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The Old Judge
Or, Life in a Colony by the Author of "Sam Slick, the Clockmaker" in two volumes (1849)


The following sketches of “Life in a Colony” were drawn from nature, after a residence of half a century among the people, whose habits, manners, and social condition, they are intended to delineate. I have adopted the form of a tour, and the character of a stranger, for the double purpose of avoiding the prolixity of a journal, by the omission of tedious details, and the egotism of an author, by making others speak for themselves in their own way. The utmost care has been taken to exclude any thing that could by any possibility be supposed to have a personal reference, or be the subject of annoyance. The “dramatis personae” of this work are, therefore, ideal representatives of their several classes, having all the characteristics and peculiarities of their own set, but no actual existence. Should they be found to resemble particular individuals, I can assure the reader that it is accidental, and not intentional; and I trust it will be considered, as it really is, the unavoidable result of an attempt to delineate the features of a people among whom there is such a strong family likeness.

In my previous works, I have been fortunate enough to have avoided censure on this score, and I have been most anxious to render the present book as unobjectionable as its predecessors. Political sketches I have abstained from altogether; provincial and local affairs are too insignificant to interest the general reader, and the policy of the Colonial Office is foreign to my subject. The absurd importance attached in this country to trifles, the grandiloquent language of rural politicians, the flimsy veil of patriotism, under which selfishness strives to hide the deformity of its visage, and the attempt to adopt the machinery of a large empire to tlie government of a small colony, present many objects for ridicule or satire; but they could not be approached without the suspicion of personality, and the direct imputation of prejudice. As I consider, however, that the work would be incomplete without giving some idea of the form of government under which the inhabitants of the lower colonies live, I have prepared a very brief outline of it, without any comment. Those persons who take no interest in such matters, can pass it over, and leave it for others who may prefer information to amusement.

I have also avoided, as far as practicable, topics common to other countries, and endeavoured to select scenes and characters peculiar to the colony, and not to be foimd in books. Some similarity there must necessarily be between all branches of the Anglo-Saxon family, speaking the same language, and living under modifications of the same form of government; but still, there are shades of difference which, though not strongly remarked, are plainly discernible to a practised eye.

Facies non omnibus una nec tamen diversa.

This distinctive character is produced by the necessities and condition of a new country, by the nature of the climate, the want of an Established Church, hereditary rank, entailment of estates, and the subdivision of labour, on the one hand, and the absence of nationality, independence, and Republican institutions, on the other.

Colonists differ again in like manner from each other, according to the situation of their respective country; some being merely agricultural, others commercial, and many partaking of the character of both. A picture of any one North American Province, therefore, will not, in all respects, be a true representation of another. The Nova Scotian, who is more particularly the subject of this work, is often found superintending the cultivation of a farm, and building a vessel at the same time; and is not only able to catch and cure a cargo of fish, but to find his way with it to the West Indies or the Mediterranean; he is a man of all work, but expert in none—knows a little of many things, but nothing well. He is irregular in his pursuits, “ all things by turns, and nothing long,” and vain of his ability or information, but is a hardy, frank, good-natured, hospitable, manly fellow, and withal quite as good-looking as his air gives you to understand he thinks himself to be. Such is the gentleman known throughout America as Mr. Blue Nose, a sobriquet acquired from a superior potato of that name, of the good qualities of which he is never tired of talking, being anxious, like most men of small property, to exhibit to the best advantage the little he had.

Although this term is applicable to all natives, it is more particularly so to that portion of the population descended from emigrants from the New England States, either previously to, or immediately after, the American Revolution. The accent of the Blue Nose is provincial, inclining more to Yankee than to English, his utterance rapid, and his conversation liberally garnished with American phraseology, and much enlivened with dry humour. From the diversity of trades of which he knows something, and the variety of occupations in which he has been at one time or another engaged, he uses indiscriminately the technical terms of all, in a manner that would often puzzle a stranger to pronounce whether he was a landsman or sailor, a farmer, mechanic, lumberer, or fisherman. These characteristics are more or less common to the people of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Cape Breton, and the scene of these sketches might perhaps to a very great extent be laid, with equal propriety, in those places as in Nova Scotia. But to Upper and Lower Canada they are not so applicable.

The town of Illinoo, so often mentioned in this work, is a fictitious place. I have selected it in preference to a real one, to prevent the possible application of my remarks to any of the inhabitants, in accordance with the earnest desire I have already expressed to avoid giving offence to any one. Some of these sketches have already appeared in “Fraser's Magazine" for the year 1847. These have been revised, and their order somewhat transposed, so as to make them blend harmoniously with the additional numbers contained in these volumes. Having made these explanations, I now submit the work to the public.

Volume 1  |  Volume 2

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