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William Taylor
Businessman, office holder, and politician

TAYLOR, WILLIAM, Presbyterian minister; b. 18 March 1803 at Dennie (Denny), Scotland; d. in Portland, Maine, 5 Sept. 1876.

William Taylor was educated in Glasgow, but he was not a graduate of the university. He may have studied theology with one of the senior clergy, as was the custom in the Secession Church. He had been attracted by the fervour of that church, although his parents were members of the Church of Scotland. He was licensed to preach in 1827 and ordained in 1831. Between that date and his departure for Canada in 1833, he ministered in the Secession Chapel at Peebles.

In July 1833 he was inducted as pastor of the Montreal Secession Congregation, “the Wee Kirk in little Dublin [Lagauchetière Street].” This congregation, under the name Erskine (1864) and in a new location (1866), was still in his care at the time of his death. Taylor was a fine Hebrew and Greek scholar and zealous minister, active in social and charitable causes of Protestant Montreal. He was an earnest temperance worker and first editor of the Canada Temperance Advocate, printed by John C. Becket. He was persuaded to become editor by James Court and John Dougall. With them, Taylor was also closely associated in the French Canadian Missionary Society. He held the editorship for only about one year, when he was succeeded by John Dougall Taylor’s interest in aiding Negro refugees may have been the reason for the honorary dd bestowed upon him in 1851 by the now defunct Franklin College, Ohio, which was strongly abolitionist.

Taylor worked for the union of the Canadian churches adhering to the Westminster Standards, that is, the doctrines and discipline of Presbyterianism, and he hoped for the ultimate union of all Protestant denominations. He was an able speaker and skilful conciliator; hence his effectiveness before church assemblies or with smaller gatherings. Following the first major fusion, in 1861, Taylor became moderator of the new Canada Presbyterian Church, of which the Secession and Free churches were the chief constituents. It was only after confederation that he had success with the congregations in connection with the Church of Scotland. National sentiment and the practical example of Presbyterian union in the Maritime provinces softened opposition. In 1875, he had the satisfaction of seeing the dominion-wide Presbyterian Church in Canada formed.

Taylor was an advocate of cooperation among Protestant denominations – a founder of the Evangelical Alliance, of the Montreal Ministerial Association, and of the French Canadian Missionary Society (8 April 1839). On behalf of the last, in 1839 he visited Britain and Protestant communities in France in a successful search for money and men. He was a secretary of the society and its third president, 1870–74. The militancy of his Protestantism is shown by the title of one of his sermons, published in 1876 in pamphlet form under the authority of the Montreal-Ottawa Presbytery: “The Pope, the Man of Sin.”

Taylor died while on holiday in Portland, Maine. He was predeceased by his wife, Mary Hamilton, and survived by three sons.

John Irwin Cooper, “TAYLOR, WILLIAM (1803-76),” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 10, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003, accessed June 23, 2020,

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