As far as it has been explored, the general geological structure of Canada exhibits a granite country, with some calcareous rocks of a soft texture in horizontal strata. The lower islands in the St. Lawrence are merely inequalities of the vast granite strata which occasionally stand above the level of the waters; the whole neighboring country appears as if the Great River had at one time covered it. The banks of the St. Lawrence are in many places formed of a schistus substance in a decaying state, but still granite is every where found in strata, inclined, but never parallel to the horizon. In the Gaspe District, many beautiful quartz, and a great variety of cornelians, agates, copals, and jaspers have been found, and traces of coal have also been observed.
The north shore of the St. Lawrence, from thirty miles below Quebec eastward, and along the coast of Labrador, is generally of the primitive formations. Except in the marshes and swamps, rocks obtrude upon the surface in all quarters; in many places, deep fissures of from six inches to two feet wide are seen bearing witness to volcanic violence; the Indians describe some of these rents as several miles long, and forty or fifty deep; when covered with the thick underwood, they are, at times, very dangerous to the traveler. These chasms are probably owing to some great subterranean action; there is a manuscript in the Jesuits' College at Quebec which records the occurrence of an earthquake on the 5th of February, 1663, at about half past 5 P.M., felt through the whole extent of Canada: trees in the forests were torn up and dashed against each other with inconceivable violence; mountains were raised from their foundations and thrown into valleys, leaving awful chasms behind; from the openings issued dense clouds of smoke, dust, and sand; many rivers disappeared, others were diverted from their course, and the great St. Lawrence became suddenly white as far down as the mouth of the Saguenay. The first shock lasted for more than half an hour, but the greatest violence was only for fifteen minutes. At Tadoussac, a shower of volcanic ashes descended upon the rivers, agitating the waters like a tempest. This tremendous earthquake extended simultaneously over 180,000 square miles of country, and lasted for nearly six months almost without intermission.
In the neighborhood of Quebec, a dark clay slate generally appears, and forms the bed of the St. Lawrence as far as Lake Ontario, and even at Niagara; bowlders and other large masses of rock, however, of various kinds, occur in detached portions at many different places. The great elevated ridge of broken country running toward the Ottawa River, at the distance of from fifty to one hundred miles from the north shore of Lake Ontario, and the course of the St. Lawrence, is rich in silver, lead, copper, and iron. On the north shore of the Saguenay, the rugged mountains abound in iron to such an extent as to influence the mariner's compass. The iron mines of St. Maurice have been long known, and found abundantly productive of an admirable metal, inferior to none in the world; it is remarkably pliant and malleable, and little subject to oxydation. In 1667, Colbert sent M. de la Potardiere, an experienced mineralogist, to examine these mines; he reported the iron very abundant, and of excellent quality, but it was not till 1737 that the forges were established by the French: they failed to pay the expenses of the speculation; the superintendent and fourteen clerks, however, gained fortunes by the losses of their employers.
There is no doubt that immense mineral resources remain undiscovered among the rocky solitudes of Lower Canada. Marble of excellent quality, and endless variety of color, is found in different parts of the country, and limestone is almost universal. Labrador produces a beautiful and well-known spar of rich and brilliant tints, ultra-marine, greenish yellow, red, and some of a fine pearly gray.
In Upper Canada, the country north of Lake Ontario is generally characterized by a limestone subsoil resting on granite. The rocks about Kingston are usually a very compact limestone, of a bluish-gray color, having a slight silicious admixture, increasing as the depth increases, with occasional intrusions of quartz or hornstone. The limestone strata are horizontal, with the greatest dip when nearest to the elder rock on which it rests; their thickness, like the depths of the soil, varies from a few feet to a few inches: in these formations many minerals are observed; genuine granite is seldom or never found.
West of Lake Ontario, the chasm at the Falls of Niagara shows the strata of the country to be limestone, next slate, and lowest sandstone. Limestone and sandstone compose the secondary formations of a large portion of Canada, and of nearly all that vast extent of country in the United States drained by the Mississippi. At Niagara the interposing structure of slate is nearly forty feet thick, and fragile, like shale crumbling away from under the limestone, thus strengthening the opinion that there has been for many ages a continual retrocession of the Great Falls. Around Lake St. Clair, masses of granite, mica slate, and quartz are found in abundance. The level shores of Lake Huron offer little geological variety; secondary limestone, filled with the usual reliquiae, is the general structure of the coast, but detached blocks of granite and other primitive rocks are occasionally found: this district appears poor in minerals. The waters of Lakes Huron, Michigan, and Superior have evidently, at some remote period, formed one vast sheet, which probably burst its bounds by a sudden action of nature, and subsided into the present divisions, all lower than the former general level: the separating ridges of these waters are but slightly elevated; great masses of rock and huge bowlders of granite are found rolled at least 100 miles from their original situations, and immense alluvial beds of fresh-water shells, apparently formed since the deluge, but when the waters were still of a vast depth and extent, are found in the east of Lake Huron.
Little or nothing is known of the dreary solitudes beyond Lake Superior; enormous muddy ponds and marshes are succeeded by open, dry, sandy plains; then forests of hemlock and spruce arise, again swamp, bog, windfalls, and stagnant water succeed; in the course of many miles there may not be one dry spot found for a resting-place. The cold is intense in this desolate region; in winter spirits freeze into a consistency like honey; and even in the height of summer the thermometer only shows thirty-six degrees at sunrise. Part of the north and east shore of this greatest of the lakes present old formations—sienite, stratified greenstone, more or less chloritic, and alternating five times with vast beds of granite—the general direction east, with a north or perpendicular dip. Great quantities of the older shell limestone are found strewn in rolled masses on the beach. Amygdaloid occupies also a very large tract to the north, mingled with porphyries, conglomerates, and various other substances. From Thunder Mountain westward, trappose greenstone is the prevailing rock: it gives rise to some strange pilastered precipices near Fort William. Copper abounds in this region to an extent, perhaps, unsurpassed any where in the world. At the Coppermine River, three hundred miles from the Sault de St. Marie, this metal, in a pure state, nearly covers the face of a serpentine rock, and is also found within the stone in solid masses. Iron is abundant in many parts of Upper Canada; at Charlotteville, eight miles from Lake Erie, the metal produced is of a very fine quality. The Marmora Iron Works, about thirty-two miles north of the Bay of Quinte, on the River Trent, are situated on an extensive white rocky flat, apparently the bed of some dried-up river; the ore is found on the surface, and is very rich, yielding ninety-two per cent.: the necessary assistants, lime and fuel, abound close at hand. Various other minerals have also been found there; among the rest, small specimens of a metal like silver.
There are many strong mineral springs in different parts of Canada; the most remarkable of these is the Burning Spring above Niagara; its waters are black, hot and bubbling, and emit, during the summer, a gas that burns with a pure bright flame; this sulphureted hydrogen is used to light a neighboring mill. Salt springs are also numerous; gypsum is obtained in large quantities, with pipe and potter's clay; yellow ocher sometimes occurs; and there are many kinds of valuable building stones. It is gathered from the Indians that there are incipient volcanoes in several parts of these regions, particularly toward the Chippewa hunting grounds.
The soil of Lower Canada is generally fertile; about Quebec it is light and sandy in some parts, in others it is a mixture of loam and clay. Above the Richelieu Rapids, where the great valley of the St. Lawrence begins to widen, the low lands consist of a light and loose dark earth, with ten or twelve inches of depth, lying on a stratum of cold clay, all apparently of alluvial formation. Along the banks of the Ottawa there is a great extent of rich alluvial soil; each year develops large districts of fertile land, before unknown. The soils of Upper Canada are various; brown clay and loam, intermixed with marl, predominates, particularly in the rich district between the St. Lawrence and the Ottawa: north of Ontario it is more clayey and extremely fertile. A rich black mold prevails in the district between Lakes Ontario and Erie. There is in this upper country an almost total absence of stone or gravel for building and other common purposes. So great is the fertility of the soil in Canada, that fifty bushels of wheat an acre are frequently produced, even where the stumps of trees still occupy a considerable portion of the ground: near Toronto one hundred bushels of wheat have been grown upon a single acre, and in some districts the land has yielded rich crops of that grain for twenty successive years, without being manured.
The quality of the soil in wild lands may be known by the timber growing upon it. Hard-wood trees, those that shed their leaves during winter, show the best indication, such as maple, bass-wood, elm, black walnut, hickory, butternut, iron-wood, hemlock, and a giant species of nettle. A mixture of beech is good, but where it stands alone the soil is generally light. Oak is uncertain as an indication, being found on various bottoms. Soft or evergreen wood, such as pine, fir, larch, and others of the species, are considered decisive of a very light soil. The larch or tamarack on wide, flat plains, indicates sand upon a substratum of marly clay, which the French Canadians hold in high estimation. It is, however, right to add, that some very respectable authorities dispute that the nature of the timber can be fully relied on as a guide to the value of the land. The variety of trees found in the Canadian forest is astonishing, and it is supposed that many kinds still remain unknown. Of all these, none is more beautiful and useful than the maple; its brilliant foliage, changing with each season of the year, is the richest ornament of the forest. The timber is valuable for many purposes, and from the sap might be produced an immense quantity of excellent sugar. A great deal is at present made, but, like all the other resources of this magnificent country, it is very partially turned to the use of man: the sap of the maple is valuable also for distillation.
There is a considerable variety of climate in Canada, from the northeast, chilled by the winds of the Atlantic, to the southwest, five degrees lower, and approaching the center of the continent; the neighborhood of ranges of bare and rugged mountains, has also a marked effect upon the temperature of different localities. However, in all parts the winters are very severe, while the heat of summer is little inferior to that of the tropics. But, on the whole, the clear blue sky, unobscured by fog or mist, and the pure elastic air, bespeak the salubrity of these provinces in all seasons.
In Lower Canada the extreme severity of the winter is, in a measure, caused by the vicinity of the range of lofty and rugged mountains, as well as by its more northern position. The fall of snow commences in November, but seldom remains long on the ground till December; in that month constantly successive falls of snow rapidly cover the whole surface of the country. Toward the end of December the heavy clouds disperse, and the rude storm is followed by a perfect calm; the air becomes pure and frosty, and the skies of a clear and beautiful azure. The River St. Lawrence is frozen over every winter from Montreal to the Richelieu Rapids, but from thence to Quebec only once in about five years; at other times, however, enormous fields and masses of ice drift up and down with the changing tides, increasing or diminishing with the severity or mildness of the weather; where the Island of Orleans divides the Great River into two branches, the northern channel is narrow and less acted upon by tides; here these huge frozen masses are forced together by the winds and waters, and form an enormous bridge from shore to shore. The greatest degree of cold prevails toward the end of January, for a few days occasionally so intense that the human frame can scarcely endure exposure to it for any length of time. When winter has set in nearly every bird disappears, and few wild animals are any longer to be seen; some, like the bear, remain torpid, others change their color to a snowy white, and are rarely observed. Rocks of the softer kinds are often rent asunder, as if with the explosion of gunpowder, by the irresistible expansive power of the frost. Dogs become mad from the severity of the cold, and polished iron or other metal, when exposed in the air for a little time, burns the hand at the touch as if it were red hot. During the still nights of intense frost the woods send forth a creaking sound, like the noise of chopping with thousands of hatchets. Sometimes a brief thaw occurs in the middle of winter, when a very extraordinary effect, called by the Canadians ver glas, is occasionally produced upon the bare trees: they are covered with an incrustation of pure ice from the stem to the extremities of the smallest branches; the slight frost of the night freezes the moisture that covered the bark during the day; the branches become at last unable to bear their icy burden, and when a strong wind arises, the destruction among trees of all kinds is immense. When the sun shines upon the forest covered with this brilliant incrustation, the effect is indescribably beautiful.
The months of March and April are usually very hot, and the power of the sun's rays is heightened by the reflection of the ice and snows. Toward the end of April or the beginning of May, the dreary winter covering has altogether disappeared; birds of various kinds return from their wintery exile; the ice accumulated in the great lakes and streams that are tributary to the St. Lawrence breaks up with a tremendous noise, and rushes down in vast quantities toward the ocean, till again the tides of the Gulf drive them back. Sometimes the Great River is blocked up from shore to shore with these frozen masses; the contending currents force them together with terrible violence, and pile them over each other in various fantastic forms. The navigation of the river is not fairly practicable till all these have disappeared, which is generally about the 10th of May.
When the young summer fairly sets in, nothing can be more charming than the climate—during the day bright and genial, with the air still pure and clear; the transition from bare brown fields and woods to verdure and rich green foliage is so rapid, that its progress is almost perceptible. Spring has scarcely begun before summer usurps its place, and the earth, awakened from nature's long, wintery sleep, gives forth her increase with astonishing bounty. This delightful season is usually ushered in by moderate rains, and a considerable rise in the meridian heat; but the nights are still cool and refreshing. In June, July, and August, the heat becomes great, and for some days intense; the roads and rocks at noon are so hot as to be painful to the touch, and the direct rays of the sun possess almost tropical power; but the night brings reinvigorating coolness, and the breezes of the morning are fresh and tempered as in our own favored land. September is usually a delightful month, although at times oppressively sultry. The autumn or fall rivals the spring in healthy and moderate warmth, and is the most agreeable of the seasons. The night-frosts destroy the innumerable venomous flies that have infested the air through the hot season, and, by their action on the various foliage of the forest, bestow an inconceivable richness of coloring to the landscape.
During the summer there is a great quantity of electric fluid in the atmosphere, but storms of thunder and lightning are not of very frequent occurrence. When they do take place, their violence is sometimes tremendous, and serious damage often occurs. These outbursts, however, usually produce a favorable effect upon the weather and temperature.
The most remarkable meteoric phenomenon that has occurred in Canada since the country became inhabited by civilized man, was first seen in October, 1785, and again in July, 1814. At noonday a pitchy darkness, of a dismal and sinister character, completely obscured the light of the sun, continuing for about ten minutes at a time, and being frequently repeated during the afternoon. In the interval between each mysterious eclipse dense masses of black clouds, streaked with yellow, drove athwart the darkened sky, with fitful gusts of wind; thunder, lightning, black rain, and showers of ashes added to the terrors of the scene; and, when the sun appeared, its color was a bright red. The Indians ascribe this wonderful phenomenon to a vast volcano in the unknown regions of Labrador. The testimony of M. Gagnon gives corroboration to this idea. In December, 1791, when at St. Paul's Bay, in the Saguenay country, he saw the flames of an immense volcano, mingled with black smoke, rising to a great height in the air. Several violent shocks, as of an earthquake, accompanied this strange appearance.
The prevailing winds of Lower Canada are the northeast, northwest, and southwest, and these exercise considerable influence on the temperature of the atmosphere and the state of the weather. The southwest wind, the most prevalent, is generally moderate, accompanied by clear, bright skies; the northeast and east wind bring rain in summer, and snow in winter, from the dreary regions of Labrador; and the northwest blast is keen and dry, from its passage over the vast frozen solitudes that lie between the Rocky Mountains and Hudson's Bay. Winds from the north, south, or west are seldom felt: the currents of the neighboring air are often affected by the direction of the tidal streams, which act as far as 400 miles from the mouth of the Great River.
The effect of a long continuance of snow upon the earth is favorable to vegetation; were the surface exposed to the intense severity of wintery frosts, unprotected by this ample covering, the ground could not regain a proper degree of heat, even under a Canadian sun, before the autumn frosts had again chilled the energies of nature. The natural heat of the earth is about 42 deg.; the surface waters freeze at 32 deg., and thus present a non-conducting incrustation to the keen atmosphere; then the snow becomes a warm garment till the April sun softens the air above; the latent heat of the earth begins to be developed; the snow melts, and penetrates the ground through every pore, rendering friable the stiffest soil. For a month or more before the visible termination of the Canadian winter, vegetation is in active progress on the surface of the earth, even under snow several feet thick.
In Upper Canada the climate does not present such extremes of heat and cold as in the Lower Province. In the Newcastle District, between latitude 44 deg. and 45 deg., the winter is little more severe than in England, and the warmth of summer is tempered by a cool and refreshing southwest breeze, which blows throughout the day from over the waters of the great lakes. In spring and autumn the southwest wind brings with it frequent rains; the northwest wind prevails in winter, and is dry, cold, and elastic; the south-eastern breezes are generally accompanied by thaw and rain: from the west, south, or north, the wind rarely blows. The most sudden changes of weather consequent upon varying winds are observed from the northwest, when the air becomes pure and cool; thunder storms generally clear away with this wind: the heaviest falls of snow, and the most continued rains, come with the eastern breezes.
The great lakes are never frozen in their centers, but a strong border of thick ice extends for some distance from the shore: in severe weather, a beautiful evaporation in various fantastic shapes ascends from the vast surfaces of these inland seas, forming cloudy columns and pyramids to a great height in the air: this is caused by the water being of a higher temperature than the atmosphere above. The chain of shallow lakes from Lake Simco toward the midland district are rarely frozen over more than an inch in thickness till about Christmas, and are free from ice again by the end of March. The earth in Upper Canada is seldom froze more than twelve or eighteen inches deep, and the general covering of the snow is about a foot and a half in thickness.
In Canada the Indian summer is perhaps the most delightful period of the year. During most of November the weather is mild and serene; a soft, dry haze pervades the air, thickening toward the horizon; in the evenings the sun sets in a rich crimson flush, and the temperature is mild and genial: the birds avail themselves of the Indian summer for their migration. A phenomenon called the "tertian intervals" has excited much interest, and is still unexplained: at the end of the third day the greatest intensity of frost is always remittent, and succeeded by several days of mild weather. The climate is so dry that metals rarely are rusted by exposure to the air. This absence of humidity prevents the extremes of heat and cold from being so powerful here in their effect upon the sensations of the human frame as in other countries.
The Aurora Borealis, or northern lights, appear with great brilliancy in the clear Canadian sky, especially during the winter nights. Starting from behind the distant horizon, they race up through the vault of heaven, spreading over all space one moment, shrinking to a quivering streak the next, shooting out again where least expected, then vanishing into darkness deeper than before; now they seem like vast floating banners of variegated flame, then as crescents, again as majestic columns of light, ever changing in form and color. It is said that a rustling sound like that of silk accompanies this beautiful appearance.
The climate of Canada has undergone a slight change since the discovery of the country; especially from the year 1818, an amelioration has been perceptible, partly owing to the motion of the magnetic poles, and partly to the gradual cultivation and clearing of the country. The winters are somewhat shorter and milder, and less snow falls than of old; the summers are also hotter. The felling of the forests, the draining of the morasses, partial though it may still be, together with the increasing population, have naturally some effect. The thick foliage, which before interposed its shade between the sun and the earth, intercepting the genial warmth from the lower atmosphere, has now been removed in many extensive tracts of country: the cultivated soil imbibes the heat, and returns it to the surrounding air in warm and humid vapors. The exhalations arising from a much increased amount of animal life, together with the burning of so many combustibles, are not altogether without their influence in softening the severity of the climate.
Canada abounds in an immense and beautiful variety of trees and shrubs. Among the timber trees, the oak, pine, fir, elm, ash, birch, walnut, beech, maple, chestnut, cedar, and aspen, are the principal. Of fruit-trees and shrubs there are walnut, chestnut, apple, pear, cherry, plum, elder, vines, hazel, hickory, sumach, juniper, hornbeam, thorn, laurel, whortleberry, cranberry, gooseberry, raspberry, blackberry, blueberry, sloe, and others; strawberries of an excellent flavor are luxuriantly scattered over every part of the country. Innumerable varieties of useful and beautiful herbs and grasses enrich the forests, whose virtues and peculiarities are as yet but little known to Europeans. In many places, pine-trees grow to the height of 120 feet and upward, and are from nine to ten feet in circumference. Of this and of the fir species there are many varieties, some of them valuable from their production of pitch, tar, and turpentine. The American oak is quicker in its growth and less durable than that of England; one species, however, called the live oak, grown in the warmer parts of the continent, is said to be equal, if not superior, to any in Europe for ship-building. The white oak is the best found in the Canadian settlements, and is in high repute. Another description is called the scrubby oak—it resembles the British gnarled oak, and is remarkably hard and durable. The birch tribe is very numerous: the bark is much used by the Indians in making canoes, baskets, and roofings; the wood is of a useful quality, and the sap, when extracted in the spring, produces by fermentation a pleasant but weak wine. The maple is one of the most variable and beautiful of all the forest trees, and is adopted as the emblem of Canadian nationality.
Two plants, formerly of great importance in these counties, are now almost extirpated, or little noticed as articles of commerce—ginseng and capillaire. The first was found in great abundance by the French in their earlier settlement of the colony, and large quantities were exported to Europe, from whence it was forwarded to China. The high value it then possessed in that distant market induced the Canadians to collect the roots prematurely; and the Indians also gathered them wherever they could be found; consequently, this useful production was soon exhausted, and is now rarely seen. The capillaire is now either become rare or neglected for other objects; a small quantity is, however, still exported. In the woods there is a vast variety of wild plants and flowers, many of them very beautiful. The sweet garlic especially deserves notice: two large pale-green leaves arise from the root; between them stands the delicate stem, about a foot in height, bearing a cluster of graceful flowers, resembling blue-bells in shape and color. The wild turnip is also very beautiful. There are, besides, many valuable herbs and roots, which the Indians use for various purposes. The reindeer moss often serves for support and refreshment to the exhausted hunter; when boiled down into a liquid, it is very nourishing; and an herb called Indian tea produces a pleasant and wholesome draught, with a rich aromatic flavor. Wild oats and rice are found in some of the marshy lands. The soil and climate are also favorable to the production of hops and a mild tobacco, much esteemed for the manufacture of snuff. Hemp and flax are both indigenous in America. Father Hennepin, in the seventeenth century, found the former growing wild in the country of the Illinois; and Sir Alexander Mackenzie, in his travels to the western coast, met with flax in the interior, where no European was ever known to have been before. The Indian hemp is seen in abundance upon the Canadian soil, particularly in light and sandy places; the bark is so strong that the natives use it for bow-strings; the pod bears a substance that rivals down in softness and elasticity; the culture is easy; the root, penetrating deep into the earth, survives the frosts of winter, and shoots out fresh stalks every spring. When five or six years old it attains the greatest perfection. It may be added that in these favored provinces all European plants, fruits, vegetables, grain, legumes, and every other production of the earth required for the subsistence or luxury of man, yield their increase even more abundantly than in the old continents.
The animals originally belonging to America appear to be of an inferior race—neither so robust, fierce, or numerous as those of the other continents: some are peculiar to the New World; but there is reason to suppose that several species have become utterly extinct, and the spread of cultivation, and increase of the human race rapidly extirpate many of those that still remain. America gives birth to no creature of equal bulk to the elephant and rhinoceros, or of equal strength and ferocity to the lion and tiger. The particular qualities in the climate, stinting the growth and enfeebling the spirit of the native animals, have also proved injurious to such as have been transported to the Canadas by their present European inhabitants. The soil, as well as temperature, of the country seems to be rather unfavorable to the development of strength and perfection in the animal creation. The general quality of the natural grasses covering those boundless pastures is not good or sufficiently nutritious.
The native animals of Canada are the buffalo, bison, and musk bull, belonging to the ox kind. The buffalo is still found in herds of immense numbers upon the prairies of the remote western country, where they have wandered from the hated neighborhood of civilized man: the skin is invaluable to the Canadians as a protection from the keen wintery air, and is abundantly supplied to them by the hunters of the Hudson's Bay Company. This animal is about the size of an ox, with the head disproportionably large; he is of a lighter color, less ferocious aspect, and inferior strength to those of the Old World. Both the bison and musk ox are varieties of the domestic cow, with a covering of shaggy hair; they possess considerable strength and activity. There are different descriptions of deer: the black and gray moose or elk, the caribou or reindeer, the stag and fallow deer. The moose deer is the largest wild animal of the continent; it is often seen upward of ten feet high, and weighing twelve hundred weight; though savage in aspect, the creature is generally timid and inoffensive even when attacked by the hunter, and, like the sheep, may be easily domesticated: the flesh and skin are both of some value.
The black and brown bear is found in various parts of America, but chiefly in the northwest: some few are seen in the forests to the north of Quebec. This animal chooses for his lurking-place the hollow trunk of an old tree, which he prepares with sticks and branches, and a coating of warm moss; on the approach of the cold season he retires to his lair, and sleeps through the long winter till the return of spring enables him again to seek his prey. The bear is rather shy than fierce, but very powerful and dangerous when driven to extremities; he displays a strong degree of instinct, and is very dexterous and cunning in procuring food: the flesh is considered a delicacy, and the skin highly prized for beauty and warmth. Foxes are numerous; they are of various colors and very cunning. Hares are abundant, and turn white in winter like those of Norway. The wolverine or carcajou is called by the hunters beaver-eater, and somewhat resembles a badger; the skin is soft and handsome. A species of porcupine or urchin is found to the northward, and supplies the Indians with quills about four inches long, which, when dyed, are worked into showy ornaments. Squirrels and various other small quadrupeds with fine furs are abundant in the forests. The animals of the cat kind are the cougar or American lion, the loup-cervier, the catamount, and the manguay or lynx.
Beavers are numerous in North America; these amphibious animals are about two feet nine inches in length, with very short fore feet and divided toes, while the hinder are membranous, and adapted for swimming; the body is covered with a soft, glossy, and valuable fur; the tail is oval, scaly, destitute of hair, and about a foot long. These industrious creatures dam up considerable streams, and construct dwellings of many compartments, to protect them from the rigor of the climate, as well as from their numerous enemies; their winter food, consisting of poplar logs, pieces of willows, alder, and fragments of other trees, is collected in autumn, and sunk in the water near the habitation. The beaver exhibits an extraordinary degree of instinct, and may be easily tamed; when caught or surprised by the approach of an enemy, it gives warning to its companions by striking the water with the flat of its tail. The musk rat and otter resemble the beaver in some of their habits, but are inferior in ingenuity, and of less value to the hunter.
The walrus has now disappeared from the frequented waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, but is still found on the northern coasts of Labrador; in shape he somewhat resembles the seal, but is of much greater size, sometimes weighing 4000 pounds; when protecting their young, or when wounded, they are dangerous from their immense tusks; when out of the water, however, they are very helpless.
Nearly all these wild animals are pursued by the Indians, and the hunters of the Hudson's Bay Company, for their skins; they are consequently growing rarer, and their haunts become more remote each succeeding year: probably, at no distant time, they will be altogether extinct.
The birds of Canada differ little from those of the same names in Europe, but the severe climate is generally uncongenial to them. There are eagles, vultures, hawks, falcons, kites, owls, ravens, crows, rooks, jays, magpies, daws, cuckoos, woodpeckers, hoopers, creepers, humming-birds, thrushes, blackbirds, linnets, finches, sparrows, fly-catchers, pigeons, turkeys, ducks, geese, swans, grouse, ptarmigans, snipes, quails, and many others. The plumage of the American birds is very brilliant; but the sweet voices that fill the European woods with melody are never heard. Many of the birds of Lower Canada are migratory; the water-fowl seek the cooler north during the heat of summer, and other species fly to the south to shun the wintery frosts. In the milder latitudes of Upper Canada, birds are more numerous. They are known by the same names as those of corresponding species in England, but differ from them to some extent in plumage and character.
In Lower Canada the reptiles are few and innocuous, and even these are not met with in the cultivated parts of the country. In the Upper Province, however, they are more numerous; some species are very dangerous, others harmless and exquisitely beautiful. Two kinds of rattlesnakes are found here: one of a deep brown and yellow color, and seldom more than thirty inches in length; it frequents marshes and low meadows, and is very dangerous to cattle, often fastening its fangs upon their lips while grazing. The other is a bright greenish yellow clouded with brown, and twice the size of the former. These reptiles are thicker in proportion to their length than any others; the rattle is at the end of the tail, and consists of a number of dry, horny shells inclosed within each other. When wounded or enraged, the skin of the rattlesnake assumes a variety of beautiful colors; the flesh is white as that of the most delicate fish, and is esteemed a great luxury by the Indians. Cold weather weakens or destroys their poisonous qualities. In the spring, when they issue from their place of winter concealment, they are harmless till they have got to water, and at that time emit a sickening smell so as to injure those who hunt them. In some of the remoter districts they are still numerous, but in the long-settled parts of the country they are now rarely or never seen.
Several varieties of lizards and frogs abound; the latter make an astonishing noise in marshy places during the summer evening by their harsh croaking. The land crab is found on the northern shore of Lake Erie. A small tortoise, called a terrapin, is taken in some rivers, creeks, and swampy grounds, and is used as an article of food. Seals have been occasionally seen on the islands in Lake Ontario.
Insects are very numerous and various, some of them both troublesome and mischievous: locusts or grasshoppers have been known to cause great destruction to the vegetable world. Musquitoes and sand-flies infest the woods, and the neighborhood of water, in incredible numbers, during the hot weather. There are many moths and butterflies resembling those seen in England. The beautiful fire-fly is very common in Canada, their phosphorescent light shining with wonderful brightness through the shady forests in the summer nights.
The lakes and rivers of Upper Canada abound in splendid fish of almost every variety known in England, and others peculiar to the country: sturgeon of 100 lbs. weight are frequently taken, and a giant species of pike, called the maskenongi, of more than 60 lbs. The trout of the upper lakes almost rivals the sturgeon in size, but not in flavor. The delicious white-fish, somewhat resembling a shad, is very plentiful, as is also the black bass, which is highly prized. A fresh-water herring abounds in great shoals, but is inferior in delicacy to the corresponding species of the salt seas. Salmon are numerous in Lake Ontario, but above the Falls of Niagara they are never seen.
[Footnote 151: "The neighborhood of Quebec, as well as Canada in general, is much characterized by bowlders, and the size and position of some of them is very striking. There are two crowning the height which overlooks the domain farm at Beauport, whose collective weight is little short, by computation, of forty tons. The Heights of Abraham also are, or rather were, crowded with them; and it should never be forgotten that it was upon one of these hoary symbols, the debacles of the deluge, as they are supposed to be, that the immortal and mortal parts of two heroes separated from each other. It has often occurred to us, that one of the most suitable monuments to the memory of Wolfe and Montcalm might have been erected with these masses, in the form of a pyramid or pile of shot, instead of burying them, as in many instances has been done, in order to clear the ground."—Picture of Quebec, p. 456.]
[Footnote 152: Gray says, in 1809, that "no coal has ever yet been found in Canada, probably because it has never been thought worth searching after. It is supposed that coal exists in the neighborhood of Quebec; at any rate, there can be no doubt that it exists in great abundance in the island of Cape Breton, which may one day become the Newcastle of Canada."—P. 287.
"No idea can be formed of the importance of the American coal seams until we reflect on the prodigious area over which they are continuous. The elliptical area occupied by the Pittsburg seam is 225 miles in its largest diameter, while its maximum breadth is about 100 miles, its superficial extent being about 14,000 square miles.
"The Apalachian coal-field extends for a distance of 720 miles from northeast to southwest, its greatest width being about 180 miles.
"The Illinois coal-field is not much inferior in dimensions to the whole of England."—Lyell's America, vol. ii., p. 31.
"It was the first time I had seen the true coal in America, and I was much struck with its surprising analogy in mineral and fossil characters to that of Europe; ... the whole series resting on a coarse grit and conglomerate, containing quartz pebbles, very like our millstone grit, and often called by the Americans, as well as the English miners, the 'Farewell Rock,' because, when they have reached it in their borings, they take leave of all valuable fuel."—Ibid., vol. i., p. 61.]
[Footnote 153: See Appendix, No. XXI. (see Vol II)]
[Footnote 154: Professor Kalm visited the iron-works of St. Maurice in 1748, eleven or twelve years after their first establishment. "The iron-work, which is the only one in the country, lies three miles to the west of Trois Rivieres. Here are two great forges, besides two lesser ones to each of the great ones, and under the same roof with them. The bellows were made of wood, and every thing else as in the Swedish forges. The ore is got two and a half miles from the iron-works, and is carried thither on sledges. It is a kind of moor-ore (Tophus Tubalcaini: Linn. Syst. Nat., lib. iii., p. 187, note 5), which lies in veins within six inches or a foot from the surface of the ground. Each vein is from six to eighteen inches deep, and below it is a white sand. The veins are surrounded with this sand on both sides, and covered at the top with a thin mold. The ore is pretty rich, and lies in loose lumps in the veins of the size of two fists, though there are a few which are near eighteen inches thick. These lumps are full of holes which are filled with ocher. The ore is so soft that it may be crushed between the fingers. They make use of a gray limestone, which is broke in the neighborhood, for promoting the fusibility of the ore; to that purpose they likewise employ a clay marl, which is found near this place. Charcoals are to be had in great abundance here, because the country round this place is covered with wood which has never been stirred. The charcoals from evergreen trees, that is, from the fir kind, are best for the forge, but those of deciduous trees are best for the smelting-oven. The iron which is here made was to me described as soft, pliable, and tough, and is said to have the quality of not being attacked by rust so easily as other iron. This iron-work was first founded in 1737 by private persons, who afterward ceded it to the king; they cast cannon and mortars here of different sizes, iron stoves, which are in use all over Canada, kettles, &c. They have likewise tried to make steel here, but can not bring it to any great perfection, because they are unacquainted with the best method of preparing it. Here are many officers and overseers, who have very good houses built on purpose for them. It is agreed on all hands that the resources of the iron-work do not pay the expenses which the king must every year be at in maintaining it. They lay the fault on the bad state of population, and say that the few inhabitants in the country have enough to do with agriculture, and that it therefore costs great trouble and large sums to get a sufficient number of workmen. But, however plausible this may appear, yet it is surprising that the king should be a loser in carrying on this work, for the ore is easily broken, being near the iron-work, and very fusible. The iron is good; and this is, moreover, the only iron-work in the country, from which every body must supply himself with tools, and what other iron he wants. But the officers and servants belonging to the iron-work appear to be in very affluent circumstances. A river runs down from the iron-work into the River St. Lawrence, by which all the iron can be sent in boats throughout the country at a low rate."—Kalin in Pinkerton, vol. xiii., p. 631.
"M. Dantic, after a number of experiments to class the different kinds of iron, discovered that the iron of Styria was the best, and that the iron of North America, of Danemara in Sweden, of Spain, Bayonne, Roussillon, Foix, Berri, Thierache in Sweden, the communes of France, and Siberia, was the next class."—Abbe Raynal, vol. iii., p. 268.
Weld and Heriot mention that the bank of iron ore at the forges of St. Maurice was nearly exhausted in their time; new veins, however, have been since discovered.
Charlevoix says, in 1720: "Il est certain que ces mines de fer, que l'oeil percant de M. Colbert et la vigilance de M. Talon avoit fait decouvrir, apres avoir presqu entierement disparu pendant plus de soixante dix ans, viennent d'etre retrouvees par les soins de ceux qui occupent aujourd'hui leur place."—Charlevoix, tom. ii., p. 166.]
[Footnote 155: Henry and others speak of a rock of pure copper, from which the former out off 100 lbs. weight. W. Schoolcraft examined the remainder of the mass in 1820, and found it of irregular shape; in its greatest length three feet eight inches, greatest breadth three feet four inches, making about eleven cubic feet, and containing, of metallic matter, about 2200 lbs.; but there were many marks of chisels and axes upon it, as if a great deal had been carried off. The surface of the block, unlike most metals which have suffered a long exposure to the atmosphere, presents a metallic brilliancy.—Martin's History of Canada, p. 175.
Weld mentions having seen in the possession of a gentleman at Niagara a lump of copper, of several ounces weight, apparently as pure as if it had passed through the fire, which had been struck off with a chisel from a piece equally pure, growing on one of the islands in Lake Superior. Rich veins of copper are visible in almost all the rocks on these islands near the shore; and copper ore, resembling copperas, is likewise found in deep beds near the water.—Weld, p. 346.
In Charlevoix's time (1720), "on trouvoit sur les bords du Lac Superieur et autour de certains isles, de grosses pieces de cuivre qui sont l'objet de cette superstition des sauvages; ils les regardent avec veneration comme un present des Dieux qui habitent sous les eaux; ils en ramassent les plus petits fragmens et les conservent avec soin, mais ils n'en font aucune usage. J'ai connu un de nos freres lequel etoit orfevre de son metier, et qui, pendant qu'il etoit dans la mission du Sault Sainte Marie, en etoit alle chercher la, et en avoit fait des chandeliers, des croix, et des encensoirs, car ce cuivre est souvent presque tout pur."—Tom. v., p. 415.
Kalm says that the copper found is so pure that it does not require melting over again, but is fit for working immediately.—Kalm in Pinkerton, vol. xiii., p. 691 (1748).
"Before saying good-by to Lake Superior, let me add, that since the date of my visit, the barren rocks which we passed have become an object of intense interest, promising to rival, in point of mineral wealth, the Altai chain and the Uralian Mountains. Iron had long been known to abound on the northern shore, two mines having been at one time worked and abandoned, chiefly on account of temporary obstacles, which the gradual advance of agriculture and civilization was sure to remove; and, more recently, the southern shore, though of a much less favorable character in that respect, was found to possess rich veins of copper and silver. Under these circumstances, various enterprising persons in Canada have prosecuted investigations which appear to have satisfactorily proved that, in addition to their iron, the forbidding wastes of the northern shore contain inexhaustible treasures, both of the precious and of the useful metals, of gold and of silver, of copper and tin, and already have associations been formed to reap the teeming harvest."—Sir G. Simpson's Journey round the World, vol. i., p. 35 (1841).
The following extract is from a Quebec newspaper, bearing date 25th June, 1848:
"THE COPPER REGION: SINGULAR DISCOVERY.—A correspondent of the Buffalo Express, writing under date June 14, from Ontonagon, Lake Superior, says:
"'Mr. Knapp, of the Vulcan Mining Company, has lately made some very singular discoveries here in working one of the veins which he lately found. He worked into an old cave which has been excavated centuries ago. This led them to look for other works of the same sort, and they have found a number of sinks in the earth which they have traced a long distance. By digging into those sinks they find them to have been made by the hand of man. It appears that the ancient miners went on a different principle from what they do at the present time. The greatest depth yet found in these holes is thirty feet: after getting down to a certain depth, they drifted along the vein, making an open cut. These cuts have been filled nearly to a level by the accumulation of soil; and we find trees of the largest growth standing in this gutter, and also find that trees of a very large growth have grown up and died, and decayed many years since; in the same places there are now standing trees of over three hundred years' growth. Last week they dug down into a new place, and about twelve feet below the surface found a mass of copper that will weigh from eight to ten tons. This mass was buried in ashes, and it appears they could not handle it, and had no means of cutting it, and probably built fire to melt or separate the rock from it, which might be done by heating, and then dashing on cold water. This piece of copper is as pure and clean as a new cent; the upper surface has been pounded clear and smooth. It appears that this mass of copper was taken from the bottom of a shaft, at the depth of about thirty feet. In sinking this shaft from where the mass now lies, they followed the course of the vein, which pitches considerably: this enabled them to raise it as far as the hole came up with a slant. At the bottom of a shaft they found skids of black oak, from eight to twelve inches in diameter: these sticks were charred through, as if burned: they found large wooden wedges in the same situation. In this shaft they found a miner's gad and a narrow chisel made of copper. I do not know whether these copper tools are tempered or not, but their make displays good workmanship. They have taken out more than a ton of cobble-stones, which have been used as mallets. These stones were nearly round, with a score cut around the tenter, and look as if this score was cut for the purpose of putting a withe round for a handle. The Chippewa Indians all say that this work was never done by Indians. This discovery will lead to a new method of finding veins in this country, and may be of great benefit to some. I suppose they will keep finding new wonders for some time yet, as it is but a short time since they first found the old mine. There is copper here in abundance, and I think people will begin to dig it in a few years. Mr. Knapp has found considerable silver during the past winter.'"]
[Footnote 156: Acosta is the first philosopher who endeavored to account for the different degrees of heat in the Old and New Continents by the agency of the winds which blow in each, (Hist. Moral., lib. ii. and iii.) M. de Buffon adopted the same theory, and illustrated it with many new observations. "The prevailing winds, both in Upper and Lower Canada, are the northeast, northwest, and southwest, which all have a considerable influence on the temperature of the atmosphere and the state of the weather. The southwest wind is the most prevalent, but it is generally moderate, and accompanied by clear skies; and the northeast and easterly winds usually bring with them continued rain in summer, and snow in winter; the northwest is remarkable for its dryness and elasticity, and, from its gathering an intense degree of frigor as it sweeps over the frozen plains and ice-bound hills in that quarter of the continent, invariably brings with it a perceptible degree of cold. Winds from due north, south, or west are not frequent. At Quebec, the direction of the wind often changes with the tide, which is felt for nearly sixty miles higher up the stream of the St. Lawrence."—Bonchette, vol. i., p. 343.
"The northwest wind is uncommonly dry, and brings with it fresh animation and vigor to every living thing. Although this wind is so very piercing in winter, yet the people never complain so much of cold as when the northeast wind blows. The northeast wind is also cold, but it renders the air raw and damp. That from the southeast is damp, but warm. Rain or snow usually falls when the wind comes from any point toward the east. The northwest wind, from coming over such an immense tract of land, must necessarily be dry; and, coming from regions eternally covered with mounds of snow and ice, it must also be cold. The northeast wind, from traversing the frozen seas, must be cold likewise; but, from passing over such a large portion of the watery main afterward, it brings damp and moisture with it. All those from the northeast are damp, and loaded with vapors from the same cause. Southerly winds, from crossing the warm regions between the tropics, are attended with heats; and the southwest wind, from passing, like the northwest, over a great extent of land, is dry at the same time."—Weld's Travels in America, 4th ed., p. 184.
Kalm says, p. 748, that he was assured that "the northeast wind, when it is very violent in winter, pierces through walls of a moderate thickness, so that the whole wall on the inside of the house is covered with snow, or a thick hoar frost. The wind damages severely the houses that are built of stone, so that the owners are frequently obliged to repair them on the northeast side. In summer the north wind is generally attended with rain."—Kalm in Pinkerton, vol. xiii., p. 651.]
[Footnote 157: "Many of these mountains are very high. During my stay in Canada, I asked many people who have traveled much in North America whether they ever met with mountains so high that the snow never melts on them in summer, to which they always answered in the negative. They say that the snow sometimes stays on the highest, viz., on some of those between Canada and the English colonies during a part of the summer, but that it melts as soon as the great heat begins."—Kalm, p. 671.]
[Footnote 158: "It is worthy of remark, and not a little surprising, that so large a river as the St. Lawrence, in latitude 47 deg., should be shut up with ice as soon, and continue as long shut up, as the comparatively small river, the Neva, in latitude 60 deg.."—Gray's Canada, p. 320.]
[Footnote 159: "The following curious experiments were made some years ago at Quebec, by Major Williams, of the Artillery. Iron shells of different sizes, from the thirteen-inch shell to the cohorn of four inches diameter, were nearly filled with water, and an iron plug was driven in at the fuse-hole by a sledge-hammer. It was found, however, that the plug could never be driven so firmly into the fuse-hole as to resist the expanding ice, which pushed it out with great force and velocity, and a bolt or cylinder of ice immediately shot up from the hole; but when a plug was used that had springs which would expand and lay hold of the inside of the cavity, so that it could not possibly be pushed out, the force of expansion split the shell. The amazing force of expansion is also shown from the distance to which these iron plugs are thrown out of the fuse-hole. A plug of two pounds and a half weight was thrown no less than 415 feet from the shell; the fuse axis was at an angle of 45 deg.; the thermometer showed 51 deg. below the freezing point. Here you see ice and gunpowder performing the same operations. That similar effects should proceed from such dissimilar causes is very extraordinary."—Gray's Canada, p. 309.]
[Footnote 160: See Appendix, No. XXII. (see Vol II)]
[Footnote 161: "These mountains were known to the French missionaries by the name of Montagnes des Pierres Brillantes."—Chateaubriand.]
[Footnote 162: See Appendix, No. XXIII. (see Vol II)]
[Footnote 163: See Appendix, No. XXIV. (see Vol II)]
[Footnote 164: See Appendix, No. XXV. (see Vol II)]
[Footnote 165: "In Europe, in Asia, in Africa, and even in South America, the primeval trees, however much their magnitude may arrest admiration, do not grow in the promiscuous style that prevails in the general character of the North American woods. Many varieties of the pine, intermingled with birch, maple, beech, oak, and numerous other tribes, branch luxuriantly over the banks of lakes and rivers, extend in stately grandeur along the plains, and stretch proudly up to the very summits of the mountains. It is impossible to exaggerate the autumnal beauty of these forests; nothing under heaven can be compared to its effulgent grandeur. Two or three frosty nights in the decline of autumn transform the boundless verdure of a whole empire into every possible tint of brilliant scarlet, rich violet, every shade of blue and brown, vivid crimson, and glittering yellow. The stern, inexorable fir tribes alone maintain their eternal somber green. All others, in mountains or in villages, burst into the most glorious vegetable beauty, and exhibit the most splendid and most enchanting panorama on earth."—M'Gregor, p. 79, 80.
Mr. Weld says, "The varied hues of the trees at this season of the year (autumn) can hardly be imagined by those who never have had an opportunity of observing them; and, indeed, as others have often remarked before, were a painter to attempt to color a picture from them, it would be condemned in Europe as totally different from any thing that ever existed in nature."—Weld, p. 510.
"I can only compare the brightness of the faded leaves, scarlet, purple, and yellow, to that of tulips."—Lyell's America, vol. i., p. 107.]
[Footnote 166: See Appendix, No. XXVI. (see Vol II)]
[Footnote 167: "One of the most striking features in the vegetation of Canada is the number of species belonging to the genera Solidago, Aster, Quercus, and Pinus. It is also distinguished for the many plants contained in the Orders, or natural families—Grossulaceae, Onograceae, Hypericaceae, Aceraceae, Betulaceae, Juglandaceae, and Vacciniaceae; and for the presence of the peculiar families—Podophyllae, Sarraceniaceae, and Hydrophyllaceae. There is, on the contrary, the climate being considered, a remarkable paucity of Cruciferae and Umbelliferae, and, what is most extraordinary, a total absence of the genus Erica (heath), which covers so many thousands of acres in corresponding latitudes in Europe. Mrs. Butler mentions, in her Journal, 'that some poor Scotch peasants, about to emigrate to Canada, took away with them some roots of the "bonny blooming heather," in hopes of making this beloved adorner of their native mountains the cheerer of their exile. The heather, however, refused to grow in the Canadian soil. The person who told me this said that the circumstance had been related to him by Sir Walter Scott, whose sympathy with the disappointment of these poor children of the romantic heather-land betrayed itself even in tears.'
"Canada is not rich in roses; only three species occur throughout the two provinces. Among the Ribes and the Ericaceae, however, are found many of the most beautiful ornaments of the English garden: Andromedas, Rhododendrons, Azaleas, and Kalmias belong to the latter order. The Azalea was thus described by one of the earlier European botanical travelers. Professor Kalm (in 1748): 'the Mayflowers, as the Swedes call them, were plentiful in the woods wherever I went to-day, especially on a dry soil, or one that is somewhat moist. The Swedes have given them this name because they are in full blossom in May. Some of the Swedes and the Dutch call them "Pinxter Bloem" (Whitsunday flowers), as they are in blossom about Whitsuntide. The English call them wild honeysuckles, and at a distance they really have a resemblance to the honeysuckle or lonicera. Dr. Linnaeus and other botanists call it an Azalea (Azalea Nudiflora, Linn. Spec. Plant., p. 214.) Its flowers were now open, and added a new ornament to the woods, being little inferior to the flowers of the honey-suckle and hedysarum. They sit in a circle round the stem's extremity, and have either a dark red or lively red color; but by standing some time, the sun bleaches them, and at last they get a whitish hue. The height of the bush is not always alike. Some were as tall as a full-grown man, and taller; others were but low, and some were not above a palm from the ground; yet they were all full of flowers. They have some smell, but I can not say it is very pleasant. However, the beauty of the color entitles them to a place in every flower garden.'"—Travels in North America, by Professor Kalm, in Pinkerton, vol. xiii., p. 557.]
[Footnote 168: Seven hours' journey above the sources of the Bow River, Sir George Simpson mentions meeting with "an unexpected reminiscence of my own native hills, in the shape of a plant which appeared to me to be the very heather of the mountains of Scotland; and I might well regard the reminiscence as unexpected, inasmuch as in all my wanderings, of more than twenty years, I had never found any thing of the kind in North America. As I took a considerable degree of interest in the question of the supposed identity, I carried away two specimens, which, however, proved, on a minute comparison, to differ from the genuine staple of the brown heaths of the 'Land o' Cakes.'"—Vol. i., p. 120.
"We missed, also, the small 'crimson-tipped daisy' on the green lawns, and were told that they have been often cultivated with care, but are found to wither when exposed to the dry air and bright sun of this climate. When weeds so common with us can not be reared here, we cease to wonder at the dissimilarity of the native Flora of the New World. Yet, wherever the aboriginal forests are cleared, we see orchards, gardens, and arable lands filled with the same fruit-trees, the same grain and vegetables, as in Europe, so bountifully has Nature provided that the plants most useful to man should be capable, like himself, of becoming cosmopolites."—Lyell's Travels in North America, vol. i., p. 5.]
[Footnote 169: The Kalmias were so named by Linnaeus in honor of Professor Kalm, a favorite pupil of the great botanist.]
[Footnote 170: See Appendix, No. XXVII. (see Vol II)]
[Footnote 171: The oak from the dense forests of Canada, into which the sun's rays never penetrate, is more porous, more abundant in sap, and more prone to the dry rot than the oak grown in any other country. Canadian timber has increased in value since the causes of its former rapid decay have been more fully understood. Mr. Nathaniel Gould asserts that the wane of the moon is now universally considered the best season for felling timber, both in the United States and in Canada. The Americans contract for their ship timber to be felled or girdled between the 20th of October and the 12th of February. Dry rot being probably caused by the natural moisture or sap being left in the wood, the less there is in the tree when cut, the longer it will keep sound. As regards the Canadian oak, it is stated by Mr. M'Taggart (the engineer, who so ably distinguished himself while in the colony), that it is not so durable as that of the British, the fiber not being so compact and strong; it grows in extensive groves near the banks of large lakes and rivers, sometimes found growing to 50 feet in length by 2 feet 6 inches; its specific gravity is greater than water, and therefore, when floated down in rafts, it is rendered buoyant with cross bars of pine. It is easily squared with the hatchet, and answers well for ship-building and heavy work; will endure the seasons for about fifteen years, and does not decay in England so soon as in Canada.—Montgomery Martin's Canada, p. 257; Gray's Canada, p. 207.]
[Footnote 172: Kalm says, in 1748, "They were now building several ships below Quebec for the king's account. However, before my departure, an order arrived from France prohibiting the further building of ships of war, because they had found that the ships built of American oak do not last so long as those of European oak. Near Quebec is found very little oak, and what grows there is not fit for use, being very small; therefore they are obliged to fetch their oak timber from those parts of Canada which border upon New England. But all the North American oaks have the quality of lasting longer, and withstanding putrefaction better, the further north they grow."—Kalm, p. 663.]
[Footnote 173: The most useful American plants in the small order Betulaceae are the birches, of which Canada contains six species. The most celebrated is Betula Papyracea, the canoe birch, so called from the use made of the bark in the construction of the Indian boats. It extends from the shore of the Hudson in New York to a considerable range of country northward of Canada. The bark is obtained with facility in large pieces, and is sewed together with the tough and slender roots of the pine-tree. La Hontan relates a characteristic story respecting the birch bark: "I remember I have seen, in a certain library in France, a manuscript of the Gospel of St. Matthew, written in Greek upon this sort of bark; and which is yet more surprising, I was there told that it had been written above a thousand years; and, at the same time, I dare swear that it was the genuine birch bark of New France, which, in all appearance, was not then discovered."—La Hontan, in Pinkerton, vol. xiii., p. 361.
Mr. Weld says that "the bark resembles in some degree that of the cork-tree, but it is of a closer grain, and also much more pliable, for it admits of being rolled up the same as a piece of cloth. The Indians of this part of the country always carry large rolls of it in their canoes when they go on a hunting party, for the purpose of making temporary huts. The bark is spread on small poles over their heads, and fastened with strips of elm bark, which is remarkably tough, to stakes, so as to form walls on the sides."—Weld, p. 311.]
[Footnote 174: See Appendix, No. XXVIII. (see Vol II)]
[Footnote 175: See Appendix, No. XXIX. (see Vol II)]
[Footnote 176: The ginseng belongs to the small order Araliaceae. The botanical name is Panax quinquefolium: it was called Aureliana Canadensis by Lafitau, who was the first to bring it from Canada to France.—(Charlevoix, tom. iv., p. 309, fig. 13.) It was discovered in the forests of Canada in 1718. It is herbaceous, scarcely a foot and a half in height, and toward the upper part of the stem arise three quinate-digitate leaves, from the center of which springs the flower stalk. The root is fusiform and fleshy, and is the part most valued. We are informed that among the Chinese many volumes have been written upon its virtues; and that, besides the name already mentioned, it is known by several others, expressive of the high estimation in which it is universally held throughout the Celestial Empire: two of these appellations are, 'the pure spirit of the earth,' and 'the plant that gives immortality.' An ounce of ginseng bears the surprising price of seven or eight ounces of silver at Pekin. When the French botanists in Canada first saw a figure of it, they remembered to have seen a similar plant in this country. They were confirmed in their conjecture by considering that several settlements in Canada lie under the same latitude with those parts of Chinese Tartary and China where the true ginseng grows wild. They succeeded in their attempt, and found the same ginseng wild and abundant in several parts of North America, both in French and English plantations, in plain parts of the woods. It is fond of shade, and of a deep, rich mold, and of land which is neither wet nor high. It is not every where very common, for sometimes one may search the woods for the space of several miles without finding a single plant of it; but in those spots where it grows it is always found in great abundance. It flowers in May and June, and its berries are ripe at the end of August. The trade which is carried on with it here is very brisk, for they gather great quantities of it, and send them to France, from whence they are brought to China, and sold there to great advantage. The Indians in the neighborhood of Montreal were so taken up with the business of collecting ginseng, that the French farmers were not able during that time to hire a single Indian, as they commonly do, to help them in the harvest. The ginseng formerly grew in abundance round Montreal, but at present there is not a single plant of it to be found, so effectually have they been rooted out. This obliged the Indians this summer to go far within the English boundaries to collect these roots. After the Indians have sold the fresh roots to the merchants, the latter must take a great deal of pains with them. They are spread on the floor to dry, which commonly requires two months and upward, according as the season is wet or dry. During that time they must be turned once or twice every day, lest they should putrefy or molder. The roots prepared by the Chinese are almost transparent, and look like horn in the inside; and the roots which are fit for use are heavy and compact in the inside. No one has ever discovered the Chinese method of preparing it. It is thought, among other preparations, they dip the roots in a decoction of the leaves of ginseng. Kalm wrote thus of the ginseng in 1749 (Kalm, in Pinkerton, vol. xiii., p. 639). Mr. Heriot mentions that "one article of commerce the Canadians had, by their own imprudence, rendered altogether unprofitable. From the time that Canada ginseng had been imported to Canton, and its quality pronounced equal to that of Corea or Tartary, a pound of this plant, which before sold in Quebec for twenty pence, became, when its value was once ascertained, worth one pound and tenpence sterling. The export of this article amounted in 1752 to L20,000 sterling. But the Canadians, eager suddenly to enrich themselves, reaped this plant in May when it should not have been gathered until September, and dried it in ovens when its moisture should have been gradually evaporated in the shade. This fatal mistake, arising from cupidity, and in some measure from ignorance, ruined the sale of their ginseng among the only people on earth who are partial to its use, and at an early period cut off from the colony a new branch of trade, which, under proper regulations, might have been essentially productive."—Heriot's Travels through the Canadas, p. 99, 1807.
"Mountainous woods in Tartary are mentioned as the place where the ginseng is produced in the greatest abundance. In 1709, the emperor ordered an army of ten thousand men to collect all the ginseng they could find, and each person was to give him two ounces of the best, while for the remainder payment was to be made in silver, weight for weight. It was in the same year that Father Jartoux, a Jesuit missionary in China, prepared a figure and accurate description of the plant, in which he bears testimony to the beneficial effects of the root. He tried it in many instances himself, and always with the same result, especially when exhausted with fatigue. His pulse was increased, his appetite improved, and his whole frame invigorated. Judging from the accounts before us, we should say that the Chinese were extravagant in their ideas of the virtues of this herb; but that it is undoubtedly a cordial stimulant, to be compared, perhaps, in some degree, with the aromatic root of Meum athamanticum, so much esteemed by the Scottish Highlanders. It has nevertheless disappeared from our Materia Medica."—Murray's Canada, vol. iii., p. 308. Charlevoix, tom. vi., p. 24.
"Ginseng a veritablement la vertu de soutenir, de fortifier, et de rappeller les forces epuisees."—Lafitau, tom. ii., p. 142.]
[Footnote 177: In La Hontan's time (1683), he speaks of "maiden-hair" being as common in the forests of Canada as fern in those of France, and is esteemed beyond that of other countries, insomuch that the inhabitants of Quebec prepare great quantities of its syrup, which they send to Paris, Nantes, Rouen, and several other cities of France. Charlevoix gives a figure of the maiden-hair (tom. iv., p. 301), under the name of Adiantum Americanum.—"Cette plante a la racine fort petite, et enveloppee de fibres noires, fort deliees; sa tige est d'un pourpre fonce, et s'eleve en quelques endroits a trois ou quatre pieds de haut; il en sort des branches, qui se courbent en tous sens. Les feuilles sont plus larges que celles de notre Capillaire de France, d'un beau verd d'un cote, et de l'autre, semees de petits points obscurs; nulle part ailleurs cette plante n'est si haute ni si vive, qu'en Canada. Elle n'a aucune odeur tandis qu'elle est sur pied, mais quand elle a ete renfermee, elle repand une odeur de violette, qui embaume. Sa qualite est aussi beaucoup au-dessus de tous les autres capillaires."
The Herba capillaris is the Adiantum pedatum of Linnaeus (Sp. Pl., p. 1557). Cornutus, in his Canadens. Plant. Historia, p. 7, calls it Adiantum Americanum, and gives a figure of it, p. 6. Kalm says that "it grows in all the British colonies of America, and likewise in the southern parts of Canada, but I never found it near Quebec. It grows in the woods in shady places, and in a good soil. Several people in Albany and Canada assured me that its leaves were very much used instead of tea in consumptions, coughs, and all kinds of pectoral diseases. This they have learned from the Indians, who have made use of it for these purposes from time immemorial. This American maiden-hair is reckoned preferable in surgery to that which we have in Europe, and therefore they send a great quantity of it to France every year. Commonly the price at Quebec is between five and fifteen sols a pound. The Indians went into the woods about this time (August), and traveled far above Montreal in quest of this plant."—Kalm, in Pinkerton, vol. xiii., p. 641.]
[Footnote 178: "This moss is called by the Canadian voyageurs, Tripe de Roche; it belongs to the order Gyrophara. They who have perused the affecting narrative of the sufferings of Captain Franklin and his gallant party, on their return from their first journey to the Arctic Sea, will remember that it was on Tripe de Roche that they depended, under God, for their very existence. 'We looked,' says Captain Franklin, 'with humble confidence to the Great Author and giver of all good, for a continuance of the support which had been hitherto always supplied to us at our greatest need,' and he was not disappointed."—Murray's Canada, vol. iii., p. 330. "Parmi les sauvages errans, et qui ne cultivent point du tout la terre, lorsque la chasse et la peche leur manquent, leur unique ressource est une espece de mousse, qui croit sur certains rochers, et que nos Francais ont nommee Tripe de Roche; rien n'est plus insipide que ce mets, lequel n'a pas meme beaucoup de substance, c'est bien la etre reduit au pur necessaire pour ne pas mourir de faim."—Charlevoix, tom. vi., p. 24.]
[Footnote 179: See Appendix, No. XXX. (see Vol II)]
[Footnote 180: See Appendix, No. XXXI. (see Vol II)]
[Footnote 181: "The Swedes gave the name of Indian hemp to Apocynum cannabinum, because the Indians apply it to the same purposes as the Europeans do hemp; for the stalk may be divided into filaments, and is easily prepared. This plant grows in abundance in old corn grounds, in woods, on hills, and on high glades. The Indians make ropes of this Apocynum, which the Swedes buy, and employ them as bridles, and for nets. These ropes are stronger, and kept longer in water than such as were made of common hemp. The Swedes commonly got fourteen yards of these ropes for one piece of bread. On my journey through the country of the Iroquois, I saw the women employed in manufacturing this hemp. The plant is perennial, which renders the annual planting of it altogether unnecessary. Out of the root and stalk of this plant, when it is fresh, comes a white, milky juice, which is somewhat poisonous. Sometimes the fishing tackle of the Indian consists entirely of this hemp."—Kalm, in Pinkerton, vol xiii., p. 544.]
[Footnote 182: See Appendix, No. XXXII. (see Vol II)]
[Footnote 183: Buffon, Hist. Nat., tom. ix., p. 13, 203; Acosta, Hist., lib. iv., cap. xxxiv.; Pisonis Hist., p. 6; Herrera, Dec. IV., lib. iv., cap. i.; lib. x., cap. xiii.]
[Footnote 184: Canada has not the fine natural pastures of Ireland, England, Holland, and other countries enjoying a cool, moist, and equable climate. Artificial grasses, now a most valuable branch of British husbandry, are peculiarly important in Canada, where so large a quantity of hay should be stored for winter use. They are also most useful in preparing the soil for grain crops, but have the disadvantage of requiring to stand the severe winter, so trying to all except annual plants. Clover, which is supposed to yield three times the produce of natural grass, grows luxuriantly; but in the second year its roots are often found to have been destroyed by frost. For this reason, it is necessary to have recourse to the species named Timothy, which is extremely hardy, and will set at defiance even a Canadian winter.—Talbot, vol. i., p. 301, Gould, p. 67.]
[Footnote 185: "In the western parts of Lower Canada, and throughout Upper Canada, where it is customary for travelers to carry their own bedding with them, these skins are very generally made use of for the purpose of sleeping upon. For upward of two months we scarcely ever had any other bed than one of the skins spread on the floor and a blanket to each person. The skins are dressed by the Indians with the hair on, and they are rendered by a peculiar process as pliable as cloth. When the buffalo is killed in the beginning of the winter, at which time he is fenced against the cold, the hair resembles very much that of a black bear; it is then long, straight, and of a blackish color; but when the animal is killed in the summer, the hair is short and curly, and of a light brown color, owing to its being scorched by the rays of the sun."—Weld, p. 313.]
[Footnote 186: Charlevoix says, "que la peau, quoique tres forte, devient souple et moelleuse comme le meilleur chamois. Les sauvages en font des boucliers, qui sont tres legers, et que les bals de fusil ne percent pas aisement."—Tom. v., p. 193.]
[Footnote 187: The height of the domesticated reindeer is about three feet; of the wild ones, four. It lives to the age of sixteen years. The reindeer is a native of the northern regions only. In America it does not extend further south than Canada. The Indians often kill numbers for the sake of their tongue only; at other times they separate the flesh from the bones, and preserve it by drying it in the smoke. The fat they sell to the English, who use it for frying instead of butter. The skins, also, are an article of extensive commerce with the English.—Rees's Cyclopaedia, art. Cervus Tarandus.
Charlevoix says that the Canadian caribou differs in nothing from the Renne of Buffon except in the color of its skin, which is brown or reddish.—Tom. v., p. 191. La Hontan calls the caribou a species of wild ass; and Charlevoix says that its form resembles that of the ass, but that it at least equals the stag in agility.]
[Footnote 188: Pennant is persuaded that the stag is not a native of America, and considers the deer known in that country by the name of stag as a distinct species. The American stag is the Cervus Canadensis of Erxleben. The Americans hunt and shoot those animals not so much for the sake of the flesh as of the fat, which serves as tallow in making candles, and the skins, which they dispose of to the Hudson's Bay Company. They are caught principally in the inland parts, near the vicinity of the lakes.—Rees's Cyclopaedia, art. Cervus Elaphus.
Charlevoix says that "le Cerf en Canada est absolument le meme qu'en France, peut etre communement un peu plus grand."—Tom. v., p. 189.]
[Footnote 189: The fallow deer in America have been introduced there from Europe; for the animal called the American fallow is of a very different kind, and is peculiar to the New Continent. This, the Cervus Virginianus, inhabits all the provinces south of Canada.—Rees's Cyclopaedia, art. Cervus Virginianus.]
[Footnote 190: See Appendix, No. XXXIII. (see Vol II)]
[Footnote 191: See Appendix, No. XXXIV. (see Vol II)]
[Footnote 192: See Appendix, No. XXXV. (see Vol II)]
[Footnote 193: See Appendix, No. XXXVI. (see Vol II)]
[Footnote 194: See Appendix, No. XXXVII. (see Vol II)]
[Footnote 195: See Appendix, No. XXXVIII. (see Vol II)]
[Footnote 196: See Appendix, No. XXXIX. (see Vol II)]
[Footnote 197: See Appendix, No. XL. (see Vol II)]
[Footnote 198: "While we were roaming along the shore of Lake Ontario we caught a species of tortoise (testudo picta), which was a gayly-colored shell, and I carried it a day's journey in the carriage, and then turned it out, to see whether, as I was told, it would know its way back to Lake Ontario. I am bound to admit that its instinct on this occasion did not fail, for it made directly for a ravine, in the bottom of which was a stream that would lead it in time to the Genesee River, and this would carry it to its native lake if it escaped destruction at the Falls below Rochester, where the celebrated diver, Sam Patch, perished, after he had succeeded in throwing himself with impunity down several other great waterfalls. There is a fresh-water tortoise in Europe (Terrapena Europea) found in Hungary, Prussia, and Silesia, as far north as latitude 50 deg. to 52 deg.. It also occurs near Bordeaux, and in the north of Italy, 44 deg. and 45 deg. north latitude, which precisely corresponds with the latitude of Lake Ontario."—Lyell's Travels in North America, vol. i., p. 25.]
[Footnote 199: "To the Malacodermous division belongs the remarkable genus Lampyris, which contains the insects commonly called glow-worms. The substance from which the luminous property results has been the subject of frequent experiment and observation. It is obviously under the control of the animal, which, when approached, may frequently be observed to diminish or put out its light. The only species with which we are acquainted in British America is Lampyris corusca. It occurs in Canada, and has been taken at least as far north as latitude 54 deg.. It was originally described by Simmons as a native of Finland and Russia, on the authority of Uddman, but has not since been found there."—Murray, vol. iii., p. 277.
"We saw numerous yellow butterflies, very like a British species. Sometimes forty of them clustering on a small spot resembled a plot of primroses, and as they rose altogether, and flew off slowly on every side, it was like the play of a beautiful fountain."—Lyell's America, vol. i., p. 25.]
Perhaps the saddest chapter in the history of the sons of Adam is furnished by the Red Man of America. His origin is unknown; no records tell the tale of his ancient deeds. A foundling in the human family, discovered by his stronger brethren wandering wild through the forests and over the prairies of the western desert, no fraternal welcome greeted this lost child of nature; no soothing voice of affection fell upon his ear; no gentle kindness wooed him from his savage isolation. The hand of irresistible power was stretched out, not to raise him from his low estate and lead him into the brotherhood of civilized man, but to thrust him away with cruel and unjust disdain.
Little more than three centuries and a half have elapsed since the Indian first gazed with terror and admiration upon the white strangers, and already three fourths of his inheritance are rent away, and three fourths of his race have vanished from the earth; while the sad remnant, few and feeble, faint and weary, "are fast traveling to the shades of their fathers, toward the setting sun." Year by year they wither away; to them the close breath of civilized man is more destructive than the deadliest blight. The arts and appliances which the accumulated ingenuity of ages has provided to aid the labor and enhance the enjoyments of others, have been but a curse to these children of the wilderness. That blessed light which shines to the miserable of this world through the vista of the "shadowy valley," cheering the fainting spirit with the earnest of a glorious future, sheds but a few dim and distorted rays upon the outskirts of the Red Man's forest land.
All the relations of Europeans to the Indian have been alike fatal to him, whether of peace or war; as tyrants or suppliants; as conquerors armed with unknown weapons of destruction; as the insidious purchasers of his hunting-grounds, betraying him into an accursed thirst for the deadly fire-water; as the greedy gold-seekers, crushing his feeble frame under the hated labors of the mine; as shipwrecked and hungry wanderers, while receiving his simple alms, marking the fertility and defenselessness of his lands; as sick men enjoying his hospitality, and, at the same time, imparting that terrible disease which has swept off whole nations; as woodmen in his forest, and intrusive tillers of his ground, scaring away to the far West those animals of the chase given by the Great Spirit for his food: there is to him a terrible monotony of result. In the delicious islands of the Caribbean Sea, and in the stern and magnificent regions of the northeast, scarcely now remains a mound, or stone, or trace even of tradition, to point out the place where any among the departed millions sleep.
The discovery of the American Indians brought to light not only a new race, but also a totally new condition of men. The rudest form of human society known in the Old World was far advanced beyond that of the mysterious children of the West, in arts, knowledge, and government. Even among the simplest European and Asiatic nations the principle of individual possession was established; the beasts of the field were domesticated to supply the food and aid the labors of man, and large bodies of people were united under the sway of hereditary chiefs. But the Red Man roamed over the vast forests and prairies of his undiscovered continent, accompanied by few of his fellows, unassisted by beasts of burden, and trusting alone to his skill and fortune in the chase for a support. The first European visitors to the New World were filled with such astonishment at the appearance and complexion of the Red Man, that they hastily concluded he belonged to a different species from themselves. As the native nations became better known, their warriors, statesmen, and orators commanded the admiration of the strangers. Especially in the northern people, every savage virtue was conspicuous; they were gentle in peace, but terrible in war; of a proud and noble bearing, honest, faithful, and hospitable, loving order though without laws, and animated by the strongest and most devoted loyalty to their tribe. At the same time, while willingly recording their high and admirable qualities, pity for the devoted race must not blind us to their ferocious and degrading vices.
It was not until the end of the seventeenth century that the manners and characteristics of this strange race attracted to any considerable degree the attention of philosophers and theorists; a chasm in human history then seemed about to be filled. Eager to throw light upon the subject, but too impatient to inquire into the facts necessary for the formation of opinions, the conclusions formed were often unjust to the native dignity of the Red Indian, and have been proved erroneous by subsequent and more perfect information. On the other hand, one of the most gifted but dangerous of modern philosophers would exalt these untutored children of nature to a higher degree of honor and excellence than civilization and knowledge can confer. He deemed that the elevation and independence of mind, resulting from the rude simplicity of savage life, is sought in vain among the members of refined and organized societies.