W2504 TO DR. CALVIN BROOKS MCQUESTEN from his half-brother, Isaac McQuesten
Dec 11 1886
To: New York
From: Hamilton, Ontario
My dear brother,
It is hard to have patience with one, who, certainly with time enough on his hands to write leisurely and [connectedly?] can do nothing but go on like a wild animal or a hurt child, instead of a man who has lived nigh half a century and has had every advantage that a man could ask for a liberal & professional education. You may talk about not feeling well & all that kind of thing but you simply aggravate what otherwise might be a mere trifling ailment by allowing your feelings to be a court of last resort to which you finally entrust anything that has any bearing upon [you?]. If I consulted my feelings I would tell you to go ahead and make all the havoc you liked, and when you found that by doing that you were the chief sufferer, then turn quietly around & laugh at you. You profess to be influenced to some extent any way by the principles of Christianity. If so, then you ought by this time to have learnt the fundamental principles that something higher than feeling, impulse, notion should govern you & that in a quiet decided sense of duty. I don't know that there is any use in writing you. Ten to one I will receive in answer a pettish post card; or a letter composed of bombast and whines. You will not think this a kindly tone in which to write you. But really there has been such an utter absence of a quiet, thoughtful tone in every letter without an exception that I have had from you for some time past that it is hard to bring myself to the point of writing you at any length.
You talk about German goods etc. We all know that the economy of living is such & labor so low in Belgium that the goods of that country are worrying even English manufacturers. Still what they do is of a limited nature & scarcely hinder the flannels, tweeds & gentlemen's outside wear used so extensively & in which most of our mills in Canada & a large portion in the U.S. are mainly engaged. You to some extent are affected. I question if we are in the slightest, from what I know of our manufacture. A couple of months since I had occasion to stay over night in Guelph. An agent of a large German house was at the hotel. I spent an hour or more with him in his sample room. More beautiful and varied goods I never saw. The extent of the range was astonishing. But among them all was scarcely anything of general every day consumption. Everything of what might be styled "notions" & ladies dresses & wear.
Since last spring I have determined that everything at the Mill1 should be on a thorough footing; and in addition to your foolish hot-headed epigram I have had the pleasure of Harvey being in the sulks half the time because I have docked off all revenue to him in the shape of profit on stock, buying nearly all elsewhere & from the same source that he would buy, & in some cases even cheaper than he could get it for. So far there has been no open quarrel between us. But I hold the stronger hand. I am [financially] unembarrassed outside of the Mill. I know his hand in a way & to an extent that he has no suspicion of. The Mill is working with an economy & a margin of profit it has never had before. Instead of constant complaints about "irregulars" the goods if anything exceed the samples and knowing that these things are right, I can see no more judicious course than to wait and watch closely. I may say frankly that I have lost all confidence in Harvey. I would have stated this to you last Spring had I dared. But you know how in a moment of excitement you will drop a hint that might be fatal to your interests & mine. I can only trust & beg of you to use the most extreme caution in what you do at any time refer to. We can never tell where the effect of a word may end. I am getting the Hespeler farm sold. That is so much relief. Further than that I am quietly providing for every possible contingency in the event of a rupture between Harvey & myself. In it all I know that I can thoroughly rely on Lockhart.2 He is not a man of a pleasant temper. But in all my acquaintance with him I have never found an approach to untruth or deceit. And that is his general reputation. I sent you an October Balance Sheet. An April one must shew [sic] a better state than there ever has yet been if orders come in as in the past.
I have not for five years felt the security of the situation as I have for the past months. Though there is unpleasantness enough in the present and probably in the future before the end is reached. I only trust that you will not add to it and do yourself no gain by being rash.
We are all remarkably well at home. Mary, the children, Mr. Baker & all. Luther goes South in a week.
I. B. McQuesten
P.S. I forgot to mention to you that last Saturday what [had fair??] to be a serious fire got started at "Arcade"3; caused probably by a match dropping between a slip & upright of the stairs. It was got out however with about $200 loss. All covered by insurance. Had it been at night it is not at all likely that the building could have been saved.
1 Isaac is referring to the cotton and wool mill in Hespeler Ontario which he operated along with his partner John Harvey (See W2511). He speaks of the mill's profits in very rosy terms, but within one year the mill was bankrupt with $900,000 in liabilities (see W2652). Isaac's mental and physical health deteriorated during this time and he died on March 7, 1888, leaving his widow, Mary Baker McQuesten, to care for their six children surviving children.
2 James Lockhart & Co. of Toronto was responsible for marketing and selling the goods produced by the Hespeler mill (Minnes 2).
3 This likely refers to a piece of property on King Street in Hamilton for which Isaac McQuesten held the mortgage and which became the responsibility of Calvin Brooks McQuesten after his brother's death in 1888. See W1652 and footnotes for more on the Arcade.