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Title: Egerton Ryerson and Education in Upper Canada
Author: Putnam, J. Harold
Language: English
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  Education in Upper Canada


  J. HAROLD PUTMAN, B.A., D.Paed.,

  Inspector of Public Schools, Ottawa, Ont.

  (Formerly in charge of the Departments in Psychology and
  English, Ottawa Normal School)


  Copyright, Canada, 1912, by


The object of this volume is to give a succinct idea of the nature and
history of our Ontario School Legislation. This legislation is so bound
up with the name of Egerton Ryerson that to give its history is to
relate the work of his life.

It would be useless to attempt to show how our school legislation
developed under Responsible Government without some understanding of its
history previous to the time of Ryerson. I have, therefore, devoted
three chapters to a brief account of education in Upper Canada previous
to 1844.

No attempt has been made to give the history of our schools since
Ryerson's retirement, partly because no radical changes have been made,
and partly because it would involve criticism of statesmen and teachers
who are still actively engaged in work. Nor has any attempt been made to
trace the history of University education after 1845. To do so would
require a complete volume. But, as University education prior to 1844
was so closely connected with Common and Grammar Schools, it seemed
necessary, up to a certain point, to trace the course of all three

The introductory chapter on the biography of Ryerson is only indirectly
connected with the other chapters, and may be omitted by the reader who
has no interest in the man himself.

It is hoped that this volume may encourage teachers in service and
teachers in training to acquire a fuller knowledge of their own
educational institutions.

                                                    THE AUTHOR.

OTTAWA, July 1st, 1912.


  CHAPTER                                                 PAGE

     I.  Biographical                                        7

    II.  Education in Upper Canada from 1783 to 1844        33

   III.  Education in Upper Canada from 1783 to 1844--
              (_Continued_)                                 58

    IV.  Education in Upper Canada from 1783 to 1844--
              (_Continued_)                                 83

     V.  Ryerson's First Report on a System of Elementary
               Instruction                                 110

    VI.  Ryerson's School Bill of 1846                     123

   VII.  The Ryerson Bill of 1850                          144

  VIII.  Ryerson and Separate Schools                      173

    IX.  Ryerson and Grammar Schools                       204

     X.  Ryerson and the Training of Teachers              232

    XI.  Ryerson School Bill of 1871                       257

   XII.  Conclusion                                        264

         Bibliography                                      269

Egerton Ryerson and Education in Upper Canada



Egerton Ryerson was born in 1803, in the township of Charlotteville, now
a part of the county of Norfolk. His father was a United Empire Loyalist
who had held some command in a volunteer regiment of New Jersey. After
the Revolution the elder Ryerson settled first in New Brunswick, coming
later to Upper Canada, where he took up land and became a pioneer
farmer. The young Ryersons, of whom there were several, took their full
share in the laborious farm work, and Egerton seems to have prided
himself upon his physical strength and his skill in all farm operations.

He received such an education as was afforded by the indifferent Grammar
School of the London District, supplemented by the reading of whatever
books he could secure.

At an early age he was strongly drawn toward that militant Christianity
preached by the early Methodist Circuit Riders, and at the age of
eighteen joined the Methodist Society. This step created an estrangement
between Ryerson and his father, who already had two sons in the
Methodist ministry. Ryerson left home and became usher in the London
District Grammar School, where he remained two years, when his father
sent for him to come home. After some further farming experience, the
young man went to Hamilton to attend the Gore District Grammar School.
He was already thinking of becoming a Methodist preacher, and wished to
prepare himself by a further course of study. During his stay in
Hamilton under the instruction of John Law, he worked so eagerly at
Latin and Greek that he fell ill of a fever which nearly ended his

When barely twenty-two years of age he decided to travel as a Methodist

In a letter written about this time to his brother, the Rev. George
Ryerson, we get a glimpse of the young preacher's ideas upon the
preparation of sermons. "On my leisure days I read from ten to twenty
verses of Greek a day besides reading history, the Scriptures, and the
best works on practical divinity, among which Chalmers has decidedly the
preference in my mind both for piety and depth of thought. These two
last studies employ the greatest part of my time. My preaching is
altogether original. I endeavour to collect as many ideas from every
source as I can; but I do not copy the expression of anyone, for I do
detest seeing blooming flowers in dead men's hands. I think it my duty
and I try to get a general knowledge and view of any subject that I
discuss beforehand; but not unfrequently I have tried to preach with
only a few minutes' previous reflection."[1]

[1] See "Story of My Life," by Ryerson, edited by Hodgins, page 42.

After being received into the Methodist connection as a probationer,
Ryerson was assigned a charge on Yonge St., which embraced the town of
York and several adjacent townships. It took four weeks on horseback and
on foot over almost impassable roads to complete the circuit. During
this time the probationer was expected to conduct from twenty-five to
thirty-five services. The accommodation furnished by the pioneers was of
the rudest kind, but the people gave the travelling preacher a hearty
welcome. Young Ryerson was acquainting himself with conditions in Upper
Canada at first hand by living among the people. At a later time, when
the opportunity came, he made use of his intimate knowledge to secure
for these people the advantages of better schools.

During this first year of his missionary ministry, Ryerson was drawn
into the Clergy Reserves controversy. The Methodist Society in Upper
Canada was an offshoot of that body in the United States. This
connection had come about in a very natural way. Upper Canada was
largely settled by United Empire Loyalists. The Methodist circuit-riders
naturally followed their people into the wilds of Upper Canada. In many
districts no religious services of any kind were held except those of
the Methodists.

In May, 1826, a pamphlet was published, being a sermon preached by
Archdeacon Strachan, of York, on the occasion of the death of the Bishop
of Quebec. This pamphlet contained an historical sketch of the rise and
progress of the Anglican Church in Canada. The claim was made that the
Anglican Church was by law the Established Church of Upper Canada. The
Methodists were singled out and held up to ridicule. They were
represented as American and disloyal. Their preachers were declared to
be ignorant and spreaders of sedition, and the Imperial Parliament was
petitioned to grant £300,000 a year to the Anglican Church in Canada to
enable it to maintain the loyalty of Upper Canada to Britain.

To Ryerson, the son of a Loyalist, this was more than could be borne,
and he immediately crossed swords with the Anglican prelate by writing a
defence of Methodism and calling into question the exclusive demands
made by Strachan on behalf of the Anglicans. The contest waxed warm and
then hot. The whole country was convulsed. Within four years the
Legislature of Upper Canada passed Acts allowing the various religious
denominations to hold lands for churches, parsonages, and
burying-grounds, and also allowing their ministers to solemnize
marriages. Besides these concessions, the Legislative Assembly was
forced by public opinion to petition the Imperial Parliament against the
claims of the Anglican Church to be an Established Church in Canada and
to a monopoly of the Clergy Reserves.

During his second year in the ministry, Ryerson spent part of his time
on a mission to the Chippewa Indians on the Credit River. While there,
he showed himself to be very practical. He encouraged the Indians to
build better houses and to clear and cultivate the land.[2] "After
having collected the means necessary to build the house of worship and
schoolhouse, I showed the Indians how to enclose and make gates for
their gardens. Between daylight and sunrise I called out four of the
Indians in succession and showed them how, and worked with them, to
clear and fence in, and plow and plant their first wheat and corn
fields. In the afternoon I called out the schoolboys to go with me and
cut and pile and burn the underbrush in and around the village. The
little fellows worked with great glee as long as I worked with them, but
soon began to play when I left them."

[2] See "Story of My Life," by Egerton Ryerson, edited by Hodgins, page

A letter written by Rev. William Ryerson to his brother, the Rev. George
Ryerson, on March 8th, 1827, after a visit to the Indian Mission, shows
Egerton Ryerson's practical nature and incidentally gives us his method
of instruction. "I visited Egerton at the Credit last week.... They have
about forty pupils on the list, but there were only thirty present. The
rest were absent making sugar.... Their progress in spelling, reading,
and writing, is astonishing, but especially in writing, which certainly
exceeds anything I ever saw. When I was there they were fencing the lots
in the village in a very neat, substantial manner. On my arrival at the
Mission I found Egerton, about half a mile from the village, stripped to
the shirt and pantaloons, clearing land with between twelve and twenty
of the little Indian boys, who were all engaged in chopping and picking
up the brush."[3]

[3] See "Story of My Life," page 69.

At the Methodist Conference of 1827, Ryerson was sent to the Cobourg
Circuit. During his term there he was again drawn into a controversy
with Dr. Strachan, who sent to the Imperial Parliament an Ecclesiastical
Chart, purporting to give an account of religion in Upper Canada.
Ryerson claimed that this chart contained many false statements and
that it was peculiarly unfair to the Methodists. The real point at issue
was whether the Anglican Church was to become the Established Church of
Upper Canada.

In 1828, Ryerson was appointed to the Hamilton and Ancaster Circuit,
which reached from within five miles of Brantford to Stoney Creek. On
September 10th, 1828, he married Hannah Aikman, of Hamilton.[4]

[4] Died in 1832. In 1833, Ryerson married Mary Armstrong, of Toronto.

The Methodist Conference of 1829 determined to establish an official
newspaper to be known as _The Christian Guardian_. Ryerson was elected
as the first editor and was sent to New York to procure the plant. The
paper started with a circulation of 500, which in three years was
increased to some 3,000. Besides defending Methodist principles and
institutions, the paper made a strong stand for civil liberty,
temperance, education, and missionary work. It soon came to be looked
upon as one of the leading journals of Upper Canada. Ryerson gave up the
position of editor in 1832, and the following year made a trip to
England to negotiate a union between the Canadian Methodist Conference
and the Wesleyan Conference of England. The union was consummated.
Ryerson returned to Canada and was re-elected editor of the _Guardian_.

While in England, he had interviews with Earl Ripon, Lord Stanley and
other public men, to whom he gave valuable information concerning
Canadian affairs, especially those connected with the vexed question of
the status of the Anglican Church.

On his return to Canada, in 1833, Ryerson published in the _Guardian_
"Impressions Made by My Late Visit to England." In this article he gave
his estimate of Tories, Whigs, and Radicals. He saw much to admire in
the moderate Tories, little to praise in the Whigs, and much to condemn
in the Radicals. His strictures on the latter called down upon him the
wrath and invective of William Lyon Mackenzie. To some extent Ryerson's
articles led the constitutional reformers in Upper Canada to separate
themselves from those reformers who were prepared to establish a
republican form of government in order to secure equal political and
civil rights. To many of his old friends it seemed that Ryerson had
given up championing liberty and had become a Tory. Many were ready to
accuse him of self-seeking in his desire to conciliate the party of
privilege. One reverend brother,[5] writing to him, says: "I can only
account for your strange and un-Ryersonian conduct and advice on one
principle--that there is something ahead which you, through your
superior political spy-glass, have discovered and thus shape your
course, while we landlubbers, short-sighted as we are, have not even
heard of it." Hundreds of subscribers gave up the _Guardian_ as a
protest against the views of its editor, but as the crisis approached
which culminated in the Rebellion of '37 and '38, the tide of public
opinion turned in Ryerson's favour.

[5] Rev. Jas. Evans, of Niagara District. See part of letter in "Story
of My Life," page 131.

In 1835, Ryerson gave up the _Guardian_ and took a church at Kingston.
Scarcely was he settled when he undertook a second visit to England. The
Methodists had, in 1832, laid the corner-stone of the Upper Canada
Academy at Cobourg. They had no charter, although an unsuccessful
attempt had been made to have the Trustee Board incorporated by the
Legislature of Upper Canada. Extensive buildings were under way and the
trustees were in financial difficulties. Ryerson was sent to England to
beg subscriptions and also to attempt to secure a Royal Charter. The
work was distasteful to him, but he persevered, and after more than a
year and six months spent in England he accomplished three ends. He
secured enough money in subscriptions to relieve the most pressing
immediate needs of the Trustee Board. He secured an order from the
Colonial Secretary directed to the Governor of Upper Canada, authorizing
him to pay to the Upper Canada Academy, from the unappropriated
revenues of the Crown, the sum of £4,000.[6] Last, and most important,
he secured a Royal Charter, although up to that time no such charter had
ever been issued to any religious body except the Established Church. To
Ryerson, the visit to England was of prime importance. It gave him a
broadened view of British institutions and English public men. It gave
him a political experience that was of great value to him in later
years. It gave him an opportunity to appeal to his fellow men upon the
subject of education and educational institutions.

[6] Later, in 1837, Ryerson secured this money only after a petition to
the Legislature.

While in England, Ryerson contributed a series of letters to the London
_Times_ on Canadian affairs. There was a prevalent feeling in England
that a very large part of the Upper Canadian people was determined upon
a republican form of government. Ryerson's letters did something to
remove this impression.

After the Rebellion of 1837 was crushed, the constitutional reform party
was apparently without any influence. It seemed that the Family Compact
oligarchy would have everything in their own hands. Prospects for
equality of civil and religious liberty were not bright, and it is
significant of the Methodists' appreciation of Ryerson's ability that
they immediately planned to make him again editor of the _Guardian_.
His brother John, writing to him in March, 1838, said: "It is a great
blessing that Mackenzie and radicalism are down, but we are in imminent
danger of being brought under the domination of a military and
high-church oligarchy which would be equally bad, if not infinitely
worse. Under the blessing of Providence, there is one remedy and only
one: that is for you to take the editorship of the _Guardian_ again."[7]

[7] See copy of letter in "Story of My Life," page 200.

Ryerson did take the position, and in his first editorial in the
_Guardian_ of the 11th July, 1838, says: "Notwithstanding the almost
incredible calumny which has in past years been heaped upon me by
antipodes-party-presses, I still adhere to the principles and views upon
which I set out in 1826. I believe the endowment of the priesthood of
any Church in the Province to be an evil to that church.... I believe
that the appropriation of the proceeds of the Clergy Reserves to general
educational purposes will be the most satisfactory and advantageous
disposal of them that can be made. In nothing is this Province so
defective as in the requisite available provisions for an efficient
system of general education. Let the distinctive character of that
system be the union of public and private effort.... To Government
influence will be spontaneously added the various and combined
religious influences of the country in the noble, statesmanlike and
divine work of raising up an elevated, intelligent, and moral

Dr. Ryerson clearly saw that religion, politics, and education could not
at this period be separated, and for the next two years he did his
utmost, through the _Guardian_, to prevent the Anglican Church from
securing undivided possession of the Clergy Reserves. The difficulties
of his task were increased by the fact that there were in Canada several
British Wesleyan missionaries who were not unwilling to see an Anglican
Establishment. They were cleverly used by some of the Anglicans and
their friends to cause ferment and sow discord among the Methodists in
Canada. From 1838 until 1840, when he finally gave up the editorship of
the _Guardian_, Ryerson fought strongly for equal religious privileges
for all the people of Upper Canada. Nor were Ryerson's efforts in this
direction confined to the columns of the _Guardian_. He addressed
several communications to the new Colonial Secretary, Lord Normanby.

Lord Durham and his successor, Lord Sydenham, received the cordial
support of Ryerson in their efforts to give a constitutional government
to Canada. Largely through Ryerson's suggestion there was issued at
Toronto, in 1841, the _Monthly Review_, which was to be a medium for
disseminating the liberal views of Sydenham. Ryerson wrote the
prospectus and contributed some articles. Probably as a recognition for
this work, Sydenham sent him a draft for £100, which he promptly

In May, 1840, Ryerson paid a fraternal visit to the American General
Conference at Baltimore. At this time he fully purposed to take a church
in New York City for one or two years. He even thought it quite possible
that he might make the United States his permanent home. On his return
to Canada from the Baltimore visit he was elected Secretary of the
Conference. Charges were made against him by a British Wesleyan which
determined him to visit England. This visit led to a rupture between the
Canadian and British Methodist Conferences. When Ryerson and his brother
returned to Canada, a special meeting of the Canada Conference was
convened to consider the break with British Methodism. The result was a
rupture in the Canadian Wesleyan Conference itself. Many blamed the
Ryersons for the quarrel with the English Conference, and Egerton again
thought seriously of going to the United States or of withdrawing from
ministerial work. The truth seems to be that Ryerson was more than a
preacher. He lived in stirring times, when the nascent elements of
constitutional government were in process of crystallization. He
unconsciously felt that he must have a part in directing the destinies
of his native country. He saw clearly that the Canadian Methodist Church
must ultimately be independent and that its ministers ought not to adopt
a policy dictated to them by the English Conference, many members of
which were wholly ignorant of Canadian conditions.

During the next two years, 1841 and 1842, Ryerson was in charge of the
Adelaide Street Church, Toronto. He seems to have given himself up
wholly to his pastoral work and to have taken little active part in
passing events.

On the 27th of August, 1841, Lord Sydenham signed a bill which made
Upper Canada Academy a college, with university powers. The name was
changed to Victoria College. In October of the same year, Ryerson was
appointed the first principal of the new college. He did not give up his
church work until June, 1842. On the 21st of that month he was formally
installed in his new position. On the 3rd of August the Wesleyan
University of Middletown, Conn., conferred upon him the degree of Doctor
of Divinity.

Lord Sydenham died in 1841. It seems that shortly before his death he
had some communication with Ryerson regarding the latter's appointment
as Superintendent of Education for Upper Canada. Ryerson claimed that
the Governor actually promised him the appointment but that there had
never been any official written record. Sydenham was succeeded by Sir
Charles Bagot, who in May, 1842, made the Rev. Mr. Murray Superintendent
of Education. Sir Charles Bagot died in May, 1843, and was succeeded by
Sir Charles Metcalfe. It was a critical period in the history of Canada.
The people were supposed to be in possession of the enjoyment of
responsible government. But as a matter of fact, very few had any
definite ideas as to what was meant by responsible government. Lord
Metcalfe refused to accept the advice of his Council regarding an
appointment. Instead of resigning at once as a protest they attempted to
secure from him a promise that he would in future accept their
recommendations. He refused. Later the leading members of the Council
resigned. Party feeling ran high, and the Governor had few friends.

Ryerson had been upon familiar terms with Lord Durham, Lord Sydenham,
and Sir Charles Bagot. He now had several communications and one or more
interviews with Lord Metcalfe. He made direct and positive offers of his
services to the Governor. He then wrote a series of nine letters in
vindication of the Governor's course. These letters caused much
excitement and won for Ryerson the lasting enmity of the advanced
Reform party, who openly accused him of toadyism and of selling his
support to Lord Metcalfe in return for the promise of office. Whatever
may have been the effect of Ryerson's letters, Lord Metcalfe's party won
a temporary victory and Ryerson himself was appointed Superintendent of
Education for Upper Canada in October, 1844.

To show how the political opponents of Lord Metcalfe viewed Ryerson's
appointment, the circumstances connected with it and his fitness for the
position of Superintendent, I quote from the Toronto _Globe_, the editor
of which was an out-and-out opponent of Ryerson and an unsparing critic
of his early educational legislation. In the _Globe_ of May 28th, 1844,
there appeared a letter signed "Junius," protesting against Ryerson's
appointment. The writer insinuates that Ryerson was won over by
receiving some notice from Lord Metcalfe, and that the Governor hoped by
winning over Ryerson to win a united support from the Methodists. He
calls Ryerson a violent political partisan and taunts him with having
only a superficial education. He says: "Nor is it flattering to the many
learned men of the country that one represented to be of slender
attainments in a few common branches of English education, and totally
ignorant of mathematics and classics, should be entrusted with the
education of the country, many of whose youthful scholars have attained
higher knowledge than their chief."

In a _Globe_ editorial of June 4th, 1844, in commenting upon Ryerson's
first letter in defence of Lord Metcalfe, the writer says: "If the Rev.
Mr. Ryerson's appearance in the political field is indecorous and
uncalled for, the manner in which he has begun his work is in perfect
keeping with that appearance. A more presumptuous and egotistical
exhibition from a man of talents and education has never been brought
under the public eye. The first column alone of his Address [preface to
letters in defence of Lord Metcalfe] contains fifty repetitions of the
little insignificant word _I_, to say nothing of _me_ and _my_.... We
may be permitted to express our utter astonishment, however, to find a
minister of the Gospel embarking with so much eagerness in the sea of

That Ryerson had a very good understanding with Lord Metcalfe as to the
position of Superintendent of Education before writing the famous
letters is apparent to anyone who reads the correspondence. That there
was anything discreditable to either party in that understanding has
never been shown. On the contrary, it seems quite certain that Ryerson
honestly believed the Governor was right. It is certain he made out a
strong case and likely won many supporters for the Metcalfe party. This
was especially galling to the party who called themselves _Reformers_,
because they had looked upon Ryerson as one of their champions. But
Ryerson never had been, and never became, a mere party man. He fought
for great principles, and if up to 1844 he had generally found himself
with the Reformers, it was because they were championing what Ryerson
believed to be the right.

To taunt him with being half-educated was the mark of a small mind.
Every man must be judged according to the way he makes use of his
opportunities, and by such a standard no man in Canadian public life has
ever measured higher than Egerton Ryerson. He may have known "little
Latin and less Greek," he may have been wholly ignorant of the binomial
theorem, and he may not have been able to write as smooth and graceful
English as the classical scholars of Oxford, but he knew that thousands
of boys and girls in the backwoods of Upper Canada were growing up in
ignorance; he knew that the secondary schools of Upper Canada were
scarcely more efficient than they had been thirty years before, and he
knew that the country had ample resources to give reasonable educational
advantages to all. More than this, he must have felt that, given
reasonable freedom and support, he could in a short time change the
whole system of education.

Dr. Ryerson, in accepting appointment, stipulated that he should be
allowed to make a tour of Europe before taking up the active duties of
his office. He left Canada for Europe in November, 1844, and returned in
December, 1845. He made an elaborate report[8] based on personal
investigation into the schools of Great Britain and Ireland, France,
Holland, Germany, Switzerland, and other European countries, besides New
York and the New England States. Perhaps the systems of Ireland,
Germany, and Massachusetts gave Ryerson more practical suggestions than
those of any other countries. In Prussia he saw the advantages of
trained teachers and a strong central bureau of administration; in
Ireland he saw a simple solution of religious difficulties and a fine
system of national textbooks; in Massachusetts he saw an efficient
system managed by popularly elected boards of trustees.

[8] See Chapter V.

During his absence Ryerson was again attacked and held up to ridicule by
the _Globe_. In an editorial of April 29th, 1845,[9] we find the
following: "The vanity of the Deputy Superintendent of Education demands
fresh incense at every turn. He has doffed the politician for the moment
and now comes out a ruling pedagogue of Canada. What a pity that he was
not a cardinal or at least a stage representative of one! At what a rate
would he strut upon the boards as Wolsey and rant for the benefit of his
hearers and for his own benefit more especially! He beats all the
presumptuous meddling priests of the day.... Doubtless the Rev. Mr.
Ryerson is preparing to astonish the world by his educational researches
in Europe and the United States. It will be a subject of no small
amusement to watch his pranks. We shall no doubt hear of his visiting
all the most celebrated Continental schools and are astonished he did
not call at Oxford and Cambridge. He could no doubt have given them some
excellent hints!"

[9] See bound volumes of _Globe_ in Legislative Library, Toronto.

In a _Globe_ editorial of December 16th, 1845, when the Draper
University Bill of that year was yet a topic of public discussion, we
find this reference to Ryerson: "It is now more than twelve months since
the Province was insulted by the appointment of Dr. Ryerson to the
responsible situation of Superintendent of Public Instruction. To hide
the gross iniquity of the transaction, Ryerson was sent out of the
country on pretence of inquiring into the different systems of
education. After being several months in England this public officer,
paid by the people of Canada, has for the last eight months been on the
Continent on a tour of pleasure.... Let the people of Canada rejoice
and every Methodist willing to be sold throw up his cap. Ryerson is here
ready to dispose of them to the highest bidder, the purchase money to be
applied to his own benefit with a modicum for Victoria College."

Ryerson's report of 1846 was favourably received, and the Government
asked him to draft a school bill based on his report. This he did, and
the Bill of 1846 became the basis of our Common School system. After
Lord Metcalfe's departure from Canada and the election of a Reform
administration, there was a clamour from strong party men that Ryerson
should be removed. The Toronto _Globe_ led in the attacks against him.
It is a tribute to his ability and to the system of education which he
proposed, that these attacks all failed and that Dr. Ryerson came by
degrees to command the confidence of both political parties.

As soon as possible after his return from Europe in 1845, Ryerson moved
from Cobourg to Toronto. When appointed in 1844, his rank was that of
Deputy or Assistant Superintendent of Education for Upper Canada, the
nominal head of the Department being the Provincial Secretary. The
School Bill of 1846 made a change, and on June 17th of that year Ryerson
received his commission as Superintendent of Education. One of his first
acts was a proposal to found a journal of education, which should be a
semi-official means of communication between the Superintendent on the
one hand and District Superintendents, Trustees, Municipal Councillors,
and teachers on the other. The "Journal" was established in 1848 and
regularly issued until Ryerson gave up office in 1876.

In the autumn of 1847, Ryerson spent nearly three months visiting County
School Conventions, where he explained the new School Act and delivered
a lecture upon "The Importance of Education to an Agricultural People."
In 1850, Ryerson began a struggle for free schools which lasted until
1871. About the same time he obtained permission from the Legislature to
establish an Educational Depository in connection with the Education
Department. He visited Europe and some American cities and made very
advantageous arrangements for securing in large quantities books, maps,
globes, and other school appliances. These were supplied to School
Boards at 50 cents on the dollar. The Depository was continued in
operation until 1881 and handled in all $1,000,000 worth of supplies. In
1853 Ryerson spent three months in attending County Conventions and
addressed thirty meetings. During this tour he visited his native county
of Norfolk, and at Simcoe was presented with an address by the School
Board. On his return to Toronto he was presented with an address and a
silver tea service by the officials of the Education Department and the
teachers of the Normal School.

In 1853, Ryerson took advantage of an annual grant made by the
Legislature in 1850 to establish public libraries throughout the
Province. Before the end of 1855 no less than 117,000 volumes were
distributed. In 1854 Ryerson was one of the Commissioners to prepare a
report on a system of education for New Brunswick. In June, 1855, being
in poor health, he got leave of absence to travel in Europe and to
purchase objects of art for an educational museum. He was appointed
Honorary Commissioner to the Paris Exposition by the Government. During
his tour he visited London, spent several weeks in Paris, and made brief
visits to Antwerp, Brussels, Munich, Florence, and Rome.

In 1857, a new system of audit was adopted by the Government. Previous
to this time the total money voted for schools for Upper Canada had been
paid over to Ryerson. He gave bondsmen as security for the money and
deposited it in the Toronto banks. Interest allowed on unexpended
balances was credited to his personal account. This system seems to have
been universal among officers in charge of public money at that time.
But in 1857 the new auditor called in question Ryerson's right to this
interest. After much wrangling, Ryerson paid over to the Government
£1,375, being the amount he had received for interest. He then put in a
claim of about the same amount for his expenses to Europe in 1844, and
for amounts paid a deputy during his absence. The Government paid his
claim, thus showing that they believed him morally entitled to the
interest which he had repaid.

In 1860, Ryerson made a three months' educational tour, addressing
County Conventions. In all, he attended thirty-five meetings, giving
addresses on the subjects of "Vagrant Children," "Free Schools," and
"Public Grammar Schools." He was given a public dinner by the teachers
of Northumberland and Durham on the occasion of his official visit to
Cobourg. In 1866 he made a similar tour, addressing forty meetings in
seven weeks. His chief object was to create public opinion in favor of
legislation on compulsory attendance, public libraries and township
Boards of Trustees. Later in the same year he again got permission to
visit Europe for the purpose of adding to the museum and collecting
information on schools for the deaf, dumb, and blind. He visited New
York, London, Paris, Rome, Venice, and Geneva, returning in 1867. On his
return he presented to the Legislature an elaborate report on education
in Great Britain and European countries. In December, 1868, Ryerson
tendered his resignation, suggesting that a responsible Minister of
Education should be appointed and proposing that he himself should be
superannuated. The resignation was not accepted.

In 1869 he held another series of County Conventions. In the same year
he wrote a letter to the Provincial Secretary, Hon. M. C. Cameron,
reflecting on the action of Treasurer E. B. Wood in regard to a proposed
change in the financial management of the Education Department.
Ryerson's letter was indiscreet and would have led to his dismissal had
he not withdrawn it. In 1872 the long-smouldering dissatisfaction of the
Reform party with Ryerson's administration came to a head. The
Honourable Edward Blake was Premier, and his Government disallowed some
of Ryerson's regulations, questioned the authority of the Council of
Public Instruction, and sought in many ways to curtail the
Superintendent's power. Ryerson showed very little desire for
conciliation and wished to refer the dispute to the Courts. He had so
long and so successfully wielded an arbitrary power that he could not
acquiesce in the system which made his Department subordinate to a
responsible Cabinet. In 1873, Oliver Mowat became Attorney-General, and
he, too, found Ryerson obdurate. Finally, as a result of this agitation,
the Council of Public Instruction came to be composed partly of members
elected by various bodies of teachers and partly by members appointed
by the Cabinet. These latter were not recommended by the Superintendent,
as had formerly been the custom. Friction over the Council continued
during 1874 and 1875.

In 1876, Ryerson was retired on his full salary of $4,000 a year. The
following May he went to England to consult documents in the library of
the British Museum bearing on his work, "The Loyalists of America." He
enjoyed fairly good health until within a few months of his death, which
occurred on February 19th, 1882. The Government recognized his valuable
services by a grant of $10,000 to his widow. On the 24th of May, 1889, a
statue to his memory was unveiled on the grounds of the Education
Department, the scene of his labours for nearly forty years.



Immediately after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1783,
United Empire Loyalists began to make homes in Upper Canada. The Great
Lakes and larger rivers were the natural highways. It happened,
therefore, that the earliest settlements were along the St. Lawrence,
the Niagara, and Lakes Erie and Ontario.

For a few years these settlers were too busy to think very much about
schools. Man's first wants are food, clothing, and shelter. But just as
soon as rude homes were built and a patch of forest cleared upon which
to grow grain and vegetables, these Upper Canadian Loyalists began to
think of schools. It was natural that they should do so. They were
descendants of an intelligent stock, people who had good schools in New
England and of a people whose forefathers had enjoyed liberal
educational advantages in the old world.

Governor Simcoe reached Upper Canada in 1792, and almost immediately
took steps to establish schools. He was an aristocrat who firmly
believed in such a constitution of society as then existed in the old
world. He naturally wished to see a reproduction of that society in the
new world. Hence we are not surprised to find that his educational
schemes were intended for the classes rather than for the masses. In a
letter[10] written by Simcoe, April 28th, 1792, to the British Secretary
of State, he urges grants of £100 each for schools at Niagara and
Kingston. He also proposed a university with English Church professors.

[10] See D. H. E. ("Documentary History of Education," by Dr. Hodgins),
Vol. I., p. 11.

In 1797, the House of Assembly and Legislative Council adopted an
address to the King praying him to set apart waste lands of the Crown
for the establishment of a respectable grammar school in each District,
and also for a college or university. In answer to this petition, the
Duke of Portland wrote saying that His Majesty proposed to comply with
the request and wished further advice as to the best means of carrying
it out.

The Executive Council, the Judges and law officers of the Crown met in
consultation in 1798 and recommended that 500,000 acres of waste Crown
lands be set apart to build a provincial university, and a free grammar
school in each of the four Districts. Grammar schools were to be built
at once at Kingston and at Niagara, and, as soon as circumstances would
permit, at Cornwall and at Sandwich. The university was to be at York.
It was estimated that each grammar school would cost £3,000 to build and
£180 a year to maintain. The schools were to accommodate one hundred
boys each, and have a residence for the master, with some rooms for
boarders.[11] No steps were taken to carry out these plans until after

[11] See D. H. E., Vol. I., p. 21.

Several private schools were opened prior to 1800. The chief of these
were at Newark, York, Ancaster, Cornwall, Kingston, Adolphustown, St.
Catharines, and Belleville. Some were evening schools. All were
supported by fees. Many were taught by clergymen. The principal subjects
were reading, writing, and arithmetic.

On December 17th, 1802, Dr. Baldwin, of York, the father of Hon. Robt.
Baldwin, issued the following notice;--[12]

    "Understanding that some of the Gentlemen of this Town have
    expressed much anxiety for the establishment of a Classical School,
    Dr. Baldwin begs leave to inform them and the Public that he
    intends, on Monday, the third day of January next, to open a school,
    in which he will instruct twelve boys in Reading, Writing, the
    Classics, and Arithmetic.

    "The terms are for each boy, Eight Guineas per annum, to be paid
    quarterly. One guinea entrance and one cord of wood to be supplied
    by each boy."

[12] See D. H. E., Vol. I., p. 33.

John Strachan, afterwards Bishop Strachan, opened a private school at
Kingston in 1799. Later he opened one at Cornwall, and still later one
at York. Attempts to open a public school in each District were defeated
in the Legislature in 1804 and 1805. In 1806 the sum of £400[13] was
appropriated to purchase scientific apparatus.

[13] This £400 worth of apparatus was promptly handed over to Mr.
Strachan by the Lieutenant-Governor. Mr. Strachan at this time had a
private school at Cornwall. It seems quite evident that the apparatus
was purchased purposely for his school and at his suggestion. See D. H.
E., Vol. I., p. 155.

In 1807, the Legislature took steps to carry out the plan proposed in
1797. There were by this time eight Districts in Upper Canada--Eastern,
Johnstown, Midland, Newcastle, Home, Niagara, London, and Western. The
sum of £800 was fixed as an annual appropriation to support "a Public
School in each and every District in the Province." This meant £100 for
each school or teacher. The Legislature also fixed the places where the
schools were to be held. The Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council was to
appoint not less than five trustees[14] for each District school. These
trustees were given almost absolute control over the management of the

[14] See D. H. E., Vol. I., p. 61.

It must not be supposed that these schools were public schools in the
sense we now attach to that term. Their founders had in mind the great
English public school, whose curriculum was largely classical and whose
benefits were confined to the wealthy. These schools were not in any
sense popular schools. It would seem that Governor Simcoe's proposal in
1798 was to have "Free Grammar Schools."[15] But those established by
the Act of 1807 levied considerable sums in fees. They were designed to
educate the sons of gentlemen. They were to prepare for professional
life. They were essentially for the benefit of the ruling classes. They
were largely controlled by Anglicans,[16] and in many cases the teachers
were Anglican clergymen.

[15] See D. H. E., Vol. I., p. 20.

[16] In 1830, when the United Presbytery of Upper Canada petitioned the
Legislature against appointing so many Anglicans as trustees of grammar
schools, the only reply was that Anglicans had not always been

If these schools were not public schools as we now use the term "public
school," neither were they high schools as we now use that term. The
curricula had no uniformity. Each school was a law unto itself and
depended almost wholly upon the teacher. If he were scholarly and
earnest the school would accomplish much. Often very young boys who
could scarcely read were admitted. In some schools a fine training in
classics was given; in others even the elements of a common education
were neglected.

But although these schools were not for the mass of the people, their
establishment was none the less an event of far-reaching importance. It
was a decided advantage to the mass of the people that their rulers
should have some educational advantages. No one can read the lists of
names of men educated in these schools and afterwards prominent in
Canadian public life without recognizing that their establishment was a
blessing to the whole of Canada. They were caste schools, but they kept
alive the torch of learning and civilization. Being founded out of
public funds, there was created an interest in their welfare among the
members of the Legislative Assembly. As years went on and the members of
the Assembly came to really represent the people of Upper Canada, they
were led to extend to all of the people such educational advantages as
had been granted to a section of the people in 1807.

Several efforts were made to repeal the Act of 1807 and substitute for
it one of a more popular nature. These efforts were baffled either by
the Legislative Council or through the influence of that body in the
Assembly itself. A petition[17] presented by sixty-five residents of the
Midland District to the Legislature of 1812 will give a fair idea of
the state of feeling throughout Upper Canada in regard to education:
"Your petitioners ... feel themselves in duty bound to state that 'An
Act to establish Public Schools in each and every District of this
Province' is found by experience not to answer the end for which it was
designed. Its object, it is presumed, was to promote the education of
our youth in general, but a little acquaintance with the facts must
convince every unbiased mind that it has contributed little or nothing
to the promotion of so laudable a design. By reason of the place of
instruction being established at one end of the District, and the sum
demanded for tuition, in addition to the annual compensation received
from the public, most of the people are unable to avail themselves of
the advantages contemplated by the institution. A few wealthy
inhabitants, and those of the Town of Kingston, reap exclusively the
benefit of it in this District. The institution, instead of aiding the
middling and poorer class of His Majesty's subjects, casts money into
the lap of the rich, who are sufficiently able, without public
assistance, to support a school in every respect equal to the one
established by law.... Wherefore, your petitioners pray, that so much of
the Act first mentioned may be repealed, and such provisions made in the
premises as may be conducive to public utility."

[17] See Journals of Legislature of Upper Canada for 1812.

A repeal bill of the Act of 1807 was passed by the Legislative Assembly
of 1812, but thrown out by the Legislative Council. The Act of 1807
limited the schools to one for each District. This was unsatisfactory
even to that class for whom the schools were especially designed. As the
country made progress and became more thickly populated, eight schools
were a wholly inadequate provision for the education of those requiring
it. But the Legislative Assembly steadily resisted any attempt to
enlarge the scope of these class schools. Perhaps it was owing to their
resistance that in 1816 they secured the consent of the Legislative
Council to a really forward movement in elementary education.

But it would be a serious mistake to infer that the educational
machinery of Upper Canada previous to 1816 was limited to these eight
District Grammar Schools. What the Government failed to provide, private
enterprise secured. More than two hundred schools were certainly in
operation in 1816. These schools were maintained partly by subscriptions
from well-to-do people and partly by fees collected from the pupils. In
many cases they were private ventures, conducted by teachers who
depended wholly upon fees. In some cases these schools were of a high
order, perhaps superior to the District Grammar Schools; in other cases,
probably in the large majority of cases, they were very inefficient.
The average fees paid by pupils in the elementary schools were about
twelve shillings per quarter.

William Crooks, of Grimsby, writing to Gourlay, in January, 1818,
says:[18] "The state of education is also at a very low ebb, not only in
this township but generally throughout the District; although the
liberality of the Legislature has been great in support of the District
Grammar Schools (giving to the teachers of each £100 per annum) yet they
have been productive of little or no good hitherto, for this obvious
cause, they are looked upon as seminaries exclusively instituted for the
education of the children of the more wealthy classes of society, and to
which the poor man's child is considered as unfit to be admitted. From
such causes, instead of their being a benefit to the Province, they are
sunk into obscurity, and the heads of most of them are at this moment
enjoying their situations as comfortable sinecures. Another class of
schools has within a short time been likewise founded upon the
liberality of the Legislative purse denominated as Common or Parish
Schools, but like the preceding, the anxiety of the teacher employed
seems more alive to his stipend than the advancement of the education of
those placed under his care; from the pecuniary advantages thus held
out we have been inundated with the worthless scum, under the character
of schoolmasters, not only of this but of every other country where the
knowledge has been promulgated of the easy means our laws afford of
getting a living here, by obtaining a parish school."

[18] See Gourlay's "Statistical Account of Upper Canada." Pages 433-434
of Vol. I. Published by Simpkin & Marshall, London, Eng., 1822.

The Common or Parish Schools referred to in this letter were the result
of the legislation of 1816, a red-letter year in school affairs because
it saw the first attempts in Upper Canada to give schools under public
control to the common people. The sum of $24,000 a year was appropriated
for four years to establish Common Schools. The law provided that the
people of any village, town or township might meet together and arrange
to establish one or more schools, at each of which the attendance must
be not less than twenty. Three suitable trustees were to be chosen to
conduct the school, appoint teachers, and select textbooks from a list
prescribed by a District Board of Education. The Legislature authorized
payments to each of these schools of a sum not exceeding £100. The
balance needed to maintain the school had to be made up by

In 1819 the Grammar School Act of 1807 received some slight amendments.
The grant of £100 per school was reduced to £50 for new schools, except
where the number of pupils exceeded ten. A new school was authorized
for the new Gore District, at Hamilton. Trustee Boards were required to
present annual reports to the Lieutenant-Governor and to conduct an
annual public examination. But the most important change was provision
for the free education of ten poor children at each District Public
School. These children were chosen by lot from names submitted by
Trustee Boards of Common Schools.

In 1822 the Governor, Sir Peregrine Maitland, on his own responsibility,
had established in Toronto a school known as the Upper Canada Central
School, formed on the plan of the British National Schools, which had
been established in Britain by Rev. Dr. Bell. These schools were
decidedly Anglican in tone, and that established in Toronto was at the
instigation of Rev. Dr. Strachan.[19] In a despatch to Earl Bathurst,
Colonial Secretary in 1822, Governor Maitland said:[20] "It is proposed
to establish one introductory school on the national plan in each town
of a certain size. It is supposed that a salary of £100 per annum to the
master of each such school would be sufficient. The number of these
schools may be increased as the circumstances of the Province may
require and the means allow."

[19] See D. H. E., Vol. I., p. 176.

[20] See copy of despatch in D. H. E., Vol. I., p. 179.

In answer, the Earl of Bathurst, under date of October 12th, 1823,
says:[21] "I am happy to have it in my power to convey to you His
Majesty's consent that you appropriate a portion of the Reserves set
apart for the establishment of a University for the support of schools
on the National [Church of England] plan of education." This action
established one school, and had in contemplation the establishment of
others under the direct control of the Governor and his Council. The
Legislative Assembly naturally resented the action, and for two reasons.
They objected to the disposal of any Crown property other than upon
their authority. They objected to anything being done that would lessen
the resources of the proposed University.

[21] See copy of despatch in D. H. E., Vol. I., p. 179.

A side-light upon education in Upper Canada is furnished by Mr. E. A.
Talbot, who published a series of letters upon Upper Canada in London,
1824. I quote from Letter XXX: "The great mass of the [Canadian] people
are at present completely ignorant even of the rudiments of the most
common learning. Very few can either read or write; and parents who are
ignorant themselves, possess so slight a relish for literature and are
so little acquainted with its advantages, that they feel scarcely any
anxiety to have the minds of their children cultivated.... They will not
believe that 'knowledge is power,' and being convinced that it is not
in the nature of 'book-learned skill' to improve the earnestness of
their sons in hewing wood or the readiness of their daughters in
spinning flax, they consider it a misapplication of money to spend any
sum in obtaining instruction for their offspring. Nothing can afford a
stronger proof of their indifference in this respect than the
circumstance of their electing men to represent them in the Provincial
Parliament, whose attainments in learning are in many instances
exceedingly small, and sometimes do not pass beyond the horn-book. I
have myself been present in the Honourable the House of Assembly when
some of the members, on being called to be Chairmen of Committees, were
under the disagreeable and humiliating necessity of requesting other
members to read the bills before the Committee, and then, as the
different clauses were rejected or adopted, to request these, their
proxies, to signify the same in the common mode of writing."

In 1823 there was established a General Board of Education, consisting
of: The Hon. and Rev. John Strachan, D.D., Chairman; Hon. Jos. Wells,
M.L.C.; Hon. G. H. Markland, M.L.C.; Rev. Robert Addison; John Beverley
Robinson, Esq., Attorney-General; Thomas Ridout, Esq., Surveyor-General.
The same session of the Legislature set apart £150 as an annual grant
for purchasing books and tracts designed to afford moral and religious

By the creation of a General Board of Education, Rev. Dr. Strachan
became very prominently identified with education in Upper Canada. No
man was better qualified through zeal, practical knowledge, and a
genuine interest in higher education. He had been made an honorary
member of the Executive Council in 1815, and an active member in 1817.
In 1820 he was appointed a member of the Legislative Council. Being a
prominent Churchman, an experienced and successful teacher, and residing
at York, he was naturally consulted by successive Governors on
educational matters. Strachan was an uncompromising Churchman with
ritualistic tendencies, and in politics a Tory of the George III.
school. He had neither faith in, nor sympathy for, a democracy. He
accepted things as he found them, and wished to preserve them so. He
could conceive of no more perfect state of society for the new world
than that which he left behind him in the old. He firmly believed in
education of the most noble kind for gentlemen, but it is doubtful if he
recognized the right of every man to the highest possible cultivation of
his intellectual powers. He would have looked upon such a plan as
subversive of the existing orders of society. At any rate he never
evinced any passion for popular education except that moral and
religious education given under the ægis of an Established Church. On
the other hand, no man in Canada had a more sincere desire to foster
higher institutions of learning, and it had from the very first been
Strachan's plan that the District Grammar Schools should be feeders for
a Provincial University, and now, in 1824, when he became virtually head
of educational affairs in Upper Canada, he determined to carry his
scheme to a successful issue.

There were serious difficulties. An endowment had been provided for a
university by the Crown grant in 1797, but it was at this time almost
worthless. It consisted of blocks of land, containing several townships,
in remote parts of the Province. The lands were good, but so long as the
Government had free lands to give incoming settlers, the school lands
were not in demand. Besides these school or university lands, there were
other lands in possession of the Crown. The original surveyor reserved
two-sevenths of all land. One-seventh was the reserve for a "Protestant
Clergy," which eventually caused so much strife and ill-feeling. The
other seventh was known as the Crown Reserve. In many cases this Crown
Reserve was becoming valuable, even in 1824, because of the labour of
settlers who owned adjoining farms. Much of the Crown Reserve was under
lease and giving a more or less certain revenue. Strachan conceived a
bold and successful plan. He suggested to Sir Peregrine Maitland that
for grants to new settlers the school lands were worth as much to the
Government as the Crown Reserves. Why not exchange school lands for an
equal area of Crown Reserve land? The matter was put before the Home
Government, and in 1827 a favourable reply was given. The result was
that the University got 225,944 acres of land, distributed throughout
every District in Upper Canada, but having more than one-half its total
area in the Home, Gore, and London Districts, the wealthiest and most
populous parts of Upper Canada. The Commissioners, appointed in 1848 by
Lord Elgin to enquire into the affairs of King's College, state (pages
16 and 17): "The Crown Reserves thus converted into the University
Endowment, consisted of lands in various parts of Upper Canada in actual
or nominal occupation under lease, at rate of rental fixed by a certain
scale established by the Provincial Government, and a large proportion
of the lots were in an improved or cultivated state."

In March, 1826, Rev. Dr. Strachan submitted to the Lieutenant-Governor a
very able and comprehensive report[22] showing why a university ought at
once to be established. The report gives an interesting and authentic
summary of the state of education in Upper Canada at that time. "The
present state of Education in this Province consists of Common Schools
throughout the Townships, established under several Acts of the
Provincial Legislature, and which are now, by the exertions of Your
Excellency, placed on an excellent footing, requiring no other
improvements than the means of multiplying their number, which, no
doubt, will be granted as the finances of the Province become more
productive. In about three hundred and forty Common Schools established
in the different Districts of the Colony, from seven to eight thousand
children are taught reading and writing, the elements of arithmetic, and
the first principles of religion; and when it is considered that the
parents commonly send their children in rotation--the younger in summer
when the roads are good, and the older in winter--it is not too much to
say that nearly double this number, or from twelve to fourteen thousand
children, profit annually by the Common Schools. The consequence is that
the people, scattered as they are over a vast wilderness, are becoming
alive to the great advantage of educating their children, and are, in
many places, seconding, with laudable zeal, the exertions of the
Legislature, and establishing schools at their own expense.

[22] See copy in D. H. E., Vol. I., pp. 211-213.

"Provision is made by law for the translation of some of the more
promising scholars from the Common to the District Schools, where the
classics and practical mathematics are taught. In these schools, eleven
in number, there are at present upwards of 300 youth acquiring an
education to qualify them for the different professions; and, although
they can seldom support more than one master, several of the young
gentlemen who have been brought up in them are now eminent in their
professions, and would, by their talents and high principles, do credit
to seminaries of greater name. But the period has arrived when the
District Schools [Grammar Schools] will become still more useful by
confining themselves to the intention of their first establishment,
namely, nurseries for a University--an institution now called for by the
increased population and circumstances of the Colony, and most earnestly
desired by the more respectable inhabitants.

"There is not in either Province any English Seminary above the rank of
a good school, at which a liberal education can be obtained. Thus the
youth of nearly 300,000 Englishmen have no opportunity of receiving
instruction within the Canadas in Law, Medicine, or Divinity. The
consequence is that many young men coming forward to the learned
professions are obliged to look beyond the Province for the last two
years of their education--undoubtedly the most important and critical of
their lives. Very few are able on account of the great expense to go to
England or Scotland; and the distance is so great and the difficulties
so many that parental anxiety reluctantly trusts children from its
observation and control. The youths are, therefore, in some degree,
compelled to look forward to the United States, where the means of
education, though of a description far inferior to those of Great
Britain, are yet superior to those within the Province, and a growing
necessity is arising of sending them to finish their education in that
country. Now, in the United States, a system prevails unknown to, or
unpractised by, any other nation. In all other countries morals and
religion are made the basis of future instruction, and the first book
put into the hands of children teaches them the domestic, social, and
religious virtues; but in the United States politics pervade the whole
system of instruction. The school books from the very first elements are
stuffed with praises of their own institutions and breathe hatred to
everything English. To such a country our youth may go, strongly
attached to their native land and all its establishments, but by hearing
them continually depreciated and those of America praised, these
attachments will, in many, be gradually weakened, and some may become
fascinated with that liberty which has degenerated into licentiousness
and imbibe, perhaps unconsciously, sentiments unfriendly to things of
which Englishmen are proud....

"The establishment of a University at the seat of Government will
complete a regular system of education in Upper Canada from the letters
of the alphabet to the most profound investigations of science.... In
regard to the profession of medicine it is melancholy to think that more
than three-fourths of the present practitioners have been educated or
attended lectures in the United States.... There are, as yet, only
twenty-two clergymen in Upper Canada, the greater number from England.
It is essential that young men coming forward to the Church should be
educated entirely within the Province, but for this there is no
provision.... But the wants of the Province are becoming great, and
however much disposed the elder clergy may be to bring forward young men
to the sacred profession, they have neither time nor means of doing it
with sufficient effect. There can be nothing of that zeal, of that union
and mutual attachment, of that deep theological and literary enquiry and
anxiety to excel, which would be found among men collected at the
University, and here it is not irrelevant to observe that it is of the
greatest importance that the education of the Colony should be conducted
by the clergy.

"Nothing can be more manifest than that this Colony has not yet felt the
advantage of a religious establishment. What can twenty-two clergymen
do, scattered over a country of nearly six hundred miles in length? Can
we be surprised that, under such circumstances, the religious benefits
of the ecclesiastical establishment are unknown, and sectaries of all
descriptions have increased on every side? And when it is further
considered that the religious teachers of all other Protestant
denominations, a very few respectable ministers of the Church of
Scotland excepted, come almost universally from the Republican States of
America, where they gather their knowledge and form their sentiments, it
is evident that if the Imperial Government does not step forward with
efficient help, the mass of the population will be nurtured and
instructed in hostility to all our institutions, both civil and
religious.... From all which it appears highly expedient to establish a
university at the seat of Government, to complete the system of
education in the Colony at which all the branches requisite for
qualifying young men for the learned professions may be taught.... The
principal and professors, except those of Medicine and Law, should be
clergymen of the Established Church; and no tutor, teacher, or officer
who is not a member of that Church should ever be employed in the

I have given this long quotation from Rev. Dr. Strachan's report for
several reasons. It shows very clearly the point of view of a remarkable
man who had much to do with educational affairs in Upper Canada for a
period of nearly seventy years. It shows his zeal for higher education,
his belief in the efficacy of a religious establishment, his narrow
bigotry and intolerance of all outside of an establishment, his
old-world belief that the clergy should control education, his loyal
attachment to British institutions, and above all, to those who read
between the lines, his lack of real interest in elementary education. He
is perfectly satisfied with the state of the Common Schools, although
they were then accommodating less than one in twenty of the total
population. The schools of which he says, "which are now, by the
exertions of Your Excellency, placed on an excellent footing, requiring
no other improvements than the means of multiplying their number," were
conducted in rude buildings, without any apparatus, with a motley
assortment of textbooks, and taught in many cases by ignorant itinerant
schoolmasters who were of no use at any other occupation, and who
received from $80 to $200 a year! Little can ever be expected in the way
of improvement from those who are wholly satisfied with present
conditions, and it is safe to say that any improvements that took place
in the Common Schools of Canada under the _régime_ of the Rev. Dr.
Strachan were owing to other causes than the efforts put forth by that
gentleman. The Common Schools of Upper Canada had to wait for a new
birth--until Ryerson breathed life into them.

Rev. Dr. Strachan's Report is interesting for another reason--it deals
with the proposed King's College and its relations with what Dr.
Strachan calls the "religious establishment" in Canada. This "religious
establishment" was to have as its basis the one-seventh of all lands in
Upper Canada as provided for by the Constitutional Act of 1791. Now
these two things, the Clergy Reserves and King's College, caused more
trouble to the Canadian Legislature and engendered more bitter feeling
among the people of Upper Canada than any other two questions that ever
were debated in the Parliament of Upper Canada, or in the Parliament of
the united Canadas. In the Parliamentary struggle over both these
questions the Rev. Dr. Strachan was an active and valiant leader of the
party of privilege, and among those who led the opposing forces to a
final victory none was more courageous or more successful than Dr.

Dr. Strachan went to England in 1826 to use his personal influence
towards securing a Royal Charter for a University. He there issued an
appeal to the English people for aid on the ground that the proposed
College would be largely occupied in educating clergymen for the
Anglican Church.[23] A Royal Charter, making the proposed university a
close corporation under the control of Anglican clergymen, was obtained.
Besides granting the charter the British Government made a grant toward
buildings of £1,000 a year for sixteen years.

[23] See "An Appeal to the Friends of Religion and Literature in behalf
of the University of Upper Canada." By John Strachan, Archdeacon of
York, Upper Canada, 1826.

When the Legislative Assembly met in 1828 several members presented
numerously signed petitions praying for definite information about the
newly granted charter of King's College. The Governor sent down a copy
of the charter which was referred to a select committee. The committee
protested against the nature of the charter in that the university was
to become an Anglican institution, supported out of public funds. This
they thought unjust, inasmuch as only a small proportion of the settlers
of Upper Canada were Anglicans.[24] The committee also drafted an
address to His Majesty the King. This address was adopted by the
Assembly, and immediately despatched to His Majesty by the Governor. The
address was courteous and loyal in tone, but the exact condition of
affairs in Canada was made clear. The King was petitioned to cancel the
charter to King's College, and grant one that would make possible a
university for all classes. This address to His Majesty and the protest
of the Assembly of Upper Canada attracted the attention of a select
committee of the Imperial Parliament. This committee[25] reported
against that part of the Charter which required religious tests. George
Ryerson, of Canada, gave valuable evidence before this committee
relative to Canadian affairs. It seems doubtful whether His Majesty's
advisers, when the King's College charter was given, were really made
aware of the conditions of society in Canada. Those Canadians who had
the ears of His Majesty's advisers were, for the most part, interested
in forming and strengthening an Anglican Establishment.

[24] See Journals of House of Assembly for Upper Canada, 1828.

[25] See Report made 22nd July, 1828, by Select Committee of House of
Commons, appointed to inquire into the State of Civil Government in


_EDUCATION IN UPPER CANADA FROM 1783 TO 1844--(Continued)._

Late in the year 1828, Sir Peregrine Maitland was replaced as
Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada by Sir John Colborne. About the same
time Sir George Murray, who had acted as Administrator of the Government
of Upper Canada in 1815, and who consequently knew something of Canadian
affairs, became Colonial Secretary in the Imperial Parliament. In
acknowledging receipt of the petition to His Majesty of the Assembly of
Upper Canada protesting against the King's College charter, Sir George
Murray, in a communication to Sir John Colborne, said:[26] "It would be
deservedly a subject of regret to His Majesty's Government, if the
University, recently established at York, should prove to have been
founded upon principles which cannot be made to accord with the general
feelings and opinions of those for whose advantage it was intended.... I
have observed that your predecessor (Sir Peregrine Maitland) in the
Government of Upper Canada differs from the House of Assembly as to the
general prevalence of objections to the University founded upon the
degree of exclusive connection which it has with the Church of England.
It seems reasonable to conclude, however, that on such a subject as this
an address adopted by a full House of Assembly, with scarcely any
dissentient voices,[27] must be considered to express the prevailing
opinion in the Province upon this subject.

[26] See copy of Sir George Murray's letter in D. H. E., Vol. I., pp.
257 and 258.

[27] The vote stood 21 for and 9 against.

"In the event, therefore, of its appearing to you to be proper to invite
the Legislative Council and House of Assembly to resume the
consideration of this question, you will apprise them that their
representations on the existing charter of the University have attracted
the serious attention of His Majesty's Government and that the opinion
which may be expressed by the Legislative Council and House of Assembly
on that subject will not fail to receive the most prompt and serious

Shortly after the receipt of this communication Sir John Colborne, as
Chancellor of King's College, convened the College Council and declared
that no immediate steps were to be taken toward active University work,
and that not one stone should be put upon another until certain
alterations had been made in the charter.

In 1829 the Chairman of the General Board of Education, Rev. Dr.
Strachan, presented to the Legislative Assembly his first annual report.
It is an able and very suggestive document. It showed 372 pupils[28] in
the eleven Grammar Schools, and 401 Common Schools with 10,712 pupils.
Dr. Strachan had personally visited each Grammar School during 1828, and
had incidentally learned something of the Common Schools. Referring to
Grammar Schools he says:[29] "It will be seen that in some places girls
are admitted.[30] This happens from the want of good female schools, and
perhaps from the more rapid progress which children are supposed to make
under experienced and able schoolmasters. It is to be wished, however,
that separate schools for the sexes were established, as the admission
of female children interferes with the government which is required in
classical seminaries; it is, nevertheless, an inconvenience of a
temporary nature, which will gradually pass away as the population
increases in wealth and numbers." This "inconvenience of a temporary
nature" persisted until 1868, when girls were formally admitted as
pupils in Grammar Schools.

[28] In 1827 there were 329 pupils, of whom 8 in the Cornwall School
were girls.

[29] See copy of Report in D. H. E., Vol. I., pp. 266 and 267.

[30] The Report for 1828 showed 25 girls in the eleven District

Dr. Strachan pointed out very clearly in this Report that the Common
Schools could never improve very much until the teachers were better
paid. He also made an excellent practical suggestion.[31] "The
Provincial Board, therefore, would submit with all deference, that in
addition to the public allowance, even if increased beyond its present
amount, a power should be given to the Townships to assess themselves
for this special purpose."

[31] See original Report in Appendix to Journals of Assembly, U. C., pp.
16 and 17 of Appendix on Education.

Here we have laid down the correct principle of support for public
schools, and one cannot but feel that had Dr. Strachan followed up this
suggestion by pressing it upon the Legislature, and by discussing it
with school-managers and the general public, he might have secured its
early adoption.

When the Legislature convened in 1829, Sir John Colborne in the Speech
from the Throne[32] made direct reference to education as follows: "The
Public [Grammar] Schools are generally increasing, but their
organization appears susceptible of improvement. Measures will be
adopted, I hope, to reform the Royal Grammar School [the District School
at York] and to incorporate it with the University recently endowed by
His Majesty, and to introduce a system in that Seminary which will open
to the youth of the Province the means of receiving a liberal and
extensive course of instruction. Unceasing exertions should be made to
attract able masters to this country, where the population bears no
proportion to the number of offices and employments that must
necessarily be held by men of education and acquirements, for the
support of the laws and of your free institutions."

[32] See Journals of Assembly for U. C. for 1829, p. 5.

This message from the Governor may require some explanation. In the
first place let us note that Sir John Colborne was an able and
enlightened man, sincerely desirous of giving to Upper Canada a
government that would be acceptable to the mass of the people. He seems
to have realized clearly that the Assembly was a fairly accurate
reflection of public opinion, and that no policy could ultimately
prevail unless it was in harmony with its wishes. His action in
arresting the working of King's College was one proof of this, although
his subsequent action in founding Upper Canada College solely on his own
responsibility showed his belief in the power of the Crown to take
independent action. He saw that the District Grammar Schools were very
inefficient and were touching the lives of an insignificant proportion
of the people of Upper Canada. He foresaw that for some years the
revenue to be derived from the endowment of King's College would not
support a very pretentious institution, and that for such an
institution, even if it were in operation, there would be very few
students prepared by previous study to profit from its courses. In his
opinion the immediate wants of the country would be better served by a
high-class school than by a university. Hence his proposal to reform the
Royal Grammar School at York and incorporate it with King's College.

The Assembly of 1829 contained many eminent men, of whom it is
sufficient to mention Marshall Bidwell (the Speaker), William Lyon
Mackenzie, W. W. Baldwin (father of Hon. Robert Baldwin), and John
Rolph, the latter a graduate of the University of Cambridge. The
Assembly appointed a select committee on Education. This committee made
an extensive report[33] upon both District Grammar and Common Schools.
In regard to the former they were pronounced in their condemnation and
recommended their abolition. The report claimed that the District or
Grammar School Trustees, appointed by the Crown, were chosen to promote
the interests of the Anglican Church; that in many cases the schools
themselves were merely stepping-stones for the clergy of the Anglican
Church; that they were under no efficient inspection; that they were
quite as expensive to those parents who did not live immediately beside
them as much better schools in the United States; and finally that as
only 108 pupils in the whole Province were studying languages in these
schools, that their work could be done equally well by really good
Common Schools. The report lamented the low salaries of teachers in
Common Schools and suggested that no Government grants should be given
unless the managers of schools themselves raised by subscription equal
amounts. The report also protested against the payment out of public
funds of £300 a year to Rev. Dr. Strachan, as Chairman of the General
Board,[34] and against his assumption that reports of District Schools
should be made to him instead of to the Lieutenant-Governor. The report
expressed a hope that something might be done to encourage the
publication of textbooks in Canada, and concluded with expressing
approval of the Governor's plan to found a seminary of a high class,
which should be free from sectarian influences and afford advanced
instruction to the youth of Canada.

[33] See Report in Appendix to Journals of Assembly for 1829, p. 42.

[34] The General Board of Education had been organized by Sir Peregrine
Maitland wholly on his own authority and that of the Home Government.
The Assembly naturally refused to acknowledge any obligation to support
it with public funds.

Later in the session of 1829 this select committee on Education prepared
a series of resolutions which were adopted by the Assembly. The
following are the chief points in the resolutions:--[35]

1. That the Governor, or Lieutenant-Governor of the Province, not being
amenable for his conduct to any tribunal, ought not to be Chancellor of
King's College.

2. That it ought not to be required that the President of King's College
be a clergyman of the Anglican Church, and that he ought to be elected
or appointed for a stated term.

3. That the Archdeacon of York ought not by virtue of his clerical
office to become President of King's College.

4. That the President and Professors of King's College ought not to be
required to subscribe to the Thirty-nine Articles.

5. That the Degree of Doctor of Divinity ought to be conferred by King's
College upon any professing Christian who passed the required
examinations in Classical, Biblical, and other subjects of learning.

6. That wherever the charter of King's College is in any way sectarian
it should be amended.

[35] See Appendix to Journals of Assembly of U.C. for 1829, pp. 72 and

The Governor asked the Legislative Council to consider in what way the
charter of King's College could be amended to make it more acceptable to
the people of Upper Canada. The Council in reply recommended that
instead of the Archdeacon of York any Anglican clergyman should be
eligible for President. They also recommended that tests for the Council
be dispensed with.

Having the sanction of the Home Government, and feeling sure of the
active support of the Assembly, Sir John Colborne immediately put in
execution his plan of forming a high-class school to replace the Royal
Grammar School at York. He caused advertisements to be inserted in the
British papers for masters. The head master was to have a house, £600
per annum, and the privilege of taking boarders. The classical and
mathematical masters were to receive £300 a year and similar privileges.
The Assembly had suggested that the new school should be known as
Colborne College, but the name adopted was Upper Canada College. The
school opened in 1830 with a staff of seven specialists, nearly all
chosen in England. The work was carried on in the buildings of the old
Grammar School until handsome and elaborate buildings were erected on
Russell Square, north of King Street. An endowment of some 60,000 acres
from the School lands was given the new institution. It was generally
felt that the new school would, for the present, supply the want of a
university, and also make it unnecessary for Canadian youths to complete
their education in the United States.

Before Upper Canada College had been working a year a very
numerously-signed petition was presented by some York patrons of the
school praying for some modification of the exclusively classical nature
of the programme for those boys destined for commerce and mechanical
pursuits. The Governor's attempt to give Canadians a high-class
collegiate school seemed only partially successful. The error was in
attempting to adapt to a new country a form of school that suited the
requirements of a select class in an old and highly civilized country.
Latin and Greek must be crammed into boys whether or not they had any
natural aptitude for language study, and quite irrespective of their
future occupations in life.

The founding and liberal equipment of Upper Canada College had one
effect that might easily have been foretold. Petitions came from almost
every Grammar School District praying for endowed and well-equipped
schools similar to Upper Canada College. The petitioners resented the
concentration at York of two important institutions, Upper Canada
College and King's College, deriving support from an endowment
originally set aside to give educational facilities to the whole of
Upper Canada.

The Assembly of 1833, through a select committee, made a minute
examination into the affairs of Upper Canada College, and passed a
resolution recommending that it be incorporated with King's College. I
give here quotations from two writers on Upper Canada College, showing
how differently things appear when viewed through different eyes. The
first is from a letter written in 1833 by Rev. Thomas Radcliffe.[36]
"Future generations will bless the memory of Sir John Colborne, who, to
the many advantages derived from the equity and wisdom of his
government, has added that of a magnificent foundation [in Upper Canada
College] for the purposes of literary instruction. The lowest salary of
any of the professors of this institution is £300 per annum, with the
accommodation of a noble brick house and the privilege of taking
boarders at £50 per annum."

[36] See copy of letter in D. H. E., Vol. II., pp. 120 and 121.

The next is from "Sketches," published by William Lyon Mackenzie,
London, 1833. "Splendid incomes are given to the masters of the new
[Upper Canada] College, culled at Oxford by the Vice-Chancellor, and
dwellings furnished to the professors (we may say) by the sweat of the
brow of the Canadian labourer. All these advantages and others not now
necessary to be mentioned, are insufficient to gratify the rapacious
appetite of the 'Established Church' managers, who, in order to
accumulate wealth and live in opulence, charge the children of His
Majesty's subjects ten times as high fees as are required by the less
amply endowed Seminary at Quebec. They have another reason for so doing.
The College (already a monopoly) becomes almost an exclusive school for
the families of the Government officers, and the few who, through their
means, have, in York, already attained a pecuniary independence out of
the public treasury. The College never was intended for the people, nor
did the Executive endow it thus amply that all classes might apply to
the fountain of knowledge."[37]

[37] See volume in Library of Parliament, Ottawa, pp. 190 and 191.

As time passed the College founded by Sir John Colborne did good work as
a secondary school for people of wealth, but all attempts to make it
popular with the mass of the people proved ineffective. The Legislature
gave it an annual grant somewhat unwillingly.[38] The buildings were
erected, and part of the annual expenses paid from advances made by the
King's College Council.

[38] See D. H. E., Vol. III., p. 123.

By an Act passed in 1839[39] there was an attempt made to raise the
College to the dignity of a temporary university. This action displeased
the Council of King's College because it tended to delay the opening of
lectures in that institution. In 1849, when the Baldwin University Bill
made an independent corporation of Upper Canada College, that
institution was indebted to the University for nearly $40,000, which was
never repaid.[40]

[39] See D. H. E., Vol. III., pp. 170 and 171.

[40] For the later history of Upper Canada College see "History of Upper
Canada College," by Principal George Dickson.

In 1831 the Methodists began to build at Cobourg the Upper Canada
Academy, which was to be open to all religious denominations. They felt
that although Upper Canada College was non-sectarian in a legal sense,
yet, inasmuch as the principal and professors were Anglican clergymen,
the institution was essentially an Anglican College.

At this time the Rev. Egerton Ryerson was editor of _The Christian
Guardian_ newspaper, the official organ of the Methodist Conference. In
an editorial, April, 1831, he thus refers to the proposed Upper Canada
Academy: "It is the first literary institution which has been commenced
by any body of ministers in accordance with the frequently expressed
wishes of the people of Upper Canada. The Methodist Conference have not
sought endowments of public lands for the establishment of an
institution, contrary to the voice of the people as expressed by their
representatives.... Desirous of promoting more extensively the interests
of the rising generation and of the country generally, we have resolved
upon the establishment of a Seminary of Learning--we have done so upon
liberal principles--we have not reserved any peculiar privileges to
ourselves for the education of our children; we have published the
constitution for your examination; and now we appeal to your liberality
for assistance.... On the characteristics of the system of education
which it is contemplated to pursue in the proposed Seminary, we may
observe that it will be such as to produce habits of intellectual labour
and activity; a diligent and profitable improvement of time; bodily
health and vigour, a fitness and relish for agricultural and mechanical,
as well as for other pursuits; virtuous principles and Christian morals.
On the importance of education generally we may remark, it is as
necessary as the light--it should be as common as water, and as free as
air.... Education among the people is the best security of a good
government and constitutional liberty; it yields a steady, unbending
support to the former, and effectually protects the latter. An educated
people are always a loyal people to good government; and the first
object of a wise government should be the education of the people. An
educated people are always enterprising in all kinds of general and
local improvements. An ignorant population are equally fit for, and are
liable to be, slaves of despots and the dupes of demagogues; sometimes,
like the unsettled ocean, they can be thrown into incontrollable
agitation by every wind that blows; at other times, like the
uncomplaining ass, they tamely submit to the most unreasonable
burdens.... Sound learning is of great worth even in religion; the
wisest and best instructed Christians are the most steady, and may be
the most useful. If a man be a child in knowledge he is likely to be
tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, and
often lies at the mercy of interested, designing men; the more knowledge
he has the safer is his state. If our circumstances be such that we have
few means of improvement, we should turn them to the best account.
Partial knowledge is better than total ignorance; and he who cannot get
all he may wish, must take heed to acquire all that he can. If total
ignorance be a bad and dangerous thing, every degree of knowledge
lessens both the evil and the danger."[41]

[41] See copy of letter in D. H. E., Vol. II., pp. 7 and 8.

Ryerson wrote this when he was only twenty-eight years of age, but it
foreshadows the fundamental principles upon which he later attempted to
base a national system of education.

It is interesting to note that in this same year the United Presbytery
of Upper Canada were discussing the establishment of a Literary and
Theological Seminary at Pleasant Bay, in Prince Edward County. This
seminary never was established, but the agitation for it led to the
founding of Queen's University, at Kingston.

While Methodist and Presbyterian clergy were forming plans for
academies, the members of the Legislative Assembly were debating a
series of resolutions on the School Reserves and the failure of the
people of Upper Canada to secure the free Grammar Schools for which the
Crown Lands were appropriated in 1798. Several things are made plain in
these resolutions regarding the attitude of the popularly elected branch
of the Legislature. The following stand out prominently:--

1. That the existing Grammar Schools were wholly inadequate to perform
the work for which they were created.

2. That the real intentions of the Crown in setting apart the immense
School Reserves in 1798 had never been carried out.

3. That the successive Canadian Administrations had been largely
concerned in appropriating the lion's share of these Reserves for
University education.

4. That the School Reserves of 1798, with proper management, would be
now (1831) sufficiently productive to give great assistance to education
if applied in accord with the real wishes of the people.

5. That the money received from these School lands from time to time
ought to be paid in to the Receiver-General and disposed of only by
vote of the Legislature.

Further protests were made against the exclusive nature of King's
College charter, and the Assembly was assured by Sir John Colborne that
some changes would be made. As a matter of fact, on the 2nd of November,
1831, Lord Goderich, the British Colonial Secretary, in a lengthy
communication to Governor Colborne, showed that His Majesty's Government
was fully seized of the situation in regard to the charter of King's
College. Lord Goderich said,[42] "I am to convey through you to the
Members of the Corporation of King's College, at the earnest
recommendation and advice of His Majesty's Government, that they do
forthwith surrender[43] to His Majesty the charter of King's College of
Upper Canada, with any lands that may have been granted them." Lord
Goderich then proceeds to intimate that a new charter will be granted by
the Legislature of Upper Canada. Lord Goderich further proceeds to give
some very sound advice concerning the necessity of mutual forbearance
among a people of diverse religious creeds.

[42] See copy of despatch in D. H. E., Vol. II., p. 55.

[43] This the College Council positively refused to do.

In the Assembly there was shown an intelligent grasp of the educational
needs of the country and a determination to secure better schools. Had
the Executive Council and Legislative Council been equally zealous in
the cause of education, the fathers and mothers of the generation which
profited from Ryerson's reforms might themselves have had the advantage
of good schools.

The following extracts from an address to His Excellency, Sir John
Colborne, will show the temper and wishes of the Assembly: "We, His
Majesty's dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of Upper Canada in
Provincial Parliament assembled, most respectfully beg leave to
represent that there is in this Province a very general want of
education; that the insufficiency of the Common School fund [the total
Government grant for schools in 1831 was $11,200] to support competent,
respectable, and well-educated teachers, has degraded Common School
teaching from a regular business to a mere matter of convenience to
transient persons, or common idlers, who often teach the school one
season and leave it vacant until it accommodates some other like person
to take it in hand, whereby the minds of our youth are left without
cultivation, or, what is still worse, frequently with vulgar, low-bred,
vicious, or intemperate examples before them in the capacity of
monitors."[44] The address proceeded to state that there was urgent need
of a Government fund to secure larger grants for teachers' salaries, and
asked His Excellency to lay before the Colonial Secretary a plan to set
aside one million acres of waste land in Upper Canada for the support of
Common Schools.

[44] See Journals of Assembly, U. C., 1831, p. 40.

In this Address the Assembly virtually said to the Crown, "Give us some
fixed capital as a source of revenue and we will speedily reorganize our
schools." The Assembly knew what was needed and knew how to remedy the
existing conditions, but was powerless because the Crown revenue was
subject only to the control of the Executive Council.

The session of 1832-33[45] was very active from an educational point of
view. The Assembly was informed by His Excellency that the Crown had
consented to give over to the Legislature, for the support of Grammar
Schools, control of the 258,330 acres of School lands, being the balance
of the original grant of half a million acres made in 1798, and from
which had already been made extensive grants to endow King's College and
Upper Canada College. Much of the remainder of this land, which was now
vested in the Legislature, was not of a superior quality. It had also
been selected in township blocks and naturally had very little value
until settlements were made in surrounding townships.

[45] The previous session, William Lyon Mackenzie had been expelled from
the Assembly because of his criticism of the Governor, in his newspaper,
the _Colonial Advocate_. It is interesting to note that Mackenzie's
criticisms of the Governor were largely based on His Excellency's
actions in regard to education.

The Assembly prepared an Address to His Majesty praying for a grant of
one million acres of Crown lands for the establishment and support of
Township Common Schools. As a measure of immediate relief for these
schools, a bill was passed by the two branches of the Legislature, and
assented to by His Excellency, providing for two years an additional
grant of $22,000. This sum was allotted to the several Districts,
approximately in proportion to population, but no Board of Trustees was
to receive any of this grant unless they secured for their teacher a sum
equal at least to twice the Government grant.

The most significant feature of the session, however, was a Common
School Bill, introduced into the Assembly by Mr. Mahlon Burwell, and
read a first time. The bill proposed to repeal all previous Common
School legislation; to establish a General Board and also District
Boards of Education; to grant £10,000 to Common Schools as a Legislative
grant and to assess a further £10,000 on the rateable property of the

This bill, had it become law, would have anticipated Ryerson's
legislation by nearly twenty years, and it is interesting to note the
comments made upon it by that gentleman, who was at this time editor of
the _Christian Guardian_. The _Guardian_ of January 15th, 1834,
expressed a general approval of the plan of taxation but was totally
opposed to the _appointment_ of Boards of Education. After showing that
the principle of local taxation was borrowed from the New England
States, where it was working satisfactorily, Ryerson says: "The next
leading feature of the bill is the appointment of a General Board of
Education and also District Boards of Education. This is proposed to be
left to the Governor, or person administering the Government, a
proposition, in our opinion, radically objectionable. It makes the
system of education, in theory, a mere engine of the Executive, a system
which is liable to all the abuse, suspicion, jealousy and opposition
caused by despotism; and it withholds from the system of Common School
education, in its first and prominent feature, that character of common
interest and harmonious co-operation which, as we humbly conceive, are
essential to its success, and even to its acceptance with the Province.
Education is an object in which the Government, as an individual portion
of the Province, and the people at large possess, in some respects, a
common interest, consequently they should exercise a joint or common
control.... And in an equitable and patriotic administration of
Government, the more its agents and the people's agents are associated
together in promoting the common weal, the more strongly will mutual
respect and confidence and co-operation between the people and the
Government be established, the less room there will be for Executive
negligence, or partiality, or popular or local abuse; and the less
opportunity there will be for either despotic oppression or demagogue

In 1834 there was a General Election, which resulted in the return to
the Assembly of a large majority in favour of reform principles, and
wholly opposed to the arbitrary and aristocratic ideas of the
Legislative Council. Bidwell, Rolph, and William Lyon Mackenzie were
three leading spirits in the new House.

When the Assembly opened the Governor laid before the members a despatch
from the Colonial Office, stating His Majesty's readiness to transfer
240,000 acres in the settled townships in return for the School lands
which were in township blocks and not then saleable.

A bill was passed by the Legislature renewing for two years, 1835 and
1836, the increased grant of £5,650 for Common Schools.

A grant of £200 was also made to Mechanics' Institutes at York and a
grant of £100 to one at Kingston.

Considerable time was spent in the Assembly upon two bills which were
rejected by the Executive Council. One was a bill to regulate Common
Schools which would have given them a thorough organization and made
them subject to popular control by elected Boards and Superintendents.
The Executive Council had no faith in control by the people. They
doubted whether "the respectable yeomanry of the country" were capable
of choosing suitable Superintendents. The other was a bill to amend the
charter of King's College. These amendments were designed to remove all
religious tests and to have the College governed by a Council, half of
whom were to be appointed by the Assembly and half by the Legislative
Council. The only reasons given by the Council for rejecting these
amendments were that they knew of no university so governed and that a
university must have as a basis some established form of religion. In
the meantime, while the hide-bound worshippers of European traditions
who made up the Council were delaying the active work of King's College,
the youth of Upper Canada, preparing for the learned professions, were
compelled to seek university advantages in the United States or Great
Britain. More than this, owing to the lack of advantages in their own
country, many who could otherwise have afforded it were wholly deprived
of the higher education and training necessary for the professions they
had in view.

The Legislative Council at this time, and for many years afterwards,
made boasts of their loyalty to the Crown, and upon some occasions
arrogated to themselves and their friends a monopoly of all loyal spirit
in Upper Canada, and yet they firmly refused to surrender the charter
and endowment of King's College when requested and even urged to do so
by His Majesty's Colonial Secretary[46]. From 1831 to 1835, the Council
refused to accept any substantial amendments made in that charter
suggested by the Assembly, although Lord Goderich had, in 1831, made it
quite clear that His Majesty's Government wished the question of the
charter to be settled by the Upper Canada Legislature.

[46] See letter of Lord Goderich of Nov. 2nd, 1831, to Sir John

When, upon the 6th of May, 1835, Sir John Colborne sent to the Colonial
Secretary the King's College Charter Amendment Bill passed by the
Assembly, he urged the immediate opening of King's College, although he
had declared to the College Council that "not one stone should be placed
upon another" until the charter was amended. It may also be gathered
from this despatch to Lord Glenelg[47] that Sir John Colborne
accompanied it with a draft of amendments which he thought would be
acceptable to both branches of the Legislature of Upper Canada. His
Lordship was too astute a politician and too thoroughly informed
concerning Canadian public opinion to be easily misled. Sir John
Colborne, as a concession to the Assembly, proposed that five out of
seven of the governing body should be permanently of the faith of the
Church of England. The other two members were to be the
Lieutenant-Governor and the Archdeacon of York! Lord Glenelg, in reply,
says: "I cannot hesitate to express my opinion that this plan claims for
the Established Church of England privileges which those who best
understand and most deeply prize her real interests would not think it
prudent to assert for her in any British Province on the North American
Continent.... I would respectfully and earnestly impress upon the
Members of both these Bodies [Assembly and Council] the expediency of
endeavouring, by mutual concessions, to meet on some common ground.
Especially would I beg the Legislative Councillors to remember that, if
there be any one subject on which, more than others, it is vain and
dangerous to oppose the deliberate wishes of the great mass of the
people, the system of national instruction to be pursued in the moral
and religious education of youth is emphatically that subject."[48] Lord
Glenelg concludes by referring the question of amending the charter back
to the Legislature of Upper Canada and states that His Majesty will act
as mediator only if the two branches of the Legislature fail to agree
and then only upon their presenting a joint Address.

[47] See D. H. E., Vol. II., p. 214.

[48] See copy of letter in D. H. E., Vol. II., pp. 213 and 214.


_EDUCATION IN UPPER CANADA FROM 1783 TO 1844--(Continued)._

During the Legislative session of 1836, Sir John Colborne was replaced
by Sir Francis Bond Head as Lieutenant-Governor. It would seem that the
difference of opinion between Sir John Colborne and Lord Glenelg of the
Colonial Office was responsible for the former's asking to be recalled.
His last official act as Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada, and one
intimately connected with educational controversy at a later date, was
to sign patents for the endowment of forty-three Anglican rectories out
of the Clergy Reserve lands.

In the Legislature no real progress was made in education, although a
lengthy report[49] and a draft School Bill were presented by a member of
the Assembly, Doctor Charles Duncomb. This report was based on a visit
paid by Doctor Duncomb to the Eastern, Middle and Western United States.
It is interesting and emphasizes the importance of a suitable education
for women.

[49] See Appendix to Journals of Assembly of U.C., 1836. See also
Assembly Journals for 1836, pp. 213 and 214.

The most important event of the year in its after effects upon education
in Upper Canada was the formal opening of Upper Canada Academy[50] at
Cobourg, under a Royal Charter secured by Egerton Ryerson.

[50] See Chapter I.

In resigning his position as editor of _The Guardian_, the official
organ of Methodism, Ryerson referred to the condition of education in
Upper Canada, emphasizing the supreme importance of elementary
instruction for every child in the country. It is also interesting to
note that at this date, when he had probably never dreamed of having any
official connection with elementary education, he should have touched
the very root of the problem by pointing out the utter impossibility of
making any real progress without a body of educated and trained

The Legislature of 1837 set at rest for a few years the vexed question
of an amendment to King's College charter. The majority of the
Legislative Council were stoutly opposed to any modifications that would
lessen the control of the Anglican Church, but they saw that public
opinion was strong enough to prevent the opening of the college until
amendments were made. They also saw that they were running a risk of
having the charter cancelled and a new one granted by the Crown. They
accordingly accepted certain amendments proposed by the Legislative
Assembly. These amendments[51] gave _ex-officio_ seats on the College
Council to the Speaker of the two branches of the Legislature and to the
Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General of Upper Canada; they removed
from members of the Council and from professors every semblance of a
religious test except the following declaration: "I do solemnly and
sincerely declare that I believe in the authenticity and Divine
Inspiration of the Old and New Testaments and in the Doctrine of the
Holy Trinity"; they removed absolutely from religious tests all students
and candidates for degrees; they made the Judges of His Majesty's Court
of King's Bench visitors instead of the Lord Bishop of Quebec, and
vested the appointment of future presidents in His Majesty instead of
conferring that office _ex-officio_ upon the Archdeacon of York.

[51] See Journals of Assembly of Upper Canada for 1837, Legislative
Library, Toronto.

Steps were taken at once to place the college in a position to begin
work. A very able and comprehensive scheme[52] of studies and courses
was drawn up by the President, Dr. Strachan, and everything promised
favourably, when the Rebellion broke out and all operations were

[52] See D. H. E., Vol. III., pp. 93-98.

The following sketch of the Common Schools of this period, written by
Mr. Malcolm Campbell, an old teacher of Middlesex, is inserted because
it is believed to be typical of Upper Canada conditions. Mr. Campbell
began to teach in 1835:--

"The School Houses, during the time I taught, were built of round logs
about 14 × 16 ft., with clapboard roofs and open fireplaces. A window
sash on three sides for light, a board being placed beneath them, on
which to keep copies and slates. There were long hewn benches without
backs for seats. There were no blackboards or maps on the chinked walls.
There was a miscellaneous assortment of books, which made it very
difficult to form classes. Cobb's and Webster's Spelling-books
afterwards gave place to Mavor's. The Testament was used as a Textbook,
a supply of which was furnished by Rev. Benjamin Cronyn, afterwards
Bishop of Huron. The English Reader, and Hume and Smollett's History of
England were used by the more advanced classes. Lennie's Grammar, and
Dilworth's and Hutton's Arithmetics, and the History of Cortez' Conquest
of Mexico were used, also a Geography and Atlas, and a variety of books.
Goose-quills were used for pens, which the teacher made and mended at
least twice a day. The hours of teaching were somewhat longer than at
present, and there was no recess. The number of scholars varied from 15
to 30, and school was kept open eight to ten months in the year with a
Saturday vacation every two weeks. Teachers, after having taught school
for some months, underwent a pretty thorough oral examination by the
District Board of Education, and were granted First, Second, or Third
Class certificates according to their merits, real or supposed. They had
the Government grant apportioned to them according to their standing.
Mr. Donald Currie, in the section west of me, drew annually $120 on the
ground of his high qualifications as well as his teaching Latin. My
share of the grant was $80. Mr. Benson east of me drew $50.... The
Government grant was what the teacher mainly depended on for cash. The
rest of his pay, which varied from $10 to $16 a month, Government grant
included, was mostly paid in "kind," and very hard to collect at that.

"The Trustees in these early days assumed duties beyond what they now
possess. In engaging a teacher, they examined him as to his
qualifications in the three R's and as much farther as any of themselves
knew. They fixed the rate bill which each scholar should pay, usually at
a dollar and fifty cents a quarter; and any family sending more than
three scholars should go free, as well as the children of widows.... The
teacher was expected to 'board round' at that rate of pay. He usually
boarded in one or two houses near the school, doing chores morning and
evening. The Trustees assessed each scholar with half a cord of wood
during winter, which was scantily supplied; sometimes the teacher and
bigger boys went with an axe to the woods to make up the deficiency. The
trustees were to examine the school quarterly, and sign the Quarterly
Reports so that the teacher might draw the Government grant."[53]

[53] See D. H. E., Vol. III., pp. 131, 132.

The following "Rules for the Government of Common Schools" prescribed by
the Board of Education for the Niagara District is taken from Gourley's
"Statistical Account of Upper Canada, 1817-1822," Vol. II.; Appendix,
pp. 116-119:--

    "1. The Master to commence the labours of the day by a short prayer.

    "2. School to commence each day at 9 o'clock and five hours at least
    to be given to teaching during the day, except on Saturdays.

    "3. Diligence and Emulation to be cherished and encouraged among the
    pupils by rewards judiciously distributed, to consist of little
    pictures and books, according to the age of the scholar.

    "4. Cleanliness and Good Order to be indispensable; and corporal
    punishment seldom necessary, except for bad habits learned at
    home--lying, disobedience, obstinacy and perverseness--these
    sometimes require chastisement; but gentleness even in these cases
    would do better with most children.

    "5. All other offences, arising chiefly from liveliness and
    inattention, are better corrected by shame, such as gaudy caps,
    placing the culprits by themselves, not permitting anyone to play
    with them for a day or days, detaining after school hours, or during
    a play afternoon, or by ridicule.

    "6. The Master must keep a regular catalogue of his scholars and
    mark every day they are absent.

    "7. The forenoons of Wednesday and Saturday to be set apart for
    Religious Instruction; to render it agreeable the school should be
    furnished with at least ten copies of Barrows' 'Questions on the New
    Testament,' and the Teacher to have one copy of the key to these
    questions for his own use; the teacher should likewise have a copy
    of Murray's 'Power of Religion on the Mind,' Watkin's 'Scripture
    Biography,' and Blair's 'Class Book,' the Saturday Lessons of which
    are well-calculated to impress religious feeling.

    "Note.--These books are confined to no religious denomination, and
    do not prevent the Masters from teaching such Catechism as the
    parents of the children may adopt.

    "8. Every day to close with reading publicly a few verses from the
    New Testament, proceeding regularly through the Gospels.

    "9. The afternoons of Wednesday and Saturday to be allowed for play.

    "10. A copy of these Rules to be affixed up in some conspicuous
    place in the School-room, and to be read publicly to the Scholars
    every Monday morning by the Teacher."

No doubt much good teaching was done in schools nominally governed by
similar codes of instruction. The teacher is always the real force in a
school and good teachers are never slaves to mechanical rules.

These "rules," however, suggest a form of punishment that was largely
used in those days even by good teachers and has not yet been wholly
banished from the schoolroom--ridicule. Here we see it offered as an
improvement upon corporal punishment. It may have had its advantages
over the brutal punishments sometimes inflicted in the old days, but I
think Dr. Johnson was right in saying that a reasonably severe corporal
punishment was better for both teacher and pupil than either "nagging"
or ridicule. No doubt the systems of Bell and Lancaster were responsible
for the use recommended of ridicule in the Niagara District in 1820.

One important Bill, "An Act to Provide for the Advancement of
Education,"[54] became law during the session of 1839. This Bill set
apart 250,000 acres of waste lands for the support of District Grammar
Schools, made provision for additional schools in districts where they
were needed, and provided for the erection of new buildings and
assistant masters. The Bill also placed the revenue and management of
these schools under the Council of King's College. In this way King's
College, Upper Canada College, and the District Grammar Schools--all the
machinery of higher education--were brought under central authority.

[54] See Journals of Legislature of Upper Canada for 1839. Legislative
Library, Toronto. See also copy of bill in D. H. E., Vol. III., pp. 170,

From a careful reading of a despatch[55] sent by Sir George Arthur to
the Colonial Office, in connection with the Act referred to above, it
seems quite clear that the land grant of 250,000 acres now set apart for
District Grammar Schools was the balance of the original 549,217 acres
granted by the Crown in 1798 for the endowment of Free Grammar Schools
and a University. Thus, after forty years, the intentions of the Crown
regarding Grammar Schools were to be realized. But only in part, because
the Act of 1839 did not make the Grammar Schools free.

[55] Reprinted in D. H. E. See Vol. III., pp. 173-183.

It was confidently hoped by many of the King's College Council, and
especially by the President, Rev. Dr. Strachan, that when the college
charter was amended in 1837 nothing would interfere with the immediate
execution of plans for building and opening King's College. Elaborate
plans and models of a building were prepared and sent out from England,
an architect was employed, advertisements for tenders for a building
were inserted in various newspapers, and the contract was about to be
awarded, when Sir George Arthur hurriedly convened the Council and
ordered an investigation into the finances of the College.

His suspicions had evidently been awakened by some returns on College
affairs presented in response to an Address by the Assembly. The report
of the special audit committee[56] appointed by the Council revealed a
startling condition of affairs and incidentally a strong argument
against allowing any body or corporation to handle public funds without
an annual audit by someone responsible to Parliament.

[56] See proceedings of King's College Council, 1837-1840.

The Bursar, the Hon. Joseph Wells, a prominent member of the Legislative
Council, had diverted to his own use and that of his needy friends some
£6,374, and the sum of £4,312 had been loaned to the President, Dr.
Strachan. There was in use a very primitive system[57] of book-keeping,
and on the whole just such management as might have been expected from
the close corporation which had, up to 1837, made up the King's College
Council. There was also much mismanagement of the financial affairs of
Upper Canada College. These revelations delayed building operations
until 1842.

[57] See Report of T. C. Patrick, Vol. II., manuscript Minutes King's
College Council, pp. 68-73.

On December 3rd, 1839, the last session of the Legislature of Upper
Canada was opened by Charles Poulett Thompson, afterwards Lord Sydenham.
A Bill was passed granting a charter to the "University of Kingston."
When the Bill was introduced into the Assembly, the name was to be the
"University of Queen's College."[58] Why the change was made does not
seem very clear, but perhaps it was because the promoters of the Bill
were not certain that Her Majesty had given her consent to the use of
her name in the Act. The Act placed the College largely under the
control of the Presbyterian Church and wholly under control of
Presbyterians, but no religious tests were to be exacted from students
or graduates except in Divinity. The 15th section of the charter
authorized the representative of Her Majesty in Canada to pay from the
revenues of King's College a sum sufficient to establish a Chair in
Divinity. This arrangement doubtless was the result of a despatch from
the Colonial Office some years previous to the effect that any
modification of King's College charter should provide for a Divinity
Professor of the Church of Scotland. Some readers of the present day may
ask, Why not also for other religious denominations--Methodists,
Baptists, and Congregationalists? The answer is simple. The Churches of
England and Scotland were national churches in Great Britain and
Ireland. The Anglican Church in Canada in 1840 claimed to be an
Established Church, and as the Clergy Reserve controversy was then
unsettled, her claim had reasonable expectation of realization. Had her
claim been allowed, it would have strengthened any claim the
Presbyterian Church might have made also to rank as an Established

[58] See D. H. E., Vol. III., Chap. XVI., pp. 284-299.

This Canadian charter to the "University of Kingston" was cancelled by
the Crown with the consent of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, and a
Royal Charter issued to the "University of Queen's College." By this
Royal Charter, Queen's lost the Divinity Professorship which, by the
Canadian charter, was to be established out of King's College
foundation. The Crown had power to grant a charter but no power to
interfere with the funds of King's College, which were subject to the
Canadian Legislature.

The Commission[59] appointed by the Legislature in 1839 to prepare a
report[60] on education gave a comprehensive account of the condition of
schools, but without throwing much new light upon them. The total number
of pupils in the District Grammar Schools was still about 300, but the
number in the Common Schools was estimated at 24,000, or about one in
eighteen of the total population. As to the nature of the schools
attended by these 24,000, there is abundant evidence to prove that they
were very inefficient. The Rev. Robt. McGill, of Niagara, says: "I know
the qualifications of nearly all the Common School teachers in this
district, and I do not hesitate to say that there is not more than one
in ten fully qualified to instruct the young in the humblest
department." The London District Board for 1839 says: "The Masters
chosen by the Common School Trustees are often ignorant men, barely
acquainted with the rudiments of education and, consequently, jealous of
any school superior to their own."[61]

[59] The members were: Rev. John McCaul, Rev. Henry Grasett and
Secretary Harrison.

[60] See D. H. E., Vol. III., pp. 243-283. Also Appendix to Journals of
Assembly for 1840.

[61] See D. H. E., Vol. III., p. 266.

The Grammar Schools had been gradually improving since their
establishment, but were still very far from supplying the real needs of
the people. They had no uniformity in course of study or textbooks, and
were under no inspection. In fact, lack of supervision was the weakest
spot in the whole school system.

Lord Durham, in his famous Report,[62] refers to education in Upper
Canada thus: "A very considerable portion of the Province has neither
roads, post offices, mills, schools, nor churches. The people may raise
enough for their own subsistence and may even have a rude and
comfortless plenty, but they can seldom acquire wealth; nor can even
wealthy landowners prevent their children from growing up ignorant and
boorish, and from occupying a far lower mental, moral and social
position than they themselves fill.... Even in the most thickly peopled
districts there are but few schools, and those of a very inferior
character; while the more remote settlements are almost entirely without

[62] See Lord Durham's Report, p. 66.

The Committee recommended better salaries, normal schools for training
teachers, British textbooks, an Inspector-General of Education, and a
Provincial Board of School Commissioners. Looking at the matter
three-quarters of a century later, we can see that really good schools
were not then immediately possible. Schools, like everything else,
cannot be created at command. They are the result of evolution. Upper
Canada College illustrates this. Expensive buildings were erected and
capable masters secured in England, and yet the school was not really
efficient for many years. The country was largely a wilderness. The
people were comparatively poor and their first care was to provide the
necessities of life. The sad side to the picture is that there was among
the mass of the people so little real interest in education and so
little appreciation of its worth. People will never struggle to acquire
that of which they feel no need. It seems quite clear, too, that the
struggle for civil and religious freedom and equality hindered the
development of a good school system. The latter could scarcely be
possible before the former had triumphed. The natural leaders of the
people and those who by superior attainments and education were fitted
for leadership were straining every nerve and mustering every known
resource to overthrow a corrupt oligarchy. Even among the spiritual
leaders of the people there was no unity of purpose. Instead of working
shoulder to shoulder with one another for the moral and intellectual
growth of their people, they were in many cases sapping their strength
through acrimonious and recriminating discussions of state church,
sectarianism, Clergy Reserves, endowment and grants. When once it was
finally settled that Upper Canada was to have responsible government and
that all races and all creeds were to enjoy equal civil, religious and
political rights, it was much easier to lay a solid foundation for the
development of efficient schools.

To this nothing contributed more than the Municipal Act of 1841. It
supplied the necessary local machinery, working in harmony and in close
connection with a central government. It seemed to leave almost
everything to local initiative and local control, thus appealing to
local patriotism. In reality it gave a central authority power to direct
by laying down broad general principles, and it stirred up a maximum of
local self-effort by distributing Provincial grants.

Sydenham's first Speech from the Throne to the Legislature of the United
Canadas in 1841 referred to the necessity of a better system of Common
Schools. During the session the Legislature passed an elaborate Act for
this purpose, and although it proved not to be of a practical nature it
showed an earnest desire on the part of the Legislature to improve the
Common Schools. The Act appropriated £50,000 per year to be distributed
among the Common Schools in proportion to the number of pupils between 5
and 16 years of age in each district. It provided a Superintendent of
Education for the United Canadas and prescribed his duties. It
established popularly-elected Township Boards and passed certain rates
to be assessed on the ratepayers.

The most significant feature of the Bill was that it contained the germ
which later developed into our elaborate system of Separate Schools.
Early in the session, forty petitions were presented asking that the
Bible be used in the schools. There was also a petition from Rev. Dr.
Strachan and the Anglican clergy asking that Anglican children be
educated by their own pastors and that they receive a share of public
funds for support of their schools. The Roman Catholics also petitioned
against some principles of the Common School Bill then before the House.

These things will probably explain why the Bill as passed contained a
clause allowing any number of dissentients (not necessarily Roman
Catholics) in Township Schools to withdraw and form a school of their
own, and also a clause which created for cities and incorporated towns a
School Board, half of whom were Protestant and half of whom were Roman
Catholic. The Catholics and Protestants might work together and maintain
schools in common, or they might constitute themselves into separate
committees, each committee virtually controlling its own schools.

Thus we see that while the Assembly were fighting to break down a system
of sectarianism in university education, they were introducing into the
Common Schools a policy that led to divisions on account of religion.

During the session of 1841, the Upper Canada Academy at Cobourg secured
incorporation as Victoria College with university powers, and also a
grant of £500, which later was made annual. Here, too, the Legislature
was granting public money to a sectarian institution, although it should
be noted that no religious tests were to be exacted of any students, and
that five public officers, the President of the Executive Council, the
Speakers of the two branches of the Legislature, and the
Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General for Canada West were to be
_ex-officio_ visitors and members of the Victoria College Senate.

Early in 1842, Queen's University was opened for the reception of
students. Later in the same year the corner-stone of King's College was
laid with imposing ceremony by Sir Charles Bagot, the Governor-General.
In 1843 the King's College professors began lectures. This gave three
colleges with university powers in active operation in Upper Canada in

In May, 1842, the Governor-General appointed the Hon. Robert Jameson,
Vice-Chancellor of Upper Canada, to be Chief Superintendent of
Education, and the Rev. Robert Murray, of Oakville, to be Assistant
Superintendent for Upper Canada. Mr. Murray was a scholarly gentleman,
but possessed no special qualifications for so important an office. It
seems probable that as early as 1841 Sydenham had some thought of
giving the position to Ryerson. It also seems probable that Sir Charles
Bagot knew of this and had some communication with Ryerson in respect to
it. It is more than likely that Ryerson had been too active, both in
opposing the arbitrary acts of the Legislative Council and in promoting
the interests of his own Church, to be readily acceptable to His
Excellency's Council, nearly all of whom were Churchmen.

It was soon discovered that the Common School Act of 1841 could never be
put into operation. It had only a single merit--good intentions. In 1843
it was decided to amend it and enact a separate Bill for Upper and Lower
Canada. That for Upper Canada was introduced by Hon. Francis Hincks.
Speaking of the Bill[63] he says: "The principle adopted in the School
Bill of 1843 is this: The Government pays a certain amount to each
Township--the property in that Township pays an equal amount; or if the
Councillors elected by the people choose it, double the amount. This
forms the School Fund, which is divided among the school districts, the
Trustees of which raise the balance of the teacher's salary by a Rate
Bill on the parents of the children. The system is as simple as it is
just.... In framing this system, gentlemen, you will observe that, as
in all other instances, the late Ministry have divested the grant of all
local patronage. Everything has been left to the people themselves; and
I feel perfectly convinced that they will prove themselves capable of
managing their own affairs in a more satisfactory manner than any
Government Boards of Education or visiting Superintendents could do for

[63] See "Reminiscences of His Public Life," by Sir Francis Hincks, pp.
175-177. Library of Parliament, Canada.

"The new School Act provides also for the establishment in each Township
of a Model School--the teacher of which is to receive a larger share
than others of the School Fund, provided he gives gratuitous instruction
to the other teachers in the Township, under such regulations as may be

"There is also provision for a Model School in each county, on a similar
plan, but, of course, of a higher grade. It is left to the people
themselves or their representatives in the several municipalities, to
establish these Model Schools or not, as they deem expedient. But it is
provided that as soon as a Provincial Normal School shall be in
operation (and the system will never be complete without one) the
teachers of the Model Schools must have certificates of qualification
from the professors of the Normal School."

This Act of 1843 is much more elaborate in its provisions than any
preceding legislation affecting Common Schools in Upper Canada. It
provided for county superintendents appointed by wardens and for
township, town or city superintendents appointed by the municipal
council. It would seem that in many points the duties of these two
classes of superintendents would conflict, as both were allowed to
examine and appoint teachers, and both were to visit schools. Every
section was to have a Board of Trustees elected by ratepayers, and to
these trustees was given charge of school property and the regulation of
course of study, including choice of textbooks. It would seem that full
local control was given except in the matter of certificating teachers
and regulating the government grant.

Either Protestants or Roman Catholics might petition for a Separate
School on the application of ten or more resident freeholders, but such
schools when established were maintained and controlled by the same
machinery as other schools. Model Schools were to receive a larger grant
from the Legislature. A county superintendent could issue unlimited or
limited certificates, but all certificates issued by a township, town,
or city superintendent were limited to the division in which they were
issued and were valid for one year only.

The marked weaknesses of the Act may be summed up as follows:--

1. Possible conflict of authority between county and local

2. No uniformity of course of study or textbooks.

3. No accepted standard of qualification for teachers.

4. No method provided for training of teachers, as a Normal School was
merely suggested, and Model Schools were optional.

5. No provision made to secure competent local superintendents. Any man
might be appointed.

But with all its deficiencies the School Bill of 1843 was a proof that
the Legislature earnestly desired to promote elementary education. It
was, no doubt, felt by many public men, and especially by the Governor,
that no man was so well qualified as Ryerson to direct that system at
headquarters. To pave the way for Ryerson's appointment, Rev. Robert
Murray was made Professor of Mathematics in King's College, and in
September, 1844, Ryerson became Assistant Superintendent of Education
for Upper Canada. He was to have leave of absence for travel and for
investigation into the school systems of Europe.

As events proved, Ryerson's appointment as Superintendent of Education
soon bore fruit in a more efficient system of Common Schools. But
university affairs were still in a state of chaos.

The amendments to the charter of King's College made in 1837 were
disappointingly unfruitful of any practical changes. The College
remained in charge of Anglicans, and was in reality, if not in a legal
sense, a Church of England institution. The question may naturally be
asked, why did the legislation of 1837 not effect greater changes? The
answer is simple. In 1837 the seat of government was at Toronto, and the
five _ex-officio_ Government officers could easily attend meetings of
King's College Council. But after the Act of Union in 1841 the seat of
government was moved first to Kingston and later to Montreal. It then
became wholly impossible for the five lay members of King's College to
attend regular meetings in Toronto. The result was that the affairs of
King's College remained practically in the hands of the president and
professors, who made no real efforts to adapt the College to the needs
of the people of Upper Canada. Bishop Strachan, the President, could not
forget his original plans in securing the charter, and was still trying
to realize them as far as possible. In a petition which he presented to
Parliament in 1845 against the Draper University Bill, he makes his real
object very clear. He says: "Above all things, I claim from the
endowment the means of educating my clergy. This was my chief object in
obtaining the Royal Charter and the Endowment of King's College; ... and
was indeed the most valuable result to be anticipated by the
institution.... This is a point which never can be given up, and to
which I believe the faith of Government is unreservedly pledged."[64] As
time went on and the history of the Royal grant of 1798 came to be more
fully discussed and understood, the determination of the people grew
more and more fixed to secure such modifications in the King's College
Charter as would make it a national instead of a sectarian institution.

[64] See D. H. E., Vol. V., p. 137.

The proposal of Baldwin, introduced in 1843, was statesmanlike, and
although it failed to pass owing to the early resignation of his
Ministry, it is interesting because it outlined in part the principles
upon which the University question was finally settled. The Bill
proposed to create a University of Toronto, and leave King's College as
a theological seminary without power to confer degrees. Queen's,
Victoria, and Regiopolis[65] were to become affiliated in connection
with Toronto University, and were to surrender their powers to confer
degrees. In return they were to receive certain grants from the King's
College endowment. Toronto University was to become the only
degree-conferring power in Upper Canada. Baldwin had the Governor's
consent to bring in this Bill, and had his Ministry remained in power
it would doubtless have passed. The Bill had the active support of
Queen's and Victoria, and the bitter opposition of Dr. Strachan.[66]

[65] Regiopolis, a Roman Catholic college incorporated by the
Legislature in 1837, had not, at this time, degree-conferring powers.

[66] See his petition presented to House of Assembly, 1843, against

Dr. Ryerson summed up the whole situation in a reply to an eloquent and
very able argument of Hon. W. H. Draper, who appeared at the Bar of the
House of Assembly as Counsel of King's College Council, in opposition to
the Bill. Dr. Ryerson concludes as follows: "The lands by which King's
College has been so munificently endowed, were set apart nearly fifty
years ago (in compliance with an application in 1797 of the Provincial
Legislature) for the promotion of Education in Upper Canada. This was
the object of the original appropriation of those lands--a noble grant,
not to the Church of England, but to the people of Upper Canada. In 1827
Doctor Strachan, by statements and representations against which the
House of Assembly of Upper Canada protested again and again, got 225,944
acres of these lands applied to the endowment of the Church of England
College. Against such a partial application and perversion of the
original Provincial objects of that Royal grant the people of Upper
Canada protested; the Charter of King's College was amended to carry out
the original object of the Grant; the general objects of the amended
Charter have been defeated by the manner in which it has been
administered, and the University Bill is introduced to secure their
accomplishment; and the Council of King's College employ an advocate to
perpetuate their monopoly. The reader can, therefore, easily judge who
is the faithful advocate and who is the selfish perverter of the most
splendid educational endowment that was ever made for any new
country.... I argue for no particular University Bill; but I contend
upon the grounds of right and humanity, that Presbyterians, Methodists
and all others ought to participate equally with the Episcopalians in
the educational advantages and endowments that have been derived from
the sale of lands, which, pursuant to an application from the Provincial
Legislature, were set apart in 1797 by the Crown for the support of
Education in Upper Canada."[67]

[67] See D. H. E., Vol. V., pp. 49-59.

In looking back upon the situation from our vantage-ground, covering a
lapse of nearly three-quarters of a century, we may marvel that all
parties were not ready to compromise upon the basis of a purely secular
and national university. But secular, state-owned colleges are a very
modern growth, and few men among our grandfathers had the courage to
champion such institutions. An educational institution without some
religious basis had uncanny associations. Therefore, it is not a matter
for surprise that many good men were prepared to mutilate the University
Endowment of Upper Canada, and dissipate it among sectarian colleges.
Such, to a large degree, would have been the result had the Draper Bill
of 1845 become law.

The Draper Government made a further attempt to settle the vexed
question in 1846. John A. Macdonald (afterwards Sir John A. Macdonald)
made another unsuccessful attempt in 1847. The Hon. Robert Baldwin then
became Premier, and after securing the Report of a Commission on
University Affairs, he introduced and passed a University Bill in 1849.
This Act has been many times amended, but the final result has been to
preserve for the people of Upper Canada the University Endowment, and to
remove from the management every semblance of sectarian control. The
University has become the property and the pride of all classes,
irrespective of race, politics, or religion.



"The true greatness of a people does not consist in borrowing nothing
from others, but in borrowing from all whatever is good, and in
perfecting whatever it appropriates."--_M. Cousin._

This quotation from the eminent Frenchman admirably illustrates the
spirit of Ryerson's first Report[68] and the draft of proposed
legislation accompanying it. His Report contains comparatively little
that is original, being made up of ninety per cent. of quotations from
Horace Mann's Report and from reports of eminent European statesmen and
educators. And yet the Report is none the less valuable because of the
quotations, nor does a reading of it tend to lessen one's respect for
the writer. On the contrary, the aptness of the quotations and the
skilful way in which Ryerson marshals his proofs, show his statesmanship
and genius for organization. He saw enough during his European and
American tours of investigation to convince him that Canada could, with
profit to herself, borrow many things from other peoples. His shrewd
common sense and intimate first-hand knowledge of Canadian conditions
told him exactly what ought to be done, and he wisely allowed others to
tell in his Report their own stories. His position was that of a skilled
advocate bringing forth witness after witness to give evidence to the
soundness of his theories.

[68] See "Report on a System of Public Elementary Instruction for Upper
Canada," by Egerton Ryerson, published 1847, consisting of 191 pages.

_Note._--Unless otherwise specified, all quotations in this Chapter are
from the above report.

He sets out by defining education, and although his definition is not
scientific in a psychological sense, it is essentially correct--it
points to the school as an agency to promote good citizenship. "By
education I mean not the mere acquisition of certain arts or of certain
branches of knowledge, but that instruction and discipline which qualify
and dispose the subjects of it for their appropriate duties and
employments of life, as Christians, as persons of business, and also as
members of the civil community in which they live."

Ryerson then points out that in Upper Canada the education of the masses
has been sacrificed to the education of a select class. He wishes to see
a system of universal education adapted to the needs of the country.
"The branches of knowledge which it is essential that all should
understand should be provided for all, and taught to all; should be
brought within the reach of the most needy and forced upon the attention
of the most careless. The knowledge required for the scientific pursuit
of mechanics, agriculture, and commerce must needs be provided to an
extent corresponding with the demand and the exigencies of the country;
while to a more limited extent are needed facilities for acquiring the
higher education of the learned professions." The Report sets forth a
great array of proof drawn from the United States, Britain, Switzerland,
Germany, and other European countries, to show that the productive
capacity of the people, their morality and intelligence, are in direct
proportion to their schools and institutions of learning. Ryerson lays
down as fundamental that any system adopted for Upper Canada must be
universal in the sense of giving elementary instruction to all and
practical in the sense of fitting for the duties of life in a young
country. He goes to considerable trouble to show that in his view the
practical includes religion and morality, as well as a development of
the merely intellectual powers.

Ryerson was no narrow ecclesiastic, but still he could conceive of no
sound system of elementary instruction that did not provide for the
teaching of the essential truths of Christianity. He was decidedly not
in favour of secular schools or secular colleges. And yet he believed
that religious instruction in mixed classes was possible, and pointed
out in his Report how it might be conducted. He made a very sharp
distinction between religion and dogma, between the essential truths of
Christianity and sectarianism. Dogma and sectarian teaching, in his
opinion, had no place in schools except in those where all the pupils
were of a common religious faith. What he pleads for in his Report is
the recognition of Christianity as a basis of all instruction, and the
teaching of as much of the Bible as could be given without offending any
sectarian prejudices. "To teach a child the dogmas and spirit of a Sect,
before he is taught the essential principles of Religion and Morality,
is to invert the pyramid, to reverse the order of nature,--to feed with
the bones of controversy instead of with the nourishing milk of Truth
and Charity.... I can aver from personal experience and practice, as
well as from a very extended enquiry on this subject, that a much more
comprehensive course of Biblical and Religious instruction can be given
than there is likely to be opportunity for doing so in Elementary
Schools, without any restraint on the one side or any tincture of
sectarianism on the other,--a course embracing the entire history of the
Bible, its institutions, cardinal doctrines and morals, together with
the evidences of its authenticity." The Report goes on to show how from
Ryerson's viewpoint the absence of religious teaching in the schools of
the American Union was having a damaging effect upon the moral fibre of
the national life. He further illustrated by reference to what he saw in
France, Germany, and Ireland, how religious instruction might be given
without causing any denominational friction or unpleasantness.

After defining the aim and scope of a national system of education, and
giving it a religious foundation, the Report outlines the subjects that
should be taught in Elementary Schools, and illustrates in almost every
case how these several subjects should be presented. While the basis of
the instruction proposed is the three R's--reading, including spelling;
'riting, and 'rithmetic--yet it is remarkable to what an extent Ryerson
proposed to go in "enriching" the Common School programme. Indeed, as
one reads the Report he is inclined to repeat the old adage: "There is
nothing new under the sun." Almost every subject introduced into Ontario
schools during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, and many
which yet, in the twentieth century, seem to have an insecure foothold,
and are by many denominated "fads," were included by Ryerson in his
memorable Report of 1846, and the arguments he uses in favour of their
adoption would not seem out of place if used by an advanced educator of
the present day. He pleads for music, drawing, history, civics,
inductive geography, inductive grammar teaching, concrete number work,
oral instruction, mental arithmetic, nature study, experimental science,
book-keeping, agriculture, physical training, hygiene, and even
political economy. He illustrates some German methods of teaching
reading that many Ontario teachers fondly think were originated in their
own country.

Ryerson from Canada, Horace Mann from Massachusetts, Sir Kay
Shuttleworth from England, besides many others, about this time paid
visits to Prussia, and went home to recommend the adoption of much that
they saw. These men were acute observers. They recognized that the
Germans had learned something that was not generally known by other
teachers. How are we to explain it? Had the German teachers by accident
blundered upon better _methods_ of teaching than were practised by other
nations? Not so. The German methods were the natural result of the
German philosophy. The work of Herbart, Froebel, and other thinkers, was
bearing its natural fruit, and many of the improvements introduced into
the Canadian schools by Ryerson and practised by Canadian teachers,
perhaps in an empirical way, were far-away echoes of principles
laboriously worked out by German scholars.

Ryerson's remarks on teaching Biography and Civil Government seem almost
like an echo from some modern school syllabus. "Individuals preceded
nations. The picture of the former is more easily comprehended than that
of the latter, and is better adapted to awaken the curiosity and
interest the feeling of the child. Biography should, therefore, form the
principal topic of elementary history; and the great periods into which
it is naturally and formally divided,--and which must be distinctly
marked,--should be associated with the names of some distinguished
individual or individuals. The life of an individual often forms the
leading feature of the age in which he lived and will form the best
nucleus around which to collect, in the youthful mind, the events of an
age, or the history of a period.... Every pupil should know something of
the Government and Institutions and Laws under which he lives, and with
which his rights and interests are so closely connected. Provision
should be made to teach in our Common Schools an outline of the
principles and constitution of our Government; the nature of our
institutions; the duties which they require; the manner of fulfilling
them; some notions of our Civil, and especially our Criminal Code."

The second part of Ryerson's Report is wholly concerned with the
machinery of a System of Public Elementary Instruction for Upper Canada.
The Report, after giving an outline of the various classes of schools
in France and Germany, recommends for Canada a system as
follows:--Common or Primary Schools for every section of a township;
District Model Schools, which would correspond with the German Real or
Trade Schools; District Grammar Schools, which would correspond with the
German Higher Burgher Schools and Gymnasia; and, completing all, one or
more Provincial Universities. The Report also suggested that as
Districts became more populous each would in time be able to support,
say three Model Schools, and these might specialize, one training for
agriculture, another for commercial life, and a third for mechanical or
industrial life.

Normal Schools were also recommended for the training of teachers, and
elaborate arguments set forth showing their benefits. The example of
France, Germany, Ireland, and the United States is quoted to show how
these schools would secure better teachers, and that better teachers
would mean better schools. Ryerson believed that Normal Schools would
elevate teaching to the rank of a profession. He believed that the
people were intelligent enough to choose good teachers in preference to
poor ones if the good ones were at hand. He also pointed out how a good
teacher would be able to economize the child's time and advance him much
faster than an indifferent teacher.

The Report then deals with the subject of textbooks. We need to remember
that in Upper Canada at this time there was no control of textbooks.
Each local Board or each teacher made a selection. In the majority of
cases the matter regulated itself. Pupils used what they could get. With
many of the people, a book was a book, and one was as good as another.
The utmost confusion prevailed. There had been many complaints that some
of the books used were American and anti-British in tone. By 1846 the
enterprise of Canadian publishers had driven out many of the American
texts, but in some districts they were still in common use.[69] In
reference to this, Ryerson says: "The variety of textbooks in the
schools, and the objectionable character of many of them, is a subject
of serious and general complaint. All classification of the pupils is
thereby prevented; the exertions of the best teacher are in a great
measure paralyzed; the time of the scholars is almost wasted; and
improper sentiments are often inculcated." The Report suggests that this
matter must be under central control and not left to any local board or
district superintendent. To fully appreciate the importance of this
matter we need to remember that books meant more sixty years ago than
they do to-day in any system of instruction. The better the teacher the
less he is dependent upon a book, especially in such subjects as
arithmetic, grammar, geography, or history. But in 1846 the teachers
were in many cases wholly helpless without books. A boy went to school
to "mind his book." Rote learning, working problems by a rule laid down
in the book, studying printed questions and answers, were largely what
was meant by "schooling." Bad as such a system was, its evils were
increased when the books were especially unsuitable. Ryerson praised
very highly the series in use in the National Schools of Ireland, and
later he introduced them into Canada.

[69] A Report made to the Education Office, for 1846, shows that there
were in use in Upper Canada schools 13 Spelling, 107 Reading, 35
Arithmetic, 20 Geography, 21 History, and 16 Grammar texts, besides 53
different texts in various other subjects.

Public men in Upper Canada who took an interest in education had long
recognized that the Common Schools were sadly in need of a stronger
central control, and some system of inspection. But how to secure these
safeguards and yet not destroy the principle of local control was no
easy problem to solve. The township superintendents were not educators.
They often were intelligent men, but as a class were without any
knowledge of how to guide schools or inspire teachers to nobler things.
They received from £10 to £20 a year for their services, which sum was
as good as wasted. The Act of 1841, and that of 1843, had made
provision for local superintendents of education, and had also defined
their duties, but the Act had made no provision to secure the due
performance of their orders. They were without power except such as the
District and Township Boards voluntarily allowed them to assume. They
might make suggestions and give advice, but with that their legal
functions were at an end.

When M. Cousin, in 1836, visited Holland to examine into the system of
primary instruction in that country, the Dutch Commissioner who had
founded the system said to him: "Be watchful in the choice of your
inspectors; they are the men who ought to be sought for with a lantern
in the hand." Ryerson recognized the truth of this, and in his Report
laid it down as essential to any efficient system.

His report on the control that should be exercised directly by the
Government I shall quote entire.

"(1) To see that the Legislative grants are faithfully and judiciously
expended according to the intentions of the Legislature; that the
conditions on which the appropriations have been made are in all cases
duly fulfilled.

"(2) To see that the general principles of the law as well as the
objects of its appropriations are in no instance contravened.

"(3) To prepare the regulations which relate to the general character
and management of the schools, and the qualifications and character of
the teachers, leaving the employment of them to the people and a large
discretion as to modes of teaching.

"(4) To provide or recommend books from the catalogue of which Trustees
or Committees may be enabled to select suitable ones for the use of
their schools.

"(5) To prepare and recommend suitable plans of school-houses and their
furniture and appendages as one of the most important subsidiary means
of securing good schools--a subject upon which it is intended by me, on
a future occasion, to present a special report.

"(6) To employ every constitutional means to excite a spirit of
intellectual activity and enquiry, and to satisfy it as far as possible
by aiding in the establishment and selection of school libraries and
other means of diffusing useful knowledge.

"(7) Finally and especially, to see that an efficient system of
inspection is exercised over all the schools. This involves the
examination and licensing of teachers, visiting the schools, discovering
errors and suggesting remedies as to the organization, classification
and methods of teaching in the schools, giving counsel and instruction
as to their management, carefully examining the pupils, animating
teachers, trustees and parents by conversations and addresses, whenever
practicable, imparting vigour by every available means to the whole
school system. What the Government is to the system and what the teacher
is to the school, the local inspector or superintendent of schools
should be within the limits of his district."

This plan made the Local Superintendent responsible for the examination
and licensing of teachers according to regulations laid down by the
Department. With this important exception it will be seen that the
functions of the Government as exercised through the Department of
Education are substantially the same to-day as they were outlined in
Ryerson's first report.

The concluding part of the report dealt with what Ryerson called
"Individual Efforts," and under this heading he said some very sensible
things. He emphasized the importance of parents taking an interest in
the school, of clergymen and magistrates visiting the school, of good
school libraries, of Teachers' Institutes, of debating clubs, and of
every agency that would assist in stimulating intellectual life.



The year 1846 will ever be memorable in the annals of school legislation
in Upper Canada, because it established the main principles upon which
all subsequent school legislation was founded. As already pointed out,
the Act of 1843 was largely a failure because it did not provide
adequate machinery for the enforcement of its provisions. No important
school legislation was undertaken during 1845 in anticipation of
Ryerson's report. After making his report, Ryerson drafted a Bill which,
with a few trifling emendations, became the Common School Act of 1846.
It will assist us to an intelligent grasp of future legislation if we
examine this Act with some care.

It first defined the duties of the Superintendent of Schools. He became
the chief executive officer of the Government in all school matters. He
was to apportion among the various District Councils (there were twenty
at this time) in proportion to the school population, the money voted by
the Legislature for the support of common schools (the total Legislative
grant for 1846 was £20,962 to 2,736 schools) and see that it was
expended according to the Act; he was to supply school officers with all
necessary forms for making school returns and keep them posted as to
school regulations; he was to discourage unsuitable books as texts and
for school libraries and to recommend the use of uniform and approved
texts; he was to assume a general direction of the Normal School when it
became established; he was to prepare and recommend plans for
school-houses, with proper furniture; he was to encourage school
libraries, and finally he was to diffuse information generally on
education and submit an annual report to the Governor-General.

The Act established the first General Board of Education.[70] It was to
consist of the Superintendent of Education and six other members
appointed by the Governor-General. This Board was to manage the Normal
School, to authorize texts for schools and to aid the Superintendent
with advice upon any subject which he should submit to it.

[70] The one in existence from 1823 to 1833 was not established by
Parliament but by the Lieutenant-Governor by the authority of the
Imperial Government.

The Act provided for a Normal and Model School. It required each
Municipal District Council to appoint a Superintendent of Schools. No
qualification was fixed for the District Superintendent. It would have
been useless to do so, because there were no men technically qualified
for such positions. The only thing to do was trust to the District
Council to choose the best man available. The District Municipal Council
was also instructed to levy upon the rateable property of the District a
sum for support of schools at least equal to the Legislative grant. They
were to divide each township, town or city into numbered school
sections. They were also given power by by-law to levy rates upon any
school section for the purchase of school sites, erection of school
buildings or teachers' residences in that section.

The District Superintendents became very important officers, and upon
their learning, zeal, integrity and tact must have depended much of the
success or failure of the schools of this period. They were required to
apportion the District School Fund, consisting of the Legislative grant
and Municipal levy, among the various school sections in proportion to
the number of children between five and sixteen years of age resident in
the section, and pay these sums to the teacher on the proper order being
presented; to visit all schools in their Districts[71] at least once a
year and report on their progress and general condition; to advise
trustees and teachers in regard to school management; to examine
candidates for teachers' certificates, and grant licenses, either
temporary or permanent, to those who were proficient; to revoke licenses
held by incompetent or unsuitable teachers; to prevent the use of
unauthorized textbooks; and finally, to make an annual report of the
schools in their districts to the Chief Superintendent.

[71] Five Districts had, in 1846, more than 200 schools each, the
average for the Province being 155 schools for each District.

The Act declared that all Clergymen, Judges of the District Court,
Wardens, Councillors and Justices of the Peace were to be school
visitors, with the right to visit any school or schools in their
districts except Separate Schools. They were given authority to question
pupils, conduct examinations and advise the teachers, or make reports to
the District Superintendent. They were especially charged with the duty
of encouraging school libraries. One remarkable power was conferred upon
them. Any two school visitors of a district were allowed to examine a
candidate for a teacher's license and grant such license if they saw fit
for a term not exceeding one year in a specified school.

There are two simple explanations[72] of this clause in Ryerson's School
Act. He may have wished to interest school visitors in the schools by
giving them some power. He may have wished to create a local power to
act in an emergency if a school became vacant through any cause during a
school term. In many cases the Superintendent lived fifty to
seventy-five miles from the remote corners of his District, and with the
primitive means of communication in use at that time, it was an
advantage to have some local body with authority to license teachers.

[72] Ryerson also gives as a reason his desire to make a gradual
transition from the old system of license by Township Boards to the new
plan of granting licenses only by the District Superintendent. See D. H.
E., Vol. VII., P. 155.

It is a matter for regret that at the present time the various officials
mentioned here as school visitors, as well as parents generally, are so
seldom seen inside the public schools. True, we now have trained
teachers, and teaching has so far become a profession that few school
visitors would care to question pupils, but the very presence in the
school-room from time to time of educated men and women, and especially
those occupying public positions, has a beneficial effect upon both
teachers and pupils. Pupils feel that the work of the school must be
important if it is worthy of the attention of busy and successful men.
Teachers are encouraged to make a good showing and are often hungry for
the few words of sympathy and encouragement that would naturally
accompany such visits. The school can never fully realize its function
as a social institution unless the best citizens take an active interest
in it. This was uppermost in Ryerson's mind when he penned that part of
his report relating to individual efforts in promoting the welfare of
the school.[73]

[73] See Report in D. H. E., Vol. VI., p. 208.

The Act of 1846 defined in detail how school trustees were to be
elected. In all previous Acts the whole Trustee Board was elected
annually. This gave to the Board no continuity of corporate life. One
Trustee Board might have certain plans and make a certain bargain with a
teacher. The new Board might have different plans and repudiate the
contracts of its predecessor. Ryerson's Bill solved the difficulty by
having trustees elected for three years, one to retire annually.
Trustees' duties were not materially different from those of trustees
to-day except in one or two particulars. They had to raise by a rate
bill upon parents of pupils attending school such sums as were required
over and above the two school grants for payment of the teacher's salary
and the incidental expenses of the school; they were required to make
provision by which the children of indigent parents were exempted,
wholly or in part, from school rates; and they were required to select
school books from a list sanctioned by the Department of Education. In
Ryerson's draft bill he proposed that the rate bill should be levied
upon the property of the section. This would virtually have given free
schools. The Legislature of 1846 amended this clause and made the rate
bill assessable only upon parents of children in actual attendance.
Ryerson says of these rate bills:[74] "The evils of the present system
of school rate bills have been brought under my notice from the most
populous townships and by the most experienced educationists in Canada.
When it is apprehended that the rate bill in a school section will be
high, many will not send their children to the school at all--then there
is no school; or else a few give enough to pay the teacher for three
months, including the Government grant; or even after the school has
commenced, if it be found that the school is not so large as had been
anticipated, and that those who send will consequently be required to
pay more than they had expected, parents will begin to take their
children from school in order to escape the rate bill as persons would
flee from a falling house! The consequence is that the school is either
broken up, or the whole burthen of paying the teacher falls upon the
trustees, and often as a consequence a quarrel ensues between them and
the teacher. I have been assured by the most experienced and judicious
men, with whom I have conversed on the subject, that it is impossible to
have good schools under the present rate bill system. I think the
substitute I proposed will remedy the evil. I know of none who will
object to it but the rich and the childless and the selfish. Education
is a public good; ignorance is a public evil. What affects the public
ought to be binding upon each individual composing it. In every good
government and in every good system the interests of the whole society
are obligatory upon each member of it."

[74] See D. H. E., Vol. VI., p. 76.

This rate bill, as authorized in 1846, was, however, an improvement on
the old one which was levied upon parents according to the actual time
of the child's attendance, whereas the Bill of 1846 levied a tax upon
the parents of children in actual attendance for at least two-thirds of
the whole school term, whether the children attended regularly or

Teachers' duties were defined by the Act much as they are to-day.
District Model Schools were authorized on the same condition as in the
Act of 1843. The clauses in the Act of 1843 relating to the formation of
Separate Roman Catholic or Protestant schools were also embodied in the
Act of 1846.

Now, what are the distinguishing features of this School Act that
reflect credit upon its author? It would be idle to pretend that there
were not in Upper Canada many able men who saw the weaknesses of the
school system as clearly as Dr. Ryerson. Ryerson's claim to distinction
rests upon the fact that he organized a system that _worked_. He not
only co-ordinated the several parts of the system, but put life into
it. This was no easy task. The people were very jealous of their power
of local control, and yet unless this local control could be subjected
to some central control, improvement was hopeless. It was here that
Ryerson did what no other man had done. He lessened local, and
strengthened central, control, and did it so gradually, so wisely, and
so tactfully, that local prejudices were soothed and in many cases the
people scarcely recognized what was being done until the thing was
accomplished. We must not suppose that all this was completed by the
legislation of 1846. It began then, but its complete evolution was the
work of a quarter-century.

If we ask through what agency Ryerson was enabled to secure this gradual
executive strength that makes our educational machinery so effective the
answer must be--the Legislative grant. The Legislature placed the grant
at the disposal of the Superintendent for him to apportion among the
Districts. Here was a lever of wonderful power, and Ryerson was quick to
perceive its possibilities. If Districts wished a grant they must
conform to certain requirements. If school sections wished a grant from
the District Superintendent, they, too, must satisfy certain
requirements as to textbooks, qualified teachers, building and

No doubt the Prussian system gave Ryerson many hints on this subject,
but he knew that the Canadian spirit was very different from the docile
German spirit fostered by generations of benevolent paternalism. I
think, too, there can be no reasonable doubt that he received many
practical hints on this point from the workings of Her Majesty's
Committee on Education formed by the Imperial Parliament. The history of
the world presents no more significant illustration of how an outside
body may come to exercise an effective control over various kinds of
schools than is presented by the history of the schools of Great Britain
and Ireland and their control by Her Majesty's Government through
parliamentary grants.

That the leaders of Canadian public opinion in the years following 1846
saw all that was involved in Ryerson's gradual strengthening of central
control of educational affairs is made abundantly clear by the leading
editorials in the press of that period. The Toronto _Globe_, which had
been established in 1844 by the Browns, was already in 1846 the leading
exponent of advanced liberal ideas in Upper Canada. As the _Globe_ had
been bitterly opposed to Lord Metcalfe, and had resented Ryerson's
defence of him, it was not to be expected that Ryerson's appointment as
Superintendent of Education would be satisfactory to that journal, or
that his educational plans would be leniently criticised. Indeed, the
_Globe_ editor's first objection to Ryerson's Bill of 1846 was to the
great powers conferred upon the Superintendent and to the irresponsible
nature of his Commission. The following is from a _Globe_ editorial of
April 14th, 1846;[75] "We have read a draft of the new School Bill for
Upper Canada brought in by Mr. Draper. We have not been able to go over
all its claims, but it contains one objectionable principle, viz.: the
appointment and dismissal of the Superintendent is vested in the
Governor-General personally and not in the Governor-General with the
advice of his Council, as it ought to be. The whole funds from which the
school system is to derive support are raised by the people of Canada,
and the disposal of them should be subjected to the control of the House
through the Executive Council.... The powers of the Superintendent are
very great and embrace many points such as the selection of proper
books, etc. A Board of seven Commissioners to assist the Superintendent
is named, but the Governor may appoint them, or not, and the
Superintendent may take their advice, or not, and he has also power to
prevent interference at any time, for he is only to receive advice on
all measures which he may 'submit to them.' The whole of this extensive
institution, if the Bill passes, will be lodged in the Governor-General
personally and in the Superintendent, and they may work it for any
purpose that suits their views." On July 14th, 1846, the editor of the
_Globe_ again criticises the School Bill, because the Superintendent
reports to the Governor and not to the Governor-General-in-Council.

[75] See bound volume of _Globe_ in Legislative Library, Toronto.

These articles are interesting and important. Why was Ryerson's
appointment vested in the Governor and not in the Executive Council? The
answer not only throws valuable light upon the way that Ryerson himself
viewed his office and its relation to the public, but it incidentally
shows how imperfectly responsible government was established in Upper
Canada in 1846. We should gasp with astonishment in Canada to-day if it
were proposed to vest the appointment of any public officers in the
Governor-General personally. We allow our Governors no personal freedom
in the conduct of public affairs. But in 1846 that idea was not wholly
accepted. There still lingered a feeling that the Crown had certain
vaguely-defined prerogatives, which might be exercised without let or
hindrance from Councillors. And many who recognized that the British
Crown had little individual freedom of action in public affairs in
Britain could not see that the same status ought to be established for
the Crown's representative in a colony. Or, to put it in another way,
the people did not see how a colony could be self-governing without
being wholly independent.

Ryerson wished his appointment to be vested in the Governor, rather than
in the Executive Council, because he thought that by such an arrangement
he was a servant of the country and not of any political party. He
thought that a Superintendent of Education ought, like a judge, to be
placed beyond the accidents and turmoil of politics. No doubt that was
an illogical position. Indeed, time showed it to be so, and that full
recognition of the principle of responsible government required a
Minister of Education responsible directly to the Legislature. We can
only speculate as to what would have been the effect upon our schools
had Ryerson's position been looked upon as political and had he been
forced to vacate his office with every change of government. It seems
doubtful whether our schools would have improved as rapidly as they did
under the conservative, but truly progressive, policy of Ryerson.

There is abundant evidence that there were many in Upper Canada who
wished to see the position of Superintendent closely connected with
politics. A _Globe_ editorial, Jan. 6th, 1847, commenting on Ryerson's
report, says: "We expected that when our new Superintendent stepped into
his ill-gotten office he would immediately take measures to make
himself acquainted with the replies to such questions as the following:
First, the situation, condition and number of schools and school-houses
of all kinds in the Province. Second, the manner in which school
trustees, town, county and district Superintendents had discharged their
several duties. Third, the desire manifested by parents generally for
the education of their children. Fourth, the competency and efficiency
of the teachers, their salaries, etc. Fifth, the kind of school books
used, the school libraries and other apparatus for teaching. Had such
questions been proposed and answered, the Superintendent would have had
something to base a report upon. It was but natural to suppose that an
officer whose sole prospects of success are in the confidence and
co-operation of the people would have taken some steps to gain that
confidence and co-operation, that he would have been desirous by direct
communication with superintendents, trustees, experienced teachers and
influential persons in the Province of ascertaining their views and of
obtaining their suggestions as to the best means of promoting the
interests of the noble department over which he had been called to
preside. But no, it is true he was devising a system of education for
Canada, but what had the wants or wishes of the people to do with it?
The serfs must receive anything I, their lord and master, may import
from the cringing subjects of despotic monarchies. We are more and more
convinced from the examination of this report that Mr. Ryerson is not
competent for the situation which he occupies."

This is manifestly unfair. Ryerson knew from previous experience and
without any further special investigation, the answer to every one of
the five questions propounded above. In 1848, just after the
Baldwin-Lafontaine administration was formed, and before the
newly-formed ministry had met Parliament, there was more or less
discussion about dismissing Ryerson from his position as Superintendent
of Education. The _Globe_ of April 29th, 1848, says: "Will any man,
except a few of his own clique, say that Egerton Ryerson should be
Superintendent of Education under a Liberal Government? We apprehend
none. He has done nothing wrong since his appointment, it is said. We
say he has. He spent many months on the Continent of Europe and in
Britain in amusement or recreation, professing to get information about
things which every person knew already.... We have had hints of the
Prussian system being applicable to Canada and we feel convinced that
he, who sold himself to the late Administration, would have readily
brought all the youth of Canada to the same market and placed them
under the domination of an arbitrary and coercive power. He had sold
their fathers for pelf, why not sell the sons also? Was he not in league
with that party which would retain the Province in vassalage to the old
Compact which he had so heartily denounced in former times? Is he not a
member of that Methodist Committee which bargained away to a worthless
Ministry the Methodist votes for £1,500 to Victoria College? These are
most memorable events in the annals of political corruption.... But we
care not if there had been no ground for complaint since 1844. We know
that Egerton Ryerson sold himself body and spirit to Lord Metcalfe and
that he broached doctrines of the most unconstitutional kind,
threatening those who were but asking the common rights of British
subjects with the vengeance of the whole Empire. The man who holds such
views is unfit to be at the head of the country's education. He would
convert the children of the Province into the most pliable tools of an
arbitrary system."

These articles show clearly that the party press was not disposed to
judge Ryerson by his work as Superintendent of Education. They claimed
that because he championed Lord Metcalfe in 1844 he was a partizan, and
if a partizan in 1844 he must still be one in 1848.

Besides a certain amount of political prejudice, Ryerson had to overcome
the many points of friction caused by an attempt to work the Bill of
1846, and when we consider the ignorance and incompetence among those
upon whom the administration of the Act rested, and the prejudices
against the Act by many who were supremely selfish, we have to admit
that a less courageous man would have utterly failed. Many trustees
could neither read nor write. In some cases the District Municipal
Councillors who were parties to school administration were equally
ignorant. District Superintendents of schools were not always fitted for
such a responsibility. Perhaps half the whole body of teachers made up a
motley assortment of impecunious tramps. The Superintendent's report for
1847 shows that out of 2,572 schoolhouses only 133 were of brick or
stone, and that 1,399 were made of logs; 1,378 had no playground, and
only 163 were provided with water-closets. With many superintendents,
trustees, and teachers miserably incompetent, with buildings and
equipment woefully inadequate, it required a stout heart to undertake a

Ryerson had two temperamental qualities that stood him in good stead; he
had an idealist's faith in humanity, believing that men would choose the
higher if it could once be shown them; he had besides an infinite
capacity for hard work and for taking pains. This is fully shown by the
way he met the many objections to his Bill of 1846. The bitterest
opposition came from the Council of the Gore District, now the County of
Wentworth, a District from which more progressive ideas might have been
expected. On the 10th November, 1846, this Council[76] petitioned the
Legislative Assembly against Ryerson's Bill. They objected to a
Provincial Board of Education and to a Chief Superintendent. They wished
to have re-enacted the School Bills of 1816 and 1820. Among other things
the petition says: "With respect to the necessity of establishing a
Normal, with elementary Model Schools in this Province, your
memorialists are of opinion that however well adapted such an
institution might be to the wants of the old and densely populated
countries of Europe, where service in almost every vocation will
scarcely yield the common necessaries of life, they are altogether
unsuited to a country like Upper Canada, where a young man of such
excellent character as a candidate is required to be to enter a Normal
School and having the advantage of a good education besides, need only
turn to the right hand or to the left to make his service much more
agreeable and profitable to himself, than in the drudgery of a common
school, at an average of £29 per annum [the average in Upper Canada for
1845]; nor do your memorialists hope to provide qualified teachers by
any other means in the present circumstances of the country than by
securing as heretofore the services of those whose physical disabilities
from age render this mode of obtaining a livelihood the only one suited
to their decaying energy, or by employing such of the newly-arrived
immigrants as are qualified for common school teachers, year by year as
they come amongst us, and who will adopt this as a means of temporary
support until their character and abilities are known and turned to
better account for themselves."

[76] See copy of petition in D. H. E., Vol. VII., pp. 114-116.

This petition was sent to every District Council in Upper Canada. Some
districts agreed with it, some were indifferent and some wholly opposed
its spirit. Colborne District Council took a very different attitude.
They praised the Chief Superintendent, warmly approved of a Normal
School, and found much to admire in the legislation of 1846. The
following from their report will serve as an illustration:[77] "As the
Normal and Model Schools begin to yield their legitimate fruits, and as
the blighting effects of employing men as school teachers who are
neither in manners nor in intellectual endowments much above the lowest
menials, shall press less and less heavily upon the mental and moral
habitudes of the rising generation, the great benefits to be derived
from the present Common School Act, and its immense superiority over
all former school laws of Upper Canada, will become more and more
confessed and appreciated. Already that public apathy which is the
deadliest enemy to improvement is slowly yielding to the necessity
imposed by the present school law upon the trustees and others of
acquiring extended information, of entering with a deeper interest into
all matters connected with Common Schools and of joining with school
visitors, superintendents and municipal councillors in a more active and
vigilant oversight of them."

[77] See copy of memorial in D. H. E., Vol. VII., p. 117.

Ryerson saw that public opinion must be educated. The problem was a
wider one than the education of the rising generation in the
schoolhouses. The fathers and mothers and all who made public opinion
must be awakened. This work Ryerson did in a characteristic manner. He
had been a missionary preacher of the Gospel; he now became an
educational missionary. He sent carefully-prepared circulars to
Municipal Councils, to District Superintendents, to school trustees and
to teachers. He established at his own financial risk, and without
accepting a penny of the profits for his labour, an educational journal
as a means of communication with the general public. In the autumn of
1847 he spent ten weeks in visits to the twenty-one Districts into which
Upper Canada was at that time divided. He called District Educational
Conventions, lasting each two days. To these were invited teachers,
District Superintendents, School Visitors, Municipal Councillors and the
general public. The Warden was generally secured as chairman. During the
day, Ryerson discussed the School Act and its operation. He found that
often the people had been misled and that trustees who had never made
any attempt to enforce the Act had laid the blame for their poor school
upon the Act of 1846. In almost every case a frank discussion face to
face with the parties concerned removed unreasonable prejudices and made
friends for the new Superintendent. In the evening, Ryerson gave a
public lecture. His subject in 1847 was "The Advantage of Education to
an Agricultural People." No subject could have been more appropriate to
secure the sympathy of the mass of the people and to give the lecturer
an opportunity to show what he hoped to do for Upper Canada.



The Act of 1846 provided that the Municipal Councils of Toronto and
Kingston were to have the same powers in school matters as the District
Councils. Toronto had at this time twelve school sections, each with its
own Trustee Board, and each fixing its own textbooks and course of
study. Such a system was cumbersome, wasteful, and inefficient, and the
practical mind of Ryerson devised a remedy. In 1847, the Cities and
Towns Act was passed. This Act required the Municipal Councils of cities
and towns to appoint a School Board of six members. These six, together
with the Mayor of the Corporation, had full control of all schools and
school property. They could determine the number and kind of schools and
the texts to be used, but they had no power either to levy an assessment
upon property or to collect rate bills from parents. Any funds needed by
the School Board in addition to the Legislative and Municipal grants
were to be levied upon the taxable property of the city or town by the
Municipal Council. But the Act did not say that the Municipal Council
must grant the sums asked for by the Board of Trustees. In Toronto the
Council of 1848 refused to levy the necessary assessment, and the School
Trustees were compelled to close the schools from July to December.

The Toronto _Globe_[78] declared that Ryerson was introducing a Prussian
despotism into Canada. Ryerson said that he desired nothing Prussian in
the Canadian schools except the method of schoolroom instruction, and
claimed that his new School Bill was almost a literal transcript of that
in force in the State of New York. Ryerson then set forth the chief
advantage of the new Bill, viz.: that it gave to the poor man the
_right_ to have his children, however numerous, educated, whereas the
rate bill system compelled him in many cases to claim free schooling
only on the ground of his poverty. The new School Act was to enable a
poor man to educate his children and still maintain his self-respect.
The school tax was to be levied not upon the children of the section,
but upon the real property. Ryerson concluded as follows: "Wealthy
selfishness and hatred of the education of the poor and labouring
classes may exclaim against this provision of the law, but enlightened
Christian philanthropy and true patriotism will rejoice at its

[78] See editorial, Toronto _Globe_ of May 8th, 1848.

Commenting on Ryerson's letter, the following issue of the _Globe_ said:
"The Doctor makes a great fuss about the cruel position of a man who
cannot 'brook to say he was a pauper' under the old system and the
delightful and 'enlightened Christian philanthropy' of his new system
which 'places the poor man and his children upon equal footing with the
rich man and his children.' All bunkum, Dr. Ryerson. If it is hard to
have ten or fifty or one hundred scholars as paupers at present, will it
improve the matter to make the children of the common schools all
paupers? If one class keep their children away now because the schools
are above their means, and pride won't let them submit to state the fact
to a trustee, will there not hereafter be a much larger class whose
pride will prevent them sending their children to what even Dr. Ryerson
admits will be pauper schools?... Is it not melancholy that so crooked,
so visionary a man as this should be at the head of the literary
institutions of the country?"

But Ryerson was fighting for free schools. He knew that thousands of
children were growing up ignorant, especially in the large towns. He was
able to show that in the city of Toronto, out of 4,450 children of
school age in 1846, only 1,221 were on the common school registers and
that the average attendance was scarcely one thousand. Even if it were
granted that another thousand were in attendance at private and church
schools, the fact remained that not more than half the children in
Toronto were being educated.

In October, 1848, Ryerson submitted to the Government a draft School
Bill, designed to remedy the defects in the legislation of 1846-1848. In
a report[79] which he submitted with his draft Bill he says: "No law
which contemplates the removal of grovelling or selfish ignorance and
the elevation of society by means of efficient regulations and general
taxation for schools ever has been, or ever will be, popular with the
purely selfish or the listlessly ignorant. All such laws must be
sustained for a time at least by the joint influence of the Government
and the intelligent and enterprising portion of the community."

[79] See copy in D. H. E., Vol. VIII., p. 85.

The outcry against free schools and taxation of property to educate the
children of the poor showed clearly that the time had not yet come for
the realization of his plans, and Ryerson in his draft Bill restored to
towns and cities the right to impose rate bills upon parents, at the
same time declaring his faith in the ultimate triumph of free schools.

In February, 1849, Ryerson submitted additions to his draft Bill of the
previous October. Among other changes he recommended additional
Superintendents for Districts of more than 150 schools; District Boards
of Examiners who would replace the District Superintendent and school
visitors[80] in issuing teachers' certificates; Teachers' Institutes for
lectures and professional training of teachers; provision for separate
schools for coloured children; school libraries for each section, and
also township libraries; township School Boards; a School of Art and
Design, connected with the Normal School; provincial certificates for
Normal School graduates; making trustees personally responsible for a
teacher's salary; the distribution of school funds on a basis of actual
attendance, rather than on the number of children in the section; better
provision for fixing school sites; more equitable division of the
$200,000 legislative grant between Upper and Lower Canada, and provision
for the admission into the common schools of pupils from sixteen to
twenty-one years of age.

[80] The report of the Bathurst District Superintendent for 1848 showed
82 teachers certificated by School Visitors and 42 by the District
Superintendent. See Report of Chief Superintendent for 1848.

The Baldwin Government entrusted the handling in the Legislature of the
School Bill of 1849 to the Honourable Malcolm Cameron. It should be
borne in mind that the Legislature met in Montreal and that the
Education Office for Upper Canada was in Toronto. Dr. Ryerson was,
therefore, not in direct communication with the Government, nor was he
officially informed from day to day as to the progress of the Bill. It
should further be borne in mind that during this session the Parliament
Buildings were burned, the Governor-General mobbed, and party feeling
strongly aroused, thus creating conditions favourable for hasty and
careless legislation. It seems to have been taken for granted by the
Legislature that the Bill as brought in was prepared by Ryerson. As a
matter of fact, Ryerson's Bill had, with Cameron's assent, been so
mutilated by an enemy of the Superintendent that its essential
provisions were destroyed. As soon as Ryerson learned its real nature,
he protested on several grounds, but especially because it aimed to
destroy the usefulness of the Chief Superintendent; excluded clergymen
from being school visitors; destroyed the provincial nature of the
school system; injured the prospects of a Normal School; would subject
teachers to serious loss in collecting their salaries; re-established
school sections in towns and cities; made no provision for uniform
textbooks, and because it was cumbersome and unworkable. After an
elaborate analysis of the Bill, Ryerson intimated that he would not
attempt to administer the law as passed and that sooner than do so he
would resign. The Government soon ascertained that the Bill was
unsatisfactory to everybody and intimated to Ryerson that it would not
be brought into operation. This course was followed, and in the
meantime Ryerson perfected his plans for a new Bill to go before the
Legislature in 1850.

As the Cameron Act of 1849 was never given effect, it has no interest
for us, except in so far as it shows the evolution of the Act of 1850.
During the Parliamentary recess, 1849-50, the Government issued circular
letters to School Superintendents, ministers and other official persons,
to secure suggestions as to school legislation. The replies were handed
to Dr. Ryerson by the Hon. Francis Hincks, who had charge of the School
legislation for 1850.

Ryerson's draft of the Bill of 1850 is a tribute to his practical common
sense and is sometimes called the Charter of the Ontario School System.
Ryerson knew the people of Upper Canada as few knew them, and he was
quick to see the dividing line between that which seemed highly
desirable and that which was possible. He moved steadily toward a
distant goal, but was ever educating public opinion to move with him and
seldom showed impatience over the slow pace of travel, so long as there
was actual progress. He wished to see free schools, but in this Act
contented himself with securing permissive legislation, which he
believed would soon lead to the adoption of a free system.

The outstanding feature of the Act was the strengthening of Trustee
Boards by recognizing them as corporate bodies with full power to
manage schools under Government regulations and full power to levy taxes
or rates upon the District which they represented. In case the Municipal
Council collected school money, they did it only as a matter of
convenience. Provision was made for securing school sites, erecting and
furnishing new buildings, electing trustees, holding board meetings,
keeping schools accounts, appointing collectors for school moneys,
providing books and apparatus, educating indigent children and forming
school libraries. Teachers' duties and responsibilities were not
materially altered. They were, however, effectually secured against loss
of the full amount of salary promised them by trustee boards. Adequate
provision was made for school sections composed of adjoining parts of
two or more townships. Provision was made for Township Boards of
Trustees on the request of a majority of the school supporters, to
manage all the schools of a township. County Boards of Public
Instruction were formed, consisting of the County Superintendent and the
Trustees of the District Grammar School. These boards were to meet four
times a year, to hold examinations and license teachers. They were to
use their influence to establish school libraries and promote the cause
of education. District superintendents were limited to one hundred
schools each, and were to receive one pound per annum for each school,
besides necessary travelling expenses. The Superintendent was no longer
the custodian of school money, but gave orders to the Township Treasurer
to pay to teachers their proper allowances. The Superintendent was to
visit every school in his District once each quarter, and to deliver a
public lecture in every school section once each year. Thus the way was
open for the District Superintendent to become an expert, giving a
minimum of time to clerical work and a maximum to the encouragement of
pupils and teachers. He was to become a link between the Department of
Education on the one hand and the District Council and Trustee Boards on
the other. He was a local officer, but his duties were definitely
prescribed by a central authority. Through him the Chief Superintendent
and the Council of Public Instruction were able to keep in touch with
pupils, teachers, school visitors, trustee boards, county boards, and
district councils. School visitors were given the same privileges as by
the Act of 1846, except the right to grant licenses to teachers. The
General Board of Education was merged into the Council of Public
Instruction, with duties substantially the same as those assigned the
former body in 1846.

Incorporated towns and cities were no longer to have school sections,
but instead a Board of Trustees to manage school affairs. Town and City
School Boards were allowed three ways of securing the money necessary,
in addition to the school fund, for common school purposes. The Board
might ask the Municipal Council to levy an assessment for the required
sum, in which case the said Council were bound to comply with its
wishes; the Board might levy a rate bill upon the parents of pupils
attending school; or they might raise the required funds partly by a
rate bill and partly by an assessment levied by the Municipal Council.

The only real difference between the methods of raising money in towns
and cities on the one hand and rural sections on the other, lay in the
plan of deciding how the money was to be raised. In rural sections the
ratepayers assembled at the annual meeting, made the decision, and the
trustees carried out their wishes; in towns and cities the trustees had
full power to decide upon the method of taxation without consulting the
ratepayers. School trustees in incorporated villages were governed by
the same rules as trustees of towns and cities, except in the manner of
the annual election.

One very important feature of the new Act was the setting apart of
£3,000 a year for the establishment and support of school libraries, and
£25 a year for each District Teachers' Institute. A sum was also set
apart for procuring plans and publications for the improvement of school
architecture. The Chief Superintendent was authorized to issue
provincial certificates to Normal School graduates.

The Act of 1850 also made some important changes relating to Separate
Schools, which will be noted in another chapter.

Dr. Ryerson always felt that he owed much to the Governor-General, Lord
Elgin, for helping him to form a public opinion which made possible the
legislation of 1850. That distinguished nobleman was a graduate of
Oxford, and he never lost an opportunity of helping forward any movement
designed to raise the intellectual status of the people. But it was
largely Ryerson's unaided efforts that gave Upper Canada in 1850 such a
splendid educational machinery. It was no factory-made plan, but a
system developed step by step out of partial failures into something
better. It was, like all English law, the result of applying a
common-sense remedy to a clearly proved weakness.

During the passage through the Legislature of the Bill of 1850, a debate
arose about Ryerson's salary, and the value of his services to the
country. The following condensed account of a speech delivered in
Parliament in July, by Hon. Francis Hincks, makes clear the attitude
finally adopted by the Liberal Government toward Ryerson, and for that
reason has some historical interest:

"The member for Toronto, Mr. Boulton, had charged the Administration
with buying the support of the Superintendent of Education with an
increased salary. He had desired, in bringing forward this question, to
make it as little a political question as possible. He thought that the
great question of education might be treated without reference to party
differences. He thought it his duty, considering the position which the
Reverend Superintendent of Education occupied towards the party with
whom he acted, to state his whole course of conduct towards that
gentleman since he had taken office. It was well known to the House that
the reverend gentleman was engaged, before accepting the office which he
now held, in very keen controversy with the members of the present
ministry; he had taken a course decidedly hostile to them. As writer for
the public press at that time, he had himself engaged in that contest,
though without personal feeling, as he trusted he had engaged in every
contest of the kind. But there was undoubtedly on his own part, and on
that of his colleagues, a strong political feeling of dislike to the
reverend gentleman, on account of the formidable opposition with which
they were met by him. He was appointed to the office of Superintendent
by the late Government, and he did not blame that Government for so
appointing him; for, if anyone ever established strong claims upon a
party, it was the reverend gentleman by his defence of that
administration. The present ministry again assumed the duties of the
Government, and undoubtedly there was a general feeling among their
supporters that one of the first measures expected of them was to get
rid of the reverend gentleman in some way or other, and in that feeling
most certainly he sympathized. He had found, however, bye-the-bye, that
those who were most eager to recommend the Government to dismiss
officials, when they were put into similar situations, into the
municipal councils for instance, that they did not carry out those
views, that they did not turn out their opponents without a reason for
it. There were two or three ways of removing the Chief Superintendent;
one was to make the office a political one; but after the best
consideration being given to the question, it was not considered
advisable to do that, and the proposition to abolish the office
altogether, he was satisfied would have had the worst possible
consequences on the educational interests of the country, after
observing the benefits of active superintendents in New York, and our
own Province. The only other mode then, if these two were resisted, was
to remove the incumbent altogether, and then the question came, whether
he had acted in such a manner as to justify his dismissal. He had often
asked this question of the persons who urged his dismissal, and they
had never given one good reason to support the affirmative. He was not
one of those who thought that because a person supported one Government
that he was therefore incapable of serving faithfully those who
succeeded them, whom he had formerly opposed, always supposing, of
course, that his office was not a political one. He could not find that
the reverend gentleman had entered in the slightest degree into the
field of politics, and as he had discharged his duties with great zeal
and ability, they had no reason to interfere with him. Then the point
was, how they were to act towards him in his position, and his (Mr.
H.'s) determination was to give him the most cordial support; as a
member of the Government he considered it his duty to do so. He felt it
his duty to give the same support to officers who came oftener into
contact with him, the officials of the Custom House, and he defied
anyone to say that any political opponent of his had received less
cordial support in the discharge of the duties of his office than his
friends had; the efficiency of the service absolutely required that he
should do so. He put himself in communication with the reverend
gentleman in reference to this Bill, and as he (Mr. H.) believed that
Doctor Ryerson possessed a more complete knowledge of the school system
than any other person, he thought that any Government would have done
very wrong not to have availed themselves of that knowledge. He deeply
regretted the course which some gentlemen with whom he generally acted
had taken on this matter.

"He would only say now, that he considered he should be paid the highest
salary given to any officer, for the duties of none were more onerous or
more important. He might remark that he had not found lawyers in the
House very anxious to reduce the salaries of the judges, but when it
came to civilians, to superintendents of schools, then five hundred
pounds a year was far too much. Now he considered the duties of that
office as quite equal in importance, and requiring equal talents to
those of a Collector of Customs, and thought that he should not be
placed in an inferior position to them."[81]

[81] See issue of Toronto _Globe_, July 11th, 1850, p. 331.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Toronto _Globe_, of July 16th, 1850, speaking on the debate in the
Assembly, said:

    "The debate on Egerton Ryerson's salary was, we think, just another
    instance of pandering to the cry of the moment. His salary was
    sought to be made the same as the Lower Canada Superintendent's.
    Well, the Lower Canada Superintendent's salary is five hundred
    pounds, but it would not do to name that sum for Upper Canada until
    the retrenchment committee had operated upon Lower Canada. Now, why
    not say at once that five hundred pounds is the proper salary for
    the Superintendent of Education of nearly a million people, and
    stick to it? We are no admirers of Egerton Ryerson, and we have
    always thought, and we think still, that the present ministry should
    have turned him out neck and crop the moment they got into power;
    but we are free to admit that he is a man of very great talent, who,
    at any mercantile or professional business he might engage in, would
    readily make five hundred pounds a year, and we do think that this
    sum is as little as could be assigned to an office of such high
    public importance."

This article clearly shows that the _Globe_ recognized Ryerson's talents
and his professional ability, while objecting to him on political
grounds. Mr. George Brown, the _Globe_ Editor, was too shrewd a man, and
had too strong an interest in popular education, not to see that Ryerson
was working a reformation in school affairs. The following from a
_Globe_ editorial of September 14th, 1850, is really a tribute
grudgingly paid to Ryerson's efforts:--

    "While other professions, the clergy, the lawyers, the physicians,
    have long gained a certain position and influence in society, and
    have assumed the management of their own affairs, teachers, as a
    class, have, until lately, stood alone, disregarded by the
    community, and in many instances treated as beneath the notice of
    men infinitely their inferiors in mental acquirements, and engaged
    in pursuits certainly not more important to the well-being of the
    community. While others were improving their circumstances and
    acquiring wealth and power, the schoolmaster alone appeared
    stationary, doomed to drag on a life of poverty and contempt, and
    looked upon by parents as a sort of nurse for their naughty
    children, who received their wages for their services, and not to
    meddle with the affairs of the world. We but repeat what we wrote
    some years ago, prior to any of Egerton Ryerson's schemes, when we
    say that it is a reproach to the Christian world, that those who
    prepare the rising generation for entry into business life, should
    have been left so long to poverty, and to have occupied so low a
    place in society. Only conceive a schoolmaster--profoundly versed in
    the vast variety of knowledge which the human mind can master, a man
    who can solve the most difficult problem in mathematics, and take
    the highest flights in astronomy--rarely reaching beyond the mark of
    a person to be patronized. To such a man, the constant toil and
    drudgery of a school, the annoyance of unruly children and
    unreasonable parents, and above all the pinching poverty to which he
    is too often subject, present a life of hardship which it is
    difficult to conceive. The smith, or the carpenter of the village,
    may by industry realize something for the wants of a surviving
    family, and the shopkeeper, or the baker, may perhaps become
    wealthy; but the idea of a schoolmaster having any other position
    than poverty, would be thought the height of absurdity."

Ryerson believed that if school trustees were given the option of free
schools and power to enforce taxation for their support, they would soon
abolish rate-bills upon parents. Public sentiment was rapidly changing.
This was fairly shown by the city of Toronto, where there were many
wealthy men who objected to free schools, and where private and
denominational schools were more popular than in any other part of Upper
Canada. In March, 1851, a committee of the Toronto Board submitted to
the Chairman a special report showing that 3,403 children who should be
in the schools of that city were roaming the streets and growing up
without educational advantages of any kind. The report ascribed this
condition of affairs mainly to two causes, rate-bills and lack of school
accommodation, and concluded by making a strong stand for free schools.

The Toronto _Globe_ had scoffed at free schools in 1848. The rapid
change that took place in the views of this journal is a fair index of
the change that was taking place among the people of Upper Canada in
regard to free schools. I shall, therefore, quote from the _Globe_ to
show the trend of public opinion on free schools during the early
fifties. As early as January 30th, 1851, the _Globe_ said editorially:

    "We are glad to observe that the plan of free common schools has
    been adopted at the recent annual meetings in very many school
    sections throughout Upper Canada. The best gift the people of Canada
    can confer on their children is education, sound, practical
    education available to all. Public money employed in educating the
    masses is a most profitable investment, and we hope the day will
    soon be when a good education is open to every child in the

On January 5th, 1852, the _Globe_ expressed itself as follows:--

    "The most important change proposed in our present system of common
    schools, is the abolition of all direct charges against the parents
    of the children attending, and the support of these institutes by
    direct tax on the whole body of the people. We trust the day is not
    far distant when the Reserve and Rectory lands will be devoted to
    the support of the common schools of Upper Canada, the school tax
    abolished, and the unspeakable advantages of a sound education
    placed without any charge within the reach of every child in the
    Province. Every effort should be put forth to effect this, but
    meantime let us seek to obtain the best system which our position
    admits of, and that, we believe, is an entirely free system
    supported by a direct tax. There are many reasons urged against this
    proposed change by sincere friends of education, which are not
    without weight. It is said to be unjust and tyrannical to make
    people who are childless pay for those who are blessed with a
    numerous progeny; it is urged that parents will value the blessing
    of education more, when they are compelled to pay for it; it is
    alleged to be a weakening of the parental tie, to take the expense
    of the education of the child from the shoulders of the parent.
    These arguments will have more or less influence according to the
    position and character of the individual who considers them, but we
    assert without fear of contradiction that all the evils which our
    warmest opponents anticipate from the introduction of free schools
    sink into insignificance beside the frightful consequences of our
    children growing up in the blindness of ignorance, the result which
    a free system is designed to avert. No reasonable disinterested man
    would place the one class of evils in comparison with the other....

    "Many opponents of free schools, however, are willing that the
    children of the poor should be educated without charge, as they are
    at present. Most parents, however, would be, and are, prevented by
    their pride from taking advantage of this favour, and we think it
    highly desirable that the idea of begging education, or anything
    else, should be set as far as possible from the mind of every
    Canadian. The children of the poor should look to the common schools
    as a place to which they have a right to go, having paid a quota of
    the expense in proportion to their means, in the same way that they
    claim the right to walk the pavement, and on the same grounds. It is
    indeed a noble thought to place the education of the people in the
    same position as the protection of the people and the government of
    the people, to make it one of the necessaries of the existence of a
    state in peace and security, and to provide it at the expense of
    all, for the benefit of all. With a Government formed as ours is by
    the people, and entirely under its control, our only safeguard
    against anarchy and confusion is the intelligence and right of the
    people. A thorough system of common school education is the only
    means which can ensure these high advantages. Education ought to be
    universal, and to be so, it must be entirely free from all expense;
    there must be inducements held out to the short-sighted, unwilling

As I have already shown, free schools had stronger opposition in Toronto
than at any other point, yet at a large public meeting held in January,
1852, in St. Lawrence Hall,[82] there were only twelve people who
opposed a motion for free schools. Later in the same month Doctor
Ryerson himself attended a public meeting in Toronto and discussed the
free school issue. I shall quote from his speech[83] to show how
skilfully he could use a concrete illustration to influence public
opinion. "Speaking of free schools he said he well remembered how he
went to visit one of the public schools of Boston, the High School,
where boys were prepared for College, yet as free of expense to all
classes as the lowest, and the Mayor of the city, who accompanied him,
wishing to give a lesson in aristocracy, probably, pointed out two lads
who occupied the same seat. He told him that one of these was the son of
Abbot Lawrence, the great manufacturer, and now American minister in
England, and the other was the son of the doorkeeper of the City Hall,
which they had just left. They were enjoying the same advantages, the
son of the millionaire and the son of the doorkeeper; that was what he
wished to see in Canada, the sons of our poor have the same opportunity
of educational advancement as those of the rich. Did it appear from
this that the rich did not attend the common schools of Massachusetts?
The Governor of that State, in a speech which he made lately at Newbury
Port, said that if he had as many sons as old Priam, and was as rich as
Astor, that he would send them to the free school. There were rich and
proud men in Massachusetts, undoubtedly, who would not send their
children among the poor, and rich stingy men who objected to be taxed
for other people's children, but they were the exceptions to the rule.
There was one fact that he wished to mention in connection with the free
schools of Massachusetts. A body of European clergy belonging to the
Catholic Church had gone to their Bishop in Boston to request him to use
his influence against the free school system. He returned for answer
that he knew the character of the schools, having been educated in them,
and having owed to them his position in the Church and the world, and
would do nothing to impair their usefulness."

[82] See report in _Globe_ of January 10th, 1852.

[83] See report in _Globe_ of January 13th, 1852.

       *       *       *       *       *

It would be a mistake to suppose that there were not valiant champions
against the free school principle, and it would be a worse mistake to
suppose that all the sound arguments were on the side of free schools.
The following letters from the Reverend John Roaf, a Toronto clergyman
(Congregationalist), will give a fair idea of the stand taken by those
who favoured rate bills upon parents. The first letter, published in the
_Globe_, January 31st, 1852, is as follows:

    "I am happy to inform you that school section No. 1, Township of
    York, including the village of Yorkville, have this day negatived a
    proposal to have a free school, preferring to give the teacher £60
    from the Public funds, and a right to charge 1s. 3d. per month for
    every child attending the school. The mechanics and labourers here
    have thus discharged the power, for there cannot be any such right,
    so wrongfully given them by the School Act, to educate their own
    children at the expense of their more wealthy neighbours. All praise
    to their honesty. Thus they will escape from the pauperizing
    tendencies of the free school system. They encourage their
    schoolmaster with the hope of being rewarded for making a good
    school. They suffer the proprietors of private schools to maintain a
    useful competition with the common school teacher; they keep up
    valuable select schools, and yet in return for the public fund, they
    will get free education for the children whose parents need
    exemption from the school fees.

    "May we not hope that the city of Toronto will next year follow this
    honourable example, and spurn the unrighteous counsel which is
    introducing communism in education to the undermining of property
    and society? The French people and the Normans ought to serve as
    warnings of the abyss to which this plausible socialism is enticing

The second letter was published in the Toronto _Globe_, February 5th,

    "The idea of the outlay for education being profitable for the
    holders of property, and thus justifying the impost, is much like a
    joke; for surely no one thinks it necessary to force upon men of
    property so great a gain, as they seldom need be convinced by their
    poor neighbours where their true interests lie. Gain indeed; why,
    probably three-fourths of the children now in the Toronto common
    schools will carry their education away to the West, and here be
    succeeded by others who will similarly want to use our property for
    their own benefit. Besides we might give free education to those who
    otherwise would be destitute of it, but make those purchase it who
    have the means.

    "While I thus dwell on the injustice of the arrangement, I do so
    because what is unjust cannot be wise, and not because the futility
    of the system is not otherwise apparent. The free system divests the
    teacher of all proprietary and personal interest in his school, and
    will speedily render him sycophantic and servile to his trustees,
    but haughty and negligent towards his pupils and friends. It will
    throw education into the hands of an electioneering party, and what
    kind of party that will be in such places as Toronto, need not be
    said. It will destroy all the confidence and love felt towards the
    teacher as the employee and friend of the child's parents, and
    substitute for them a cold respect due to the public official. It
    will render school attendance desultory and variable, because unpaid
    for, and always to be had for asking. Instead of the soft, familiar,
    and refined circle in which wise parents like to place their
    children, it will drive gentle youths and sensitive girls into the
    large herds of children with all the regimental strictness and
    coldness and coarseness by which such bodies must be marked, and
    thus, while the child asks bread you will give him a stone."

The opposition to free schools did not all come from wealthy
property-owners who objected to educating the children of the poor.
Voluntary schools, wholly independent of Government control and closely
allied with some church, were already in operation in populous centres
in Upper Canada. The managers of these schools had to depend wholly upon
subscriptions and fees. So long as all schools were supported mainly
from rate bills upon parents the purely voluntary schools were not at a
serious disadvantage. But if free common schools were established, then
all patrons of voluntary schools must submit to be taxed twice for the
education of their children. The following from a _Globe_ editorial of
February 14th, 1852, shows that the effects of free schools upon
voluntary schools were fully appreciated:

    "The _Patriot_ of Tuesday gives us the real reason for his
    opposition to free schools. Formerly he talked of pauperizing the
    whole people, of socializing them, of a number of other direful
    evils to be dreaded as consequences of all free schools. In his last
    article, however, he admits that his main objection is, that
    denominational schools can never be supported beside those entirely
    free. We commend this fact to our friends who are sincerely opposed
    to sectarian education, and yet are not prepared to accept the
    principles of entire freedom. It is undoubtedly true what the
    _Patriot_ says, denominational schools cannot exist beside free
    schools. So long as we continue to exact payment from parents, so
    long will efforts be made by the sects to obtain aid from the public
    funds and private support in order to weaken the common schools,
    draw away scholars from them, and destroy their efficiency. When the
    schools are supported entirely by taxation, no such attempts can be
    met with success. No sectarian school only partially supported by
    the State can compete with the free institution, and no one would
    be foolish enough to propose to endow more than one entirely free
    school. The people would not stand the taxation. The free principle
    is a deathblow to the attempts of the priests to get the education
    of the people into their own hands, to train up the children in
    classes and denominations, to shut them out from free knowledge, and
    to give them just what pleases their prejudiced views. The _Patriot_
    thinks it would be tyrannical to prevent the establishment of
    sectarian schools by means of a free system. We cannot see it in
    that light. The denominational plan has been tried in England, but
    it has failed. The schools were never established in sufficient
    numbers to educate the people. It is not reasonable to expect that
    sects managed by cliques of clergymen in the large towns should be
    able to manage a complete system of education for the people. The
    very idea is absurd. Are we then to give up our efforts for the
    education of the people, because these efforts would interfere with
    the small, ineffectual endeavours these denominations might make to
    secure proselytes to their churches through secular schools?
    Certainly not; the greatest friend to sectarian education could not
    admit that; and we who oppose that system rejoice that free schools,
    which are spreading so fast, will effectually put down the
    endeavours of the sects after educational influence which has
    produced both in Ireland and England such a scarcity of knowledge,
    and which have not been without their ill-effects in Canada."

These quotations will for us serve two purposes. They give a fair
picture of the free school movement, and they sum up the arguments for
and against State education. No thoughtful person in this age can
observe the apathy of thousands of people in regard to the education of
their children without at times feeling that these people would
appreciate schools much more if they had to make some personal sacrifice
to secure their advantages. But further thought is almost certain to
convince us that free schools are the natural support of a democratic
government, and that without their socializing influence a
self-governing people would always be more or less at the mercy of



The purpose of this chapter is to set forth as briefly as possible the
origin and development of Separate Schools in Upper Canada, showing
incidentally the part taken in that development by Doctor Ryerson.

If we seek to discover the primary cause of our Separate School system
we undoubtedly find it in the almost unanimous desire of the pioneer
settlers to have the Common Schools established upon a basis of
Christianity, and to secure for their children some positive instruction
in the Holy Scriptures. From their standpoint secular schools were of
necessity godless schools. We need also to remember that sectarian
prejudices were more bitter seventy years ago than they are to-day.
Dogma and religion were thought to be inseparable. To-day the various
bodies of Christians throughout the world make much of what they hold in
common; seventy years ago their grandfathers could not forget the petty
differences of doctrine that held them apart. If the schools were to
give religious instruction, and if the adoption of some form of
instruction acceptable to all was impossible, then separate schools
were the logical outcome. And as separate schools for each one of the
many sects into which the scattered population of Upper Canada was
divided were clearly impossible it naturally followed that such schools
were established for Roman Catholics who were comparatively few in
number, and who differed in doctrine from Protestants more radically
than the various Protestant bodies differed amongst themselves. No one
of the Protestant bodies could object to the reading of the Protestant
Bible in the schools, but the Roman Catholics naturally objected to
their children taking any part in such an exercise.

As pointed out in Chapter IV., the Common School Act of 1841 laid the
foundation of Separate Schools. The provisions of that Act applied to
the United Canadas. In any township or parish any number of dissentients
might elect a trustee board and establish a school, receiving for its
support public money in proportion to their numbers. It is clear that in
practice under this clause a dissentient school could be established
only where the dissentients were sufficiently numerous to furnish at
least fifteen children of school age, and contribute a considerable sum
for school purposes. Another clause in the Act of 1841 required the
Governor to appoint, in towns and cities, school boards made up of an
equal number of Protestants and Roman Catholics, the Protestants to
manage schools attended by Protestant children and the Catholics to
manage schools attended by Catholic children. But this clause made no
provision for Roman Catholics from two or more city school sections
combining to form one school for their children, and as Catholics in a
single city section were seldom if ever numerous enough to form a school
the Act was practically inoperative in securing separate Roman Catholic

The Bill of 1841, as introduced into the Assembly, contained none of the
above provisions for Separate Schools, and the question naturally
arises, why were they inserted? Several petitions were presented from
Boards of Education, and some from Synods of the Presbyterian Church,
praying that the Bible be made a textbook in the schools. Bishop
Strachan and the clergy of his diocese petitioned "that the education of
the children of their own Church may be entrusted to their own pastors,
and that an annual grant from the assessments may be awarded for their
instruction."[84] The Roman Catholic Bishop of Kingston also petitioned
against the Bill as brought in, but did not expressly ask for Separate
Schools. It seems natural then to infer (and the Journals of the
Assembly for 1841 bear out this inference), that the amendments
granting Separate Schools were a compromise.

[84] See copy in D. H. E., Vol. IV., p. 20.

Another amendment authorized Christian Brothers to teach even if they
were not naturalized British subjects. In 1843 the Act of 1841 was
repealed in so far as it related to Upper Canada. The new Act made it
unlawful in any common school to compel the child to read from any
religious book or join in any religious exercise to which his parents or
guardians objected. It also provided that if the teacher of a school
were a Roman Catholic, then any ten householders or freeholders might
petition for a Separate School with a Protestant teacher or, in the same
way, Roman Catholics might form a Separate School if the teacher were a

The grants to these Separate Schools were to be that proportion of the
total school fund in any Municipal District that the children in actual
attendance at the Separate School bore to the total number of children
of school age in the district, and they were subject to the same rules
and regulations regarding courses of study and inspection as the Common

In 1847 an amendment to the Common School Act was passed known as the
Towns and Cities Act. This Act gave the Trustee Boards of towns and
cities full power to determine the number of, and regulate,
denominational schools. An extract from Ryerson's Annual Report for
1847 as presented to the Provincial Secretary will make clear the nature
of the Act and the Chief Superintendent's views of it. Speaking of the
provision for Separate Schools in the Act of 1843 he says:

    "I have never seen the necessity for such a provision in connection
    with any section of the Common School Law, which provides that no
    child shall be compelled to read any religious book or attend any
    religious exercise contrary to the wishes of his parents and
    guardians; and besides the apparent inexpediency of this provision
    of the law it has been seriously objected to as inequitable,
    permitting the Roman Catholics to have a denominational school, but
    not granting a similar right or privilege to any one Protestant
    denomination ... nor does the Act of 1847 permit the election of any
    sectarian school trustees nor the appointment of a teacher of any
    religious persuasion as such even for a denominational school. Every
    teacher of such school must be approved by the town or city school
    authorities. There are, therefore, guards and restrictions connected
    with the establishment of a denominational school in cities and
    towns under the new Act which did not previously exist; it, in fact,
    leaves the applications or pretensions of each religious persuasion
    to the judgment of those who provide the greater part of the local
    school fund and relieves the Government and Legislature from the
    influence of any such sectarian pressure. The effect of this Act has
    already been to lessen rather than to increase denominational
    schools, while it places all religious persuasions on the same legal
    footing, and leaves none of them any possible ground to attack the
    school law or oppose the school system. My Report on a system of
    Public Elementary Instruction for Upper Canada, as well as various
    decisions and opinions which I have given, amply show that I am far
    from advocating the establishment of denominational schools; but I
    was not prepared to condemn what had been unanimously sanctioned by
    two successive Parliaments."[85]

[85] See copy in D. H. E., Vol. VII., p. 178.

During the Legislative Session of 1850, and while the School Bill was
under discussion, a petition was presented by prominent Roman Catholic
authorities praying for some modifications of the provisions for
Separate Schools in the Bill then before the House. The result was that
the 19th clause of the Act of 1850 made it compulsory upon the Municipal
Council of any township or the School Board of any city or town or
incorporated village, upon the written request of twelve or more
resident heads of families, to establish one or more Separate Schools
for either Protestants or Roman Catholics. At this time only fifty-one
Separate Schools were in operation in the whole of Upper Canada,[86] of
which nearly one-half were Protestant.

[86] See circular, issued by Ryerson, of April 12th, 1850, to Municipal
Councils on Act of 1850.

According to a letter written by Ryerson to Hon. George Brown[87] there
was a movement among certain Anglicans to secure Separate Schools for
their children. Had Roman Catholics and Anglicans[88] both secured
Separate Schools, it would have wrecked the Common School system, and
these two denominations acting in concert were strong enough to defeat
the Baldwin-Lafontaine Government. Acting on Ryerson's suggestion, the
Government conceded in the main the Roman Catholic claim and secured
their support to the Bill. This Bill gave Separate Schools one distinct
advantage over the Act of 1843. It made their share of the Separate
School fund that part of the total fund which the Separate School
attendance bore to the total school attendance. But Separate School
supporters were still far from having their schools recognized as a
right and placed on an equality with Common Schools. Separate Schools
were granted as a privilege or concession, but not as a right. Let me
quote from Ryerson's circular to town reeves on the Act of 1850: "But,
notwithstanding the existence of this provision of the law since 1843,
there were last year but 51 Separate Schools in all Upper Canada, nearly
as many of them being Protestant as Roman Catholic; so that this
provision of the law is of little consequence for good or for evil....
It is also to be observed that a Separate School is entitled to no aid
beyond a certain portion of the School Fund for the salary of the
teacher. The schoolhouse must be provided, furnished, warmed, books
procured, etc., by the persons petitioning for the Separate School. Nor
are the patrons or supporters of a Separate School exempted from any of
the local assessments or rates for common school purposes."[89]

[87] See D. H. E., Vol. IX., p. 25.

[88] It is not meant to suggest that even a majority of the Anglicans
would have done anything to wreck the Common School System. As a matter
of fact, only a few of the Anglican laity sympathized with the extreme
views of Bishop Strachan, either in Common School or University affairs.

[89] See D. H. E., Vol. IX., p. 208.

This makes it clear that Separate School supporters were liable to be
taxed by the municipality for the support of Common Schools; they might
be called upon to pay an assessment to build, repair or furnish a Common
School, or to pay a part of the teacher's salary. On the other hand, the
only aid they received in support of their own school was a share of the
legislative and municipal grants which together made up the school
fund.[90] It will at once be seen that every step toward free Common
Schools placed the Separate School supporters at an increased
disadvantage because it made them contribute more and more toward the
Common School.

[90] It was long a favourite argument of those opposed to Separate
Schools that inasmuch as the bulk of the property was owned by
Protestants, the Roman Catholics were not entitled to a share of the
school fund reckoned on the basis of the pupils' attendance.

The Act of 1850 caused some friction in Toronto, where the Roman
Catholics asked for a second Separate School. The Trustee Board refused
on the ground that they were not legally compelled to establish more
than one Separate School in the city and the Court of Queen's Bench
upheld their decision. By the old Act, under which cities were divided
into school sections, there was no legal bar to the establishment of a
Separate School in every city school section. Ryerson thought the Roman
Catholics had a grievance and consented to recommend the Bill giving a
Separate School in each city ward or a Separate School for two or more
wards united for such purpose. This amendment was passed in 1851 and
caused considerable discussion. A large party in Upper Canada were
opposed to Separate Schools on principle and objected to any legislation
that would multiply them, make them more efficient and popular, or
grant them more favourable financial support.

The attitude of the out-and-out opponents to Separate Schools was very
well expressed by the following Bill,[91] introduced in 1851 by William
Lyon Mackenzie:--

    "Whereas the establishment of sectarian or Separate Schools, upheld
    by periodical grants of money from a provincial treasury and placed
    under the control of the Executive Government through its
    Superintendents of Education and other civil officers, is a
    dangerous interference with the Common School system of Upper
    Canada, and if allowed to Protestants and Roman Catholics cannot
    reasonably be refused to Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Quakers,
    Tunkers, Baptists, Independents and other religious denominations;
    and whereas if it is just that any number of religious sects should
    have Separate Public Schools it is not less reasonable that they
    should have separate Grammar Schools, Colleges and professorships in
    the Universities; and whereas it is unjust for the State to tax
    Protestants in order to provide for the instruction of children in
    Roman Catholic doctrines or to tax Roman Catholics for religious
    instruction of youth in principles adverse to those of the Church of
    Rome; and as the early separation of children at school on account
    of the creeds of their parents or guardians would rear nurseries of
    strife and dissension and cause thousands to grow up in comparative
    ignorance who might under our Common School system obtain the
    advantages of a moral, intellectual and scientific education, be it
    enacted therefore that the nineteenth section of the Act of 1850 be

[91] See Journals of Canadian Assembly for 1851.

Mackenzie's Bill was defeated by 26 to 5. It lays down broad general
principles that are not easy to overthrow, and no doubt several who
voted against it would have been glad to see all young Canadians
educated together. But if the right to have Separate Schools be granted,
and it had been granted by successive School Acts for Upper Canada, then
it seems naturally to follow that the Legislature was bound to place no
obstacles in the way of their formation and to make them efficient.

Separate Schools were at first grudgingly granted as a privilege, but
not as a right. Naturally, every extension of the privilege was used by
the supporters of these schools as a vantage-ground from which to secure
further privileges and gradually convert these into rights. At first the
parties seceding from the Public Schools shared only in the school fund
made up of the legislative grant and an equal sum levied by the
district, town or city council--the whole being available only for the
payment of teachers' salaries. Supporters of Separate Schools were
liable to be taxed for the building and equipment of Public Schools in
addition to the support of their own. They claimed a _pro rata_ share of
all moneys levied by taxation, and in some cases the law was invoked in
an attempt to secure such share.

In 1853, a radical amendment was adopted by which Separate School
supporters received a _pro rata_ share of the legislative grant only,
and upon subscribing for school purposes a sum equivalent to the grant
secured were relieved of all taxation for Common School purposes. The
Act of 1853 also gave the Separate School trustees power to issue
certificates to the teachers employed by them, and the same power of
levying rates upon the supporters of their schools as that exercised by
trustees of Common Schools.

While the Separate School Bill of 1853 was before the Legislature, there
was an attempt to introduce a clause establishing a general Board of
Trustees for Separate or sectarian Schools in towns and cities. Ryerson
went to Quebec to confer with the Attorney-General and vigorously
opposed the Bill. His correspondence shows that he had no wish to place
Separate Schools on an equality with Public Schools. In fact he wished
to do nothing that would encourage or make easy their formation. The
law as it stood allowed Separate Schools only when the teacher was of a
different religious faith from those wishing the Separate School. A
general Board of Separate School Trustees for every town or city would
have greatly increased the number of Separate Schools. Ryerson says:
"This is placing Sectarian Schools upon a totally different foundation
from that on which they have always stood; it is the introduction of a
system of sectarian schools without restriction and almost without
conditions.... If there are city and town Boards of Sectarian School
Trustees they will claim the right of appointing their own local
superintendents, and thus their schools will be shut up against all
inspection except that they themselves may please to require or
permit.... Thus such a Board in Toronto might recognize and claim public
aid for every child taught in convents and by other private teachers of
the same religious persuasion.... If provision be made in each city and
town to incorporate into one Board one religious persuasion, exempting
it from the payment of school rates and authorizing it to tax and
collect from its own members to any amount for school purposes, the
application of any other religious persuasion in any such city or town
cannot be consistently or fairly resisted.... The effect of all this
would be to destroy the system of Public Schools in cities and towns
and ultimately perhaps in villages and townships, and to leave all the
poorer portion of the population and that portion of it connected with
minor religious persuasions without any adequate and certain means of
education. I think the safest and most defensible ground to take is a
firm refusal to sanction any measure to provide by law increased
facilities for the multiplication and perpetuation of sectarian

[92] See D. H. E., Vol. X., pp. 172 and 173.

       *       *       *       *       *

The attitude of the extreme opponents of Separate Schools may be made
clear from the editorials of George Brown in the Toronto _Globe_. On
April 2nd, 1853, he says:--

    "But under the new Bill the taxation of the Roman Catholic parents
    and the whole charge of the Separate Schools are to devolve on the
    Popish authorities. The schools are to become henceforth distinct,
    not only in their mode of tuition, but in the machinery by which
    they are to be conducted. They are to retain no vestige of
    connection with the general educational system, which is the pride
    and glory of the Canadian people. Any Roman Catholic has only to
    declare himself a supporter of a Separate School and straightway he
    is relieved from taxation for the maintenance of the general system.
    As at present constituted, there is a kind of guarantee that Roman
    Catholics are educated, that they are not left entirely in
    ignorance, but under Mr. Richards' Bill there would be none.... The
    plain and obvious intention of the Bill is the still further
    development of the sectarian element in our Common Schools. The
    Roman Catholics were not satisfied with what they had already
    gained. They wished to obtain their share of the annual
    Parliamentary grant, paid out of the revenue, which is made up
    almost exclusively from Protestant money. They wished to have their
    schools altogether free from the supervision of the general
    trustees. Their bishops went down to Quebec, the _Mirror_ announcing
    their departure, and hinting at the object of their journey, and
    straightway we have the Bill from Mr. W. B. Richards, granting to
    them all they had demanded. If they had asked much more it would
    have been granted to them by the present Government. If this Bill
    passes into law, the sectarian system will be fully and thoroughly
    introduced, and must be carried out to its utmost extent. The Roman
    Catholics say that they are not satisfied to send their children to
    the Common Schools, and they are free from taxation. The
    Episcopalians are ready to say the same, and we ask whether in
    fairness we can refuse to one what we grant to the other? And then
    the Methodists will demand separate schools, and the Presbyterians,
    and all hopes of the education of the people may be abandoned. Yet
    this Bill has been introduced by a Government raised to power upon
    the principle that our school system should be free from clerical
    control. 'No sectarian schools' was the watchword at the last
    election among Reformers, yet one of the first measures introduced
    by the Reform Government is to establish sectarian schools more
    thoroughly than before. We look to them to abolish, and behold! they
    ratify and confirm the evils of their predecessors. Where is this to
    stop? When is the measure of the iniquity of this Government to be
    filled up?... Let our school system, the source of light and
    intelligence, be destroyed, and what remains to us of hope for the
    country? They, as it were, would go gradually back to the darkness
    of ignorance and superstition. We shall consider no institution safe
    from priestly encroachments if this Bill is carried. There is no
    point upon which the people of Upper Canada can be more severely
    wounded than their common schools. Every true patriot has fondly
    looked to them as the safeguards against the despotism of
    priestcraft, and against violence of an ignorant and, therefore,
    vicious populace. If they are sacrificed, if their noble endowment
    is scattered among the sects, frittered away on a dozen different
    school systems, if the priests are to take possession of all the
    avenues of knowledge, what will be the fate of this Province? Will
    it rise in the scale of nations, ever to be distinguished for the
    intelligence of its people, for its prosperity and advancement?"[93]

[93] See bound volumes of _Globe_ in Legislative Library, Toronto.

The following from the Toronto _Examiner_, reprinted in the _Globe_ of
April 7th, 1853, shows that the _Globe_ was not alone in its opinions:--

    "We are reluctantly forced to the conviction that the rupture,
    complete and final, of the Common School system of Canada is only a
    question of time. We were among those who looked anxiously to the
    Government for a liberal and decided policy on this momentous
    question. An examination of the supplementary School Bill which we
    give in other columns will bear us out but too fully, we fear, in
    pronouncing its liberality exceedingly questionable.... How
    different in Canada. Reformers have been bidding for Roman Catholic
    votes until they are likely to bid away every distinctive principle
    which they hold, and when this is done will it satisfy the ends of
    men whose mission is to establish in the place of free institutions
    the domination of priestcraft?"

The following from the Roman Catholic _Mirror_, quoted in the _Globe_,
April 9th, 1853, shows that the Roman Catholics were well pleased with
the Bill:

    "We freely admit that we had certain misgivings respecting the
    amount of relief which might be expected from the measure proposed,
    which from the haughty and dictatorial tone assumed by the Chief
    Superintendent of Schools for Upper Canada, in his late
    perambulations, we were prepared at least to regard with suspicion.
    The terms on which justice has been hitherto meted out in stinted
    and niggard instalments, under the existing law, and the many
    instances in which it has been withheld or contemptuously refused,
    may have rendered us over-sensitive; but we must acknowledge that
    when we observe Dr. Ryerson publicly promulgate the conditions on
    which he would concede to Catholics the privilege of directing the
    education of their own children, we were prepared to expect a
    reiterated legislative insult and a gross injustice, not a measure
    restrictive, partial and oppressive. We have been most agreeably
    disappointed; the Bill of the 'Honourable Attorney-General West,'
    with some slight modifications which can be readily introduced in
    committee, will form the basis of an educational system of sound
    principle, particularly calculated to do justice to all classes of
    the community."

The following resolutions of the Synod of the United Presbyterian
Church, printed in the _Globe_, June 30th, 1853, shows the opinion of
that body on the Common School question:--

    "Resolved. I. That this Synod approve of a national system of
    education, placing all the members of the community upon a level,
    and encouraging, as that now in force in this Province does, the use
    of the Scriptures under certain reasonable regulations, as are also
    prescribed therein.

    "II. Holding these views, we deeply regret to perceive the principle
    of sectarian schools, so distinctly recognized in the latest
    amendments of the Provincial School Act, and do strongly testify
    against such a principle as impolitic and mischievous, recognizing
    as it does the right of the Government to take the moneys of the
    public and appropriate them for the purpose of sustaining and
    extending religious distractions, and thereby continuing to
    stimulate the elements of discord throughout the community and mar
    greatly social interests.

    "III. That this Synod recommend to those under their care the use of
    every proper and constitutional means to secure the repeal of all
    such statutes as recognize the principle of sectarian schools."

The movement for extended Separate School privileges was being
championed by Bishop de Charbonnel, of Toronto. During 1852 he had a
long controversy with Ryerson on the school question.[94] Ryerson's
letters during this controversy make it quite clear that he thought
Separate Schools a huge blunder, and that while he had honestly
attempted to give Roman Catholics all the law allowed them he hoped and
expected to see their schools die a natural death.

[94] See appendices to Journals of House of Assembly, 1852-1853.

In his Report for 1852, the Superintendent points with pride to the fact
that Separate Schools are not increasing. Indeed, he congratulates
himself that the provision in the law allowing them is really a good
thing, since it is not very effective in practice but yet acts as a
safety valve to prevent violent opposition to the school system. He
believed that the Roman Catholics themselves would ultimately see that a
policy of isolation of their children would have the effect of cutting
them off from many of their natural privileges as Canadian citizens. And
had the Separate School Act of 1853 remained unaltered, events would
likely have shown Ryerson to be correct in his views. He believed the
Act of 1853 was final, and that without any municipal machinery for
collecting their taxes Separate Schools would never become numerous.

In this he was greatly mistaken, as events proved. In 1854, the Roman
Catholic Bishops of Toronto, Kingston and Bytown, drew up a Separate
School Bill which they wished should become law. This Bill would have
forced all Roman Catholics to support Catholic Separate Schools wherever
such were established. It also had other provisions which Ryerson
thought objectionable. In 1855 a Separate School Bill, known as the
"Taché Bill," was introduced into the Legislative Council, and after
some amendments adopted by both branches of Parliament. This Act
differed from all previous Acts in that its provisions were exclusively
for Roman Catholic Separate Schools. It repealed all previous
legislation for Separate Schools in so far as Roman Catholics were
concerned. It made possible the establishment of a Roman Catholic
Separate School in any school section or any ward of a town or city on
petition of ten Roman Catholic ratepayers and gave them a Separate
School Board with their own Superintendent in towns and cities. Such
Roman Catholic ratepayers were relieved from all municipal rates for
Common School purposes, and received for their own school a _pro rata_
share of the Legislative grant if they had an average attendance of 15
pupils. The Act also made possible general Boards of Separate School
Trustees in towns and cities and gave all Separate School Boards power
to license their own teachers and levy rates for Separate School
purposes upon the supporters of those schools. The Act was in principle
a distinct gain for the champions of Separate Schools, but it led to no
rapid increase in the number of such schools. In 1858, only 94 Separate
Schools were in existence with an enrolment of less than 10,000
children, as compared with an enrolment of 284,000 in the Public
Schools. The Act of 1855 was really forced upon Upper Canada by the
votes of members from Lower Canada, there being a majority of Upper
Canada members against the Bill.

It would seem that the Roman Catholics did not gain by the Taché Bill as
much as they expected. The following letter written to Dr. Ryerson from
Quebec, on June 8th, 1855, by John (afterwards Sir John) A. Macdonald,
Attorney-General for Upper Canada, who had charge of the Bill in the
Assembly, shows that political exigencies played no small part in school
legislation: "Our Separate School Bill, which, as you know, is now quite
harmless, passed with the approbation of our friend, Bishop Charbonnel,
who, before leaving here, formally thanked the administration for doing
justice to his Church. He has got a new light since his return to
Toronto, and he now says the Bill won't do. I need not point out to your
suggestive mind that in any article written by you on the subject it is
politic to press two points on the public attention: 1st, That the Bill
will not, as you say, injuriously affect the Common School system. This
for the people at large. 2nd, That the Bill is a substantial boon to the
Roman Catholics. This to keep them in good humour. You see that if the
Bishop makes the Roman Catholics believe that the Bill is no use to them
there will be a renewal of an unwholesome agitation which I thought we
had allayed."[95]

[95] See copy of letter in D. H. E., Vol. XII., p. 40.

That Sir John A Macdonald was largely in agreement with Dr. Ryerson on
the Separate School question is the opinion of Sir Joseph Pope, his
biographer, who says on page 138 of his Memoirs: "Mr. Macdonald said
that he was as desirous as anyone of seeing all children going together
to the Common School, and if he could have his own way there would be no
Separate School. But we should respect the opinions of others who
differed from us, and they had a right to refuse such schools as they
could not conscientiously approve of."

From 1855 to 1863, no important changes took place in the law governing
Separate Schools. These schools were increasing very slowly, not so
fast as the natural growth of the Roman Catholic population. In 1860,
there were only 115 Separate Schools with an enrolment of 14,708 as
compared with some 325,000 in the Public Schools. In 1860, Mr.
(afterwards Honourable) R. W. Scott introduced a Bill planned to give
Separate Schools additional privileges. Substantially the same Bill was
introduced annually by Mr. Scott until 1863, when it passed with
amendments, some of which were suggested by Dr. Ryerson. As a matter of
fact, the Taché Act of 1855, which was suggested partly by the status of
Protestant dissentient schools in Lower Canada, had imposed some useless
but vexatious restrictions upon Separate School supporters. In 1862,
Ryerson proposed to satisfy what he called the reasonable demands of
Roman Catholics by making four changes, as follows:--[96]

1st. To allow the formation of Separate Schools in incorporated villages
and in towns (the Taché Act allowed a Separate School only in the ward
of a town and not a school for the town as a whole); 2nd. To allow a
union of two or more Separate Schools; 3rd. To make it unnecessary for a
Separate School supporter annually to declare himself such; and 4th. To
exempt Separate School trustees from making oath as to the correctness
of their school returns.

[96] See D. H. E., Vol. XVII., pp. 192 and 193.

The Scott Bill of 1863[97] as finally adopted by the Legislature,
embodied all these provisions and some others of importance. Separate
School teachers were to submit to the same examinations and receive the
same certificates of qualification as Public School teachers, but all
teachers qualified by law in Lower Canada were to be qualified teachers
for Separate Schools in Upper Canada. This provision was to allow the
teachers of religious orders[98] recognized by law as qualified in Lower
Canada to teach in Separate Schools in Upper Canada. The Act also made
taxpayers who withdrew their support from Separate Schools liable for
their share of debts incurred while Separate School supporters in
building or equipping Separate Schools. On the whole, the Scott Bill,
while in its unamended form it aroused great opposition in Upper Canada,
as finally adopted, tended to bring the Separate Schools into closer
harmony with the principles governing Public Schools. The feature of the
Bill that aroused most opposition was its being forced upon Upper Canada
by votes of Lower Canadian members--there being a majority[99] of ten
Upper Canada members against the third reading of the Bill in the
Assembly. Such well-known men as John A. Macdonald, John Sandfield
Macdonald and Wm. Macdougall supported the Bill, while George Brown,
Alexander Mackenzie and Oliver Mowat opposed it.

[97] The Scott Bill, as originally introduced, made any Roman Catholic
priest an ex-officio trustee of a Separate School in his parish; made
all the property of a Separate School supporter exempt from taxation for
Public School purposes, even though some of the property was outside a
Separate School district; gave Separate School trustees unlimited power
to form union sections; created a separate County Board of Examiners to
license Separate School teachers, and gave the Superintendent of
Education little or no power to control textbooks, holidays or
inspection of Separate Schools.

[98] The Report of the Chief Superintendent for 1871 shows 70 teachers
in Separate Schools belonging to religious orders out of a total of 249.

[99] See Journals of Canadian Assembly for 1863.

Ryerson claimed[100] that he agreed to the amended Scott Bill only on
the distinct understanding that it was to be a finality in Separate
School legislation. He also claimed that the Roman Catholic Bishops of
Quebec, Kingston and Toronto accepted the Bill as a final settlement.
But nothing is final in legislation, and Dr. Ryerson ought to have known
this. Legislation is as much the result of a process of evolution as any
other institution of human society, and no three or four men, whether
priests or laymen, could speak authoritatively and finally for the
thousands of Roman Catholics in Upper Canada.

[100] See D. H. E., Vol. XVII., p. 219.

Separate Schools increased slowly. In 1863 they numbered 115, with
15,000 pupils, the Public Schools having during the same year 45,000
Roman Catholic pupils. In 1864, Separate Schools had increased to 147
with 17,365 pupils. In 1871, the number was 160, with 21,000 pupils.

Almost immediately after the Scott legislation of 1863, an agitation
began for further amendments to the Separate School Act. Ryerson made
strong objections partly on the ground of the alleged compact of 1863,
and partly on the ground that no legislation could possibly make
Separate Schools really popular and efficient outside of large towns and

In 1865, the school administration was attacked by James O'Reilly, of
Kingston, and, in a memorandum prepared as a reply to these attacks,
Ryerson goes into some detail to justify his Separate School policy and
reiterates his firm belief that sectarian schools must ever be
relatively inefficient. He concludes as follows: "The fact is that the
tendency of the public mind and of the institutions of Upper Canada is
to confederation and not isolation, to united effort and not divisions.
The efforts to establish and extend Separate Schools, although often
energetic and made at great sacrifice, are a struggle against the
instincts of Canadian society, against the necessities of a sparsely
populated country, against the social and political interest of the
parents and youth separated from their fellow-citizens. It is not the
Separate School law that renders such efforts fitful, feeble and little
successful; their paralysis is caused by a higher than human law, the
law of circumstances--the law of nature, and the law of interest.

"If, therefore, the present Separate School law is not to be maintained
as a final settlement of the question and if the Legislature finds it
necessary to legislate on the Separate School question again, I pray
that it will abolish the Separate School law altogether; and to this
recommendation I am forced after having long used my best efforts to
maintain and give the fullest effect and most liberal application to
successive Separate School acts--and after twenty years' experience and
superintendence of our Common School system."[101]

[101] See copy of Memorandum, D. H. E., Vol. XVIII., pp. 304-316.

When the Confederation resolutions adopted at Quebec in 1864 were being
discussed in the Canadian Assembly in 1865, an extended debate arose
over the clause which secured for the minorities in Upper and Lower
Canada the privilege of Separate Schools. Men like George Brown and
Alexander Mackenzie, who had opposed the Scott Bill of 1863, defended
the minority clause on the ground that it would place Upper Canada in no
worse position than she already was in regard to sectarian schools, and
that privileges given ought not to be withdrawn. The Assembly were
almost unanimous in supporting the Separate School clause which was
incorporated into the British North America Act.

No changes in Separate School legislation were made after Confederation
until 1886, and the only events of passing importance in Separate School
affairs were the objections raised in Kingston in 1865 and in Toronto in
1871 to visits of inspection by the Grammar School Inspector, who had
been appointed to make these visits by the Council of Public
Instruction. When Dr. Ryerson pointed out that these visits were
authorized by the Scott Bill of 1863, the Bishops very gracefully waived
their objections and the principle of Separate School inspection by
Government officers was established. In 1874, the three High School
Inspectors made a general inspection of Separate Schools. In their
report to the Government they say: "The inspection of the Separate
Schools derives an additional interest and importance from the peculiar
position they occupy in our educational system. Among them we have found
both well-equipped and ill-equipped, both well-taught and ill-taught
schools. On the whole we regret that in the majority of cases the
buildings, the equipment, and the teaching are alike inferior. There are
but few Separate School teachers whose school surroundings are such as
to make their positions enviable, and accordingly a large measure of
approbation is due to those who have succeeded in doing good work. We
have pleasure in stating that in many places the Separate School Boards
are beginning to see that they must either make the schools under their
charge more efficient or close them altogether. There are many things
connected with the operation of the Separate School Act which invite
comment; but we think it best to postpone the expression of our views
until they are matured by the experience of another year."

Some years after this, in 1882, the Education Department adopted the
plan of appointing special Roman Catholic Inspectors of Separate
Schools. No doubt regular inspection of these schools has done much to
increase their efficiency, but it is to be regretted that the plan of
inspection adopted tends to widen still further the breach between them
and the schools of the mass of the people.

Four years after Ryerson's death, the Act relating to Separate Schools
was revised and amended. No new principles were introduced, but every
amendment made tended to place Separate School supporters on an equality
with supporters of Public Schools. The number of schools has gradually
increased owing to the rapid increase in our urban population. In 1884
there were 207 Separate Schools, with 27,463 pupils; in 1894, 328
schools with 39,762 pupils; and in 1906, 443 schools with 50,000 pupils.

Perhaps the most important event connected with the history of Separate
Schools since 1886 was the decision of the Judicial Committee of the
Privy Council in November, 1906. This decision made it clear that the
clause declaring persons qualified as teachers in Quebec at the time of
Confederation to be qualified teachers of Separate Schools in Ontario
applied only to individuals and not to religious corporations as such.
The result will be that the Separate Schools ought soon to have a body
of teachers with the same academic standing and the same normal training
as the Public Schools.



As already shown in the chapters on the early history of schools in
Upper Canada, Grammar Schools were provided for before any provision was
made for Common Schools. In fact the chief nominal purpose of the large
grant of public land in 1799 was to endow Grammar Schools, and in 1807
schools were opened in each of the eight Districts into which Upper
Canada was then divided. These schools were supposed to be classical
schools, fashioned upon the model of the great English Public Schools.
As a matter of fact they had no uniform standard of equipment, staff,
course of study or graduation. A few schools, such as Cornwall,
Kingston, York, and Niagara, were famous and turned out many able men.
Some of the schools received pupils who could not read, and were in no
sense secondary schools. As the population increased, new schools were
opened. Although originally intended to be free schools, they all
charged fees. The public grant, which was paid direct to the principal,
was one hundred pounds for each school. As the population increased, new
schools were opened, and by 1844, when Ryerson became Superintendent of
Education, twenty-five Grammar Schools and Academies were in operation.

These schools were managed by trustees appointed by the Crown, but were
under no proper Government control. They were never really inspected.
Each school was a law unto itself. All were supposed to teach Latin and
Greek, but in many of them there was not a single pupil studying either
of these languages. They were handicapped in many ways. For years there
were no good elementary schools from which they could draw pupils with a
foundation for a secondary education. During the same long period there
were in Upper Canada no colleges to which graduates of Grammar Schools
might go for professional training. This gave these schools a wide scope
and great opportunities, but few seized the opportunities. The poverty
of the people and the natural apathy of many in regard to education also
prevented the development of good schools.

Good schools are possible only with good teachers, and good teachers in
Upper Canada were not easily secured. The professions of law and
medicine then, as now, were much more attractive than teaching for men
of ability and education. Mercantile life also offered great
opportunities. The result was that the Grammar Schools were often in
charge of incompetent teachers.

Ryerson's commission gave him no control over Grammar Schools. But his
first Report in 1846 recommended a graded, unified system of schools
from the Common School to the University. He also pointed out that these
Grammar Schools which were intended for a special work were teaching
everything taught in a Common School. In his Report for 1849 he
recommended a commission of inquiry into the state of Grammar Schools
and showed that the whole thirty or forty schools had matriculated only
eight students into the University during that year. He suggested a
fixed course of studies, a minimum qualification for entrance, and
Government inspection. "Surely," he says, "it never could have been
intended that the Grammar Schools should occupy the same ground as
Common Schools, should compete with them, thus lowering the character
and efficiency of both.... I am far from intimating an opinion that
there are no efficient Grammar Schools in the Province, even under the
present system or rather absence of all system. There are several
instances in which separate apartments for different classes of pupils
are provided and assistance employed to teach the English branches, but
such examples are rather exceptions to the general rule than the rule
itself. The general rule is whether there be an assistant or not to
admit pupils of both sexes and all ages and attainments for A B C and
upwards into schools which ought to occupy a position distinct from and
superior to that of the Common Schools. Equally far be it from me to
intimate that there is any deficiency of qualifications on the part of
masters of Grammar Schools. But I doubt not that they will be the first
to feel how much the efficiency and pleasures of their duties will be
advanced by the introduction of a proper and uniform system as they will
be the first to confess, '_non omnia possumus omnes_.'"[102]

[102] See extract from Report of 1849, published in D.H.E., Vol. VIII.,
p. 291.

After the Common Schools had been brought under the rule of law it was
inevitable that the Grammar Schools should be reorganized. In 1850,
Francis Hincks introduced a Grammar School Bill prepared by Doctor
Ryerson. This Bill aimed at bringing the schools under popular control
and administering them on lines similar to those governing Common
Schools. Trustees were to be appointed by County Councils; Trustee
Boards were to have power to levy rates for buildings, equipment and
apparatus; the Legislative grant was to be distributed to the several
Districts on the basis of population, but only when local contributions
made up a sum equal to the grant exclusive of pupils' fees; the
programme of studies was to be broad enough to prepare for
matriculation; the Council of Public Instruction was to fix Grammar
School programmes, prescribe texts and appoint inspectors. A
meteorological station was to be established in connection with one
Grammar School in each District. This Bill was withdrawn, but a similar
one[103] became law on January 1st, 1854. The new Act, as amended in
1855, also provided for uniting Grammar Schools with Common Schools and
provided that a Grammar School master, unless a university graduate,
must secure a certificate from a Board of Examiners appointed by the
Council of Public Instruction. This Act also authorized an annual
appropriation of £1,000 to establish a Model Grammar School in
connection with the Normal School, authorized the Council of Public
Instruction to appoint Grammar School inspectors, and made up a liberal
grant to secure libraries and apparatus. After this legislation, the
Council of Public Instruction drew up regulations governing the
curriculum of Grammar Schools and took steps to bring about the use of
uniform texts. From the first there were two courses of study, a general
English course and a classical course leading to matriculation. The head
master of each Grammar School was required to conduct an examination of
candidates for admission, the requirements being intelligible reading
from any common reading book, spelling, writing, elementary arithmetic,
and the elements of English grammar, with definitions of geography.

[103] This Act did not give trustees power to levy assessments, but they
might ask municipal councils to do so. The distribution of the
Legislative grant did not, as in the Bill of 1850, depend upon the
raising of any fixed amount by the local Board.

In the autumn of 1855, the Grammar Schools were inspected, those in the
east by Thomas Jaffray Robertson and those in the west by William
Ormiston. Their reports show that many of these schools were indifferent
and a few hopeless. Perhaps half of them were doing fairly well. The
attendance averaged about thirty, of whom nearly one-half were studying
Latin. Half of the schools admitted female pupils. The highest salary
paid a head master was $1,200, while the average for head masters was
$700. Few of the schools had two masters. Half the total number of head
masters were graduates of British or Canadian universities. In some
cases the teachers were paid a fixed salary, and in some cases they got
the Government grant and the school fees. These fees averaged about
three dollars per quarter. In a few cases the head master had a dwelling
in connection with the school.

The inspectors criticised the buildings, equipment and grounds severely,
as the following extracts will show:--

    "Of the Grammar School houses seventeen were originally built for
    school purposes and several of them, which were spacious and
    substantial buildings, may be classed as good; ten were somewhat
    inferior; and one, a very old wooden building, could scarcely be
    considered habitable. Nine schools were carried on in premises
    rented for the purpose and were in most instances totally unfit. In
    many cases the grounds attached to the schoolhouses were partially
    or entirely unfenced, and the sheds or outhouses were in a shameful
    state of neglect. Even in the neatest premises I saw no attempt at
    ornament; not a tree, shrub or flower to awaken or cultivate a taste
    so simple and natural in itself and so easily gratified as it could
    be in rural districts.... Very many of these houses are inferior to
    the Common Schools. In most cases the premises present a dull,
    unthrifty and unattractive appearance, destitute alike of ornament
    and convenience, without fence, shed, well, tree, shrub or flower,
    while within an entire lack of maps, charts and apparatus is with
    too few exceptions the general rule."[104]

[104] See copy of Report in D. H. E., Vol. XII., p. 81.

Two years later the same inspectors made another general report on
Grammar Schools. They found some improvements but many weak schools
doing the most elementary Common School work. They deprecated the
practice, then becoming somewhat common, of establishing new Grammar
Schools in small villages.

It is abundantly clear from Ryerson's Reports, 1856-58, that he was
dissatisfied with the progress being made in Grammar Schools and eager
to attempt their improvement by means of further legislation. The most
serious problem was that of providing an adequate and certain financial
support for these schools. The schools were managed by trustee boards
appointed by County Councils, but were attended largely by pupils of
towns and cities. The people using them and contributing largely to
their support were not given the power to manage them.

Ryerson was also very doubtful about the result of the experiment
authorized in 1854, of uniting Common and Grammar Schools. The union
gave trustee boards increased freedom of management, but in many cases
the union school became, for all practical purposes, a common school,
having, perhaps, three or four senior pupils studying Latin and Greek.
Such schools brought all Grammar Schools into contempt.

The report of the Grammar School inspector on the schools of Eastern
Ontario, for 1860, shows that things were far from satisfactory:

    "With the exception of two or three really good schools our Grammar
    Schools in the extreme East are in a very low state. Some of them I
    can only designate as infant schools. Nor do I see anything from the
    localities in which they are placed or the present state of the
    Grammar School law which gives me any hope of amelioration.
    Advancing civilization and the material growth of the country in
    time may act upon them, but immediate remedies and those of a
    stringent nature are imperatively needed.... The want of a class of
    specially trained Grammar School masters who have taken this as a
    permanent profession for life is a great drawback to the efficiency
    of our schools. The supposed inferior social status of the Grammar
    School master and the larger rewards held out for superior mental
    activity in the other professions turn aside most of those who are
    most eminently qualified for the scholastic office. Of the
    twenty-two schools mentioned in my report six were in the hands of
    persons who avowedly were making teaching the stepping-stone to the
    attainment of other professions, as law, medicine, or the church.
    Several were evidently conducted by persons who had taken to
    teaching after having failed in other walks of life. Comparatively
    few were held by those who were fitted for their office by previous
    training, or were devoting themselves entirely to their work as the
    main business of their lives."[105]

[105] See D. H. E., Vol. XVI., pp. 148, 149.

There seems also to have been a disposition to unduly multiply Grammar
Schools because they were supported so largely by the Legislative grant.
The Rev. Dr. Paxton Young, Inspector of Grammar Schools, in his report
for 1864, says: "The too free and inconsiderate exercise by County
Councils of the large power thus entrusted to them has led to a heedless
and most unfortunate multiplication of the Grammar Schools, and the evil
instead of showing any symptoms of abatement appears to be growing worse
from year to year. In 1858 the number of the schools was seventy-five;
in 1860 it was eighty-eight; in 1863 it had risen to ninety-five; and
the number of recognized schools is now as high as one hundred and
eight. Not a few of the schools thus hastily established are Grammar
Schools in name rather than in reality, the work done in them being
almost altogether Common School work, which, as a rule, would be much
better performed in a well-appointed Common School. I believe that
County Councils are often led to establish Grammar Schools in localities
where they are not needed under the idea that if the schools should be
productive of no good at any rate they can do no harm. There could not
be a greater mistake. Men ought to be wise enough by this time to
understand that all public institutions, especially if forming parts of
a great plan, must, where unnecessary, be positively bad. Needless and
contemptible Grammar Schools are a blot upon the whole school system,
the sight of which is fitted to shake the confidence of the country in
the administrative wisdom or firmness of those to whom the direction of
educational matters is committed. When it is considered that the
apportionment from the Grammar School fund to a particular county is
divided according to certain fixed principles between the different
schools in that county, it will be seen that the disposition manifested
by some councils to secure the largest number of schools for their
county, is practically a disposition to secure quantity for quality, for
as the number of schools is augmented the salaries of the masters are
diminished, the tendency of which is, of course, to throw the schools
into the hands of a lower grade of teachers.... About three out of every
five Grammar Schools in Upper Canada have Common Schools united with
them, and, in not a few instances, where unions have not yet been
formed, I found a strong disposition existing to enter into such an
arrangement. I made it my business to inquire particularly into the
benefits supposed to result from the union of the Common with the
Grammar Schools. The chief advantage was in almost every case admitted
to be a pecuniary one. By the existing law Grammar School trustees have
of themselves no power to raise money for Grammar School purposes, but
in case of the Common and Grammar Schools becoming united the joint
boards may levy money for the support of the united schools. This being
so, it is easy to comprehend how strongly the trustees of a Grammar
School who feel their hands tied up from doing anything to put the
school in an efficient state may be tempted to make with the Common
School Board a league which will give them a voice in the important
matter of taxation.... But of nothing am I more convinced than that as a
rule such a union is undesirable. In a large number of instances it
throws upon the Grammar School master the necessity of receiving into
his room, and personally instructing, Common School pupils, as well as
those whom it is his more particular duty to attend to. A consequence of
this is that he cannot afford the Grammar School pupils the time that is
necessary for drilling them in the subjects that they are

[106] See copy of Report in D. H. E., Vol. XVIII., pp. 199-205.

       *       *       *       *       *

But Doctor Young saw much promise in the schools, as the following from
the same Report will show: "Leaving out of view schools of this sort, I
do not hesitate to say that the Grammar Schools of Upper Canada are, as
a class, not only in the promise of what they may become, but in what
they actually are at the present moment, an honour to the country. We
must not look for too much. It would be preposterous to expect at this
early period in the history of our Province, that its Grammar Schools
generally should be able to bear comparison with the better classical
and mathematical schools of Great Britain and Ireland. To this Canada
does not pretend, but she has begun well, and appears to be steadily, if
not rapidly, progressing."

In June, 1865, Ryerson went to Quebec to press upon the Government the
necessity of a new Grammar School bill. As the Confederation scheme was
approaching maturity he found the Government unwilling to embark upon
any legislation that might prevent an early prorogation. Mr. John A.
Macdonald suggested that the difficulty might be met by a regulation
issued under the authority of the Council of Public Instruction. This
was accordingly done, and the Council immediately framed regulations as
follows: First, the Legislative grant was to be apportioned on the basis
of the attendance of those learning Greek and Latin, as certified by the
Grammar School Inspector. Second, no school was to receive any portion
of the Legislative grant unless suitable accommodations were provided,
and unless there were an average of at least ten pupils learning Latin
and Greek, nor were any pupils to be admitted or continued in a Grammar
School unless they were learning Latin and Greek.

This absurd regulation never went into effect, as the Legislature passed
a Grammar School Bill in the latter part of 1865. The new Bill made each
city a county for Grammar School purposes; it allowed County Councils to
appoint half the Grammar School trustees, the other half being appointed
by the village or town council where the school was situated. This
latter provision was planned to give increased local control and thus
create a stronger interest in the management of the schools. The
distinction which had so long existed between senior and junior county
Grammar Schools[107] was abolished and the Legislative grant was
apportioned solely on the basis of attendance, but no school was to
share the grant unless there was raised from local sources, exclusive of
pupils' fees, a sum equal to half the grant. It was made more difficult
to establish new schools. Only graduates of universities in British
dominions were to be eligible for head masters' positions. On the
suggestion of the Hon. William Macdougall, a clause was inserted
providing for a grant of fifty dollars a year to those Grammar Schools
giving a course of elementary military instruction.

[107] This senior Grammar School, being the one first established in
each county, had drawn a larger Legislative grant than the others.

The Report of Rev. Geo. Paxton Young on the Grammar Schools in 1865 is
of great interest, read in the light of nearly half a century's progress
in the higher education of women. I shall quote his exact words:

    "I have frequently been asked whether I considered it desirable that
    girls should study Latin in the Grammar Schools. It is, in my
    opinion, most undesirable; and I am at a loss to comprehend how any
    intelligent person acquainted with the state of things in our
    Grammar Schools can come to a different conclusion.... Since I
    became Inspector, I have not met with half a dozen girls in the
    Grammar Schools of Canada by whom the study of Latin has been
    pursued far enough for the taste to be in the least degree
    influenced by what has been read. Aesthetically, the benefits of
    Grammar Schools to girls are _nil_.... It may perhaps be said that
    although they have for the most part made but little progress in
    Latin up to the present time, a fair proportion of them may be
    expected to pursue the study to a point where its advantages can be
    reaped. I do not believe that three out of a hundred will. As a
    class, they have dipped the soles of their feet in the water, with
    no intention or likelihood of wading deeper into it. They are not
    studying Latin with any definite object. They have taken it up under
    pressure at the solicitation of the teachers or trustees to enable
    the schools to maintain the requisite average attendance of ten
    classical pupils or to increase that part of the income of the
    schools which is derived from public sources. In a short time they
    will leave school to enter on the practical work of life without
    having either desired or obtained more than the merest smattering of
    Latin, and their places will be taken by another band of girls who
    will go through the same routine. It may perhaps be urged that these
    remarks are as applicable to as large a number of the Grammar School
    boys as they are to the girls. I admit that they are; and I draw the
    conclusion that such boys, equally with the girls in the Grammar
    Schools, are wasting their time in keeping up the appearance of
    learning Latin. It would be unspeakably better to commit them to
    first-class Common School teachers, under whose guidance they might
    have their reflective and aesthetic faculties cultivated through the
    study of English and of those branches which are associated with
    English in good Common Schools. This would, of course, diminish the
    number of the Grammar Schools in the Province; but it might not be a
    very grievous calamity, especially if it led to the establishment
    of first-class Common Schools in localities where inferior teachers
    are now employed."[108]

[108] See copy of Report in D. H. E., Vol. XIX., pp. 96, 97.

It was a part of a Grammar School inspector's duty to examine the pupils
who had been admitted by the Grammar School masters and reject any who
were too immature or were insufficiently prepared. Dr. Young complains
strongly in his Report of 1865 of the poor teaching of English grammar.
In some cases he had to reject more than half those admitted. He found
pupils wholly unable to parse such easy sentences as: "The mother loved
her daughter dearly," "John ran to school very quickly," "She knew her
lesson remarkably well."

It is doubtful whether the Grammar School Bill of 1865 made any real
improvement in the schools. Without denying that some of them were doing
a good work, and that as a force in the national life they were
fostering some love for higher education, it is safe to assert that they
were not very closely related to the real needs of the people. Their aim
was narrow. Their very name shows this. There was a crying need in the
country for schools that would give an advanced English and scientific
education with classic and modern languages to those who wished to
pursue university studies. But the most of the Grammar Schools aimed
only at a study of Latin and Greek, and indeed the Grammar School
legislation and the regulations of the Council of Public Instruction had
made a certain number of Latin pupils one of the conditions upon which a
Grammar School might receive a public grant.

The Act of 1865 soon showed some disastrous tendencies. It did not check
the desire to form unions between Grammar Schools and Common Schools, as
such unions made it easier to levy a rate in support of the union
schools, and thus comply with the conditions upon which Grammar Schools
received grants. The clause in the new Act making average attendance the
basis of attendance, together with a regulation of the Council of Public
Instruction which counted only Latin pupils in making the grant, led the
head masters of union schools to draft every available pupil into the
Grammar School departments[109] and put them all, boys and girls, into
Latin. Often they were not prepared for such work and got no real
benefit from it. They wasted their time and lost the benefits of a sound
English education which a good Common School would have given them.
Hundreds of boys and girls who had no foundation for a classical
education, and who had no prospect of ever advancing far enough to
receive any solid knowledge of Latin, were making a pretence of studying
it in order that the school might draw a Government grant. Ignorant
parents raised no objections, thinking perhaps that Latin possessed some
charm which would be an "open sesame" for the future advancement of the
boys and girls.

[109] It should be remembered that while a Public School pupil drew less
than one dollar per year Legislative grant, the moment this pupil was
enrolled in a Grammar School he drew from $20 to $35 yearly. In 1872,
the average Legislative grant to a Public School pupil was 40 cents, and
to a Grammar School pupil $20. See D. H. E., Vol. XXIV., p. 302.

Dr. Ryerson was not the man to diagnose the case. But the hour brought
forth the man, and that man was George Paxton Young, one of the
Inspectors of Grammar Schools. In two very able Reports[110] presented
in 1867 and 1868, he sets forth clearly and convincingly the defects of
the system then in operation and suggests the direction that reforms
should take to make the Grammar Schools serve a useful purpose. He
wished to see their character wholly changed. He did not undervalue
classics, but he believed that a smattering of classics was of no
benefit, and that it caused a waste of time that might be given to
subjects of real value. He wished to see High Schools that would give an
advanced English training, together with natural science, mathematics,
and history. He did not believe in forcing all to study Latin, nor did
he believe in apportioning grants to High Schools on the basis of the
number of pupils studying Latin. He wished to see better Common Schools
and objected to the plan of union which robbed the Common School of its
older pupils and degraded its function. Speaking of this, he says: "The
number of union schools is increasing and is likely to increase. In many
of the schools of this class all the Common School pupils, boys and
girls alike, who have obtained a smattering of English grammar are
systematically drafted into the Grammar School. The consequence is that
in localities where such a system is followed there is no mere Common
School education (observe I say mere Common School education) given to
any pupils, boys or girls, which is not of the most elementary
description; and not only have the Grammar Schools thus become to a
great extent girls' schools as well as boys' schools, but--what is
especially noteworthy--the girls admitted to these schools are in a
majority of instances put into Latin as a matter of course; in other
words, the study of Latin is made practically a condition of their
admission into the Grammar School. Will any man say that this state of
things is satisfactory, a state of things in which the Common Schools
are degraded by being suspended from the exercise of all their higher
functions? Unless I misunderstand the object of the Common School law,
the Common Schools are designed to furnish a good English and general
education to those desiring it. But how can this end be accomplished
where the Common Schools are subject to arrangements under which the
highest stage of advancement ever reached by the pupils is to be able to
parse an easy English sentence? ... Children under thirteen years of age
who do not mean to take a classical course of study have no educational
wants which the Common Schools, properly conducted, are not fitted to
supply. For children of thirteen and upwards who have already obtained
such an education as may be got in good Common Schools, it would, I
think, be well to establish English High Schools--a designation which I
borrow from the United States although, unfortunately, I have only a
very vague idea of what the High Schools in the United States are."

[110] See copy of Report in D. H. E., Vol. XX., pp. 98-128.

Dr. Young strongly urged a more rigid inspection of Grammar Schools and
the apportioning of the Legislative grant upon the basis of Inspectors'
reports. As so many girls had been drafted into Grammar Schools and put
in grammar classes apparently to increase the school grant, it was
proposed during 1868 to allow only fifty per cent. of girls' attendance
to count in apportioning the grant and even to make no allowance
whatever for attendance of female pupils in future years. This opened up
the whole question of co-education of the sexes in Grammar Schools and
caused lively debates in the Legislature and in Teachers' Institutes.
The general opinion seemed to prevail that girls should have equal
rights with boys but that the law should be so amended as to remove all
pressure upon girls to study Latin.

After one or two abortive attempts, a Bill reorganizing Grammar Schools
was passed in 1871. This Bill abolished the term "Grammar School," and
substituted that of "High School." Adequate provision was to be made in
each High School for an advanced English education, including natural
sciences and commercial subjects. The study of Latin, Greek and modern
languages was to be at the option of the pupils' parents or guardians.
Provision was made for a superior class of High School, to be known as
Collegiate Institutes. These schools were required to have at least four
masters and an average of not less than sixty boys studying Latin or
Greek, and were to receive a special grant of $750 a year. County
Councils were empowered to form High School districts and provision was
made by which the High School Board could levy an assessment upon the
district. High School vacations were extended from July 1st to August
15th. A very important feature of the new Bill was the provision for the
admission of pupils. The county, city or town Inspector of Schools, the
Chairman of the High School Board and the head master of the High School
were constituted a Board with power to conduct a written examination and
admit pupils according to regulations prescribed by the Council of
Public Instruction.

At first the local examining Board set the entrance papers, but this
plan was soon superseded by one requiring uniform papers set by the High
School Inspectors. This aroused a storm of opposition, and the
resolution of the Council of Public Instruction requiring uniform papers
was set aside by an Order-in-Council. But the plan of uniform papers was
so sensible, and so much chaos resulted from the other plan, that by
1874 the Government authorized a uniform entrance examination which shut
out immature pupils and those insufficiently prepared. It raised the
status of High Schools, enabling them to begin advanced work, and
indirectly increased the efficiency of the Public Schools by fixing a
standard of attainment. The Legislature also made further provision for
High Schools by appropriating an additional $20,000 a year, exclusive of
the grants to be given to Collegiate Institutes.

The Act of 1871 provided for a minimum Legislative grant[111] for each
High School, and made the maximum grant depend upon average attendance.
The Rev. George Paxton Young had, in his last Report as Grammar School
Inspector, strongly recommended the adoption in a modified form of the
English system of payment by results. He wished to see the High Schools
graded by the Inspectors according to their general efficiency and the
grant based upon this grading. In 1872 the High School Inspectors,
Messrs. McKenzie and McLellan, urged the adoption of a similar plan and
showed how it would serve as a stimulus to better work in all the
schools. They also pointed out how such a plan would encourage Boards to
employ good teachers, since they would have a pecuniary interest in
keeping up a good school.

[111] The minimum grant per school was $400. The High Schools of the
Province had, in 1872, from Legislative grant and County Councils,
$105,000. This was more than $1,000 per school and about $30 per pupil.
Many of the High Schools charged no fees.

The Act of 1871 gave the Council of Public Instruction a large measure
of control over textbooks to be used in High Schools. The Council issued
lists of those authorized, and this did much to bring about uniformity
in courses of study. Previous to 1871, many High Schools had only one
teacher, but the new legislation required at least two for High Schools
and four for Collegiate Institutes. To secure this required much
firmness on the part of Dr. Ryerson. Even two teachers were wholly
unable to do efficient work in large High Schools, and there was no easy
way to force School Boards to employ more. The Superintendent had
steadily to oppose a tendency to form weak High Schools, and in some
cases Grammar Schools which had been able to exist in a sickly state
under the old law were wholly unable to meet the requirements of the Act
of 1871, which threw some of the burden of support upon the local

The Inspectors' Reports for 1874 emphasize the need of additional
teachers, the poor quality of work done in English literature, and the
necessity of increased provision for natural science. Referring to the
latter, the Inspectors' joint Report speaks as follows: "In regard to
the direct utility of the knowledge imparted, the physical sciences are
equalled by few subjects of study. We regret to report that the teaching
of science is not making progress in the schools. For this there are
many reasons, of which perhaps the most important are the lack of
apparatus and the impracticable character of the prescribed programme of
studies. All places might advantageously follow the example of Whitby
and fit up a science room, that is, a room to be devoted to the teaching
of science and furnished with the necessary appliances and apparatus. It
cannot too often be inculcated that there can be no effective teaching
of chemistry without experiments. Effective teaching implies first of
all a qualified teacher, and few of our masters consider themselves well
qualified to teach any of the physical sciences. Yet the number of
masters qualified to teach in this Department is increasing every year
and it is much to be regretted that where the master is qualified he is
often compelled, if he wishes to teach chemistry, to provide the
apparatus at his own expense. The public indifference to the claims of
physical science is greater than the indifference of the masters.
Besides, three-fourths of High School Boards either are so poor, or
believe themselves to be so poor, that they will grumble if asked to
spend $10.00 annually for chemical purposes."[112]

[112] See copy of Report in D. H. E., Vol. XXV., pp. 244-245.

Progress on the whole was rapid. Several weak schools were closed,[113]
but they were schools which should never have been opened. Fees were
either abolished or lowered.[114] The standard for pupils' admission was
gradually raised and the old "Grammar Schools" were truly doing the work
for which they were established in 1807.

[113] About fifteen in all.

[114] Out of 106 schools in operation in 1875, no less than 81 were
absolutely free. Fees in the others varied from 75 cents to $6.00 per
quarter, the average being $2.70.

Much was yet to be desired in the qualifications of High School masters.
In 1874, one hundred out of one hundred and six head masters were
university graduates, but forty-five assistants held only Second Class
Normal School Certificates, or County Certificates, and twenty-three
schools had to employ teachers for a whole or a part of the year without
any legal qualifications. The average salary of head masters was
$930.00, of male assistants $664.00, and of female assistants $416.00.
The following extract from the Inspector's Report is interesting in the
light of what has since been accomplished: "In the absence of any
special training college or chair of pedagogy in the University, we
would suggest that as so many men are pursuing a collegiate course, with
a view to becoming High School masters, it would be well for the
Government to establish a lectureship in Education. It would not, we
think, be difficult if proper encouragement were given to secure the
services of several experienced and skilled educationists, one of whom
might deliver a short course of lectures on the above subjects during
each college session."

Perhaps no part of our school system has developed more since Ryerson
retired in 1876 than our High Schools. But this development has been
almost wholly a natural growth. True, there has been much legislation
and many changes in departmental regulations, but nothing of a
revolutionary character. The opening of the doors of the universities to
women and their increased employment as teachers has led to their being
placed on an absolute equality with men in the High Schools and in all
graduating examinations. The number of schools has almost doubled and
the teaching of every department has been improved; incompetent teachers
have given place to those having high academic and professional
training; natural science has been greatly strengthened and the teaching
of languages much improved; good laboratories have been built; spacious
buildings with fine grounds have become the rule; the number of students
preparing for university matriculation has multiplied many times; the
average salaries of teachers have more than doubled, and finally the
High Schools are so adapting themselves to the social needs of the
people that they are becoming as much the schools of the people as are
the Public Schools.



Normal Schools were mooted in Upper Canada before Ryerson became
Superintendent. As early as 1843, Sir Francis Hincks said that the
school system would never be complete without them.[115] In his Report
on a System of Education made in 1846, Ryerson made it clear that any
system of education must have as its basis trained teachers, and to
secure trained teachers was almost impossible without Normal Schools.
His report gives details of the Normal School systems of Great Britain
and Ireland, France, Holland, Germany, and the United States. One or two
schools had just been established in Massachusetts and one in Albany.
Ryerson visited these, but was most favourably impressed with the Dublin
Normal and Model Schools, as managed by the Commissioners of the Irish
National Board of Education, and our first Normal School was modelled
largely after the Dublin type.

[115] See extract from his speech, Chap. IV., pp. 101, 102.

The legislation of 1846 appropriated £1,500 for fitting up a Normal
School building and made an additional appropriation of £1,500 per
annum for maintenance. The School Bill of 1846 created a Council of
Public Instruction to work with the Chief Superintendent, and placed the
proposed Normal School under its management. The Council of Public
Instruction lost no time in beginning work. As early as May, 1846, they
were planning an early opening of the Normal School, and were in
communication with John Rintoul, of the Dublin Normal School, about
accepting the head mastership of the proposed Normal School at Toronto.
It was proposed to give Mr. Rintoul £350, Halifax currency, and £100 for
moving expenses. Mr. Rintoul accepted the appointment, resigned his
position in Dublin, and was about to leave for Canada when, owing to
some domestic affliction, he had to abandon his plans. The Commissioners
of the Irish National Board then selected Thomas Jaffray Robertson to
take Rintoul's place and the Council of Public Instruction chose as his
assistant Mr. Henry Hind, of Thorne Hill. Robertson sailed from Ireland
in July, 1847, and in November of the same year the Normal School was

It was a part of Ryerson's plan that the several District Councils of
Upper Canada should choose two or three promising young men and send
them to the Normal School, paying at least part of their expenses. The
following extract from the Regulations issued by the Council of Public
Instruction in 1847 will illustrate the requirements for admission to
the first Normal School in Upper Canada: "1st. That the Provincial
Normal School shall be open about the 1st of July next, and the first
session shall continue until the middle of October, 1847. 2nd. That
every candidate for admission into the Normal School, in order to his
being received, must comply with the following conditions: He must be at
least sixteen years of age; produce a certificate of good moral
character signed by a clergyman; be able to read and write intelligibly
and be acquainted with the simple rules of arithmetic; must declare in
writing that he intends to devote himself to teaching (other students
not candidates for school teaching to be admitted only on paying fees
and dues to be prescribed). 3rd. Upon the foregoing conditions
candidates for school teaching shall be admitted to all the advantages
of the Normal School without any charge either for tuition or for books.
4th. Candidates shall lodge and board in the city under such regulations
as shall from time to time be approved by this Board."[116]

[116] See Report of Superintendent of Education for 1848.

The school was formally opened by Dr. Ryerson, November 1st, in the
presence of a distinguished company. The Model School was opened the
following February.

The Normal School pupils were, many of them, poorly equipped for a
course of training. They had received no adequate secondary education.
In fact, many of them were direct from the Common Schools. A few were
mature men who had a considerable teaching experience.[117]

[117] Women were not admitted until the opening of the second term in

It was necessary to give a broad academic course and judiciously
interweave some professional training. Grammar and mathematics received
much greater attention than their importance merited. Physical science
and natural philosophy, together with some agricultural chemistry,
received a prominent place on the programme. Geography was also made
much of, but it was largely mathematical and political and elaborately
illustrated with globes and maps. Literature and history were taught,
but not in a way to arouse much enthusiasm. Pupils were supposed not to
learn by heart what they did not understand, but there was in practice
much memory work and repetition of rules.

On the whole, the Normal School was approved by all classes of people,
and the teachers trained there were in great demand. But there was some
criticism, especially of the provision by which four shillings a week
was granted to students to aid them in paying their board. Inasmuch as
this money was deducted from the school grant, it was argued that the
teachers in service were actually educating in the Normal School others
who would displace them. Exception was also taken to granting aid to
students who had no intention of making teaching their life work. To
meet this difficulty, students accepting public money towards their
expenses were required to give assurance that they would teach a stated
time, and others, called private pupils, were charged fees for tuition.

In 1849 the experiment was made of a nine months' session, but the
country was not yet ready for this step and the attendance was so
reduced that the plan was abandoned.

In 1850, the Council of Public Instruction attempted to widen the
influence of the Normal School by sending the Normal School masters to
attend Teachers' Institutes throughout the Province. In this way many
earnest teachers who had received no training were given suggestions
that bore much fruit.

When the Normal School was established, it was held in the old
Legislative Buildings of Upper Canada. After the riots in Montreal, in
1849, Toronto again became the seat of Government and the Normal School
had to move. Temporary quarters were obtained while the Council of
Public Instruction took steps to secure a permanent home, not only for
the Normal School, but for the Education Department. The present site
was secured and Parliament made an appropriation of £15,000 to provide
for it and for a building. In July, 1851, Lord Elgin laid the

[118] See D. H. E., Vol. X., pp. 5-14.

The address of Dr. Ryerson, in introducing the Governor, shows that he
had no thought of divorcing the Common Schools from agriculture, the
backbone industry of the people. He says: "The land on which these
buildings are in course of erection is an entire square, consisting of
nearly eight acres, two of which are to be devoted to a botanical
garden, three to agricultural experiments, and the remainder to the
buildings of the institution. It is thus intended that the valuable
course of lectures given in the Normal School in vegetable physiology
and agricultural chemistry shall be practically illustrated on the
adjoining grounds, in the culture of which the students will take part
during a portion of their hours of recreation.... There are four
circumstances which encourage the most sanguine anticipations in every
patriotic heart in regard to our educational future. The first is the
avowed and entire absence of all party spirit in the school affairs of
our country from the Provincial Legislature down to the smallest
municipality. The second is the precedence which our Legislature has
taken of all others on the western side of the Atlantic in providing
for Normal School instruction, in aiding teachers to avail themselves of
its advantages. The third is that the people of Upper Canada have during
the last year voluntarily taxed themselves for the salaries of teachers
in a larger sum in proportion to their numbers and have kept open their
schools on an average more months than the neighbouring citizens of the
old and great State of New York. The fourth is that the essential
requisite of a series of suitable and excellent textbooks has been
introduced into our schools and adopted almost by general acclamation,
and that the facilities of furnishing all our schools with the necessary
books, maps, and apparatus will soon be in advance of those of any other
country."[119] In November, 1852, when the buildings[120] were formally
opened, the Honourable John Beverley Robinson, Chief Justice of Upper
Canada, said: "Without such a general preparatory system as we see here
in operation, the instruction of the great mass of our population would
be left in a measure to chance. The teachers might be, many of them,
ignorant pretenders without experience, without method, and in some
respects very improper persons to be entrusted with the education of
youth. There could be little or no security for what they might teach,
or what they might attempt to teach, nor any certainty that the good
which might be acquired from their precepts would not be more than
counterbalanced by the ill effects of their example. Indeed the footing
which our Common School teachers were formerly upon in regard to income
gave no adequate remuneration to intelligent and industrious men to
devote their time to the service. But this disadvantage is largely
removed, as well as other obstacles which were inseparable from the
conditions of a thinly-peopled and uncleared country traversed only by
miserable roads, and henceforth, as soon at least as the benefits of
this institution can be fully felt, the Common Schools will be
dispensing throughout the whole of Upper Canada, by means of
properly-trained teachers and under vigilant superintendents, a system
of education which has been carefully considered and arranged, and which
has been for some time practically exemplified. An observation of some
years has enabled most of us to form an opinion of its sufficiency.
Speaking only for myself, I have much pleasure in saying that the degree
of proficiency which has been actually attained goes far, very far,
beyond what I had imagined it would have been attempted to aim

[119] See D. H. E., Vol. X., p. 6.

[120] These included what is now the main Departmental building and the
Model School to the north. The present Normal School building was
erected later.

[121] See D. H. E., Vol. X., pp. 278-283.

The following from Honourable Francis Hincks leaves us in no doubt as to
Ryerson's part in securing the building. He says: "With regard to this
institution, so far it has been most successfully conducted, and I feel
bound to say that we must attribute all the merit of that success to the
reverend gentleman who has been at the head of our Common School system.
It is only due to him that I should take this public opportunity of
saying that since I have been a member of the Government I have never
met an individual who has displayed more zeal or more devotion to the
duties he has been called upon to discharge than Dr. Ryerson. A great
deal of opposition has been manifested both in and out of Parliament to
this institution, and a good deal of jealousy exists with regard to its
having been established in the city of Toronto. I can speak from my own
experience as to the difficulties experienced in obtaining the
co-operation of Parliament to have the necessary funds provided for the
purpose of erecting this building. I will say, however, that there never
was an institution in which the people have more confidence that the
funds were well applied than in this institution. There is but one
feeling that pervades the minds of all those who have seen the manner
in which this scheme has been worked out. In regard to the Normal School
itself, the site has been well chosen, the buildings have been erected
in a most permanent manner, and without anything like extravagance, and
I have no doubt there will be no difficulty in obtaining additional
Parliamentary aid to finish them."[122]

[122] See D. H. E., Vol. X., pp. 282-284.

In his report for 1853, Ryerson suggests Normal training for Grammar
School teachers. I shall give his own words: "The Provincial Normal and
Model Schools have contributed, and are contributing, much to the
improvement of our Common Schools by furnishing a proper standard of
judgment and comparison as to what such schools ought to be and how they
should be taught and governed, and by furnishing teachers duly qualified
for that important task. There is equal need of a Provincial Model
Grammar School, in which the best modes of teaching the elements of
Greek and Latin, French and German, the elementary mathematics and the
elements of natural science, may be exemplified, and where teachers and
candidates for masterships of Grammar Schools may have an opportunity
for practical observation and training during a shorter or longer
period. Such a school would complete the educational establishments of
our school system and contribute powerfully to advance Upper Canada to
the proud position which she is approaching in regard to institutions
and agencies for the mental culture of her youthful population."[123]

[123] See Superintendent's Report for 1853.

The Legislature voted £1,000 for a Model Grammar School, and in 1855
plans for a building were prepared under direction of the Council of
Public Instruction. The estimate exceeded the means at the disposal of
the Council and nothing was done until 1856, when Ryerson wrote the
Executive Council as follows: "There is no branch of our system of
Public Instruction so defective as our Grammar Schools, and the 'Model'
for them as to both structure and furniture, discipline, modes of
classification and teaching is of the utmost importance.... I am
persuaded that a saving of one-half of the time and expense usually
incurred in the Grammar School education of youth may be saved by
improved methods in teaching and directing their studies, a result which
will greatly increase the number of those who will aspire to a higher
literary education apart from other advantages and intellectual habits
and discipline. It is proposed to erect the Model Grammar School in the
rear of the present Model School.... The proposed mode of admitting
pupils will prevent the Model Grammar School from interfering with or
being the rival of any other Grammar School. It is also intended to
afford every possible facility and assistance to masters and teachers of
Grammar Schools throughout the Province to come and spend some weeks in
the Model Grammar School."[124]

[124] See copy of letter in D. H. E., Vol. XII., p. 321.

The Government now authorized the Council of Public Instruction to
proceed with the erection of a building to accommodate one hundred
Grammar School pupils. The school was opened in 1858. It was the
intention to give a preference to the two or three pupils from each
county and city in Upper Canada who were recommended by the respective
Municipal Councils. Ryerson's circular to these Councils will throw some
light on the subject: "The object of the Model Grammar School is to
exemplify the best methods of teaching the branches required by law to
be taught in the Grammar Schools, especially the elementary classics and
mathematics, as a model for the Grammar Schools of the country. It is
also intended that the Model Grammar School shall, as far as possible,
secure the advantages of a Normal Classical School to candidates for
masterships in the Grammar School; but effect cannot be given to this
object of the Model Grammar School during the first few months of its
operation."[125] In 1859, in a report to the Government, Ryerson speaks
further and says: "In regard to the Model Grammar Schools the buildings
are completed and the school has been in operation several months and
with the most gratifying success. Upwards of thirty masters of Grammar
Schools have in the course of a few weeks visited and spent a longer or
shorter time in the Model Grammar School with a view to improving their
own methods of school organization, discipline, and teaching; and I have
reason to believe that it has already exerted a salutary influence in
improving the several Grammar Schools--an influence that will be greatly
increased when we are enabled to form a special class consisting of
candidates for Grammar School masterships."[126]

[125] See copy of Circular in D. H. E., Vol. XIV., p. 65.

[126] See Report of Superintendent for 1859.

In 1861, Mr. G. R. Cockburn, Rector of the Model Grammar School,
resigned to become principal of Upper Canada College. Ryerson wished to
transfer the functions of the Model Grammar School to Upper Canada
College. This was not agreed to, but the same year provision was made
for admitting candidates for Grammar School masterships to a course in
training in the Model Grammar School. Up to this time the School had
been of professional service as a school of observation, the holidays
being so arranged that its classes were in session while Grammar School
masters were on holiday.

In July, 1863, the Model Grammar School was finally closed. The
following from a letter sent by Ryerson to the Provincial Secretary
makes clear the reasons for this action: "When the Model Grammar School
was established it was expected that nearly every county in Upper Canada
would be represented in it and provision was made for that purpose. That
important object has not been realized; and although the attendance at
the school has been larger during the last year than during any previous
year, reaching even to 100, the attendance as in former years has been
chiefly from Toronto and its neighbourhood. I do not think it just to
the General Fund to maintain an additional Toronto Grammar School.
During the past year a training class for Grammar School masterships,
consisting to a considerable extent of students in the University, has
been successfully established. But it has been found that the
instruction in all subjects, except Greek, Latin, and French, can be
given in the Normal School to better advantage than in the Model Grammar

[127] See Ryerson's letter in D. H. E., Vol. XVIII, p. 69.

Trained teachers for the Grammar Schools were much to be desired, and
Ryerson deserves credit for his progressive ideas. But just at that
stage in their evolution, although they contained many scholarly men,
the Grammar Schools as a whole were more in need of teachers with sound
scholarship than of teachers with a little professional training.

There continued to be complaints that teachers trained in the Normal
Schools did not continue to teach. In his Report for 1856, Ryerson makes
clear that in his opinion these defections from the teaching ranks were
no condemnation of Normal Schools. He says: "The only objection yet made
to the training of teachers, as far as I know, is that many of them do
not pursue that profession but leave it for other employments. Were this
true to the full extent imagined, the conclusion would still be in
favour of the Normal School, since its advantages are not confined to
schools or neighbourhoods in which its teachers are employed, but are
extended over other neighbourhoods and municipalities.... In all
professions and pursuits there are changes from one to another. I do not
think it wise, just, or expedient to deny to the Normal School teacher
the liberty, if opportunity presents itself, to improve his position or
increase his usefulness.... In whatever position or relation of life a
Normal School teacher may be placed, his training at the Normal School
cannot fail to contribute to his usefulness."[128]

[128] See Report of Chief Superintendent for 1856. See copy in D. H. E.,
Vol. XIII., p. 51.

Nor was all the criticism of Normal School affairs directed towards the
teachers who left the profession; those who remained in it were
emissaries of evil. Then, as now, there were croakers who thought that a
boy born on a farm naturally belonged there, and that any enlightenment
which tended to make him dissatisfied with his surroundings was an evil.
One, signing himself Angus Dallas of Toronto, wrote several pamphlets
attacking the school system. Speaking of the Normal School, he said:
"The young men who have attended six months at that institution and
leave it with certificates to teach, go forth into the country with the
most mistaken estimate of their own importance. They open schools
wherever accident places them, and by teaching and familiar intercourse,
combined with the example of nomadic habits, for they seldom remain
longer than twelve months in one place, they soon contaminate the minds
of the older pupils and also of young men who may reside in the
neighbourhood, by their doctrines of enlightened citizenship; and thus
these pupils soon learn to disdain honest labour."[129]

[129] The Toronto schools were at this time very expensively managed as
compared with schools in other cities of Upper Canada. This could not be
attributed to the expense of Normal-trained teachers. In 1858, ten years
after the Normal School was established, no Common School in Toronto was
in charge of a Normal-trained teacher, and only two or three such
teachers had ever been employed there. See D. H. E., Vol. XIII., p. 299.

In 1855, the Legislature had authorized a museum and library in
connection with the Department of Education. These were formally opened
in 1857 and the library contributed much to increase the efficiency of
the Normal School by widening the scope of the students' reading.

In the following year the Council of Public Instruction revised the
Normal School Regulations. Qualifications necessary for admission were
accurately set forth and the course of study defined for both second and
first-class certificates. There continued to be two sessions a year, but
students who entered to qualify for a second-class certificate spent two
or more sessions before reaching a standard entitling them to a
first-class certificate.

An interesting sidelight is thrown upon the nature of the instruction
given in the Toronto Normal School by the Report for 1868 of George
Paxton Young, Inspector of Grammar Schools. Young was trying to raise
the standard of the Grammar Schools, and shows how their improvement
would affect the Normal Schools. He says: "I suppose there can be no
doubt that if High Schools like those which I have described were
established, it would be necessary to modify the work of the Normal
School considerably. Teachers who would have to perform different duties
from what have hitherto been expected at their hands would need a
different training from what has hitherto been given. The instructions
in English in the Normal School would require to be raised to a far
higher level than is now aimed at. Much of the elementary drilling which
Normal School students at present receive might be dispensed with. Our
institution for the training of teachers ought not to be a school for
teaching English grammar. In the same way I would lighten the ship of
such subjects as the bare facts of geography and history; not rejecting
of course prelections on the proper method of teaching geography and
history. The English master in the Normal School might thus be enabled
to devote a portion of his time to lessons in the English language and
literature of a superior cast--lessons which he would have a pride in
giving and on which the students would feel it a privilege to wait. Such
lessons would be immensely useful even to those young men and women who
might only desire to qualify themselves for becoming Common School
teachers. In the department of physical science, it is plain that if the
views which I have expressed in regard to the way in which science
should be taught in the High Schools be just, the object of the
prelections in the Normal School should not be to cram the students with
a mass of facts but to develop in them a philosophic habit of mind and
to make them practically understand how classes in science ought to be
conducted in the schools."[130]

[130] See D. H. E., Vol. XX., p. 127.

No man in Canada was better qualified to estimate the real work of any
educational establishment than Young, and although he was not closely
connected with the Normal School, we may assume that his analysis was
essentially correct and that the study of formal grammar and the
acquisition of scientific facts bulked large in the Normal School
programme. In his report for 1867,[131] in speaking of the Normal and
Model Schools, Ryerson says: "They are not constituted as are most of
the Normal Schools in both Europe and America to impart the preliminary
education requisite for teaching. That preparatory education is supposed
to have been attained in the ordinary public or private schools. The
entrance examination to the Normal School requires this. The object of
the Normal and Model Schools is, therefore, to do for the teacher what
an apprenticeship does for the mechanic, the artist, the physician, the
lawyer--to teach him theoretically and practically how to do the work of
his profession."

[131] See D. H. E., Vol. XX., p. 139.

A little consideration will show us that a school trying to realize such
an aim and attempting to teach only the rudiments of the science of
education, upon which the theory of teaching is based, must become
empirical and rule-of-thumb in its methods. The real difficulty lay in
the inadequate preparation with which the teachers in training entered
upon their work. The Normal School could not improve until an
improvement should be effected in the Grammar Schools.

During the first nine sessions of the Normal School no certificates were
granted which entitled the holder to teach. The Normal School graduates
simply received certificates of attendance and had to submit to
examination by a County Board before securing a license. It almost
invariably happened that Normal School graduates were able to take a
high standing at these examinations, and hence Ryerson met with no
serious opposition from County Boards when in 1853 he proposed to issue
Provincial certificates to Normal School graduates upon the
recommendation of the Normal School masters. From 1853 to 1871 a dual
system of granting certificates was in operation. Normal School
graduates received Provincial certificates of various grades, and County
Boards issued certificates valid only in the county where issued. In
1871 a radical change was made, by which County Boards were allowed to
issue only third-class certificates valid for three years in the county
where given, and renewable on the recommendation of the County
Inspector. Second and first-class certificates were granted only by the
Department of Education and valid during good behaviour, and in any part
of the Province. A first-class certificate of the highest grade (Grade
"A") was made the qualification for County Inspectors. It should also be
noted that the third-class certificates referred to above were granted
after 1871 only upon the passing of a written examination upon papers
prepared by a central committee chosen by the Council of Public
Instruction. This was a radical change from the old method, which
allowed each County Board to fix its own standard, a plan which
necessarily led to many certificates being granted to wholly incompetent

The change of 1871, which virtually established a Provincial system of
licensing teachers, brought upon Ryerson's head much abuse from
incompetent teachers and their friends. The Superintendent stood firmly
by his guns, knowing well that his act was in the best interests of the
Province. A few words from his reply to those who objected that old
teachers were being set aside because of failure to pass the Provincial
examination is worth mentioning. He says: "I answer, as government
exists not for office-holders but for the people, so the school exists
not for the teachers but for the youth and future generations of the
land; and if teachers have been too slothful not to keep pace with the
progressive wants and demands of the country, they must, as should all
incompetent and indolent public officers, and all lazy and
unenterprising citizens, give place to the more industrious,
intelligent, progressive, and enterprising. The sound education of a
generation of children is not to be sacrificed for the sake of an
incompetent although antiquated teacher."[132]

[132] See copy of Report in D. H. E., Vol. XIII., p. 131.

Having secured the adoption of a system by which all licensing of
teachers was under Departmental control, Ryerson next turned his
attention to an extension of facilities for training teachers. His plans
were comprehensive and had to wait thirty-five years for complete
realization. In 1872[133] he reported to the Provincial Treasurer as
follows: "I desire to state in reply that last year I thought and
suggested to the Government that two additional Normal Schools were
required, one in the eastern and the other in the western section of the
Province, but I am now inclined to think that three additional Normal
Schools will be required to extend the advantages of a Normal School
training to all parts of the Province--one at London, one at Kingston,
and one at Ottawa. If provision be not made to establish them all at
once, I think the first established should be at Ottawa--the centre of a
large region of country where the schools are in a comparatively
backward state, and where the influence of the Normal School training
for teachers has yet been scarcely felt except in a few towns, and which
is almost entirely separated from Toronto in all branches of business
and commerce, and therefore, to a great extent, in social relations and
sympathies.... As the whole Province east of Belleville is less advanced
and less progressive in schools than the western parts, I think a second
Normal School should be established at Kingston. The whole region of
country from Belleville, on the west, to Brockville, on the east, has
very little more business or commercial connection with Toronto than the
more eastern parts of the Province. Although London is not so remote
from Toronto as Ottawa or Kingston, yet it is the centre of a populous
and prosperous part of the Province from which an ample number of
student teachers would be collected to fill any Normal School.... With
the establishment of these three Normal Schools I am persuaded there
would still be as large a number of student teachers attending the
Toronto School as can advantageously be trained in one institution.... I
think all the Normal Schools should be subject to the oversight of the
Education Department and under the same regulations formally sanctioned
by the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council. This I think necessary on the
grounds of both economy and uniformity of standard and system of
instruction. As to the extent of accommodation in each Normal School, I
think that provision should be made for training 150 teachers in each

[133] See D. H. E., Vol. XXIV., p. 22.

In the meantime, while negotiations for more Normal School accommodation
were in progress, an attempt was made to give some professional training
through teachers' institutes. As far back as 1850 the Legislature had
made a grant for such meetings, and they had been conducted by the
Normal School masters. In 1872 the plan was revised and some very
successful institutes held. The movement is important because out of it
grew County Model Schools, and the adoption of a principle which meant
some professional training for every teacher.

In 1875, a Normal School was opened at Ottawa, but the plan of having
schools at Kingston and London was abandoned largely because of the
apathy of the Legislature in regard to the expense. In fact it is
doubtful if any Government could have forced through the Legislature a
vote for such a purpose.

Ryerson found the schools in 1844 taught by teachers without
certificates and without professional training; he left them in 1876
with teachers, all of whom were certificated under Government
examinations, and many of whom were Normal-trained. More important
still, he had, by his lectures at County Conventions and by his
writings in the _Journal of Education_, created a sentiment throughout
the Province in favour of trained teachers. He thus made easy the
pathway of his successors in securing increased efficiency; but it may
be doubted whether any of his immediate successors achieved results in
keeping with the material advance of the Province.



From 1850 to 1871 no wholly new principles relating to the Common
Schools were adopted by the Legislature, although some changes were
necessarily made. The legislation of 1850 had, from time to time, to be
supplemented by amendments in order that the spirit of the previous
legislation should be made applicable to the needs of a rapidly growing

An Act passed in 1853[134] provided further machinery for the working of
Trustee Boards; gave a liberal annual grant for an educational museum;
set apart £500 a year toward teachers' pensions, and increased by £1,000
a year the grant to Normal Schools.

[134] See copy of Act reprinted in D. H. E., Vol. X., p. 133.

An Act passed in 1860[135] more clearly defined the powers of trustees,
the manner of conducting elections, and auditing school accounts. The
same Act made Saturday a school holiday.

[135] See copy of Act reprinted
in D. H. E., Vol. XV., pp. 45-49.

The Act of 1871[136] was the last important school legislation prepared
by Ryerson.[137] The important features of the Act may be summed up
under four headings, viz., compulsory and free education, efficient
inspection, teachers' pensions, and the licensing of teachers under
Government direction.[138]

[136] See copy of Act reprinted in D. H. E., Vol. XXII., pp. 213-222.

[137] The Act of 1874, in as far as it contained new principles, was
forced upon Ryerson by the Government of Sir Oliver Mowat.

[138] For changes made in Grammar Schools by Act of 1871, see Chapter

The free school was the natural complement of the Act of 1850. The
permissive legislation then enacted allowing trustee boards and
ratepayers to establish free schools had been so generally acted
upon[139] that by 1871 the abolition of all rate bills upon parents
seemed to come as a matter of course. The logical corollary of free
schools is compulsory attendance, and the Act of 1871 fixed penalties to
be imposed upon parents and guardians who neglected the education of
their children. It may be doubted whether this compulsory clause has
ever been of any real advantage to the cause of education. The real
forces that move human beings are always moral forces. Many a man has
unwillingly sent his children to school because of public opinion, but
few because of fear of the law.

[139] Only some 400 schools out of 4,000 were levying rate bills in
1870. These 400 were chiefly in towns and cities. The total rate bill
levy for 1870 was about $24,000. See Superintendent's Report for 1870.

The Act provided for county inspectors who should be experts and devote
their whole time to the work of inspection. Ryerson's first Report had
foreshadowed such action, and the fact that he had to wait a
quarter-century to realize his plan shows how impossible it is to
legislate much in advance of public opinion.

The County Inspector, together with two or more qualified teachers, were
to form a County Board, with power to license second and third-class
teachers upon examinations prescribed by the Council of Public
Instruction. In this way the Superintendent had at last secured a
uniform standard of qualification for teachers throughout the whole

The small annual grant made for teachers' pensions in 1853, and
increased a few years later to $4,000 per annum, had enabled the
Superintendent to dole out pittances[140] to a few score of worn-out
teachers whose need was most pressing. Ryerson wished to establish a
system such as was in operation in Germany--a system of compulsory
payments by teachers in service sufficient to give a substantial pension
for old age. He hoped by this means to secure a body of teachers with a
professional spirit, and to enable them to spend their declining years
in independence.

[140] See D. H. E., Vol. XX., p. 143.

The Act of 1871 required compulsory payments from male teachers of four
dollars per year.[141] At a later date County Inspectors and all
first-class teachers were required to pay six dollars a year. This
payment guaranteed an annual pension upon retirement of four or six
dollars for every year's contribution. Female teachers were allowed, but
not forced, to support the Pension Fund. The compulsory payments aroused
much opposition from some teachers, especially those who were making
temporary use of the teachers' calling as a stepping-stone to some other
profession.[142] Ryerson thought that this class might very properly be
taxed a trifle for the general cause of education.

[141] No doubt this seems a ridiculously small contribution, but we must
remember that teachers received very small salaries. The Pension Fund
clause was repealed in 1885 on request of the teachers of Ontario, and
since that date no names have been added to the list. The payments by
teachers provided only a small proportion of the annual charge upon the
Pension Fund. The present annual charge (1910) upon the Fund is $55,926.

[142] See D. H. E., Vol. XXIII., pp. 253-256.

Minor provisions of the Act of 1871 gave trustee boards power to build
teachers' residences and to secure land for school sites by arbitration.
The Act also authorized the creation of Township Boards of Trustees,
where public opinion favoured them.

During its passage through the Legislature the Bill of 1871 was severely
criticized by Hon. George Brown, in the Toronto _Globe_, and by Edward
Blake, on the floor of the Assembly. Perhaps neither of these gentlemen
had any love for Ryerson, but they represented a new spirit which
Ryerson scarcely understood, and with which he certainly had no

Mr. Blake opposed the Bill upon several grounds, but especially upon the
abolition of rate bills and the irresponsible nature of the Council of
Public Instruction. As regards the former he expressed himself heartily
in favour of free schools, but since they were gradually becoming free
without compulsion he wished to let them alone. His objection to the
Council of Public Instruction[143] is worthy of note because it brings
out in a strong light the real bone of contention between Ryerson and
the Ontario Liberals, and enables us to understand why at a later date
it was impossible for Ryerson to work in harmony with a Liberal
Executive Council. The Council of Public Instruction was an
irresponsible body appointed by the Crown and dominated by the Chief
Superintendent. It had extensive powers. It might act arbitrarily, and
yet there was no way by which the members of the Legislature could call
it to account or insist upon explanations. Mr. Blake and his colleagues
argued that this was not compatible with representative government.
Doctor Ryerson insisted that the Education Department must be wholly
removed from party politics. Conscious of purity of purpose and
personal integrity, he was ever more desirous of giving the people what
he thought they needed than of giving them what they wanted.

[143] See Pamphlet in Parliamentary Library, Ottawa, addressed by Edward
Blake to the electors of South Bruce.

Although Ryerson had taken a partisan's part in politics before his
appointment as Superintendent, he wisely tried to administer his
Department upon a non-partisan basis. And he met with a large measure of
success because all sensible men realized that education ought not to be
a topic for partisan bickerings. For many years it was so arranged that
the leader of the Government introduced educational bills and the leader
of the Opposition seconded them.

Such a procedure was possible only so long as both political parties had
more confidence in the wisdom of the Superintendent to deal with
education than they had in the educational foresight of their own
leaders. But such a confidence could not be indefinitely retained by any
Superintendent, and certainly not by Ryerson, who was very sensitive to
criticism of his administration, and always ready to challenge any
layman who had the temerity to express an opinion upon education
contrary to his. It was inevitable that a clash should come, and it was
a great tribute to Ryerson's wisdom in gauging public opinion that the
clash was so long delayed. It was also quite to be expected that the
Liberal leaders should be the ones to precipitate the shock, seeing that
Ryerson had ridden into office upon a wave of Tory reaction.

Mr. Blake and Hon. George Brown could, however, make little headway
against Ryerson in connection with the School Bill of 1871. Except in
regard to the irresponsible nature of the Council of Public Instruction,
the Act was progressive and truly liberal. Ryerson had discussed every
clause in the Bill at County Conventions, and had behind him the support
of all actively engaged in the work of education and in the other
learned professions.



How are we to sum up the work of this man who moulded the schools of
Ontario during a period as long as the life of a single generation?
Would the schools of 1876 have been what they were had there been no
Ryerson? We think not.

No doubt the people of Upper Canada would, without Ryerson, have worked
out a good school system, because a school system must in the end
reflect the average intelligence and the fixed ideals of a people. But
in Ryerson, Upper Canada had a man who, by his dogged determination and
his hold upon the affections of the people, was able to secure
legislation somewhat in advance of a fixed public opinion. To a
considerable extent he created the public sentiment which made his work
possible. He knew what the people needed and persuaded them to accept
it. This we conceive to be the work of a statesman.

Ryerson was neither a demagogue nor a constitutionalist. He had none of
the arts of one who wins the populace by flattering its vanity. He was
too sincere and too deeply religious to appeal to the lower springs of
human action. On the other hand he had no real sympathy with popular
government. He would let people do as they wished, only so long as they
wished to do what he believed to be right. He never could believe that
he himself might be wrong. Even had he wished to do so, he never could
have divested himself wholly of the character of priest and pedagogue.
He was always either shouting from the pulpit or thumping the desk of
the schoolmaster.

His environment after 1844 strengthened and developed his natural
tendency to be autocratic. He worked like a giant. He created the
Education Department, appointed his subordinates, was his own finance
minister, established a Normal School and appointed its instructors,
nominated members of a Council of Public Instruction who often did
little more than formally register his decrees, organized a book and map
depository and an educational museum, edited an educational journal in
which he published his decrees, and prepared legislation for successive
Legislatures having comparatively few members competent to criticize
school administration. He administered one of the largest spending
Departments of Government, and ruled somewhat rigorously a score of
subordinates, and yet, for many years, was not subject to any check
except the nominal one of the Governor-General, and later of the

When he visited District or County Conventions he came as a lawgiver,
either to explain existing regulations, promulgate new ones, or obtain
assent to those for which he wished to secure legislation. Only after
the Grammar Schools had become efficient did Ryerson meet at Teachers'
Conventions men who were intellectually his equals and who were ready to
criticize his policy, and, when necessary, give him wholesome advice.
Had Ryerson been a responsible Minister with a seat in the Legislature,
either his nature would have been modified or he would have failed,
probably the latter.

This would seem to lead to the conclusion that Ryerson after all was not
a statesman, since a statesman must, in our age, carry out his measures
and at the same time retain the confidence of his colleagues and the
electors. But this is just what Ryerson did, although he did not do it
directly through the Legislature. He appealed to a Court beyond the
Legislature--the whole body of intelligent men and women of Upper
Canada--and this Court sustained him in his work for thirty-two years,
during which time it is doubtful if any single constituency in the
country would have elected him to two successive Parliaments. If this be
true we may safely assume that it was a happy chance which gave us a
non-political Education Department during our formative period.

Ryerson's greatest admirers can scarcely claim that he was a scholar.
This was his misfortune and not his fault. He never failed to embrace
whatever opportunities for intellectual improvement came in his way. His
reading of history was broad and discriminating. He had little interest
in anything that did not bear somewhat directly upon the problem of
human virtue. Consequently his interests centred largely in civil
government and theology.

Nor can we claim for Ryerson that he introduced original legislation.
Hardly anything in our system of education was of his invention. New
England, New York, Germany, and Ireland gave him his models, and his
genius was shown in the skill with which he adapted these to suit the
needs of Upper Canada. Even in the details of his school legislation,
especially that relating to High Schools, Ryerson adopted suggestions of
men more competent than himself to form a judgment. To say this in no
way detracts from the man's greatness. Little after all in modern
legislation is actually new, and to say of a man that he is successful
in using other men's ideas is often to give him the highest praise.

In one department of work Ryerson stood in a class by himself. He was
without a peer as an administrator. His intensely practical mind was
quick to discover the shortest route between end and means. His energy,
his system and attention to details, his broad personal knowledge of
actual conditions, his capacity for long periods of effort, his thrift,
his courteous treatment of subordinates, and even his sensitiveness to
criticism were factors which enabled him to administer the most
difficult Department of the Government with ease and smoothness.

The history of Upper Canada during a period of nearly sixty years is as
much bound up with the labours of Egerton Ryerson as with the work of
any other public man. He gave us lofty ideals of the meaning and purpose
of life, and he had an abiding faith in the power of popular education
to aid in a realization of these ideals; he fought for free schools in
Upper Canada when they needed a valiant champion. Let the present
generation of men and women honour the memory of the man who wrought so
faithfully for their fathers and grandfathers.


    Documentary History of Education in Upper Canada. 28 vols. Dr. J.
        Geo. Hodgins.

    Story of My Life. Egerton Ryerson. Edited by Dr. J. Geo. Hodgins.

    Egerton Ryerson. Chancellor Burwash.

    Loyalists of America. 2 vols. Egerton Ryerson.

    Ryerson Memorial Volume. Edited by Dr. J. Geo. Hodgins.

    History of Upper Canada College. Principal Dickson.

    Journals of Assembly of Upper Canada, Legislative Library, Toronto.

    Journal of Education, 1848-1876. 29 vols. Library of Parliament,

    Ryerson's Special Reports on European Schools. Library of
        Parliament, Ottawa.

    Ryerson's Annual School Reports, 1845-1876. Library of Parliament,

    Gourlay's Statistical Account of Upper Canada. 3 vols. Published by
        Simpkins and Marshall, London, Eng., 1822.

    Sketches of Canada and the United States. William Lyon Mackenzie.
        Published by Effingham & Wilson, London, Eng., 1833.

    Reminiscences of His Public Life. Sir Francis Hincks.

    Ryerson's Controversy with Rev. J. M. Bruyère on Free Schools.
        Canadian Pamphlets, vol. 50. Library of Parliament, Ottawa.

    Ryerson's Letters to Doctor Strachan, on Education. Canadian
        Pamphlets, vol. 83.

    Ryerson's New Canadian Dominion. Canadian Pamphlets, vol. 418.

    Ryerson's Defence Against Attacks of Hon. George Brown. Canadian
        Pamphlets, vol. 418.

    Ryerson on the Separate School Law of Upper Canada. Canadian
        Pamphlets, vol. 416.

    Ryerson on a Liberal Education in Upper Canada. Canadian Pamphlets,
        vol. 416.

    Ryerson on the School Book Question. Canadian Pamphlets, vol. 416.

    Ryerson, a Review and a Study. J. A. Allen. Canadian Pamphlets, vol.

    Bishop Strachan, a Review and a Study. Rev. Doctor Scadding.
        Canadian Pamphlets, vol. 169.

    Report on Grievances in Upper Canada. William Lyon Mackenzie.
        Library of Parliament, Ottawa.

    Bound Volumes of Toronto _Globe_, 1844-1876, in Legislative Library,

    _British Colonist._ Published by H. Scobie, 1838-1854. Library of
        Parliament, Ottawa.

    _Kingston Chronicle and Gazette_, 1840-1842. Library of Parliament,

    Courier of Upper Canada, 1836-1837. Library of Parliament, Ottawa.

    _Weekly Colonist_, 1852-1855. Library of Parliament, Ottawa.

    Ryerson's Correspondence with Provincial Secretaries, 1844-1876.
        Canadian Archives, Ottawa.

Transcriber's Note: Inconsistencies in spelling and hyphenation (e.g.,
school-houses/schoolhouses) have been resolved in all cases where it was
possible to divine the author's intent with a reasonable degree of

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