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PROVINCIAL BOARD OF EDUCATION
recognized as in existence or about to be appointed by the lieutenant-governor for the superintendence of education, but it is not specifically constituted by the act, nor are its powers defined other than in the matter of the purchase of the books for Sunday schools. It seems, therefore, that the appointment of this board and the definition of its powers was a matter of executive and not legislative authority. Its initiation by communication with the colonial office points in the same direction."
On the incoming of the new legislative assembly elected in 1824, we thus find an educational system in existence, directed or supervised by district and provincial boards appointed by the lieutenant-governor, and at the head of the system the Reverend John Strachan, D.D., as chairman of the provincial board. The next steps in the development of this system were the university charter of 1827, and the founding of Upper Canada College in 1829; but as these enter into the struggle for equal rights, which began in deadly earnest the next year, and in which Mr. Ryerson was henceforth to take part as a prominent actor, we need not consider them in this preliminary review of the initial situation.
1 An incidental circumstance, showing the trend or intent of movements at this time, is the petition of Dr. Strachan in 1818 for legislative aid for theological students.
THE BEGINNING OF THE STRUGGLE FOR
R. STRACHAN, in one of his published
papers, refers to the year 1820 as a memorable one in the history of Upper Canada. The reason for this was the erection of the clergy of the Church of England into a body corporate, and their control of the clergy reserves. This, with his own personal accession to power and the hold which he was gradually securing on the educational work of the country, evidently made him sanguine of success in the prosecution of his far-reaching policy of making the Church of England the established and endowed, and so the dominant church of the young province, controlling the religious life and education of the whole people. The era is indeed memorable in the history of Upper Canada, but for just the opposite reason. It is the period from which dates the awakening of the people to a full sense of their political and religious danger, and the beginning of that struggle which finally resulted in the overthrow of the Strachan policy and the complete civil and religious emancipation of the province. For this result two things were necessary: the people must be aroused, and competent leaders must be found. The first of these needed elements was furnished by the ruling party, even the wise and far-seeing Strachan himself contributing an essential part of the stimulus which goaded the people into strenuous self-defence. From this period we may date the beginning of distinct party life and spirit in the politics of the province, and this life was created, not by academic theory, nor by the assembly of a convention, or the formation of a platform, or the election of political leaders. It was the spontaneous revolt of manly independence both in church and state against unjust and arrogant assumptions and cruel wrongs. .
As we are not attempting the political history of the province we cannot enter into the detailed statement of these wrongs, or of the political evils which culminated at this period. It will be sufficient to mention a few events which combined to awaken the mind of the whole province to a true sense of the situation. It took not a little to do this. The Upper Canadians were a loyal people. The olderand on the whole, more influential-families were United Empire Loyalists. No stronger appeal could be made than to their loyalty. The war of 1812 had continued and strengthened this feeling. Since the war, here and there a bolder spirit had called in question wrong-doing in high places, or had claimed recognition for the just rights of the people. The school bill of 1816 was one concession to such rights. But the voice of this party was constantly
POLITICAL LEADERSHIP hushed by the cry of disloyalty set up against all who dared to call in question the policy or acts of the ruling power; and without leadership and cohesion the voice of the people was as “one crying in the wilderness.” Besides all this the people were too busy with the hard necessities of life to give the needed time and energy to these things. The first event which contributed to the awakening of the people was the prosecution and imprisonment of Gourlay, and his banishment from the country after his harsh treatment in prison had reduced him to shattered senility. The story has been told with thrilling effect by Dent, and the feelings stirred by its recital to-day are but a reflection of those aroused in the country at the time.
The election contests of Barnabas Bidwell followed, and, extending over two years or more, served to perpetuate the feelings aroused and to give them a more decidedly political direction. The Appleton case following awakened interest in the educational aspects of the question. Finally the sermon preached by Dr. Strachan on the occasion of the death of Bishop Mountain aroused the religious feeling of the entire body of the people who were not attached to the Church of England. This sermon, the immediate occasion of calling Mr. Ryerson into the field, will require fuller attention presently.
In the meantime we must deal with the more immediate effects of the general political awakening caused by these events. These effects were