Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, August 21, 1857

  • Posted on: 29 July 2022
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Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, August 21, 1857



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Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, August 21, 1857

action: sent

sender: William Seward
Birth: 1801-05-16  Death: 1872-10-10

location: Quebec, Canada

receiver: Frances Seward
Birth: 1805-09-24  Death: 1865-06-21

location: Unknown

transcription: les 

revision: jxw 2022-05-11


Page 1


Editorial Note

This letter originally included a letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Adeline Miller Seward, written on August 22, 1857.
Friday August 21 st , 1857 11 A.M.
On the Gulf of St Lawrence.
Io Triumphe! The wind hauled round into the South East last evening, and at
six o'clock we set out for Quebec once more. It was a soft balmy star
lit night. We have had the gentlest sort of breezes thus far and are still
on our course with a bright, cloudless sky & faultless summer weather.
The gulf narrows & we have on our right the North & our left the South coasts.
There are no wonders of the deep to record. So I prefer to review the subject of
the political condition of the regions we have visited.
When the French grasped the northern portions of the continent and began to lay
the foundations here of a new France the King
Birth: 1638-09-05 Death: 1715-09-01
granted to favorites
and others
mense tracts with feudal privileges. The tenure will be best understood by
regarding the grantee as a Patroon and his territories a manor little like
those which once existed in Colonial New York. In Canada successive
provincial legislation with the sanction of the Crown has modified these
seigneuries so that in that region they have now and little more than a
nominal existence. But the seigneuries of Labrador and Anticosti still re
main. Those countries being not only in a state of nature but there being
no desire any where to colonize there because they are so uninhabitable and
barren the seigneury is at present valuable only for the chase and
the fisheries, and it might be made so for mines forests and minerals,
The Seigneurs
(successors to the old Grantees) are understood to live at Quebec
They rent or assign all their privileges to assignees for terms of
years at fixed rates. The Hundsons Bay Company is the assignee
of Labrador. Mr. Corbet
Birth: 1813 Death: 1894-03-09
is the assignee of Anticosti. He pays
$500 a year for the whole enjoyment of the domain 120 miles by
40, and he reimburses himself out of the fisheries chiefly for salmon
and seal, and the chase is principally of bears sable foxes, etc.
There is no government there but for political purposes the territory of Labrador
is held subject to the same laws as Canada and Novia Scotia
while Anticosti is subject to laws of Canada.
Page 2

Every thing I have seen has tended to satisfy me that Lower, or French Canada
has remained almost unchanged in its social state since it was separated
from France in 1760. The style of architecture seems nearly unchanged.
The language universally spoken is French. The religion ^almost^ universally held is
Roman Catholic, and this religion is held just as it was held a hundred
years ago. Go into any dwelling and you find the walls covered literally
covered with cheap engraving which illustrate all the peculiar superstitions
of the Middle Ages- all kinds of traditions, however groundless, all kinds
of miracles, however absurd. But it would be disingenuous to deny
that the people are sincere and devout. Our captain
says his prayers
night and morning in private (if privacy can be procured in the hold of a schooner like
this, and on Sundays he celebrates the service with his men
. They observe
the laws of the church as to fast and feast days. In the house at Anticosti
too small it would seem for the numerous family gathered under its roof
one room is fitted up with an altar, statues, or images lights and
otherwise as a chapel.
And now to turn from these grave subjects to lesser things, and
to speak of ourselves our habits diet etc on this strange excursion. This is the 21st
day of our voyage. Long since I adopted Chancellor Kent's James Kent (31071763-12121847)
philosophy namely
that a good Christian wants every day a clean shirt & a shilling
Life here is conservative of the shillings but rather adverse to the linen part
of the creed. We eke out our clean clothes as well as we can.
Our apparel may be described thus. The lady voyageur
Birth: 1834-03-29 Death: 1919-05-02
appears daily
in a red sailors hunters red worsted shirt, very graceful
with a straw flat if the weather permits, if it be cold or wet a white
worsted hood. When the nights & mornings are very cold the sailor's pea
jacket is donned. As for Fredrick
Birth: 1830-07-08 Death: 1915-04-25
& myself, we habitually draw over
our ordinary clothing a pair of gray trousers, a blue flannel shirt, and
a pea jacket of the thickest cloth, which completes our
costume, if you add the small cloth sailors cap, which can't be
Page 3

blown away because fastened under the chin. On deck we resemble as I fancy
Captain Kidd
Birth: 1645 Death: 1701-05-23
“as he sailed, as he sailed" and on shore we might
be taken at Anticosti for twin brothers or father and son Robinson Crusoe.
Of our living we can speak most approvingly. It devolves on me in the morning
to call John Smith
our servant from his bunk in the hold. This I generally
do about 1/2 past 6. Our breakfast varies from ham & eggs, or fried pork
and pancakes, to mackerel, cod trout or salmon fresh or salted
and our dinner from boiled pork & ^ ^ cabbage to cauliflower to any of
the luxuries of the sea to which we always add pea-soup
At Mingan we obtained rubarb, of which John fabricated several
large pies, and the good [ Montais ]

Alternate Text

Alternate Text: Montagnais
brought in a large
quantity of cranberries which we have caused to be preserved and
which grace our tea and dinner tables. We do not trim the
midnight lamp, but having replenished our can with abundance of seal
oil on the coast of Labrador, we leave the lamp to burn all
night. We read during the day but having about read out all
our stock, we have taken latterly to three hand whist in the evening
and are seriously proposing to send out to our dear little Fanny
Birth: 1844-12-09 Death: 1866-10-29

to provide us with a few original plays in order that we may
get up a system of private Theatrics.