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History of Toronto and County of York in Ontario
Part I: Chapter XVII. The Settlement of English-Speaking Canada


THE conclusion of the War of Independence saw a vast migragration of the defeated party m a political struggle between "Whig" and "Tory," which had aroused no less bitter feelings . between faction and faction than the struggle between the armies of Washington and of George III. m the field. The "Whigs* were not all of the same political complexion, and the word "Loyalist" imperfectly describes the attitude of man who entirely disapproved of the tyrannical acts of the Hanoverian king of England, but, like a large minority of the population of the Thirteen Colonies, did not approve of all the acts of the republican executive. At this distance from the heroes of the crusade that first made republicanism possible, we can see that in all that they did, in all that they suffered, a true political instinct led them through obstacles that seemed impervious to light and air. But we must not refuse our sympathy to those who could not, at the time, see what Washington and Franklin saw: whom a strong sentiment of attachment to the country of their birth or ancestry, or whom a survival of that loyalty to the personal government of a king, which had once been a genuine factor in the national life of England, led to risk life and fortune on a lost cause. Passions ran high toward the conclusion of the Revolutionary War. The "Tories," or "'king's friends," it must be owned, met with scant measure of justice. And we must remember the confiscations, the cruelties, the perpetual insults to which the families of the insurgent colonists had been subjected, during the war, by British officers. Action and reaction are equal in social phenomena, as in all others. Injustice to the Americans, fighting for freedom, .produced equal injustice to the partisans of the mother country. Many were imprisoned, were treated with the greatest hardships ; the life of a returned "Tory," who had been fighting in the British ranks against the new Republic, was never safe.

An effort was made by Lord Shelburne's Government at the conclusion of the war to obtain the restoration of their properties, in compensation for losses, to the adherents of England during the war. "The question of Loyalists or Tories," says Lord Mahon, "was a main object with the British Government—to obtain, if possible, some restitution to the men who, in punishment for their continued allegiance to the king, had found their property confiscated and their persons banished." And this was strongly and persistently urged by those who represented the British Government. Dr. Franklin, representing the Americans, at first refused point blank to entertain any proposal for compensation to partisans of England in the States. He next devised an astute compromise by which he offered to take account of the losses sustained by Loyalists, provided account were also taken of the losses inflicted on the Americans, by the raids and other excesses in which the Loyalists had taken part during the war. As this would have led to endless disputes, the British commissioners were fain to be content with Franklin's assurance that Congress would do its best to induce the several States to make reparation for losses incurred by the adherents of Britain. In spite of the well-meant, but utterly ineffectual efforts of the American executive, the return of the Royalist partisans to then former homes was as unwelcome as the proposed reimbursement for their losses during the war. In many cases, committees were 'formed, who with every resource of outrage opposed their continuing as residents among their former neighbours. So general was this persecution that over 3,000 of these American Royalists applied, through their agents, to the British Parliament for protection. The duty of providing for these faithful adherents of the mother country, engaged the serious attention of Parliament, and the leading men of both political parties agreed that the national honour was pledged to succour and support them. The first effort to fulfil this duty was the transportation of a number of families to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, "countries," as a U. E. immigrant wrote in 1784 "where winter continues at least seven months in the year, and where the land is wrapt in the gloom of a perpetual fog." But with fuller experience of the climate and soil of the maritime provinces, these first prejudices were reversed, a sparsely peopled and imperfectly cultivated region was endowed with a new and vigorous population ; the chief families of these flourishing provinces whose coal mines supply half Canada with fuel, whose agricultural resources equal those of any other part of Canada, whose sea-board cities and trade facilities are a new element in the progress of our country, date from the advent of those half-hearted immigrants of a century ago. Many of those who at first settled in Nova Scotia and New

Brunswick became discontented, and sought "fresh fields and pastures new" in Western Canada. The country west of Montreal was then an unknown wilderness of swamp and forest, the haunt of wild beasts and reptiles, the hunting ground of savages whose hatred of civilized man made its exploration perilous. Here and there along the chain of lakes, a few small posts had been established, and with difficulty maintained. Michilimackinac at the entrance to Lake Michigan, Detroit, and Frontenac, were half posts, half trading depots. Beyond the clearings which fringed their palisades it was not safe for white men to penetrate too rashly the mystery of the wilderness. But in 1783, various causes co-operated to make the English Government wish to settle a new colony on the more accessible portions of that vast territory, hitherto only known as "Indian Hunting Grounds." In view of the incessant disputes between the British settlers and the older French Canadian colonists which had embarrassed every Governor of Quebec since the Conquest, it w as felt that the large number of immigrants who had now to be provided for must be settled at a distance from those who insisted on the domination of the French law and French language. It was also thought politic to preserve the French Canadians intact and distinct as a separate element in the colony, who might be relied on to oppose all revolutionary tendencies. Governor Haldimand was, therefore, authorized to have a survey taken of the lands around the Bay of Quinte, in the neighbourhood of Fort Frontenac, and to found settlements on the Niagara and Amherstburgh frontiers. Grants of land were then to be made, the applicant producing proof, when possible, on the evidence of a single witness, of his having sustained loss or injury from the people of the United States, in consequence of attachment to British 'nterests. From the nature of the case many of the most deserving were unable to produce the evidence required, but the cases of the genuine applicants for relief seem to have been entertained m a liberal spirit, and it is even thought that many Americans who had little claim to the rewards of self-sacrificing loyalty obtained grants of land in the new settlements. As an instance of the manner in which these settlements were formed, I take the following account of the first settlement of Kingston and of the neighbouring part of the Quinte' coast, from Dr. Ryerson's Loyalists of America:—"The government of the colony of Quebec found that Nova Scotia and New Brunswick were overcrowded with Loyalist emigrants, and were beginning to turn their thoughts to the unexplored western part of Canada. The late John Grass, of the township of Kingston, had been a prisoner of war with the French at Fort Frontenac. The Governor having heard of this, questioned him as to the suitability of that part of the country for settlement, and the account given

of it by Grass being favourable, offered to furnish to John Grass, and as many of the Loyalists as he could induce to accompany him, means of conveyance from Quebec, and the supplies necessary for subsistence till the settlers could provide for themselves. Grass accepted this offer, and with a considerable company of men, women and children, set sail from Quebec in a ship provisioned for the purpose. They were forced to spend the winter at Sorel, in Lower Canada, but ui the spring reached Frontenac, pitching their tent on "Indian Point,"' where the pleasant village of Portsmouth is now built around its two caravanseiies for crime and misfortune, the Penitentiary and Lunatic Asylum. The adjoining country was not fully surveyed until July. Other companies had meantime arrived at the new centre of colonization. The Governor, who had come to visit them, called on Mr. Grass as having the first claim to a choice as to which township he would choose for himself and his company. Grass chose the first township, that of Kingston. In the same way Su John„ Johnson chose the second township, Forestown; Colonel Rogers the third township, Fredericksburg; Major Van Alstine the fourth township, Adolphustown; and Colonel Macdonnell the fifth township, Marysburgh. Those who, like the present writer, have lived for some time in Prince Edward County, know well how their names, borne, as they are, by worthy representatives of the Pilgrim Fathers of Ontario's settlement, are household words among the thriving populations of "the garden of Canada at the present day; and on those beautiful shores of the Bay of Quinte, where the wild beast and the prowling savage have long disappeared, where the masts of ships overtop the apple orchards and harbour, and harvest fields are almost everywhere close at hand, the few survivors of the children of the first settlers have many a tale of the hardships and privations with which their cl ldhood was familiar. Even to reach the new settlements in Western Canada was a matter of much time and difficulty. The journey wras performed in "batteaux," large flat-bottomed boats resembling scows, calculated to contain four or five families and their effects. Twelve boats were counted as a brigade, and each brigade had a conductor, who gave orders for the safe management of the boats. These boats were supplied with but the bare necessaries of life. Shelter there was none. At night the immigrants slept, huddled close together, with only the sky above them.

Grants, in a few cases of pensions, but for the most part of provisions, farming tools, oxen and seed, were made, to the new settlers. Including the officers and men of the disbanded '8th regiment, the number of United Empire Loyalists who first settled in what is now the Province of Ontario may be estimated at between ten and twelve thousand men, women and children. Thus was English-speaking Canada settled in the manner most advantageous for its future progress. That settlement was not like that of French Canada, a tentative and gradual process, feebly subsisting or the fisheries and fur trade; it was a compact and organized invasion of die wilderness by an army of agricultural settlers. And these men, unlike later immigrants to Canada, did not need to be acclimated, they had nothing to learn of wood-craft or forest farming, they were no old country settlers glad to seek a home in Canada because they were failures elsewhere. They were of the distinct type of manhood which this continent had already begun to produce; energetic, self-helpful, and versatile. And the growth - >f their settlement of a century ago into its present greatness has been in geometrical proportion to the slow advance of the French Province. From the immigration m 1783 to the establishment of Upper Canada as a distinct Province in 1791, the settlement grew in silence; its only record during those years being that it strengthened the hands of those in the Lower Province who opposed the exclusive domination of the French Canadians. The Upper Province had been divided by Ford Dorchester, previous to 1791, into four districts, of whose uncouth German names, chosen to flatter the Hanoverian king of England, happily no trace remains. These were: Lunenburg, from the river Ottawa to Gananoque; Mecklenburgh, from Gananoque to the river Trent ; Nassau, from the Trent to Long Point, on lake Erie; and Hesse, which included the rest of Upper Canada and the lake St. Clair. A judge and a sheriff were appointed to administer justice in each of these districts.

The first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada was one who has left his mark for good deeply impressed on our country. General John Graves Simcoe was an English gentleman of landed property, and a member of the British House of Commons, in which he had voted for the constitution. He had also served with distinction m the late war. He arrived at Kingston on July 8th, 1792, when the members of the Executive and Legislative Councils of Upper Canada were sworn in, and writs issued for the election of members of the Legislative Assembly. The capital of the new-colony was at first fixed at Newark, now the old town of Niagara, then a village at the mouth of the Niagara river. Here Governor Simcoe built a small frame dwelling which also served as a place of meeting for the first Parliament of Upper Canada; which body consisted of eight members of the Legislative Council and sixteen members of the Assembly—sturdy pioneers of the settlements which were now beginning to trench, with here and there a clearing, on the surrounding sea of forest. The session lasted four weeks, from September 17th to October 15th, 1792. Eight bills were passed ; all well considered and of practical benefit to the new colony. They enacted that English law should be in torce throughout the colony, with trial by jury in all cases; that the allowance claimed by millers should be limited to one bushel for every twelve bushels ground ; provided for the easy recovery of small debts; and for the disuse of the German names which Lord Dorchester had imposed on the divisions of Upper Canada. The district from the river Ottawa to the river Gananoque was now to be the Eastern District ; that from Gananoque to the river Trent was to be the Midland District; from the Trent to Long Point on Lake Erie was to be the Home or Niagara District; the rest of the Province, west to Lake St. Clair, was the Western, or Detroit District. Bach of these districts was again divided into twelve counties, and it was enacted that a jail and court-house should be erected in each district. When Governor Simcoe found that the Niagara river was settled as the boundary between Canada and the United States, he judged it unwise to have the capital of the Province under the guns of an American fort, and desired to found a new London in the centre of the western peninsula, on a river formerly called La Tranche, but which he named the Thames. Lord Dorchester prefixed Kingston, but Governor Simcoe would submit to no dictation from that quarter, and, after much deliberation, he fixed upon a site at the mouth of a swampy stream called the Don, and near the site of the old French fort Rouille. The ground was low and marshy, but it had the best harbour on the north shore of Lake Ontario, and was comparatively remote from the frontier of the United States. The Governor christened the place York, in honour of Frederick, Duke of York, one of the royal princes. Governor Simcoe's regiment, the Queen's Rangers, were employed to make a road through the forest, extending north to the lake which bears the name of the first Governor of our country. It was called Yonge Street, in honour of Sir George Yonge, Secretary of War in the Imperial cabinet, who was a personal friend of the Governor's. This, and many other projects of Governor Simcoe's origination, were interrupted by his removal to St. Domingo, in 1796. His successor, the Hon. Peter Russell, was a man of a very different stamp, and furnished the first instance of the abuse of political power to personal aggrandizement which afterwards assumed such vast proportions under the Family Compact. His grants of new land were sometimes to himself, and were worded as follows: " I, Peter Russell, Lieutenant-Governor, do grant to you, Peter Russell," etc. In the four years of Governor Simcoe's administration, the population of Upper Canada increased to 30,000. Although Toronto was now the seat of Government and the capital of the Province, the Parliament of Upper Canada still met at Niagara. In the second session of our first Parliament an Act abolishing slavery was passed, ten years in advance of the loud-professing philanthropy of Lower Canada. Another Act, for offering rewards for the heads of bears and wolves, indicates the primitive condition of a Province which required such legislation. Major -General Hunter succeeded President Russell, and directed the administration up to the time of his death, which occurred at Quebec in the summer of 1805. Mr. Alexander Grant, a member of the Executive Council, temporarily took the direction of affairs. His successor arrived in 1806, in the person of Lieutenant-Governor Francis Gore, who had formed, administered the Government of Bermuda. He was a loyal and non-progressive man, suited to the times in which he lived. He surrendered himself to the domination of his Executive Council, and was a drag on the wheel of progress. Despite bad government, the Province had flourished. Its population now numbered 50,000. Ports of entry were established at Cornwall, Brockville, Kingston, York, Niagara, Queenston, Fort Erie, Turkey Point, Amherstburg, and Sandwich. In 1807 Parliament appointed a grammar school for each district, the teachers to have a salary of £100 per annum.

Meanwhile the tide of immigration continued to flow into Upper Canada, a land where taxes were unknown, where peace and plenty were the reward of industry, and which was consequently attractive to the overtaxed natives of Britain, burdened, as they were, with the expenses of a long and costly war.


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