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Ten Thousand Miles Through Canada
Chapter II

Quebec—Strategic position—Historic associations—Wolfe and Montcalm—Church of Notre-Dame des Victoires—Site of Champlain’s Fort—The Hotel Dieu—Landing of early Jesuit missionaries—Relics of Brobceuf and Lallemant—Falls of Montmorency—Where Wolfe failed—Kent House—Historical outline —Parliament—Denominational schools—Effects of confederation—Montreal—The situation—The Hochelaga of Cartier— Montreal of to-day—Institutions and schools—St. Anne de Bellevue—Macdonald College—Lachine rapids—Champlain’s exploration of the Ottawa—Amongst the Indians—Defeats and conquests.

QUEBEC, the ancient capital of Canada, stands conspicuously on the banks of the St. Lawrence. Its high cliffs can be seen far down the river. The white stone citadel that crowns its summit commands such a strategic position that Quebec has been called the Gibraltar of the American continent. The fort is enclosed by a high wall, which bristles with menacing artillery of both ancient and modern design. In front, an armed guard beats his monotonous round, but with no more sinister intent than to hand the visitor over to one of the Canadian regulars stationed in the fort to act the part of guide.

The altitude commands a magnificent outlook far as the Laurentian Hills and until the great St. Lawrence River becomes a mere ribbon streak on a forest plain. Thickly wooded islands, beautiful in their summer foliage, come into view. Of these, Orleans is conspicuous, the “Island of Bacchus,” as Cartier named it, owing to the rich bunches of grapes that he discovered on its clustering vines. Clear spaces torn from the heart of the forest show their victories in green pastures and cultivated farms, still golden with the harvest of the ungathered grain.

Objects, rich in historic association, cluster round Quebec, which tell of heroism and tragedy, oft-repeated stories which cut deep into the emotions alike of French and English pride. The Plains of Abraham, where Wolfe and Montcalm waged the final battle that secured British rule in Canada, are in the vicinity. The site of the ancient St. Louis Gate, through which the French army, discomfited and broken, retreated, and Cape Diamond, marking the spot where Montgomery fell, have interesting and pathetic associations. Below the citadel, in scattered and irregular formation, extends the Lower Town. The Church of Notre-Dame des Victoires, erected on the Place du March£, goes back to 1688. It is reared on the spot where Champlain built his fort. The crude pencil of the discoverer has left on record a sketch of the primitive fortification. It comprised a wooden structure of three buildings for himself and his companions. An outer hoarding, loopholed for musketry, with a gallery all round, was the chief defence. Further precautions against surprise were provided by a moat, and a few small cannon that commanded the river from a raised platform. Within the fort was a courtyard and a dovecot, and in close vicinity a magazine and a garden. Where the chimes of Notre-Dame now ring their measured peals, Champlain listened to the details of the plot against his life from a ship’s pilot, who turned informant. In the harbour, where the waters lap the cliff lower down, floated the ship where the traitors were arrested. It was on the highest pinnacle of that primitive fort, that the head of the arch-conspirator was spiked as a lesson and a warning to all whom it might concern.

The Hotel Dieu, founded by the Duchesse d’ Aiguillon, a niece of Cardinal Richelieu, dates from 1639 and is the oldest convent and hospital on the continent. The fine works of art that it contains, by Leseur, de Zurban, Stella and others, take a second place in the estimation of students who have walked the paths of history with Br£boeuf and Lallemant, the high-souled missionaries of the Cross, of whom the world was not worthy. In 1626 these followers of Loyola landed in Quebec. The shelter of Champlain’s fort was denied, and traders refused them admission to their houses. They wandered about in sheep-skins and goat-skins, being destitute, c and were on the point of re-embarking in their ship, when the Recollets of St. Charles’ Convent offered them sanctuary. By a singular irony of events, the skull of Brebceuf and the bones of Lallemant were reverently received at a later date by the people who closed their doors against the martyrs in life. These relics comprise the priceless treasure of the Hotel Dieu.

The Falls of Montmorency are only a few miles from Quebec, and are seen on the right, as the steamer passes up the St. Lawrence River. The cataract is 100 feet higher than Niagara Falls, but much narrower. From the deck, the Montmorency River, from which the Falls flow, cannot be seen, owing to the great altitude giving the spectacle the appearance of a wide silver belt thrown across the cliff, which a touch of sunlight burnishes. The Falls are 250 feet above the St. Lawrence. Incidents of the war centre round the spot; Beaufort House, the headquarters of Montcalm’s army, is near. The Eastern shore of the river marks the place where Wolfe made an abortive attack on the French position, and from which he was compelled to withdraw with heavy loss. Kent House, once the residence of the Duke of Kent, father of Queen Victoria, now used for the purposes of a hotel, is in sight of the Falls.

In visiting the town of Quebec it is important to call to mind its history. The earliest settlers in Canada were the French, who came principally from Normandy and Brittany. Although there is little of the Parisian stamp about the inhabitants, they are French in all essential particulars. Quebec and Gaspe are to all intents and purposes French towns. The British have conquered Canada, but their Gallic cousins have preserved intact the leading characteristics of their nationality. Quebec to-day is French in all things but government. Its language is spoken in its streets, and in its legislative assemblies ; it is taught in its schools and circulated in its Press. Their population is increasing, and with it the process of absorption goes on. Tocqueville well said, the people of Quebec were more like the French than Americans were like the English. Even the staunch Scotchmen have been so merged in this alien element that their characteristics have been drowned out. Scottish names are met with everywhere, but their owners only speak French. This is true of to-day; the soil has been so impregnated, that it will only grow the fleur de lys.

But there is a per contra account. When Canada became, in 1763, a British colony, the 60,000 French-colonists also became, for good, British subjects, with the assurance that their customs should not be interfered with. The British cherished a strong conviction, the wish being father to the thought, that the French nation would be ultimately absorbed in their own. This proved a vain hope. When the United States attempted to annex the Dominion, the French took arms in our interests. From that time forward, though in an indirect manner, the French by a tacit consent have had all their demands granted, and in the fulness of time the granting of legislative independence brought about amicable and inalienable relations between the two nationalities. The early pioneers who gave their lives in heroic and sacrificial service wrought better than they knew. Disappointed, heart-broken, martyred in their attempts to plant the Cross amongst its wild tribes, they unconsciously laid the foundations of a new France, loyal to the British flag and the best traditions of its own people.

Many French Canadians migrate westward, especially to Ontario, where they are gradually becoming anglicized.

Quebec nominates its Upper House, and nearly all the deputies in the legislative chamber, and a large majority in the legislative council are French. The province has the control of its own constitution, and the right to alter it at discretion. It has entire management of its own schools and public lands, and the Roman Catholic parochial system prevails. The two local Parliamentary parties, Liberal and Conservative are called Rouges and Bleus. Originally the Liberal party, or Rouges, stood for anti-clericalism, but it has changed colour as time progressed, and is now become as clerical as the Conservatives, and calls itself the National Party.

The question of denominational schools has been a vexed one. The British North American Act of 1867 guaranteed that whilst education was delegated to the provinces, the Dominion or Federal Government reserved to itself the power to enact a system of tolerance for the dissentient schools of the minority. In 1889 the question of denominational schools assumed an acute form, and conflict arose between the French Canadians and those of the province of Ontario.

Consummate tact was required to establish and maintain peaceable conditions, but confederation has overcome the chief difficulties.

Montreal can be reached from Quebec by steamer or train. The river trip is slower, but more interesting, as the St. Lawrence higher up breaks into swift rapids, and the silent water becomes articulate as it dashes over huge rocks, and laps the exquisite leafy islands. Montreal, the Hochelaga of Cartier, is situated on its banks. Its beautiful wooded heights slope down to the river, and from the foot of Mount Royal a tableland extends until it is lost in the blue of far-off mountains. The summit of the mount affords a bird’s-eye view of the city, and brings into sight many of the fine ecclesiastical and commercial buildings for which Montreal is celebrated. Seen through the eyes of Cartier in the 16th century, it was nothing more than a couple of score of huts roughly palisaded against the incursions of savage tribes. Today the traveller who follows the circuitous path to the mount’s height looks out on a population of nearly half a million souls. Where the first pioneer of this rapidly expanding colony saw a thousand Indians wildly gesticulating on the river’s bank and marking their welcome to the mysterious stranger by song and dance, miles of storehouses are piled. Where the weird fires of the redskins’ camp flickered in the dusk of evening, the arc lamp of modern civilization sheds its light. The rattle of chains of ocean liners along busy quays has displaced the liquid plash of the Indian’s paddle, and the barges of the St. Lawrence, deep laden from the world’s granary, fill a space once held in monopoly by the trapper’s canoe.

Montreal has made great strides in progress of recent years. Not only has the population rapidly increased, but with it have grown up those institutions incidental to social and communal renaissance. The McGill University provides for the scholarship of its youths, and the Royal Victoria for that of its women. Elementary seminaries, such as Peel Street, and Aberdeen High Schools, accommodate nearly 2000 scholars between them. The Roman Catholic community, which is very strong, has Laval College _for the study of law, art, medicine and theology, together with the colleges of Montreal and St. Mary’s for more elementary subjects. With these the Redpath Museum and Redpath Library are connected. Banks, flourishing institutions all over the Dominion, have their headquarters in the city. Hospitals, well staffed and richly endowed, provide for the sick, of which the Royal Victoria and the Montreal General are the principal. Recreations are fostered in public grounds, of 460 acres, and in private clubs for golf, angling and shooting. There are many buildings in the Royal City of imposing architectural dimensions. Notre-Dame, the towers of which rise high above shops and warehouses, is said to be the second largest church in America, and St. James’ Cathedral is modelled on the design of St. Peter’s at Rome. All the great Protestant denominations have built their churches on an imposing, and in many cases magnificent, scale, and the Jews have their own synagogue.

At the foot of Mount Royal the finest private mansions of the prosperous citizens are erected. They are the outward and visible sign of the new age of an advanced civilization, as truly as the wigwams of two hundred years ago, that occupied the same sites, witnessed the age of crudeness and barbarity.

Following the St. Lawrence River, Ste. Anne de Bellevue is reached, which is more closely associated with the fortunes of Champlain. The wealth of Montreal has overflowed to this charming resort. Through the munificence of Sir Wm. C. Macdonald, one of the merchant princes of Montreal, a magnificent college has been erected at Ste. Anne’s. It covers 561 acres, and is replete with facilities for teaching and research. Its imposing grounds attract attention on entering the little French-Canadian town. Well-trimmed lawns and recreation fields surround it. It provides a school of agriculture and one for household science, and is open to both sexes. A practical course of training in live-stock, cereal husbandry, horticulture, and poultry covers two years. A still longer period is occupied with the higher branches of botany, bacteriology, and natural science.

The Macdonald College is connected with the McGill University, and is free to the sons and daughters of the farming community of the province. Outside that area students have to pay ^10 a year. There are experimental grounds laid out for the purposes of illustrating research in grains, grasses and flowers. Small model farms for horticulture and poultry-keeping, as well as live-stock, give facility for the most practical and up-to-date knowledge of these branches of scientific farming. The laboratories are equipped with the most modern appliances, and a large and highly qualified staff of professors and assistants is employed. I visited the college on the opening day, and attended some of the lectures. Students came all the way from British Columbia, a distance of some 3000 miles, and so popular is the institution that there was not a single vacancy at the beginning of the session. There is accommodation for 200 men and 175 women. Most of the provinces of the Dominion make their contributions to this centre of learning on


which so much depends. Returning from the Rocky Mountains, I found myself in the company of a young farmer from Medicine Hat on his way to the college for a special course on scientific and dairy farming. A farmer from Winnipeg who had sent his daughter to be trained as a teacher was amongst the visitors on the opening day.

Between Ste. Anne’s and Montreal there are the celebrated Lachine rapids of the St. Lawrence, which supplied the inspiration of Tom Moore’s “Canadian Boat Song.” A pleasure steamer on the river shoots them. Pressing up stream the great Canadian river leads to its source in Lake Ontario in the south-west. The Ottawa flows from the northwest—a twin river fed by innumerable streams and minor lakes. It was this that Champlain navigated it the spring of 1603, which forms a thrilling chapter in the life of the early pioneer. Its rapids, which nearly cost the explorer his life, still plunge over rocks and down steep declivities, as on the day when he first breasted them. Carrillon and Long Sault seethe and foam, evoking answering calls from the neighbouring forest. Scattered homesteads and budding towns here and there encroach on the Ottawa’s banks, but the upper reaches are as much a solitude as when Champlain pressed through the dense forest, or lay at night by the Indian camp fire. Trustfully yielding himself to the mercy of the savage tribes of that locality, he faced the river. His pluck and daring so inspired these children of the forest, that to them he became the king of medicine-men, whom difficulties could not daunt nor dangers dismay. Faith answered to faith, and the Indians pressed their frail canoes up rapids at his behest, to which the spoil of the chase or the lust of conquest would never have spurred them. They invoked Manitou, the spirit of the river, on his behalf, and threw their propitiating gifts on the seething cataracts which barred their way. They carried their canoes through dense woodlands, and braved the hardships of hunger and the perils of the forest until they reached the country of the Ottawa tribe on Lake Coulange.

The coming of Champlain and his companions was looked upon by the Indians as nothing less than miraculous. We read that warriors gazed upon him in reverent wonder. “ How could he have survived the perils of forest and rapids?” they exclaimed. Surely the white man had fallen from the clouds!

Champlain’s own account of the voyage is recorded, and the difficulties which he had to surmount. Chief amongst these were the dissuasions of the wise men amongst ^the tribes, who advised desistance. But the voyager had set his mind on exploring the Ottawa, despite all such advice. Driven back for want of canoes, and duped by a lying counsellor, he was checked in his first attempts.

Two years later he set out for the Ottawa again, and reached Lake Nipissing, marking his way on the banks and islands with large crosses of white cedar, the emblem of his faith and the Ebenezer of his triumphs.

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