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Twenty-Seven Years in Canada West
Or the Experience of an Early Settler by Major Strickland, C.M., edited by Agnes Strickland in two volumes (1853)


No one can give an adequate view of the general life of a colonist, unless he has been one himself. Unless he has experienced all the various gradations of colonial existence, from that of the pioneer in the backwoods and the inhabitant of a shanty, up to the epoch of his career, when he becomes the owner, by his own exertions, of a comfortable house and well-cleared farm, affording him the comforts and many of the luxuries of civilization, he is hardly competent to write on such a subject. I have myself passed through all these grades. I have had the honour of filling many colonial appointments, such as Commissioner of the Court of Requests, and Justice of the Peace. My commission in her Majesty’s Militia, and my connection with the Canada Company, have also afforded me some opportunities of acquiring additional information. I was in the Company’s service during the early settlement of Guelph and also of Goderich, in the Huron tract. I am, therefore, as intimately acquainted with those flourishing settlements as with the townships in my own county of Peterborough.

Upon my return to my native country in August, on a visit to my venerable mother, I was advised by my family to give my colonial experience to the world in a plain, practical manner. I followed the flattering suggestions of relatives so distinguished for literary attainments, and so dear to my affections, and “Twenty-seven Years in Canada West; or, The Experience of an Early Settler" is the result of my compliance with their wishes.

The subject of colonization is, indeed, one of vital importance, and demands much consideration, for it is the wholesome channel through which the superfluous population of England and Ireland passes, from a state of poverty to one of comfort. It is true that the independence of the Canadian settler must be the fruit of his own labour, for none but the industrious can hope to obtain that reward. In fact, idle and indolent persons will not change their natures by going out to Canada. Poverty and discontent will be the lot of the sluggard in the Bush, as it was in his native land—nay, deeper poverty, for “ he cannot work, to beg he is ashamed,” and if he be surrounded by a family, those nearest and dearest to him will share in his disappointment and regret.

But let the steady, the industrious, the cheerful man go forth in hope, and turn his talents to account in a new country, whose resources are not confined to tillage alone—where the engineer, the land-surveyor, the navigator, the accountant, the lawyer, the medical practitioner, the manufacturer, will each find a suitable field for the exercise of his talents ; where, too, the services of the clergyman are much required, and the pastoral character is valued and appreciated a$ it ought to be.

To the artizan, the hand-loom weaver, and the peasant, Canada is indeed a true land of Goshen. In fact, the stream of migration cannot flow too freely in that direction. However numerous the emigrants may be, employment can be obtained for all.

That the industrial classes do become the richest men cannot be denied, because their artificial wants are fewer, and their labours greater than those of the higher ranks. However, the man of education and refinement will always keep the balance steady, and will hold offices in the Colony and responsible situations which his richer but less learned neighbour can never fill with ease or propriety.

The Canadian settler possesses vast social advantages over other colonists. lie has no convict neighbours—no cruel savages, now, to contend with—no war—no arid soil wherewith to contend. The land is, generally speaking, of a rich quality, and the colonist has fire-wood for the labour of cutting, fish for the catching, game for the pleasant exercise of hunting and shooting in Nature’s own preserves, without the expense of a licence, or the annoyance of being warned off by a surly gamekeeper.

The climate of Canada West is healthier and really pleasanter than that of England or Ireland. The cold is bracing, and easily mitigated by good fires and warm clothing; but it is not so really chilling as the damp atmosphere of the mother-country. Those who have not visited the Canadas are apt to endow the Upper Province with the severe climate of the Lower one, whereas that of Western Canada is neither so extremely hot nor so cold as many districts of the United States.

Emigration to Canada is no longer attended with the difficulties and disadvantages experienced by the early settlers, of which such lamentable, and perhaps exaggerated accounts have frequently issued from the press. The civilizing efforts of the Canada Company have covered much of the wild forest-land with smiling corn-fields and populous villages. Indeed, the liberal manner in which the Company have offered their lands on sale or lease, have greatly conduced to the prosperity of the Western Province.

If the facts and suggestions contained in the following pages should prove useful and beneficial to the emigrant, by smoothing his rough path to comfort and independence, my object will be attained, and my first literary effort will not have been made in vain.

Volume 1  |  Volume 2

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