Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

from a young Methodist preacher, afterwards of great fame, - Egerton Rye erson, the son of a United Empire loyalist. He pointed out that “the Methodists had no law to secure a foot of land for parsonages, chapels, and the burial of the dead; their ministers were not allowed to solemnize matrimony; and some of them had been the objects of cruel and illegal persecution on the part of magistrates and others in authority.” On the 27th January, 1826, an address to the king was adopted by the legislative assembly, in which the claim was made "that the lands set apart in this province for the maintenance and support of a Protestant clergy ought not to be enjoyed by any one denomination of Protestants to the exclusion of their Christian brethren of other denominations, equally conscientious in their respective modes of worshipping God, and equally entitled, as dutiful and loyal subjects, to the protection of your Majesty's benign and liberal government.” An alteration was now suggested, to the effect that “the clergy reserve fund should be devoted to the advancement of the Christian religion generally, . . . of whatever denomination, or to be applied to the purposes of education and the general improvement of the province.” To this address a reply came from Britain, saying that the reserves had been “specially allotted by the Imperial Parliament to the Established Church." That the unfairness of the contention of those who desired to claim the whole reserve fund was recognized by the imperial authorities is shown by the fact that about this time it was decided to give from the funds arising from the sale of lands to the Canada Company £750 per annum to the Church of Scotland, and £750 to the Roman Catholics in Upper Canada, and these payments were made in 1827. In January of that year a series of strong resolutions passed the assembly by a large majority in favor of the several claimants, but these were again thrown out by the legislative council. The active ecclesiastic who led the movement was not at this time idle. Crossing to England, the “incomparable" doctor succeeded in obtaining a royal charter for an Upper Canadian university, to be called the University of King's College. This, though an entirely sectarian institution, whose every official was required to sign the “Thirty-nine Articles,” was given an endowment of 225,000 acres of wild land, and a grant of £ 1000 a year for sixteen years.

During Dr. Strachan's visit in England he .published a “letter and ecclesiastical chart,” around which raged even a fiercer controversy than in the case of the former chart. Years of agitation were arousing the popular mind in Canada, and the charges of Jesuitry and bad faith were freely brought against the ecclesiastical politician. The popular excitement resulted in an inquiry by the assembly into the truth of the letter and chart, and the decision was given that they were likely to "produce erroneous impressions respecting the religious state of this province and the sentiments of its inhabitants.” This report, dated 1828, states further that the whole province, and not only the loyalists, had passed through a war, “which had put to the proof the loyalty of the people," and declaration was made

[graphic]

the

against the university that "it should not be a school of political or sectarian views.” Another address was forwarded to the king, and the country was stirred to the very centre by public meetings and church courts declaring their views. The new governor, Sir John Colborne, a bigoted partisan, was forced in 1830 to transmit a petition for the dissenting Presbyterian clergymen, and even he was compelled to recommend consideration for “these most diligent ministers.” Year after year, with changing front, this religious battle raged, till in 1836 the country was startled by Sir John Colborne erecting in a clandestine manner, under the clause of the “Constitutional Act” so long held in abeyance, forty-four rectories of the Church of England, and endowing these with extensive and valuable glebe lands. It had been intended to establish fifty-seven rectories, but the plot was discovered before all the patents were signed. The rebellion of the year after, to which we shall recur, was undoubtedly stimulated by this obnoxious course of action, and soon after it had been quelled

controversy assumed a new form. The ruling powers regarded the matter now simply as a difficulty to be adjusted. In 1840 the exclusive claim of the Church of England was denied, and that of all the other bodies of Protestants admitted, by the assembly, but this view was not

An act was, however, passed with the declared purpose of removing the matter from the field of controversy, by vesting the fund from the sale of lands in the “Imperial Parliament for religious purposes.” This anomalous result was reached by the division which had been made between the subtle leader Ryerson and the political leaders of the agitation. Three years after, the revenue from the

reserves proving trifling, Bishop Strachan began an agitation to amend the act of 1840, and Ryerson and the bishop and all the politicians of the country engaged in a most unseemly strife over this religious question. In three years more the bishop proposed to divide the lands among the several religious bodies. This device captured a number of his opponents, and added the charges of treachery to the tumult of the conflict. In four years more the legislature asked the transfer from imperial control to Canada again. In 1853 the transfer to Canada was made, as desired. The liberal ministry was led by Francis Hincks, one of the most determined enemies of church and state in Canada. He had long stood in the front of the battle, and was ready to apply a simple remedy to the clergy reserves difficulty; but his Lower Canadian Roman Catholic allies were afraid to

* After a photograph in Fannings Taylor's Brit. Americans, vol. iii.

[graphic]

taken in England.

SIR FRANCIS HINCKS.

secularize what seemed to them consecrated funds, and popular will, ris. ing in its strength, swept the halting ministry from power. In 1854 the McNab-Morin ministry — loyalists of the highest order — stole the thunder of their divided liberal opponents, and passed an act which secured the life interests of the clergy already receiving grants, and gave the surplus to education.

Thus ended a struggle, long and tedious, and made more so by the craft, instability, and selfishness of those who should have been models of simplicity and sincerity. It was, however, one of those powerful agents which welded the settlers together, and moulded them into a discriminating and liberty-loving people. The Clergy Reserve contest was but one of the incidents in the struggle for freedom against oligarchic rule.

[graphic]

In Lower Canada, as well as in the upper province, the struggle for freedom was going on. No sooner had the echoes of Chrystler's Farm and Chateauguay begun to die out than the spirit of French-Canadian political discontent appeared. Two years after the close of the war there was elected to the speakership of the Lower Canadian assembly a brilliant young French-Canadian, who had commanded a militia corps of his countrymen in the war. This was Louis Papineau. For twenty years, almost with

out interruption, Papineau was speaker LOUIS JOSEPH PAPINEAU.*

of the house and leader of the French

Canadians. During this period of uncertainty, Lord Dalhousie, a stern but honest British general, was governorgeneral, having previously been governor of Nova Scotia. Fearing the dangerous tone of Papineau and his associates, one of whom was Dr. Wolfred Nelson, a Montrealer of United Empire loyalist blood, Lord Dalhousie refused to recognize the popular French-Canadian leader as speaker, and prorogued the assembly. The ensuing ferment led to the transfer of the governor to India, and to the appointment by the imperial parliament of the “ Canada Committee,” which gave in a wise and able report, recommending that the “legislative assemblies and the executive government of Canada (both Upper and Lower) be put on a right footing." All eyes were, however, too blinded with prejudice to adopt this remedy, which would have met the case. In 1832, to quiet public excitement, the British government gave over to the assembly in Lower Canada the control of the local revenue. The opportunity was thus in the hands of the French Canadians to tyrannize over the judges and civil servants, who were chiefly English, by refus

* After a photograph in Fannings Taylor's Brit. Americans, iii. He was born in October, 1789.

[ocr errors]
[graphic]

ing to pay their allowances. Within five years nearly £150,000 of arrears were due on this civil list.

The case was so serious that an imperial commission had been appointed to consider it. In 1834 the French-Canadians had vindicated themselves in a quasi-claim of right by the passage of “ninetytwo resolutions.” Societies were formed by the English-speaking people of Lower Canada called “Constitutional Associations." These sought at the same time to keep up the oligarchic rule and to make themselves the defenders of British connection. The question of loyalty was really not at stake, but the heat of the agitation completely obscured the main questions of liberty.

In 1837 Lord John Russell moved four resolutions in the British parliament, condemning the action of the legislative assembly, and yet preserving the non-elective character of the council, against which principle the Lower Canadians, along with the majority of Upper Canada, loudly inveighed. This action added fuel to the flame. A Lower Canadian journal declared : “Henceforth there must be no peace in the province - no quarter for the plunderers. Agitate! Agitate! Agitate! Destroy the revenue ; denounce the oppressors. Everything is lawful when the fundamental liberties are in danger. The guards die — they never surrender!” During the year of Lord John's resolutions large and excited meetings were held throughout the districts in Lower Canada. At one of these, on the Richelieu River, twelve hundred people were present, and Papineau, the idol of the people, was lauded to the skies, and a fund called the “Papineau tribute” begun for the support of the uncrowned king. A meeting of five thousand persons was held a few months later at St. Charles on the Richelieu, and a “column" with the “cap of liberty” upon it was erected. Young French-Canadians banded themselves into societies called “Sons of Liberty,” and members of the legislative assembly, in token of their disrespect for the ruling powers, appeared in the house dressed in homespun (“étoffe du pays "), thus showing their determination to purchase nothing of British manufacture. The more ardent spirits began to meet secretly to drill; collisions of the “Sons of Liberty” and the “Constitutionalists" took place, and the outlook became so threatening that the bishop, Monseigneur Lartigue, issued a pastoral to soothe the turbulent feelings of his countrymen. The determined soldier Sir John Col

now with headquarters in Montreal, and with almost all the troops from Upper Canada concentrated at that point, forbade drilling, and prepared to crush sedition wherever it should show itself. In November the

At St. Charles and St. Denis bands of insurgents were gathered together. Dr. Nelson at St. Denis made for a time a strong resistance, but afterwards gave way, while at St. Charles, the headquarters of revolt, a bold stand was made, to be, however, ended by the determined attack of Colonel Wetherall. Nelson was taken ; and the leader of the St. Charles rebels escaped, as did also Papineau, to the United States. A few trifling demonstrations northwest of Montreal brought the fiasco to an end.

borne,

blow fell.

Meanwhile, in Upper Canada, the fires of discontent had been burning also. Not only the clergy reserve agitation, but many other grievances, excited the people. The struggle centred in the legislative halls in York. Though the people's parliament had been elected so early as 1824, yet the “Family Compact” began to use the arts well known to tyrants, of misrepresentation, secret plottings, and social disparagement. Against William Lyon Mackenzie, fiery and radical Scotchman as he was, their arms were turned, for Dr. Strachan detested his impulsive fellow-countryman. Mac

kenzie was elected in 1828 to the assembly. But the fiery advocate of the people was more radical than men of the Bidwell and Baldwin type, and so about the year 1830 a line of cleavage began to appear among the opponents of the Family Compact. The wily politician Ryerson also began, as has been already said, to veer about on the Clergy Reserve question. The members of the Family Compact were too experienced and too shrewd to fail in adopting the motto of tyrants older than they: “Divide et impera." In consequence, the Family Compact in 1830 gained

ground, and in the year folWILLIAM L. MACKENZIE.*

lowing passed what

known as the “Everlasting Salary Bill,” by which judges and members of the executive council were made independent as to salary of the vote of the assembly. In the elections for the new assembly, Baldwin, Rolph, and other leaders were defeated, though Mackenzie was elected for the metropolitan county of York. The majority of the house, encouraged by their victory, vented their spleen on the virulent editor by thrice expelling him from the house, though he returned in each case elected by a larger majority than before. Mackenzie was now in the zenith. He was the people's tribune, and on visiting England received the solemn assurance from the British law officers that his expulsion had been thoroughly illegal. Returning to Canada, the martyr was again elected, and followed to the house by a great crowd of his constituents demanding admission; but the same refusal was given by the

* After a likeness in Charles Lindsey's Life and Times of Mackenzie (Toronto, 1863).

[graphic]

was

« AnteriorContinuar »