Montreal Gazette, 20 May 1816
Montreal Gazette, 10 June 1816
… The weather still continues, with very little variation, extremely cold and unpropitious, and the season of fruits and flowers has been retarded in this province to a later period than remembered by the oldest inhabitant. We had a little snow on Saturday, yesterday the weather was more mild, and the sun had the influence it usually had in this country in the beginning of May, but it was very cold during the night and the sensations of this morning are those of the early part of April in former years. Serious apprehensions are naturally to be formed of our ensuing crop.
Montreal Gazette, 22 July 1816
… We are happy to see …a proclamation by the Governor in Chief, permitting the importation of grain, flour, &c. from the United States, into this Province, by sea navigation – this measure, together with the approaching harvest (of which the present prospects are flattering) will soon relieve the country at large from the distress it now experiences from the scarcity of bread.
Montreal Gazette, 30 December 1816
… To-day it freezes very hard, but during the last week the weather was uncommonly mild, so that almost all the snow disappeared, and people were again obliged to make use of their wheeled carriage.
Montreal Gazette, 27 January 1817
… DISTRESS OF THE LOWER CLASS OF THE PEOPLE. It has been ascertained by the Gentlemen of the first respectability who have taken much pains to inquire, that there are not less than 1500 persons in the suburbs of this city reduced to actual distress from want of the necessaries of life. It is unnecessary to observe, that these are Bread and Fuel, both of which are at a price beyond the reach of hundreds of families, whose delicacy forbids them making known their urgent wants. … To alleviate those dreadful sufferings, we rejoice to state, that J.P. LEPROHON and HENRY MCKENZIE, Esquires, are about collecting voluntary subscriptions.
Montreal, 31 January 1817 in Montreal Gazette, 3 February 1817
A une Assemblée des Citoyens de la Ville et des faubourgs de Montréal, qui a eu lien à la maison de Justice, Jeudi le 30 du Courant, pour adopter quelques moyens de donner des secours au grand nombre de Pauvres qui, dans cette saison rigoureuse, sont répandus dans l’étendue de cette cité, — il a été nommé un Comité pour faire une collection a cette intention, et pour en distribuer le produit.
Le public est en conséquence informe qu’il a été choisi plusiers personnes tant de la ville que des Faubourgs, pous percevoir l’argent, les comestibles, le bois de chauffage ou les vêtements don’t on vourdra bien indistinctement faire chairité.
~J.P. Leprohon, Secretaire du Comité,
Montreal Gazette, 3 February 1817
… There is a writer in the last Canadian Courant, signed “A FRIEND TO THE POOR” who says he is willing to contribute his mite for the relief of the poor, but is of opinion that the indigent ought to do something for themselves, and not to be maintained in idleness. He mentions a plan which he is ready to submit to inspection, by which the poor who are in a state of work, can earn, if not the whole, at least a part of their subsistence. If such a plan should be found eligible, it would save a good deal of money to the public, and might be the means of inuring the Canadian youth, at least the needy part of them, to labour and industry; who are, it must be owned, too much addicted to idleness, and would at any time rather beg than work.
The laboring class, who receive ample wages during summer, ought to reserve a part of their earnings for winter, instead of which the greater part of them spend every penny as soon as received, and thus allow themselves to be surprised by that inclement season without having made any provision whatsoever.
“Provincial Parliament of Lower Canada, Distresses of the Inhabitants,” 5 February 1817 in Montreal Gazette, 24 February 1817
Mr. Taschereau made a report from a special committee relative to the distresses of the inhabitants of the greater part of the district of Quebec on account of the failure of the last harvest: this report was taken into consideration by a committee of the whole House, a very lengthy debate ensued, which did not end till near midnight. Several propositions were brought forward to relieve the distress of the farmers, in the district of Quebec.
Mr. Turgeon was of opinion that there should be a gift of fifteen thousand pounds for the purchase of seed wheat.
Mr. Sherwood argued strenuously against the principle of any gift whatever: it could not be applied without manifest injustice to the other parts of the Province; it was a mistaken idea to suppose that we could, consistent with sound policy, make eleemosynary donations from the provincial treasury. …There were poor to be found in every village and town throughout the Province: the poor at this moment suffered as much at Montreal for want of wood, as the poor in the district of Quebec for want of bread; he could see no great difference between starving with hunger, or starving with cold; …. It was strange that some members in the House should put those respectable people upon a footing of common beggars; he was sure that the yeomanry and farmers of the district of Quebec would disdain such a thing. The proper way to relieve them was by a loan which should be extended to their wants … and be made payable in one or two years without interest…. [T]he Canadians use more wheat than any other people, because they use no other kind of bread: allowing half a bushel of wheat for the consumption of each person every month, and allowing five hundred thousand bushels for seed wheat, it would be found that the annual consumption was equal to three million of bushels. Mr. S. was well convinced that there was nothing like that quantity in the whole Colony: he would undertake to prove it to a demonstration hereafter: we had little to expect it from abroad. Upper Canada could spare nothing. Wheat never came from the U.States, and flour was excluded: this could not be remedied at present, because the ministry in England had unfortunately been induced to confirm Sir Gordon Drummond’s Proclamation, which completely prevented the Legislature of this Province from passing a law to regulate the trade with the U.States. …
Mr. Taschereau …entered into a detail of the view of the special committee from which he had made the present report. First to cover the money advanced to the distressed Parishes, by His Excellency the Governor in Chief, amounting to fourteen thousand pounds; secondly to apply 55 thousand pounds as a loan to the farmers for bread and seed wheat; thirdly to lay an embargo till next harvest; and lastly to present an humble Address to His Excellency to open the Port of Quebec for importation of provisions from the U.States by sea, as soon as the navigation would permit….
Mr. Speaker [Taché] differed entirely with Mr. Taschereau and Mr. Sherwood in opinion; he considered that there was no necessity for a loan or any other pecuniary aid; and embargo alone was sufficient; and would be a sacrifice to the district of Montreal of more than one hundred thousand pounds. …. Public alms appear to me in a moral and political point of view as the most grievous burdens that can press upon a nation; they engender a multitude of hirelings abandoned to vice and idleness…. [I]t is the duty of the Legislature and of every honest man, to combat unceasingly against that inclination, too natural in all mankind, to give way to indolence. The greater part would prefer earning their bread by twelve hours sleep, than by twelve hours of labour. …The committee report that 29 Parishes of this District are in the most alarming state of distress, and the conclusion is that we must give them assistance. …The wheat must be purchased by the Commissioners, these Commissioners must have interested Agents and Sub-Agents – Are you determined to put into their hands £55,000 for the purpose of purchasing grain? – mark the consequences – every man who has a quantity of grain to dispose of will set no bounds to his cupidity: … …I have seen similar instances of distress with which the Legislature did not deem it prudent to interfere. Almost the whole of that part of the district of Montreal on the North of the River from York to the Upper Canada Division line, with a population double that of the Parishes now in distress have experienced similar failures of their harvests by frost. The inhabitants to save a miserable existence, were reduced to live on the juices of boiled herbage, and to dry the roots of rushes with which they prepared a sort of flour which they afterwards made into bread – the bread of grief and bitterness – they however never sought Parliamentary aid, ….
Mr. Viger rose… It was a remarkable truth in history that it was in times of national degradation that such had been frequent, that in fact nothing can be more dangerous than to let the people believe that they can dispense with that industry upon which they rely for subsistence. …That since the distributions of alms in the Cities of this Province the poor had increased to a prodigious extent, and that if he were well informed (and he said his authority was highly respectable) many of the Beggars were no longer content with begging, but that demanding and insisting upon alms as a debt justly due to them, was now the system of the times….
Wednesday, 12. – …The resolution of the committee of the whole House relating to the distress of the county parishes, were reported and agreed to. They are to the following effect: That the sum of £14,216 currency, be appropriated to make good the like sum advance by His Excellency for the relief of sundry parishes in distress.
That a sum not exceeding £15,500 be appropriated by way of loan, for further relief of the said parishes.
That a sum not exceeding £40,000 be appropriated for the purchase of seed wheat and other grain, to be advanced by way of a loan, to such industrious farmers as are in distress by the failure of the last harvest. That an embargo be laid on all wheat, flour, biscuit, and every other grain, to prevent the exportation of such wheat and flour as may be imported into the Province; and that an humble address be presented to His Excellency, paying he will be pleased to open the ports for the admission of Indian corn, peas, oats, and other seeds. …
Three Rivers, 6 February 1817 in Montreal Gazette, 17 February 1817
A letter from a gentleman in Three Rivers gives the following account of an extraordinary emigration from a fertile, and hitherto flourishing part of the Province. The cause thereof is not mentioned:
“Upwards of eighty families have gone from the townships situated on the St. Francois, in the district of Three Rivers within the last month, and others are following. Their course is for the State of Pennsylvania, and Upper Canada. This will prove a serious loss to this Province. That fine settlement will be destitute of inhabitants another year.”
Montreal Gazette, 3 March 1817
Mr. Viger proceeded to observe that such were the effects produced throughout the country, and that the prospects held out to the indigent farmers could not but palsy their industry. … [M]embers from the Districts of Montreal and Three-Rivers will distinctly recollect that for several years the parishes in those districts were alternately afflicted by the failure of harvests … He could even quote parishes where the harvest had successively failed for five years. …No one at that time ever thought of asking the Legislature for the public money for the relief of the farmers. …
Mr. Taschereau said that nothing less than the most urgent necessity could have induced him to propose the intended succour…. It was notorious that a famine, already predominated in several parts of the district of Quebec, a fact which had been established upon no less respectable authority than the report of his Lordship the Catholic Bishop of the Diocese…. It has been observed that the measure proposed would create an Host of Beggars, my own opinion is directly the inverse and is that without some such aid, you will infallibly reduce a considerable number of respectable farmers to the wretched alternative of begging, to avoid inevitable famine a habit which if once resorted to, will not be easily shaken off….
…The measure was carried by a considerable majority in the affirmative.