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upon bestowing large tracts of land upon persons who were never able to clear them, on account of their great extent, and to prescribe, that within a limited period all the lands should be cleared, or otherwise those which should remain uncleared, were to be distributed by new grants.
There is a grant dated October 11th, 1653, in favor of one Mr Perthins, of one league and a half in front by nine in length. Reservation is made of the king's right of constructing military and public works, and of felling all oak timber fit for the royal navy. Actual residence is enjoined to the grantee and his tenants, in order to cultivate the land, and in default thereof, the grant was to be void.
Another arrêt, dated July 6, 1711, imported that the uncleared lands should be reunited to the royal domain, and once more enjoined upon the lords to concede lands to such inhabitants as might be willing to take portions of them on rent.
A second arrêt of the same day required the grantees of lands on roture to reside upon and clear their lands, without further delay.
Some seignors having reserved to themselves extensive domains, and sold tracts of woodland, instead of conceding them merely for rents, a new term of two years was provided by government, within which the lands were to be cleared and settled, or otherwise they should be reunited to the royal domain; and all felling of wood was again prohibited, under the penalty of voiding the deeds of sale.
There are several ordinances reüniting lands to the crown domain, for default of actual settlement.
Judicial decisions, legislative acts, proclamations, and all the expedients which could be devised, were thus employed with the hope of promoting cultivation and the increase of population, and with a view of remedying the evils of the extensive grants, that had been lavished upon a few families. In fact, upon feudal principles, the settlement might have been enforced upon the fundamental condition, that tenancy must always be full, in order to do the lord's service.
It seems that, excepting occasional extortions of the principal officers within the colonies, and the heavy military services, which were exacted, the inhabitants had reason to be satisfied with the solicitude of the French government for the improvement of the country; and it is hinted, in one of the documents upon which we reason, that the British government has been
much less attentive to remedies required by the accumulation of extensive estates in a few hands.
Yet under the French government, the population increased very slowly and the improvement of the country was inconsiderable. Its territorial revenue consisted in quints (the fifth part of the purchase money) or alienation fines, and lods and ventes.' But in reality the crown did not receive more than a third of the principal of these dues. Under the British government from 1775 to 1788, the territorial revenue, comprehending arrears, was below ten thousand pounds sterling.
It is stated in the Minutes of Evidence, that no seignories have been erected in Canada, from the time of the conquest, nor indeed since 1759, and that the number actually existing in the districts of Quebec, Montreal, and Three-Rivers, is two hundred and eighteen, amongst which are eighteen islands, comprehending in all twelve millions seven hundred thousand arpents of land.
With burthens comparatively so light and with the facility of obtaining lands without price, one would think that the country ought to be more settled than it is. Yet, even with the casual increase of settlers by means of emigration from Scotland, Ireland, and the United States, a large proportion of the seignories is still uncultivated. The committee from whose report we have borrowed the preceding details, have collected, it should seem, sufficient evidence to show that there is, in the province, an abundant population to settle the waste lands of the crown and the ungranted lands of the seignories; * that the want of facilities for internal intercourse, by means of roads and bridges, is one of the causes of the paucity of new settlements; that in the earliest times the settlement of the country was paralyzed by the great quantities of land which were, at once, offered to be granted and at last distributed to a small number of individuals; that the preference for settlements in townships originates from the religious spirit of the catholic inhabitants and their fears of a want of spiritual assistance and
* One of the members of the Council, who appeared before the Committee, said, that 'in no country where he had travelled, had he met with such a dense agricultural population as in Canada, except in French Flanders and Brabant.' (Minutes of Evidences, p. 15.) This may be true, in regard to the settlement of the banks of the rivers and on the principal lines of internal communication; but this abundant population would probably be found to dwindle into a scanty one, by an examination of some remoter portions of the province.
direction, in separate and isolated habitations, and from the judicial organization of the country; that the mode of acquiring land, under the actual system, is less expensive than under any other; that the fees for a soccage settlement are too heavy; that generally the lands reserved to the crown and to the protestant clergy are so situate, as to be an impediment to the settlement of the French inhabitants; that the cens of the feudal tenure is not burthensome; that the rents are generally moderate; that money is very scarce among the great mass of the population; that, besides, in many districts the soil is poor and the climate excessively severe, and that in many others, which are in both respects better situated, the settler would be obliged to make considerable sacrifices of labor and money in draining the soil; that in one part of the province, settlements are checked by the uncertainty of the exact limits in regard to the United States, and that in another district, the land titles are insecure.
It may be that the most powerful cause has not been mentioned by the committee; to wit, the natural indolence of the French inhabitants, arising, perhaps, from a disregard to what we call comforts, from education and habits, and from their religious tenets. The state of society in Canada, it must not be forgotten, is a very primitive, we had almost said a patriarchal one. Wealth has not there the same attraction as, for instance, in the superlatively artificial society of England. When political moralists and economists lament the dolce far niente ' of the Italians and the supineness of the Spaniards, and call them indolent, degenerate, &c. they ought not to forget that maccaroni and a cigar, a piece of bread with an onion, are as much relished by those sunny and light-hearted philosophers, as the most refined dainties for which the laborious gourmand toils in London and Paris, with the most marvellous talent of forgetting the fatigue and anxieties with which he purchases them. The catholic religion is essentially inimical to the lust of wealth. On a people of primitive character that cause acts very powerfully. The Venetians became merchants from the moment that they were prepared to say to the Pope, Primo siamo Veneziani e poi Cristiani.' Unless our personal observations have grossly deceived us, we may confidently say, that the Canadians are yet far from entertaining a similar notion.
The greater part of what we have said, in regard to the settlement of the seignorial lands, is applicable to the townships, which have been formed under crown concessions. As such grants have
been made by the provincial government, from the year 1796, in free and common soccage, it should seem that the number of settlements made under those conditions, might essentially aid in solving the question, whether the Canadians prefer the soccage to feudal tenures. But the first fact that strikes the reader of the Report of the Committee of the House of Assembly, is that according to the public returns, from the year 1797 to February, 1821, no revenue has been raised by such sales. We cannot hope to give a more concise explanation of this remarkable circumstance, than is contained in the following passage of the Report of the Committee; and the complaints, which it contains, against some officers of the government might perhaps more properly come from the competent local legislative authority, than from an American Reviewer.
"Your Committee,' it is said in the eighth and ninth pages, 'have ascertained beyond a doubt, that these instructions were evaded in the following manner.
An entire township, or half, or a quarter of a township, was, upon the application of an individual, who had the fortune to enjoy the favor of the colonial administration, promised to him. He obtained the names of thirty-nine individuals, who either lent them gratuitously, or sold the use of them, for some trifling consideration, or were to receive nominally a grant of twelve hundred acres of land, really and truly a grant of two hundred only. In each of these three cases, a bond or obligation was executed, whereby the real grantee of the township, known by the name of "leader," stipulated with these "personnes interposées," that upon the passing of the patent, these several associates should convey to the leader, either the entire twelve hundred in the two first cases, or the one thousand in the last case, in fee simple to the leader, the latter engaging to use the necessary exertions, and incur the necessary expenses, and also to pay the patent fees upon the grant, without any reimbursement to him from the associates.
Under this system there was granted to the members of his Majesty's council, above one hundred and thirty thousand acres; to friends and relatives of members of the executive council, above one hundred thousand acres; to individuals who had not joined the standard of his Majesty during the revolutionary war, above three hundred thousand acres. To American loyalists, and to his Majesty's Canadian subjects, with the exception of the Canadian militia who served in the year 1776, none, or if there be some solitary exceptions, they are so few as not to merit consideration.
* Second Report, p. 8.
For these services, his Majesty directed, by a special mandamus, that there should be granted unto the Lieutenant Governor for the time being, an entire township of the waste lands of the crown, to each of the members of the executive council, one quarter of a township, which was accordingly carried into effect.'
The language of the committee is characteristically bold, and illustrates the mutual relations of the political departments and some of the principal officers of the government. committee,' they observe, unwilling to believe, that the above mentioned evasions of his Majesty's gracious instructions had been practised with the knowledge, privity, or consent of his Majesty's servants, bound by their oath, their honor, and their duty to obey them, instituted a long and patient investigation into the origin of these abuses. They have been painfully, but irresistibly led to the conclusion, that they were fully within the knowledge of individuals in this country, who possessed and abused his Majesty's confidence.' The instructions given to Lord Dalhousie, relative to the waste lands of the crown, and which were communicated to the House of Assembly in February, 1823, have for their object to prevent the granting of large quantities of land to those who have no immediate occasion for cultivating and settling them. They direct the governor not to make grants to any person who has not previously made it appear, that he is in a condition to cultivate and to improve the land; that the lands to be granted shall be laid out in townships, so far as local circumstances will permit, each consisting of ten miles square.
In the Minutes of Evidence, there is again a short but conclusive solution of the question, why Canadians settle so rarely on lands granted in free and common soccage.
Q. To what cause do you attribute this?' the committee asked Mr Bouchette, the surveyor-general and author of the Topography of Canada.
Bouchette. The reasons are obvious; they do not like the tenure, as they do not know it; they do not like to leave their relations and friends, and they like to be within the reach of their churches.'
Emigrants who might have been willing to settle in the townships, were often deterred from doing it, it seems, by the delay in the preparation of the several documents relative to the grants. The public duties of the council, by whom such grants are issued, are various. Some of its members are judges, who