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Memoir of the Right Reverend John Strachan
Chapter XXV

Abolition of the University of King’s College.—Establishment of Trinity College.

THE Bishop of Toronto was now about to fight his last battle for the University of King’s College; which, after the exertions of almost a life-time, he had seen in full and successful operation. It was not pursuing its course under the letter and direction of the original Charter: we have already explained what sacrifices were agreed to, to remove public prejudice so far that the College might start upon its active work. It was agreed that the influence of the Church of England within the Institution should be abridged, if it was not altogether removed. Those great principles were still upheld, which no Churchman could consent to sacrifice. The Word of God was not banished from its halls; the voice of prayer and praise was permitted to invoke a daily blessing upon the intellectual culture and the moral training; and the lessons of religion were communicated to such as chose to receive them, only according to the teaching of the Church of England.

We have given some account of its opening in 1843, and have made some allusion to the character of its religious services. The College, after all, was thoroughly English in tone and style; the changes effected were, practically, merely sentimental; they had no bearing or influence upon its work or its spirit. It was becoming highly popular, too; the education imparted was of a superior order; and a gentlemanly tone pervaded the undergraduates,—promising a happy influence upon the social life of the country.

Exhibiting these advantages, and with nothing to disturb religious liberty or awaken sectarian prejudice, it was gathering in its alumni from all creeds and denominations; it was gaining reputation and strength in the minds of all the intelligent people of the country. But it was this very prosperity that hastened its ruin. It roused the jealousy of old and inveterate opponents, who began to fear that, if not soon assailed and undermined, its foundations would be strong enough to bear any shock, and come unharmed from any assault: that, supported by the public opinion it was gaining over so fast, it would, with its ample endowments, bid defiance to all that the intrigues or the force of enemies could employ against it. Its political opponents, —for it really had no other,—gave it, therefore, no peace; session after session in the Legislative Assembly, the attacks upon it were renewed; and though many of these were feeble and ill-directed, reiterated assaults, backed by the influence naturally exerted by the popular branch of the Legislature, proved too much for an Institution which had only its own merits to rest upon, and few defenders beyond its own walls.

In the autumn of 1843, a measure was introduced into the Legislative Assembly, “providing for the separate exercise of the Collegiate and University functions” of Kings College, and for “incorporating certain other Colleges and Collegiate Institutions with the University; and for the more efficient establishment and satisfactory government of the same.”

This was protested against, in a strong memorial, by the Bishop of Toronto. He declared that,—

“The leading object of the Bill is to place all forms of error upon an equality with truth, by patronizing equally within the same Institution an unlimited number of sects, whose doctrines are absolutely irreconcilable; a principle in its nature atheistical, and so monstrous in its consequences, that, if successfully carried out, it would utterly destroy all that is pure and holy in morals and religion, and lead to greater corruption than any thing adopted during the madness of the French Revolution, when that unhappy country abjured the Christian faith, and set up in its stead the worship of the goddess of reason. Such a fatal departure from all that is good, is without a parallel in the history of the world; unless, indeed, some resemblance to it can be found in Pagan Rome, which, to please the nations she had conquered, condescended to associate their impure idolatries with her own.”

Another leading objection advanced, was the act, which had so disloyal an aspect, of destroying a Royal Charter, and perverting the object of an Institution which was guarded by an authority so sacred. He contrasts this contemplated spoliation with the more honourable course adopted by the Government of the United States, on their separation from the Mother Country. He reminds them that,—

“The endowment of King’s College, New York, was left untouched by the Revolution, and remains at this day in the sole possession of that Institution: the only change was the name, which, after the peace of 1782, was altered from King’s to Columbia College. So far were our neighbours from breaking down, or even molesting literary institutions, that they have at all times been zealously disposed to support and build them up; much less have they attempted the monstrous novelty of combining all sorts of religious sects in one great institution. On the contrary, they have been liberal in bestowing grants on the Colleges of different persuasions, each separate from the other; and they have been most scrupulous in all that they did to guard and protect the rights of conscience. They felt that to establish and build up requires wisdom and ability; but to break down what is useful, venerable, and holy,. requires, instead of ability and talent, the mere exertion of arbitrary and reckless power.”

Again, with great truth he affirms,—“This measure unsettles all property, by depriving the University of King’s College of an endowment which is the gift of the Crown, and thus it introduces a precedent, most destructive to the very existence of society. If the patents for land are to be touched, there is an end to the permanency of any Institution, and public and private property is alike placed at the mercy of a reckless and changing majority.”

The abettors of this new measure had by no means given the subject very accurate consideration; for, after a slight discussion the Bill was found to be so clumsy and impracticable in its details, and in many respects so puerile and absurd, that they were glad to withdraw it from the ridicule and merriment it was creating.

The very weak Conservative Government,—weak be it understood, in the number of its supporters, not in talent, —which came into power in 1844, and held office for about three years, made some attempts toward re-modelling King’s College; but while unwilling to go to the revolutionary lengths of their predecessors, they failed to guard the great principles of the Institution, and, without con-cilating enemies, they alienated many friends.

Early in the year 1848, the Conservatives were displaced from power; and their opponents, the “ Reformers,” as they were styled, were in possession of the reins of government. They soon addressed themselves to the University question; and in the following session an Act was passed, so completely altering the features of the original Charter, that these could no longer be recognized. The name of “King’s College” was dropped, and that of “the University of Toronto” adopted in its place; and how essentially the principles of the former institution were changed, will be evident from some of the enactments adopted in the new constitution, which we shall cite.

It was ordained that there should be “no Faculty of Divinity in this University,” and that there should be “no professorship, lectureship, or teachership of Divinity” within it.

It was enacted also that “no person should be qualified to be appointed by the Crown to any seat in the Senate, who shall be a minister, ecclesiastic, or teacher, under or according to any form or profession of religious faith or worship whatsoever.”

It was further ordained that “no religious observances, according to the forms of any religious denomination, should be imposed upon the members or officers of the said University, or any of them.” And, finally, that “no religious test or qualification whatsoever, from scholar, student, fellow, or otherwise,” or from the holder of “any office, professorship, mastership, tutorship, or other place or employment whatsoever in the same, shall be required.”

The Act, establishing the University of Toronto on this basis,—denuding its predecessor, with a Royal Charter, ol every thing that bore the form, or remotest shew of religion,—came into force on the 1st January, 1850.

In this emergency, the members of the Church of England, with their Bishop at their head, had a trying but simple duty to discharge, Viewing this marked slight of, this very trampling upon, the Christianity which was meant to be ingrained into the principles and very essence of their highest hall of science, they could not do otherwise than part company with it forever, and establish a University of their own, in ,which the blessed teachings of our Christian faith should be prominently interwoven with its secular lessons. They must have a University in which, while their youth were trained for the honourable occupation of the world’s offices of trust and usefulness, they should have that accompanying instruction in religious truth, which is the only security for sound principle and upright dealing in the common duties of life. In the words of the late Dr. Arnold, happily adduced by the Bishop himself “science and literature will not do for a man’s main business  they must be used in subordination to a clearly perceived Christian end, and looked upon as of most subordinate value. In fact the house is spiritually empty so long as the pearl of great price is not there, although it may be hung with all the decorations of earthly knowledge.”

To the proposition, that Colleges established by the several bodies of the Province should “affiliate” with the Toronto University, and leave all to this, except the religious instruction of their respective members, the Bishop would give no countenance. The slight aid or relief thus afforded, would, he considered, form an excuse for restrictions and interferences which, when most galling, it might be difficult to shake off. He protested, too, against this thrusting forth of Christianity from the temple, that she might take her abode in porches, and corners, and alleys, where she would be shrouded from view, or buried from sight, as something to be ashamed of. He felt that she should assume her proper position, and occupy the highest room; that she should form part of the nourishment and vitality that courses through the heart and trunk, and not merely be linked with a number of feeble and sickly appendages, grafted hither and thither, in unsightly variety upon the lusty and expansive tree.

These were sentiments which lay at the heart’s core of the great mass of the Churchmen of Upper Canada. With all but unanimous voice they demanded the establishment of a University, framed upon the principles bequeathed to them from their forefathers, and which have won for their mother-land a world-wide renown.

In the month of January, 1850, the Bishop of Toronto addressed a stirring appeal to the Clergy and Laity of his Diocese; calling upon them to aid by their contributions the establishment of what had now become a necessity,— a Church University,—and heading the subscription-list with a gift of £1000.

From this Pastoral Appeal, we must make a few extracts. They deserve a permanent record, and a wider circulation; and may re-awaken the energies of old friends, and rouse the sympathies of new ones on behalf of the College, the establishment of which so speedily followed this appeal. He says :—

“It is surely the duty, as well as the privilege, of every Churchman in the Diocese, to assist, as far as he is able, in supplying the want which the Church now feels in the destruction of her University, and which, if not supplied, will, in a short time, arrest the happy progress she is making through all parts of the country. Let not, then, the friends and members of the Church look for rest till proper means are found for the religious education of her children. We have fallen, indeed, on evil times, and the storm has overtaken us, aggravated by the painful reflection that we have contributed largely, by our want of unity and consistency, to bring it on ourselves ; yet we must not be discouraged, for, though the waters threaten to overwhelm us, we are still the children of hope. Never perhaps, in the history of the Church, did a single case more completely prove the influence of party spirit in corrupting the heart, and warping and entangling the judgment, till it had acquired a moral obliquity, incapable of distinguishing right from wrong, truth from falsehood. than the destruction of King’s College.

“What makes this act of unscrupulous injustice the ^harder to be borne, is the conviction, which I think we must all feel, that if any one of the religious denominations in this Province, dissenting from the Church of England, had received from their Sovereign a Royal Charter, founding a University in connexion with their faith, and had received at the same time the free gift of an endowment for its support, any attempt by the Colonial Legislature to abrogate their Charter, and to wrest from them the endowment conferred by their Sovereign, would have been promptly discountenanced by the Executive Government and firmly resisted, as being unreasonable and unjust. If any had been found to make such an attempt, (which assuredly the Church of England would not have done,) they would have been told at once, that whatever opinions they might have formed of the policy or impolicy of the measure, the grant could not but be respected, and the faith of the Sovereign maintained. And I am sure, my brethren, that neither you nor I would have regretted to see those principles upheld by which alone either nations or individuals can expect long to flourish. We should have remarked, too, in such a case as I have supposed, another mortifying difference : the members of any other religious denomination whose rights had been unjustly attacked, as ours were, would not have sought a vain popularity by abandoning them; they would have been found united as one man in their defence.”

The following remarks are of a practical character; and it is not even now too late to act upon them :—

“There are, it is believed, about four hundred organized townships in the Diocese; and were only one lot of two hundred acres to be contributed as an average in each township, it would form an endowment of eighty thousand acres; and this, by good management, with private contributions in money, and the assistance of the two venerable Societies, would become sufficient to enable us in a very short time to begin operations, and gradually, as the property leased, to extend the University, as has been done in like cases in Europe and America.

“Or, taking it otherwise;—there are, I presume, about 200,000 adherents of the Church of England in Upper Canada, or 40,000 families. Now, were each family to contribute two pounds, or two acres of good land, a very handsome endowment would be the result.

“But as there are many poor, and some to whom God has not given generosity of heart,—let us take one-fourth, or only 10,000 families, and claim from each, for the love of God, six pounds in money, or ten acres of good land, as may be more convenient, and the University will be established:    The difficulty, therefore, in the way of endowing a Church University, is not so great as those, who have not considered the subject, may suppose ; and although we may not obtain the subscriptions in land, or in money, of ten or even of five thousand at once, yet we shall, with God’s blessing, obtain more in time ; and as the Institution we contemplate is not for a short period, but for centuries, we can afford time, and be content to advance to maturity by degrees. But why should we not hope that the Church, among her 200,000, will produce one thousand noble souls, ready to come forward with at least one hundred acres each, and in a moment complete the endowment?”

Expressing his belief of aid from the great Church Societies of the Mother Country, and that in attempting this University no Utopian scheme is devised, he proceeds to urge the duty of establishing it upon high moral and religious grounds. He says :—

“The Church ought to do nothing by halves. Her University must comprise an entire system of education, based on religion. Every branch of knowledge cherished at Oxford and Cambridge must be carefully and substantially taught. She must also have her Eton, or Grammar School, to supply her with students : the whole to be placed under the guidance of the Church, that her religious instruction may have no uncertain sound. We desire a University, which, fed by the heavenly stream of pure religion, may communicate fuel to the lamp of genius, and enable it to burn with a brighter and purer flame. Thus the Arts and Sciences, with all that adds real embellishment to life, will be studied with more perseverance and order for moral ends; and the faculties, under such training, will become so pure and unclouded, that perception will be infinitely more vivid, and rise to far greater elevation; and all will be bound together by that pure principle of love, which the Scriptures tell us is the beginning and end of all our being. For this reason, we shall have in our University daily habitual worship, that we may possess a conscious feeling of the Divine presence; and this will produce such an ardent aspiration after goodness as will consecrate every movement. Hence the religious principles thus developed, will prove of themselves a system of education infinitely superior to all others.

“Having done all in my power, I shall acquiesce submissively in the result, whatever it may be; and I shall then, and not till then, consider my mission in this behalf ended.”

This appeal was promptly and generously responded to; and before the month of April about £25,000 were subscribed in the Diocese of Toronto alone.

But the resources of a new country could not be considered equal to such a demand; there was in Canada the spirit, but not the power fully to carry out this great undertaking. The Bishop, therefore, resolved upon extending the appeal to our fellow Churchmen in England; believing that there would be as much sympathy there with so noble an effort, as there would be indignation that we were compelled to resort to it. The Imperial Government had sanctioned the sequestration of the royal gift by which King’s College was founded; and the people of England would feel a sort of responsibility to make good the loss.

On the 10th April, 1850, at the age of 72, the Bishop left for England; followed to the steamer by a large body of the inhabitants of all classes and conditions, from the. Chief Justice of the Province to the bronzed labourer; and he set sail amidst the cheers and plaudits of all. He was about to add another trophy to his long-earned fame, and to establish for himself a monument which future generations would contemplate with gratitude.

The Bishop, on his arrival in England, felt it his duty to place himself in correspondence with Earl Grey, Secretary of State for the Colonies. He asked, first, the disallowance by Her Majesty of the Act recently passed in Canada for the abolition of King’s College; and requested, if this petition could not be acceded to, that a Charter might be granted by Her Majesty for a University in Upper Canada strictly in connexion with the Church of England. He further prayed that a Queen’s Letter might be granted, authorizing collections on this behalf in the several Parish Churches of the United Kingdom.

I suppose that the new institution of Toronto University is something like the London College or the Irish Colleges/ Pardon me, I replied, the London College preys upon no other interest, and is supported from private sources: it unhappily drops religion, but it does not go so far as to exclude it by legal enactment, as the Toronto University does. That certainly makes a difference/ It differs also from the Irish Colleges in this, —that the Irish Colleges are supported by the Government, and their establishment did not interfere with, or injure, any other Institution. But the College or University of Toronto is founded on the ruins of King’s College, whose Royal Charter it has repealed under the pretence of amending it, and whose endowment of £11,000 per annum, though secured by a patent from the Crown, and guaranteed by the pledge of three Kings, it has seized and appropriated to itself. ‘Then, if I understand it' said Sir Robert, 'the Government would have made a parallel case, had they seized upon Trinity College, Dublin, and not only destroyed its religious character, but endowed, with its property, all the new Colleges.' Such, I answered, would have been a case exactly parallel. ‘If so' continued Sir Robert, ‘it would seem a case of singular injustice and oppression, and what could never have taken place in England; but I must be more fully satisfied on this point/ He then required me to send him a copy of the Statute, and such other papers as I thought might elucidate the subject, and he promised to give them a careful perusal.

“On my return to my lodgings, I sent the documents required, and with the more alacrity, because Sir Robert got evidently interested in the subject, as our conversation proceeded, and became more frank and cordial; so much so, that I felt that the reserve with which he met me at first had altogether disappeared.”

About ten days after, the Bishop had another interview with Sir Robert Peel, who, on this occasion, received him with great cordiality, and said that, after perusing carefully all the documents with which he had been furnished, he considered the case one of great hardship and injustice. He, however advised the Bishop to abstain from presenting any petitions to Parliament, with the expectation that they would interfere in the matter; and he considered that the wisest course would be, to direct all his energies to the obtaining of a Royal Charter for the contemplated new College. The more simply he applied his efforts to this, the more certain would be his success. Sir Robert promised him all the assistance in his power; but reminded him that this could not now amount to much.

On the 9th May following, the Bishop published an address to the members of the Church of England throughout the United Kingdom, which was very extensively circulated, and on the whole met with a very favourable response. A very influential Committee, amongst whom were Lord Seaton and Mr. Gladstone, very heartily co-operated with him, and large donations came in. The Bishop also visited the Universities, that he might engage their sympathy; attended several public meetings, and earnestly .advocated the cause; and preached on its behalf in many of the larger Churches of England. Through all these efforts, he succeeded in adding about £15,000 to the funds of the intended University, and he came back to Canada, early in the month of November following, fully determined to start the University, and much encouraged in the belief that, once established, it would soon receive the Royal Charter that had been prayed for. 

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