“The Lower Province Excursion”, The Globe (22 August 1864)

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Date: 1864-08-22
By: The Globe
Citation: “The Lower Province Excursion”, The Globe [Toronto] (22 August 1864).
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The Lower Province Excursion.






Although the main portion of my letters from Nova Scotia has been taken up in recounting the public doings of the Canadian visitors, it would not be right to pass by without prominent mention the private hospitality shown by the citizens of Halifax at large. As you are already aware, many of us, instead of being left to the tender mercies of hotel-keepers, were, from the first, admitted into private families, where the utmost hospitality and most untiring attention to our comfort have been shown. But the Bluenoses did not stop there. Invitations to breakfasts, dinners, and evening parties, to visit this place and that, to see this sight and the other, they poured upon our heads thick and fast, in their kindness making demands upon us with which we were totally unable to comply. Our New Brunswick training had given us a reasonable insight into the best mode of getting through a certain amount of festive work with the minimum fatigue, and in the shortest possible time; but even with this experience, many an invitation in Halifax was neglected, through sheer lack of power to respond to it. I mention the circumstances, because it is to be feared, if I am correctly informed, that some gentlemen consider themselves intentionally slighted. They made preparations to receive visitors who never came; and put themselves to inconvenience and expense to gratify those who chose, or who, the rather were compelled to be gratified in other quarters. It is vexing to see the meat spoiling on the board, and to eat one’s dinner almost alone, when a “numerous and [Illegible] company” were expected. But there was no help for it. Had each Canadian been a Cerberus and a Briarius combined, with the digestion of an ostrich, and the “sack” standing capacity of the venerable friend of a new deceased Prince of Wales, we might have been equal to the demands made upon us, provided we could have been present at a dozen places at the same time. As we could not do that, things are as they are. I cannot pass by this part of the subject without speaking of the uniform attention and kindness manifested by Messrs. Coleman and Weir, of the Committee of Management, and by His Worship the Mayor of Halifax. It was a task of no little difficulty to provide for, and to anticipate the wants of so large a party as the Canadian visitors make. Yet it was done; those who had taken the management of affairs working heartily and with unanimity. The names mentioned are those of gentlemen with whom your correspondent was more immediately brought into contact. Perhaps he fell within their “department.” Others may, and probably did, work as hard as they.


On Tuesday the visitors divided themselves up into numerous sets, as their fancy dictated, or as they were led by their party. Having been provided with railway tickets (placed in their hands the first day they set foot on Nova Scotian soil), some of our western members “took a run” to Truro and back, on purpose to see the country, and gain some further insight as to its agricultural capacities than opportunity had yet afforded them. The distance is upwards of 40 miles. The first 80 miles of the road they found “very hard,” similar in character to that which I have described as existing between Windsor and Halifax. But as soon as the rocky bounds were passed the scene changed to well cultivated fields and comfortable homesteads, such as exist in the most fertile regions of the Western Province. Truro itself is a very pretty place, built chiefly of wood, and cleanly kept. Carriages were procured, and a visit paid to the flats of Salmon river, where dykes have been erected, and the waters of sea and river alike precluded from travelling over a considerable section of the country. The land thus rescued from the waves is rich as it is possible for land to be. Chiefly used for the growth of hay, it yields on an average, I believe, certainly with great frequency, three tons of grass to the acre. North of Truro to the Gulf, were the coal mines are found, with the exception of a few sections in the neighbourhood of the Cobequid Mountains, the land is excellent in its quality. The visitors returned to Halifax much pleased with their trip, and in time to attend at Government House, in accordance with an invitation received from Lady Macdonnell.


Halifax, like St. John, N.B., possesses a poor-house, supported by the city and county combined. In this respect, as it appears to very many, the Lower Provinces are far ahead of Canada, where the poor, the incapable and the maimed, unless taken into institutions provided by private charity are left to die in the streets, or sent to rot, by the kindness of the justices, in the local [Illegible]. The [Illegible] Halifax [Illegible] gorgeous looking place by any means—quite the contrary. It consists of several detached buildings, appropriated to different purposes, without any architectural pretensions, except to perfect plainness. On the day it was visited by us, it contained 333 inmates—men, women and boys included. The wards are kept scrupulously clean, and though no visitors were expected, everything was in “apple-pie” order.

A little removed from the poor-house is the Halifax Ragged School, where about 50 lads are boarded and educated, some of their number being daily sent out to black the boots of the Halifax gentlemen, Tuesday was a gala day with them. Flags and banners waved in the garden, brush and black paste were exchanged for plum-pudding and roast beef, and joy reigned supreme.


Upon a commanding and very healthy site, on the opposite side of the harbour to Halifax, is the Lunatic Asylum, under the superintendence of Dr. De Wolf, a gentleman well known in the “insane world.” Across the harbour several members of the press were rowed by a crew of lunatics, who evidently laboured under the impression that the learned Dr. De Wold was about to receive them as permanent boarders in his establishment. They chuckled with delight at the idea, pulled vigorously, but very irregularity; their curious, intermittent, spasmodic, zig-zag mode of procedure reminding one much of the mode of argument commonly indulged in by the hon member for Hamilton. However, in time the madmen made a point—which Isaac, as you know, seldom does—whereapon all landed in safety. The asylum, as it at present stands, is 800 feet in length, but when completed, according to the original plan, the portion now erected will form merely one of the wings, so that with the centre and the second wing the total length will be nearly 700 feet.

The cost of the edifice so far is £50,000. It is built on what is called the linear plan; not as that of New Brunswick, which forms three sides of a quadrangle. About one-fifth of the patents are supported by their friends; the rest by the Provincial grant. The average cost per head is about $140 or $150 per annum. Separate from the Asylum proper, but at no great distance from it, is the bake-house, the kitchen and the laundry—all upon a large scale, and fitted up with machinery moved by steam. Here also are the boilers for heating the Asylum in the winter. The steam pipes are laid in large chambers, or rather corridors, under ground, where they heat the aid, which is forced by means of a large circular fan through separate channels into each bed-room. By a very simple arrangement, the engineer is able to regulate the supply of air, not only to the building at large, but to any chamber in it, so that the doctor is able to give to any single patient just the amount of heat he deems necessary. In this and in every other respect the Asylum is very complete, credible to the gentleman who manages it and to the Province at large. It is a little crowded at the present time, but as the Nova Scotian Government have surplus funds on hand, a new wing may shortly be added.

Among the inmates is a man, who furnishes forth instance of American “smartness.” He is a native of Maine, and has been in the State Asylum there but was discharged. Giving evidence of insanity a second time, he was shipped off to Halifax, landed upon the wharf, and left to himself. Means of getting him back again have not yet been found, as no master of a vessel will take him, for the man who lands an incapable on the soil of Maine renders himself liable to a heavy penalty.

Another inmate of the Asylum is a Canadian lady, who has gone made through vanity. To her misfortune, she can claim among her relationships certain knights and baronets of the common-place sort. The greater part of her life was spent in endeavouring to persuade people that she was somebody. Her constant theme was her high and mighty relatives, Sir This and Sir That, “my uncle,” “my cousin,” until her self-admiration passed beyond all bounds, and she was consigned to an asylum. There the poor creature now is, pouring into every ear open to her the story of her family greatness. It was with difficulty your correspondent, who has so often heard the same style of talking indulged in by the members of the would-be Canadian aristocracy, could bring himself to believe the poor lady should be thought mad in Nova Scotia. If in Canada, she would certainly be at large. It is to be presumed, however, that the authorities are right, from which presumption two deductions may safely be made—first, that persons predisposed to blue-blood monomania should not [Illegible] with it, or the result may be disastrous; and secondly, that it will be well for certain Canadians to fight shy of Halifax, or perchance they may be lodged against their will with Dr. De Wolf.


Through the kindness of the Hon. Mr. Bureau, your correspondent had the opportunity given him to look over the pictures and library of the R.C. Archbishop of Nova Scotia. The pictures belonging to his Grace are chiefly very excellent copies, from the old masters; but he has some valuable originals. His book-shelves contain many curious theological works, which I did not stay to read. Among those we looked at, however, were some very ancient illuminated missals, the work of monks ere the printing press was known. In the exactness with which each letter is formed, in the exquisite taste with which the colours are combined and cultivated, in the marvellous diversity of the different fancies of the old artist, as expressed in his grotesque figures and intricate scrolls, they are seldom, I think, to be excelled. I have seen others in a better state of preservation, but few more valuable, either for their antiquity or as works of art.


Between seven and nine o’clock Mr. McGee delivered a lecture on Federation, which was well attended. You will find a full report from the M.S. of the lecturer in the Halifax papers.


Cards from Lady Macdonnell, intimating that she would be “at home” on Tuesday night at 9 o’clock, having been issued to the Canadians, and to many of the gentlemen and ladies of Halifax, there was a very large attendance at Government House on Tuesday evening. The gardens were hung with variegated lamps, and a military band was in attendance. Lady Macdonnell and Sir  Richard exerted themselves much to entertain their guests well, and abundantly succeeded. Both were exceedingly kind and affable with all. The evening was passed much more pleasantly than is usual on occasions of the kind, where formality and strict etiquette sometimes interfere largely with enjoyment. Lady Macdonnell is an excellent French scholar, and entered into conversation with many of the Lower Canadian gentlemen present, all of whom express great delight with her. It was with great regret when the gun from the citadel boomed forth the announcement that twelve o’clock had arrived, that the Canadians were compelled to recognize the fact that the last evening they were to spend in Halifax was past and gone.


At eight o’clock on Wednesday morning, we once more met together at the railway station. Amid the cheers of our Nova Scotian friends, led by Dr. Tupper, the train started on its way to Windsor. [Illegible] indulged in, many the cordial wishes for future well-being uttered, numerous the invitations extended by Canadians to their new acquaintances to visit them in their western [Illegible] present, and I am sure in saying so, I speak for the whole party, we are labouring under a sense of obligation which we have as yet no chance of repaying. But should the suggestion already thrown out, for a return visit next year not be acted upon, all the Canadians on the trip, at least, will feel it their duty to do their utmost for their Nova Scotia and New Brunswick friends, whenever they seek our shores.


Arrived at Windsor we found the Empire there in waiting. We were immediately received on board and started at once. St. John was reached at nine o’clock p.m., and bed soon afterwards. This morning, at eight o’clock, we embarked on board the fine steamer New Brunswick. The St. John Committee, headed by Mr. Donaldson, together with Mr. Coleman of the Halifax Committee, accompanied us to the wharf. Here the farewells were once more repeated, sundry songs sung, and multitudinous cheers given. In a short time the go-ahead, hospitable city of St. John was lost to sight.


Upon our arrival last night there was some excitement in the city over the doings of the Confederate cruiser, the Tallahassee, and it was reported that the New Brunswick (being an American boat) had received orders from her owners not to put to sea. However, as you perceive, we started, and so far have not been attacked. Some of the Canadian M.P.P.’s felt great hesitation about exposing themselves to capture by the Confederate. “The New Brunswick is a fast boat,” they said, “and the Captain, if hailed, might attempt to escape. If that were done, and a shell from the cruiser should send us all to the bottom, why, you know the result would be very disastrous.” Not that the M.P.P.’s cared for their own livers per se, or had time to think about them; their sole thought was for poor Canada. Deprived of so many sapient legislators at one fell blow, what could she do? But upon its being pressed on their attention that members of Parliament are easily manufactured, they “caved in,” and were all up to time this morning. On nearing Eastport, we sighted an American gunboat on the look-out for the “pirate.” On getting into Eastport, we learned a telegraph had been received stating that the Tallahassee was last night in Halifax harbour. Once more we breathe freely.


While in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, I have made it my business to endeavour to ascertain the opinion entertained on the Federation question. Almost all are in favour of union in the abstract, but it is evident that the matter has not yet passed beyond its sentimental stage. People are all ready to descant, a la D’Arcy McGee, as nearly as their brains and their oratorical powers will permit, on the grandeur of a British American Union. It would be such a fine thing! But when you get them down to the practical, they are by no means so clear, except upon one point—the intercolonial Railway. Union and the Railway, the Railway and the Union, as it appears to me, are convertible terms with them. Take them off that track, and you find the subject is yet in its infancy. They would like the railway, there is no doubt of that. But it is also certain there is one price which they would not pay for it—namely, subservience to the Grand Trunk. Though not particularly well informed about Canada and things Canadian, they are wide enough awake to dread Grand Trunk influence. They will have none of it. To tell the truth, the active part taken by Mr. Ferrier in this visit gave to the affair somewhat of a Grand Trunk odour, which our friends of the Maritime provinces did not half like. Courtesy of course prevented them saying anything publicly about it, but now and then they took occasion privately to let us know that they [Illegible] through a ladder as well as most people.

Among the reasons urged why the Intercolonial Railway should be built, these two are very popular:—First, that the country through which the line would run would be opened up. It possesses vast forests of pine timber, which, were an opportunity given, would be invaded by hosts of lumbermen, to feed whom the produce of Western Canada would be called into requisition. And secondly, many people who now go yearly to Portland for sea bathing would instead seek health on the Nova Scotia and New Brunswick shores. I am quite aware that many “larger” commercial reasons than these are very frequently offered; but the fault with them is, that when they are examined they dwindle down into such small proportions that it is difficult to find them. Such, for instance, is the argument that the traffic now done between Portland and Boston, and St. John, would in the main be transferred to the Intercolonial line, if built; and mind, I do not say that it would be worth while to construct the road for the benefit of the sea bathers and the lumbermen—I only point out that these are the ideas which exist respecting it.

In discussing the question of a Federal Union with the Lower Provinces, a fact must be borne in mind with which many Canadians are not familiar. It is this, that the municipal system of government has not been carried out either in New Brunswick or Nova Scotia to anything like the same extent as in Canada. The Governments of both these Provinces hold many powers which in Upper Canada have long been vested in the county councils. The effect is, that in the event of a Federal Union, a people who are not almost exempt from direct taxation they would have to raise moneys which are now procured by duties on imports and exports. Whether the prospect, when it comes more clearly to be seen, is one that will prove pleasant to them, time will show.


But there is one point upon which they are all agreed—that there should be an assimilation of the tariffs if possible, at any rate entire free trade between the colonies. I think few imagine that the Charlottetown Convention will result in immediate union with Canada, but the hope is indulged in that, at any rate, free trade will be the result. The people of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and doubtless of Prince Edward Island also, all think it certain that they could supply you with large quantities of manufactured goods. I am not at all inclined to dispute this belief. If it is true, then it will be to our mutual advantage that Canada should buy in the cheapest market. If untrue, still no harm will be done, for you will supply blue-nose with the goods he intended to make for you. That is the rational way to look at the question.

If the visit now terminated result in nothing else, it is much to be hoped that it will be productive of an increase of kindly feeling between Canadians and their brethren of the Lower Provinces. We may and do differ in opinions on many subjects; but there is no reason why we should not all be united as one people under the Imperial flag, whether we come together in federative union or not. The sentiment of nationality may be cultivated, kindly courteates may be exchanged, and services mutually rendered; all of which must tend to bind us more closely to one another, and assuredly to hasten the time when complete union may be attained.


PORTLAND, Aug. 19.

After a very pleasant trip, we arrived here at 5 o’clock, a.m., all well. The Tallahassee did not appear. The telegraph received at East port stating she was in Halifax was thought by the Captain to be a hoax, so he hugged the shore all night, and not a single light was placed on the vessel. Wonderous stories were also circulated concerning thirty men armed with bowie-knives and revolvers, who it was said had been taken on board for the purpose of capturing the Tallahassee should she attack. But the “pirate” having probably heard of the stupendous preparations made for her destruction, as I have said, did not attack. So here we are.

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