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Inevitable Decline of the Lumber Trade.


they consumed, it became a matter of deep anxiety how this altered state of things was to be met.

'If lumber, as a staple export, was to be insufficient to supply the future wants of the colony in the way of paying for the necessary imports of West India produce and of flour, upon what were the colonists to fall back? Were the hitherto undervalued agricultural resources of the colony greater than had been supposed? Could its 18,000,000 of acres really be made to support a population of 210,000 inhabitants, and thus enable them to dispense at least with the large importation of bread stuffs, for which they had hitherto been yearly indebted to the United States, to Prince Edward's Island, and to Canada? Or were the mines of the country of such value as to make up for the failure both of lumber and of corn, and to enable New Brunswick to keep pace in future progress with the adjoining states and provinces? Such were the ideas and questions which had been passing through men's minds when I was honoured with a request to visit the colony, and give an opinion upon its agricultural capabilities.' (Vol. i. p. 39.)

Mr. Johnston's explanation of the causes which had led to the disastrous state of the colony is very simple and natural. The high protective duty by which our late commercial system encouraged the export of colonial timber, had had the effect of diverting the attention of the settlers from the steady and laborious pursuits of agriculture to an occupation more adventurous and attractive, and at times, though by no means altogether, more lucrative. Large gains were frequently made in the lumber trade, though it is questionable whether on the whole the losses were not greater than the gains, and it is certain that it partook much of the nature of a gambling transaction, and, in proportion as it did so, was injurious and demoralising. Still timber was abundant; the labour of felling it and floating it down to the coast was not excessive; the life led by the lumberers in the woods was free and pleasant; and the great prizes obtained in favourable years, secured a preference to it over every other branch of industry.

But, like other branches, the lumber trade had always its period of activity and depression. When the demand was brisk and prices good, the trade was pushed eagerly forward; lumberers went into the woods by droves, and timber was shipped to England in quantities which overloaded the market. Prices in consequence fell; those who were obliged to realise were compelled to sacrifice capital as well as profit; and thus mercantile crises and many failures periodically occurred among the colonial merchants of St. John and other lumbering ports. But such an export trade in the large could only be temporary. Land cleared of timber does not soon cover itself again with a new growth of merchantable trees. Every year carried the scene of the woodman's labours further up the main rivers, and VOL. XCIV. NO. CXCI.


Mr. Johnston does not hold out any encouragement to mere capitalists, whose object is to live on the interest of their money or the rent of their land. Land is here too much within the reach of every man to render it eligible as a mere investment.

While on the subject of emigration, Mr. Johnston mentions two circumstances, which are curious, and deserve much attention. One is, the apparent deterioration of the race of settlers. The sons of emigrants, born in the colonies, are said to be rarely as energetic or successful as their fathers. The British-born succeed better than the natives. They are steadier, more persevering, more industrious. The remark is made by the native residents themselves— Mr. Johnson heard it on several occasions, and admits that his own observation fully confirmed its truth. (Vol. i. pp. 119-125.) The cause yet remains to be discovered. Some imagine that the climate is unfavourable to the development of the hardier and more pertinacious qualities of the Anglo-Saxon race. Mr. Johnston's explanation is different. After stating how universally he had found the fact admitted, he proceeds:

This opinion from the mouths of natives is certainly very provoking, since I can sincerely say, after a very long tour in the province, that a finer looking body of yeomanry is not to be seen in any part of the world. The first provincial-born generation shoots up tall and handsome men and women, pleasant to look upon. It may be that the more slender form is less inclined to steady labour, and that, with the bodily figure, the habits and tempers of the industrious settlers change also. Certainly, as a whole, the regularly-settled inhabitants did not appear to work so hard as the same classes do at home. From that fact, however, I did not feel myself justified in concluding, as some do, that the native-born are naturally or absolutely indolent,-my conclusion was, rather, that a living was easier got in the provinces than in the home-islands, and that, therefore, they did not require to work so hard to obtain it as we do at home.' (See also vol. ii. p. 174.)

The author's observations respecting the Irish settlers are particularly valuable, though casually made; inasmuch as they show that he has hit upon the real explanation of the frequent

it himself, with the help of his sons; he will even do the smith's 'work with his own hands. He will mortgage his farm to buy the materials, and will rig it himself. He will then load it with fire'wood from his own farm, and himself sail the ship to Boston, and sell cargo or ship, or both; or he will take a freight to the West 'Indies, if he can get it, and return in due time to pay off his incumbrances, or to sell his farm if he have been unsuccessful, and 'begin the world anew.' (Vol. i. p. 31.)


Explanation of Success of Irish Emigrants.


energy and success displayed by many of the emigrants from the sister island on being transplanted to the New World, in comparison with their listlessness and helpless misery at home. And, so far as we are aware, he is the first among our travellers or speculators who have done so. Where the Irish settled singly, and among a population of different origin and habit, he generally found them doing well, though rarely so well as either English or Scotch emigrants. Where they settled en masse, and formed a colony of their own, this is the picture he draws of them:

The settlers, chiefly Roman Catholic Irish, originally from Bandon, in the county of Cork, are for the most part miserably clothed, keeping wretched-looking houses, have much dirt about themselves and their holdings, nasty-looking pigs running about the doors of their dwellings, and their land and fences for the most part in an untidy condition. It is "Ould Ireland" over again transplanted here, little altered from its home appearance and fashions.' (Vol. ii. p. 17.) Of another settlement he says (vol. ii. p. 176.), 'It consists entirely of 'Cork men, who have not prospered as yet. According to Mr. Pass (an English emigrant), the South Country Irish are the poorest men that come out, do the worst, and are the least contented. At home they depend upon grants and charity when they can get it, more than on their own industry. One of these Cork men, a schoolmaster, complained bitterly; they were all steeped in poverty and debt, yet they were industrious, he averred; and therefore he inveighed against the Mother Country for not making railways in the provinces, and sending out money to employ the people.' The same demand all the world over from this spoiled and unthrifty race. 'The management of the Irish (observes Mr. Johnston) is still a problem, when unmixed with other population, in whatever country they are. . . . As at home, they get together in junketting and merry-making, and estimate the happiness of a spree far above the every-day comforts of clean well-furnished houses and plentiful meals. But mingle these same men in twos and threes among a great predominance of a steadier race, and the restraint and influence of new example makes their children steadier men than their fathers, and more reasonable and contented


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We have here the indication of a most valuable truth, the admission and full appreciation of which seems to us indispensable to the future well-being of the sister island. It is this:Wherever the Irish peasantry are so situated, either by subordination of position or minority in numbers, as to take the tone from those above them or around them, they succeed and advance.

There were many excellent and hard-working Scotch and Irish farmers in the neighbourhood. . ... These Irish settlers struck me as representing industry personified.' (Vol. i. p. 64.)

into more remote creeks and tributaries, adding to the labour of procuring, and to the cost of the logs when brought to the place of shipment. Hence, prices must rise at home or profits decline in the colony, and the trade gradually lessen. All these had already taken place to a certain extent *, when the further increase of home prices was rendered almost impossible by the equalisation of the timber duties... In so far as I have myself been able to ascertain the facts of the case, I think, with many patriotic colonists, that the welfare of these North American provinces would on the whole, and in the long run, have been promoted by a less lavish cutting of the noble shiptimber which their woods formerly contained, and which has already become so scarce and dear. Home bounties have tempted them to cut down and sell at a comparatively low price, what might for many years have afforded a handsome annual revenue, as well as an inexhaustible supply of material for the once flourishing colonial dockyard.... It was the acknowledged evil of the lumber trade, that so long as it was the leading industry of the province of New Brunswick, it overshadowed and lowered the social condition of every other. The lumberer, fond as the Indian of the free and untrammelled life of the woods, receiving high wages, living on the finest flour, and enjoying long seasons of holiday, looked down upon the slavish agricultural drudge who toiled the year long on his few acres of land, with little beyond his comfortable maintenance to show as the fruit of his yearly labour. The young and adventurous among the province-born men were tempted into what was considered a higher and more manly, as well as a more remunerative line of life; many of the hardiest of the emigrants as they arrived, followed the example; and thus, not only was the progress of farming discouraged and retarded, but a belief began to prevail that the colony was unfitted for agricultural pursuits. The occasional large sums of money made by

*When, on a former occasion, about fifteen years ago, a proposal to equalise the timber duties was in agitation, it was represented to the home government that so much capital had been invested in the North American provinces, in the saw mills and for other purposes connected with the trade, that very extensive ruin would follow the immediate withdrawal of protection. The measure, therefore, was not passed at the time, but the colonies were warned to prepare themselves, as the duties would certainly be repealed at no distant date... But so far from withdrawing their capital in consequence of this notice, fresh capital poured into the trade, new mills were built, speculation and competition advanced to an unprecedented height, and the prices of lumber were reduced in consequence of this competition, and the consequent over-supply of the home market, much lower than the removal of the duty would have depressed them. One of the most extensive lumber merchants of the province owned to me that mutual competition had done far more to injure the trade and the traders than the equalisation of the duties had done.' (Vol. ii. p. 211.)

1851. Success of Farmers when not Lumberers.


it, induced also vast numbers of the farmers themselves to engage in lumbering as a lucky hit in a mining country makes many miners -gradually to involve themselves in debts, and to tie up their farms by mortgages to the merchants who furnished the supplies which their life in the woods required. Thus, not only were large numbers of the young men demoralised by their habits in the woods, trained to extravagant habits, and rendered unfit for steady agricultural labour, but very many of the actual owners of farms had become involved in overwhelming pecuniary difficulties, when the crisis in the lumber trade arrived, and stopped all further credit.' (Vol. i. p. 37.)

In his progress through the country Mr. Johnston met with many houses and clearings deserted in consequence of the ruinous effect of the protection-stimulated lumber trade on the regular processes of agriculture. (Vol. i. p. 97.) The instructive lesson taught by these results will amply justify another extract to explain them.

'A stranger does not readily comprehend how a depression in the lumber trade should seriously affect the interests of the rural population in any other way than in lessening the demand for produce, and in lowering prices. And it was not till I had been long in the country, and had conversed with many persons on the subject, that I was enabled clearly to separate, in my own mind, the evils which this trade had brought upon the rural population from those which were necessarily attendant on the calling of a farmer. In lumbering, a man goes to the woods in winter, cuts down trees, and hauls them to a brook down which, when the spring-freshets come, he can float them to the main river, and then to the saw-mills of the merchant to whom he sells them. If a man does this upon his own farm, or at no great distance from it, and by the aid of his own family only, all he gets for his wood is pure gain - if, in the meantime, he has been living on the produce of his own farm. But if he goes to a distance, and has been obliged to hire labourers, or has done so with the view of enlarging his operations, he must apply to the merchant for an advance of stores adequate to the winter's consumption. The cost of these stores and the wages of his men are deducted from the value of the wood he has obtained; and if the price be not very low, he may still have a handsome surplus. Such circumstances lure him on till an unfavourable winter comes, and he is not successful in cutting as good lumber, or in as large a quantity as usual, or in hauling it to the floating place; or a very late spring, or very shallow water, prevents him from getting it to market. Then his debt to the merchant for stores and money must stand over for another year, and his farm is mortgaged as security for the payment. Meanwhile this farm has been more or less neglected, and has been every year growing less produce. His wood must be floated in spring, when his crops ought to be put into the ground. He has been absent in winter, when new land might have been cleared. His mind is occupied with other cares: he does not settle to his agricultural pursuits; and they are

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