James Peachey made three visits to British North America: c.1773-5;c.1780-4 and 1788-c.1795.
During his first visit, he was employed as a survey draughtsman under the direction of Samuel Holland (c.1728-1801), Surveyor General of Lands for the Province of Quebec and Northern District of North America. The Board of Trade, under whose sponsorship Holland was working, was eager to update existing maps of North America and to obtain new ones, especially with the approach of the American Revolution. In late 1775, Peachey and two assistant surveyors returned to London where they were lodged in apartments at Holland’s expense to prepare the surveys for a publication that regrettable for Holland never materialized. Instead, Holland’s surveys were incorporated into J. F. W. Des Barres’s well – known publication The Atlantic Neptune ( 4 vols., London, 1777-84) in which the maps are supplemented by topographical views which bear a similarity in style to Peachey’s works. The Atlantic Neptune published the work of many persons, often military personnel, who were employed on survey duty during this period. For example, William Pierie ( act. 1759-fllg. 1777) of the Royal Artillery took water-colour views of Niagara 1768; Boston and vicinity, 1773; and New York City, Hudson River, and Lake George, New York, c.1777 during his North American posting ( see Cov. no. 1626). The Boston views were undoubtedly used as a basis for illustrations in The Atlantic Neptune. Peachey’s works, and possibly Peachey himself, may have been employed in the production of this publication.
By 1780, Peachey is again present in the British colony, spending the early years in the Quebec region. Extant dated views, maps and various papers related to this second visit are of assistance in reconstructing Peachy’s travels. By 1783, he is employed as a deputy surveyor under Samuel Holland. Peachey’s assignments were connected with the surveying and laying out of lots of lands for the disbanded troops and refugee loyalists. In 1783, Holland gave instructions to Peachey and his colleagues, René H.P. La Force (1728-1802) and Louis Kotte (act. 1783-91), to explore the north shore of Lake Ontario, setting out from Cataraqui toward Niagara. Peachey wintered in the vicinity of Cataraqui, where he continued his association with Kotte into 1784, conducting surveys of Fredericksburg and Adolphustown.
Peachey’s manners and facility for drawing did not go unnoticed by his superiors. Undoubtedly, he enjoyed the patronage of General William Tryon (1729-88) and Gen. Sir Frederick Haldimand (1718-91), Governor-in-Chief of Canada from 1778 to 1786. In November 1784, Peachey accompanied Haldimand to England on board HMS Atalanta. A series of fine, small-scale, alphabetically keyed water-colours, which were quite probably at one time insets of a large-scale map of the St. Lawrence River Valley intended for eventual publication, were prepared following this voyage. Some of the views in this series, several of which were acquired by the PAC in 1916, as well as earlier works, are taken after his associations, namely, Kotte and two Royal Artillery officers, James Hunter (act. 1777-92) and Peter Couture (act. 1773-97). Both Couture and Hunter received their early training in the Drawing Room in the Tower of London prior to taking up their first commisssions in 1778 and 1781 respectively. No evidence has been found to show that Peachey also received instruction in the Tower.
Peachey himself prepared etched outlines of topographical views related to his second visit which were then coloured by Peachey’s or another hand. He also sought the assistance of professionals in London to produce aquatints after his Canadian views published in 1785 and 1786. In the latter year, Peachey exhibited Canadian subjects at the Royal Academy, London, and again in 1787. The Montreal and Quebec views exhibited in 1786 were possibly those works after which two of the known aquatints were made (see Cov. nos. 1500, 1502, 1504 and 1505 for the etchings and Cov. no. 1929 for an aquatint).
Peachey also tried his hand at book illustration through an association with the London printer C. Buckton. He etched the frontispiece to A Primer for the Use of the Mohawk Children …(2nd ed., London, 1786) by Daniel Claus (1727-1827) and personally provided the frontispiece and several religious illustrations to The Book of Common Prayer…Translated into the Mohawk Language…a New Edition: to which is added the Gospel according to St. Mark, Translated into the Mohawk Language, by Capt. Joseph Brant…(4th ed., London, 1787).
Prior to returning to Canada, Peachey obtained a
commission of ensign, October 3, 1787, in the first battalion, 60th Regiment
of Foot under the command of Haldimand. He arrived at Quebec on board
the brig Scipio in August 1788 to join his regiment then mustered at Niagara.
By 1790, the 60th moved to the Montreal region. Peachey continued to occupy
a position as deputy provincial surveyor under Holland. He was required
to amend earlier plans and surveys and to execute new ones, including
a survey of part of the Rivers St. Lawrence and Ottawa above Repentigny
in 1793, which in some instances were compiled into larger plans. On October
21, 1793, he was promoted lieutenant and transferred to the 7th Regiment
of Foot then stationed at Quebec. A year later, the 7th moved to Halifax
where it remained until 1802 when the regiment returned to England. Peachey
was promoted captain on July 29, 1795, and transferred to the 43rd Regiment
of Foot on February 2, 1797. His death on November 24, 1797, which is
recorded on the regimental Muster Roll for June 25 to December 24, 1797
(W.O. 12/5563 f.79), was probably due to an
It is unclear when Peachey left Canada. It is possible that he returned to England from Halifax upon receiving a promotion to captain on July 29, 1795; however, there is no conclusive evidence. Certainly, the 7th Regiment of Foot as a whole did not return to England in 1795. Peachey appears to have definitely returned to England when he transferred to the 43rd Regiment of Foot on February 2, 1797.
Besides private collections, Peachey’s works are in the collections of the PAC (Picture Division, National Map Collection , and Library Division) and NGC, Ottawa; ROM, Archives of Ontario, and John Ross Robertson Collection, Metropolitan Toronto Central Library, Toronto; Archives du Séminaire de Québec, Quebec City; George III Topographical Collection, Map Library, The British Library, London; and New York Public Library, New York.
Martha E. Cooke, W. H. Coverdale Collection of Canadiana: Paintings, Water-colours and Drawings (Manoir Richelieu Collection) Public Archives Canada
Also from the National Archives of Canada