Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine


Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Egerton Ryerson
Chapter V - Mr. Ryerson in the Political Arena


DOWN to 1833 Mr. Ryerson's work in its interest and motive was purely religions. lie wras a Methodist preacher standing for the rights and liberties, the interests and prosperity of the church and people which he represented. The circumstance that these rights and interests must be maintained on the side of their political relations was entirely beyond his control. The circumstance that they coincided With the principles of one political party, and that they were invaded and threatened by the policy of the other, was also a matter beyond his control. The party with which he acted was not the party of his hereditary sympathies or of his settled political convictions, so far as he had formed any; but he was working not for political party or policy, but for religious freedom and equal civil rights. So far as one may judge he was as sensible as any other clergyman of that time of the gravity of unnecessary intermeddling with politics; and the concessions made to Dr. Alder in 1882 were doubtless due in part to the influence of this principle on his own mind and those of his associates. So far was he from having formed any new or progressive political theories that it may he questioned whether he had fully comprehended the importance and far-reaching influence of the voluntary principle, notwithstanding the fact that it was a principle as important to religion as to political life. He was rather seeking justice under the existing constitution of government than such a change of political constitution as would conform the government to the will of the people. His method, too, had been appeal to argument and free discussion by the use of the press. We have no intimation that lie took any part in political meetings or conventions, or in the elections, or in the petitions which moved the legislative assembly to action. For the first tune, so far as we can learn, in 1833 he stepped aside from this guarded course by becoming the bearer to England of a petition, signed by 20,000 people, setting forth the grievances of the Canadian people, and praying that the clergy reserves be devoted to education. The passage of the Reform Bill in 1832 and the accession to power of the Whigs under Earl Grey had doubtless raised hopes in the minds of the advocates of Canadian reform that their cause might be undertaken by the home government. In the fulfillment of this mission he not only presented the petition of which he was the bearer, but also, as we have seen, supported it by an able presentation of the entire Canadian case to the secretary of state for the colonies. At this time, also, he gave close attention to the debates in the British House of Commons and studied the English political parties and party leaders with careful scrutiny. We have already referred to the results of this new experience, as embodied in the scries of papers known as the "Impressions," published in The Guardian >a November, 1833. These studies, without doubt, shaped more definitely Ryerson's future political opinions and conduct. Of the English parties, the moderate Tories represented by Mr. Gladstone secured his most complete approval as guided by justice and religion. The ultra Tories and even the Duke of Wellington seemed too near akin to the Canadian Tories—arrogant, despotic and bigoted; while the Whigs seemed to be too much governed by "expediency." Rut of all the English political parties the most abhorrent to him seemed to be the Radicals, and these, unfortunately, were the friends and almost representatives in the English parliament of the Canadian party of constitutional reform. We have already seen how the "Impressions" affected Mr. Mackenzie's attitude towards Mr. Ryerson. The effect of these first studies of English politics was scarcely less pronounced on the mind of Mr. Ryerson himself. Seeing danger both to British monarchical government and to religion and morality in the principles of the English Radicals, he began to be suspicious of their Canadian friends. The treatment which he received from the reform press on his return home certainly did not tend to allay this feeling; and the extreme language which they used and the covert threats they uttered led him to a full conviction that they were secretly meditating the erection of a republic in Canada, or the annexation of the province to the United States. This conviction he did not hesitate to express thirty years later. It cannot be said, in view of subsequent events, to have been an altogether groundless suspicion, and yet it did injustice to the great body of honest reformers, including many who were still Methodists, though now separated from the Wesleyan body.

For two years Mr. Ryerson contended, as editor of The Guardian, against this new and now rapidly increasing danger, at the same time endeavouring to maintain, as best he could, his old-time position of contention against a state church and for equal civil rights in religious matters. Speaking three years later of Ins efforts at this time, he says: "It will be seen that the object I have had in view at all times and under all circumstances was a just, liberal, and popular, as well as constitutional government, in this province. The majority of the late House of Assembly (i.e., the House prior to the election of 1836) put it out of my power to act with them because they made the clergy reserve question subservient to other objects which I had never embraced and with which I could not identify myself individually nor the Methodists as a body, whatever might be the free opinions of the individual members."

In the year 1835 the Rev. E. Evans was elected to the editorial chair, and Mr. Ryerson, though still a member of the "Committee for Guarding our Religious Privileges," was relieved of the responsibility which had devolved upon him for the past two years. During the course ox the year he proceeded to England to seek funds and a charter for the new academy, now nearing completion. On arriving in England he soon found that his suspicions—or rather convictions—as to the tendencies of Mr. Mackenzie's policy were con armed by rumours, which appear to have originated with Mr. Hume, that Canada was quit e prepared to declare her independence and to set up a republican government. This called out one of his strongest and most famous pamphlets, a series of letters to The Times on "The Affairs of the Canadas." The object of these letters was the vindication of the loyalty of Canada against the "machinations and misstatements of Messrs. Hume and Roebuck, shewing from their own letters to Messrs. Papineau and Mackenzie that they were the first promoters of the project." But while thus maintaining and vindicating Canadian loyalty to the British crown and British institutions, he was by no means unmindful of the questions which disturbed the colony so long as they remained unsettled, and in an interview with Lord Glenelg and Mr. Stephen, he discussed the clergy reserve question, the legislative council, and the executive council. What his proposals were on these three important questions does not now appear. They were certainly more conservative than those which finally prevailed under the constitution of 1840, and probably more of the nature of administrative than of constitutional reform. As his letters to The Times were conservative in their tendency and intended to prove that the people would be satisfied by a righteous administration of the existing constitution, this was probably also the purport of his recommendations to Lord Glenelg. If so, his views had already been anticipated.

It is very certain that English statesmen were now more perfectly informed on Canadian aifairs, and quite prepared to inaugurate a new policy, though not so radical as that proposed by Mr. Mackenzie in his "Seventh Report on Grievances." Sir Francis Bond Head had been sent to the province in the preceding January with instructions which, if carried out in a liberal, conciliatory spirit., might still have prevented the outbreak of the now ominous storm. The people were certainly expecting great things from him, and when, in 1834— shortly after his entrance on office,—he appealed to them on the ground of loyalty and the constitution, he was sustained by a large majority. But ' it was not," as Mr. Ryerson says in reviewing this period a little later, "on the ground of the constitution in utter opposition to every kind of reform. It was by his taking his stand upon the constitution m connection with the elaborate conciliatory despatch of Your Lordship to him, dated December 15th, 1835, and the elaborate conciliatory despatch of the Earl of Ripon, dated November 8th, 1832, to which Your Lordship referred him as his guide; it was by his assuring the people of Upper Canada in. every possible form of address that if they would support him, he would 'correct every grievance' according to the letter and spirit of those conciliatory instructions, while he maintained the happy constitution inviolate."' This conciliatory policy of just, and impartial, and liberal administration of the existing form of government had doubtless been Mr. Ryerson's own ideal of reform in Upper Canada. And it would appear that even early in 1836 he was not without faith in this as a political remedy. This faith, however, was to be rudely shaken by subsequent events. Sir Francis Bond Head did not fulfill "the expectations which his promises and pledges had created. His administration in financial as well as in ecclesiastical and general affairs fell so far short of [these] expectations that he was aware that he would have been left in the minority in his own House of Assembly during the late (1838) session, had it not been for the insurrection."

Such was the political course of Mr. Ryerson up to the rebellion of 1837-8 -an earnest pressure for such administration of the government as would secure equal civil rights, and just and faithful administration, and religious liberty to all His Majesty's subjects, while at the same time he was not in sympathy with any radical constitutional changes.

Sir Francis Bond Head's administration terminated in March, 1838. A month later Mr. Ryerson wrote to a leading member of the government in England in the terms which we have just quoted, and once more took his stand maintaining the cause of the people of Upper Canada against the dominant oligarchy. At the following conference he was again elected to the editorial chair under circumstances and influences which clearly appear from the following letter written by Dr. Stinson to the Rev. John Ryerson:—"I am quite of your opinion that Rro. Egerton [Ryerson] ought to take The Guardian next year. There is a crisis approaching in our affairs which will require a vigorous hand to wield the defensive weapon of the conference. There can be no two opinions as to whom to give that weapon. We now stand on fair grounds to maintain our own against the encroachments of the oligarchy, and we must do it or sink into a comparatively uninfluential body. This must not be." Such was the opinion even of the representative of the London Wesleyan Missionary Committee, who, after five years' residence in Canada, now understood and at least in part sympathized with the situation.

Mr. Ryerson was now once more fairly in the field of battle for religious liberty and equal civil rights and against a state church and a political oligarchy. In accepting this official position, to which was added the further responsibility of being secretary and convener of the Committee for the Protection of Civil and Religious Privileges, he at once fully and clearly defined his platform both before the conference and in his editorial inaugural. He says:—"In respect to the ecclesiastical affairs of this province I still adhere to the principles and views upon which I set out in 1826. I believe the endowment of the priesthood of any church in this province will be an evil to that church, as well as impolitic in the government. In accordance with the declaration put forth by several principal ministers in the Methodist Church in January last, I believe that the appropriation of the proceeds of the clergy reserves to general educational purposes will be the most satisfactory disposal of them that can be made. If in the way of such a disposal of the clergy reserves insuperable; obstacles should be thrown or found to exist, although I believe nothing is impossible with the Earl of Durham In these provinces, I think the next best settlement of that question will be to divide the proceeds of the clergy reserves among different religious denominations in proportion to what is raised by each, leaving to the discretionary disposal of each religious body its own apportionment." .... "To the very natural and important inquiry, in relation to civil affairs 'Do you intend to be neutral?' answer 'No, I do not,' and for this simple reason:— I am a man, am a British subject, am a professing Christian, and represent a British community. The present is a period in the affairs of this province :n which no man of intelligence or consideration can be safely or justifiably neutral. The foundation of our government is being laid anew, the future character and relations and destinies of the country are involved in pending deliberations, the last whisper of rebellion is to be silenced in the land. My decision, however, is to be not one of party but of principle; not one of passion but of conviction; not one of partial proscription but of equitable comprehensiveness. To be explicit as well as brief, I am opposed to the introduction of any new and untried theories of government. I assume that this country is to remain a portion of the British empire, and view every measure, not in reference to every or any abstract political theory, however plausible that theory may be, but m reference to the well-being of the country in connection with Great Brit ain. I take my stand upon the established constitution of the country as expounded by royal despatches, and as illustrated by the usages of the British parliament, British courts of justice, and the common law of England. Nothing more is wanted to render the province happy and prosperous, than the practical and efficient application to every department of our government and to our whole system of legislation of the principles and instructions laid down in the despatch of the Earl of Ripon addressed to Sir John Col borne, dated November 8th, 1832, and the despatch of Lord Glenelg, addressed to Sir Francis Bond Head, dated December 15th, 1835."

To the platform thus candidly set before the church and the country, we think it must be admitted Mr. Ryerson held fast during the two stormy years which followed. It was a time of intense excitement both in church and state. Political parties became more distinct than ever before; the Wesleyan Methodist Church was rent in twain on an issue in part ecclesiastical and yet growing out of the political situation; recriminations and imputations abounded; In the heat of passion parliamentary proprieties were often transgressed; but throughout this strenuous period the powerful influence of Mr. Ryerson's pen and personality was courageously and continuously exerted.

To the policy proposed by the Earl of Durham and elaborated in his able report on the affairs of British North America, Mr. Ryerson gives in his editorials repeated and cordial assent. To Sir George Arthur's efforts to repel the attacks upon the province from the American frontier he gave hearty support, which appears to have been attended with the best results n leading the people to respond to the governor's call for volunteers. But while thus loyal in support of the government, he was equally faithful in pressing upon their attention the demands of the people, and pointing out to them the still existing causes of dissatisfaction, which he regards as more dangerous than the incursion of foreign foes. These he sums up as follows:—

1. Ljack of just consideration in the treatment of the volunteers in the lat e campaign.

2. Appointments of adventurers and youths to office over the heads of old and influential residents of the country.

3. Slanderous imputation of the insurrection to reformers generally, when four-fifths or nine-tenths of them had proved their loyalty by their acts.

4. Unnecessary severity towards the rebel prisoners.

5. Abuse of Her Majesty's government in England by the high church party.

6. The non-settlement, of the clergy reserve question, and the establishment and endowment of the fifty-seven rectories.

It is noteworthy that every one of these was a question of administration or public conduct, and not of constitutional change, shewing how practical and conservative his ideas of needed reform still continued to be. Rut of even these moderated hopes he was as much disappointed in Sir George Arthur as he had previously been in Sir Francis Bond Head. This disappointment especially culminated in his replies to various Methodist addresses at the close of 1838 and the beginning of 1839, in which he expresses his gratification that the Methodists were loyal, but his disappointment that they had not rallied to the support of the English Church. The significance of this complaint will appear from the fact that in the October preceding, the church party had memorialized the home government asking for a judicial decision as to their exclusive right to the reserves, or, if this was refused, that the provincial assembly might pass a bill re-investing them in the British crown, subject once more to their disposal. Both requests were refused. The opinion of the law officers of the crown had been given as far back as 1819. The management of the reserves was a subject for the Canadian House and not for the British parliament, and the imperial government expressed their unwillingness to interfere in the matter. This led to a proposition from Sir George in his speech from the throne, February 27th, 1839, for division of the fund if the bill for reinvestment failed. To the reinvestment scheme Mr. Ryerson was thoroughly opposed. He was willing to assent to division provided each denomination were free to determine the disposition to be made of its apportionment. His clearly expressed judgment favoured the appropriation of the whole proceeds to education. He accepted division only as a dernier ressort for the sake of settlement, and with an expressed expectation that the Methodist apportionment would in that case be devoted to education and the building of churches, and not to clerical endowment. These views he presented not only in his weekly editorials but also in a series of ten letters to the Hon. W. II. Draper, Her Majesty's Solicitor-General. The scheme of division was thus clearly a compromise, and we have already seen how speedily it became a ground of contention in the Methodist Church itself; and how fatal were its results to the peace and unity of that body. The outcome was another division of Methodism. But that, division, by reuniting the forces of reform, probably saved the country from what would have been an unfortunate mode of settlement, giving us several endowed churches instead of one. The division bill was indeed passed under Lord Sydenham in 1840, but the forces arrayed against it by the division of Methodism, and a little later, by the disruption of the Presbyterian Church, made the apparent settlement a temporary affair. It served one important purpose in bringing the whole fund once more under the control of the Canadian government, where it remained until its settlement in 1854.

While the clergy reserve battle was thus being fought out in church and state, Mr. Ryerson's v< >ice was also uplifted on behalf of wider reform, and his letters to Lord Normanby once more brought important aspects of the Canadian cause before the government at a time when Lord Durham's report, was opening the way for the most successful remedy. Lord Durham's report reached this country early in the summer, and was the subject of universal discussion both in the press and by the provincial legislatures. Mr. Ryerson supported Lord Durham's proposals, not only in his letters to the Marquis of Normanby, but also n reply to the attacks which identified it with the system of "responsible government proposed by the Canadian Alliance society in 1834." He dwells with special emphasis on the conservative and moderate character of Lord Durham's proposals. He says:—"Does Lord Durham propose a government purely democratic, under the name of responsible government? No. Does he propose to abolish one branch of the present government ? No. Does he propose that our relations with foreign countries, or our military affairs, or the crown lands or crown resources be placed under the control of the provincial legislature ? No, he proposes to place them exclusively in the control of the imperial parliament. What does His Lordship propose then ? Lord Durham, except in the single case of the union of the Canadas, proposes not the alteration of a single letter of the established constitution; he proposes nothing more or less than that the people of Upper Canada within the defined and secured limits of local legislation and government. should be governed, as in England, by the men, as well as institutions of their choice." He thus vindicates his own consistency and that of thousands of the staunchest constitutionalists who had opposed Mackenzie, but were now prepared to support Lord Durham's responsible government.

A later editorial brings out the fact that the form of responsible government to which Mr. Ryerson so strenuously objected was that of purely elective institutions, such as are so largely adopted in the United States ; and yet that he saw clearly that no system of responsibility was a guarantee for satisfactory administration, save responsibility to the people, directly or indirectly.

After the departure of the Earl of Durham, Mr. Poulett Thomson (afterwards Lord Sydenham) came to Canada as governor-general. He, as well as his successor, Sir Charles Bagot, received from Mr. Ryerson cordial and able support in the delicate task of introducing the new constitution, and the principles of responsible government. Lord Sydenham in the introduction of the system determined to ignore party, and in this step was supported by the wisest and best men of both the old parties. As was said by contemporary writers, such a step brought to the province "peace." Lord Sydenham's first ministry was composed of moderate men of both parties in about equal numbers, but did not include a French Canadian. At the opening of the House, Mr. Baldwin resigned because his advice for a reconstruction of the ministry was not followed, and with Mr. Hincks, LaFontaine and others, formed an opposition party, who pressed for a more explicit declaration of the principles upon which responsible government was to be conducted. For this purpose Mr. Baldwin moved a series of resolutions to which Mr. Harrison moved in amendment three resolutions, said to have been drawn up by the hand of Lord Sydenham himself, and which are sometimes referred to as the Magna Carta of Canadian responsible government. These resolutions in amendment were as follows:—

1. That the head of the executive government of the province, being within the limits of his government the representative of the sovereign, is responsible to the imperial authority alone.

2. That, nevertheless, the management of our local affairs can only be conducted by him by and with the assistance, counsel and information of subordinate officers in the province.

3. That in order to preserve between the different branches of the provincial parliament that harmony which is essential to the peace, welfare and good government of the province, the chief advisers of the representative of the sovereign, constituting a provincial administration, ought to be men possessed of the confidence of the representatives of the people, thus affording a guarantee that the well understood wishes and interests of the people, which our gracious sovereign has declared shall be the rule of the provincial government, will on all occasions be faithfully represented and advocated.

By these resolutions the general principles of responsible government as involved hi the relations between the crown and the representative branch of parliament were declared. The concurrence of the two was required for all legislation and all executive acts. That concurrence is to be mediated by the executive council or ministry, who shall always command the confidence of and hence represent the representatives of the people. The prerogative of the crown is limited by the requirement that :t shall be exercised by and with the assistance, counsel and information of the executive council. These principles, so fundamental ;n the British constitution, admit of considerable latitude of interpretation and application. They require, indeed, the concurrence of two powers before aught can be executed in government or enacted in law. But they do not define the source from which such acts or laws shall originate. Does the initiation of all legislation and executive action belong to parliament or to the ministry, and is the prerogative of the crown merely judicial, revisory and negative? It is upon this question that the character of British institutions as affording a perfectly free government must ultimately depend. The answer gives the advantage of positive power to one side or other of the two estates. This answer has not been given by positive constitutional declaration, but by procedure established by usage. From the date of the constitutional or limited monarchy in 1088. that usage has passed through a process of evolution. It is true that all our parliamentary language and the terms of all commissions to office and warrants for executive acts imply the supreme authority of the crown. But to-day in practice, if we reckon the executive council as an expression of the power of the people, the initiative has largely passed to that side. The calling to his councils of a new body of advisers is now the most important act of initiative on the part of the crown, and even then he calls a leader, giving him wide discretion in the selection of his associates.

But we have not to go very far hack in the history of British constitutional monarchy to find a time when the crown exercised a far more positive and initial influence in the work of government. Even in 1841 when responsible government was being introduced in Canada, the change which took place between the days of George III. and Victoria was not yet complete. It is thus by no means surprising that during the first ten years of responsible government in Canada, there should be conflict between advanced Liberal and Conservative ideas on this point. This arose the more easily inasmuch as up to this time the executive council, representing not the people, but the crown and the governor, had been in a position to control the whole policy of the country, the representative assembly possessing a power which could do little but object and set forth grievances. It is possible that with the incoming of the new system the reformers expected too much. It may be that the colonial governors, acting under a sense of responsibility to the home government, and with express reserve of all questions affecting imperial interests, were disposed to assert too positive an influence over the policy of the Canadian government. It is certain that not till the coming of Lord Elgin was there a clear understanding established on these delicate points. Certain it is that almost from the beginning, notwithstanding the wisdom of the measures proposed both by Lord Sydenham and his successor, Sir Charles Ragot, there was dissatisfaction on the part of the reformers. An attempt to allay this by a reconstruction of the ministry, in which the reformers had a majority and the French Canadians were represented, served only to bring the matter to a crisis. Some minor appointments and the reserve of the Secret Societies' Rill, aimed at the Orange Societies, served to precipitate a conflict between the governor-general and his ministers, and led finally to an appeal to the country. It was at this crisis that Dr. Ryerson, now president of Victoria College, once more took a prominent place in the political arena in defence of Sir Charles Metcalfe. On the opposite side of the conflict new names came into prominence, especially George Brown and Adam Ferguson. The leaders in parliament were W. II. Draper and Robert Baldwin.

The facts from which the crisis was precipitated were two--the appointment of a clerk of the peace in Dalliousie district and the reservation of the Secret Societies' Bill for Her Majesty's pleasure. Other appointments were referred to, but all were admitted to be of minor importance. But from the outset the leaders of the reform party made a mistake both in parliamentary procedure and in political tactics. On the question of the reservation of the bill against the secret societies the governor was so clearly within his rights that even they could not object. They could only point to the proof of his sympathy with the Tory party. As to the question of appointments it appears that the appointments were actually made, and as they could be made only by the commission being signed by the responsible minister who held the provincial seal hi his keeping, they had thus become formally consenting parties. To complain of an act to which they had formally assented by seal and signature was technically a violation of the faith required of Her Majesty's privy councillors. The appointments should have beer prevented by the refusal of the seal and signature, and if the persons recommended by the ministry for appointment were objected to and refused by the governor, they should have resigned. The governor could make no appointment without the assistance of a responsible minister, and if he dismissed his ministry or accepted their resignation, then upon him devolved the task of finding a ministry willing to be responsible for the measure which he proposed, and able to secure the confidence of parliament. This method of procedure secures at once the prerogative and influence of the crown and the power of parliament, and is the very essence of British responsible government! Mr. Baldwin's ministry on the other hand allowed the appointments to be made, and then sought from the governor "an understanding" that in future no appointments should be made without previously taking the advice of the council; that the lists of the candidates should in every instance be laid before the council; that the council should recommend any others at discretion; and that the governor-general, in deciding alter taking their advice, "should not make any appointment prejudicial to their influence." To these stipulations or understandings the governor-general refused to commit himself, and in his refusal was sustained by the imperial government and probably by all British precedent. On this refusal the ministry, with one exception, tendered their resignations. Upon this resignation the whole matter was thrown back upon parliament, and a few months later—by the dissolution of the House—upon the country. The contest was one of the most bitter in Canadian political history, accompanied by scenes of violence and bloodshed. The reformers made not only the mistake in procedure referred to, but also what seems now a mistake in political tactics by introducing two or three extraneous elements into the arena. One was the race and provincial difficulty. They allied themselves with the French Canadians, and as a result were beaten in the election by an Upper Canadian majority sufficient to give their opponents a majority of the whole House. This interprovincial jealousy was tided over for a time by the "double majority," and finally led to a deadlock, out of which confederation arose. Possibly the ghost is not yet laid. Another source of trouble was the prominence given to party in the working of responsible government. There can, we think, be no doubt that even in their communications with the governor they introduced this matter to some extent. In their discussions before the House and the country it was not concealed. They even called upon the country to define more distinctly party lines. The governor, oil the other hand, took his stand on the principle that in the making of appointments he should not be asked to do so on party lines. This doubtless secured him the support of many moderate men of both parties, who desired the cessation of extreme party conflict.

Dr. Ryerson's defence of Sir Charles Metcalfe is, we think, his ablest piece of political writing. His positions are taken with the clearest judgment, and defended with consummate logical skill, and with a mastery of constitutional principles and a wealth of historical learning which is amazing when we consider his times and his opportunities. Examples and illustrations are taken from all periods of English history and made to tell on the argument and case in hand with wonderful force, and one can scarcely study the case as a grand debate without awarding him the victory. And yet within half a dozen years the fundamental principle which no one had as yet-clearly defined, but towards which the country was unconsciously tending, was admitted by all as henceforth an element of our responsible government. The whole responsibility of public policy now rests with the ministry, and there is scarcely even a practical reservation of imperial interests except of the most vital character. The royal prerogative guards the constitution and the whole people against wrong and injustice, and graciously modifies by the power of moral influence the policies of all parties, bringing them into more perfect harmony with truth, and justice, and liberty, and mercy, and at times it curbs the violence of party impetuosity and passion. But for this higher task it must stand above party and policies. Yet this result has been attained not by the destruction of the royal prerogative, which might have resulted had the reformers of 1841 secured their "stipulations," but by a mode of exercise which, perhaps, was beyond the wisest and best of men at that date.

In one respect both parties erred through fear, and each did injustice to the other. The reformers looked upon Sir Charles Metcalfe and l)r. Ryerson as the foes of responsible government, and predicted the return of the absolutism of the "family compact." We can see now no ground for such a fear. Dr. Ryerson certainly never was disposed to make a truce with the "family compact," or to submit to the injustice of absolutism, and Sir Charles's only desire seemed to be to avoid such a one-sided distribution of government patronage as would renew the old evil in another form. On the other hand even a Liberal imperial gov ernment and Sir Charles as their representative seemed afraid to trust the young Canadian baby to walk alone, and wished to keep a good hand on its legislation and policy. They seemed to be still afraid of republican tendencies, and possibly another insurrection. We do not forget that though Canada had passed under the administration of three governors her constitution was then but four years old; and that the guiding hand of Lord Sydenham in legislation, as well as his comprehensive administration of affairs with equal favour to all parties tended to strengthen the better political life of the province and to heal the sores of the past. These things fully explain the course of Sir Charles Metcalfe, and of the Whig government at home, as well as the attitude of Dr. Ryerson in their defence. But they too were not yet fully conscious of the power of the new political life which was now becoming national, nor did they foresee either the exact form or the magnitude to which it must shortly grow.

After this contest Dr. Ryerson never again returned to the arena of general politics. His position in the educational work of the country brought him into contact with both parties, as one or the other held the reins of power. In the early fifties he contributed some letters on the clergy reserve question, otherwise his future work was exclusively in the field of education. In 1867, as united Canada entered upon her larger life as a young dominion, he addressed to his fellow-countrymen a letter replete with wise counsels and patriotic sentiment. But in this there was but the loving advice of a father, and no more the strenuous contest of the man who is fighting the battle of national life. Reviewing his work in the political field we think we may safely say that from first to last in the three great conflicts in which it was exercised it was conservative, timely, and, in the result, for the good of the country.


Return to Book Index Page

This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus