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Selected Letters From Chief Emigration Agent Anthony Bowden Hawke (Archives Of Ontario. Toronto Emigration Office Records, Or Hawke Papers. Series Rg 11-1 Chief Emigrant Agent's Letter Books, Ms 6910), And Élisabeth Bruyère’s Replies.

Archives of Ontario. Toronto Emigration Office Records, or Hawke Papers. Series RG 11-1 Chief Emigrant Agent's letter books MS 6910.

Hawke Papers, 16 October, 1847, p. 153.

[They] scattered disease and death to a fearful effect wherever they have congregated in any considerable numbers. Added to this they are generally dirty in their habits and unreasonable in their expectations as to wages. They appear to possess little ambition or desire to adapt themselves to the new state of things with which they are surrounded. The few who possess any money invariably secrete it and will submit to any amount of sufferings or have recourse to begging in the streets and the most humiliating and pertinacious supplications to obtain a loaf of bread from the Board of Health or the Emigrant Agents rather than part with a shilling. Hitherto such people have been an exception to the character of our immigration, but this year they constitute a large majority. Fortunately for them a great many had friends and relations settled in the province who were able to render them assistance – but for this circumstance the calamity would have been much more severely felt.

I have the honor to be


Your old friend,

Signed A.B. Hawke

Chief Emigrant Agent C.W.

Archives of Ontario. Toronto Emigration Office Records, or Hawke Papers. Series RG 11-1 Chief Emigrant Agent's letter books, MS 6910.

Hawke Papers, 29 October, 1847, 161.

Emigrant Office

Kingston 29 Oct 1874


I have the honor to state for the information of the Governor General that by yesterday post, I received a letter from... Father Telmon P.P By Town, requesting payment of the amount due the Sisters of Charity for services to sick emigrants – a document of considerable length. He remarks upon the Bytown Board of Health Report I have also received two reports from the Chairman of the Bytown Board, and a letter from the Emigrant Agent G.R. Burke, on the same subject.

The history of the claim is as follows. Early in the season – on the 5th of June – the number of sick at Bytown had increased so fast that suitable accommodation could not be procured and the Emigrant Agent entered into an agreement with the Sisters of Charity to take as many of the sick emigrants as they could find accommodation for at 15/67 per week – including board, washing, and nursing, but excluding funeral expenses, wine & medical attendance. The Board of Health admit the justice of their claim, but decline including the charge in their accounts, because the expenditure was not under their control.

The amount claimed by the Sisters of Charity is £594.15.2.6/ A regular fee has been furnished, & Mr. Burke, the Emigrant Agent, has endorsed its contents, & it will form an entry in my funeral account general for expenses incurred by the Board of Health during the current year.

The arrangement with the Sisters of Charity I regret, because I consider that the sick might have been taken care of at a cheaper rate. The agreement was however sanctioned by the Government Agent for their services I have every reason to believe have been faithfully rendered, and as the Sisters of Charity complain that they have contracted heavy debts for supplies of food... which they are called upon to pay, I must respectfully beg, that a certifiable warrant may issue in my favor for the sum of £594.15.2.6/ to enable me to pay the aforementioned claim.

To S.E. Campbell Esq.

Signed A.B. Hawke

Civil Secretary

Chief Emigration Agent U.C.


Archives of Ontario. Toronto Emigration Office Records, or Hawke Papers. Series RG 11-1 Chief Emigrant Agent's letter books, MS 6910.

Hawke Papers, 2 November, 1847, p. 165.

Emigration Office

Kingston 2 Nov 1847

Dear Sir,

I received your letter of the 28th Oct in due course of post, desiring me to inform you what course you had better adopt in forwarding certain emigrants now in at Bytown to this agency.

As far as I can learn there is no probability of the Rideau Canal being opened this season, and they must therefore be sent over land to Prescott, or back to Lachine + up the St. Lawrence.

I agree with you in thinking the last course the best, & you had better therefore adopt it. It will be an expensive business at best; the expense of sending these people from Grosse Isle to Quebec, and from there to Bytown – a place they never should have been sent to. Their maintenance there, the cost of their passage back to Lachine & from thence to Kingston – nor is this the worst – for I really do not know what we are to do with them after they reach this agency. Send us therefore I beseech you as few as possible. Compel every one who can to get their daily bread from their labor to go to work. We have including sick in hospital, the widows and orphans, upwards of a thousand, and are daily receiving fresh emigrants to our numbers. Ought not the people of Bytown to do something as well as other places? – no plan, as you know, that Government can adopt, can bring relief to these people in all their wanderings. The Government & the expenditures must soon cease, for the Emigrant fund has long since been exhausted.

I am obliged to have by this evening’s boat for Toronto in consequent of poor Mr. McElderry’s death. He was an excellent man & I deeply regret his loss.

To G.R. Burke Esq.Signed A.B. Hawke

Emigration AgentChief Emigration Agent, C.W.


Emigration Office

Archives of Ontario. Toronto Emigration Office Records, or Hawke Papers. Series RG 11-1 Chief Emigrant Agent's letter books, MS 6910.

Hawke Papers, 7 December, 1847, p. 192.

Emigrant Office

Kingston 7 Dec 1847

Dear Sir,

The Government consider the arrangement made with the Sisters of Charity at By Town extravagant, and I fully concur in the opinion. Under the circumstances, if the expenditure is still going in, some other arrangement must be made, and I would strongly advise the Lady Superior or the head of the establishment to consider the matter of consent to a reduction – say 20 or 25 percent – on the total demand. Either of those rates would be much higher than has been paid elsewhere. Let me hear from you as soon as possible.

To G.R. Burke Esq. Signed A.B. Hawke

By Town Chief Emigration Agent, C.W.

Emigration Office

Kingston 8th ...1847

Bytown, 10th December 1847


The Bytown Emigrant Agent, Mr. Burke, handed me the letter and notes that you have sent to him. May I be allowed to pre sent some observations which will in the meantime answer the questions? you have addressed in those documents.

It seems to me that the Administration and the Government have acted towards us with very little regard concerning the payment. Was it right to make us wait for the payment, when it is well known that our Establishment is far from being set up and consequently unable to keep up with the expenses required for the maintenance of the Emigrants. We have been obliged to contract debts so as to have what was required for their support. During Summer, we had credit but were obliged to pay the highest prices, and since the beginning of Autumn, the persons who furnished us formerly, fearing that the Government would not pay us, refused to advance us for the future; in consequence of which we were forced to borrow money with interest to continue our attendance with the Emigrants. Many weeks ago we could have bought provisions for half price on the market, by paying ready cash. We have sustained considerable losses and the Administration of the Emigrants is certainly the author of them; for had we been informed from the beginning that we were to be so treated, such conditions would not have been accepted.

Secondly we are asked if the price for each sick person can be reduced. Sir, you have been greatly misled by the report of the Board of Health, for that report, which is nothing but a mixture of false statements and lies, says that we charged 15/0 per week for children as well as (for) adults. This is false; for

Is it right and becoming to ask a reduction of prices at the end of the season? It is after almost all of us have caught the sickness, and suffered so much; it is after we have spent all we had; it is after you have taken the benefit of our services; it is finally when you think you need no more of our services, it is then you ask a reduction of prices! Tell me, Sir, frankly, do you think you are right? You were aware of the prices in the beginning of Spring; why not then make your observations? We might then possibly have acquiesced to your demand, for you know, Sir, that our Establishment is not a speculation. The delay of the payment has rendered the reduction of prices impossible at present. The Administration will, next Summer, propose its conditions as we will ours. If then we accept the hard charge of attending on the Emigrants, it will not be till we be provided with sufficient means for their support. If they decline accepting the office of our services, they will find elsewhere, if they can, other nurses who may be more capable [and] more charitable thanthey think we have been, and who may support the Emigrants at less cost.

I remain, Sir, Your Ob[edien]t Serv[an]t, Sister É. Bruyère, Supre

Gensera]l Hosp[ita]l


I have just received a letter from Mr Burke together with a letter written by you to him, dated 7th instant.

Allow me to say that it is a scandal to act in such a manner towards us. I am not surprised that the Government qualifies the arrangements taken with us (as) extravagant, after it had so little justice as to delay so long for the payment of its debts. I wonder it does (not) go further and does not complete the iniquity by refusing altogether to pay. Some persons here being of [the] opinion that it would do so, we were advised and directed by lawyers to obtain the payment of the Government debts by the way of legal suit. The difference of rates in (different places does not prove that we charged too much. You should know that almost everything is dearer in Bytown than in Kingston, Montreal, or Quebec. Besides we are aware of the expenditures made in other places; and [in] such places where the Emigrants were deprived of the necessaries of life, there was not such a disproportion as you say comparatively to our prices.

Sir, I say it over again, had you demanded a reduction in the beginning of (Spring]we would have possibly consented to it; but after so many and so heavy expenses, after so many losses caused by the delay of payment, we cannot consent to it now. As for the arrangements to be taken for the future, we will treat of them after the pay ment of our debts by the Government. The total amounts (to be paid]

£ 834-16-3/2

We have received

70- 0-0

Balance due

£ 764-16-372

Your Ob[edien]t Ser[van]t Sister É. Bruyère, Supre

Genera]l Hosp[ita]l

“An Irishman to the Irishmen of Bytown and the Ottawa”,
The Packet(18 December, 1847) Transcript

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You have this year beheld the sad spectacle of your fellow country-men thrown in thousands amongst you, suffering under most aggravated calamities. These calamities emerged beyond the sphere of your preventative aid, but their existence, when openly appealing to your senses, were mitigated by your sympathy. The Emigration of the season found the Government unprepared for its reception – no prospective measure was adopted to guard the Province from the evils which accompanied it – no cautious foresight of our Canadian Ministry provided a preventative to mitigate the horror of pestilence, whose breath wafted the exiles to our coast. The shores of our Rivers became the graveyard of our Countrymen, and the expiring sigh of the lone exile mingled with the first note of his harp’s freedom, as it thrilled through our Canadian forests. It is true that a noble spirit of benevolence pervaded Canada, and the claims of our destitute and dying fellow creatures were acknowledged in the Cities whither they roamed in search of employment or homesteads. Montreal, Kingston and Toronto had their public Hospitals, with Medical attendance for the sick – the Government provided, also, for the wants of the poor and needy, and food was bountifully supplied. In these places, Officers were appointed by the Government to carry out necessary regulations. In Bytown, also, an Agency for the Emigrants was established, but Bytown had no public Hospital. The first boat that arrived was laden with the unfortunate victims of disease – every boat that subsequently passed left its quota of sick, until the Town became a Lazaretto. There was no public Hospital to receive them. The inhabitants dare not take them beneath their roofs without introducing pestilence to their families.

What was to be done? Were they to die and rot upon the wharves? – to perish openly in the streets? – to be thrown by the crews of the barges ashore wherever a boat touched between Kingston and Bytown? The health and safety of society was opposed to it – the common feelings of humanity revolted against it. The Emigrant Agent, Mr. Burke, saw but one course open – to send the sick to an Hospital erected by the Superior of a Catholic institution in Bytown. If it was his duty to behold them laying about the wharves, fields and streets – loathsome spectacles of disease – engendering plague and pestilence in the place, – he did wrong. If his duty lay in having the helpless victims attended, and their sufferings relieved by every means in his power – that he performed. In the performance of his duty night and day Bytown witnessed his exertions. Was the paltry pay he received (a Raft-pilot’s wage) his inspiring motive when certain sickness – probable death – appeared as the certain consequence of his fidelity. Never!

Even the Carters of Bytown, who daily carried to the grave or Hospital their loads, had a higher motive than mere pay to inspire them. But to the Hospital they were sent. In the Hospital they were attended by the Sisters of Charity.

The Sisters of Charity! – ladies who do honor to humanity – whose virtuous self-sacrificing benevolence raises them high above all others of their race, and typifies them hand-maids of Heaven. These ladies were the attendants of the poor Emigrants, and with their own hands performed the most menial drudgery. Through the lingering length of our long Summer days with heroic fortitude they labored to assuage the anguish of our suffering fellow-creatures – breathing the air of pestilence, and fearlessly striving with grim tyrannical death to rescue those sufferers from his grasp: through the long hours of the night they kept their posts by the couch of the dying – with the groans of suffering humanity ringing in their ears – with Heaven the only witness of their Heaven-inspired exertions.

Irishmen of Bytown! You know this to be the language of truth – you know this was the conduct of those who attended your countrymen in the dark hour of their sorrows – you well know that the wealth of the world would not command such attendance elsewhere, or induce any creature to undergo the toil and fatigue, or to run the risk attendant on such services. These females had a higher motive than pay to inspire them; and highest in the honor – foremost in the gratitude of all who sympathise with suffering humanity – should their character stand. Heavy expenses attended this Hospital, and we are told the advisers of the Governor General find fault with the Emigrant Agent for having the unfortunate Irish Emigrants thus attended in their sickness, and refuse to pay this institution its claim upon the Emigration Agent! Does our Government act on principles so contrary to reason – so inconsistent with every idea of justice?