John Galt and the Colonization of Upper Canada

GaltOn this day in 1839 Scotsman John Galt died in Greenock. Best known as the writer of  Annals of the Parish published in 1821, Galt’s name was and remains familiar to many Scots around the world. A less widely-known fact, however, is that Galt was also a colonizer, being appointed Secretary to the Canada Company in 1824. The Company was founded promote and facilitate the colonization of the Huron Tract in what was then Upper Canada. It was during his time there that Galt founded the city of Guelph in 1827, which, to this day, maintains a strong sense of its Scottish heritage.

The Canada Company was one of several land companies active in British North America that, by the mid-1820s, controlled large parts of it. They undertook clearing operations, built roads and buildings, and then sold plots to settlers, many of whom had recently arrived from Scotland. The Canada Company was the largest and most successful: within a decade it had sold 100,000 acres to settlers. According to one account

The land here is good and well-watered, the terms of the Upper Canada Land Company are liberal, requiring the settler only to pay a fifth of the purchase money when the land is applied for, and the remainder in five yearly instalments with interest at six per cent … There are grist mills and saw mills within a few miles of us east and west, also a store where goods of all kinds are sold. This settlement is mostly Scotch, almost wholly so where we are settled, and the utmost goodwill and unanimity prevails. We enjoy, though obtained at present by hard labour and perseverance, all the necessary worldly comforts and with the prospect, if we and our families are spared, of seeing them and us all independent and comfortable farmers, farming our own land.

In pursuing its activities, the Company carried out an aggressive marketing campaign involving the placement of agents at key British ports and distribution of masses of printed material. One pamphlet published in 1841 summarizing the benefits of emigrating to Canada, stating that the Scots were the most successful settlers. John Galt, we can safely assume, would have agreed with that.

To learn more about Galt and the Scots in Canada, have a look at The Scottish Diaspora.

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