Amedee Forstier, The Signing of the Treaty of Ghent, Christmas Eve, 1814 [John Quincy Adams (5th from left), Albert Gallatin (6th from left), and Henry Clay (10th from left, seated)].
Wednesday marks the bicentenary of the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, the agreement that ended the War of 1812, the last open conflict between the US and Great Britain. The war was fought between the two countries over north Atlantic trading rights and territory in the North American interior. In celebration of this anniversary, this blog entry will examine the peace negotiations of 1813-1814 through the eyes of 17-year-old James Gallatin, the son of the chief American delegate during the negotiations and serving Secretary of the Treasury, Albert Gallatin. James accompanied his father to Europe and recorded the day-to-day challenges faced by the Americans in their dealing with the British and, perhaps more interestingly, in their attempts to arrive at a consensus strategy among themselves. James Gallatin’s diary reveals the human side of nineteenth-century diplomacy as a process of negotiation, not only between delegations representing rival nations, but also within each peace commission, where clashing egos among friends sometimes threatened to derail talks.
The Madison Administration sent several key members of the government to negotiate the end of the war alongside Albert Gallatin, including John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), James A. Bayard (1767-1815), Jonathan Russell (1771-1832) and Henry Clay (1777-1852). Adams, the future president of the US, was then serving as the US envoy to the Russian court. Bayard was a prominent Federalist senator from Delaware and Russell was the US envoy to Sweden. Finally, Henry clay was the Speaker of the House of Representatives and would later become Secretary of State during the Adams Administration.
The American delegation was beset with problems from the beginning, many of which were of their own making. The three men fought among themselves and with their British counterparts throughout the peace talks. James Gallatin recorded the first meeting between his father and John Quincy Adams in St. Petersburg during the unsuccessful Russian-backed peace talks of October 2013. The two men had different thoughts about how to best advance the American position. James remembered: ‘After a stormy interview with Mr. Adams (Adams was the storm) father has decided to take his own course’ (12). To his frustration Albert Gallatin found himself marginalized by two of his compatriots. He, for example, wanted the negotiations to take place in London, thereby allowing the Americans direct contact with the British Foreign Minister, Lord Castlereagh. In this he was overruled by Clay and Adams who refused the suggestion ‘point blank’ arguing that, unlike Gallatin, they were ‘plain Americans and that in England they would only be treated as colonists.’ Geneva-born Gallatin did not understand their position. ‘You are a foreigner,’ they told him ‘which places you on an entirely different footing’ (21). From this moment onward the US delegation descended into regular bouts of in-fighting. Clay and Adams did not get along and often disagreed over how the negotiations should proceed. To make matters worse the Americans arrived in Ghent a month before their British counterpoints, leaving plenty of time for competing egos to clash and resentment to fester. James recorded these episodes in his diary. On 15 July he wrote: ‘Nothing to do. Mr. Adams in a very bad temper. Mr. Clay annoys him. Father pours oil on the troubled waters’ (27).
The situation worsened after the British delegation arrived in August. As Gallatin had feared when he objected to Ghent as the location for negotiations, the British, who had always viewed the American war as a sideshow in the larger conflict with France, sent relatively low level representation to Low Countries. Soon after their arrival Lord Gambier (1756-1833), an Admiral of the Fleet, and Henry Goulburn (1784-1856), Undersecretary of State for War and the Colonies, presented the Americans with a set of demands that they could not possibly accept. The British position regarding the North-Western Territory was utterly unreasonable from the American perspective. It required that the sovereignty of the region – which would eventually encompass the states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois along with portions Indiana and Ohio – be returned to Native American control under the Guarantee of the British Crown. This would require the evacuation and repatriation of thousands of US citizens. A few days after this initial meeting, James recorded the despondency and frustration of the US delegation in his diary. ‘Father finds greater difficulty with his own colleagues’ he wrote ‘Clay uses strong language to Adams, and Adams returns the compliment’ (28). Gallatin clearly feared that both Clay and Adams could undermine the negotiations by making brash demands or by venting their tempers in the presence of the British. By late October the Americans began developing a treaty proposal among themselves. James’s diary reveals that this was, like everything else to that point, a tortured and exasperating process. ‘It is a most difficult task’ he claimed ‘both Mr. Adams and Mr. Clay object to everything except what they suggest themselves’ (32).
By November it appeared that negotiations were on the verge of collapse. At this point of despair for the Americans, Gallatin received a confidential letter from the Duke of Wellington, a man close to both the British Prime Minister and Lord Castlereagh. In it he reassured Gallatin that peace was attainable despite mistakes made on both sides. He informed Gallatin that the British ministry held him in high regard. The Foreign minister identified Gallatin as the senior member of the American delegation. ‘As I gather’, Wellington wrote:
Mr. Madison as well as Mr. Monroe [Secretary of State and future President] gave you full power to act, without even consulting your colleagues on points you considered of importance. I now feel that peace is shortly in view. Mr. Goulburn has made grave errors and Lord Castlereagh has read him a sharp lesson (34).
Two weeks later Gallatin received another letter from Wellington again stressing the Ministry’s faith in him: ‘I hear on all sides that your moderation and sense of justice, together with you good common sense, places you above all other delegates, not excepting ours.’ ‘I have always had the greatest admiration for the country of your birth,’ Wellington continued, ‘you are a foreigner with all the traditions of one fighting for the peace and welfare of the country of your adoption.’ Gallatin’s political opponents regularly questioned his suitability for office on the grounds that he was an immigrant and therefore harbored residual attachments to the land of his birth. He had been thrown out of Congress for this reason in 1793. James noted his father’s reaction to Wellington’s compliment: ‘Father, I think, was pleased. He is a foreigner and is proud of it’ (35).
Peace terms were agreed shortly after Gallatin received Wellington’s letters. Both sides agreed to the immediate cessation of hostilities and the establishment of the status quo antebellum. The treaty also stipulated that all border disputes be referred to territorial commissions (for Gallatin’s role in later border dispute see the blog). Having concluded the peace talks after several long months of stressful negotiation, the British and US representatives then sat together for Christmas dinner. This act initiated a period of peace and friendship between the US, Canada and the UK that holds to this day.
Continuing our series on the Albert Gallatin Collection in the IHR library, this post explores a few interesting items relating to the often fraught relationship between the US and Canada in the early nineteenth century. Throughout his later political career, Gallatin worked towards the peaceable resolution of the Northeastern Boundary Dispute (1783-1842) between the US and the British Canadian colonies. The first set of sources discussed here, a series of fourteen pamphlets and five maps collected by Gallatin, bear interesting provenance indicating that Gallatin relied upon a large international network of correspondents in order to flesh out his own position on the border question. The second source examined is interesting primarily for its provenance. It is a pamphlet on Canadian currency and the Bank of Upper Canada sent to Gallatin by the future first Mayor of Toronto and rebel leader William Lyon Mackenzie. All of these sources came to the IHR as the result of bequest in the 1930s by Sir Martin Conway. They likely passed into Conway’s possession through his father-in-law, the New York newspaper magnate Manton Marble. For a short time, a few of Gallatin’s books will be on display in the exhibition case in the newly refurbished Foyle Special Collections Room at the IHR.
Map in the Gallatin Collection depicting the proposed boundary between the US and Canada.
Albert Gallatin and the Northeastern Boundary Dispute
Gallatin first became interested in the dispute between the United States and British Canada over the Maine border shortly after his arrival in Boston during the closing years of the War for American Independence. Over the winter of 1780/81 he served in the garrison guarding the coastal Maine frontier town of Machias against a possible British Invasion from Nova Scotia. He later became directly involved in the negotiations over the boundary when he took office as the US Minister to Great Britain in 1826. He continued to conduct research on the subject when he returned to America in 1827. This research culminated in the publication of ‘A memoir of the north-eastern boundary’ (New York, 1843), a work commemorating the final establishment of a permanent border under the terms of the Webster-Ashburton Treaty.
Signature of Charles Stewart Daveis in the Gallatin Collection.
Two pamphlets in the collection bear provenance that suggest they once belonged to Gallatin. The inscription found on both of these works reads ‘[To the] Hon. Albert Gallatin with the respects of C. S. Daveis’. The man who presented these pamphlets to Gallatin, Charles Stewart Daveis (1788-1865), was a Bowdoin trained lawyer and a central figure in the development of the legal position of the United States during the boundary negotiations. Daveis served as an agent (1825-1827) for the proprietors of disputed lands in northern Maine before becoming a United States agent to the Netherlands in 1829. From the 1820s through the 1840s the state legislature published reports derived from Daveis’s research on northern land grants and settlement claims extending back to the reign of William and Mary in order to bolster American claims to land ownership. Daveis arrived in the Netherlands at a crucial moment in the on-going dispute over the international border. On the eve of the 5th federal census in 1830 the Maine Legislature sent representatives to the contested lands along the Saint John River in order to gauge popular support for Maine’s case and, perhaps more importantly, the size of the American communities in the north. The legislature hoped that residents in the disputed area might be counted in the census and that the state might therefore see increased representation in Congress. The authorities in Halifax responded by sending the New Brunswick militia to the region in order to disrupt public meetings organized by the Maine representatives. As a result of the ‘Crisis of 1830’ the US activated the clause of the treaty of Ghent (1815) that stipulated that a ‘neutral third party’ should arbitrate future border disputes between the US and the UK. Both countries agreed that King William I of the Netherlands would serve as the chosen arbitrator. Daveis, who had been sent to the Netherlands perhaps in anticipation of this development, was therefore well placed at the heart of the negotiations over the future of the border. William did not arbitrate in favour of either side’s position, instead suggesting in January 1831 that a line be drawn approximately halfway between the two proposed borders. Britain accepted the Dutch position while the US rejected it. The dispute therefore rumbled on for a further decade until the Webster-Ashburton Treaty (1842) finally established a permanent border.
One of the pamphlets in the collection reflects the Canadian perspective on the issue and indicates that Gallatin had access to a wide array of sources and viewpoints on the issue. The pamphlet, written by Ward Chipman (1787-1851), a prominent New Brunswick judge, and entitled Letters on the Boundary Line, first published in the City Gazette (Saint John [New Brunswick], 1828), bears the inscription ‘from Wm. F. Odell Esqr’ on its titlepage. William Franklin Odell (1774-1844) was a member of a prominent New Jersey loyalist family that had settled in New Brunswick following the War of American Independence. His father Jonathan Odell was a Church of England clergyman and poet who became a leading propagandist for the Crown in New York during the Revolution. William was named after his father’s patron, William Franklin, the last Royal governor of New Jersey and son of famed American intellectual and statesman Benjamin Franklin. Odell held a number of important offices in New Brunswick over the course of the forty-year dispute. In 1815 he was sworn in as a member of the colonial legislature and in 1833 became a member of the powerful five-man Executive Council. From 1818 until 1820 Odell led annual survey missions to the banks of the Saint John in the expectation that their findings would refute American claims to the region. His final report on the topography of the borderlands was dismissed by Washington because it ignored a hilly region (the Notre Dame Mountains) near the St. Lawrence that the Americans contended was the natural boundary between Canada and the United States. The existence of these highlands mattered as the American claim to the contested region was based upon the assertion that all land encompassing the headwaters of the St. John and its tributaries flowing into the Atlantic Ocean, rather than the St. Lawrence, constituted US territory.
Other sources on the Northeastern Boundary Dispute in the IHR Library
The IHR holds another pamphlet about the Northeastern Boundary dispute written from the British/Canadian perspective. The essay, written by Sir George Head and entitled ‘Remarks on the north-eastern boundary question’, was published in 1838 alongside a travel narrative recalling the author’s journey through the Canadas during the late 1820s.
In 1839 the British government sent George William Featherstonhaugh (1780-1866) to the Maine frontier in order to finally settle the border dispute. Both sides approved of Featherstonhaugh’s appointment to the post of commissioner. He had previously worked for the US government on a number of surveying missions. Indeed, Featherstonhaugh had spent the previous thirty years in the United States, during which time he had served as the US geologist tasked with exploring the Louisiana Purchase. The IHR holds a copy of Featherstonhaugh’s journals composed during his mission on the Maine/Canadian border.
William Lyon Mackenzie (1795-1861) was one of the most colourful figures in nineteenth-century Canadian history. Over the course of his heavily mythologized career he was a firebrand journalist, radical politician, rebel and exile. Throughout the mid-1820s he edited several reformist newspapers, including The Colonial Advocate, which became conduits for criticism of the Canadian Tory establishment. Mackenzie directed his most scathing printed attacks towards the small group of office holders derisively labelled the ‘Family Compact’. His publishing activities earned him the ire of the Compact’s supporters who in 1826, in what is known as the ‘Types Riot’, attacked the offices of the Advocate, destroyed Mackenzie’s presses and threw his type into Lake Ontario. Mackenzie was able to capitalise upon this event through the publicity generated by the trial that followed and in 1827 he was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada. He served in the legislature until 1834 before becoming the first mayor of the newly incorporated city of Toronto.
William Lyon Mackenzie, image courtesy of Wikimedia.
Mackenzie is perhaps best remembered for leading the failed Upper Canada Rebellion (1837-38), in which a hastily organized group of American settlers and reform supporters attempted to establish an independent Canadian Republic. Mackenzie and his supporters hope to take advantage of the fact that the British Army regiments stationed locally had been called away to supress another rising in Quebec – the Lower Canada Rebellion led by Louis-Joseph Papineau. In December 1837, the rebel force was repulsed on the outskirts of Toronto during the battle of Montogmery’s Tavern. Afterwards, Mackenzie and other prominent rebels fled to Navy Island on the Niagara River. There Mackenzie declared himself the head of the provisional government of the Republic of Canada. The Republic was short lived and the arrival of the Royal Navy on 14 of January 1838 scattered the remaining rebels and forced Mackenzie into exile in the United States. Mackenzie landed on his feet in the US where he worked as newspaper correspondent for the next eleven years. In 1849 he was invited back to his home country as part of an amnesty agreement that followed the electoral victory of the Reformers in the 1848 legislative election. Remarkably, Mackenzie successfully transitioned back into a political career shortly after his homecoming. Between 1851 and 1858 he served as a member of the provincial parliament where he continued to pursue his quest for constitutional reform. In the last years of his life he advocated the annexation of Canada by the United States. Mackenzie died in Toronto on 26 August 1861 at the age of 66. It would seem, however, that neither sedition nor death could keep Mackenzie out of Canadian politics. He was resurrected in a popular satirical twitter feed during the 2010 Toronto mayoral election in which he bemoaned the rise of the controversial current mayor of Toronto.
The IHR Library has recently uncovered an item in our collections that bears provenance linking it to both William Lyon Mackenzie and Albert Gallatin. The item in question is a select committee report on the currency of Upper Canada published by the legislature in 1830. Mackenzie was then serving his first term in the legislature and had chaired the committee that produced this pamphlet. Mackenzie distrusted the Bank of Upper Canada, viewing it as a monopoly overseen by British office holders. Mackenzie favoured introducing hard specie in the colony and had organized the committee to investigate the feasibility of doing so. Albert Gallatin had by 1830 reversed his opposition to a national bank in the US and was instrumental in the founding of the Second Bank of the United States. It is perhaps not surprising, then, that Mackenzie would have established contact with Gallatin in order to discuss the reform position on the bank and currency in Canada. The inscription on this pamphlet in the IHR library reads, ‘To the Honourable Albert Gallatin, New York. York, Upper Canada, June 26, 1830. With W.L. Mackenzie’s Compliments.’.
Next week we will move our discussion over to the SHL library blog for the final post in the series. We will take a look at a few of Gallatin’s pamphlets held in Senate House Library’s special collections. These pamphlets touch upon many subjects including the debate over Jeffersonian political economy, ante-bellum finance and popular politics in the early American republic.
The IHR library is excited to announce that we have discovered several items in the US collections that once belonged to prominent early American statesman Albert Gallatin (1761-1849). These works came to the library as part of the Conway bequests of the 1920s and 30s and represent a selection of Gallatin’s – much larger – personal library. They provide us with an insight into the type of works owned by Gallatin and may, in at least one instance, cast light on how he acquired some of the books in his collection. Over the next two weeks the IHR and Senate House libraries will post a series of blog entries celebrating items in our collections relating to Gallatin’s political career. This post will look at Gallatin’s life and the significant role he played in the political and economic debates of the United States during the Antebellum period. It will also briefly introduce one of the sources recently uncovered that bears marks of ownership linking it to Gallatin.
Albert Gallatin and the politics of the early United States
Albert Gallatin was born into a prominent merchant family in Geneva where he spent his childhood and adolescence. Orphaned at an early age, he spent much of his youth as a student in residency at the Geneva Academy where he became enamoured with the philosophy of the French Enlightenment. His enthusiasm for French philosophers, especially Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and the magnetic draw American revolutionary ideology led the young Gallatin to consider sailing for the United States – a place where Enlightenment principles might be put into practice. In 1780, at the age of 19, Gallatin arrived in Boston. The first few years of his life in America were spent in Massachusetts and Maine. Enticed by the prospect of organizing a new community of French refugees, he later headed south and settled in western Pennsylvania. It was in Pennsylvania that he first became embroiled in the fractious politics of the new nation. In 1790 he won a seat in the state senate before becoming a US senator for Pennsylvania in 1793. In the Federal Senate, Gallatin aligned himself with the Jeffersonian Republicans in opposition to the financial policies of the first Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton and, as a result, soon fell out of favour with the Federalist majority in the chamber. He became an early causality of the Federalist campaign to marginalize foreign-born Republican supporters (culminating in the passing of the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798) after his congressional opponents eventually managed to unseat him on the basis that he did not meet the residency requirements to qualify for admission into the Senate. He was later elected to the House of Representatives for Pennsylvania’s 12th district, an office he occupied from 1795 to 1801. Gallatin was instrumental in negotiating the peaceful resolution of the Whiskey Rebellion, a protest movement in western Pennsylvania spurred by Hamilton’s tax on distilled liquor. Though he abhorred the secessionist rhetoric and violent tactics of many of the rebels, he sympathized with their core position regarding federal tax policy. As a resident of the western counties with a track record of opposition to the Federalist bloc in congress, Gallatin was able to earn the trust of many of the movement’s leaders and helped to convince them to stand down before the arrival of Federal troops.
He became the Republican party leader in the House and was a leading critic of the Adams administration and the national debt. Following the spectacular electoral victory of Thomas Jefferson and his Republican allies in 1800 (the so-called ‘Revolution of 1800’) Gallatin was appointed the fourth Secretary of the Treasury. He stayed in this office during the Jefferson and Madison administrations, leaving office in 1813/14. Though he had initially opposed Hamilton’s plans for a national bank, the need to adequately fund the army during the War of 1812 convinced Gallatin of its necessity. Accordingly, he departed from the position held by many in his party and helped charter the Second Bank of the United States in 1816. He then spent most of the subsequent decade abroad, first as the US Minister to France (1816-1823) and then to Britain (1826-27). Upon returning to the United States, Gallatin settled in Astoria, New York, where he spent the last twenty years of his life.
Throughout his career Gallatin pursued projects to promote learning and the Arts in his adopted country. He first developed an interest in the ecology and geography of North America as well as Native American culture while studying at the Geneva Academy. He maintained an interest in these subjects throughout his career in the United States. In 1803 and 1804, he helped plan the Lewis and Clark expedition to the lands acquired by the United States as a result of the Louisiana Purchase. During his New York years, after he had retired from political office, Gallatin became involved in several civic and national improvement campaigns. In 1831 he backed efforts to found a university for New York’s growing commercial classes. The result was the establishment of New York University. Gallatin also became the President of the American Ethnological and New York Historical Societies. He published two works on Native American culture: A Table of Indian Languages of the United States (1826) and Synopsis of the Indian Tribes of North America (New York, 1836). Finally, he continued to write pamphlets and deliver speeches on national economic and political issues, many of them having to do with the western expansion of the United States (for example, he published a pamphlet on the peace with Mexico in 1848).
For more information on the life and works of Albert Gallatin, consult the following works in the IHR and Senate House libraries:
The Laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, 1793)
Gallatin’s signature on the front flyleaf of ‘The Laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’ (Philadelphia, 1793).
The IHR library holds many items containing provenance suggesting that they were owned by Albert Gallatin. The majority of these items are presentation copies of pamphlets and books bearing manuscript inscriptions and messages directed to Gallatin (we will be looking at a few of these items in future blog posts). Within one volume, however, we discovered direct evidence that established that the item was once owned by Albert Gallatin. In this case the provenance was very clear: Gallatin’s signature on the front flyleaf of the 2nd volume of a 1793 edition of The Laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The Laws was printed in Philadelphia while Gallatin was serving his short term in the Senate as a representative for Pennsylvania. In our next blog we will examine in detail a collection of pamphlets held in the IHR collection, once owned by Gallatin, that focuses on an issue that remained close to his heart during his career in America: the Northeastern Boundary Dispute (1783-1842).
Following on from last week’s launch of the library’s bequests webpage and in keeping with recent blog posts about our Canadian holdings, the IHR would like to take the opportunity to highlight a few examples of historic donations to our North American collections. The Institute’s extensive resources relating to the early history of Canada came into existence as a result of several large bequests and donations from private donors and public bodies during the 1920s and 30s. Of these donors, H.P. Biggar stands out for his efforts to promote Canadian studies at the IHR and in London more generally.
The Biggar Collection
Henry Percival Biggar (1872-1938) served as the European representative of the Public Archives of Canada in Ottawa during the first three decades of the 20th century. While in Europe he received a doctorate in history at Oxford and published several titles on European exploration in North America including The voyages of the Cabots (Paris, 1903), The Voyages of Jacques Cartier(Ottawa, 1924) and The Works of Samuel de Champlain (Toronto, 1922-1936).
Biggar was central to the acquisition campaign for the Public Archives and later participated in the organization of historical manuscripts in the national collection, a project he wrote about at length in the first two volumes of the Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research. From 1905 he served as the European representative of the Department of Canadian Archives, a position he occupied until his death in 1938. He was instrumental in the founding of the Canadian Historical Society in 1922 and served as its first secretary. As secretary he oversaw the transcription of important manuscripts relevant to the early history of Canada held in Parisian and London archives for deposition in the Public Archives of Canada. Biggar was also an activist for Canadian and imperial charities in the capital, serving as the National Commissioner of the Canadian Red Cross Society during the early years of the Depression.
From 1921 onwards Biggar donated books from his personal library to the IHR. As a result, a number of the Colonial Collection’s strengths reflect his research interests in the areas of early European exploration of North America and the history of New France before the British conquest of 1759/60. Biggar’s largest donations of books and pamphlets arrived in the IHR over the course of the summer of 1926 and the winter of 1927. In 1938, the IHR library committee valued the Biggar Library, then consisting of 562 volumes and 256 pamphlets, at £950.
The Canadian Lectureship Fund Acquisitions
Throughout his years in London Biggar tirelessly promoted the professionalization and study of Canadian history in the UK. In 1926 he organized a fund to endow a lectureship in Canadian History at the University of London. Sadly, he was unable to collect enough money for a lectureship endowment before his death. The money raised for that purpose, however, did enable the IHR to significantly expand its colonial history holdings. In 1932 Biggar stipulated that the interest from the lectureship fund, then standing at £600, be used by the IHR library committee to ‘buy books to be presented to the Canadian section of the Institute library’. Many of the library’s holdings in the area of European exploration in North America were purchased through the Canadian Lectureship Fund including, for example, Paul Gaffarel’s, Histoire de la découverte de l’Amérique, 2 vols (Paris, 1892)and Henry Murphy’s The Voyage of Verrazzano (New York, 1870). Perhaps the most substantial additions to the library purchased under the aegis of the Lectureship fund were the initial two dozen volumes of the Rapport des Archives du Quebec series.
Provenance in the Biggar Collection
A presentation copy of Joseph-Guillaume Barthe’s (1816-1893) Le Canada Reconquis par la France(Paris, 1855) presented to the French illustrator and student of Delacroix, Maurice Sand (1823-1889) includes a letter from the author bound among the front flyleaves of the book. It is dated Quebec, 15 September 1867 and discusses a meeting between Barthe and Sand in Paris in 1861. La Canada Reconquis par la France argues for renewed French immigration to Quebec in order to rejuvenate French Canadian language and culture. 
The first volume of the IHR copy of Etienne Michel Faillon’s Histoire de la Colonie Francaise in Canada contains a long citation from the work in Biggar’s hand. It also contains a letter, bound among the front leaves, with information about the book.
Welcome to the latest blog post detailing the Canadian collections at the IHR. In this installment we explore the wide variety of sources available in the library for the study of Canadian immigration history. Throughout the nineteenth century publishers and booksellers in London printed almanacs and handbooks in order to seduce travelers and emigrants to Canada. Several examples of these guides dating from the middle decades of the 19th century survive in the IHR’s colonial holdings. Smith’s Canadian Gazette (London: W.H. Smith, 1846) is a directory of “desirable and useful information for the man of business, traveler, or emigrant” including distances between towns in the Canadian interior and listings of Crown Lands then on the market. It also includes detailed fold-out maps. Henry Chesshyre’s Canada, A Hand Book for Settlers (London, 1864) is more propagandistic in nature and includes a list of 10 reasons to emigrate (including its accessibility and proximity to the UK) as well as advice on how to construct settlements and trap wild animals. Another handbook, S. W. Silver’s Handbook to Canada: A guide for Travellers and Settlers (London, 1881) contains detailed histories of the locations it describes as well as useful economic information including mining and trade figures.
The library continues to grow its collection of published correspondence and settler journals composed by European immigrants to western Canada in the 18th and 19th centuries. These sources were written by men and women of different social backgrounds and often focus on the hardships of life in frontier communities, particularly during the winter months. The letters of English immigrant Catherine Parr Stickland Traill (1802-1899), collected under the title Canada and the Oregon: the backwoods of Canada (London, 1849), document life in provincial Ontario on the eve of the Upper Canada Rebellion (1837). Traill wrote extensively about her new country including observations of its people, the land, and the seasonal extremes in climate. Traill landed in Montreal in 1832 shortly after the outbreak of a devastating cholera epidemic in which the city’s poor immigrants were especially hard hit. Traill’s reflections upon the potential fate of her less fortunate shipmates stand in stark contradiction to the optimistic image of British America found in contemporary emigrant handbooks. On the streets of Quebec and Montreal, Traill noted, “meet together the unfortunate, the improvident, the helpless orphan, the sick, the aged, the poor virtuous man, driven by the stern hand of necessity from his country and his home, perhaps to be overtaken by sickness or want in a land of strangers” (37).
Map in ‘Smith’s Canadian Gazette’
Like Catherine Traill’s letters, many of the early published journals and personal diaries housed in the library record the authors’ impressions of Canadian cities, the American landscape and the customs of the continent’s native inhabitants. James Colnett’s (1753-1806) late 18th-century diaries of his fur trading voyages to Vancouver Island are among the earliest English descriptions of the land and people of the Pacific Northwest. Colnett is notable for having accompanied Captain James Cook on his Pacific voyages. Nova Scotia-born surveyor George Mercer Dawson (1849-1901) recorded his observations of the flora, fauna and geology of the Rocky Mountains while on a surveying mission for the Canadian government in 1883/84.
Other letter collections and journals written by immigrants and settlers include :
The library houses many sources relevant to the study of ethnicity and immigration to Canada. These sources include a wide selection of passenger lists from ships sailing between British ports and North America. These lists often indicate the ethnicity of passengers on-board, either explicitly, as in the case of many American sources from the late 18th century onwards in which the nationality of passengers is listed alongside their names, or implicitly (e.g. ethnic background as suggested by the listed surname and port of origin). The IHR collections also contain studies of ethnic identity among immigrant groups in modern Canada, as well as source collections of letters in which immigrants discuss the often painful process of adaption to life in their new country.
Welcome to the introductory entry in a series of blog posts aiming to promote the rich North American collections at the IHR library. This month we focus on the highlights from our often overlooked Canadian holdings beginning with a selection of four works published before the British conquest of Canada in 1759/60. These books, all printed in France between 1681 and 1751, detail the early history of New France as well as the lives of several figures central to the establishment of the early religious and charitable institutions of 17th-century Quebec.
Marie de l’Incarnation (Marie Guyart), 1599-1672. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
The first – and rarest – of the four is a 1681 Paris edition of Marie Guyart’s Lettres de la Venerable Mere Marie de L’Incarnation. It is one of two copies of this book housed in UK libraries (the other is held in the national collection at the British Library). The work is a collection of letters written by Marie Guyart (1599-1672) the first Mother Superior of the Ursuline Convent of Quebec. Born into an aristocratic family and widowed at 19, Guyart devoted her adult life to the service of the Catholic Church, becoming a member of the Ursuline Order of Tours in 1633. In 1639, Guyart, now Marie de L’Incarnation following her ordination as a nun, sailed to Quebec with several companions in order to reinforce the missionary efforts of the Jesuits in the colony. Upon arrival, they founded a convent for the purpose of educating Huron girls in the teachings of the Church. In its early years, the convent educated Indian women from the vicinity of Quebec and Montreal but gradually expanded its remit in the century after Guyart’s death to include girls from the settler community of New France. Many graduates went on to establish religious orders and institutions throughout Canada, including the convents of Trois Rivières and Roberval. Though, like many of Quebec’s buildings, the convent was damaged during Wolfe’s bombardment of the city in 1759, the order and the school survived the province’s transition to English rule. The school established by Guyart and her peers exists now as the École des Ursulines, a girls’ primary school attached to the original convent.
Like the Ursuline Convent, the Hôtel-Dieu of Quebec was an important institution in the new colony run primarily by women. The IHR library owns a rare copy of Jeanne-Françoise Juchereau’s four volume Histoire de l’Hôtel-Dieu de Quebec (Montauban [France], 1751). The Histoire de l’Hôtel-Dieu details the founding of the hospital and its role in the social welfare of New France during the colony’s turbulent early years. Juchereau was the Mother Superior of the Hôtel-Dieu from 1683 to 1707. She was heavily involved in colonial and imperial politics as a result of her position and found herself battling provincial governors and her Parisian superiors in her quest to secure money and resources for the hospital. She was renowned for her selfless commitment to her patients during the 1688, 1703 and 1711 influenza and measles epidemics. The hospital’s role in the treatment of the sick and destitute during these periods of crisis feature heavily in the Histoire. Along with the Lettres of Marie Guyart, the Histoire reveals the centrality of women in the establishment and maintenance key social institutions in 17th-century Quebec.
Finally, the IHR owns two early histories of French Colonization in North America. The first, the Histoire de l’Amerique Septentrionale (Paris, 1722) by Claude-Charles Bacqueville de la Potherie, examines the history and culture of the Iroquois Indian Nation and its relationship with French settlements along the St. Lawrence river. The second work, Pierre-Francois-Xavier de Charlevoix’s Histoire et description générale de la Nouvelle France (Paris, 1744), also describes the history of New France, though it places greater emphasis on the environmental factors that shaped colonial development. Charlevoix emphasizes the natural resources of territories of Canada and Louisiana, often with an eye on their usefulness for Europeans. Charlevoix was a Jesuit priest who travelled extensively throughout North America in an unsuccessful mission to reach the Pacific Ocean via intercontinental waterways. Interestingly given the works discussed above, he was moved to write a biography of Marie Guyart as an act of thanksgiving following the wreck of his ship off the coast of Florida in 1722. Based upon notes from Charlevoix’s extensive travels as well as twenty years of research in Paris, the Histoire et description générale represents an early attempt to synthesize a description of the natural resources and ecology of the North American interior with a history of New France.
The next blog entry, due out next week, will focus on immigrant experiences in 19th-century Canada and will examine a varied selection of sources from the library including handbooks for travelers and emigrants, published letter collections and immigrant journals. I look forward to sharing the stories of these men and women with you. À la prochaine fois!
Welcome to the inaugural blog post in a series promoting the American history resources available at the IHR. In this post I would like to take the opportunity to introduce myself. My name is Benjamin Bankhurst and I have recently joined the School of Advanced Study as the Postdoctoral Fellow of North American History.
Before taking up this position I held teaching appointments at the LSE, King’s College London and Canterbury Christ Church University. In 2009 I was the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Fellow in Early American Religion at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. My research interests include the history of religion and ethnicity in the 18th-century Atlantic World. My Ph.D. thesis, completed in 2011, examined Irish migration to the Appalachian frontier during the era of the Seven Years’ War (1754-1763). Specifically, it focused on how news from the war-ravaged colonial backcountry and the arrival of American Presbyterian relief missions in Ireland collapsed emotional and spatial distance and produced a sense of transatlantic empathy among Ulster Presbyterians for their beleaguered kin across the ocean. This research forms the basis of my first book, Ulster Presbyterians and Scots Irish Diaspora, 1750-1763 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).
I am also interested in library and book history and look forward to applying my past expertise in these fields to promote the rich colonial and American collections in the IHR and Senate House libraries. As a member of the research team on the AHRC-funded project ‘Private Books for Educational Use – the Formation of the Northern Congregational College Library’ (February 2012 and March 2013), I examined the provenance and individual object histories of 2,500 books once owned by various dissenting academies in the north of England during the 18th and 19th centuries. This results of our research (including a searchable list of former owners and examples of user annotation) are now integrated into the Virtual Library System on the Dissenting Academies Online. In my first few weeks at the IHR I have uncovered interesting provenance in the colonial collections relating to the early benefactors of the library. I look forward to sharing my findings on this subject on this blog in the months to come. Watch this space!
I am very excited to join the teams at the IHR and Senate House libraries and look forward to promoting American studies across the School of Advanced Study over the next two years. I am currently preparing several North American collection guides for the IHR and will be blogging about the highlights from our holdings throughout the year. I will begin later in the week with a few posts highlighting our Canadian resources.