Source: W.H.G. Armytage, “Thomas Talbot and Lord Wharncliffe: Some New Letters Hitherto Unpublished” in Ontario History, volume XLV (1953), pp. 177-197.
The greatest single coloniser in the history of Canada, Thomas Talbot (1771-1853) presents a challenging enigma to the historian. For nearly fifty years he infused life into one of the most beautiful and fertile tracts of land in the dominion, founding twenty-eight townships, and ruling them with an eccentric despotism from a spartan log-cabin on a high cliff overlooking Lake Erie. From these he sustained a vigorous correspondence with all who might promote his plans; and fought with the imaginative tenacity of his Irish nature to preserve the individuality of the settlements he had so laboriously created. Since E. D. Ermatinger’s biography, published six years after Talbot’s death,1 his personal papers remained unpublished till 1907 and 1909, when J. H. Coyne gave them to the world, together with a valuable study of Talbot’s character, through the pages of the Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada.2 In 1939, Professor Norman Macdonald threw further light on Talbot’s benevolent despotism from the Public Archives of Canada.3 To these three major sources of Talbot material can now be added a small contribution from one of Talbot’s closest personal friends, discovered in the Wharncliffe Papers in the Central Reference Library, Sheffield.4
James Archibald Stuart-Wortley-Mackenzie was five years younger than Thomas Talbot. Great grandson of the famous Lady Mary Wortley Montague (whose letters he edited), grandson of King George III’s favourite the third Earl of Bute (who gave Dr. Johnson a pension of £300 a year), he first came to Canada as a fifteen year old ensign in the 48th Regiment of Foot, exchanging into the 7th Royal Fusiliers when H.R.H. the Duke of Kent came out. Thomas Talbot was at the same time a lieutenant in the 24th Foot, in garrison at Quebec; and between the two young officers a firm friendship was forged which lasted for the next fifty years. Friendship was one of Talbot’s strongest affections: for it earned him the position of aide to Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe for the term of six years. Stuart-Wortley stayed for three years in Canada, and after becoming colonel of the 12th Foot, left the army in 1801. Talbot left the army at the same time. But whereas Stuart-Wortley had also become a Tory M.P. for the family borough of Bossiney in Cornwall in the meantime, and resolved to adopt a political career in England, Talbot returned to Canada to take possession of a settlement which he proposed to establish around Port Talbot on the northern shores of Lake Erie.
Talbot arrived at Port Talbot on 21 May 1802, and his first letter to James Stuart-Wortley was written two and a half years later. Others might have been sent before, but they have not survived among the papers.
10 Dec. 1805
My dear James,
Considering where and how I am placed it must be admitted by all impartial judges that I have great merit for writing twice to your once; what on earth are you about? I suppose investigating some of the rascally peculations that I find by the papers that your Parliament folks have been practising.5 Well, but you might have stolen a moment to tell me how you liked my séjour, the fact is that you are growing so bad in England that had I but the power of drawing your house and a very few of my other friends to this country, I never would feel the least inclination to cross the Atlantic. I frequently flatter myself in my solitary rambles through my Forests that the downfall of Great Britain will some day throw you within reach of this place, for as far as life can be peaceable I enjoy it, and the more I labour the more I become attached to the spot I have chosen for my retreat.
I have nearly got over the difficulties which attend the commencement of an establishment upon so extensive a scale as I have undertaken. It has been subject to much heavier charges than I had looked for owing to its remote situation from other settlements. The articles of living have hitherto demanded large payments not so much in my own housekeeping as what compassion urged me to in granting supplies to my Settlers who came on poor and had not the means without my assistance of furnishing their provisions. This present year will thank God nearly put an end to such expence for the future, as I have this Autumn sown 43 acres in wheat which will no doubt next harvest yield 1200 Bush. and by that time my mill will be in a state for grinding. Those 1200 Bushls. at the present market price of wheat would sell for 270£ exclusive of my Spring crop of Indian Corn, Barley, Potatoes etc. so that without being too sanguine I calculate my next Summer produce at good 400£ and am satisfied that should my improvements increase for a couple of years more in the same proportion that they have already done that my income will amount to £1000 a considerable share of which I may lay by, as my Farm will furnish every necessity excepting Wines and Groceries and the former I am not without my expectation of making at home as the soil and climate appear most genial to the Vine, but to enjoy all these blessings, a person must divert himself of the Society of the Great World and feel the inward gratification that I do of being the founder of this little Empire. My subjects this day amount to about 100 souls.
My brother James6 has written to me in a most serious manner expressive of his intention to pay me a visit and desiring a route and my opinion as to the practicability of the attempt. I have replied, that not knowing his Wife, I could not hazard an opinion but that if she was a person that could muster up sufficient nerve to encounter a few of les grands aventures, I foresaw no difficulty. Their society for a year might add much to my satisfaction.
I must give you the routine of my agricultural system beginning with the present season. I am now clearing 40 acres to be ready for the Spring Crop about the 1st of May I will plant the most part of it with Indian Corn and some acres of Potatoes and sow the remainder with Barley, the two first are done without any ploughing or harrowing simply a hand hoe which you perform twice more during the Summer to destroy the weeds for the Barley, the new land is twice gone over with the harrow before and as often after sowing the grain, it not being necessary to use a plough for three or four years upon new land. Its the same process for Wheat—about the middle of September when the Indian Corn and Potatoes are taken off the ground (the Barley having been mown in July) I harrow over the entire 40 acres and sow it with wheat so that I have nearly two crops off in the space of the year. My land yields about 40 Bush, of Indian Corn to the acre and from 25 to 30 Bush, of Wheat. The Indian Corn bears the same price as wheat this year, viz: one Dolr per Bushl. and the clearing and fencing costs me about 4 to 10£ per acre so that you can perceive that farming may be followed to some profit in this country. My mills when completed will stand me in somewhere near £1,200 sterl which is a large sum considering my capital, but there was not any doing without such a convenience. I had near 60 miles of water carriage in open boats to the nighest mills subject to more risk and expence than I could purchase flour for, besides if I had not provided mills settlers would not have come on my land, about 40 industrious Farmers at a moderate calculation would give me a dole worth £225 per annum but I must wait some years in patience for that good fortune.
Now Master James the only method you have [of] obtaining my pardon for not writing is to be sending me 20 lbs of white Dutch Clover Seed. Take care that it is fresh and good. It must be packed in a tin case to preserve it from wet and then in a wooden case and forwarded by the earliest Spring vessel from London to Thos. Talbot Esquire Port Talbot care of Messers Logan and Watt, Merchants, Montreal, Canada.
I want sadly to hear how my friend John grows up. Charles will be a thorough lion and the young Lady is no doubt a Lamb. I don’t know that I ever wrote so long a letter before so God preserve you and give my kindest regards to Lady Caroline and I hope you don’t neglect assuring Lady Erne how much I esteem her—if you are near Corbett when this is received, remember me to him, if in Town to your Father and Mother.7
I am and hope will remain always, most faithfully and affectionately yours, Thomas Talbot.
Thirteen years elapsed during which no correspondence has survived: years in which Stuart-Wortley began to make a name for himself in the House of Commons, arguing for a relaxation of the Com Laws, the Game Laws, and the free importation of wool. Talbot had also been making a name, though not so desirable a one, by his acquisition of 150 acres for every settler that entered his colony. The Executive Council grew restive, and desired him to grant 50 acres per settler out of his own original land- grant, instead of deducting it from the 200 acre grant which he himself received from the Government for each settler. So Talbot came to England to see Lord Bathurst, Secretary for the Colonies, and wrote to Stuart- Wortley :
Limmers Hotel, Conduit Street 18 Jany. 1818
Mv dear Wortley,
You no doubt will be a little surprised at finding that I have found my way back to the land of the living if such we are to call England. I have been three days in Town, from Penzance, where I landed after a passage of 28 days from New York: The next thing is to acquaint you with the cause of my visiting Europe—a difficulty in my land affairs produced by a mischievous and designing disposition in the executive council of Upper Canada. I am therefore here for the purpose of making an appeal to Lord Bathurst.’ as yet I have not called on his Lordship.
Believe me, my dear friend, that I most ardently long to hear from you, informing me of the state of a family for whose happiness I ever feel most sincerely interested. I write in total ignorance not having seen an individual who could give me any information on your subject—pray let me hear from you by return of Post and say all that is affectionate for me to those around you that I am known to. I shall make every exertion to arrange my business before the end of next month as I am most anxious to return to my own dear country the beginning of March and I promise myself the pleasure of meeting you in London before I leave it—I am my dear Wortley
Most faithfully yrs
Between Talbot’s return and his next visit to England, momentous developments took place at Port Talbot. Hungry landhunters, hopeful emigrants, pioneers: all the flotsam that a great migration of peoples carries along, poured into his settlement. His famous road, along which settlers received grants, served as an artery along which this new’ blood could pass and animate the countryside. Four miles north of Lake Erie, what was once an Indian trail, now, under the hatchets and shovels of European pioneers, became a life duct running parallel with Lake Erie. The townships of Aldboro and Dunwich were settled along the lines of his original plan, with 240 settlers on 50 acre homesteads. This meant that, for his services, Talbot obtained a grant of 48,000 acres for so doing, and in fact received 12,000 acres more than that because the number of settlers increased.
Talbot was in truth a busy and singleminded man. Professor MacDonald has well described his technique of operating:
“ .. . with the settlers he acted the part of a benevolent despot. Nairn could obtain land without applying to him, and the conditions and price were uniform and absolute. He admitted no applicant into bis house, but when he felt disposed to listen to him, he opened a szoaZ compartment of his window* which he closed and secured the HMjnuatt he had delivered his reply. If the application was granted, the najne was inscribed in pencil on a plan and upon the identical lot chosen by the applicant. Should the settler desert his lot or attempt to sell it or neglect to perform the settlement duties, Talbot took a p!*eoe india-rubber wMch was attached to his pencil, and as he very jjostty expressed it. “rules Mm out”’, from which moment the man oeiaw as madh “”a nonentity as the Same of a candle which had been bfewtis ©nit”‘ Hans by the pencil snd india-rubber Talbot governed in «*?&*- tude—fcy the csae be rewarded zzxI attracted, by the other he and repelled the setHere. aisd as he was judge, jury and of his owe law, Ms power was unquestioned.
To preserve this authority against the encroachment of the exstuifrfe. Talbot constantly straggled with Sir Peregrine Maitland. governor of Upper Canada from ISIS to 1S28. Maitland too, \vjva an oM soldier, and the tension between the two is revealed in the following letter written after Talbot’s next visit to England:
Port Talbot 12 July 1822
My dear James,
I am again safe in my old Log House on the top of my own high Hill, after a very tedious passage from England and journey from New York, occasioned by the quantity of baggage and the three great Dogs that 1 brought, which forced me to travel slow in a common farm waggon the most part of the way. I wrote a short letter from New York, which I trust you received, informing you that I had escaped the dangers of the Sea, but at that time I did not know of the dreadful shipwrecks that had happened so immediately after my sailing, which possibly might have occasioned some alarming feelings amongst my friends.
I reached York(e) in this Province the 13th of last month, where Sir Peregrine Maitland receivd me rather coldly and after reading Ld. Bat hursts Dispatch shewed much displeasure at the contents and said he should answer it by the first opportunity and that probably it would be 3 or 4 months before he would be able to act in my business—the fact iSs that he is much annoyed at my not having presented a letter of in- ltv<ducUe.n which he had written at my request to Ld. Bathurst at the tm*? of my grnng for England last Autumn. I then returned his letter, ofcs&rving that I had met with so kind a reception from Lord Bathurst that I eoasidfctevi it best not to make use of any letter of recommendation- I another strong reason, but which I did not communicate,
that even cootk^tially consulted upon the state of the Province
and rapjfc&tect to suggest whatever might occur- to me. as likely to promote its interests- -i conceived that his views and mine might not agree and that had 1 recommendied measures- hostile to his plans, be might have said that I had made use ox Ids introduction to forward my own schemes.
I lost no time in writing explanatory on the subject to WiImott,n in order that he should be prepared for Maitland’s statement, and I hope that my letter may have the good fortune to reach him in time—it is really most vexatious after the assurances that Wilmott gave me that I would not meet with any difficulty in this Province to find myself placed in the situation I am thro’ the caprice of such a little genious as you and myself recollect Maitland to have been. However, under my disappointments, my spirits have been a little invigorated, by the receipt of a letter from a friend at Montreal two days ago, who mentions having heard from an official source, tho’ given in a secret, that Sir Peregrine was to be removed to another situation, and that your humble servant was to be elevated to the Government Chair of this Province—I give but little credit to such report, but confess I would like it much, as it would afford a comfortable provision and enable me to render essential benefit to a part of the world that has taken up so many years of my life in endeavouring to serve—By the way, I was not in time for the Talbot Anniversary, but understand that the day was celebrated with much zeal. I have cut out of a paper an account of the Fete which I enclose for your and all my friends entertainment.
I long to get a letter from you and anticipate the pleasure of hearing that yourself, Lady Caroline and every individual of the family have enjoyed themselves and that you have every prospect of a continuance of such blessing as believe me my dear James there is not any person who feels a more affectionate solicitude in every circumstance connected with your happiness than I do, therefore do not neglect writing to me as frequently as your time will allow, and the most expeditious mode of forwarding your letters will be to enclose them to Cropper Benson and Co. at Liverpool requesting them to forward them by the first vessel belonging to the Line of Packets to New York which sail (I think, three times each month)—and direct to Col. Talbot, Niagara, State of New York—don’t add Canada, as it occasions great delay by its being sent to Halifax and Quebec—I found my Settlement looking very well as also Port Talbot where the crops are excellent. The Church at St. Thomas is in a forward state and I have begun to make arrangements for building another at Port Talbot—This letter in all probability will not reach England before the end of August, when it will be hoped you will be a steady country squire at Wortley, however I will address it to Curzon St.
hope that John has taken a trip to amuse himself as he did not appear partial to London, let me know all about him—and assure Missy’1 that I only wait the arrival of Brant from England to get Lady Caroline and her Mockasines made—dont forget to say, what success you have had in your racing way—you must know that I am not so satisfied with my retirement in this Country as formerly and that I frequently wish that I was amongst you—I think that by this you allow that I have said enough for this time, but I must add my most affectionate regards to Lady Caroline, Missy, John, Charles, and James—and when you see Lady Erne and the Dundas’s the same—now God bless you my dear James
Always most sincerely yrs Thomas Talbot.
Three months later, Talbot was writing again:
Port Talbot N.C. October 24th. 1822.
My dear James,
Your truly affectionate letter of the 3rd July, reached me about three weeks ago and I can most devoutly declare, that the reading of it has afforded me the only comfort I have experienced since my return to
Canada. Such a delightful account as you gave of yourself, My dear Lady Caroline, Missy, John, Charles and James, has gratified me more than I can express, and the only drawback, was in hearing that Mrs. Dundas’s health was not so good, as all who know her excellencies must wish her to enjoy, however I must accuse you of one piece of neglect, which is, your not having mentioned a person I most sincerely love, Lady Erne.
This letter will probably get to England before X ss, the very
thoughts of which makes me melancholy, recalling to my recollection the enjoyable time I spent at Wortley, so widely different to my present solitary situation, but I must not infect you or any of my friends with my gloomy feelings—so God bless every one of you.
I wrote to you soon after I arrived at Port Talbot informing you how greatly disappointed and mortified I felt in consequence of the unkind and illiberal reception I met with from Sir Peregrine Maitland, having left London in high spirits and not in the slightest degree suspecting that any unfavourable consequences would occur, Wilmot having assured me that Lord Bathurst’s Dispatch, of which I was the bearer, contained the strongest recommendations to the Lieut. Govr. that all the relief that I had solicited should be granted, instead of which Maitland has not complied in any one instance, but on the contrary has answered the Dispatch representing (as I am persuaded) that I had not any just claim to the indulgence I had memorialed for. The truth is, that he is jealous and annoyed at my having acquired so much credit for the improvement of so extensive a portion of the Province, and to hear from every person who visits the Talbot Country, that it infinitely surpasses any of the settlements formed under the auspices of the Colonial Governt. In addition to these vexations, I have to relate a circumstance that I am sure will cause your friendly heart to sympathise with me. On leaving England, all the money I possessed in the world, amounting to between
& 1200£ which was placed in the hands of Inglis and Co. of Mark Lane, considered one of the safest and most respectable houses in London. Mr. Inglis advised me not to take the money out to America, as I would gain probably 12 pr. cent on the amount by drawing Bills of Exchange at New York and that he would allow me interest until my drafts became payable. I followed his recommendation and at New York, drew upon him for the whole sum and sold my Bills at a premium of 8y2 P**. ct. By the last post, the day before yesterday, I received a letter from the Merchant at New York who had purchased my Bills, stating that an account had just been received, that the house of Inglis and Co. had failed on the 7th of Augt. and that the senior partner had shot himself on the 6th of that month, so that I have lost all. Under such a painful embarrassment
and deplorable state of my affairs, it has occured to me, provided that it would not in any manner interfere with your own family’s interest, that you should have the kindness to call on Lord Bathurst, and describe to him my situation, as possibly he may feel disposed to assist me in some shape or other, and what appears to me not to be unreasonable, is, that Lord B. might forward instructions, not a recommendation, to the Lieut. Govr. of this Province requiring of him to send a message to the Legislature, expressing a desire that it might make some provision by pension as a reward for the services I had rendered to the Province in devoting 20 years of my life in settling such an extent of it. And I have not any hesitation in saying that I have more essentially contributed to the advancement of the Colony than all the Gentlemen collectively that have governed Upper Canada since it has become a province. I would be perfectly satisfied with £800 or even £500 pr. ann.—Perhaps Lord Bathurst may remark that I have been compensated by a grant of a large quantity of Land, which I allow I have received, but such grant was not in any respect connected with the Settlements I have formed on the Crown Lands.—An arrangement having been entered into in the year 1803, between His Majesty’s Govemt. and myself, that a certain Tract of Land should be appropriated to me, upon the condition, of my placing Settlers upon it, and that I was to make a Deed of 50 acres in perpetuity to each Settler and receive from the Crown a grant of 150 acres to myself for each of them, which condition I have faithfully performed. Besides Land is of mere nominal value, there not being any purchasers in the Country, and were I to offer all the land I own for sale, I could not realise £3,000 for it, and am in debt to that amount. If you see fit, you can consult with Wilmot, who I think is friendly disposed towards me—however I submit myself entirely to your better judgment and therefore will not dwell further on this unpleasant subject—the next shall be more gay.
I was much pleased with your matrimonial accounts and really rejoice that Miss Greville has made such a famous alliance as I admire her exceedingly as a very superior person, pray when you see Lady Charlotte congratulate her for- me on the event. I also wish Lord Howard every success and happiness in his speculations, all of which, creates in me, a lively interest in my friend John’s future destiny.
I fear that Missy is quite out of all patience for the Mockasines, the truth is, that in consequence of Brant’s not having returned till about a month ago, I waited for him as I knew that his sister would make prittier [ sic ] ones than any other Squaw that I could employ. I have had a note from Brant saying that he will visit me in a few days, when I will make the needful arrangements. I am looking anxiously for every post, hoping for a letter from you. You are quite correct in your suspicions as to my enjoying the civilised society around Port Talbot. Not one of my trees grew, and the Spanish Dog is dead. The Lady has produced 3 but unfortunately they are the consequence of an illicit amour carried on with
a Dandy Lurcher during the voyage. I pitied you all for being kept so long in London, but I hope that you will have had good weather since you have been in the Country, what would I not give to dine with you today—everything that is affectte. for me to Lady Caroline, Missy, John Charles & James besides Lady Erne and the Dundas’s and all other that care about old
Stuart Wortley, to judge by his note on the coversheet of the above letter, replied to Thomas Talbot on the 9 January 1823, to which Talbot responded:
Port Talbot 13th June 1823
My dear James,
No doubt but that you will have given me up, for dead, long before this reaches you. The truth is, that I put off writing to you three successive times since my letter of the 24th October. 1st. I waited to hear from you upon the critical situation I found myself placed at that date 2ndly after the receipt of yours of the 9th Jany., wherein you promised to let me know the result of your conference at the Colonial Office on your getting to Town. I was anxious for that information before I wrote; and in consequence of the exceedingly long passages of vessels from England during the Winter, that of the 9th Jany. found its way to me only a month ago, and that of the 4th March the week following. I will not attempt to express my feelings for your kind exertions as I am satisfied that you will give me credit for those that ought to exist. My third put off, was to ascertain (agreably to Wilmot’s hint) how I stood with the House of Assembly, accordingly I wrote to a particular friend, one of the leading Members, confidentially stating your communication, and it was but the last post that I got his answer, which I enclose to you, conceiving it may give you a better idea of the matter than I could myself, perhaps you may think it advisable to send it to Mr. Wilmot. I fancy it conveys a favourable prospect. I don’t intend adopting Mr. Hagermans suggestion of writing to Maitland or his Secretary, as it would not be attended with any good whatever, for he is of so cold and unforgiving a nature, that I am fully persuaded he would be more disposed to counteract than forward a measure for my relief, but if you and Mr. Wilmot could induce Lord Bathurst to instruct Sir Peregrine to propose to the House of Assembly next Session (which will probably be in January) that some provision in the way of a pension should be made for me, I am of opinion it would be granted 800£ if you can or at the least 500£, so much for that business. Next I have the pleasure to tell you, that I am not likely to suffer by the House of Inglis and Co. as I have had lately a notice from Montreal that my money was disposed of in such a way as not to be subject to the failure, which has cheered me not a little.
How delightful are all your accounts of every one of my dear friends belonging to your family. I can’t describe the pleasure I would feel from
seeing you all again, but Missy I fear will be so grown, before I can pay my way to England, that she will cut the Knight of St. Thomas, therefore pray put her on her guard. I sincerely lament the melancholy state you describe Mr. Ellis to be in, as I have a high esteem and respect for him. I need not apprize you that I passed a devilish Winter besides it has been the most severe that I have known in U.C. and the Spring the most backward and cold. I went for a month to York, our Metropolis. Maitland and myself corresponded with the frigidness of the Season, but I was received in as friendly a manner as possible by Lady Sarah, who is a dear good person and I pity her from my heart in having so frozen a helpmate. I am now busy ploughing and getting in my Spring crops and superintending my flock (settlers) by the way, there was a most gay anniversary on the 21st May and “the Old Colonel” kicked his heels from 8 in the evening to 8 in the morng. so that you may appreciate his merits. I must declare to you, that you are beyond dispute the most interesting and satisfactory correspondent I ever had and you have got into the way of forwarding your letters by Liverpool which ensures the quickest and safest route, as for instance, I received a letter from Wilmot two days ago by the Kings Packet via Famouth of the 11th of Feby. transmitting his plan of emigration to U.C. which I like exceedingly and trust it may be carried thro’ Parliament, but I am so much vexed with the Bourbons for disturbing the world with their hazardous game, that I would not be sorry if they were all driven to Russia. Now for all my loves to Lady Caroline, Missy, Lady Erne, John Charles and James and to poor Corbett if you are near him as well as the Dundas’s. Write to me as soon as you can, and believe me, my dear James most affectly yrs.
Robert John Wilmot, some thirteen years younger than Talbot, was at this time the undersecretary for war and the colonies: a post he had held for the previous two years and was to hold for five years more. In this very year he took the surname of Horton, under which he was to become famous as a colonial reformer and apostle of emigration, and as such, was to become chairman of the Parliamentary Emigration Committees of 1826 and 1827. His main concern was to ‘shovel out the paupers’ so embarrassingly multiplied as a result of the Speenhamland system.
Stuart Wortley, now M.P. for Yorkshire, was a person of consequence in the House of Commons, and his communications with Wilmot Horton on the subject of Talbot’s pension, led to his receiving the following letter, which indicates that Hagerman’s letter (noted by Wortley to have been enclosed with the above letter from Talbot) was forwarded to Horton for his consideration. Wilmot Horton’s reply shows the extent to which Stuart-Wortley pressed the claims of his old friend Thomas Talbot: claims which were shortly to be so adequately satisfied.
Wilmot Horton wrote:
27 Augt 1823.
My dear Wortley
The fairest way to place before you the state of the case respecting Coll Talbot is, to send you the letter which I had intended to address to you; but on applying to Lord Bathurst, I find that he is not disposed to allow this recommendation to be given in anticipation. Whether Lord Bathurst would be disposed to sanction the grant, in the event of Mr. Hagerman volunteering such a proposition & the assembly supporting it, is a point which I do not think determined by his present objection. But he is strongly of opinion that Coll Talbot was much to blame in withholding the letter of recommendation with which Sir Peregrine Maitland had entrusted him;—& that perhaps will give you a key to his objection in the present instance—Have the goodness to return me my intended letter to you, & write such a letter to Coll Talbot as may explain, as far as may be prudent, the circumstances of the case.—I return you Mr. Hager- man’s letter, having taken a copy.
I have to assure you that not one word has been expressed by Sir Peregrine upon this subject.—You will understand that the proposition is left to take its chance. If made & supported, it will of course be transmitted to Lord Bathurst by Sir Peregrine, who will, equally of course & without instructions, state to the assembly that he can do nothing upon it until he has heard from the Secretary of State.
Very truly yours
J. Wilmot Horton
As the proposal for Talbot’s pension was passing through high channels, Stuart-Wortley received another letter:
Port Talbot 6th September 1823
A person who proposes setting out for England in a few days has offered to take charge of letters, and although I have but very little to communicate I cannot forbear writing to you, if it should only be to assure you that I am in existence and well, which I trust this may find you and all my friends of your house in the same state—I wrote to you some time back enclosing you a letter which I had received from a friend of mine, and a Member of the Assembly, giving his opinion on the subject of your hint, relative to a Provincial pension, which I hope reached you and that I may have your answer before January next, in fact, I look anxiously for a letter from you every post day, your last being so long ago as the 4th March—and I am further desirous of hearing if Lady Caroline and Missy have received their Mockasines having sent two pair for each by a young Scotchman who came out from Fifeshire expressly for the purpose of seeing my settlement, he informed me that there were a number of respectable Farmers who had made up their minds to emigrate to New South Wales, but that the Edinburgh Reviewers had represented the Talbot Settt. so favourably, that he was sent out to ascertain the truth, and I am happy to add that he appeared to be highly pleased with my Country—he appeared to be an honest fellow, otherwise I would not have risked the Mockasins with a stranger, on his taking leave of me, he gave me his address, in order that he might be applied to, should the parcel not reach Wortley—which is Mr. Alexr Scott, Fingashly, Cupar, Fife. His intention was to sail from New York on the 8th. of Augt so that it is not impossible but that Lady Caroline and Missy may be in possession of them at this moment. The Mockasins were made by Miss Brant and I presume of the best Mohawk taste.
I take it for granted that you are all enjoying yourselves in the Country, perhaps in Scotland, as you mentioned last year, that you would have been in that country had it not been for the King’s visit. Some Settlers who have lately arrived from England, say that the Agricultural interests are much improved generally which is delightful circumstance, with me it continues as dull as last year, that is, as bad as possible, no money. I wish that a company of rich Fifeshire farmers would come out and purchase all my lands, if so I would soon be amongst you and enjoy the remainder of my days in Gentlemanly Society here I scarcely see one of that description in 12 months, even when I visit York, our seat of Govt, the Noblesse, some of whom are good sort of people, but in point of refinement, not a little deficient. I have waited the arrival of the post today but no letter from you. Now I must beg of you to write to me as often as you can as I really have no other pleasure in this wilderness than yr. letters—my most affectionate love to Lady Caroline, Missy, John, Charles, James, Lady Erne—and believe me my dear James always
most affectly yrs.
Wortley at the same time (a week later in fact) was writing to Talbot, still over the pension, and on receipt of it, Talbot wrote once again:
Port Talbot 9th Feby. 1824.
My dear James,
The last letter which I have received from you, was dated the 13th Sepr. which appears 100 years ago, however it was a most satisfactory account of yourself, Lady Caroline, Missy and all of your family, how much I would have enjoyed being of your party to Scotland, it would have renewed my life twenty years, by the way, I trust that the Scotchman by whom I sent the Mockasins for Lady Caroline & Missy was faithful to his charge, I think I gave you his direction in a former letter viz: Mr. Alexr. Scott, Fingashby, Cupar, Fife, if they have not been received, write to him. as I will be very angry should the Ladies be disappointed—I returned to this place yesterday from York, where I had been five weeks, I did not make any attempt in regard to the business of which your last letter, gave so explicit an account of, as I could not for a moment think of exposing myself before such a body as a Colonial House of Assembly is composed of, upon such very slender encouragement as was held out by Lord Bathurst and Wilmot Horton.
Sir Peregrine Maitland was particularly marked in his attention to me during my stay in York, and I paid him in kind. Lady Sarah Maitland is a most charming person and I was delighted to find her looking so much better in health than she was last year, she has now three Girls and one Boy, very nice children.
Wilmot was so obliging as to send me the Report of the Committee on the State of the Poor of Ireland, by which I regret that the worst description of my Neighbours, the Indians, are infinitely better conditioned than the people of the South of Ireland and this country could provide comfortably for some hundred of thousands of them. Now my dear James write to me as frequently as your time will admit as believe me that a letter from [you] if the chief pleasure I enjoy here. With my most affecte love to all your House.
I remain ever yrs ever
Eight months later, Talbot was very pleased to receive a visit from James Stuart-Wortley’s eldest son John, then twenty three years old, who was not only an Oxford graduate, but a major in the South West Yorkshire Yeomanry. John had entered the British House of Commons as M.P. for the family borough of Bossiney, previously occupied by his father, and was accompanied on his visit to the North American continent by Edward Geoffrey Stanley, the twenty five year old son of the 13th Earl of Derby, a scholar, orator, and rising politician who also sat in the House of Commons as M.P. for Stockbridge. Stanley was, four years later, destined to hold the first of a series of ministerial appointments: that of under secretary of state for the colonies under Lord Goderich. This, the prelude to two periods as secretary for the colonies (1833-4 and 1841-5) was to culminate in his tenure of the first lordship of the Treasury, briefly held in 1852, 1858, and 1866.
John Stuart Wortley and Edward Stanley were accompanied by a third young man, like them a graduate of Christ Church, Oxford: John Evelyn Denison. He was also a member of the House of Commons, sitting for Newcastle-under Lyme. He too was destined to rise to great place, and became Speaker of the House in 1857. To his sister, John Stuart- Wortley wrote a lively account of his journey to “the Old Colonel’s” village, being particularly struck by Miss Brant, the moccasin maker, whom he described as “a tall good figure, her countenance stamped with the characteristic Indian features but open mild and dignified and with a very pleasing expression.” Her black silk gown, silver rings, leggings, and moccasins, her “uncommonly good English”, her absence of arkward shyness, impressed him so much that he exclaimed “Is this not extraordinary in a person who has never moved from the Grand River further than Niagara probably, and who is now to pass her time amongst the idle wretched, half-savage creatures who now people that village?”.15
John and his companions impressed Thomas Talbot, as his next letter to James Stuart Wortley indicates:
Port Talbot 18th Sepr. 1825
My dear James
I have been puzzling myself for nearly a year, to account for my not hearing a word from you, your last letter being dated the 31st May 1824, telling me of my friend John’s trip to this Continent, and I have put off writing to you, since his sailing from New York, until I received certain accounts, of his being safely restored to you, which I am now most happy to hear from good authority is the case—as long as John remained in America, I felt as if I was not altogether separated from my Wortley friends, and he continued to prove himself, the kindest person possible, by writing to me frequently, and I will add that himself and his 3 Companions, acquired the admiration, and esteem, of all America, and to be spoken of, with the highest respect—I have no doubt but that he has amused you, and Lady Caroline also, with his descriptions of myself, and Wild house, which you can easily believe, was rendered more interesting to me, whilst he remained at Port Talbot, than it had ever been before—Now, my dear James, do not encourage laziness, but take up your pen, immediately after the receipt of this, and send me, a faithful account of yourself, and all my friends, of your family, for as to the probability of my seeing you in England, for years to come, is beyond my calculation, at the same time, If I could realize such an event, it would afford me more happiness, than I can express. I am in daily expectation of a letter from John, and if he should not have found time, before this reaches you, pray remind him of his promise, and as a further claim, on my part, tell him that Stanley, wrote to me, in a few days, after he got to London—as to my own affairs, I cannot give you any news more satisfactory, than when I last wrote to you, I am just returned from paying a visit, to Sir P., & Lady Sarah Maitland, at their Country Cottage, the former and I are apparently, on good terms, but I do not enter with him, on the subject of my wants, he is so forbiddingly cold & reserved.
The prospect of the produce of our Canadian farms, is somewhat more cheering, since the Bill has passed admitting Canada wheat than it was before, but the Land holders in Engd. need not be under any apprehension of our overwhelming your Markets. I must now beg you to give my most Affecte, love to Lady Caroline, Missy, who is now Miss Wortley, Lady Eva & the Dundas’s and believe me, My dear James, ever Yrs affecly.
The pension for which Thomas Talbot had canvassed so energetically at last came his way, when, on 20 November 1826, WTilmot Horton wrote to Secretary Herries of the Treasury on the subject of the sevenfold appropriation of the proceeds of the lands granted to the Canada Land Company: £8,500 for the civil establishment of Upper Canada, £1,000 for a college, £400 for a Roman Catholic Bishop, £750 for Roman Catholic priests, £750 for Presbyterian ministers, and £400 for a pension to Colonel Talbot “in reward for the exertions of that officer & the sacrifice which he has made of his fortune & profession in directing and superintending the settlement of the London & Western District, which are now exceedingly flourishing.”
As might be expected, the correspondence now falls off. From now, till Talbot’s death in 1853, two letters only remain in the Wharncliffe Papers. But both of them are so characteristic of the man that they deserve to be quoted in full.
The first runs:
Port Talbot May 1st. 1831.
Mv dear James,
I was much gratified by the receipt of your excellent letters of the 29th of last Jany. I say gratified, as for as it related to the concerns of your own family, but the picture you have drawn of the state of my beloved Engd grieves one to the very quick, but God grant that the result may not prove so terrible as you prophesy, and be assured that there is at least one “Dweller” on the Shore of Lake Erie, who takes as lively an interest in your well-doing and salvation, as any that is seated in the immediate Field of Action, however I will not say more than I can avoid, on so painful a subject.
I do indeed, with thanks and gratitude, acknowledge the bounty of every member of your affectte & amiable family, in being steady and constant in writing me such full accts. of all your proceedings, and your last, with the exception of what related to dear Ly Georgy, had delighted and amused me, beyond description. Truly “most prodigious”, the marriage of Chars., he that was all prudence and consideration, in opposing the union of my friends John Talbot and Missy, saying it was quite obvious that the consequence wd. be their begetting and introducing a Brigae of Beggars, into the World. I am actually laughing at this moment, with the thoughts of it. Nevertheless, Chars, is a most excellent person, and no small favourite of mine & as such, wish him all prosperity and happiness. I reed a letter from John Talbot 10 days before yrs. reached me, of the 27th Deer, and some time before, a most delightful, long & sensible despatch, from charming Missy, wh. I shall answer during this month, it was my intention to have done myself that pleasure sooner, had not yrs. arrived—John mentions that you were of opinion, that Wilmot Hortons wd. have a triumph as to emigration, for my part, I am quite satisfied, that Engd. could not adopt any measure that could more successfully relieve her of the burden of the poor labouring class, than by sending such as may be willing to Upper Canada, where want is not known, but the reverse, for many Emigrants who came out a few years ago, have now more than they can find sale for, particularly Horned Cattle, but Wheat, Pork and Potash, are articles in demand and command money payments, wh. is a new event, for 2 or 3 years back, nothing but barter was in use. Since I have had John’s hint, I have been turning in my mind, a scheme for relieving the Parishes, by sending out their poor to this Country, and have fancied that a plan, both simple and feasible, could be adopted by the Govt, that would ensure success & eventually indemnify the Mother Country for the sums she might advance. All calculations made by Mr. Wilmot Horton & others, have been extravagant to a great degree, a few years back, I enquired of some Irish Emigrants how much thier LsicJ expences amounted to. They said that they paid 30s/- a head for the passage from Dublin to Quebec, finding their own bedding & provisions, wh. last cost them 30s/- more, I presume the then Irish Cury. Their expences from Quebec to Port Talbot was somewhat more, but in consequence of the number of Steamboats & Craft of all descriptions, having I suppose doubled, since that time, the charges of transport up the Country, must have lessened considerably, but you are aware as much as I am, that all Govt, undertakings are made jobs of, so that that shd. be guarded against in the beginning, it will also be necessary to furnish a ration of flour & meat for the first year, to the Parish poor, who may be sent out, and pprhaps Blankets to such of them who may be destitute, to protect them against the severity of the Canadian Winters. The rations shd. be as small as possible, certainly one half less, than allowed to Mr. Horton’s Irish settlers, for it is a notorious fact here, that where Emigrants get liberally supplied provisions that they do not make any industrious efforts to clear their Land, to supply their future wants & become dissipated, by selling such part of their rations as they can do without to buy Whiskey, consequently they are miserable and discontented, when their rations are stoped. Any assistance in addition shd. be confined to an Axe & a Hoe to each man, and seed Corn and Potatoes, perhaps a Cow to each family w. be well.
My plan for repayment of expences is this, that a Township shd. be surveyed, subdivided into Concessions and Lots containing 200 acres each, as the enclosed plan will explain, each adult male Settler to get a gratuitous grant, in fee simple, of 25 Acres, the adjoining 75 acres to the centre of the Lot to be reserved, so as to afford the person owning the 25 acres an opportunity of enlarging his Farm by the purchase of the 75 acres so reserved, wh. all industrious Settlers would be most anxious to do, in 4 or 5 years after he was settled, which wd. make his farm 100 acres wh. would be a sufficient extent of Land, to admit of his clearing and bringing under cultivation 50 acres, & reserving the remainder for fuel and fencing Timber. The price I shd. sell the reserve of 75 acres, would be 13s/6d Sterg. per acre, payable in 4 annual instalments, the 3 cash with interest, which would bring for each Settler about £50 Sterg. and to every young man when of the age of 21 years or married might be placed on a similar grant for—and that the patents for the 25 acres gratuitously given shd. not issue from the Crown before the grantee had actually resided 5 years on the Land allotted to him, and had completely cleared & under cultivation and Fence, 10 acres of the same, across the front of the 25 acres adjoining to the Concession Road, together with one half of the width of the said Road. By adhering to such a system, I am positive that two material objects might be realised, relieving the United Kingdom of it’s increasing burden, and promoting the value of the Colonies, for the more a Colony is peopled, the greater quantity of the manufactures from the Mother Country will be in demand. And the mode of selling the reserved land to the Emigrant, will by degrees nearly if not altogether re-imburse the whole money advanced by England.
Now knowing that you possess a superior degree of Tact to me in matters of State, I have submitted the foregoing suggestions to your consideration, so that in case any plan may be brought before Parliament & you should consider any ideas worthy of notice, you may make such use of them as you may think fit. Perhaps you might consult with Lds. Landown and Grey on the project, but shd. any suspect that I am desirous of acting in any shape in the execution of the scheme, you may assure them that I am not, being already worn out by the labours attending the superintendance of settling a new country.
And now having bored you, more than I fear you will pardon me for, I will confine the remainder of this terrible long letter to private matter. I am sure that you will agree with me, in thinking, that it would be madness on my side to weigh my anchor, from Lake Erie, in these unsettled times, and give up a certainty for an uncertainty, it is quite true, that this Country affords me but little enjoyment, yet I am independent, and have the satisfaction of witnessing daily, this New World, encreasing and improving, in every particular, more rapidly, than I believe to be the case, in any other portion of the Globe, and Landed property is becoming more valuable, and available, every year, and at all events, worst come to the worst, by retaining it, I shall possess the means of affording an asylum, in case of necessity, to those Friends, I most value. I said as much in my last letter to Ly. Wharcliffe, and that I had immortalised you in this hemisphere, by naming some of my roads after you and your family. I have Wharcliffe Highway, Wortley Road, Caroline Row, a beautiful line
of Lots along the banks of our Thames and a short road between Wham- cliffe Highway & Wortley Road, I have called Stuart Place. And to convince you that I am not humbugging, I have cut the scrap which I herein send, from the Gazette giving the sums voted by our Provincial Assembly to improve the Public Roads. I can’t conclude, without telling you how delighted I feel by the charming accts. I receive from all, of the excellent manner in which John Talbot and Missy conduct themselves, & that every person admires them accordingly. Pray write as soon as you can after you receive this, so with my most affecte. love to all my dear friends, believe me my dear James ever most affectly.
James Stuart Wortley was indeed a different man when he received this. For not only had he been created Baron Wharncliffe in 1826, but in this very year he was one of the leading opponents of the attempts made to widen the parliamentary franchise. Popular discontent in England seethed with inceasing violence, till it culminiated in the stormy forties in an age aptly described as ‘bleak’. Before that, however, Talbot himself had surrendered his stewardship of settlers by order of Lieut.-Gover- nor Head.
The last letter among the Wharncliffe Papers was written in a shakier hand than all the others. It ran:
Port Talbot 18th Novemr 1844
My dear James,
I am very thankful for your letter of the 2nd Sepr. last, as there is some satisfaction even, to be derived from knowing the particulars of misfortunes, and increased by the favourable report you give of my dear Lady Wharncliffe and yourself, and in confirmation, I have just seen in late English Newspapers, that Your Lordship and Her Ladyship were at one of the Queen’s Dinner Parties at Windsor, during the visit of Louis Phillipe.
The next subject I shall enter upon, is that state of Canada, which has, indeed, been most deplorable for the last 8 or 9 years, which I do charge to the fickle and weak policy of the Home Government, in listening to, and giving into the treasonable and Republican representations, made under the name of Grievances.
The Country was actually on the brink of a revolution, when the present Governor General, Sir Charles Metcalff commenced his administration, but thank God, it has been saved at least for the present, by his wise firm and prudent measures. Now the general election is just over, and I am happy to inform you that the Royal Governt. has a small majority, which is more than I anticipated, and to give you the result, I shall enclose a printed return which I have cut out of a newspaper. However I fear that this success is merely temporary, for in a colony where radical feelings are not only encouraged but fostered, there cannot be any security for the future. I myself have for several years past, been frankly convinced, that unless some bold system is resorted to by the Imperial Parliament to new model the constitution in this Hemisphere, that all the North American Provinces will continue more or less in a state of anarchy.
I am aware that all you wise-men of the East, must consider such a Backwoodsman as myself but a [scurvy?] politician, nevertheless I differ in opinion, and do not hesitate to pronounce, that the only alternative left to prevent our separation from the Mother Country, is simply this, to unite the whole of the North American Colonies into a Vice Royalty, and give it the necessary respectability by the creation of a Peerage, for all Mankind are slaves to titles of distinction, at the same time I will not recommend, that such honours be extended further than it may be found absolutely prudent for some years to come. If such a measure could be effected, and The Duke of Cambridge be appointed The Vice-Roy, I mention his Royal Highness, from having been under the impression for a length of time, that he is a discreet and prudent person, and would give general satisfaction, besides should it hereafter be found expedient to form an independent Kingdom in America, it might be given to Prince George of Cambridge.
The foregoing experiment might likewise be attended with salutary consequences, in some parts of the United States, where there are many who possess wealth and ambition enough to cause them to sigh for distinction above their fellow Ragamuffin Citizens.
Now my dear James, I entreat of you, to give the subject of this letter your serious consideration and write me the result, you need not be delicate in stating your view of it, as I can assure you, that I am altogether indifferent whether it meets w’ith censure or applause—
I had actually decided upon visiting you all in England this Winter, and had made the necessary arrangements for leaving Port Talbot on the 15th of last month to go to Boston and embark in the Mail Steamer of the 1st. of this month, if I had, I should now be with you, and what a change I would find amongst all your Young Tribe in 16 years but, alas, I have been frustrated by the Treasurer of my District having come to Port Talbot four days before I had fixed to start to demand the payment of my tax to the tune of nearly £600 which monstrous sum knocked all my Fairy dreams in the head. This is the fruit of Lord Sydenham’s tyrannical and odious Municipal Bill, and God only knows when “The
I inn Of the West” can quit his den, for to appear before you all in the Old World as a Pauper would not correspond with my natural dignity.
When you write, do take the trouble to give a minute detail of every member of your family not omitting any dear friends the Dundas s foi whom I shall ever feel the most affecte love. As to myself, I am. in the enjoyment of rude health. Remember me most happily to all and God
bless you my dear James
Ever affly yrs
A year later, James Stuart-Wortley-Mackenzie, first Baron Wham- cliffe, was dead.
(9) Lord Bathurst, (1862-1834) was the Tory secretary for war and the colonies.
(10) Macdonald, op. eit pp. 133-4.
(11) Robert John Wilmot (1784-1841) took the name of his father-in-law, Horton, as an additional surname in 1823. Like John Stuart Wortley, he was a graduate of Christ Church, Oxford. For his theories on emigration and the colonies see Klaus Knorr British Colonial Theories 1570-1850 (Toronto, 1944) 270 //.
(12) Caroline Jane Stuart-Wortley, who later married the Hon. John Chetwynd Talbot, 4th son of the 2nd Earl Talbot on 30 August, 1830.
(16) H. A. Innes and A.R.M. Lowci, *Sdcct l-Jocu’inc’tits iiz CciiuicliitTt Ecoiioitvic History (Toronto, 1933) ii 23-4.
 Coyne, op. cit. pp. 96-8 (1907). Stuart Wortley sent the seeds as requested, from Gibbs, “the most famous seedsman in London”.
 William Dundas, 3rd son of Robert Dundas of Arniston, married James Stuart-Wortley’s sister, Mary, in 1813.
 John Inglis (1748-1822) of Inglish, Ellice and Co., shot himself on 6 August, and the Gentleman’x Magazine of that year (p. 283) remarked: “the sensation it produced on ’change and at Lloyds was uniform and general, for he had long been known and respected as a British merchant of the old school”. He was a director of the East India Docks and Chairman of the London Docks.
 Caroline Grosvenor and Lord Stuart, op. cit. i 316.
 He had written to Missy (see n. 12) now Mrs. J. C. Talbot on 10 Sept., 1839: “In the present state of Canada, sink or swim, it is impossible to leave my property. The Yanky’s . . . are endeavouring to excite discontent and form associations under the cloak of Durhamites to commence fresh disturbances. They have actually got vast quantities of . . . Bowie Knives, large Butchers’ knives, made to murder us Loyalists. Some of these knives are stamped “Durham”, some “Reform” knives, and others “responsible Government knives”. So far are we indebted to that fellow Lord Durham . . .” Grosvenor and Stuart, op. cit. ii 300-1.
- E. D. Ermatinger, The Life of Colonel Talbot (St. Thomas’, 1859). ↩
- 3rd Series, 1907 and 1909. ↩
- Norman MacDonald, Canada, 1763-1841. Immigration and Settlement (London, 1939) pp. 127-150. Two books not mentioned in his admirable bibliography, and which add little or nothing to what is already known are Fred Landon, Colonel Thomas Talbot (Toronto, 1930) and Ella N. Lewis, Sidelights on the Talbot Settlement (Elgin Historical Society, 1938). ↩
- Through the kindness of the City archivist, Miss Rosamund Meredith, who drew my attention to these letters, and published by kind permission of Earl Wharncliffe. ↩
- A reference to the erasure of Henry Dundas, first Viscount Melville, from the roll of the Privy Council for malversation of funds as first Lord of the Admiralty. The proceedings against him in the House of Commons occupied much public attention in this year. ↩
- Afterwards Lord Talbot of Malahide (1766-1849) who paid some of Thomas’ debts at Manchester, England, in 1810 (Coyne, op cit. p. 103, 1907). ↩
- James Stuart-Wortley’s wife, Elizabeth Caroline Mary, whom he married on 30 March, 1799, was the daughter of the first Earl Erne and his second wife. John Stuart-Wortley was James and Caroline’s first son, born in 1801; Charles James Stuart their second, born a year later; and James Archibald their third. The Rev. Stuart Corbet (1777-1845) was James’ first cousin, who became in 1802 the vicar of Walkley Church, and later archdeacon of York. His son became agent to the Wortley estates. For a vivacious picture of the whole Wortley family at this time see Caroline Grosvenor and Lord Stuart of Wortley, The First Lady Wharncliffe and her Family 1779-1850 (London, 1927). ↩