Journal describing the Listons' journey to Lower Canada, 1800

'It is rather singular to observe, that a Country which has for near fifty years been under the British Government, should be entirely French'

Quill and handwritten journal page

Narrating the 'last & long and projected journey' the Listons made in North America, this journal provides us with Henrietta Liston's experience of Lower Canada, a country she thought 'wore an air so distinct from the United States that you might suppose yourself in a different Continent.'

[Read more]

Read the journal See tour on map

In late August 1800, not long before they left America, the Listons travelled north, crossed Lake Champlain by moonlight, landed at Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, and proceeded to Montréal. It was a journey of over 1,000 miles.

The trip seems more official in nature than their earlier tours around the United States and the Listons found their time 'engrossed by morning Visitors' and met 'all the World of Montréal'. They visited Governors, politicians, military officers, First Nation elders and businessmen of Canada:

  • Peter Hunter and Robert Shore Milnes, Lieutenant Governors of Upper and Lower Canada
  • Sir John Johnson, Superintendent General and Inspector General of the Six Nations Indians
  • Elders of the Mohawk Nation at Kanesatake
  • The fur traders Simon McTavish, William McGilveray, and Joseph Frobisher.

French character and identity

Mrs Liston records her thoughts on the French, on national identity, and particularly on the strength of French influence in Canada. She was taken with her French sailors, remarking that they were of the 'old French character' — 'good humoured at the same time respectful, yet gay & frolicsome'. This character, Henrietta observed, was 'a good deal changed by the Revolution'.

The journal records Mrs Liston's opinions on the French character and national identity, and particularly on the strength of French influence in Canada. Henrietta is taken with her 'good-humoured' French sailors, remarking that they are of the 'old' or pre-revolution French character — 'good humoured at the same time respectful, yet gay & frolicsome'.

Canadian visits

Features of the Canadian tour are visits to convents and monasteries, to Montmorency Falls, Kanesatake Lands, Loretteville, Québec, St Helen's Island, and a spell of literary tourism in Sillery, Québec.

Henrietta concisely and brightly describes visiting the setting of Frances Moore Brooke's novel 'The history of Emily Montague', and meeting Anna Marie Bondfield Allsopp, who inspired creation of the story's heroine.

The Mohawk Elders

This journal includes a description of the Listons' visit to the Mohawk (one of the Iroquois nations) settlement at Kanesatake in the St Lawrence valley, a community established on the seigneury of Lac-des-Deux-Montagnes in 1717. The Listons visited the 'Village and a Seminary' over two days and received a ceremonious welcome of canon-fire and dancing.

Henrietta records that the elders requested a 'Talk' with Robert Liston who was thought to have been sent by 'the Great King their Father'. The meeting was conducted with an interpreter and the elders 'remonstrated feelingly on the demunition of their hunting-ground', white settlers taking the land.

Manuscript page with quill pen and ink pot

States and provinces visited in this journal

Pennsylvania; New York; Québec.

See tour on map

Notes on using the interactive map

Selected people named in this journal

A name in brackets is how Henrietta Liston refers to that person or spells their name in her journal.

Anna Marie Bondfield Allsopp, died 1805 ('Mrs Alsop')

Anna Marie was the only daughter of John Taylor Bondfield, a merchant. In 1768 she married the merchant, politician and seigneur, George Allsopp (1733-1805). They had seven surviving children — six boys and a girl. In the 1790s Anne Marie and her daughter, Ann Maria, spent much of their time at Cap-Santé near the mill her husband owned by the mouth of the Jacques-Cartier river. She died on 26 March 1805 and her grief-stricken husband died less than three weeks later. Anna Marie was the inspiration for Frances Brooke's character Arabella Fermor in her novel 'The history of Emily Montague'.

Frances Moore Brooke, 1724-1789 ('Mrs Brookes')

Novelist, essayist, translator and dramatist. Baptised in Claypole, Lincolnshire, Frances was the daughter of the Reverend Thomas Moore and Mary Knowles. In the 1750s she was writing poetry and plays and in 1756 she married John Brooke, a rector. Frances' first novel, 'The history of Lady Julia Mandeville', was published in 1763. That year she joined her husband in Canada where he was a military chaplain. In Canada Frances wrote the 'The history of Emily Montague', set in Sillery, it is considered the first Canadian novel. John and Frances returned to England in 1768 and her successful literary career continued. Frances was a member of London literary circles. She published translations, wrote a tragedy and the libretti for the successful comic opera 'Rosina', produced at Covent Garden in 1782. She died in Sleaford, Lincolnshire.

John Brooke, 1709?-1789 ('Chaplain')

Church of England clergyman. John was ordained priest in 1733. He married Frances Moore in 1756; they had two children. He moved to North America as a chaplain to the British Chaplain in 1757 and his wife joined him Québec in 1763. John was a friend of George Allsopp, husband of Anna Marie Allsopp, who inspired Mrs Brooke's character Emily Montague. John and Frances returned to England in 1768. John died two days before his wife.

John Burgoyne, 1723-1792 ('Bourgoinne')

Army officer, politician, dramatist. Born in London to Anna Maria Burneston and legally the son of Captain John Burgoyne, but possibly fathered by Robert Benson, John was educated at Westminster School. In 1744 he purchased a commission as a cornet in the First Dragoons. In 1751 he eloped with Lady Charlotte Stanley, sister of his close school friend James Smith Stanley and they travelled in Europe. Charlotte died in 1776. John advanced his military career in the Seven Years’ War and was promoted colonel after his capture of Valencia de Alcantara. Lord North appointed John head of the Canadian army and he commanded a large force against the Americans in the Lake Champlain-Hudson River Valley. In October 1777, after a decisive defeat in the battle of Saratoga in upstate New York, John surrendered his army to General Horatio Gates. Back in London, John authored successful plays. From 1782 John fathered four children by the married actress Susan Caulfield.

Marie-Marguerite Chabouillez, born 1775 ('Canadian wife')

Marie-Marguerite was the daughter of Marguerite Larchevêue and Charles-Jean-Baptiste Chaboillez, an influential fur trader. Her brother Charles was also in the fur trade business. In 1793 she married Simon McTavish, a successful fur trader, and they had four children, all of whom died in their 20s. A few years after Simon's death in 1804, Marie-Marguerite married William Smith Christie Plenderleath, son of the Scottish army officer Gabriel Christie Christie's mistress, Rachel Plenderleath.

James Cuthbert, 1719?-1798

Army officer, merchant, legislative councillor. Born in Scotland to an aristocratic family, James began his career in the navy and the army. In 1765 he purchased the seigneury of Berthier and the following year was appointed to the Council of Québec by James Murray, and became justice of the peace. In 1776, during the American invasion, his manor house and property were burned, and he was imprisoned in Albany, New York. James led a prosperous life, but had many foes and was frustrated by his lack of political influence. He was dismissed from his post of justice of the peace in 1786. He had three wives: Margaret Mackenzie, who he married in 1749, Catherine Cairns, married in 1766 and with whom he had 10 children, and Rebecca Stockton, who became his wife in 1786. James died suddenly at Berthier-en-haut, now Berthierville, Québec.

Hugh Finlay, 1730?-1801

Merchant, seigneur, politician, and landowner. Hugh was born in Scotland. In 1763 he emigrated to Canada where he went into business as a merchant and became post master of Québec. He established a weekly postal service between Québec and Montréal and a monthly service through Skenesborough and Albany which met the packet service between the city of New York and Falmouth, England. He also meticulously surveyed post roads. In 1764 Hugh was appointed a justice of the peace for the District of Québec. Hugh's career suffered during the American Revolution, but he retained his political influence. After the war, Hugh expanded the postal service and re-established routes with the United States. He married Mary Philips in Québec. They had 10 children.

Marie-Anne-Catherine Fleury Deshambault, 1740-1818 ('Baronne of Longueuil')

Born in Québec, Marie-Anne-Catherine was the daughter of Catherine Veron de Grandmesnil and Joseph Fleury Deschambault, a civil servant and merchant. In 1754 she married Charles Le Moyne de Longueuil, the third Baron de Longueuil (1687-1755), son of Charles Le Moyne, Seigneur. The marriage was advantageous for Marie's family. Charles died in 1755. In March 1756 Marie gave birth to twin girls, one of whom died. Marie and her baby Marie-Charles-Joseph lived in the Hôpital Général in Montréal. In 1770 Marie, Dowager Baroness of Longueuil, married William Grant.

Joseph Frobisher, 1740-1810 ('Mr Frobesher')

Fur-trader, politician, landowner, military officer. Born in Halifax, Yorkshire, Joseph emigrated to Lower Canada with two brothers and they established a fur-trading business. Following the death of his brothers Joseph entered into a partnership with Simon McTavish and in 1787 McTavish, Frobisher & Company was founded. Joseph married Charlotte Jobert and had 12 children.

George III, 1738-1820 ('King of England')

William Grant, 1744-1805

Born in Scotland, William was the son of Jean Tyrie and William Grant, a legislative counsellor and Jacobite in the uprising of 1745. William became a very successful British merchant in Québec. In 1770 he married Marie-Anne-Catherine Fleury Deshambault, Dowager Baroness of Longueuil and consequently came into possession of some of the Longueuil seigneurial resources, including a farm on Île Sainte-Hélène.

General Frederick Haldimand, 1718-1791 ('Gen Haldemand')

Army officer, Governor. Born in Switzerland to he served in Prussia and Holland and in 1756 joined the British Army serving in North America in the Seven Years' War. He became Military Governor of Trois-Rivières and then governor of Québec in 1777. After the American Revolution he was responsible for settling the Loyalist refugees in Ontario.

Peter Hunter, 1746-1805 ('Governor Hunter')

Hunter was born in Scotland, entered the military at an early age, and became Commander-in-Chief of His Majesty the King's military forces in British North America. In 1799 he became Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada.

Sir John Johnson, 1742-1830

Military officer, Loyalist, colonial official, politician, landowner, and seigneur. Born at Mount Johnson, John was the only son of Sir William Johnson and Catherine Weissenberg (1722-1759). He was heir to the Johnson family Mohawk Valley estate. He married Mary Watts in New York. They had 11 surviving children. He moved to Montréal at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War where he commanded troops in the King's Royal Regiment of New York. Between 1782 and 1828 he was commander of the British Indian Department. John's military and masonic funeral was attended by 300 Indians and a great many friends and acquaintances.

Lady Mary Watts Johnson, 1753-1815 ('Lady Johnson')

Loyalist. Mary, born in America, was the daughter of John Watts and Anne Delancey of New York. On 29 June 1773 she married John Johnson in New York. They had 11 surviving children.

Sir William Johnson, 1715-1774

Superintendent of the northern Indians, merchant, colonial official. Born in County Meath, Ireland, William settled in North America in 1738. He developed a good relationship with the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) and became a wealthy landowner and militia officer in the Mohawk Valley. During the Seven Years' War he helped secure the British alliance with Haudenosaunee — the 'Six Nations Confederacy' — against the French. Mary Brandt (1736-1796), the Mohawk clan mother Konwatsi'tsiaienni, became John’s wife and they had eight children. Mary's brother, the Mohawk chief and statesman Thayendanegea (Joseph Brant), was a close friend and translator to Johnson.

John Lees, 1740-1807 ('Mr Lees')

Militia officer, merchant, landowner, politician and judge. Born in Scotland, John emigrated to Canada with his parents. During the American Revolution he became a militia captain, fighting for the British. 1773 John and the merchant Alexander Davison set up the firm Davison and Lees which specialised in supplying British troops in North America. In 1792 John was elected to the first house of assembly of Lower Canada for the Three Rivers constituency. He held this post until he became too ill shortly before he died. John also served as justice of the peace for the District of Québec from 1795-1799, as a director of the Agriculture Society of Québec, and was on the board of the Québec Library. Unmarried, John left his estate to his sisters in Stirling, Scotland.

Marie-Louise Lepailleur de Laferte ('Madmoiselle de Reviere')

Marie-Louise was the daughter of Michel Lepailleur de Laferté and Catherine Jérémie. In 1730 she married Claude-Nicolas de Lorimier de La Rivière (1705-1770) a military officer, and had eight surviving children. Her sons followed their father into the Army.

Robert Lester, 1746-1807 ('Mr Lister')

Business, militia officer, landowner, politician. Born in Ireland, Robert had arrived in Québec by 1770 and over the course of his career became a well-established merchant. An Irish Catholic, Robert made many connections in the Catholic community. In the 1780s he became a captain in the British militia at Québec. In 1799, having been major, he was promoted lieutenant-colonel. His business, Robert Lester & Company was prosperous in the 1790s and he was a leading exporter of wheat and flour. Yet, in the early 1800s financial difficulties left his business in trouble and he was owed money by many debtors, including Joseph Frobisher. After his death all his possessions were sold.

Sir Robert Liston, 1742-1836 ('Mr Liston')

Diplomat. Born in Kirkliston, Scotland, Robert Liston became an influential diplomat and was the second person to serve as British Minister to the United States, 1796-1801. Robert's service coincided with a highly significant period in British-American relations. In 1796 he married Henrietta Marchant Liston.

Sir Alexander Mackenzie, 1764-1820 ('Mr Mackenzie')

Fur trader, explorer, author. Alexander was born on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland. Aged 12, he emigrated to North America in 1774. He was knighted in 1802. In 1812 he married Geddes Mackenzie and had three children.

William McGillivray, 1764-1835 ('Mr McGlveray')

Militia officer, fur trader, politician, landowner. Born in Invernesshire, Scotland, William was the son of Donald McGillivray and Anne McTavish, the fur trader Simon McTavish's sister. In 1784 William joined the North West Company, becoming a partner in 1790 and Director in 1804 after the death of his uncle Simon McTavish. A prominent figure in Montréal society, he owned estates in Scotland, Lower Canada and Upper Canada. In the war of 1812, William commanded a company of voyageurs.

Simon McTavish, 1750?-1804

Fur trader, militia officer, office holder, landowner, seigneur. Born in Stratherrick in Scotland to a poor family, Simon travelled to New York in 1764 and found work as an apprentice to a merchant. He began to establish himself as a businessman and moved to Montréal in the 1770s. Becoming a central figure in the creation of the North West Company, along with Joseph and Benjamin Frobisher, in 1787 he and Frobisher set up McTavish, Frobisher & Co. In 1793 he married Marie-Marguerite Chaboillez daughter of the influential French-Canadian fur trader Charles-Jean-Baptiste Chaboillez. Simon became very wealthy and was known as 'The Marquis' due to his position, elegance and sense of style. He bequeathed money to two hospitals in Montréal, the Hôtel-Dieu and the Hôpital Général.

Lady Charlotte Frances Bentinck Milnes, 1768-1850 ('Mrs Mills')

Charlotte was the daughter of Captain John Albert Bentinck and Reniera van Tuyll van Serooskerken. She was great-granddaughter of William Bentinck, 1st Earl of Portland. In 1785 she married Robert Shore Miles and they had three sons and two daughters.

Sir Robert Shore Milnes, 1754?-1837 ('Governor')

Colonial administrator. Born in England to John Milnes of Wakefield and Mary Shore of Sheffield, Robert embarked on a military career in the Royal Horse Guards. Having been Governor of Martinique, Robert was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Lower Canada in 1797 and remained in the role until November 1808.

General Louis Joseph de Montcalm, 1712-1759 ('General Montecalm')

Military officer. Born in Candiac, France Louis Joseph entered the army aged nine, distinguishing himself, by 1756 he was promoted Maréchal de Camp and became Commander of the French troops in North America. In 1758 he was appointed Lieutenant-General. He died from wounds he suffered on the Plains of Abraham.

Elizabeth Mildred Wale Kentish Mountain, died 1836 ('wife')

Elizabeth was the daughter of John Kentish of Bardfield Hall, Essex. She married Jacob Mountain in 1783, in Little Bardfield, a village in Essex. They had seven children, three of whom became clergymen. Elizabeth moved to Québec with her husband in 1793.

Jacob Mountain, 1749-1825 ('Bishop Mountain')

Clergyman of the Church of England, bishop and politician. Born in Norfolk to Jacob Mountain and Ann Postle, Jacob studied at Caius College, Cambridge, and was ordained by the Bishop of Norwich in 1774. In 1780 he was ordained priest by the bishop of Peterborough. He married Elizabeth Kentish in 1783. In 1793 at Lambeth Palace, Jacob was consecrated Bishop. The same year he and his family moved to Lower Canada. He became the first Bishop of Québec and strove to establish English ecclesiastical traditions. Over the course of his episcopate 60 churches were built, including a cathedral in the city of Québec, consecrated in 1804. It was in this cathedral that Bishop Mountain was buried.

Jean-Baptiste de Saint-Vallier, 1653-1727 ('St Valier')

Second Bishop of Québec. Born in France, Jean-Baptiste moved to Canada in about 1785 and founded of the Hôpital Général in Québec in 1692. A devout, zealous Catholic, he lived there from 1713 until his death.

Philip Skene, 1725-1808 ('Mr Skeen')

Military officer, Loyalist. Born in London and of Scottish descent, Philip enlisted in the British army. He emigrated to America in 1756 and established a settlement on Lake Champlain called 'Skenesborough' (now Whitehall). Skenesborough became a centre for trade. During the American Revolution Philips land was confiscated; he campaigned for many years for compensation.

Related content


On YouTube: A reading of Henrietta's description of meeting Mohawk elders in Kanesatake, Lower Canada, from her 1800 journal

[Library reference for this journal: MS.5703]

Browse the journals