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COUNTY OF PICTOU
From The Financial Crisis of 1825-26
To The Division of The County, 1826-1830
The financial crisis of 1825-6, described in our last chapter, left the county in a very depressed condition. Still the various branches of business, which had previously occupied our public men, continued, though on a diminished scale, and to those formerly mentioned as engaged in them, we may add the names of John Taylor and David Crichton, first in partnership, and afterward separately. Soon however these began to fail. Owing to the destructive manner in which the fisheries had been conducted, the fish visited our shores in greatly diminished numbers, and sometimes did not return to their old haunts at all, so that the trade fell off. About the year 1833, the fishing trade from Pictou ceased, and though there have been attempts made since to revive it, these have not proved successful. The West India trade was carried on under some disadvantages from Pictou, from the harbour being closed in winter, and from the fact of its not being a free port. As the fisheries failed and the supply of good timber diminished, this trade came to an end about the same time.
Public attention was now directed to the obtaining for Pictou the privileges of a Free Port. Some explanation may be necessary on this subject for readers of the present day. In the colonization of America, all the European powers acted upon the idea, of making the colonies yield the utmost possible advantage to the mother country, and that often with little regard to the rights of the colonists. Great Britain, though distinguished for justice and magnaminity, as compared with other nations, long maintained a commercial system, narrow and selfish, alike unjust to the colonies and injurious to both. Up till the year 1825, her policy aimed at preventing her colonial dependencies having any trade, except with the mother country or with one another. But in that year, Mr. Huskisson, then President of the Board of Trade, passed his memorable act, by which the colonies were allowed to trade with foreign countries, which reciprocated the favour an act which may be regarded as the emancipation of the colonies, and from which a new era in their history may be dated. Still the privilege was limited to some ports, known as Free Ports, of which Halifax was the only one in this Province. Under this system, if Pictou wished to export a cargo of any article, except fish, to a foreign country, it had to be sent to Halifax, unloaded there, reshipped and then cleared from that port. So all return cargoes of any description from foreign countries, had to be landed at Halifax, reloaded there, and thence cleared for Pictou, involving not only expense, but sometimes such a loss of time, as might prevent arrival for a whole winter. Thus the merchants here were virtually excluded from the trade with the Foreign West India Islands, South America, or the Mediterranean, which were the best markets for fish; and as to the United States, a cargo of flour could only be imported by landing it at Halifax, and a few hundred chaldrons of coal that were sent thither, had to be transshipped in the same manner. Foreign vessels were also prevented from coming to Pictou.
We may suppose that the Halifax merchants had enough of human nature in them, to wish to retain for their port the monopoly which this afforded, and hence their opposition was long given to the extension of the Free Port system to the outports. The first movement to obtain this privilege for Pictou was now made, by the calling of a public meeting, which was held in the Court House, on the 8th January, 1828, when it was resolved unanimously, That it is the opinion of this meeting, that it will be a great advantage to the trade, commerce, fisheries and agriculture of the Port and District of Pictou and the neighbouring harbours and places situate in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, that the Port of Pictou be placed on the footing of a Free Port, under the provisions of the Act of the Imperial Parliament, 6 George 1V., chap. 114. It was also resolved to petition the King to that effect. The petition was accordingly forwarded, with another to the Lieutenant Governor, asking him to recommend its prayer. Before the petition reached Britain, however, Pictou and Sydney were declared Free Ports, through the influence of the General Mining Association. But the petition of the inhabitants, which prayed that Pictou should be made a free warehousing port, was refused, on the ground that it had already been made a Free Port. Even this, however, excited in the minds of people here the most glowing visions, as to the future prosperity of the place. Stranger things have happened, said one,than that the horses of the Governor General of India should yet travel on Pictou iron, paid for by direct importation of East India goods into Pictou Harbour, and the first arrival under the new system was thus hailed in the Colonial Patriot, of 21st May 1828:
With much pleasure we record the arrival of the schooner Lovely Hope, from Boston, with a cargo of flour, corn, &c. This is the first arrival under the free port order, and it is creditable to the enterprise of Messrs. G. L. DeBlois & Co., the merchants who so quickly availed themselves of the new system.* * We sincerely hope the cargo of this vessel will yield a liberal return to the consignees. We think the present an important era in the history of Pictou, and doubt not the Lovely Hope is the harbinger of much good to come.
The timber trade had now sunk to a low position. The finer qualities of wood were exhausted. All the pine fit for shipment was gone, and what little was left, was to be found only in the most remote part of the county, was generally small in size and needed for home consumption. Pitch pine of value was not to be found. Instead of the splendid oak, which yielded abundant supplies of hogshead staves or timber for shipment, were to be found only a few small trees of second growth, scarcely sufficient to supply our own population with those articles, for which it was specially desired. There only remained the spruce and birch. For some years considerable was done in manufacturing the former into deals and battens, and in shipping them to Britain, but since about the year 1840 even that has come to an end, owing to the exhaustion of the supply. Birch timber continued to be drawn from the interior, and still forms an article of export.
The financial crisis of 1825-6 for a time nearly destroyed the ship-building business, but it soon began to revive and in subsequent years was carried on with much energy. But at that time, most if not all the vessels built were built to sell. After the close of the West India trade, there was scarcely a vessel of any size owned in the county and kept in regular employment. Even the building of them was carried on under disadvantages. The leading merchants had been left in debt by the events of those years, and others who began had but little capital. Hence the work was carried on by means of advances from parties in the old country. This involved expenses for commission, interest, &c. Then the vessels were sent to Britain for sale. Even if sold immediately, and at good prices, such were the charges, that very often the builder was as deeply in debt as when he began. But frequently they remained for a time unsold, with expenses eating up their value, and then they might be thrown upon the open market at a time when prices were low, in which case they might not realize first cost. This business proved fatal to nearly all who were concerned in it, as we shall notice more particularly in our next chapter. A number of those however, who at this time began business with little or no capital and on the smallest scale, have since become the wealthy men of the county.
Owing to these circumstances, the closing years of the period we are now reviewing, were about the poorest the country has experienced since its first settlement. Farmers, owing to the credit system, and their giving so much of their attention to timber, were in the merchants books. Now that resource was gone. Their farms had been neglected, and from constant cropping did not yield as formerly. Crops too failed from other causes. The Hessian fly injured the wheat, and a disease affected the potatoes, so that they did not grow as formerly, sometimes the seed not coming up at all. There was little demand for farm produce, and no cash market. Merchants received it in exchange for goods at low prices. The pork, butter, etc., thus received was shipped principally to Halifax, Miramachi, or Newfoundland, and cattle were sometimes driven across Mount Thom to Halifax, frequently realizing but a small return. The ship timber, or other produce of the forest, which they traded with the merchant, were paid for in goods dear in price and often trashy in quality, so that the farmers were so destitute of cash, that it used to be said they could only look for as much as would pay their taxes and stipends, though too commonly the sought to pay the latter, either in some other way or not at all.
We now turn from business matters to notice some other matters connected with this period. In the year 1827, the first newspaper published in the Province out of Halifax, was started in Pictou. It was called the Colonial Patriot, and was published by William Milne, in partnership with J. S. Cunnabell of Halifax, but its establishment was mainly owing to Jotham Blanchard, Esq., who for several years edited it anonymously. The important part which the paper played in our Provincial history, as well as the character and services of its editor, entitled them to special notice in this work. Mr. Blanchard was born at Peterboro, N. H., on the 13th March 1800. His grandfather, Jotham, usually known as Col. Blanchard, had left the United States at the close of the Revolutionary war, from loyalty to the British crown, and settled at Truro. His son, Jonathan, remained behind and married there, and Jotham was his eldest child. When he was fifteen months old, his parents moved with him to Truro, where the old people with their family were still residing. Here from accident or sickness he incurred permanent lameness, and probably from the same cause his constitution was feeble and ill fitted for the labour, to which he was impelled by his active mind. After he was able to go about, his father provided a pony for him to attend school, or go where called. Some years later, the family removed to the West River, where the father purchased George McConnells farm and put up a large house, so long known as the Ten Mile House, where he for several years kept an inn. Afterward they removed to Pictou town, where Jotham completed his education at the Pictou Academy, being one of the first class of students at that institution . He studied law under Thomas Dickson, Esq., and was admitted to the bar on the 18th October, 1821. In his profession, he soon established his character as an able lawyer and an eloquent pleader, but at the same time was noted as always discouraging litigation, at a time when there was so much disposition to it. *
*An instance of this
was given by a gentleman then holding a humble position in the printing
office. He was one day waiting upon Mr. B. for copy. While
the latter was driving his pen with great vigor, a countryman came into
the office. Scarcely lifting his head, Mr. B. asked his errand. The man
replied that a certain person had sued him for debt. And do you
owe him? said Mr. B., while the pen went with undiminished rapidity.
The man mumbled an uncertain reply. Do you owe him? said Mr.
B., more sternly. Well, perhaps I do, the man drawled out.
Then go and pay him, was the reply, while the pen never stopped
in its career. The man slowly retired, glancing back with a mixture of
wonder and curiosity, at this new specimen of legal advice.
The first number of the Patriot was issued on the 7th December , 1827, and had a motto, Pro rege, pro patria. In exposition of this , the editor said:
In politics we shall side with the most liberal system. Our motto, if rightly understood, conveys our sentiments. We reverence the British Constitution, and honor the king as its head, but feel assured that the best way of showing true regard for the king is by advancing the interests of his subjects. All governments are designed for the general good of the people, and that government deserves most praise, which most effectually succeeds in this object; and we boldly assert, that he who pretends to support the dignity of the government and the honor of the crown, at the expense of the general happiness, alike commits treason against the king and his subjects; he betrays the people and dishonors their sovereign.
Respecting our Provincial politics, we can only say that we shall advocate what we consider sound and just principles; and if we find the government or any branch of it deviating from these, we shall not fail to proclaim it. This determination, we are well aware, would be ridiculed by the members of Government, were it to travel so far as to meet their eyes, but neither there scorn nor our own weakness shall deter us from this course of conduct, being convinced that it forms no excuse for permitting obnoxious measures to pass in silence, that observation upon them is attended with no immediate results. It is an important point, to keep the eyes of the people open to their own interests, and thus convince the Government that they know when their rights are overlooked. This is the safest and surest mode of preventing and rectifying mal-administration, though we must confess that in the latter case the process is tedious. It has, however, proved successful in Britain, where ancient prejudices and their abettors have been forced to yield the the increase of knowledge, and the consequent march of liberal principles.
With our cotemporary editors, we shall carefully cultivate the most friendly feelings, but our public duty is paramount to private inclination, and if we find them betraying the peoples rights, or inculcating excessive servility, we must not be backward in exposing their errors, and reminding them of their duty as sentinels of the public interests.
The peculiarities of our religious tenets we do not think proper at present to divulge. . . While men do not cherish religious views subversive of the order of society, or inimical to the great and leading principles of our glorious constitution, we think it the very acme of injustice that there should be civil distinctions on account of religious opinions. Influenced by these sentiments, we shall never hesitate to strike in our feeble lance against any man- be he friend or foe, for us or against uswhom we shall find prostrating the landmarks of his neighbors rights.*
*In explanation of this paragraph, it is necessary to remind our readers, that Catholic emancipation was at that time still one of the great questions of the day.
Having witnessed the beneficial effects resulting from an unshackled press in Britain, we shall always advocate the same system here.
We will discuss the interests of Pictou. We shall at all times, however, when opportunity permits, be happy to raise our voice in behalf of the whole Province of Nova Scotia, without reference to east or west, north or south; and even beyond the limits of our own Province, our humble efforts shall always be at the command of our sister colonies, when we think their just rights attacked or disregarded, or in danger of being compromised by the negligence or inertness of the great body of the people, or the adroitness or power of the few.
Our infant establishment is the first of the kind in the country, and we do hope that the friends of general improvement in all parts of it will, by the kindness of their smiles, brighten us into a vigorous existence. The town has advocates in abundance, and papers in abundance, we shall endeavor to advocate the peculiar interests of the country.
These sentiments seem innocent enough, and in the present day would alarm no person, but they covered principles, which at that time were considered by those in power as dangerous, if not altogether subversive of society. Referring to this in the second number, the editor says:
Before setting out with so open an avowal of our principles, we perfectly knew that the voice of slander would follow our track, and that we should be charged with disloyalty and radicalism.. This has been the refuge of all the supporters of existing abuses and new oppressions, since the world began. Pharaoh, no doubt, considered Moses a great radical. William Tell was a radical; the sturdy barons who forced Magna Charta from King John were villainous radicals; so were Luther and John Knox; and they were a radical crew, to be sure, who drove the last of the Stuarts from Englands throne. In later times Chatham, and Burke, and Fox, and Brougham have all been charged with disloyalty and radicalism by the advocates of gray-haired abuses. If we, then, of the Colonial Patriot , suffer from the same species of slander, we shall suffer in good company ,and we prefer suffering in a good cause to prosperity in a bad one.
These were the days when the Council of XII., combining executive and legislative functions, sitting in secret, all, with scarcely an exception, Churchmen and residents of Halifax, and nearly all placemen,* most, if not all of them, decent men in their way, but trained in the narrowest school of political sentiment, full of the highest notions of arbitrary power, ruled the country with undisputed authority. Successive Governors had been but tools in their hands, and the House of Assembly, in any attempt hitherto made to assert its independence, had been obliged, whenever to come into collision with their high mightiness at the other end of the building, to succumb by a threat of the latter of refusing to do business with that branch of the Legislature.
* In subsequent collisions with the Council, it was stated that ten out of the twelve were paid officials of Government.
The Council too seemed to feel under no obligation, to adopt any measures for the improvement of the Province, so that for anything of that kind the country was indebted either to the persistent efforts of the Assembly, or to the independent judgment and energy of such a Governor, as Sir J. C. Sherbrooke or Sir James Kempt, yet were jealous of anything that seemed in the remotest degree to affect their own dignity, and resented it as subversive of the British Constitution or treason to the Sovereign. Only the winter previous, they had rejected a measure of the House for increased aid to common schools, and when such a unpatriotic, if not unconstitutional, exercise of power, provoked the author of the measure, T.C. Haliburton, to describe them as twelve old women, one in lawn sleeves (alluding to the Bishop), the House was called to account, and from fear of consequences, and contrary to their own judgment, meekly bowed to reprimand the author of the speech. Moreover, the majority of the Council having scarcely been outside the town of Halifax, * the country was to them of so little account, that any attempt on the part of the inhabitants to discuss their proceedings, they would have regarded almost as we might suppose a farmer, to regard a criticism on his style of farming, from the sheep in his back pasture. Indeed, the Attorney-General described the members of the House particularly referring to those from the country, as the Caribous.
* It was asserted afterward in one of the newspapers of the day, that some of them had never crossed Sackville Bridge, ten miles out of Halifax.
Such were the circumstances in which the Colonial Patriot was issued, as the advocate of liberal politics. The newspapers of Halifax were devoted to the news of the day, containing only some common-place remarks on public events, and discreetly silent regarding official doings. But Mr. B. had entered keenly into the political discussions of the mother country, on the subject of popular rights, on which at that time feeling there was running high. Impressed with the much greater subservience of the people in general to the few in power, which existed here, he threw his whole soul into the work of securing for the popular will, that control over public affairs, for which the Reformers in Britain in another shape were contending. Those measures of reform in colonial administration, which the popular party in Canada and Nova Scotia afterward succeeded in carrying, the Colonial Patriot was the first paper in the Lower Provinces to advocate.
Mr. B. wielded the pen of a ready writer. He wrote rapidly, but his writings were marked by great vigor and independence. He had the assistance, however, of other pens, lay and clerical, and the paper soon began to excite public attention. The political questions of the day were then mixed up with the Pictou Academy dispute, which was in fact the battle ground of party, and the Patriot was ever the fearless advocate of the institution.
The principles of the paper and free spirit in which it assailed Government abuses, soon brought it into notice. Its radical, or as they were then deemed, revolutionary views, were received in some places with horror. We recollect of hearing of an old Scotch minister, a Seceder too, who, hearing Mr. B. advocate in his earnest way his political views, lifted up his hands in holy amazement, and exclaimed, daring innovator. In Halifax particularly, the Patriot created no small stir, especially in official circles. The style of writing in it would not appear very violent, as compared with the political writing to which we are now accustomed, nor its sentiments very extreme, but at the time they were so unusual, and such was the general sycophancy to men in power, that they produced quite a sensation. It was read nevertheless.
But the paper was to receive attention from higher quarters. A few weeks after its commencement, an article, which appeared in it from the pen of a correspondent, was regarded as rank treason by the powers that be. It is said that the matter was seriously debated in the Council of XII., and that the feeling was general, if not unanimous, in favour of bringing the author to condign punishment. Milne received notice of an intended prosecution for libel, and the Attorney-Generals son, R. J. Uniacke, Jun., entering the House with the paper in his hand, and, as Blanchard described him, with all the greatness of a full-blown bladder, declared those connected with it to be dangerous persons that they had violated parliamentary privileges, and that he would never move another resolution in the House, unless it would avenge the insult by calling them to account. It was proposed not only to prosecute the proprietor for libel, but to bring him in custody to the bar of the House. The writer of the article had submitted it to Mr. B. as a lawyer, instructing him not to publish it, if it were libellous, and the latter was satisfied that there was no danger on that point, but for some time Milne expected that the House might take the last step proposed. But the majority of the House stood firm against Uniackes denunciations, which were no doubt inspired by Government.
There was much anxiety on the part of the authorities, to find out the authorship of the obnoxious article, which they were disposed to attribute to Dr. McCulloch. But as the real author afterward freely acknowledged his work, and when liberal principles had triumphed, rather took credit for it, we violate no confidence in saying, that it was written by the late Rev. Thomas Trotter, of Antigonish. We may add, that instead of containing anything violent, it would now be considered calm and logical. Its offence was, that it questioned the constitutional right of the Council, to act as they were doing regarding money questions.
But a circumstance, which gave Mr. Blanchard and the paper special notoriety, was the publication of what was called the Canadian letter. There being at that time much political agitation in the Upper Provinces, their condition and affairs occupied a prominent place in the Patriots discussions. The very first number strongly condemned as unconstitutional, the course taken by Lord Dalhousie, in rejecting Mr. Papineau as speaker, when elected by the Assembly, and Mr. B. continued warmly to support the course taken by that body in adhering to their choice; and maintained that if people were true to themselves they must triumph in the end. He was for a time a warm admirer of Mr. Papineau, though like the rest of the Nova Scotia Reformers, he would had he lived, have condemned the course taken by him and his compatriots in the outbreak of 1837.
Not long after the report of the proceedings of the Canadian Parliament, in which Mr. P. was a second time rejected, reached this Province, an extract from a private letter from a gentleman in Nova Scotia, was published in the Canadian Spectator, in which the spirit of the popular party was applauded, assurance was given that whatever the enslaved press of the Province might say upon the subject, the great majority of the people, who knew the merits of the conflict, thought well of the objects they had in view, and in general of the means they took to accomplish them. It was stated, that while in the Legislature of this Province, there was a growing spirit of independence, there was still far too much servility to those in power, and though the existing state of things in Canada was much to be deprecated, it was desirable that some of the same spirit should come our way. A moderate quantity of it now might supercede the necessity of more hereafter. As prevention if preferable to remedy, I am in hopes a little of it will creep our way, before a greater share of it will be required. And what was no doubt considered more dreadful, in reply to the accusations of the popular party being the disturbers of the peace, he maintained that Lord Dalhousie, by stretching doubtful prerogatives to their utmost limits, and unnecessarily irritating the people, has made himself the public disturber.
The extract was copied into the Halifax papers and the writer of it was denounced as a political libeller, not fit to crawl on free soil, and his opinions characterized as disloyal and dangerous. As the writer of the Canadian letter, which had been addressed to Mr. Leslie, member for Montreal, Mr. Blanchard defended the extract, but denied the legitimacy of the inferences drawn from it. Such was the feeling excited in high circles, that Mr. B. did not trust the office with the knowledge of the authorship of what he wrote, but employed a friend as scribe, in whose handwriting the manuscript went to the printer.
Mr. Joseph Howe, at that time editor and publisher of the Nova Scotian, was prominent among the assailants of the principles, which the writer of the Canadian letter advocated, and a somewhat fierce controversy was maintained for a time, which did more for the elucidation of the principles of liberal government, and their introduction into this Province, than anything that had hitherto transpired. Mr. Howe was then a young man, just beginning his career as a journalist. His early writings gave indications of the talents he possessed, although he had not reflected deeply on political questions. He was naturally connected with the official party, his father having been both Queens Printer and Postmaster General, and his elder brother succeeding to both offices; and indeed was regarded as the chosen champion of the party. But the result of his controversy with Mr. B.and the other writers, who came to the aid of the latter, was that he became a convert to the views, which at that time he denounced, but in the advocacy of which he afterward became so prominent and so celebrated. He has been known to say, that he received his first impressions of liberal politics from Jotham Blanchard. He did not approve of them at first, but the more he thought upon them, the better he liked them, till he embraced them fully, and devoted his life to their establishment.*
* Entering the Patriot office when on a visit to Pictou at the time of the election of 1830, he laughingly remarked, The Pictou scribblers (so he used to call the writers in the Patriot) have converted me from the error of my ways.
The maintaining of the country paper at that period was no easy matter. Even for many years after, it was with difficulty that a publisher could make ends meet, but of course at that time the difficulties were much greater. The population likely to support it was but small, the country was not in a very prosperous condition, the habits of payment were very irregular, the publisher in Pictou was not a practical printer, and patriotism was not then the paying business it has since become. At all events a long time had not elapsed, till the publisher found himself in jail for debt. In an editorial the situation was thus humourously described :
We do not know what our readers may think of it, but for our own part, we can honestly declare, that it has affected us more than if we had heard of the incarceration of every other expounder of news in the Province. For subscribers to be in our debt is bad enough, but for patriots like us, who have been grumbling for them immeasurably, to be shut up in the prison house, because they have not paid us, while they are going at large, is almost beyond the endurement of flesh and blood. Anybody but ourselves would have long ago delivered them to the judge; and sure are we, that had they fallen into the hands of such a prompt and righteous dispenser of justice as our old Treasurer, he would have made them down with their dollars on the spot, and given them a good pounding to boot.
If our subscribers cannot pay us, we give them this notice, that they must find us an equivalent. Let them only recommend us to His Majestys Council, and get us into some moderate office, which will help us out of our scrapes. We are not ambitious men, we assure them. With such a salary as Mr. Jeffreys we will be perfectly content to be publicans and crave nobody. Though we may now and then take a race after the smugglers for fun, not one of our subscribers need lengthen his steps.
Some of our subscribers seem to think that if, like our old Treasurer, they say that they have no money in their chest, we are very well off. But we do assure them that we are not very well off. Such a thing was never known of patriots since the world began. Had we twelve thousand pounds lying past us to the good, our subscribers would have something like reason upon their side; but upon the word of honest patriots, we positively declare that we have not half that sum in our possession, and to the best our knowledge and belief, are not likely to have it before next meeting of Assembly.*
* The allusion in this paragraph is to the accounts of the Treasurer, which showed a balance of twelve thousands pound in favor of the Province, while applicants sometimes were roughly turned away with the declaration that there was no money.
When we were dragged to jail, we had no doubt of a speedy deliverance. We were perfectly confident that as soon as our confinement was known, there would be a rushing to see us, which would far outdo anything of the kind that had ever occurred in the Province. We said to ourselves, that if the large bullock and Mr. Barry had each a thousand visitors, patriots, such as we, must have ten thousand at least. But except a few of our creditors, who called to enquire when we would pay them, not a creature came near us.
It is very little to the credit of our subscribers, that we are in the hands of the Sheriff. We will not therefore allow them any longer to affront themselves. And we give them this notice, that there are only two ways; either they must send us their money, or come and live with us. In the last case we shall have them under our own eye , and if, between the treadmill and breaking stones for the streets by way of relaxation, we do not work it out of them, we shall have ourselves to blame. By these means we will collect as much as will pay all our considerate creditors; and when we find that there is nothing more to be got, we will send for the individual who for the pure purpose of annoyance, has been persuaded to put us in jail, and like honest gentlemen that we are, surrendering to him all that we have, that is to say, all our debts which have become bad through his placing us in confinement, we will walk out, and prosecute the patriot trade with redoubled vigor. If he expects the favor of councillors and their creatures by crushing us, he is likely to find that he has caught a Tarter. We were not born so far north for nothing, and we assure our friends that after coming all the way from Aberdeen for their benefit, they will not find us so easily put down.
Mr. Milnes native place.
But the darkest cloud
we are told has a silver lining. Above all, no circumstances can be so
desperate as to be beyond womans sympathy, and the darkest scenes
of life will be bright with the light which shines not on sea or shore,
if cheered by her smile. So did the poor printer find it. The Sheriff
had a fair daughter, whose pity was moved by his hapless condition. Our
prosaic history cannot adequately tell how pity passed into deeper feelings,
but at all events so well was the enforced leisure of the prison employed,
that when he again went forth to liberty, it was under bonds which, we
suppose now after nearly fifty years of wedded bliss he has no desire
to see dissolved.
To relieve him from his embarrassment, and to continue the publication of the paper, which had now become popular among the friends of liberal politics, a number of gentlemen combined, and subscribing the requisite funds, took the concern under their own management. For four or five years longer, the paper continued the same political course, Mr. Blanchard acting as editor the greater part of the time.
The course which Mr. Blanchard pursued excited against him much personal hostility. In the press he was accused of assailing all that is respectable, and subverting the very foundations of society, and his private character was attacked in ways that would outdo even our present political newspapers. To this however was added burning in effigy, a proceeding which Mr. Blanchard noticed in the following manner, duly honouring the more prominent actors in the scene, by giving their names:
A number of the merchants and other respectable inhabitants did us the honour on Thursday night, to burn us in effigy in the middle of the town. Mr.____________. Merchant and all his clerks, and (naming some others,) and about 100 other most respectable gentlemen, all assembled and performed in a most gentlemanly style the noble feat of burning our effigy. The blaze was so good, that many persons thought a house was on fire, particularly as these gentlemen were so careful of the property of the town, that they bawled fire most vociferously, to warn all, that gentlemen were employing that element for gentlemanly purposes.
We cannot adequately express our gratitude to these numerous merchants and other gentlemen for this signal honour. To be ranked with Popes, and Kings, and Dukes and Governors is an honour, which does not come the way every day to editors.
We must regret one or two mishaps that occurred. Mr.__________, whose clerk had the honour of carrying the effigy (and it was a honour even to be the jackass or packhorse of us, the Editors of the Patriot) mistook__________ for an intruder, and belaboured him very severely, and occasioned the loss of his hat. However, in so laudable a work as honouring us, a few wounds and the loss of a hat were trivial misfortunes. If _________ will call upon us, we shall sympathize with his sufferings, and contribute to the purchase of a hat. We do not wish to be honoured free of expense.
This was followed by a gentleman publicly spitting in his face. Mr. Blanchard being feeble, and his assailant being attended by others, supposed ready to proceed to personal violence, was unable to resent the result, though a friend did so the next day.
Considering the hostility, of which Mr. Blanchard was the object, we are naturally led to enquire, whether there was any cause for this in his personal character. After careful enquiry we must say, that, as far as we can learn, the opposition arose entirely from his political course. His life was pure, he was a genial companion and a firm friend. But the fact is, that at the time the very idea of criticizing the proceedings of those in power, was not only so new, but was so contrary to the arbitrary principles then prevalent, that it was held as sedition and rebellion. It has long been a crime, he says in one article. to stand up in the Assembly and advocate the rights of the people, or to say that they have rights. It is a crime to establish a paper under the hated name of Patriot. It is a crime to subscribe for such a paper. It is a crime to treat of public men and measures according to their deserts. It is a crime to call public functionaries to account, and to hint that tax gatherers and smuggler seizers may not be immaculate in official duties, and infallible in legislative conduct. And this was all the more intolerable, when it came from one from such a remote part of the Province as Pictou. In fact, his real offence was the political position which he assumed. When Mr. Howe advocated the same views afterward, he was assailed with equal bitterness, and with similar accusations .
In the year 1830, came the great conflict between the Council and the Assembly. The history of this does not belong to our present work. But the state of the question may be given here. In the year 1826, the Assembly had passed a revenue bill, by which the duty on foreign brandy was raised fro 1s. to 1s. and 4d. This duty was at first collected, but the officials having discovered a flaw in the wording of the act, had not collected the extra duty for several years. So little control had the Assembly over the financial affairs of the Province, that this was not discovered till now. They immediately determined to have the error rectified, and sent a bill to the Council imposing the extra 4d. This was sent back rejected, at four oclock on the day on which the revenue bills expired; and the next morning Honourable Councillors, in the midst of a blinding snow storm, were busy taking out of warehouse large quantities of spirits, which they had there in bond. The House of Assembly immediately passed another bill, which was also rejected by the Council, who now assumed an attitude on the subject, to which the Assembly felt they could not submit, without sacrificing the time honoured rights, which belonged to them as the Representatives of the people The result was that no revenue was collected that year. The Assembly was dissolved, and a new election took place that fall amid much excitement. In Halifax city, the Council carried things their own way, but the county was the subject of a keen contest. Mr. Blanchard became a candidate, along with Messrs. William Lawson, S. G. W. Archibald, and George Smith, as the friends of the Assembly, while the Government candidates were, Messrs, Hugh Hartshorne, J. A. Barry, J. L. Starr and Henry Blackadar.
There was not the same party discipline as now, when men, even Christian men, vote for a candidate of their party, whatever his capacity or even whatever his character. Every candidate had to depend largely on his personal influence and popularity. The Government too were nearly all powerful in the city of Halifax. For a young man from the country, like Mr. B., without wealth or influence in the capital, personally almost unknown there, to seek election as representative of the Metropolitan county, was a bold undertaking, and almost enough to give the old ladies fits. But as a candidate, he made a good impression upon independent men. His note books still in existence shew him to have cultivated his mind, by diligent study of the writings of the best poets and orators of Britain and Ireland. He had also been interested in the modern political discussions of the mother country, and now his speeches attracted attention. But such was the hostility of the Government party to him, that in Halifax he was insulted, which however only rendered his friends in the country more determined in their efforts on his behalf. Even in Pictou they would not allow him to be heard on the hustings, while the gentlemen who proposed him, Adams Archibald, Esq., of Musquodoboit, one of the greatest natural geniuses of the Province ever produced, was soon after dismissed from the commission of the peace.
The election for the County of Halifax caused much excitement throughout the Province. In Pictou the political question was mixed with the religious division that had been growing up, and with the feelings that had been excited regarding the Pictou Academy, so that party feeling reached an unprecedented height; and this election, ever since known as the big election, witnessed deplorable scenes of violence, pitched battles being fought, sticks freely used and one man killed.
Mr. Blanchard was returned with the other popular candidates, and for five years proved an energetic member of the House. It is generally said, that he disappointed expectation. This may be true in part, but it is easily accounted for. Perhaps the expectations of his friends were too high. We may add that the House proved rather a subservient one. True there were only eight returned as Government supporters; but when the Council swallowed the revenue bill, which they had rejected the year before, members of the House seemed inclined to rest and be thankful. The loss to the Province by the late collision with Council, seemed to make them tremble at the thought of another. And then and more especially his health failed.
Still while his strength remained, his voice was ever raised on behalf of any measure, which promised to advance the public interests. The subject which engaged his most energetic efforts, was the Pictou Academy. The Government still continuing hostile, he was as we have seen, in the year 1831 sent by its friends to Britain to lay its claim before the Home Government.
He also succeeded in carrying some important measures, among which was an act for the relief of honest insolvent debtors. Up to this date, any one creditor could retain a debtor in gaol after the surrender of all his property, by supplying eight pounds of bread a week for his maintenance; and persons were found ready to use this power, in the hope of leading the friends of the unfortunate to pay the claim, in order to obtain his release. This power was now taken away, and two magistrates had power to order the discharge of an insolvent, where without fraud he gave up all his property. He also advocated the abolition of imprisonment for debt altogether, but the country was not prepared for such measure. He had studied the works of Brougham and others of the school of English law reformers, and advocated some of their measures here, among others the conferring of equity jurisdiction upon the Supreme Court. But it required twenty years to prepare for the introduction of this grand improvement in legal procedure. Out of the House he still supported measures for public improvement. Among these may be mentioned the establishment of circulating libraries. After his return from Britain, where he had seen the system in operation, he spent a good deal of effort in endeavoring to have it introduced into our rural districts, but not with much permanent result.
His labours were too great for his bodily strength. In the session of 1836, the last of that House, he traveled to Halifax in a covered sleigh, in which a small stove was fitted up for his accommodation, and was able to attend to local county business at his rooms, but was unable to occupy his place in the House. In the year 1838, his mind also gave way, and he sunk into a state of mental imbecility, from which he never recovered. He died 13th July, 1840.
We may mention here that Alexander Lawson was an apprentice in the Patriot office, and afterward established and still conducts the Yarmouth Herald, the first successful venture in newspaper printing, in the Western part of Nova Scotia, and long the only supporter of the popular party in that section of the country.
We may here give the subsequent history of the newspaper press in Pictou. On the 31st August, 1832, Mr. Milne commenced publishing from the Patriot office, a small weekly paper for the young, called The Juvenile Entertainer, at the rate of 5s. per annum. It continued for a year or two to give selections of interesting reading for the young, and was a creditable effort for a time, being the first of the kind in the Province.
The Government party in the year 1831 established a paper in opposition to the Patriot, called the Pictou Observer, of which the Rev. Kenneth John McKenzie was the editor, or in which he was at least the ablest writer. The Patriot expired about the year 1833, and the Observer followed it to the same bourne.
In the year 1836, Mr. James Dawson purchased the press and types of the old Patriot, and commenced a paper called the Bee, and soon after the Observer was resuscitated by Mr. Roderick McDonald, a native of Stornoway, who had taught the lower branches in the Pictou Academy, He removed to Ontario, and the paper became defunct. In the year 1840, the Bee was bought out by Mr. John Stiles who published in its place the Mechanic and Farmer. In 1842 the Presbyterian Banner was established under the editorship of the Rev. James, now Dr. Ross. But in 1843 both these papers were merged in the Eastern Chronicle , which has continued to the present day. In this office was trained E. M. McDonald, who became its editor and proprietor, and afterward Queens Printer, and with Hon. William Garvie, established the Halifax Citizen and became member of the Dominion Legislature, and died Collector of Customs for Halifax. The Observer, after a short suspension, was revived by Mr. A. McCoubray, of St, Johns, Newfoundland, Martin I. Wilkins, Esq., being its editor or chief contributor, but again became defunct. In its place was established the Colonial Standard which still continues.
We have already described the rum drinking of former times, but have now to notice the commencement of a movement for the suspension of its evils. The necessity of some measure of the kind may be inferred from the following facts: In the year 1825, there were imported into the Province 753,786 gallons of rum, besides 30,000 gallons of wine, and several thousand gallons of gin and brandy, to which the quantities smuggled, and what was made in the Province required to be added. When we consider that the population of the Province was estimated at 120,000, it will be seen, that even allowing for what was exported, the consumption might well be regarded as truly alarming. Again, in the year 1830, there were entered at the Pictou customs house 73,994 gallons of ardent spirits, and it was calculated that what of this was exported, would be equalled by the product of domestic distillation. The population of the county, by the census of 1827, was scarcely 14,000. Allowing for increase, the consumption would still be about five gallons for every man, woman, and child, the cost of which could not be less than $60,000 or $20 for every family, and $4 for every individual.
The evils of this had been long felt. But hitherto good men believed, that the use of ardent spirits in moderation was beneficial and even necessary, but now was started the idea of total abstinence from them as a beverage, and to the West River belongs the honor of having formed the first society on this basis in Nova Scotia, the second in British America, one in Ontario having been organized a few months earlier. The Boston Recorder had been circulated for some time in the settlement, and had rendered the people there familiar with the subject. The first movement however for the formation of a society, took place at one of the quarterly meetings of the Agricultural Society. These meetings had lost their interest, and the attendance at them was small. When therefore the members met in October, 1827, there being little doing, Mr. George McDonald moved that they form a Temperance Society. The Rev. Duncan Ross immediately seconded the proposal. The only other supporter at the meeting was Mr. Donald McLeod, and from these three the movement originated. The next to join them was Mr. David McLeod. These four held several private meetings, and at length arrangements were made for the public organization of the Society, which took place at the next meeting of the Agricultural Society, in January, 1828, when 12 persons signed a temperance pledge.* The following is a copy of it:
We whose names
are hereunto annexed, believing that the use of ardent spirits is not
only useless but hurtful to the social and religious interests of men,
agree that we will not use them, unless in case of bodily hurt or sickness,
that we will not, as an article of luxury or living, traffic in them,
nor will we provide them for the entertainment of our friends, or for
persons in our employment, and in all suitable ways we will discountenance
the use of them throughout the country.
* We have given the above dates, as we received them from the late George McDonald. The claim of the West River Society to be the first in the Province was for a time disputed, on behalf of the Beaver River Society, in the County of Yarmouth. The matter was discussed forty years ago, when the parties were alive and the records in existence, and it was then clearly proved that the former was the first. We regret, that the Societys book has disappeared within a short period, so that we are indebted to tradition for the above dates, more particularly as Rev. Mr. Campbell, in his history of Yarmouth County, in ignorance of these facts, has revived the claim of the Beaver River Society. There is still however sufficient evidence to show its groundlessness. Mr. Ebenezer McLeod, who was for some time Secretary of the West River Society, not only remembers the old discussion, but from his recollection is able to affirm, that that Society was formed as early as the date given by Mr. McDonald. The Rev. Dr. Blaikie of Boston testifies, that he was teaching at West River in 1828, and in that year joined the society, which was already organized. Again in the Colonial Patriot of date 17th September, 1828, the editor, urging the formation of such societies, says, We are happy to state that one has been organized at the West River in this district, and would recommend to the office bearers the propriety of publishing its constitution. But by Mr. Campbells own statement, The Beaver River Society was not formed before April 25th 1829.
The movement excited great opposition, and the members had to encounter no small amount of ridicule, if not worse. It was then considered impossible to do any work, particularly any job requiring a number of men, without rum, and an opportunity came, to test the principles and power in this respect of the friends of the new movement. One of them had the frame of a barn to raise. At that time it was customary, to make the timber of frames very heavy, and in raising them, first to lift the whole of one side, and then of the other, by main strength. For this of course, in the case of a building of any size, there would be required a large number of men. On this occasion , all the neighbours as usual assembled, and all the Temperance men for some distance round. The others however refused all assistance, if there was to be no liquor; and the friends of the new movement, having said, that in that case they would raise it without their aid, were left to try their strength. But on attempting to raise the side, they found themselves unable to move it, and after they were fairly beaten, and endured no end of jibes from the other party, the latter laid hold, put the whole up at the double quick, and then had their dram from a supply which they had privately brought.
On another occasion, at the raising of the frame of a mill at Six Mile Brook, the two parties quarreled, and as neither would yield, and neither was strong enough to do the work alone, they separated for that day, without its being accomplished.
This state of things did not continue, for in the Colonial Patriot of the 17th September 1828, we find the following;
On Friday last, the frame of a large dwelling house, the property of George McDonald, was erected without the use of rum. In lieu of it, ale and beer were used, so that the work was completed in a superior manner, while neither abusive language nor profane swearing was heard, no black eyes nor drunken men seen, but peace and friendship pervading the concourse. That this change of custom will be followed in future, (at least to a great degree) may be reasonably expected, since it tends not only to promote the harmony, health and respectability, of those who assemble on such occasions, but the interests of the builder. Ten or twelve years ago, he must have used almost as many gallons of the mighty rum, in erecting a frame of similar dimensions, and for this not unfrequently have his name stationed on the wrong side of some ledger, whence it may not be so readily erased, as some purchasers of spirits allow themselves to believe.
Not content with the promotion of the cause in his own congregation, Mr. Ross advocated it in the public press, pled in private with his brethren in the ministry on its behalf, and preached and lectured on the subject in their congregations, as he had opportunity. It was not, however, till the year 1830, that the first movement was made for the formation of a society in the town. It began with a sermon on the subject preached by him in the old Presbyterian Church. The discourse gave considerable offence, and even as the audience retired, some gave audible expression to their dissatisfaction, in such sayings as, he might have given us something else than the like of that, &c. This was followed by a private meeting at the house of Mr. James Dawson, when he, the Rev. James Robson, James Hepburn, Francis Beattie and three or four others, associated themselves under a temperance pledge. They held several private meetings, and after some time agreed to call a public meeting, for the purpose of more formally organizing their Society. This took place on the 15th March following, in the old court house. It was well attended, but largely by people opposed to the movement, among whom were a number of rowdyish characters, who occupied the back part of the room, and who had been put forward by the rum interest to make disturbance. They had got a well known Negro, named John Peters, well primed with liquor, as their chosen instrument to spoil the meeting. Accordingly, when Mr. Dawson had spoken in advocacy of the proposed Society, they set John forward to have his say. Fine men, Missa Dawson, go into West Ingy trade bring huneds puncheons of rum, make plenty money, &c. This rejoiced the rabble, who supported the speech by a volley of eggs at Mr. Dawson. A merchant of the place then rose and spoke at considerable length against the proposal, when the laugh was rather turned on him and his friends, by their chosen champion, Peters, exclaiming, I secken Missa s motion, dems my sentiments. The friends of temperance, however, succeeded in adopting a constitution for their Society and opening a book for subscribers, and a few days after it was announced that it had received forty-four signatures. We have no list of names, nor of the first office bearers, but we know that from this time it received the support of some of the most respectable members of the community, among whom Jotham Blanchard deserves special mention.
The following from the Patriot of June 26, 1830, however, shows that the cause had been making progress:
We barely noticed, several weeks ago, a launch of a vessel from the yard of John Gordon, Jun., another native Nova Scotian. We were well pleased with the name (Patriot), of course, but we were better pleased to learn, that she was built and launched without the use of ardent spirits. We have since learned that she was sailed to Newfoundland and sold, and still no spirits used.
About a year elapsed before another public meeting was attempted, when a lecture was announced to take place in the old Grammar School house, by Jotham Blanchard. But he had not above two dozen of hearers, as he expressed it, not as many as the pages he had written. No further attempt was made at any public demonstration, till October of the following year (1833), when the Rev. John McLean delivered a lecture in the old court house. The attendance was large, the audience respectable and orderly, and from the eloquence of the speaker and the strength of his facts and arguments, the lecture made a profound impression. A vote was passed requesting its publication, which took place a few months after. From that time temperance has had a firm hold in the town, though we can recollect a time after this, when there was still scarcely a shop in town which had not over its door the words spirituous liquors by license.
We may add that for the purpose of combined effort on behalf of the object, a Central Society, composed of representatives from the various Temperance Societies in the Count, was formed on the 7th March, 1832, and called the Pictou Temperance Union.
We must now refer to the mail arrangements and improvements in travel made at this period. Ezra Witter, who had removed from the western part of the Province, and settled at Bible Hill, Truro, where he engaged in carriage building, commenced about the year 1815 carrying the mail from Halifax to Truro, and in conjunction with him, Jacob Lynds, carried it from Truro to Pictou. For some years they used a chaise drawn by a single horse, but afterward drove a double seated waggon, carrying three or four passengers, drawn by two horses, making one trip each way every week, the journey being performed in two days or two and a half. They continued in this way till 1828. The following is their advertisement in that year:
To run once a week between Halifax and Pictou,
By E. Witter and J. Lynds.
The public are respectfully informed that until the middle of November, the subscribers intends to run a weekly Stage, which will accommodate four passengers between Halifax and Pictou. It will start from Mr. Boyles in Halifax, every Tuesday morning , at seven oclock, reach Truro on Wednesday at 7 A.M. and arrive in Pictou at 8 in the evening. It will leave Pictou one hour after the arrival of the packet from Prince Edward Island, and arrive in town on Saturday afternoon. The fare to or from Pictou will be £2, and every exertion will be used to insure comfort and security to passengers, and their baggage, of which each will be entitled to carry 20 lb. Apply in Pictou to Mr. Robert Dawson in Halifax to Mr. A, Boyle, where any other information will be given.
In that year a company was formed of persons in Pictou and Truro, with one or two in Halifax, called the Eastern Stage Coach Company, to run a line of coaches between Halifax and Pictou. In the following year (1829) they began with a heavy double seated waggon, drawn by two horses, which made the journey in two days and then, with the same horses and driver, returned on the two following. They then erected a frame over this, which was covered with canvas on top and had curtains at the sides. The next year the company was enlarged, and their carriages were drawn by three or sometimes four horses, though often in changing, it was only transferring them from the pole to the lead. They also put on double sets of horses, and they now left Halifax and Pictou, on the same day, making three trips a week each way. Proper coaches were put on, though not we believe till a year or two later.
This arrangement continued under various proprietors and sometimes with opposition lines, till the year 1842, when Hiram Hyde purchased the establishment, then owned by Arnison and Trenaman, and commenced daily coaches, leaving Halifax at 4 oclock each week day morning, and Halifax at 6 oclock , and making the journey in fourteen to eighteen hours, according to the roads and other circumstances. This arrangement continued till the building of the railroad.
When the stage began to run, the road went over the highest hills, but about this time commenced the system of making level lines of road. The credit of inaugurating the new era of road making, is due to Sir James Kempt, then Lieutenant-Governor. He was not long in Nova Scotia, till he began to use his influence to change the whole system of road expenditure. He employed Mr. George Whitman, as surveyor on the eastern road, and when he reported that he had found a line with a rise of not more than one foot to thirty, people laughed at him. The commencement of level roads was made along the Grand Lake in 1828. Previously the road had gone round the basin, but now the road was taken to Dartmouth, shortening the distance some miles. About the same time the work of leveling began in Pictou. Sir James passing over Mount Thom, his eye at once saw the valley below, where a level line might be easily obtained. Soon after the work of alteration began, and about the year 1832, the present line, by which it was said the Governor circumvented Mount Thom, was completed. It still, however, crossed the Six Mile Brook at Gasss place on what was called the Kempt Bridge, in honour of him, and came out at the West River at Mrs. Browns place. The work of alteration continued, till in the year 1840 the whole line was completed.
We may add here that it was still some time before the process was completed, in regard to the road toward the east. About the year 1847, the road from New Glasgow round Frasers Mountain was made; in the year 1850 the road at the foot of Green Hill was completed, and in 1851 the road to Antigonish by the Marshy Hope Valley was opened. Previously the travelers in that direction had only the choice of a long round by the Gulf Shore, or a road ten miles shorter, but scarcely fit for carriages, over the Antigonish Mountains.
On the 3rd March, 1830, died Dr. J. McGregor, and we may say, that no man was ever more warmly loved while he lived, nor more deeply mourned when he died. Hundreds of homes were filled with weeping at the intelligence of his departure, and far beyond the bounds of the county, multitudes mourned him as a father and friend. On the Saturday following, devout men carried him to his burial and made great lamentation over him. His funeral was the largest that had ever been in the county, and with all the increase of population, probably larger than any since, it being estimated that there were 2,000 present. A monument was erected to his memory, with the following inscription, a copy of which was kept framed in many houses throughout the county. But it has been replaced by another:
AS A TRIBUTE
OF AFFECTIONATE REGARD FOR THE MEMORY OF THE LATE
JAMES MACGREGOR, D. D.,
The first Presbyterian minister of this district, who departed this life, March 3, 1830 in the 71st year of his age, and the 46th of his ministry, this tombstone was erected by a number of those, who cherish a grateful remembrance of his apostolic zeal and labours of love.
When the early settlers of Pictou could afford to a minister of the gospel little else than a participation of their hardships, he cast in his lot with the destitute, became to them a pattern of patient endurance, and cheered them with the tidings of salvation. Like Him whom he served, he went about doing good. Neither toil nor privation deterred him from his Masters work, and the pleasure of the Lord prospered in his hand. He lived to witness the success of his labours in the erection of numerous churches, and in the establishment of a Seminary, from which these churches could be provided with religious instructors. Though so highly honoured of the Lord, few have exceeded him in Christian humility; save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, he gloried in nothing; and as a public teacher, combining instruction with example, he approved himself to be a follower of them who through faith and patience now inherit the promises.
The year 1831 was marked by the commencement of steam navigation from the port of Pictou, and, indeed, on the coast of British America. The pioneer boat in this trade was built at Three Rivers, on the Lower St. Lawrence, for a company formed in Quebec the previous year and was called the Royal William. She was of 1,000 tons burden, and had engines of 180 horse power. This was considered enormous in those days, and in all the ports she visited she was regarded as a wonder. She was intended to ply between Quebec and various ports in the Lower Provinces, in fact to do the work that the Gulf Ports and other lines of steamers are now doing, and was aided by the Canadian Government. She made her first trip in August, arriving in Halifax on the 31st, in seven days from Quebec, having been detained in Miramichi two days. Crowds assembled on the wharves, with almost the feeling that the appearance of the Great Eastern would now excite. She arrived in Pictou on the 3rd September, and we still remember the excitement which her presence created. She made several trips that season, ending her voyage in Halifax, as required by the act giving her subsidy. Her first summers work showed the folly of her builders. Not only was she far larger than was needed, but she was fitted up in a style of elegance, that would compare with the floating palaces of the Hudson or the Sound. On her first arrival, the editor of the Patriot pointed out the mistake that had been committed, and while advocating the enterprise, urged that the company should get a boat one quarter of the size, and fitted up in a substantial but plain style.
The next year it was arranged, that she should run regularly to Pictou, the Legislature having agreed to give the subsidy on voyages terminating here. But on her first trip she left while cholera was raging in Quebec, and when she arrived in Miramichi, she had the disease on board, and was sent to quarantine, where the engineer died. Afterward she only made one or two trips that season.
The next spring she was sold. Her original cost was £17,000, but now she did not bring one-third of the amount. Her new owners sent her one or two trips on the old route, but finally determined to send her to Britain. She arrived here on the 13th August, on her way thither and cleared again on the 17th for London,* where she safely arrived, being the first steamship to make the entire passage across the Atlantic under steam. Previously several vessels had crossed partially by the aid of steam, but these made their way principally by sails, steam being used only when a wind was wanting, and even then only at a low rate of speed. But now a Canadian built ship, sailing from Pictou, first proved the practicability of ocean steam navigation, and introduced a new era in the trade of the world.
* Cleared, 17th. Ship Royal William, McDougall, London, Coal, Natural curiosities and spars, by W. Mortimer, Patriot, August 20th, 1833.
In the year 1832, the General Mining Association purchased the steamer Pocahontas, which commenced to ply between Pictou and Charlotte Town, sometimes going as far as Miramichi. She was commanded by David Davidson and made her first trip on the 11th May. In the year following, they sent a large steamer called the Cape Breton, which commenced to ply between Pictou and Miramichi, on which route she was employed for some years.
Another institution formed near the close of this period deserves notice here. We refer to the Pictou Literary and Scientific Society. It originated with the following paper:
We, the undersigned, agree to meet at Mr. Blanchards class room, in the Pictou Academy, on Monday evening, December 8th, 1834, at seven oclock, to make arrangements respecting the formation of a literary society, such as may be considered most beneficial to the interests of all concerned.
W. J. Anderson, G.A. Blanchard, W.B.Chandler, Daniel Dickson, David Matheson, Joseph Chipman, James Fogo, Jas. W. McCulloch, Wm Burton, Edward Roach, Jas. Purves, George S. Harris, Wm Gordon, John B. Davidson, James Primrose, David Crichton, C. Martin, James Johnston, Robert Corbet, Michael McCulloch, G.M. Johnston, A.P. Ross, Charles Elliott.
Accordingly a meeting was held at the time appointed, James Primrose, Esq., in the chair, and George S. Harris, Secretary, when it was resolved that the meeting form themselves into a society, to be called the Pictou Literary and Scientific Society. The object was stated to be the mutual improvement of its members in the sciences and general literature, and it was agreed that this object may be best attained by the delivery of lectures or essays on literary and scientific subjects, which afterward may form topics of discussion.
The first lecture was delivered on the 16th of the same month, by Dr. W. J. Anderson, on phrenology. There were some present who had read the discussions in the Edinburgh Review on the subject, and the lecture was followed by an animated debate, which was continued at the next meeting, when Dr. Martin gave an address on the brain. That winter lectures were delivered fortnightly, ten in all.
The Society continued in existence for twenty-one years. During this time, it had every winter a course of lectures, sometimes fortnightly, and sometimes weekly. From the Pictou Academy there had been diffused a taste for literature and science, and many of the lectures were of a high character. Several clergymen, such as Dr. McCulloch, Mr. Trotter, Mr. McKinlay, and Mr. Elliott lectured with more or less frequency. Conspicuous among the lay lecturers were J.D.B. Fraser and J.W. Dawson. The former generally lectured on chemistry or some kindred subjects, and he showed a skill in experiments, which rendered his lectures highly interesting and popular. Mr. (now Dr.) Dawson delivered his first lecture in April, 1836, the subject being geology. Though then a young man, he already gave evidence of that attention to natural science, in which he has since attained so much distinction. Afterward he frequently lectured on that and other branches of natural science. The medical men, such as Drs. Anderson, Chipman, and Martin, lectured on scientific subjects kindred to their profession; members of the legal fraternity, such as Daniel Dickson, James Fogo, George A.Blanchard, John McKinlay, and Hiram Blanchard, discoursed on a variety of general subjects, while mercantile men, such as T.G.Taylor and Charles Robson, and others, contributed their share to the usefulness of the Institution. Altogether, the lectures were in a style superior to anything in the Province. By those who had an opportunity of judging, they were pronounced in general of a higher character, even than those delivered in the Halifax Mechanics Institute. They were frequently followed by discussions, often animated, sometimes even exciting, giving rise to displays of wit or oratory, or eliciting valuable information. The society afforded many an evenings instructive entertainment. But from various causes, interest in it declined, and it finally expired, its last meeting having been held on the 12th April, 1855.
To this account of a creditable effort for the diffusion of the light of knowledge, we may add as a close to this chapter, that the lighthouse at the Beaches was finished in the year 1833, that the lantern was raised to its place in August of that year, and it was first lighted on the 1st of March, 1834.