Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 7

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.

Wednesday 13th. CFA Wednesday 13th. CFA
Wednesday 13th.

The day was warm, and as we had to spend it in the place, the ladies concluded upon going out and making the purchases they had been delaying. My Wife had heard much of the Jewelry to be seen at Quebec and here. In the former place, we had been grievously disappointed, so that we were induced to look more narrowly here. At last we found a shop that answered the description, and the ladies made 45their purchases. Perhaps it was lucky for me that I was unprovided with superfluous cash or perhaps I should have spent considerable sums. As it was I got off very cheap.

We then went to the parade ground where we had an opportunity to see the parade of the 32d Regiment and a pretty long drill. There is nothing so striking in the ordinary English Uniform and yet in masses it is handsome. The band of the 32d is said to be better than either of those at Quebec. We heard it but little. The intention had been to go to the barracks and hear them practise at eleven o’clock. But the hour was delayed until one, and the ladies became so tired of waiting, they decided to return home.

Mr. Peacock and I afterwards went out to explore other parts of the town, so that I think I may say I have a pretty good idea of it. There is not much that appears to me very attractive in it. The streets are narrow and the houses look dark. The population is of a motley character, but a larger proportion than Quebec commercial, which though it adds much to luxury and to prosperity, does not contribute to the agreeable social and intellectual character of a place. This would be heresy in Boston and I would hurt nobody’s feelings so much as to express the opinion wantonly but I believe it to be true notwithstanding. Thus passed the day until four o’clock when it became time to proceed on our next stage.

Having got our things packed we started in the rain for the boat which was to take us nine miles to La Prairie. On board of this boat in as motley a collection of people as I ever saw, I found Mrs. Thresher, a personage who was put under my protection in a manner somewhat remarkable. Last Friday when at Montreal going down, I was called upon by a young man whose face I never saw before, who gave as his reason that he saw my name on the Hotel books as coming from Boston, and being very anxious to send on a relation under the care of some responsible gentleman going direct to that place he begged of me the favour of seeing her on. I did not refuse but evaded. He then said he would wait for my return. This morning he caught me in the Street and as I had no good reason to give for refusing the kindness, I told him if she would be on board of this boat I would see her on. She turned out to be a harmless inoffensive woman, whose company did not compensate for the little trouble she gave me.

It rained hard all the way to La Prairie and confined us much among the market women and boys who crowded the deck. But their Canadian appearance and manners amused me. At La Prairie we took a very miserable stage to go on to St. John’s, at the head of Lake 46Champlain, a distance of about eighteen miles. For half an hour it rained heavily but then stopped very fortunately for us, as a continuance of it would have drenched us all through the leaks in the top of our coach.

The Country here looked uninteresting being a dead flat, but the land where it was cleared appeared good. The houses all had the careless surroundings which are common in Lower Canada and present a great contrast to the late English settlements in the Upper Province. The English carry their love for the little ornamental parts of a Cottage settlement into exile with them. It took us nearly four hours to complete our journey, a large portion of which was consequently in the evening. We were pleased to get to St. John’s where we found ourselves very comfortably accommodated at a good house.