« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
employed in conveying arms and supplies to Navy Island, was boarded by some loyalists, led by Lieutenant Drew, an officer of the Royal Navy; she lay moored to Fort Schlosser, on the American shore, but, after a bloody struggle, was carried, set on fire, and suffered to drift over the great falls! It was an awful sight; the blazing mass, floating slowly at first, but each moment increasing its pace, at length whirled rapidly along—the red glare lighting up all around—the gloomy forest, the broad waters, and the dark wintry night, as the ship rushed past to her terrible grave.
Exaggerated versions of this attack caused great excitement in America, but the undoubted piratical occupation of the vessel convinced all well-thinking people of its necessity, and the United States government did not agitate the question of the invasion of territory.
Soon afterwards, a sufficient force was collected to dislodge these invaders from Navy Island A short cannonade from the north bank of the river, caused them to evacuate their position on the night of the 14th of January, 1838. When they landed on the shore of the United States, their leader was arrested and held to bail, and their arms taken possession of by the authorities. Other attempts were made by sympathizers, on Kingston and Amherstburgh, but were at once defeated by the militia. Another party having assembled at Point Pelee Island, in Lake Erie, the artillery and troops marched twenty miles over the ice to attack them, taking up a position which obliged them either to fight or surrender. There was a sharp resistance, many of the soldiers were shot down in their close ranks, from behind the wooded coverts; after some time they extended their files, to avoid the concentrated fire, and charged with the bayonet; the island was then carried, and most of the defenders captured or slain.
In all these forays, excepting the first outbreak at Toronto, nearly all the marauders were citizens of the United States, and their conduct throughout was unredeemed by a single act of humanity, generosity, or courage. The Washington government, with good faith, tried to restrain these outrages, but its feeble executive was unequal to the task. Every night, houses were sacked and burned on the Canadian side. Amongst other depredations, a pillar raised to the memory of the brave Sir Isaac Brock, slain at the head of an English force in the last American war, was blown up with gunpowder, and much injured, by a man of the name of Lett, who was afterwards imprisoned for robbery in the United States.
On the 30th of May following, a party of sympathizers plundered and burned a Canadian steamer, the Sir Robert Peel, while lying at Wells Island, belonging to the United States, in the river St. Lawrence. The leader was a man named Johnson, of great cunning and skill; he managed to carry on his system of piracy and destruction for a considerable time, without interruption. For twenty-five miles below Kingston, the "Thousand Islands" adorn the river; they are nearly two thousand in number, rocky, wooded, without inhabitants, and varying in size from ten miles long to mere rocky tufts. In this watery labyrinth, where the thick forests overshadow the river, these marauders lurked; they were provided with boats of wonderful swiftness, their expeditions were secret and sudden, and pursuit was vain.
In the month of September, several FrenchCanadians were tried by the usual forms of law, for the murder of a volunteer named Chartrand, which had been perpetrated with cold-blooded atrocity. The jury were exclusively countrymen of the accused, all others had been objected to in the challenge. The crime was scarcely denied, and was proved by the clearest evidence to every one but those with whom' it lay to decide; they gave the verdict, "not guilty," and were in consequence entertained at public dinners and applauded for their patriotism, by the disaffected party. The common trial by jury was thus found to be quite unsuited to the emergency, and the disposal of the prisoners became a source of great embarrassment to the government.
On the arrival of the high-minded, but injudicious Earl of Durham, (who had been sent out as plenipotentiary at the time of these difficulties,) the question was solved by a general gaol delivery, with some very few exceptions of those whose crimes were pre-eminently heinous. A proclamation was also issued, allowing those who had fled out of the country to return unmolested to their homes.
Lord Durham's mission produced a statement of the condition of the country, and the sources of its difficulties. The spirit of the document is as follows :—" The root of the evil in Lower Canada is in the difference of races, arraying the people in enduring and bitter hostility against each other. The distinction in language, education, and religion, is not softened down by social intercourse, they seldom meet in society, each have their own banks and hotels. They inherit in an exaggerated degree the peculiarities of their origin, and the English take but little pains to conceal their contempt and intolerance for the customs and manners of their neighbours. Every political difference may be traced to the same source—the contest of the races.
"A peculiarity in the formation of French-Canadian society, is also a fruitful cause of mischief; from the means afforded by public foundations for attaining the higher branches of education, the professions are greatly overstocked. Two or three hundred young men, nearly all of humble birth, are annually turned out from the public schools; averse to sinking back to the lowly occupations of their parents, a few become priests, the remainder lawyers and surgeons. With these every village swarms. Thus the best-educated people are generally connected by ties of blood, and intimacy, with the most ignorant habitatis. In social intercourse the abler mind gains an influence over the mass, and thus the demagogue here becomes more powerful than in any other country.
"The general inclination to jobbing, results in a perfect scramble in the House of Assembly for each to get as much as he can for his constituents