be required for my at present troubling you.
It is too common for people who write from here to their friends in the old country to represent this as a perfect paradise; to paint in the most glowing colours all the agreeable things, and entirely to throw into this the shade the disagreeable: I shall endeavour to avoid this error that I may not raising false expectations prevent very disagreeable disappointments.
I left Liverpool then on the 7th September last and reached New York on the 14th October—New York is a fine place—much more so than anything I expected to find out of Ireland but, unless you have friends there before, it is no place for an emigrant to waste a moment in. I heard much more complaints here about the badness of the times than I had heard in Liverpool. As it was not my intention to stop in the States, I started without delay on a steam tug, up the Hudson River for Albany, where I arrived in about 26 hours—fare on deck 50 cents in the cabin 75. Next morning I got upon a tow boat going to Rochester by the Erie Canal: the fare on those tow boats is what the Yankees can trick out of you.—if you will you may give 4 dollars from Albany to Rochester, or you may get for one and a half, as I did, finding my victuals. Got from here to Rochester in just five days. Steamers sail from here every day to one or other of the principal places on the Canadian side of Lake Ontario. That for Toronto, where I wished to go, had gone off a few minutes before I reached the wharf, and as no other vessel was to go direct to that place until three days after, I took another in the evening to Queenston, a pretty little place about seven miles below the celebrated falls of Niagara, and when I arrived after about nine hours sail. Fare on deck a dollar and a half. As Upper Canada was my aim, for some hours after my arrival at Queenston, I experienced all those pleasurable feelings which a person may be supposed to do on finishing a long journey. The weather was still fully as warm in the day as it was in Liverpool when I left, although the nights had begun some days before to be very frosty. The farmers were just getting in their later crops, and putting in their fall wheat. Orchards were groaning under the weight of their luscious loads; and their owners were by no means wanting in willingness to share the with the wearied stranger, and I soon had devoured no little quantity of the finest apples I had ever tasted.
A very little time however sufficed to convince me that, though I was again under British Law, and among British subjects for which and for whom duty and gratitude and love will I am sure never fail to excite in me the finest feelings I was a stranger in a strange land: that from no one could I claim the least assistance and that consequently, all depended on my individual exertions. I has earned my bread since I was six years old, and, although for a few years fortune has shown me one of her brighter phases, to labour hard I was still neither ashamed nor afraid. I learned that at some distance up the county there was public work going on, that is about the Welland Canals and I determined to try what I could do in that line. When I got to a place called Port Robinson, I learned that the following day there was to be an inquest on the body of a poor Irishman who had been brutally murdered at St. Catherines, where I was going to, while in bed a gang of this fellow’s countrymen for no other reason as was said than that he happened not to have been born in the same part of Ireland as the greater part of his fellow workmen: and that the Kilkenny boys, I think it was, had declared their determination to allow none but of their own county to work among them. I might have got work at another place but the situation was so unhealthy in the midst of an immense swamp, and the poor fellows so badly lodged that some of them were dying almost daily of fever and ague. This was enough for me. I had learned that "discretion is the better part of valour", and I instantly determined upon a favourable retreat, even before I came in sight of the enemy. I was in Toronto on the day following—26th October. As I knew no one here, and as I must have some means of procuring subsistence, my pockets being now perfectly guiltless of any attempt to conceal her majesty’s person, and the winter being expected to set in in a few days, I began to be in no pleasant mood; and had not the recollection of what I had so lately seen and dreaded in Auld Ireland been still fresh in my memory I should doubtless have most heartily wished myself back again. I at once made towards an emigrant’s office, to try if I could learn anything likely to help me out of my difficulty. The most I learned here however was that I was not yet by any means so badly off as some scores of other poor fellows whom I found begging a day’s work, or money to take them back to Ireland. I soon found that in my then circumstances, Toronto was no place for me. I struck into the bush; and after three or four days unsuccessful beating about among the farmers—being always too late, despair seemed fastening her dire talons about me. I had no money, my shoes worn out, and had not where to lay my head; when it occurred to me that head had before often assisted me to pass agreeably what would otherwise have been a weary hour, and I asked why should it not now serve me more effectually? In a very short time I had agreed to teach a Common School on conditions, although not likely in a hurry to make me the richest man in the world, yet such as to secure me very reasonable comfort during the winter, and as much more as will enable me to bring out the rest of my family the ensuing spring. Verily there is no little truth in the old jingle:
This situation has moreover, perhaps been the most favourable that could be conceived for my picking up correct and varied information about the state of settlers from the old country—I boarding about with my Scholars, and having thereby an opportunity of seeing what is done, and hearing what is said by all my neighbours at their own firesides.
For neighbours then, I have people from England, Ireland and Scotland,—mostly from the latter. Some have been settled here twenty-three years; others from that down to four. Not one of them had any capital of consequence to begin with. It was customary for those who settled in this country before 1830 (I think) to draw their land as they call it from government; that is, they got it for nothing; since then the wild land must be bought, chiefly from the Canada Company, at from two and a half to four dollars an acre. The older settlers have mostly two hundred acres, have all at present more than a hundred cleared, and are in very easy circumstances. The later settlers are, with one or two exceptions, still struggling very hard, not having received the deeds of their land—some it is very probable will never receive them—at this moment owing more to the Canada Company than twelve years ago, when they first came out.—I think it was Galt who first recommended to government the selling of wild lands here, with a view, as is said, of inducing a more respectable class of people, people with money, to come out. The unhappy consequences which have resulted to poor settlers from acting upon this recommendation are so natural that it is only marvel they were not foreseen. Capitalists there certainly are in the country now, but their capital, so far from having been brought over the Atlantic, has, for the most part, been wrung from the sinews of men who are at this moment in great hardship, but who, otherwise, would most certainly be enjoying considerable comfort. Before this practice was adopted, the poor but persevering settler would clear some acres of his land the first year, and raise a crop. With the produce of this crop, he would hire men to assist him to clear a greater quantity the year following, and so on, until, in four or five years he began to feel himself free and independent. Now he must sell his crop to pay his installment (or leave compound interest to swell and distort the original sum into what the poor fellow never fails to regard as a hideous monster), and singlehanded toil on for a number of years before he can enjoy the least fruit of his labour. Capitalists come from the old country indeed! Those are just the fellows who can and will stay at home. Few that will forego the pleasure of long-loved society, of every luxury of taste and climate, for the hardships that everyone must more or less undergo in this country.
Very cold weather came on about the beginning of November. On the 16th a heavy fall of snow came, and I have not seen the ground since; the snow at this moment (April 3) is on an average not less than three and a half feet deep. Yesterday was the finest day there has been since the winter set in, and water caught in the day had ice upon it at least an inch thick this morning. For more than four months there have been very few days but I thought myself a lucky fellow to finish half an hour’s walk with my ears on. Believe me not half what is said about the pleasantness of a Canadian winter is true. Scores of cattle have been frozen to death in this township during the winter. One poor fellow has lost thirteen head; an it is thought quite a marvel to save lambs, unless you happen to be on the spot when they are lambed. Nor is this the least difficulty cattle suffer. Many farmers at this moment have no feed but browse (tree-tops), and, on account of the great depth of the snow, this can hardly be got. Hay that at Christmas might be got for 8 dollars a tun will now fetch 19 or 20. Oats that there was difficulty in getting 6 pence sterling a bushel for two months will now readily fetch fifteen. And so all sorts of cattle feed. Wheat is at 2/6 to 3 shillings sterling per bushel; Pork three and a half dollars per cwt.; butter 4 d. per lb.; cheese 4 d., eggs 6 a dozen.
From what has been said above it will easily be inferred that, under present circumstances, the very best sort of man to come out here is he who has money and is used to hard work; who can purchase land and work upon it himself. This however is the very sort of man likely to stay at home, and it is for him whom poverty and the almost certain prospect of starvation have determined to leave all that has been long endeared to him, and to seek that in a distant land which "his native home so sweet" denies him, for which I am chiefly concerned. Let such a one not be disheartened however, if what I felt honesty required me to say above does not agree with the contrast he had too hastily formed of this country. Let him reflect that his condition cannot be worse than it is; and let me tell him that though he must expect difficulties to beset him of which he can have no adequate conception now, his prospects here every year become a little brighter, whereas at home just the contrary is the case. Let him take care however not to come out too late in the season. Very little hired work is done here in winter—not one of my neighbours has a single hired labourer while I have been among them—chopping is the only sort of work that must be expected, and the great depth of the snow makes this dangerous, that few who are able to hire it for this reason avoid it as much as possible. It is the not regarding of this circumstance which in winter fills the towns here with starving unemployed work people, and which drives so many home again in despair. Let him then come in time, and before the winter sets in he will have made himself so much "acquent" that he will have little difficulty in getting over it, and after the first winter he needs not fear.—It is usual to enumerate certain classes of work people as best likely to get on well here—this is of very little use—few get on with but one sort of employment—shoe-makers, taylors, smiths, carpenters, coopers, and the like, from their being able to work indoors, houses seem, perhaps to stand a little better chance in winter than the mere labourmen.—To come by New York is considered much safer, and in other respects better than by Quebec.
I am Sir,
Ed. L. Express
[Entry unclear because overwritten.]
April 9—Sunday. In pursuance of our agreement, a meeting was held in the School on Tuesday last: the following was agreed to
This agreement made at Esquesing, in the Gore district, between John Newton and us whose names are hereunto subscribed witnesseth:
That said John Newton on his part agrees to teach the Common School, on Lot Twenty four, in the fourth Concession of the township of Esquesing, in accordance with the requirements of the Common School Act, now in Force in the Province Canada.
And we on our part agree to send to said School the number of scholars set opposite to our names respectfully; to find fuel for the school in proportion to the scholars sent by each; to pay said J.N. one dollar and a half per quarter for each scholar—one fourth of which however to be in food or clothing if required, and the rest in money;—said John Newton to forfeit all claim to money from public sources;—and it being understood that the payment in money is to be made on the expiration of each quarter.
The above agreement to be binding on all parties subscribing it for six calendar months, and at the end of that term, to be renewed or at an end.
As witness own hands this 3rd day of April, 1843.
The agreement by
Graham Lawson —1 Andrew Scott—1
John Burns—4 John Scott—2
David Lamond—1 Adam Mathison—2
Thomas Dempster—2 William Nickele—2
So I am settled here six months longer at least; having secured 16 scholars, and I am told I may expect more. I have agreed to board with Lawson’s until I get over the wife, or until I think proper to remove at 10 shillings York a week. This is rather high, but the old man tells me I may make myself useful about the house—in the garden or the like; and in this manner I have a notion I shall reduce the sum down to a mere trifle at the end of the quarter. I intend new to fit up my binding apparatus, and try if I can make any that way. My big box is still with Burns; but I must try to get it away, although I feel this a delicate matter. I imagine they would have been satisfied to let me stop with them, but I would as lief go where I am, and as they did not mention the matter to me, I ventured to take the present step. I am to have the 26 dollars got from the Commissioners and to have it made a dollar a quarter for the time past. Altogether I shall have about eight pounds sterling to receive, if I can get it, which however is a little doubtful.—The weather is now becoming much warmer. The snow has gave fast away these two or three days just, though the nights are still freezing. The sugar making will be general going on next week.—Do not yet hear any thing from home. It is not my intention to write until I do hear though. I think a steamer was to leave Liverpool on the 3rd of each month, and if so I need not expect to get a letter now until the beginning of next month, for had my letter came by that of last month I should have got it before now.—The letter to Leinster Express I have finished, and intend to send it off with the first opportunity.
16. April—Sunday—Went up to Duncan Kennedy’s yesterday; saw also J. McIntosh. Got half a dollar from James—only 11 due, and 18.9 from D. Kennedy. 18.7 due.—It seems the people in this division were expecting me to go up to them and not engage here any more, and I now see that in a money point of view I made a bit of a blunder in not doing so.—Don't get a letter from home yet. J.N. is going down to Toronto next week on the beginning of the following, and I agreed to go along with him, so I must go about getting my money as soon as possible.—I got my press made for bookbinding last week, but it is hardly likely I’ll make anything by the practising of my art here.—Thawing fast now.
23 Avril, Dimanche—Une autre semaine est passe. Je n’ai pas entendu chez moi. J’espere que j’entenderais durant la semaine passe, mais je suis trompe. On dit qu’un mail pars de l’Angleterre sur le troisieme de tous le mois, et si comme ca, il doit arriver environ maintenant.—J’irai aToronto le Mardi prochain avec James MacIntosh il pour faire ses propre affaires, et moi pour envoyer de ma femme. Je n’ai pas assi beaucoup de monnie que je souhaitais— mais environs sept livres—mais il faut qu’elle le fait faire. J’ai l’intenion pour prendre une passage pour ma femme et mon fil, en Toronto si je peut, afin que je sauve le peine d’envoyer la monnie a l’Europe et [Rest of entry written in shorthand.]
April 30. Sunday. Went down to Toronto on Tuesday last, and got there before noon on Wednesday 26. Paid to the Canada Company, after enquiring whether there was any shipping company in the place with which I might make a bargain for my wife to come out as well, and finding there was no such company—8.12.8 pounds currency = 7.0.0 pounds sterling for which I got the following receipt—"Received of Mr. John Newton the sum of eight pounds 12/s which will, as requested by him, be remitted by next steamer to Mrs. Mary Newton in Ireland according to his directions, at the Exchange of 11% percent premium being £7.0.0 sterling
Canada Company's Office Jno. Midden
Frederick Street, Toronto Commissioner"
26 April, 1843
After this business was done I wrote a letter to my wife containing directions as to how she is to come out. The mail starts in the beginning of May, and I expect she will get my letter and her money by the same post, and if so, I suppose I may expect her here in about three months. I have not yet got any answer to the letter I sent in January. There must have been some mistake in regard of this letter I am afraid.—I got back from Toronto on Friday—pretty tired—the roads were pretty bad—deep and fatiguing. I brought the books I left with Murphy’s, and a few others—Dickens, American Notes, a part of Chambers’ Information, and a few catechisms, &c. I am going to get my things down to Lawson’s and begin bookbinding next week. I work with the old man, and I hope I’ll be able to go a good way towards clearing my board before I get over the wife.
May 7—[Entry written in shorthand.]
May 21.—Sunday. Got two newspapers, a Leinster Express and Freeman’s Journal, and a letter from my wife yesterday. The letter contains nothing very particular just indeed what I expected. She tells me she and James are in good health, but that in other respects are badly enough off: of course. It seems she does not well understand what I said about the little child "she has never done anything behind my back that she would fear to do before my face"—but she cannot comprehend my meaning in this particular no no. I did not intend her on her’s rather to comprehend it thoroughly.—She tells me Mr. Beale is still doing nothing but that he has part of his concerns in his own hands yet, and it seems he was to know something more about his affairs on the 6th April (the letter I got was sent off 21 March, so it has been two months on the way). The poor thing is at a loss too it seems about my expression in regard of our being Protestants here—she says "it matters not to her what they profess if they see my friends", and she hopes they will naturally bestow a little of that friendship on her—evidently not seeing that I meant by—"as are all my family mind"—that she must be a Protestant too here. She tells me Mount Melick is in a very bad state there being very few people employed in any branch of manufacturing—a good deal of them—the shopkeepers I suppose—having failed since I left. She tells me that Holmes is at home, and that he denies being married at all—of course.—It seems she has had a letter from my brother William and Sarah Anne. The following is a copy of my brother’s letter.
Tory Stretch Dec. 6, 1842
My dear brother
I have received a letter from your dear wife informing me of your safe arrival at the Capital of Upper Canada and also after much trouble you have got a situation as a Schoolteacher and is now doing well, this being the only account I have had since you wrote from Liverpool just three months since. I have been very uneasy about your welfare having heard as many detailed reports or accounts during the time of the alarming destitution of Emigrants in America and such large numbers having returned to Ireland as high as from 500 to 600 in one week disappointed and nearly all of them in a wretched condition this as for the present damped my spirits with respect to Emigration however you’ll not fail to write as soon as you receive this and give me the result of the information you have acquired your real opinion and nothing extenuate. And then if you decide that I should have a better prospect than stopping here and having half work and little more than half as well paid as we were 6 years ago then I’ll on for America. We are all well and glad to find you equally so.
I remain your Affectionate Brother
Yes just so Will had badly enough off he done say. I shall begin to be a regular believer in presentiments soon—during most of last week I have been thinking of poor Will, and had indeed determined to write to him, giving him the very information he wishes. I will proceed to write the boy a letter without delay. I intend to tell him just the way I find the country. Of course I will recommend him to come here, but I will advise that he do not come until next spring. I shall get better acquainted with the country in the meantime, and will I hope be able to get him on without much difficulty—by that time. If we agree to get land we can continue to get near one another—so that we shall be company and if need be assist each other occasionally. And our poor Sam—I wonder how he gets on— badly enough, of course—and Joe—as usual—I hope to see them all out here yet, and doing well. Let us wait a while I must pioneer a little for them.—As to my wife I suppose she will have the letter I sent in little more than a week now if there be no unforeseen delay, and if there be fine weather she will doubtless be here in less than two months.
May 29.—[Entry written in shorthand.]
I have often wondered how shopkeepers and the like understood their alphabetical marks on their goods—I have got a notion of it now, and as I suppose I shall sometime be required to have something of the sort, I have hit upon one for myself. by—
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0
b e n o t h a s t y
"be not hasty"—a good enough principle in business, eh, my dear?
Journal beginning June 7/43
Common School No. 8
1843 June 8, Thursday. Did not note anything on Sunday last as is my custom. Have not since got any more word from home. The letter I sent off must have got home now, although I hear that on account of some mishap the mails made up in Toronto in the beginning of May were too late for the steamer for England, and that in consequence they must stand over until the next; but even so my letter will be about at the end of its journey now, and if so I may expect an account in a month now. I begin to be rather anxious of course, still I get on pretty well. I work for the old man, and I think I shall make out my board with him. I have been binding a couple of books for him this week: this is the first trial I have made since I came to the country. The school does very little indeed for me now. I must look out for another School or something else to do. I have only 15 or 16 Scholars, and no appearance of more. Besides the people I am among cannot agree with themselves, the children enter as heartily into the quarrels of their parents as the parents themselves, and in consequence the children are continually at variance. This would be very disagreeable in itself, did it not make the management of the children next to impossible. The Burns’ and the whole family of the Lawson’s are at eternal enmity with each other. The former will be thought something more than common people—the latter find it difficult to comply. Nickele’s and McAinsle’s join the Burns’—Lawsons fight singlehanded. Upon the whole I am inclined to hold in chiefly with the Lawsons. To be sure the Burns’s are in regard of books, better informed and the Squire as he is called is thought more of by strangers, but the other are industrious and independent, and have not near so much "envy, hatred, and malice and all uncharitableness," in them from which in the Church Litany we say "Good Lord deliver us," and I therefore am very much inclined to favour the latter as much on account of my natural hatred of these qualities in others as a disinclination I have to indulge in them myself. What I shall do however I have not determined yet—I have thought if I could get rid of my engagement I would give up at the expiration of the quarter. But I will wait a wee.—The weather has very much changed these few days back—it having been much colder than for some time previously; on the 30th May we had considerable of thaw, and it has sometimes frozen keenly in the nights—and there has been much rain in the day. People begin to be afraid that the frost much have killed much of the fruit &c.
11—June, Sunday. Still going on as usual; hear or receive nothing from England yet. Have thought something about my circumstances and prospects since my last noting. It seems to me that I shall not be able to get on to my liking here, and that I must make a fresh arrangement. This however I cannot do until I get here the wife; an event about which I am no little anxious now, but in the meantime I must think about the matter. My old mania about book selling, bookbinding, and the like, has got considerable hold of me again now; especially since I have tried my hand at binding again; I cannot but think that I could make something out of this craft yet. I have not been at Guelph yet, neither have I been at Hamilton, and it is to one of these places that I think of going if I shift into a town. Hamilton I suppose will be the best if I can make way there, and if there be but too much competition. It is near the Lake; I may want things from the States etc., and to be convenient I am aware is no little advantageous. I am short of the main thing however, and I am afraid I shall not have patience to wait until I get a hold of mine before I make another offer, and again swamp myself perhaps. I can always however turn my hand to Schoolteaching here when every other thing fails; at home, when difficulties accumulated I had no other sufficient resource. I sometimes think thus—at first I may put the wife into a sort of shop in Hamilton and I stay in the country at a School until we see how we get on. I expect she will bring a lot more books with her; and with those I have we might raise something to make a beginning with.—But I had better perhaps wait a little until I see the old gal, else I may erect a pretty fabric which she may pull about my ears. A change has taken place in the weather to-day—it is beginning to be warm and pleasant.—By the way I may observe that I have got a taste of the mosquitoes now. I went up to the village with a foal’s skin to tan for book covers on Friday evening, and the gentry feasted quite sumptuously on my hands as I passed and repassed through the woods; since then I have been exceedingly annoyed by the itching I have in consequence experienced. It seems the fellow is a rather pernicious gentleman, and thus the mere bite is by no means the worst part of his attacks. Since my rencontre with him, my hands have been covered with little hard lumps extremely itchy and troublesome, even now I am by no means relieved from my trouble, although I have applied sour cream, the remedy prescribed, to them. The thing is a long small fly, the length of an English pismire; it has wings of course, and a small proboscis with which it inflicts its wound.
Le 19 Juin—Lundi—Une autre semaine est passe. Il n’y a aucun de particulier de remarquer aujourd’hui. Je ne [sic] pas recu quelque chose de chez moi encore, ni les journaux ni les lettres, comme je le voulais, et comme on me fais croire dans la lettre je recus dernier de ma femme.—Je n’ai encore qu’un peu des ecoliers, et je ne vois pas des signes d’avoir plutot de plus.—Le people de que je suis toujours quarelle, et j’ai reson d’aller d’ici quand les six mois soient passé.— Je restais encore chez Mr. Lawson, que j’aime bien. Je pense que je fesai la table et le logement avec lui.—Il fait tres chaud maintenant—plus chaud qu’il fait en Angleterre dans cette partie de l’an.
4 Julliet.—Quinze jours se sous [sic] passes. I have not yet heard anything from home. The wife must now however be on her way here—at all events I expect to see the old lass at the latter end of this or the beginning of next month. I begin to be no little anxious about the matter now. "Absence makes the heart grow fonder", etc.— nothing can be truer than this—I was perhaps never so fond of the girl as I am now, and perhaps never will be again. I’ll see however how we get on when she gets here. If she were a little more national about her religion, or perhaps a little more complying (and she will now have no one to fear) I believe I shall like the girl very well. I see no one who enters so much into my heart, whose heart beats in such unison with my own as hers, and with whom I feel I can place such implicit confidence. I suppose to be sure this is mostly a necessary consequence of the married state. However, I have seen a good many exceptions to the rule if it be one, and knowing her I have no risk to run.—The quarter is now over. On making up the diary, I find that we have had an attendance during the whole quarter of 15 21/70 so I must go on for another quarter, according to our agreement. I have not yet sent out my accounts, so don't know positively how they will be honoured; I intend to do so however to-day and will shortly see. I shall have about five pounds to receive, besides paying David Lamend for the shoes I got from him. If I can manage to work out my board with the old man I shant do very badly after all.—I must now begin to look out for another situation, as it is my intention not to winter here. After making enquiries, I learn that Waterloo, a township a few miles on the other side of Guelph, is as likely to be a good place to make it as any. It has been long settled, the people are now in easy circumstances, and it is remarkably healthy. These are considered to be about the best recommendations any place can possess here. I’ll do nothing however until I get my wife here the dear creature.
July 10. Monday. I went to Guelph on Saturday last, with John Scott. I bought a light Summer coat, a pair of trowsers of same material, and a hat coat two and a half, trowsers one and a half, and hat three dollars. I got a few glasses of beer and some whiskey and these soon got finely mixed together with the jolting of the wagon, so that I was most pleasantly drunk and helpless. I got home however with my bones whole, but with sundry bruises and remains of thumps on several parts of my body, particularly about the head with tumbling about the bottom of the wagon.—Got five dollars from Mr. Burns, nothing from any one else. Went in my new clothes to hear Mr. Armonse preach yesterday: had not been before. Have not yet heard from home: expect to do so soon now. Begun to get very anxious about the matter I suppose. The weather is now very fine and every thing looks quite promising. The hay harvesting will commence this week.
13 July. Got three Leinster Expresses yesterday, dated 27 May, 10 and 17 June; that dated 10 June containing the letter I sent to the Editor of Leinster Express in April. The letter is prefaced by a few observations of the editor, which if I had at my hand now, I would transcribe. The letter takes up near a column and a half, and as it seems to me reads very well. The two papers for June came direct from Maryborough, in accordance with a wish I expressed in the concluding part of my letter, and I expect that I shall continue to receive a paper by every post;—the other paper came from my wife; she may have sent it off on receipt of my letter, and if so I may expect to receive intelligence of her starting from Liverpool by next post.—Copy of the matter heading my letter to the Leinster Express.
"Emigration to North America"
The following letter from a very intelligent operative, who was thrown out of employment by the late failure of Messrs. Beale, Sheane & Co. in Mount Melick, will be found very interesting, especially to persons of his own class. The writer, it may be recollected, was chairman of a meeting of operatives in the concern, who very laudably offered to forego a considerable portion of their time and labour in order to enable their employers to continue their business for some time, and thus secure themselves. From a person of his discrimination we may expect a fair estimate of the state of things in the new country, more particularly as bearing upon the condition of the working classes. In the Express of the 27th May we published a letter from a gentleman at Kingston upon the political aspect of the country, and should we be favoured frequently by both these parties, their correspondence will afford a fair view of things as they are in the Canadas." Then follows the letter dated Esquesing, Upper Canada, April 2, 1843.
24 July. Heard nothing of the coming of the wife yet. Went down to the post office on 22nd to see if there were letters or newspapers for me but got none. Was told at the post office that the Caledonia, the Steamer with the Mails from England was run aground off Boston, and that although it was expected that she would be got off, and though the mails had been got on here uninjured, a delay of a few days was still carried in consequence, otherwise I might have expected to get my letter etc. Thus I think I may confidently expect to get something in the course of this week. If some one do[es] not bring me any however, on Wednesday I intend to go down again myself on Saturday.—I have got none of my last quarter’s salary except what I got from Mr. Burns. I bound a volume of the New World for T. Burns last week for which he gave me half a dollar, and this will enable me to pay the postage of any letters I may receive, otherwise I should have been in a fine predicament, having only a quarter dollar left.—The hay harvest is now going on with all speed. The old man began last week or rather on the Friday preceding; he expects to be through with it this week. The weather has hitherto been favourable—there having been but two rainy days, those just a week apart. The hay crop is said to be better than last year. I work of course in the hay during my spare hours. I have not yet had any reckoning with my landlord yet —but intend to have when I go to meet the wife; hope I will be able to clear my board. Got a pair of harding trowsers from the old woman to-day—light for summer. Much less clothing is required here than at home at this time of the year—some days are very hot but as I am in the school during the heat of the day I do not experience much inconvenience from it.—In the New World I find a reprint of Captain Barclay’s Tour through the United States and Upper Canada, and extract from which I intend to make the ground work of a letter to the Leinster Express.
31 July. Have not yet heard of the wife. One of Lawson’s girls was down at the post office on Saturday; there were no letters for me, but she was told that there were newspapers taken with Burns for me; those I have not got yet. I fully expected to get a letter by this mail; I suppose I shall be a fortnight now before I hear anything. It is an extraordinary affair. Surely there is no mistake about the money I sent; and yet I am very much afraid there is; perhaps the Bank of Ireland may have objections to giving her more than the differences on account of our connection with the Steam Mill;—if so I don’t see how the girl could come away at all; and yet had it been so, surely she would have been able to transmit me some account of it by the last mail. Well, patience I suppose will prove all things.— The hay harvest is not yet quite over, but will be in a few days. The weather is much more regular here than at home, and the former has consequently much less rush to run in getting in his hay. We had two thundershowers last week—on Monday and Friday. Hay that is cut down to-day may be got in to-morrow, the sun being so hot that there is no more to do to it than rake it into windows, cock it and draw it in.—I am so through just now that I have very little time to read: what I do is in the school; in this way these last two weeks or so I have learned a good deal of particulars about geography before I confined myself a little too much to generalities; this I find to be a sort of fault in me; for however necessary it may be to be acquainted with the principles of any science or art, it is also requisite that a schoolmaster at least should descend to particulars. This had hitherto appeared to me a piece great drudgery, but I perseverance will enable me to overcome my reluctance to it. Astronomy too I have payed a little attention to lately.—The Lawson’s are going down to Oakville to take up some wheat, and I have sent a letter with them addressed to my wife, telling her that if when she gets there, and if she do not find me there, to come on, and leave her things. I wish the girl was here, if it were but that I may be relieved from a great deal of trouble and anxiety on her account.
Esquesing, Aug. 7, 1843.
On the commencement of my second letter from Canada, it will be well to correct an error which your printer or my inadvertence suffered to creep into my first, published in the Express of June 10, 1843. "Hay that at Christmas might be got for two dollars" should be "eight dollars". With this exception, the statements made and the views taken in the letter referred to, the opinions of several persons who have been long settled here, and to whom I have shown the letter since its publication agree with my additional experience in pronouncing "good" as far as they goes.
On assi[g]ning to me a description of the social conditions of the people of this country, you could not have better suited my inclination; for let people write, or rave about mere politics as they will, the social state will ever be the true index of the political; let him be comfortable at home and the sensible man but laughs at the antics of Whig and Tory, Conservative and Leveller, Repealer and Antirepealer; hence is it that I altogether approve of the "employment and fair remuneration for labour" principle which you so aptly and perseveringly advocate in the present distracted state of Ireland.
I extract the following from a book written by a Captain Barclay, which he calls an Agricultural Tour through the United States and Upper Canada. The "tour" was made in the summer of 1841; and although I never saw or heard of it there, I have reason to believe it has circulated pretty extensively at home,—certainly it has in this part of the world, I extracting from a republication of it in the New World, a paper published at New York and the editor in his last saying of it, "We disseminate twenty thousand copies weekly".
"On entering Canada I had been impressed with a marked difference between it and the United States. In the latter, the people were everywhere distinguished by that cheerfulness and appearance of contentment which attend activity and exertion in peaceful pursuits. In Canada there prevailed an almost universal gloom—the consequence of recent internal commotion; or of the still existing conflict or rancour of political feeling; or of the withered hopes of many, who, having speculated largely in land, have received little or no return for their money. This was my early impression, and anything I have since observed, or by enquiry ascertained, has served to confirm it, and to satisfy me that of the two countries, the States hold out for agricultural pursuits, by far the greater advantages to persons possessed of any capital.
"With reference to what is called cleared land, it consists of no more than a patch here and there, on which the huge pines that for ages had been the tenants of the soil, have by the application of fire and axe been reduced to stumps four feet in height, so thick set as in many places to bid defiance to the plough, and to preclude any mode of cultivation except sowing and hand raking the seed.
"Upper Canada is comparatively destitute of local markets, or of any proper outlets for the produce of the land; for the population is not only thin and widely scattered but themselves chiefly agricultural, each family raising sufficient for its own supply; and there are not towns of any magnitude to create any considerable demand for the surplus, nor if there were, are easy means of transportation afforded.
"In these circumstances, it is by no means surprising to find that the greater number of those who had speculated in land have suffered grievous disappointment, and that of those coming under the description of gentlemen who had attempted to convert the forest into corn land by the force of money, the greater number quickly got rid of it, and either betook themselves to other pursuits, or, as sometimes happened, becoming disgusted and reckless, gave themselves up to dissipation.
"There is, however, one description of person to whom a settlement in these forests might prove tolerable—the labourer, and especially the hardy Highlander, who, glad to escape from privation at home, and delighted to roam at large, may with his own hands, and assisted by a family of sons, erect a rude hovel of log, gradually clear a quantity of land, sufficient for a subsistence, and in the course of time come to possess a small property, the highest of his ambition. Except to such persons, clearing of land cannot be attractive here or made remunerating.
It may give some idea of the disadvantage under which the clearing of land in Upper Canada must be accomplished to advert to what takes place in clearing a fir wood in Scotland. Here although labour costs little more than half of its price in Canada, and although the largest trees are but as walking sticks in comparison with Canadian pines, woodland cannot be cleared and put in a condition for a corn crop for less than 20 pounds per acre. The crop of trees may go far, perhaps do more than answer this expen[s]e but in Upper Canada in clearing land the trees are altogether valueless and yield no return for the trouble of cutting them down, and collecting their immense trunks into piles to be burnt; and after all their stumps remain for great number of years to encumber the ground and obstruct cultivation.
"In short that art of clearing land is not perhaps practised in any country where viewing it generally, more discouraging obstacles to profitable agriculture present themselves than are to be encountered in Upper Canada."
When we consider that in his whole book we have but one chapter (most of which is quoted above) about his "tour" in Upper Canada, that he was the whole of ten days in Canada, eight of which he spent in Hamilton with his daughter, who, it seems, was not able to decide upon whether she ought to make a "permanent settlement" there or in the States until, as I presume, the result of her father's "tour" settle the matter for her,—and the other two in Toronto, one with Mr. Alexander Wood, a person who has lived in Toronto a great many years, and "who has made a large fortune" and the other with the worthy Protestant Bishop, when we take these circumstances into consideration, can we wonder if facts would seem to show the gallant captain to have almost jumped to the conclusion contained in the last paragraph of this extract? So soon is the captain’s "early impression" produced and confirmed by observation and enquiry, that one is almost inclined to suppose either that it was produced too hastily, or that he did not like the country after because he did not like it before he came into it, as would doubtless be the case with divers old women. However I can very well see how those who had "speculated largely in land" should suffer grievous disappointment"; it was naturally to be expected the no less absurd than unjust step the government took some years in disposing of wild land should create a set of land jobbers, and disappointment from the causes enumerated in my last letter, was no less natural,—it is not speculators— gamblers that are wanted here—may such always meet "grievous disappointment"—but honest, sensible, persevering industry which cannot fail, even here, in due time to secure its proper reward. (#1) And the "almost universal gloom" our author speaks of was only perhaps characteristic of a frightful excess of his and no sign of discontent. Upper Canada is peopled chiefly by emigrants from Britain, and they are not to be sure so much inclined to "go a head" yet as brother Jonathon; to speculate, to see only one end of a thing, to begin a big work and render themselves ridiculous by not being able to finish it, and improvements in consequence seem here to go on slowly, but no less surely and securely. Were the advantages held out to industrious men greater in the States than here, nothing would be easier than for such to go over, but so far from this being the case, many more of this class come from the States hither than from here to the States. In the first place, labour here is better paid in almost every branch of industry, and in the second, the money received here in the shape of wages is always good and worth what is professed to be, whilst in the States one is hardly ever sure that his bits of paper are of more value than those in which his tobacco is enclosed. If we except some parts of the States, of New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts &c., which are almost as thickly populated as the old countries, the same objection about local markets and modes of conveyance holds with equally as much force or more in the States than here. (#2) A shrewd old Scotchman who in twelve years has cleared acres of wild land, who has a much more comfortable log hovel than any house he would ever have had in Scotland, besides a number of four-footed beats, exhibited a most peculiar grin, and says he does na ken, when I told him the other evening that it was the opinion of one of his countrymen that in "no country did more discouraging obstacles to profitable agriculture present themselves than are to be encountered in Upper Canada."
About the clearing of wild land in Upper Canada, no idea whatever can be formed from a comparison with the Scotch method. Fire is the principal agent here—in Scotland it is the spade and the pickaxe. In Scotland the clearing of an acre of fir wood costs 20 pounds— here an acre of the heaviest timber can be hired at twelve dollars for chopping, logging and fencing. Clearing is sometimes let in this manner but when the farmer does not do the whole himself, more generally the chopping down of the trees, cutting off of the limbs, and cutting the trunks into lengths of about fourteen feet only are hired at 4 or 4 1/2 dollars per acre and nine days board or five or five and a half dollars without any board. In this case the owner’s own family log—that is first burn the brush, and if this is well done, there are only left the trunks, which are rolled into piles and then burnt. (#3) All this is done in time to get in a crop of fall wheat, the first crop averaging about twenty bushels per acre, and consequently, if wheat is at a fair price, something more than covering the expenses of clearing. Generally a crop of oats is got the second year, then a green crop, and then sown down to grass. To be sure the stumps of the trees are still in the ground, but unless where the pines are very thick (and by the by there is comparatively but little pine in Upper Canada) there is no difficulty in harrowing the seed. In seven years the stumps are so rotten that there is little difficulty in taking them all up, and then the farmer has rounds of green and white crops as at home.
It must not be disguised, however, that the clearing of land is very [easy], being hard labour, and not at all fit for those "coming under the description of gentlemen", and therefore ought it to be given to him to whom it "may prove tolerable" at a rate calculated to encourage him cheerfully to expend upon it which alone can make it of real value as a British colony. In a new country a wise government would always prevent individuals from possessing immense quantities of land; for this is sure to put it out of the reach of those who would make a right use of it. Land ought not only to be sold, if sold it must be, in the first instance, in limited quantities, and without favour, by government, but if parties who have thus purchased it wish afterwards to dispose of it, such parties ought not to be allowed to do so but to the government.
I am Sir
1.To be sure Hamilton is not yet so bustling as Buffalo nor Toronto as New York, but the universal etc.
2.And there cannot possibly be any difference in the clearing of wild land in the favour of the States.
3.Three men and a yoke of oxen logging an acre a day.
August 7. Monday.—The foregoing letter with slight verbal alterations I transcribed yesterday and closed for the Leinster Express, and I expect to be able to send it down to the post on Wednesday next. I suppose it will be eight on ten weeks before I receive it back again.—I do not yet hear anything of the wife, I think however that I must hear in the course of this week, a young man from Lawson’s is going down to the post on Wednesday, and I shall see if there be anything then. If not I will try to go down myself on Saturday. I am only afraid that some accident has befallen them either at home, which is more likely, or on the way. Of this I shall feel quite sure if I do not hear this week.—I still go on pretty well with the Lawsons—I was logging with them on Saturday—this is the dirtiest job there is clearing land.—The hay harvest is all but over. Louis’ Barley has been cut but no other sort of grain is yet ready. Crops in general seem to be good. It seems to me that the Barley already cut is fully as good as it is usually.
13 August—Sunday.—Since making my last note I have entirely given up the School. For a long while I have been quite disgusted with the way in which Burns’s children have conducted themselves: on Tuesday, when they came into the School in the morning they commenced a long story to the other children about how much they disliked the School—"mother and every body saying it was no School but a play house, and father saying that what I taught them was all nonsense",—with a long string of such stuff. I of course could not stand this, and though I said not a word to the children about my intentions. I made up my mind to give up as I accordingly did in the evening. I have not yet heard that Burns has said anything about the matter, the others do not seem to be well satisfied but I offer in order that no blame may be attached to me to go on with the School until the term be up if they will make up a School without the Burns’; this however I suppose cannot be done. I want all my money for the last quarter except Burns’ and the whole for as much of this as has expired, and I don’t see well how I may gat any. Old Lawson tells me that I have well cleared myself with him, while I have been with him, and I am now working and living on with him, as at present is my intention to do until I see the wife or hear more from her. I was down at the Post Office yesterday, but got no letters—there were newspapers for me but they had just gone off with Burns’ when I got there. It is a most astonishing thing I hear nothing more of the girl, and what is perhaps the worst part of the business I cannot write to enquire an explanation. I suppose I must now wait another fortnight before I get a letter, and I suppose more after than before I see her if she write from Liverpool.—The harvest began in the lower part of the township last week, and will be quite genial about here in the beginning of next; the old man begins to-morrow. I shall be a raker and binder I expect. I was logging last week, and this is a wee thing dirty, firy and fatiguing.—The weather is very warm, there was but one small shower last week. I think a cloud is gathering now.
Aug 29—I have not yet heard anything directly from my wife, but I got a letter from my brother Will yesterday, and he tells me in it that he had communication with her and that she was to start on the 11th July. If so she will doubtless soon be here now. This letter was posted on the 1st inst. so she either did not start as she intended or she did not write from Liverpool. A week or two however will settle the matter. The letter contains a pretty got lot of particulars too numerous to enumerate now.—The harvest is pretty nearly over about here. The fall wheat is mostly in—oats, pease, spring wheat &c. are mostly to get in still.—I am still with the old man. I have the intention now of buying the 100 acres of land from him, it is situated No. 7, 2nd concession Erin.
Sept 14. Got a letter from my wife from Liverpool yesterday. She was to sail from there on the 16th August. It seems she is coming by New York. When she got to Liverpool no vessel was to come to Quebec for a fortnight—she took one to come to New York in 3 days and she had been on board 1 week and 3 days when she wrote.— She was sick after getting my letter, Dr. Jacob attended her and on no account was she to attempt to go upon the water in less than a month or two: in the meantime her mother was taken sick and died. This letter is a curious circumstance, still I half expected it. I was to write to her to New York. I don’t know well what to do. I am afraid she is out of money, and if so few dollars would be of use to her, and if I can send any without risk, I believe I will do so, otherwise I don’t see it is of use writing.
Oct 31—My wife got here on the 14th inst. Instead of there being only herself and James, there were Sally and her two children. I was no little surprised and annoyed when I saw how things were about to go with me. As I did not in the least [know] of anything of this sort, so I had not made no arrangements whatever to receive all these people, and I have since in consequence been put to no little inconvenience. For some days I hardly knew what to do. What made me the more uneasy was, when they got to Oakville they were obliged to leave most of their boxes as security for the payment of 3.0.6 pounds due for fares from New York thither. This sum would not have been swelled so much had they not allowed themselves to be swindled out of boodle at New York. I went down to Oakville on the 24th inst., and agreed that the payment of the money was to be postponed for six months on condition that I should leave a box, 83 vols. of books and two feather bolsters: and thus I am for the present a little relieved from my present difficulties.—Sally went down to Oakville with me, intending to go to Toronto and try to get into service there—she left her two children with us.—I have been jobbing about the old man’s up to now. I do not yet go upon the land in Erin, but expect either to go on to-morrow or the day after or not at all. We are living in the little house of John Scott’s now, as we intend to do until we make a house of our own. I do not attempt to conceal that a good deal of my anticipated happiness is no little sullied by the unexpected manner in which my wife has again united herself to me. I must only hope that there will be an end of all this disappointment sometime.
Private Journal beginning Nov. 12/43
Esquesing, Upper Canada
Nov. 12 1843
Have finally agreed about the land in Erin. In consequence of the winter’s having set in so early, I do not think that I shall begin operations upon it until spring. I was up a day or two, but abandoned my project of build[ing] a house for the present: I think now of taking another school: I have not yet looked out one, but think I shall go off towards Guelph and Hamilton in the beginning of next week.
I now begin to write another letter to the Express.
Esquesing, Nov 1843
Of those who wish to find a refuge in this country from the miseries and incessant agitation of Ireland there are two great classes—industrious, sensible people with a little money, and industrious sensible people with no money; and it is to those two classes that I wish principally to address myself in this letter.
After having determined to come to this country then there are three things to be attended to—the preparation for the journey, the journey itself, and where it is to end. First as to the last particular. [Note—this section is crossed out in the journal, and the following letter appears to be the one which Newton intended to send instead]
Some writer observed of America—"All is vast solitary grandeur, in the contemplation of which the mind becomes insensibly depressed at the consciousness of its inability to compass the imposing magnitude of the surrounding objects…If you traverse its vast lakes, if you penetrate its deep pine forests, if you cross its wide extending plains, nay, if you wander by the wayside in the outskirts of its towns, you are alike struck with a sense of its surpassing loneliness." Everyone who has been in this can I believe bear testimony to the correctness of this description, and it is for this reason chiefly, as I apprehend that few like the country at first. No one seems to be able to form a right conception of it until he sees it, and when he finds the reality not to agree with the idea of it he had previously formed, he naturally feels himself disappointed. Time however seldom fails to remove this impression; he begins gradually to like its "solitary grandeur" as he becomes more able to employ the imposing magnitude of surrounding objects, as those objects become familiar to him, he begins to love them. It is my desire to remove, as far as possible, every cause for disappointment and for this reason, let the reader strive to imagine this country, a very few years since, to have been one immense forest, entirely covered with trees much taller and thicker than the tallest and thickest he ever saw at home, and when I tell him that not one-tenth of this immense forest is yet cut down, he will have some idea of the appearance this country presents. It is only about the large towns the stranger sees anything he would call cleared land, and even there the blocks of forest reserved for firing hurt his eye. Hence it is that many individuals, who are not in the habit of looking farther than to-day who try to penetrate the dark forest of futurity, but who are forced to remain in the country until, as they say, they can get means of going home again from being while endeavouring to attain this object, the most discontented of beings become all at once quite happy, finding that what would be required to take them home will make them much more independent and out of the danger of want here than ever they could expect to be at home.
When I at first came here, writing home, I merely dated my letters from Esquesing, without describing its extent and the consequence was, when my wife got here she expected to find a good deal of houses with a few nice green fields round about. What was her astonishment and disappointment may be easily conceived when she found the township twelve miles long and ten broad; that she might very well live a couple of miles from her nearest neighbour and that she never need expect to hear more than a tavern, a store, a grist mill or a saw mill and a tannery called a village. The land in this township, as in almost every other part of Upper Canada, is divided into lots of two hundred acres each, straight lines nearly from south to north are drawn from the bottom of the township to the top, 260 rods apart, consequently the side of each lot facing the line is 120 rods, from each other, the distance between each line is called a concession; there are twelve concessions in the township, and thirty-two lots in each concession, the concessions and the lots being all numbered, there is consequently no difficulty in finding a person you want knowing the concession that he lives on.
What may be called towns in this country are indeed few and far between; the class of emigrants with little money therefore are seldom induced to settle in them, finding greater encouragement to lay out their capital on land, which never fails in a few years to reward industry and economy with independence and ease. Some however of this class, not able to forget their old habits settle in the towns, but they soon find the race of competition to be about as tough as at home, and learn by experience to prefer a certainty to an uncertainty.
Now of those who wish to find "a refuge from the miseries and incessant agitation of Ireland" there are two great classes—those who have been accustomed to a sedentary sort of employment and those whose pursuits have been of a more hardy nature such as agriculturalists, and these again may be subdivided into those with a little money and those with none. What may be called towns in this country are indeed few and far between, the country appearing so uninviting and dreary, emigrants of the first class very often, too often try to establish themselves in them, however, and it is some time before they find that the race of competition is about as tough here as at home, and learn to prefer certain comfort and contentment in the country to the turmoil and anxieties of the towns. To be sure, there is something very disagreeable and uncongenial in exchanging the workshop, the counter or the counting-house for the forest. No one I believe but for a long time looks longingly back to times past. But I know from experience that this feeling gradually diminishes. From very childhood have I been employed indoors, and for some years had done little more than drive the quill, yet I can now drive the axe, the mullet and the wedge as well as some others who have been much longer at the craft. Since the beginning of August last I have worked constantly at farm work-logging, reaping, dragging, rail-splitting, thrashing, potato-digging and lastly I am at present chopping and building a house on a hundred acres of land I have bought, so that it is not from observation and hearsay merely I can speak now, but experience. To say that I like this sort of life at present would not be the exact truth, but I every day get more used to it, and I hope that a few years of persevering industry and economy will put me out of the immediate reach of poverty, and this makes me over-look my present hardships. And yet I had but a single farthing when I got here, and the bringing out of my family has cost me almost all the money I could get hold of up to the present moment. It may here be asked how under these circumstances I have bought a hundred acres of land? On this condition. I give three hundred dollars—seventy-five pounds currency, about sixty pounds sterling—for the lot. On the first of November, 1846, I pay 12.10 pounds with interest at 6 per cent for one year, paying the like sum annually with interest always from 1845 on the sum I pay. Besides this there are of course the taxes to be paid, but as this is a municipal affair it cannot be said to form any part of the price of the land.
This then may be taken as an example for the second part of our two classes of emigrants. This is about the usual price of wild land in the Township where mine is situated (Erin, in the Wellington District) the only difference from the usual method being, not beginning to pay until the third year after purchase (which is a great advantage to a person in my circumstances), whereas usually a sum must be paid down, with annual instal[l]ments from the first. Mine is a most excellent lot of land, neither hilly nor stony, as a very deal of land in the same township is, with fine hard timber upon it, maple that will make me all the sugar I shall want during the year, besides being able to sell as much as will give me ready money for other purposes. One man in my neighbourhood the year before last made fifteen hundred pounds of maple sugar. But the emigrant who has money will be able to buy land at once, and when one can do so, will often find great advantage in it. In the first place, he may generally get land cheaper and in the next he escapes several years of anxiety of mind and hard living. From what has been stated above may be estimated the usual price of wild land; if a person has it in his power and wishes to purchase a farm partially cleared, he may always have an opportunity of doing so, on paying an additional sum of about twelve dollars per acre on the improved part with of course a fair price for the building etc. on the place. Besides the land itself it must be stocked with cattle etc. and the purchaser must feed himself until he raises a crop. An excellent yoke of oxen may now be got for forty dollars, a cow for nine or ten, a sheep for a dollar and a half, little pigs for carrying home, but a prop to teach to take care of the other things must be bought at half a dollar. Pork is now at three dollars a hundred pounds, beef two, flour two and a quarter.
Now, although I have divided the emigrants into two classes, I have done so only to show that there is scarcely any use in doing so. Farming new land here is a very different thing to farming at home, and having accustomed himself to stand all weathers, the tailor is as good as the teamster, the weaver as the waggoner. And in accustoming ourselves to new conditions it is wonderful how the mind moulds the members. Once bring the mind to see the difficulties that must be encountered and to be determined to overcome them, to look from the present to the future, and the intervening rocks are felt only as leading to a luxuriant, peaceful and happy valley. Let not one, however, let him be in whatever circumstances he may, determine in haste to leave his native country. A very intelligent Englishman observed to me the other day, "I have learned what it is to give up a certainty for an uncertainty since I came here." Thousands of others have learned the same thing, and the advice I would give to him who thinks of leaving home is, to learn this maxim in time. Whoever can see a certain prospect of doing pretty well at home, let him stay there. To me, English by birth and breeding, and Irish by affection, it is a little humiliating to be obliged to acknowledge that of the three the Scotch as a body decidedly get on the best in this country. To as great a share of prudence and industry Sawry writes a disregard of present personal inconvenience which the Englishman’s notions of comfort can hardly ever bring himself to exhibit; hence the latter is too much inclined to settle near towns where he can rent a piece of land and go on in much the same independent manner as at home, whereas nothing will satisfy the former but becoming a Canadian Lord, living upon and cultivating his own land, notwithstanding intermediate obstacles. The Irishman having been long used to scant, cunning and a cabin is too long to say the least in forgetting his old habits. Nothing grieves me more than to see this disposition in Paddy. He builds his shantee, gets a cow and clears a few acres of potato-ground and there too often sticks. There are exceptions to be sure, but would that it was less the rule. The Englishman must be comfortable, the Scotchman will be comfortable, and the Irishman cares not to be comfortable. Travelling a few days ago, I stopped all night with an extensive farmer, whose father came from the States but was of Dutch descent and he told me that he had several times employed Irish to work for him, but as they had invariably taken him in, ha had determined to have nothing more to do with them. It is a marvel that I should blush on hearing this from a person who could not be influenced by prejudice in coming to this determination. No sort of person is so much and so justly despised here as he who tries to live by his wits.
In preparing to come here, let no one lay in a stack of new clothing if he has it in his power. Clothing is little if any dearer here than at home and you don’t understand what sort you will want until you get here. I would only say on this to bring as much old clothing with you as you can. Farming implements are all made here to suit the country and it is often great folly to bring them but it is otherwise with mechanical tools, augurs of various sizes, planes, chisels, hammers, saws, a vice, etc., no one having it in his power to bring ought to come without.
As I said before, it is generally considered better to come by New York than Quebec, especially early in the season, and I would say that no one come out late. Advertisements of vessels sailing to America may generally be seen in the newspapers, but if he have not opportunity of seeing advertisements, let the emigrant go right to Liverpool, where he can anytime engage a passage to New York without more than a day or two of delay. Have nothing to do with agents in Dublin or the provincial towns—these are only so many scoundrels that subsist on the fleecings of the innocent and the ignorant. Do not be induced to part with a single half penny of passage money until you have made a bargain in writings on the very vessel you are to sail upon. The law provides all passengers with a pound of bread or bread stuff to each passenger during the voyage; the rest you must provide for yourself; you will want enough store for six or seven weeks, and of the amount it is best to use your own judgement. Take care and get upon a good vessel, even if you pay a little more, as the passage in this case is shorter and the danger less. Even upon the best vessel you will find passage long and disagreeable enough. I came upon an excellent vessel and read this.
When you get to New York, very respectably dressed gentlemen will come on board, who will express great willingness to assist you to get to the end of your journey, who will warn you against the evil designs of other gentlemen of equally prepossessing appearance, who will take you to the most comfortable lodgings, free of all charge, where you will be most kindly treated, and will be so extremely obliging as to go considerably out of their way to call with you at an office where you can take a passage on to Toronto without further trouble. You must listen very attentively to these gentlemen, but three or four of you get into a company, leave one to take care of your luggage, the rest, make the best of your way to that part of the north pier whence the steamers start for Albany, take a passage to Albany at as cheap a rate as you can, always taking care in your bargains to victual yourselves—then return to your luggage, hire a car in conjunction to take all your luggage to the steamer at once, and if possible remain upon it until it starts—if however you are obliged to take lodgings for a night, if you cannot leave your luggage safely on board the vessel you came in on, put it into a respectable store, and seek lodging for yourselves rather than put the obliging gentlemen to the least unnecessary trouble: they were so kind to my wife as to ease her of six dollars which she might just as well have thrown into the sea. When you get to Albany, take your passage on a tow boat to Rochester, then over the lake, never taking a passage but from one stage to the next.
I am Sir, Yours respectfully,
Dec 17—Have got my house raised in Erin—the chinks daubed and chimney partly built;—I expect it will be ready to go into in a few days. The reason why I have commenced operations upon it again after having abandoned my former project is—the snow entirely left the ground about the 23rd of last month when I went and chopped down trees and have got the house so far on. It is my intention to chop now during the winter. I have given up the idea of a school for the present.
Sunday. I now begin a new year. The last year of my life has been spent in America. To repeat here the different scenes I have gone through during the past year, was it possible, would not be necessary, seems that a pretty good account of these matters is interspersed through out the preceding journals. I have had experience and this has taught me wisdom as I hope my conduct henceforth will show.—
I have again agreed to take a school, Com[mon] School District No. 10, Georgetown, Esquesing. This district offers to be a good one,—there being more scholars in it than in any other in the township except Norval. I have been all last week in managing the preliminary business, and only got it finally settled last night. The following is a statement of my proceedings as afar as they have yet gone.
"School Teaching Proposals"
I, John Newton, propose to teach the Common School, District No. 10, in the township of Esquesing, in accordance with the Common School Act now in force, or about to be in force in this Province, in the following branches of learning by:—Reading Writing, Arithmetic, Bookkeeping, English Grammar, Geography, and incidentally, the elements of Practical Geometry or Measuration, Algebra, Astronomy, Composition, Logic, Chronology, and History, with other of the positive Sciences, as well as the fundamental Principles of Christianity on these terms:
1—Salary to the seven shillings and sixpence per quarter, inclusive of money from public sources:—Half to be paid at the expiration of each quarter until such public money be received, but if previously received the full balance then due to be paid.
2—Fuel for the School to be provided by those sending children to it, in proportion to the number sent by each.
3—The engagement to remain in force until the last day of the current year,—unless there be at any time an average of Scholars on the list of less than thirty for one whole month, in which case it shall be optional with me whether I continue the school or not.
4—A vacation of a fortnight to be allowed during the year, and at any time I may think proper,—as well as the lawful holidays of Christmas day and Good Friday.
5—Hours of Attendance &c., to be as shall be hereafter mutually agreed upon between the legal trustees and myself.
List of those who will agree to the above proposals, with the number of Scholars who sent by each annexed.
We the undersigned trustees for School District No. 10 agree to the above proposals as witness our hands this 6th day of January 1844
The other trustee—Morris Kennedy not being there at the time his signature is not yet appended. The school is to begin to-morrow week. I have particularly desired that the trustees attend on the first of opening, as it is my intention on that occasion to propose some regulations for the internal management of the school, accompanied with some remarks illustrative of the propositions:—The following is a rough plan of my intention on the occasion referred to.
The object of all schools ought to be (and ours I hope will be no exception to the rule) to give and receive instruction. Now in order to attain this object with success two or three things are essentially necessary—ability on the part of the master, and the most perfect order and regularity and the most implicit obedience on the part of the scholars. Of the first of these essentials, namely the ability of the master, it is not for the scholars to determine—this in our case is to be done by what is called the Township Superintendent, from whom I have already received a certificate of his judgement, and three trustees chosen out of our own District, and who are for the present year Mr. Morris Kennedy, Mr. Dolson and Mr. Freeman. As the master is amenable to a higher tribunal than the scholars, our business now is to promote the order, regularity and obedience of the scholars.
You will therefore I hope see the reasonableness of certain rules which I am about to read to you, and which have been got up for the general government of the school, and doing so, instead of attempting to thwart and evade them, I feel assured you will in the main assist me to carry them out, knowing that only by doing so can the object we have in view -- your own improvement—be expected.
First then it is assumed that nothing tends so materially to secure order as a respectful behaviour to the master, and every male scholar must therefore bow, and every female courtsey to the master on entering school in the morning (which must never be after the usual hour), and, on a given signal from him the whole school must stand up and the boys bow and girls courtsey simultaneously, that is, all together before leaving their places when the school is about to be dismissed in the evening; and should the master meet any scholar on the road or elsewhere, a respectful recognition must be observed between them.
2—During school hours, no scholar must speak to another, even in the same class, above a whisper; and in no manner, during those hours, must anyone speak to another in another class, but if there be anything to communicate, let it be communicated first to the master, and if he think it necessary, let him carry it forward.
3—Every scholar must perform what exercises and be in what class, and in every class occupy what place in the school the master may think proper.
4—Should any stranger, or other person than the master and scholars have occasion to come into the school, no scholar must leave his place, or desist from the studies in which he or she may be engaged unless at the request of, or by the special permission of the master.
5—No scholar must ill use his books or other property in the school or abuse his fellows, either by ill language or otherwise, either in school or out; nor must any scholar behave disrespectfully to others not connected with the school, either on the way home or elsewhere.
6—The punishment to be inflicted for the infringement of these rules to be in all cases the same namely—For the first three defaults, the culprit to be reproved before the whole school, for the next six defaults corporal punishment, to be increased in degree every succeeding default, and such corporal punishment to be inflicted by another scholar of the same size, chosen by a majority of the whole school; for the tenth default to be expelled the school for one week, and on return at the end of that period before the whole school to acknowledge the error, and promise not to be guilty in the future, with an understanding that should such promise be broken, final expulsion will foll[ow].
7—Provided always that no punishment be ever inflicted until the guilt of the party be fairly proved, and acknowledged by a majority of the whole school.
Now, as was before assumed the reasonableness of these rules it is hoped will be readily acknowledged you all; if, however, any one of you should think he sees any error in any part of them, and would suggest an amendment be adopted it will at once be made. Here let all the rules be submitted for adoption by the whole school after which proceed—Having thus unanimously agreed to these rules, you have thereby acknowledged and confirmed my authority; and it therefore remains for you only to submit implicitly to it knowing that in so doing you will be promoting the highest interests the sole object of the school—your own improvement.
Yes, "your own improvement." Some of you to be sure do not know the meaning of this phrase yet, and none of you are perhaps fully aware of its importance. Nor could I at once make you comprehend it. It is but when our minds are improved that the full value of our "own improvement" means. Then we see that "knowledge is power." Then we see that nothing is so conducive to our happiness and well-being as knowledge. Then we see that nothing enables a man to get through the world with such success and credit as knowledge. Get knowledge, and contentment, arising out of a proper reliance on the justice and goodness of providence, surely follows. Get knowledge, and charity for the failures and feelings of others ever follows. These are among the inestimable advantages consequent on our own improvement. And with these advantages before you, it is too much to expect that you will be diligently observant of the rules you yourselves have adopted, for by doing so only can you secure your own improvement, and the approbation and love of your friends and parents.
January 31.—Went on with the school on the 13th inst. Have done pretty well—think I shall have regular attendance of more than thirty scholars. I have not yet heard how the people like me but I think I shall give general satisfaction. I manage the school much more to my liking than I did the other one. I am still living by J. Scott’s. When we shall leave I do not know. We were to leave last Thursday; but when the time came round, my lady was for taking her brats down with her.—I could not allow this, so now we are to stop until the children are got down to their mother. I was never so bothered with anything as I am with the blunders of my wife as she called herself. It will be well for her perhaps if she does not set me entirely against her.—I do not hear anything more from my brother; and as I take it to be time I am now setting about writing another letter to him.
My dear brother,—
I received your letter on the 28th August last. At that time it was my intention to have written you in return long ere this, but some untoward circumstances or other has until now alway inclined me to put it off a little longer. Now however I feel I must get through with it.
In my last I gave you a pretty circumstantial account of my proceedings in this country up to the time of writing, so in this I have only to tell you what has befallen me since.—On the 8th August last then I gave up the school I had been at since I came into the country: my reasons for doing so would take too much time to be given now. I at that time was daily expecting the arrival of my wife.—I intended to look out for another school, but as I had directed her to make towards the place I was then in, I determined to wait where I was until her arrival. As the harvest was just beginning, I set to work with the old Scotchman I spoke of in my last. I first logged, then raked and burned after the cradlers, loaded the waggons with corn, reaped pease, thrashed wheat for seed, put out dung, split rails, harrowed in seed wheat and then dug up potatoes. All this time of course expecting the wife every day—at last she got here on the 14th October. As was to be expected she played a bit of an Irish trick upon me, and instead of coming by herself she brought her sister and her two children with her, and this too without my knowledge or concurrence. As this was a ruse I was not at all dreaming of, of course I was entirely unprepared for it. All my plans were now entirely disarrayed. I marched the sister off at once to Toronto, her children have been with me ever since, but these I have made arrangements for removing in a few days. At this time I had all but completed a bargain for a hundred acres of land—now bought it—to give three hundred dollars for it—to be paid 50 dollars on the first of November 1846 with interest for what I pay for 1 year, and afterwards fifty dollars a year until it be all paid with interest at 6 percent always from first November 1845. I now set about cutting logs for a house, but the snow coming on on the first Nov. I was advised to abandon the building of a house until spring. The snow however cleared off again in about a fortnight, and I again commenced chopping. I got the walls of a house up, the chimney etc. built, when another school was offered me in a much more favourable situation than the one I had before.—I took it, and have been at it since the beginning of January. My house is thus still in an unfinished state, and I have not as much land cleared as will take in a crop. The land is ten or twelve miles to the northwest of the place where I have the school; that is, the last half of lot no. 7 on the Second Concession of the Township of Erin in the Wellington District. It is a lot of most excellent land—neither hilly nor stony, nor swampy: the only fault about it is it is thirty miles from the lake, and this considered rather too far. However it is not very likely that I shall live upon it myself for some time at all events. Here then you have an account of my present condition. Although I have been buffeted about a bit since, I like America no worse than when I last wrote you. I am in good health and spirits and at peace with all the world.
I must now turn to your letter. Almost every description of trades are practised here except wool combing. There is a woolen factory in the village where I have the school—Georgetown, Esquesing, where carding, spinning, weaving, dying, fulling, pressing & c. are done. I first tried to get sorting here before I began school teaching at all, but could not. Where there is so much wood you will presume there are carpenters, and as is the case, and besides there is a fellow practising your new art of turning wood by water power in the village— whether he could do it with a competitor I do not know. Where then are so many farmers, blacksmiths must be wanted. There are tailors too, and shoemakers—shoes, by the way, are made somewhat differently here to what they are at home—the soles being all fastened on with wooden pegs instead of wax-ends. An active man, as far as I have been able to ascertain can do very well here at any of these branches of business. But the great business,—the life and soul of this country is farming—all others depend upon this. In the towns which however are few and far between, there is shopkeeping and every other sort of trafficking going on the same as at home with almost as much competition.
March 24, 1844.—I transcribed the above with some little verbal suppressions and expansions about three weeks since and after adding a good deal more stuff which I did feel inclined to put myself to the trouble of transcribing I sent it off. I have not heard a syllable about my brother since I got his letter in August last.—We removed down to Georgetown on Saturday the 9th inst. We are living in a room of Mr. Morris Kennedy’s house. I do not see however that we like here either very well.—I have now not so many scholars as I had—not quite thirty regularly. It is likely however that the number will increase a little when the weather moderate[s], and the roads get better. Since I came down I have found a couple of book[s] for Mr. Young the storekeeper, and I expect I shall get some more not only from him but some others; if I can do so, the thing will assist me a bit.—I got half a dozen new chairs yesterday from Mr. Travers, value 1.6.3 pounds currency, for which I gave a note to be paid on or before the 12th July next. Besides these I got a bed from Mr. Kennedy which is to be paid for in schooling the children. The first quarter of our schooling will be over in about three weeks. I have not got anything more than what I have mentioned yet.—The time at which I was to release the books from bond at Oakville draws nigh, and I must get as much money from the scholars as will pay this debt.—I saw a fellow from Thomsonville in the States where a considerable establishment of carpet making is carried on, and I promised to prepare a letter for him to take for me to the agent on his return, to see whether it would be possible for me to get work at sorting there or no. I do not know yet whether I’ll write or no.
• • •
On my 33nd birthday.
My natal day may I oft see return,
12 Dec., 1845. J.N.