LATE in the year 1828, Sir Peregrine Maitland was replaced as Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada by Sir John Colborne. About the saine time Sir George Murray, who had acted as Administrator of the Government of Upper Canada in 1815, and who consequently knew something of Canadian affairs, became Colonial Secretary in the Imperial Parliament.
In acknowledging receipt of the petition to His Majesty of the Assembly of Upper Canada protesting against the King’s College charter, Sir George Murray, in a communication to Sir John Colborne, said :* ” It would be deservedly a subject of regret to His Majesty’s Government, if the University, recently established at York, should prove to have been founded upon principles which cannot be made to accord with the general feelings and opinions of those for whose advantage it was intended. I have observed that your predecessor (Sir Peregrine Maitland) in the Government of Upper Canada differs from the House of Assembly as to the general prevalence of objections to the University founded upon the degree of exclusive connection which it has with the Church of England. It seems reason-able to conclude, however, that on such a subject as this an address adopted by a full House of Assembly, with scarcely any dissentient voices, must be considered to express the prevailing opinion in the Province upon this subject.
” In the event, therefore, of its appearing to you to be proper to invite the Legislative Council and House of Assembly to resume the consideration of this question, you will apprise them that their representations on the existing charter of the University have attracted the serious attention of His Majesty’s Government and that the opinion which may be expressed by the Legislative Council and House of Assembly on that subject will not fail to receive the most prompt and serious attention.”
Shortly after the receipt of this communication Sir John Colborne, as Chancellor of King’s College, convened the College Council and declared that no immediate steps were to be taken toward active University work, and that not one stone should be put upon another certain alterations had been made in the charter.
In 1829 the Chairman of the General Board of Education, Rev. Dr. Strachan, presented to the Legislative Assembly his first annual report. It is an able and very suggestive document. It showed 372 pupils in the eleven Grammar Schools, and 401 Common Schools with 10,712 pupils. Dr. Strachan had personally visited each Grammar School during 1828, and had incidentally learned something of the Common Schools. Referring to Grammar Schools he says :t ” It will be seen that in some places girls are admitted. This happens from the want of good female schools, and perhaps from the more rapid progress which children are supposed to make under experienced and able schoolmasters. It is to be wished, however, that separate schools for the sexes were established, as the admission of female children interferes with the government which is required in classical seminaries; it is, nevertheless, an inconvenience of a temporary nature, which will gradually pass away as the population increases in wealth and numbers.” This ” inconvenience of a temporary nature” persisted until i868, when girls were formally admitted as pupils in Grammar Schools.
Dr. Strachan pointed out very clearly in this Report that the Common Schools could never improve very much until the teachers were better paid. He also made an excellent practical suggestion.* ” The Provincial Board, therefore, would submit with all deference, that in addition to the public allowance, even if increased beyond its present amount, a power should be given to the Townships to assess themselves for this special purpose.”
Here we have laid down the correct principle of support for public schools, and one cannot but feel that had Dr. Strachan followed up this suggestion by pressing it upon the Legislature, and by discussing it with school-managers and the general public, he might have secured its early adoption.
When the Legislature convened in 1829, Sir John Colborne in the Speech from the Throne t made direct reference to education as follows : ” The Public [Grammar] Schools are generally increasing, but their organization appears susceptible of improvement. Measures will be adopted, I hope, to reform the Royal Grammar School [the District School at York] and to incorporate it with the University recently endowed by His Majesty, and to introduce a system in that Seminary which will open to the youth of the Province the means of receiving a liberal and extensive course of instruction. Unceasing exertions should be made to attract able masters to this country, where the population bears no proportion to the number of offices and employments that must necessarily be held by men of education and acquirements, for the support of the laws and of your free institutions.”
This message from the Governor may require some explanation. In the first place let us note that Sir John Colborne was an able and enlightened man, sincerely desirous of giving to Upper Canada a government that would be acceptable to the mass of the people. He seems to have realized clearly that the Assembly was a fairly accurate reflection of public opinion, and that no policy could ultimately prevail unless it was in harmony with its wishes. His action in arresting the working of king’s College was one proof of this, although his subsequent action in founding Upper Canada College solely on his own responsibility showed his belief in the power of the Crown to take independent action. He saw that the District Grammar Schools were very inefficient and were touching the lives of an insignificant proportion of the people of Upper Canada. He foresaw that for some years the revenue to be derived from the endowment of King’s College would not support a very pretentious institution, and that for such an institution, even if it were in operation, there would be very few students prepared by previous study to profit from its courses. In his opinion the immediate wants of the country would be better served by a high-class school than by a university. Hence his proposal to reform the Royal Gram-mar School at York and incorporate it with King’s College.
The Assembly of 1 829 contained many eminent men, of whom it is sufficient to mention Marshall Bidwell (the Speaker), William Lyon Mackenzie, W. W. Baldwin (father of Hon. Robert Baldwin), and John Rolph, the latter a graduate of the University of Cambridge. The Assembly appointed a select committee on Education. This committee made an extensive report upon both District Grammar and Common Schools. In regard to the former they were pronounced in their condemnation and recommended their abolition. The report claimed that the District or Grammar School Trustees, appointed by the Crown, were chosen to promote the interests of the Anglican Church ; that in many cases the schools them-selves were merely stepping-stones for the clergy of the Anglican Church; that they were under no efficient inspection ; that they were quite as expensive to those parents who did not live immediately beside them as much better schools in the United States; and finally that as only I08 pupils in the whole Province were studying languages in these schools, that their work could he done equally well by really good Common Schools. The report lamented the low salaries of teachers in Common Schools and suggested that no Government grants should be given unless the managers of schools themselves raised by subscription equal amounts. The report also protested against the payment out of public funds of 1300 a year to Rev. Dr. Strachan, as Chairman of the General Board, and against his assumption that reports of District Schools should be made to him instead of to the Lieutenant-Governor. The report expressed a hope that something might be done to encourage the publication of textbooks in Canada, and concluded with ex-pressing approval of the Governor’s plan to found a seminary of a high class, which should be free from sectarian influences and afford advanced instruction to the youth of Canada.
Later in the session of 1829 this select committee on Education prepared a series of resolutions which were adopted by the Assembly.
The following are the chief points in the resolutions:—
1. That the Governor, or Lieutenant-Governor of the Province, not being amenable for his conduct to any tribunal, ought not to be Chancellor of King’s College.
2. That it ought not to be required that the President of King’s College be a clergyman of the Anglican Church, and that he ought to be elected or appointed for a stated term.
3. That the Archdeacon of York ought not by virtue of his clerical office to become President of King’s College.
4. That the President and Professors of King’s College ought not to be required to subscribe to the Thirty-nine Articles.
5. That the Degree of Doctor of Divinity ought to be conferred by King’s College upon any professing Christian who passed the required examinations in Classical, Biblical, and other subjects of learning.
6. That wherever the charter of King’s College is in any way sectarian it should be amended.
The Governor asked the Legislative Council to consider in what way the charter of King’s College could be amended to make it more acceptable to the people of Upper Canada. The Council in reply recommended that instead of the Archdeacon of York any Anglican clergy-an should be eligible for President. They also recommended that tests for the Council be dispensed with.
Having the sanction of the Home Government, and feeling sure of the active support of the Assembly, Sir John Colborne immediately put in execution his plan of forming a high-class school to replace the Royal Grammar School at York. He caused advertisements to he inserted in the British papers for
asters. The head master was to have a house, £600 per annum. and the privilege of taking boarders. The classical and mathematical masters were to receive L300 a year and similar privileges. The Assembly had suggested that the new school should he known as Colborne College, but the name adopted was Upper Canada College. The school opened in 1830 with a staff of seven specialists, nearly all chosen in England. The work was carried on n the buildings of the old Grammar School until handsome and elaborate buildings were erected on Russell Square, north of King Street. An endowment of some 6o,000 acres rom the School lands was given the new instiution. It was generally felt that the new school would, for the present, supply the want of a university, and also make it unnecessary for Canadian youths to complete their education in the United States.
Before Upper Canada College had been working a year a very numerously-signed petition was presented by some York patrons of the school praying for some modification of the exclusively classical nature of the programme for those boys destined for commerce and mechanical pursuits. The Governor’s attempt to give Canadians a high-class collegiate school seemed only partially successful. The error was in attempting to adapt to a new country a form of school that suited the requirements of a select class in an old and highly civilized country. Latin and Greek must be crammed into boys whether or not they had any natural aptitude for language study, and quite irrespective of their future occupations in life.
The founding and liberal equipment of Upper Canada College had one effect that might easily have been foretold. Petitions came from almost every Grammar School District praying for endowed and well-equipped schools similar to Upper Canada College. The petitioners resented the concentration at York of two important institutions, Upper Canada College and King’s College, deriving support from an endowment originally set aside to give educational facilities to the whole of Upper Canada.
The Assembly of 1833, through a select committee, made a minute examination into the affairs of Upper Canada College, and passed a resolution recommending that it be incorporated with King’s College. I give here quotations from two writers on Upper Canada College, showing how differently things appear when viewed through different eyes. The first is from a letter written in 1833 by Rev. Thomas Radcliffe.* “Future generations will bless the memory of Sir John Colborne, who, to the many advantages derived from the equity and wisdom of his government, has added that of a magnificent foundation [in Upper Canada College] for the purposes of literary instruction. The lowest salary of any of the professors of this institution is £30o per annum, with the accommodation of a noble brick house and the privilege of taking boarders at £SO per annum.”
The next is from ” Sketches,” published by William Lyon Mackenzie, London, 1833. ” Splendid incomes are given to the masters of the new [Upper Canada] College, culled at Oxford by the Vice-Chancellor, and dwellings furnished to the professors (we may say) by the sweat of the brow of the Canadian labourer. All these advantages and others not now necessary to be mentioned, are insufficient to gratify the rapacious appetite of the ` Established Church ‘ managers, who, in order to accumulate wealth and live in opulence, charge the children of His Majesty’s subjects ten times as high fees as are required by the less amply endowed Seminary at Quebec. They have another reason for so doing. The College (already a monopoly) becomes almost an exclusive school for the families of the Government officers, and the few who, through their means, have, in York, already attained a pecuniary independence out of the public treasury. The College never was intended for the people, nor did the Executive endow it thus amply that all classes might apply to the fountain of knowledge.”*
As time passed the College founded by Sir John Colborne did good work as a secondary school for people of wealth, but all attempts to make it popular with the mass of the people proved ineffective. The Legislature gave it an annual grant somewhat unwillingly. t The buildings were erected, and part of the annual expenses paid from advances made by the King’s College Council.
By an Act passed in 1839 there was an attempt made to raise the College to the dignity of a temporary university. This action displeased the Council of King’s College because it tended to delay the opening of lectures in that institution. In 1849, when the Baldwin University Bill made an independent corporation of Upper Canada College, that institution was indebted to the University for nearly $40,000, which was never repaid.*
In 1831 the Methodists began to build at Cobourg the Upper Canada Academy, which was to be open to all religious denominations. They felt that although Upper Canada College was non-sectarian in a legal sense, yet, inasmuch as the principal and professors were Anglican clergymen, the institution was essentially an Anglican College.
At this time the Rev. Egerton Ryerson was editor of The Christian Guardian newspaper, the official organ of the Methodist Conference. In an editorial, April, 1831, he thus refers to the proposed Upper Canada Academy : “It is the first literary institution which has been commenced by any body of ministers in accordance with the frequently expressed wishes of the people of Upper Canada. The Methodist Conference have not sought endowments of public lands for the establishment of an institution, contrary to the voice of the people as expressed by their representatives.
Desirous of promoting more extensively the interests of the rising generation and of the country generally, we have resolved upon the establishment of a Seminary of Learningwe have done so upon liberal principleswe have not reserved any peculiar privileges to our-selves for the education of our children; we have published the constitution for your examination ; and now we appeal to your liberality for assistance On the characteristics of the system of education which it is contemplated to pursue in the proposed Seminary, we may observe that it will be such as to produce habits of intellectual labour and activity; a diligent and profitable improvement of time ; bodily health and vigour, a fitness and relish for agricultural and mechanical, as well as for other pursuits; virtuous principles and Christian morals. On the importance of education generally we may remark, it is as necessary as the light it should be as common as water, and as free as air among the people is the best security of a good government and constitutional liberty; it yields a steady, unbending support to the former, and effectually protects the latter. An educated people are always a loyal people to good government; and the first object of a wise government should be the education of the people. An educated people are always enterprising in all kinds of general and local improvements. An ignorant population are equally fit for, and are liable to be, slaves of despots and the dupes of demagogues; sometimes, like the unsettled ocean, they can he thrown into incontrollable agitation by every wind that blows ; at other times, like the uncomplaining ass, they tamely submit to the most unreasonable burdens_ .
Sound learning is of great worth even in religion ; the wisest and hest instructed Christians are the most steady, and may be the most useful. If a man be a child in knowledge he is likely to be tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, and often lies at the mercy of interested, designing men ; the more knowledge he has the safer is his state. I f our circumstances he such that we have few means of improvement, we should turn them to the best account Partial knowledge is bet-ter than total ignorance; and he who cannot get all he may wish, must take heed to acquire all that he can. I f total ignorance be a bad and dangerous thing, every degree of knowledge lessens both the evil and the danger.”
Ryerson wrote this when he was only twenty-eight years of age, but it foreshadows the fundamental principles upon which he later at-tempted to hase a national system of education.
It is interesting to note that in this same year the United Presbytery of Upper Canada were discussing the establishment of a Literary and Theological Seminary at Pleasant Bay, in Prince Edward County. This seminary never was established, but the agitation for it led to the founding of Queen’s University, at Kingston.
While Methodist and Presbyterian clergy were forming plans for academies, the members of the Legislative Assembly were debating a series of resolutions on the School Re-serves and the failure of the people of Upper Canada to secure the free Grammar Schools for which the Crown Lands were appropriated in 1798. Several things are made plain in these resolutions regarding the attitude of the popularly elected branch of the Legislature. The following stand out prominently:
1. That the existing Grammar Schools were wholly inadequate to perform the work for which they were created.
2. That the real intentions of the Crown in setting apart the immense School Reserves in 1798 had never been carried out.
3. That the successive Canadian Administrations had been largely concerned in appropriating the lion’s share of these Reserves for University education.
4. That the School Reserves of 1798, with proper management, would be now (1831) sufficiently productive to give great assistance to education if applied in accord with the real wishes of the people.
5. That the money received from these School Iands from time to time ought to be paid in to the Receiver-General and disposed of only by vote of the Legislature.
Further protests were made against the exclusive nature of. King’s College charter, and the Assembly was assured by Sir John Col-borne that some changes would be made. As a matter of fact, on the 2nd of November, 1831, Lord Goderich, the British Colonial Secretary, in a lengthy Communication to Governor Colborne, showed that His Majesty’s Government was fully seized of the situation in regard to the charter of King’s College. Lord Goderich said, ” I am to convey through you to the Members of the Corporation of King’s College, at the earnest recommendation and advice of His Majesty’s Government, that they do forth-with surrender t to His Majesty the charter of King’s College of Upper Canada, with any lands that may have been granted them.” Lord Goderich then proceeds to intimate that a new charter will be granted by the Legislature of Upper Canada. Lord Goderich further proceeds to give some very sound advice concerning the necessity of mutual forbearance among a people of diverse religious creeds.
In the Assembly there was shown an intelligent grasp of the educational needs of the country and a determination to secure better schools. Had the Executive Council and Legislative Council been equally zealous in the cause of education, the fathers and mothers of the generation which profited from Ryerson’s reforms might themselves have had the advantage of good schools.
The following extracts from an address to His Excellency, Sir John Colborne, will show the temper and wishes of the Assembly: ” We, His Majesty’s dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of Upper Canada in Provincial Parliament assembled, most respectfully beg leave to represent that there is in this Province a very general want of education ; that the insufficiency of the Common School fund [the total Government grant for schools in 1831 was $11, 200] to support competent, respect-able, and well-educated teachers, has degraded Common School teaching from a regular business to a mere matter of convenience to transient persons, or common idlers, who often teach the school one season and Ieave it vacant until it accommodates some other like person to take it in hand, whereby the minds of our youth are left without cultivation, or, what is still worse, frequently with vulgar, low-bred, vicious, or intemperate examples before them in the capacity of monitors.”* The address proceeded to state that there was urgent need of a Government fund to secure larger grants for teachers’ salaries, and asked His Excellency to lay before the Colonial Secretary a plan to set aside one million acres of waste land in Upper Canada for the support of Common Schools.
In this Address the Assembly virtually said to the Crown, ” Give us some fixed capital as a source of revenue and we will speedily re-organize our schools.” The Assembly knew what was needed and knew how to remedy the existing conditions, but was powerless because the Crown revenue was subject only to the control of the Executive Council.
The session of 1832-33* was very active from an educational point of view. The Assembly was informed by His Excellency that the Crown had consented to give over to the Legislature, for the support of Grammar Schools, control of the 258,330 acres of School lands, being the balance of the original grant of half a million acres made in 1798, and from which had already been made extensive grants to endow King’s College and Upper Canada College. Much of the remainder of this land, which was now vested in the Legislature, was not of a superior quality. It had also been selected in township blocks and naturally had
* The previous session, William Lyon Mackenzie had been expelled from the Assembly because of his criticism of the Governor, in his newspaper, the Colonial Advocate. It is interesting to note that Mackenzie’s criticisms of the Governor were largely based on His Excellency’s actions in regard to education.
very little value until settlements were made in surrounding townships.
The Assembly prepared an Address to His Majesty praying for a grant of one million acres of Crown lands for the establishment and support of Township Common Schools. As a measure of immediate relief for these schools, a bill was passed by the two branches of the Legislature, and assented to by His Excellency, providing for two years an additional grant of $22,000. This sum was allotted to the several Districts, approximately in proportion to population, but no Board of Trustees was to receive any of this grant unless they secured for their teacher a sum equal at least to twice the Government grant.
The most significant feature of the session, however, was a Common School Bill, introduced into the Assembly by Mr. Mahlon Bur-well, and read a first time. The bill proposed to repeal all previous Common School legislation ; to establish a General Board and also District Boards of Education ; to grant £10,000 to Common Schools as a Legislative grant and to assess a further £10,000 on the rateable property of the Districts.
This bill, had it become law, would have anticipated Ryerson’s legislation by nearly twenty years, and it is interesting to note the comments made upon it by that gentleman, who was at this time editor of the Christian Guardian. The Guardian of January 15th, 1834, expressed a general approval of the plan of taxation but was totally opposed to the appointment of Boards of Education. After showing that the principle of local taxation was borrowed from the New England States, where it was working satisfactorily, Ryerson says : ” The next leading feature of the bill is the appointment of a General Board of Education and also District Boards of Education. This is proposed to be left to the Governor, or per-son administering the Government, a proposition, in our opinion, radically objectionable. It makes the system of education, in theory, a mere engine of the Executive, a system which is liable to all the abuse, suspicion, jealousy and opposition caused by despotism; and it withholds from the system of Common School education, in its first and prominent feature, that character of common interest and harmonious co-operation which, as we humbly conceive, are essential to its success, and even to its acceptance with the Province. Education is an object in which the Government, as an individual portion of the Province, and the people at large possess, in some respects, a common interest, consequently they should exercise a joint or common control_ . . . And in an equitable and patriotic administration of Government, the more its agents and the people’s agents are associated together in promoting the common weal, the more strongly will mutual respect and confidence and co-operation between the people and the Government be established, the less room there will be for Executive negligence, or partiality, or popular or local abuse ; and the less opportunity there will be for either despotic oppression or demagogue misrepresentation.”
In 1834 there was a General Election, which resulted in the return to the Assembly of a large majority in favour of reform principles, and wholly opposed to the arbitrary and aristocratic ideas of the Legislative Council. Bidwell, Rolph, and William Lyon Mackenzie were three leading spirits in the new House.
When the Assembly opened the Governor laid before the members a despatch from the Colonial Office, stating His Majesty’s readiness to transfer 240,000 acres in the settled townships in return for the School lands which were in township blocks and not then saleable.
A hill was passed by the Legislature renewing for two years, 1835 and 1836, the increased grant of 15,650 for Common Schools.
A grant of £200 was also made to Mechanics’ Institutes at York and a grant of £100 to one at Kingston.
Considerable time was spent in the Assembly upon two bills which were rejected by the Executive Council. One was a bill to regulate Common Schools which would have given them a thorough organization and made them subject to popular control by elected Boards and Superintendents. The Executive Council had no faith in control by the people. They doubted whether ” the respectable yeomanry of the country ” were capable of choosing suit-able Superintendents. The other was a bill to amend the charter of King’s College. These amendments were designed to remove all religious tests and to have the College governed by a Council, half of whom were to be appointed by the Assembly and half by the Legislative Council. The only reasons given by the Council for rejecting these amendments were that they knew of no university so governed and that a university must have as a basis some established form of religion. In the meantime, while the hide-bound worshippers of European traditions who made up the Council were delaying the active work of King’s College, the youth of Upper Canada, preparing for the learned professions, were compelled to seek university advantages in the United States or Great Britain. More than this, owing to the lack of advantages in their own country, many who could otherwise have afforded it were wholly deprived of the higher education and training necessary for the professions they had in view.
The Legislative Council at this time, and for many years afterwards, made boasts of their loyalty to the Crown, and upon some occasions arrogated to themselves and their friends a monopoly of all loyal spirit in Upper Canada, and yet they firmly refused to surrender the charter and endowment of King’s College when requested and even urged to do so by His Majesty’s Colonial Secretary.* From 1831 to 1835, the Council refused to accept any substantial amendments made in that charter suggested by the Assembly, although Lord Goderich had, in 1831, made it quite clear that His Majesty’s Government wished the question of the charter to be settled by the Upper Canada Legislature
When, upon the 6th of May, 1835, Sir John Colborne sent to the Colonial Secretary the King’s College Charter Amendment Bill passed by the Assembly, he urged the immediate opening of King’s College, although he had declared to the College Council that ” not one stone should be placed upon another ” until the charter was amended. It may also be gathered from this despatch to Lord Glenelg t that Sir John Colborne accompanied it with a draft of amendments which he thought would be acceptable to both branches of the Legislature of Upper Canada. His Lordship was too astute a politician and too thoroughly informed concerning Canadian public opinion to be easily misled. Sir John Colborne, as a concession to the Assembly, proposed that five out of seven of the governing body should be permanently of the faith of the Church of England. The other two members were to be the Lieutenant-Governor and the Archdeacon of York! Lord Glenelg, in reply, says : ” I cannot hesitate to express my opinion that this plan claims for the Established Church of England privileges which those who best understand and most deeply prize her real interests would not think it prudent to assert for her in any British Province on the North American Continent. . .. I would respectfully and earnestly impress upon the Members of both these Bodies Assembly and Council] the expediency of endeavouring, by mutual concessions, to meet on some common ground. Especially would I beg the Legislative Councillors to remember that, if there be any one subject on which, more than others, it is vain and dangerous to oppose the deliberate wishes of the great mass of the people, the system of national instruction to be pursued in the moral and religious education of youth is emphatically that subject!’ Lord Glenelg concludes by referring the question of amending the charter back to the Legislature of Upper Canada and states that His Majesty will act as mediator only if the two branches of the Legislature fail to agree and then only upon their presenting a joint Address.