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.
University of Toronto had come into existence, and its predecessor,
the Anglican King's College, had ceased to exist, on Jan. 1, 1850.
the man who had secured Toronto's first university charter 23 years
before, the now 71-year-old Bishop John Strachan, started organizing
a campaign for funds for his proposed new Church of England institution,
who had also been president of Toronto's sole university up until 1848,
had given the idea considerable thought over the previous decade, as
he saw the prospects for King's College rise and fall. (He had always
opposed the secularization of education, once calling the non-denominational
University of London an "infidel attempt" and a "godless
imitation of Babel.") Indeed, in as early as 1842 he had written
to the brother of the Duke of Northumberland, proposing to call a new
college "Percy College" if the Percy family would put up the
money. They declined. Several
years later, the attorney general, Henry Sherwood, had offered to introduce
a bill to incorporate the Anglican seminary in Cobourg as a college
or university, "say, Trinity College." Again, nothing came
of the offer. Moreover, Strachan was looking into the possibility that
the British government would disallow the 1849 legislation that created
the University of Toronto, an unrealistic prospect given the new spirit
of responsible government.
Toronto's first university
had been "destroyed... as a Christian institution," Strachan
1850, Strachan sent a letter to members of the Church of England in
Upper Canada, seeking their financial support before he travelled to
England for further support and a royal charter. "On the 1st day
of January, 1850," he wrote, "the destruction of King's College
as a Christian Institution was accomplished
To see it destroyed
by stolid ignorance and presumption, and the voice of prayer and praise
banished from its halls, is a calamity not easy to bear."
pledged £1,000 to the cause. Other substantial pledges followed,
and on April 10, 1850 a large crowd led by Chief Justice John Beverley
Robinson saw him depart for New York to take the steamer Europa to England.
He returned in the autumn of 1850 with considerable private financial
support, but this time without a royal charter. Neither the government
of the colony nor the University of Toronto wanted a second university
in Toronto. A strictly theological college might have been tolerated,
but a university was a different matter.
Trinity College, on Queen Street
had wanted more than a divinity school because he saw Trinity College
as the pinnacle of a system of Church of England education, comparable
to the emerging Roman Catholic system of education in the province.
Encouraged by Robinson, who would become Trinity's first chancellor,
Strachan proceeded with plans to open the college, even though it could
not yet grant degrees.
acres of land were purchased in early 1851 on the north side of Queen
Street - now the Trinity Bellwoods Park - for £2,000. Queen Street
was a fashionable street at the time, with many fine estates along it.
Moreover, it offered a splendid view of the lake and the harbour. Today,
the inelegant Strachan Avenue leads from the property to the lake.
council was formed at about the same time. The architect Kivas Tully
was selected over Frederic Cumberland's firm, which would later build
University College. Tully's previous major work was the Bank of Montreal
- now the Hockey Hall of Fame - at the corner of Yonge and Front streets.
Sod was turned in the spring of 1851, and within two months Bishop Strachan,
as president of the new university, took part in the laying of another
cornerstone. Trinity College opened its doors in a half-completed building
to 30 students on January 15, 1852, about two years after the closing
summer of 1851, the government of the United Province of Canada had
incorporated Trinity College, but it was not until July 1852 that it
received a charter from London, permitting it to grant degrees. By that
time, it was clear that neither Queen's (the Presbyterian institution,
in Kingston) nor Victoria (the Methodist university in Cobourg) would
give up its charter and join the University of Toronto. In these circumstances,
as Strachan forcefully argued, it was hard to deny the Church of England
the similar privilege of a charter. The institution would now be known
formally as the University of Trinity College.
The story that Strachan
insisted Trinity's professors stay celibate appears to be a myth.
to receive their degrees, Trinity College students had to declare allegiance
to the Church of England. Clergymen from Oxford or Cambridge were hired
as professors. It appears to be a myth that Bishop Strachan insisted,
at least in the early periods, that the professors be celibate. In his
opening lecture, Provost George Whitaker, who would be Provost for another
30 years, told the students, "The foundation of this College is
a solemn protest against the separation of religion from education;
we have joined together what others had put asunder."
College would eventually rejoin U of T, in 1904, Friedland explains
later, but it would be another 20 years after that before it moved onto
campus, to its current home on Hoskin Avenue. Trinity is celebrating
its 150th anniversary this week, with a special Founder's Day service
at St. James' Cathedral this Sunday.