On Our Journey

Letters from Mother Bruyère

Letters written in 1847

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To Mr. Anthony B. Hawke, Esquire, Chief Immigration Agent, Kingston

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 pre­sent 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 we had nothing to do with the children but to find them places or nurses, which was not always easy for us; on the contrary, it gave us a great deal of trouble. Mr Burke himself paid the nurses and such money was never laid in our hands. Those who were given to us were sick, and precisely because they were young, they gave more trouble and required as much expenses as the adults.

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 than they think we have been, and who may support the Emigrants at less cost.

I remain, Sir,                                  
Your Obedient Servant,                    
Sister É. Bruyère, Supre                   
General HospitalMother Bruyère's hand writing         

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