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.
March 15, 1827, the charter was issued under the Great Seal for
the "establishment of a College
for the education of youth
in the principles of the Christian Religion, and for their instruction
in the various branches of Science and Literature
at or near our
town of York
to continue forever, to be called 'King's College.'"
The university was
to be run by members of the Church of England. Students, however,
could be of any faith.
was to be run by members of the Church of England. The president, the
charter stated, would for "all times" be the archdeacon of
York, who at that time was John Strachan. The governing council would
be made up of seven professors, along with a chancellor and a president.
All members of the council would have to "sign and subscribe"
to the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of the Church of England. Students,
however, could be of any faith.
provision was more liberal than at Oxford or Cambridge and the King's
Colleges in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Strachan later said that
it was "the most open charter for a University that had ever been
granted." The charter, however, was in fact less liberal than the
one granted to McGill College earlier in the decade, which, being in
a largely Catholic province, did not restrict either students or professors
to the Church of England.
It is true
that Strachan did not want the presidency to be necessarily restricted
to the archdeacon of York, but he certainly wanted the holder to be
a Church of England clergyman. Indeed, he probably wanted the president
to be a Church of England cleric from England so that the institution
would have a strong English flavour.
a large tract of 150 acres - between St George Street and Spadina Avenue
- was offered (for the college) by the wealthy Baldwin family for £3,750,
this offer was rejected, and instead the council chose the present site.
It consisted of 150 acres of vacant forest land: 50 acres from Chief
Justice Dummer Powell, 50 acres from D'Arcy Boulton (the owner of the
"Grange"residence, now part of the Art Gallery of Ontario),
and 50 acres from the Elmsley family.
The present site of
the St. George campus was purchased for a sum of £3,750.
properties were obtained for £25 an acre for a total of £3,750,
a sum about equal to the cost of John Strachan's home. Had the university
also purchased and kept the Baldwin property and the remaining Elmsley
property, all of which, including the site actually purchased, could
have been obtained for a little over £10,000, the University of
Toronto's financial future would have been considerably more secure
- perhaps even today.
plans were completed in England by the eminent architect
Thomas Fowler, who was then designing Covent Garden Market. A model
showing a Greek revival design resembling Thomas Jefferson's University
of Virginia was sent to Upper Canada. The plans met with the approval
of the colonial secretary in London.
Fowler design for King's College (1829)
the land was cleared, and stone for the building selected. Title to
a grand avenue 132 feet wide (now University Avenue) leading from Queen
Street to the site where the Parliament Buildings of Ontario now stand
was purchased, and, in addition, a route along the present College Street
was obtained and cleared from Yonge Street to the new site. Strachan
wrote to a friend in Scotland in October 1829, "We have procured
plans - purchased a good site for the building, garden, and pleasure
grounds three quarter of a mile from my house; and we are fencing, clearing,
and planting and shall next summer, I think, commence to put up a portion
of the general design."
Peregrine Maitland's departure from Upper Canada as lieutenant governor
in the fall of 1828, Strachan reported that King's College was about
to open its doors.
was mistaken, of course. The Anglican underpinnings of King's College
would become a heated political issue in early Canadian politics: controversy
delayed construction. The first students, studying in an unused legislative
building, would not be enrolled until 1842. Strachan's college"
limped along" until 1849, writes Friedland, until new legislation
created a new, more secular university for Toronto.