Land Tenure in Upper Canada

Date:         Sat, 1 Jan 1994 10:19:48 -0600                                    
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From:         "Jim Oberly, History Dept.,                                       
              U of Wisc-Eau Claire" <JOBERLY@CNSVAX.UWEC.EDU>                   
Subject:      Re: Question about Land Tenure in Upper Canada                    

[From: IN%"dale@dale.cam.org" "Dale Wharton" 1-JAN-1994 05:21:40.71 [To: IN%"JOBERLY@CNSVAX.UWEC.EDU" "Jim Oberly, H-Rural editor" [Subj: RE: Quest: Land Tenure; Upper Can.

>My question is: Can anyone suggest references to describe the land tenure rules for Upper Canada (viz Ontario) in the 19th century? >I am interested in knowing how a person's relationship to the land might change over that century.

Land, in the areas settled by the English in either Upper or Lower Canada, was held by freehold. The only constriction to sale during the first half of the 19th c. was that one-seventh of all sales was automatically turned over to the Church of England. As of 1854, the Church lands were abolished thereby creating a mobility of land which especially affected the seigneurial area of the Saint-Laurent.

In freehold, a person could not be charged rent for land, but on the other hand, the initial owner could rent out portions for development. In the seigneurial regime, rents and other tithes were charged, but an infrastructure was also maintained to provide services: roads, mills, etc.

These developments were mandatory and an obligation of the seigneur. In English areas, they were dealt with on a township basis and were sometimes left to private entreprise to develop which did not ensure the existence of the service close to the producer.

Land was settled, as Catherine Parr Traill points out, by agreement between the government and the settler to clear certain portions by specific times. If these conditions could be met, the settler was confirmed in his ownership. Attempts were made to prevent American settlers from obtaining land in Upper Canada (especially following the War of 1812), by importing poor Irish settlers. Peter Robinson organized two such settlements, in the Ottawa Valley and in the Peterborough area, in the 1820's.

During the agricultural crises that affected most of the world, including Lower Canada, between 1830 and 1840, Upper Canada was spared, being recently developed, and became a large producer of wheat. British Free Trade policies, as well as the repealing of the Corn Laws, had much more effect on continued land holdings in Upper and in Lower Canada than did the initial settlement agreements.

The main force opposing continued settlement was indebtedness. Impoverished farmers in Upper Canada were driven to become the cheap labour pool that helped drive North America's industrial revolution in the latter half of the 19th c. As to the effect, I doubt it was as violent in Upper Canada as it was in Lower Canada where one-quarter of the population moved (temporarily or permanently) to New England.

There are a few books on this subject. I'll see if I can find the titles and send them to you direct.

-- C. Michel Boucher | aa699@freenet.carleton.ca Manager, TAAG | Parliamentary Publications Directorate | House of Commons, Ottawa, Canada |



Date:         Thu, 6 Jan 1994 13:01:47 -0600                                    
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From:         "Jim Oberly, History Dept.,                                       
              U of Wisc-Eau Claire" <JOBERLY@CNSVAX.UWEC.EDU>                   
Subject:      Re: Upper Canada Land Tenure, continued                           

Concerning the post submitted by Dale Wharton Original question:

>>My question is: Can anyone suggest references to describe the land tenure rules for Upper Canada (viz Ontario) in the 19th century? >> I am interested in knowing how a person's relationship to the land might change over that century.

I would like to clarify and correct a few statements made by C. Michel Boucher in his reponse. I have only included the statements I wish to comment upon. Many of these have more to do with Lower Canada but since Mr. Boucher made extensive comparisons, I also feel that I have to correct these comparisons.

>Land, in the areas settled by the English in either Upper or Lower Canada, >was held by freehold. The only constriction to sale during the first half of the 19th c. was that one-seventh of all sales was automatically turned over to the Church of England.

There were no such restrictions. In each township, one seventh of all lots were *reserved* as crown property, one seventh were *reserved* as clerical property and the remaining five sevenths were occupied by settlers. The objective of the Crown reserves was to limit the dependence of the colonial administration on taxation for revenue. Lieutenant governor John Graves Simcoe thus hope to avoid the situation which, in his opinion, had led to "too much democracy" in the 13 colonies. The clergy reserves were created to avoid levying tithes. Both types of reserves took longer than expected to bring in revenue.

>As of 1854, the Church lands were abolished thereby creating a mobility of land which especially affected the seigneurial area of the >Saint-Laurent.

In 1854, both clergy reserves in Upper Canada (then Canada West) and seigneurial tenure in Lower Canada (then Canada East), were abolished. The two events should not be confused. This made land available for sale in Upper Canada. In Lower Canada, old seigneurial dues were capitalized to an amount equivalent to 20 years worth of rents. Many were unable to pay such a sum and had to pay 5% interest on this capital, basically the same amount as the old rents. Railraod builders, land speculators and the better-off farmers benefited from this change but the poorer peasants, although freed from other obligations, were still stuck with yearly payments.

>In freehold, a person could not be charged rent for land, but on the other hand, the initial owner could rent out portions for development.

In the seigneurial regime, rents and other tithes were charged, but an >infrastructure was also maintained to provide services: roads, mills, etc. These developments were mandatory and an obligation of the seigneur. In English areas, they were dealt with on a township basis and were sometimes left to private entreprise to develop which did not ensure the existence of the service close to the producer.

Two comments:

  1. The roads "provided" by the seigneurs in Quebec were built by peasants on their own land or through communal labour, the "corvee". The road system was actually governed by a colonial official, the "grand voyer", not by the seigneurs. (My M.A. thesis was on the administration of the road system in Quebec, in the 18th cent.) In Upper Canada, except for major roads built by soldiers or through private enterprise, local roads were also built by the people themselves.
  2. Under seigneurial tenure, grist mills (and, in many cases all mills), were seigneurial monopolies. This prevented a form of peasant rural accumulation common in freehold areas. It did not garantee the existence of "service close to the producer". Seigneurs commonly waited until there was a large enough pool of farmers before they would build a mill.

>British Free Trade policies, as well as the repealing of the Corn Laws, had much more effect on continued land holdings in Upper and in Lower Canada than did the initial settlement agreements.

I would need some clarification on the meaning of "continued land holdings" before making comments.

>The main force opposing continued settlement was indebtedness. Impoverished farmers in Upper Canada were driven to become the cheap labour pool that helped drive North America's industrial revolution in the latter half of the 19th c. As to the effect, I doubt it was as violent in Upper Canada as it was in Lower Canada where one-quarter of the population moved (temporarily or permanently) to New England.

In the late 19th century, French Canadians in New England industrial towns were sometimes referred to as the "Chinese of the East". With the Irish and immigrants from eastern Europe, they did form a cheap labour pool. I am not an expert on Ontario history, but it seems to me that farmers who left Ontario went to Western Canada to continue as farmers, not to industrial towns to become labourers.

I hope that there are Ontario historians on the Net who can add to or correct these statements.

Leon Robichaud leon@cca.qc.ca Ph.D. student, Universite de Montreal Researcher, Centre canadien d'architecture




Date:         Thu, 6 Jan 1994 20:46:20 -0600                                    
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From:         "Jim Oberly, History Dept.,                                       
              U of Wisc-Eau Claire" <JOBERLY@CNSVAX.UWEC.EDU>                   
Subject:      Re: Upper Canada land tenure, continued                           

[From: IN%"romura%acs.ucalgary.ca@UICVM.UIC.EDU" "Rob Omura" 6-JAN-1994 16:21:53.34 [To: IN%"H-RURAL%UICVM.BITNET@uga.cc.uga.edu" [Subj: RE: Upper Canada land tenure

Hello,

Just to add to the discussion, I have a list of possible sources to look into:

Peter A. Russell, "Upper Canada: A poor man's country? Some statistical evidence" in R. Douglas Francis & Donald B. Smith (eds.) Readings in Canadian History: Pre-Confederation. In this essay Russell argues that the majority of land was not held by speculators but by farmers holding less than 400 acres of land. In addition, he argues that previous estimates of the rate of clearing have been vastly overexaggerated and, on the other hand, that the time required for a farmer to clear his land has been equally underestimated.

Russell argues that there were, by the census of 1836, 75 settled (having over 2,000 pop. and over 5,000 acres cultivated) townships in Upper Canada. The impact of immigration during the period from around 1812 to 1842 had two effects: a rise in the number of small farmholdings and a decline in the average farm size. Russell estimates this to have declined from 36.2 (1812) to 33.6 (1822) to 33.1 (1832) with a rise to 34.7 acres in 1842 when immigration rates slowed. Also, Russell considers three groups of farmers: one-half of farms held 30 acres or less of cultivated land, one-fifth of farms held between 50 and 100 acres of cultivated land, and about 2-5% of farms held over 100 acres of cultivated land.

Extrapolating on this Russell suggests that wealth was determined by the amount of acres of cultivated-cleared land held by a farmer, not the absolute number of acres held. Therefore, the farmer must clear his land of brush in order to capitalize on his holding. However, clearing rates ranged from 1.23 acres per farm per year (1822) to 1.47 (1832) to 1.55 (1842). Even at the highest recorded rates of clearing (based on the assessment rolls) of 3.03 to 3.18 in Augusta in 1832-1842, it would have taken most farmers over 10 years to clear 30 acres! Russell posits that there are three groups of immigrant farmers then: a group with enough capital to purchase a "ready-made" farm, a group which could only afford uncleared property but could afford to clear land and support themselves, and a group which needed to sell their services to other farmers in order to make ends meet.

Russell dispels the myth that the government granted land lavishly to non-residents. Most of the absentee-lands were held by locals.

Other possible sources of information include:

     Lillian Gates, Land Policies of Upper Canada                               
     Leo Johnson, "Land policy, population growth and social                    

structure in the Home District" in J. K. Johnson (ed.) Historical Essays on Upper Canada

I hope this will add to the discussion somewhat.

     Rob K. Omura                                                               
     email: romura@acs.ucalgary.ca                                              




Date:         Mon, 10 Jan 1994 22:34:49 -0600                                   
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              <H-RURAL@UICVM.BITNET>                                            
From:         "Jim Oberly, History Dept.,                                       
              U of Wisc-Eau Claire" <JOBERLY@CNSVAX.UWEC.EDU>                   
Subject:      Population data for "Upper Canada land tenure"                    

H-Rural readers--

As a student of land policy in the U.S., I must say that I am learning a great deal about Canadian history from our ongoing discussion about "Upper Canada Land Tenure." Bryan Trussler's recent answer to Leon Robichaud has the following paragraph which stirred me to do a little work, in part because I have an English Canadian great-grandfather who worked on the Welland Canal, and in part because I married into a family with French Canadian ancestors who left New Brunswick for life in a New England mill town.

Anyway, Bryan says:

> Well, if I remember correctly, there were a few years during Laurier's govt in which the total population of Canada failed to grow by the number of immigrants admitted during the same period, meaning that we suffered a loss in emigration exceeding the gains through childbirth and immigration. I remember quite distinctly being told that in the years before WW I, there were more people of Canadian descent living in the United States than within Canada itself, so great was the haemmorrhage. This will need to be double-checked, but the figure was in the millions ....

Here is what I found from _American Historical Statistics_ about Canadian immigration to the U.S. from 1850-1970. The U.S. census years 1890-1940 inclusive are particularly interesting because we can learn about the French and English breakdown. The numbers are substantial but they only count Canadian-born immigrants.

Table 1--Canadian Immigrants in the U.S.

(note: all numbers are in thousands, and are rounded)

Year     French Canadians  English Canadians   Total Canadians                  
----     ----------------  -----------------   ---------------                  
1850                                               148                          
                                                                                
1860                                               249                          
                                                                                
1870                                               493                          
                                                                                
1880                                               717                          
                                                                                
1890            302              678               981                          
                                                                                
1900            395              785             1,180                          
                                                                                
1910            385              820             1,205                          
                                                                                
1920            308              817             1,125                          
                                                                                
1930            371              916             1,287                          
                                                                                
1940            273              771             1,042                          
                                                                                
1950                                             1,003                          
                                                                                
1960                                               957                          
                                                                                
1970                                               812                          

Source: _American Historical Statistics_ (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1975), Vol. 1, pp. 117-118).

_American Historical Statistics_ also reports information about U.S. born with foreign-born parents. Here is the data relevant to Canada for 1900-1970. A French and English breakdown is presented for the years 1900-1950.

Table 2--U.S. born with Canadian parents

(again, all numbers are in thousands, rounded)

Year French Canadians English Canadian Total Canadian

1900 456 933 1,389

1910 563 1,088 1,551

1920 562 1,279 1,841

1930 735 1,324 2,059

1940 635 1,231 1,866

1950 519 1,468 1,987

1960 2,229

1970 2,222

(Source: _American Historical Statistics_, Vol. 1, p. 116)

Adding the numbers in Tables 1 and 2 gives a measure of the immigrant Canadians and first generation of U.S. born Canadian descendants. I don't have Canadian population numbers in front of me tonight, so I don't know if the combination of Tables 1 and 2 ever exceeded that of the Canadian population proper. I doubt it. Of course, a looser definition of "Canadian descendants" that includes someone like me, or my children might very well result in a number that exceeds more the population of Canada today.

As H-Rural readers probably know, I've been doing work on settlement patterns in Wisconsin land that once belonged to the Chippewa Indians, and to which they retain reserved hunting, fishing, and gathering rights. I ran a quickie tabulation from my Wisconsin county population history on the equivalent of Tables 1 and 2 above, just for the state in 1910. The data come from the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) and are available to ICSPR members as Study #0003, the aggregate U.S. census from 1790 through 1970. I was interested to learn from Table 3 below that the highest proportion of the Canadian immigrants and U.S. born children of Canadians were living in North Woods counties in 1910 (i.e. the territory ceded by the Chippewas). This was a mixture of logging country and cutover lands being settled, unsuccessfully, by immigrants trying to farm the land.

Table 3

[note--this is dumped directly from my SPSS file]

6 TITLE Canadian population data for 1910 Wisconsin 7 FILE HANDLE cens910/NAME="fac_4:[joberly.HIST705]cens910.SPSSXSAV;1"

8 GET FILE=cens910

File FAC_4:[JOBERLY.HIST705]CENS910.SPSSXSAV;1

Created: 28-OCT-91 14:04:20 - 176 variables

9 compute allcanad=v80+v81+v115+v116 10 compute totalpop=v20+v21 11 compute canratio=allcanad/totalpop 12 Comment The four variables listed below include

      Wisconsin county name, the total number of                                
      Canadian immigrants and U.S. born children                                
      of Canadians in each county, the total population of the                  
      county, and the ratio of ratio of Canadians and                           
      immediate Canadian descendants in the county.                             

13 list variables=county allcanad totalpop canratio

COUNTY ALLCANAD TOTALPOP CANRATIO

ADAMS                59  8604      .01                                          
ASHLAND            1607 21965      .07                                          
BARRON/DALLAS      1167 29114      .04                                          
BAYFIELD/LA POINT  1650 15987      .10                                          
BROWN              1356 54098      .03                                          
BUFFALO              59 16006      .00                                          
BURNETT             109  9026      .01                                          
CALUMET              45 16701      .00                                          
CHIPPEWA           2541 32103      .08                                          
CLARK               608 30074      .02                                          
COLUMBIA            215 31129      .01                                          
CRAWFORD            166 16288      .01                                          
DANE                482 77435      .01                                          
DODGE               167 47436      .00                                          
DOOR                581 18711      .03                                          
DOUGLAS            3642 47422      .08                                          
DUNN                351 25260      .01                                          
EAU CLAIRE         1243 32721      .04                                          
FLORENCE            290  3381      .09                                          
FOND DU LAC         959 51610      .02                                          
FOREST              387  6782      .06                                          
GRANT               182 39007      .00                                          
GREEN                60 21641      .00                                          
GREEN LAKE           74 15491      .00                                          
IOWA                197 22497      .01                                          
IRON                610  8306      .07                                          
JACKSON             189 17075      .01                                          
JEFFERSON           108 34306      .00                                          
JUNEAU              168 19569      .01                                          
KENOSHA             340 32929      .01                                          
KEWAUNEE             76 16784      .00                                          
LA CROSSE           470 43996      .01                                          
LAFAYETTE            71 20075      .00                                          
LANGLADE            365 17062      .02                                          
LINCOLN            1101 19064      .06                                          
MANITOWOC           361 44978      .01                                          
MARATHON            915 55054      .02                                          
MARINETTE          3919 33812      .12                                          
MARQUETTE            71 10741      .01                                          
MILWAUKEE          3158 433187     .01                                          
MONROE              180 28881      .01                                          
OCONTO             2058 25657      .08                                          
ONEIDA              931 11433      .08                                          
OUTAGAMIE           770 49102      .02                                          
OZAUKEE              23 17123      .00                                          
PEPIN               182  7577      .02                                          
PIERCE              333 22079      .02                                          
POLK                605 21367      .03                                          
PORTAGE             353 30945      .01                                          
PRICE               532 13795      .04                                          
RACINE              355 57424      .01                                          
RICHLAND             98 18809      .01                                          
ROCK                527 55538      .01                                          
RUSK                706 11160      .06                                          
SAUK                240 32869      .01                                          
SAWYER              376  6227      .06                                          
SHAWANO             380 31884      .01                                          
SHEBOYGAN           170 54888      .00                                          
ST CROIX           1230 25910      .05                                          
TAYLOR              346 13641      .03                                          
TREMPEALEAU         102 22928      .00                                          
VERNON/BAD AX        72 28116      .00                                          
VILAS               475  6019      .08                                          
WALWORTH            268 29614      .01                                          
WASHBURN            378  8196      .05                                          
WASHINGTON           44 23784      .00                                          
WAUKESHA            284 37100      .01                                          
WAUPACA             378 32782      .01                                          
WAUSHARA            143 18886      .01                                          
WINNEBAGO           897 62116      .01                                          
WOOD                718 30583      .02                                          
                                                                                
TOTAL             44273 2333850    .02                                          

(Source: ICPSR Study # 003).

Jim Oberly, H-Rural Moderator Dept. of History Univ. of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Eau Claire, WI 54701 Tel. 715-836-5501 FAX 715-836-2380 E-Mail JOBERLY@CNSVAX.UWEC.EDU


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Posted: 13 Jul 1994
 

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