Page images

It is to be presumed that the dry goods imported, for which no duties are paid, and of which no account is kept at the customhouse, amount to the difference between the above sum and the value of the exports, viz. about 563,600l.-Indeed, it is not improbable that the imports exceed the exports and remittances, for it is very well known, that many of the goods imported are never paid for, the importers becoming insolvent.

Besides the preceding imports, goods of a variety of kinds are annually sent to Canada (as I have formerly mentioned) by the British government as a present to the Indians. When these goods are delivered to the proper officer, bills are drawn for the amount in favour of the shipper; but, as the province gives nothing in return for these goods, the bilis drawn in payment cannot be considered as a remittance from Canada, for which the province ought to take credit. The Indians give nothing in return for which they are not amply paid. In fact, it is a present, and like all other presents must go to the debit of profit and loss at home. Did the Indians live a settled life, and employ themselves in agri

culture, and in increasing the useful property of the province, the presents might be considered as a salary, and, like all other salaries and army pay, would be compensated to Britain by labour or services, and the province might take credit for the amount, because in the accomplishment of their duty, their salary is spent in the purchase of various articles of food, which if not consumed in that way might increase the exportations of the province: but this is not the case. The Indian kills his game, eats the carcass, and sells the skin to the merchant, who pays him for it as much as if he had received no present from government.

That government should continue annually to distribute presents to the Indians, is a measure, the expediency of which is very much doubted. They are given with the view of conciliating the affections of the Indian tribes, and securing them in our interests. It is thought that their own interest will teach them that we are their best friends, so long as we take their furs and peltries, and give more for them than they can get elsewhere; when this ceases to be the case, the presents will not have great

effect. Indeed, I am well assured that the presents are, even now, almost thrown away, from the circumstance of their being given to the most unworthy part of the Indians, -to fellows who live in the neighbourhood of Detroit and Michilimakinack, and whom these presents keep in a state of idleness and dissipation; while the real hunters, the active Indians who furnish the furs, and are truly useful as well as formidable, get little or nothing. They stand no chance with the Detroit or Michilimakinack Indians, or those in the neighbourhood of these places, whose knowledge of, and connexions with, the commanders and men in power, secure to them a large share of what the British government send to this country. The Micmac and other Indians that come to receive their presents at Quebec and Montreal, are too insignificant to be feared, or to be taken much into consideration.

It certainly would be improper, nay highly unjust, to stop all at once the giving presents; but I find it is the general opinion that the thing might be done gradually; and that it would not only be a consider


able saving to Britain, but really, upon the whole, an advantage to the Indians not to receive presents. It would be better that they should spend their time in hunting, than in coming to our military posts and destroying themselves with spirits, which they get in exchange from British subjects, for the very presents they had just received from government; so that they very often return as completely divested of their presents, as when they came out of their native forests. I have heard that some years ago very great abuses were committed by those concerned in this department, who are said to have inveigled the Indians to part with their presents for liquors, and that the goods were afterwards appropriated to their own use, whereby large fortunes were made.

An important part of the commerce of Canada is carried on with the United States of America, the consideration of which I shall reserve for my next letter.


Quebec, December, 1807.

I HAVE just returned from taking a walk, though the weather is bitter cold. You will be surprised that any one could shew their nose to it, when I shall have told you how cold it is; on that subject you shall hear from me by and by: in the mean time let me continue my mercantile disquisitions. I have to lay before you the commercial connexions of Canada with the United States.

Besides the trade which Canada carries on with Britain and her colonies, a very considerable trade is carried on with the American states. The law acknowledges but one place in Lower Canada, through which goods can be introduced from the United States, as I mentioned in a former letter. It is by the river Chambly, which connects Lake Champlain with the St. Lawrence. At St. John's, on this river, there is a custom-house for the

« PreviousContinue »