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General Brock
Chapter XI - Quebec and Niagara


IN July, 1810, Brock was still in Quebec. He writes from there to his brother Irving, thanking him for executing some commissions for him in London. All had arrived safely with the exception of "a cocked hat," and not receiving it was a most distressing circumstance, "as," he added, "from the enormity of my head I find the utmost difficulty in getting a substitute in this country."

General Brock was most anxious to go to England, but had almost given up the thought. Several events of a disturbing nature had occurred in the upper country, and it was agreed that he should be sent there, whether temporarily or permanently it was not decided. If a senior brigadier should come out he would certainly himself be fixed in Upper Canada. With a little bitterness, not often noticed in his correspondence, he writes: "Since all my efforts to get more actively employed have failed; since fate decrees that the best portion of my life is to be wasted in inaction in the Canadas, I am rather pleased with the prospect of removing upwards." He writes in his letter of July 10th that three hundred vessels have already arrived in Quebec. A Guernsey vessel had come, bringing, much to his delight, letters from his brother Savery, who, after Sir John Moore's death, had returned home. The May fleet which had arrived from Portsmouth in thirty days (a very quick passage) had brought nothing for him—"not the scrape of a pen." His brother Irving was then in London, writing political pamphlets, which seem to have pleased his brother very much. He writes: "You have taken a very proper view of the political discussions which at this moment disgrace England. . . . Those to whom I have allowed a perusal, and who are infinitely better judges than I can be, speak of the purity of the language in terms of high approbation. I am all anxiety for your literary fame."

Quebec seems to have been particularly gay at this time, in spite of wrangles with the governor on the part of some of the inhabitants. Two frigates were at anchor in the harbour, and the arrival of Lieutenant-Governor Gore and his wife from the Upper Province had given a. zest to the gaiety. There were races and country and water parties, a continual round of festivity. Brock remarks: "Such stimulus is necessary to keep our spirits afloat. I wish I could boast a little more patience." We read that General Brock contributed to the festivities by giving a grand dinner in honour of Mrs. Gore, at which Sir James Craig was present; and also a ball to a "vast assemblage" of the beau monde of the place.

In the midst of the gaiety he received his orders to depart for the Upper Province, to remain there if another brigadier should arrive in Quebec. He was puzzled what to do with his possessions. If he left them behind he would be miserably off, as he wrote: "Nothing but eatables can be obtained there, and the expense will be ruinous if I move everything and then am ordered back. But I must submit to all without repining, and since I cannot get to Europe I care little where I am placed. I leave the most delightful garden imaginable, with abundance of melons and other good things."

He found time before he left to do an act of kindness to one of the soldiers of the 49th, an act so natural in him to those who served under him. He writes: "I have prevailed upon Sir James to appoint Sergeant Robinson, master of the band, to a situation in the commissariat at Sorel, worth three and sixpence a day, with subaltern lodging, money and other allowances. He married a Jersey lass, whose relations may enquire for him."

He tells his sister that he means to procure in the autumn handsome skins to make muffs for his two young nieces, Maria and Zelia Potenger. He wants "the two dear little girls" to write to him, and bids them appreciate the advantages they are receiving as to education, so different "from this colony, where the means for education for both sexes are very limited."

By September, 1810, Brigadier-General Brock is settled at Fort George, and a chatty letter from the Adjutant-General, Colonel Baylies, tells him what is happening in Quebec—how Baron de Rottenburg had arrived, and although a year older than Sir James Craig (who was sixty), looked a much younger man; how his wife, Madame de Rottenburg, had made a complete conquest of all hearts. She was remarkably handsome both in face and figure, and her manners were pleasing, graceful and affable. She was much younger than her husband, and they both spoke English very well, with but a slight foreign accent. Sir James Craig was reported as being very well, and his sixtieth birthday had just been celebrated at a very pleasant party at Powell Place. Colonel Baynes told Brock that there had just been a court-martial on some deserters. Two, one of them a Canadian, had been sentenced to be shot; the others, a dozen in number, were to be sentenced to be transported to serve for life in Africa.

Brock writes to his brother in September, from Fort George, a very homesick letter. He says: "At present, Vincent, Glegg, and Williams enliven this lonesome place. They are here on a court-martial, but will soon depart, and I will be left to my own reflections. I hope to obtain leave after Christmas. The arrival of Baron de Rottenburg has, I think, diminished my prospect of advancement in this country. I should stand, evidently, in my own light if I did not court fortune elsewhere."

He had taken a trip to Detroit which he thought had most delightful surroundings, far exceeding anything he had seen on the continent. "As to the manners of the American people, I do not admire them at all. I have met with some whose society was everything one could desire, and at Boston and New York such characters are, I believe, numerous, but these are the exceptions." He had not had a letter from Europe since May. He continues, "I wish you would write to me by way of New York. I avail myself of an unexpected passenger to scribble this in presence of many of the court, who tell me it is time to resume our labours, therefore, my beloved brother, adieu."

A list still remains of the books which helped to enliven his solitude at Niagara.1 Among them one finds Johnson's Works, twelve volumes; Reed's and Bell's Editions of Shakespeare; Plutarch's Lives; Hume's Essays; Arthur on Courts Martial; Rollins' Ancient History; Marshall's Travels; Life of Cond£; Wharton's Virgil; Francis's Horace; Gregory's Dictionary of Arts and Sciences; Pope's Works; Expedition to Holland; Si&clede Louis Quatorze; Gui-bert's (Euvres Militaires; Rdglement de l'lnfanterie; Aventures de Teldmaque; Voltaire's La Henriade; Walcheren Expedition; Erudition Militaire; King of Prussia's Tactics; European Magazine; Edinburgh Review; Memoirs of Talleyrand; Wolfe's Orders; Reflexions sur les Freguges Militaires; Hume's Works. He writes to his brother, "I read much, but good books are scarce, and I hate borrowing, I like to read a book quickly and afterwards revert to such passages as have made the deepest impression and which appear to me important to remember, a practice I cannot conveniently pursue unless the book is mine. Should you find that I am likely to remain here I wish you to send me some choice authors in history, particularly ancient history, with maps, and the best translation of ancient works. I read in my youth Pope's translation of Homer, but till lately never discovered its exquisite beauties. I firmly believe the same propensity was always inherent in me, but strange to tell, although many were paid extravagantly, I never had the advantage of a master to guide and encourage me. I rejoice that my nephews are more fortunate."

Brock's application for leave was not favourably received by Sir James Craig, who was strongly impressed with the necessity of having some one like him in the Upper Province to correct the errors and neglect that had crept in there. Baynes writes: " In confidence between ourselves, I do not think he will be more ready to part with you in consequence of the arrival of Colonel Murray, who is not at all to his taste." It seems that Colonel (afterwards the distinguished Major-General Murray), had offended the governor at a dinner by warmly espousing and defending the opinions of Cobbett respecting German troops and foreign officers, although sitting opposite to Baron de Rottenburg.

Baynes writes that Brock's successor, the baron, was a good kind of man and devoted to his profession, "but," he continues, "it would be vain to attempt to describe the genuine admiration and estimation of his cava dolce sposa. Young, only twenty-three—fair, beautiful, lively, discreet, witty, affable—in short, so engaging, or rather, so fascinating that neither my courier nor my paper will admit of my doing her justice. Nevertheless the charms of madame have not effaced you from the recollection of your friends, who very sincerely regret your absence."

He reports that two hundred volunteers for Colonel Zouch, from other veteran battalions, had arrived and landed. The regiment was to be completed in this manner to one thousand.

Baynes writes again about Brock's leave and says that he had talked with the commander-in-chief, who expressed his desire to forward his views, but said that he had been contending so long for the necessity of a third general officer being kept constantly on the staff of the Canadas, that he did not feel at liberty to overset the arrangement which he had been two years soliciting. When he (Baynes), said that Brock regretted inaction, and looked with envy on those employed in Spain and Portugal, the governor replied, "I make no doubt of it; but X can in no shape aid his plans in that respect." "If he liked you less," Baynes continued, "he might perhaps be more readily induced to let you go."

Brock had taken a great interest in an old veteran, formerly in the 8th, or King's, the regiment in which he had begun his military life, and in which his brother John had served. Colonel Baynes writes, " I have not failed to communicate to Sir James your account of and your charity towards the poor old fellow. He has in consequence directed the allowance of the ration to be authorized and continued to him; but I am to remind you of the danger of establishing a precedent of this nature, and to request, in the general's name, that you will refrain as much as possible from indulging the natural benevolence of your disposition in this way, as he has hitherto resisted all applications of this sort."

At this time, early in 1811, Lieutenant-Governor Gore was contemplating a visit to England, and there was some correspondence between him and General Brock about the location of a grant of five thousand acres of land that had been made some years before to Colonel Vesey. Brock had promised the latter to arrange about it before the lieutenant-governor left Canada, and wrote that there were tracts of excellent land on Lake Erie belonging to the Crown, and also that a new township was being surveyed near the head of Lake Ontario, either of which situations would be eligible. The lieutenant-governor replied that it was not in his power to comply with Colonel Vesey's wish in respect of location without a special order from the king, as in the case of Colonel Talbot, and that it was impossible in any township to obtain five thousand acres in a block.

The lieutenant-governor remarked in his letter that he thought President Madison's address very hostile to England, but that congress would hesitate before consenting to go the length he proposes. "Taking forcible possession of West Florida may provoke a war sooner than any other act. It is impossible to foresee how this may be viewed by the Cortez."

As to Florida, a convention of American citizens settled near the borders of West Florida, had attacked the Spanish fort at Baton Rouge, and announced that country to be a free and independent state. The leader of the convention then wrote to the secretary of state, urging that it should be annexed to the United States, but claiming all public lands for themselves. In reply the president sent a sharp message to the revolutionary convention saying that their independence was an impertinence and their design on public lands something worse. He also issued a proclamation announcing that Governor Claiborne would take possession of West Florida. The military occupation of the country was, in fact, an act of war against Spain, but that kingdom which had once held sway over two American continents, from the sources of the Missouri and the Mississippi to the borders of Patagonia, was powerless to resist.

Letters of this date speak of the awful suspense felt in England while the armies of Wellington and Massena were in such close proximity, and the latter was advancing on the lines of Torres Vedras to drive the English army into the sea. They speak, too, of the sad illness of the old king, who after the death of the Princess Amelia had relapsed into hopeless insanity. Brock writes, "If we are to be governed by a regent I trust that ambition, jealousy or party interests, will not conspire to diminish or circumscribe his regal powers."

He writes to his brother, Irving Brock, that he had seen "Thoughts on Political Transactions," in answer to his admirable pamphlet, and remarks that the author appears to proclaim his servile attachment to Bonaparte without in any way refuting his (Irving's) arguments.

Another notable man among General Brock's friends writes to him in January. This was Colonel Kempt, afterwards General Sir James Kempt, G.C.B., governor-general of British America.

Colonel Kempt was at this time quartermaster-general in Canada, and had, under Sir James Craig, superintended the building of roads and bridges in the Lower Province. In November, 1811, he was made local major-general in Spain and Portugal. He afterwards served on the staff in America and in Flanders. He was made a K.C.B. in January, 1815, was wounded at Waterloo, and was then promoted to be a Grand Cross. The sovereigns of Austria, Russia and the Netherlands also decorated him for his services. In 1820 he was governor of Nova Scotia in place of the Earl of Dalhousie, whom he succeeded as governor-general of Canada. He died in England after a long and glorious career, at the age of ninety.

Colonel Kempt wrote to Brock on the subject of his leave. He assured him that he had no reason to dread being unemployed in any rank while he wished to serve. "This opinion, my dear general," he writes, "is not given rashly or upon slight grounds—before I came to this country I had, you must know, several opportunities of hearing your name mentioned at head-quarters, both by General Calvert and Colonel Gordon, who unquestionably spoke the sentiment of the then commander-in-chief, and in such a way as to impress me with a thorough conviction that few officers of your rank stood higher in their estimation. In short, I have no manner of doubt whatever that you will readily obtain employment upon active service the moment that you do get home, and with this view I recommend you to express, through Baynes, your sense of His Excellency's good intentions and wishes to you in respect to leave of absence, and your hopes that when the circumstances of the country are such as will permit him to grant six months' leave to a general officer, that this indulgence will be extended in the first instance to you.

"I am very happy that you are pleased with Mrs. Murray. I have just received a long letter from her, giving me an account of a splendid ball given by you to the beau monde of Niagara and its vicinity. The manner in which she speaks of your liberality and hospitality reminds me of the many pleasant hours I have passed under your roof. We have no such parties now. Sir James being ill prevents the usual public days at the Castle, and nothing more stupid than Quebec now is can be imagined."

The Mrs. Murray mentioned in this letter was a cousin of Colonel Kempt. Brock, in one of his letters from Fort George, says, "Colonel Murray of the 100th went home last year and brought out a charming little wife, full of good sense and spirit. They dined with me yesterday." A letter from Colonel Baynes also mentions receiving a letter from Murray, and he congratulates General Brock on having found means to enliven the solitary scene that had so long prevailed at Fort George.

Letters from home had cheered the general's heart. "What can I say," he writes, "from this remote corner in return for the pleasure I experience at the receipt of your letters." He speaks of his life as sombre, and yet thinks that the enforced quiet has done his health good. He begs his brother Irving to dispel all fears about him.

He had just returned in February from York, where he had spent ten days with the lieutenant-governor, whom he pronounces "as generous and honest a being as ever existed." He found Mrs. Gore perfectly well and very agreeable. Their society, he said, was ample compensation for travelling over the worst roads he had ever met with. He and the governor, who had formerly been quartered with the 44th in Guernsey, had talked over old days in the Channel Islands, and had recalled with pleasure the simple hospitality that reigned there, and the charming society of Guernsey and Jersey, "where, although there was little communication with England, there were always officers in the garrison to be entertained."

Brock writes of the reports from New York as to the many failures there, and says, "Merchants there are in a state of great confusion and dismay. A dreadful crash is not far off."

The news he had received from Quebec was that Sir James had triumphed completely over the French faction in the Lower Province, and that the House of Assembly had passed every bill required of it, among others, one authorizing the governor-general and three councillors to imprison any one without assigning a cause.

The House of Assembly at Quebec had met on December 10th, 1810, and the inaugural address had been very conciliatory. The governor did not allude to any vexed questions, but protested that he had never doubted the loyalty and zeal of the previous assemblies he had convoked. In reply, the assembly observed, "We shall earnestly concur in all that is done tending to the maintenance of unbroken tranquillity, a state all the more difficult to preserve in this province as those who inhabit it cherish a diversity of ideas, habitudes and prejudices, not easy to reconcile."

The governor justified the acts committed as to imprisonment of members, and said that only those who had too much reason to dread the law inclined to object to its potency, and the united clamour of such might have deceived the assembly as to their real number.

In the meantime the vexatious Bddard still remained in prison. The assembly drew up an address on his behalf, and the elder Papineau had an interview on the subject with the governor at the Castle. The latter in his reply to M. Papineau, said: "It is the common discourse of the assembly that they intend to oblige me to release M. Bédard. I think, therefore, that it is time the people should be made to understand the rightful limits of the several powers in the state, and that the House, while it represents, yet has no right to directly govern the country."

The session passed peacefully, and at its close, when all the members had returned to their homes, Bédard was quietly and unconditionally released by the executive. It was the last public act of Sir James Craig's administration.

The act which had been the cause of so much trouble, namely that of excluding the judges from the assembly, was one of the laws passed, and strange to say, in proroguing the House, the governor said, "Among the acts to which I have just declared His Majesty's assent, there is one which I have seen with peculiar satisfaction. I mean the act for disqualifying the judges from holding a seat in the House of Assembly."

The opinions of the official and military class as to the proceedings of the House, may be gathered from a letter of Colonel Baynes to Brock, in March. " You will see by Sir James' speech the very complete triumph his firmness and energy have obtained over the factious cabal of this most contemptible assembly. Bddard will shortly be released. "That fellow alone of the whole gang has nerve, and does not want ability or inclination to do mischief whenever opportunity offers; the rest, old Papineau and the blustering B. (Bourdages), are all white livered renegades to a man; but when Sir James' back is turned they will rally and commence the same bullying attack on his successor, who, I trust, will follow his example."

In the meantime, Mr. Ryland in England had not found his task an easy one, nor had he met with the reception he had hoped for. Mr. Perceval, the prime minister, Lord Liverpool, the minister of war, and Mr. Robert Peel, the under secretary for the colonies, received him with perfect courtesy, and asked many questions, but Mr. Ryland made no progress in his design of changing the constitution. One point he particularly wished to press, namely, the necessity of controlling the patronage of the Roman Catholic Church so that the clergy would be on the government side. The assembly in its session of 1810, had offered to undertake the expenses of the civil government hitherto borne by England. Ryland's scheme was to take possession of the Jesuit estates and also of those of the seminary at Montreal. From these he proposed to grant a certain sum for education, and to apply the rest to the civil government, and thus do away with the necessity of supplies being voted by the assembly. In fact, his intention was to break the power of the Roman Catholic Church in Canada by taking away its endowments. Mr. Ryland also proposed that the province should revert to government by the legislative council without the assembly, as it was previous to the Canada Act.

Lord Liverpool was afraid, if the act of 1791 was annulled, that Lord Grenville, the father of the act, would rally his followers in favour of the French Canadians. He suggested a redivision of constituencies so as to obtain a greater, number of English representatives, and also thought that members might be conciliated by other means.

Several matters were referred to the attorney-general, who said that it was possible for parliament to unite the two provinces under a single government, but that he thought no new division could be made of electoral districts, nor in the number of representatives. As to the question of Le Canadien, the ministers did not think the passages quoted from it were strong enough to fix on its publishers a charge of treason, and it might be difficult, they thought, to justify what had been done in the matter of their arrest and imprisonment. They were inclined to call the passages quoted seditious libels. The extreme measures taken were, perhaps, excusable, but not strictly justifiable. In fact, the attorney-general said that such an arbitrary measure as the suppression of Le Canadien would not have been tolerated in England.

Mr. Ryland's mission was a failure, but in order to conceal his discomfiture "he decided to remain in England for the winter, nor did he return to Canada until the spring of 1812. In the meantime this poor governor's health broke down utterly. General Brock wrote in March, 1811: "Sir James cannot long survive the frequent attacks of his disorder. His death will be bewailed by all who possess the feelings of Englishmen in this country."


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