Loyalists in the Upper
Country of Canada Desire a Change in the Tenure of Land and Separation from
the Province of Quebec.—Address to Lord Dorchester from Leading Settlers in
Glengarry and Vicinity.— His Reply.— He Recommends Acquiescence in Request
of Loyalists.—Formation of Districts of Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Nassau and
Hesse by Proclamation, 24th July, 1785.—Province of Upper Canada Established
and Constitutional Government Assigned to its People, 26th December,
1791.—-Divided into Counties.—First Commission of the Peace, Eastern
District.—Extracts from records of first Court of the District.
Shortly after their
settlement in the Upper Country, some among the leaders of the Loyalists
took strong exception to the tenure of land in Canada, alleging that it
subjected them to the rigorous rules, reservations and restrictions of the
French laws and customs, which they found far different from the mild
tenures to which they had ever been accustomed, and on behalf of the
officers and soldiers of the Provincial Troops and Indian Department, they
forwarded in April, 1785, a petition to the King, in which they proposed as
a remedy against the hardships indicated that a district from Point au
Roudet (the south-east limit of the present County of Glengarry and of the
now Province of Ontario) westward should be formed, distinct from the
Province of Quebec; that it should be divided into counties, with Cataraqui
(now Kingston) for its metropolis, and that the land therein should be held
on the same tenure, practically, as existed in England.
The reasons and
considerations respecting the proposals are given at length by the
petitioners in a very able document. They alleged that they had been born
British Subjects, and had ever been accustomed to the government and laws of
England; that it was to restore that government and be restored to those
laws, for which from husbandmen they became soldiers, animated with the hope
that, even in the most gloomy aspect of public affairs, should they fail in
their attempts to recover their former habitations by a restoration of the
King's Government, they would still find a refuge in some part of the
British Dominions where they might enjoy the blessings to which they had
been accustomed, and that they still professed the greatest confidence that
through His Majesty's gracious interposition they would be exempt from the
burden of the tenures complained of, which, however congenial they might be
to men born and bred under them, were nevertheless in the highest degree
exceptionable to Englishmen. They cited the case of the settlers in Nova
Scotia and New Brunswick, and asked to be placed in the same relative
situation with the inhabitants of those Provinces.
Again, on the return to
Canada of Sir Guy Carleton, now Lord Dorchester, who had a second time been
appointed Governor-General of Canada, and who was much beloved by his old
soldier comrades of the earlier period of the Revolutionary War, addresses
were presented to him from the leading settlers in the neighborhood of New
Johnstown (Cornwall), Oswegatchic (Oswego and vicinity) and Cataraqui
(Kingston), in which latter the matter of land tenure was again alluded to.
That from New Johnstown was
as follows:— To His Excellency the Right Honourable Lord Dorchester,
Governor-General and Commandei-in-Chief of all His Majesty's Forces in
British America, &c., &c.
"The address of the
subscribers on behalf of themselves and the other inhabitants in the
neighbourhood of New Johns Town, comprehending six Townships from Point au
"Permit us, my Lord, to
congratulate you upon your safe arrival once more into this Province, and to
participate in the general joy which this event has occasioned, a joy which
can be only equalled by the regret which was felt upon your departure.
"Our warmest thanks are due
to Your Lordship for your early attention to our wants. This proof of your
regard, with many others, will never be erased from the memory of us or our
posterity. We shall teach our children to venerate the name and the memory
of the man who at all times and on all occasions has ever distinguished
himself as our advocate and our friend.
"We feel the most sensible
pleasure on the marks of honour as well as power conferred on Your Lordship
by Our Most Gracious Sovereign, who is ever desirous to reward distinguished
merit, and we are thankful to Providence for having dictated a choice which
of all others<s the most approved of by the universal voice of all classes
and all denominations of people.
"We cannot omit this
opportunity of acknowledging our gratitude to His Majesty for his Royal
favour and patronage, and we must request Your Lordship to be so good as to
signify to Our Most Gracious Sovereign that this infant settlement, though
at a remote distance from the Throne, is nevertheless peopled with subjects
animated with sentiments of the warmest zeal and attachment to His Person
"To conclude, may you My
Lord, Lady Dorchester and your family enjoy every pleasure that health,
honor and affluence, united to the conciousness of having contributed to the
happiness of many, can bestow.
''New Johnstown, 2nd
"James Gray, Major King's
Royal Regiment of New York.
Richard Duncan, Captain late Royal Regiment of New York.
Allan Macdonell, Captain late Royal Regiment of New York.
Alexander Macdonell, Captain late Royal Regiment New York.
Arch'd Macdonell, Captain late Royal Regiment of New York.
Jno. Macdonell, Captain late Royal Regiment of New York.
Hugh Macdonell, Lieut, late King's Royal Regiment New York.
S. Anderson, Captain late Royal Regiment of New York.
Malcolm McMartin, Lieut, late Royal Regiment of New York.
Rich'd Wilkinson, Lieut, late Six Nations Indian Department.
Peter Evkritt, Lieut, late Royal Regiment of New Yoik.
Neil McLean, Lieut, late Eighty-Fourth Regiment,
J. Anderson, Lieut, late Royal Regiment of New York.
Jacob Farrand, Lieut, late Royal Regiment of New York.
William Faulkner, C.P.
Walter Sutherland, Lieut, late Royal Regiment of New York.
His Lordship's reply to these
addresses, directed to Mr. Stephen Delancy, who had been charged with the
presentation of them, was as follows:
"Quebec, 14th December, 1786.
"You will communicate to the
inhabitants of the Townships of New Johnstown, Oswegatichie and Cataraqui,
my thanks for their professions of regard for me. You will at the same time
assure them, that nothing could be more acceptable to me than the sense of
gratitude they testify for His Majesty's paternal attention to their
situation, and which they so warmly and so dutifully express. Agreeable to
their request, the memorials shall be transmitted and laid at the foot of
"I am, with regard,
"Your most obedient servant,
"Inspector of Loyalists."
The addresses were
transmitted to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, with the following
communication from His Excellency:
"Quebec, 3rd January, 1787.
"The addresses from the
settlements of New Johnstown, Oswegatchie and Catataqui are sent to Your
Lordship, as it is requested that their sentiments of gratitude and zeal and
attachment to His Majesty may be transmitted.
"They also express hopes that
the same privileges and indulgences which their fellow-sufferers and
fellow-subjects enjoy in the other new formed settlements in British America
will be extended to them. I asked Mr. Delancy, who presented the addresses,
what their general expressions meant. He answered that he thought they
regarded the terms on which they were to hold their lands.
"The conditions of lands held
in Canada en roture is in truth much more heavy and disadvantageous than in
any other Province n America, but of this I hope to be able to write more
fully to Your Lordship in the course of next summer. My answer is also
"Many other addresses have
been presented, but as they contained no matter which requires particular
notice, I have not transmitted them to Your Lordship.
"I am, with respect and
"Your Lordship's most
"And most humble servant,
Up to this time, the Province
of Quebec was divided into two Districts, viz.: those of Quebec and
Montreal, the latter containing the whole of the territory which the
Loyalists thus sought to have erected into a separate District, and which
now constitutes the great Province of Ontario. Lord Dorchester was as good
as his word to the Western Loyalists, and having represented the matter to
the Home Government, he, by the King's instructions, on the 24th July, 1788,
issued a proclamation whereby four new Districts were formed, that of
Lunenburg, extending from the eastern limit of Lancaster northerly to Point
Fortune on the Ottawa, and westerly to the mouth of the River Gananoque. It
comprehended the Townships of Lancaster, Charlottenburg, Cornwall,
Osnabruck, Williamsburg, Matilda, Edwardsburg, Augusta and Elizabethtown,
all of them extending northward to the Ottawa River. The other Districts
were Mecklenburg, extending from Gananoque to about Belleville, Nassau from
the latter place to Long Point on Lake Erie, and Hesse comprising the rest
of Canada to the western boundary of the present Province of Ontario. The
territorial nomenclature was calculated to inspire the House of Guelph with
a lively interest in the welfare of the infant settlement previous to the
formation of the four new Districts, and while the upper country still
formed portion of the District of Montreal, magistrates had been appointed,
though the Commission under which they acted cannot now be found nor its
date ascertained. Judge Pnngle states, however, that it must have been
previous to the 29th July, 1786, as there is a commission dated on that day
to "Samuel Anderson, of New Johnstown (Cornwall), one of His Majesty's
Justices of the Peace in and for the District of Montreal," authorizing him
to administer oaths to certain parties in a matter before the court, and he
is of the opinion that the gentlemen who held commissions in the disbanded
battalions were generally appointed magistrates. He mentions that there is
no record of their having held any Courts of General Sessions of the Peace
before the issuing of Lord Dorchester's proclamation, though there are
traditions of Magistrates' Courts having been held, and of rough and ready
justice being summarily dealt out to offenders.
The same authority, and there
is none better, states:
"The first Court in the
District of Lunenburgh, of which any record exists, was the General Quarter
Sessions of the Peace, held at Osnabruck on the 15th day of June, 1789. It
is not stated in what part of Osnabruck the Court met; the place must have
been (n the front- probably near what is now known as Dickinson's Landing
The records of the Courts of General Sessions for the District of Lunenburgh—afterwards
the Eastern District, and now the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and
Glengarry--have been very carefully kept the books containing the minutes of
the proceedings from the 15th of June, 1789, until the present time, are in
the office of the Clerk of the Peace at Cornwall. They contain the names of
the Magistrates, Officers of the Court, Jurors, and parties to cases tried,
and not a little information of the olden time that may be of interest to
the present generation.
The magistrates who had been
appointed before the Province of Upper Canada was formed, continued to act
and to hold the Courts of General Quarter Sessions, until
Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe issued a new Commission of the Peace for the
Eastern District. This Commission, which is now among the records in the
office of the Clerk of the Peace at Cornwall, is dated at the Government
House, Navy Hall, on the 10th day of June, 1793. The old magistrates were
re-appointed, and some new ones were added to the original number. 'The
names of those in the commission of 1793 are: The Honourable William Osgoode
(1), Chief Justice; William Dummer Powell, Esquire (2); the Honourable
Alexander Grant (3); the Honourable Peter Russell (4); the Honourable James
Baby (5); Richard Duncan (6), John McDonell (7); John Munro (8), James Gray
(9), Edward Jessup (10), Walter Sutherland (11), William Falkner (12),
Richard Wilkinson (13), William Byrnes (14), Thomas Swan (15), Jeremiah
French (16), Archibald McDonell (17). Allen McDonnell (18), William Eraser
(19), Peter Drummond (20), Justus Sherwood (21), Ephraim Jones (22), William
Buel (23), Thorny Sherwood (24), Alexander McMillan (25) Alexander McDonell
(26), Samuel Anderson (27), Joseph Anderson (28), James Stuart (29), Allan
Patterson (30), Malcolm McMartin (31), Samuel Wright (32), James
Brackenridge (33). Alexander Campbell, of Augusta (34); Neil McLean (35),
Miles McDonell (36), Vertmel Lorrimer (37), Hugh McDonell (38), Alexander
Campbell, of Johnstown (39); Thomas Fraser (40), Andrew Wilson (41) and Neil
Robertson (42), Esquires, who are directed "to enquire the truth most fully;
by the oath of good and lawful men of the aforesaid District, of all and all
manner of felonies, poisonings, inchantments, sorceries, arts magick,
trespasses, lorestallings, regratings, ingrossings, and extortions
whatsoever, and of all and singular other crimes and offences of which the
Justices of the Peace may or ought lawfully to enquire."
On the 26til December, 1791.
the division of the Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada took place,
Constitutional Government was granted, and the people, through their
representatives, were placed in a position to settle the tenure of their
lands and other matters for themselves. Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe issued a
Proclamation, dated the fiftth day of June, 1792, dividing the Province into
Counties, the easternmost of which were then, as now styled Glengarry,
Stormont and Dundas. At the first session of the Legislature of Upper
Canada, in 1792, an Act was passed changing the names of the Districts.
Under that Act the District of Lunenburgh became the Eastern District.
The oldest book of the
records of the Court of General Quarter Sessions of the Peace for the
District of Lunenburgh shows that the first session of that Court began at
Osnabruck on the 15th day of June, 1789. The magistrates present were :—
John McDonell, Justus
Richard Duncan, Ephram Jones,
James Gray,' William Falkner,
Thomas Swan, William Fraser,
Jeremiah French, Archibald McDonell.
It is not stated who the
Chairman was. The Grand Jurors empannelled were —
The first case was tried on
Tuesday, the 16th day of June, 1789. The following is an exact copy of the
entry of the proceedings, and I regret that Judge Pringle's researches
compel me to chronicle the fact' that the defendant was a namesake of my
own, candour, however, obliging me to acknowledge that I am not in the very
least surprised at the nature of the indiscretion charged against honest
Ranald, who I hope got the worth of the money out of the other fellow! A
careful examination of subsequent records of the Court of Quarter Sessions
might possibly disclose the fact that namesakes of Ranald's have not
uiifrequently contributed, in the most public-spirited maimer, to the public
exchequer as the result of similar little controversies with their
neighbours, and I have been given to understand that the privilege is now
somewhat more expensive than it was a hundred years ago, when Ranald appears
to have differed in opinion with Mr. McKay:
The King, on Pros.,
Alexander McKay, vs. Ranald
McDonell, In Assault and Battery.
Sent up the bill of
indictment to the Grand jury. The Grand Jury return a true bill. The
defendant, being arraigned, pleads not guilty. It is ordered, on motion for
the prosecution, that the trial continue immediately, by consent of the
defendant. The jury empanelled and sworn to try the issue of this traverse
1 William Philips,
2 Jacob Van Allen,
3 Jacob Weegar,
4 Michael Hains,
5 David Jaycocks,
6 John Coons,
7 Joseph Loucks,
8 Anthony Wallaser,
9 John Wart,
10 Jacob Merkle,
11 Adam Empey,
12 Nicholas Ault.
Witness for the prosecution,
Angus McKay. The jury having heard the evidence, retired to consider their
verdict, in charge of Duncan McArthur, bailiff. The jury having returned
into court, say, by William Phillips, their foreman, that the defendant is
guilty, as laid in the indictment. The court having considered the verdict
of the jury, it is ordered that the defendant do pay a tine of one shilling,
and that he stand committed till paid.
The following persons were
appointed Constables for Glengarry
Charlottenburg—Finnan McDonell, Charles Ross, Duncan McArthur.