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General Brock
Chapter VIII - Old Quebec


CAPE DIAMOND, or the rock of Quebec, rises sheer from the river St. Lawrence to a height of three hundred and forty-five feet. The citadel on its highest point presented in the beginning of the nineteenth century a formidable combination of powerful works, whence a strong wall, supported by small batteries in different places, ran to the edge of the precipice, along which it was continued to the gateway leading to the Lower Town. This gateway was defended by heavy cannon, and the approach to it, up Mountain Street, was both enfiladed and flanked by many guns of large calibre. Thence a line of defence connected with the grand battery, a work of great strength, armed with a formidable train of 24-pounders, and commanding the basin and passage of the river, which was here eighteen hundred and thirty-seven yards broad. From the battery another line was carried on beyond the Hope and Palace Gates, both of which were protected by similar defences to those of the Lower Town Gate until the line formed a junction with the bastion of the Coteau de Palais. In the Lower Town, on the west side of St. Nicholas Street, were, in 1808, the ruins of the intendant's palace, once of much importance. In 1775 its ruin was completed, for when the Americans under Arnold blockaded the city, they established a body of troops in it, but were dislodged from their quarters by shells, which set it on fire and nearly consumed it.

The Castle of St. Louis was of stone, built near the edge of the precipice about a hundred feet below the summit of the cape, and two hundred and fifty feet above the river. It was supported towards the steep side by a solid work of masonry, rising nearly half the height of the edifice, and was surrounded by a spacious gallery which gave a most commanding view of the river and surrounding country. The Chateau was a hundred and sixty-two feet long, forty-five feet broad, and three stories high. In the direction of the cape it had the appearance of being much more lofty. It was built shortly after Quebec was fortified in 1721, but was neglected for a number of years, suffered to go to decay, and had long ceased to be the residence of the governor-general. At the time when Brock was commandant it was used only for government offices, but in 1808 parliament passed a resolution for repairing and beautifying it, and seven thousand, pounds were voted for the purpose. An additional sum of seven thousand pounds was, however, required to complete the work.

Sir James Craig was the first who occupied it after its restoration. It was in October, 1807, that this veteran officer arrived in Canada as governor-general and commander-in-chief. He was then about fifty-eight years of age, and had been constantly on service since the age of fifteen, when he entered the army. He had served in Canada in 1775 during the invasion of Montgomery and Arnold, and had been in command of the troops that had pursued the Americans in their disastrous retreat. He had been engaged afterwards under Burgoyne throughout his unfortunate campaign, and in the after events of the Revolutionary War. In 1794 he became a major-general, and was, the following year, at the capture of the Cape of Good Hope. He then did good service in India, and was promoted to be lieutenant-general in 1801. In 1802 he was placed in charge of the eastern district in England, and in 1805 was sent to the Mediterranean, where his health broke down. Believing that he had recovered he accepted the position of governor-general of Canada. In many respects it was an unfortunate appointment, for, experienced as he was in military affairs, he was lacking in tact and political knowledge, and he came to the country prejudiced to an unreasonable extent against the majority of the people he had come to govern. He had an utter disbelief in the loyalty of the French Canadians, and his treatment of them bore bitter fruit in after years. It was owing partly to his mistaken policy that the misunderstandings and ill-feeling arose which led ultimately to the rebellion of 1837. His views were strengthened by the hitherto veiled opinions of most of the official class in Quebec, and the constant daily machinations of Ryland, who filled again, as in preceding administrations, the post of private secretary to the governor, and clerk of the council. Ryland was certainly not a very suitable secretary for the governor of a country whose inhabitants were largely French and Catholic. In one of his letters the secretary wrote that he despised and hated the Catholic religion, for it degraded and embruted human reason, and became the curse of every country wherein it existed. His pet scheme, to which he tried to commit the governor, was to break the power of the Roman Catholic church by taking away its endowments, and by making the priesthood dependent on executive authority.

Late in 1806 a newspaper named Le Canadien had made its appearance in Quebec. It was published in French, and bore for its motto: "Nos institutions, notre langue, et nos lois." There was little or no antagonism between the French and English inhabitants of the province when it was founded, and its constitution simply claimed the freedom of British subjects, or in its own language, "La liberty d'un Anglais, qui est a present celle d'un Canadien." The newspaper, however, appealed to race prejudices. It was the organ of the majority of the legislative assembly, and claimed for that assembly a power that was not given to it by the constitution. The Quebec Gazette, the Quebec Mercury, and the Montreal Gazette had hitherto been the only newspapers in the province, and the editors of all had fallen under the displeasure of the assembly, which had ordered the publisher of the latter to be arrested, while the editor of the Mercury only escaped incarceration by offering an apology. The offence was that these journals had censured the vote of the majority of the popular assembly on a jail tax, which was then a burning question. It was little wonder that the wrath of the Gallo-Canadians was roused, for in one of its articles the Mercury thus expressed its opinion: "This province is far too French for a British colony. Whether we be in a state of peace or war, it is absolutely necessary that' we exert all our efforts, by every avowable means, to oppose the increase of the French and the augmentation of their influence. After forty-seven years possession, it is now fitting that the province become truly British."

Sir James Craig's first duty on his arrival was, of course, to consider the defence of Canada, for the hostile feeling in the United States was still growing, and had been increased by the orders-in-council that England had passed in November in retaliation for the Berlin decrees. These orders refused to neutrals the right of trading from one hostile port to another, and bore heavily upon the profitable carrying trade of the United States.

Before Sir James Craig's arrival, Brock had petitioned the government for the means to place the fortifications of Quebec in what he considered a proper condition. He said he would require from six hundred to one thousand men every day for six weeks or two months to complete the defences. From the correspondence it is shown that the president-in-council considered that embodying the militia according to law was all that the civil government could undertake to do. Brock wrote to Colonel Gordon on September 6th, 1807, that he was expecting hostilities to break out at any moment, and that President Dunn had taken no precautionary measures except to order one-fifth of the militia—about ten thousand men—to be in readiness to march on the shortest notice. In spite of the lack of cooperation on the part of the government, repairs and additions had been made to the fortifications under Colonel Brock's superintendence. Amongst other things, he had caused a battery of eight 36-pounders to be raised sixteen feet upon the "cavalier" in the centre of the citadel, so as to command the opposite heights. This was known at first as "Brock's Battery," but the name was afterwards altered by Sir James Craig to "King's Battery." "Thinking," as Brock good-humouredly writes to his brother, "that anything so very preeminent should be distinguished by the most exalted appellation — the greatest compliment that he could pay my judgment."

After the conquest, having left the army and become a settler in Canada, he was appointed by Lord Dorchester one of the members of the first legislative council. In the invasion of 1775, he was particularly active in visiting the American camp at Sorel, was taken prisoner by the Americans and sent in irons to Albany. During his absence they burned his manor house and destroyed his property. His son, James Ross Cuthbert, married an American, a daughter of Doctor Rush, of Philadelphia. A sister of this lady was married to a Captain Manners of the 49th.

Brock writes of them both to his sister-in-law in England, begging her to call on Mrs. Manners, who was then living at Barnet. He says, "Her sister Mrs. Ross Cuthbert, a charming little creature, makes her husband, (my most intimate friend and with whom I pass a great part of my leisure hours) a most happy man." men than their mere promise, and as it is intended to give every possible latitude to their prejudices, and to study in everything their convenience, it is thought no regulation to that effect can operate to diminish the number of voluntary offers. As you have been the first to set such a laudable example, Sir James thinks it but just that Berthier should take the lead in any new project he may adopt, and he desires me to ask your opinion in regard to the following points." Then followed the proposals of government with regard to arms, clothing and pay, and the rank of the officers.

Before the arrival of Sir James Craig, Brock wrote that voluntary offers of service had been made by numbers of the inhabitants to form themselves into corps of cavalry, artillery and infantry, at little or no expense to government if they were furnished with arms, but these offers had not been encouraged by President Dunn. The fact was, as the minutes of council show, there were no means at the disposal of the executive for equipping, arming, and paying troops. The militia, when embodied, were entitled to receive the same pay and allowance as the king's troops. The minute of council reads:—"No funds for this purpose are at the disposal of the civil government, but have invariably been provided by the commander-in-chief of the forces.' The civil government is not by law authorized to provide for the furnishing of carts or horses for works as proposed."

At this time Lieutenant-Governor Gore had been supplied with four thousand muskets from the king's arsenal at Quebec, and with various military stores. This left at Quebec only seven thousand muskets for the militia of Lower Canada. As to the temper of the militia of the province, Brock says in a letter to his friend, Colonel Gordon: "The Canadians have unquestionably shown a great willingness upon this occasion to be trained, and I make not the least doubt, would oppose with vigour any invasion of the Americans. How far the same sentiments would actuate them were a French force to join I will not undertake to say; at any rate I feel that every consideration of prudence and policy ought to determine me to keep in Quebec a sufficient force to secure its safety. The number of troops that could be detached would be small, notwithstanding a great deal might be done, in conjunction with the militia, in a country intersected in every direction by rivers, deep ravines, and lined at intervals on both sides of the roads by thick woods."

Another proposal to raise a volunteer corps among the Scottish settlers of Glengarry had been made by Colonel John Macdonell. This was forwarded by Brock to the secretary of state. Brock strongly advocated the formation of the corps, as he said at that time there were only three hundred militia trained to arms in both the Canadas. He also advocated the appointment of the Rev. Alexander Macdonell as chaplain of the corps. The men were all Highland Catholics, and were very much attached to him. He had acted as the chaplain of the Glengarry Fencibles during the rebellion in Ireland in 1796, who had emigrated to Canada under his leadership in 1803, and had settled in the eastern district of Upper Canada. Brock thought the corps would be soon completed and would form a nursery from which the army might draw a number of hardy recruits. It was some time, however, before this was done.

At the close of the year 1807, there was a feeling of greater security in Canada, for public feeling in the states had calmed. Brock writes on December 13th, to his friend Ross Cuthbert:—"You will do me the justice to believe that I did not lose a moment in laying the clear and satisfactory statement you sent me of the constitution and character of the volunteer company under your command before the governor. That something will shortly be done there is no doubt, although the prevailing idea here is against a war with our neighbours. People imagine the Americans will not dare to engage in the contest, but as I consider their councils to be directed solely by French influence, it is impossible to say where it will lead them."

The French influence feared by Brock was still further to be exercised the following year, when Napoleon, by every means in his power, endeavoured to force on a war between the United States and Great Britain.


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