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CHAPTER VIII.

The discussions which had been so long pending between Great Britain and the United States, assumed, during the winter of 1811-12, a very serious aspect. But many did not believe that the latter power was inclined to proceed to extremities; while others, who foresaw that it only awaited a favorable moment to invade the Canadas, which were supposed ripe for revolt, and would therefore fall an easy conquest, were prepared to expect what soon after followed, a declaration of war against Great Britain.

As this was not the first time that the American government had proceeded to menaces, and as the northern and eastern states were known to be averse to hostilities, the British ministry, unmindful that coming events usually cast their shadows before them, were deluded into a belief that peace would yet be maintained.* Mr. Foster, the English minister at Washington, seems to have partaken of this delusion, for it does not appear that he had taken any precautionary measures to convey to the governor of the British North American Provinces the earliest intelligence of the declaration of war, on the 18th June, 1812; and, had it not been for the prudent foresight of the agent of the British north-west company at New York, who sent the intelligence by express, it is possible that the first intimation would

* See post, Sir George Prevost's letter to Major-General Brock, September 14, 1812.

have been received from the mouths of the American cannon. To Upper Canada Mr. Foster transmitted no notice whatever of the war, and Major-General Brock was left to learn it officially through the circuitous and dilatory channel of the governor-general. Happily, individual diligence made up for this unpardonable neglect; and the war was known by private expresses at Montreal, in Lower, and at Fort George, in Upper Canada, on the 24th of June, or in six days after its declaration at Washington.

At this period the exigencies of the Peninsular war, which chiefly depended upon English arms and English money, required the almost undivided attention and energies of the British ministry, who are thus entitled to some excuse for their neglect of North American affairs; but they will still remain amenable to the charge of having been guilty of the folly of too much despising the new enemy arrayed against them at that most busy and critical moment. The want of a sufficient force for the protection of the Canadas* might have proved fatal, at least to the Upper Province, had not Major-General Brock, from the first moment of being placed at the head of his government, been convinced that war was inevitable; and that in consequence every exertion should be used to place the province in as respectable a state of defence as his very limited means would admit. The instant the navigation opened in the spring, a supply of ordnance and other stores was hurried up to fort St. Joseph; and its commandant, Captain Roberts, was instructed to be constantly on his guard. Similar precautions were adopted relative to Amherstburg, to which post Major-General Brock paid a visit early in

*At this time, the British regular force in the Canadas consisted of the 8th, 41st, 49th, and 100th regiments, a small detachment of artillery, the 10th Royal Veteran Battalion, and the Canadian, Newfoundland, and Glengary Fencibles; amounting, in the whole, to 4,450 men. These were distributed along the different posts from the telegraph station, about 250 miles below Quebec, to St. Joseph's, but so unequally divided, that, in the Upper Province, whose front extends to nearly 1,300 out of the 1,700 miles, there were but 1,450 men.-James' Military Occurrences.

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June, and fortunately took with him a reinforcement of 100 men of the 41st regiment. But in the execution of his plans he had to encounter many obstacles, among which the subordinate nature of his command was not the least formidable. Even as late as the 27th of May, Sir George Prevost does not seem to have considered hostilities so near, as on that day he recommended to Major-General Brock the most rigid economy in carrying on the public service, and in avoiding all expense that was not absolutely necessary, on the plea of the great difficulty of raising money. Sir George has, however, been wrongly accused of not sending any instructions whatever to Major-General Brock for some weeks after he received intimation of the war, as he did so from Montreal on the 7th and 18th of July,, or in less than a fortnight afterwards; but, either from his dispatches not being transmitted by express, or from some other unexplained cause, they did not reach their destination until the 20th of July, or exactly five weeks after the declaration of war was known in the Upper Province.* On the breaking out of hostilities, the regular force in Upper Canada amounted to barely 1,500 men, including seamen, as under :

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This force had to occupy the forts St. Joseph, Amherstburg, and Chippawah-Fort Erie and Fort George-and York and Kingston-to maintain the superiority on the lakes; to preserve the communication and escort convoys between Coteau de Lac and Kingston; and to defend an assailable frontier of

*Now intelligence could be transmitted from Quebec to Toronto in five days by the ordinary post, and in summer in three days.

nearly 800 miles, reckoning from the confines of Lower Canada to Amherstburg, and excluding the British coast from the Detroit to Fort St. Joseph. With this very inadequate force, it was the opinion of the highest authorities that the country could not be maintained. Major-General Brock was well aware that, in carrying the war along so extensive a frontier, uncovered by a single fortress of strength, and with such a handful of regular troops, he could only expect success in the aid and zealous co-operation of the people, whose numbers then, it is believed, did not exceed 70,000. But the province had long been torn by intestine disputes, and the prevailing factionwhich had been originally established by one of the judges, and which after his departure was fostered by one of his zealous supporters-had been for years hostile to the measures of the government. We have already given Major-General Brock's speech to the provincial parliament, on his meeting it for the first time; the session, although obstructed by party dissensions and unlooked - for opposition, terminated better than was anticipated, as the rancorous spirit of many was subdued by his frank and conciliatory demeanour; and laws were passed which enabled him to organize the flank companies of the militia, unaccompanied, however, by the desired oath of abjuration, so as to exclude settlers from the United States and persons of doubtful loyalty. A troop of volunteer cavalry was also incorporated, and on his return to York from Amherstburg, about the 20th of June, Major-General Brock was gratified by the gratuitous offer of horses for the equipment of a car brigade, under Captain Holcroft, of the royal artillery, which offer he gladly accepted.

Major-General Brock was at York when he received intelligence of the war-an event which he had long anticipated, and which therefore did not take him by surprise. A few hours had scarcely elapsed before the two companies of the 41st regi

ment, in garrison at York, were embarked in boats, and dispatched to the Niagara frontier. After assembling his council and summoning an extra session of the legislature, he hastened in a small open boat,* with his brigade major, Evans, and his aide-de-camp, Captain Glegg, to Fort George, on the Niagara frontier, where he immediately established his head quarters. It was at first his intention to capture the opposite American fort Niagara; but the high responsibility he was about to assume, of acting without instructions or an official communication, being represented to him, he confined himself to collecting and preparing his small force for offensive or defensive operations. Early in July, he procured a "National Intelligencer," which contained the act of congress declaratory of war and the message of the president accompanying it; and this information was, of course, decisive.

Colonel Baynes to Major-General Brock.

QUEBEC, June 25, 1812.

Sir George Prevost desires me to inform you, that he has this instant received intelligence from Mr. Richardson, by an express to the north-west company, announcing that the American government had declared war against Great Britain. This dispatch left New York on the 20th instant, and does not furnish any other circumstance of intelligence whatever. His excellency is induced to give perfect and entire credit to this report, although it has not yet reached through any official channel. Indeed, the extraordinary dispatch which has attended this courier, fully explains his not having received the minister's letters, of which he will not fail to give you the earliest intimation.

Mr. Richardson informs his excellency that it is

*He crossed this passage in an open boat at least twice during the war- an act which was then rare, as it is now, and considered dangerous.

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