Irish Emigrants in Peterborough


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Arrival and Settlement of the Peter Robinson Irish Emigrants

From the Montreal Courant - 1825

On Thursday last 568 Irish Emigrants, including women and children, arrived here in the Lady Sherbrooke SteamBoat and proceeded on their route to Upper Canada yesterday morning. These are the first of the 2000 for whom Government have made arrangements in this country; they are principally from the south of Ireland, and are, we understand to be located in the neighbourhood of Rice Lake, near the lately settled townships in rear of Smith’s Creek. Two medical men, who, we are informed, accompany them also, act in the capacity of superintendents. By habits of industry and good conduct, these people may, under the fostering protection of the Government, become comparatively independent, in a country where local prejudices, oppressive rents, and precarious employment do not interfere to prevent their enjoying that portion of competence which renders the mind at ease, and affords a prospect of comfort to the rising generation, for whose future welfare no provision could be made in the country of their ancestors.

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FOR THE WEEKLY REGISTER

Land Register Office, Port Hope December 13, 1825

Mr Editor,

Sir,

Observing a statement in the Colonial Advocate asserting that the Settlers brought out by the Hon. Peter Robinson were rapidly deserting to the United States, I have it in my power to contradict the error. Within in a few days . . . I have visited the Township of Smith, &c &c and I find the Emigrants are for the greater part gone onto their Lands allotted to them, and the Gentleman above mentioned pays every attention to their comfort. It cannot be otherwise than that amongst so great a number there should be some dissatisfied individuals. But if we cannot ourselves add to the prosperity of this fine Country, let us not damp the energies of others.

Your Obedient Servant,

THOMAS TURNER ORTON.

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To The Editor of the Weekly Register.

York, 26th Dec. 1825

Sir,

In the paper of the 8th inst. An article was published, of which the following is a copy: -

“MR. ROBINSON’S IRISH SETTLERS. – We have information which may be depended on stating that these people have an ardent desire to go to the United States, and that they frequently desert – No less than THIRTY of them decamped lately in one night.

“To how much more useful a purpose might £30,000 have been expended, than in recruiting in Ireland for United States soldiers by Canadian counsellors.”

Public duty requiring my presence at Cobourg, on the 19th inst. I took advantage of my vicinity to Mr. Robinson’s Settlement to visit it and ascertain what truth, if any, there was in the above statement, and I have ascertained that out of the Two Thousand Settlers brought out this year, one family only remained in Montreal. That while at Kingston they were tampered with, and many of them recommended to go to the United States, yet not one did so. That while waiting at Cobourg until accommodations were provided for them North of the Rice Lake, two families embarked in a Schooner and went to the United States, and one family returned to Kingston. It was known that those who went to the United States had relatives there. These three families left Cobourg in September, and I take it for granted that the writer of the above article had no knowledge of these facts or he would have been more particular and would have stated them. With these exceptions not one of the Settlers has left Mr. Robinson since his arrival at Quebec.

When it is considered that some of these Settlers are Mechanics, and all of them utter strangers to the Forests of America, that the men and women could find employment and good wages every where between the Settlement and the City of New York, it is only to be wondered at that many of them have not spread themselves over these Provinces and the neighbouring States. This, however, they have not done, nor have I learned that they have done any other act, since their arrival amongst us, for which I, or any other countryman of theirs, need blush. They have been received with kindness by the very respectable Gentry and other inhabitants residing in and around Cobourg, and to the good feeling and friend. My disposition manifested by their countrymen in Cavan and Monaghan, the Rev. Mr. Croly, a Roman Catholic Clergyman, who recently visited them bears ample testimony.

I am a native of that part of Ireland whence these Settlers came, I speak their own language, and have conversed with many of them, and I do assure those who feel an interest in the welfare of these poor people that they make a very just estimate of the circumstances in which the Government has placed them, and are grateful in the highest degree for all that has been done for them. They are almost all settled on their Lots and are making great exertions, some of them to an extent almost incredible.

Should any person wish to give an answer to the Editor’s question as to “how much more useful a purpose might £30,000 have been expended,” I recommend him to visit these Settlers and witness their condition before giving in. He may then also ascertain, for the information of the Advocate and its Readers, how a Canadian Councillor discharges an important public trust, under circumstances of extraordinary and peculiar difficulty. To that Councillor, I, as an Irishman, am grateful. Under his guidance my Countrymen are proving, to all honest men in this Province, that they are better deserving their favourable opinion than such Slanderers as the Editor of the Colonial advocate would have the world believe.

Let him acquaint the Public who his informant was, upon whose information he assures his readers “dependence may be placed,” or be taken to be the fabricator of the slander he has published.

I leave it to those Editors in the Province who love justice, and entertain no unworthy prejudice against my countrymen, to re-publish this Letter in their respective Newspapers.

I am,

Sir,

Your most Obedient Humble Servant,

JAMES FITZGIBBON

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Port Hope, Feb. 28, 1825.

Mr. Editor,

You will confer a great obligation on a good many of your subscribers by giving publicity to the following circumstances, which took place in Cavan and Monaghan at the last town meetings for those townships. The several person who were appointed to the different offices, were many of them very poor settlers and quite ignorant of the law in those cases, and they happened not to attend to swear in before the Magistrates within the time prescribed by the Act. The Magistrates thought proper to impose fines of ten dollars on each individual, and I suppose there is no less than ten or twelve of them, one of them is a poor fellow of the name of Wright who was under the necessity of selling a yoke of Steers to pay his fine and costs, and what makes his ease very hard, the old man had hired out one of his body who had earned them for the sole purpose of enabling him to work on his farm, and now his prospects are completely darkened. One of the Magistrates is a Mr. Lester, the other Dr. John Hutchinson. Lester is said to be the person whom Mr. Fothergill alluded to in the House of Assembly, who fined a man, acted both as Judge and Jury, and sentenced him to work three days on his farm at hard labour. [Old Mr. Smithson in Monaghan, one of your subscribers is of the number who are fined, and he is a very sturdy old fellow and refuses to pay and is determined to stand them a trial on a plea that they never gave any written notice of the meeting whatever.] “The Governor and suite set off from Cobourg to visit the township of Smith where the Irish settlers are, and I hear that the poor fellows was ordered out to meet him about a half mile from Peterborough and harnessed themselves like cattle and drew him to the village, and I hear he has been very liberal among them, he has given ten pounds towards erecting a School-house, and seventy pounds towards paying a teacher. Some say that much yearly, but I cannot believe it, he has likewise offered to give a Mill-site and ten or fifteen acres of town plot to any person who will undertake to build a good Mill. He gave the privilege to the old settlers in Smith, to select a proper person, and there has been some very curious twisting by the two Magistrates of the Robinson party, to get the Mill-site for one of their friends a Mr. Bethune of Cobourg, after the committee had made choice of a very proper person of the name of Harper, and after Harper had given a bond for his performance of the contract and all was settled. The other party has determined to petition His Excellency on his return to Cobourg, and from their great influence it is supposed by many they will succeed in getting the preference. So Mr. Harper’s friends have advised him to set off to meet his Excellency before he reaches Cobourg and present a petition, how it may end we can not say. Mr. Farley, tavern keeper, and a brother of his a doctor, on a visit from the States was telling an acquaintance of theirs that they stayed a considerable time when the Address was presented and not one of the party who came down from York with the Governor paid one farthing. He thought the Governor certainly travelled with his bread and cheese, which made me remember the anecdotes you gave in one of your late papers, respecting economy among the great. The money he gave to the Peterborough settlers, was no doubt charged to the British Government, for we can easily see that such a prudent careful person as he is would be loath to part with £70 of his own money at a time for any such purpose.”

P.S. – I had forgot to inform you that neither Magistrates nor Constables was at the town meeting of Cavan or Monaghan.

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Cavan, 8th April 1826.

Mr. Editor,

Having observed in your paper a communication from Port Hope, relative to the fining some persons in Cavan and Monaghan.

I have a right to expect that you will give equal publicity to a correct statement of that affair, for the veracity of which I appeal to any unprejudiced person in the Settlement.

Every one in the least conversant with the Provincial Statutes knows that an oath of office is required of all town officers and must see the evils which may result from a non-compliance.

In our settlement these evils have actually been felt particularly in the case of overseers on Highways: -- Six or seven town meetings have now been held in Cavan: and of the fined the most recent settler had or ought to have been at three town meetings. For two years previous the recusants had been summoned, but not brought to conviction, this lenity having produced no more promptitudes in taking the oath – it was deemed necessary to convict those who were delinquent after the last town meeting. A month elapsed after the meetings ere the parties were summoned. – They were convicted – and all except two paid the fine without complaint. These two misled by the ignorant counsel of a certain learned Barrister, were persuaded to resist paying the fine, consequently their goods were detained and sold to pay the fine and costs (eight dollars – not ten as falsely stated in your paper.) It appearing afterwards, that the Constable’s notice of the Monaghan meetings though put up, was not within the eight days prescribed by law, the fines from there (none of which had been levied) were refunded. Sturdy old Smithson whose conduct before the Magistrates was outrageous, nay beastly, in the extreme, had not paid his fine then, and it has not been levied for the above reason.

The presence of a Magistrate is not required at a town meeting, but it happened that (contrary to your statement) two Magistrates and two Constables were present at the Cavan meeting.

There was no acting Constable in Monaghan last year.

Your correspondents, living at a distance, and hearing only of the poverty of the parties; exclaim at the hardship of ease; but is a magistrate to shrink form his duty, and compromise the public interest from the pusillanimous fear of hardship, to an individual? No. – I rejoice to see the people jealous of their rights, because that jealousy forms a strong bulwark of our liberties: but Sir, while I have the honour to be included in His Majesty’s Commission of the Peace, I hope I shall never be driven from conscientious discharge of my duty by the menaces of the party supposing himself aggrieved, or his mischievous advisers, not allured from it by favour, affection, or hope of reward.

As to your correspondent's application of Mr. Fothergill’s extravagant invective in his speech in the House, to my friend Mr. Lester. I know that a story was created by the malice of an individual and applied to a case which occurred to Mr. Lester in his official duty. I was privy to the circumstances when they happened – and can say that Mr. L’s humanity in that case, did honour to his feelings as a man. The real circumstances bear not the least affinity to that monstrous outage related by Mr. F. Suffice it to say that if Mr. F. alluded to Mr. L. he can and will repel the charge by giving to the public a plain statement of the truth.

I had almost omitted to state, that the persons fined were told that an application would be made in their behalf at the next Quarter Sessions, for the release of the Fine – and that intercession shall be made. I regret having spun out their communication to such length – but again hope you will not deprive me of the means of correcting the false and calumnious misrepresentation of your correspondent.

I remain Sir,

Your most obed’t servant,

JOHN HUTCHISON.

Note by US. – We have written to Doctor Hutchison, with the address of our correspondent who is a neighbour of his in Durham county.

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UPPER CANADA.

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ADDRESS OF THE IRISH EMIGRANTS.

To His Excellency Sir P. Maitland, K. C. B. Lieut. Governor of the Province of Upper Canada and Major General commanding His Majesty’s forces therein, &c. &c.

May it please of your Excellency,

We, the Irish Emigrants, recently brought out by Mr. Robinson, to this country, feel grateful to our gracious and good King and to his Majesty’s worthy, good and humane government, for all they have done, and we hope yet intend to do for us.

We also are well pleased with, and entertain, the best wishes for our worthy chief, Col. Robinson, for all he has done for us; and we are fully satisfied that his fine and humane feelings will not permit him to leave any thing undone that may forward our welfare.

Please your Excellency,

We are totally at a loss for words adequate to express the thanks and gratitude we owe Doctor Reave for his active, skilful, and unremitting care of us; we are likewise thankful to, and well pleased with the officers placed over us.

Please your Excellency,

We agree very well with and are pleased with the proceedings of the older settlers amongst us; and it shall be the incessant care of us, as it is the interest of us all, to do the same.

And should an enemy have the presumption to invade this portion of his Majesty’s dominions, your Excellency shall find that we, when called upon to face and expel the common foe; will to a man follow our brave commanders; not an Irish soul shall stay behind, and if we have no other weapons in our hands, mow them down with the Shiilela.

Please your Excellency,

We labour under a heavy grievance, which we confidently hope your Excellency will redress; and then we will be completely happy; viz; the want of a good clergyman to administer to us the comforts of our holy religion, and good schoolmasters, to instruct our children. We now beg leave to retire, wishing your Excellency long life, good health, and every success.

God save the King.

[This Address was signed by upwards of 300 heads of families.]

 

ANSWER.

GENTLEMEN. – My visit to Peterborough, the head quarters of your settlement, has been highly satisfactory in every respect. I am pleased to find you so thankful for all that has been done for you; and no less pleased to observe that you have such abundant cause to be so.

The grateful terms in which you speak of those who have had it in charge to provide for your comfort, shew that the attention and zeal, with which they studied your welfare, have not been lost upon you.

They have had equal pleasure, in representing to me, your general good conduct, which has enabled them to fulfill the benevolent intentions of your government with satisfaction and effect.

With the good dispositions you have expressed, I have no doubt your friendly intercourse with your neighbours will continue uninterrupted; and, as the best means of insuring this, I trust, both the earlier settlers and yourselves, will feel the propriety of dropping in their country, all associations which have their rise in a difference of religion, or in opinions of any kind; and that you will henceforth consider yourselves as one people.

I shall do all in my power to afford you the means of education and religious instruction; and am glad to you sensible of their importance to your happiness.

I have too often had Irish soldiers for my companions in the filed, not to know, that in time of danger, you will be found at your post, ready, like men of loyalty and courage, to defend your King and Country; and you are glad, I am sure, to find, that in becoming inhabitants of Upper Canada, you are adding your strength to the support of fellow subjects, whose loyalty and bravery have been severely tried; and who have joined heartily in repelling their country’s foes, when numbers were stronger against us than they are likely to be again.

It now remains that, for the honour of Ireland, and for the sake of your King, you should show the world that you can be industrious and orderly in peace, as every body knows that you are brave and loyal in war.

ADDRESS OF THE INHABITANTS OF CAVAN AND EMILY.

To his Excellency, Sir Peregrine Maitland, K. C. B. Lieutenant-Governor of the Province of Upper-Canada, and Major-General, Commanding his Majesty’s Forces therein, &c. &c.

May it please your Excellency;

We, his Majesty’s dutiful and loyal subjects, inhabitants of this part of the New-Castle District, beg leave to congratulate your Excellency on your safe arrival, and to express our gratitude for the kindness manifested by your Excellency on this occasion; conscious, as we are, of the difficulties and fatigue to which your have been exposed in visiting this part of your government, we the more sensibly fell & appreciate your Excellency’s kindness.

Impressed as we shall always be with sentiments of loyalty to our beloved and gracious King, and a steady attachments to his government, we approach your Excellency with sentiments of a nature which can only be equalled by those which have so eminently distinguished the actions of your Excellency, in the administration of the government committed to your charge.

We are, as we trust we shall always prove loyal to our King and firm in support of the constitution and laws under which we are so happily governed.

Uninfluenced by party prejudice or feeling, we avail ourselves, as individuals of conveying those sentiments which are always paramount to all other considerations, with us subjects of a gracious monarch, enjoying by the fostering care of your Excellency, the mild administration of the laws, and privileges afforded by the constitution of the Mother country.

We have lately perceived with feelings of honest indignation, an attempt, base, malicious, and unfounded, of rendering the government of your Excellency, an object hostile to the best interests of this Province; we embrace this opportunity to publicly conveying to your Excellency, and the country at large, our abhorrence of the foul attempt; and beg most respectfully to vow, that our sentiments are widely different to those expressed by some of the representatives of the people. - We are faithful to our King, honest to his government; and we shall, with the assistance of Him, whose protection we pray for merit a continuance of your Excellency’s favour.

Supported by your Excellency, we hope to live and prosper under your government, and, by your example we hope to become a firm bulwark to this Province, in repealing an invading foe, and curbing any republican inroad to the constitution of the government, we have the happiness to live under.

And with feelings of unshaken loyalty to our King, and attachment to your Excellency.

We subscribe ourselves,

Your Excellency’s most faithful,

And very humble Servants.

Signed by Thomas Alexander Stuart, J. P.; Rubidge J. P.; Robert Read, J.P.; Francis Connin; James Stuart; John Huston; Adam Scott; James Mann; Sidney Bellingham; Robt. Carr; William Read; Joseph Dixon, and upwards of fifty other old settlers of this Township.

ANSWER.

GENTLEMEN, - I received with much pleasure, your loyal and affectionate Address. – From what I have already seen of the new settled parts of this valuable District I am convinced I shall experience much pleasure in witnessing the progress of improvement in that portion of it, which I shall be enabled to visit. – The very grateful sentiments you express towards your government, give the strongest assurance of the soundness of your principles, and would afford me as sufficient proof, if any were wanting, that I may rely on your steady and cordial support, in maintaining that unrivalled constitution, of which the excellence has been proved, by the experience of ages, and which those who can appreciate it, as you do, will ever be found ready to vindicate and defend.

You may be assured nothing will be more satisfactory to myself, than, to contribute by all means in my power to your happiness and welfare.

I feel, gentlemen, that my acknowledgements are due to you, personally, for the pains you have taken in anticipating my arrival in your settlement, by attending her to convey to me this acceptable testimony of the kind and patriotic feeling of your neighbours.

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MR. ROBINSON’S IRISH EMIGRANTS

Mr Editor,

As the object you had in view in making an allusion to these settlers - - - is now pretty generally understood at least by the Irish themselves, I shall call their attention to a slander of another nature - - - which is of a more lasting kind, - - - and shut out from the truth, being founded in prejudice and ridicule. I mean the address presented by these people to His Excellency. That they presented a loyal address I have no doubt, but that the attempt at Irish character which that address contains ever originated from the Irish I do not believe, - - - because the most rustic Irishmen - - - (even from the mountains of Kerry) while intoxicated would no more than say to each other “we will mow them down with out Irish shelelahs.” But these people (coming from an enlightened part of the kingdom, the province of Munster, from whence we have had out most enlightened legislators - - -, and finished scholars, and where there is scarcely a cow herd, but can speak two languages grammatically) - - - are made coolly and deliberately to address his Excellency in these very words. Nevertheless, this address has one piece of Irish character; it does not slander the independent representatives of the people. No! They remember the year 1800 when the last vestige of freedom was torn from them; they remember the Immortal Curran, and his good associates, - who (with the principle of the present members of our Assembly,) contented nobly for their liberties, against the Tyrannical, the deceitful, and the impolite measures of a Fitzgibbon, an Attorney General and a Clare.

Yours &c &c,

AN IRISHMAN


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