Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 7

Monday. 11th. CFA Monday. 11th. CFA
Monday. 11th.

We had limited our stay here to this night so that a great deal of sightseeing was necessary to be done. Immediately after breakfast some of the Sewell family called upon us and we again went out for the purpose of seeing the Citadel under the escort of Captain Dickson, one of the Staff Officers of the garrison. We saw nothing additional excepting the Armoury which contains about twenty thousand stands of arms, with a few broadswords and bayonets. After a general examination, we returned only in time to observe the ceremony of mounting guard. A portion of the 66th and 79th with the bands of both regiments were out and went through the regular forms. It was a very pretty sight and the music was exceedingly fine. These two bands are somewhat in rivalry of each other, and to my surprise, I learnt were kept up by the private contribution of the Regiment Officers. The king of England allows only drums and fifes.

By the politeness of Dr. Sewell1 we were invited into his house and had an opportunity of resting from the heat. But the hour of eleven had been fixed to start on our expedition to the Fall of Montmorenci. We were equipped in carriages and calèches and gigs, Mr. Peacock and I riding in a Caleche. They are a large kind of chaise with a seat in front for the driver and without any top to shield one from the sun. The ride to the Fall is about nine miles in length and through a line of houses similar to that on the bank of the St. Lawrence, which distinctly mark out the road to the eye in Quebec itself. The wind came round to the South East and made it quite cool. The Fall has suffered much from the injudicious praises of it’s admirers, who have compared it with Niagara. It is a pretty descent of a small stream for a long distance. It being 250 feet while Niagara has not more than 160. But it is deficient in power, the great characteristic of the other. To be sure, the Messrs. Sewell remarked that the drought had affected it much by reducing the volume of water, but then what a difference in this, for Niagara is never affected. A few of the party descended the steep and precipitous bank, for the purpose of seeing the effect from below. We came so near as to be drenched by the mist which is light here and flies further. But our opinion did not alter that it was only pretty, and hardly paid us for the great labour of reascending the bank. I think I have rarely felt a piece of exertion more. We then after compensating the little French Canadian girls and boys who were very officious in acting to us as guides, and taking some very rude refreshment at the house mounted our vehicles and returned. I ought not however to omit 42the appearance of Quebec from this spot. Lying as it does on the side of the hill towards this point, it has a very pretty look with it’s tin glittering roofs and high stone houses. Brick appears to be very little used in Canada. Our ride was pretty although we observed a great number of houses empty and to be let and no great appearance of enterprise or industry.

Upon our arrival at home, we found the party had received some visits. Among others Mrs. Sewell had called upon my Wife.2 One of the young men had intimated to me that his father would be pleased to see me although he is confined to his room from the effects of a severe accident, an upsetting of his carriage some weeks ago. I immediately complied with the wish and accompanied the young gentleman to the house. The Chief Justice of Lower Canada was sitting with his head bound up, looking pallid and thin.3 He received me very politely and after recurring to the recollections of times when his father and my grandfather were intimate before the violence of political contention had divided them, he proceeded to ask some questions respecting my father and Mr. Quincy.4 I found however that the extent of his information respecting our affairs was not very great nor did he appear to me a man of much intellect. It is however hardly fair to judge of him from so short an interview. Mrs. Sewell appears to be a good but not a very well informed woman either. I soon took my leave and returned home.

Dinner came next after which a stroll on the Esplanade, where were a great majority of the fashion of Quebec listening to the band of the 79th which practised for two hours. Quite a pretty scene and very well worth observation. Quebec is essentially a military station. The trade, whatever there is of it, is carried on entirely out of sight in the suburbs, and the society of the place consists only of official people connected with the various branches of the public service. The esplanade was full of gaudy uniforms and every house is a barrack or an officers residence. After hearing a great variety of airs and becoming tolerably weary of standing, we stopped at Judge Sewell’s again for the purpose of letting my Wife return Mrs. S’s visit, which done, we returned to the Hotel to pack.

Our stay at Quebec was done. Here our pleasant party was to divide. The Wilkes and Colden division were desirous of staying some time longer while Mr. Peacock and I wished to be on our return. We accordingly parted at ten o’clock, with many professions of kindness on both sides which were I have no doubt sincere, for we have enjoyed their company much and I do not believe they have found our’s dis-43agreeable. I rarely believe in the sincerity of invitations, but I did in their’s to see them in New York. We rode down in the dark to the Steamer, which proved to be the same that brought us here, and which was to start at twelve o’clock. After so very fatiguing a day, it was pretty natural for us, after attending to all the necessary arrangements to seek some rest from our labours.


Dr. James Arthur Sewell (1810–1883) was the fifth son of Chief Justice Jonathan Sewell of Quebec.


Jonathan Sewell of Quebec in 1796 had married Henrietta Smith, daughter of William Smith, chief justice of Lower Canada.


Jonathan Sewell (1766-1839) had become chief justice of Lower Canada in 1808 after appointments as solicitor general and attorney general. He had been one of the earliest advocates of the federation of the British North American provinces, having published in London in 1814 A Plan for the Federal Union of the British Provinces in North America. In the same year he published a volume, On the Advantages of Opening the River St. Laurence to the Commerce of the World (W. Stewart Wallace, Dictionary of Canadian Biography, 2 vols., Toronto, 1945).


On Jonathan Sewall (1728-1796), Harvard 1748, close friend of JA before becoming a loyalist and emigré see JA, Diary and Autobiography , index; Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates . His son’s interest in Josiah Quincy (1773-1864) derived not only from their kinship but from Harvard’s honorary LL.D. that Sewell had received at President Quincy’s hands in 1832.

Tuesday 12th. CFA Tuesday 12th. CFA
Tuesday 12th.

We found upon rising this morning that we had made very good progress during the night and were near les trois Rivieres or three Rivers which is called half the distance from Quebec to Montreal. We were also fortunate in having so timed our course as to see in going one way, what we lost in another. The town of Three Rivers is pretty large but with the same general characteristics with all the others we had seen.

I here observed the cruelty of a practice common in this Country, the use of dogs for draft. A boy was driving a dog with a cart loaded with two bags of flour each of which probably weighed about two hundred pounds. This was pulled through the deep sand on the shore to the market boats ranged along and required the utmost strain of the animal forced on by continued beating. I could hardly restrain my feelings, useless as the expression of them might be. Animals do suffer under the mastery of man, particularly that class which is used for draught. The compensation to them is not easily understood. But some there certainly is.

We passed on into the sheet of water called a Lake of some name which I have forgotten,1 formed by the spreading of the river and ob-44served the lowness of the surrounding banks. At Sorel, we stopped an hour, but the sun was too warm to allow of getting out. Indeed we all felt a little tired of sight seeing, and feeling now that the homeward journey was in some sort commenced, we thought most of return.

My afternoon was passed partly in conversation with a Merchant originally from America but now settled in Montreal who discussed Canadian and American politics and partly in observing the scenery which becomes very interesting as we approach Montreal. The great victory achieved by Sir Francis Head’s party in Upper Canada has done much to set up again the English power in that province, but Lower Canada is little affected by the result. Here the division is religious and national—The French who have a leader in Mr. Papineau, and the English. Political feeling runs quite as high as in the United States and strange to say I generally found the dissatisfaction of the English with the Ministry in the Mother Country on account of their liberal concessions to the French party to be such as to render the thought of a junction with “the States” not disagreeable. I do not much wonder at this. The French and English cannot agree very cordially and the priest influence, (we had five dirty looking fellows on board today) is not favorable to the moral or physical advancement of the people of the Country. Yet I cannot say I dislike the quiet and contented look of the Villages near Montreal. Our Country advances it is true, but there is something so dangerous in the rapidity it has acquired, such an instability in every thing that one always feels a little uneasy for fear of some vicissitude that will entirely alter one’s position in life. Perhaps the anticipation of evil is the most painful of all the afflictions of life. Are we not as a nation very much exposed to it?

We arrived at Montreal at about 9 o’clock and went to our old quarters, but we found them so full that we were obliged to put up with very indifferent rooms, my Wife being put with the Misses Peacock and a garret given to Mr. P. and myself.


Lac St. Pierre.