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NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW.
NEW SERIES, NO. XXXV.
ART. I.-1. Reports of the Committee of the House of Assembly
on that part of the Speech of His Excellency the Governor in Chief, which relates to the Settlement of the Crown Lands; with the Minutes of Evidence, taken before the Committee. Quebec. 1821. 2. Esquisse des Affaires devant le Parlement Provincial du Bas-Canada, dans la Session qui doit s'ouvrir le 21 Janvier, 1826. (A Pamphlet compiled from articles inserted in the Quebec Gazette. pp. 30). 3. Reflections upon the Value of the British West India Colonies, and of the British North America Provinces. London. 1826.
Among the curiosities of contemporary British legislation, must be reckoned Mr Hume's motion in the House of Commons, in presenting Mr Gourlay's petition, on the plan of extinguishing the national debt of Great Britain, by the sale of the crown lands in the two Canadas. It must be admitted to show a somewhat limited knowledge of the matter in the honorable mover (if not misreported), that nothing was said by him, on that occasion, of the measures long ago adopted by the British government, with a view to the deriving of benefit from the waste lands in question, as well to the colony as to the mother country, or, at least, to the creating by their sale the means of defraying the expenses of the provincial government. It
from the document which is mentioned at the VOL. XXVII.NO. 60.
head of this article, that this subject engaged the attention of the British government so early as the year 1775, or twelve years after the conquest of Canada. By the instructions given to Sir Guy Carleton (afterwards Lord Dorchester), dated St James, February 3, 1775, that captain-general and governor in chief was empowered to agree with the inhabitants of the province for such lands, tenements, and hereditaments, as now are or hereafter may be in the king's power to dispose of, to be granted in fief or seigneurie, in like manner, as was practised antecedent to the conquest of the said province, omitting however, in any grant that shall be passed of such lands, the renovation of all judicial powers or privileges whatever.'
Three years after the recognition of the independence of the United States, Lord Dorchester was, by additional instructions, directed to order the surveyor-general to measure and lay out such quantity of land, as, with the advice of the Council, he should deem convenient for the settlement of the loyalists, such lands to be divided into distinct seigneuries or fiefs, to extend from two to four leagues in front and from three to five leagues in depth, if situated upon a navigable river, otherwise to be run square, or in such shape and in such quantities, as shall be convenient and practicable, and in each seigneurie, a glebe to be reserved and laid out in the most convenient spot, to contain not less than three hundred acres, nor more than five hundred acres, the property of which seigneuries shall be and remain vested in us, our heirs, and successors; the said lands to be held under us, our heirs, and successors, seigneurs of the seigneurie or fief, in which the same shall be situated, upon the sanie terms, acknowledgments, and services, as lands are held in the said province, under the respective seigneurs, holding and possessing seigneuries or fiefs therein, and reserving to us, our heirs, and successors, from and after the expiration of ten years from the admission of the respective tenants, a quit rent of one half-penny per acre.'
The loyalists and those whom these provisions concerned, are defined in the following passage at the beginning of the fortieth section of Lord Dorchester's instructions; our loyal subjects, inhabitants of the colonies and provinces, now the United States of America, who are desirous of retaining their allegiance to us, and of living in our dominions—and the non-commissioned officers and private men of the forces, which may have been reduced in our said province of [Quebec], and who shall be desirous of becoming settlers therein.'
The Canadians were greatly displeased and not a little alarmed at the great number of loyalists that entered the province, allured by the bait which had been thus held out to them or coming in the character of officers of government. From the manner,' says a committee of the House of Assembly, in a Report dated February 12, 1821 ; 'from the manner in which the influence of these gentlemen and their friends had been exercised in the old colonies, and from the ill success which had attended the policy adopted by their advice, Canada could augur but unfavorably of the administration which was destined to rule it.' It seems that several petitions were addressed to the king complaining against what the Canadians considered an infraction of the laws, institutions, and privileges guarantied to them by the Quebec Act of 14 George III. ch. 83. This law however does in no manner deprive the crown of the right of distributing the waste lands; the Canadians were only intended to be secured by it in the enjoyment of their property and possessions, together with all customs and usages relative thereto, and all their civil rights.'
It appears from a proposition brought forward in 1790, on behalf of Lord Dorchester, and discussed in the Legislative Council, that a strong party inclined to the commutation of the feudal tenures into estates of free and common soccage. The governor in asking the advice of the council, on this subject, invited them to attend to the statute 12 Charles II. chap. 24, by which the tenure in free and common soccage was made general in England.
The chief justice who, was then, we believe, as now, chairman of the council, made a similar motion which was received favorably by the council. Only one member entered his dissent; but at last, the government discountenanced the whole scheme; and though, by the forty-third section of the constitutional act (31 George III. ch. 31), all lands in future to be granted within the limits of Upper Canada, were to be granted in free and common soccage, the same enactment was extended to Lower Canada only in case the grantee should have desired it, remaining however subject to such alterations, with respect to the nature and consequences of such tenure of free and common soccage, as may be established, or any law or laws, which may be made by the king, his heirs,' &c.
In 1821, the question was brought before the House of Assembly, in consequence of the speech of the governor in chief, at the opening of the session, and a committee to whom the matter was referred, reported against the suggested change. The principal ground upon which they placed their opposition was, that the feudal system was better adapted to the settlement of a new country, where capital is necessarily scarce, where labor wants the encouragement of constant outlets for its surplus productions, and where the returns of money, laid out in the clearing of land, are slow. They thought that these obstacles could only be removed, by one of the three following expedients; that the country should be settled by emigrants, furnished with capital and accompanied by free laborers, as was the case in the settlement of New England; or, that the government should make pecuniary advances or donations to support the new settlers, till their labor should become productive, as was the case in 1783 and 1784, with the settlers in Upper Canada; or, lastly, that the government should make the grants under conditions which might insure the investment of private capital, with reference to individual interest, but so as to insure the permanence of the settlement. The committee was disposed to adopt the latter course. They thought that such a policy would not only encourage the investment of the pecuniary resources already existing in the province, but produce an influx of capital from abroad.
Considering, however, the interest of those through whom the capitalists must derive their profits, the committee supposed that concessions, such as had been made to the great proprietors of some of the provinces now constituting the United States (as, for example, Lord Baltimore), would be too onerous for those who should actually become settlers. They concluded that, in regard to the interest of the latter, the French system of seigneuries was unquestionably the least burthensome, especially as, since the conquest, the inconveniences of the seignorial jurisdiction, in civil and criminal cases, had been removed. Under that system, the settler is not obliged to lay out any money for his land, and consequently the idle cash he may
possess may be employed in the improvement of his farm. The annual rent is generally moderate. In return, the tenant has the support of the seigneur, who is interested to save his estates from the forfeiture to which he would be liable, were his lands to remain upcultivated. In many cases, he is obliged to provide for the means of intercourse from the remotest settlement on his estate, to the next concession of ungranted land, and to