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Egerton Ryerson
Chapter II - Religion and Politics in Upper Canada in 1826


MR. RYERSON had not completed his first year of ministration to the religious wants of the settlers in Upper Canada when a new work was thrust upon him. This was no other than the consideration of the relation of the Christian church which he was serving and of sister churches to the political movements of the time. Such consideration was a necessary part of the work of a Methodist minister of that day. It was, indeed, forced upon him, if, as a citizen and a freeman, he would secure for himself and his posterity the rights and liberties which are now acknowledged without dispute to be the glory of our province, viz., perfect liberty of conscience and the absolute equality of all the churches in relation to the state. To understand this question it will be necessary to study somewhat carefully the constitution of Upper Canada as a British colony at this date, and also the peculiar working of this constitution under successive administrations for the preceding thirty-five years.

The Constitutional Act of 1791 separated Upper Canada from the old province of Quebec, and created it what was known as a free crown colony. The government was vested in:

1. A governor appointed by the British crown, with constitutional powers to be exercised either at; his discretion, or on the advice of an executive council appointed by and responsible to himself alone, or under instructions which accompanied his appointment, or were received from the colonial office in England from time to time. To this office he was directly responsible.

2. A legislative council composed of life-members holding their appointment from the crown, and with legislative powers similar to those exercised by the House of I morels in England.

3. A legislative assembly elected by the people and with legislativ e powers defined by the act.

The prerogatives of the governor as defined in the act were: (a) the summoning or appointment of members of the legislative council; (b) the division of the province into electoral districts for the election of members of the assembly, and the making of all other provisions for the first election; (c) the giving or withholding of the royal assent to the legislative acts of the council and assembly; and (d) the calling and proroguing of the legislature and the dissolution of the assembly, and the calling for a new election, provision being made that not more than twelve months shall elapse without a session of the legislature. The appointment of the executive council is also alluded to in the act, but rather as a prerogative already existing than as constituted by this act. liut this appointment of the executive council was not the only power vested in the governor apart from the provisions of the Constitutional Act. As the council held control of the great departments of executive government, and was responsible to the governor only, the governor, by virtue of this authority, became de facto the prime minister of the colony. He stood not simply as the representative of the sovereign, maintaining the constitution and seeing that it was obeyed by all subordinate branches of the government, but he became the political leader of the government, making appointments and controlling policy in the great executive departments, though without control of the legislation necessary for the execution of that policy except in the upper chamber. On the other hand it lay in his power to prevent any legislation intended to obstruct the successful event of his executive policy. Of this government Sir Erskine May, in his "Constitutional History of England." chapter seventeen, says: "Self-government was then the theory; but n practice, the governors, aided by dominant interests >n the several colonies, contrived to govern according to the policy dictated from Downing Street. Just as at home, the crown, the nobles, and an ascendant party were supreme frl the national councils, so in the colonies the governors and their official aristocracy were generally able to command the adhesion of the local legislatures." This, however. was far from being the case in Upper Canada, for reasons which our author proceeds to point out: "A more direct interference, however, was often exercised. Ministers had no hesitation in disallowing any colonial acts of which they disapproved. They dealt freely with the public lands as the property of the crown, often making grants obnoxious to the colonists, and peremptorily insisting on the conditions under which they should be sold and settled. Their interference was also frequent regarding church establishments and endowments, official salaries and the colonial civil lists. Misunderstandings and disputes were constant, but the policy and will of the home government usually prevailed. Another incident of colonial administration was that of patronage. The colonies offered a wide field of employment for the friends, connections, and political partisans of the home government." In Upper Canada this exercise of patronage by the colonial office never reached the extremity of abuse described by May as prevailing in the American colonies during the preceding century. But there was scarcely less objection to the irresponsible exercise of patronage by the governor and his council on behalf of their adherents in the colony itself.

A constitution with such inherent liability to abuse could scarcely be expected to work to the satisfaction of an intelligent people who had continually before them the example of the operation of a more thoroughly responsible system of government immediately to the south, and who were many of them but lately immigrants from the parent land, where already the principles of responsible government were being far more effectively carried into practice. There was, of course, a bare possibility that such a constitution might afford a tolerably satisfactory government. If the colonial office on the one hand and the governor oil the other used their large powers with wise consideration and discretion, anticipating the needs and wishes of the people as expressed through their legislative assembly, it might have been possible to avoid what otherwise must lead to inevitable conflict. But the spirit which framed this colonial constitution was evidently still jealously tenacious of imperial prerogatives, and determined to govern the colonies for the good of the colonists, as they viewed it, but at the same time in subordination to what they considered the paramount interests of the mother land. The constitution framed in this spirt gave to the colonists the name, the idea of, and the desire for self-government, while it withheld the reality, and thus of itself planted the seeds of dissatisfaction in the minds of a progressive people.

But this was not its only weakness. Its very efforts after good became in themselves the greatest of evils. The colonial office itself was by no means either regardless or forgetful of what it considered the best interests of the colonists; and a large part of the Constitutional Act is devoted to making provision for what it considered the highest interests of these loyal children of the empire. To say nothing of mistakes in the province of Lower Canada, in Upper Canada two most serious errors were the provisions for the endowment of an established church and for the creation of a titled hereditary aristocracy with places in the upper legislative chamber. These provisions, both embodied in the new colonial constitution, both destined to utter practical failure, but both acting as irritants provoking unfortunate conflicts, were the beginning of misfortunes from which we have not perfectly escaped even to-day, though we have passed a century of effort to counteract their far-reaching influence. These provisions, with others which followed, were the result of the spirit of an age when the supreme care of the state was for what was regarded as the superior class of people, and when the great body of the population, whose labour and virtue constitute its wealth and strength, were passed over with but little consideration. To such an age a governing class, of which the clergy of the established church were regarded as a part., seemed a prime necessity; and to create and educate such a class and provide for their maintenance seemed an imperative duty. The rest of the people were expected "to labour truly to get their own living, and to do their duty in that state of life unto which it pleased God to call them." It can now scarcely be doubted that some such conception was in the minds of the trainers of the Constitutional Act; and it is even more certain that such was the policy inaugurated by the first governor of Upper Canada, Lieut-General John Graves Simcoe. His educational policy alone is proof of this. It was more concerned with the erection of schools after the model of the English classical schools, and with the founding of a university, than with the elementary education of all the people; and while for the one class provided an endowment, which, if nob sufficient, has at least supplied our wants for an entire century in high schools and university, it left the other to care for itself.

But the population which laid the foundations of Upper Canada was not of the materiial to be treated after this fashion. The men whose intelligence and whose moral and political principles were so matured as to lead them to sacrifice almost their entire worldly fortune for the sake of those principles, were not easily to be divided into upper and lower classes, or relegated to any inferior position while their neighbours were constituted a governing class. Moreover, they were men of various forms of religious faith. There were Puritan Independents from New England, Quakers from Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, Lutherans and Dutch Reformed from New York and Pennsylvania. Presbyterians from New Jersey, and from various parts a large body of the followers of John Wesley, and not a few Baptists. Probably from the beginning the adherents of the Church of England were a decided minority of the population, while Presbyterians, Methodists, Roman Catholics and Baptists together constituted the majority. The founding of an endowed and established church under such circumstances was as serious a mistake and as difficult an enterprise as the creation of a titled governing class. The body whom it was proposed to make the established church was from the beginning behind in the race, while energy, zeal, self-denying labour and sympathy with the progressive spirit of the age were largely if not exclusively on the side of the so-called sects.

The policy then inaugurated might thus have expired with its founder's term as governor, and was liable at any time to have been abandoned by the coming to the colony of an intelligent and liberal-minded governor, had not two or three notable circumstances combined to give it a living continuity and fictitious support. The first of these was the coming to the country in 1799, to inaugurate the educational side of the policy, of John Strachan, afterwards first Anglican bishop of Toronto. The post was first offered to the famous Thomas Chalmers, then also a young man fresh from college, and by him declined. What might have been the result of his acceptance no one can now venture to conjecture. The event proved that the man to whom it fell was preeminently fitted for the work, and would have succeeded in its accomplishment had it been possible to mortal man. This young man, then a mere youthful school teacher, was employed solely for that purpose, and because of his success in that profession. But he was endowed with all the qualities of a great political leader, a pleasing personality, intense energy, tireless pertinacity of purpose, a mind fruitful of resources for the practical accomplishment of his purposes, and a judgment of men and of circumstances which enabled him to take their measure with accuracy and to make both serve his purposes. He was not long in the country before he had fully grasped the dominant policy and had shaped himself and his life work for its accomplishment. Though a divinity student of the Church of Scotland his association with the rector of the Church of England in Kingston, and with Mr. Cartwright a leading layman of that body, led to his taking orders in that church; and from that day, May, 1803, his future course was determined. His great talents were soon recognized and in a few years his appointment as rector of York, and a little later as member of the executive council, made him virtual leader of the Church of England party in the province, and gave at once continuity, guidance and energy to its policy. Henceforth his ambition was to make the Church of England dominant as the established church in the country with full control of the vast clergy reserve endowments and of the superior education as well as the government of the province.

A circumstance which afforded some fictitious strength to this ambitious politico-religious policy was the relation of several of the other religious bodies and particularly of the Methodists to the sister or rather parent churches in the United States. These churches had sprung from the American colonies at the era of the Revolution, through the United Empire Loyalist emigration which founded Upper Canada. Methodist preachers, themselves also, almost to a man, of Loyalist sympathies, had followed their people to their new homes in the northern wilderness and had shared all their early privations and trials. But under the Methodist itinerant economy they did not establish a separate church, judging that the work of preaching the gospel was not limited by political boundaries. As the Methodists were the most effectual obstacle in the way of the success of the church policy, their opponents were not slow to attach to them the opprobrium of being republicans, annexationists, and not loyal to the British throne and institutions. The reproach was most unjust, for Canadian Methodism was born out of the great United Empire Loyalist movement, and this was quite as true of her first preachers as of her people, except that they had little or no property to lose and were precluded by their clerical profession from taking up arms.

A second circumstance tending in the same direction was the prestige afforded to the English church by its relations to the established church in England. If the relation of Methodism to the parent church in the United States was a disadvantage to Canadian Methodism, the relation of the Anglican church in Canada to the parent Church of England operated to the advantage of the colonial church. It thus secured not only prestige, but also, by the transfer of British law and usage to the new colony, a legal status denied to other bodies of Christians. Under that advantage it even laid claim to be the established church of all the colonies as well as of the parent country. This claim was not made good, as the example of the older American colonies was against it, and as the established Church of Scotland at once put forth a similar claim on the same ground. But both bodies secured in this way rights of property and of the legal performance of ministerial or clerical functions. Or the other hand the other denominations could hold no property, and baptisms or marriages performed by their n misters were not recognized in law; and only after a struggle of tliirty years were these disabilities removed. The facts thus recited are the key to a large part of the first fifty years of the history of Upper Canada, and to a good deal which has happened since that time. At first indeed the people were so occupied with their individual struggle in the wilderness for a hare subsistence, that they scarcely noticed the lack of these political rights and privileges. They built their humble places of worship on a site cheerfully offered by one of themselves and accepted and used in simple Christian confidence. The question of the legal bearings of baptism was scarcely raised, and as for marriage, while its importance could not be overlooked, they accepted the legal provisions existing, though often at great inconvenience and sacrifice.

During this first period also, the ecclesiastical policy, while it had laid some foundations, had not developed any considerable strength. Neither the clergy reserves nor the educational endowment had as yet become productive of appreciable revenue, and the superior advantages of the Anglican church were as yet imported from the old country rather than acquired here. If the English church was supported by government grants, they were made in England and not in Canada.

But even in these times when the Methodists and others were quietly making the best of their disadvantages, the existence of a spirit of arrogant enmity towards them was manifest not only in social life, but also in the exercise of civil authority in forms which exhibited the persecuting spirit of barbarous ages. The death of Charles Justin McCarthy through the action of the civil authorities at Kingston, was the extreme instance of this, lie was the martyr of early Canadian Methodism.

But tliis preliminary period was brought to an end by a convulsion thrust into our history from without. This was the war of 1812-14. With the causes or the events of this war we have nothing to do, except to say that in it the Canadian Methodists abundantly vindicated their loyalty to the British throne and institutions. In the noble rally to drive the invader from our soil they bore a manly part; and while all Canadian hearts were united by the common danger and in the common struggle, no one was found base enough even to whisper a slander against either their loyalty or their courage.

With the close of the war came a new era of political and industrial life to Upper Canada. The wave of imperialism which through the South African war has stirred our own time, is largely sentimental. But it has made us feel that we are not only Canadians but a part of Greater Britain. The wave which followed the war of 1812 was intensely sentimental. It made us feel that we were Canada, a country, able to defend its rights and soil; not a mere outlying territory which our neighbours might covet and take possession of. But that wave was one of great material uplift as well. The expenditure of British money during the war introduced an era of prosperity. The desperate struggle with want and sometimes with starvation was over, and the whole population began to feel that our country was a home worth fighting for, dying for, and living for, that it might become still more worthy of our affection. A new public interest was created in all that belonged to the country, and the country began to feel the pulsations of political life. It was such an awakening as in all ages has led nations into larger life and liberty. Nor was Canada alone in feeling the power of this movement. It stirred all western Europe, and it led in England itself to the perfecting of her system of responsible government. In fact, our Canadian movement might in comparison seem to be but an insignificant side current of the great movement of the time. But little as it might appear in the great world's history, it had a distinctive unity and character of its own; and to us it is all-important—it is the foundation history of our own country. It was not entirely an isolated history. It had very definite relations to the greater movement in the older lands, especially in England, as we shall see presently. But the forces by which it was propelled were not extraneous; they arose from within, and out of the facts and conditions which we have already described. It therefore assumed a character distinctively Canadian. It was neither American republicanism nor English chartism, but Canadian reform. It was the movement of the great body of the people of Upper Canada toward perfect civil and religious eqtfalitf and political manhood and freedom.

This movement was along three distinct yet closely related and parallel lines. One was political, and its goal was responsible government. A. second was religious, and its goal was equal civil rights of free churches in a free state. The third was educational. and its goal was common provision for all the people, without distinction of class or creed. It would be a mistake to suppose that the actors in this movement always clearly grasped the results for which they were struggling, or against which they were striving in vain. Each felt the force and direction of the current in his own immediate vicinity, and was making as best he could for some objective point within his own range of vision; but the far-off goal of the unexplored river in the still distant sea. none as yet fully knew. In dealing, therefore, with any one of these men of that time as makers of Canada, we must judge of them not only by final results, but also by the human motives and limitations of their time. They sometimes laboured more wisely and sometimes more vainly than they knew. Their apparent defeats were sometimes real successes, and at others their seeming success was a real disaster. To impute to them moral inconsistency because to Us now, or even to their neighbours then in another part of the current, they seemed to be moving in a wrong direction, would be a great injustice. Such movements growing out of and impelled by the needs of a whole nation are too great to be controlled or even fully grasped by the mind of any one man. But yet they call for and make great men, and find the materials out of which they may be made.

It was to the second and third of these movements that Mr. Ryerson gave his life, and he was led into the third from the second. Both movements, of necessity, touched politics, and were often closely related to, if not identified with, the political movement. But from the beginning he was a Methodist preacher and not- a politician. Had he been a politician his connection with these movements would have thrown him into the ranks of political reform, if not revolution. But for such an alliance he had no sympathy. His political predilections were thoroughly conservative. Through his studies of Black-stone and Paley, at an age when very few have formed clearly defined political opinions, he had settled his conceptions of the rights of the crown, the parliament, and the people; and from the constitutional principles thus defined he would have considered it a sin in morals as well as a crime in law to depart. It is scarcely necessary to say that these conceptions were not republican; and it could scarcely be said that they included all that is understood by constitutional liberty and responsible government in our time. What he was seeking was not a change of constitution, but the righting of wrongs. He wished that what he believed to be justice should be done under the existing constitution. The constitutional reformers on the other hand were firmly of opinion that justice to the masses of the people would never be done until the constitution itself was so reformed as to give the voice of the people power to determine the policy of the government. Forming their judgment from the standpoint of men of the world, and not from that of a devout and enthusiastic young clergyman, they were quite convinced that so long as the constitution placed the power of shaping public policy and controlling legislation in the hands of a ruling class, they would be shaped and controlled for the advantage of that class. And in this opinion they were quite right, and the whole course of subsequent history has justified their struggle for constitutional reform. But Mr. Ryerson's ideal objects were not of this radical character. He sought equal rights for all the churches, and equal and efficient .provision jpf education for all the people. He perhaps at first did not even see the necessity of complete separation of church from state, although he fully recognized the injustice of the establishment of one church as a state, and so a dominant, church. The state might assist religion,1 but there must be no favouritism. In the same way he did not begin with a theory of secular education separated from all religious bodies. His earnest religious nature was in full sympathy with the idea that true education must be moral and religious as well as intellectual. He would not have divorced education from the influence of the churches. Rut he could not brook the injustice of having the educational endowments of the country controlled for their own ail vantage by one religious body.

Simple, practical, and conservative as these ideas appear to us to-day, they brought him into direct conflict with the policy of Dr. Strachan. In 1810, Dr. Strachan had been appointed a member of the executive council of Upper Canada; in 1820 he was made a member of the legislative council, and in 1827 was made Archdeacon of York. These appointments gave him a position of commanding influence hi both church and state for the successful development of his politico-ecclesiastical policy. In fact, by 1820 it is clear that the policy and patronage of Upper Canada were controlled not so much by the lieutenant-governor for the time being as by the rector of York and the chief justice of the province. It is not necessary for our purpose to enlarge upon all the aspects of their exercise of this irresponsible power; we are concerned with the facts only along the ecclesiast ical and educational lines.

The Constitutional Act of 1701 had authorized the setting apart for the support of a Protestant clergy of a quantity of land equal in value to one seventh of all the lands granted by the crown for settlement. This was in lieu of the tithes granted to the Roman Catholic church >u Lower Canada. The lands so reserved in Upper Canada finally amounted to nearly 2,400,COO acres. Although the intention of some of the framers of the act was probably to make these lands the foundation of an established church- -and this was certainly the policy of Simcoe, both for political and religious reasons—yet the act did not specifically assign either the lands or their revenue to the Anglican church. In fact, by giving the governors power to assign a portion or the whole of them m each township for the support of a rectory, it excluded any legal claim to them on the ground of the original grant. Until after the war the lands were not productive of any appreciable revenue, and the support of the Anglican clergy was derived from grants made by the home government and by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. Up to 1819 the annual product of the reserves did not exceed £700. But before this date the clergy reserve question was forced upon the attention of the people and the legislature in another form. These blocks of unoccupied land obstructed settlement by separating the settlers by intervening tracts of forest without roads, as well as by increasing by one-sixth the burden of taxation for any local purpose. A resolution was introduced in 1817 on this subject, and in 1819 the House asked for a return of the lands leased and of the revenue derived therefrom. The governor referred the matter to England for instructions. At the same time a congregation of the Church of Scotland in the town of Niagara petitioned the governor for an allowance of £100 a year for the support of a minister. The governor transmitted the petition to England, and with it he raised the question as to whether the Church of Scotland was entitled to participate in the reserves. These circumstances stirred up the Anglicans to immediate action, and in the next year, through the application of their bishop, Dr. Mountain, they were created a corporation in each province and invested with the management of the clergy reserves. But under the advice of the law officers of the crown, who recognized the claims of the Church of Scotland, and as a matter of policy, this power of management was not made to include any right of ownership. This was to be reached, if reached at all. by the establishment and endowment of rectories by the governor under the existing act. On this, under the existing temper of the people, they did not venture, resting satisfied for the present with the prestige of being guardians of the property.

But the question, once raised, could not be postponed. The claim of the Church of Scotland, now supported by eminent legal authority at home, as well as by the advice of the Earl of Bathurst to give them a share in the reserves, was at once pressed. In 1823 they secured from the legislature a presentation to the King in their favour which was rejected bv the legislative council, and also pressed their claims upon the lieutenant-governor for aid from any source. In the meantime Dr. Strachan prepared a petition to the King asserting the full pretensions of the Anglican church, and supporting them by statements concerning the religious state of the province as unfounded as were those which a few years later in his sermon were destined to bring an entirely new force into the contest. These statements, the same in substance whether embodied in petition, chart, or sermon, were, however, not yet made public in the province. They we^e only for the sympathetic ears of councillors of state.

The question has been asked, why did not the Anglican party call into effect the power of the governor to establish rectories in every township, and endow them with the lands, and so secure legal possession ? The reason would seem to be that they could not be satisfied with anything less than the exclusive possession of the whole; and this they could not expect to secure in the face of the political advice of the Earl of Bathurst that they should div ide with the Church of Scotland. Without his assent they could not take action; and that assent they were not likely to secure in the face of the storm of opposition which such a course would have aroused in the province. The next year, Dr. Strachan, now the leader of the Anglican cause, was sent to England with the proposal "that the clergy corporation should he empowered to sell one-half of the lands thus appropriated, to fund the money derived from their sale, and to apply the interest towards the support of the clergy." Such is the statement of the proposition as given by Dr. Bethune hi his "Memoirs of Bishop Strachan." This proposal again failed through Dr. Strachan's desire to secure the largest possible advantage to the church. The Canada Company offered to become the purchasers, but he objected to their price as too low; the project was delayed for the appointment of commissioners to value the lands, and finally fell through. This termination was not reached until after Dr. Strachan's return, and until events made it perfectly clear that his plan for the establishment and endowment of some hundreds of Anglican clergy in the province could not be carried into effect. This was doubtless in large part due to the influence upon the home government of the action of the legislative assembly from 1824 to 1826, and of a petition from the province of Upper Canada praying that the proceeds of the clergy reserve lands be divided among the Protestant denominations, or applied to the purpose of general education. This petition was called out by Dr. Strachan's famous chart, and was, with other Canadian questions, referred to a select committee of the British House of Commons in 1827. It was during this juncture that Dr. Strachan preached his famous sermon on the death of the Bishop of Quebec, which called Mr. Ryerson into the conflict in April. 3 1826.

We may now turn to the other question of the time, the effort to control for denominational purposes the education of the country. The circumstances that meet us here are very different from those which we have just been considering. The early settlers in Upper Canada were generally religious people. By the end of thirty years they had largely supplied themselves with the means of grace. At that date the population of Upper Canada is estimated at 120,000, and a trustworthy contemporary document gives the following statement of the Protestant ministry in the province:

Church of England ..........................................16
Presbyterian and Congregational........................15
Baptist .........................................................18
Methodist............... ......................................33
Mennonites.................................................... 7
Friends..........................................................10
Total . ..........................................................99

Besides these the Methodists employed 112 lay preachers. These statistics are of themselves the clearest evidence of the conditions which precluded the monopoly of religious functions or even rights and privileges by any one denomination. On the other hand there was no such preemption of the field of education. Here was a sphere of influence at first entirely unoccupied, and one in which by the aid of public endowments the policy inaugurated by Governor Simcoe, and followed up with such marked ability by l)r. Strachan, could find free and ample scope. The fundamental mistake in their policy and one that doomed it from the beginning to ultimate failure was its neglect of the common people.

The education of a nation naturally falls nto three grand divisions: first, the primary, which should reach all the people; then, the secondary, which at best will not touch more than ten per cent., generally not more than five; and last, the university, reached by less than one-half of one per cent. It was to these two last fields of education that the policy we are considering was directed. And its method from the beginning was the building of a system of class education reserved for the rightful rulers of the people, and with no broad basis of universal instruction as its foundation. The grammar schools and university which they projected were not the higher departments of a comprehensive system of education which knows no distinction of class or rank, but opens the door of learning wide for the humblest child to whom God has given the ability to reach its very summit. They were shaped rather as an exclusive system for a caste; if they admitted the gifted child of poverty, it was an accorded privilege. They were never expected to draw their patronage from the whole body of the people. For these they did not attempt any provision. Fortunately they did not attempt to interfere with their making provision for themselves.

The original plan of Governor Simcoe, as carried into effect by President Russell, set apart 550.000 acres of public lands for the establishment of a university and four royal grammar schools. These were a little later proposed to be located—the university at York, and the grammar schools at Cornwall, Kingston, Newark, and Sandwich. It is evident that from the outset the character of the schools thus proposed was not to the mind of the legislative assembly, for nothing further was done till 1804, and then a motion for the establishment of these schools was negatived by a vote of seven to five. The reason for this defeat seems to have been not so much opposition to public: provision for education, though there may have been both indifference and opposition, as a feeling that the scheme was not sufficiently comprehensive. A motion following, to establish a school in each of the districts was lost by the casting vote of the speaker. An act to this effect was finally passed in 1807, placing the appointment of trustees for these district schools in the hands of the lieutenant-governor, and such trustees were appointed for eight districts, \iz., Eastern, Johnstown, Midland. Newcastle, Home, Niagara, London, and Western.

The legislation thus carried through both branches of the legislature and acted upon by the lieutenant-governor, finally became effective in the establishment of district grammar schools in the eight districts, and. after repeated amendments, its operation was extended to the establishment of twenty-five schools, twenty of which reported an attendance of C27 pupils, or an average of 31 % for each school. Allowing the same for the five which made no returns, the whole number of children being educated under this system in 1845 was less than 800 The feeling of the great mass of the people towards the system may perhaps be judged from two petitions presented to the legislature shortly after its inauguration. One of these, from the Newcastle district, set forth, "That your petitioners find the said appropriation (£100 for the district grammar school) to be entirely useless to the inhabitants of this district in general." They therefore pray that the said acts "may be repealed, and that such other provision may be made to encourage common schools throughout this district as to you in your wisdom may seem meet." The other, from the Midland district, where one of the oldest and one of the best of these schools was established at Kingston, speaks in these terms: "Its object, it is presumed, was to promote the education of our youth in general, but a little acquaintance with the facts must convince every unbiased mind that it has contributed little or nothing to the promotion of so laudable a design. By reason of the place of instruction being established at one end of the district, and the sum demanded for tuition, in addition to the annual compensation received from the public, most of the people are unable to avail themselves of the advantages contemplated by the institution. A few wealthy inhabitants and those of the town of Kingston reap exclusively the benefit of t in this district. The institution, instead of aiding the middle and poorer classes of His Majesty's subjects, casts money into the lap of the rich, who are sufficiently able, without public assistance, to support a school in ev ery respect equal to the one established by law."

This want c>f the people also voiced itself in another and more practical form. It led to the large establishment of private and subscription schools, some of them of the more elementary character afterwards known as common schools, and others more pretentious and known as academies—• a term borrowed from the United States. It is not possible for us now to obtain exact statistics of the number of the common schools in existence throughout the province prior to the triumph of popular education in the act. of 1816. But in the next year, 1817, Mr. Gourlav collected statistics of no less than 259 common schools already in operation, and these were by no means the whole number in the province. From this we may safely infer that the voluntary efforts of the people to provide for the education of their own children had, even before the act of 1816, far outstripped in extent of influence the class system inaugurated in 1807.

The extension of the public schools to each of the eight districts, while seemingly in the interests of the mass of the people, did not prove so from several causes. They were secondary rather than primary schools; there was but one in each district —a district covering the area of three or more counties; the trustees were appointed by the governor and the executive council, i.e., the irresponsible ruling class; and finally the teachers selected by them were men fitted to support their views, and frequently clergymen of the English church. The schools were, besides this, beyond the reach of the people, on account of the expense of residence at a distance from home, and of the high fees charged. Their unpopularity appears from the fact that in almost every session a repeal bill was introduced, though failing either in the assembly, which at this time was Conservative through the influence of the war, or in the legislative council. The influence of popular feeling finally resulted in the passage of the Common School Rill of 1810. The main provisions of this act were the following:—(1) It authorized the inhabitants of any locality to convene a meeting at which provision might be made for building or providing a school-house, securing the necessary number of scholars (twenty or more), providing for the salary of a teacher, and electing three trustees for the management of a school. (2) It conferred upon the trustees power to examine teachers as to qualification, to appoint such to the school, to dismiss them if unsatisfactory, to make rules for the governing of the school, including books to be used, and to grant the teacher a certificate on presentation of which he would be entitled to his proportion of the legislative grant to the district. (3) It made provision for grants in aid to the several districts, amounting in all to £6,000 per annum. (4) It authorized the lieutenant-governor to appoint for each district a board of education with the following powers:--to receive quarterly reports from the trustees of each school; to exercise superintendence over the schools; to disallow at their discretion the regulations made by the trustees, or the books used in the schools; to make further rules and regulations for the schools, and to distribute or apportion the legislative grant. These district boards were required to report to the lieutenant-governor. Their power to ''proportion" the legislative grant was unrestricted, and they could use a part of it —up to £100—in purchasing books for use in the schools.

It will be seen that the first part of these provisions relating to school meetings, trustees and their powers, was simply a continuation of the existing institutions which the people had already created for themselves. The loyalist immigrants, from the time of their first arrive al in the country, had organized voluntary municipal institutions for themselves on popular principles, and before the passing of this act a considerable number of schools had been thus created and supported m the older settlements. The new provisions of the act were the legislative grant and the district boards, and the chief purpose of the latter would seem to have been, besides the apportionment of the money, the exclusion of disloyal teachers and text books.

The educational development of the province from the passing of this act (1816 ) to 1825 may be summarized as follows: (1) The reduction of the grant to common schools in 1820 from £6,000 to £2,500; (2) the introduction into a central school in York of the Bell system (the Church of England national system); (3) the constitution and appointment n 1823 of a general board of education for the province, consisting of the following gentlemen: the Honourable and Reverend John Strachan, D.D., Chairman; the Honourable Joseph Wells, M.L.C.; the Honourable George H. Markland, M.L.C.; the Reverend Robert Addison; John Beverley Robinson, Esquire, Attorney-General; Thomas Ridout, Esquire, Surveyor-General; (4) the passage of the extension and amendment act of 1824, which continued the grant and other provisions of 1820, made a further grant of £150 to be expended by the general board in the purchase of books for Sunday schools, to be equally distributed among the districts of the province, made provision for the extension of the benefits of the common school acts to Indian schools, and required that all teachers participating in legislative aid should pass an examination before the district board of education.

In this act the provincial board of education was recognized as in existence or about to be appointed by the lieutenant-governor for the superintendence of education, but it is not specifically constituted by the act, nor are its powers defined other than in the matter of the purchase of the books for Sunday-schools. It seems, therefore, that the appointment of this board and the definition of its powers was a matter of executive and not legislative authority. Its initiation by communication with the colonial office points in the same direction.

On the incoming of the new legislative assembly elected in 1824, we thus find an educational system in existence, directed or supervised by district and provincial boards appointed by the lieutenant-governor. and at the head of the system the Reverend John Strachan, D.D., as chairman of the provincial board. The next steps in the development of this system were the university charter of 1827, and the founding of Upper Canada College in 1829; but as these enter into the struggle for equal rights, which began in deadly earnest the next year, and in which Mr. Ryerson was henceforth to take part as a prominent actor, we need not consider them in this preliminary review of the initial situation.


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