Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Click here to learn more about MyHeritage and get free genealogy resources

Memoir of the Right Reverend John Strachan
Chapter XI

Visit to England and his native land.—Resistance to the proposed sale of the Clergy Reserves to the Canada Company. —Political strife in Upper Canada.

THE citation of the document in the last chapter, iii reference to the appropriation of the Clergy Reserves,—though not unseasonably introduced,—was a little in advance of the regular order of events in the Life before us. Early in the year 1824, Dr. Strachan was enabled to gratify a wish, long cherished, of visiting his native land, and greeting once more those friends of his youth who were ever held in affectionate remembrance, and with whom he maintained a steady correspondence. Often, in his letters, had he reverted to this wish; but obstacles to it accomplishment were constantly occurring. There was the difficulty of procuring a substitute during his absence, for so important a parish as his must be adequately supplied; and there was the serious difficulty of meeting the heavy expense. Repeated losses by fire, the building of a new house, and the accumulating cost of an increasing family, had created latterly an unusual pecuniary pressure. The first obstacle was removed by the opportune arrival at York of a son of an old and distinguished Scottish friend, Dr. Brown, of Aberdeen, who had taken orders, and enjoyed a small benefice, in the Church of England. He was a gentleman of fair attainments and prepossessing address; and while, in giving him this temporary employment, reasonable justice would be done to the parish, a kind service would be rendered to the son of an old and valued friend. The painful issues of this arrangement, and all the complications that followed, we need not dwell upon. Suffice it to say that the engagement with Mr. Brown was brought to an abrupt termination in the month of April following; and the ecclesiastical authorities at Quebec made the necessary arrangements for the supply of the duty at York until Dr. Strachan’s return.

The second difficulty was relieved, if not entirely removed, by the desire of the Lieutenant Governor and his advisers that Dr. Strachan, while in England, should afford to the Imperial Government information and advice on various matters of great interest to the Province, which could only be done effectually by personal representation and discussion. For the rendering of these services there was the promise of compensation, in part at least, of the very heavy pecuniary outlay attendant in those days upon such a journey.

A journey in winter to New York entirely by stage, and a voyage across the Atlantic in a sailing vessel,—for there were no railways nor ocean steamers then,—occupied so much time, that it was the end of March before he arrived in London. A letter to a friend in Scotland, dated May 30, explains briefly a portion of the public duties which now engaged him :—

“The little personal business I had cut out for myself, was in my own mind quite of a secondary nature; and not even so arranged until after I had determined to visit you and my relations. But our Lieutenant Governor, Sir Peregrine Maitland, wished me to deliver certain despatches, and to give an account of the state of the Colony. This produced communications with the Colonial Office, and there is no end to the references which they have from day to day made. I thought that I had answered all their inquiries, when intelligence was received of the absurd proceedings of the Legislature of Lower Canada, upon which, Government have revived the project of uniting the two Provinces. In view of this, they have called upon me to meet the Attorney General of Lower Canada, who happens to be here; and to prepare between us the draft of a Bill which we considered best adapted to the purpose, and most likely to render the measure effectual, while it gave as little cause of noise as possible.

“This was a business of difficult performance; for though the Attorney General and I are old friends, yet we did not agree on many of the points. After many meetings and much delay, we came to a conclusion only yesterday, and gave in the draft of the Bill, marking the clauses on which there was a difference of opinion. I am now preparing, as quickly as possible, my reasons for supporting certain clauses, and rejecting others; which will occupy me three or four days.”

His long and anxious yearnings were at last gratified; and we are happily furnished with a brief sketch of his visit to some of the scenes of his early attachment, in a letter to his friend Professor Brown, bearing date, August 28, 1824,—closing with some of those shrewd remarks, indicating great knowledge of human nature, which cannot fail to be useful as well as interesting:—-

“I stopped at Kettle, and found Mr. Barclay from home, but expected early in the evening; and Miss Barclay, his eldest daughter, a most amiable and interesting girl, begged me earnestly to wait for the return of her father, which 1 at length consented to do. In order to amuse me, Miss Barclay proposed a walk to the village, to see my old friends if any still remained. Most of my old friends are dead. I find several acquaintances, but not one with whom I was in any degree intimate. Those who recollected me were very much pleased, and all hoped I would preach for them on Sunday,—‘never mind, though you’re nae just as we are.’ Mr. Barclay received me with great cordiality; and, as was natural, had many questions to ask about his son in Canada. I remained all the Sunday : the family doing every thing in their power to make it pleasant. After breakfast on Monday, I proceeded to St. Andrews, where I arrived before dinner, and took up my residence with >Mr. Duncan. His brothers were all in town; which made it very pleasant, as they and I were always very friendly. It was a matter of astonishment to me to see so little change upon them. In the evening we called on Dr. Chalmers, from whom I received a cordial welcome. We talked of St. Andrews, of its present inhabitants, and of you; and I must protest that I never heard any person mentioned in more affectionate terms than yon were. They said that in your removal to Edinburgh, one of the principal charms had departed; that you were the suul of conversation; and each deplored in the strongest manner, and in a way most convincing to my mind of its sincerity, his individual loss in your departure.

"Not being troubled with any suspicions myself, I take people as I find them ; and consequently, get on very easily with society. Perhaps, by adopting the same method in future, you may find it advantageous. From considering the whole matter, as far as I am able, I have come to the conclusion that you will be happier at St. Andrews than in Edinburgh; that past difficulties have arisen chiefly from your too refined expectations. Your extraordinary talents and great sensibility place you so far above the people around you, that what appears reasonable to yon,—and is so when duly considered,—seems to them extravagant, or is perhaps above their comprehension. You must therefore, in order to sail calmly and pleasantly down the stream, condescend a little to people of less feeling and less information, and cease to expect those delicate attentions from persons who are capable of feeling them, and you must conform to those established customs in society which are in daily operation. It is true many of these might he dispensed with, were you still a bachelor,—for no man can visit you without wishing to visit you again,—but where ladies are concerned, there is never any abatement. Therefore you must sacrifice something of time and personal trouble to give dear Mrs. B. that place in society which she so richly deserves, and could so well adorn, and which a little exertion on your part can easily assure.

The parting with this old and loved friend is thus referred to in a subsequent lelter:—

"I felt quite a vacancy in my heart,—a sort of desolation much greater than I had experienced on leaving Aberdeen,-—when I parted from you and Mrs. Browu on the pier at New-haven. I had indeed not slept so well as usual, and did not feel quite well. Perhaps we were to part for ever; there was little chance of my return; the pleasure of our short renewal of personal intercourse had passed away as a dream. I waived my hat occasionally as long as you were in sight; and when you disappeared, I tried to read Millar’s book. 1 got acquainted with no person on board, being silent and dull the whole way. The weather during our voyage was not boisterous, but rainy and consequently disagreeable; so we were obliged to pass our time principally in the cabin. The passengers appeared rather a sulky crew; but as I set them the example, I could not complain.”

During his stay in London, Dr. Strachan had many conferences with Earl Bathurst, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and with Mr. Wilmot Horton, the earnest and intelligent Under-Secretary, on the religious and political prospects of Canada. Both were deeply alive to the importance of the provision made, in the Clergy Reserves, for the future maintenance of the Church in this Province, and protested in the strongest terms, against any interference with the exclusive and undeniable claims of the Church of England to that endowment. They also acquiesced in the opinion that a division of the Diocese of Quebec,—then comprehending all Canada,—at as early a period as possible, was imperatively called for; so that each Province should have its own Bishop. But the present difficulty was the want of funds to provide an income for a second Bishop. The Imperial Government could make no further grant for such a purpose; and local resources were not at present available. The idea, at first, was favourably entertained that, upon the demise of the then Bishop of Quebec,— which, from his age and increasing infirmities, was considered to be not far distant,—the Episcopal income, £3000 sterling, per annum, should be divided; allotting £2000 per annum to the next Bishop of Quebec, and £1000 to the Bishop of Upper Canada. Why this very reasonable proposition,—which would have been so cheerfully acquiesced in by the excellent Dr. Stewart,—was not ultimately carried out, it would be difficult to explain. It was felt by Dr. Strachan, when the time so soon arrived for putting it into practical operation, that strange influences were at work to extinguish all hope of his own elevation to the proposed new See,—his claims to which the united voice of Churchmen in Upper Canada would affirm to be paramount. With this opinion there is every reason to believe that the Colonial Minister concurred; but how it came to be counteracted, and the necessary division of the Diocese suspended, it is better not to attempt to account for.

That the Church in Upper Canada might obtain some immediate benefit from the Clergy Reserves, Dr. Strachan, while in England, proposed that the Clergy Corporation should be 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. To this proposition the Home Government lent a friendly ear; but while it was under consideration, the Canada Land Company was started, and they offered to purchase at once the half of the Clergy Reserves. Buf the price they offered was so low, that Dr. Strachan felt it his duty to oppose the sale; upon which it was determined to send out five commissioners to value the land,—two to be appointed by Government, and two by the Company; a fifth to be chosen by the whole.

The commissioners came to Canada in the spring of 1825; and when their valuation of the Clergy Reserves was made known, it was strongly protested against by Dr. Strachan, as much too low. At his instance, the Clergy generally united in the remonstrance; and the Government, in the face of such an opposition, declined to carry out the sale. Subsequently the arrangement of the difficulty was left to the late Mr. Galt and Dr. Strachan ; and after a long and tedious negotiation, it was determined that the Clergy lands should not be sold,—the Huron Tract, as it was termed, being purchased by the Company in their stead.

Fully £150,000 were saved to the Church by this interposition, or rather to the Province; for all know how little the Church has benefited by this energy and determination on the part of her able and untiring champion.

The present was a critical period in the political history of Upper Canada; at all events, the general election in the summer of 1824 had very much changed the complexion of our local Parliament. Party spirit exhibited itself strongly in many quarters: the Attorney General Robinson narrowly escaped defeat in York by a very inferior opponent; and from the constituencies westward, a large radical element was infused into the House of Assembly. On the 18th April, 1825, Dr. Strachan writes thus, in a letter to a friend:—

“We have just closed a long and tedious Session of the Provincial Parliament. There has been much debate; not a little dissention; and after all, little or no good done. Our House, the Legislative Council, had a serious difference with the House of Assembly on a question of privilege, which was at length settled after a good deal of trouble. As a large share of the business of the Upper House falls upon my shoulders, there is of course not a little responsibility with it; and for the exercise of this I am praised or blamed according to the caprice of the editors of the newspapers.—I sometimes think of your nerves, when demagogues and radicals are railing against me ; but their calumnies never deprive me of my appetite, nor of my sleep. In all my affairs I have one simple principle to guide me; which is an honest desire to do as well as I can. I have, therefore, no compunctions of conscience, no qualms to settle: their calumnies pass me like the idle wind, and I turn for them neither to the right hand nor to the left.”

This, too, was but the beginning of the storm—the gentle pattering of the rain-drops before the roar and fierceness of the tempest. With civil strife came the acrimony of theological contention,—the eager onslaught upon what the Church deemed her rightful inheritance, and the bold and unflinching defence of. one all but unaided champion against a host of foes.

But before the outbreak there was a partial lull. Dr. Strachan had again to proceed to England on public business, and sailed from New York in March, 1826. Such was the important character of the work entrusted to him, that his absence was protracted until late in the summer of 1827.

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