Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Land, Power, and Economics on the Frontier of Upper Canada

Land, Power, and Economics on the Frontier of Upper Canada

Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 688
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Land, Power, and Economics on the Frontier of Upper Canada
    Book Description:

    The prevailing ideology in Ontario at the time was a conservative culture that rejected everything American and attempted to preserve the best of the British world in the new Eden. Those building the state believed that a social and political hierarchy composed of those possessing a "natural virtue" would serve society best. In consequence, a few individuals at the top of the hierarchy, through their access to power, came to control the bulk of the land, the basis of the economy. At the other end of the spectrum from the elite were those transforming the land and themselves through their own labour. How did the physical environment and government land policy affect the pattern of settlement and the choice of land for a viable farm? What was the price of land, and how common was credit? Did the presence of reserved lands hinder or promote development? How extensive was land speculation and how did it operate? Clark brings these issues and more to the forefront, integrating concepts and substantive issues through a problem-oriented approach. Blending qualitative and quantitative approaches, he weaves together surveyors' records, personal and government correspondence, assessment rolls, and land records to measure the pulse of this pre-industrial society.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6850-1
    Subjects: Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Plates
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Figures
    (pp. xi-xiii)
  5. List of Tables
    (pp. xiv-xviii)
  6. Glossary
    (pp. xix-xxiv)
  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxv-xxx)
  8. Preface
    (pp. xxxi-2)
  9. 1 The Land Revealed: The Physical Background
    (pp. 3-34)

    Essex County (Figure 1.1), the most southwesterly peninsula of southern Ontario, extends some thirty-five miles from east to west and is, at its widest, twenty-five miles from north to south. The only land boundary is on the east; water in the form of the Detroit River on the west, Lake Erie on the south, and Lake St Clair to the north surrounds it on three sides. The county, including Pelée Island, contains, according to the modern soils report,¹ 452,480 acres of land of which the largest part (70.8 per cent) was in its natural condition poorly drained (Appendix 1.1 ).²...

  10. 2 Peace, Order, and Good Government: The Organization of a Landscape
    (pp. 35-93)

    In this second chapter the political, social, and economic background to settlement is examined in order to appreciate how these factors, in conjunction with the physical environment, influenced decisions relating to land. Its purpose is to set the scene against which the drama was played. The chapter begins by looking at the prevailing ideology. Some readers may find this unrepresentative of the total political culture of Upper Canada. It might appear to fault the analysis by placing too great a stress on conservative values when in fact these values were in a process of constant evolution.¹ No apology is made...

  11. 3 Acquiring Indian Land in the Era of the Land Boards
    (pp. 94-154)

    The purpose of this chapter is to describe one mechanism by which land was acquired in this and other parts of Upper Canada in the early years of settlement. The chapter describes the difficulties involved in the acquisition of land from the native population, a process that in this area was old indeed, stretching back well into the French jurisdiction. Much of the chapter is based upon the records of the land boards established by the British administration. The records are not complete. They are scattered in a number of depositories¹ and transactions with the Indians cannot therefore be quantified...

  12. 4 European Land Acquisition after the First Land Board
    (pp. 155-207)

    This chapter focuses upon the theme of land acquisition and views it as part of the larger process of settlement. It seeks to answer the following questions. When was land legally acquired or patented in Essex County? By whom was it patented and what influenced the timing of patenting for particular categories of land? In what townships was land acquisition most rapid and why? What was the role of accessibility and the physical environment in the decision of individuals to acquire particular pieces of property? Given these objectives, it is important to understand the rules under which patents were conferred...

  13. 5 The Market for Land: Sales in Essex to Mid-century
    (pp. 208-263)

    This chapter places an emphasis upon the economic factor in the settlement process.¹ Until recently, it seemed as if settlement had taken place in an economic vacuum; however, the work of W. Norton,² W. Marr and J. Paterson,³ D. McCalla,⁴ D. Gagan,⁵ J. Clarke and D. Brown,⁶ D. McCallum,⁷ M. McInnis,⁸ E. Gray and B. Prentice,⁹ and R. Ankli and K. Duncan¹⁰ has done much to rectify this impression. In fact, as Douglas McCalla has shown, even the subsistence farmer was an economic being, requiring capital to acquire land and for the means of production. The commonly applied epithet “self-sufficient”...

  14. 6 Buying on Credit: The Upper Canada Dilemma
    (pp. 264-294)

    Although the received wisdom has been that Upper Canada was a subsistence economy until some unspecified date in the first few decades of the nineteenth century, McCalla has argued that even as early as 1800 “this was not, properly speaking, a subsistence economy, given its dynamic growth, its net immigration, its ability to survive harvest and market downturns, its capacity to build up and hold appropriate stocks of relevant commodities, and its apparent responsiveness to changing market conditions.”¹

    Household production and domestic exchange and investment, together with external financial links, were the components that fostered provincial development.² Farmers produced wheat...

  15. 7 Who Were the Speculators and How Extensive Was Speculation?
    (pp. 295-335)

    The purpose here is to identify the speculators operating in Essex and by so doing determine the extent of speculation. Two routes are used to this end: a simple summation of the acreage held by each individual, and an inference drawn by reconstructing the tenure status of each lot in 1825 and again in 1851–52. Both measures establish possible limits to the extent of a phenomenon which, if symptomatic of Upper Canada and not just Essex, was, by any measure, remarkable.

    The method used is systematic in that the activity of every individual who ever owned, or at least...

  16. 8 The Strategies of Speculators
    (pp. 336-378)

    This chapter examines the behaviour of the 144 individuals identified as speculators in the previous chapter. It seeks to examine the strategy of these people both as individuals and as groups. The questions asked include: Were these people purposeful with respect to the physical environment, that is, did they chose the better soils and drainage conditions required by an agricultural economy? If the purpose of the overwhelming number of people was to become farmers, did land speculators know how to select suitable land? Were particular patterns of location pursued by individuals to maximize opportunity? Was there a particular geometry sought...

  17. 9 Land and Power
    (pp. 379-423)

    In the historiography of Upper Canada, there is a notion that the province’s affairs were run by a small group of people who had fought against American republicanism, shared a common political culture, and were, with some notable exceptions, Anglicans. The following statement regarding the Upper Canadian oligarchy appeared in a famous part of Lord Durham’s Report¹ of 1839:

    But in none of the North American Provinces has this [oligarchical tendency] exhibited itself for so long, or to such an extent, as in Upper Canada, which has long been entirely governed by a party commonly designated through the province as...

  18. 10 The Corporate Sector
    (pp. 424-442)

    To this point the discussion has turned upon the activities of individuals who were indeed the dominant actors throughout the first half of the nineteenth century. In fact, there were two corporate bodies which were active as well and which had come to control most of the former Crown and clergy reserves. These were the Canada Land Company,¹ established in 1826,² and the Clergy Corporation, which by 1819 had come to manage the affairs of the clergy reserves subject to the veto of the Executive Council.³ The removal of both Crown and clergy reserves from state control, more gradual in...

  19. 11 Context and Conclusion
    (pp. 443-466)

    Patricia Crone has developed a general anatomy of pre-industrial societies to assist in the interpretation of particular ones. Her work, which she describes as “the bluffer’s guide” to the behaviour of pre-modern societies, seems applicable to Upper Canada and Essex in the earliest phase of development, from 1788 to about 1850.¹

    Crone’s study, which covers several thousand years, uses the terms “pre-industrial”² and “agrarian” synonymously but distinguishes between the “primitive” hunting and gathering societies and the more complex, “civilized” societies in terms of their levels of organization and division. The latter societies remained primarily agricultural, manufacturing supplying only part of...

  20. Appendix 1.1 Essex Soil Quality and Drainage
    (pp. 469-470)
  21. Appendix 2.1 Survey Documents
    (pp. 471-473)
  22. Appendix 2.2 Documentary Sources for the Reconstruction of the Crown and Clergy Reserves
    (pp. 474-475)
  23. Appendix 2.3 Documentary and Map Sources of Patent Data for Essex County, Ontario
    (pp. 476-476)
  24. Appendix 2.4 The McKee Treaty of 1790
    (pp. 477-478)
  25. Appendix 2.5 Survey Systems of Essex County and Dates of Survey
    (pp. 479-479)
  26. Appendix 2.6 Number and type of establishment in each centre
    (pp. 480-480)
  27. Appendix 7.1 List of Speculators with at Least 400 Acres in Essex in One Period or Three Parcels of Unknown Acreage or at Least Three Transactions
    (pp. 481-484)
  28. Appendix 7.2 Membership in Clusters, based upon Measures of Similarity of Acreage Owned, Total Number of Transactions and Length of Time Held
    (pp. 485-485)
  29. Appendix 7.3 Essex Biographical Research
    (pp. 486-512)
  30. Appendix 8.1 Sheriff’s Deeds in Essex County, 1818-1852
    (pp. 513-518)
  31. Notes
    (pp. 519-650)
  32. Bibliography
    (pp. 651-706)
  33. Index
    (pp. 707-748)