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John Graves Simcoe
Chapter IV - Before Upper Canada: 1781 to 1791


SIMCOE returned to England, his health broken by the hardships he had undergone and his spirit unstrung by the failures and defeats that he had done his utmost to avoid. His arrival in England did not go unnoticed. The king had observed the service of one of Iris youngest officers, and Lord Germain had written to Sir Henry Clinton when it was supposed that Simcoe had been killed: "  should be glad he had been in a situation to be informed that his spirited conduct had been approved of by the king." Now on December 19th, 1781, His Majesty conferred upon him the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the army, which rank he had before only held nominally. After his departure the Queen's Rangers fell under the displeasure of Sir Guy Carleton, who had succeeded Sir Henry Clinton in command of the army, and the promotions were not allowed to go in the corps. But through the influence of Sir Henry Clinton, on December 25th, 1782, the rank of all officers in the regiment was made universally permanent and it was placed on the roster of the British army. At the close of the war the corps was disbanded and many of the men chose to settle in Nova Scotia, where lands were granted them.

During the years immediately following his arrival in England, Simcoe rested and endeavoured to win back his strength. The family estate, Wolford Lodge, in the county of Devon, beautifully situated, surrounded by a park-like and peaceful country, gave him the needed change from the rigorous climate to which he had been exposed, and the well-ordered life of an English gentleman soon repaired the havocs of camp-life. But while he rested he was still active in his interest in public affairs, and was not lost sight of by the government.

On December 30th, 1782, he was married to Elizabeth Posthuma, only daughter of Colonel Thomas Gwillim, of Old Court, Herefordshire. His wife was her father's only daughter and heir. The Gwillim family is very honourable, and traces its source in a direct line to the ancient kings of North and South Wales and the celebrated Herald Gwillim. Colonel Gwillim, the father of Elizabeth Posthuma, had been aide-de-camp to General Wolfe, which fact proves his worth as an officer. Lieu tenant-Colonel Simcoe and his wife were distantly related through a mutual relationship with the wife of Admiral Graves, closer upon Miss Gwillim's side. She was handsome in person, of an artistic temperament, cultivated and refined, in manner gentle and retiring. Simcoe was, in contrast, lively and energetic, with social qualities which made him eminent either as guest or host. His round, amiable face shows to less advantage in his portraits than when in life it was lit by his small but vivacious eyes and his friendly, engaging smile. I he young couple spent the first years of their wedded life between Wolford Lodge and London, where Simcoe began to be called .more frequently in consultation by the military authorities upon special subjects upon which his experience made his opinion of value. It was seen that he inherited his father's clearsightedness and his lucidity of statement.

On January 14th, 1783, his exchange was signed at Passy by Benjamin Franklin, and Simcoe was released from his parole. He was again free to engage in active service but no occasion offered. The administration and improvement of his estate took up the greater part of his time. In general study and in the composition of the "Military Journal " he found the intellectual employment which recreated his mind. A few verses of his have been preserved which discover his vein of natural sentiment if not any remarkable poetic gifts. There is a long piece in four-line stanzas entitled "Clementina," which proves that he knew by heart the "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard." In rhymed couplets he has celebrated an encounter in the Revolutionary War in which the disastrous effect of a bullet upon the Highland bagpipes, and, therefore, upon the spirit of the corps, is described. His most successful essay in verse may here be quoted:

"FRAGMENT" I

"Fancy! to thee belongs the coming day!
Adorn it with thy Trophies! with such flow'rs
As late o'er Wolfe were spread, while his cold clay
Britannia, weeping, in yon fane embow'rs.
Brave youth! for thee pure Glory framed the wreath,
Not of those tints which fade before the noon,
But of that sober cast, that hue of Death,
True Amaranth, the dying Patriot's boon.
Blest be thy memory and rest in peace!
O may my soul be firm as thine, to meet
Dangers, which skill may lay and which shall cease,
Broke like the wave that bathes the proud rock's feet.
Eliza! thou my triumphs still shall share;
Fancy and Hope thy sufferings shall bear,
And crown with twofold joy each fond suspended care,

II

"Hope! to the sunbeam stretch thy rosebud wreath,
And raise thy mild and all encheerhig eye,
Piercing beyond the dark domain of Death
To the bright confines of futurity.
Point thou the course of Glory! Valour rears
For her his veteran spear; her, "Vengeance calls;
Bid her resume the deeds of former years,
And plant Britannia's colours on those w alls!
Then to this land returning Age shall pay.
Hope! ample tribute to thy guardian power,
And with true science graceful shall delay
Youth's list'ning ear from Pleasure's wanton bower;
Illume to acts of worth the manly train,
And bid, from thine and Fancy's sacred strain,
New Wolfes in arms arise, and Essex live again!

III

"Hope! who with smiling and commanding air
Hast thrown thine eaglet to the sky,
And bid him soar, with steadfast eye,
To claim Jove's thunder, and to hear
His high behests with forward wing;
And thou, bright Fancy! powerful to fling
Thy radiant eyebeams thro' the depths of space,
And there, with keenest energy, to trace
Whatever cold oblivion, with her veil,
Dark mental night, malignant, would conceal,
Receive me, hallowed pair! and bid my rhyme
Disclose the secrets of revolving time.

IV

"Essex! (ye Muses bless his name!) thy flight
Nor shall mischance nor envious clouds obscure!
Thou the bold Eaglet, whose superior height,
While Cadiz towers, forever shall endure.
O, if again Hope prompts the daring song,
And Fancy stamps it with the mark of truth,
O, if again Britannia's coasts should throng
With such heroic and determined youth,"
Be mine to raise her standards on that height,
Where thou, great Chief! thy envied trophies bore
Be mine to snatch from abject Spain the state,
Which, in her mid-day pride, thy valour tore!
And oh! to crown my triumph, tho' no Queen,
Cold politician, frown on my return,
Sweetly adorning the domestic scene,
Shall my Eliza with true passion burn,
Or smile, amid her grief, at Fame, who hovers o'er my urn!"

It was not possible that a man so gifted for public life, with such ardour for the improvement of domestic and colonial government, could long remain out of politics. It is probable that the party managers had marked him for nomination as a man likely to strengthen their hands in the House ; and it is certain that if Simcoe had resolved upon a political career his native persistence would urge his claim to recognition. He was elected member for St. Maw's, Cornwall, as colleague with Sir William Young, Bart., and took his scat in the parliament which assembled on November 25th, 1790. His parliamentary career was short, and its most active period was during the passage of the Constitutional Act, in the spring of 1791. The only speech of Siracoe's which was considered worthy of preservation in the parliamentary history of England was delivered on December 23rd. 1790, in committee to consider the state in which the impeachment of Warren Hastings was left at the dissolution of the last parliament, It escaped the general oblivion into which so much of the parliamentary discussion of that period has happily descended because it was, in effect, an attack upon Burke, and gave him an opportunity for personal defence and explanation.

Simcoe's political career ended with the passage of the Canada Act, and it is probable that he was at once appointed lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada. Since the year 1789 his name had been connected with this office. On December 3rd of that year he writes to his friend Nepean: *Should Canada act upon the wise, enlarged, and just plan of annihilating at once every vestige of military government in her native colonies and undermining by degrees the miserable feudal system of old Canada .... too firmly established by a sacred capitulation to be openly got rid of, I should be 44 happy to consecrate myself to the service of Great Britain in that country in preference to any situation of whatever emolument or dignity." Thus he offered himself for the position, and very soon his name became connected with it, if not in a public way, yet in the way in which confidential servants and friends of government trade secrets over their wine, for Haldimand makes an entry in his diary under July 12th, 1790, that his host Davison "gave me further confidences, by telling me that Colonel Simpko was appointed to the new government."

Early in February of 1791 he took up the responsibilities, if not the actual duties of his office. In his very first recomniendation to the government, he points out the necessity for a military force which would operate in opening colonization roads, and to the last he viewed the province from a military standpoint. With his customary energy he dwells during this correspondence with Grenville and Dundas upon every point which he considers of importance to the well-being and improvement of the colony. His earliest demands not being met promptly, he states that unless his views are approved of he will have to decline the office. Dundas writes a mollifying letter and states that he hopes to have the question soon settled.

On August 3rd he writes to Grenville that he presumes that in Upper Canada he shall be subject only to the military authority of Dorchester. Thus early may be observed the desire to consider himself free from authority, and to be the absolute master in his own domain. His salary was to be 2,000 a year, and in this letter he states that he looks "rather to future promotion than to present emoluments," and offers to give up 500 a year if a bishop "is withheld on account of the expense."

On August 12th, as he expects that the detail of the government for Upper Canada will be fixed the next day, he writes Dundas giving a summary of the arrangements that he would like to see carried out. He places them in the following order : (1) The Episcopal establishment; (2) military establishments; (3) a company of artificers; (4, 5) independent companies; (6) deputy quartermaster-general; (7) legal appointments; (8) executive council; (9) the appointment of Mr. W. Jarvis to be secretary and clerk of the council; (10) a printer who might also be postmaster; (11) Mr. Russell to be collector of customs, auditor, and receiver-general; (12) surveyor-general; (13) provision for settlers; (14) a constant supply of government stores; (15) the supply of tools and materials to be disposed of to settlers at cost price; (16) a supply of copper coinage; (17) books for the foundation of a public library. Amongst the objects that "may be worth the attention of the new settlers in Upper Canada " he noted:

(1) Growing hemp and flax; (2) supplying the Indian markets with rum from parsnips; (3) discovering the best situations for iron forges; (4) making salt at the salt springs in the high countries.

During all these negotiations, harassed by severe indisposition, he was busy preparing his own establishment, for his wife and family were to accompany him. He induced Captain Stevenson to go with him to Quebec to act as protector to his family in case of accident to himself. His official staff was, on September 30th, estimated as follows:

Major of brigade, Captain Edward Baker Little-hales, 172 17s. 6d.; commissary of stores and provisions, Captain John McGill, 172 17s. 6d.; chaplain, Rev. Edward Drewe, 115 5s. 6d.; surgeon, John McAulay, 172 17s. 6d.; fort major, Eus-tache Robert Eyre, 86 8s. 9d.; barrack-master, Justice Wright, 69 3s. 5d., making a total of 789 9s. 3d.

On September 21st he set sail from Weymouth in the Triton. The ocean passage was uneventful, but very stormy weather was encountered in the Gulf. Early on the morning of November 11th he arrived in the harbour of Quebec. He was the bearer of the several commissions, Sir Alured Clarke's as lieutenant-governor of Lower Canada, and Sir John Johnson's as superintendent-general of Indian affairs. He also delivered the king's letter to Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent, father of Queen Victoria, who was in Quebec in command of the 7th Fusiliers. Out of consideration for the prince, whose rank was only that of colonel, Simcoe, always a courtier and particular to a degree in all matters of military etiquette, had refused to take rank over him as brigadier.

From the date of his arrival until early in June, Simcoe was in the anomalous position of being in authority m name only. Virtually lie was lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada and commander of His Majesty's forces in the province, but in reality he could not remit a fine or issue a regimental order. He had no military authority until the arrival of the troops he was to command, and he could assume no civil power until a majority of the legislative council was present to administer the oaths. Four members of this body had been appointed in England, but only one was at that time in Canada, Alexander Grant. Until the proclamation dividing the province was issued, Sir Alured Clarke was acting governor. The moment that instrument was issued he became lieutenant-governor of Lower Canada, and could have 110 civil control in the sister province. Simcoe laid these facts before the government and recommended the appointment of additional councillors resident in Canada. The proclamation was issued on November 18th, 1791, and the division of the province was decreed to take place upon December 2Gtli following, The Quebec Gazette of December 1st, 1791, contained the proclamation and the full text of the Act.

It was necessary that the administration of justice should continue without intermission. Sir Alured Clarke, properly sworn as lieutenant-governor of Lower Canada, continued by proclamation the powers of the judiciary, but Simcoe had not like power. If Judge Powell had pressed the desirability of a similar proclamation for Upper Canada the courts might have been temporarily suspended, but he did not do so and the administration of justice proceeded while as yet there was no civil authority in the province.

The term of uncertainty was ended early in June by the arrival of two legislative councillors, Osgoode and Russell, who with Grant formed a quorum. The governor's military authority had been established a few days earlier by the arrival at Quebec of the Betsy and John on May 28th, with the first division of the Queen's Rangers; the second division arrived on June 11th.

Simcoe had chafed at the long delay. He was inactive when before him lay a thousand plans to be carried out. He made what uses he could of the primitive arrangements for the interchange of letters. The winter, the spring, and a few weeks of the summer passed without any great accomplishment. The slowness of sailing transports and canoes gave time only for the exchange of a few dispatches. As soon as he was released from his trying position, he left Quebec for the seat of his government. His journey was made in bateaux and canoes, under sail where the broad waters and favourable winds would admit, rowed by resolute arms where the currents were swift, and tracked up the rapids where no other method could make head against the raging water. He reached Montreal on June 17th, remained there until the twenty-second, and arrived at Kingston on July 1st. Kingston he left on July 24th, and on the twenty-sixth of that month he saw for the first time the bluff at the mouth of Niagara River, the walls of Fort Niagara and. the group of buildings on the north bank which were to be for many months the scene of his activities.


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