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.
future of the University of Toronto was a major Canadian political
issue in the 1840s, Friedland writes, as Reformers like Robert Baldwin
tried to wrest control of the colony's institutions from the Tory "Family
Compact" and the Anglican Church, during a period of unprecedented
political upheaval in the colony. Meanwhile, the original (and Anglican)
King's College struggled on:
3rd, 1849, Robert Baldwin introduced a bill into the parliament of the
province of Canada to convert King's College into the University of
Toronto. It would completely secularize the university, eliminating
any publicly funded chairs of divinity and all religious tests for any
member of the university, whether student or professor.
Before Baldwin's bill
passed, only Upper Canada College graduates had much chance of admission.
and Victoria and other denominational colleges could affiliate with
the university "with some vague status, perhaps as divinity halls,"
without assured government funding or the power to grant degrees, except
in divinity. If passed, the bill would represent, in the words of historian
J.M.S. Careless, "an entire victory for the forces of secularisation
and centralism in Upper Canadian higher education."
location of King's College, on Front Street between Simcoe and John.
The building was demolished in 1903.
meantime, King's College had been limping along in the unused red-brick
legislative building on Front Street. The south-east wing of its own
building had been completed in 1845 and turned into a residence, with
the Reverend James Beaven in charge. Residence rules were established,
such as one requiring students to be back in the residence before the
gates were closed at 9:30 in the evening during the winter, and others
requiring students to attend a certain number of chapel services. Not
surprisingly, the students complained about the food, one later reminiscing
that "day after day the same pies and puddings made their appearance."
former King's College residence, where the Ontario Legislature
now stands (1886). Before any other of its buildings could be
completed, this first university site was repossessed by the province
after the Baldwin Bill passed, and construction started anew with
the building of University College to its west.
borrowed heavily from that of Trinity College, Dublin, the school from
which the Reverend John McCaul and several others had graduated. A number
of scholarships were established, including one from the Duke of Wellington,
who donated £500 worth of shares in the Welland Canal Company
for that purpose. The students were overwhelmingly Anglicans - 22 of
the first 26 students - and entrance examinations to the college were
so demanding that only graduates of Upper Canada College had much chance
of admission. In order to gain admission, it was said, students would
have had to know "nearly all the chief classics of ancient times."
Second reading of
Baldwin's university bill had to be postponed when a mob burned
down the assembly building.
Bill creating the University of Toronto was introduced into the assembly,
then meeting in the long, plain St. Anne's Market building in Montreal.
Baldwin said the bill would ensure "the abolishment of every religious
observance which could possibly prove offensive to any portion of the
students attending the University." Before the bill could reach
second reading, however, the market was deliberately burned down by
a Tory mob angered by Lord Elgin's signing of the contentious Rebellion
Losses Bill (designed to compensate those whose property was damaged
in the revolt in Lower Canada) and the apparent rise of French power
over the British minority in Canada East. Elgin reported to the Colonial
Secretary about "this thin crust of order which... covers the anarchical
elements that boil and toss beneath our feet."
finally passed by a vote of 44 to 14 and became law on May 30, 1849.
The University of Toronto came into existence on January 1, 1850. The
1906 Royal Commission on the University would call the legislation the
"real charter of the institution." Along with the 1853 amendments,
it formed the foundation for the governing of the University for more
than fifty years. King's College ceased to exist.