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Memoir of the Right Reverend John Strachan
Chapter XVII

The Clergy Reserves Question; establishment of the Rectories.— Meeting of Clergy under the two Archdeacons in 1836.— Deputation to the Mother Country determined upon.—Resolution to establish a Church Newspaper.

UP to the commencement of 1836, nothing, subsequent to what has been detailed, occurred in the life of Archdeacon Strachan, outside the quiet progress of his ordinary duties, that demands any special record or notice. The Clergy Reserves Question was still open; nor was there, so far, any expressed declaration of the local House of Assembly adverse to the vote passed some years before, that these lands should be withdrawn from the support of religion and appropriated to "purposes of ordinary education and general improvement.”

By desire of Sir John Colborne, the Executive Council of Upper Canada were required to take into consideration, and report upon, the following portion of a despatch from Lord Goderich, dated April 5th, 1832:—

“I am happy to find that your practical views, founded upon personal knowledge and experience, are so coincident with those which, upon a more speculative view, I have been led to entertain. I quite concur with you in thinking that the greatest benefit to the Church of England would be derived from applying a portion at least of the funds under the control of the local government, in the building of Rectories and Churches, and, I would add, in preparing, as far as may be, for profitable occupation that moderate portion of land which you propose to assign in each township or parish for ensuring the future comfort, if not the complete maintenance, of the Rectors. With this view, it appears to me that it would be most desirable to make a beginning in this salutary work.”

The Lieutenant Governor, Sir John Colborue, was now-about to leave the Province; and he felt it his duty, before resigning the government, to take action in the course recommended by the Colonial Secretary. The following Minute of Council was adopted on the loth January, 1836:—

“Pursuant to the views of Lord Goderich, shewn by his despatch of April 5, 1832, in which he concurs with your Excellency, and expresses his desire that a moderate portion of land should be assigned in each township or parish for ensuring the future comfort, if not the complete maintenance of the Rectors, the Council caused the necessary steps to be taken for the purpose of setting apart lots in each township throughout the Province.

“Much delay has been caused by their anxiety to avoid interfering with persons who might have acknowledged claims to any of the Reserves to be selected, either for lease or purchase.

“A difficulty in completing what his Lordship most appropriately calls 'this salutary work' was also caused by the Crown Officers not concurring in the form to be used in the instrument by which the endowment is to be confirmed; which left the Council to decide as to the mode to be adopted for that purpose.

"These obstacles have now been surmounted, and it is respectfully recommended that no time be lost in authorizing the Attorney General to prepare the necessary instrument to secure to the incumbents named in the annexed schedules, and their successors, the lots of land there enumerated, as having been respectively set apart for Glebes.”

The allocation here recommended was made, and about 400 acres were assigned to each of the parishes throughout the Province; thus constituting, what subsequently excited so much clamour, the “Fifty-seven Rectories.” It happened, however, that the' endowment of forty-four only was completed; so that thirteen were excluded from the intended benefit.

The establishment of these Rectories was used for some time, amongst other alleged grievances, as an election-cry; and at last the legal validity of the act was tested. The question was submitted to the several Courts of Law; and able judgments were given by each, establishing the validity of the Rectories. There have been threats subsequently of Legislative interference; but the Act recently passed, authorizing their sale, will no doubt be so far acted upon within the ten years to which the privilege is limited, as to shut out from sight this ancient grievance. With perhaps half-a-dozen exceptions, they are of little comparative value; and only in these instances, do they afford by themselves a sufficient maintenance to the Clergyman.

Sir John Colborne, in terms most virulent, has been blamed for this act; but he has been blessed for it, too, by thousands. He has thus contributed one of the little helps which, through a protecting Providence, have been furnished for the stability of the Church in this Province; and the act which assures this happy result, it is certain that he never regretted He relinquished his Government during the winter of 1836; and it has been well said that “Upper Canada never beheld a more beautiful or touching moral spectacle, than the triumphant departure of Sir John Colborne through the snows of an inclement winter followed by the affectionate reverence and esteem of the thousands who thronged his path to greet him with a respectful farewell.”

In the month of October of this year, 1836, a meeting of the Clergy of the two Archdeaconries of Upper Canada, suggested by Dr. Strachan, was held at Toronto. The health of the Bishop of Quebec, Dr. Stewart, had become so enfeebled that he was advised to return to England, with little hope that he should ever be able to resume his duties in Canada. Under these circumstances, it was felt desirable that the Clergy in a body should deliberate upon, and adopt, the best means of protecting those interests of the Church which, at this moment, were so seriously imperilled. The meeting was a large one, and in many respects proved to be an important one. It was determined to send a Deputation of two prominent Canadian Clergymen to England and Ireland; and the Reverend Messrs. Cronyn and Bettridge were selected for the purpose. Both were men of sufficient Colonial experience to make known our wants; and both were gifted with readiness and eloquence of speech. It was important to enlighten the minds of Churchmen at home upon the great question at issue,—our tenure of the Clergy Reserves property, and the efforts in so many quarters to destroy it. It was important, too, to make known the extent of our spiritual destitution,—the churches required, and the Clergymen to be supplied ; and pending our chances from the Reserves, to obtain a present aid for the relief of those necessities. All this was set forth by the Deputation with great energy and ability; and, if present substantial results did not equal our expectations, there can be no doubt that the information so carefully and widely diffused on the condition and prospects of the Church in Canada, served in a large degree to awaken the sympathy and generosity of our fellow Churchmen in England and Ireland, and gained to the Society for the Propagation of Gospel,—the chief stay of the Church in the Colonies,—a large increase of support.

There was some discussion, during this meeting, on the introduction of Synodical action in this country, and the general feeling of the Clergy was favourable to it. It was, however, much too soon to adopt anything like decisive action in the matter. Before the separation of the meeting, it was determined to attempt the establishment of a weekly newspaper in support of the interests of the Church in Canada; and a Committee was appointed, with Archdeacon Strachan at its head, for making the necessary arrangements. After some consideration, the Editorial management of the proposed journal was offered to the writer of this Memoir; and after some hesitation, and no little apprehension and misgiving, he resolved to undertake it. Any reluctance to assume such a responsibility was not unnatural, after the failure of so many attempts in the same direction. The “Christian Sentinel,”— a monthly publication, conducted at Montreal,—was the first Church periodical undertaken in Canada. It was a very creditable journal of the kind,—for the first year under the Editorial management of the Rev. B. B. Stevens, Chaplain to the Forces; but a monthly periodical, necessarily containing long, and, as many would deem them, heavy articles, would not maintain the interest of the reading community, and so in about two years it dropped for want of support. There was a subsequent attempt at a weekly, under the saiqe designation, edited by the late Rev. A. H. Burwell, at Three Rivers; but this, too, awoke little or no interest, and it hardly survived a twelvemonth.

To start a new periodical, after such discouragements, was felt to be somewhat of a bold undertaking; but the prudent course was adopted of issuing a "specimen number,” in May, 1837, to be followed up if a sufficient number of paying subscribers could be secured. The result exceeded all expectation; for on the 24th June following, the second number of “The Church” was issued with a list of 630 subscribers,—and many agents and Clergymen still unheard from. In about three months the subscribers increased to 1000.

The tone of this journal was decided, as regarded the assertion of the principles of the Church; but it was conducted with a studied moderation, and was therefore treated with respect on all sides. Party spirit in the Church was then hardly known; there was, therefore, mutual confidence, and the support of the Clergy was unanimous. The paper, at first rather a diminutive sheet, was enlarged on the issue of Volume II., and again at the commencement of Volume lit,—the subscribers steadily increasing. Many able contributors, in prose and verse were secured; amongst them, men now of leading position in Church and State.

From 1841 to 1843, the editorial management of “The Church” was assumed by Mr. John Kent, who had been a valuable contributor to its pages from the commencement. The excitement, however, amidst the clash and din of party strife, was too much for him; and the paper came back to the first editor, who held it again, under many difficulties and discouragements, for nearly four years. With repeated changes in the editorial management,— sometimes without any management at all,—it gradually lost ground, and died out about the year 1856.

There can be no doubt of the great value of such a paper to the cause of the Church, if conducted with moderation, judgment, and a reasonable share of ability. The influence of "The Church” newspaper was most salutary during its earlier years. It diffused throughout our local population a large amount of much needed information; and, being extensively circulated in England, it caused our Colonial Church questions to be better understood by influential men in the mother country. This became quite discernible in the debates upon the Reserves question in the Imperial Parliament; and we were assured from various quarters that to this was owing, in no small degree, the favourable settlement of this question which was effected in the summer of 1840. To this more special reference will by and by be made.

The effect of a religious journal, temperately conducted and with a widening circulation, upon the secular press of the day, was also apparent. There was a more courteous tone; there was an abatement of personalities; and more caution and taste in selection. The “Church,” too, set the example of taking in English newspapers and periodicals, from which to cull for ourselves, and not adopt extracts second-hand at the taste or caprice of others. On the whole, we look back with refreshment, and even an excusable pride, upon what, with all its drawbacks and defects, was really a useful and influential journal; one that provoked our own members to zeal and unanimity in the promotion of Church enterprises, and which caused those outside us to understand better our motives and principles, and gain for them consideration and respect.

We have made this rather long digression, because it fairly pertains to the life of the late Bishop of Toronto. He was prominent amongst its projectors: he appreciated the value and importance of such a journal, and he always gave it a warm and generous support.

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