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Travels through Lower Canada, and the United States of North America, in the Years 1806, 1807, and 1808. To which are added, Biographical Notes and Anecdotes of some of the leading Characters in the United States; and of those who have, at various Periods, born a conspicuous Part in the Politicks of that Country. By John Lambert. In three Volumes, 8vo. 11 11s. 6d. With Pngravings.
WE have read these volumes with considerable interest, and have received from the perusal much and important information. The author, a very intelligent man, and well qualified for the inquiries, the result of which his volumes communicate, accompanied a near relation to Canada, to accomplish, under the sanction of government, the cultivation of hemp. An undertaking often recommended, but never yet successfully performed. The individuals concerned embarked on their voyage, full of the most flattering hopes and expectations. They were to receive from the Canadian government 150 acres of clear land, have their expenses paid, and every facility afforded them. But no sooner had they arrived in Canada, than these bright prospects vanished alto
gether. Strange to say, the government had not one single acre of clear land to give them; they were compelled to dance attendance at the executive council room, for five months together, before they received compensation in any form. In this interval the farmers and artificers whom they carried out with them, were seduced from their ser– vice, or corrupted by idleness, and the bad example of the lower order of Europeans at Quebeck. The original design thus proving abortive, the author thought that he could not employ his time better, than to avail himself of the opportunity before him, to make himself acquainted with the country, and its customs and inhabitants. Remaining, therefore, for some time at Quebeck, he afterwards proceeded up the river to
* A handkerchief so called from Belcher the boxer,
Montreal. From Montreal he crossed lake Champlain, and, entering the territories of the American government, pursued his journey to New York. At this place he continued for a considerable time, and then embarked for Charleston, in South Carolina. From Charleston he visited Savannah, on foot, and describes New Georgia with some minuteness; returning to New York, he went from thence to Boston. To the description of this place, its manners, commerce, and inhabitants, he subjoins some lively biographical notices of the more distinguished characters of America, &c. in these more recent times, namely, of Jefferson, Madison, Burr, general Hamilton, Paine, &c. &c. From Boston he again returned to Canada, and the conclusion of the third volume leaves the traveller at Montreal. We really know no book of the kind which gives so circumstantial and so satisfactory an account of the British settlements, and of the United States of America, from the coast ef Labrador to the gulph of Florida. Having said this, and placed before our readers the outline of the traweller's route, it becomes a point of justice to introduce a few specimens of the amusement and information which may be expected. The following anecdote, in the beginning of the first volume, introduces no feeble argument in vindieation of the plan pursued by the British and Foreign Bible Society:
“Our pilot, Louis Le Clair, was an old, French Canadian, possessed, like the rest of his countrymen, of a tolerable opinion of himself; yet was a good humoured, friendly fellow. It was not long before we found that his predilection for the clergy was not excessive. He entertained us with many of his whimsical opinions, and declared, that for his own part, he never went to confession, though he allowed his wife and daughters to go. ‘Women,’ says he, “can never be happy until they let out their secrets, and on that account it is necessary they should have a confessor; 1, therefore, pay him his fees, which is
only justice. But for myself, t consider it all as a mere farce; and it must be so, since the women say that they only tell the priests a part, and conceal the rest.” A few years ago, the pilot picked up an English bible, which had been thrown ashore from the wreck of a ship. As he understood the language, he read it through, and it opened his eyes so much, that he could not forbear, soon after, disputing with his curé upon certain points of religion. The latter was much surprised to find him so knowing, and inquired how he had obtained his information; upon which the old man showed him the bible. The priest declared it was not a fit book for him to read, and desired he would #. it into his charge. This the pilot reused, and the curé threatened to write to the bishop and have him excommunicated as a heretick. But finding that neither threats, nor entreaties, had any effect, he was necessitated to request that he would keep it to himself, and not let any of his neighbours know that he had such a book. The old pilot declared, that he considered the finding of that bible the happiest event of his life, in consequence of the comfort and consolation which he derived from perusing it.” vol. i. p. 11."
The following account of the domestick manners of the Habitans, will hardly be perused without a smile:
“The furniture of the Habitans, is plain and simple, and most commonly of their own workmanship. A few wooden chairs with twig or rush bottoms, and two or three deal tables, are placed in each room, and are seldom very ornamental; they, however, suffice, with a proper number of wooden bowls, trenchers, and spoons, for the use of the family at meals. A press, and two or three large chests, contain their wearing apparel, and other property. A buffet in one corner, contains their small display of cups, saucers, glasses, and teapots, while a few broken sets may perhaps, grace the mantlepiece. A clock is often found in their best apartment, and the sides of the room are ornamented with little pictures, or waxen images of saints and crucifixes; of the holy virgin and her son. An iron stove is generally placed in the largest apartment, with a pipe passing through the others into the chimney. The kitchen displays very little more than kettles of soup; tureens of milk; a table, a dresser, and a few chairs. The
fireplace is wide, and large logs of wood
are placed on old fashioned, iron dogs. A wooden crane supports the large kettle of soup, which is for ever on the fire. “Their chief article of food is pork, as fat as they can procure it. They all keep a great number of swine, which they fatten to their liking. Peas-soup, with a small quantity of pork boiled in it, constitutes their breakfast, dinner, and supper, day after day, with very little alteration, except what is occasioned by a few sausages, and puddings made of the entrails, when a hog is killed; or during lent, when fish and vegetables only will suffice. They are extremely fond of thick, sour milk, and will often treat themselves with a dish of it, after their pork. Milk, soup, and other spoon meat, are eaten out of a general dish, each taking a spoonful after the other. Knives and forks are seldom in request. “The old people will sometimes treat themselves with tea or coffee; in which case, they generally have to boil their water in the fryingpan; for it rarely happens that they have a teakettle in the house. An anecdote is related of a gentleman, who was travelling on the road to Montreal several years ago, when tea was almost unknown to the Habitans, and when accommodation on the road was even worse than it is now; he carried with him his provisions, and, among the rest, he had a pound of tea. On his arrival at one of the post houses in the evening, he told the mistress of the house, to make him some tea, and gave her the parcel for that purpose. In the mean time, the woman spread out her plates and dishes, knives, and forks, upon the table, and the gentleman took his meat and loaf out of the basket (for tea, without something more substantial, is poor fare when travelling, and I always found, in such cases, that a beefsteak, or a slice of cold meat, was a considerable improvement to the tea-table.) After waiting a longer time than the gentleman thought necessary to make a cup of tea, the woman came into the room; but how shall I describe his astonishment, when he beheld the whole pound of tea nicely boiled, and spread out on a dish, with a lump of butter in the middle ! the good woman had boiled it all in the chauderon, and was placing it on the table as a fine dish of greens, to accompany the gentleman’s cold beef. “Milk and water is the usual drink of the females and younger part of the family. Rum is, however, the cordial balm which relieves the men from their cares and anxieties. They are passionately fond of this pernicious liquor, and of n have a VOL. v. 2 c.
debauch when they go to market with their commodities. I have seen in the Upper Town market-place, at Quebeck, a father and his son both drunk. The young one, however, was not so bad but that he was sensible of the impropriety: so he tumbled the old man out of the spirit shop, into the street, and endeavoured to force him into the berlin, to carry him home. The old fellow, however, pulled his son down by the hair, and began to belabour him with his fist, uttering ten thousand sacrés and b–rs upon his undutiful head. The young man could not extricate himself, and being pretty much in that state which is called “crying drunk,’ he began to weep, calling out at the same time: “..Ah my father, you do not know me'! ‘..My God you do not know me'! The tears ran down his cheeks, though as much, most likely, from the blows, and tugs of the hair which he received, as from the idea of his father not knowing him. His exclamations, however, caused the old man to weep with him, and the scene became truly ludicrous; for the old fellow would not let go his hold, but continued his curses, his blows, and his tears, until the son was assisted by some other Habitans, who forced the father into the berlin; upon which the young man got in, and drove him home.
“Very few of the country people who frequent the markets in the towns, return home sober, and in wintertime, when there is not room for more than one cariole on the road, without plunging the horse four or five feet deep in snow, these people, having lost their usual politeness by intoxication, do not feel inclined to make way for the gentry in carioles, and will often run their sleighs aboard, and upset them.” P. 158.
The following anecdotes are related at p. 388 and p. 424.
“Our guide, a Cree, whose spirits had visibly begun to droop ever since we entered the defiles of the mountains, was last night presented by Mr. with some rum, to keep him hearty in the cause. Upon this he made shift to get drunk with his wife. This morning he complained that his head and stomach were out of order, and asked for a little medicine, which was given him; but finding it did him neither good nor harm, he called his wife to him, where he was sitting amidst us at a large fire we had made to warm ourselves. She readily came: he asked her if she had a sharp flint; and upon her replying she had not, he broke one, and made a lancet of it, with which he opened a vein in his wife’s arm, she assisting him with great good will. Having drawn about a pint of blood from her, in a wooden bowl, to our astonishment, he applied it to his mouth, quite warm, and drank it off; then he mixed the blood that adhered to the vessel, with water, by way of cleansing the bowl, and also drank that off. While I was considering the savageness of this action, one of our men, with indignation, exclaimed to our guide: ‘I have eaten and smoked with thee, but henceforward thou and I shall not smoke and eat together. What, drink warm from the vein, the blood of thy wife!”—“Oh, my friend,” said the Indian, “ have I done wrong when I find my stomach out of order, the warm blood of my wife, in good health, refreshes the whole of my body, and puts me to rights: in return, when she is not well, I draw blood from my arm; she drinks it; and it gives her life: all our nation do the same, and they all know it to be a good medicine.” P. 388. “It is a dangerous experiment to wander carelessly in the woods in Canada, without a guide, or a sufficient acquaintance with the paths; and instances have occurred, of people perishing even within a small distance of their own habitations. A few years ago, two young ladies who were on a visit at the house of Mr. Nicholas Montour, formerly of the Northwest Company, and who then resided at Point du Lac, near Three Rivers, strolled into the woods at the back of the house, one morning after breakfast, for the purpose of regaling themselves with the strawberries and other fruit which grew abundantly there, and were then in great perfection. One of them had an amusing novel in her hand, which she read to the other; and so interested were they with the story, and the scenery around them, that they never thought of returning to dinner. In this manner they strołled delightfully along, sometimes wrapt up in the charms of the novel, and at other times stopping to gather the fruit which lay luxuriantly scattered beneath their feet, or hung in clusters over their heads; when the declining sun at length warned thein that it was late in the afternoon. They now began to think of returning, but infortunately they had wandered from the path, and knew not which way to go. The stin, which an hour before might love afforded them some assistance, was How obscured by the lofty trees of the orest; and as the evening closed in, they *nd themselves yet more bewildered. ” lo the Host distracted state they wan
dered about among the shrubs and underwood of the forest, wringing their hands, and crying most bitterly at their melancholy situation. Their clothes were nearly torn off their backs; their hair hung in a dishevelled manner upon their necks; and the fruit which in the morning they had picked with rapture, they now loathed and detested. In this wretched condition they wandered till nearly dark, when they came up to a small hut; their hearts beat high at the sight; but it was empty They were, however, glad to take refuge in it for the night, to shelter them from the heavy dews of the forest, which were then rising. They collected a quantity of leaves, with which they made a bed, and lay down: but they could not sleep; and spent the night in unavailing tears and reproaches at their own carelessness. They however at times endeavoured to console each other with the hope that people would be despatched by Mr. Montour, in search of them. The next morning, therefore, they wisely kept within the hut, or
went out only to gather fruit to satisfy the
cravings of appetite; and that which the evening before they had loathed as the cause of their misfortune, now became the means of preserving their lives. Towards the close of the day, they heard the Indian yell in the woods, but were afraid to call out, or stir from the hut, not knowing whether they might be sent in search of them, or were a party of strange Indians, into whose hands they did not like to trust themselves.
“A second night was passed in the same forlorn state; though singular as it may appear, one of them became more composed, and, in some measure, even reconciled to her situation; which, deplorable as it was, and uncertain when they might be relieved from it, she regarded as a romantick adventure, and the following morning, with great composure, staid in the hut, and read her novel: the other gave herself up to despair, and sat upon the bed of leaves, crying and bewailing her unhappy fate. In this state they were discovered about noon, by a party of Indians, who had been sent out after them, and whose yell had been heard by the young ladies the preceding evening. Their joy at being relieved from such an alarming situation, may be more easily conceived than described, and was only equalled by the pleasure which their return gave to Mr. Montour and his family, who had almost given them up as lost, having been absent nearly three days, and wandered several miles from the house.” I’, 423,
Our extracts from the first volume having been rather copious, we must restrain ourselves in the two which succeed, but the description of the effect of the embargo at New York, as detailed in the second, is too interesting to be omitted.
“When I arrived at New York, in November, the port was filled with shipping, and the wharfs were crowded with commodities of every description. Bales of cotton, wools, and merchandise; barrels of potash, rice, flower, and salt provisions; hogsheads of sugar, chests of tea, puncheons of rum, and pipes of wine; boxes, cases, packs and packages of all sizes and denominations, were strowed upon the wharfs and landing places, or upon the decks of the shipping. All was noise and bustle. The carters were driving in every direction; and the sailors and labourers upon the wharfs, and on board the vessels, were moving their ponderous burthens from place to place. The merchants and their clerks were busily engaged in their counting houses or upon the piers. The Tontine coffeehouse was filled with underwriters, brokers, merchants,
traders and politicians;selling,purchasing,
trafficking, or ensuring; some reading, others eagerly inquiring the news. The steps and balcony of the coffeehouse were crowded with people bidding, or listening to the several auctioneers, who had elevated themselves upon a hogshead of sugar, a puncheon of rum, or a bale of cotton; and with Stentorian voices were exclaiming: “Once, twice,” “Once, twice.” “...fmother cent.” “Thank ye, gentlemen,” or were knocking down the goods which took up one side of the strect, to the best purchaser. The coffeehouse slip, and the corners of Wall and Pearl streets, were jammed up with carts, drays, and wheelbarrows: horses and men were huddled promiscuously together, leaving little or no room for passengers to pass. Such was the appearance of this part of the town when I arrived. Every thing was in motion; all was life, bustle, and activity. The people were scampering in all directions to trade with each other, and to
ship off their purchases for the European, Asian, African, and West-Indian markets. I’very thought, word, look, and action of the multitude, seemed to be absorbed by commerce; the welkin rang with its busy it im, and all were eager in the pursuit of its rich, cs.
“But on my return to New York the
following April, what a contrast was presented to my view, and how shall I describe the melancholy dejection that was painted upon the countenances of the people, who seemed to have taken leave of all their former gayety and cheerfulness. The coffeehouse slip, the wharfs, and quays along South street, presented no longer the bustle and activity that had prevailed there five months before. The nort, indeed, was full of shipping; but they were dismantled, and laid up. Their decks were cleared, their hatches fastened down, and scarcely a sailor was to be seen on board. Not a box, bale, cask, barrel, or package, was to be seen upon the wharfs. Many of the counting houses were shut up, or advertised to be let; and the few solitary merchants, clerks, porters and labourers, that were to be seen, were walking about with their hands in their pockets. Instead of sixty or one hundred carts that used to stand in the street for hire, scarcely a dozen appeared, and they were unemployed; a few coasting sloops and schooners, which were clearing out for some of the ports in the United States, were all that remained of that immense business which was carried on a few months before. The coffeehouse was almost empty; or if there happened to be a few people in it, it was merely to pass away the time which hung heavy on their hands, or to inquire anxiously after news from Europe, and from Washington; or perhaps to purchase a few bills, that were selling at ten or twelve per cent. above par. In fact, every thing presented a melancholy appearance. The streets near the water side were almost deserted, the grass had begun to grow upon the wharfs, and the minds of the people were tortured by the vague and idle rumours that were set afloat upon the arrival of every letter from England, or from the seat of government. In short, the scene was so gloomy and forlorn, that had it been the month of September instead of April, I should verily have thought that a malignant fever was raging in the place. So desolating were the cffects of the embargo, which in the short space of five months, had deprived the first commercial city in the states, of all its life, bustle, and activity. Caused above one hundred and twenty bankruptcies; and completely annihilated its foreign commerce.” p. 152.
The Fssays from the Salmagundi, a periodical work in extensive circulation at New York, are well