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important points, viz. the practicability of opening an overland trade with the shores of the Pacific, and from thence with China, and with India; and the impossibility of there being any north-west passage from Europe to China, by the Northern Ocean.
The line of boundary between Lower Canada, and the United States, would, in case of a war, attract much attention. though it is extensive, there are, comparatively, few places where an army could enter. The greatest part of the country through which the river St. John runs, is a continued forest, and impassable; and the country to the north of the highlands, from thence as high up as Quebec, except near the St. Lawrence, is pretty much in the same state, without any thing like a road, till you get as high as the river Chaudiere, which falls into the St. Lawrence a little above Quebec. It rises about a hundred miles up the country, in the highlands, forming the line of boundary. A road is formed up this river for a considerable part of its course; but, I believe, it is not continued quite through; the townships in its course, not being all settled.
The banks of the St. Lawrence, from the lowest settlement, up to this river, are not cultivated backwards to a great distance, seldom above 10 or 15 miles, in a direct line from the river. The distance of the American line, from the river St. Lawrence, is not well ascertained; it must vary, as the highlands advance or recede; upon an average, it is probably about 50 to 60 miles. When you get as high as the river Chaudiere, the highlands retire towards the south, leaving a country between them and the St. Lawrence of the breadth of near a hundred miles. It contracts again as it approaches the St. Lawrence on the parallel 45. In this tract of country are the southern townships of Canada; they run behind the Seigneuries the whole way from Bique, 150 miles below Quebec, to the termination of the parallel 45 in the St. Lawrence, upwards of 200 miles above Quebec; but they lie principally between the river Chaudiere and the river Chamblie. The Seigneuries do not in general recede from the river above eight or ten miles. In the country backwards, as far as the American line, are found the townships.
In each township, the crown, when it makes a grant, reserves one-seventh for future disposal, and one-seventh for the future support of the protestant clergy.The crown reserves also the right of cutting wood fit for ship-building.
Besides the road on the river Chaudiere, there is another on the river Yamaska, about a hundred miles further up. This river discharges itself into that part of the St. Lawrence called Lake St. Peter's.
A third road, a little further to the west, comes from Burlington, on the east side of Lake Champlain, and down the river Chamblie.
A fourth road comes in from the state of New York, by Odlestown to Laprairie, opposite Montreal.
Besides these roads, there may have been some opened very lately, and perhaps there may be a few tracks, known only to the natives, which, in case of war, might be serviceable to Americans, though they would not be so to British soldiers. An American is at home in the woods, and could easily find his way, and live, where an Englishman would lose himself and die.
The unfortunate soldiers, who attempt to desert from Quebec by the Chaudiere road, find the impossibility of passing through woods with which they are unacquainted. They, almost without one instance to the contrary, are brought back, after having delivered themselves up to some of the country people, to be conducted to Quebec.
If we should unfortunately go to war with America, the less our troops are in the woods the better. I am not qualified to give an opinion as to the best manner of defending Canada. In case of an attack, every thing that soldiers can do, will be done; for the troops are kept in excellent order, and in good spirits. I should suppose that Upper Canada is more vulnerable than Lower Canada. It not only has no strong holds, but as the line of boundary runs through the lakes, boats might be prepared, and troops might be carried over in any numbers, and landed at any given point, unless they were obstructed by our navy; for on those lakes we have a navy, which rides as triumphant as that of the ocean. During the American war we had several armed ships on the lakes, and
even now we have a few, with a regular establishment of officers.
I do not know if it was the intention of government that Americans should be al lowed to settle in the townships. Whether it is sound policy or not, is a question which has been much agitated here; and it certainly involves many difficulties. In one point of view the Americans are preferable to any other people, because there are no people who so well understand the business of clearing a new country, and making it productive. They are active, industrious, hardy, and enterprising, to a degree, that is scarcely to be credited, till ocular demonstration convinces you of the fact. In these points, the Canadians are not to be compared to them; nor are any of the emigrants from Europe by any means so valuable. In short, the American, when he makes a pitch (as they term it, when they make an establishment in the woods) is quite at home, and following the profes sion he has been habituated to from his infancy. The emigrant from Europe has every thing to learn; and, besides that, he has to unlearn all his European habits.
Therecan be no doubt, that the greater