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Memoir of the Right Reverend John Strachan
Chapter XIII

Death of the Bishop of Quebec.—His Successor, Dr. Stewart.— Upper Canada divided into two Archdeaconries.—Dr. Strachan appointed Archdeacon of York.—Correspondence in England in 1826-7.—Return to Canada.

DURING the summer of 1825, an event occurred which had been for some time expected,—the death of Dr. Mountain, first Bishop of Quebec. Though he had not attained to extreme old age,—being, when he died, in his 75th year,—his constitution had been for many years much broken; and at no time, though robust in frame, was he equal to the labour and the privations which visitations of his vast Diocese, extending from Gaspd to Sandwich, demanded. We may repeat now what was so justly said of this distinguished prelate, in a brief sketch of his life published in the "Church” newspaper in June, 1838:—“He was eminently a scholar, a gentleman, a companion, a domestic guide and comforter; and united, in a most remarkable manner, qualities which commanded respect and reverence, with a cheerful affability, and often a playfulness, which threw a charm about his society, and made him, as it were, the centre of a system, to the whole of which he imparted light and warmth. In his performance of the functions proper to the Episcopal office, the commanding dignity of his person, the impressive solemnity of his manner, and the felicitous propriety of his utterance, gave the utmost effect and development to the beautiful services of the Church. In the pulpit, it is perhaps not too much to say, that the advantage of his fine and venerable aspect,—the grace, the force, the solemn fervour of his delivery,—the power and happy regulation of his tones,— the chaste expressiveness and natural significance of his action, combined with the strength and clearness of his reasoning,—the unstudied magnificence of his language,— and that piety and rooted faith in his Redeemer, which was, and shewed itself to be, pregnant with the importance of its subject, and intent upon conveying the same feeling to others,—made him altogether a preacher who has never, in modem times, been surpassed.”

He was succeeded by the Hon. and Rev. Charles James Stewart, D.D.; whose coming to Canada is described as follows in the narrative from which we have just quoted: —“In the year 1806, the Bishop of Quebec, then in England, was visited by the Hon. and Rev. Charles Stewart, brother of the Earl of Galloway. He expressed his desire of being employed in the Canadas; and his offers of service having been accepted, he entered upon the arduous duty of a missionary in a remote station upon the borders of Lake Champlain.” Here for many years he pursued his simple duties, patiently and laboriously; and long will they, amongst whom his first missionary years were spent, remember the warmth of unaffected piety, the devoted earnestness, and the boundless benevolence of heart, by which his faithful declaration of the Gospel message was uniformly accompanied. About the year 1820 he resigned the special charge to which he had so long devoted himself, and at the instance of the Bishop, became Visiting Missionary of the Diocese,—going from one end of it to another on horseback, accompanied by his servant, and informing himself of the condition and wants of the several parishes as he passed along. In 1825, the Archdeacon of Quebec, was commissioned, while in England, to procure a division of the Diocese,—Dr. Mountain having proposed to assign to Dr. Stewart the episcopal charge of Upper Canada, together with one-third of his income. This proposal was fully agreed to by His Majesty’s Government, and the arrangement was about to be carried into effect, when it was interrupted by the Bishop’s death, and Dr. Stewart succeeded to the whole charge of the Diocese. A division under some other arrangement, was, it appeal's, for the present abandoned. On the strangeness of this, we have already briefly commented.

During the summer of 1824, when Dr. Strachan first visited England, an arrangement had been agreed to for the division of Upper Canada into two Archdeaconries,— one, the Archdeaconry of Kingston, to comprehend all that portion of the country lying between the western extremity of the Newcastle District and the eastern extremity of of the Province; the other, the Archdeaconry of York, to comprise all the territory from the commencement of the Home District eastwards to the western extremity of the Province. The latter Archdeaconry was promised to Dr. Strachan; the former being assigned to Archdeacon Stewart. But it was not until the 28th June, 1827, that the Bishop of Quebec was advised by the Colonial Secretary, that the Letters Patent, authorizing this division, were issued; and that Dr. Stuart was to be instituted into the Archdeaconry of Kingston, and Dr. Strachan into the Archdeaconry of York.

During a residence of eighteen months in England and Scotland, there were many personal incidents and public eVents which Dr. Strachan would naturally refer to in his correspondence. The readers of this narrative will, we feel assured, peruse with interest such reflections and observations as we can extract from letters written during that interval.

On the 19th June, 1826, he writes to a friend as follows, on a scene familiar doubtless to many of our readers, but by the greater number never witnessed:—

“Since I wrote, I have been to Oxford to see the Commemoration; but unfortunately some of my principal friends were absent. I did not, however, lose my journey; as I had an opportunity of making some interesting inquiries, and of seeing (how public ceremonies are conducted in so eminent a seat of learning. The Commemoration was held in the theatre, which can hold about three thousand persons. It was nearly full, about one-third of ladies, elegantly dressed; the students in the upper galleries. This public exhibition is considered a Saturnalia. The young gentlemen hiss, or applaud, all the professors and officers of the University as they enter and retire. The Vice Chancellor for the year seemed very much disliked, for the moment lie appeared, there was such a hissing and groaning as was indeed quite tremendous. Then came in a popular professor, and he was loudly applauded. Similar conduct was manifested to others. After quiet was restored, the University Orator pronounced a Latin oration in praise of benefactors ; but as he had lost all his upper teeth, and is very old, it was difficult to understand a word he said. Next, a young man repeated a prize Latin poem; and as he articulated admirably, we could follow him very tolerably. Some of the verses were excellent; but it was rather long for a public recitation. Then we had an English essay on fiction ; very good, and exhibiting no inconsiderable acuteness. After this, there was a short poem of about fifty lines in English,—very poor indeed. The Degree of Doctor of Laws was conferred upon Sir Robert Inglis; and others followed of inferior note. The moment the business of the day was concluded, the hissing and applauding recommenced, and I made my escape.”

The following refer to visits to various friends in Scotland; and are extracted from letters bearing date October 9, and October 18, 1826 :—

“On Monday last I set out in the coach for Newhaven; Mr. Hamilton, my ward, saw me on board the steamer; and at two o’clock, I was in the manse of Kettle. Here I was received with great kindness, and could not get away before Wednesday morning. I reached St. Andrews before dinner, and found Professor Duncan expecting me, and ready to greet me with all the warmth of former friendship. Dr. Chalmers soon after came in, and was rejoiced at my arrival. He intended to have spent the evening with us; but Mrs. Chalmers, who had been about all day, took ill, and soon presented him with a daughter. He came over for a moment to inform us of this happy event.

“On Thursday, Mr. Duncan invited the Hunters and Dr. Chalmers to dinner; and these gentlemen met very courteously, and the party was highly agreeable. Being seated next Dr. Chalmers, I had much conversation with him, but chiefly in reference to the situation of his brother Charles.

“I dined on Friday with Dr. James Hunter; Mrs. Hunter I had not seen since her marriage. On Saturday I dined with Dr. Chalmers and Professor Duncan, at old Dr. Hunters, where we had a good deal of pleasant conversation. On Sunday I preached before Dr. Chalmers, &c., in the chapel, and on the whole pleased them. To-day I set out for Dundee, and expect to reach Aberdeen on Thursday evening. I have been much gratified by the kindness I have experienced here.

"I left St. Andrews on Tuesday, the 10th,—Dr. Chalmers and Professor Duncan accompanying me to the pier. On Wednesday, at Dundee, 1 went with Mr. Kerr, a writer, to Meigle, to see William Scott, brother of our late Chief Justice, whose mind is enfeebled. I chose to go without giving notice, that I might see how he was treated. I carried with me his father’s and brother’s watches, some rings, and other little matters. I found him poorly in health, but had reason to be satisfied with his treatment. I, however, made arrangements for still further increasing his comforts; and as he was getting old and frail, I raised the sum paid to the persons who board and lodge him nearly one-half. He was delighted with the things I brought him; and the people were not less delighted at the augumentation of their allowance, one quarter of which was paid in advance. Mr. Kerr of Dundee, who is our man of business and of good repute, has the general charge and attends to the payment of expenses. We have left plenty of money in his hands; and all the instruction I gave him as to its application, was simply this, to treat William Scott, as he would treat his own brother in the same situation.

“We returned in the chaise to dine in Dundee; but the arrangements necessary, and the settling of accounts, prevented my getting to Aberdeen until Friday evening, the 13th. I found here a letter from the Colonial Office, wishing my speedy return; I therefore expect to be in Edinburgh on Saturday evening, and in London on Tuesday.”

He arrived in London on Tuesday, the 24th, at half-past ten in the evening, and, writing to Professor Brown, Nov. 7, he says:—

“I found myself sitting snugly by the fire in my own lodgings about eleven. My landlord brought me up a large parcel of letters from Canada, all of which I read before going to bed. The contents were pleasant, except of one mentioning the death of our adopted daughter; which, though long expected, is yet a great affliction. She was so kind, so gentle, so affectionate. Neither I nor Mrs. Strachan had any difference, even in feeling, between her and our own children. In many respects Mrs. Brown resembles her; not unlike in looks; the same winning modesty, the same retiring character, the same kindness of disposition. But this subject is painful. She was good, and has gone to a better world, leaving a disconsolate husband, and one child quite an infant.

“The Under-Secretary for the Colonies being at Brighton, I went down to converse with him on many points which I had in charge from the Colonial Government. I had an agreeable interview of three hours with him; and as we lodged at the same hotel, there was no escaping me.”

The extracts that follow are from a letter to the same gentleman, dated January 29th, 1827:—

"There appear to be a great variety of opinions regarding the war. Some think that it will come to nothing; others believing that Spain will commit aggressions, and that France is ready to assist I am rather inclined to the former; because the King of France must feel that it is his interest to remain at peace, and not again risk the prospect of a second exile. He is now too old thus to begin the world. Was there ever so imprudent a speech as that of Mr. Canning It indeed carried the House and country with him; but eloquence is not reason, and now most people condemn it in toto. It was calculated to irritate France, without any benefit whatever; and in the published edition, it becomes rather a new speech than the one pronounced in the House of Commons.

“I have not been idle since my return : having written a pamphlet on Emigration of nearly 100 pages, and an appeal of 24 pages in favour of our College. I have also very nearly finished an abridgement of the Emigration Report of the House of Commons Committee, which I undertook at the request of the Under-Secretary for the Colonies, Mr. Wilmot Horton; and for this service I am to get an Act of Parliament passed respecting the Colonies, which I have much at heart, and should rejoice above all things to be able to carry out with the Charter of the University. That Report I reduce to less than one-seventh of its original bulk, retaining everything useful. It contains nearly 400 folio pages : my work will be about 130 octavo.

“I dined at Mr. William Horton’s, a few days ago, with Mr. Mai thus, the famous writer on population, and a Mr. Tocke, celebrated in the literary world. Lockhart, the Editor of the Quarterly, was also there. We had much conversation, and on a variety of subjects; particularly emigration, and the rapidity of the increase of population. I did not find so much acuteness, or originality of remark, as I expected. Mr. Malthus is rather an ugly man, and speaks very thick and through his nose. I found no difficulty in taking a reasonable share in the conversation ; and was enabled to make some remarks, from being so long abroad in a growing country, that served to throw light on the subjects discussed.

"I frequently see Mr. Campbell, the poet. He goes down to Glasgow, sometime in April, to be installed Rector. It appears that a good deal of opposition was made to him on the part of the Professors; which I think foolish, as lie is a Glasgow man. But everybody does foolish things now and then, as well as the Professors at Glasgow.”

On the 21st of April, 1827, he writes as follows; just after the break-up of Lord Liverpool’s administration:—

“I am happy to tell you, that I had the good fortune to accomplish the most material parts of my mission, before the crash amongst the ministry took place. My University Charter issued on the 22nd of March, and I have had a few copies printed.

“I should now be on my way to Canada, but I got a Bill introduced, in February, into Parliament, to enable the Crown to sell a portion of the Clergy Reserves as they are at present totally unproductive, and a cause of clamour as being a barrier to improvement. I was anxious to avoid the great question that has been agitated in the Colony about the meaning of the words “Protestant Clergy,” and confined myself simply to the power of sale. But Mr. Stanley (the late Earl of Derby) came forward with a motion to investigate the whole matter, and of consequence the second reading of my Bill is put off to the first of May. In the meantime, the old Ministry has fallen to pieces; and whether the new Ministry will attend to my business, or not, remains to be seen.

“There is no conversation here but about the Ministry; the ox-Ministers say that they have been very ill-used. The King, they affirm, never asked them to form a Ministry, nor made any communication that it was his Royal pleasure to appoint Canning Premier. The first intimation of this step was from that gentleman himself, in a note addressed to each, not, it is said, couched in particularly warm terms. This raised their indignation ; and they, 1 apprehend without much consideration, resigned. Lord Melville, I have reason to know, had not made up his mind an hour before he sent iu his resignation. Mr. Canning finds much difficulty in arranging his administration, and Parliament will find itself in a strange position when it meets. It is confidently said that Mr. Canning cannot stand any time. I have no great opinion of his judgment, but I am rather disposed to think that he will maintain his ground; because Lord Eldon is too old to take an active part much longer in politics. Lord Bathurst, though a man of talents, is shy and also of feeble health. The Duke of Wellington and Lord Melville are no speakers, and Mr. Peel is supposed to be wavering between the two parties.

“I got Lord Bathurst to give directions concerning the endowment of our University, a few days before he resigned; and one of the very last Despatches that his Lordship signed was one settling our Courts of Law upon a basis which I had drawn up; for, you see, we Colonists are obliged to turn our attention to everything.

“I have also been actively employed in claiming assistance from the great Church Societies towards forming a Library for our University. My application to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, has been successful ; but the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge has demurred. Here I was opposed by the Bishop of Chester (Blomfield); but not being of a disposition to give up, I brought the matter forward three times. On the two first attempts I saw mattei,s going against me, and had the address to prevent the question going to a vote. The third time I mustered all my strength, and carried a vote of reference to the Committee to consider my proposition fairly. This body will report to the Society on the 1st of May, and I hope to beat the Bishop.

“In my application for Books to the University of Oxford, I have failed: they are afraid of a precedent. The Church Missionary Society have behaved very well, having resolved to give us .£200 per annum,—£100 to a Professor of Indian languages, and £100 for two scholarships of £50 each, to educate two young men as Indian Missionaries. I went down to Cambridge, to try what could be done there; but I am not very sanguine. The Vice Chancellor was very polite; but nothing can be done till after Term commences in May.”

Finding several acquaintances returning to Canada by one of the London and New York line of Packet-ships, lie determined to adopt that route; and accordingly sailed from Portsmouth,—where those vessels always touched,—on the the 5th July, 1827. In a few weeks from that date he reached his happy home; and the tranquillity there was all the more grateful, from the storm of war which speedily assailed him from without.

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