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cultivation, nor can those already cleared be made very productive.
The law alluded to might do very well in such a country as Canada for a few generations, while the new grants continued very large : but the divisions and subdivisions must, in time, become too minute, and be a check on the improvement of the country, in an agricultural point of view; and also, as a natural consequence, retard the increase of population.
This division of property is extremely prejudicial to the interest not only of the landholder but also to that of the merchant, shopkeeper, and mechanic.
When one of the parents dies, an inventory is made of the property, and each child can immediately insist on the share of the property the law allows. The French law supposes
that matrimony is a co-partnership; and that, consequently, on the death of the wife, the children have a right to demand from their father the half of his property, as heirs to their mother. If the wife's relations are not on good terms with the father, a thing that sometimes happens, they find it no difficult matter to induce the children to demand a partage, or division, which often occasions the total ruin of the father, because he loses credit, equal, at least, to his loss of property, and often to a greater extent. His powers are diminished, and his children still have a claim on him for support.
One effect of this law, and not one of the least material, is, that the affection between parents and children is likely to be destroyed by it: and, in fact, it is remarked, that in this country the instances of unfeeling conduct between parents and children are extremely frequent, and a spirit of litigation is excited amongst them. One is at a loss to account for such unnatural conduct, until an acquaintance with the laws and customs of the country gives a clue to unravel the mystery.
The law, making marriage a co-partnership, and creating a communité de bien, is sanctioned by the code of French law, called Coutume de Paris, which indeed is the text book of the Canadian lawyer; the wife being by marriage invested with a right to half the husband's property; and, being rendered independent of him, is perhaps the remote cause that the fair sex have such influence in France; and in Canada, it is well known, that a great deal of consequence, and even an air of superiority to the husband, is assumed by them. In general (if you will excusea vulgar metaphor), the grey mare is the better horse.
British subjects coming to this country are liable to the operation of all these Canadian or French laws, in the same manner that the Canadians themselves are. They are not always aware of this circumstance; and it has created much disturbance in families. A man who has made a fortune here (a thing by the bye which does not very often happen), conceives that he ought, as in England, to have the disposal of it as he thinks proper. No, says the Canadian law, you have a right to one half only; and if your wife dies, her children, or, in case you have no children, her nearest relations may oblige you to make a partage, and give them half your property, were it a hundred thousand guineas, and they the most worthless wretches in existence. Nothing can prevent this but an
antinuptial contract of marriage, barring the communité de bien.
From Canadian travelling I got on Canadian farming: the farming led me to the farmers, and these to their laws and customs. One cannot well avoid following up an association of ideas; but it occurs to me that, having mentioned Montreal, you will naturally expect me to give you some account of it, which I shall attempt to do in my next letter.
Quebec, 1807. Montreal is situated on an island; but the island is so large in proportion to the water which surrounds it, that you are not sensible of its insularity. A branch of the river Ottawas, which falls into the St. Lawrence above Montreal, takes a northerly direction, and forms the island. This branch joins the St. Lawrence at Repentigni, where the public road from Quebec is continued by a ferry of about a mile in breadth. A little above the ferry there is an island ; on each side of which the channel narrows much, and an attempt has lately been made to build a bridge across -it failed. The masses of ice which came down the river when the winter broke
up, carried the bridge away.
The attempt however will be renewed upon a different plan, and, it is to be hoped, will prove successful, as it would be of great utility to