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General Brock
Chapter VII - Preparations for War


IN 1805 Brock was again quartered in Quebec.

In August of that year, General Hunter, the acting lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada and commander-in-chief was taken ill and died at Quebec, just after the departure on leave of Sir Robert Milnes. His death placed both provinces in a peculiar position. There was neither a governor, commander-in-chief, nor lieutenant-governor in the Canadas. Nor was there a chief justice, for Chief Justice Elmsley, who had succeeded Osgoode at Quebec, had died rather suddenly, while Chief Justice Cochrane, who had taken the former's place in Upper Canada, had been drowned with the solicitor-general and other members of the court by the foundering of the Speedy in Lake Ontario. The country was therefore deprived of almost all its leading officials. To meet the emergency Colonel Bowes of the 6th Regiment, as senior officer, had assumed the military authority and Mr. Thomas Dunn, president of the council, had been appointed civil administrator on the departure of Sir Robert Milnes. In Upper Canada, Mr. Peter Russell, senior councillor, called a meeting of the legislative council, and Mr. Alexander Grant, better known as Commodore Grant, was chosen acting lieutenant-governor. Alexander Grant was a native of Inverness, Scotland, and had served in Amhersts army, under whom he had been appointed to command a small fleet on Lake Erie. His home was at Grosse Point, above Detroit.

In October, 1805, Lieutenant-Colonel Brock was made a full colonel and shortly afterwards returned to England on leave. While there he seized the opportunity to lay before the Duke of York, then commander-in-chief, the scheme he had drawn up for the improvement of the army in Canada. The report was favourably received and some of its recommendations were afterwards carried out.

During the absence of Brock in Canada, some changes had come to his family. His eldest brother John, the brevet lieutenant-colonel of the 81st, and a soldier of great promise, had been killed in 1801 in a duel at the Cape of Good Hope. The second brother had long before been killed in service at Baton Rouge, on the Mississippi. The third brother, Daniel de Lisle, was now a very important man in Guernsey. In 1795 he had been elected a jurat of the royal court and had been sent as its representative to London in connection with the trade and certain ancient privileges of the island. He was afterwards for many years lieutenant-bailiff or chief magistrate of Guernsey. The next brother, William, was a merchant residing in London and engaged in trade with the Baltic. He was married but had no children, and had taken the keenest interest in his brother Isaac's career, advancing the money when it was required for his various steps. Savery Brock, younger than Isaac, was the one whose exploits have been already related. Irving, the next brother, had literary tastes, was a clever translator, and a writer of pamphlets, some of which were of great merit. The two sisters were both married. Elizabeth to John E. Tupper, of Guernsey; Mary to Thomas Potenger, of Compton, Berkshire. Isaac Brock was tenderly devoted to his family as his many letters show, and his sojourn once more among them filled his heart with joy.

The years 1804-5 had been eventful ones in Europe. In May, 1804, the first consul had been made by "the grace of God and the constitution of the republic," emperor of the French, and henceforth dropped the name of Bonaparte for that of Napoleon. He was crowned on December 2nd at Paris by the Pope, and afterwards at Milan as king of Italy. In England Pitt was once more at the helm as prime minister.

During the summer of 1805 Napoleon had assembled a large force on the shores of the English Channel with a flotilla at Boulogne, and had given to this force the significant name of the "Army of England." The invasion of that country and the plunder of London were confidently talked of among his soldiers.

Austria was in vain remonstrating against his occupation of Italy, while the Czar of Russia and Gustavus of Sweden were also protesting against his encroachments on the territory of the weaker powers. A new coalition was now formed against him of England, Russia, Austria and Sweden. Prussia remained neutral. General Mack, who had shown his incapacity in 1798, was unfortunately placed at the head of the Austrian army, while the more capable Archduke Charles commanded in Italy where General Massena led the French army. With one of those sudden coups for which he was famous, Napoleon withdrew his "Army of England" to march to the Rhine and ordered other troops from Holland, France and Hanover to meet them there. This formed what was called the '' Grand Army," commanded in person by the emperor. No coalition was able to withstand his victorious progress. But England held the sea.

On October 17th, 1805, General Mack was surrounded at Ulm, and surrendered with twenty-five thousand men. The French entered Vienna on November 15th. The Russian army under the Emperor Alexander in person had assembled in Moravia. Being joined by some Austrian divisions it amounted to about eighty thousand men. Then came the great battle of Austerlitz on December 2nd. Both armies were about equal in numbers but the Russians extended their line' too much. The slaughter among the allies was terrific and thousands were drowned trying to cross the half frozen lakes in the rear.

"Roll up the map of Europe," said the dying Pitt, when he heard of these disasters, "it will not be wanted these ten years." After his crushing defeat the czar had an interview with Napoleon when an armistice was agreed upon and the Russians were allowed to return to their own country. On December 27th peace was signed between Austria and France, the former giving up Dalmatia and the Venetian provinces to Italy.

While these events were occurring in Europe the feeling in the United States against England was becoming more and more bitter. The news from America was so threatening that Colonel Brock, who was in Guernsey, determined to go back to Canada before the expiration of his leave. He left London, never to return, on June 26th, 1806, and sailed from Cork in the Lady Saumarez, a Guernsey vessel well manned and armed as a letter of marque bound to Quebec. His sister wrote on the 27th, "Isaac left town last evening for Milford Haven. Dear fellow; Heaven knows when we shall see him again!"

At the time of Brock's second arrival in Canada the civil government of the Lower Province was still administered by President Dunn, [Dunn used the title of president in virtue of his position in the council. He was at this time acting governor.] but as Colonel Bowes of the 6th Regiment had given up his command in order to go on active service in Europe, Colonel Brock succeeded to the command of the troops in both provinces. Eight companies of the 49th were at this time quartered in Quebec under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Sheaffe. The latter had learned a lesson from the melancholy affair of the mutiny at Fort George, and Colonel Brock reported on the good order and discipline that prevailed in the garrison.

Besides the 49th there was quartered in Quebec part of the 100th Regiment, consisting then nearly altogether of raw recruits. The men were mostly Protestants from the North of Ireland, robust, active and good looking, and Brock reported that the order and discipline of so young a corps was remarkable. They were under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Murray. A terrible disaster had overtaken the regiment the year before. On its way to Quebec on October 21st, 1805 (the day that the battle of Trafalgar was fought) it was wrecked off the coast of Newfoundland. Major Bertram, three captains, six lieutenants, the assistant surgeon and about two hundred men perished. Part of the 100th was now quartered in Montreal under Major Hamilton. The 41st Regiment was scattered throughout Upper Canada at Kingston, Fort George, Amherstburg and St. Joseph. Lieutenant-Colonel Procter commanded at Fort George.

The first thing that occupied Colonel Brock's attention in his new position as commander-in-chief was the repair of the fortifications of Quebec. Something had been done to restore them in Sir Guy Carleton's time, and again during the administration of Sir Robert Prescott, but the walls on the western side were old and decayed, and not in a condition to stand a heavy fire. Hospital accommodation was also needed, and Brock wrote at once to the secretary of the colonies, the Rt. Hon. W. Windham, representing that the sick had to be placed in hired houses of the most miserable description, unfitted to keep out the cold of winter or the heat of summer. Brock advised the construction of a hospital to cost about three thousand pounds^ The quarters then occupied by the various offices of government, both civil and military, were an extensive building on the opposite side of the square to that on which stood the old and dilapidated Chateau St. Louis. The part used by the governors as a residence contained a suite of apartments wherein balls and entertainments were given. The building was of very plain exterior, and formed part of the curtain that ran between the two exterior bastions of the old fortress which covered about four acres of ground. South-west of the Chateau was an excellent and well-stocked garden; for, cold as the winters were, the hot summers ripened quickly all sorts of fruits and vegetables. The monastery of the Jesuits near by had been turned into barracks and was a spacious stone building three stories high. It had been in former years surrounded by large and beautiful gardens. The bishop's palace, too, had been taken over by the government, and was used as offices for the legislative council, the executive council, and the House of Assembly. The latter met in what was once the chapel, a room sixty-five feet long by thirty-six feet wide. Forty acres around Cape Diamond were reserved for military use. A house, once the residence of Chief Justice Elmsley, had been converted into barracks for officers. During the winter of 1806, Brock occupied himself with plans for the fortification of Quebec, and a great deal of correspondence took place on the subject between him and the acting governor, Mr. Dunn. He represented to the latter that the reserves of the Crown were being encroached upon by the inhabitants, and that a great portion of the ground in question would be required for the erection of new and extensive works. He referred particularly to the enclosures and buildings on the glacis in front of St. John's Gate, and said that if these encroachments were permitted, it might at some future day endanger the safety of the place.

A long correspondence also took place about a piece of vacant land that was needed as a parade ground for the troops, of which there were then about a thousand in garrison. The ground in question was the garden of the Jesuits adjoining the barracks, and had been seized by the Crown on the death of Father Cazot, the last of the order in Canada. It was a standing grievance with the French Canadians that this property had been appropriated by the government. The correspondence between President Dunn and Colonel Brock was rather a heated one, and the latter laid the case before the authorities in England. He tells the story of how he had asked permission of the president to use this vacant ground for drilling the troops, and how he had cleared it of weeds on the understanding that the president, although he could not officially allow it to be converted into a parade ground, would shut his eyes and not interfere. The troops had paraded there and at first no notice was taken, but a few days afterwards a letter was received from the acting governor, expressing his disapprobation of the proceedings, and denying that he had given his tacit consent to the measure. It was one of the not unusual differences of opinion between the civil and military authorities. Mr. Dunn had lived for a long time among the inhabitants of the country, and had to consider their prejudices.

Brock had his own way, however, for a few years later a writer mentions these once beautiful gardens as a place for the exercise of the troops, and laments the fall of the stately trees that from the foundation of the city had been the original tenants of the ground.

At this time, 1807, Mr. Francis Gore was lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada. He had entered the 44th Regiment as an ensign in 1787 when eighteen years of age, and had been quartered as a subaltern with Isaac Brock, both in Jersey and Guernsey. Fate had once more thrown them together. After the peace of Amiens in 1802, Gore had retired from the army, but when hostilities had broken out again he was appointed inspecting field officer of volunteers with the rank of lieutenant-colonel. He succeeded so well in his new position that Pitt made him governor of Bermuda, and from that post he succeeded General Hunter as lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada. He did not, however, supersede Colonel Brock as commander-in-chief, and military returns were sent from the Upper Province to Quebec during the winter by Indians hired for this purpose. Sometimes it took months for communications between the two provinces. There was also some correspondence about Indian affairs, and Colonel Brock announced that although his predecessor, Colonel Bowes, had given directions about the management of Indians in Upper Canada, he intended himself to follow His Majesty's instructions of 1796, and leave the sole control of Indian affairs in that province to the lieutenant-governor.

As soon as Colonel Brock assumed command of the troops he found it necessary to look into the accounts of the deputy commissary-general. They were in great confusion, a sum of thirty-six thousand three hundred and fifty pounds sterling not being accounted for. The commissary when called upon to explain the large deficit objected to the rank of Colonel Brock, and wrote that he did not think any authority then in Canada was competent to give orders by which his duties and responsibilities under the instructions of the lords commissioners of His Majesty's treasury could be in any manner altered. Colonel Brock looked upon his position as commander-in-chief in a different light, and replied:—"In respect to the last paragraph of your letter, relating to the two characters (the president of Lower, and the lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada), whom you consider as more competent than myself to exercise authority, it will be time to investigate the question when either of them shall express a wish to assume the command, but in the meantime I shall exercise it with promptitude and decision."

There certainly was need for an enquiry, for it was found that no examination had been made in the stores account since 1788, nor in the fuel account since 1796. The enquiry resulted in the retirement of the officer in charge, who was found to be insolvent. Colonel Brock was most careful and precise himself in money affairs, and required all those under him to be rigidly correct in the expenditure of the public money.

He writes in January, 1807, to Colonel Glasgow, president of the board of accounts:—"I have to request the board to continue diligently to ascertain the sufficiency of every authority for expenditure before it sanctions the smallest charge.....When expense is incurred without the most urgent cause, and more particularly when large sums are stated to have been expended in anticipation of services not yet authorized, my duty strictly compels me to withhold my approval to all such irregular proceedings. "

There was another and very important branch of the service in Canada which required supervision, namely, the marine department, and it was to Brock's foresight that Great Britain owed her supremacy of the lakes when the war of 1812 broke out. He ordered the building and outfitting of vessels and bateaux for the lakes and rivers of both the Upper and Lower Province. He also directed that an assistant quartermaster-general should be stationed at Amherstburg and another at Kingston, the former to superintend the repairs and stores of the boats on Lake Erie, the latter those on Lake Ontario. Colonel Brock ordered the following number of boats to be kept in constant repair at the several military posts : At Quebec, six; Three Rivers, two; Fort William Henry, four; Montreal, seven; St. Johns, two; Kingston, four; Fort George, twelve; York, three; Amherstburg, four.

In September, 1806, Charles Fox, who had always been friendly and conciliatory in his dealings with the United States, died, and what was known as "The ministry of all the talents" was dissolved. Early in 1807, the Duke of Portland's ministry was formed, of which Spencer Perceval and George Canning were the leading spirits. In France, Talleyrand was still foreign minister, although his influence was waning, and he no longer approved of Napoleon's methods. He had been foreign minister under the Directory when he attached himself to the growing power of the First Consul; and while the great diplomat remained at his side, Napoleon's career was one of continued success. Soon after this date, as Prince of Benevento, Talleyrand disappears from the field of politics.

In America, Jefferson was assisted in his second administration by Madison and Gallatin, while Monroe and Pinkney and Armstrong were his ministers abroad.

News came early in 1807 of Napoleon's further triumphs. The victories of Jena and Auerstadt followed Austerlitz, and on October 27th Napoleon entered Berlin, and from that city on November 21st issued the famous Berlin decrees' against British commerce. They began by charging that England disregarded the law of nations, that she made non-combatants prisoners of war, confiscated private property, blockaded unfortified harbours and considered places as blockaded although she had not a single ship before them.

By the Berlin decrees it was proclaimed that the British Isles were in a state of blockade. Intercourse with them was prohibited. All British subjects within French authority were to be held as prisoners of war. All British property, private and public, was declared prize of war. No British ships were to be admitted to any port of France or her allies. Every vessel, eluding this rule was to be confiscated. These decrees not only affected England but struck at the roots of neutral rights and of American commerce with Europe. The motive was obvious. Stung by his repeated defeats at sea, and unable to cope with his great enemy on the ocean, Napoleon had turned his attention to the utter destruction of the trade of Great Britain. At this moment the latter had not one ally on the continent of Europe.

The treaty with America that had been under consideration for some time, had been signed in London by Monroe and Pinkney on behalf of the United States. It had, however, been repudiated by the president, and the unfriendly feeling towards England had been still further increased by the affair of the Leopard and Chesapeake on June 22nd, 1807. This arose from the desertion in March of certain seamen from the sloop Halifax commanded by Lord Townshend, while lying in Hampton Roads, Virginia. One of its btpats and five men with a petty officer had been sent on some duty. The men rose against their officer, and threatened to throw him overboard. They then rowed to shore, landed at Norfolk, Virginia, and immediately enlisted on board the Chesapeake. On a formal demand being made for the men to be given up, the municipal authorities refused to interfere, although in similar cases of desertion at Gibraltar and elsewhere, British municipal assistance had been rendered to the United States. Three deserters from H.M.S. Melampus were also alleged to have enlisted on the Chesapeake.

On June 21st, the Leopard, under command of Captain Humphreys met the Chesapeake, under the command of Commodore Barron, and demanded the British deserters who were on board. On the latter's refusal to have his crew mustered, the Leopard fired a broadside doing considerable damage. The Chesapeake, not being in a condition to resist, then struck, and the captain offered to give her up as a prize, which Captain Humphreys refused, saying that he had executed the order of his commander and had nothing more to do. Four deserters were brought as prisoners on board the Leopard, two more were killed by her fire and one jumped overboard. The responsibility for the order rested on Admiral Berkeley, then stationed at Halifax.

Intense excitement was caused by this event and the president issued a proclamation ordering all armed British vessels to depart from the harbours of the Ignited States. In England, Canning, who was then secretary of war, had some correspondence on the subject with Monroe, the American representative. The British minister expressed regret and offered to make reparation if it should be proved such was due. Monroe, in pursuance of his instructions, demanded that the men taken from the Chesapeake should be restored, the offenders punished, that a special mission should be sent to the United States to announce the reparation, and that all impressment from merchant vessels should cease. Canning absolutely refused to consider the latter clause. He also asked whether the proclamation of the president as to British ships of war was authentic, or would be withdrawn on the disavowal of the act which led to it. The nationality of the men seized, he added, must also be considered, not in justification of their seizure, but in the estimate of the redress asked. As to impressment, Canning said, the mode of regulating the practice might be considered, but if Monroe's instructions left him no discretion it was useless to discuss the matter.

Then followed a proclamation by the government regarding the desertion of British seamen. Naval officers were ordered to seize them from merchant vessels without unnecessary violence. All who returned to their allegiance would be pardoned. Those who served on ships of war at enmity with Great Britain, would be punished with extreme severity.

Just before this proclamation was issued the Non-importation Act, which had been passed in April by congress, came into force. Then followed the president's embargo on United States vessels,1 which continued all through 1808. In the meantime Admiral Berkeley had been recalled, though public opinion in England took his side, and recognized the right of search in ships of war for seamen who had deserted in order to enlist in the United States service. As to the Chesapeake affair, Mr. Rose, vice-president of the board of trade, was sent by Canning to negotiate at Washington. He was empowered to state that the three men taken were to be discharged, but the right was reserved of reclaiming from American vessels such as were proved to be deserters or natural born subjects of England. As the attack had been disavowed an allowance would be made to the widows and orphans of those killed who could be proved not to be British subjects; no severe proceedings were asked to be taken against Commodore Barron, but a demand was to be made for the formal disavowal on the part of his government of his conduct in encouraging deserters. Negotiations failed, however, as neither party would yield on several important points, such as power of impressment, the president's proclamation and the disavowal of Commodore Barron's action. The Chesapeake affair therefore remained as an unadjusted national dispute.

All through that year on the borders of Canada the expectation was that muttered threats would turn to blows, and that those who would defend the land must make ready. In Quebec, Brock, who was still in command, aided the administration by zeal and energy, and used all the resources in his power to make the fortress of Quebec impregnable. In August the militia were called out, one fifth to be prepared to march wherever required. In spite of the opinions expressed by some of the English officials, the French Canadians turned out with alacrity. Secretary Ryland, their bitter enemy, was one who expressed himself as doubtful of their loyalty. Colonel Brock wrote in reply that he was not prepared to hear that the population of the province, instead of affording him ready and effectual support, might probably add to the number of his enemies. He was confident that should an emergency arise, voluntary offers of service would be made by a considerable number of brave and loyal subjects. "Even now," he said, "several gentlemen are ready to come forward and enrol into companies, men whose fidelity can be relied on."

The administrator, Mr. Dunn, also expressed himself as confident of the loyalty of the French Canadians. He wrote this testimony as to their conduct, "The president also feels himself justified in asserting that a more ardent devotion to His Majesty's person and government had never been witnessed in any part of the British dominions." Monseigneur Plessis, the Catholic Bishop of Quebec, was always a staunch supporter of English rule. In common with the majority of the priests and leading Roman Catholics, he probably feared that their church would be more in danger if the "Bostonais  as they were called, became masters of the country than if it remained under England. The Bishop's mandement to his flock emphasized his loyalty:—"You have not waited until this province should be menaced by an invasion nor even until war should be declared, to give proofs of your zeal and of your good-will in the public service. At a suspicion even, at the first appearance of a rupture with the neighbouring states, you have acted as it was your duty to do—ready to undertake anything, to sacrifice everything, rather than to expose yourselves to a change of government, or to lose the inestimable advantage that your present condition assures to you." In every parish, as fathers and sons mustered for service, Te Deums were sung and Psalms were chanted, and all along the banks of the St. Lawrence the people of an alien tongue and race and religion rallied round the standard of the English king.


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