With the conclusion of peace came a great rush to the north. The resources of government were strained to the utmost to provide for the necessities of the thousands who flocked over the border-line. At Chambly, St Johns, Montreal, Sorel, Machiche, Quebec, officers of government were stationed to dole out supplies. At Quebec alone in March 1784 one thousand three hundred and thirty-eight ‘friends of government’ were being fed at the public expense. At Sorel a settlement was established similar to that at Machiche. The seigneury of Sorel had been purchased by the government in 1780 for military purposes, and when the war was over it was turned into a Loyalist reserve, on which huts were erected and provisions dispensed. In all, there must have been nearly seven thousand Loyalists in the province of Quebec in the winter of 1783-84.
Complete details are lacking with regard to the temporary encampments in which the Loyalists were hived; but there are evidences that they were not entirely satisfied with the manner in which they were looked after. One of the earliest of Canadian county histories, [Footnote: Dundas, or a Sketch of Canadian History, by James Croil, Montreal, 1861.] a book partly based on traditionary sources, has some vague tales about the cruelty and malversation practised by a Frenchman under whom the Loyalists were placed at ‘Mishish.’ ‘Mishish’ is obviously a phonetic spelling of Machiche, and ‘the Frenchman’ is probably Conrad Gugy. Some letters in the Dominion Archives point in the same direction. Under date of April 29, the governor’s secretary writes to Stephen De Lancey, the inspector of the Loyalists, referring to ’the uniform discontent of the Loyalists at Machiche.’ The discontent, he explains, is excited by a few ill-disposed persons. ’The sickness they complain of has been common throughout the province, and should have lessened rather than increased the consumption of provisions.’ A Loyalist who writes to the governor, putting his complaints on paper, is assured that ’His Excellency is anxious to do everything in his power for the Loyalists, but if what he can do does not come up to the expectation of him and those he represents, His Excellency gives the fullest permission to them to seek redress in such manner as they shall think best.’
What degree of justice there was in the complaints of the refugees it is now difficult to determine. No doubt some of them were confirmed grumblers, and many of them had what Colonel Christie called ’unreasonable expectations.’ Nothing is more certain than that Sir Frederick Haldimand spared no effort to accommodate the Loyalists. On the other hand, it would be rash to assert that in the confusion which then reigned there were no grievances of which they could justly complain.