J.M. Le Moine.

Picturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present online

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"As the seat of French power in America until 1759, the great fortress
of English rule in British America, and the key of the St. Lawrence,
Quebec must possess interest of no ordinary character for well-
informed tourists. To the traveller, there are innumerable points and
items vastly interesting and curious - the citadel and forts of Cape
Diamond, with their impregnable ramparts that rival Gibraltar in
strength and endurance against siege, the old walls of the city and
their gates each of which has its legend of war and bloody assault and
repulse, the plains of Abraham, every foot of which is commemorated
with blood and battle; Wolfe's monument, where the gallant and brave
soldier died with a shout of victory on his lips, the Martello towers,
with their subterranean communications with the citadel; the antique
churches, paintings, and all their paraphernalia, treasures, and
curiosities that are religiously preserved therein, the falls of
Montmorency, the natural steps. Montcalm's house, and a thousand other
relics of the mysterious past that has hallowed these with all the
mystic interest that attaches to antiquity, great deeds, and beautiful
memories. To see all these, a tourist requires at least two days'
time, and surely no one who pretends to be a traveller, in these days
of rapid transit will fail to visit Quebec, the best city, the most
hospitable place, and richer in its wealth of rare sights and grand
old memorials. French peculiarities and English oddities, than any
other city on this broad continent."

"Leaving the citadel, we are once more in the European Middle ages.
Gates and posterns, cranky steps that lead up to lofty, gabled houses,
with sharp French roofs of burnished tin, like those of Liège;
processions of the Host; altars decked with flowers; statues of the
Virgin; sabots, blouses, and the scarlet of the British lines-man, -
all these are seen in narrow streets and markets that are graced with
many a Cotentin lace cap, and all within forty miles of the down-east,
Yankee state of Maine. It is not far from New England to Old
France.... There has been no dying out of the race among the French
Canadians. They number twenty times the thousand that they did 100
years ago. The American soil has left physical type, religion,
language, and laws absolutely untouched. They herd together in their
rambling villages, dance to the fiddle after Mass on Sundays, - as
gayly as once did their Norman sires, - and keep up the _fleur-de-
lys_ and the memory of Montcalm. More French than the French are the
Lower Canada _habitans_. The pulse-beat of the continent finds no echo
here." - (Sir Charles Dilke.)

In the rosy days of his budding fame, the gifted Henry Ward Beecher
discoursed as follows of the Rock City [4]: -

"Curious old Quebec! - of all the cities on the continent of America,
the quaintest.... It is a populated cliff. It is a mighty rock,
scarped and graded, and made to hold houses and castles which, by a
proper natural law, ought to slide off from its back, like an ungirded
load from a camel's back. But they stick. At the foot of the rocks,
the space of several streets in width has been stolen from the
river.... We landed....

"Away we went, climbing the steep streets at a canter with little
horses hardly bigger than flies, with an aptitude for climbing
perpendicular walls. It was strange to enter a walled city through low
and gloomy gates, on this continent of America. Here was a small bit
of mediaeval Europe perched upon a rock, and dried for keeping, in
this north-east corner of America, a curiosity that has not its equal,
in its kind, on this side of the ocean....

"We rode about as if we were in a picture-book, taming over a new leaf
at each street!... The place should always be kept old. Let people go
somewhere else for modern improvements. It is a shame, when Quebec
placed herself far out of the way, up in the very neighbourhood of
Hudson's Bay, that it should be hunted and harassed with new-fangled
notions, and that all the charming inconveniences and irregularities
of narrow and tortuous streets, that so delight a traveller's eyes,
should be altered to suit the fantastic notions of modern people....

"Our stay in Quebec was too short by far. But it was long enough to
make it certain that we shall come back again. A summer in Canada
would form one of the most delightful holidays that we can imagine. We
mean to prove our sincerity by our conduct. And then, if it is not all
that our imagination promises, we will write again and confess."

Professor Benjamin Silliman discourses thus: -

"A seat of ancient dominion - now hoary with the lapse of more than two
centuries - formerly the seat of a French empire in the west - lost and
won by the blood of gallant armies, and of illustrious commanders -
throned on a rock, and defended by all the proud defiance of war! Who
could approach such a city without emotion? Who in Canada has not
longed to cast his eyes on the water-girt rocks and towers of
Quebec." - (Silliman's _Tour in Canada_, 1819.)

Charles Lever has left a curious glimpse of Quebec from Diamond Harbour,
as seen, by his incomparable Irish Gil Blas, Mr. Cornelius Cregan, the
appreciated lodger of Madam Thomas John Davis at the "Hotel Davis."

"As viewed from Diamond Harbour, a more striking city than Quebec is
seldom seen. The great rock rising above the Lower Town, and crowned
with its batteries, all bristling with guns, seemed to my eyes the
very realization of impregnability. I looked upon the ship that lay
tranquilly on the water below, and whose decks were thronged with
blue-jackets - to the Highlander who paced his short path as sentry,
some hundred feet high upon the wall of the fortress, and I thought to
myself with such defenders as these that standard yonder need never
carry any other banner. The whole view is panoramic, the bending of
the river shuts out the channel by which you have made your approach,
giving the semblance of a lake, on whose surface vessels of every
nation lie at anchor, some with the sails hung out to dry, gracefully
drooping from the taper spars; others refitting again for sea, and
loading the huge pine-trunks moored as vast rafts to the stern. There
were people everywhere, all was motion, life and activity. Jolly-boats
with twenty oars, man-of-war gigs bounding rapidly past them with
eight; canoes skimming by without a ripple, and seemingly without
impulse, till you caught sight of the lounging figure, who lay at full
length in the stern, and whose red features were scarce
distinguishable from the copper-coloured bark of his boat. Some moved
upon the rafts, and even upon single trunks of trees, as, separated
from the mass, they floated down on the swift current, boat-hook in
hand to catch at the first object chance might offer them. The quays
and the streets leading down to them were all thronged, and as you
cast your eye upwards, here and there above the tall roofs might be
seen the winding of stairs that lead to the Upper Town, alike dark
with the moving tide of men. On every embrasure and gallery, on every
terrace and platform, it was the same. Never did I behold such a human

"Now there was something amazingly inspiriting in all this,
particularly when coming from the solitude and monotony of a long
voyage. [5] The very voice that ye-hoéd; the hoarse challenge of the
sentinels on the rock; the busy hum of the town - made delicious music
to my ear; and I could have stood and leaned over the bulwark for
hours, to gaze at the scene. I own no higher interest invested the
picture - for I was ignorant of Wolfe. I had never heard of Montcalm -
the plains of "Abraham" were to me but grassy slopes, and "nothing
more." It was the life and stir, - the tide of that human ocean, on
which I longed myself to be a swimmer - these were what charmed me. Nor
was the deck of the old "Hampden" inactive all the while, although
seldom attracting much of my notice: soldiers were mustering,
knapsacks packing, rolls calling, belts buffing, and coats brushing on
all sides; men grumbling, sergeants cursing; officers swearing; half-
dressed invalids popping up their heads out of hatchways, answering to
wrong names, and doctors ordering them down again with many an
anathema: soldiers in the way of sailors, and sailors always hauling
at something that interfered with the inspection-drill: every one in
the wrong place, and each cursing his neighbour for stupidity. At last
the shore-boats boarded us, as if our confusion wanted anything to
increase it. Red-faced harbour-masters shook hands with the skipper
and pilot, and disappeared into the "round-house" to discuss grog and
the gales. Officers from the garrison came out to welcome their
friends - for it was the second battalion we had on board of a regiment
whose first had been some years in Canada; - and then what a rush of
inquiries were exchanged. "How is the Duke?" - "All quiet in England" -
"No sign of war in Europe!" - "Are the 8th come home!" - "Where is
Forbes?" - "Has Davern sold out?" with a mass of such small interests
as engage men who live in coteries." (Confessions of Con. Cregan, Chap

There are yet among the living in Quebec many who can recall the good
olden times when our garrison contained two regiments and more of the red-
coated soldiers of England, at the beck of the "Iron Duke" - _him_ of

A Haligonian tourist thus writes: -

"HALIFAX, N. S., 1880. - I reached Halifax on the Saturday after
leaving Quebec.....Nothing was wanting to make my impressions of
Quebec perfect, but a little more time to widen, deepen and strengthen
the friendships made; alas! to be severed (for a time) so soon. I went
expecting to see a city perched on a rock and inhabited by the
descendants of a conquered race with a chasm between them and every
Englishman in the Dominion. In place of this, I found the city more
picturesque, more odd, more grand, than I had ever imagined, and
peopled by a race who, if conquered in 1759, have had sweet revenge
ever since, by making a conquest of every stranger who has entered
Quebec - through his higher nature. It is no wonder that Quebec has
such a story of song and adventure. There is romance in the river and
tragedy on the hill, and while the memory of Wolfe and Montcalm is
green, the city will be the Mecca of the Dominion. But keep the hand
of the Goth - the practical man - from touching the old historic
landmarks of the city. A curse has been pronounced on those who remove
their neighbours' landmark, but what shall be said of those who remove
the landmarks which separate century from century and period from
period." (J. T. Bulmer.)

The following affords a good specimen of Capt W. F Butler's pictorial
style: -

"Spring breaks late over the province of Quebec - that portion of
America known to our fathers as Lower Canada, and of old to the
subjects of the Grand Monarque as the kingdom of New France. But when
the young trees begin to open their leafy lids after the long sleep of
winter, they do it quickly. The snow is not all gone before the maple
trees are all green - the maple, that most beautiful of trees! Well has
Canada made the symbol of her new nationality that tree whose green
gives the spring its earliest freshness, whose autumn-dying tints are
richer than the clouds of sunset, whose life-stream is sweeter than
honey, and whose branches are drowsy through the long summer with the
scent and the hum of bee and flower! Still the long line of the
Canadas admits of a varied spring. When the trees are green at Lake
St. Clair, they are scarcely budding at Kingston, they are leafless at
Montreal, and Quebec is white with snow. Even between Montreal and
Quebec, a short night's steaming, there exists a difference of ten
days in the opening of the summer. But late as comes the summer to
Quebec, it comes in its loveliest and most enticing form, as though it
wished to atone for its long delay in banishing from such a landscape
the cold tyranny of winter. And with what loveliness does the whole
face of plain, river, lake and mountain turn from the iron clasp of
icy winter to kiss the balmy lips of returning summer, and to welcome
his bridal gifts of sun and shower! The trees open their leafy lids to
look at him - the brooks and streamlets break forth into songs of
gladness - "the birch tree," as the old Saxon said," becomes beautiful
in its branches, and rustles sweetly in its leafy summit, moved to and
fro by the breath of heaven" - the lakes uncover their sweet faces, and
their mimic shores steal down in quiet evenings to bathe themselves in
the transparent waters - far into the depths of the great forest speeds
the glad message of returning glory, and graceful fern, and soft
velvet moss, and white wax-like lily peep forth to cover rock and
fallen tree and wreck of last year's autumn in one great sea of
foliage. There are many landscapes which can never be painted,
photographed, or described, but which the mind carries away
instinctively to look at again and again in the after-time - these are
the celebrated views of the world, and they are not easy to find. From
the Queen's rampart, on the citadel of Quebec, the eye sweeps over a
greater diversity of landscape than is probably to be found in any one
spot in the universe. Blue mountain, far-stretching river, foaming
cascade, the white sails of ocean ships, the black trunks of many-
sized guns, the pointed roofs, the white village nestling amidst its
fields of green, the great isle in mid-channel, the many shades of
colour from deep blue pine-wood to yellowing corn-field - in what other
spot on the earth's broad bosom lie grouped together in a single
glance so many of these "things of beauty" which the eye loves to
feast on and to place in memory as joys for ever?" (_The Great Lone

Let us complete this mosaic of descriptions and literary gems, borrowed
from English, French and American writers, by a sparkling _tableau_ of the
historic memories of Quebec, traced by a French Canadian _littérateur_,
the Honourable P. J. O. Chauveau: -

"History is everywhere - around us, beneath us; from the depths of
yonder valleys, from the top of that mountain, history rises up and
presents itself to our notice, exclaiming: 'Behold me!'

"Beneath us, among the capricious meanders of the River St. Charles,
the Cahir-Coubat of Jacques Cartier, is the very place where he first
planted the cross and held his first conference with the _Seigneur
Donnacona_. Here, very near to us, beneath a venerable elm tree,
which, with much regret, we saw cut down, tradition states that
Champlain first raised his tent. From the very spot on which we now
stand, Count de Frontenac returned to Admiral Phipps that proud
answer, as he said, _from the mouth of his cannon_, which will
always remain recorded by history. Under these ramparts are spread the
plains on which fell Wolfe and where, in the following year, the
Chevalier de Lévis and General Murray fought that other battle, in
memory of which the citizens of Quebec are erecting (in 1854) a
monument. Before us, on the heights of Beauport, the souvenir of
battles not less heroic, recall to our remembrance the names of
Longueuil, St. Hélène, and Juchereau Duchesnay. Below us, at the foot
of that tower on which floats the British flag, Montgomery and his
soldiers all fell, swept by the grape-shot of a single gun pointed by
a Canadian artilleryman.

"On the other hand, under that projecting rock, now crowned with the
guns of old England, the intrepid Dambourgès, sword in hand, drove
Arnold and his men from the houses in which they had established
themselves. History is then everywhere around us. She rises as well
from these ramparts, replete with daring deeds, as from those
illustrious plains equally celebrated for feats of arms, and she again
exclaims: 'Here I am!'"



Fancy borne on the outspread wings of memory occasionally loves to soar
o'er the dull, prosaic present, far away into the haunted, dream-land of a
hazy but hopeful past.

Let us recall one year, in the revolving cycle of time - one day above all
days - for dwellers in Champlain's eyry keep pre-eminently sacred that
auspicious 3rd of July, 1608, when his trusty little band, in all twenty-
eight, founded the city destined soon to be the great Louis's proud forta-
lice, - the Queen city of the French western world.

On that memorable July day, would you, kind reader, like to ascend the
lofty slope of Cape Diamond, at the hour when the orb of light is shedding
his fierce, meridian rays on the verdant shores and glancing waters below,
and watch with bated breath the gradually increasing gap in the primeval
forest, which busy French axes are cleaving in order to locate the
residence - "L'ABITATION" - of a loved commander, Samuel de Champlain?

Or else would you, in your partiality for the cool of the evening, prefer
from the dizzy summit, where now stands our citadel, to gaze - which would
be more romantic - over the silent strand at your feet, pregnant with a
mighty future, at the mystic hour of eve, when the pale beams of Diana
will lend incomparable witchery to this novel scene. Few indeed the
objects denoting the unwelcome arrival of Europeans in this forest home of
the red man: the _prise de possession_ by the grasping outer barbarian -
for such Champlain must have appeared to the descendants of king
Donnacona. In the stream, the ripple of the majestic St. Lawrence caresses
the dark, indistinct hull of an armed bark: in Indian parlance, a "big
canoe [6] with wings"; on an adjoining height waves languidly with the
last breath of the breeze the lily standard of old France; on the shore, a
cross recently raised: emblems for us of the past and of the present:
State and Church linked together.

Such the objects decernible amid the hoary oaks, nodding pines, and green
hemlocks, below Cape Diamond, on that eventful 3rd of July, 1608.


"Above the point of the Island of Orleans," says Parkman, "a constriction
of the vast channel narrows it to a mile; on one hand, the green heights
of Point Levi; on the other, the cliffs of Quebec. Here, a small stream,
the St. Charles, enters the St. Lawrence, and in the angle betwixt them
rises the promontory, on two sides a natural fortress. Land among the
walnut-trees that formed a belt between the cliffs and the St. Lawrence.
Climb the steep height, now bearing aloft its ponderous load of churches,
convents, dwellings, ramparts, and batteries, - there was an accessible
point, a rough passage, gullied downward where Prescott Gate (in 1871)
opened on the Lower Town. Mount to the highest summit, Cape Diamond, [7]
now zig-zagged with warlike masonry. Then the fierce sun fell on the bald,
baking rocks, with its crisped mosses and parched lichens. Two centuries
and-a-half have quickened the solitude with swarming life, covered the
deep bosom of the river with barge and steamer and gliding sail, and
reared cities and villages on the site of forests; but nothing can destroy
the surpassing grandeur of the scene.

"Grasp the savin anchored in the fissure, lean over the brink of the
precipice, and look downward, a little to the left, on the belt of woods
which covers the strand between the water and the base of the cliffs. Here
a gang of axe-men are at work, and Point Levi and Orleans echo the crash
of falling trees.

"These axe-men were pioneers of an advancing host, - advancing, it is true,
with feeble and uncertain progress: priests, soldiers, peasants, feudal
scutcheons, royal insignia. Not the Middle Age, but engendered of it by
the stronger life of modern centralization; sharply stamped with parental
likeness, heir to parental weakness and parental force.

"A few weeks passed, and a pile of wooden buildings rose on the brink of
the St. Lawrence, on or near the site of the market-place of the Lower
Town of Quebec. The pencil of Champlain, always regardless of proportion
and perspective, has preserved its semblance. A strong wooden wall,
surmounted by a gallery loop-holed for musketry, enclosed three buildings,
containing quarters for himself and his men, together with a court-yard,
from one side of which rose a tall dove-cot, like a belfry. A moat
surrounded the whole, and two or three small cannon were planted on
salient platforms towards the river. There was a large magazine near at
hand, and a part of the adjacent ground was laid out as a garden."
(_Pioneers of France in the New World_, p. 301.)


On the 14th of September, 1535, under the head "Shipping News, Port of
Quebec," history might jot down some startling items of marine
intelligence; the arrival from sea of three armed vessels - the "Grande
Hermine," the "Petite Hermine," and the "Emerillon." One would imagine
their entrance in port must have awakened as much curiosity among the
startled denizens of Stadacona - the Hurons of 1535 - as did the anchoring
in our harbour, in August, 1861, of Capt. Vine Hall's leviathan, the
"Great Eastern." Were the French fleet the first European keels which
furrowed the Laurentian tide under Cape Diamond? We like to think so. Let
the Basques make good their assumed priority: let them produce their
logbook, not merely for the latitude of Newfoundland or Tadoussac, but
also an undisputed entry therein, for the spot where, a century later,
Samuel de Champlain lived, loved, and died. Had the advent of the St. Malo
vikings been heralded by watchful swift-footed retainers to swarthy king
Donnacona, the ruler of the populous town of Stadacona, and a redoubtable
agouhanna of the Huron nation? 'Tis not unlikely.

An entry occurs in the diary of Jacques Cartier, commander of the flagship
"Grande Hermine," to the effect that Donnacona, escorted by twelve canoes,
had met the foreign craft several miles lower than Quebec, where he had
parleyed with his fellow-countrymen, Taiguragny and Domagaya, kidnapped
the year previous at Gaspé and just brought back by Cartier from France;
that, dismissing ten of his twelve canoes, the agouhanna had invited and
received the French commander in his canoe of state, harangued him, and
readily accepted from him a collation of bread and wine, which the captain
of the "Grande Hermine" (thoughtful host) had brought with him.

The meeting over, Donnacona steered for home; and Jacques Cartier ordered
his boats to be manned and ascended the river to seek for a safe anchorage
for his ships. He soon found what he sought, entered then the river Saint
Charles, by him called the St. Croix, landed, crossed the meadows, climbed
the rocks, and threaded the forest. On his return, when he and his party
were rowing for the ships, they had to stand another harangue from the
bank, from an old chief, surrounded by men, boys and some merry squaws, to
whom they gave as presents glass beads, &c., when they regained their

What took place at the interview between the French commander and the
Huron potentate? What were the thoughts, hopes, fears of the grim
chieftain on that fateful September day which brought in across the
Atlantic the first wave of foreign invasion - the outer barbarian to his
forest abode?

One would fain depict king Donnacona roaming, solitary and sad; mayhap, on
the ethereal heights of Cape Diamond, watching, with feelings not
unmingled with alarm, the onward course of the French ships - to him
phantoms of ill-omen careering over the dreary waters - until their white
shrouds gradually disappeared under the shadow of the waving pines and
far-spreading oaks which then clad the green banks of the lurking,
tortuous St Charles.

Chief Donnacona, beware! O beware!


Online LibraryJ.M. Le MoinePicturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present → online text (page 2 of 59)