網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

Art. V.-1. Report on the Affairs of British North Amer

ica, from the EARL OF DURHAM, Her Majesty's High Commissioner, &c. &c. &c. Presented by Her Majesty's Command, and ordered by the House of Commons to be printed. London : 1839. fol. pp. 119. 2. Appendix to the Same. (A.B.C. D. and E.) London :

1839. fol. pp. 554. 3. Copies, or Extracts of Correspondence, relative to the

Affairs of British North America. Presented by Her
Majesty's Command ; and ordered by the House of
Commons to be printed. London : 1839. fol. pp.

400. 4. A Narrative. By Sir FRANCIS B. HEAD, Bart. Lon

don : 1839. 8vo. pp. 448. 5. The Bubbles of Canada. By the Author of " Sam

Slick, the Clockmaker,” &c. &c. Philadelphia : Lea & Blanchard. 1839. 12mo. pp. 262.

"Les choses vont vîte en Bas Canada,” was a favorite maxim, less than two years since, with the partisans of the banished Speaker of the ci-devant House of Assembly of Lower Canada. Late events have indeed proved the saying true, though in a sense widely differing from that in which its author and his followers were proud to use it. An insurrection, suppressed by armed volunteers and a handful of troops, almost as soon as attempted ; a constitution suspended by act of Parliament ; a Governor-General and High Commissioner sent out, with unprecedented legal powers and military force, and charged with the complex duty of restoring tranquillity and good feeling, administering a temporary despotic government, and devising a new constitutional system in place of that which had just worked out its own destruction; the first public act of this new Governor summarily disallowed, and his mission prematurely terminated; a second insurrection, of yet shorter duration than the first, the ex-governor censured for his prompt return to England, and his masterly Report complimented, a few weeks after, by the British Ministry ; the Colonial Secretary, in whose name the despatches censuring him had run, all at once removed, and his place filled by another ; the Ministry

VOL. XLIX. — No. 105. 48

itself next resigning, and then restored to office ; its Canadian measures brought before the public, and then modified so often and so much at the suggestion of one party and another, that the public can scarce tell any thing about them, but that they differ in some of their most important features from the recommendations of the approved Report ; – all this, and much more that has vitally affected the interests of the British American Provinces, has been crowded within this short space of time. The commercial embarrassments, which caused a brief suspension of specie payments in this country, led to a like result in them; and its effects upon the resources of the two Canadas were rendered doubly prejudicial by the incapacity of those, who at that crisis had the ordering of the financial blunders of the Upper Province. Political causes have since visited upon the Canadas the evils of a second suspension. Insurrection has made its appearance in Upper as well as in Lower Canada. In both, men's minds have been heated with civil strife and border struggles. From these, and, since, from the agitation of the Maine boundary question, a war between England and the United States has more than once seemed imminently threatening. For much of the time, indeed, a quasi border war has been actually going on, with all the thousands of false rumors and varying but ever hurtful excitements, which must of necessity grow out of such a state of affairs. Things have been moving fast in Lower Canada. Her sister provinces have come in for their full share of the movement ; and even these United States have not escaped its influence.

While matters were still in this state of rapid transition, it was impossible to present a satisfactory view of them, in the pages of a quarterly journal. The weekly and daily press could hardly keep pace with their progress; and the statements, arguments, and conclusions of a reviewer would have been out of date before they could have appeared in print. The present, however, seems to be a moment of comparative tranquillity. Lord Durham's recommendations, the plans of the British government, and, in effect, all other plans heretofore proposed by any other party are before Parliament ; and its final action upon them is not to take place, till after a full discussion of the entire subject shall have been had in the mother country, and in the colonies most interested. In British America, meanwhile, little seems to be in progress, except this discussion, and the conflicting efforts of the various interested parties, to influence the decision of the public voice and of Parliament in regard to the merits of the case in dispute. The excitement of insurrection and political trials, is for the time ended. The border disturbances we may hope, from present indications, are over, or nearly so. And last, not least, the vexed question of the Maine boundary, we may also hope, is at length in a fair way of being satisfactorily adjusted. These appearances of quiet may be more or less illusory ; and, by the time this article shall have made its appearance on our readers' tables, some changes may possibly have taken place in the aspect of affairs. For these, in such a case, we must ask our readers to make the necessary allowances. It is often far easier to foresee the great revolutions which require a long course of years for their developement, than it is to anticipate those lesser changes which a few weeks may bring to pass ; and which usually strike us at the moment as more important than they really are, from the suddenness with which they take place. In our present remarks on British American politics and prospects, we shall do our best to avoid the embarrassments which these accidents of the day tend to throw in the way of such discussions. It will be our object to present a general outline of the actual state of affairs, not to fill in the details of the picture ; and to exhibit the general tendencies of the state of things we describe, not to speculate in the dark as to the precise events which are next to occur. How soon another opportunity may offer itself, equally favorable with the present for an attempt of this kind, is very doubtful.

We shall not discuss at any length the merits or demerits of the works, whose titles we have cited at the head of this article. Only one of them, and that immeasurably the least valuable and least interesting of the number, is before the American public ; its catch-penny title, we presume, having earned for it the distinction of a reprint in the United States. The others, very few of our readers can have an opportunity of seeing. Indeed, were it not so, with the limited space to which we must confine our remarks, we should incline to prefer the task of giving an opinion on the subject of which they speak, to that of merely criticizing them. The heavy emptiness of Mr. Justice Halliburton's “ Bubbles,” and the lighter bombast of Sir Francis Head's “ Narrative,” certainly tempt criticism ; but we shall resist the temptation, and keep as strictly as we can to the course we have marked out.

We cannot, however, help expressing some surprise at the omission to republish Lord Durham's report in this country. The published Correspondence between the Colonial Office and the Canadian Governors is altogether too bulky to be read by people in general ; and even a selection from it, to comprise only the more interesting despatches, would have been of this character. But neither Lord Durham's “ Report," nor Sir Francis's “ Narrative,” lie open to any such objection. The buyers of the reprinted “ Bubbles of Canada," may thank their author's popular nom de guerre of “ Sam Slick,” and his piratical borrowing from an equally popular title of another man's, for the disappointment they have purchased. One would have thought the name of the blower of the original “ Bubbles from the Brunnens of Nassau," might on the same principle have insured his tale of Baratarian experiences a like honor. The Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada has the merit of being in his production as exclusively amusing as the topic he has in hand, his own amusing conduct, will allow ; or even, which is pretty much the same thing, as the borrower from his old title-page is uniformly dull in his. To be sure, Sir Francis's book is made up of despatches to Downing Street, addresses, answers, and other manifestoes, strung together very slightly in the way of narrative ; and perhaps people had had enough of that sort of thing before he left Canada, in the newspapers, which published so many of these queer productions. We observe, indeed, that even in the Canadas, where, till he left them, his admirers affected to be so many and so very warm, no one has called for a cheap edition of his book; a circumstance which may well excuse the American public for having been guilty of the like omission. But, even this reason does not hold in the case of Lord Durham's Report. It is no collection of old public documents, and, even if it had been, his Lordship's despatches and replies have not attained the unfortunate notoriety which attaches to those of Sir Francis Head. In the Canadas, the Durham Report has gone through a great number of editions, besides appearing in extenso in almost every newspaper. That the Canadians are the parties most interested in its statements and their consequences, though very true, hardly accounts for this contrast. What is so vitally important to the interests of an extensive border country like British America, cannot really be a matter of indifference, or even of mere ordinary interest, to the United States. Nor is this all. The report is in itself one of the most interesting state papers ever published, and its style and subjects are such as should make it particularly interesting to an American reader. It is full of valuable information and sound reasoning, on every subject of which it treats. The common faults of official writing are avoided in it with great success. There is no parading of a host of unimportant trifles, to give an air of authenticity and labored exactness to what is really a mere piece of patchwork copying from other sources, laborious to no one but the reader; and no dealing in official commonplaces, to mystify the uninitiated, and keep up a show of profound reasoning, where substance there is none. It is a plain-spoken, manly document; bold in its statements, adınissions, and conclusions ; yet temperate in language, and so carefully guarded in its argumentative portions, as to leave little room for hostile criticism, except to that dishonest class of antagonists, who invent, where they cannot discover, material for censure. Nor must an American forget, that it is a state paper, the production of an English nobleman of high rank and political standing, in which constant reference is made, and never in a tone of disparagement, to the United States, their form of government, their people, undertakings, and objects, in connexion with the affairs of the British provinces. While he points out the errors of his own government and countrymen with a faithful and unsparing hand, Lord Durham has not shrunk from the still more obnoxious duty of osten placing the policy of foreigners and their government in favorable contrast with theirs. He has not stooped to flatter national prejudice at the expense of truth. There is in his representations none of that affectation of contempt for this country and its institutions, by which Englishmen have too often shown their ignorance of the subject they spoke of, or their dishonesty, or both. On the contrary, Lord Durham has had the good sense to see, that the wonderful prosperity of the descendants of the British race here, is any thing but a dishonor to the proud land of their forefathers; that even the marked

« 上一頁繼續 »