March 15, 1827, King's College - the precursor to the University of
Toronto - was granted its royal charter by King George IV. Throughout
2002, U of T celebrated 175 years of Great Minds. As part of the
celebration, the U of T website featured excerpts from The
University of Toronto: A History, written by Martin Friedland, University
Professor and Professor Emeritus of Law at U of T.
Sixteenth of March, in the seventh year of the reign of George the Fourth
-- that is, in 1826 -- John Strachan, the leading Anglican clergyman
in York, left the town (later called Toronto) for England. His principal
mission was to obtain a charter for a proposed university for Upper
Canada. The result of his trip was a royal charter -- and 25 years of
intense conflict on the question of the place of the church in higher
education in the colony.
Simcoe, the first lieutenant governor of Upper Canada, had been in favour
of a college in the colony. Even before he had left for Canada in 1792,
the Oxford-educated Simcoe had written about establishing "a college
of a higher class," a vision that even earlier had been expressed
by the United Empire Loyalists who had come after the American Revolution
to what would later be called Ontario.
(Toronto) in 1828
institution, wrote Simcoe, "would give a tone of principle and
manners that would be of infinite support to government." Of perhaps
more importance, it would also help prevent students from picking up
subversive ideas in the United States, where, "owing to the cheapness
of education ... the gentlemen of Upper Canada will send their children."
Simcoe had fought against the Americans in the Revolutionary War and
obviously had no wish to lose the rest of British North America as well.
have no idea that a University will be established," Simcoe wrote
to the Anglican bishop of Quebec in 1796, "though I am daily confirmed
in its necessity." Such an institution, he felt, would "strengthen
the union with Great Britain and preserve a lasting obedience to His
Majesty's authority." He also stated that a university would "have
a great influence in civilising the Indians," and then added,
"and what is of more importance, those who corrupt them."
A Canadian university,
Simcoe believed, would prevent the colonists from sending their
children to school in the U.S.
late 1790s, an education endowment had been established in the recently
created province, then with a population of perhaps 25,000 Europeans.
Five hundred thousand acres of "waste lands" scattered throughout
the new province had been set aside as an endowment for the support
of schools, and a "college or university." A report by the
Upper Canada Executive Committee in 1798 recommended that a university
be established in the town of York and that half the education endowment
be used for that purpose. Little was done, however, until after new
colonial governor Sir Peregrine Maitland arrived. In 1819, Maitland,
who had commanded a brigade at Waterloo, referred the issue to his executive
council, and in 1822 he sent a request to England for the use of the
endowment lands for a university.
government, however, appeared to favour the development of a university
in Montreal to serve both Upper and Lower Canada. McGill College had
received its royal charter in 1821, with John Strachan himself having
played a major role in its establishment. In 1807, Strachan had married
the widow of the brother of James McGill, who brought with her a welcome
annuity of £300 a year (Strachan had lavish tastes). Strachan
had helped persuade James McGill to leave his fortune to found an educational
institution. McGill had thought that Strachan would be its first principal,
but Strachan probably felt that he had greater prospects in Upper Canada.
Strachan wanted education
in the province to be conducted by his church's clergy
was asked by Maitland to prepare a document to take to England, outlining
why a university was necessary. As Simcoe had done a quarter of a century
earlier, Strachan warned of the danger faced by sending students to
the United States for their education. In the United States, he wrote,
"politics pervade the whole system of instruction. The school books...
are stuffed with praises of their own institutions, and breathe hatred
to everything English... Some may become fascinated with that liberty
which has degenerated into licentiousness, and imbibe, perhaps unconsciously,
sentiments unfriendly to things of which Englishmen are proud."
Three-quarters of the doctors in the province, he went on to say, had
studied in the United States. Moreover, he wanted to be able to train
Church of England clergy to act as teachers. "It is of the greatest
importance that the education of the Colony should be conducted by the
Clergy," that is, the Church of England clergy.
others would have different ideas on the role of the church in education,
Friedland goes on to write. The resulting "University Question"
would play a central role in Upper Canadian politics for the next 25
years: a debate that would only end with the provincial government's
creation of the more secular University of Toronto on Jan. 1, 1850.
more about early
Ontario history, including John Graves Simcoe, here.
one of John
Strachan's poems here.
More about the University of