Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 7

Saturday. 9th. CFA Saturday. 9th. CFA
Saturday. 9th.
Quebec

We arose this morning and found we had made half the passage during the night. The day was clear and very hot. After breakfast I passed my time examining the scenery along the River. It is remarkable and peculiar to itself. The land is tolerably even, nowhere rising to any great height and along the bank as far as we saw there seemed a continuous line of houses of the description common in this region with at short distances a large Church with it’s two spires covered with tin and shining at a great distance. The manner in which these Churches were placed was generally picturesque. Whether intentionally placed or not I do not pretend to decide, but if they are, it is a pity we in New England could not take a lesson from them.

At about ten the river began to narrow and to give tokens of animation which announced Quebec. We passed the mouth of the Chaudiere across which a bridge is very prettily thrown, and soon came in sight of Cape Dimond. What has been said of the scenery here is not exaggerated. The Country below Quebec rises into mountainous ridges which entirely change the effect of the landscape. After all there is nothing like hilly scenery in my estimation. It seems to be so associated with purity and freedom. We passed down by the timber docks where the vessels which form the greater part of the Canada trade are situated, and finally came close to the place of Quebec. It is a very closely settled town on the side of the steep hill which is called Cape Dimond on the top of which is the famous Citadel. We passed by the place called Wolf’s Cove, being where he landed, the plains of Abraham, and the spot where General Montgomery fell. A perilous enterprise, the storming such a position. And one which never could be successful with ordinary judgment on the part of the defenders. Montcalm went down to meet Wolf, instead of sticking to his defences, and Montgomery was nearly successful only by a surprise.

We landed and I walked up the Hill, the ladies all riding. I found the streets narrow and guarded by gates which put one in mind of the feudal ages. How I made my way I do not know, but I found myself soon at the Hotel on the Esplanade which we had decided to go to. We were glad to get shelter for the sun was intolerably scorching. It is said that when the days are hot at Quebec, they are intolerably so and I can readily believe it. We decided upon doing nothing this afternoon but recruit from fatigue. The hours are vastly different from ours. 39Dinner is served at six. Tea and breakfast at 8 morning and evening, and luncheon at twelve.

After dinner, we thought it would be cool enough to go round and see the shops and make one or two proposed purchases, but we found the place disappointed us very much by the character of it’s business departments. And one of the Shopmen having refused bills of the Boston Banks and doubted about gold, I was disgusted and determined to go right back to my hotel. We were glad enough to do this on other accounts, the heat being still considerable. Quiet evening, with a little singing.

Sunday. 10th. CFA Sunday. 10th. CFA
Sunday. 10th.

This day was warm but by no means so warm as yesterday. A thunder shower which had passed last night in the vicinity, changed the character of the air, and it was windy today. A singular fact, that after witnessing such overflowings in the upper Country and the Niagara a foot higher than usual, we should now have come to where the fields are dry and they complain that they have had no rain.

After breakfast, the first thing proposed to be done was to attend Highmass at the Catholic Church. We accordingly went and were very civilly introduced into the pews of private individuals in the main body of the Church. The service was a new one and rather interesting to me, although I cannot say that I gathered from it any more edifying a notion of the value of the Catholic faith. The only attractive thing in it is the idea of devotion, which is impressed upon you by the great variety of external ceremonies intended to express it. The common people in the aisles all seemed to pray although it might be a matter of doubt if they knew to whom they were praying. The misfortune of our service is that there is no appearance of prayer. The minister prays but it is not often that the Congregation can or do follow him. The interior of this Church is highly ornamented and presents a far more imposing appearance than that did at Montreal. The service lasted nearly an hour and a half and was varied by singing, no part of which I could greatly admire. This over, we took a walk over some of the town and stopped to see the monument erected by Lord Dalhousie to Wolf and Montcalm. The fame of the former is among the most enviable in history. That of the latter has been heightened by the English for the sake of further exalting their hero, but I cannot help thinking he was only a brave Frenchman without skill and without judgment. His defence of Quebec was certainly a very silly piece of Chivalry.

40

Home—after luncheon, to the Jesuits’ barracks, as they are called, to see the troops march to Church. They have a parade in the yard without arms. About eight hundred men, I should think, consisting of two companies of Artillery, and a part of two regiments of Infantry, the 66th and the 79th Highlanders. The Uniform of this latter Corps which is taken from their National Costume is very striking. Indeed I think the handsomest thing of the kind I ever saw. The military bands which preceded each of the regiments are somewhat remarkable. We accompanied the 66th to the Episcopal Church and were present at their service. The building is neat but plain, and with the Monumental Inscriptions which are always to be seen in the Churches of this denomination. The service was performed by a Mr. Curry and was remarkable for nothing but for an alarm given by the preacher in the midst of his sermon. He began to stamp with his feet and shake his head in so convulsive a manner as to frighten us all very much. The alarm however passed away and the service was regularly finished. It is said he is subject to and apprehended in this case epileptic fits. It is the first instance of the kind I have witnessed, and is exceedingly painful.

Having returned from this and being disappointed in the music of which we had heard so much, the next thing was to go to the Citadel. I urged my Wife to do it today as it was cool and we should have much to occupy us tomorrow. We went. The main object to see is the view of the River below and of the distant mountains. I am no judge of fortifications but I should think this impregnable. After seeing the Country at all the various points, and noticing as well as we could the course of the defences, we returned home to dinner. After which some of the Sewell family called upon us,1 and many of the party together with myself took a pleasant lounge along the Esplanade which brought us almost insensibly to the Citadel. But it had become somewhat dark and although the sky was fine, the view was not so perfect as in the afternoon. We returned home.

There was a kind of attempt to sing tonight but without success. There is a Miss Jones in the house belonging to another party from the Southern States, who sings quite well in the Italian style. And the parade she makes of it quite puts down Miss Peacock who has a far superior natural voice.

1.

The descendants of Jonathan Sewall (1728–1796) and his wife, Esther Quincy (1738–1810) of Massachusetts, had taken up residence in Quebec, and achieved prominence there; see Salisbury, Family-Memorials, 1:181–185. Sewall himself had changed the spelling of the name.