Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 7

Monday. 4th. CFA Monday. 4th. CFA
Monday. 4th.
Niagara — Lake Ontario

We have had four pleasant days here which I shall not soon forget, but the end comes of all things and so it is with our stay at Niagara. The morning was consumed in packing and the ordinary preparations for departure, and in receiving a visit from our friends the Whites, who all came to spend the day on this side of the River. I thought there was some little formality on their part and on our’s. They were not perhaps over well plased with my declining their polite invitation yesterday which I am very sorry for. But be this as it may the civility was cold and we all felt somewhat relieved when the Stages came to the door to take us to Niagara.

After leave taking which was regularly done we started off, making two stages full, I being in a small one with Mr. Peacock and his two daughters and my Wife with the Wilkes party in the other. The distance to go was fourteen miles for the most part along the bank of the Niagara River and a more beautiful ride I have seldom taken. The Country improves as you go on and the verdure of the season does much to set it off. But the great charm is in the very deep blue of the River and the rapidity with which it flows. It is to be sure a little singular not to see a sign of navigation but the eye soon gets accustomed to that and watches only the stream itself. If it was slower water, there would probably be a greater desire to animate it.

We stopped at the Heights of Queenston to see the monument erected to the memory of General Brock who fell here when the Americans made their attack, during the last War.1 A man who appeared to keep guard there went over his lesson to us and pointed out the spot where Brock was shot, that where his aid in attempting to rally was also killed, the place where the Americans landed and the scene of final action. The Americans not being properly reinforced were finally defeated. The Canadian frontier furnishes no great occasion for national pride on our part. The Monument is a handsome one 32of Stone, a column ninety feet high, I should think, with an inscription purporting that Upper Canada had erected it in honor to Brock. The fence designed to protect it is not yet put up. We remained here only a few minutes and then hurried our pace to get rid of a thunder storm which threatened very decidedly in the North.

We arrived at the little town of Niagara or Fort George at about three and stopped to take dinner. Mr. Colden reminded us that it was our National Anniversary, a fact we should hardly have known from any thing about us. A few flags flying from various places on the other side of the river and now and then a distant shot was all we observed. I cannot say that I was sorry. I dislike noise and rioting although I have a great regard for the recollections of that day. We remembered it in a glass of very indifferent Champagne.

At five we went on board the Cobourg, a steamer of the largest Class and soon found ourselves floating along on the quiet waters of Lake Ontario. We passed close to Fort Niagara on the American side, a place not so famous for any military history as for being the dungeon into which poor Morgan was thrown previous to his final catastrophe in the waters of the Niagara. This is the birthplace of Antimasonry and as such I ought to regard it.2

We had a pleasant trip to Toronto, a distance of thirty six miles where we stopped for the night. It became a question whether we should go on shore to sleep or remain on board. Some of the party decided on the former, but as the Captain offered a nice State Room to us Abby and I concluded to remain. We and Mr. Peacock and his daughters who likewise staid, however accompanied the rest of the party to their Hotel where we had some Ice creams served from the shop, the Captain having informed us it was not proper to go to it, after which we went back again.

1.

Maj. Gen. Sir Isaac Brock; see DNB .

2.

On the murder of William Morgan in 1826 and its significance, see vol. 4:350.

Tuesday 5th. CFA Tuesday 5th. CFA
Tuesday 5th.
Toronto — Lake Ontario

Our friends who went up to sleep did not like their Quarters so much as to remain long in them for they joined us before breakfast. The meal over, and there being time to spare, we made an expedition to see the town. It is the capital of Upper Canada and contains about fourteen thousand inhabitants. The site is low and without natural beauty, but the place looks tolerably thriving.

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I have been somewhat at a loss to know what was the cause of the generally grumbling tone I have met with among the common people in Upper Canada. They admit they do well and yet are dissatisfied. Can it be, the proximity of the United States? Yet to many of them, the States as they call us present no agreeable idea. They pine for home which most of them have been but a few years from. England is a pleasant country if the poor could live there. The necessity which drives them away is hard, but they are compensated here with plenty, and there is a prospect for their children of something better than the Poorhouse.

The buildings in Toronto are for the most part of a meaner description then those in the towns of similar size with us, but they do not look neglected. It takes a great while to collect capital, most especially in towns of the interior, but there is evidence the process is here begun. There is little or no navigation visible on this Lake which somewhat surprises me and may still further account for slowness of progress. The Government House is here and some very good private Houses. We left at ten o’clock and passed the day upon the Lake, a fine sheet of water without a sail. The banks are low and generally not striking.

In the afternoon, we stopped at a little place whose name our boat bears, the Cobourg, a neat spot enough with the same general appearance with Toronto excepting the superior advantage in situation. There is a large building here, a Seminary of some sect, which makes quite an imposing show. The use of tin upon the roofs of buildings which is general in Canada has a pretty effect in the distance. After a walk of about fifteen minutes we returned and kept our course in the boat all night.

The day was fine and the water smooth which is quite an unusual occurrence in Lake Ontario. Our accommodations on board of this boat have been very superior. Indeed I do not know that I ever before enjoyed Steamboat navigation. I think I can now conceive of a very pleasant trip in a thing of this kind. The Captain is prodigiously attentive.