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from corruption in the judges, or from a defect in the application of the laws, and the arrangement of the proceedings in the courts.
Here it is that Canada is defective; the courts are ill arranged; the forms of proceeding, vague and undefined. The French and English laws and forms, though good by themselves, have made a very bad mixture. There is, in short, something so bad in these matters, that the ends of justice are completely defeated. In Quebec, civil justice is really laughed at.
laughed at. A man who pays
his debts here, has greater merit than in most other countries; he need not do it unless he thinks proper; he has only to entrench himself behind the forms and quibbles of the law, and laugh at his creditors. Shame! shame! In the extended state of modern commerce, bankruptcy may ensue from unforeseen and unavoidable causes. No man would be more lenientin such cases than myself; but fraud and deceit are the same in all ages, and in all countries ;-let them be marked and punished.
If you see the fraudulent bankrupt ca
ressed and sespected, while his fraudulency is notorious; if you see that the courts of justice are no longer the terror of evil doers, and the praise and protection of those that do well, but are laughed at by knaves, without any apprehension of their being forced to do justice, or fulfil engagements which it is convenient for them to evade; when you see that this open and avowed injustice is supported by the ingenuity and quibbles of lawyers, because, forsooth, they have received a fee, and must do something for it, were it even to assert things which they, and the whole court, knew to be gross falsehoods ; can there be a doubt that the public mind must be vitiated, and the security of property weakened ?
In Canada there are no bankrupt laws; ** and you cannot arrest your debtor, unless you can swear that he is about to leave the country. You cannot put his property in trust for the benefit of his creditors, or deprive him of the power of disposing of it. You may easily conceive what an opening is thus given to those who are fraudulently inclined.
If you-sue him, he puts you off from term to term, by one quibble or another; in doing which, the lawyers here are very expert: for it seems a maxim with them, that any regard for truth is altogether an unnecessary part of their character.
If they wish to gain time, some of them have been known to invent, on the spur of the occasion, the most gross falsehoods, and impudently pass them on the court as truths. Wereit necessary to be more particular, and give an instance, I could atonce do it. If the other party denies the truth of the assertion, a day is given to prove it: by that means a whole term, perhaps, is lost. If at last you get judgment in the lower court, the matter is carried to the court of appeals, where a year or two can easily be wasted : an appeal may then be made to the king and council. In short, one appeal follows another, till your patience, and your purse too, perhaps, are exhausted. The worst of it is, that all this time your debtor is wasting the money which ought to be in your pocket.
Perhaps you may say, that you do not feel interested in all this, as you do not intend to go to law. So much the better :
but if you wish to know a people, you cannot judge of them by a better criterion than the state of their jurisprudence. With this view I have gone a little into it. If you should ever have any dealings in this country, the information may be of use to you.
The study of the law, however, is in all its branches proverbially a dry study. I shall therefore give you a respite.
As soon as the weather is agreeable, I purpose going into the country, in different directions, that I may get some knowledge of the inhabitants, and of the state of agriculture. I shall have the pleasure also of viewing the natural beauties of the country, which are scattered every where with a liberal hand.
Quebec, September, 1807.
I have visited the greatest part of Lower Canada from Kamouraska, a hundred miles below Quebec, as high up as Lachine, near 200 miles above it, so that I have had an opportunity of making some remarks on the Canadians, and their country; and have, besides, had a fair specimen of Canadian travelling
I shall not go too much into a detailed and minute description of places, or take up your time in making you read a collection of high-sounding inflated words, and technical phrases, in an attempt to paint the natural beauties of the country. Such attempts have been reproved as savouring of affectation, because, after all, they come very far short of the true end of description—the giving a correct idea of the place described ; serving more to gratify the va