Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine


Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Lord Dorchester
Chapter XIV - Closing Years


IN this war with the French republic the situation was in some respects more serious for British interests in Canada than it had been when the former country was actually allied with the Americans in the revolutionary struggle; for France was at that time still a monarchy, and her emissaries, even with the utmost exercise of casuistry, could hardly make much of the retrospective blessings of the ancient regime as a stimulant to Canadian discontent, while the seigniors and the Church, who might have been susceptible, had been attached to the British connection by _practical, and to them beneficent, measures. Washington, too, in those days, as may be remembered, had been entirely opposed to a resurrection of French power in Canada. Now, however, France was a republic, and though war against Great Britain was never declared by the States it was regarded in 1793-4 as imminent, and it would have been promoted by a party that had an almost fanatical affection for its sister republic, short-lived though this affection proved.

Jefferson, Madison and Randolph were possessed of an insensate hatred of Great Britain and were followed in this by their fellow Southerners, the least instructed and most excitable portion of the republic in foreign affairs. Moreover, the indebtedness to Great Britain throughout this section was much greater than in any other, and the temptation to wriggle out of these debts by a war which would be much more keenly felt in the North was great to a population whose notions of financial morality make the speeches in the Virginia assembly of that day instructive reading. No people more profoundly ignorant of France and Frenchmen could have been found in the world than the noisy factions who were then clamouring for a warlike alliance with her against Great Britain.

(Dorchester thought war was certain, and at this moment he had occasion to harangue the Miami Indians in a speech which created considerable excitement in the United States. He remembered very well, he told them, the line they had pointed out three years ago, just before his last departure for England, as the boundary they desired between themselves and the States, and how he had promised to represent their situation and wishes to the king, and expressed his hope that all the grievances they complained of on the part of the United States would soon be done away with by a just and lasting peace. Dorchester went on to say that he had waited long but had not yet received one word of satisfaction from Americans, and from what he could learn of their conduct towards the Indians, he would not be surprised if the English were at war with them during the present year, and then a line must be drawn by the warriors. " What further can I say to you? You7 are a witness that on our part we have acted in the most peaceable manner and borne the language and conduct of the people of the United States with patience, but I believe our patience is almost exhausted."

The report of this address having been obtained by American sympathizers in Montreal, was forwarded to congress and published in the American papers. Jefferson's party made the most of it, and appealed to Hammond, the English minister, denouncing Dorchester's speech as " hostility itself." Hammond reported the matter to Dundas, the secretary, and Dundas wrote to Dorchester in a tone bordering on reproof, for the treaty which the ' Federal party were labouring to make with Great Britain was now in progress and Jay had made a favourable impression in London. Nothing was known, however, of these improved prospects on the western frontier in the summer of 1794. Reports had just come in that Wayne's army to the" south of Lake Erie was two thousand strong, besides five hundred more in garrison. Forty dollar^ was being, paidfor scalps, and one thousand dollars was offered for Simon Girty's, a famous British scout who had cut some figure in the old French wars. War with Great Britain was regarded as inevitable, and Wayne was only waiting to advance against the Indians till their corn was ripe. Dorchester replied to Dundas's letter expressing a wish to resign. In another letter, assuming some freedom of speech as the doyen of colonial governors, he replied that no secretary was long enough in office to acquire sufficient knowledge of a colony. He might well have said more, and to the effect that no minister in London was qualified to direct every movement and interfere in every detail in a distant country whose political, physical and social atmosphere was so hopelessly outside his vision. Such, however, was the deplorable custom of that time. But the Duke of Portland, taking alarm at the prospect of losing a man who for the apparently impending crisis was their only hope, wrote denying that any reproof was implied. On the contrary, he thought Dorchester had been quite right in the Miami matter.

"This affair was by no means confined to Dorchester's oration, but included the rebuilding of a fort by Simcoe, with his approval, in the Indian territory some fifteen miles south of Lake Erie, on the Maumee. This had been done in the preceding spring. Indeed the station had been fortified and occupied by British detachments ever since the close of the war, but a year or two previously, trade having left it, it had been abandoned. But now with a fresh war impending, it was rebuilt as a defence to Detroit, and, under legal guise, as being in Indian territory not yet, at least, surrendered by treaty to the States. The action, however, made some little stir in the latter country as an invasion of territory. Dorchester had much trouble, too, with the posts on Lake Champlain, occupied just now by small detachments. The Vermonters, who at one time had professed such partiality for British rule, had changed their minds completely, and had given both Alured Clarke and Dorchester the utmost annoyance by petty insults and outrages on their small outposts. They had even made an offer to congress to conquer Canada unaided. It may be remembered that heady Vermonter, Ethan Allen, had undertaken to do the same with Montreal, and had found his way instead to a prison in Cornwall. American historians for the most part insist that the commander of the western British posts encouraged the Indians in their resistance to the United States! Well knowing that this meant a general war and almost certain destruction of these weak isolated forts as well as the probable conquest of Canada, we are asked to suppose that Sir John Johnson, Butler, Hamilton, McKee, Campbell, and above all the less prominent officers in lonely and remote commands, were nothing less than madmen. Dorchester's dread of war is conspicuous in all his western instructions.

The voluminous correspondence of his officers is eloquent of their precarious position should war break out. To allege that St. Clair's defeat had not given them satisfaction would be to write them down as less than human, but to picture them as stirring up a bloody war with France and the United States combined, is to suppose them men wearied of life, of liberty, of employment, even of patriotism. One can only suppose that American writers, who follow one another in such statements, have not read the redundant correspondence that for many years passed between the western posts and Quebec, and in these, at least, there was sufficient plain speaking. Young subalterns and captains may—nay, we know from these letters they did—reply to the bombastic defiance of irresponsible Kentucky riflemen under the walls of their own forts with spirit, but no responsible officer did, or could do, otherwise than dread a war which would almost certainly have landed them as prisoners in the United States. To do them justice, most of their contemporaries in rank on the American side kept well within the letter of their ^substructions, which was to refrain from all offence. But Wayne summoned Fort Miami to surrender as being a 're-constructed post outside what he considered to be Canadian territory. Major Campbell, however, refused, and there was some acute correspondence between them. The former had just shattered the Indian resistance at Fort Recovery, though at a loss to himself of two hundred and fifty men. Clay's Treaty was negotiated in the year 1794, though only ratified in the next, amid the uproar of the Jeffersonians, then known as the Republican party. Washington and Hamilton, his good political vindication of the treaty. That England was prepaid to meet them at least half-way, the private correspondence of British ministers and their American and colonial representatives is better evidence than the noisy turbulence of provincial demagogues, politicians, and land-grabbers. Under the circumstances, France may be pardoned her ebullition of feeling, which sent the American envoys within her gates to the right about, and treated Americans and American ships with a harshness that would have provoked actual war if retaliation had been decent or prudent. But the Federal party, all the more that their gratitude to the France of 1778 was still strong within them, saw more clearly the drift of republican France, and amid the passions of virtual civil war could not forget that Americans were by> race, blood and language, and every instinct that guided their political and domestic life, Englishmen and not Frenchmen. A sanguinary and domestic struggle could not change their flesh and blood, their traditions of centuries, nor ally them in anything but the mere link of friendly treaties to a nation stranger to them even than to the English of old England. Hamilton said Talleyrand was "the first American to divine Europe," and upon the rhodomontade of hot-blooded but intensely provincial Anglo-American farmers and planters, Hamilton looked with the genius, if we may say so, were determined to keep on terms with England and avoid entanglement with France, whose wrath knew no bounds on disapproval and contempt of a cool-headed and far-sighted man.

In May, 1794, Dorchester succeeded without difficulty in getting an Alien Act passed by the assembly, for all sorts of people were coming and going in Canada. In spite of the threatened war, emigrants, from the States chiefly, were pouring in steadily, attracted by easy terms of land and favourable reports of its fertility. Many of these no doubt looked ahead and calculated that Canada in a short time and without much disturbance would be included in the republic. There was beyond doubt, too, an element, particularly in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, whose motives and sentiments, without being, perhaps, clearly defined, were widely different from those of the Loyalists. To this day the old British population of the Townships, in part at least, suggests that ancient affinity with the frontiers of Vermont from whose overflow it drew so many of its earlier settlers; men not at that time greatly concerned with flags, politics and boundaries, but with a keen eye for a stretch of alluvial river bottom and a slope of hardwood timber facing the sun.

The Alien Act was lengthy and elaborate. It will be enough to say here that it was enacted against the danger arising at this inflammable time from the settlement of persons not British subjects. Each captain had to give a list of foreigners on board his ship, while the passengers in their turn had to prove their identity. In cases of treason or suspicion the Habeas Corpus Act could be suspended and "assemblages of people, seditious discourses, false news" were to be carefully watched, and if needed the Act was to be suppressed. It was to be enforced for a year. The time was one of imminent peril, and no well-intentioned subject, French or English, was going to split hairs over such reasonable methods of precaution. They were not directed at such domestic matters as were then at issue, for these at the moment were not very acute and in any case had become of minor consequence. Indeed, the attitude of a large part of the-peasantry had become so serious, not merely about Montreal, which was always the storm centre, but even in parishes adjoining Quebec, such as Charlesbourg and Beauport, that prominent men of both nationalities formed societies for the public safety and sank their civic differences. Monk, who was very useful in organizing them, writes to Dundas that by the suggestions of Dumontier a number of officials and friends of government had been marked^ for assassination in case of a successful invasion.

Arrangements, too, had been permitted for sett- K^. ling refugees from France, and Dorchester found this used as a vehicle for introducing Frenchmen of another kind and with other objects. The distinction was not easy to draw. The Due de La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt visited the colony in the summer of 1795 and remained for some time as Simcoe's guest in Upper Canada. Rut Dorchester felt it prudent to forbid him access to the Lower Province lest his presence should be taken for an expression of active sympathy on the part of France for the malcontents.

Dorchester kept in close touch all this time with /the Maritime Provinces, and there was a good deal of correspondence going backwards and forwards between himself and his nephew in charge of New Brunswick, and with Wentworth, lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia. In the former province a regiment of six hundred men was raised. In 1795 the cost of government for the year was, in round numbers, twenty-five thousand pounds, while the net revenue had risen to ten thousand pounds. The customs for both provinces were levied in Quebec, and the estimated proportion, one-eighth, due to the Upper Province was paid over to it. The crops for the above year, too, were very short, and it was necessary to call on England for grain, a proceeding quite unusual since the old French days when the necessity was almost perennial. By this year, however, things began to quiet down. A draft of Jay's Treaty had been forwarded to Canada and copies were circulated not only in the east but in the west. It had yet to be ratified, but still the mere fact of its being drafted had a good effect. The militia, however, were called out as a test and their reluctance to serve well justified the dread of war. It was not only the intrigues of outsiders that had brought about this insubordination. What Dorchester had written ten years before during the American invasion might have been repeated now with even greater force: "A people so disused to military service for twenty-seven years do not willingly take up the firelock and march to the frontier when their passions are not strongly agitated." The constitutional associations of the upper classes, however, had done much good, and Dorchester was able to report an improved condition of affairs. Moreover, in the course of 1795, Jay's Treaty was ratified, and it was definitely agreed that the western posts were to be given up in the following year, peace being made in the meantime between the Indians and the United States.

Dorchester had waged continual war against those fees and perquisites which he considered brought the officials of the province into disrepute, lowered the dignity of government, and created justifiable discontent. Osgoode, who had been made chief-justice of Quebec in 1794, received the appointment on the understanding that it no longer carried any of these emoluments. There was a great dear of official work going on, too, in connection with the allotment of lands to the new settlers, and the same opportunities occurred to unscrupulous officials in Canada as in a more wholesale and shameless way were being embraced on the other side of the boundary. These lapses, however, became more flagrant, and expanded into more open scandals, with their inevitable exposures, in the days of /Dorchester's successor. Fees to the governor would seem to have been, formerly, quite usual in connection with land grants, but Dorchester voluntarily \surrendered his, and was cordially thanked by Portland for so doing. He felt strongly, too, the iniquity of men in England being planted on a colony which they never saw, and having their duties performed by deputies. It was these absentees who were often the worst offenders, for they took no interest whatever in the work done by their deputies, but only an abiding one in the fees accruing therefrom. In a letter to Portland, Dorchester regrets that gentlemen in England should look to America for compensation for their petty political services. It had produced a sufficiently evil effect in the revolted colonies, and would have the same in those that were still left to the Crown. These persons, he ventured to suggest, should receive such remuneration in their offices as to place them above pecuniary speculation in the colonies, and Dorchester had earned the right, if any one had, to speak plainly on the subject. For though by no means a rich man, and with a large family, his long rule in Canada had been distinguished not merely by scrupulous honesty, but by a self-abnegation in money matters rare enough in those days.

The treaty with America brought on the question of settling large numbers of the Indians on British territory. The details of this distribution, however, fell to Simcoe and his officers, though Dorchester was insistent for information concerning them, and did not allow Simcoe to forget that his immediate chief] was at^Quebec and not in the British colonial officer This brings us to the misunderstanding between these two admirable and faithful servants of the Crown. It belongs, however, to Simcoe's story rather than to that of Dorchester, and has been treated at length by his biographer. A brief summary of the dispute, and the occasions that lead to it, is perhaps necessary, since it was partly owing to this unpleasantness that both of the parties to it resigned their posts, and left Canada almost at the same time. Neither conceived himself properly treated by the home government, but Dorchester's attitude was indifferent, and his views slightly contemptuous.-Whether right or wrong they were based on the long experience of an elderly and well-tried public servant, who had no fear for his reputation, and was in any case weary of office and anxious for home and rest. Simcoe's feelings, on the other hand, were tinged with the disappointment and soreness of a man still full of work and in mid career. Dorchester had always been an advocate for a clearly defined amount of central authority. He considered that the American colonies had grown into the condition that encouraged rebellion by the careless manner in which they had been allowed to drift. The fact that when rebellion came this very aloofness proved their chief stumbling-block was not to the point.

Dorchester's mind travelled back rather to the origin of things, and in the matter of defence against foreign aggression his experience in the Seven Years' War was wholly in favour of his argument.

Simcoe found himself in a remote wilderness of a most promising nature. He was not hampered by the race question. His people were energetic and mostly loyal Britons. He himself was of a practical turn of mind, and took an immense and praiseworthy interest in the material beginnings of what was obviously destined to be a great province. He was a voluminous despatch writer, and inclined to forget in certain matters that Dorchester was his chief. Two or three /Indian appointments were made, not merely without consulting the latter but with some attempt to sustain them in the face of his objections, and Dorchester was an extremely punctilious person, exacting in the support of his theories of a limited but firm centralization. He had never fallen out with lieutenant-governors in New Brunswick or Nova Scotia, but there was marked friction in Simcoe's case, though it was purely personal between the two men ; nor were the causes of disagreement of a nature, as it so happened, to create material ^mischief. Simcoe thought a military post was the best nucleus for an industrial centre. Dorchester thought otherwise; nor could any one nowadays with the light of a continent's development to guide him hesitate as to which was right. Simcoe wanted to create a capital and centre for the western district of modern Ontario on the spot where London now stands. Dorchester favoured York (now Toronto)," and insisted upon it. Simcoe thought the latter, should be made the naval base of Lake Ontario; Dorchester considered Kingston as at that time the best point. It would be purposeless here to argue in favour of the foresight of one or the other. It is difficult for us nowadays to appreciate the arguments that would have operated in 1794 and 1795 with either of them. But a more immediate cause for friction lay in the question as to whether the larger force of troops was required in Upper or Lower Canada Simcoe, in short, asked for more men and Dorchester would not spare them. They were a pitiful handful in all, some two thousand three hundred, to wrangle about. At one time Upper Canada was the most threatened point, but then at a desperate moment, like the one in question, Quebec was the key of Canada. So long as she remained unconquered the colony was not lost. This was a recognized axiom in North America and no one had better cause to know it and hold it than Dorchester. Simcoe though he had done gallant service in the Revolutionary War as colonel of the New York Loyalist regiment, the Queen's Rangers, had not been at quite such close quarters with the Quebec theory. But apart from these general arguments, at the moment when Simcoe was most sore about the refusal of men from Dorchester's slender stock, the danger from the Americans, which had seemed to lie on the lakes, was being greatly lessened by the attitude of Jay in London, unknown to Simcoe, while the danger from France was somewhat growing on account of the schemes she was concocting with that volatile factor, the state of Vermont, of which a few words later.

When the treaty with America was ratified, Dorchester's intention, as he wrote to Simcoe, was to bring down most of the troops to Lower Canada, the danger in the west being at an end, while the French danger in the east was growing, for reasons already given. But Simcoe with his pet theories of developing material prosperity by military posts, seems to have lost sight of the danger of foreign invasion in the more exposed parts of the colony. He had corresponded directly and voluminously with Dundas and somewhat overlooked Dorchester, to whose conspicuous personality, years, and long service in North America, was due perhaps something more than perfunctory official recognition. In November, 1795, Dorchester wrote to Portland that the enclosures turned on the question whether he was to receive orders from Simcoe or Simcoe from him, and that the latter must have had expectations of an independent command in the upper country and even beyond. The situation of Nova Scotia and its dependencies did not permit Lieutenant-Governor Wentworth to extend his control to Quebec, and according to Dundas's letter regarding Simcoe this independence of his command was established. "All command, civil and military, being thus disorganized and without remedy, your Grace will, I hope, excuse an anxiety for the arrival of my successor, who may have authority sufficient to restore order, lest these insubordinations should extend to mutiny among the troops and sedition among the people.'/ This is plain speaking enough. Dorchester, who had already taken umbrage at the reproof in the matter of the Miamis, felt that this tendency to ignore the central authority made it impossible for him any longer to retain office as governor and commander-in-chief in North America. It will be remembered^ too, that he had been against the division of the provinces, which were to be re-united in 1841, only to be separated again when the federal authority had been established over the whole of British North America.

But the misunderstandings that led to Dorchester's retirement are of slight consequence. It was . thirty years since he had first entered upon his task. He was weary and he was getting old, and had vastly exceeded in length of service any other Canadian governor before his day or after it. He felt, no doubt, that he was getting out of date, or rather out of tune, with certain phases of administration, and wholly disapproved of them. But his work was done, and there was no special reason for extending still further an already quite exceptional length of responsible public service. The crisis with America and the long strain, which his presence alone of living Englishmen had tempered on both sides of the Atlantic with some measure of relief, were over for the present. What might have followed had Jefferson been elected in 1797 one cannot guess, but his defeat by a solid vote of the Northern States showed unmistakably the sentiments of Canada's more immediate neighbours, sentiments which they ^never wholly abandoned, since the War of 1812 was resented by most of them, and was mainly the work of Jefferson's party and the South. There now remained only France to settle with, for Spain had proved innocuous as a source of strife between Great Britain and the States, the motives being conflicting, and the factor of sentiment as in the case of France being entirely absent; indeed, there seemed a fine quarrel brewing between France and the United States, as represented by the Federal party. The latter, soon to be committed to another period of power, had already begun to discover that thirteen states and an ungovernable West were a sufficiently restive team to handle, and had abandoned not merely the intention but even the desire to attach another partly hostile and generally uncongenial province by force of arms. They had come to the conclusion that Great Britain on the St. Lawrence was infinitely preferable to France, whose not unnatural schemes in that direction were looked upon with disapproval.

Vermont, however, had been always troublesome and restless. The water route from Lake Champlain to the St. Lawrence, her natural outlet as she regarded it, and soon to be improved by the canal/ that Vermonters had so much at heart, was a source of dispute which twisted her political sympathies this way and that, made her factious in her domestic, and unstable in her outside, relations. She was now a state. Her ostensible leaders, who had formerly been quite ready to play the part of Arnold towards the republic, were now the principal channels of French intrigue, and could they have done so would have dragged the neighbouring colonies into war with Britain, not, however, from political passion or from broad general principles such as are permissible to nations, however mistaken, but for mere purposes of local trade. The Southerners, who sported liberty caps and sang the "Marseillaise," to the edification o?> their own slaves, men who, to quote the words of an unknown historian, "could not have pronounced two French words correctly to save themselves from hanging," were inspired by ignorance and hatred of the mother country and a further hope of shuffling out of their debts to her people. The Vermonters, with Ira Allen at their head, were cool calculators. As the scheme of gaining their trade route by remaining British had 'failed, the alternative was to make Canada either French or American, and achieve their object in that way.

Adet, the French minister from the revolutionary government, was recalled soon after Dorchester had left Quebec. His methods and his manners had not helped the cause of France with the American government. But what is more to the point, he had ✓set his heart on regaining Canada for France. He had engaged the whole new consular service of his country in this task, and we have seen the trouble his emissaries had caused Dorchester during these last years of his government. Though the latter sailed in July, 1796, he retained his office till the following April, when Prescott his successor, was appointed, and it was during this winter of his administration that Ira Allen sailed from Ostend in the Olive Branch with twenty thousand stand-of-arms, besides artillery and ammunition. The ship was captured and brought into Portsmouth. Allen professed that this prodigal supply of arms was for the militia of Vermont, which it would have provided four times over; but certain people who were behind the scenes assured the Duke of Portland that they were designed for the invasion of Canada. Vermont at that time had certainly no other use for such a prodigious armament.

It is perhaps needless to state that the Federal government had neither cognizance of, nor sympathy with, such adventures. Adet, it appears, had himself written some of the proclamations with which Canada was deluged during Dorchester's last two years of office. These were supported by canards regarding French victories on sea and land and the immediate approach of French fleets. At one time, the precise date at which the French troops would enter Canada had been injudiciously-fixed. Though the ratification of Jay's Treaty re\ moved these enterprises from the domain of such probability as they ever possessed, they produced a little crop of arrests in Prescott's first year and the dramatic hanging and quartering of a certain weak-minded McLane in the presence of the civil and military population of Quebec. A month after the expiration of Dorchester's government about forty French-Canadians were arrested, most of favour of being re-annexed to France, but that few whom were convicted on light sentences. There were also attempts by French emissaries to stir up\ the Indians to an attack on Western Canada. Ay French agent, Jules de Fer, employed by Liston, the British minister at Philadelphia, a year later to sound the feelings of the French-Canadians, reported that there was a considerable sentiment in would move unless success was quite assured b] the landing of a large force. The emissaries of the directorate, whose ability for intrigue seems always to have far exceeded their judgment, reported to their government with characteristic exaggeration that the French-Canadians were burning to risk life and fortune in the cause. There is no evidence that any French-Canadians of education or influence felt anything but repugnance to a renewed connection with their mother country, as now remodelled.

It is melancholy that two such faithful, and in their different ways capable, administrators as Dorchester and Simcoe should have embittered each ^-Other's closing years of office. Most of their correspondence is very acrid. Simcoe thought the Indian department should be in his immediate hands and not in those of a superintendent. The absence of the latter, Sir John Johnson, in England, no doubt aggravated certain abuses, usually financial ones, that created constant scandals in a service which afforded enormous temptations to dishonesty. The conflicting views of the two men as to the founding of provincial capitals and harbours and the methods of settling a new country have been alluded to. Simcoe writes: " Stations for the king's troops judiciously selected is, in my opinion, the only basis on which towns will arise to the great benefit of the service." Dorchester replies: The impolicy of placing so many troops out of the way, and the enormous abuses in the public expenditure for twenty years are not the only objections to this method of encouraging settlements. The principle itself is erroneous, as evinced by the improvements in provinces where no extraordinary expenses were incurred nor troops were employed for civil purposes." Simcoe poured out his grievances to Dundas and Portland, while Dorchester curtly intimated more, than once, as we know, that if a divided authority was to be the method of government in British North America it was time he took himself off.

Dorchester had met his last parliament on November 20th, 1795, and it had continued sitting till May 7th. Among its duties was the alleviation^ of distress, owing to a bad harvest, and the governor laid an embargo on the exportation of wheat. The last occurrence during his long term of residence was the withdrawal of the British troops in June from the western forts, which were to be formally occupied by the Americans in August. Dorchester sailed for England on July 9th, the lieutenant-governor, Prescott, also in command of the military forces, remaining his representative till the spring of the following year, when he formally took his place as governor-in-chief. Addresses of affection, respect and regret were presented to the departing governor by the people both of Quebec and Montreal, coupled with expressions of\ devotion to the Crown and "the happy government under which it is our glory to live." The high J example set by the private lives of himself and his family were gracefully alluded to. Dorchester knew now that he was leaving never to return, and his feelings of regret mingled with the yearning for peace and rest inevitable to his now abundant years and the strenuous fashion in which most of them had been spent.

Guy Carleton must be judged mainly by his works. He has left no private correspondence to help us, for his wife destroyed it all after his death, nor has the contemporary gossip of Quebec sent down to us any very lucid pictures of the man in his hours of ease among friends or family. Happily his official correspondence, spread over sixteen busy years, reveals much of that side of his character which is most vital to the appreciation of a great proconsul. His jealousy for the honour of the British Crown and impatience of everything mean, dishonest or unjust that would cast a slur on it, was a leading note in his career. His kindness of heart was a byword, while his fair and liberal treatment of the king's new subjects, in accordance, as he thought, both with policy and justice, never wavered, though it often brought him temporary unpopularity with one side or the other. For this, however, or its opposite, Dorchester cared very little. Of strong personality and extreme independence of character, he was never swayed for a moment by what men might say or think of him; but his instincts were true and his heart was sound. Even those who suffered, as a rule justly, from the first never denied the second. Though distinctly a grand seigneur and with a reserved manner, his qualities of head and heart must have been all the greater to procure for him the large measure of affection and esteem with which he was generally regarded. And this reputation, it should be remembered, was steadily maintained through two long terms of eight years apiece, so widely sundered that they almost represented two different generations of Canadians. No cases of undeserved hardship or neglected merit seem to have been too insignificant for Dorchester's attention, and when rebuke was required he cared little for the rank of the transgressor, as might be inferred from the candour of his communications even to secretaries of state.

Against jobbery, whether in the grasping of fees, or in that odious, and then too common, custom or foisting incompetent deputies on the colony while politicians at home shared the plunder, he waged incessant war. We have plenty of evidence that the Chateau St. Louis was, during Dorchester's tenancy, the centre of a graceful and dignified hospitality. He desired to be fair to the French-Canadians and thus frequently laid himself open to the accusation of a bias in favour of that nationality. But if he ever exceeded equity and prudence in this particular he was heavily punished by the ready surrender of the Canadian peasantry to the wiles of outside intrigue; for there is no doubt he felt it bitterly. He unquestionably modified his> earlier views of the British trading community, probably from the fact that as time went on they justified his better opinion. They, no doubt, themselves acquired greater discretion and gradually absorbed from outside a better and wiser element. Above all, the trials of 1775-6 divided the sheep from the goats, and inclined a better feeling between the educated English and French who shared a common peril and fought side by side against a common enemy. It had been Dorchester's lot to govern Canada through periods of great political stress and in some moments of extraordinary peril. That he saved her to Great Britain in those years would alone entitle him to the perpetual gratitude of Canada and of the empire. But this achievement, conspicuous though it was, is very far from comprising the whole debt under which he has laid posterity. It was but a crowning incident in many years' record of less showy but valuable service. Mistakes he doubtless made, though it is not easy to put one's finger on them, amid the personal feelings and faction which distinguish that little nucleus of a coming nation over which he ruled and which fifty years later Lord Durham still called, Two nations warring within a single state." Dorchester, however, had to face the further disadvantage that these domestic distractions were carried on under the very guns, either active or threatening, of two powerful enemies.

The frigate Active, which carried Dorchester and his family from Quebec, was wrecked on the Island of Anticosti, near the mouth of the St. Lawrence. Happily no lives were lost, and the party were conveyed by coasting vessels to Percy on the Gaspe shore. A ship was sent for them from Halifax, and they sailed direct for England, arriving at the end of September. Dorchester retained his governorship for six months longer, when Prescott succeeded him in the titular honours of office as he had already done in its actual duties. Dorchester was now seventy-two, and spent the remaining twelve years of life left to him in rural retirement, first at Kemp-shot, near Basingstoke, and later at Stubbings, near Maidenhead, where he died suddenly on November 10th, 1808. These years, as may be imagined, were quite uneventful ones. Dorchester left a numerous family, and his title descended in the male line till 1897, when it became extinct. It was revived, how^ ever, in the person of the present Baroness Dorchester, a cousin of the last lord and descendant of the governor, and passes to her son, Dudley Massey Carleton. There are a great number of living descendants of the famous governor, and among these, it may be interesting to note, are several groups of a family directly descended from him, and well known to the writer, long settled in Virginia.

Stubbings, where Dorchester died, had been his first purchase. He bought Greywell Hill, near Winchfield, in Hampshire, which is now the chief home of the family, from the trustees of Lord Northington. Lastly, he bought Kempshot, near Basingstoke, where he himself chiefly lived, as has been stated, an uneventful life, interesting himself much in the breeding of horses, of which he had always been fond. Among other distinguished guests who occasionally visited him in his country home was the Prince Regent.

Six of Dorchester's sons died from wounds or disease on active service. The death of the eldest in 1786 was both singular and sad. Dorchester was actually on the sea, bound for his second term of office in Canada, when the youth landed at Plymouth on sick leave from the continent. Those were queer times, and though heir to a barony as he was, this young British officer seems to have been so friendless and hard put to it for clothes that he was nearly hanged as a French spy. However, he contrived to reach London, and being at once taken ill again with camp fever seems to have been quite stranded in the great city. The only person whose name he could think of was Mr. Pitt, and he applied to that minister, who secured him quarters in Westminster, where he died.

A picture of the siege of Bergen op Zoom, where Carleton, it will be remembered, was wounded, hangs in the dining-room at Greywell Hill. By a remarkable coincidence another son of Carleton's met his death there carrying the same sword with which his father had so distinguished himself on the former occasion. Among the other treasures here is the wooden bedstead with curtains which the general used in Canada and on all his campaigns, and on which he died. As it is scarcely more than five feet long, and was curtained all around, it is assumed that the owner, a tall man, must have habitually rested in a doubled-up position. There is also preserved a handsome carved horn, presented by the Western Indians to the governor while in Canada.

Lady Dorchester lived to a great age, and plenty of people not long dead remembered her perfectly. Though a small woman she was awe-inspiring to a degree in the extraordinary ceremony she observed and exacted, and the hauteur of her bearing, her own family being included in this attitude. When visiting her son-in-law, Lord Bolton, of Hackwood, so an eye-witness used to relate to present members of the family, her entry to the dining-room at meal hours was a prodigiously solemn affair and never occurred till all the family and guests were assembled. Her hair at this time, 1830, was lifted high up with lace and scarlet ribbons, her dress costly and elaborate. She wore scarlet shoes with very high heels and gold buttons, and carried in her hand an ebony cane. On entering she would bow graciously to the assembled company, and no one thought of sitting down till she herself was seated. Such was the lady who some fifty-five years before had come almost as a bride to preside at the Chateau St. Louis, Quebec.


Return to Book Index Page

This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus