History of Toronto King Street Digression Into Duke Street
On passing George Street, as we intimated a moment ago, we ...
Palace Street To The Market Place
In Rome, at the present day, the parts that are the most at...
Queen Street From George Street To Yonge Street
--MEMORIES OF THE OLD COURT HOUSE.
When we pass George S...
Yonge Street From Hogg's Hollow To Bond's Lake
Beyond the hollow, Mr. Humberstone's was passed on the west...
Yonge Street From Yorkville To Hogg's Hollow
Of long standing is the group of buildings on the right aft...
Yonge Street: From Bond's Lake To The Holland Landing With Digressions To Newmarket And Sharon
We now speedily passed Drynoch, lying off to the left, on e...
King Street From Caroline Street To Berkeley Street
Returning again to King Street: At the corner of Caroline S...
King Street From Church Street To George Street
We were arrested in our progress on King Street by St. Jame...
King Street: St James' Church Continued
It is beginning, perhaps, to be thought preposterous that w...
From The Garrison Back To The Place Of Beginning
We now enter again the modern Fort; passing back through th...
King Street: St James' Church
The first Church of St. James, at York, was a plain structu...
In French colonial documents of a very respectable antiquit...
Front Street From The Market Place To Brock Street
The corner we approach after passing the Market Square, was...
Yonge Street: Onward From Holland Landing To Penetanguishene
To render our narrative complete, we give in a few parting ...
King Street: Digression Southwards At Church Street: Market Lane
Across Church Street from Clinkunbroomer's were the wooden ...
In 1869, the survivors of the early occupants of York, Uppe...
From Brock Street To The Old French Fort
Returning again to the front. The portion of the Common tha...
The Harbour Its Marine 1800-1814
On the 15th of May, 1800, Governor Hunter arrives again in ...
Queen Street From The College Avenue To Brock Street And Spadina Avenue
Pursuing our way now westward from the Avenue leading to th...
The Harbour: Its Marine 1793-99
The first formal survey of the harbour of Toronto was made ...
Queen Street Digression At Caroline Street History Of The Early Press
A little to the south of Britain Street, between it and Duchess Street,
near the spot where Caroline Street, slightly diverging from the right
line, passes northward to Queen Street, there stood in the early day a
long, low wooden structure, memorable to ourselves, as being, in our
school-boy days, the Government Printing Office. Here the Upper Canada
Gazette was issued, by "R. C. Horne, Printer to the King's Most
We shall have occasion hereafter to notice among our early inhabitants
some curious instances of change of profession. In the present case, His
Majesty's Printer was in reality an Army Surgeon, once attached to the
Glengary Light Infantry. And again, afterwards, the same gentleman was
for many years the Chief Teller in the Bank of Upper Canada. An incident
in the troubles of 1837 was "the burning of Dr. Horne's house," by a
party of the malcontents who were making a show of assault upon the
town. The site of this building, a conspicuous square two-storey frame
family residence, was close to the toll-bar on Yonge Street, in what is
now Yorkville. On that occasion, we are informed, Dr. Horne "berated the
Lieutenant-Governor for treating with avowed rebels, and insisted that
they were not in sufficient force to give any ground of alarm."
The Upper Canada Gazette was the first newspaper published in Upper
Canada. Its first number appeared at Newark or Niagara, on Thursday,
the 18th of April, 1793. As it was apparently expected to combine with a
record of the acts of the new government some account of events
happening on the continent at large, it was made to bear the double
title of Upper Canada Gazette, or American Oracle. Louis Roy was its
first printer, a skilled artizan engaged probably from Lower Canada,
where printing had been introduced about thirty years previously, soon
after the English occupation of the country.
Louis Roy's name appears on the face of No. 1, Vol. I. The type is of
the shape used in contemporaneous printing, and the execution is very
good. The size of the sheet, which retained the folio form, was 15 by 91/2
inches. The quality of the paper was rather coarse, but stout and
The address to the public in the first number is as follows:--"The
Editor of this paper respectfully informs the public that the flattering
prospect which he has of an extensive sale for his new undertaking has
enabled him to augment the size originally proposed from a Demy Quarto
to a Folio.
"The encouragement he has met will call forth every exertion he is
master of, so as to render the paper useful, entertaining and
instructive. He will be very happy in being favoured with such
communications as may contribute to the information of the public, from
those who shall be disposed to assist him, and in particular shall be
highly flattered in becoming the vehicle of intelligence in this growing
Province of whatever may tend to its internal benefit and common
advantage. In order to preserve the veracity of his paper, which will be
the first object of his attention, it will be requisite that all
transactions of a domestic nature, such as deaths, marriages, &c., be
communicated under real signatures.
"The price of this Gazette will be three dollars per annum. All
advertisements inserted in it, and not exceeding twelve lines, will pay
4s. Quebec currency; and for every additional line a proportionable
price. Orders for letter-press printing will be executed with neatness,
despatch and attention, and on the most reasonable terms."
An advertisement in the first number informs the public that a Brewery
is about to be established under the sanction of the
Lieutenant-Governor. "Notice is hereby given, that there will be a
Brewery erected here this summer under the sanction of His Excellency
the Lieutenant-Governor, and encouraged by some of the principal
gentlemen of this place; and whosoever will sow barley and cultivate
their land so that it will produce grain of a good quality, they may be
certain of a market in the fall at one dollar a bushel on delivery. W.
Huet, Niagara, 18th April, 1793."
The number dated Niagara, May 2, 1793, "hath" the following
advertisement:--"Sampson Jutes begs leave to inform all persons who
propose to build houses, &c., in the course of this summer, that he hath
laths, planks and scantlings of all kinds to sell on reasonable terms.
Any person may be supplied with any of the above articles on the
shortest notice. Applications to be made to him at his mill near Mr.
In the Number for May 30, 1793, we have ten guineas reward offered for
the recovery of a Government grindstone:--"Ten Guineas Reward is offered
to any person that will make discovery and prosecute to conviction, the
Thief or Thieves that have stolen a Grindstone from the King's Wharf at
Navy Hall, between the 30th of April and the 6th instant. John McGill,
Com. of Stores, &c., &c., for the Province of Upper Canada. Queenstown,
16th May, 1793."
The Anniversary of the King's Birth-day was celebrated at Niagara in
1793, in the following manner:--"Niagara, June 6. On Tuesday last, being
the Anniversary of His Majesty's birthday, His Excellency the
Lieutenant-Governor had a Levee at Navy Hall. At one o'clock the troops
in garrison and at Queenston fired three volleys; the field-pieces above
Navy Hall, under the direction of the Royal Artillery, and the guns of
the Garrison, fired a Royal Salute. His Majesty's schooner, the
Onondago, at anchor in the river, likewise fired a Royal Salute. In the
evening His Excellency gave a Ball and elegant Supper at the Council
Chamber, which was most numerously attended."
In the second volume (1794) of the Gazette and Oracle, Louis Roy's
name disappears. G. Tiffany becomes the printer. In 1798 it has assumed
the Quarto form, and is dated "West Niagara," a name Newark was
beginning to acquire.
No Gazette is issued April 29th, 1798. An apology for the omission
constitutes the whole of the editorial of the Number for May 5. It says:
"The Printer having been called to York last week upon business, is
humbly tendered to his readers as an apology for the Gazette's not
In 1799, the Gazette being about to be removed across permanently to
York, the new capital, whither also all the government offices were
departing, Messrs. S. and G. Tiffany decide on starting a newspaper on
their own account for Niagara. It is called the "Canada
Constellation," and its terms are four dollars per annum. It is
announced to appear weekly "opposite the Lion tavern." The date of the
first number is July 20. In the introductory address to the public, the
Messrs. Tiffany make use of the following rather involved language:--"It
is a truth long acknowledged that no men hold situations more
influential of the minds and conduct of men than do printers: political
printers are sucked from, nursed and directed by the press: and when
they are just, the community is in unity and prosperity; but when
vicious, every evil ensues; and it is lamentable that many printers,
either vile remiss in, or ignorant of, their duty, produce the latter or
no effect; and to which of these classes we belong, time will unfold."
The public means of maintaining a regular correspondence with the outer
world being insufficient, the enterprising spirit of the Messrs. Tiffany
led them to think of establishing a postal system of their own. In the
Constellation for August 23, we have the announcement: "The printers
of the Constellation are desirous of establishing a post on the road
from their office to Ancaster and the Grand River, as well as another to
Fort Erie; and for this purpose they propose to hire men to perform the
routes as soon as the subscriptions will allow of the expense. In order
to establish the business, the printers on their part will subscribe
generously, and to put the design into execution, but little remains for
the people to do."
We can detect in the Constellation a natural local feeling against the
upstart town of York, which had now drawn away almost every thing from
the old Newark. Thus in the number for November the 14th, 1799, a
communication from York, signed Amicus, is admitted, written plainly
by one who was no great lover of the place. It affords a glimpse of the
state of its thoroughfares, and of the habits of some of its
inhabitants. Amicus proposes a "Stump Act" for York; i. e., a
compulsory eradication of the stumps in the streets: so that "the people
of York in the space of a few months may" as he speaks. "relapse into
intoxication with impunity; and stagger home at any hour of the night
without encountering the dreadful apprehension of broken necks."
The same animus gives colour to remarks on some legal verbiage recently
employed at York. Under the heading "Interesting Discovery" we read: "It
has been lately found at York that in England laws are made; and that a
law made in England is the law of England, and is enforced by another
law; that many laws are made in Lower Canada and follow up, that is,
follow after, or in other words are made since, other laws; and that
these laws may be repealed. It is seldom," continues the writer in the
Constellation, "that so few as one discovery slips into existence at
one birth. Genius is sterile, and justly said to be like a breeding cat,
as is verified in York, where by some unaccountable fortuity of events
all genius centres; at the same time with the above, its twin kitten
came forth, that an atheist does not believe as a Christian."
In another number we have some chaffing about the use of the word
capital. In an address on the arrival of Governor Hunter, the
expression, "We, the inhabitants of the Capital," had occurred. "This
fretted my pate," the critic pretends to complain. "What can this be?
Surely it is some great place in a great country was my conclusion; but
where the capital is, was a little beyond my geographical acquaintance.
I had recourse to the books" he continues: "all the gazettes and
magazines from the year One I carefully turned over, and not one case
among all the addresses they contained afforded me any instruction: 'We,
the inhabitants of the cities of London and Westminster, of Edinburgh,
Dublin, Paris, &c.,' only proved to me that neither of these is the
Capital. But as these are only little towns in young countries, and
cannot be so forward as to take upon themselves the pompous title of
capital, it must be in America." He then professes to have consulted
the Encyclopaedia Eboretica, or, "A Vindication in support of the great
Utility of New Words," lately printed in Upper Canada, and to have
discovered therein that the Capital in question "was, in plain English,
York." He concludes, therefore, that whenever in future the expression
"We, the inhabitants of the Capital" is met with, it is to be translated
into the vernacular tongue, "We, the inhabitants of York, assembled at
There is mention made above of a Stump Act. We have been assured that
such a regulation was, at an early day, in force at York, as a deterrent
from drunkenness. Capt. Peeke, who burnt lime at Duffin's Creek, and
shipped it to York in his own vessel, before the close of the last
century, was occasionally inconvenienced by the working of the Stump
Act. His men whom he had brought up with him to assist in navigating his
boat would be found, just when especially wanted by himself, laboriously
engaged in the extraction of a great pine-root in one or other of the
public thoroughfares of the town, under sentence of the magistrate, for
having been found, on the preceding day, intoxicated in the streets.
The Constellation newspaper does not appear to have succeeded. Early
in 1801 a new paper comes out, entitled the Herald. In it, it is
announced that the Constellation, "after existing one year, expired
some months since of starvation, its publishers departing too much from
its constitution (advance pay)." The printer is now Silvester Tiffany,
the senior proprietor of the Constellation. It is very well printed
with good type; but on blue wrapping paper. In little more than two
years, viz., on the 4th June, 1802, it announced that the publication of
the Herald is suspended; that it will appear only "on particular
occasions;" but Mr. Tiffany hopes it "will by and by receive a revival."
Other early papers published at the town of Niagara were the Gleaner,
by Mr. Heron; the Reporter; the Spectator. The Mail was
established so late as 1845. Its publication ceased in 1870, when its
editor, Mr. Kirby, was appointed to the collectorship of the Port of
Niagara. Down to 1870 Mr. Tiffany's "imposing stone," used in the
printing of the Constellation, did duty in the office of the Mail.
In 1800, the Upper Canada Gazette or American Oracle is issued at
York, weekly, from the office of William Waters and T. G. Simons. In the
number for Saturday, May the 17th, in that year, we read that on the
Thursday evening previous, "His Excellency Peter Hunter, Esq.,
Lieutenant-Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the Province, arrived in
our harbour on board the Toronto; and on Friday morning, about nine
o'clock, landed at the Garrison, where he is at present to reside."
We are thus enabled to add two items to the table of dates usually
given, shewing the introduction of Printing at different points on this
Continent: viz., the dates 1793 and 1800 for Niagara and York
respectively. The table will now stand as follows:--
1639, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Stephen Day and Samuel Green; 1674,
Boston, John Foster; 1684, Philadelphia, Wm. Bradford; 1693, New York,
Wm. Bradford (removed from Philadelphia); 1730, Charleston, Eleazer
Phillips; 1730, Bridgetown, Barbadoes, David Harry and Samuel Keimer;
1751, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Bartholomew Green, jun., and John Bushell;
1764, Quebec, Wm. Brown and Thos. H. Gilmore; 1771, Albany, Alex. and
Jas. Robertson; 1775, Montreal, Chas. Berger and Fleury Mesplet; 1784,
St. George's, Bermuda, J. Stockdale; 1793, Newark (Niagara), Louis Roy;
1795, Cincinnati, S. Freeman; 1800, York (Toronto), Wm. Waters and T. G.
As at York and Niagara, the first printers in most of the places named
were publishers of newspapers.
It may be added that a press was in operation in the City of Mexico in
1569; and in the City of Lima in 1621. The original of all the many
Colonial Government Gazettes was the famous royal or exclusively court
news sheet, published first at Oxford, in November, 1665, entitled the
Oxford Gazette, and in the following year, at London, and entitled
then and ever afterwards to this day, the London Gazette.
In 1801, J. Bennett succeeds Messrs. Waters and Simons, and becomes the
printer and publisher of the Gazette or Oracle. In that year the
printing-office is removed to "the house of Mr. A. Cameron, King
Street," and it is added, "subscriptions will be received there and at
the Toronto Coffee House, York." From March 21st in this year, and
onward for six weeks, the paper appears printed on blue sheets of the
kind of material that used formerly to be seen on the outsides of
pamphlets and magazines and Government "Blue-books." The stock of white
paper has plainly run out, and no fresh supply can be had before the
opening of the navigation. The Herald, at Niagara, of the same period,
appeared, as we have already noticed, in the like guise.
On Saturday, December 20th, 1801, is this statement, the whole of the
editorial matter: "It is much to be lamented that communication between
Niagara and this town is so irregular and unfrequent: opportunities now
do not often occur of receiving the American papers from our
correspondents; and thereby prevents us for the present from laying
before our readers the state of politics in Europe." In the number for
June 13th, the editorial "leader" reads as follows:--"The Oracle,
York, Saturday, June 13th. Last Monday was a day of universal rejoicing
in this town, occasioned by the arrival of the news of the splendid
victory gained by Lord Nelson over the Danes in Copenhagen Roads on the
2nd of April last: in the morning the great guns at the Garrison were
fired: at night there was a general illumination, and bonfires blazed in
almost every direction." The writer indulges in no further comments.
It would have been gratifying to posterity had the printers of the
Gazette and Oracle endeavoured to furnish a connected record of "the
short and simple annals" of their own immediate neighbourhood. But these
unfortunately were deemed undeserving of much notice. We have
announcements of meetings, and projects, and subscriptions for
particular purposes, unfollowed by any account of what was subsequently
said, done and effected; and when a local incident is mentioned, the
detail is generally very meagre.
An advertisement in the number for the 27th August, 1801, reminds us
that in the early history of Canada it was imagined that a great source
of wealth to the inhabitants of the country in all future time would be
the ginseng that was found growing naturally in the swamps. The market
for ginseng was principally China, where it was worth its weight in
silver. The word is said to be Chinese for "all-heal." In 1801 we find
that Mr. Jacob Herchmer, of York, was speculating in ginseng. In his
advertisement in the Gazette and Oracle he "begs leave to inform the
inhabitants of York and its vicinity that he will purchase any quantity
of ginseng between this and the first of November next, and that he will
give two shillings, New York currency, per pound well dried, and one
shilling for green."
At one period, it will be remembered, the cultivation of hemp was
expected to be the mainstay of the country's prosperity. In the Upper
Canada Almanac for 1804, among the public officers we have set down as
"Commissioners appointed for the distribution of Hemp Seed (gratis) to
the Farmers of the Provinces, the Hon. John McGill, the Hon. David W.
Smith, and Thomas Scott, Esquires."
The whole of the editorial matter of the Gazette and Oracle on the 2nd
of January, 1802, is the following: "The Oracle, York, Saturday,
January 2, 1802. The Printer presents his congratulary compliments to
his customers on the New Year." Note that the dignified title of Editor
was yet but sparingly assumed. That term is used once by Tiffany at
Newark, in the second volume. After the death of Governor Hunter, in
September, 1805, J. Bennett writes himself down "Printer to the King's
Most Excellent Majesty." Previously the colophon of the publication had
been: "York, printed by John Bennett, by the authority of His Excellency
Peter Hunter, Esq., Lieut.-Governor."
Happening to have at hand a bill of Bennett's against the Government we
give it here. The modern reader will be able to form from this specimen
an idea of the extent of the Government requirements in 1805 in regard
to printing and the cost thereof. We give also the various attestations
appended to the account:--
York, Upper Canada, 24th June, 1805.
The Government of Upper Canada,
To John Bennett, Government Printer.
Jan. 11. 300 copies Still Licenses, 1/2 sheet foolscap, pica type 0 16 6
March 30. Printing 20 copies of an Act for altering the time of issuing
Licenses for keeping of a House of Public Entertainment,
1/4 sheet demy, pica type 0 3 4
April 5. Inserting a Notice to persons taking out Shop, Still or
Tavern Licenses, 6 weeks in the Gazette, equal to 41/2
advertisements 1 16 0
April 16. 1,000 copies of Proclamation, warning persons that possess
and occupy Lands in this Province, without due
titles having been obtained for such Lands, forthwith
to quit and remove from the same, 1/2 sheet demy,
double pica type 4 18 4
April 22. 100 copies of an Act to afford relief to persons entitled to
claim Land in this Province as heirs or devisees of the
nominees of the Crown, one sheet demy, pica type 3 6 3
Printing Marginal notes to do 0 5 0
May 14. Printing 1,500 copies of the Acts of the First Session of
the Fourth Parliament, three sheets demy, pica type 45 0 0
Marginal Notes to do., at 5s. per sheet 0 15 0
Folding, Stitching and Covering in Blue Paper, at 1d. 6 5 0
Halifax currency L63 5 9
Amounting to sixty-three pounds five shillings and nine-pence
Halifax currency. Errors excepted.
(Signed) John Bennett.
John Bennett, of the Town of York, in the Home District, maketh
oath and saith, that the foregoing account amounting to
sixty-three pounds five shillings and ninepence Halifax
currency, is just and true in all its particulars to the best of
his knowledge and belief.
(Signed) John Bennett.
Sworn before me at York, this 20th day of July, 1805.
(Signed) Wm. Dummer Powell, J.
Audited and approved in Council 6th August 1805.
(Signed) Peter Russell,
(Signed) John McGill,
Inspector Genl. P. P. Accts.
[A true copy.]
Inspector Gen. P. P. Accts.
Bennett published "The Upper Canada Almanac," containing with the matter
usually found in such productions the Civil and Military Lists and the
Duties, Imperial and Provincial. This work was admirably printed in fine
Elzevir type, and in aspect, as well as arrangement, was an exact copy
of the almanacs of the day published in London.
A rival Calendar continued to be issued at Niagara entitled "Tiffany's
Upper Canada Almanac." This was a roughly-printed little tract, and
contained popular matter in addition to the official lists. It gave in a
separate and very conspicuous column in each month "the moon's place" on
each day in respect to a distinct portion of the human body with
prognostications accordingly. And in the "Advertisement to the reader"
it was set forth, that "in the calculation of the weather the most
unwearied pains have been taken; and the calculator prays, for his
honour's sake, that he may have not failed in the least point; but as
all calculation may sometimes fail in small matters," the writer
continues, "no wonder is it that in this, the most important, should be
at times erroneous. And when this shall unfortunately have been the case
with the Upper Canada Almanac, let careful observers throw over the
error the excess of that charity of which their generous souls are
composed, and the all-importance of the subject requires; let them
remember that the task, in all the variety and changes of climates and
seasons, is arduous beyond that of reforming a vicious world, and not
less than that of making a middle-sized new one."
In the number of the Oracle for September 28th, 1805, which is in
mourning, we have the following notice of the character of Governor
Hunter, who had deceased on the 23rd of the preceding August at
Quebec:--"As an officer his character was high and unsullied; and at
this present moment his death may be considered a great public loss. As
Lieut.-Governor of Upper Canada, his loss will be severely felt; for by
his unremitting attention and exertions he has, in the course of a very
few years, brought that infant colony to an unparalleled state of
prosperity." An account is then given of the procession at the funeral.
The 49th and 6th Regiments were present; also Lieut.-Col. Brock,
Commanding. At the grave one round was fired slowly and distinctly by
eleven field pieces, followed by one round of small arms, by regiments;
then a second round of artillery, followed in like manner by the small
arms; and, lastly, a third round of artillery, and a third round of
small arms. The mourners were, the Hon. Thomas Dunn, President of the
Province (Lower Canada). Col. Bowes, Major Curry, Hon. Mr. Craigie, Col.
Green, Major Robe, Capt. Gomm and Mr. William Green.
In 1813, during the war with the United States, Cameron is the printer
of the official paper, which now for a time assumed the title of The
York Gazette. Mr. John Cameron also published "The Upper Canada
Almanac," from which we have already had occasion to quote, but it put
in no claim to an official character. It did not contain the Civil
Lists, but, as stated in the title page, "some Chinese sayings and
Elegant Aphorisms." It bore as a motto the following lines:--
"Ye who would mend these wicked times
And morals of the age,
Come buy a book half full of rhymes,
At three-pence York per page.
It would be money well outlaid,
So plenty money is;
Paper for paper is fair trade:
So said "Poor Richard Quiz."
Among the aphorisms given is this one: "Issuers of paper-change, are
entitled to thanks from the public for the great accommodation such
change affords. They might render the accommodation more extensive were
they to emit a proportionate number of half-penny bills." At one place
the query is put, "When will the beard be worn, and man allowed to
appear with it in native dignity? And if so, how long before it will
become fashionable to have it greased and powdered?" In the almanac for
1815, towards the end, the following paragraph appears:--"York
supernatural prices current: Turnips 1 dollar per bushel; Potatoes,
long, at 2 ditto; Salt 20 ditto; Butter per lb. 1 ditto; Indifferent
bread 1 shilling N. Y. cy. per lb.; Conscience, a contraband article."
In Bennett's time the Government press was, as we have seen, set up in
Mr. Cameron's house on King Street. But at the period of the war in 1812
Mr. Cameron's printing office was in a building which still exists,
viz., the house on Bay Street associated with the name of Mr. Andrew
Mercer. During the occupation of York by the United States force, the
press was broken up and the type dispersed. Mr. Mercer once exhibited to
ourselves a portion of the press which on that occasion was made
useless. For a short period Mr. Mercer himself had charge of the
publication of the York Gazette.
In 1817 Dr. Horne became the editor and publisher. On coming into his
hands the paper resumed the name of Upper Canada Gazette, but the old
secondary title of American Oracle was dropped. To the official
portion of the paper there was, nevertheless, still appended abstracts
of news from the United States and Europe, summaries of the proceedings
in the Parliaments of Upper and Lower Canada, and much well-selected
miscellaneous matter. The shape continued to be that of a small folio,
and the terms were four dollars per annum in advance; and if sent by
mail, four dollars and a half.
In 1821 Mr. Charles Fothergill (of whom we have already spoken) became
the Editor and Publisher of the Gazette. Mr. Fothergill revived the
practice of having a secondary title, which was now The Weekly
Register; a singular choice, by the way, that being very nearly the
name of Cobbett's celebrated democratic publication in London. After Mr.
Fothergill came Mr. Robert Stanton, who changed the name of the private
portion of the Gazette sheet, styling it "The U. E. Loyalist."
In 1820 Mr. John Carey had established the Observer at York. The
Gazette of May 11, 1820, contains the announcement of his design; and
he therein speaks of himself as "the person who gave the Debates"
recently in another paper. To have the debates in Parliament reported
with any fulness was then a novelty. The Observer was a folio of
rustic, unkempt aspect, the paper and typography and matter being all
somewhat inferior. It gave in its adherence to the government of the
day, generally: at a later period it wavered. Mr. Carey was a tall,
portly personage who, from his bearing and costume might readily have
been mistaken for a non-conformist minister of local importance. The
Observer existed down to about the year 1830. Between the Weekly
Register and the Observer the usual journalistic feud sprung up,
which so often renders rival village newspapers ridiculous. With the
Register a favourite sobriquet for the Observer is "Mother C----y."
Once a correspondent is permitted to style it "The Political Weathercock
and Slang Gazetteer." Mr. Carey ended his days in Springfield on the
River Credit, where he possessed property.
The Canadian Freeman, established in 1825 by Mr. Francis Collins was a
sheet remarkable for the neatness of its arrangement and execution, and
also for the talent exhibited in its editorials. The type was evidently
new and carefully handled. Mr. Collins was his own principal compositor.
He is said to have transferred to type many of his editorials without
the intervention of pen and paper, composing directly from copy mentally
furnished. Mr. Collins was a man of pronounced Celtic features, roughish
in outline, and plentifully garnished with hair of a sandy or reddish
Notwithstanding the colourless character of the motto at the head of its
columns "Est natura hominum novitatis avida"--"Human nature is fond of
news," the Freeman was a strong party paper. The hard measure dealt
out to him in 1828 at the hands of the legal authorities, according to
the prevailing spirit of the day, with the revenge that he was moved to
take--and to take successfully--we shall not here detail. Mr. Collins
died of cholera in the year 1834. We have understood that he was once
employed in the office of the Gazette; and that when Dr. Horne
resigned, he was an applicant for the position of Government Printer.
The Canadian Freeman joined for a time in the general opposition
clamour against Dr. Strachan,--against the influence, real or supposed,
exercised by him over successive lieutenant-governors. But on
discovering the good-humoured way in which its fulminations were
received by their object, the Freeman dropped its strictures. It
happened that Mr. Collins had a brother in business in the town with
whom Dr. Strachan had dealings. This brother on some occasion thought it
becoming to make some faint apology for the Freeman's diatribes. "O
don't let them trouble you," the Doctor replied, "they do not trouble
me; but by the way, tell your brother," he laughingly continued, "I
shall claim a share in the proceeds." This, when reported to the Editor,
was considered a good joke, and the diatribes ceased; a proceeding that
was tantamount to Peter Pindar's confession, when some one charged him
with being too hard on the King: "I confess there exists a difference
between the King and me," said Peter; "the King has been a good subject
to me; and I have been a bad subject to his Majesty."--During Mr.
Collins' imprisonment in 1828 for the application of the afterwards
famous expression "native malignity" to the Attorney-General of the day,
the Freeman still continued to appear weekly, the editorials, set up
in type in the manner spoken of above, being supplied to the office from
his room in the jail.
In the early stages of society in Upper Canada the Government
authorities appear not only to have possessed but to have exercised the
power of handling political writers pretty sharply. In the Kingston
Chronicle of December 10th, 1820, we have recorded the sentence
pronounced on Barnabas Ferguson, Editor of the Niagara Spectator, for
"a libel on the Government." Mr. Ferguson was condemned to be imprisoned
eighteen months; to stand in the pillory once during his confinement; to
pay a fine of L50, and remain in prison till paid; and on his liberation
to find security for seven years, himself in L500, and two sureties in
L250 each. No comment is made by the Chronicle on the sentence, and
the libel is not described.
The local government took its cue in this matter from its superiors of
the day in the old country. What Sir Henry Lytton Bulwer says in his
sketch of the life of Cobbett helps to explain the action of the early
Upper Canada authorities in respect to the press. "Let us not forget,"
says the writer just named, "the blind and uncalculating intolerance
with which the law struggled against opinion from 1809 to 1822. Writers
during this period were transported, imprisoned, and fined, without
limit or conscience; and just when government became more gentle to
legitimate newspapers, it engaged in a new conflict with unstamped ones.
No less than 500 venders of these were imprisoned within six years. The
contest was one of life and death."
So early as 1807 there was an "opposition" paper--the Upper Canada
Guardian. Willcocks, the editor, had been Sheriff of the Home District,
and had lost his office for giving a vote contrary to the policy of the
lieutenant-governor for the time being. He was returned as a member of
parliament; and after having been imprisoned for breach of privilege, he
was returned again, and continued to lead the reforming party. The name
of Mr. Cameron, the publisher of the Gazette at York was, by some
means, mixed up with that of Mr. Willcocks, in connection with the
Upper Canada Guardian in 1807, and he found it expedient to publish
in the Gazette of June 20, the following notice: "To the
Public--Having seen the Prospectus of a paper generally circulated at
Niagara, intended to be printed in Upper Canada, entitled the Upper
Canada Guardian or Freeman's Journal, executed in the United States of
America, without my knowledge or consent, wherein my name appears as
being a party concerned; I therefore think it necessary to undeceive my
friends and the inhabitants of Upper Canada, and to assure them that I
have no connection with, nor is it my most distant wish or intention in
any wise to be connected with the printing or publication of said paper.
John Bennett."--When the war of 1812 broke out the Guardian came to an
end; its editor at first loyally bore arms on the Canadian side, but at
length deserted to the enemy, taking with him some of the Canadian
Militia. He was afterwards killed at the siege of Fort Erie.
The newspaper which occupies the largest space in the early annals of
the press at York is the Colonial Advocate. Issuing first at Queenston
in May, 1824, it was removed in the following November to York. Its
shape varied from time to time: now it was a folio: now a quarto. On all
its pages the matter was densely packed; but printed in a very mixed
manner: it abounded with sentences in italics, in small capitals, in
large capitals; with names distinguished in like decided manner: with
paragraphs made conspicuous by rows of index hands, and other
typographical symbols at top, bottom and sides. It was editorial, not in
any one particular column, but throughout; and the opinions delivered
were expressed for the most part in the first person.
The Weekly Register fell foul of the Advocate at once. It appears
that the new audacious nondescript periodical, though at the time it
bore on its face the name of Queenston, was nevertheless for convenience
sake printed at Lewiston on the New York side of the river. Hence it was
denounced by the Weekly Register in language that now astonishes us,
as a United States production; and as in the United States interest.
"This paper of motley, unconnected, shake-bag periods" cried the Editor
of the Weekly Register, "this unblushing, brazen-faced Advocate,
affects to be a Queenston and Upper Canadian paper; whereas it is to all
intents and purposes, and radically, a Lewiston and genu-wine Yankee
paper. How can this man of truth, this pure and holy reformer and
regenerator of the unhappy and prostrate Canada reconcile such barefaced
and impudent deception?"
Nothing could more promote the success of the Colonial Advocate than a
welcome like this. To account for the Register's extraordinary warmth,
it is to be said that the Advocate in its first number had happened to
quote a passage from an address of its Editor to the electors of the
County of Durham, which seemed in some degree to compromise him as a
servant of the Government. Mr. Fothergill had ventured to say "I know
some of the deep and latent causes why this fine country has so long
languished in a state of comparative stupor and inactivity, while our
more enterprising neighbours are laughing us to scorn. All I desire is
an opportunity of attempting the cure of some of the evils we labour
under." This was interpreted in the Advocate to mean a censure upon
the Executive. But the Register replied that these words simply
expressed the belief that the evils complained of were remediable only
by the action of the House of Assembly, on the well-known axiom "that
all law is for the people, and from the people; and when efficient, must
be remedied or rectified by the people; and that therefore Mr.
Fothergill was desirous of assisting in the great work."
The end in fact was that the Editor of the Register, after his return
to parliament for the County of Durham, did not long retain the post of
King's Printer. After several independent votes in the House he was
dismissed by Sir Peregrine Maitland in 1826, after which date the
awkwardness of uniting with a Government Gazette a general newspaper
whose editor, as a member of the House of Assembly, might claim the
privilege of acting with His Majesty's opposition, came to an end. In
1826 we have Mr. Fothergill in his place in the House supporting a
motion for remuneration to the publisher of the Advocate, on the
ground that the wide and even gratuitous circulation of that paper
throughout Canada and among members of the British House of Commons,
"would help to draw attention in the proper quarter to the country."
Here is an account of McKenzie's method in the collection of matter for
his various publications, the curious multifariousness of which matter
used to astonish while it amused. The description is by Mr. Kent, editor
of a religious journal, entitled The Church, published at Cobourg in
1838. Lord Clarendon's style has been exactly caught, it will be
observed: "Possessed of a taste for general and discursive reading,"
says Mr. Kent, "he (McK.) made even his very pleasures contribute to the
serious business of his life, and, year after year, accumulated a mass
of materials, which he pressed into his service at some fitting
opportunity. Whenever anything transpired that at all reflected on a
political opponent, or whenever, in his reading, he met with a passage
that favoured his views, he not only turned it to a present purpose, but
laid it by, to bring it forward at some future period, long after it
might have been supposed to be buried in oblivion."
The Editor of the Advocate, after his flight from Canada in 1837,
published for a short time at New York a paper named McKenzie's
Gazette, which afterwards was removed to Rochester: its term of
existence there was also brief. In the number for June, 1839, we have
the following intelligence contributed by a correspondent at Toronto: a
certain animus in relation to the military in Canada, and in relation to
the existing Banks of the country, is apparent. "Toronto, May 24th: The
93rd Regiment is still in quarters here. The men 660 strong, all
Scotchmen, enlisted in the range of country from Aberdeen to Ayrshire: a
highland regiment without highlanders: few or none of Englishmen or
Irishmen among them. They are a fine-looking body of men: I never saw a
finer. I wished to go into the garrison, but was not permitted to do so.
Few of the townspeople have that privilege. ---- has made the fullest
enquiries, and tells me that a majority of the men would be glad to get
away if they could: they would willingly leave the service and the
country. He says they are well-informed, civil and well-behaved, and
that for such time as England may be compelled to retain possession of
the Canadas by military force, against the wishes of the settled
population he would like to have this regiment remain in Toronto. ----
tells me that a few soups have been kept at Queenston during the
winter, because if they desert it is no matter: the regulars are all at
Drummondville, near the Falls, and a couple of hundred blacks at
Chippewa watching them. The Ferry below the Falls is guarded by old men
whose term of service is nearly out, and who look for a pension. It is
the same at Malden, and in Lower Canada. The regiments Lord Durham
brought were fine fellows, the flower of the English army.
"The Banks here tax the people heavily, but they are so stupid they
don't see it. All the specie goes into the Banks. I am told that the
Upper Canada Bank had at one time L300,000 in England in Commissariat
bills of Exchange: their notes in circulation are a million and a
quarter of paper dollars, for all of which they draw interest from the
people, although not obliged to keep six cents in their money-till to
redeem them. All the troops were paid in the depreciated paper of these
fraudulent bankrupt concerns, the directors of which deserve the
Penitentiary: the contracts of the Commissariat are paid in the same
paper as a 10 per cent. shave: and the troops up at Brantford were also
paid in Bank notes which the Bank did not pretend to redeem; and it
would have offended Sir George [Arthur], who has a share in such
speculations (as he had when in VanDieman's Land), had any one asked the
dollars. Sir Allan McNab, who has risen from poverty to be president de
facto, solicitor, directors and company of the Gore Bank, ever since
its creation, is said to be terribly embarrassed for want of money. He
is not the alpha and omega of the Bank now. He has quarrelled with his
brother villains. The money paid to Canada from England to uphold troops
to coerce the people helps the Banks."
In the same number of the Gazette published at Rochester we have an
extract from a production by Robert Gourlay himself, who in his old age
paid a final visit of inspection to Canada. In allusion to a portion of
Gourlay's famous work published in 1822, the extract is headed in
McKenzie's Gazette "Robert Gourlay's 'Last Sketch' of Upper Canada."
It is dated at Toronto, May 25th. Having just presented one gloomy view,
we will venture to lower the reader's spirits a particle more, by giving
another. Let allowance be made for the morbid mental condition of the
writer: the contrast offered by the Canada of to-day will afterwards
"What did Upper Canada gain," Gourlay asks, "by my banishment; and what
good is now to be seen in it? Cast an eye over the length and breadth of
the land" he cries, "from Malden to Point Fortune, and from the Falls to
Lake Simcoe: then say if a single public work is creditable, or a single
institution as it should be. The Rideau Canal!--what is it but a
monument of England's folly and waste; which can never return a farthing
of interest; or for a single day stay the conquest of the province. The
Welland Canal!--Has it not been from beginning till now a mere struggle
of misery and mismanagement; and from now onward, promising to become a
putrid ditch. The only railway, of ten miles; with half completed; and
half which cannot be completed for want of funds! The macadamised roads,
all in mud; only causing an increase of wear and tear. The province
deeply in debt; confidence uprooted; and banks beleaguered!
"Schools and Colleges, what are they?--Few yet painted, though
lectures on natural philosophy are now abundant. The Cobourg seminary
outstaring all that is sanctimonious: so airy and lank that learning
cannot take root in it. A college at Sandwich built before the war, but
now a pig stye; and one at Toronto indicated only by an approach. The
edifices of the Church!--how few worthy of the Divine presence--how many
unfinished--how many fallen to decay. The Church itself, wholly
militant: Episcopalians maintaining what can never be established;
Presbyterians more sour than ever, contending for rights where they have
none whatever: Methodists so disunited that they cannot even join in a
respectable groan; and Catholic priests wandering about in poverty
because their scattered and starving flocks yield not sufficient wool
for the shears. One institution only have I seen praiseworthy and
progressing--The Penitentiary; but that is a concentrated essence,
seeing the whole province is one: and which of you, resident
land-holders, having sense or regard for your family would remain in it
a day, could you sell your property and be off?"
Some popular Almanacs of a remarkable character also emanated from
McKenzie's press. Whilst in the United States he put forth the Caroline
Almanac, a designation intended to keep alive the memory of the cutting
out of the Caroline steamer from Fort Schlosser in 1837, and her
precipitation over the Falls of Niagara, an act sought to be held up as
a great outrage on the part of the Canadian authorities. In the Canadian
Almanacs, published by him, intended for circulation especially among
the country population, the object kept in view was the same as that so
industriously aimed at by the Advocate itself, viz., the exposure of
the shortcomings and vices of the government of the day. At the same
time a large amount of practically useful matter and information was
The earlier almanac was entitled "Poor Richard, or the Yorkshire
Almanac," and the compiler professed to be one "Patrick Swift, late of
Belfast, in the Kingdom of Ireland, Esq., F.R.I., Grand-nephew of the
celebrated Doctor Jonathan Swift, Dean of St. Patrick's, Dublin, etc.,
etc., etc." This same personage was a contributor also of many pungent
and humorous things in prose and verse in the columns of the Advocate
itself. In 1834 the Almanac assumed the following title: "A new Almanac
for the Canadian True Blues; with which is incorporated The
Constitutional Reformer's Text Book, for the Millenial and Prophetic
Year of the Grand General Election for Upper Canada, and total and
everlasting Downfall of Toryism in the British Empire, 1834." It was
still supposed to be edited by Patrick Swift, Esq., who is now dubbed
M.P.P., and Professor of Astrology, York.
In the extract given above from what was styled Gourlay's "Last Sketch"
of Upper Canada, the query and rejoinder, "Schools and Colleges, where
are they? Few yet painted, though lectures on Natural Philosophy are
now abundant"--will not be understood, without remark. The allusion is
to an advertisement in the Upper Canada Gazette of Feb. 5, 1818, which
Gourlay at the time of its appearance thought proper to animadvert upon
and satirize in the Niagara Spectator. It ran as follows: "Natural
Philosophy.--The subscriber intends to deliver a course of Popular
Lectures on Natural Philosophy, to commence on Tuesday, the 17th inst.,
at 7 o'clock p.m., should a number of auditors come forward to form a
class. Tickets of admission for the Course (price Two Guineas) may be
had of William Allan, Esq., Dr. Horne, or at the School House. The
surplus, if any, after defraying the current expenses, to be laid out in
painting the District School. John Strachan, York, 3rd Feb., 1818."
As was to be expected, Dr. Strachan was a standing subject of invective
in all the publications of Gourlay, as well as subsequently in all those
of McKenzie. Collins, Editor of the Freeman, became, as we have seen,
reticent in relation to him; but, more or less, a fusilade was
maintained upon him in McKenzie's periodicals, as long as they issued.
In McKenzie's opposition to Dr. Strachan there was possibly a certain
degree of national animus springing from the contemplation of a Scottish
compatriot who, after rising to position in the young colony, was
disposed, from temperament, to bear himself cavalierly towards all who
did not agree with him in opinion. In addition, we have been told that
at an early period in an interview between the two parties, Dr. Strachan
once chanced to express himself with considerable heat to McKenzie, and
proceeded to the length of showing him the door. The latter had called,
as our information runs, to deprecate prejudice in regard to a
brother-in-law of his, Mr. Baxter, who was a candidate for some post
under the Educational Board, of which Dr. S. was chairman; when great
offence was taken at the idea being for a moment entertained that a
personal motive would in the slightest degree bias him when in the
execution of public duty.
At a late period in the history of both the now memorable
Scoto-Canadians, we happened ourselves to be present at a scene in the
course of which the two were brought curiously face to face with each
other, once more, for a few moments. It will be remembered that after
the subsidence of the political troubles and the union of Upper and
Lower Canada, McKenzie came back and was returned member of Parliament
for Haldimand. While he was in the occupancy of this post, it came to
pass that Dr. Strachan, now Bishop of Toronto, had occasion to present a
petition to the united House on the subject of the Clergy Reserves. To
give greater weight and solemnity to the act he decided to attend in
person at the bar of the House, at the head of his clergy, all in
canonicals. McKenzie seeing the procession approaching, hurried into the
House and took his seat; and contrived at the moment the Bishop and his
retinue reached the bar to have possession of the floor. Affecting to
put a question to the Speaker, before the Order of the Day was proceeded
with, he launched out with great volubility and in excited strain on the
interruptions to which the House was exposed in its deliberations; he
then quickly came round to an attack in particular on prelates and
clergy for their meddling and turbulence, infesting, as he averred, the
lobbies of the Legislature when they should be employed on higher
matters, filling with tumultuous mobs the halls and passages of the
House, thronging (with an indignant glance in that direction) the very
space below the bar set apart for the accommodation of peaceably
The House had only just assembled, and had not had time to settle down
into perfect quiet: members were still dropping in, and it was a mystery
to many, for a time, what could, at such an early stage of the day's
proceedings, have excited the ire of the member for Haldimand. The
courteous speaker, Mr. Sicotte, was plainly taken aback at the sudden
outburst of patriotic fervour; and, not being as familiar with the Upper
Canadian past as many old Upper Canadians present were, he could not
enter into the pleasantry of the thing; for, after all, it was
humourously and not maliciously intended; the orator in possession of
the floor had his old antagonist at a momentary disadvantage, and he
chose to compel him while standing there conspicuously at the bar to
listen for a while to a stream of Colonial Advocate in the purest
After speaking against time, with an immense show of heat for a
considerable while--a thing at which he was an adept--the scene was
brought to a close by a general hubbub of impatience at the outrageous
irrelevancy of the harangue, arising throughout the House, and obliging
the orator to take his seat. The petition of the Bishop was then in due
form received, and he, with his numerous retinue of robed clergy,
We now proceed with our memoranda of the early press. When Fothergill
was deprived of his office of King's Printer in 1825, he published for a
time a quarto paper of his own, entitled the Palladium, composed of
scientific, literary and general matter. Mr. Robert Stanton, King's
Printer after Fothergill, issued on his own account for a few years, a
newspaper called The U. E. Loyalist, the name, as we have seen, borne
by the portion of the Gazette devoted to general intelligence while
Mr. Stanton was King's Printer. The U. E. Loyalist was a quarto sheet,
well printed, with an engraved ornamental heading resembling that which
surmounted the New York Albion. The Loyalist was conservative, as
also was a local contemporary after 1831, the Courier, edited and
printed by Mr. George Gurnett, subsequently Clerk of the Peace, and
Police Magistrate for the City of Toronto. The Christian Guardian, a
local religious paper which still survives, began in 1828. The Patriot
appeared at York in 1833: it had previously been issued at Kingston; its
whole title was "The Patriot and Farmer's Monitor," with the motto,
"Common Sense," below. It was of the folio form, and its Editor, Mr.
Thos. Dalton, was a writer of much force, liveliness and originality.
The Loyalist, Courier and Patriot were antagonists politically of
the Advocate while the latter flourished; but all three laboured under
the disadvantage of fighting on the side whose star was everywhere on
Notwithstanding its conservatism, however, it was in the Courier that
the memorable revolutionary sentiments appeared, so frequently quoted
afterwards in the Advocate publications: "the minds of the
well-affected begin to be unhinged; they already begin to cast about in
their mind's eye for some new state of political existence, which shall
effectually put the colony without the pale of British connection;"
words written under the irritation occasioned by the dismissal of the
Attorney and Solicitor-General for Upper Canada in 1833.
For a short time prior to 1837, McKenzie's paper assumed the name of
The Constitution. A faithful portrait of McKenzie will be seen at the
beginning of the first volume of his "Life and Times," by Mr. Charles
Lindsey, a work which will be carefully and profitably studied by future
investigators in the field of Upper Canadian history. Excellent
portraits of Mr. Gurnett and of Mr. Dalton are likewise extant in
Soon after 1838, the Examiner newspaper acquired great influence at
York. It was established and edited by Mr. Hincks. Mr. Hincks had
emigrated to Canada with the intention of engaging in commerce; and in
Walton's York Directory, 1833-34, we read for No. 21, west side of
Yonge Street, "Hincks, Francis, Wholesale Warehouse." But Mr. Hincks'
attention was drawn to the political condition of Canada, especially to
its Finance. The accident of living in immediate proximity to a family
that had already for a number of years been taking a warm and active
interest in public affairs, may have contributed to this. In the
Directory, just named, the Number after 21 on the west side of Yonge
Street, is 23, and the occupants are "Baldwin, Doctor W. Warren;
Baldwin, Robert, Esq., Attorney, &c., Baldwin and Sullivan's Attorney's
Office, and Dr. Baldwin's Surrogate Office round the corner, in King
Street, 1951/2." It was not unnatural that the next door neighbour of Dr.
Baldwin's family, their tenant, moreover, and attached friend, should
catch a degree of inspiration from them. The subsequent remarkable
career of Mr. Hincks, afterwards so widely known as Sir Francis Hincks,
has become a part of the general history of the country.
About the period of the Union of Upper and Lower Canada, a local
tri-weekly named The Morning Star and Transcript was printed and
published by Mr. W. J. Coates, who also issued occasionally, at a later
date, the Canadian Punch, containing clever political cartoons in the
style of the London Punch.
We have spoken once, we believe, of the Canadian Freeman's motto,
"Est natura hominum novitatis avida;" and of the Patriot's, just
above, "Common Sense." Fothergill's "Weekly Register" was headed by
a brief cento from Shakespeare: "Our endeavour will be to stamp the very
body of the time--its form and pressure--: we shall extenuate nothing,
nor shall we set down aught in malice."
Other early Canadian newspaper mottoes which pleased the boyish fancy
years ago, and which may still be pleasantly read on the face of the
same long-lived and yet flourishing publications, were the "Mores et
studia et populos et praelia dicam," of the Quebec Mercury, and the
"Animos novitate tenebo" of the Montreal Herald. The Mercury and
Herald likewise retain to this day their respective early devices: the
former, Hermes, all proper, as the Heralds would say, descending from
the sky, with the motto from Virgil, Mores et studia et populos et
praelia dicam: the latter the Genius of Fame, bearing in one hand the
British crown, and sounding as she speeds through the air her trump,
from which issues the above-cited motto. Over the editorial column the
device is repeated, with the difference that the floating Genius here
adds the authority for her quotation--Ovid, a la Dr. Pangloss.
Underneath the floating figure are many minute roses and shamrocks; but
towering up to the right and left with a significant predominance, for
the special gratification of Montrealers of the olden time, the thistle
Besides these primitive mottoes and emblematic headings, the Mercury
and Herald likewise retain, each of them, to this day a certain
pleasant individuality of aspect in regard to type, form and
arrangement, by which they are each instantly to be recognized. This
adherence of periodicals to their original physiognomy is very
interesting, and in fact advantageous, inspiring in readers a certain
tenderness of regard. Does not the cover of Blackwood, for example,
even the poor United States copy of it, sometimes awaken in the chaos of
a public reading-room table, a sense of affection, like a friend seen in
the midst of a promiscuous crowd? The English Reviews too, as circulated
among us from the United States, are conveniently recognized by their
respective colours, although the English form of each has been, for
cheapness' sake, departed from. The Montreal Gazette likewise
survives, preserving its ancient look in many respects, and its high
character for dignity of style and ability.
In glancing back at the supply of intelligence and literature provided
at an early day for the Canadian community, it repeatedly occurs to us
to name, as we have done, the Albion newspaper of New York. From this
journal it was that almost every one in our Upper Canadian York who had
the least taste for reading, derived the principal portion of his or her
acquaintance with the outside world of letters, as well as the minuter
details of prominent political events. As its name implies, the Albion
was intended to meet the requirements of a large number of persons of
English birth and of English descent, whose lot is cast on this
continent, but who nevertheless cannot discharge from their hearts their
natural love for England, their natural pride in her unequalled
civilization. "Caelum non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt," was
its gracefully-chosen and appropriate motto.
Half a century ago, the boon of a judicious literary journal like the
Albion was to dwellers in Canada a very precious one. The Quarterlies
were not then reprinted as now; nor were periodicals like the
Philadelphia Eclectic or the Boston Living Age readily procurable.
Without the weekly visit of the Albion, months upon months would have
passed without any adequate knowledge being enjoyed of the current
products of the literary world. For the sake of its extracted reviews,
tales and poetry the New York Albion was in some cases, as we well
remember, loaned about to friends and read like a much sought after book
in a modern circulating library. And happily its contents were always
sterling, and worth the perusal. It was a part of our own boyish
experience to become acquainted for the first time with a portion of
Keble's Christian Year, in the columns of that paper.
The Albion was founded in 1822 by Dr. John Charlton Fisher, who
afterwards became a distinguished Editor at Quebec. To him Dr. Bartlett
succeeded. The New York Albion still flourishes under Mr. Cornwallis,
retaining its high character for the superior excellence of its matter,
retaining also many traits of its ancient outward aspect, in the style
of its type, in the distribution of its matter. It has also retained its
old motto. Its familiar vignette heading of oak branches round the
English rose, the thistle of Scotland, and the shamrock, has been
thinned out, and otherwise slightly modified; but it remains a fine
artistic composition, well executed.
There was another journal from New York much esteemed at York for the
real respectability of its character, the New York Spectator. It was
read for the sake of its commercial and general information, rather
than for its literary news. To the minds of the young the Greek
revolution had a singular fascination. We remember once entertaining the
audacious idea of constructing a history of the struggle in Greece, of
which the authorities would, in great measure, have been copious
cuttings from the New York Spectator columns. One advantage of the
embryo design certainly was a familiarity acquired with the map of
Hellas within and without the Peloponnesus. Navarino, Modon, Coron,
Tripolitza, Mistra, Missolonghi, with the incidents that had made each
temporarily famous, were rendered as familiar to the mind's eye as
Sparta, Athens, Thebes, Thermopylae, and the events connected with each
respectively, of an era two thousand years previously, afterwards from
other circumstances became. Colocotroni, Mavrocordato, Miaulis,
Bozzaris, were heroes to the imagination as fully as Miltiades,
Alcibiades, Pericles, and Nicias, afterwards became.
Partly in consequence of the eagerness with which the columns of the
New York Spectator used to be ransacked with a view to the composition
of the proposed historical work, we remember the peculiar interest with
which we regarded the editor of that periodical at a later period, on
falling in with him, casually, at the Falls of Niagara. Mr. Hall was
then well advanced in years; and from a very brief interview, the
impression received was, that he was the beau ideal of a veteran editor
of the highest type; for a man, almost omniscient; unslumberingly
observant; sympathetic, in some way, with every passing occurrence and
every remark; tenacious of the past; grasping the present on all sides,
with readiness, genial interest and completeness. In aspect, and even to
some extent in costume, Mr. Hall might have been taken for an English
bishop of the early part of the Victorian era.
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