CHAPTER XIV. Concluding remarks on Canada - Territory - Climate - Capabilities - Railways and canals - Advantages for emigrants - Notices of emigration - Government - The franchise - Revenue - Population - Religion - Education - The press - Literature - O
The increasing interest which attaches to this noble colony fully justifies me in devoting a chapter to a fuller account of its state and capabilities than has yet been given here.
Canada extends from Gaspe, on the Gulf of St. Lawrence, to Lake Superior. Its shores are washed by the lakes Huron, Erie, and Ontario, and by the river St. Lawrence as far as the 45th parallel of latitude; from thence the river flows through the centre of the province to the sea. Canada is bounded on the west and south by the Great Lakes and the United States; to the east by New Brunswick and the ocean; and to the north by the Hudson's Bay territory, though its limits in this direction are by no means accurately defined. Canada is but a small portion of the vast tract of country known under the name of British America, the area of which is a ninth part of the globe, and is considerably larger than that of the United States, being 2,630,163,200 acres.
Canada contains 17,939,000 occupied acres of land, only 7,300,000 of which are cultivated; and about 137,000,000 acres are still unoccupied. Nearly the whole of this vast territory was originally covered with forests, and from the more distant districts timber still forms a most profitable article of export; but wherever the land is cleared it is found to be fertile in an uncommon degree. It is very deficient in coal, but in the neighbourhood of Lake Superior mineral treasures of great value have been discovered to abound.
Very erroneous ideas prevail in England on the subject of the Canadian climate. By many persons it is supposed that the country is for ever "locked in regions of thick-ribbed ice," and that skating and sleighing are favourite summer diversions of the inhabitants. Yet, on the contrary, Lower Canada, or that part of the country nearest to the mouth of the St. Lawrence, has a summer nearly equalling in heat those of tropical climates. Its winter is long and severe, frequently lasting from the beginning of December until April; but, if the thermometer stands at 35 below zero in January, it marks 90 in the shade in June. In the neighbourhood of Quebec the cold is not much exceeded by that within the polar circle, but the dryness of the air is so great that it is now strongly recommended for those of consumptive tendencies. I have seen a wonderful effect produced in the early stages of pulmonary disorders by a removal from the damp, variable climate of Europe to the dry, bracing atmosphere of Lower Canada. Spring is scarcely known; the transition from winter to summer is very rapid; but the autumn or fall is a long and very delightful season. It is not necessary to dwell further upon the Lower Canadian climate, as, owing to circumstances hereafter to be explained, few emigrants in any class of life make the Lower Province more than a temporary resting-place.
From the eastern coast to the western boundary the variations in climate are very considerable. The peninsula of Canada West enjoys a climate as mild as that of the state of New York. The mean temperature, taken from ten years' observation, was 44 , and the thermometer rarely falls lower than 11 below zero, while the heat in summer is not oppressive. The peach and vine mature their fruit in the neighbourhood of Lake Ontario, and tobacco is very successfully cultivated on the peninsula between Lake Erie and Lake Huron. It seems that Upper Canada, free from the extremes of heat and cold, is intended to receive a European population. Emigrants require to become acclimatised, which they generally are by an attack of ague, more or less severe; but the country is extraordinarily healthy; with the exception of occasional visitations of cholera, epidemic diseases are unknown, and the climate is very favourable to the duration of human life.
The capabilities of Canada are only now beginning to be appreciated. It has been principally known for its vast exports of timber, but these constitute a very small part of its wealth. Both by soil and climate Upper Canada is calculated to afford a vast and annually-increasing field for agricultural and pastoral pursuits. Wheat, barley, potatoes, turnips, maize, hops, and tobacco, can all be grown in perfection. Canada already exports large quantities of wheat and flour of a very superior description; and it is stated that in no country of the world is there so much wheat grown, in proportion to the population and the area under cultivation, as in that part of the country west of Kingston. The grain- growing district is almost without limit, extending as it does along the St. Lawrence, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario, to Windsor, with a vast expanse of country to the north and west. The hops, which are an article of recent cultivation, are of very superior quality, and have hitherto been perfectly free from blight.