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Memoir of the Right Reverend John Strachan
Chapter XVIII

Administration of Sir Francis Head. — Correspondence regarding Seat in the Legislative Council.—Death of Bishop Stewart.— Previous Appointment of Archdeacon Mountain as his Assistant.—The Rebellion in 1837-8.—Decision to form Upper Canada into a separate Diocese.—Destruction of St. James’s Church, Toronto.

SIR John Colborne was succeeded in the Government of Upper Canada by Sir Francis Bond Head, who arrived in Canada early in the winter of 1836. If we have had as Lieutenant Governors men of more practical purpose and action, we never had any of more spirit and activity; hardly any, perhaps, more quick-sighted and far-seeing. He came to Canada with the conception that real grievances existed, growing out of the mal-administration of the Government; for that so much complaint, so violently expressed and apparently so wide-spread, should be without adequate cause, was hardly to be believed. He applied himself diligently to the investigation of these grievances, inviting the free expression of the opinions of both parties; and the conclusion at which he arrived was, that these existed more in name than in reality; and that, if something was withheld by the party in power that might reasonably be conceded, more was exacted by their opponents than could constitutionally be granted. On various points, he and the House of Assembly soon came into collision; and as a coercive step on their part, the usual supplies for carrying on the Government were refused. This was an unprecedented step, and was a great shock to the loyal feeling of the country. Petitions were poured in, conveyed by respectable deputations, from every part of the Province, soliciting His Excellency to dissolve the House of Assembly, and allow a fresh appeal to the people. This, in obedience to the popular demand, was granted; and in the House newly elected, a large majority were supporters of the administration of Sir Francis Head.

Not long after his arrival in Canada, a correspondence took place with the Colonial Secretary in reference to the seat held by Archdeacon Strachan in the Legislative Council. Lord Ripon, in a Despatch to Sir John Colborne, of 8th November, 1832,—referring to remonstrances from the House of Assembly,—advises that “the Bishop (of Regiopolis) and the Archdeacon should altogether abstain from interference in any secular matters that may be agitated in the Legislative Council,” and adds,

“Whether, even under this restriction, their holding such seats is really desirable, is a question upon which I am fully prepared to listen with the utmost attention to any advice which I may receive from yourself, from the House of Assembly, or from any other competent authority. I have no solicitude for retaining either the Bishop or Archdeacon on the list of Councillors, but am, on the contrary, rather predisposed to the opinion that, by resigning their seats, they would best consult their own personal comfort, and the success of their designs for the spiritual good of the people. But any such resignation must be voluntary, since the office is held for life; and, were it otherwise, no consideration would induce me to advise His Majesty to degrade the Bishop or the Archdeacon from the stations they occupy, except on the most conclusive proof of misconduct.”

In an address of the House of Assembly to Sir Francis Head, dated 5th February, 1836, it is declared,

“We have had the mortification to see the Bishop of Regiopolis and the Archdeacon of York, neglecting their high and spiritual functions and care of souls, and clinging to their seats in the Legislative Council, and devoting their time and talents to political strife and secular measures, in direct opposition, and contrary to the express desire and pleasure of His Majesty, as set forth in the said Despatch of Earl Ripon, and at the same time permitted to hold and enjoy offices of emolument and profit. We, therefore, trust that your Excellency will take immediate steps in fulfilment of the gracious wishes of the King, to carry into effect his benevolent intentions, and as desired by the great body of the people of this Colony, by calling upon the said Bishop and Archdeacon, either to withdraw from the Legislative Council altogether, or resign their other offices, and forever quit all claim to any other salary, pension, or other emolument they now hold or enjoy during the pleasure of the Government ”

From the characteristic reply of the Archdeacon, dated 22nd February, 1836, we make the following extracts :—

“The situations of Executive and Legislative Councillor were conferred upon me without solicitation, as marks of Royal approbation for services openly rendered during a period of difficulty and danger, and which were thought at the time important. I have held the first for more than twenty years, and the second sixteen years; and am not aware that, in discharging the duties which they imposed upon me, I have done any thing deserving of censure. On the contrary, I feel that T have been useful to the Colony.

“On its being communicated to me last summer that Lord Glenelg had expressed his surprise at my occasional attendance at the Executive Council, I did not hesitate a moment in sending in my resignation; for although his Lordship’s desire was rather implied than expressed, I felt that, as there was a certain emolument attached to the situation, I could retire from it with honour. I did not do this, however, because I found myself, after more than twenty years’ service, less able to perform my duty, or because I acquiesced in the opinion that there was any reasonable ground for my exclusion, but because an Executive Councillor could not hope to be useful, and could not serve with satisfaction, unless he could feel the assurance that he possessed the confidence of the existing administration. My resignation was made without condition or stipulation, remonstrance, or complaint.

“In regard to the Legislative Council, 1 was appointed to a seat in it in 1820,—not the first instance of an ecclesiastic being nominated; since the late Bishop of Quebec had, from an early period, been a member of the Legislative Council of that part of the Diocese in which he resided.

“For some years, while the number of Legislative Councillors was very limited, my attendance was more of the ordinary character, though of course by no means so constant as that of many other members. But, for some years before the despatch of Lord Ripon was written, and since that period, my attendance and my conduct in the Legislative Council have been such as comported with the sentiments expressed by his Lordship.

“I think his Excellency must perceive, and I trust his Majesty’s Government will not fail to admit, that the violent and threatening nature of the Address of the House of Assembly 9 of which an extract has been sent to me, renders it not very easy for me to persevere in the line of conduct which I had previously prescribed to myself.

“It is due to the independence of the body of which I am a member, and to my own individual character, that I should not suffer myself to be driven by violence and menace from the seat to which my Sovereign has appointed me, and in which it cannot be shewn that I have acted in any manner injuriously to his service, or to the best interests of the country. And as respects the language which, I regret to see, the Assembly has thought proper to apply to me, it leaves me no honourable alternative but to abide with firmness and constancy by the decision which his Majesty’s Government may think consistent with justice and the principles of the Constitution.

“I appeal also to every honourable mind, whether my resignation, if I were inclined to present it, could, under existing circumstances, be deemed voluntary, or otherwise than degrading.

“However painful it is to me to act in opposition to tlie implied desire of his Majesty’s late Principal Secretary of State for the Colonies, I cannot submit to be thus thrust out with indignity and violence from a situation conferred upon me by the King as a mark of honour, and which it is my unquestionable legal right to retain for life. In the situation in which I am placed, I can perceive no honourable alternative but respectfully and firmly to maintain my post.”

Lord Glenelg, in his reply, 16th April, 1836, admitted that the Archdeacon had “urged some weighty reasons in support of his refusal, and that much had occurred to render it doubtful whether a due regard for his own honour did not forbid the resignation of his seat in the Legislative Council.”

Prior to the return of the Bishop of Quebec, Dr. Stewart, to England, arrangements had been concluded for the appointment of Archdeacon Mountain as his assistant; and he was consecrated to that office, with the title of Bishop of Montreal, on the 14th February, 1836. He did not, however, reach Quebec until the month of August following. As Bishop of Montreal he had no separate jurisdiction, nor was any See constituted under that title; but all his episcopal acts were by commission from the Bishop of Quebec. The understanding had been that the latter should confine himself to the charge of Upper Canada; while the labours of the Bishop of Montreal were to be limited to Lower Canada; it having been further provided that, on the occurrence of a vacancy, he was to assume the charge of the whole Diocese.

The Bishop of Quebec was taken to his rest, after a painful and lingering illness, on the 19th July, 1837, at the age of sixty-three. In him the Church in Canada lost a pure-minded and zealous overseer, and the Clergy an affectionate father and generous friend. In the exercise of the episcopacy he maintained the simplicity of life which had characterized him as a humble missionary in a secluded portion of the Diocese. Hq ever shewed, whether in situations humble or exalted, that he had no will but His who bade his disciples “follow him;” that he was actuated by no ambition but that of being the honoured instrument in the hand of his Lord and Saviour, of bringing many to the ‘'knowledge of the truth.” The charge of the whole Diocese now devolved upon the Bishop of Montreal, who immediately entered upon its extensive and laborious duties with all the assiduity, zeal, and ability which had marked his past career in subordinate but very influential positions.

But if all was serene and prosperous in the condition of the Church, it was not long so in our social and political state. The new House of Assembly, elected in the summer of 1836, at the command of Sir Francis Head, was in its character so conservative that it seemed utterly to crush the hopes of that discontented portion of the community who were styled Reformers. Without fully enlightening the world as to their grievances or their desires, they were loud in expressions of dissatisfaction with the powers that be; and the alienation of feeling was even stronger in the Lower than in the Upper Province. Unable to attain their objects by those constitutional means which are accessible to every British subject, and which, if pushed with a patient assiduity, are generally in the end successful, they had recourse to violence, and attempted to gain their end by force of arms. The movement appeared, through concert, to be simultaneous in both Provinces; but their means of getting up a rebellion in the face even of the very few troops that Canada contained, and in opposition to the loyal and determined feeling of a large majority of the population, were miserably insufficient, and the attempt soon proved abortive. Slight, in its comparative proportions, as the outbreak was, it was attended, nevertheless, with some calamitous circumstances. Several valuable lives were lost; and acts of mischief and atrocity were perpetrated, which only manifest themselves in a disorganized condition of things. A few weeks sufficed to quell all armed resistance in Lower Canada; and less than a month elapsed from the first firing of a rebel gun on Montgomery’s Hill to the dislodgment of the mingled rabble of rebels and sympathizers from Navy Island. But the trouble was partially renewed the following autumn, by the landing of a few hundred sympathizers from the United States led by a refugee Pole, and their seizing a windmill a little below Prescott; but after a short bombardment, they all surrendered at discretion. There was an outbreak, too, of French Canadians at St. Eustache, which a few troops and half a battery of artillery speedily quelled. Several regiments of troops were sent meanwhile to Canada, and the preparation was complete against every attempt to disturb the peace. Now and then there were instances of outrage and malignity which were very exasperating; but by the close of 1839, everything settled down into perfect tranquillity.

To investigate our political ills and propose a remedy for them, the Earl of Durham was sent as a sort of Lord High Commissioner to this country; and by views were embodied in a “Report,” too generally remembered, and too much criticized, to render it necessary or desirable here to offer any opinion upon its merits.

The influence of this rebellion upon the interests of the Church in Canada, was rather remarkable. The fact was elicited that, amongst those who took up arms against the Government, there was scarcely a single member of the Church of England; so that, in the mother country, the impression was most gratifying as to the effect of the principles and teaching of the national Church. The influence upon the public mind in England was very strong in consequence; and the Propagation Society, whose missionaries the Church of England Clergy iu Canada almost exclusively were, experienced a wonderful resuscitation. Contributions were freely given to a Society, of the value of whose work there had been so practical and gratifying an evidence; and their increased resources enabled them to add considerably to our staff of Clergy during a few following years. It also affected materially the views of the Clergy Reserves question amongst leading people in England; and prepared the public mind for that settlement of it which the Imperial Government undertook in 1840.

Our local Parliament, in the spring of 1839, attempted a solution of this long-vexed question, by re-investing the Clergy Reserves in the Crown; so that the disposal of them might come from the Sovereign de novo, and be absolute and unquestionable. But the mere majority by which this issue was obtained in the House of Assembly, was not likely to influence the Home Government to the acceptance of the surrendered trust; yet it no doubt led them to the grave consideration of other means for the final arrangement of the question.

The death of Dr. Stewart, Bishop of Quebec, and the succession of Dr. Mountain to the charge of the whole Diocese, revived the project so long entertained, of effecting its division by constituting each Province into a separate Diocese. Sir Francis Head entered warmly into the subject, and addressed Lord Glenelg on the expediency of carrying out the arrangement. This was favourably received, and the consent of the Archbishop of Canterbury was readily given. But it was distinctly stated from the commencement, that it would not be in the power of the Home Government to provide for the new Bishopric any pecuniary emolument or other endowment. The Bishop of Quebec, Dr. Stewart, had, during his life-time, voluntarily appropriated a considerable portion of his income to the support of his co-adjutor; but, after his death, this income dropped of course, and it therefore became necessary for the Bishop of Montreal to retain the stipend attached to the Archdeaconry and Rectory of Quebec,—providing out of these a salary for his Curate in the parish. Through the exertions of Sir John Pakington £1000 per annum was voted by the Imperial Parliament to the Bishop of Montreal, so that he might be in a condition fairly to meet the expenses of his position. No such gratuity, however could be extended to Upper Canada; but Archdeacon Strachan, influenced by the example of Dr. Mountain, stated to the Colonial Secretary that “the matter of salary need form no inpediment to the immediate appointment of a Bishop for Upper Canada, as he should be content to remain in that respect exactly as he now was, till the perplexing question of the Clergy Reserves should be settled, when it would be in the power of Her Majesty’s Government to make another and more satisfactory arrangement.” In addressing the Lieutenant Governor, Sir George Arthur, upon this subject, the Archdeacon says, (Feb. 20th, 1839)

“In making this proposal, I can with truth assure you that I am by no means insensible to the propriety as well as necessity of granting adequate provision for the decent support of the Episcopal office in this rising Colony. But, persuaded that the interests of the Church are suffering from the want of Episcopal superintendence, which has for some time been earnestly desired by many of her members, and unanimously by the Clergy, I thought my proposition might accelerate the removal of that want by a few years, and thus promote, in no small degree, the salutary influence of Christian principle throughout the Province. Until, it be in the power of Her Majesty’s Government to make a more satisfactory arrangement for the subject of the Episcopal office in this Province than the one now proposed, it is my duty to rest content.”

When it is known that the income upon which the Archdeacon was thus content to rely for perhaps many years, did not exceed £1000 currency per annum, and that out of this a liberal allowance was to be made to his assistant in the parish, it will be seen that the present provision for maintaining the cost and dignity of the See of Toronto was a very slender and very inadequate one. But he assumed it in hope of a more satisfactory arrangement, and in the issue he was not disappointed.

It was now a settled thing that Upper Canada was Jto form a separate Diocese, with Toronto as the residence of the Bishop. But in the prospect of the early accomplishment of all that was required to make the boon complete, there was a calamity to deplore, affecting churchmen of the province at large, and those of the City of Toronto in particular. This was the destruction by fire of the Church of St. James, the future Cathedral, on the morning of the 7th January, 1839; a church that had been completed only six years before, and at a cost and strain from which the parishoners had not yet been able to relieve themselves. This was a great grief to the Archdeacon; as judged from his first letters depicting the calamity, almost an overpowering one,—the sudden wreck of a noble structure which it had cost him so much toil and anxiety to raise. But the first shock over, he bounded to the remedy with wonted hopefulness and zeal. Two days after the destruction of the church, a public meeting of the congregation was held in the City Hall; and a luminous report was presented by the Archdeacon, embodying a plan for the restoration of that sacred edifice to its former commodiousness and beauty. This was submitted to a committee, appointed- by the meeting, of which the Solicitor General, the Hon. W. H. Draper, was Chairman. Their report was submitted at a subsequent meeting of the parishoners; and it was determined to rebuild the church without delay, on the same site and with the same internal arrangements, at a cost not exceeding £7000.

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