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- Life in Canada Fifty Years Ago - 20/31 -

attention--books were seldom thought of. Still, there was a mind here and there scattered through the settlements which, like the "little leaven," continued to work on silently, until a large portion of the "lump" had been leavened. The only public libraries whereof I have any trace were at Kingston, Ernesttown and Hallowell. The first two were in existence in 1811-13, and the last was established somewhere about 1821. In 1824, the Government voted a sum of L150 to be expended annually in the purchase of books and tracts, designed to afford moral and religious instruction to the people. These were to be equally distributed throughout all the Districts of the Province. It can readily be conceived that this small sum, however well intended, when invested in books at the prices which obtained at that time, and distributed over the Province, would be so limited as to be hardly worthy of notice. Eight years prior to this, a sum of L800 was granted to establish a Parliamentary Library. From these small beginnings we have gone on increasing until we have reached a point which warrants me, I think, in saying that no other country with the same population is better supplied with the best literature of the day than our own Province. Independent of the libraries in the various colleges and other educational institutions, Sunday schools and private libraries, there are in the Province 1,566 Free Public Libraries, with 298,743 volumes, valued at $178,282; and the grand total of books distributed by the Educational Department to Mechanics' Institutes, Sunday school libraries, and as prizes, is 1,398,140. [Footnote: The number of volumes in the principal libraries are, as nearly as I can ascertain, as follows:--Parliamentary Library, Ottawa, 100,000; Parliamentary Library, Ontario, 17,000; Toronto University, 23,000; Trinity College, 5,000; Knox College, 10,000; Osgoode Hall, 20,000; Normal School, 15,000; Canadian Institute, 3,800.] There are also upwards of one hundred incorporated Mechanics' Institutes, with 130,000 volumes, a net income of $59,928, and a membership of 10,785. These, according to the last Report, received legislative grants to the amount of $22,885 for the year 1879--an appropriation that in itself creditably attests the financial and intellectual progress of the Province. [Footnote: Report of the Minister of Education, 1879.]

It is a very great pity that a systematic effort had not been made years ago to collect interesting incidents connected with the early settlement of the Province. A vast amount of information that would be invaluable to the future compiler of the history of this part of the Dominion has been irretrievably lost. The actors who were present at the birth of the Province are gone, and many of the records have perished. But even now, if the Government would interest itself, much valuable material scattered through the country might be recovered. The Americans have been always alive to this subject, and are constantly gathering up all they can procure relating to the early days of their country. More than that, they are securing early records and rare books on Canada wherever they can find them. Any one who has had occasion to hunt up information respecting this Province, even fifty years ago, knows the difficulty, and even impossibility in some cases, of procuring what one wants. It is hardly credible that the important and enterprising capital city of Toronto, with its numerous educational and professional institutions, is without a free public library in keeping with its other advantages. [Footnote: This want has since been supplied by an excellent Free Public Library.] This is a serious want to the well-being of our intellectual and moral nature. The benefits conferred by free access to a large collection of standard books is incalculable, and certainly if there is such a thing as retributive justice, it is about time it showed its hand.

The first printing office in the Province was established by Louis Roy, in April, 1793, [Footnote: Mr. Bourinot, in his _Intellectual Development of Canada_, says this was in 1763, which is no doubt a typographical error.] at Newark (Niagara), and from it was issued the _Upper Canada Gazette_, or _American Oracle_ [Footnote: _Toronto of Old_], a formidable name for a sheet 15 in. x 9. It was an official organ and newspaper combined, and when a weekly journal of this size could furnish the current news of the day, and the Government notices as well, one looking at it by the light of the present day cannot help thinking that publishing a paper was up-hill work. Other journals were started, and, after running a brief course, expired. When one remembers the tedious means of communication in a country almost without roads, and the difficulty of getting items of news, it does not seem strange that those early adventures were short-lived. But as time wore on, one after another succeeded in getting a foothold, and in finding its way into the home of the settler. They were invariably small, and printed on coarse paper. Sometimes even this gave out, and the printer had to resort to blue wrapping paper in order to enable him to present his readers with the weekly literary feast. In 1830, the number had increased from the humble beginning in the then capital of Upper Canada, to twenty papers, and of these the following still survive: _The Chronicle and News_, of Kingston, established 1810; _Brockville Recorder_, 1820; St. Catharines _Journal_, 1824; _Christian Guardian_, 1829. There are now in Ontario 37 daily papers, 4 semi-weeklies; 1 tri-weekly, 282 weeklies, 27 monthlies, and 2 semi-monthlies, making a total of 353. The honour of establishing the first daily paper belongs to the late Dr. Barker, of Kingston, founder of the _British Whig_, in 1834.

There is perhaps nothing that can give us a better idea the progress the Province has made than a comparison of the papers published now with those of 1830. The smallness of the sheets, and the meagreness of reading matter, the absence of advertisements, except in a very limited way, and the typographical work, makes us think that our fathers were a good-natured, easy-going kind of people, or they would never have put up with such apologies for newspapers. Dr. Scadding, in _Toronto of Old_, gives a number of interesting and amusing items respecting the "Early Press." He states that the whole of the editorial matter of the _Gazette and Oracle_, on the 2nd January, 1802, is the following: "The Printer presents his congratulatory compliments to his customers on the new year." If brevity is the soul of wit, this is a _chef d'oeuvre_. On another occasion the publisher apologises for the non- appearance of his paper by saying: "The Printer having been called to York last week upon business, is humbly tendered to his readers as an apology for the _Gazette's_ not appearing." This was another entire editorial, and it certainly could not have taken the readers long to get at the pith of it. What would be said over such an announcement in these days?

We have every reason to feel proud of the advance the Press has made, both in number and influence, in Ontario. The leading papers are ably conducted and liberally supported, and they will compare favourably with those of any country. Various causes have led to this result. The prosperous condition of the people, the increase of immigration, the springing up of railway communication, the extension and perfecting of telegraphy, and, more than all, the completeness and efficiency of our school system throughout the Province, have worked changes not to be mistaken. These are the sure indices of our progress and enlightenment; the unerring registers that mark our advancement as a people.



The only bank in the Province in 1830 was the Bank of Upper Canada, with a capital of L100,000. There are now nine chartered banks owned in Ontario, with a capital of $17,000,000, and there are seven banks owned, with one exception, in the Province of Quebec, having offices in all the principal towns. There are also numbers of private banks and loan companies, the latter representing a capital of over $20,000,000. This is a prolific growth in half a century, and a satisfactory evidence of material success.

Insurance has been the growth of the last fifty years. During the session of the House of Assembly in 1830, a bill was introduced to make some provision against accidents by fire. Since then the business has grown to immense proportions. According to the returns of the Dominion Government for the 31st December, 1879, the assets of Canadian Life, Fire, Marine, Accident, and Guarantee Companies were $10,346,587. British, doing business in Canada, $6,838,309. American, ditto, $1,685,599. Of Mutual Companies, there are 94 in Ontario, with a total income for 1879 of $485,579, and an expenditure of $455,861. [Footnote: Inspector of Insurance Report, 1880.]

Fifty years ago the revenue of Upper Canada was L112,166 13s 4d; the amount of duty collected L9,283 19s. The exports amounted to L1,555,404, and the imports to L1,555,404. There were twenty-seven ports of entry and thirty-one collectors of customs. From the last published official reports we learn that the revenue for Ontario in 1879 was $4,018,287, and that for the fiscal year ending June 30th, 1880, the exports were $28,063,980, and imports $27,869,444; amount of duty collected, $5,086,579; also that there are fifty-six ports of entry and thirty- eight outposts, with seventy-three collectors.

One of the most interesting features in the progress of Canada is the rapid growth of its marine. It is correctly stated to rank fourth as to tonnage among the maritime powers of the world. The United States, with its fifty-four millions of people and its immense coast-line, exceeds us but by a very little, while in ocean steamers we are ahead. In fact, the Allan Line is one of the first in the world. This is something for a country with a population of only five-and-a-half millions to boast of, and it is not by any means the only thing. We have been spoken of as a people wanting enterprise--a good-natured, phlegmatic set--but it is libel disproved by half a century's progress. We have successfully carried out some of the grandest enterprises on this continent. At Montreal we have the finest docks in America. Our canals are unequalled; our country is intersected by railroads; every town and village in the land is linked to its neighbour by telegraph wires, and we have probably more miles of both, according to population, than any other people.

The inland position of the Province of Ontario, although having the chain of great lakes lying along its southern border, never fostered a love for a sea-faring life. This is easily accounted for by the pursuits of the people, who as has been said before, were nearly all agriculturists. But the produce had to be moved, and the means were forthcoming to meet the necessities of the case. The great water-course which led to the seaports of Montreal and Quebec, owing to the rapids of the St. Lawrence, could only be navigated by the batteaux and Durham boats; and the navigator, after overcoming these difficulties, and laying his course through the noble lake from which our Province takes its name, encountered the Falls of Niagara. This was a huge barrier across his path which he had no possible means of surmounting. When the town of Niagara was reached, vessels had to be discharged, and the freight carted round the falls to Chippawa. This was a tedious matter, and a great drawback to settlement in the western part of the Province. Early in the century, the Hon. William Hamilton Merritt conceived the plan of connecting Lakes Erie and Ontario by a canal, and succeeded in getting the Government to assume the project in 1824. It was a great work for a young country to undertake, but it was pushed on, and completed in 1830. From that time to the present vessels have been enabled to pass from one lake to the other. This, with the Sault Ste. Marie canal, and those of the St. Lawrence, enables a vessel to pass from the head of Lake Superior to the ocean. The Ridean Canal undertaken

Life in Canada Fifty Years Ago - 20/31

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