Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 7

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.

Thursday. 14th. CFA Thursday. 14th. CFA
Thursday. 14th.
Lake Champlain

We had time in the morning to see as much of St. John’s as was worthwhile. It is a comfortable looking town at the head of navigation of Lake Champlain, and is the port of entry of Canada on the American side. But it is flat and without beauty. At ten o’clock we went down and took our places in the Steamer Wineoskè, a singular Indian name.

Our course was first along the low lands almost level with the water which form the banks of the River at the head of the Lake, then by Rouse’s point along to Plattsburgh where the Country begins to look better. This was the scene of Macdonough’s memorable Victory, more important in its results upon the nation than one might suppose from the spot where it took place. Thence to Port Kent, and across the Lake to Burlington. An exceedingly pretty spot indicative of comfort, independence and long settlement. Here the Lake assumes an entirely new appearance and the Mountains of Vermont and those of New York vie with each other in variety and boldness of shape. The day had been fine with us, but the distant hills had been covered with mist to the South so as to make them visible very late and we afterwards learnt there had been heavy rain there all day. But a more lovely evening I never saw.

We stopped for a short time at a little harbour the name of which I have forgotten, very near Burlington, where the Steamers are always laid up for the winter. The Captain wished to get out to see a boat that 47was building to take the place of his, and he invited us to do so too. We accordingly ran about the shore, which was low and gently shelving with verdure almost to the water. A more beautiful spot in it’s way I have seldom seen. The Lake is here very transparent and the general effect of the scene quite enchanting. But there was no time to stay. Our course for an hour or two until sunset was in as picturesque a Country as I have seen and I a little wonder the beauties of Lake Champlain have not been more celebrated.

When it became too dark to see we retired to get some rest before the hour of our arrival. I slept quite soundly until twelve o’clock when we were roused to be put ashore at our place of destination, Shoreham. What can be more desolate than thus to be thrust upon land in midnight darkness and to grope one’s way along to a house which proves to be comfortless and the keeper of it surly. We finally succeeded in retiring for the rest of the night in a room not large enough for a convenient closet.