J.M. Le Moine.

Picturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present online

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And wearily we'll hurry through
The joyless galopade.

We'll gaze upon each changeful cloud
As through the air it skims,
We'll think of fickle fortune's wheel,
And fashion's turns and whims -

Sweet emblems of _Inconstancy_
In each of these we'll find,
And our _Inconstants_ constantly
We'll fondly bear in mind.

And spite of Durham's fetes and balls,
We'll pine and mourn and mope
Our long, long winter season through,
As girls without a _Hope_.

And when the spring shall come again,
Our hearts, to pleasure dead,
Shall sigh for spring without an S,
And wish for _Pring_ instead.

Unless, indeed, sweet spring with _Hope_
Those hearts again should bless,
And bring our dear _Inconstants_ back,
And spring without an S.
Quebec, 6th July, 1838.

(From _Waifs in Verse_, by G. W. Wicksteed, Q.C., Law Clerk, House of
Commons of Canada, 1878.)

To which melting address the "Inconstants," on their way to Britain,
feelingly replied. Our space allows us to insert but a few stanzas of this
poetical lament.

All language fails to tell how much
We value your address,
Or say how deeply we partake
The feelings you express.

Those _Hastings_ are a hasty set,
And left you in a hurry;
Those _Malabars_ are malapert,
And hot as Indian curry.

Be true, and then the breath of May
Shall fill our sails and bring
Our willing steps and eager hearts,
And _Spring_ - and _Pring_ - and _Ring_.

And each of you for one of ours
Shall change her maiden name,
And as we are all _Inconstants_, you
Of course will be the same.
Kamouraska, August, 1838.

Here we stand on the principal artery of the commerce of the city, St.
Peter street, having a width of only twenty-four feet. St. Peter street is
probably not so ancient as its sister, Sault-au-Matelot street. St. Peter
street was so named in memory of Messire Pierre le Voyer d'Argenson, who,
in 1658, came to Quebec as successor to M. de Lauzon. M. d'Argenson was,
in 1661, succeeded by the Baron d'Avaugour.

On the site on which the Quebec Bank [86] was erected in 1863, there stood
the offices, the vaults, and the wharf of the well-known merchant, John
Lymburner. There were three Lymburners: John, lost at sea in the fall of
1775, Mathew, and Adam, the most able of the three; they were, no doubt
related to each other. The loyalty of Adam, towards the British Crown, in
1775, was more than suspected; his oratorical powers, however, and his
knowledge of constitutional law, made him a fit delegate to England in
1791, to plead the cause of the colony before the Metropolitan
authorities. His speech on the occasion is reported in the _Canadian
Review_, published at Montreal in 1826.

Colonel Henry Caldwell states that, in 1775, Governor Guy Carleton had
ordered a cannon to be pointed from the wharf on which stood Lymburner's
house, with the intention to open fire upon the _Bostonais_, should
they attempt a surprise on the Sault-au-Matelot quarter. Massive and
strongly built stone vaults (probably of French origin), are still extant
beneath the house adjoining, to the south of this last, belonging to the
heirs Atkinson.

On the site of the offices of Mr. McGie stood, in 1759, the warehouse of
M. Perrault, _l'aîné_, from a great number of letters and invoice-bills
found in the garret, and which a friend [87] has placed at our disposal,
it would seem that M. Perrault had extensive commercial relations both in
Canada and in France. A curious letter to M. Perrault, from Bigot's
notorious councillor, Estebe, then in Bordeaux, was found in this
tenement. It discloses a sad state of things in Old France. This old
document dates of 24th February, 1760, a few months subsequent to the
Battle of the Plains and a few weeks prior to that of Ste. Foye, in April,

"BORDEAUX, 24th February, 1760.

"_To Monsieur Perrault,_


"SIR, - It was with heartfelt pleasure I received your favour of the
7th November last, since, in spite of your misfortunes, it apprized me
of the fact that both you and your lady were well.

"I feel grateful for the sympathy you express in our troubles during
our passage from Quebec to Bordeaux. I wish I could as easily forget
the misfortunes of Canada as I do the annoyances we suffered on the

"We learned, _via_ England, by the end of October last, the
unfortunate fate of Quebec. You can imagine how we felt on hearing of
such dreadful news I could contain neither my tears nor my regrets on
learning the loss of a city and country to which I owe everything, and
to which I am as sincerely attached as any of the natives. We
flattered ourselves that the silence the English had kept during all
last summer on their operation was of good omen for us, and that they
would be ignominiously compelled to raise the siege; we had even an
indistinct knowledge of the repulse they had met with at Montmorency
(31st July, 1759); we knew that our troops followed them closely
wherever they attempted to land. We have erred like you in the hopes
we cherished. What fatality, what calamity and how many events unknown
to us have led to your downfall? You do not know, my dear Sir, of the
extent of your misfortunes. You imagine that the loss of the remainder
of the colony is close at hand. You are right. This cannot be
otherwise, since the relief which is sent to you from France cannot
prevent that. The small help which Canadians expected from the payment
of some Treasury notes is taken away from them; none are paid since
the 15th of October last. This, then, is the overwhelming blow to all
our hopes! The Treasury notes of the other colonies are generally in
the same predicament; the King pays none, and the nation groans under
taxation. No credit, no confidence, anywhere; no commerce nor
shipments; a general bankruptcy in all the cities of France. The
kingdom is in the greatest desolation possible. Our armies have been
beaten everywhere; our navy no more exists - our ships have been either
captured or burnt on the coasts where the enemy has driven them
ashore, Admiral de Conflans having been defeated in getting out of the
harbor of Brest. In one word, we are in a state of misery and
humiliation without precedent. The finances of the King are in fearful
disorder; he has had to send his plate to the Mint. The _Seigneurs_
have followed his example, and private individuals are compelled to
sell their valuables in order to live and pay the onerous taxes which
weigh on them. At the present moment, by Royal order, an inventory is
being taken of the silver of all the churches of the kingdom. No doubt
it will have to be sent to the Mint, and payment will be made when
that of the Treasury notes takes place - that is, _when it pleases
God_. Such is a summary of what now occurs here. How I regret, my dear
Sir, the merry days I spent in Canada! I would like to be there still
if matters were as formerly. I could own a _turn-out_ there, whereas I
go on foot, like a dog, through the mud of Bordeaux, where I certainly
do not live in the style I did in Quebec. Please God this iron age may
soon end! We flattered ourselves this winter that peace would soon be
proclaimed; it is much talked of, but I see no signs of it. It will,
it is said, require another campaign to complete the ruin, and to
postpone more and more the payment of the Treasury notes. What will be
the ultimate fate of these bills is very hard to say. It is unlikely
any settlement of them will be made before peace is concluded. My
opinion is that nothing will be lost on the bills, which are
registered, but I cannot say the same of the exchange, which is not
registered, since payment has been stopped. The Government has refused
to register any bills, even some which had been sent to me, and which
were payable in 1758. I negotiated some registered ones here and in
Paris at 50 per cent. discount. Non-registered ones are valueless, and
you get few purchasers even for registered bills. Four richly laden
vessels belonging to the West India Company (_Compagnie des Indes_)
have arrived lately. This was very opportune, as the Company was
rather shaky. However, it never failed to pay the "Beaver Bills," and
has even accepted those which had not yet fallen due. Our affairs on
the coast of Coromandel are like the rest - in a bad way. Fears are
entertained for Pondicherry. The English are arming a large expedition
for Martinique. That island will have the same fate as Guadeloupe. The
succor sent out to you, if ever it reaches you, of which I doubt,
consists in six merchant ships, laden with 1,600 tons of provisions,
some munitions of war, and 400 soldiers from Isle Royal. I believe
this relief is sent to you more through a sense of honour than from
any desire (as none exists) to help you. Many flatter themselves you
will retake Quebec this winter. I wish you may, but I do not believe
you will. This would require to be undertaken by experienced and
determined men, and even then such attempts fail. [88] Remember me to
your dear wife. Kiss my little friend (your boy) for me. I reserve him
when he comes to France a gilt horse and a silver carriage. My wife
and family beg to be remembered.

Yours, &c.,


P.S. - Your brother is always at La Rochelle. Since I am at Bordeaux,
out of 80 vessels which left South America, one only has arrived here.
You can fancy how trade stagnates. A singular distrust exists
everywhere. The exchange of - - and other good houses is refused.
Those who want to remit to Paris have to get their specie carried.

6th March, 1760.

The hospital of Toulouse is just short of nine millions. Bankrupts
everywhere merchants and others.

St. Peter street has become the general headquarters of the most important
commerce, and of life insurance and fire assurance offices. The financial
institutions are there proudly enthroned: the Bank of Montreal (founded in
1818 and incorporated in 1828), Bank of Quebec (founded in 1817), the
Union Bank (founded in 1865), the Banque Nationale (founded in 1873), the
Bank of British North America (founded in 1836, incorporated in 1840,
opened at Quebec in 1837), the Merchants' Bank (founded in 1861).

In this street resided, in 1774, the Captain Bouchette, who, in the
following year, in his little craft, _Le Gaspé_, brought us back our
brave Governor, Guy Carleton; M. Bouchard, merchant, M. Panet, N.P. (the
father of His Lordship, Bishop B.C. Panet), as also M. Boucher, Harbor
Master of Quebec, "(who was appointed to that post by the Governor, Sir R.
S. Milnes, on the recommendation of the Duke of Kent.)." [89] Boucher had
piloted the vessel, having on board the 7th Regiment, (the Duke's), from
Quebec to Halifax.

The office in which the _Quebec Morning Chronicle_ has been published
since 1847, belonged in 1759 to M. Jean Taché, "President of the
Mercantile Body," "an honest, and sensible man," as appears by _Mémoirs
sur le Canada_, (1749-60). One of our first poets, he composed a poem
"_On the Sea_." The ancestor of the late Sir E. P. Taché, and of the
novelist, Jos. Marmette and others, he possessed, at that period,
extensive buildings on the Napoleon wharf, which were destroyed by fire in
1845, and a house in the country, on the Ste. Foye road, afterwards called
"Holland House," after Major Samuel Holland, our first Provincial
Surveyor-General, whose services as surveyor and engineer were
subsequently so conspicuous at Quebec and at Prince Edward Island.

The _Chronicle_ building, during nearly half a century, was a coffee
house, much frequented by sea-faring men, known as the "Old Neptune" Inn.
The effigy of the sea-god, armed with his formidable trident, placed over
the main entrance, seemed to threaten the passers-by. We can remember, as
yesterday, his colossal proportions. "Old Neptune" [90] has disappeared
about thirty years back.


"Shall I not take mine ease in mine Inn."
- _Shakespeare_.

"The Golden Fleece was the oldest tavern in Corinth. It had been the
resort of sea-faring men from the remotest period." - (_Travels of
Herodotus in Greece_, 460 _B.C._)

When the brilliant Henry Ward Beecher pronounced Quebec an _Old
Curiosity Shop_, we are induced to think that amidst its accumulated
antiquarian relics, its church pictures and madonnas, its famous
battle-fields, its historical monuments, massive fortifications and
wondrous scenery, - more than one of the quaint French dwellings with
their peaked gables, and walls four feet thick, must have caught his
observant eye. However striking Ward Beecher's word-painting may be,
it would I opine, have required the marvellous pencil of the author of
"_The House with the Seven Gables_," Nathaniel Hawthorne, becomingly
to portray all the _arcana_ of such a building as the _Chien d'Or_
(the old Post Office), with its ghastly memories of blood and revenge.

The legendary moss clustering round these hoary piles, is not,
however, always dark and gloomy. Love, war, adventure, occasionally
lend them their exciting or their soft glamour. Sometimes the annals
of commerce entwine them with a green wreath - a sure talisman against
the rust of oblivion. It is one of the land marks of commerce we
purpose here briefly to describe.

At the foot of Mountain Hill, lies our chief emporium of news,
labelled for more than a quarter of a century, _Morning Chronicle_
Office. These premises stand on a very conspicuous site, viz., at the
foot of Mountain Hill, the highway from the port to the Upper Town,
direct to the old _Château_ and Citadel - a few rods only from the spot
where Champlain, in 1608, laid the foundations of his extensive
warehouses and dwelling, and close to where, in 1615, he had his
famous gardens. This business stand, for many years past, was owned by
the late Hon. Henry Black; at present it belongs to Hon. Geo. Okill
Stuart, Judge of the Court of Vice Admiralty. Its beginnings brings us
back to the era of the Bourbon sovereigns of Canada, to the
unregretted time (1758), when Intendant Bigot's shoddy _entourage_
held high carnival in famine-stricken Quebec.

In those blighting days, in which Madame de Pompadour reigned in
France, and Madame Pean in Quebec, _rings_ and public robbery
flourished in Canada; but among high officials, all were not corrupt.
There were some memorable exceptions. One of these exceptions was the
worthy, witty, and honest warden of the Quebec merchants, Jean Taché,
"_homme probe et d'esprit_," say old memoirs. Mr. Taché, the "_syndic
des marchands_," was not only an upright and wealthy merchant, he was
also gifted with the poetical fire; he, it was, who wrote the first
French poem issued in Canada, "_Le Tableau de la Mer_."

Jean Taché was also an extensive holder of real estate in and round
Quebec, warehouses (_des voûtes_) on the Napoleon wharf; a country
seat on the Ste. Foye road, subsequently the property of Surveyor-
General Samuel Holland - Holland Farm; lastly, the well-known business
stand, where, in 1847, Mr. St. Michel printed James Bell Forsyth's
news sheet, the _Morning Chronicle_.

Commercial ruin overtook the worthy Lower Town magnate, Monsieur
Taché; his ships and cargoes, during the war of the conquest, like the
rest of poor, deserted Canada, fell into English hands, being captured
at sea; out of the disaster Jean Taché saved naught but his honourable

We fail to trace for a time the fortunes of his Mountain Hill Counting
House. At the dawn of this century the premises were used as a famous
coffee-house, the "Neptune" Inn, [91] a noted place of resort for
merchants, masters and owners of ships. Like the Golden Fleece Tavern
of Corinth, which seems to have sheltered the father of History -
Herodotus - in the year 460 B.C., its "banqueting saloon" was roomy,
though every word uttered there also smacked of the salt water. The
old "Neptune" was probably occasionally looked up in 1807 by the Press
Gang, which, in those days, was not a thing to be laughed at. Witness
the fate of poor Latresse, shot down for refusing to surrender to
Lieut. Andrel, R.N., on trying to make his escape from a tavern in St.
John's suburbs, where he had been attending a dancing party. [92]

Singularly enough, sixty years ago, the leading Lower Town merchants
met in this old tenement of the former "_Syndic des Marchands_"
to establish the first Exchange. Of the resolutions passed at the
meeting thereat, held in 1816, and presided over by an eminent
merchant, John William Woolsey, Esq., subsequently President of the
Quebec Bank, we find a notice in the _Quebec Gazette_, of 12th
December, 1816. [93] They decided to establish a Merchant's Exchange
in the lower part of the "Neptune" Inn. Amongst those present, one
recognizes familiar names - John Jones, George Symes, James Heath,
Robert Melvin, Thomas Edward Brown, &c.

Why was the place called "Neptune" Inn? For the obvious reason that a
large statue of the god of the sea, bearing in one hand a formidable
iron trident, stood over the main entrance in a threatening attitude.
This conspicuous land-mark was known to every British ship-captain
frequenting our port. Right well can the writer of these lines
remember the truculent trident.

But if, even in the days of that excellent landlady, Mrs. Hammond, it
meant to the wearied mariner boundless cheer, the latest London
papers, pipes and soothing rum punch mixed by a comely and cheerful
bar-maid, to the unsophisticated Canadian peasant, attracted to the
Lower Town on market days, it was of evil portent.

With honest Jean Baptiste, more deeply read in the _Petit Catéchisme_
than in heathen mythology, the dreaded god of the sea and his
truculent trident were ominous, in his simple eyes, they symbolised
the Prince of Darkness, "_Le diable et sa fourche_," the terrors of a

This did not, however, prevent Neptune from standing sentry, in the
same exalted spot, for close on forty years, until in fact, having
fallen to pieces by natural decay, it was removed about the time the
Old Neptune Inn became the _Morning Chronicle_ office; the whereabouts
of its _dejecta membra_ are now a dead secret.

The origin of the famed statue had defied the most recondite searchers
of the past. For the following we are indebted to the retentive memory
of that eminently respected authority, the "oldest inhabitant." The
statue of Neptune, says the octogenarian, Robert Urquhart, so well
remembered at the foot of Mountain Hill, was presented to the landlord
of the hotel, George Cossar, formerly butler to Hon. Matthew Bell, who
then owned the St. Lawrence Chambers. It had been the figure-head of
the _Neptune_, a large king's ship, stranded in 1817 on Anticosti.
Would the stranded _Neptune_ of 1817 be the same as the flagship of
Admiral Durell in 1759, the _Neptune_ of 90 guns, to whom the large
bell bearing the word "_Neptune_, 1760," inscribed on, belonged? This
bell, which formerly stood on the Royal Engineers' workshop at Quebec,
was recently taken to Ottawa. The wreck had been bought by John
Goudie, of St. Roch suburb, then a leading ship builder, and, having
to break it up, the figure-head was brought to Quebec, and presented
as above stated.

The following respecting press gangs and the presence of Lord
Nelson, whilst at Quebec in 1782, was contributed by one of the
"oldest inhabitants" to QUEBEC PAST AND PRESENT, but reached too
late for insertion: -


J. M. LEMOINE, Esq., _Spencer Grange_.

DEAR SIR, - I have much pleasure in acceding to your request to
send you a note of some circumstances connected with the city, in
which seventy-one years of my life - now verging towards eighty -
have been spent. I am familiar with no part of Nelson's career,
except what I heard from my mother's own lips respecting this
brave man. My mother was gifted with a remarkable memory, and
recollected well having herself seen Captain Nelson, when in 1782,
he commanded at Quebec the sloop-of-war Albemarle. "He was erect,
stern of aspect and wore, as was then customary, the _queue_
or pigtail," she often repeated. Her idea of the Quebec young lady
to whom he had taken such a violent fancy, was that her name was
Woolsey - an aunt or elder sister, perhaps, of the late John W.
Woolsey, Esq., President for some years of the Quebec Bank, who
died in 1852, at a very advanced age. According to her, it was a
Mr. Davidson who prevented the imprudent marriage contemplated.

As to the doings of the press gangs in the Lower Town and suburbs,
I can speak from what I saw more than once. Impressing seamen
lasted at Quebec from 1807, until after the battle of Waterloo.
The terror these sea-faring gentlemen created was great. I
remember a fine young fellow who refused to surrender, being shot
through the back with a holster pistol and dying of the wound,
this was in 1807. I can name the following as being seized by
press gangs * * * * * Soon ruses were resorted to by the gay
fellows who wandered after night fall in quest of amusement in the
highways and byways. Her Majesty's soldiers were, of course,
exempt of being impressed into the naval service; so, that our
roving city youths would either borrow coats, or get some made,
similar to the soldiers', to elude the press gang. These ruses
were, however, soon stopped, the press gang, having secured the
services of two city constables, Rosa and - - - , who could spot
every city youth and point out the counterfeits.


Quebec, 1st August, 1876.

Parallel with St. Peter street, runs Notre Dame street, which leads us to
the little Church of the Lower Town, named Notre Dame de la Victoire, in
remembrance of the victory achieved in 1690 over Sir William Phipps. This
church was, at a later period, called "Notre Dame des Victoires," in
commemoration of the dispersion by a storm of Admiral Walker's squadron,
in 1711. Bishop Laval had projected the erection of this modest little
church, but the building of it was performed in 1688, under the auspices
of his successor, Bishop St. Vallier, out of funds provided by the Lower
Town ladies. The corner of these streets (St. Peter and Sous-le-Fort
streets) is probably the site of the "Abitation," close to the walks and
garden plots where Champlain cultivated roses and carnations, about the
year 1615.

Fronting the Church of "Notre Dame des Victoires," and on the site now
occupied as Blanchard's Hotel, the ladies of the Ursulines, in 1639, found
a refuge in a humble residence, a sort of shop or store, owned at that
period by the Sieur Juchereau des Châtelets, at the foot of the path
(_sentier_), leading up to the mountain (foot of Mountain street), and
where the then Governor, M. de Montmagny, as is related, sent them their
first Quebec meal.

The locality possesses other pleasant memories: the good, the youthful,
the beautiful Madame de Champlain, about the year 1620, here catechised
and instructed, under the shade of the trees, the young Huron Indians, in
the principles of Christianity. History has related their surprise and joy
on seeing their features reflected in the small mirror which their
benefactress wore suspended at her side, "close to her heart," as they
said, according to the then prevailing custom.

In 1682 a conflagration broke out in the Lower Town, which, besides the
numerous vaults and stores, reduced into ashes a considerable portion of

Online LibraryJ.M. Le MoinePicturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present → online text (page 18 of 59)