A CANADIAN MANOR AND ITS SEIGNEURS
THE STORY OF A HUNDRED YEARS 1761-1861
GEORGE M. WRONG, M.A. PROFESSOR OF HISTORY IN THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO
TORONTO THE BRYANT PRESS, LIMITED 1908
COPYRIGHT, CANADA, 1908 BY GEORGE M. WRONG
In spite of many pleasant summers spent at Murray Bay one had never thought of it as having a history. The place and its people seemed simple, untutored, new. Some of the other summer residents talked complacently even of having discovered it. They had heard of Murray Bay as beautiful and had gone to explore this unknown country. When this bold feat was performed there was abundant recompense. Valley, mountain, river and stream united to make Murray Bay delightful. The little summer community grew. At first visitors lived in the few primitive hotels or in cottages at Pointe au Pic, vacated for the time being by their owners, who found temporary lodgings somewhere,—not infrequently in their own out-buildings. The cottages left something to be desired, and, gradually, the visitors bought land and built houses for themselves: to-day dozens of them dot the western shore of Murray Bay. In due time appeared tennis courts; then a golf links. Murray Bay had become, alas, almost fashionable.
It still seemed to have no past. True, near the village church, a fair-sized house stood, embowered in trees, with a fine view out over the bay and the wide St. Lawrence. A high fence shut in a beautiful old garden, with a few great trees: as one drove past one got a glimpse of shady walks and old-fashioned flowers. The extensive out-buildings near this manor house, stables, carriage-house, dairy, showed that the establishment was fairly large. There were sleek cattle in the farm yard. On one of the out-buildings was a small belfry, with a bell to summon the work-people from afar to meals, and this seemed like the olden times when the seigneur fed his labourers under his own roof. On making a formal call at the manor house one noted that some of the rooms were of fine proportions and that a good many old portraits and miniatures hung on the walls. This all spoke of a past; and yet of it one asked little and knew nothing.
Just across the bay stood another manor house; of stone, too, in this case not concealed by a covering of wood. Thick walls crowned by a mansard roof spoke of a respectable age. This manor house, also looked out on the bay and across the St. Lawrence. One knew that it was named Mount Murray Manor, while that on the right bank of the river Murray was called Murray Bay Manor. It was said vaguely that a Colonel Fraser had dwelt at Mount Murray and a Colonel Nairne at Murray Bay; but all that one heard was loose tradition and there were no Nairnes or Frasers of whom one might ask questions. One could see that, in both places, something like an old world dignity of life had in the past been kept up.
Making a call at the Murray Bay Manor House, I was told one day of a manuscript volume in which the first seigneur had copied some of his letters. I begged to be allowed to spend an afternoon or two in looking through it. I went and went again. To me the book was absorbing. It told the story of the first people of British origin who went to settle at Malbaie, which they named Murray Bay, just after the British conquest; of the career of a soldier brother of Colonel Nairne who died in India not long after Plassey; of campaigns fought by Colonel Nairne during the period of the American Revolution; of his plans and hopes as the ruler of the little community where he settled. When I had read the book through, I asked if there was not something more. Yes, there were some old letters, preserved in a lumber room at the top of the house. These I was allowed to see. This task, too, was of great interest and I spent the better part of a summer holiday reading, analyzing, and copying letters. Some of them told of the schoolboy days, in Edinburgh, of the old Colonel's son and heir, the second seigneur, of this son's life at Gibraltar at the time when Trafalgar was fought, of his return to Canada, of campaigns in the war of 1812. Then there were touching letters from others to tell how he fell at the battle of Crysler's Farm. So intimate were the letters that one experienced again the hopes and fears of more than a century ago. In time, out of the dimness in which all had been shrouded, Murray Bay's history became clear. Of course one had to seek some information elsewhere, especially in attempting an analysis of French Canadian village life. But the story told in this volume is based chiefly on the papers read during that holiday. Not only did they enable one to reconstruct the story of a spot made almost sacred by the joys of many a delightful summer; they furnished, besides, an outline of the tragic history of a Canadian family. Here at Murray Bay, a century and a half ago, a brave and distinguished British officer secured a great estate and made his home. In his letters we read almost from day to day of his plans. He had a strong heart and a deep faith. He reared a large family and built not merely for himself but for his posterity. And yet, just one hundred years after he began his work at Murray Bay, the last of his descendants was laid in the grave and the family became extinct. It is the fashion of our modern fiction to end the tale in sorrow not in joy. Perhaps the fashion has a more real basis in fact than we like to think. At any rate this true story of the seigneur of Murray Bay ends with the closed record of his family history on a granite monument in Quebec. There is no one living for whom the tale has the special interest that attaches to one's ancestors.
I have received help from many but my deepest obligation is to Mr. E.J. Duggan, the present seigneur of Murray Bay, for his great kindness in permitting me to use the letters and papers in the Manor House. I owe much to the Right Honourable Sir Charles Fitzpatrick, who has taught me, in many holiday outings, most of what appreciation I have learned for French Canadian village life, and has corrected errors into which I should otherwise have fallen. So also have Mr. W.H. Blake, K.C., of Toronto, a good authority on all that concerns life at Murray Bay, and M. J.-Edmond Roy, Assistant Archivist at Ottawa, whose "Histoire de la Seigneurie de Lauzon" and many other works relating to the Province of Quebec entitle him to the rank of its foremost historical scholar. To another authority on the seigniorial system in Canada, Professor W. Bennett Munro, of Harvard University, I am much indebted for information readily given. My colleagues Professor W.J. Alexander, Ph.D., of University College, and Professor Pelham Edgar, Ph.D., of Victoria College, Toronto, have given me the benefit of their discriminating criticism. Dr. A.G. Doughty, C.M.G., Dominion Archivist, and the Rev. Abbe A.E. Gosselin of Laval University, have responded with unfailing courtesy to my numerous calls upon them, and Mr. John Fraser Reeve, the great-grandson of Colonel Malcolm Fraser, who figures so prominently in the story, has given me invaluable information about the Fraser family. Dr. J.M. Harper and M. P.-B. Casgrain, of Quebec, and Mr. A.C. Casselman, of Toronto, have also aided me on some difficult points. To the Honourable Edward Blake, K.C., of Toronto, I am indebted for reproductions of some of his paintings of scenes at Murray Bay, and to the Honourable Dudley Murray, of London, England, for a photograph of the portrait of General Murray preserved in the General's family.
Toronto, July, 1908.
THE FOUNDING OF MALBAIE
The situation of Malbaie.—The physical features of Malbaie.—Jacques Cartier at Malbaie.—Champlain at Malbaie.—The first seigneur of Malbaie.—A new policy for settling Canada.—The Sieur de Comporte, seigneur of Malbaie, sentenced to death in France.—His career in Canada.—His plans for Malbaie.—Hazeur, Seigneur of Malbaie.—Malbaie becomes a King's Post.—A Jesuit's description of Malbaie in 1750.—The burning of Malbaie by the British in 1759. 1
THE TWO HIGHLAND SEIGNEURS AT MALBAIE
Pitt's use of Highlanders in the Seven Years' War.—The origin of Fraser's Highlanders.—The career of Lord Lovat.—Lovat's son Simon Fraser and other Frasers at Quebec.—Malcolm Fraser and John Nairne future seigneurs of Malbaie.—The Highlanders and Wolfe's victory.—The Highlanders in the winter of 1759-60.—Malcolm Fraser on Murray's defeat in April, 1760.—The return of Canadian seigneurs to France.—General Murray buys Canadian seigniories.—Nairne and Fraser at Malbaie.—Their grants from Murray. 22
JOHN NAIRNE, SEIGNEUR OF MURRAY BAY
Colonel Nairne's portrait.—His letters.—The first Scottish settlers at Malbaie.—Nairne's finance.—His tasks.—The cure's work.—The Scottish settlers and their French wives.—The Church and Education.—Nairne's efforts to make Malbaie Protestant.—His war on idleness.—The character of the habitant.—Fishing at Malbaie.—Trade at Malbaie.—Farming at Malbaie.—Nairne's marriage,—Career and death in India of Robert Nairne.—The Quebec Act and its consequences for the habitant. 40
JOHN NAIRNE IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION
Nairne's work among the French Canadians.—He becomes Major of the Royal Highland Emigrants.—Arnold's march through the wilderness to Quebec.—Quebec during the Siege, 1775-76.—The habitants and the Americans.—Montgomery's plans.—The assault on December 31st, 1775.—Malcolm Fraser gives the alarm in Quebec.—Montgomery's death.—Arnold's attack.—Nairne's heroism.—Arnold's failure.—The American fire-ship.—The arrival of a British fleet.—The retreat of the Americans.—Nairne's later service in the War.—Isle aux Noix and Carleton Island.—Sir John Johnson and the desolation of New York.—Nairne and the American prisoners at Murray Bay.—Their escape and capture.—Nairne and the Loyalists.—The end of the War.—Nairne's retirement to Murray Bay. 62
THE LAST DAYS OF JOHN NAIRNE
Nairne's careful education of his children.—His son John enters the army.—Nairne's counsels to his son.—John Nairne goes to India.—His death.—Nairne's declining years.—His activities at Murray Bay.—His income.—His daughter Christine and Quebec society.—The isolation of Murray Bay in Winter.—Signals across the river.—Nairne's reading.—His notes about current events.—The fear of a French invasion of England.—Thoughts of flight from Scotland to Murray Bay.—Nairne's last letter, April 20th, 1802.—His death and burial at Quebec. 93
THOMAS NAIRNE, SEIGNEUR OF MURRAY BAY
His education in Scotland.—His winning character.—He enters the army.—Malcolm Fraser's counsels to a young soldier.—Thomas Nairne's life at Gibraltar.—His desire to retire from the army.—His return to Canada in 1810-11.—His life at Quebec.—His summer at Murray Bay, 1811.—His resolve to remain in the Army.—Beginning of the War of 1812.—Captain Nairne on Lake Ontario.—Quebec Society and the proposed flight from danger to Murray Bay.—Anxiety at Murray Bay.—The progress of the War.—An American attack on Kingston.—Captain Nairne on the Niagara frontier.—Naval War on Lake Ontario.—Nairne's description of a naval engagement.—Sense of impending disaster at Murray Bay.—The American advance on Montreal by the St. Lawrence.—Nairne's regiment a part of the opposing British force.—The Battle of Crysler's Farm.—Nairne's death.—His body taken to Quebec.—The grief of the family at Murray Bay.—The funeral. 124
A FRENCH CANADIAN VILLAGE
Life at Murray Bay after Captain Nairne's death.—Letters from Europe.—Death of Malcolm Fraser.—Death of Colonel Nairne's widow and children.—His grandson John Nairne, seigneur.—Village Life.—The Church's Influence.—The Habitant's tenacity.—His cottage.—His labours.—His amusements.—The Church's missionary work in the Village.—The powers of the bishop.—His visitations.—The organization of the Parish.—The powers of the fabrique.—Lay control of Church finance.—The cures' tithe.—The best intellects enter the Church.—A native Canadian clergy.—The cure's social life.—The Church and Temperance Reform.—The diligence of the cures.—The habitant's taste for the supernatural.—The belief in goblins.—Prayer in the family.—The habitant as voter.—The office of Churchwarden.—The Church's influence in elections.—The seigneur's position.—The habitant's obligations to him.—Rent day and New Year's Day.—The seigneur's social rank.—The growth of discontent in the villages.—The evils of Seigniorial Tenure.—Agitation against the system.—Its abolition in 1854.—The last of the Nairnes.—The Nairne tomb in Quebec. 168
THE COMING OF THE PLEASURE SEEKERS
Pleasure seeking at Murray Bay.—A fisherman's experience in 1830.—New visitors.—Fishing in a mountain lake.—Camp life.—The Upper Murray.—Canoeing.—Running the rapids.—Walks and drives.—Golf.—A rainy day.—The habitant and his visitors. 222
APPENDIX A (p. 31) The Journal of Malcolm Fraser, First Seigneur of Mount Murray, Malbaie. 249
APPENDIX B (p. 38) Title Deed of the Seigniory of Murray Bay, granted to Captain John Nairne. 271
APPENDIX C (p. 78) The Siege of Quebec in 1775-76. Colonel Nairne's Narrative. 273
APPENDIX D (p. 98) Memorandum of Colonel Nairne, 5th April, 1795, for his son John Nairne in regard to military duty. 277
APPENDIX E (p. 104) The "Porpoise" (Beluga or White Whale) Fishery on the St. Lawrence. 279
APPENDIX F (p. 122) The Prayer of Colonel Nairne. 286
APPENDIX G (p. 144) The Cures of Malbaie. 287
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
COLONEL JOHN NAIRNE Frontispiece (From the Oil Painting in the Manor House at Murray Bay.) PAGE
CAP A L'AIGLE FROM THE WEST SHORE OF MURRAY BAY 6 (From the Water Colour by the late L.R. O'Brien, in the possession of the Hon. Edward Blake, K.C.)
VIEW ACROSS MURRAY BAY FROM THE CAP A L'AIGLE SHORE 21 (From an Oil Painting by E. Wyly Grier, in the possession of the Hon. Edward Blake.)
GENERAL JAMES MURRAY 35 (From an Oil Painting preserved in the General's Family.)
THE MANOR HOUSE AT MURRAY BAY 74 (From amateur photographs.)
VIEW FROM POINTE AU PIC UP MURRAY BAY 102 (From a Water Colour by the late L.R. O'Brien in the possession of the Hon. Edward Blake.)
THE GOLF LINKS AT MURRAY BAY 237 (From a Photograph by W. Notman and Son, Montreal.)
THE ST. LAWRENCE FROM QUEBEC TO MURRAY BAY 1
SKETCH MAP OF LAKE ONTARIO AND THE RIVER ST. LAWRENCE TO ILLUSTRATE THE WAR OF 1812-14 148
A Canadian Manor and Its Seigneurs
THE FOUNDING OF MALBAIE
The situation of Malbaie.—The physical features of Malbaie.—Jacques Cartier at Malbaie.—Champlain at Malbaie.—The first seigneur of Malbaie.—A new policy for settling Canada.—The Sieur de Comporte, seigneur of Malbaie, sentenced to death in France.—His career in Canada.—His plans for Malbaie.—Hazeur, Seigneur of Malbaie.—Malbaie becomes a King's Post.—A Jesuit's description of Malbaie in 1750.—The burning of Malbaie by the British in 1759.
If one is not in too great a hurry it is wise to take the steamer—not the train—at Quebec and travel by it the eighty miles down the St. Lawrence to Malbaie, or Murray Bay, as the English call it, somewhat arrogantly rejecting the old French name used since the pioneer days of Champlain. This means an early morning start and six or seven hours—the steamers are not swift—on that great river. Only less than a mile apart are its rugged banks at Quebec but, even then, they seem to contract the mighty torrent of water flowing between them. Once past Quebec the river broadens into a great basin, across which we see the head of the beautiful Island of Orleans. We skirt, on the south side, the twenty miles of the island's well wooded shore, dotted with the cottages of the habitants, stretched irregularly along the winding road. Church spires rise at intervals; the people are Catholic to a man. Once past this island we begin to note changes. Hardly any longer is the St. Lawrence a river; rather is it now an inlet of the sea; the water has become salt; the air is fresher. So wide apart are the river's shores that the cottages far away to the south seem only white specks.
Hugging the north shore closely we draw in under towering Cap Tourmente, fir-clad, rising nearly two thousand feet above us; a mighty obstacle it has always been to communication by land on this side of the river. Soon comes a great cleft in the mountains, and before us is Baie St. Paul, opening up a wide vista to the interior. We are getting into the Malbaie country for Isle aux Coudres, an island some six miles long, opposite Baie St. Paul, was formerly linked with Malbaie under one missionary priest. The north shore continues high and rugged. After passing Les Eboulements, a picturesque village, far above us on the mountain side, we round Cap aux Oies, in English, unromantically, Goose Cape, and, far in front, lies a great headland, sloping down to the river in bold curves. On this side of the headland we can see nestling in under the cliff what, in the distance, seems only a tiny quay. It is the wharf of Malbaie. The open water beyond it, stretching across to Cap a l'Aigle, marks the mouth of the bay. The great river, now twelve miles broad, with a surging tide, rising sometimes eighteen or twenty feet, has the strength and majesty almost of Old Ocean himself.
As we land we see nothing striking. There is just a long wharf with some cottages clustered at the foot of the cliff. But when we have ascended the short stretch of winding road that leads over the barrier of cliff we discover the real beauties of Malbaie. Before us lies the bay's semi-circle—perhaps five miles in extent; stretching far inland is a broad valley, with sides sloping up to rounded fir-clad mountain tops. It is the break in the mountains and the views up the valley that give the place its peculiar beauty. When the tide is out the bay itself is only a great stretch of brown sand, with many scattered boulders, and gleaming silver pools of water. Looking down upon it, one sees a small river winding across the waste of sand and rocks. It has risen in the far upland three thousand feet above this level and has made an arduous downward way, now by narrow gorges, more rarely across open spaces, where it crawls lazily in the summer sunlight:—les eaux mortes, the French Canadians call such stretches. It bursts at length through the last barrier of mountains, a stream forty or fifty yards wide, and flows noisily, for some ten miles, in successive rapids, down this valley, here at last to mingle its brown waters with the ice-cold, steel-tinted, St. Lawrence.
When the tide is in, the bay becomes a shallow arm of the great river,—the sea, we call it. The French are better off than we; they have the word "fleuve" for the St. Lawrence;—other streams are "rivieres." Almost daily, at high water, one may watch small schooners which carry on the St. Lawrence trade head up the bay. They work in close to shore, drop their anchors and wait for the tide to go out. It leaves them high and dry, and tilted sometimes at an angle which suggests that everything within must be topsy-turvy, until the vessel is afloat again. With a strong wind blowing from the north-east the bay is likely to be, at high tide, an extremely lively place for the mariner; a fact which helps perhaps to explain the sinister French name of Malbaie. The huge waves, coming with a sweep of many miles up the broad St. Lawrence, hurl themselves on the west shore with surprising vehemence, and work destruction to anything not well afloat in deep water, or beyond the highest of high water marks. At such a time how many a hapless small craft, left incautiously too near the shore, has been hammered to pieces between waves and rocks!
Tired wayfarers surveying this remote and lovely scene have fancied themselves pioneers in something like a new world. In reality, here is the oldest of old worlds, in which pigmy man is not even of yesterday, but only of to-day. This majestic river, the mountains clothed in perennial green, the blue and purple tints so delicate and transient as the light changes, have occupied this scene for thousands of centuries. No other part of our mother earth is more ancient. The Laurentian Mountains reared their heads, it may be, long before life appeared anywhere on this peopled earth; no fossil is found in all their huge mass. In some mighty eruption of fire their strata have been strangely twisted. Since then sea and river, frost and ice, have held high carnival. Huge boulders, alien in formation to the rocks about them, have been dropped high up on the mountain sides by mighty glaciers, and lie to-day, a source of unfailing wonder to the unlearned as to how they came to be there.
Man appeared at last upon the scene; the Indian, and then, long after, the European. In 1535, Jacques Cartier, the first European, as far as we know, to ascend the St. Lawrence, creeping slowly from the Saguenay up towards the Indian village of Stadacona, on the spot where now is Quebec, must have noted the wide gap in the mountains which makes the Malbaie valley. Not far from Malbaie, he saw the so-called "porpoises," or white whales, (beluga, French, marsouin) that still disport themselves in great numbers in these waters, come puffing to the surface and writhe their whole length into view like miniature sea-serpents. They have heads, Cartier says, with no very great accuracy, "of the style of a greyhound," they are of spotless white and are found, he was told (incorrectly) only here in all the world. He anchored at Isle aux Coudres where he saw "an incalculable number of huge turtles." He admired its great and fair trees, now gone, alas, and gave the island its name—"the Isle of Hazel Nuts"—which we still use. For long years after Cartier, Malbaie remained a resort of its native savages only. Perhaps an occasional trader came to give these primitive people, in exchange for their valuable furs, European commodities, generally of little worth. In time the Europeans learned the great value of this trade and of the land which offered it. So France determined to colonize Canada and in 1608, when Champlain founded a tiny colony at Quebec, the most Christian King had announced a resolution to hold the country. Ere long Malbaie was to have a European owner.
As Champlain went up from Tadousac to make his settlement of Quebec he noted Malbaie as sufficiently spacious. But its many rocks, he thought, made it unnavigable, except for the canoes of the Indians, whose light craft of bark can surmount all kinds of difficulties. Perhaps Champlain is a little severe on Malbaie which, when one knows how, is navigable enough for coasting schooners, but his observations are natural for a passing traveller. In the years after Quebec was founded no more can be said of Malbaie than that it was on the route from Tadousac to Quebec and must have been visited by many a vessel passing up to New France's small capital on the edge of the wilderness. In the summer of 1629 the occasional savages who haunted Malbaie might have seen an unwonted spectacle. Three English ships, under Lewis Kirke, had passed up the river and to him, Champlain, with a half-starved force of only sixteen men, had been obliged to surrender Quebec. Kirke was taking his captives down to Tadousac when, opposite Malbaie, he met a French ship coming to the rescue. A tremendous cannonade followed, the first those ancient hills had heard. It ended in disaster to France, and Kirke sailed on to Tadousac with the French ship as a prize.
When peace came France began more seriously the task of settling Canada. Though inevitably Malbaie would soon be colonized, it was still very difficult of access. A wide stretch of mountain and forest separated it from Quebec; not for nearly two hundred years after Champlain's time was a road built across this barrier. Moreover France's first years of rule in Canada are marked by conspicuous failure in colonizing work. The trading Company—the Company of New France or of "One Hundred Associates"—to which the country was handed over in 1633, thought of the fur trade, of fisheries, of profits—of anything rather than settlement, and never lived up to its promises to bring in colonists. It made huge grants of land with a very light heart. In 1653 a grant was made of the seigniory of Malbaie to Jean Bourdon, Surveyor-General of the Colony. But Bourdon seems not to have thought it worth while to make any attempt to settle his seigniory and, apparently for lack of settlement, the grant lapsed. Even the Company of New France treasured some idea that would-be land owners in a colony had duties to perform.
After thirty years France at length grew tired of the incompetence of the Company and in 1663 made a radical change. The great Colbert was already the guiding spirit in France and colonial plans he made his special care. Louis XIV too was already dreaming of a great over-sea Empire. The first step was to take over from the trading Company the direct government of the colony. The next was to get the right men to do the work in New France. An excellent start was made when, in 1665, Jean Talon was sent out to Canada as Intendant. He had a genius for organization. Though in rank below the Governor he, with the title of Intendant, did the real work of ruling; the Governor discharged its ceremonial functions. Talon had a policy. He wished to colonize, to develop industry, to promote agriculture. In his capacious brain new and progressive ideas were working. He brought in soldiers who became settlers, among them the first real seigneur of Malbaie. An adequate military force, the Carignan regiment, came out from France to awe into submission the aggressive Iroquois, who long had made Montreal, and even Quebec itself, unsafe by their sudden and blood-thirsty attacks. Travelling by canoe and batteau the regiment went from Quebec up the whole length of the St. Lawrence, landed on the south shore of Lake Ontario, and marched into the Iroquois country. With amazement and terror, those arrogant savages saw winding along their forest paths the glittering array of France. Some of their villages were laid low by fire. The French regiment had accomplished its task; with no spirit left the Iroquois made peace.
A good many officers of the Carignan regiment, with but slender prospects in France, decided to stay in Canada and to this day their names—Chambly, Vercheres, Longueuil, Sorel, Berthier and others are conspicuous in the geography of the Province of Quebec. Malbaie was granted to a soldier of fortune, the Sieur de Comporte, who came to Canada at this time, but apparently was not an officer of the Carignan Regiment. His outlook at Malbaie cannot have been considered promising, for Pierre Boucher, who in 1664 published an interesting account of New France, declared the whole region between Baie St. Paul and the Saguenay to be so rugged and mountainous as to make it unfit for civilized habitation. But Philippe Gaultier, Sieur de Comporte, was of the right material to be a good colonist. Born in 1641 he was twenty-four years of age when he came to Canada. Already he had had some stirring adventures, one of which might well have proved grimly fatal had he not found a refuge across the sea. Comporte, then serving as a volunteer in a Company of Infantry led by his uncle, La Fouille, was involved in one of the bloody brawls of the time that Richelieu had made such stern efforts to suppress. The Company was in garrison at La Motte-Saint-Heray in Poitou. On July 9th, 1665, one of its members, Lanoraye, came in with the tale of an insult offered to the company by a civilian in the town. Lanoraye had been marching through the streets with a drum beating, in order to secure recruits, when one Bonneau, the local judge, attacked him, and took away the drum. Lanoraye rushed to arouse his fellow soldiers. When Comporte and half a dozen other hot-heads had listened to his tale, they cried with one voice, "Let us go and demand the drum. He must give it up." So at eight or nine o'clock at night they set out to look for Bonneau. They came upon him unexpectedly in the streets of the town. He was accompanied by seven or eight persons with whom he had supped and all were armed with swords, pistols or other weapons. When Lanoraye demanded the drum, Bonneau was defiant and told him to go away or he should chastise him. The inevitable fight followed. Comporte, whose own account we have, says that it lasted some time and the results were fatal. Comporte declares that he himself struck no blows but the fact remains that two of Bonneau's party were so severely wounded that they died. Comporte and the rest of the Company soon went to Canada. In their absence he and others were sentenced to death.
In Canada he appears to have behaved himself. In France a simple volunteer, in New France he became an important citizen. Talon trusted him and made him Quarter-Master-General. In 1672 Comporte received an enormous grant of land stretching along the St. Lawrence from Cap aux Oies to Cap a l'Aigle, a distance of some eighteen miles, including Malbaie and a good deal more. About the same time he married Marie Bazire, daughter of one of the chief merchants in the colony, by whom he had a numerous family. So eminently respectable was he that we find him churchwarden at Quebec. In time he retired from trade, in which he had engaged, and became a judge of the newly established Court of the Prevote at Quebec. This was not doing badly for a man under sentence of death. But over him still hung this affair in France and, in 1680, he petitioned the King to have the sentence annulled. For this petition he secured the support of the families of the men killed in the quarrel fifteen years earlier. In 1681 Louis XIV's pardon was registered with solemn ceremonial at Quebec, and at last Comporte was no longer an outlaw.
He had plans to settle his great fief. Working in his brain no doubt were dreams of a feudal domain, of a seigniorial chateau looking out across the great river, of respectful tenants paying annual dues to their lord in labour, kind, and money, of a parish church in which over the seigniorial pew should be displayed his coat of arms. But if these pictures inspired his fancy and cheered his spirit, they were never to become realities. In 1687 he was, apparently, in need of money, and he resolved to sell two-thirds of his interest in the seigniory of Malbaie. The price was a pitiful 1000 livres, or some $200, and the purchasers were Francois Hazeur, Pierre Soumande and Louis Marchand of Quebec, who were henceforth to get two-thirds of the profits of the seigniory. Then, in 1687, still young—he was only forty-six—Comporte died, as did also his wife, leaving a young family apparently but ill provided for. His name still survives at Malbaie. The portion of the village on the left bank of the river above the bridge is called Comporte, and a lovely little lake, nestling on the top of a mountain beyond the Grand Fond, and unsurpassed for the excellence of its trout fishing, is called Lac a Comporte; it may be that well-nigh two and a half centuries ago the first seigneur of Malbaie followed an Indian trail to this lake and wet a line in its brown and rippling waters.
Comporte and his partners in the seigniory had planned great things. They had begun the erection of a mill, an enterprise which Comporte's heirs could not continue. So the guardian of the children determined to sell at auction their third of the seigniory. The sale apparently took place in Quebec in October, 1688. We have the record of the bids made. Hazeur began with 410 livres; one Riverin offered 430 livres; after a few other bids Hazeur raised his to 480 livres; then Riverin offered 490 and finally the property was sold to Hazeur for 500 livres. Malbaie was cheap enough; one third of a property more than one hundred and fifty square miles in extent sold for about $100! In 1700 for a sum of 10,000 livres ($2,000) Hazeur bought out all other interests in the seigniory and became its sole owner. Its value had greatly improved in 22 years.
Of Hazeur we know but little. He was a leading merchant at Quebec and was interested in the fishing for "porpoises" or white whales. When he died in 1708 he left money to the Seminary at Quebec on condition that from this endowment, forever, two boys should be educated; for the intervening two centuries the condition has been faithfully observed; one knows not how many youths owe their start in life to the gift of the former seigneur of Malbaie. There, however, no memory or tradition of him survives. In his time some land was cleared. The saw mill and a grist mill, begun by Comporte, were completed and stood, it seems, near the mouth of the little river now known as the Fraser but then as the Ruisseau a la Chute. Civilization had made at Malbaie an inroad on the forest and was struggling to advance.
On Hazeur's death in 1708 his two sons, both of them priests, inherited Malbaie. Meanwhile the government developed a policy for the region. It resolved to set aside, as a reserve, a vast domain stretching from the Mingan seigniory below Tadousac westward to Les Eboulements, and extending northward to Hudson Bay. The wealth of forest, lake, and river, in this tract furnished abundant promise for the fur and other trade of which the government was to have here a complete monopoly. Malbaie was necessary to round out the territory and so the heirs of Hazeur were invited to sell back the seigniory to the government. The sale was completed in October, 1724, when the government of New France, acting through M. Begon, the Intendant, for a sum of 20,000 livres (about $4,000) found itself possessed of Malbaie "as if it had never been granted," of a saw mill and a grist mill, of houses, stables and barns, gardens and farm implements, grain, furniture, live stock, cleared land, cut wood and all other products of human industry there in evidence.
Within the reserve, in addition to Malbaie, were a number of trading posts—Tadousac, Chicoutimi, Lake St. John, Mistassini, &c. In this great tract the government expected to reap large profits from its monopoly of trade with the Indians. Some of the fertile land was to be used for farms which should produce food supplies for the posts. The Intendant had sanguine hopes that the profit from trade and agriculture would aid appreciably in meeting the expense of government. It was, we may be well assured, an expectation never realized.
We get a glimpse of Malbaie in 1750 as a King's post. There were two farms, one called La Malbaie, the other La Comporte. The two farmers were both in the King's service and, in the absence of other diversions, quarrelled ceaselessly. The region, wrote the Jesuit Father Claude Godefroi Coquart, who was sent, in 1750, to inspect the posts, is the finest in the world. He reported, in particular, that the farm of Malbaie had good soil, excellent facilities for raising cattle, and other advantages. Only a very little land had been cleared, just enough wheat being raised to supply the needs of the farmer and his assistants. The place should be made more productive, M. Coquart goes on to say, and the present farmer, Joseph Dufour, is just the man to do it. He is able and intelligent and if only—and here we come to the inherent defect in trying to do such pioneer work by paid officials who had no final responsibility—he were offered better pay the farm could be made to produce good results. The old quarrel with the farmer at La Comporte had been settled; now the farmer of Malbaie was the superior officer, rivalry had ceased, and all was peace.
Coquart gives an estimate of the farming operations at Malbaie which is of special interest as showing that, if the old regime in Canada did not produce good results, it was not for lack of criticism. Better cattle should be raised, he says; at Malbaie one does not see oxen as fine as those at Beaupre, near Quebec, or on the south shore. The pigs too are extremely small, the very fattest hardly weighing 180 pounds; in contrast, at La Petite Riviere, above Baie St. Paul, the pigs are huge; one could have good breeds without great expense; it costs no more to feed them and [a truism] there would be more pork! Of sheep too hardly fifty are kept at Malbaie through the winter; there should be two or three hundred. From the two farms come yearly only thirty or forty pairs of chickens.
Father Coquart's census is as rigorous and unsparing of detail as the Doomsday Book of William the Conqueror. He tells exactly what the Malbaie farm can produce in a year; the record for the year of grace 1750 is "4 or 6 oxen; 25 sheep, 2 or 3 cows, 1200 pounds of pork, 1400 to 1500 pounds of butter, one barrel of lard,"—certainly not much to help a paternal government. The salmon fishery should be developed, says Coquart. Now the farmers get their own supply and nothing more. Nets should be used and great quantities of salmon might be salted down in good seasons. Happily, conditions are mending. The previous farmer had let things go to rack and ruin but now one sees neither thistles nor black wheat; all the fences are in place. Joseph Dufour has a special talent for making things profitable. If he can be induced to continue his services, it will be a benefit to his employer. But he is not contented. Last year he could not make it pay and wished to leave. Nearly all his wages are used in the support of his family. He has three grown-up daughters who help in carrying on the establishment, and a boy for the stables. The best paid of these gets only 50 livres (about $10) a year; she should get at least 80 livres, M. Coquart thinks. Dufour has on the farm eight sheep of his own but even of these the King takes the wool, and actually the farmer has had to pay for what wool his family used. Surely he should be allowed to keep at least half the wool of his own sheep! If it was the policy of the Crown to grant lands along the river of Malbaie there are many people who would like those fertile areas, but there is danger that they would trade with the Indians which should be strictly forbidden. So runs M. Coquart's report. It was rendered to one of the greatest rascals in New France, the Intendant Bigot, but he was a rascal who did his official tasks with some considerable degree of thoroughness and insight. He knew what were the conditions at Malbaie even if he did not mend them.
After 1750 the curtain falls again upon Malbaie and we see nothing until, a few years later, the desolation of war has come, war that was to bring to Canada, and, with it, to Malbaie, new masters of British blood. After long mutterings the war broke out openly in 1756. In those days the farmer at Malbaie who looked out, as we look out, upon the mighty river would see great ships passing up and down. Some of them differed from the merchant ships to which his eye was accustomed. They stood high in the water. Ships came near the north shore in those days and he could see grim black openings in their sides which meant cannon. Already Britain had almost driven France from the sea and these French ships, which ascended the St. Lawrence, were few. Then, in 1759, happened what had been long-expected and talked about. Signal fires blazed at night on both sides of the St. Lawrence to give the alarm, when not French, but British ships, sailed up the river, a huge fleet. They stopped at Tadousac and then slowly and cautiously filed past Malbaie. On a summer day the crowd of white sails scattered on the surface of the river made an animated scene. In wonder our farmer and his helpers watched the ships silently advance to their goal. There were 39 men-of-war, 10 auxiliaries, 70 transports and a multitude of smaller craft carrying some 27,000 men; it was the mightiest array Britain had ever sent across the ocean. New France was doomed.
The French fought bravely a campaign really hopeless. Montcalm massed his chief force at Quebec and there awaited attack. In vain had he appealed to France for further help; he was left unaided to struggle with a foe who had command of the sea, whose fleet could pass up and down before Quebec with the tide and keep the French guards for twenty miles in constant nervous tension as to where a landing might be made. Wolfe carried on his work relentlessly. He warned the Canadians that he would ravage their villages if they did not remain neutral. Neutral it was almost impossible for them to be for the French urged them in the other direction. With stern rigour, Wolfe meted out to them his punishment. He sent parties to burn houses and destroy crops and Malbaie was not spared. On August 15th, 1759, Captain Gorham reported to Wolfe that with 300 men, one half of them Rangers from the English colonies, the other half Highlanders, he had devastated the north shore of the St. Lawrence. The soldiers did their work thoroughly. From Baie St. Paul, the last considerable village east of Quebec, they went on thirty miles to Malbaie where they destroyed almost all of the houses. We do not know whether the competent Dufour was still the farmer at Malbaie. But all the fine pictures of better cattle, better pigs and sheep, better farming, better fishing, ended with the applying of the British soldiers' torch to the wooden buildings: much of the settlement went up in smoke. Some of the cattle, pigs and sheep found their way perhaps to Wolfe's commissariat. But a good many were left and no doubt they are the ancestors of many of the cattle, sheep and pigs we see at Malbaie still. This first visit of Americans and Highlanders to Malbaie has its special interest. A few years later Highlanders came again, not to destroy but to settle, and to become the ancestors of families that to this day show their Highland origin in their names and in their faces, but never a trace of it in their speech or in their customs. The Americans were longer in coming back. But, after more than a hundred years they, too, were to come again, not to destroy but in a very literal sense to build; their many charming cottages now stretch along the shore of the Bay that looks across to Cap a l'Aigle.
[Footnote 1: Exact information in regard to the brothers Hazeur, who have a place in this story merely because they held the seigniory of Malbaie, may be found in articles by Mgr. H. Tetu, in the Bulletin des Recherches Historiques (Levis, Quebec) for August, 1907, and the following numbers. They were the Canon Joseph Thierry Hazeur, born in 1680, and Pierre Hazeur de L'Orme, born in 1682, both apparently at Quebec. The younger brother took the name de L'Orme from his mother's family. He was for many years the representative in France of the Chapter of the Cathedral at Quebec, which held, from the Pope and the King, four or five abbeys in France. His copious letters published by Mgr. Tetu illustrate with some vividness details of the ecclesiastical life of the time. For several years after the British conquest of Canada the Quebec Chapter continued to receive the revenues of the Abbey of Meaubec. The elder Hazeur, less able than his brother, was Cure at Point aux Trembles. An invalid, he spent his later years chiefly in Quebec.]
[Footnote 2: Malcolm Fraser, an officer in the 78th Highlanders and afterwards first seigneur of Mount Murray, one of the two seigniories into which Malbaie was divided, was sent out on these ravaging expeditions. Years after, some of Fraser's neighbours of French origin rallied him on his capacity for devastation as shown at this time. See Fraser's Journal, Appendix A, p. 253, and the Memoires of Philippe Aubert de Gaspe, 1866, Ch. II.]
THE TWO HIGHLAND SEIGNEURS AT MALBAIE
Pitt's use of the Highlanders in the Seven Years' War.—The origin of Fraser's Highlanders.—The career of Lord Lovat.—Lovat's son Simon Fraser and other Frasers at Quebec.—Malcolm Fraser and John Nairne, future seigneurs at Malbaie.—The Highlanders and Wolfe's victory.—The Highlanders in the winter of 1759-60.—Malcolm Fraser on Murray's defeat in April, 1760.—The return of Canadian seigneurs to France.—General Murray buys Canadian seigniories.—Nairne and Fraser at Malbaie.—Their grants from Murray.
The great British fleet which has passed up beyond Malbaie to Quebec is important for our tale. It carried men who have since become world famous; not only Wolfe but Jervis, afterward Lord St. Vincent, Cook, the great navigator, Guy Carleton, who saved Canada for Britain during the American Revolution, and many others of lesser though still considerable fame. But for Malbaie the most interesting men in that great array were those connected with the 78th, or Fraser's, Highlanders. On the decks of the British ships were hundreds of these brawny, bare-legged and kilted sons of the north, speaking their native Gaelic, and on occasion harangued by their officers in that tongue. A few years earlier many of them had served under Prince Charles Stuart to overthrow, if possible, King George II, and the house of Hanover; now they were fighting for that King against their old allies the French. Unreal in truth had been the rising in behalf of the Stuarts. Scotland had no grievances: she did not wish to dissolve the union with England, and if the tyranny of any royal house troubled her it was that of the Stuarts, alien from most Scots in both religious and political thought. But when, in 1745, some of the chieftains called out their clansmen, loyalty made these heed the summons, though half-heartedly. The same devotion was now given to the house of Hanover. Years earlier Duncan Forbes of Culloden, one of the noblest and wisest Scots of his age, had urged Walpole to call the Highlanders to fight Britain's battles. The hint was not then taken but later, Pitt, the greatest war minister Britain has ever had, revived Forbes's plan. Some Highland regiments were formed. The Highland dress that had been proscribed after Culloden as the brand of treason was now given its place in Britain's battle array: ever since it has played there its creditable part. Wolfe called his Highland companions in arms the most manly lot of officers he had ever seen.
The Highland regiment that came with Wolfe to Quebec was known as Fraser's Highlanders because recruited chiefly from that ancient and powerful Scottish clan. In the rising of 1745 the Frasers had supported the Stuart cause and they suffered when that cause was lost. In 1747 the head of the clan, Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat, an old man of 80, perished on the scaffold for his treason. The details of Lovat's career are amazing. In one aspect he was a wild, half barbarous Highland chieftain, in another one of the polished gentlemen and courtiers of his time. He was devoured by the ambition to be the most powerful man in Scotland. In that age others, more reputable than Fraser, found it wise to stand well with both royal houses, but he surpassed them all in tortuous treachery. In the rising of 1715 he was on the Whig side; in 1745 he was forced at last to come out openly for the Stuarts. For neither side did he really care: he was merely serving his own ends. Considering his deeds it is a wonder that he so long escaped the scaffold. When he was a young man a certain Baroness Lovat stood in the way of his own claims to be the heir to the title of Lovat; so he offered to marry this lady's daughter and thus end the dispute. When his advances were refused he determined to use force and seized Lady Lovat's residence, Castle Dounie, only to find that the young lady had been spirited away. He resolved on the spot to marry her mother who was in the castle. She was a widow of thirty-four, he a man of thirty, so the disparity of age was not great. Stories of what happened vary, but it is said that in the dead of night a clergyman was brought to Lady Lovat's chamber and she was forced to go through the form of marriage, the bag-pipes playing in the next room to drown her cries. The lady was connected with the great house of Atholl who warred on Fraser with fire and sword. Outlawed, he escaped to the Continent to survive for half a century of intrigue and treason.
Though profligate, cruel, treacherous and avaricious, so smooth was Lovat's address, so profound his knowledge of Scotland, and so strong his hold upon his own clansmen, that he always remained a man to be reckoned with. Since he served on the Hanoverian side in 1715 George I granted a pardon for his many offences; for his treason in 1745 George II let him go to the block. His last days in London were like those of a dying saint. He wrote to his son Simon Fraser, who led Fraser's Highlanders at Quebec in 1759, a beautiful spiritual letter. To the Major of the Tower he said he was going to Heaven where, he added, "very few Majors go." He was gay on his last morning:—"I hope to be in heaven by one o'clock or I should not be so merry now,"—and expressed his pity for those who "must continue to crawl a little longer in this evil world." He took what he called an eternal farewell from some of those about him: "we shall not meet again in the same place; I am sure of that." He practised kneeling at the block so that he might do it with dignity on the scaffold. A great crowd assembled to witness his execution and a platform fell killing several people. "The more mischief, the better sport," said Lord Lovat grimly, but he wondered that so many should come to see the taking off of his "old grey head." He carefully felt the edge of the executioner's axe to make sure that it was sharp.
No doubt there was a touch of madness in Lord Lovat but the Fraser clan was devoted to him. By his treason all his honours and estates were forfeited. At the time his heir, Simon Fraser, only twenty-one years old, was a prisoner in the Castle of Edinburgh, attainted for high treason. But so good was his conduct that in 1750 he received a pardon. Then, a penniless man, he was called to the Scottish Bar. But another career was in store for him. Some years later when Pitt formed his design to use the Highlanders in the Seven Years' War he made Simon Fraser Colonel of a battalion, to be raised on the forfeited estates of his family and from the clan of which he was head. Success was instantaneous. Within a few weeks Fraser was at the head of some 1500 men. They wore the Highland dress, with a sporran of badger's or otter's skin and carried musket and broadsword; some of them wore a dirk at their own cost. Among the officers were no less than five Simon Frasers, three or four each of Alexander Frasers and John Frasers, and a good many other Frasers, among them a young Ensign, Malcolm Fraser, destined to rule one of the seigniories at Malbaie for more than half a century. Other Scottish names also appear, Macnabs, Chisholms, Macleans, and among them John Nairne who, like Malcolm Fraser, spent the best part of his life at Malbaie.
The head of the Nairne clan, a John Nairne, third Baron Nairne, had fought for the Stuarts in 1745. He died an exile in France. Of how close kin to him was the young Highland Officer, John Nairne, who settled later at Malbaie, we do not know. His family was of course Jacobite. In "Waverley" Sir Walter Scott mentions a Miss Nairne with whom he says he was acquainted, and this lady appears to have been one of the sisters of Captain John Nairne. In 1745, as the Highland army rushed into Edinburgh, Miss Nairne was standing with some ladies on a balcony, when a shot, discharged by accident from a Highlander's musket, grazed her forehead. "Thank God," she said, "that the accident happened to me whose principles are known; had it befallen a Whig [the name then identified with the anti-Jacobite party] they would have said it was done on purpose." At Murray Bay there is still a miniature portrait of Prince Charlie given it is said by himself to Miss Nairne.
Before fighting under Wolfe John Nairne had followed the Dutch flag. Just before the rising of 1745, when a youth of only 17, he, like a great many others of his countrymen, is found serving in the well known "Scots Brigade"; many years later at Malbaie, he tells in his letters, of old companions in this service with well known Scottish names—Bruce, Maclean, Seton, Hepburn, Campbell, Dunbar, Dundass, Graham, and so on. In the pay of Holland Nairne remained for some nine years. He made, he says, "long voyages" possibly to the Dutch possessions in the far East. But he was glad of the chance to serve his own land which came when Britain, embarked upon the Seven Years' War, was anxious to recall her banished sons and to find soldiers, Scots or of any other nationality, who would fight her battles. So John Nairne left the Dutch service to join the 78th Highlanders and henceforth his loyalty to the house of Hanover was never questioned. From the first, since Scotland offered only a poor prospect of a career, Nairne may have thought of remaining in the new world when the war should end. The Highlander of that day, like the Irishman, found better chances abroad than at home. Unlike Nairne, Malcolm Fraser, a younger man, had not seen foreign service. The two met for the first time when, in 1757, they both joined the 78th Highlanders. Soon they became fast friends and for nearly half a century they were to live in the closest relations.
Fraser's Highlanders had landed at Halifax in Nova Scotia in June, 1757. Their dress seemed unsuited to both the severe winters and the hot summers of North America and a change of costume was proposed; but officers and men protested vehemently and no change was made. During the campaigns in America the Highlanders boasted, not with entire truth as we shall see, that they with their bare legs enjoyed better health than those who wore breeches and warm clothing. At Louisbourg they did well. At Quebec a Highland officer's knowledge of French proved a great boon. When, in the darkness of the momentous morning of September 13th, 1759, Wolfe's boats were drifting down with the tide close to the north shore near Quebec, intending to land and scale the heights at what is now Wolfe's Cove, a French sentry called out sharply from the bank, "Qui vive?" A Highland officer, who had served in Holland, was able to reply "France!" without betraying his nationality.
"A quel regiment?" demanded the sentry.
"De la reine," answered the Highlander, giving the name of a well-known French regiment commanded by Bougainville; and then he added in a low voice, "Ne faites pas de bruit; ce sont les vivres"—for a convoy with provisions was expected by the French. The Highlanders were at the forefront in the stiff climb up the heights which proved to be Wolfe's master stroke. Malcolm Fraser has left his own account of that morning's work. The troops, he says, had been in the boats since nine o'clock on the previous night. At about twelve they had set out with a falling tide and they landed just as day was breaking. The light infantry struggled up the hill first, the French meanwhile firing on the boats, killing and wounding some of the occupants; but "the main body of our army soon got to the upper ground, after climbing a hill or rather a precipice, of about three hundred yards, very steep and covered with wood and brush." By ten the army was drawn up in order of battle,—"in a masterly manner," John Nairne said later,—on the Plains of Abraham, the bag-pipes of the Highlanders screaming a wild defiance to the foe. Then followed that brief death grapple, fatal to the leader on each side. Fraser and his Highlanders, we are told, rushed at the enemy with their broadswords in such irresistible fury that they were driven with a prodigious slaughter into the town. The Highlanders suffered as much after the battle as in it, for General Murray led them to reconnoitre in the direction of the General Hospital and a good many were shot by the French from bushes and from houses in the suburbs of St. Louis and St. John. To the French the Highlanders seemed especially ferocious, possibly owing to the wild music of their pipes, their waving tartans, their terrible broadswords, and perhaps, also, their partially naked bodies. They were indeed christened "the savages of Europe."
Not many days after Wolfe's victory the Highlanders marched into Quebec with the victorious army. The French garrison was sent away to Europe, the British fleet itself soon followed, and the conquerors, with General Murray in command, settled down to face for the first time the rigours of a winter at Quebec. The Highlanders suffered terribly. One suspects that, in spite of their protests, the Highland costume was ill-suited to meet the severity of the climate; and, in any case, the army was ill-fed, ill-housed, and overworked. Malcolm Fraser kept a journal, but Nairne, the other future seigneur at Malbaie, the most methodical of men, was less ready with the pen and appears to have made no chronicle of those slow but momentous days. The bitter weather was the dread enemy. Fraser tells how men on duty lost fingers and toes and some were even deprived of speech and sensation in a few minutes through "the incredible severity of the frost.... Our regiment in particular is in a pitiful situation having no breeches. Nothing but the last necessity obliged any man to go out of doors." Colonel Simon Fraser is, he adds, doing his best to provide trousers. Pitying nuns observed the need and soon busied themselves knitting long hose for the poor strangers. The scurvy carried off a good many. In April, 1760, of 894 men in Fraser's Highlanders not fewer than 580 were on the sick list and it was a wan and woe-begone host that set itself grimly to the task of meeting the assault on Quebec for which the French under Levis had been preparing throughout the winter.
When it came on April 28th, 1760, the Highlanders were not wanting. Instead of fighting behind Quebec's crazy walls Murray marched his men out to the Plains of Abraham to meet the enemy in the open. On ground half covered by snow, with here and there deep pools of water from the heavy rain of the previous day, the two armies grappled in what was sometimes a hand to hand conflict. Of the British one-third had come from the hospital to take their places in the ranks. The proportion of the Highlanders who did this was even greater; half of them rose on that day from sick beds. It proved a dark day for Britain. Murray was defeated, losing about one-third of his army on the field. Four of the Highland officers were killed, twenty-three were wounded, among them Colonel Simon Fraser himself. Malcolm Fraser was dangerously wounded; but he tells us gleefully that within twenty days he was entirely cured. Nairne seems to have gone through the fight without a hurt. It was surely by a strange turn of fortune that men, some of whom fought against George II in '45 and had been condemned as traitors, should fifteen years later shed their blood like water for the same sovereign. Malcolm Fraser was disposed to be critical of Murray's tactics. He ought to have stood like a wall on the rising ground near Quebec, says Fraser; but "his passion for glory getting the better of his reason he ordered the army to march out and attack the enemy ... in a situation the most desired by them and [that] ought to be avoided by us as the Canadians and Savages could be used against us to the greatest advantage in their beloved ... element, woods." Nearly half a century later when Malcolm Fraser was giving advice to a young officer, Nairne's son, he advised him not to be too critical of the actions of his superiors. The confident young diarist of 1760 had meanwhile learned reserve. But he was not alone among the Highlanders in his criticism of Murray. A Murray led at Culloden in April, 1746, as at Quebec in April, 1760. Lieutenant Charles Stewart was wounded in both battles; as he lay in Quebec surrounded by brother officers he said, "From April battles and Murray generals, Good Lord deliver me." It is to General Murray's credit that, when the remark was repeated to him, he called on his subordinate to express the hope for better luck next time.
A little later Quebec was saved by the arrival of a British fleet and the French fell back on Montreal. Murray followed them but the Highlanders remained in garrison at Quebec, apparently because, with half the officers and men invalided, they could make but a poor muster for active campaigning. It thus happened that Nairne and Fraser did not share the glory of being present at the fall of Montreal. There, on a September day in 1760, the Governor of Canada, the Marquis de Vaudreuil, handed over to General Amherst, the Commander-in-Chief in America of the armies of Great Britain, the vast territory which he had ruled. It was not certain, albeit the great Pitt was resolved what to do, that, when the war ended, the country would not be handed back to France. The French officers professed, indeed, to believe that a peace was imminent by which France should save what she held in America. Meanwhile, however, they and their regiments were to be sent to France. The few residents at Malbaie whom Captain Gorham had spared, looking out across the river in October, 1760, saw it dotted with the white sails of many ships outward bound. Though they floated the British flag, their decks were crowded with the soldiers of France now carried home by the triumphant conqueror.
But more than the soldiers went back to France. Rather than live under the sway of the British, many civilians also left Canada, among them some of the seigneurs of Canadian manors. Land was cheap in Canada and it is not to be wondered at that young British officers, seeking their fortune, should have thought of settling in the country. A hundred years earlier French officers of the Carignan Regiment had abandoned their military careers to become Canadian seigneurs. In the end John Nairne and Malcolm Fraser took up this project most warmly and in their plan to get land they had the support of their commanding officer, General Murray. Murrays, Nairnes and Frasers had all fought on the Jacobite side in 1745; and we know how the Scots hold together.
James Murray, son of a Scottish peer, Lord Elibank, was himself still a young man of only a little more than thirty,—a high-spirited, brave, generous and impulsive officer. His family played some considerable part in the life of the time and they were always suspected of Jacobite leanings. Murray's brother, Lord Elibank, was a leader among the Scottish wits of his day. Dr. Johnson's famous quip against the Scots when he defined oatmeal as a food in England for horses and in Scotland for men was met by Elibank's neat retort: "And where will you find such horses and such men?" Another brother, Alexander, was a forerunner of John Wilkes the radical; the cry of "Murray and Liberty" was heard in London long before that of "Wilkes and Liberty." A third brother, George became an admiral. General James Murray sometimes described himself as a soldier of fortune. He was certainly not rich. Yet now when many of the Canadian seigneurs sold their manors, in some way Murray was able to purchase half a dozen of these vast estates. He bought that of Lauzon opposite Quebec on which now stands the town of Levis and half a dozen villages. He bought St. Jean and Sans-Bruit (now Belmont), near Quebec, Riviere du Loup and Madawaska, on the lower St. Lawrence, and Foucault on Lake Champlain.
To Nairne and Fraser, brave young Scots, who had done good service, Murray was specially attracted. Nairne, though only a lieutenant, till 1761, when he purchased a captaincy, was his junior by but a few years; Lieutenant Malcolm Fraser was three years younger than Nairne. The young men were seeking their fortunes but since they had very little money to buy estates, as Murray did, they could not expect to get land in the more settled parts of the country. For them Malbaie was a promising field and in September, 1761, they went down to have a look at it. The property was vested in the government, for which Murray could act. It was not wholly untrodden wilderness, for some land was cleared and a good deal of live stock still remained. The houses too had not been entirely destroyed by Gorham's men. The war had not yet ended. It was still uncertain whether Britain would hold Canada. But, for the moment, there was little to do. It was possible that in Canada further opportunities of military service would not be wanting. As seigneurs in Canada the young officers would retain rank as gentlemen and would not sink to the social level of mere cultivators of the soil. The experience too of founding settlements in the Canadian wilderness had compensations. Good sport was always to be had. They could pay at least annual visits to Quebec for a few weeks, and were, perhaps, hardly more remote from the cultivated world than some of the chieftains in their own Scottish Highlands.
The survey of Malbaie must have proved satisfactory. It is true, as the young officers said, that there was an over-abundance of "mountains and morasses," with good land scattered only here and there. But in their formal proposals to Murray they made this fact the plea for the grant of a larger area. Nairne apparently had greater resources than Fraser and, being now a captain, was his senior in rank. He asked for the more important tract lying west of the little river at Malbaie and stretching to the seigniory of Les Eboulements, Fraser for that lying east of the river and stretching some eighteen miles along the St. Lawrence to the Riviere Noire. The grants were to extend for three leagues into the interior. They were to be held under seigniorial tenure but Nairne asked for 3000 acres of freehold and Fraser for 2000. They thus close their petition to Murray: "This [request], if his Excellency is pleased to grant, will make the proposers extremely happy, and they shall forever retain the most grateful remembrance of his bounty; and [they] hope his Excellency will be pleased in the grant to allow them to give the lands to be granted such a name as may perpetuate their sense of his great kindness to them." They got what they asked for. It may indeed be doubted whether Murray had any right to allot huge areas of land in a country which had not yet been ceded finally to Great Britain, but any defects of title in this respect were corrected long after by new grants under the great seal. As it was, Murray wrote on a sheet of ordinary foolscap, still preserved at Murray Bay, a brief deed of the land and, behold, the two young officers have become landed proprietors! To their request for permission to use Murray's name, in grateful remembrance of his kindness, he also assented. Nairne's seigniory was to be called Murray's Bay and Fraser's Mount Murray. The grants were made because "it is a national advantage and tends to promote the cultivation of lands within the province to encourage His Majesty's natural-born subjects settling within the same"; and the consideration was "the faithful services" rendered by the two officers.
A good deal of stock and farm implements remained at Malbaie and this the new proprietors arranged to buy, giving in payment their promissory notes, Nairne's for L85, 6s. 8d., currency and Fraser, who got only one-third, his for L42, 13s. 4d. They seem to have had a good deal for their money. There were a score and a half or so of cattle, four or five horses, (one of them twenty-two years old), twenty sheep, fourteen pigs, besides chickens and other living creatures. In addition there were waggons and other farm appliances, most of them probably old and of little use, though they must have helped to tide over the first difficult days when everything would have to be provided.
On getting his grant Nairne retired from the army on half pay, but Fraser remained on active service for many years still. Thus Nairne was the more continuously resident at Murray Bay and in its development he played the greater part. Fraser's interests were divided, not only between Murray Bay and the army, but also between Murray Bay and another seigniory which he secured on the south side of the river at Riviere du Loup and known as Fraserville. For us therefore the interest at Murray Bay now centres chiefly in Nairne and his family.
[Footnote 3: The name Simon Fraser appears with credit more than once in Canadian history. It was a Simon Fraser who crossed the Rocky Mountains and first followed for its whole course the Fraser River named after him.]
[Footnote 4: Waverley, Chapter II.]
[Footnote 5: See Appendix A., p. 249. "Journal of Malcolm Fraser, First Seigneur of Mount Murray, Malbaie."]
[Footnote 6: See copy of the grant in Appendix B., p. 271.]
JOHN NAIRNE, SEIGNEUR OF MURRAY BAY
Colonel Nairne's portrait.—His letters.—The first Scottish settlers at Malbaie.—Nairne's finance.—His tasks.—The cure's work.—The Scottish settlers and their French wives.—The Church and Education.—Nairne's efforts to make Malbaie Protestant.—His war on idleness.—The character of the habitant.—Fishing at Malbaie.—Trade at Malbaie.—Farming at Malbaie.—Nairne's marriage.—Career and death in India of Robert Nairne.—The Quebec Act and its consequences for the habitant.
In the dining room of the Manor House at Murray Bay Nairne's portrait still hangs. It was painted, probably in Scotland, when he was an old man, by an artist, to me unknown. The face is refined, showing kindliness and gentleness in the lines of the mouth, and revealing the "friendly honest man" that he aspired to be. His nose is big and in spite of the prevailing gentleness of demeanour the thin lips, pressed together, indicate some vigour of character. He has the watery eye of old age and this takes away somewhat from the impression of energy. It is not a clever face but honest, rather sad, and unmistakeably Scottish in type. Nairne wears the red coat of the British officer and a wig in the fashion of the time. The portrait might be one of a frequenter of court functions in London rather than that of a hardy pioneer at Murray Bay, who had carried on a stern battle with the wilderness.
Nairne was a good letter writer. To his kin in Scotland he sent from the beginning voluminous annual epistles. They are not such as we now write, hurriedly scratched off in a few minutes. With abundant time at his disposal Nairne could write what must have occupied many days. When written, the letters were sometimes copied in a book almost as large as an office ledger. It is well that this was done, for in this book is preserved almost the sole record of the life at Murray Bay of a century and a half ago. The pages are still fresh and the handwriting, while not that of one much accustomed to use the pen, is clear and vigorous. The zeal for copying letters was intermittent. There are gaps, covering many years. Then, for a time, not only the letters sent, but those received, are copied into the book. In the long winter evenings there was not much to do. Malcolm Fraser, it is true, lived just across the river at the neighbouring manor house. But Malcolm was more usually away than not. Besides, as one grows older, there is no place like one's own fireside of a winter evening. So our good seigneur read and dozed and wrote and we are grateful that he has told us so much about past days.
Nairne's first visit to Malbaie was, as we have seen, in the autumn of 1761, when he took possession of his seigniory. Not until the following year was the formal grant made by Murray. Long afterwards, in 1798, writing to a friend, Hepburn, in Scotland, Nairne recalled his arrival at his future home. "I came here first in 1761 with five soldiers [alas, we do not know their names!] and procured some Canadian servants. One small house contained us all for several years and [we] were separated from every other people for about eighteen miles without any road." He contrasts this with what he sees about him at the time of writing—a parish with more than five hundred inhabitants, with one hundred men capable of bearing arms, grist mills, fisheries, good houses and barns, fertile fields, a priest, a chapel, and so on. The five soldiers of whom Nairne speaks were no doubt men of the 78th Highlanders and ancestors of a goodly portion of the population of Malbaie at the present time. Perhaps some of them had fought at Culloden; certainly all fought at Louisbourg and Quebec.
In the first days at Murray Bay Nairne was in debt. In 1761, probably to purchase his captaincy, he had incurred a considerable obligation to his friend General Murray; where Murray got L400 to lend him is a mystery, for he was himself always pressed for funds. With everything to do at Murray Bay, mills to be built, roads to be opened, a manor house to be constructed, it was not easy to get together any money; for years the debt hung like a mill-stone round Nairne's neck. But he had always a certain, if small, revenue in his half pay and, in time, he acquired, chiefly by inheritance, what was, for that period in Canada, a considerable fortune. In 1766, when Nairne was in Scotland, General Murray, who had himself just arrived from Canada, wrote urgently to ask for payment. Murray owed to a Mr. Ross L8,000 and could not borrow one shilling in England on his estates in Canada; so he said "delay will be a very terrible disappointment to me." But this disappointment he had to bear. In 1770 the debt was still unpaid and may have remained so for some years longer. Happily the friendship between the former comrades was not impaired by their financial relations. Murray promised to put Nairne in the way of being "very comfortable and easy" in Canada, if he would follow his advice, but nothing came of his offer. For some years after 1761 Nairne thought of returning to Scotland, whither ties of kin drew him strongly. But his father's death in 1766 or 1767 helped to weaken these ties. In any case Scotland offered no career and he must do something to pay the debt to Murray and to provide for himself.
Nairne's chief task as seigneur was to put settlers on his huge tract. The seigneur, indeed, discharged functions similar to those of a modern colonization company, but with differences that in some respects favour the older system. Now-a-days the occupier buys the land and the colonization company gets the best possible price for what it has to sell; it can hold for a rise in value and, if it likes, can refuse to sell at all. Nairne had no such powers. Under the law, if a reputable person applied for land, he must let him have it. Settlers required no capital to buy their land, and, as long as they paid their merely nominal rent, they could not be disturbed in their holdings. The rent amounted to about one cent an acre, and some twenty cents or a live capon for each of the two or three arpents of frontage which a farm would have. The rent charge was uniform and depended not upon the quality of the land or upon the individual seigneur but upon what was usual in the district; moreover, under the French law, no matter how valuable the land became, the rent could not be increased and, though so trifling, it was rarely required until the settler's farm had begun to be productive. Sometimes in a single year Nairne would put as many as twenty brawny young fellows on his land to hew out homes for themselves. Each of them got a tract of about one hundred acres and, as the annual rental received for a dozen farms would be hardly more than twenty dollars, the seigneur reaped no great profit from his tenants. It was only when a tenant sold a holding, that the seigneur secured any considerable sum. To him then went one-twelfth of the price. The other chief source of profit, as settlement increased, was from the seigneur's mill. To it all the occupiers of his land must bring their grain and pay a fixed charge for its grinding. In scattered settlements the mill brought little profit and was a source of expense rather than of income. But, as population increased, this "droit de banalite" became valuable. The mill at Malbaie was, in time, very prosperous.
In Canada the seigneur was not the oppressor of his people but rather their watchful guardian. He planned roads and other improvements, checked abuses, and enforced justice. At his side stood, usually, the priest. The moment a parish was established a cure was entitled to the tithe; near every manor house, the village church was sure to spring up. Even when, as at Malbaie, the priest and the seigneur were not of the same faith they were often fast friends. Nairne's relations were good with the neighbouring cure, when, at length, Malbaie had a resident priest. Each village would thus usually have at least two men of some culture working together for its spiritual and temporal interests. Both remained in touch with the outside world; the priest with his bishop at Quebec, the seigneur with the representative there of the sovereign. Upon each change of governor Nairne was required to appear at Quebec to render fealty and homage. With head uncovered and wearing neither sword nor spur he must kneel before the governor, and take oath on the Gospels to be faithful to the king, to be party to nothing against his interests, to perform all the duties required by the terms of his holding, and, especially, to appear in arms to defend the province if attacked. We find Nairne excused by General Haldimand in 1781 from discharging this ceremony, but only because he was away on active service.
When Nairne settled at Murray Bay he was unmarried and so, no doubt, were the soldiers he brought with him. Only after five or six years did he himself find a wife but we may be sure that his men did not wait so long. What more natural than that they should marry the French Canadian servants of whom Nairne speaks? A visitor at Murray Bay is struck with names like McNicol, Harvey, Blackburn, McLean, and one or two others that have a decidedly North British ring. Some, if not all, are names of one or other of the half dozen soldiers who settled at Murray Bay in Nairne's time. There was no disbanding there of a regiment, as tradition has it. In time the 78th Highlanders were disbanded, but certainly not at Murray Bay, and, though hundreds of them remained in Canada, only a few individual soldiers came to Nairne's settlement. Already when he arrived French Canadians were there and from the first the community was prevailingly French and Catholic. In 1784 when joined with Les Eboulements and Isle aux Coudres under a single priest Malbaie already had 65 communicants. As likely as not some even of the Highlanders were Catholics. In any case their children became such and spoke French, the tongue of their mothers; even Nairne's own children spoke only French until they went to Quebec to school.
When, from time to time, a missionary priest visited the place he baptized children of Catholic and Protestant alike, including even the children of the Protestant family in the manor house. The only religious services that the people ever shared in were those of the Roman Catholic Church. Nairne would have wished it otherwise. He held sturdy Protestant views, and wished to bring in Protestant settlers. On one or more of his visits to Scotland he made efforts to induce Scots to move to Canada. But he met with no great success. A Scottish friend, Gilchrist, who had visited Nairne at Murray Bay, writes, in 1775, to express hope that he will not encourage French settlers who will rob him, who have "disingenuous, lying, cheating, detestable dispositions," and are the "banes of society." He adds, "I am glad you give me reason to believe you are to carry over some industrious honest people from hence with you. I am convinced 'twere easy by introducing a few such [to bring about that] the dupes to the most foolish and absurd religion now in the world might be warmed out and your quiet as well as interest established from Point au Pique to the Lake." The Roman Catholic faith had more vitality than Nairne's correspondent supposed. It was Protestantism that should in time be "warmed out" of Murray Bay.
To prevent this Nairne did what he could; for a long time he entertained hopes not only that the Protestants at Murray Bay might be held to their faith but also that the Roman Catholics would be led into the Protestant fold. His chief complaint against the Roman Catholic Church was in regard to education. There was woeful ignorance. Nairne was in command of the local militia and he found that officers of militia, and even a neighbouring seigneur, could not read. When Roman Catholic services were held at Murray Bay, as they were regularly before he died, the tongue was one that the people did not understand. At the services there was nothing "but a few lighted candles, in defyance of the sun, and the priest singing and reading Latin or Greek.... None of us understands a word." He complains of "the greatest deficiency in preaching sentiments of morality and virtue." Indeed, very few of the priests could preach or say anything in public beyond the Latin mass. Nairne tried to secure better means of educating his people. Probably earlier also, but certainly in 1791, he was writing to the Anglican Bishop of Quebec to help him to do something. He lives, he says, in "the most Northerly and, I believe, the poorest parish on the Continent of America." The people cannot read and have no literary amusement. Their idle days they spend in drunkenness and debauchery and he wishes something done for them. Ten years later Nairne is returning to the charge. There are five Protestant families in the neighbourhood. They cannot even be baptized except by the cure. They cannot get any Protestant instruction; so the Protestant children are reared Roman Catholics. Nairne wished to have a Protestant clergyman established at Murray Bay; he could make that place his headquarters and carry on missionary work in the neighbouring parishes. But the five Protestant families at Murray Bay soon became three, for Nairne says, in 1801, that his and Colonel Fraser's families and one other man, an Englishman, are the only remaining Protestants. He and Fraser, he adds, are growing old and, in any case, it was doubtful whether the Englishman would attend service.
Yet Nairne still begged for a Protestant missionary. He desired most of all a free school. The teacher should be, he says, French but able also to preach in English; there was now no school at Murray Bay; a free school and a church system which would release the people from paying tithes could work wonders and, probably, most of the people would soon become Protestants. Knowing the tenacity with which the French Canadians have clung to their faith, it seems hardly likely that Nairne's dreams would have been realized. At any rate nothing was done. At that time there were hardly more than a dozen Anglican clergymen in all Canada and the Bishop of Quebec had no one to spare to look after the few scattered sheep at Murray Bay. On the other hand the rival Church did not forget her own. Long before the British conquest occasional services had been held at Malbaie and these were continued, with some regularity, until a resident priest came in 1797. The visiting priests worked hard. They were, Nairne says, "industrious in private to confess the people, especially the women, which branch of their duty is deemed most sacred and necessary." Against this tremendous power of the confessional, Protestantism had nothing that could be called an opposing influence. When a Protestant died he might not, of course, be buried in the Roman Catholic burial ground. For these outcast dead Nairne set aside a plot near his own house, where, still, under a little clump of trees, their bones lie, neglected and forgotten. Not more than half a dozen Protestants were ever buried there and this shows that even the Protestant pioneers were few in number; hardly one of their children remained outside the Roman Church.
Nairne thought the Canadians not too prone to industry and he deplored the multitude of religious holidays that gave an excuse for idleness. In a year there were not less than forty, in addition to Sundays, and on some of the holidays, such as that of the patron saint of the parish, there were scenes of great disorder. Nairne wrote on the subject to the Roman Catholic Bishop of Quebec asking him to take steps to ensure that the people might come to think it not sinful but virtuous to work for six days in the week. The Bishop promised consideration of the matter. Already it had been under debate and in the end the Bishop gave orders that labour might continue on most of the Church's festivals; that of the patron saint of the parish was in time abolished. Nairne thus helped to bring about a considerable industrial reform. But beyond this he achieved little.
The French Canadians, who occupied his vacant acres, have shown both a marvellous tenacity for their own customs and also a fecundity that has enabled people, numbering 60,000 at the time of the British conquest, to multiply now to some 2,500,000, scattered over the United States and Canada. To govern them has never been an easy problem. Nairne says that the French officer, Bougainville, who had known the Canadians in many campaigns, called them at Murray's table a brave and submissive people; he thought they needed the strong hand of authority and added that he was sure the British method of government would soon spoil them. Under the French regime they had had no gleam of political liberty. For twenty years before the conquest France had exacted from them the fullest possible measure of military service. The British ended this and brought liberty. Its growth is sometimes so rapid as to be noxious, and, no doubt, some of those who came to Nairne's domain gave him much trouble. "No people," Nairne said of them, "stand more in awe of punishment when convinced that there is power to inflict it, as none are so easily spoiled as to be mutinous by indulgences." Some of them showed striking intelligence: in 1784 we find Nairne recommending for appointment as Notary one Malteste (no doubt the well-known name Maltais is a later form) as a "remarkable honest, well-behaved countryman with more education than is commonly to be found with one in his station." The dwellers at Malbaie were for the most part a quiet people entirely untouched by the movements of the outside world. "Nothing here," wrote Nairne in 1798, "is considered of importance but producing food to satisfy craving Stomachs, which the people of this cold and healthy country remarkably possess, and to feed numbers of children.... They have no other ambition or consideration whatever but simply to procure food and raiment for themselves and their numerous families."
They had a very clear idea of their rights. Nairne's grant conferred upon him those of fishing and hunting. But the inhabitants declared that when land was once granted, the seigneur lost all control over the adjoining waters. Nairne wished, for instance, to prohibit the spearing of salmon at night by the Canadians, with the aid of torches or lanterns. But they had never been hampered by such restrictions and, when Nairne tried to check them, they said that they would not be hindered. It was in vain that he said "I had rather have no power at all and no seigneurie at all [than] not to be able to keep up the rights of it." When, in 1797, he ordered one Joseph Villeneuve to cease the "flambeau" fishing at night, the fellow "roared and bellowed" and set him at defiance; no less than twenty companions joined him in the fishing. They would acknowledge no law nor restraint and seem to have had force majeure on their side. It was not until long after that the legislature at Quebec passed strict laws regulating the modes of fishing.