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Title: Egerton Ryerson: His Life and Letters

Date of first publication: 1937

Author: C. B. Sissons (1875-1965)

Date first posted: Nov. 28, 2022

Date last updated: Nov. 28, 2022

Faded Page eBook #20221154

This eBook was produced by: John Routh & the online Distributed Proofreaders Canada team at https://www.pgdpcanada.net


From a portrait by the noted English artist, William Gush, in the possession of Arthur Maybee, Esq., Toronto.


Fifty-five years have passed since Ryerson with trembling hand wrote the last of his letters, and another fifty-five years since his first published letter made the young itinerant the recognized champion of religious equality in Upper Canada. Perhaps we are now sufficiently distant from the struggles in which he took so large a part justly to appraise his worth.

Shortly after he died the work of recording his life was undertaken by his friend and assistant, Dr. J. George Hodgins. The Story of My Life, published in 1883, was not an autobiography by Ryerson as the title would suggest, but rather a compilation by Hodgins from the documents left him as a literary executor, with only occasional comments by Ryerson himself. But while this large volume is rich in information as to the man and his work, Hodgins was quite too close to his chief in affection to draw a picture true in every line. The briefer biographies by Dr. Nathaniel Burwash (1901) and Dr. J. H. Putman (1912), and particularly the latter, are chiefly concerned with his achievements as the founder of a system of education; to them he was something of an institution, certainly less than a man of flesh and blood working beside men frail like himself. The chapter on Ryerson in William Smith’s posthumous work Political Leaders in Upper Canada (1931) gives an excellent summary of Ryerson’s earlier career. Smith, who was thoroughly familiar with the public documents of the period, deeply regretted the necessity of writing this chapter without access to private letters here reproduced for the first time.

The purpose of the present work is to use the private and public correspondence of Ryerson as the basis for a complete study of the man in relation to the Upper Canada of his day, which he understood more clearly and influenced more widely than did perhaps any other of its citizens. It is presented in the hope that it may throw new light on a side of Canadian history too often neglected. Wars, explorations, constitutional changes, romantic or significant as these may be, must for our purpose take secondary place to a story of common people—and uncommon people as well—at work in the forging of the spirit of a nation. In the reproduction of the letters themselves every care has been taken to give the exact form of the original. Nothing has been withheld; where a life has been lived on such a plane as was that of Ryerson, there can be no occasion for reticence. And the purpose has been to understand, not to celebrate. It is impossible perhaps in a work of such range and detail to avoid certain errors and omissions, but it is hoped that these will prove to be neither many nor serious.

It is not possible to acknowledge the assistance of all those whose kindness has lightened my labours,—archivists and librarians, colleagues and friends, descendants of the dramatis personae who have placed their treasures at my disposal. They are held individually in grateful remembrance. I wish, however, particularly to refer to these: Professor A. E. Lang, who as Librarian of Victoria College twelve short years ago first turned me to the reading and ordering of the Ryerson letters; Dr. Walter T. Brown, Principal of Victoria College, whose counsel has been of great value in the later stages of the work; Professor J. D. Robins whose feeling for pioneer life and literary taste have been equally at my command; the members of the Centenary Committee, Professor G. W. Brown, Professor D. G. Creighton and the late Dr. George H. Locke who gave valuable suggestions as to the form and scope of the present volume; and Mrs. T. F. Nicholson whose skill and interest as secretary have greatly facilitated the progress of the work.

C. B. S.

February 23, 1937.







With a Foreword by


Chancellor of Victoria University
















Copyright, Canada, 1937
















Dr. Ryerson, who was the first Principal of Victoria College, and who for half a century was one of the powerful personalities in the life of Canada, named as his literary trustees the Reverend Dr. S. S. Nelles, Chancellor of Victoria University, the Reverend Dr. John Potts, Secretary of Education of the Methodist Church, and Dr. J. George Hodgins, the Deputy-Minister of Education for the Province of Ontario. Through these executors, there came into the possession of Victoria University the correspondence of Dr. Ryerson, comprising about two thousand letters, and many rare and valuable printed documents.

In this correspondence the University possesses material which is vital to the understanding of the social, political, and religious life of one of the most formative periods in the history of Canada. In order that the correspondence might be made available to students of Canadian history, the Board of Regents arranged for its publication as part of the celebration of the one hundredth anniversary of the founding of Victoria in the year 1836. Professor C. B. Sissons, who has been working on the material for some years, has been asked to carry his work to completion. The first fruit of his labour will be found in this volume, which presents a new and significant interpretation of the life of Dr. Ryerson in relation to his time.

E. W. Wallace

Victoria University,

February 3, 1937.

II.CREDIT RIVER AND COBOURG CIRCUIT: September 1826 to September 1828
III.AT ANCASTER: September 1828 to August 1829
IV.TWO GREAT ENTERPRISES: August 1829 to September 1831
V.TURNING THE OTHER CHEEK: September 1831 to October 1833
VI.APOSTATE OR PROPHET?: October 1833 to June 1834
VII.THE LEVELLERS SECEDE: June 1834 to December 1835
VIII.AT THE FOOT OF THE THRONE: January 1836 to July 1836
IX.DEEP IN POLITICS: January 1836 to July 1836
X.THE ARM OF FLESH: August 1836 to December 1837
XI.THE SHADOW OF MONTGOMERY’S TAVERN: December 1837 to April 1838
XII.VAE VICTIS: March 1838 to May 1838
XIII.DURHAM AND ARTHUR: June 1838 to June 1839
XIV.THE LAST YEAR AS EDITOR: June 1839 to June 1840
XV.THE SEAL OF SYDENHAM: July 1840 to September 1841

Egerton Ryerson
The Three Brothers
Cobourg in 1841
Outer Sheet of Rev. Harvard’s Letter
Conclusion of a Letter from Egerton Ryerson to His Brother John

Egerton Ryerson: His Life and Letters



Part I—The Making of an Itinerant

Egerton Ryerson was born on March 24, 1803, the fifth of the six sons of Joseph Ryerson and his wife, Mehetabel Stickney. His place of birth was in the township of Charlotteville, near the village now called Vittoria, a few miles back from Lake Erie in the County of Norfolk. The district was known as the Long Point Settlement, taking its name from the cape which stretches out into the lake like a duck’s foot about a third of the distance between the Niagara and the Detroit. Joseph Ryerson was a native of New Jersey, and had served as an officer with the Prince of Wales Regiment during the American Revolutionary War, enlisting as a mere lad. After the defeat of British arms he had retired to New Brunswick where he had married. In 1799 he followed an elder brother, Samuel, to Upper Canada. Here as a Loyalist he received a grant of 2,500 acres of land. On half-pay as a pensioner, he settled on a farm of six hundred acres near his brother’s farm and mill, raised his family of six sons and three daughters, served the state in civil and military offices and, in spite of what are described as distressing physical infirmities, reached the age of ninety-three and died on the farm he had occupied some sixty years.

The Ryerson family was of Dutch Huguenot origin. The late Dr. George Sterling Ryerson, a son of George Ryerson, the oldest of Joseph’s sons, was at pains to trace the history of the family.[1] He found the name in the list of “Sheppen”, or Sheriffs, of Amsterdam of the year 1330. The Canadian branch of the family is descended from Martin Reyerzoon, who with his brother, Adrian, migrated to New Amsterdam (New York) in 1647. The name was abbreviated to Reyertz, later Ryerse, and about 1700 anglicized to Ryerson.

Egerton Ryerson has left us some account of his boyhood and youth in a sketch written at his Long Point cottage on the seventieth anniversary of his birth. From this and other accounts it may be inferred that the Ryersons escaped the severe privations incidental to pioneer life in many less favoured sections of Upper Canada, while at the same time hardly achieving the dignity and leisure of a landed aristocracy. The glimpse we get of their manner of life would suggest that Joseph Ryerson’s position resembled that of Robert Baldwin “the emigrant”, who took up land in Clarke township in 1798.[2] Like Robert Baldwin, he was Colonel of Militia, and as early as 1800 he was appointed High Sheriff. To what extent he himself laboured on the farm we are not told, nor do we know how far the one son who did not become a travelling preacher helped him. The sons, however, were brought up to work. While Egerton was teaching he hired a man in his place, and when he returned home the following year he “ploughed every acre of ground for the season, cradled every stalk of wheat, rye and oats and mowed every spear of grass, pitching the whole first on a waggon and then from the waggon on the hay-mow or stack”.[3] Of his mother, Ryerson has this to say: “That to which I am principally indebted for any studious habits, mental energy or even capacity or decision of character, is religious instruction, poured into my mind in my childhood by a Mother’s counsels, and infused into my heart by a Mother’s prayers and tears.”[4]

Egerton was unusually fortunate as to facilities for education. One of the several Public, afterwards known as Grammar, Schools projected by Simcoe was within half a mile of his home, and was in charge of his brother-in-law, James (afterwards Judge) Mitchell. The seven trustees of this school included his father, his uncle and Colonel Talbot. While attending school he was also learning to do all kinds of farm work and laying the foundations of that physical strength which enabled him to accomplish the prodigious labours of later years.

The Ryersons were naturally drawn into the War of 1812. Colonel Ryerson himself saw service, as did his three oldest sons. Loyalty to the Crown and the menace of republicanism must have been constantly in the mind and on the tongue in the Ryerson home. Democracy rampant had driven the family from their old New Jersey home; and an offshoot of the same movement a quarter of a century later had brought the danger of eviction to them in their new home which lay in the route of trampling armies between Niagara and Detroit. Indeed the widow Ryerse’s[5] farm buildings and mill were burned on May 15, 1814, by American marines, the house being spared only through her personal appeal to the officer in charge. The atmosphere in Simcoe’s grammar schools would serve to confirm the first impressions of the home. Thus while in mature years Ryerson was happily free from those anti-American prejudices which too often have afflicted lesser minds in his native province, his natural bent was loyalist and conservative. This serves in large part to explain his break with the Reform movement in 1833 and his effective support of Sir Charles Metcalfe in 1844; and in his old age and retirement it compelled him to labour as much as fifteen hours a day in the British Museum on two large volumes which traced the history and appraised the achievements of the United Empire Loyalists.[6]

But in spite of what has sometimes been said, political interests were secondary with him. The primary and dominant motive of his life was religious. His mother was deeply religious, and her influence, supplemented by that of the itinerant preachers, nourished his naturally serious mind. His father also was a staunch member of the Church of England. During its first few years the Long Point Settlement was without religious ministration. Mrs. Amelia Harris of Eldon House, London, the daughter of Samuel Ryerse, describes the marriage ceremonies performed by her father, as magistrate, and the want of baptism, and tells how at last the Reverend Robert Addison was induced to come from Niagara to baptize the children. She continues:

The neighbourhood was notified, and all the children, from one month to eight or nine years old, were assembled to receive baptism. The house was crowded with people anxious to hear the first sermon preached in the Long Point Settlement by an ordained minister. Upon my own mind I must confess that the surplice and gown made a much more lasting impression than the sermon, and I thought Mr. Addison a vastly more important person in them than out of them; but upon the older part of the community, how many sad and painful feelings did this first sermon awaken, and recall times long past, friends departed, ties broken, homes deserted, hardships endured! The c[h]ord touched produced many vibrations, as Mr. Addison shook hands with every individual, and made some kind inquiry about their present or future welfare. The same God-hopeful smile passed over every face, and the same “Thank you, sir, we find ourselves every year a little better off, and the country is improving. If we only had a church and a clergyman we should have but little to complain of.” But it was a hope deferred for many long years. A Baptist minister, the Rev. Mr. Finch, was the first clergyman who came to the little settlement to reside. His meetings were held in different parts of the settlement each Sunday, so that all might have the opportunity of hearing him if they chose to attend. He preached in houses and barns without any reward, labouring on his farm for his support. He, like all the early Dissenting ministers who came to the province, was uneducated, but possessed and sincerely believed a saving knowledge of the Gospel, and in his humble sphere laboured to do all the good in his power. Many of the young people joined his Church. He was soon followed by the Methodists. Too much cannot be said in praise of the early ministers of these denominations; they bore every privation and fatigue, praying and preaching in every house where the doors were not closed against them—receiving the smallest pittance for their labour. A married man received $200 a year and a log-house for his family; an unmarried man had half that sum, the greater portion of which was paid in home-made cloth and produce. Their sermons and prayers were very loud, forcible and energetic, and if they had been printed verbatim, would have looked a sad jumble of words. They encouraged an open demonstration of feeling amongst their hearers—the louder the more satisfactory. But notwithstanding the criticisms cast upon these early preachers, were they not the class of men who suited their hearers? They shared their poverty and entered into all their feelings; and although unlearned, they taught the one true doctrine—to serve God in spirit and in truth—and their lives bore testimony to their sincerity. In this world they looked forward to neither preferment nor reward; all they expected or could hope for was a miserable subsistence. Nor was it surprising that in twenty years afterwards, when the path was made smooth, the church built, and the first clergyman, the Rev. Mr. Evans, came, that he found a small congregation. Every township had one or two Methodist and Baptist chapels.[7]

Apparently the Methodist circuit-riders began regular work in the Long Point Settlement in 1802. At all events, the Long Point Circuit was established by Nathan Bangs in that year.[8] The range of the circuit cannot now be determined, but we know that it stretched at least as far west as Burford. Just when the leaven first began to work in the Ryerson family we do not know, but Egerton Ryerson informs us that at the close of the American War in 1815, when he himself was twelve years of age, three older brothers, George, William and John, became deeply religious. It was then that he experienced the change of heart known as “conversion”, a very real and definite and indeed essential experience to the early Methodists. Strangely enough, Ryerson nowhere mentions the Methodist preacher under whom his conversion took place, although he describes in some detail the experience itself. In the year 1815 the two preachers stationed on the Long Point Circuit were Thomas Whitehead, a gentle man with considerable pulpit talents, and David Youmans, a man of strong sense and warm heart, formerly a blacksmith and hence familiarly and affectionately known as “The Old Hammer”. Possibly we may infer that young Egerton’s conversion was less due to the exhortation of one or other of these contrasted colleagues than to the influence of his brothers. While his conversion meant new joy and earnestness of purpose in his life, it had no marked outward effect; he continued his studies and his work on the farm till the age of eighteen. Then he became persuaded that it was not proper for him to enjoy the privileges of the church without joining it, and he gave in his name for membership. His father soon heard of this, and delivered the ultimatum that he must either leave the Methodists or leave his home. The next day he became “usher” at the district grammar school, where he remained for two years a student-teacher. After two years his father came to him one day and said, “Egerton, you must come home.” His first reaction was hostile to the suggestion, or command, but on second thought he determined that as he had left home for the honour of religion, the honour of religion would be promoted by his showing that “the religion so much spoken against would enable me [him] to leave the school for the plough and the harvest-field. . . .”[9]

After a year of varied and strenuous farm labour, having now attained his majority, again he left home, this time with the entire good-will of his father. His purpose was to pursue classical studies at the Gore District Grammar School under John Law. At the time he was attracted to the legal profession. He boarded at the home of John Aikman, “one of the most respectable residents” of the village of Hamilton. At this time he began to keep a diary,[10] occasional extracts from which have been preserved by Hodgins. While giving religious experiences the first place, incidentally the diary enables us to follow the secondary interests of the young student and itinerant during the period it covers. On August 16, 1824, he commenced his studies, reading Latin and Greek with Mr John Law. He began the duties of the day in imploring the assistance of God, without whom he could do nothing. On April 17th he read Virgil’s Georgics, finding them very difficult and reading only seventy lines. On September 8th he found himself too much mingled with the common crowd and, like others, too indifferent to “the subject of all others the chief”. On September 15th he replied to a letter from his brother George, making light of the fear expressed that he would injure his health. He had read three books of the Georgics and the Odes of Horace, but during the past week had read scarcely any because of company; the Attorney-General had been stopping at Mr. Aikman’s during Court, and had been most sociable and open in conversation. On September 26th he was much oppressed with a man-fearing spirit, but what had he to fear if God be with him? From the 3rd to the 9th of October he had been much distressed with bodily pain. On November 25th he found his mind perplexed. The comforts and tranquillity of domestic happiness attract his attention. He asks whether he is not “to taste the pleasures which two hearts reciprocally united in one mutually communicate”. He prays that he may be directed by divine wisdom, and prevented from following the dictates of his own will.

From November 26, 1824, till February 12, 1825, there is a gap in the diary. The entry of February 12th reads,

During the long period since I last penned my religious meditations, my feelings, hopes, and prospects have been extremely varied. While I was promising myself health and many temporal pleasures, God saw fit to show me the uncertainty of earthly things, and the necessity and wisdom of submission to his will, by the rod of affliction. During my sickness I have derived much pleasure and profit from the visits of pious friends, so that I have felt it is good to be afflicted.

In the course of this serious illness, during which for a time his life was despaired of, he had a second deeply religious experience. He resolved no longer to resist the call to the ministry. On March 15th he returned to his studies, but had not long to wait for the occasion which definitely threw him into the work of the Methodist ministry.

Having incurred his father’s displeasure by joining the Methodists in 1815, Joseph William Ryerson (henceforth called William) had left his home. He had gone west to Oxford, where he took up a bush farm, received his education, as in later years he laughingly confessed, in the college of Buck and Bright,[11] and at an early age even for those days took unto himself a wife. In the minutes of the Methodist Episcopal Conference of 1823 we find him received on trial as a preacher. The entry reads,

William Ryerson, aged twenty-five, wife and two children, clear of debt, admitted.[12]

In the spring of 1825 he was serving his second year as junior to Ezra Adams on the Niagara Circuit, which embraced the whole peninsula from four miles east of Hamilton to a point west of Fort Erie. During the latter part of November he was to attend a quarterly meeting at “The Fifty”, just west of Grimsby. Egerton went out from Hamilton on Saturday to attend the Sunday services.

William was not able to be present, being laid aside by “bleeding of the lungs”. The Presiding Elder of the District, Rev. Thos. Madden, and the two stewards of the circuit came to Egerton and asked him if he had any engagements which would prevent him from supplying his brother’s place. He replied that he had none beyond his own plans and purposes, but pleaded his studies and weakness of body from his recent illness. Nevertheless he felt the hand of God upon him, and he could not resist. The diary of March 24th reads,

I have this day finished twenty-two years of my life. I have decided this day to travel in the Methodist Connexion and preach Jesus to the lost sons of men. Oh, the awful importance of this work! How utterly unfit I am for the undertaking! . . .[13]

Returning to the circuit, he began his travels as an itinerant, being provided with a horse, saddle and bridle by his stewards, Smith Griffin and Hugh Willson.

Thus ended the formal education of the man who afterwards conducted the most influential newspaper in Upper Canada, who met in controversy, and usually vanquished, the ablest men of the day, and who became the first principal of Victoria College and the founder of the educational system of Ontario. For the duties of a preacher he was not so ill prepared as might appear. During the few months of study with John Law, he had made some progress with the Classics, and while “usher” at the Grammar School he had compassed such works as Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Paley’s Moral and Political Philosophy, and Blackstone’s Commentaries.

His first sermon was preached at Beamsville on Easter Sunday from the text “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy”, or from the next verse in the same Psalm, “He that goeth forth and weeping, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again and rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him”.[14] His manner of beginning befitted the text; the young preacher, according to Willson, spoke with great fear and trembling.

All was not peace. The change from home comforts at Vittoria and Hamilton to the casual vicissitudes of the itinerant preacher was hard to endure. He had determined upon a rigorous course of study, for which he rose very early in the morning. On April 13th he writes that he has been “depressed on account of having no abode for domestic retirement, and becoming exposed to all the besetments of public life”. On April 15th he was so bowed down with temptation that he was almost resolved to return home. On April 17th he delivered three discourses; in the morning his mind was dull and heavy, in the afternoon warm and pathetic, in the evening clear and fertile. On April 29th, while he was travelling, a tree fell across the road some four or five rods before him, and another close behind. He felt the Lord had been his protector. Two persons, a woman and her son, were killed on the road not far behind him during the same storm. On May 4th he watched a large concourse of people assembled to witness horse-racing. Curiosity and excitement were depicted on every countenance. He pondered upon what was to become of this thoughtless multitude and why they would not be saved. On May 5th he preached once to a listening but wicked assembly. He heard his brother William in the afternoon and was affected by the force of his reasoning and the power of his eloquence.

Two days later he was at Cummer’s Mill at the Yonge Street Camp Meeting. This was the first one held so near York, and the first John Carroll ever attended. Every scene and circumstance was novel, and made a deep impression on Carroll’s young and receptive mind and memory. Here, at 8 a.m., he heard Ryerson preach from Hosea, 13: 9, “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help.”

He was then perhaps twenty years of age, fat and boyish-looking, like Spurgeon, when he began; only with a far more intellectual face. The physique and physiognomy of our hero, whether in youth or riper years, has been such as became our notions of a great man. Rather over than under the medium size—well proportioned—fair complexioned—with large, speaking, blue eyes—large nose, more Jewish than either Grecian or Roman—and then such a head! large, full, well-balanced, without any noticeable prominences; but moderately embossed all over like a shield. The mass of brain before the ears is greater than that of any other man we wot of. The height, breadth, and fullness of that forehead is remarked by all observers.[15]

On the first Sunday after the camp-meeting, Ryerson rode some thirty miles, preached three sermons and met two classes. Two weeks later he attended a camp-meeting at Mount Pleasant, at which both Mississauga and Mohawk Indians were present. Peter Jones appears for the first time in our narrative at these services. He spoke both in Indian and in English with great effectiveness. He was the son of Augustus Jones, deputy Provincial Surveyor, and his Indian wife.

On June 29th the diary shows Ryerson cast down by a weight of care. His father was very anxious for him to return home and offered to deed his farm to him; further, a position in the Church of England presented itself. Three ways thus lay open before him, two of which offered a comfortable living, satisfying his father and permitting early marriage, while the third offered a bare livelihood, many hardships and a postponement of marriage for some years. Fourteen years later, Ryerson found it necessary in meeting detraction to recount all the circumstances in detail:

On the 24th March, 1825, I was induced to commence my itinerant labours as a Methodist Preacher, in the place of an elder brother whose health had failed, on what was called the Niagara Circuit, embracing at that time the whole of the Gore and Niagara Districts east of Stony Creek, and north of the Chippewa River—over which I travelled and preached 29 times every four weeks. From March to September of that year, I travelled under a Chairman or Presiding Elder. The annual Conference was held in September—so that up to September I was at liberty to desist from travelling without violating any engagement or abusing any confidence reposed in me. My parents desired me to reside with them, and as an inducement my father offered to secure his landed property to me if I would do so—I declined, and begged him never to put his property out of his own hands while he lived, and requested him to give any portion he might intend for me to an elder brother who had a family. Some of my friends desired me to take orders in the Church of England, and a gentleman (now an Episcopal Clergyman) was authorised by the late Bishop of Quebec (then a general Missionary) to request me to make an appointment to see him on his then contemplated tour through the Niagara District, where I was travelling. It was also intimated to me that if I consented to take orders in the Church of England, I would be assisted to a situation in a public school, or otherwise, until I had finished my preparatory studies and attained to a sufficient age to enter into orders. After mature and I trust prayerful deliberation, I replied by letter, declining the proposals made, but at the same time appreciating the kindness and partiality of my friends. A short time afterwards I accidentally met the friend who had been the medium of this communication from the late Dr. Stewart. He was deeply affected at my decision. When I assigned my religious obligations to the Methodists as a reason, he replied that all his own religious feelings had also been derived from them, but he thought the Church required our labours. Now, in reply to these ten years’ calumnies against me on this score, I will here transcribe verbatim et literatim an entry into my private journal on the whole affair:

“June 29th [1825]. For several days past I have been much afflicted in my mind. Many objects present themselves before me, and many cares weigh upon my mind. My father is exceedingly anxious that I should return home and remain with him during his lifetime. A situation in the Church of England presents itself, and other advantageous situations with regard to this world offer themselves. When I reflect on the situation of my father’s family and the anxiety of my parents, my heart bleeds. My soul sinks. But is it duty? If my parents were in want, it would be my duty to relieve them, and I would do it without hesitation. But when they [have] every necessary at command, is it my duty to gratify them at the expense of the cause of God? Souls are perishing for lack [of] knowledge; and shall I leave these destitute, for any personal advantages of my own, or to gratify my relations? Surely if a man may leave father and mother to join himself to a wife, how much more reasonable would it be for him to leave all to join himself to a Christian Ministry, to devote himself to the welfare of mankind, and the cause of the ever blessed God? My parents are dear, but my duty to God is dearer still. It would be desirable to live in the society of my relations, but how much more desirable to live in the favour of God, and enjoy the communion of the Holy Spirit. One thing do I desire, that I may live in the house of the Lord for ever. And shall I leave a Church by whose faithful instructions and parental care I have been taught to know God, and been encouraged and strengthened in my feeble efforts since I was induced to enter the way of salvation; shall I leave such a Church for any advantages that the entrance of another might afford me? No, far be it from me. As I received the Lord Jesus, so will I walk in him. Worldly advantages can be possessed but a little while. Earthly distinctions will be but short. But the favour of God will last for ever; and humble piety will deck its possessor with laurels of glory, and translate him to regions of uninterrupted happiness to all eternity. Besides, is it a sacrifice to do my duty? Is it not a cause of gratitude that I am brought to a sense of my duty, and is it not a privilege that I am allowed to perform it? Surely it is my happiness, my honor, my glory, and no sacrifice at all, to discharge my duty to God and my fellow-creatures. But is it my duty to travel and preach among the Methodists? How can I doubt it? God has blessed my soul in so doing, my labours have been blest, his cause has in some degree prospered in my hands. My heart is united with them. My soul is one with theirs. My labours are acceptable. They are anxious that I should continue them. I believe their articles. I approve of their Constitution. I believe them to be the Church of Christ.”[16]

Thus, with characteristic thoroughness, Ryerson sought to scotch a canard to the effect that he was hostile to the Church of England, being a disgruntled applicant for holy orders. Evidently he did not quite succeed. The fiction had been repeated so often that it almost became history. Its latest appearance is in the excellent life of Lord Durham, by Professor New, as follows:

John Strachan was a convert to the Church of England from Presbyterianism; Egerton Ryerson, the Goliath of the Dissenters, had been refused ordination in the Church of England.[17]

The source of the error is probably to be traced to an unpublished letter by Strachan, dated August 14, 1828, addressed to Dr. Hamilton of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, in part as follows:

Agreeable to my promise in my letter dated the 15th July, I now send such explanations to be laid before the Venerable the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts as your remarks in your letter to the Lord Bishop of Quebec seem to require. You say Dr. Strachan has stated in “his letter printed last year by order of the House of Commons that the Majority of the Methodist Teachers were educated in the United States, whereas a document has been transmitted to Mr. Huskisson by Mr. Ryerson shewing that out of 42 only six are open to such an imputation. This apparent mistatement has produced an unfavourable effect upon Dr. Strachan’s statements in general.”

In justice to myself I must begin with observing that before the unworthy suspicion implied in this extract ought to have been entertained, I was entitled as a gentleman setting aside my rank in the Church & twenty-five years arduous service to have had Mr. Ryerson’s communication referred to me for explanation as it might I think have been anticipated without any great stretch of Charity that I would be able to make good my statement.

1. It seems right to premise that the Mr. Ryerson at present in England was an unsuccessful candidate for Holy Orders, and is now a Methodist Preacher or Exhorter—that he has two Brothers Methodist Preachers in this Province—and that these Brothers as is notorious in the colony are most virulent against the Church—this much can be proved by affidavit if necessary.[18]

The Mr. Ryerson then in England was George Ryerson, who, if he was a rejected applicant, was not properly refused on the ground either of ability or piety. As applied to Egerton, the statement was palpably false. The very opposite indeed was the case. He on his part would not allow himself to be seduced from his duty as he saw it. Nor was he ever hostile to the Church of England. It was merely its establishment and exclusive endowment to which he objected, and in this he had the support of not a few of its members.

It is clear that during these first months of circuit-riding he was not unduly elated by the fact that his labours were acceptable. He had to lament the injustice done to important subjects on account of his ignorance. His general practice was to retire at ten and rise at five for study. When he was travelling he endeavoured to refrain from conversing more than was necessary or useful, remembering the remark of Dr. Clarke that a preacher’s whole business was to save souls. On his leisure days he read ten to twenty verses of Greek a day, studied history, the Scriptures and works on divinity, of which he considered Chalmers the best.

On July 9th, for the first time in his life, he crossed the river to the United States, and recorded, “the manners of the people are not pleasant to me”. Late in the month he was considerably agitated in mind and fatigued in body, having been forced to hunt his horse for two days. The diary of July 29th reads: “Thank God she is found.” On August 1st he was formally licensed as a local preacher and recommended to Conference to be received on trial. On August 10th he was rejoiced to hear that his oldest brother, George, had resolved to join the Methodists to become a missionary among the Indians, and that his father was reconciled.

September was the month of Conference, which in the year 1825 was held at “The Fifty” on the 14th of September. Bishop Hedding was in the chair. One of the sessions was made memorable by the eloquent addresses of the two converted Indian chiefs, Peter Jones and Thomas Davis. Ryerson himself has left us no account of its proceedings; but we learn something of them from Anson Green who, like Ryerson, was received on trial at this Conference.[19] The Stationing Committee consisted of the Bishop and Elders Case and Madden, and the appointments were not revealed till the last day of Conference. No man knew where his lot for the next year might be cast. With saddle-bags packed and horses tied to the fence, they awaited God’s will as revealed to the Stationing Committee. When this was made known, Ryerson found himself assigned to the York and Yonge Street Circuit, with James Richardson as his Superintendent. It was a momentous decision which sent young Ryerson to York. We cannot now read the minds of the Bishop and the two Elders who made the choice. Possibly Carroll gives us a hint when he says,

. . . both preachers took and held a respectable social status. They were both very pious; and several persons of great respectability united with the church then and soon after.[20]

Having ministered to the pioneers for a generation, the Methodists were now seeking to save the respectable.

George Sterling Ryerson: Looking Backward, pp. 13-15.

George E. Wilson: Life of Robert Baldwin (grandson of “the emigrant”), p. 4.

Story of My Life (Egerton Ryerson), edited by J. George Hodgins, p. 27.

Ibid., p. 25.

Samuel Ryerse retained the older form of the name. He came to Long Point in 1795, and died in 1812.

Egerton Ryerson: The Loyalists of America and Their Times (1880).

Egerton Ryerson: The Loyalists of America and Their Times, Vol. II, pp. 251-252.

John Carroll: Past and Present, p. 25.

S.M.L., p. 27.

It extended from 1824 to 1832. After 1832 only occasionally and for brief periods did he keep a record. Hodgins says (S.M.L., p. 32): “These voluminous diaries and journals are full of detail, chiefly of Dr Ryerson’s religious experience. . . . They are singularly severe in their personal reflections upon his religious shortcomings, and want of watchfulness. They are tinged with an asceticism which largely characterized the religious experience of many of the early Methodist preachers of Mr Wesley’s time. . . .” Unfortunately the diaries have not been preserved with the Ryerson papers.

And not the College of William and Mary! It may be necessary in this age to remark that a team of oxen was regularly so named.

Carroll: Case and His Cotemporaries, Vol. II, p. 441. After 1824 the minute books of Conference are available in the Library at Victoria College.

S.M.L., p. 39.

The former according to Ryerson’s diary, the latter according to Carroll (as reported by Levi Willson).

Case, Vol. III, p. 9.

Christian Guardian, Oct. 17, 1838.

Chester New: Lord Durham, p. 333.

Letter Book of John Strachan, Public Archives of Ontario.

Life and Times of Anson Green, p. 71. In 1825 Green was twenty-four years of age. He had been converted at the age of eighteen in New York State. On attaining his majority he migrated to Canada, taught for a time and then became an itinerant. His autobiography is a readable and reliable work.

Case, Vol. III, p. 60.

Part II—York and Its Archdeacon

When Richardson and Ryerson were assigned to York in the autumn of 1825 that town was already assured of priority in Upper Canada. But it was still “muddy York”, more easily traversed in winter than in summer, and more readily accessible by water than by land. When Richardson arrived with his family by schooner from Presqu’Ile in September, the night was dark and rainy. He went ahead to the home of his father-in-law on the corner of King and Yonge Streets to get a lantern. Returning he met his wife and three young children struggling through the mud and rain, “James Henry in his mother’s arms and the little girls following as best they could, Sara Jane minus a shoe, which had come off in the mud while crossing Wellington Street”.[1] The whole population in that year Green puts at fifteen hundred. The little Church of England stood where the cathedral now stands on the corner of Church and King Streets, but the Methodists, noting that the trend of the town was westward, had built their new chapel a few yards west of Yonge Street—“a little out of town, on the corner of King and Jordan Streets”.[2]

The most prominent of the citizens of York was its Archdeacon. After a quarter of a century in Upper Canada, most of it passed in York, John Strachan had definitely established himself as one to whom on other and prudential grounds respect was due. During the War of 1812 he had shown himself possessed of decision and courage. Many members of the governing party, already coming to be known as the Family Compact, were his old pupils; and, whether pupils or not, members of the government circle were inclined to defer to him as a man of shrewdness and energy and power. His was an open hand, to receive and to give. Another Scot of parts had but recently arrived in York from Niagara, but in a few months had the town and the province at attention. Less solid and less poised to command respect but not less indefatigable or determined than Strachan, William Lyon Mackenzie already was achieving great influence through the breezy columns of the Colonial Advocate, and setting the town into two hostile camps. There were other prominent figures in York—the Robinsons, the Macaulays, the Boultons, the Baldwins, Jesse Ketchum, John Dunn, John Rolph. These and others occasionally took the centre of the stage, and they appear in the narrative to be woven about these letters; but in 1825 none was so influential as Strachan and none so much in men’s speech as the busy little editor who had chosen to be a gadfly to the coterie of which Strachan was the centre.

To such citizens, respectable and otherwise, of the tawdry capital of Upper Canada as might choose to listen to him, young Ryerson was sent to minister. In a society so restricted it might have been expected that he would fall under the eye of both editor and archdeacon, but none could have dreamed that before his year had expired this youth of twenty-two would have shared celebrity with them.

His preaching soon brought him within the notice of Mackenzie. Perhaps here, however, it may be remarked that Ryerson was never regarded by the Methodists as an outstanding preacher. He was considered able and impressive in the pulpit, but others, and notably his brother William, were placed higher in point of pulpit talent. If in his middle and later life he was in great demand as a preacher, men were drawn to hear him by respect for the man and his message rather than by any expectation that they would be moved by his oratory. Possibly to an Anglican or Presbyterian communion he would have made a greater appeal than to the Methodists. However, in the Scotch tradition Mackenzie went devoutly to divine service on the first Sunday of the New Year—twice, to be exact—and in the evening heard Ryerson. To his readers on January 5, 1826, he promised to review the sermon in his next issue. Then on January 12th he devoted a column to the Methodists’ service at York.

In the afternoon of the first of January, we found as large a congregation attending the ministry of the Rev’d. Mr. Harris in the presbyterian church, as the house could conveniently hold—and in the evening the methodist church was crowded to excess to hear the Rev’d. Mr. Ryerson, to whose fascinating delivery we in a former number bore testimony.

About five or six years ago, the Rev’d. Fitch Reid was stationed in York, and we have often listened with unalloyed pleasure to the excellent discourses he delivered to an attentive audience. We were personally acquainted with this gentleman, and his manners in private life were meek, mild, and persuasive; in so much that his congregation were much grieved when he had to leave them. While he remained in York, we generally divided the sabbath so as to hear a sermon in the episcopal church one part of the day, and in the Wesleyan meeting at the other. During the last three or four years, however, we have not attended a discourse in the former Church, although the Rector, as we hear, is occasionally relieved by Mr. Wenham, and by the learned, amiable, but unfortunate Dr. Thomas Phillips, formerly of Cambridge, neither of which last named ministers we have ever heard preach.

To the best of our recollection, we were not in a methodist meeting in Upper Canada oftener than twice, except in York, and there only thrice, during the three bygone years. In fact, we had conceived a dislike to those (in our view) improper interruptions of divine service which were prevalent at some Wesleyan meetings; we had seen something of them, and enough had been told us by others to counterbalance any desire we might have had to listen, even to their most distinguished preachers.

When we entered the church that sabbath night, they were singing a hymn, and we found ourselves in the midst of the largest congregation we had ever witnessed in Upper Canada. Beside Mr. Ryerson, in the pulpit, sat an aged and venerable man whose name we have not learnt. . . .

During prayer all was still, save for the deep and sonorous voice of the minister, as he put up a petition to the Holy One of Israel in behalf of the humble supplicants under that roof; in behalf of the whole human race: fervently did he implore a God of Mercy, for the sake of Him who died on the accursed tree, to blot out the transgressions, and forgive the backslidings of his people. Earnestly in the sermon, did he call upon those who heard him to remember the shortness and uncertainty of time, to think of everlasting eternity, and to make up their peace with Jehovah—for to many, another New-Year’s day might never revolve on this side the grave. He impressed upon their minds the immortality of the soul,—every voice was hushed, except where some one deeply sensible of his own unworthiness in a soft whisper responded to the truths which fell from the lips of the servant of Christ.

The SUN is but a spark of fire,

  A transient meteor in the sky;

The SOUL, immortal as its Sire,


It is of great advantage to a preacher when he has read much and studied much, not only in the sacred scriptures, but also in that vast record of human perseverance, miscellaneous literature. And that Mr. Ryerson has not been negligent in this respect, is apparent from the tenor of his discourses—he touches every chord of the human heart, but never forgets his index—AN HEREAFTER. . . .

But we had forgotten to name the text; it was in the eighth chapter of St. Luke, and there the first clause of the 18th verse. Take heed, therefor, how ye hear. . . . Nor did Mr. Ryerson forget happily to illustrate these truths—no; he reminded all who heard him that the good seed did not all fall on good ground—only one quarter of it. But our limited space causes us to stop here; otherwise we could have filled columns with what we remembered of that night’s service. . . .


We were pleased to see Mr. Rolph, the Hon. the Speaker,[3] and many others who were in the Presbyterian Church in the afternoon, in the Wesleyan Church in the evening—this is a beginning of the times when such distinctions shall be done away, and the term Christian alone remain. A full and attentive audience wonderfully encourages, aids and strengthens a pious preacher.

But in Ryerson’s immediate success the work of his senior, himself a man of distinction, must not be overlooked. James Richardson was fourteen years older than his colleague, but had not yet completed his first year in the active ministry. His father, a native of Lincolnshire, after some years in the Royal Navy, had settled at Kingston and become a captain on the lakes. As a youth James sailed with his father for five years. In 1809 he entered the Provincial Marine, and at the outbreak of the war in 1812 he held the rank of Lieutenant. The arrival of Sir James Yeo with five hundred officers and men disturbed the ranking in the Provincial Navy, and all the commissioned officers resigned but Lieutenants Richardson and Smith. They realized the injustice and unwisdom of displacing officers who knew the lakes and their men, but decided to remain with the service. Richardson was given the rank of Master, and it was he who piloted the Wolf through the rocks and shoals that environ the entrance to the Oswego River on May 6, 1814. He tells us:

Our ship had rather a warm berth after the gunners of the Fort obtained the range, every shot telling on some part of her, a fixed object at anchor. The shots with which they complimented us were evidently hot, for they set our ship on fire three times. One of them made so free with me as to carry off my left arm just below the shoulder, which rendered amputation at the socket joint necessary.[4]

In September he was sufficiently recovered to return to the service, and was assigned to the St. Lawrence, a fine ship of one hundred and ten guns, which patrolled the lake unmolested till the setting in of winter. With peace during the winter, James Richardson received an annual pension of one hundred pounds sterling, and a certificate from Commodore Yeo which recited in detail his honourable service, commended him for “diligence, sobriety and attention”, and concluded with a sentence whose structure seems to reflect a lack of coherence elsewhere observable in Sir James’ naval career—“In addition to the loss of an arm, his general good conduct was such as merits my warmest commendation.”

James Richardson had been brought up in the Church of England, of which he had been a faithful member. In 1818, however, while settled at Presqu’Ile Harbour, near Brighton, he was converted in a Methodist meeting held in a barn in Haldimand township. For several years he continued to live on his farm, with increasing influence in the community as collector of customs, justice of the peace, and occasional local preacher. Indeed he was secretary of the local preachers’ conference in 1824. The following year when an unexpected vacancy occurred in York, he felt called to give up the comforts of his home for the life of an itinerant preacher.

In the month of September 1824, [he tells us] after arranging my affairs, disposing of stock and household goods, other than what I took with me, putting a tenant into my house and a deputy into the Collector’s office, preparatory to resigning it; I took leave of the endearments of home, of my dear father and other relations and friends, and embarked on board a small schooner of about 30 tons, with my dear wife and the three lovely children with which the Lord had blessed us during our sojourn at Presque Isle, besides a few things for housekeeping, and in about two days we anchored in York harbour.[5]

Carroll says that he well remembers Richardson’s arrival in York and the favourable opinions he very soon won:

. . . his manners were easy, and made him free of access; there was an air of the most unmistakable piety about him—not asceticism or grievance, but simple goodness. An upright man was he. His preaching was truly Wesleyan: sound, simple, clear, and unctious. It stood not in the wisdom, or device of men, but in the power of God.[6]

Such then was the man with whom Ryerson’s lot was cast. They were men set in different moulds, whose ways were destined to diverge and whose wills to clash in later years; but when on March 9, 1875, the body of Bishop Richardson, honoured in death, was borne from the Metropolitan Church in Toronto, his old colleague of 1825 was one of those who with Bishop Carman immediately preceded the hearse in funeral procession to the Necropolis.

The York and Yonge Street Circuit in 1825 extended from Pickering to Weston and from the lake to North Gwillimsbury. It was covered in four weeks, and for each itinerant this involved preaching from twenty-five to thirty-five sermons and attending numerous class meetings. The roads were bad, to be compassed only on horseback or afoot, and the accommodations primitive in the extreme.

York itself afforded some comforts. Here, each itinerant spent two Sundays out of four, preaching morning and evening in what came to be known as the “old framed meeting house”.

Mackenzie may have been unduly enthusiastic as to the New Year’s sermon; it was with his pen in controversy that Ryerson was destined to excel. It would be in March of the year 1826 that the first great opportunity came. Every four weeks the two preachers in their orbits met in York, and the conjunction was made the occasion of a meeting of the Society for conversation and prayer. To this particular meeting some member had brought a sermon recently published by the Archdeacon of York. Strachan had made the death of Bishop Mountain of Quebec the occasion for a sermon, delivered on July 3, 1825, in which he sketched the rise and progress of the Church of England in Canada, of which Bishop Mountain had been the head. Not content with this, however, he had proceeded to cast aspersions on certain others who were not in the fold, and particularly on the Methodists. Their preachers he represented as American in origin and sympathies, as ignorant persons who had forsaken their proper callings to preach what they neither understood nor cared to learn. To counteract their influence and to enable an Established Church to maintain the loyalty of Canada to the Crown, he asked for a large grant, in addition to exclusive enjoyment of the Clergy Reserves. Strachan’s sermon had fallen into the hands of one of the York Methodists who attended this social meeting. Its reading at the gathering caused profound indignation. It was proposed that “The Boy Preacher”, as Ryerson was called from his youthful appearance, should prepare some reply. He agreed on condition that his superintendent also would prepare something. In four weeks they came together again; Richardson was empty-handed, but Ryerson had a document which he had written “piecemeal in the humble residences of the early days, in the course of eight days”,[7] during which he had travelled and preached as usual. It was commenced near Newmarket at the home of Elias Smith, whose wife was a Lount and a woman of great excellence. The reading of this essay brought a demand for its publication, which the young author refused until he should have time to rewrite it.

It was no slight matter, this facing the Archdeacon of York and his friends and associates. The sermon to which he replied was “the third formal attack made by the Church of England clergy upon the characters of their unoffending Methodist brethren”.[8] It was bad enough to be refused the right to solemnize marriages or to receive a title to land for chapels and parsonages and burying-grounds; to be charged with disloyalty and sloth was quite too much. The Methodists of York could no longer endure an imputation so unjust. It so happened that their preachers of the year were hardly strangers to loyalty; the one had been an officer in the navy during the War of 1812 and had lost an arm, the other was the son of a Loyalist officer who with his sons had served in the same struggle. Further, they had seen these circuit riders return after a fortnight in saddle and log house and knew that they were far from slothful. They offered the revised letter to the press as that of “A Methodist Preacher”, and William Lyon Mackenzie was glad to publish it in The Colonial Advocate, then in the third year of its adventurous and stimulating career.

The issue of May 11th has little space for anything else, since the letter runs to some twelve thousand words. Ryerson makes no apology for its length, since “the diffusion of Christianity is the most important subject that can engage the attention of men”. At once he comes to the core of his argument in one of those periods fashionable while the technique of Cicero brooded over English prose:

When we see the heavenly affection which she infuses into the minds of men represented as nothing more than an attachment to a particular constitution or establishment, and those bonds of charity by which she embraces all mankind described as the principle which only unites colonies to “the Parent State”, to the unchristianizing of all other kingdoms who bow not to this political shrine; when we see the balm of her consolation, which the beds of affliction require to unite the distressed to their God and to prepare them to meet him in person, perverted to the sordid purpose of extending the influence of a favourite church; but above all when we see that which is converted into a vehicle of preferment, a political tool, exhibited as a bright emanation from Heaven, the Church of Christ, founded upon Jesus Christ and his Apostles, we are sensible that the religion of the meek Saviour is made to bleed by a wound more fatal than those which are inflicted by the ravings of infidelity. She is attacked by the most dangerous of all enemies, one who lurks within her borders, shelters himself under her canopy, and feeds upon her benevolence.

He hastens to assure his readers that he means no reflection on the doctrine, liturgy, or discipline of the Church of England.

I firmly believe in her doctrines, I admire her liturgy, and I heartily rejoice in the success of those principles which are therein contained.

But he points out that he is

far from paying such servile homage to the disputed documents of history as to acknowledge the unbroken succession of episcopal authority from the Apostles to the present day.

Then at some length he discusses the matter of Apostolic Succession, and the origins of the Church of England. After a considerable excursion into theology and history, he remarks:

The Doctor, however, does not lay so much stress on this part. The fire of animation does not appear to kindle till he comes to the chain on which the purse hangs.

Thereupon he visits with devastating criticism Strachan’s main argument that a Christian nation without a religious establishment is a contradiction. He quotes Scripture and refers to history to show that the founder of Christianity “never intimated the union of his church with the civil polity of any country”, and that the church of Christ was never so prosperous and so pure as she was in the first three centuries, when “she was not only without the aid of civil government but most violently opposed by it”. “Is it not plain,” he concludes, “that whoever insists upon this heterogeneous union degrades the religion of Jesus and displays an ignorance of its gracious power?”

Strachan had argued for a religious establishment as the only means of supporting the clergy. Ryerson points out that the first ministers of Jesus were supported by free will offerings, and then delivers what must have been a stinging blow:

Their “venerable” successors have become more wise, and have learned to take the world more easily and not preach Christ from house to house, in season and out of season, as the “uneducated itinerant” Apostles did. Many of their “venerable” successors have become so completely master of their profession that they can spend two or three nights a week at the card table; one or two in the ball room, etc., etc., etc., and there preach, by their pious example, the doctrine of Christian purity. The Apostles never had the zeal to do this, though they sometimes preached Jesus in the streets, at the tribunal, and in prison.

After dealing by means of statistics with Strachan’s contention that without establishment religion has failed to touch the mass of the people in the United States, and emphasizing the need of preaching rather than liturgy if religion is to flourish, he turns to the more offending part of Strachan’s sermon.

But he considers those obstacles which the “venerable church” has to surmount the greatest which are occasioned by dissenters and sectaries. And here as a hungry parson once did upon the poor man’s beef, the Doctor makes a dead set upon the Methodists.

Strachan had admitted that even where churches were erected the persons who gave regular attendance were so few as greatly to discourage the minister, since their congregations were frequently broken up or injured by uneducated itinerant preachers who preached the gospel out of idleness and disdained to learn that which they sought to preach. Here follow two sentences which must have provoked a broad smile across Upper Canada.

With respect to the small number who give regular attendance to the ministrations of the Church of England, I am of the Doctor’s opinion. For I believe those instances are not very rare, which almost compel the venerable clergymen of Canada to say with Dean Swift, “My dearly beloved Roger, the Scripture moveth us in sundry places, etc.”

But he continues in serious wise.

And as a remedy for this doleful complaint we may say with the eloquent Chalmers, “To fill the Church well, we must fill the Pulpit well.” Until this is done, the Doctor’s mournful cries of Sectarianism! Schism! Republicanism! will still be screeching in our ears, and the repose of the “Imperial Parliament” will continue to be disturbed by the desponding exclamations, “The Church is in danger—money! power!” Is there no deliverance from these tedious qualms with which the Doctor has for so many years been pained? Yes, it is found in II Tim., 4:2, “Preach the word; be instant in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.”

He then proceeds to quote the Methodist discipline and to refer to matters of fact to show that the Doctor’s remarks on the qualifications, motives and conduct of the Methodist itinerant preachers are “ungenerous, unfounded and false”. He recounts the various stages through which the preachers must pass—member, class-leader, exhorter, local preacher, preacher on trial, deacon and finally elder or presbyter. He gives the list of books prescribed for study. He quotes the instruction that young preachers are to spend five hours out of four-and-twenty in study, and that if they fail to develop a taste for reading they must return to their former employment. Strachan had dwelt upon the difficulty of securing gentlemen from England to come as clergymen “to so distant and inhospitable a colony”, and urged this as a ground for grants from the Imperial chest, of whose neglect in this respect he complained. Ryerson has nothing to say about this, except to opine that the Imperial Parliament are “quite capable of defending themselves and taking care of their purse”. For the claim that the Methodist preachers are American in origin and Republican in sympathies, he has winged words:

The assertion is false. They are not republicans; neither are they infected with republican principles, nor have they come “almost universally from the republican States of America”.

He points out that of all the Methodist ministers there are only eight who have not been born and educated in the British dominions, and of these eight all but two have become naturalized British subjects according to the statutes of the Province. With this he concludes,

I take my leave of the Doctor’s Sermon at present. He may trust in Legislative influence; he may pray to “the Imperial Parliament”. But we will trust in the Lord our God, and to Him will we make prayer.

Mackenzie was right in his estimate of the news value of this document. Ryerson himself records that it produced a sensation and that “before every house in Toronto might be seen groups reading and discussing the paper”. Anson Green has left us a description of its effect upon himself and his older colleague, Franklin Metcalf, when the Advocate reached Hallowell (Picton):

Mr. Metcalf and myself were together when we received the paper; and we went into the field in the rear of the parsonage, sat down by the fence, and read the review. As we read we wept, and speculated about the unknown author. Again we read and wept; and then kneeled upon the grass, and prayed and thanked God for the able and timely defense of truth against the falsehoods that were then being circulated amongst the people. Little did we then think that the able reviewer was a youth who had been received on trial with myself at the previous Conference.[9]

William Smith’s verdict on the letter, in the posthumous work embodying the fruits of ripe scholarship, is as follows:

The pamphlet which was signed “A Methodist Preacher” aroused much excitement and brought down upon the head of the writer a torrent of vituperation. It was, in spite of a certain immaturity of style, an astonishing performance. The pretentions of the Church of England to any peculiar spiritual authority, and to a dominant position among the religious denominations were shown to have no foundation, and the refutation of the reckless charges against the Methodist preachers was vigorous and conclusive. The thirty-page pamphlet was notice to whom it might concern that that body had found a champion and that such charges could no longer be made with impunity.[10]

On Ryerson’s return to town at the end of two weeks he found four replies to the “Review” awaiting him, three by clergymen and one by a scholarly layman. He saw that he must either flee or fight. “I decided upon the latter,” he says, “devoted a day to fasting and prayer, and then went at my adversaries in good earnest.”[11] Once begun, the controversy in the press lasted for several weeks. On June 7, 1827, his diary reads,

My mind has been much afflicted with care and anxiety, for some days, on account of the controversy in which I am engaged. I feel it to be the cause of God; and I am resolved to follow truth and the Holy Scriptures in whatever channel they will lead me. Oh, Lord, I commend my feeble efforts to thy blessings! Grant me wisdom from above; and take the cause into thy own hands, for thy name’s sake.[12]

Later in the year he visited his father, the burden of whose conversation for the first two days was this controversy which was agitating the country. At length while they were walking in the orchard his father turned short and in a stern tone said, “Egerton, they say you are the author of these papers which are convulsing the whole country. I want to know whether you are or not.” When he was compelled to acknowledge the fact, his father threw up his hands and exclaimed, “My God, we are all ruined!”[13] As events proved, and the older Ryerson and the Archdeacon of York, as well, lived long enough to recognize it, this bold act had not ruined the Ryersons, but had given them a place in history.

Webster: Life of Bishop Richardson, p. 102.

Life and Times of Anson Green, p. 69.

Marshall Spring Bidwell.

Webster: Life of Bishop Richardson, p. 56.

Webster: Life of Bishop Richardson, p. 101.

Case, Vol. III, p. 17.

S.M.L., p.50.

S.M.L., p. 49.

Case, Vol. III, p. 87.

William Smith: Political Leaders of Upper Canada, p. 194.

S.M.L., p. 50.

Ibid., p. 56.

S.M.L., p. 51.

Part III—The Brothers

For some years three of the brothers take a large place in our narrative. Seldom has a Canadian home produced four such men as were George, William, John and Egerton Ryerson. Differing in character and talent, they all had upon them the mark of greatness.

George was born in New Brunswick in 1791. Of his early life we know little; all his son tells us is that he “endured the hardships of pioneer life in the then wilds of Norfolk County”.[1] He was a powerful man, above six feet in height. When the War of 1812 broke out, he was commissioned by Sir Isaac Brock as a lieutenant in the First Norfolk Regiment, commanded by his father. He played a considerable part in the capture of Detroit. He was severely wounded in the mouth during a night attack from Fort Erie on Black Rock on November 13, 1813, and for some months was in hospital at Fort George. Later he took part in other engagements. For a time after the war he was stationed in the Old Fort at York, but soon resigned his commission and went to Union College, Schenectady, N.Y., from which institution he received the degree of Bachelor of Arts. He married a daughter of Dr. Thomas Rolph and settled down as teacher of the District Grammar School near his home. In 1824 he was an unsuccessful candidate in Norfolk County for the Legislative Assembly, but of this venture into active politics we have no further information.[2]

We know less of him than of John or William or Egerton. He takes a prominent place in this correspondence for a few years, and indeed gave indications of taking a prominent part in the life of Upper Canada, but after 1832 he became more or less a religious recluse. His decision to join the Methodists was made in the summer of 1825. While continuing his profession he began to take an active interest in the Indian work recently taken up by that body. At his home during the following March Peter Jones spent sixteen days studying English Grammar.

Mr. Ryerson and family have treated me with the greatest kindness, [he records] for which I feel truly thankful, and for the pains Mr. Ryerson has taken to instruct me. I pray that he may not lose his reward.[3]

In the next entry in the diary, Peter Jones tells of George Ryerson speaking to the assembled Indians on the Grand River from I Corinthians, 13. It is somewhat ironical, in view of his later religious views, that the chapter of his choosing should begin, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels”. In the spring of 1827, as we learn from our first letter (p. 67), he contemplated a visit to England, which he accomplished in the fall.

The nature of this mission has been misunderstood and its importance in Canadian history overlooked. The evidence in the matter may perhaps best be explored here. The Colonial Advocate of October 18, 1827, carries the news item,

We have been informed that Mr. George Ryerson is on his way to England, and sincerely trust that he will interest the whole body of the English Methodists on behalf of their slandered and aspersed brethren here, who have been the victims of an executive counsellor’s secret stabs.

An excerpt dated “Cramahe, January 24, 1828”, evidently copied from a letter written by his mother to Egerton, and preserved with our correspondence, reads:

Your brother George has left for England. He desires that all your letters be sent to him in England which contain anything interesting about the Indians or of the work of religion.

The evidence given by George Ryerson in London before the Committee of the House of Commons on June 19, 1828, includes the following questions and answers:

Are you a landowner in either of the Canadas?—Yes, I am a landowner and magistrate in the district of London in Upper Canada, and have been for a number of years.

Did you come here as agent for any petition?—I was appointed agent after I came here, I came on private business.

What petition is that which you have been appointed to represent?—A petition relative to the constitution of the University of Upper Canada, and the appropriation of the clergy reserves.[4]

A letter of 1831 (see p. 68) shows that he was detained in England by business in connection with his wife’s estate. Further, in 1833, Egerton Ryerson made an affidavit in connection with the matter. In 1839 a settlement was still pending.[5]

Hodgins, however, has this reference to the mission of 1828:

A Central Committee at York having, of [on] behalf of the various non-Episcopal denominations, deputed Rev. George Ryerson to proceed to England to present petitions to the Imperial Parliament against the claims of the Church of England in this Province, the Rev. William Ryerson was requested to write to his brother George on the subject.[6]


Left, John Ryerson; centre, George Ryerson; right, William Ryerson.

Hathaway accepts this view.[7] William Smith has a passing reference. In connection with George Ryerson’s second mission three years later, he writes,

and the gentleman chosen as delegate was the Reverend George Ryerson (Egerton Ryerson’s brother) who represented the several non-Anglican interests before the Committee of the House of Commons in 1828.[8]

Smith states that the mission of 1831 was a complete success in enlisting the sympathies of the Colonial Secretary, and recognizes that even as early as 1828 “the tide of fortune was now definitely set against the plans to which Strachan was devoting his life”,[9] but he fails to connect the turning of the tide in 1828 with the labours of George Ryerson.

As to the primary object of his mission there can be little doubt. Whatever place aspersed Methodists or benighted aborigines or exasperated reformers may have had in his thoughts, he went to England in the first instance in the hope of settling the estate of his wife’s mother. The Rolph papers add certain details which complete the story. At the age of sixteen, Frances Petty, a ward in chancery, had eloped with Dr. Thomas Rolph. Some years later they had migrated to Canada and taken up land in Norfolk County. They had five sons and twelve daughters. John Rolph was the second son, and Sarah Ryerson the sixth daughter. Whether from the unusual character of the marriage or from some other circumstance, the considerable estate of Frances Petty had come into Court of Chancery, where it reposed for long years. It was the hope, and possibly the necessity, of realizing from this property which took George Ryerson to England. It may be inferred that, having joined the Methodists and attached himself to the cause of the reformers, he could not expect long to continue as teacher at Vittoria. The Simcoe tradition could hardly stand the strain of a Methodist and a Reformer, albeit wearing honourable scars, in charge of one of its Grammar Schools.

It was only after his departure from Canada that it was decided to appeal for redress to the Imperial authorities. A meeting was held in York in December. A petition was circulated protesting against the sectarian character of the Charter which had been secured by Strachan in 1827 for a provincial university requiring all teachers to subscribe to the Thirty-nine Articles and naming himself as president, and also against the claim of representatives of the Church of England to exclusive enjoyment of one-seventh of the lands set apart by the Constitutional Act for the support of the Protestant clergy. The petition was signed by some eight thousand inhabitants of the province, and forwarded to George Ryerson with the request that he should act as their agent. He received the petition on April 15th and had it presented in the House of Commons on May 2nd by Joseph Hume. He twice wrote to Huskisson, the Colonial Secretary, interviewed several members of parliament, and “used every means to procure a fair, and consequently, to so good a cause, a favourable hearing”.[10] In the House, Huskisson had “disclaimed the least desire or intention of doing anything contrary to the wishes or interest of the people of Upper Canada”.[11] Stanley, who had seen the Canadas, was particularly friendly and favourable. Indeed George Ryerson reports in one of those penetrating observations which one comes to expect in his letters, “The liberal sentiments uttered on both sides of the House would with us have been branded as republicanism.”[12]

Extracts from the speeches of Stanley and Hume are included with the report furnished by George Ryerson to the York Committee, published in the Colonial Advocate. Hume is bitterly critical of the government and accuses it of flouting the definitely expressed opinion of the House in the terms of the Charter given for a sectarian university on March 15, 1827. Stanley is more polite but not less emphatic. He is decidedly opposed to any exclusive privilege to the Church of England, and declares: “Not only would the measure be repugnant to every principle of sound legislation, but contrary to the spirit and intention of the Act of 1791.” In the course of his argument, Hume takes occasion to correct the statistics furnished by Strachan to the government. He points out that of 235 clergymen in Upper Canada, only thirty-one are in the Church of England, and notes that in an Assembly of thirty members, twenty-seven had voted against exclusive appropriation. George Ryerson also included in his report clippings from the British press to show that outside the House opinion had been aroused to the injustices under which the Canadas were labouring. The London Times of May 5th is definitely critical of the way in which Huskisson had handled the Canada situation, and declares that the Legislative Council must be remodelled or abolished; and the Glasgow Chronicle, which speaks as if Establishment had actually been granted, takes a similar position.

This is the only letter published in the Colonial Advocate written by George Ryerson as agent and assigned to him. On August 7th, however, an extract appears from a private letter “from a Canadian gentleman now in London to his friend in this town”. The letter is of the date, May 30th, and bears the mark of being a second letter from George Ryerson to Dr. T. D. Morrison, or John Rolph, the name for some reason being suppressed. The letter refers to the resignation of Huskisson and of “the most valuable part of the administration”.

I should feel discouraged were I not assured that an over-ruling Providence will direct our affairs for the best, and that a special Providence watches over the religious concerns of America. . . . I am increasingly convinced of the necessity of a more systematic union amongst liberal men in Canada. . . . The grievances which we now complain of would never have existed had proper information been given his majesty’s government. I can confidently assert that misinformation and misrepresentation have been the origin of the whole. The people of England are rapidly pulling down the temple of spiritual tyranny that was erected in this country in the dark ages; but a little party are diligently engaged in building it up amongst us in Canada—they are endeavouring to rivet upon our hands the fetters which free-born Englishmen have burst and indignantly spurned from them. . . . Remember me kindly to Mr. ————, and ———— [probably Mr. Ketchum and William]. I am sorry I have no better news to send them, but assure them that I never more deeply felt the necessity and importance of the stand which they have taken. Those who have witnessed the overgrown corruptions of European countries will, while they rejoice that they live in a new world, be very cautious how they suffer the seeds to take root there. A timely, vigorous, constitutional resistance may prevent miseries that we are little aware of.[13]

And thus it was that this able, quiet, devout teacher of the London District Grammar School, with the tell-tale scar to disfigure his handsome face and to refute Strachan’s theories of Methodist political depravity, went to England and returned, unheralded by fame. He was the first of the Canadian reformers—Gourlay was less than a Canadian and more than a reformer—to seek redress at the foot of the throne, and perhaps not the least effective.

On his next visit to England in 1831, George Ryerson was similarly employed, and presented a like, but larger, petition, of which more hereafter. In the meantime he had served on Indian fields at the Credit and on the Grand River. While on this second mission to London he fell under the influence of the Rev. Edward Irving and the “heresy” which resulted in the founding of the Catholic Apostolic Church (see p. 166). Returning to Canada he was instrumental, says Carroll, “in inoculating the Methodists of both Toronto and Kingston with the errors of Irvingism to a most disastrous extent”.[14] After a further brief residence in England he assumed the pastorate of the Catholic Apostolic Church in Toronto, situated on Gould Street opposite the Normal School grounds, and so continued till the infirmities of great age prevailed.

He was married three times. Dr. G. S. Ryerson was his son by the third marriage in 1853 to a daughter of the Hon. Ansel Sterling of Connecticut.[15] He died in his ninety-second year in 1882. A photograph of him taken at the age of eighty is preserved in his son’s book—a strong yet refined face; the forehead is higher, but is not so massive as that of Egerton, and the mouth clearly shows the effect of the wound at Fort Erie, which permanently impaired his elocution.

William Ryerson was a man of a very different type. His early experience had left him rough-hewn, and this he remained. Enlisting at the age of fifteen he served in the War of 1812. Then came his joining the Methodists, his leaving his father’s roof, his pioneering in the woods of Oxford County and his early marriage. For some years he served as a local preacher before his admission on trial to the regular itinerant work in 1823. At once his power as a preacher brought him prominence. Carroll in introducing him expresses the opinion that “had he enjoyed the training-advantages which older countries afford; and had he been saved from many annoyances and drawbacks, he would have stood second to no pulpit orator of the present day”.[16] Elsewhere he says,

We can remember masses of people moved by his word, like forest trees swayed to and fro by the wind. And even now, there are few localities in Canada where the news that the “old man eloquent” is to be the speaker, will not bring out multitudes to hear. . . . He is a man of some little learning—of most universal general information—and of a rare order of genius. He has devoured books with perfect voracity. Plan of study he has never had; but, like the ox, he has gulped every kind of edible that came in his way into his capacious reservoir, and ruminated on it at his leisure. He has a mind unceasingly active; hence, if he is not in conversation with a friend, or with book in hand, he is usually pacing backwards and forwards, like a chained bear, (he will pardon the figure) working out some of those huge masses of thought which are ever laboring through his intellectual laboratory. His conversational powers are extraordinarily good, having such stores of information, such accurate recollection, and such a sprightly conception.[17]

His rise in the Conference was rapid. Forthright speech, and a tendency to sarcasm, sometimes provoked hostility, but he was human and likeable. The extent of his influence and popularity is shown by the fact that, after a short complimentary term to Father Whitehead (a man of eighty-seven), he was the first of the Canadian preachers to be elected president, when in 1840 the Conference was freed from the obligation to accept a British president. Meanwhile, he had twice been delegate to the American General Conference, once a delegate to the British Conference, and had served as Presiding Elder, as District Chairman,[18] and as Superintendent of the Toronto City Circuit. Carroll has high praise for his zeal and energy as Presiding Elder of the Bay of Quinte district: covering his extensive district once a quarter on horseback; never missing an appointment; looking after the wants of the preachers in his care; sternly reproving any slackness on their part; starting out on a journey of ninety miles against a biting winter wind; running beside his horse to keep himself warm. The manner of life seems rather heroic for a man who once at least had been laid aside by “bleeding of the lungs”.

Anson Green notes particularly his organizing of camp meetings. At this peculiarly Methodist means of grace he would be much at home. Carroll has left us the best description of such a meeting, that at Cummer’s Mills, two miles east of Yonge Street, in the summer of 1825.[19] The ground had been cleared of underbrush but was delightfully shaded by the straight and towering forest trees. It was surrounded by a fence eight or ten feet high, consisting of pointed slabs sloping outward at an angle and resting on stakes firmly driven into the ground. Within the fence were the “tents”, mostly of boards, and a large “tent” for the preachers opening out on the preachers’ stand. This was at the lower end of the ground, which sloped gently upwards, with slab seats sufficient for a vast concourse. A primitive bema and pnyx it was; only the good people of York were shaded, while the sun beat mercilessly on the heads of the Athenians. Each of the gates was strongly framed and secured by bars. An active camp police in shifts kept watch throughout the night.

Camp meetings were a natural, almost a necessary, part of the Methodist economy in Upper Canada during the first quarter of the nineteenth century. There was little incentive to the building of churches; only in 1828 were the Methodists as a body granted the right in law to a deed to property. Meetings were held wherever occasion offered—in busy market-places, stuffy kitchens, even noisy and noisome taverns. James Richardson was converted in a barn; we hear of Egerton Ryerson in his first year preaching in a dirty schoolhouse by the light of a candle pinned to the wall by a pen-knife, and again feeling “very hard while preaching to a company of graceless sinners”[20] in a tavern. Nature’s forest temple was a vastly more proper place for the gospel message. But such was not the universal opinion. Sometimes the British Wesleyan felt squeamish about camp meetings, which after union in 1833 were not a little frowned upon: they were not always decorous, and then they were American in origin. This was decidedly the attitude of the Church of England. The opinion of the Rev. Crosbie Morgell, for eighteen months Chaplain to the Bishop of Quebec, deserves to be treasured:

What description of Methodists?—Not Wesleyan Methodists, according to our idea in this country. They are in country places most wild in their religious worship, they have camp meetings constantly: during which they will stay out in the woods for a whole week, and continue their religious exercises, praying, singing and preaching the whole time, night and day. They call themselves Episcopal Methodists.[21]

The Presbyterians with their memory of the Covenanters were not so critical. William Proudfoot might doubt their entire propriety, but was at pains to examine the nature of their appeal and the ground of their success.

At the conclusion of the first camp meeting at Cummer’s Mills, then, William Ryerson was chosen to speak to the converts. At this meeting, “sixty-two professed to have obtained the pardon of their sins, and forty-two gave their names as desirous of becoming members of the Methodist society”.[22] His preaching at that time, says Carroll, “was characterized by a pathos and persuasiveness that seemed to bear down all before it”.[23] But now he addressed them for their edification as members of the Church of Christ. He urged upon them their duty to God as parents and as children. He spoke of the aspersions that had been thrown out against them in the press. He insisted on a support and respect for the civil government both from the beneficence of its laws and from the authority of God. Egerton describes the concluding ceremony as the most affecting he had ever witnessed, while Carroll thirty-five years later remembered the regret he felt at “going back into the world after the meeting was over”.[24]

The vicissitudes of William Ryerson as a Methodist preacher, at times rejoicing in the consciousness of the Divine presence, at times in deep waters as health or friends failed, will sufficiently appear in the letters themselves. In 1858 he superannuated, and retired to a farm at Sour Springs on the Grand River. But he was always interested in politics, unduly so for a preacher, as Carroll thinks. In 1861 he presented himself as Independent candidate for the West Riding of Brant in opposition to the late member, a Reformer. The Toronto Globe of July 1st devoted a whole column to exhorting its readers to reject this relic of a former age and brother of Egerton Ryerson. The voters failed to accept the advice of the Globe, and he represented the riding for two sessions. His last years were spent on his farm. His grandson, Robert E. Ryerson, who represented Brant in three federal parliaments, remembers the spot opposite the Sour Springs church at the corner of a field on his farm, where the old orator of Methodism in the years of increasing infirmity would sit on a circular bench built around a great basswood tree. There with the sweep of the Grand River to right and left before him, he would watch the barges floating down stream or drawn by horses on the tow-path below him, while across the river the endless and aimless procession of Indians with their wives and children and dogs followed the trail from the Reserve to Brantford. He died at the age of seventy-five, and lies buried in the wind-swept graveyard behind the church and beside the river.

John[25] was the brother nearest Egerton in age and affection. The relation between them was intimate and beautiful throughout their lives. John was essentially the statesman of the brothers—keen, sane, conservative; and in the course of his active ministry and even during the early part of his career as an educationist, Egerton leaned much on the arm of this older brother. As time went on, and John’s never rugged health yielded somewhat to the strain put upon it by large responsibilities, gradually the parts were reversed. But to the end each seems to have shared the implicit confidence of the other. When John lay dying in Simcoe in 1877, Egerton left the literary work which then engrossed him and spent the last ten days with him in prayer and such conversation as weakness would permit. “He was so nervously sensitive,” Egerton wrote, after his death, to Hodgins, “that he could hardly bear being talked to. On one occasion he said, ‘Egerton, don’t talk to me but kiss me.’ ”

John began preaching, as supply to the Presiding Elder, on the Long Point Circuit in 1820-1821. The following year he was regularly admitted. To quote Carroll,

“Aged twenty-one, single, not in debt, admitted,” was the laconic entry in the Journals anent the first mention of a name which was to figure often and long in Colonial Methodist doings. He had even then a good degree of intelligence; a genteel appearance and manner; great gravity of demeanour in general company, which carried weight; a sound judgment, and strong will, which soon gave him prominence in matters of government; and certain spasmodic bursts of fervor, approaching to eloquence, in the pulpit, made his ministrations effective and noticeable.[26]

On his visit as Presiding Elder to Anson Green’s charge for the summer quarterly meeting of 1829, he had one of these bursts of fervour.

His subject was “We shall be like Him”, and he quite outstripped us all. As he spread his wings he soared; as he soared he plucked flowers, and towering higher and higher, threw them out with a profuse hand, freshly perfumed as from the Garden of Paradise. Bro. Belton—as our custom was in those days—was to exhort; but, turning to me, he said, “Can you exhort? he is too high for me. If you can go up and find him, and bring him down within sight of ordinary mortals, I may then deliver my message.”[27]

But often, indeed usually it would appear, John Ryerson was restrained even to the point of taciturnity. At all events, one good lady found him such, as Carroll is mischievous enough to report.

A very excellent Christian lady, the leader of a class, whose husband had settled in the township of Ramsay, a Mrs. Mansell, greatly desired to draw out Mr. R. in conversation. She devised a project to do it. She contrived to be out of candles the next time that he lodged at her house. Unable to read successfully, the silent preacher was fain to respond to the good lady’s overtures for conversation. Six years after that event, she spoke to the writer in raptures of the pleasures of that evening’s converse with this well-read servant of God.[28]

Native ability and earnestness of purpose combined to raise John Ryerson to a position of prominence in the Conference at a very early age. His brother Egerton is sometimes described as the leader of the Methodists, or even as the Pope of Methodism, by writers with a better knowledge of political history than of the Methodists. The fact is that John, and at times William, were equally powerful figures in the Conference where policies were determined; and a “pope” is not annually subject to the suffrages of peers. In the annual conference of the Methodists John Ryerson for two or three decades probably wielded an influence greater than that of any other man. William’s greater popularity, as shown by the fact that he was elected president two years before John, may be accounted for by the greater warmth of his nature and the fact that his political views more nearly coincided with those of the majority of his fellow ministers. John’s strength lay in his ability to grasp a situation, his great determination, and his skill in managing men. In the years when his career was in the making, Egerton Ryerson never took an important step without consulting this brother who commanded his entire respect and affection. The advice when asked for was always forthcoming, and usually couched in such terms that its import was unmistakable. The cautious diplomat was never masked in the presence of his younger brother.

The indomitable spirit of the man is well illustrated by an enterprise undertaken at an age when most men have taken to slippers. In the summer of 1854 he led a missionary expedition from Sault Ste. Marie to Fort William, thence by river and rapid and lake and portage through Fort Garry to Hudson Bay, whence he made a perilous passage through ice-floes to England, and back to his church and family. The record of this trip, by canoe and batteau, as to distances and difficulties furnishes the most reliable and accurate account available of this early trade route. It is preserved in a series of letters later collected and published by the Missionary Society of the Wesleyan Methodist Church in 1855.[29]

Our narrative is enriched by his numerous letters. Egerton once remarked that he learned more from a weekly letter by John than from all the prints. Of the mysteries of English orthography he was delightfully ignorant, but not of men or affairs or of the power of language. His observations on the progress of Methodism as preserved in certain chapters of Epochs and Events of Canadian Methodism are not entirely free from the errors which creep into the narratives of men who in advancing years depend on memory rather than on documents; nor are his judgments always tempered by charity. After a long and much honoured ministry, and after a few years of retirement and declining health, he too died at the age of seventy-five, and lies beside his wife, Mary Lewis, in the burying-ground at Simcoe.

There were two other brothers in the family. Samuel (1794-1830), the second son, settled on a farm of his own near Vittoria. Edwy (1811-1858), the youngest of the sons, appears occasionally in the correspondence. He was the least considerable and perhaps the most personable of the five brothers who became preachers. Carroll does not trace his career to the end, but George Sterling Ryerson informs us of his going over to the Baptists.

George Sterling Ryerson: Looking Backward, p. 18.

George Sterling Ryerson gives the date of his father’s candidature as 1826 (Looking Backward, p. 86), but from the Colonial Advocate and the Journal of the House of Assembly we learn that the candidature was in 1824 and that there was no by-election in 1826, the elected members, McColl and Walsh, sitting throughout the ninth Parliament.

Rev. Peter Jones: Life and Journals of Kah-ke-wa-quo-na-by, p, 61.

Report from the Select Committee on the Civil Government of Canada, p. 216.

These latter two facts we learn from private papers in the possession of T. T. Rolph, Esq., barrister, son of John Rolph.

S.M.L., p. 83.

E. J. Hathaway: Jesse Ketchum and His Times, p. 168.

William Smith: Political Leaders in Upper Canada, p. 178.

Ibid., p. 176.

Colonial Advocate, July 5, 1828—Report of George Ryerson to the Committee on the Petition to the Imperial Parliament from Christians of all denominations in Upper Canada.



Colonial Advocate, Aug. 7, 1828.

Case, Vol. III, p. 294.

He did not leave “a numerous family” as the Dictionary of National Biography asserts, but had four children. D. N. B. gives the facts of George Ryerson’s life under William Ryerson, following a reporter’s error in the Toronto Globe in an account written at the time of the former’s death.

Case, Vol. II, p. 441.

Carroll: Past and Present, pp. 271-272.

The offices of Presiding Elder and Chairman were the same, but the name “Chairman” came with British connection in 1833.

Past and Present, pp. 62-65.

S.M.L., p. 51.

Report of Select Committee on the Civil Government of Canada, p. 176.

S.M.L., p. 40.

Past and Present, p. 65.


He was baptized John Henry Bostwick. He never used the full name, and the first and only place it appears is in the minutes of Conference of 1836 and 1837. Similarly with Adolphus Egerton and Joseph William. The insertion of the full names for these years may perhaps be explained by the fact that Hamilton Biggar, the assistant secretary at Conference, having been stationed at Long Point, had seen the names in the family Bible at Vittoria, or in the register of the Church of England at Woodhouse. But it was as plain William, and John, and not so plain Egerton, that they wished to live and die; and only the librarians have disregarded their wish.

Case, Vol. II, p. 350.

Green, p. 133.

Case, Vol. III, p. 86.

Hudson’s Bay; or A Missionary Tour in the Territory of the Hon. Hudson’s Bay Company, by the Rev. John Ryerson, co-delegate, and deputation to the Wesleyan Missions in Hudson Bay, 1855.

Part IV—The Conference

The American Revolution following closely on the British conquest of Canada had turned the faces of a good many Methodists in the thirteen colonies northward. Whether the motives were primarily loyalist or pacifist or merely the restless urge which has pushed back frontiers in all ages, it is not necessary to enquire. Whitefield and Wesley had both laboured in the American colonies, and as their followers trekked into Canada they brought Methodist ways with them. The first services were held on the Upper St. Lawrence, and the burying-ground of the old “Blue Church” at Adolphustown bears witness to the work of Barbara Heck, as well as to the fact that the American Methodists, though not to the same degree as the Quakers, gave women in things religious their due. A little later they came in considerable numbers to the Bay of Quinte area, which remained for a century predominantly Methodist. Here the first chapel was built at Hay Bay in 1792, and the first camp meeting held in 1805. The Niagara district was another area of Methodist influence. Here were Warner’s Chapel and the Old Red Meeting House; here the great Nathan Bangs, while practising as a surveyor and “bush teacher” was converted and in 1802 began as an itinerant the career which was to bring him the highest honours of the continent in the Christian ministry. York was still a village in a swamp; it was 1818 before the “Old Framed Meeting House” was built by the zeal of Henry Ryan, who mortgaged his farm to do it.

By 1812 the Canadian cause was organized in two districts, that of Upper and that of Lower Canada. Each was under a Presiding Elder appointed at the annual meeting of the Genesee Conference, a unit under the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church which met every four years. The international boundary was not considered, and in 1812 the Genesee Conference was to have met in Canada at Warner’s Chapel had the outbreak of war not interfered. The war caused considerable dislocation of the work. Some of the preachers were not British subjects and could not continue; others took up arms or located.[1] Meanwhile, the Maritime Provinces had been receiving missionaries from the Wesleyan Missionary Society in London. An application was made to Nova Scotia by the Society at Quebec for a preacher, and this was relayed to London. The result was the sending of a Wesleyan missionary to Quebec in 1814, and another to Montreal in 1815. Here then at the close of the war we have the elements of a dispute which was destined to continue for a generation. As the Canadian districts once more were manned, and the jurisdiction of the American Conference resumed, the question was raised as to whether religious organization should, or sound religion could, neglect national boundaries. It was recalled, however, that John Wesley a few days before his death in 1791 had written to Rev. Ezekiel Cooper, “Lose no opportunity of declaring to all men that Methodists are one people in all the world.” In the strife between national and international ideas, religion and politics became hopelessly confused, personal friendships were severed, and the Church was divided and re-divided. Indeed while the main breach was repaired in 1847, it was not until 1874 that the reunion of all the Methodist bodies was achieved and Egerton Ryerson, then retired from the Department of Education, became the first President of the first General Conference of the Methodist Church of Canada.

By the year 1820 the situation had become serious. Gradually the British missionaries were extending their work westward. The most aggressive and successful of this little group of British preachers was Henry Pope. During his ministry at Cornwall the most respectable persons of the town, who belonged to the Episcopal Church, showed him special favour, since he used to read Mr. Wesley’s abridgement of the English Liturgy. Strachan had been rector in Cornwall before coming to York, and there had married in 1807 a lady of that town, who, to quote Bishop Bethune, “had become the youthful widow, with a handsome annuity, of the late Mr. Andrew McGill, of Montreal”.[2] While visiting her former home Mrs. Strachan attended Henry Pope’s preaching one Sunday morning and was “deeply impressed under the Word”.[3] Pope inferred that the good she received was permanent, since more than a year later, on his way to Niagara, the Doctor invited him to breakfast and he “was treated with great kindness by him and his lady”.[4]

But with all his respectability, Henry Pope was not above chancing a ride from Kingston to York on his way to his new charge at Niagara, having missed the weekly stage. Stranded but quite undismayed, he anticipated by more than a century the technique of the “hitch-hiker”. Standing at the top of a hill near Belleville, he hailed a fine span of horses and sleigh; and he arrived in York in style in the company of no less a personage than Henry Boulton, Esq., Solicitor General of the Province and a leading member of the Compact. Before leaving York he breakfasted, as was noted, with the Strachans, but the nature of the table talk on this occasion, as Carroll would put it, “deponent doth not say”!

Arriving at his new field at Niagara, Pope soon found himself in conflict with the “American” preacher stationed there, George Ferguson.

Soon after my labors commenced at St. Catharines, Elder Ryan honored me with a message, inviting me to meet him at the house of one of his friends. On my arrival I found a prayer-meeting had just commenced, conducted by Bro. George Ferguson. Elder Ryan was in a small room behind that in which the prayer-meeting was held. Bro. Ferguson, seeing me come into the room, gave out the hymn:

Jesus, great Shepherd of the sheep,

To thee for help we fly;

The little flock in safety keep,

For O! the wolf is nigh.

And it was amusing to see with what stentorian power Bro. F. went through the next verse—

He comes with hellish malice full,

To scatter, tear, and slay, etc.

I was not in the least discomposed, and could not help saying within myself, “Brother George, you have missed your mark this time: I have not come ‘with hellish malice full, to scatter, tear, and slay’.” I had heard of Bro. Ferguson, who had belonged to the 100th Regiment, and who was now a zealous, laborious, and useful preacher of the everlasting gospel.[5]

But, however laudable Henry Pope’s motives may have been, the effect of his labours at Niagara was that the Methodist Episcopal membership decreased in proportion as that of the Wesleyan missionary increased. In April, 1820, Pope was transferred from Niagara to York, now for the first time occupied by the British Wesleyans. The “very respectable appearance” of Pope and his wife greatly impressed Carroll:

He and his good lady were handsome in person, and well dressed. But their beauty was enhanced by the elegant simplicity with which they habited themselves. Mr. Pope was dressed in black, his coat bearing the true orthodox curve from collar to skirt, while his head was surmounted with a comfortable broad-leafed beaver. His truly beautiful wife was clad in “Quaker silk”, with a “Methodist bonnett” tastefully adjusted to the head, as much prettier than those feathery “hats” which now disfigure the crowns of some ministers’ ladies, as anything can possibly be. The writer remembers how the simple beauty of this Methodist parson and his wife impressed his young imagination, as they passed one day in their “light waggon”, while he and some other boys were at play under the shade of the oaks which then so ornamentally skirted the whole line of bank which bounded the Toronto bay—trees which the stupid vandalism of the authorities suffered to be hacked away for firewood![6]

Meanwhile the situation as between the two bodies of Methodists in Upper Canada had become so embarrassing that representations had been made by the American Conference to their British brethren. It was agreed between the two conferences that the British Wesleyans should receive Lower Canada, and the American Conference Upper Canada, as their respective fields for missionary effort. The London secretaries in a letter to their missionaries conceded that the American Methodists should be treated as brethren, and that the political reasons known to exist in many minds for supplying Upper Canada also with British missionaries should be disregarded. In consequence, the British missionaries all withdrew from Upper Canada, Pope, at least, with great reluctance. An exception, however, was made of Kingston, as a military post, and this station was to prove the thin edge of the wedge of division.

Carroll who admits in his preface his admiration for Herodotus never more closely follows the manner of the father of history than in his discussion of the event. He weighs the matter on this side and that, with much charity and circumspection. He sees the good on both sides, the various circumstances which palliated the British aggression “abetted by the so-called Canadian authorities”. Finally he sums up as follows:

Suffice it to say, that to the formation of the first rival Societies in the Province may be traced all that have since arisen. And to the writer it now satisfactorily appears, that had this Missionary organization remained, there would not have been so many Methodist bodies in our divided Canada Methodists as there are now.[7]

The “treaty” of 1820 was honourably observed for a decade. Its violation, as will sufficiently appear, was mainly the work of two men, John Strachan of Toronto and Robert Alder of London.

But during the twenties the Methodists of Upper Canada were confronted with another, and as it appeared at the time, an even more serious division. Here the difficulty was less with principles than with persons, and particularly with a certain Henry Ryan. Of his early life we have no certain knowledge. Carroll believed that he was of Irish, and probably Catholic, parentage. His youth was spent in New York. It was commonly believed that he had once been a stage-boxer.

And we know of no man who would have been more likely to succeed in that infamous calling than himself, had he turned his attention to it, and been trained for it, such was his courage, agility, and strength. This made his conversion to a life of holiness and usefulness, all the greater triumph of infinite mercy and grace. . . . He was bony and muscular, but plump and compact. His complexion was dark—head and face massive—forehead rather projecting,—his nose curved a little downwards—and his chin, which was a double one, with a dimple in the centre, curved upwards, towards the nose. He was very sprightly in his movements; he would start to his feet, when an old man of sixty, and beginning to be corpulent, without ever putting his hands to his chair.[8]

Fitch Reed, a young American of good education, who spent only two years in Canada and was the first regular pastor of the little flock of some forty souls at York, has left us his impressions and an anecdote of his Presiding Elder:

He was well nigh six feet in height, of large, symmetrical proportions, with prodigious muscular developments, and without doubt one of the strongest men of his age. . . . On another occasion Mr. Ryan was passing on horseback the shop of a blacksmith who had frequently threatened to lay violent hands on him. The smith came out of his shop, seized the horse by the bridle, and commenced a tirade of abuse and threats, declaring his purpose to beat him. Mr. Ryan dismounted, seized the smith by his collar and pants and threw him forcibly over the fence into a heap of brush. . . . His voice excelled, for power and compass, all that I ever heard from human organs. When occasion required, and he gave it its full power, it was “as when a lion roareth”.[9]

His energy and enterprise were as great as his physical strength. As a local preacher in New York, and later an itinerant in Lower Canada, he was indefatigable. In his earlier years he had combined business and preaching; and after coming to Upper Canada in 1805 he owned, and his family conducted, a farm in Flamborough while he visited the circuits as Presiding Elder. This high office he held continuously from 1810 to 1824.

At the annual conference of 1823 Ryan was passed over in the naming of three delegates to be sent to the General Conference to be held the next year in Pittsburgh. This appears to have been the beginning of the trouble, but is in itself perhaps some indication that his hold on the respect of his fellow preachers was weakening, and that Methodism was reaching a stage where other than Homeric virtues were in demand. The particular question at issue was the right of the American bishops to name Presiding Elders of the Canadian districts, and the desire for a more democratic system of appointment. In the circumstances neither Presiding Elder was named a delegate. Case accepted the situation with good grace but Ryan was piqued. During the year he shifted his ground and began to agitate for a complete separation of the Canadian ministers from the Methodist Episcopal Church of the United States. He also advocated the admission of local preachers to annual conferences, whose membership was restricted to itinerants. He attended the General Conference at Pittsburgh, irregularly, taking with him David Breckenridge, an officer of militia and a local preacher of some considerable standing in his community. He was permitted by Conference to state his case and was given a respectful hearing. In the end a separate annual conference for Canada was secured, and at the request of the regular delegates. This was established in 1824, and marked the first definite step towards complete independence and democratic control.

For the present, however, the Annual Conference was under the authority of the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Thomas Madden was chosen Elder for the Niagara district, and Ryan, reduced to the ranks, now appeared as “Missionary to Chippeway and Grand River Falls, and the new and destitute settlements in those parts”.[10] Playter observes that his own and his family’s comfort was regarded in the matter since he owned a farm and other property at Chippewa, but that “his lowly situation did not agree with his nature”.[11] He definitely broke with Madden, in former years a warm friend, and mutual criminations resulted. The time of the Conference of 1825, held at “The Fifty”, was largely taken up with the unpleasant business of dealing with these charges. However, the forbearance of his brethren and his own distinguished record combined to save Ryan from expulsion; his character “passed”[12] both at this and at the succeeding Conference. But the matter came to a head at the Conference of 1827. When the inevitable question was raised, “Are all our preachers blameless in life and conversation?” Case called attention to printed circulars which had been distributed throughout the Conference attacking policies of the Church and the conduct of certain prominent members. The material in these circulars resembled closely the kind of thing Ryan had lately been saying. Among the speakers for the accusation were the three Ryersons. The accused defended himself in masterly fashion, and was supported by at least two of the ablest members of the Conference, Whitehead and Green; the latter records that his first speech in Conference was that in defence of Ryan. By vote of the members his character “passed”, but later in the Conference a member who had voted with the majority moved a reconsideration. Thereupon, after solemnly declaring that he would never make or head a party and hoped that if he ever did so his right hand might lose its cunning and his tongue cleave to the roof of his mouth, Ryan walked out of the Conference, heedless of the entreaties of Green, who sprang from his seat and sought to detain him as he passed down the aisle.[13]

His great energy and considerable influence were now employed to disrupt the body he had served so long. In October he secured entry into the chapel at York. He had been refused entry by the trustees, but had threatened to preach in the market-place, whereupon they yielded to avoid strife. Using this as a precedent, he got into other chapels. In 1829 he launched his new organization, the Canadian Wesleyan Methodist Church. The following year Anson Green was confronted with his unique method of operation. It was on the Niagara circuit. The previous Sunday when his colleague had reached the chapel in Niagara he had found Ryan occupying the pulpit, and had been compelled to sit by while his congregation heard another preach, and presume to announce that he would occupy the same pulpit at the next service on the following Sunday evening. Forewarned but not dismayed, on the following Sunday evening Green went early to the chapel, but found Ryan already in the pulpit. The teacher of the Grammar School came to him and offered him the school building. He declined and entering the chapel sat down at the front of the pulpit stairs. Six people were in the pews. One minute before the clock reached the hour, Green stepped up to the pulpit and began to read the hymn. The people flocked into the church, and he preached to a large congregation. When he had finished, Ryan asked the privilege of speaking. Green replied, “No! you have come here to divide the body of Christ, my Divine Master, and I will bear no part in your sin. . . .”[14] He then dismissed. Ryan rose to speak, but the people hastened out.

But not all the ministers were as resourceful as Green, nor all congregations as wanting in sympathy to Ryan as that at Niagara. The seceding body for some years gained a considerable following. Both Webster and Playter state that it received financial support from Dr. Strachan to the extent of fifty pounds, and this is confirmed in a note appended by Egerton Ryerson to the account of Ryan given by his brother John.[15] Further, the Public Accounts show that John Willson, Speaker of the House of Assembly, formerly a member of the Wesleyan Methodist Church, obtained grants from the government to assist the Ryanites. By 1840 the movement, which never had any very solid basis, had worked itself out. Some of its ministers connected themselves with the British New Connexion Conference, and others, including Moses Blackstock and John Sanderson, applied for admission to the Canada, now the Wesleyan, Conference and were accepted.

The General Conference at Pittsburgh in 1824 had prepared the way for a separate Canadian church. This was brought into being four years later at the annual Conference at Ernestown. The new body was named the Methodist Episcopal Church in Canada. It was intended that the episcopacy should be continued, and until a bishop could be secured William Case was appointed President of the Conference pro tempore. The honour was a recognition of the part he had taken in the Ryan controversy, but it was more than that. He embodied the character of the Conference at that time. He had now reached the age of forty-seven and had served the Methodist connexion, first in the New England States and later in Canada, for twenty-four years. Born in 1780 and converted in 1803, he had passed through the necessary stages of exhorter and local preacher, and at the New York Conference of 1805 had been appointed to the Bay of Quinte circuit in Upper Canada as junior itinerant with Henry Ryan.

Carroll has made him the central figure in his great work published in 1867.[16] “His life is the principal stream,” Carroll tells us in the preface, “the others are the tributaries”. It is a curious fact, however, that nowhere in the course of these five volumes does he present a full-length portrait of Case, and, what is stranger still, nowhere in his earlier and anonymous literary venture, Past and Present.[17] Yet the pen portraits in both these works are not the least of the features which arrest and charm the reader whose interest in Canadian history transcends mere matters of war and government. In the preface to the former work he admits that he has no materials for Case’s private and interior life, but he thinks that the “presentation of the example of his many public virtues, and those of his cotemporaries, is an act good in itself, and adapted to have a beneficial influence on all who contemplate those examples”. To the author then, Case is a sort of symbol of the Methodist evangel; and it may well be that his delicate artistry suggests that the physical appearance and the personality of his hero should not be presented in too sharp outline.

We have, however, from his pen an account of Case and Ryan at work during the first year of the former’s itinerancy.

Among the people in general, especially the young people, Case “took” at once, on account of his youth and beauty, his amiable spirit and winning manners, but especially his powers of song, in which he excelled, and which he made to subserve the great object of his ministry. He was wont then, and for many years after, when he finished his sermon, which was always persuasive, to break out in one of his melodious strains, by which he first spell bound and then melted his auditors. Next, he would pass around the room, shaking hands and speaking a word to each, perhaps throwing his arms around the necks of the young men, and entreating them with tears to give their hearts to God. There was no society in the town of Kingston, and its inhabitants were very irreligious. The market house was the only chapel of the Methodists. Case and his colleague made a bold push to arouse the people. Sometimes they went together. Ryan was a powerful singer, too, with a voice less sweet but stronger. They would ride into town, put their horses at an inn, lock arms, and go singing down the street a stirring ode beginning with

Come let us march to Zion’s hill.

By the time they had reached the market place, they usually had collected a large assembly. When together, Ryan usually preached, and Case exhorted, for which he had a peculiar gift. Ryan’s stentorian voice resounded through the town, and was heard across the adjacent waters to the neighboring points of land. They suffered no particular opposition, excepting a little annoyance from some of the baser sort, who sometimes tried to trip them off the butcher’s block which constituted their rostrum; set fire to their hair, and then blow out their candle if it were in the night season. This was accomplished one evening by a wicked sailor, who then sung out, “Come on, boys, and see the Devil dance on a butcher’s block!” Such opposition the preachers regarded trivial, and held on. An intelligent and respectable man, who years afterwards became converted, and was a leader and local preacher among the Methodists, in conversation with the author, dated his first convictions in boyhood from having heard the then youthful William Case preach from a butcher’s block in the Kingston market.[18]

Ten years later he had attained the rank of Presiding Elder. This office entailed ceaseless travelling through the circuits, in summer on horseback or by canoe, and in winter on horseback or by “pung” (the ancestor of the late cutter) to which the horse was attached not by shafts but by a single pole and a neck-yoke. But Case was welcome wherever he went, both to his fellow ministers to whom his visits brought encouragement and comradeship and to the numerous homes refreshed by his cheery presence. The variety and range of this hospitality may be illustrated by two incidents described by Carroll.

He loved to break in on his old friends, and give them an agreeable surprise. A pleasing incident was related to the writer many years ago by old Mrs. Boice, of Elizabethtown, . . . On the occasion referred to [after an absence of ten years], he came to the house, and the old lady was alone. He came softly to the door and gently tapped, which drew Mrs. Boice to the entrance. Said the stranger, in a voice she soon recognized: “Do you still keep Methodist Tavern?” She assured him that she did, with even more than her wonted cordiality to the travelling preachers; and the applicant for lodgings found that the fare was unchanged, namely, still “without money and without price”.[19]

And again:

He used to tell an amusing incident of an old Scotch-woman’s considerateness of his comfort in the Glengarry county. From Moulinette to Van Kleek Hill, in Hawksbury, there was a region thinly inhabited with Highland Scotch, most of whom were of the Roman Catholic persuasion. This was a sort of Alentejo, so graphically described by Borrow in his “Bible in Spain”, where few comforts could be found; and through which the traveller usually pushed his way with all possible dispatch. In one of his journeys across it to attend the Ottawa Quarterly Meeting, in a very hot day, water being very scarce, he became very thirsty. At length, to his great joy, he espied an old Scotch-woman crossing the road with a pail of water which had been obtained at some hole dug in a neighboring swamp. Accosting her, he asked for a drink. Observing his respectable appearance, she said that the water was “no fit for him” as it was, for there were “wee motes in it”, by which she meant the embryo musquitos, usually called “wigglers,” “but,” said she, “I’ll strain it!” And suiting the action to the word, she pulled off a soiled old cotton handkerchief which she wore around her shoulders, saturated with perspiration, through which she poured some of the water out of the pail into a cup and offered it to him, minus the “wee motes”. With his usual politeness he thanked her, but whether this very cleanly man really drank it or not, deponent doth not say.[20]

It has been noted that in time the Conference moved past Ryan, and his nature resented it. To a degree the same thing was true of Case; in him there may have been pain but there was no resentment. After 1828, and in the interval between complete separation from the American Conference and the imperfect union with the British Conference, Case continued to preside. Early in his career he had acquired a particular interest in the Indian work, and this gradually developed with the years as other and abler men gained prominence in the Conference. And in 1833 when the Methodist Episcopal Church in Canada became the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Canada and English presidents became a part of the arrangement, he returned to the ranks and restricted himself to Indian work under the superintendency of Joseph Stinson. Then when the break came with the British in 1840 he could not leave his beloved charges. The Indian Missions, it appeared, would still be controlled from London, and he preferred to remain with the British Conference. To the surprise of many, and to the regret doubtless of all the Canadian party, Elder Case, as he was still called, was to rise in his place and take his stand with the eleven dissenters. His broken sentences of farewell at once reveal the man and the spirit of the older members of Conference. To hardship in the saving of souls they were inured; in the strife which came with the issue between church and state they were confused and bewildered.

But for its younger members the Methodist Conference in the twenties and thirties had been a training school in statesmanship. The proceedings, which followed in general the discipline of the American Conference, were conducted with strict regard to parliamentary usage. Before 1824 under American bishops, and between 1833 and 1840 under English presidents, there was a suggestion of autocracy or outside direction, but by the close of the period covered by the present volume in complete autonomy the Methodist preachers settled affairs for themselves and the church at large simply on the basis of orderly argument on the floor of Conference.

It is true that only the itinerant preachers were members of Conference. Here two seceding bodies, the Ryanites in 1825 and the Episcopals ten years later, with a democratic gesture encouraged the claims of local as distinct from itinerant preachers. But in the Canada Conference within the limits of membership neither station nor age gave any man undue influence. The sessions continued for a week or ten days. The first act of the first session was the election by ballot of a President and a Secretary, this years before the ballot was adopted in elections for the Legislature. Apparently nominations were free; we hear of no nominating committee. The business of the Conference was considered by committees, which met in the evenings and reported to the sessions held in the morning and afternoon. To other standing committees was entrusted the conduct of business throughout the year, and these reported to Conference for ratification of their acts. Between conferences the powers of the President and Secretary do not appear to have been large, and in any case these officers were amenable to the opinion of their brethren within a twelvemonth. They and all other members had to answer for their “character”, and any member might bring them to book for any infringement of the discipline. The names were called one by one beginning at the oldest even to the youngest, and frequently the minutes record reproof administered or the extreme penalty of striking the name from the rolls.

The province was divided into several districts, each in the charge of a Presiding Elder, or Chairman. District meetings were called from time to time and resolutions from these came up to Conference. Then on the individual circuits Quarterly Meetings were held, at which local preachers and laymen were present and important matters of church policy discussed. Attendance at classes was regarded as essential to membership, and class leaders had a large part to play, especially in the more remote districts less frequently visited by the itinerants.

Such was the economy of the Methodist body in Upper Canada. Its effectiveness as a frontier organization is amply attested by its rapid increase in numbers and influence as compared with that of other religious bodies. But its reaction on the ministers in general and the Ryersons in particular is our immediate concern. And it is not surprising that at times they grew restless under a form of secular government where the will of an elective legislature was regularly thwarted by that of two nominated councils, and was subject to delay or defeat while a governor consulted his own judgment or that of a distant colonial secretary who was himself in turn subject to the varying winds of Westminster.

A term used when an itinerant preacher reverted to local preaching and a secular occupation.

Bethune: Memoirs of Bishop Strachan, p. 30.

Case, Vol. II, p. 209.


Case, Vol. II, p. 211.

Case, Vol. II, p. 341.

Ibid., p. 346.

Case, Vol. I, p. 23.

Case, Vol. II, pp. 313-314.

Case, Vol. III, p. 24.

G. F. Playter: The History of Methodism in Canada, p. 245.

Early in the sessions of Conference the names of the preachers were called in turn, and it was the duty of the members to raise any question of character. If the objection was sustained, the sinner was dropped from Conference.

The account given by John Ryerson of this incident in Epochs and Events of Canadian Methodism (p. 259) differs somewhat in detail from the account here taken from Anson Green, but Green is writing with his diary before him and John Ryerson merely from recollection, and the version of the former preferred where they differ as to detail.

Green, p. 138.

Epochs, p. 359.

The full title is Case and His Cotemporaries or The Canadian Itinerants’ Memorial: constituting a Biographical History of Methodism in Canada, from its Introduction into the Province, till the Death of the Rev. Wm. Case in 1855.

The full title is Past and Present, or a Description of Persons and Events connected with Canadian Methodism for the Last Forty Years by a Spectator of the Scenes.

Case, Vol. I, pp. 112-113.

Case, Vol. II, p. 42.

Ibid., p. 43.



September 1826 to September 1828

The Conference of 1826, which was held in the “Back Chapel” in Hamilton township near Cobourg, proceeded with such harmony and despatch that it lasted only five days. William Ryerson was brought from Niagara to York. In consideration of his health he was assisted in the townships by “a gentleman of good property, somewhat in years, a zealous Methodist and an able local preacher”,[1] then known as Squire Beatty, and later appearing in connection with the affairs of Upper Canada Academy as the Rev. John Beatty. In York itself the preaching was shared by Egerton, who took the services for two Sundays each month. The latter’s charge, however, was a new missionary station at the Credit. Here the work was exclusively with the Indians. Carroll tells us that it was Elder Case who selected Ryerson for this work, since he was young and knew something of the structure of language. It was Case’s hope that he could reduce the dialects to order and produce a grammar and lexicon, the better to promote the Christianizing of the Indians. If this was Case’s idea in placing Ryerson at the Credit, it was probably the idea of others, more politically minded than Case ever allowed himself to become, that it might be desirable to keep this young man near York and the headquarters of the Compact.

The constant change from York pulpit to Credit wigwam must have proved stimulating to the mind. To the body it was trying. In January Ryerson records that he has been unwell for nearly two months with a continuance of violent colds, occasioned by frequent changes from a cold house and a thinly clad bed on boards to warm rooms in York. When he commenced at the Credit in September, the Indians had not yet moved into the twenty cottages which the government had built for them on high ground; they were still living in bark-covered wigwams in the flats. For a time one of these was Ryerson’s home, and right comfortable he was, apart from lack of privacy, in the lovely months of a Canadian autumn. During the first fortnight he resolved to build a combined school and chapel. With the head of a barrel for a desk, he took down such subscriptions in cash or kind as in their poverty the Indians could offer. He and they worked together, and on November 26th the building was opened and the Lord’s Supper celebrated, with Case as preacher. When William visited the school in the following March he found forty on the roll and thirty in attendance, the rest being absent making sugar. On his arrival he discovered 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”.[2] The latter explained that he spent an hour or more every morning and evening in this way for the benefit of his own health and the education of the Indian children. Here he adopted the methods which after a century are recognized as the most effective, if any progress in education is to be made with the Indians. Indeed without the aid of educational psychologists, and quite in advance of the theory of his time, he appears to have realized that the training of the hand is closely related to that of the head.

From the diary it is clear that he developed a deep interest in the lives of his charges. He made such progress in the language, though at the expense of his Latin and Greek, that by the spring his congregation was overjoyed to hear him preach in their tongue. The old chief gave him the name “Cheehock”, or “a bird on the wing”, an eloquent translation of our pedestrian “itinerant”. He organized class meetings and reported amongst “the dear objects of his care” considerable growth in grace and in power of resistance against what had become the almost universal vice of drunkenness. At the close of the year he made a missionary tour through the Indian settlements of Lake Simcoe and what is now called Georgian Bay.

But time has confirmed the drowsy observation of our first letter[3]—“in some respects they are Indians though they have become Christians”. For a few years the Methodists rapidly extended their missions among them, with stations at Rice Lake, on the Grand, at Grape Island, on Lake Simcoe, on Georgian Bay, and at Muncey. Soon the number of members had risen to a thousand, and there it remained. Somewhat later we have the heroic missionaries of Hudson Bay, and the Western Plains, and the Pacific Coast. But the high purpose to which men like Case and Evans and Maclean devoted themselves has not been realized. The race has proven incorrigibly unadaptable to what we call civilization.

Of Ryerson’s other life in York, we know very little. The preaching of the two brothers was popular. In the Colonial Advocate of December 21st an article appeared from the pen of Peter Russell describing one of the services. The building, he tells us, had been greatly enlarged and the number of hearers was perhaps ten times greater than it had been under Mr. Fitch Reed’s excellent preaching. The audience was respectable as well as large. Several members of the legislature were present; a negro shared a hymn book with the writer of the article.

But in his diverse duties Ryerson was not allowed to forget the struggle for civil and religious liberty. In a lost letter to George of January 10, 1827, in part reproduced by Hodgins,[4] he tells us that by the advice of Marshall Spring Bidwell, now Speaker of the Assembly, and others, he was induced to continue the Strachan controversy till it should be brought to a favourable conclusion; and on February 27th his diary tells us that he has written that day from fifteen to sixteen hours “in vindicating the cause of dissenters against the anathemas of high churchmen”.[5] But he finds that such controversial writing makes for “leanness of soul”. On his twenty-fourth birthday, March 24th, the entry reads: “During the past year my principal attention has been called to controversial labours. If the Lord will, may this cup pass by in my future life.”[6] The prayer was not to be answered; for half a century he was destined to swing from one well-fought controversy to another.

At the Conference of 1827, which met in the rising village of Hamilton, he was received into full connection and assigned to what was possibly the hardest circuit on the front. His headquarters were near Cobourg, but the field which he covered, as junior preacher to William Slater, extended from Bowmanville to Brighton and included Indian work at Rice Lake. William remained at York for a second year. John was appointed Presiding Elder to superintend the circuits between the Niagara and the Detroit. His elevation was anticipated but not yet announced when, as one of a committee and with the dignity and gravity which became him, he was examining the candidates for ordination. The five were Richardson, Green, his brother Egerton, Daniel McMullen, and the inimitable John Black. “Brother Black, will you please tell us who Polycarp was?” “Polycarp! Polycarp! your reverence, I think I have heard he was presiding elder at Smyrna.” Carroll tells us that the effect upon the examiner was convulsive and that it was a long time before he could sober down again.

On September 23rd, the diary informs us, Egerton commenced his ministerial labours among strangers with whom religion was at a low ebb. By January 1, 1828, he was able to report the societies growing in piety. Most of the entries are cheerful, but not all. On October 2nd he has been labouring under severe affliction of mind. He is “as one tempest driven, without pilot, chart, or compass”.[7] On December 12th his mind has been greatly afflicted in settling a difference between two brothers. On January 30th he visited a poor woman in the last stages of consumption. He finds it a heavy cross to visit the sick, and prays the Lord to help him “search out the mourner, bind up broken hearts and comfort the sorrowful”. Here frankly he admits what must be the general experience of younger pastors, themselves healthy and forward-looking. Twice only in the entries preserved by Hodgins does he refer to his controversial writing, once as a temptation to desist from the ministry, and once as a great trial. A few years later he was the object of some criticism and even censure for meddling with politics. There can be no question, however, that at this time he was officially encouraged to engage in the discussion of the question which was not on the fringe but at the very centre of the political strife of the day. Carroll puts it this way:

Mr. R. at that time, otherwise very powerful and impassioned in his public ministrations, had his thoughts and time very much engrossed in the Clergy Reserve Controversy, to which he was encouraged to devote himself by Mr. Case. The question whether one-seventh of the landed property should go to the support of a dominant church, or be so applied as to be for the general good of all the inhabitants, was an absorbing question to all the non-conformists of the land. But among them all there was no champion prepared to go forth and confront his goliath but Egerton Ryerson. By tacit consent his clients all felt to say, “We have no man like-minded who will naturally care for our state.”[8]

When the joint committee of Christians of different denominations sent its petition[9] out to the Cobourg Circuit, a public meeting was called in the chapel at Cramahe. Elder Benjamin Farmer was in the chair. It was moved by Ebenezer Perry, Esq., and seconded by Ozem Strong, Esq., that the Rev. Egerton Ryerson should open the meeting. This he did, reading the documents and moving a series of resolutions. He was made one of a general committee of five to secure signatures, and sub-committees were named for each of eight townships of the Newcastle District. This we learn from the Colonial Advocate of January 10, 1828.

In July general elections for the Legislative Assembly were held. In Northumberland Henry Ruttan, later Sheriff, ran as a Compact candidate. At a meeting he made a broad attack on Ryerson, without calling him by name. Ryerson attempted to mount the hustings, but was denied their use. Many in the audience were disgusted with the attack. They improvised a rostrum by drawing a waggon to one side. The crowd gathered around Ryerson, and Carroll states that “those who heard him thought his appeal to fact, and scripture, and law, was most triumphant”.[10] In any case Ruttan was not one of the two candidates to be elected, but stood last in the list with 158 votes, while the poll was headed by James Lyons (a Methodist) with 319 votes. The whole election, however, favoured the Reformers, or, as they were then called by Mackenzie, the Independents. All four candidates in York County, then a two-member riding, were more or less Reform in complexion, Ketchum and Mackenzie being returned in the order named, with Small a rather poor third, and Robert Baldwin a very poor fourth. Even in the town of York, Dr. T. D. Morrison, a prominent Methodist, ran quite close (110-93) to the Attorney General, John Beverley Robinson, the ablest member of the governing party.

The correspondence preserved during this period is slight: one letter of 1827 is reproduced, and five of 1828. They carry the narrative forward to the amicable separation of the Canadian from the American Conference and to Ryerson’s second assault on the rocking defences of Strachan.

April 15, 1827, Egerton Ryerson, York, to George Ryerson, Esq., Vittoria.

My Dear Brother,

I am much fatigued with the labours of the day and it is now nearly 12 o’clock. I shall therefore be able to say but a few words at present.

We are all well, and are blessed in our labours both at this place and at the Credit. I think the Indians are growing in knowledge and in grace. They are getting on pretty well with their Spring’s work. But in some respects they are Indians though they have become Christians. I think we shall be able to raise a considerable grain this season.

I came from Long Point with a full determination to live wholly for God and his church. Through the blessing of God I have received greater manifestations of grace than I had felt before during the year. I have lately read Law’s Serious Call to a Devout & Holy Life, which has been very beneficial to me.

My greatest grief of late is that my love to God and his people is not more humble, more fervent & more importunate. Could I feel as Jesus felt when he said my meat and drink is to do the will of him that sent me, how much more happy and useful I would be. I pray that I may. John & Peter Jones[11] seem to be thirsting after holiness, and growing in grace. J. Jones has had a severe trial lately. We buried his little boy four days ago. The society in this place appear to be increasing in grace and in numbers. I was abundantly assisted by heavenly aid today while trying to speak from Rom. V., v. 33, 34 & from Heb. 10, v. 19-22. The congregation seemed to be deeply affected this evening. I hope the word has not gone forth in vain. Br. Vaux[12] from the Head of the Lake was here to day, & spoke very forcibly to the people both in the morning & evening. He says he saw you last Sunday at Hamilton. I am surprised you have not written. I can not learn whether you are going to England or not. I wish you would write immediately.

I wish you to write for four copies of the “Youth’s Friend” including the copy I take. I have not got any subscriptions for the S.S. Magazine yet. It is probable I will. I shall continue to take them.

Remember me to them all. I will try and write to Father or Edwy or both in a week or two.

Monday morning

P.S. The copies of the Youth’s Friend to commence from the first of January, 1827. I have nothing less than a ten dollar bill and have not time to get it changed this morning. I will send the money for them in my next. Shall I send you the Postage? Let them be directed to me at York probably by the way of Cape Vincent, as there is no postage on this side that way.

The Sunday schools are prospering in this place, and I am establishing one between this and the Credit (on the Lake road) having got Mr. Gamble to take an active part in it.

I want you to write soon & any enquiries you may wish to make shall be attended to without delay and I shall gratefully receive any advice you may see fit to give.





Wm. & I preach to the Sunday School children every sabbath. I proposed the new method of increasing the Sunday Schools by giving a reward ticket to every scholar who would procure another, that had not attended any other school, and in two Sabbaths between twenty and thirty new scholars were procured in one school, and I have not yet heard the result in the other.

January 28, 1828, John Ryerson, River Thames, to Rev. Egerton Ryerson, Cramahe.

My dear Brother:

Your kind & affectionate letter came safe to hand the 16th inst. & I should of answered it amediately, but the next day I had to leave for the west & was engaged that night till long after midnight making my arrangements, etc. I am happy to hear that Mr. Ryen is defeated & that the measures you have adopted to frustrate his diabolical maceenations against Elder Case, etc., have proved successful. I hope you will continue to assist and support E— Case, especially in this afair & on many other accounts he is deserving of much esteam. His disinterested exertions in behalf of the missionary interest in Canada is deserving of the highest praise. The work is prospering in different parts of this district. Niagara & Ancaster circuits are riseing—there is a good work in Oxford on the L. P. Ct. as also in London & Westminister circuits. The Indian mission on the Grand River is prospering finely. At the Salt Springs about 30 have been added to society among whom are some of the most respectable Chiefs of the Mohook & Tukarora Nations. Last week I spent two dayes at the Muncey Mission—visiting them from wigwam to wigwam. They in general appeared to be thankful, teachable & kind, & I think that prospects here are more favourable at present then they have hitherto been. Great harmony and unanimity appear every where to prevail & I think I can say we have peace in all our borders. The L. P. Qt. meeting I attended three weeks since. I found all our friends well. Mother was enjoying good health & appeared to be in tolerable good spirits. Father has got through his pecuniary embarassments & is playing the old tune again; his ungovernable passins again usurp dominion over him & he is as unhappy as he ever was. These things much afflicted me & greaved me to the heart. Edwy is doing well. I was much pleased with his amiable conduct. He appears to be growing in grace & Wisdom. I think there is every prospect of his becoming a useful man. He treated me with every act of kindness & hospitality in his power. I stoped with them two dayes, taulked with them, prayed with & for them & then took my leave commending them to God & the Word of Grace.

With regard to Miss A—— I am not a little surprised that this subject is revived again. I had thought that I never would either write or taulk to you in relation to it. The instability & indecision of character that you have manifested in this affare have not a little surprised me. I shall never give any more advise on subjects of this kind if I can help it, but as you wish for information with respect to one or two things, I would just say (though with reluctance) that my opinion, relating to Miss A—— general character & quallefications, is the same that it has always been, but the haisty, inconsiderate & indisoluble engagements she made with Edwy I highly disapprove of & so must every person of since. The correctness & propriety of her conduct in now breaking these promises I leave her own conscience to determon; but am of the opinion that had they of got married that neather of them would of been happy; it never appeared to me that they were made for each other. Edwy is now glad that it is broken up & he has given up all idea of settleing himself at present. He intends prepareing himself for the ministry. He is now going to school & intends in the coarse of 5 or 6 months to go to Casanovia[13] if the Lord should open the way. In these intentions I tryed to strenthen & encourage him.

Mother’s views with respect to Miss A. & E. are in every respect, in accordance with my own. Now my dear Egerton I have told you all that is in my heart, on this subject, & let the plain and artless maner in which I have expressed my fealings to you show you how much you are still loved by your affectionate



During Ryerson’s stay with the Aikman family in Hamilton in 1824-1825, a friendship developed between himself and Hannah, the youngest daughter of the home, and one year his junior. After his serious illness and his definite call to the ministry Ryerson determined to resist the temptation to an early marriage and devote himself with a single heart to the studies and labours necessary to success in his high calling. It is clear from at least two notes in his diary that at times his resolution faltered and he was lonely and dejected. In the meantime Miss Aikman was left free. Let the affair with Edwy rest with the passing notice of this letter; in the diary or correspondence no further comment appears. In affairs of this sort an indulgent posterity may be inclined to be less severe on the “instability and indecision of character” of Egerton Ryerson than was his stern and at times censorious older brother. The marriage took place that autumn. The diary entry reads:

On the 10th of September, 1828, I entered into the married state with Miss Hannah Aikman, of Hamilton. Through the tender mercy of God, I have got a companion who, I believe, will be truly a help-meet to me, in spiritual as well as temporal things.[14]

It was necessary for them to travel twenty miles and secure the services of a Presbyterian minister to perform the ceremony.[15]

February 22, 1828, William Ryerson, York, to George Ryerson, Esqr., to the care of Mr. Saml. Thomas, No. 1 Roebuck Terrace, Great Dover Street, Southwark, England.[16]

Dr. Br.

I wrote to you sometime since & gave you an account of our situation. I also informed you that it was the intention of a committee in this place to appoint you their agent to act in behalf of a large number of petitioners in presenting their petitions to the Imperial Parliament etc., etc. I am now directed by the central committee to inform you that they have appointed you their agent.

Your appointment & instructions will be forwarded early next week, with the petitions to the Imperial Parliament, which will be directed to Mr. Jos. Hume, M.P. for Mr. George Ryerson. Mr. Hume will be instructed to hand them to you if you should still be in London, but should you leave that before your instructions arrive, he will be requested to bring our petitions before the Imperial Parliament for us. You will therefor please call on Mr. Hume immediately on receiving your appointment & instructions from this Committee. The Committee have also written to Mr. Wilkes the secretary of a society for the protection of Dissenters in England & elsewhere, requesting him to assist you in forwarding the object of the petitioners; also to the delegates from the Lower Province requesting their assistance.

Accompanying the petitions you will receive a short description of the religious state of this province, which will assist you in giving such religious information as may be required of you.

It may be proper to apprize you that the church of England have been making an enquiry into the religious state of the province, the result of which they have [sent] home to the Imperial Government. And in order to swell their numbers as much as possible, they have sent persons through almost every part of the province who where they come into an house enquire of the head of the family to what church he belongs; if he says to the Methodist or any other body of Dissenters they next enquire if their children belong to the same church; if they say no, they then set the children down as members of the Church of England. If they say that neither themselves nor children belong to any particular church, they then set them down as members of the Church of England. So that should they make a parade of their numbers, you can tell how they get them.

Can you obtain the report of the Society for the promotion of Christian knowledge and in that you will find the number of communicants in the Church of E. in Canada. The report for 1821 states that the number of communicants for that year to be between 4 & 500 which was the most that had ever communed before. The Committee direct me further to inform you that they will pay you for all the time, trouble, & expense you may incur in attending to the petitions so that you will keep an account of all your expenses which will be allowed you.

In the chart the Methodists have returned the number of regular communicants only, which is about 9000. The number of those who call themselves Methodists (who profess to believe in the doctrine & discipline of the Methodist Church) is at least four times that number, 36000. This is the way in which almost all the other bodies estimate their numbers, the Baptist Church excepted. A committee of the House of Commons[17] are now sitting on an enquiry in to the truth of Dr. Strachan’s letter & chart. As soon as the House decides on the subject, their decision will be forwarded to you.

Yours etc. etc.

Wm. Ryerson

March 8, 1828, Rev. William Case, Hallowell, to Rev. Egerton Ryerson, and Mr. John McCarty,[18] Cobourg.

Dear Brother:

I have just received a letter from Bro. Biggar[19] detailing a painful circumstance in the conduct of Mr. E. towards him. But of which I have all along feared, considering his intemperate habits & his moral disposition. Tho I could not think that he would go so far as to threaten to beat & even to take the life, of a harmless youth, who had neither the disposition, nor the ability (on account of lameness) to defend himself.

It appears that Mr. E was offended because the Indians did not trade with him, and he suspected first, that Bro. Biggar, and then that I had persuaded the Indians not to trade with him. His suspicion appears to have arisen from the circumstance of our taking out provisions to supply the wants of the children while at school & while their parents were gone on their hunt. Now, as we have given no instructions to the Indians whatever about trading with Mr. E., so we have nothing to do with Mr. E. relative to our duty to the Indian School and which we shall pursue without any instructions from him whatever.

Now Brother I hope Bro. Perry[20] or Bro. McCarty will interfere immediately, and do the best they can to save the feelings of Bro. Biggar & prevent the breaking up of the school. Mr. E. should be convinced that he should make concessions to Bro. B; at the same time urge Bro. Biggar to forbearance and sacrifice of feeling, following the example of his Lord & Master who endured the contradiction of sinners, for the sake of the welfare of his flock. But as I cannot know all the circumstances of the case, I leave the matter to be conducted in the best way you can to save the School. Bro. Ryerson will no doubt visit the School as often as possible, and assist in bringing matters to an amicable adjustment, tho I think Bros. Perry or McCarty will be able to get along the best with Mr. E.

Most probably we shall find it necessary to fit up a residence for the Teacher where he may be free from the abuse & noise of rum, and perhaps it may be found necessary to remove the House, especially if the lease should not be legal. I wish Bro. Ryerson to charge himself with the care & oversight of the interests of the School, & hope Bros. Perry & McCarty will afford all the aid in their power.

Yours in love,

W. Case

Hallowell, 11 March.

Last evening was exhibited the improvement of the Indian School of Grape Island, tho the darkness of the night & bad state of the road, a large congregation attended. They performed well. One Boy read well in the Testament whose time at school amounted to but about 6 months. Several new tunes which were not known in the congregation were well sung & had a fine effect, and their whole performance was excellent. The collection was . . . and more than 20 names were given in to furnish provisions for the children of the school. These exhibitions have a fine effect. It animates the children and the Teacher, & affords a most gratifying opportunity to the friends of the Mission to witness that their benevolence is not in vain.

W. C.

April 1, 1828, William Ryerson, York, to Egerton Ryerson.

Dr. Egerton,

I wrote you a line last week in which I informed you that I had not yet heard from John. I have since received a letter from him in which he informs me that he had been at Buffalo & made enquiries & arrangements about going to conference.[21] Our plan is to go from Buffalo to Erie in the steam bark,[22] from thence we take the stage for I think about twenty miles, when we take the water again down the river to Pitsburgh. John is very anxious that Br. Slater & Chamberlain should come & go with us. We are to meet at the mouth of Lundies lane on Monday evening, the 21st of April.

I send you a pamphlet containing Dr. Strachan’s Defence before the Upper House.[23] It is a pitiful thing indeed. If I had time I was intending to write a reply to a part of it under my real name. I think as soon as you can get the report of the committee on the subject & the evidence on which that report is founded, you had better write a full answer to it. You will perceive that the Drs. defence consists in telling what he told certain gentlemen in England & what they told him. The falshoods & contradictions with which he has been charged he has not noticed, as The Church is rapidly increasing, is spreading over the whole country, the tendency of the population is towards the Church of England, the Instructions of Dissenters is rendering the people hostile to our institutions, civil & religious & he says it is said I have offended the Methodists. Who told him so? I presume it must have been his own guilty conscience, if he has any conscience. It appears from the evidence of one of the most inteligent that they are all british subjects but eight, although until very lately they come from the U.S. If they came from the U.S. till very lately, how could they be all British subjects & especially British born & educated etc.

If you could take time to write a full answer, would it not be better to do it in the form of letters addressed to the Dr. & signed by your real name. Should you persue this course you had better endeavour to write in a candid, mild & sweet stile. It will have a much more powerfull effect on the mind of the public. If you should continue to persue such a course it will be necessary for you to have all the Drs. publications before you so as to compare them together & show them contradictious as well as fals. You will therefore want his pamphlet which I have in my possession & which I was wishing to take to the conference with me. So that if you should particularly want it, you will let me know & I will send it to you. I would advise you to scratch the Dr. a little annomously but in such a way as to prevent their knowing who the author is, but be carefull to leave [seal] as not to cramp yourself when you are prepared to attack him more seriously & effectually. Before you attempt a serious you ought to possess the report of the committee[24] & all the testimony on the subject. This will be printed in about four or five weeks when you will be able to get a coppy from Br. Lions.[25]

Yours in great haste,

W. Ryerson


P.S. Write before I start for conference & let me know your own & every boddys else opinion about our affairs, etc.

May 18, 1828, John Ryerson, Pittsburgh, to Rev. Egerton Ryerson, Hamilton, District of Newcastle, Upper Canada.

My dear Brother:

I should of writen to you before, but I have been working for the decision of the conference in relation to Canada affaires. About four dayes after the commencement of the C. there was a committee of five persons appointed on the C—— question (Dr. Bangs was the President). The committee reported last Thursday pointedly against the seperation declaring in their opinion to be unconstitutional. Dr. B—— after having sind the report, introduced the business to the conference by a long speach against the seperation. Wm. & myself replyed to him pointedly & at lenth, & we were supported by Fisk & Luckey. Dr. Bangs was suported by Hening, Linsey, etc., etc. The matter was debated with astonishing ability & deep felt interest on both sides for two days, when the question being put, there were in favour of the seperation 105 & against it 43, a majority on our side of 62. Our kind friends were much delighted & highly gratified at our singular & remarkable triumph & those who have opposed us treat us with a great deal of respect and affection. You will doubtless be surprised on hearing of Dr. B—— opposing us as he has done, but you are not more surprised & astonished than what we were & we had no knowledge of his opposition to the seperation until the morning that the debates when he got up & commenced his speach in the conference, but Blessed be God for ever. Amidst all the painful & trying scenes through which we have passed in this conflicting business, the God of David has stood by us & has given us a desided victory.

You doubtless will now enquire whom we will select for a Bishop; to this I would reply that we are to have an interview with Bishops George & Hedding to morrow or next day to secure their avise, etc. on this subject. It is uncertain who will be elected. We have thought of several but it is useless now to mention any of them.[26] The C—— will close its session 24 inst, when I will write you the particulars as also a reply to the queries of your last kind letter, that I received by Mr. Chamberlain. We are all well & the business of C—— is going on tolerably well. The reform[27] has entirely failed—it was lost in the C—— by a majority of 25. I am, my dr. E., your affectionate Bro.


Thus was concluded, with complete agreement and all good will, a question which had been at issue for five years. The documents as preserved by Bangs, Playter and Webster afford refreshing relief from the disputes of the same year carried on in the name of religion in Upper Canada. Here we see dignity and statesmanship and desire to serve; there a struggle for place and power and revenues.

In furtherance of the proposal for complete separation mooted at the General Conference at Baltimore in 1824,[28] in August of that year the Canadian Conference had drawn up a memorial for presentation to the seventeen other annual conferences. The argument of the memorial appears under five heads in as many paragraphs, but may be resolved into three contentions: the difficulty of particular and immediate oversight of the work on the Canadian circuits by bishops residing at a distance; the dislocation of the work which would be caused by another war between the two countries; and the objections raised in government circles to the Methodist ministry as coming from the United States, resulting in the denial of certain privileges in respect of performing the marriage ceremony and the holding of property. The memorial lays no emphasis, nor indeed does it mention, such minor matters of dispute among the circuits as the mode of electing elders or the inclusion of laymen in the conference. It is clear that the difficulty was not in the least doctrinal nor in the main administrative; in the last analysis it was political and arose from the fact that the connection of the Canadian preachers with a United States conference and their ordination by United States bishops was being used by the governing party to discredit them, to deny them privileges enjoyed by other denominations, and to foment disunion amongst themselves.

Between 1824 and 1828 this memorial had been considered by all the annual conferences. A committee of the General Conference, with Dr. Bangs as chairman, reported against the petition. The ground taken by the committee and Dr. Bangs in introducing the report was purely constitutional: the General Conference was under obligation as a delegated body to preserve the union entire. But there was a desire in some way to meet “that which the Canada brethren so earnestly requested, and for which they pleaded with much zeal, and even with most pathetic appeals to our sympathies”.[29] It was Bishop Emory who found the way—typically American in its technicality—and brought to a happy and harmonious issue the two days’ debate. He pointed out that in the first missionary enterprise to Canada Bishop Asbury had called for volunteers, and that this had continued to be the practice with preachers to Canada, while in the United States the bishops claimed the right to designate preachers to circuits. This gave a voluntary character to the Canada conference, and tended to make the contract voluntary and conditional; and since it appeared that the Canadians were no longer willing to accept such help and superintendence from abroad, they had a perfect right to request and receive the withdrawal of these services. This opinion was contested, but the vote was decisive, 105 to 43 in a conference of 170 delegates.

The minute of separation contains three clauses: the first providing for the means of separation by vote of the Canada conference; the second instructing the delegate from the General Conference to the next annual British Wesleyan Conference to express the earnest and affectionate desire that the arrangement of 1820 as to missionaries to Canada from the latter body be preserved; and the third, granting to “brethren and friends, ministers or others” in Upper Canada access to any of the Conference books or periodical publications on the same terms as given in the United States, and a share in the dividends from the “Book Concern”, the Methodist publishing house in New York, as long as it should be patronized by them.

The entire good will with which the relations of almost forty years were severed, as attested in John Ryerson’s letter of May 18th, is further revealed by these last two clauses. The parent conference is prepared to give such assistance, financial and in respect of a delicate problem with their British brethren, as lies in its power. How the British Conference responded to this magnanimity will presently appear.

In the meantime, as his brother William had urged, Ryerson had taken issue with Strachan. In a careful series of eight letters, over his own name, he assailed along its whole front the Compact position in matters of religion and education. As guardians of the Simcoe tradition, Strachan and those who saw with him had sought to rear in Upper Canada a social system which like the constitution should be the “exact image and transcript” of that of England. In religion, all should defer to an Established Church, and contribute to its support; in education, a few well-placed Grammar Schools, and at the capital a preparatory College and a University, should produce the men to maintain the system. But already the people of Upper Canada were objecting to being pressed in any such mould. Realizing that, under the Constitution of 1791, the issue would be determined in England rather than in Canada, Strachan had crossed the Atlantic in the spring of 1826. He remained in England till mid-summer, 1827, negotiating with the government, with officials of the Church of Scotland, and also, it may be added, with the British Wesleyans. On March 15th he secured a Charter for the University, to be known as King’s College. While more liberal than those of the two ancient English universities, the charter required all professors to subscribe to the Thirty-nine Articles and to teach under the Governor, as Chancellor, and Strachan, as Principal, the veto power over all ordinances of the Council being in the hands of the Bishop of Quebec.

In April Lord Liverpool’s ministry fell, and Bathurst was succeeded by Goderich as Colonial Secretary. Strachan thought it well to place his views in writing before the new administration. This he did in a letter dated May 16, 1827, to the Under Secretary, the Honourable R. W. Horton—afterwards described by himself as “hastily prepared”. Once more he sought to make good the claims of his own Church by disparaging others. With the letter he transmitted an “Ecclesiastical Chart”, giving statistical information as to the religious facilities of the province and specifying the number and location of the clergymen of the Church of England and the ministers of both the Independent Presbyterians and the Kirk. At the end of the Chart appears this sentence:

As the Methodists have no Settled Clergymen, it has been found difficult to ascertain the number of Itinerants employed; but it is presumed to be considerable, perhaps from twenty to thirty in the whole Province. One from England settled at Kingston, appears to be a very superior person. The other denominations have very few teachers and those seemingly very ignorant. One of the two remaining Clergymen in communion with the Church of Scotland has applied to be admitted into the Established Church.[30]

In the autumn all this became known in Canada. Quite to Strachan’s surprise the House of Commons had ordered the printing of the Horton letter as a public document. It was published in the Quebec Gazette whence it was copied in the Colonial Advocate of September 20th, together with the obnoxious terms of the University Charter. Angry protests at once arose from Presbyterians, Baptists and Methodists. The palpable inaccuracies of both letter and chart were fully exposed. A more deliberate statement which Strachan had printed in pamphlet form while in London[31] did not improve matters. It reiterated, though in modified terms, the implication of disloyalty contained in the Horton letter, as follows:

Indeed the teachers of all other denominations, with the exception of the two ministers of the Church of Scotland, four Congregationalists, and a very respectable English missionary who presides over a congregation of Wesleyan Methodists at Kingston, are for the most part from the United States. This is notoriously the case with the Methodist teachers who, next to the Established Church, are decidedly the most numerous and who are subject to the orders of the Conference in the United States of America.

Finally on March 6, 1828, in the congenial atmosphere of the Legislative Council, Strachan expounded and exposed his whole policy. The Speaker of the Council wrote him a flattering letter the next day, conveying a resolution requesting publication of the speech, the Council having voted for it “nemine contradicente”. Strachan expressed his pleasure in “complying with commands so agreeable”. But it is doubtful if he ever committed a graver blunder than the publication of this speech. It is difficult to imagine what he could have hoped to gain. Possibly he feared that the repeated attacks in the Canadian press, and the attitude of Stanley and others in the House of Commons, were beginning to tell even in the Legislative Council and he felt that something must be done to sustain their morale. Indeed in the course of the speech he refers to the effect of the Horton letter in these terms:

Its publication was immediately followed by a torrent of abuse altogether incredible. Had this abuse been confined to a certain party, now too well known in this province, I should not have been surprised, because, to their censure I have long been accustomed; and I trust, that it has been the study of my life to deserve it. But I was somewhat mortified to find some of whom I had argued better things joining in the cry.

Later he refers to the editor of the Gore Gazette as one of the very few editors who during the clamour had treated him with common civility, and he concludes in this sentence:

I am anxious to retain the good opinion of those who know me best, and with whom I have acted for so many years, and I feel proudly conscious that I deserve the friendship and esteem of all honorable men, and the approbation of the whole Province.

Doubtless he succeeded in rallying his immediate audience to his support. The general circulation of his speech, however, merely added to the exasperation, and offered a rather easy target to able opponents.

The speech begins with a review of certain negotiations with the Colonial Office in reference to the Clergy Reserves, and describes his efforts during two visits to London to secure a more advantageous use of these lands, and his partial success in the bill of 1827. He then proceeds to discuss the Chart and to make light of its errors, admitting that it would have been better, in view of the incompleteness of his information, had he confined himself to the Church of England and the Kirk of Scotland. He defends himself on the ground that the other bodies had never given any authentic account of themselves. He professes himself by no means hostile to the Kirk or the Roman Catholic Church, since the one is established in one section of the Empire and the other in a sister province. He contends that the Kirk has no legal right to the Reserves; still he has been prepared to forward their claim for assistance. Towards the end of the speech, which impresses one as somewhat rambling and discursive, he turns to a personal defence. He states that this is the first public notice he has ever taken of the discussion in Canada, but concedes “the necessity of refuting calumnies the most gross and statements the most incorrect”. Dealing with the accusation that he is an apostate from the Kirk, he explains how as a lad in Scotland he had often gone with his father to hear Bishop Skinner. He is bitter in his denunciation of the person responsible for the publication after twenty-five years of a letter to a friend in Montreal in which (while tutor to Cartwright’s children) he had made inquiries about an opening in the Presbyterian Church there. He concludes with the emphatic statement that the Church of England is, by law, the established Church in the province and the Charter of the University the most liberal ever granted.

William Ryerson was not far wide of the mark when he described it as a pitiful thing.[32] The evidence of the speech itself points clearly to the fact that personal criticism had at last penetrated Strachan’s imperturbability. It may have been as much as anything the story that was going the rounds and that the busy mind of Mackenzie had seized upon for the Advocate—how Strachan had met in the streets of York the sturdy William Jenkins, minister and farmer from Markham, an old neighbour in Scotland who knew his youth and his Presbyterian origin, and how Strachan had noted and commented on the shabby coat of the Presbyterian divine; “Ah weel, Jock,” the latter had replied, “I hae na turned it yet.”

But the trouble lay deeper than this. Already the ground was slipping beneath his feet. In less than six months his position was to be revealed as untenable in Canada by the report of the Select Committee of the Legislative Assembly and by the thorough letters of Egerton Ryerson; while in England, the Select Committee of the House of Commons was to report against his exclusive theories and to note the inaccuracy of his statements. In fact, the only hope for the future—and before the end of the year Strachan must have realized it—lay in a return to his earlier policy of negotiating privately with individuals.

Ryerson’s eight letters appeared in the Upper Canada Herald, published by H. C. Thomson, M.P., of Kingston, himself an Anglican, during and after the election campaign; almost simultaneously they appeared in the Advocate.[33] The immaturity noted in the Reviewer’s letter of 1826 is no longer in evidence. The range of argument is wide, the authorities quoted numerous and weighty, and the logic exact and convincing. Considering the age and the continent, Egerton has measurably well observed William’s advice as to tone; generally speaking, he has endeavoured to write in a “mild and sweet”, if “candid” style. Only when he is dealing with the aspersions on the Methodists and the selfishness of the terms of the University Charter does he permit himself to slip into the biting sarcasm and denunciation noticeable in his first encounter with Strachan and characteristic of the press of Upper Canada at the time. Indeed these eight letters rank high amongst the fruits of Ryerson’s mind and pen. How he contrived to compose them, while preaching from twenty to thirty times a month and travelling one of the hardest of the circuits, with no access to libraries and little to kindred minds, is something which may well excite wonder and admiration. He himself tells us that they were largely thought out on horseback, and we may infer that his saddle bags during these months bore the additional weight of the essential documents. And when he returned to headquarters at John McCarty’s, he would have at his elbow his little library of historical and philosophical works, and especially his beloved Paley. William Smith has no doubts as to the effectiveness of this second great literary venture of Ryerson, “who by his controversial skill shattered Strachan’s immediate defence, and by clinging to his flank eventually overthrew the plans of a lifetime”.[34] By a strange lapse Hodgins entirely overlooks the whole affair.

The first three letters are more or less introductory and remain in the suburbs of the fundamental issue. In the first he explains the imperious obligations which are laid upon him to enter the controversy. He refers to Solon’s law of stasis which inflicted capital punishment on the citizen who remained neutral in an issue of importance to the state. Certainly he could not, without shame, remain silent with such a challenge as this. He has no personal feelings in the matter, and nothing but profound veneration for the Church of England, but “he conceives it for the public good that the gross errors both as to fact and principles should be detected and exposed”. Strachan had pleaded the support of the whole Legislative Council and the sanction of his own conscience. Ryerson calls attention to the evidence given by certain Councillors before the Select Committee of the Assembly as disproving their unanimity. In any case in such matters the individual conscience must yield to the public conscience, since civil authority is founded on general opinion. Then, by selecting contradictory statements from his published appeals, he permits Strachan to confound his own arguments. Strachan had scored rather neatly by referring to the projected separation of the Canadian from the American conference and expressing gratification that the Methodists had acted in accordance with his advice. Ryerson points out that it is more than four years since the Canadian Conference had set on foot the move for separation, and meeting thrust with thrust, he calls on Strachan to point out just where and when he gave the advice. “If there is any such advice in existence, I fear it is amongst the sealed papers of the Privy Council.” He contradicts the statement that the Methodists have always shown hostility to the Church of England, and calls attention to the opening of Methodist Chapels to Church of England services—a courtesy never reciprocated. He places the evidence of fifty witnesses before the Committee of the Legislative Assembly against Strachan’s varying statements as to the origin and loyalty of Methodist preachers. He notes that the tactics employed by Strachan of complimenting the Wesleyan Methodist missionaries, as opposed to the Episcopal Methodists, are as old as Persian diplomacy in Greece and as fresh as Sidmouthe’s attempt to divide the dissenters in 1811.

But this is all more or less by way of clearing the ground. In the fourth and three succeeding letters he comes to the root of the matter. The whole question of church establishment is reviewed. Is establishment in the interests either of the state or of the church, or is it at once a divisive principle, inimical to political freedom, and a weakening and corrupting influence “fatal to the spirituality of Christ’s simple and unassuming religion”? To support this latter view he appeals to the lessons of history and the works of several clerical authorities. He next undertakes to prove that the Church of England is not the “Established Church” of Canada, as Strachan had always contended. He argues that the term “a Protestant Clergy”, of 31 George III, 36, cannot rightly be interpreted as referring exclusively to the Church of England. The fact that the Church of England is specifically mentioned in the clause dealing with rectories, and the use of the phrase “any Minister, Priest, Ecclesiastic or Teacher according to any religious form and mode of worship” elsewhere in the Constitutional Act, are regarded as conclusive evidence that its framers did not intend to “establish” the Church of England or endow it exclusively with the Reserves.[35]

The Church of England, then, was not “established” in Canada. Nor ought it to be established, and this on several grounds. Its members were comparatively few, and its progress was surprisingly slow in spite of the privileges and endowments it had enjoyed. Strachan had stated that the Church of England had no special privileges. Ryerson exclaims:

How can you say so, sir . . . when you have been refusing year after year to sanction a Bill passed as often by a large majority of the House of Assembly to allow the clergy of other denominations to marry . . . when you have been throwing under the table a Bill passed session after session by the House of Assembly authorizing different denominations to hold lands on which they might build their parsonages, erect their churches and in which they could bury their dead?

Indeed establishment would be a disservice to the Church itself; avarice and pride and sloth tend to fasten on a favoured church. The seventh letter concludes with an eloquent description of what Canada will become when religion shall really flourish there. “Yea, happy is the people whose God is the Lord.”

The eighth letter is confined to a discussion of the University. It begins with a paragraph on the effects of the general diffusion of education and the need of such in Canada—Ryerson’s first glimpse of his future field. His Majesty, he noted, had designed a University which would “conduce to the general welfare of the Province”; through misrepresentations on the part of Strachan, His Majesty’s advisors had set up the framework of a University which was bound to fail of this noble purpose. The terms of its Charter had met with almost universal disapproval in Canada. The governing body and professors had been restricted to those who subscribed to the Thirty-nine Articles, and its main purpose as conceived by Strachan was to educate missionaries for the Church of England and to proselytize the inhabitants of the province to that church. The attempt to transplant to Canada the Oxford and Cambridge tradition, with their appeal to the wealthy classes and their exclusion of dissenters, was contrasted with the Scotch system founded by their own parliament and suited to their own conditions.

The letters conclude:

While as a public man, pursuing your present measures, I feel myself in duty bound decidedly to differ from you; as a private individual, I entreat the smiles of Heaven upon yourself and family. With some of the clergymen and many exemplary and highly respectable members of your church, I have the pleasure of a personal acquaintance, and am happy to call them my friends; and it is my sincere prayer to Almighty God, that all our errors and improprieties may be corrected and forgiven, and that it may be your and my portion, and that of all with whom we may be respectively blended in church fellowship, to be enabled to say at our approaching departure—“I have fought the good fight, I have kept the faith, and henceforth there is a crown of life laid up for me, which the Lord the Righteous Judge shall give me in that day.”

I have the honour to be,

Rev. Sir, Your Humble Servant,

Egerton Ryerson

Case, Vol. III, p. 108.

S.M.L., p. 69.

See p. 67.

S.M.L., p. 67.

S.M.L., p. 69.

Ibid., p. 69.

S.M.L., p. 80.

Case, Vol. III, p. 192.

See p. 34.

Case, Vol. III, p. 192.

John Jones was the older brother of Peter Jones and had been trained by his father as a surveyor. At this time he was employed in teaching the village school. The conversion of Peter Jones in 1823 was an event of considerable importance in the history of Indian Missions in Canada. He was born at Burlington on January 1, 1802. He had been brought up by his mother and had lived the life of an Indian boy until, at the age of fourteen, he was sent to a school by his father. At the age of twenty, at his father’s request, he was baptized by the Rev. Ralph Leeming of Ancaster, a clergyman of the Church of England, but continued, so he tells us, “the same wild Indian youth as before”. (Case, Vol. II, p. 409.) He was converted, along with a half-sister, at the Camp Meeting at Ancaster in 1823. Then began an interesting and romantic career, recorded after 1825 in his Journal. In the course of his visits to England on behalf of his people, he was much honoured and fêted. A graphic account of his audience with Queen Victoria has been preserved both by himself and by Carroll.

Thomas Vaux conducted a school at York. The following year we find Carroll, who had given up his school at Scarboro, studying with him. At this time he was a Methodist, interested in Sunday Schools, the Temperance movement, and liberal policies. Later he went over to the Irvingites.

The Cazenovia Seminary, in New York State, in lieu of suitable facilities for higher education in Upper Canada, was much frequented by young Methodists of ambition.

S.M.L., p. 86.

In November of the same year Anson Green was married by the Rev. Ralph Leeming of the Church of England at Ancaster. Green records that Mr. Leeming handed him back the fee, assuring him that he would much rather be considered a brother than a hireling. Green’s wife was a daughter of Caleb Hopkins of Nelson, later member of the Assembly, so that they would have to travel even farther than the Ryersons for the ceremony. At that time the right to marry was still denied Methodist preachers. Strachan discusses the question in the letter to Dr. Hamilton above quoted in part (p. 14). Evidently local preachers with a stake in the community were regarded by him as more worthy of the privilege than were the ordained itinerants “subject to” the American Conference.

This letter is one of those found in the beautifully bound book of Presidents of Conference, compiled by the Hon. James Ferrier of Montreal. It contains in the case of each president a photograph, the important dates of his life, and one or more letters written by him. Apparently most of the letters were supplied Ferrier by Hodgins from this collection. The volume is in the library of Victoria University.

The Select Committee of the House of Assembly of 1828, under the chairmanship of M. S. Bidwell. Of a committee of five, two were members of the Church of England, one a Presbyterian, one a Methodist, and one a Unitarian. Fifty-two witnesses were summoned. The report of the committee runs to some four thousand words. The findings on the place of the Methodists in the life of Upper Canada must have been gratifying to the members of that body:

“To the disinterested and indefatigable exertions of these pious men this Province owes much. . . . Their influence and instruction, far from having (as is represented in his letter) a tendency hostile to our institutions, have been conducive, in a degree which cannot easily be estimated, to the reformation of their hearers from licentiousness and the diffusion of correct morals, the foundation of all sound loyalty and social order . . .”

Accepting the findings of the Committee, the House expressed in a petition to His Majesty, its surprise and regret at Dr. Strachan’s letter and Chart; its belief that any apprehension of a design on His Majesty’s part to establish any one church would cause grief and alarm; its desire for the cancellation of the University Charter, and for the setting apart of money from the sale of the Clergy Reserves for education and local improvements long delayed through lack of funds.

The John McCarty here referred to was a man of some standing in the community and a pillar of Methodism in the Cobourg district. He later appears as one of the Committee of the Upper Canada Academy. At this time he was largely responsible for the erection of the school at Rice Lake. It would appear that Ryerson made McCarty’s home his headquarters on this circuit. His father has been described by Burwash (Egerton Ryerson—Makers of Canada Series, p. 40) as the “martyr of early Canadian Methodism”, having been banished for persistence in preaching and drowned in the St. Lawrence. The whole story of the elder McCarty’s disappearance well illustrates the difficulties which confront the student of Canadian history. There can be little doubt that the Charles Justin McCarthy of the court records, “the vagabond impostor and disturber of the peace”, and James McCarty, the Whitefield Methodist, are one and the same person. The sentence to banishment is also beyond question, as well as the rough justice of early days and official hostility to Methodists. The exact fate which befell him and the cause and manner of his disappearance must remain a matter of doubt. John McCarty, at all events, was unable to establish a settled tradition as to the end of his father. A documented discussion of the whole incident will be found in Vol. IV, pp. 12-18, of The Canadian Journal of Religious Thought—The Martyrdom of McCarty, Fact or Myth, C. B. Sissons.

During the previous year a school had been built at Rice Lake, and a young man, Hamilton Biggar, had begun his work as teacher on November 13th. He is described by Carroll as a well-educated, pious young man trained at the district school at Cobourg. The next year we find him on a circuit and succeeded as master of the school by James Evans, who was later to become famous as the translator of the Gospel into Cree. Biggar remained in the active ministry till 1854. The name Hamilton Biggar will remain green in the memory of the heirs and successors of Methodism in Canada through the benefactions of his son, the late Dr. Hamilton Fisk Biggar of Cleveland, whose generous scholarships enable several students each year to pursue their studies at Victoria College.

Ebenezer Perry, a prominent business man and Methodist in the Newcastle district.

This was the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, which in 1828 met at Pittsburgh. In addition to the four delegates of the Canada Conference mentioned here, there was a fifth, Samuel Belton.

Already steamers were being operated on the Great Lakes. In October of this year Anson Green, in returning to York from the Conference at Ernestown, had his first ride on a steamboat, the Niagara, an old schooner fitted up with an engine and plying between Prescott and Niagara. The lake was so rough and Green so sick that he wished he were in his saddle again.

A Speech of the Venerable John Strachan, D.D., Archdeacon of York, in the Legislative Council, Thursday, sixth March 1828, on the subject of the Clergy Reserves. Published by request, York, U.C. Printed by Robert Stanton. (See p. 83.)

Report of the Select Committee to which was referred the Petition of Bulkley Waters and others, and other petitions from Christians of various denominations, on the same subject. (See p. 73.)

James Lyons, member for Northumberland. (See p. 66.)

A Bishop was never appointed, and the Canadian church remained episcopal only in name. The term “General Superintendent” was used to designate the executive head of the new Canadian body. Rev. Wilbur Fisk, A.M., Principal of the Wilbraham Academy, was asked to accept the position of General Superintendent, and others also were approached. Case was chosen President of the Conference, pro tempore, and Superintendent of all the Indian Missions of the province. It would appear, then, that the new body took a turn decidedly democratic (if a word so abhorrent to many of them may be used) and agreed to entrust the direction of their affairs not to a Bishop, or even to a General Superintendent, but to an annually elected President. The decision, however, appears to have escaped notice or comment in the records.

This: probably refers to what Clark (Life and Times of Rev. Elijah Hedding, D.D., p. 352) calls the “radical” movement, which commenced as early as 1820 and aimed at reducing the power of the bishops and introducing lay delegates to the conferences.

See p. 51.

Dr. Nathan Bangs: History of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Vol. III, p. 391.

The evidence of Ryerson before the Select Committee of the House of Assembly on this point was as follows:

“This is incorrect, for the methodists have 71 local or settled clergymen, and 46 itinerants employed in the province, and as the methodists have annually, for more than 50 years, published minutes which contain the names, stations, and numbers of itinerants employed, together with the number of members belonging to the Methodist church, and as these minutes may be had of any itinerant in the province, it could not have been difficult to have ascertained the number of itinerants employed by the methodists. . . .

“According to a chart of the baptist church founded upon the authority of 2 baptist clergymen, there are 45 baptist clergymen in the province; with several of these I have conversed, and although they may be ignorant of political intrigues, they are as well acquainted with the truth, doctrine and duties of the bible, as the clergymen of the church of England.”

Observations on the provision made for the maintenance of a Protestant Clergy, etc. Printed by R. Gilbert, St. John’s Square, 1827.

P. 76.

These letters were reprinted at the Herald office in a pamphlet of 232 pages entitled Claims of Churchmen and Dissenters of Upper Canada brought to the test in a Controversy between several members of the Church of England and a Methodist Preacher. The pamphlet included extracts from Strachan’s sermon of 1825, the Reviewer’s reply, and a series of anonymously published letters between Ryerson and two champions of the Church of England.

William Smith: Political Leaders of Upper Canada, p. 172.

It is an interesting fact that while Ryerson was writing this legal argument the Committee of the House of Commons, having examined an imposing array of witnesses including George Ryerson and William Hamilton Merritt from Upper Canada, was framing its report which included a finding to the same effect.



September 1828 to August 1829

The Conference of 1828 met during the first week of September in the old Switzer Chapel at Ernestown. Its business was conducted with unanimity and despatch. And the business was no less than the setting up of a separate Methodist Episcopal Church in Canada. Bishop Elijah Hedding attended and presided till the resolutions of separation were passed. Then he vacated the chair, but was prevailed upon to continue throughout the sessions. The terms of separation agreed upon at Pittsburgh were ratified. In addition, concessions were made to the “democratic” movement in the church in two important respects. No new regulation respecting “temporal economy” could be of effect without the consent of two-thirds of the Quarterly Meetings, consisting of laymen, and no preacher had the right to appoint a leader to a class without the consent of the members.

Ryan hovered about the Conference but was not, so Carroll thinks, admitted to its sessions. A publicity committee, of which Egerton Ryerson was a member, was appointed in connection with his campaign against the Conference. Case was made President pro tempore, and William Ryerson took his place as Presiding Elder to range the Bay of Quinte District. Franklin Metcalf took over the York circuit. John remained Presiding Elder of the Niagara District. Egerton was transferred along with his Superintendent—an unusual procedure—to the excellent Ancaster circuit, there to spend the first busy but comparatively uneventful year of his married life. George was received on trial, and placed with Case and Richardson on an important committee, whose duty it was to keep in touch with the British Conference with a view to the maintenance of the arrangement of 1820. Carroll remarks on the fact that such a duty should have been assigned to a neophyte, but cannot find that the committee did anything. Perhaps the reference to Mr. Reece in Case’s letter of March 19th[1] may be regarded as evidence to the contrary. Other candidates received on trial, whose names will again appear, were William Smith, John Beatty, Ephraim Evans and Hamilton Biggar. The Rev. Andrew Prindle, who since 1817 had travelled the Genesee Conference, now transferred to his native province, but was placed on the superannuated list. However, the death of William Slater during the year brought him into the active work to assist Ryerson on the Ancaster circuit. The number of members returned was 9,678 of whom 915 were Indians. Thus the Canadian church started its independent career with a membership just under 10,000. The rapid increase in numbers for a few years, then the significant stay and decline, will be noted in due course.

The Conference created precedent and signalized its changed status by framing a resolution to the new Governor, Sir John Colborne, who had succeeded Sir Peregrine Maitland. Amidst merely complimentary phrases it called attention to the fact that it was “unconnected with the civil and ecclesiastical authority of any other country”. While describing His Majesty’s Government in Canada as “mild and beneficent”, it ventured to refer to civil and religious liberties as “the strongest bonds of perpetual union between this Colony and the Mother Country”. Sir John’s reply was equally complimentary. He referred to the zeal and pious sentiments of the preachers labouring “in a colony where the temptations are many, the pastors few”.

October 27, 1828, H. C. Thomson, Kingston, to Rev. Egerton Ryerson.

My dear Sir:

I know not how to apologize to you for the delay which has taken place in the publication of the Controversy.[2] Immediately after I last wrote to you, one of my men absconded and another was seized with an illness that has deprived me entirely of his services. Unfortunately their places cannot be supplied at present, and I am therefore greatly embarrassed. Nearly 100 pages of the work are finished, and I think there will be at least 100 more. All possible diligence shall be used to get the Book completed at an early period.

Permit me to congratulate you on your marriage, and believe me,

Sincerely yours,

H. C. Thomson.

November 17, 1828, William Case, Cobourg, to Rev. Egerton Ryerson, John Ryerson, William Slater, Hamilton, District of Gore.

Dear Brethren

I again write you to say that information is received by Bro. Evens who has just come up to his circuit that Mr. Ryan is again proceeding in his work of stirring up the feelings of the people to discontent and division. His plan is said to be that of inducing Brethren & others to appt. delegates in different places who are to meet at Hallowell in January or sooner, to inquire into the affairs of Mr. R. and all who have any thing to say to his charge are there to appear & present them. Similar meetings are to be called in your part and a similar judicature formed & their proceedings forwarded to the Hallowell meeting. . . .

His manner is to complain of the Conference, that they refuse to do him justice and that he can get no hearing. At Kingston a considerable portion of the society were for defering proceedings till they should hear the other side of the question, which they understood was soon to be published to the societies. “What can they publish, nothing contrary to what I have here”, alluding to the paper our secretary gave him. “If they publish I will publish”, and added further, “I have worn myself out in the Church, I now throw myself on their protection; if they will cast me out to the world, I must be cast off”. This again awakened their sympathies & they renewed their exertions and appted delegates as above.

These meetings have been got up in great haste & before the preachers had time to get on their circuits or the people time to consider what they were doing or what the consequences, for many of them have no idea that a division is intended. But at Kingston he openly avowed his purpose. He said, “I have declared that I would never head a party, but I have never said I would not preach for a party. I now perceive there will be a division, and I will go with my friends”. . . .

As Bro. Egerton is one of the Committee for publishing the proceedings of Conference relative to Mr. Ryan, I hope he will assist Bro. Richardson to complete it without delay, & have it published & circulated as soon as may be. Perhaps the printing by McKenzie under the inspection of Bro. Metcalf.

I would suggest that the circular go to shew that the Conference, as far as they have had evidence have laboured in every instance to do justice to Mr. Ryan, and even to afford him greater lenity on account of former standing than perhaps the Discipline of the Church would justify. In proof of this statement shew the indulgent manner of their passing over the statements he made on his return from the Genl Conference.

2. The attention which was paid to his numerous charges against Bros. Madden & Culp.

3. The course pursued by the Hamilton Conference of 1827 as suggested in my last, not forgetting to mention the names of & the circumstances of the appt of the Committee (to take into consideration any grievances which Bro. Ryan may have against the Conference or any individual of the Conference) and not forgetting to mention, that Mr. R. objected to his case being left to be examined by a Committee “because it would deprive him of an appeal to the next Genl Conf.” And that after his trial instead of applying for an appeal, he chose rather to withdraw from the Church. Instead of availing himself of the advantages of an appeal to a body who could have no motive but justice, assembled from every part of the Church, he has chose to take an unprecedented one & contrary to all order of Discipline.

4. The inconsistency of his late proposals etc. etc., not forgetting that in them, there is no wish expressed to return to the fellowship of his Brethren.

Affectionate caution against division, shewing the fate & consequences of parties in christian society, etc. etc.

Respectfully yours in Christ,

W. Case


P.S. I think to visit Brockville & below this week and may write you from thence to Hamilton.


P.S. I would advise Bro. Slater to say nothing more on this subject on his circuit than advise to defer proceedings till they have the whole subject before them. If he attempts to take any part in the matter his opponents will take advantage of the manner of his expressing himself on the subject. This advice is affectionately given.

The first of the two conventions of Ryan’s friends was held on the Ancaster circuit at Copetown. Acting on instructions from Case, John and Egerton attended the convention during the whole eight days of its sitting and “allowed no allegations or statements of an injurious or false character against the Conference or preachers to pass unexamined”.[3] The convention was presided over by Hugh Willson of Saltfleet, brother of John Willson, late Speaker of the House of Assembly, and an admirer of Ryan. The secretary was Ebenezer Griffin of Waterdown, son of Smith Griffin, the donor of Ryerson’s first horse, and father of Rev. Dr. W. S. Griffin whose ready wit and skill in debate is still a pleasant memory amongst the older Methodists. Ebenezer Griffin was a prominent business man of those days and an owner of mills at Waterdown, but he devoted the whole eight days to the convention. At the end of it all, the convention decided unanimously against Ryan and in favour of the Conference. With a copy of the decision Ryerson rode post-haste through the winter night to York. He left about nine o’clock at night and reached York the next morning about eight. “When Mr. Case read the decision of the Convention”, Ryerson wrote some fifty years later, “he was greatly affected and thanked God, with many tears, for His Providence and goodness to His servants.”[4]

Fully expecting that Franklin Metcalf would represent the Conference at Ryan’s next convention about to meet at Hallowell, Ryerson went to bed quite worn out by the eight days of worry and the night’s ride. When he awoke in the afternoon he found that his horse had been shod and he was commanded to go to Hallowell and face Ryan again, and without the aid of his trusted brother. He felt his lot to be hard, but obeyed. Arriving in Hallowell he was compelled to argue for nine whole days. For the first four or five days both his arguments and himself received scant courtesy from Ryan and his followers, largely Irishmen. In the end, however, he was able to secure a unanimous verdict for the Conference. Thereafter Ryan contrived to organize congregations on a few circuits and to provide them with preachers. Only two of the members of Conference, however, joined him in revolt. These were James Jackson and Isaac Smith, neither at the time on circuits, and the latter Ryan’s son-in-law.

November 28, 1828, H. C. Thomson, Kingston to Rev. E. Ryerson, Hamilton, Gore District.

My dear Sir,

Yours of the 18th came duly to hand, and in reply I beg to state that your former letter was answered early in the month, and the Herald has since been regularly forwarded to Ancaster. In future, it shall be sent to Hamilton.[5]

I am really ashamed that it is not in my power to give you more satisfactory information respecting the Book. It lingers in the Press merely for the want of workmen, who cannot be procured in this place. To fix a time for its completion I dare not, but be assured that all possible diligence will be used. I think it will exceed 200 pages, and the immense quantity of press work makes it a heavey job.

The changes which have recently taken place in the two Provinces cannot fail to gratify every lover of his country, though the “Tools of power” will no doubt hang their heads in sullen silence. I am highly pleased with the Methodist Ministers’ Address, and the reply thereto—Strachanism must seek a more congenial climate!

In haste,

Yours truly,

H. C. Thomson

December 11, 1828, J. S. Howard[6], York, to The Rev.’d E. Ryerson, Hamilton.

My dear Sir

Perhaps you are not aware that a lot of ground has been purchased here for the avowed purpose of building a Wesleyan Missionary Meeting house and I understand that subscriptions are now gathering. Indeed, Mr. Baldwin[7] informed me that Mr. Fenton[8] had said in their shop that it was the case as the Society here was still in connection with the U. States and that a Bishop was sent for to that country. I understand, (but not from a very authentic source) that Mr. Wenham, John Gamble & John Mourse have subscribed fifty dollars a year. I write you these few lines, in great haste, in order that you may use such measures as you conceive to be necessary to counteract so vile a proceeding, for I can view it in no other light. I wish very much however that the office of Bishop may be dispensed with and that things may remain as they are.

What do you think of an appeal being sent home against it, signed by our Society and others here, and backed by a letter from your brother George.

Ever Yours,

J. S. Howard

January 2, 1829, John Ryerson, London, to Rev. Egerton Ryerson, Hamilton, Gore District.

My dr Brother

I came here yesterday & have been freazing ever since, yet in the midst of my sufferings I cannot deny myself the pleasure of writing you a line. The day I left you I did not get any further than to Shavers.[9] The next day I wrode to Oxford (52 miles) & preached in the evening after which I gave an explanation of Ryan’s case an hour & a half long. He had got two delegates elected but I succeeded in entirely over throwing it & the delegates & friends expressed themselves as muched oblidged & as fealing very thankful that I had taken the pains to give them so ful an account of the affare. How I shall succeed in other places I cannot say. The preachers appear to be entirely impotant in withstanding the old mans endevours. I think he has got delegates elected in most of the neabourhoods he has visited; he has went up no higher than Wesminster & he has not come on this Ct for he new if he had that there were some intelegent friends who would entirely defeat him. . . . My Dr. Br. this is a desperate strugle. I am using every posable exertion to defeat the old man. I go from house to house to see those friends whom I do not see at the meetings. Could you not go to Burford to see Bro. M. I shall not be able to see him. I am shure if you were to see him you would entirely convince him; it is important this be done as he has a great deal of influence in Burford & the Governs Road, etc. etc. Egerton by all means try & go & go as soon as you can. If you should have to neglect appointments no matter for that. I know it is hard for you but I [am] shure the approbation of your conscience & the approbation of church will afford you an ample reward. I think it will be necessary for you to keep a look out about Ancaster lest the old fellow get them together there again. Write to Br. Richardson & tell him to be on the look out & also write to Br. Belton & Br. Green. The Qt. M. are as follows . . . Don’t fail to go to Burford & if you posable can try & go to Long Point also & have Publick Meetings.

I am my dr Egerton your affectionate Brother


Remember me affectionately to Hanah

I think that it is all important that Mr. Ryans Pamflet be fully answered & the conference fully vindicated. All the friends up this way universaly wish it. I am afraid that the Committee will not be suficiently full & conclusive in this. I therefore very much wish that you would go amediately on & write a full exposure of it & I will write to Br. Case & have your reply published by way of Apendix to the statement of the committee and have it attested to by 5 or 6 Preachers. I wish very much that you would write a reply yourself as our friends wish a full confutation of the thing. I will also write to Br. Medcalf & tell him that you will write a confutation, to publish it as an apendix to the committee’s statement. Now my Dr. Br. do comply with my request in this as I know it is all important that it be done & that it be done right away. Please send word to Br. Youmans the time of his Qt. Meeting.

March 2, 1829, William Smith,[10] Hallowell, to William Ryerson, York, but addressed to James R. Armstrong,[11] Merchant, York.

Dear Brother:

You will please hand this letter to Mr. William Ryerson. For certain reasons I have thought it prudent on the outside to direct it to you, instead of him.


Wm. Smith


Rev’d. and Dear Brother:

It is with feelings extremely painful that I this morning assume my pen to fulfill my promise of writing to you. Several events have transpired since you left this place. After Mr. Jackson concluded preaching on Friday evening, he publicly announced his determination to withdraw from the Society. The reasons why this fastidious gentleman was urged to this act was in consequence of the overwhelming torrent of corruption that is pouring itself into our Society through the Ministry. His pure and pious soul, I suppose, wept over us with such tears as the miser sheds at the poverty of his poor neighbours. Mr. Ryan at the conclusion gave out an appointment for himself on the Tuesday evening following. The trustees in conjunction with ourselves thought it prudent to close the doors against him (Ryan). This excited the feelings of many of the village gentlemen, who immediately called a meeting, and deputed five of their number to wait upon Bro. Hopkins and request the key. It was refused. They told him to consider the subject and they would call again in the evening. They called and met with a second refusal. In the evening they entered the House by drawing the nails from above the windows, with a pair of pincers, and then unlocked the door. A very numerous congregation attended, when Mr. R. preached from a text (James V. 20) which he often quotes in favour of himself. One of the members of the public meeting then read an Address to Mr. R. expressing their approbation of his conduct. They also drew up several resolutions in which (I am told) they pour out a torrent of abuse against the Mr. Ryersons and the convention. These resolutions have gone to the press, you will therefore see them.

Such has been the rage of public feeling, that they are basely determined, if possible, to destroy our title to the Chapel. We entertain the most painful fears respecting our title. We are bound by our Deed to let every regularly authorised Protestant Preacher occupy the House when not wanted by ourselves. And if refused, the land again reverts to its former owners. It all depends upon the authority of Mr. Ryan’s credentials. He declares that he has never forfeited them by any immoral action, and that when he withdrew from the Conference, his moral character was unimpeached. Under these circumstances, has he forfeited his credentials? Or can he be considered as a regular authorised Protestant Preacher? Answer me these questions candidly and free from errour. Make no mistake, all depends upon the authority of his credentials. Is there no precedent to which he can refer in justification of himself?

I here quote you two items which [I] consider the most objectionable in our Deed. . . . “and in further trust and confidence that they shall at all times hereafter permit all such Ministers and Preachers belonging to the said Methodist Episcopal Church as shall be duly authorised and appointed by the General Conference, or by the yearly conference, authorised by the said General Conference. . . . And in further confidence that at any time, and at all times hereafter, when the said Ministers and Members of the Methodist E. Church shall not at such times occupy the said Church in the service of God, preaching and teaching, that then and in such case it shall and may be lawful for them, the trustees, now in trust and office, and their successors in trust and office forever hereafter to permit and allow all such regular Protestant Ministers and Preachers to enter into the said Church and preach and teach and expound the gospel therein.” . . . “And if at any time hereafter the said House and Church, thus to be erected on the said premises for the service of God, as aforesaid, shall be destroyed either by fire or otherwise, the said trustees now in office or their successors in trust and office shall neglect and refuse to rebuild a house of Worship thereon, or shall neglect and refuse the said Methodist Ministers and teachers duly authorized to preach and expound the Holy Scriptures therein, that then and in such case all and singular the said premises hereby given and granted and every part and parcel thereof shall revert back and become vested in us the said Arva Ferguson, etc. etc.”[12]

It is probable that it may become a subject of legal investigation. I wish you would take the advice of some able Attorney and let me know immediately what chance we should run in the event of a lawsuit, for we feel no disposition to be driven from our rights as long as we can defend them.

That Mr. R. designs to form a party, is no longer a subject of doubt. He has shown the outlines of the rules by which he means to govern his future Church until a conference can be formed. If I could have obtained a copy I would have sent to you. His new Church is to be called the Wesleyan Primitive Methodist. (When will men cease to prostitute this venerable name) His people are to govern themselves until a Conference can be formed, and will then consist of an equal number of preachers and delegates who shall be competent to draft a discipline, and make all rules for their government. This I have from report. We are most painfully situated; the conduct of many of our members is extremely violent; we scarcely know what to do, or whom to trust; if God does not help, I know not what will become of us. I however still feel a confidence that God will yet overrule all for his glory, and that “the wrath of man will praise him”. This effervescence when it works off, will I trust carry away many of our dead weights. The commotion is principly among members of this stamp; there are however a few of our more worthy brethren whose feelings are very much excited. Any advice which you may feel disposed to give will be gratefully received. We wish to act prudently, safely, and agreeable to the best interests of [the] Church. At present we are watching, rather than try[ing to] guide the storm. After it blows over a little, we hope we shall be able to pursue a steady and decisive course [in line with] our present determinations. I have heard that there is a combination of some 16 of the most worthless, urged on by some of the more respectable in the villiage, who are determined to break open the Chapel Door as often as Mr. Ryan wants it. We are resolved if we can do it with safety to prevent a similar occurrence for the future by some justifiable means. You must not be surprised if an attempt is made to degrade and injure the character of yourself and Edgerton. I hear that Edgerton has been very much hurt, pray let me know the extent of the injury.[13] If any more particularly occurs, I will write you again. Let me hear from you immediately, for I know not how soon Mr. Ryan may return and we do not wish to endanger our Chapel.

Yours truly,

Wm. Smith.


P.S. Address to Wm. Smith, Methodist Preacher, for there is a miserable fellow here by the same name who some times takes my letters from the office.[14]

W. S.

March 19, 1829, W. Case, New York,[15] to Egerton Ryerson, Hamilton, Gore District, U. Canada.

My dear Brother,

Yours of March 3rd was received on my arrival here the 17th. Thank the Lord that in your misfortune your life was preserved. The enemies of our Zion would have triumphed in your death. May God preserve you to see the opponents of religious liberty, and the abettors of faction frustrated in all their selfish designs, and hair-brained hopes! By the Kingston papers you will now see what Mr. Ryan’s course is now like to be, and it will now remain with the trustees of our Chapels whether the peace of the Church is to be further invaded by a man who has done so much to destroy its unity, and whose proceedings have been so thoroughly examined and so unanimously condemned, & that too by a body of his own choice. Certainly the persons who signed the address to Mr. R. at Hallowell have committed themselves much to a candid public, and I am not certain but their inconsistency should be exposed. But perhaps, when the spirit of faction subsides (as it must) the —— will die.

Since my arrival here I received a letter from Bro. W. Fisk, date 13 inst., in which he mentions the receipt of your letter. He thinks he must “decline the invitation”. “Such is his situation, his connection with the School, his health, etc., that he can hardly deem it duty to accept”. My letter to him dated the 12th will be forwarded to him with addl. remarks. I advise him not to give a decided answer till after your visit,[16] which I hope you will not relinquish. Whether you succeed or not, your visit will be important and we may yet hope he will finally accept.

A letter before me from Mr. Richard Reece,[17] dated London, 10 Jan. 1829, to Mr. Francis Hall, at whose house I write, says, “I am of opinion that we can do very little good in U. Canada. Had our preachers been continued they might have raised the standard of primitive English methodism, which would have had extensive & beneficial influence upon the work in that province, but having ceded by convention the whole of it to your Church I hope we shall not interfere to disturb the people. They must, as you say, struggle on for a while and your Bishops must visit them & ordain their Ministers till they can do without them.” Again—“The squabbles at Leeds have had very little influence [seal] a distance”. He speaks of being highly gratified at the accounts of the conversion of the Indians in Canada & hopes Mr. Hall will make annual visits & publish his remarks on the work there.

Dr. Bro., please say to your Bro. John that we wish him to provide for Munceytown in that way which the state of things seems to require, of which he can better judge than myself. You will see by McK’s paper, that I have recalled Mr. Jackson’s authority to make collections for the Muncey mission, and I wish you to caution Bro. Griffin against answering any order I have given to Jackson for materials & tools. Leave this caution also with his Clerk at the store in Hamilton.

I desire your Bro. will also be always ready to afford advice & instructions to the missionary & teachers in the Grand River Mission. I am heartily glad to hear that Bro. Messmore is likely to succeed in accomplishing the building of the Chapel at Salt Springs. “Bless the Lord, he does help us.”

I will attend to your instructions relative to the Advocate. I am happy to hear that prospects are so favourable & hope your colleague will learn prudence from the past. Your constant attention to him, & frequent cautions and advice will be necessary, and to which I think he will pay respect. With all his indiscretion, he is a good hearted Brother.[18]

Our visit has been every where well received, and abundantly repaid with kindness and donations for our Missions. The advantages of this tour appear to be mutual; Sabbath Schools & Missionary Societies will receive a favourable & powerful impulse, and we shall be able to obtain considerable assistance for carrying on the work so gloriously progressing. Doxtater’s visit to the Oneidas is well received & it gladdens the heart & strengthens our cause in the minds of the missionary friends that we are endeavouring to assist in the conversion of the Indians on this side of the line. The Christian spt of benevolence to the poor & the heathen beats higher than I ever saw it before. As an evidence of this, at the female anniversary[19] on the 17th the collection amounted to 217 doll., a handful of gold rings (I believe more than 20) and the addition of near 50 new subscribers.

Different societies are engaged in publishing our works. The Gospel of Mark is now in the press, as also a Hymn Book & spelling book in Mohawk, & a Hymn Book in the Chipeway. Our whole attention is called to anniversaries & our duties in forwarding our publications.

Thank you for your good wishes for my welfare, and compliment of my expected fair one[20]. Your Milton’s Adam speaks the language of my heart, and believe there is

“Union of mind, or in us both one soul”.

Thank you for your letter; hope you will write again. Direct to No. 14 Crosby St., New York till your date of about 16 Apl. We think to complete all our business & leave this for Canada about the 5th or 6 May. Anniversary of the Parent Society is the 4 May.

As ever, very affectionately,

W. Case.


P.S. Please write your Bro. George whatever of the above you may think proper.[21]

March 20, 1829, W. Case, New York, to Mr. George Ryerson, Missionary at River Credit near York, U. Canada.

My dear Brother:

I write to day to Egerton, requesting him to give you an extract from Mr. Reece’s letter to F. Hall of this City. He thinks they can do nothing by sending missionaries to Canada, etc.

Our way this far has been prosperous. I never saw the pulse of missionary arder beat higher. Tickets for admission at the Anniversary might be sold by hundreds for a Dollar each, but they were distributed gratis. The collection at the female Anniversary was 217 Dolls. & a handful of gold rings. The spt. is truly missionary, rejoicing in the plan for aiding them in the conversion of the Indians on this side of the line. Bro. Doxstader & Hess visit is well received, and a good work commenced at the Oneida.

We shall not get Peter’s translations of the Scriptures printed till we return to Canada, but the Hymn Books are now on press, and must be done here, as they are wanted immediately, and beside, the numerous accents cannot be furnished at any printing establishment in Canada. We hope the Bible Society of York will soon be able to provide for the further printing of the Mohawk translations now preparing of the Gospels & Epistles.

We are very grateful for the kind offers of his Excellency, Sir John Colborne, and that he feels desirous to promote the welfare of the Indians on the most liberal principles in matters of religion. This will have no unfavourable effect on the feelings of the Indians towards their Great Father the King. We are happy to hear that his Excly. is placed at the head of the Indian department. From the kindness already manifested, we believe he will be ready to comply with any reasonable wishes of the Indians and they will feel a confidence in communicating their wants for their religious welfare & improvement in civillised life. On this account we could wish that his Excellency might be made acquainted with the fact that the Mohawks of Bay Quinty, & the Missaugahs of Kingston & Grape Island, have petitioned that Mr. Clench of York might be appointed agent of the Indians at the Port of Kingston. The petition was forwarded last fall to General Darling, before his departure for England. Mr. Clench’s attention to the Indians, together with his liberal & friendly disposition with respect to their religious profession, has much endeared him, and they would be much pleased with such an appointment. Bro. Jones & myself desire you will signify to his Excellency these circumstances and the wishes of the Indians on this subject.

We are glad to hear that the Brethren at the Credit are engaged in preparing for putting up the contemplated houses for industrious improvements & hospital for the sick. Hope nothing will interrupt so laudable a work. I think you might furnish the labouring men with provisions, get such tools as are wanted, etc., etc. Had you not better send for a couple of loads of corn to Grand River, or have you done so? You will call on Bro. Armstrong for any money you may want for the purpose. He has 100 Dolls. & I shall place more in his hands soon for the Credit & Lake Simcoe Missions. We should not neglect to make an early appeal to the people in your vicinity to aid in these improvements. Hope you will call on them for the purpose.

Respects to your family & the friends. Say to Bro. Peter[22] that we shall not forget him, & shall be able to assist him in some clothing. Hope he will pay strict attention to his studies and the instructions of his friends, to yourself in particular. Several religious friends in this city send their love to Peter, deeply sympathising with him in the late loss of his wife and child. We are all well & hope after our visit to Phila. & the anniversary the 4 May to return to Canada. In the meantime desire you will write & inform us of events & wants. Direct to No. 14 Crosby St., New York.


W. Case


P.S. I have received no letters from you since I left York.

The kind offer of the Governor related immediately to the printing of the translations. From the diary of Peter Jones we learn the particulars. On March 17th he reports having received letters from Canada; one from his brother John, one from Captain John Brant, and one from Mr. J. B. Clench. These letters brought the information that Sir John Colborne had been appointed by the British Government to be the head of the Indian department in Upper Canada, and that he wished Peter Jones to return to Canada with his translations, and that “he would have them printed at his own expense in the town of York”.[23] Two weeks after his return Peter rode down to York and was admitted “into the presence of His Excellency”, who at once began to talk about the printing of the Scriptures, and engaged to have this done at the Government press. He expressed his desire to have the Indians located in villages and taught useful trades and farming. He invited Peter to call at any time he might find it convenient.

This was on Monday, June 8th. The following Friday Peter received a special message from the Lord Bishop of Quebec, Dr. Stewart, to attend at Government House. Here he had an audience with the Bishop, the Lieutenant Governor, and Dr. Mountain.[24] He was asked five questions as to the Indian work of the Methodists and his own position in that body. The Bishop complained about the intrusion of the Methodists on Church mission grounds at the Grand River and Bay of Quinte, but admitted that they had done much good. The Governor appeared free from sectarian prejudices and remarked “that the main point was to get the Indians converted and reformed”. A week later Peter met the Baptist and Presbyterian ministers of York, who wished to defray the expenses of printing. He informed them of the Governor’s offers and also of his obligation to the Methodist Conference, whereupon they agreed to see Case.

A few days later he again saw the Governor, this time with Robert Stanton, the Government printer. The matter came to a head; Sir John Colborne ordered 2,000 copies of the first seven chapters of St. Matthew. Apparently this was the sum of the offer; but the conversation did not end with the business of printing. The general situation as between the government and the Methodists in relation to the Indians was canvassed, and particularly the new developments on Lake Huron. On being informed by Peter that the Methodists had arranged to send in a Scotchman named James Curry as schoolmaster, the Governor said,

Very well—only we must be careful not to clash with each others operations; it makes no difference by whom they are educated; the main object is to benefit the Indians. I will patronize your efforts and that of the Methodists in reforming the Indians.[25]

The narrative continues:

Having been informed that Archdeacon Strachan wished to see me, I accordingly called on him and had a conversation about my translations. He kindly offered to loan me books which might help me in the work. He also asked me if I had given up going to Camp meeting? I told him I had not. He then asked if I found any thing in Scripture to sanction such meetings? I said that I found nothing in the Bible against such meetings. He replied, that he thought I could. Upon this our talk ended.

March 28, 1829, H. C. Thomson, Kingston to Rev. E. Ryerson, Gore District.

My dear Sir,

“The Claims of the Churchmen” etc is at length completed, and I shall forward the 700 copies, as soon as the navigation opens to Mr. Armstrong. Would it not be well to send a few copies to Lower Canada for sale? The account is below.

Yours truly,

H. C. Thomson


Rev. E. Ryerson

To Hugh C. Thomson, Dr.

To Printing 1200 copies of “Claims of the Churchmen & Dissenters of Upper Canada”, 232 pages, 8vo, viz.

45 Reams paper45
Press work27
Stitching etc.10
Errors Excepted  
H. C. T.
Kingston, March 28, 1829.

April 11, 1829, Jas. Richardson, Jr., York, to The Rev. Egerton Ryerson, Ancaster Circuit.

My dear Brother:

Understanding that you are expected here shortly, I have written a certificate of your appointment to wait on brother Fisk and hope it will answer. As I have not the Journals[26] with me, I could not give a copy of the Resolution, but presume it is not essential. I hope you will succeed in obtaining him for the good of the cause. You shall have my prayers for success.

I wish to say that it appears to me necessary that some person should proceed against James Jackson[27] and give him timely notice, but in order to do it he must be acquainted with Jackson’s testimony before the Convention. As you have it, you ought to furnish it to some one to proceed on it. I have no objections to take it up if no one else more suitable offers.

Yours in Love & haste,

Jas. Richardson, Jr.

May 12, 1829, Rev. W. Case, Utica, to Rev. George Ryerson, Missionary at River Credit.

Dear Brother:

Not having time to be particular, I must refer you to Bro. Jones, only to say that your letter was received and your wishes have been attended to. The Hospital will be provided for, and whatever may be needed for providing for the work, only that a rigid & prudent economy must of course be observed. I wish you to write me at Belleville, and give me your plans of improvement & expense, that we may be able to know how far we may venture for the present year. We must keep in view that every effort should be used this season to carry the Gospel among the Indians at Penetanguishene. I have written to Bro. Beatty to make every preparation practicable, and I hope you will be able to spare from the Credit a number of your faithful men for this service.

My respects to your family & the Brethren,

As ever,

W. Case


P.S. You will call on Bro. Armstrong for money when wanted.

As settlement extended northward along Yonge Street, the Conference found it necessary to divide the circuit of that name. In 1829 a new circuit was established with headquarters at Newmarket, and John Beatty, that strong and striking figure amongst the early Methodists, was placed in charge. He had now quite given up his fine property at Meadowvale, and had been received on trial as a regular itinerant. Evidently the limit of settlement to the north was the limit of his field. Yonge Street extended to the arm of Lake Simcoe where Barrie now stands. North of that what is known as the “Penetang” road had been surveyed, terminating on a deep harbour of Georgian Bay (then spoken of merely as Lake Huron) at Penetanguishene. Brother Beatty, then, was to prepare the way before this advance of the Indian cause to Lake Huron.

June 2, 1829, Rev. W. Case, Grape Island, to Mr. George Ryerson, Missionary at Credit.

My dear Brother:

I write to request you will afford your advice & assistance in forwarding the Mission to Penetanguishene. We desire that some 6 or 10 of the most suitable from the Credit may accompany Bro. Jones to that place. I have written to Bro. Beatty, & he is preparing their way so as to facilitate the Mission. He says he will meet Peter there, & Capt. Anderson invites earnestly our assistance in the good work.

Those who may be sent to that work, you will allow cash or provisions for their families to the amount of a Dollar or Dollar & half per week, and give them, or Peter, money to help them on their way.

As ever,


W. Case.


P.S. We are putting up some Articles for Credit, among which are a Clock, Chipeway Hymns, etc., and Peter’s clothing. We direct to J. R. Armstrong.

W. C.

June 14, 1829, John Ryerson, London, to Rev. Egerton Ryerson, Hamilton, District of Gore.

Dr Brother

Our Camp Meeting closed yesterday. It was thought by our friends to be the most powerful & interesting meeting ever held in these parts. There were a number of whites experienced religion & a great number more most powerfully awakened. There were also a number of Indians from Muncey Town & the River Sawbil. I baptised between 20 & 30, children & all. Jackson has gone to the conference. He is going to York first (& as it [is] reported,) with the intention of calling on the governor[28] etc. etc. He has formed 2 classes, one consisting of about 10 persons & the other of about 7, besides scattering individuals in other places, making in all, I am told, about 30. About 12 or 14 of whom were members of our society but not one of them of any consideration in our church & some of them most despicable. Jackson attempted to form a society in Br. Prusdichs neabourhood. Only one person joined him who is a most notorious drunkard. The fellow when he joined him got up & said “I am a poor crature etc. etc. I am not fit to belong to any society but I believe I will join you”. Jackson took him & his society is made up of just such stuf. The Brothers Hunts and others (—the delegates) told me at the Camp Meeting that they were fully of the opinion that this “schism would work for the good of the Church, that they had not enjoyed so much peace for some time in their class, as what they do now & that prospects were dayly becomeing more favourable”.

The very much esteemed & most ameble Br. Holmes (a Local Preacher on the Thames Ct.) is no more. He died of an illness that only lasted a few hours. This is another heavy stroke to our Church. He was one of the most inteligent, exclent & amiable men belonging to the Local connection in this country or in any other country. He had a very considerable knowledge of the ded Languages & was a critick in the French & as an English scholar he had very few eaquals if any. While the Lord permits us to be vilifyed, abused & attacked on the one hand, he is taking away our friends on the other. O, will his rod never depart & [seal] will he draw out his anger to all generations.

As ever your affectionate



See p. 103.

The delay encountered by Ryerson in the printing of this work and the necessity, if a bit of work was to be done promptly, of turning to Mackenzie, the temper of whose paper did not improve with age, may have had not a little to do with the decision next year on the part of the Conference to go into the printing business.

Ryerson: Epochs of Canadian Methodism, p. 265.

Epochs, p. 267.

From this it appears that Ryerson resided at Hamilton, not at Ancaster. Probably the bride preferred to be with her people rather than to be alone while her husband was journeying.

James Scott Howard was Postmaster of York, and a Methodist. Evidently he was not given to demonstrativeness in religion. Five years later, writing from London, Ryerson refers to superintending a “love-feast” at the City Road Chapel, and says, “the people were a little bashful in speaking at first, like some of your York friends, such as Dr. Morrison, Mr. Howard and others”. In 1838 he was dismissed from his position as Postmaster by Sir Francis Bond Head on the ground that he was a radical and had not taken up arms for his country. Ryerson came to his defence, as he did in the more notorious case of M. S. Bidwell. He later became Treasurer of the counties of York and Peel. Dr. Henry Scadding (Toronto of Old, p. 426) describes him as “an estimable man, and an active promoter of all local works of benevolence”. He died in Toronto in 1866, aged 68.

John Spread Baldwin, a brother of Dr. W. W. Baldwin, had a shop on King Street.

John Fenton was something of a celebrity in old York. Carroll tells us that he was “the son of a Wesleyan minister, well educated in one of the English Connexional Schools”. He was given to preaching at times, and had assisted and supplied for Henry Pope in 1820. When the Wesleyans were recalled, he did not join with the “Americans” but became parish clerk to Strachan at St. James. Dr. Scadding thus describes him (Toronto of Old, p. 145):

“He was a rather small shrewd-featured person, at a glance not deficient in self-esteem. He was a proficient in modern popular science, a ready talker and lecturer. Being only a proxy, his rendering of the official responses in church was marked perhaps by a little too much individuality, but it could not be said that it was destitute of a certain rhetorical propriety of emphasis and intonation. Though not gifted, in his own person, with much melody of voice, his acquisitions included some knowledge of music. In those days congregational psalmody was at a low ebb, and the small choirs that offered themselves fluctuated, and now and then vanished wholly. Not unfrequently, Mr. Fenton, after giving out the portion of Brady and Tate, which it pleased him to select, would execute the whole of it as a solo, to some accustomed air, with graceful variations of his own. All this would be done with great coolness and apparent self-satisfaction.

“While the discourse was going on in the Pulpit above him, it was his way, often, to lean himself resignedly back in a corner of his pew and throw a white cambric handkerchief over his head and face. It illustrates the spirit of the day to add, that Mr. Fenton’s employment as official mouth-piece to the congregation of the English Church, did not stand in the way of his making himself useful, at the same time, as a class-leader among the Wesleyan Methodists”.

Apparently from this letter John Fenton was quite as busy and important out of church as in it, and in much the same character. He afterwards removed to the United States where he obtained holy orders.

In Ancaster is to be found a burying ground about an acre and a half in extent entirely given over to Shavers. The ancestor of the family was of Dutch origin and came to Upper Canada with the first rush of settlers after the Revolutionary War. Tradition has it that his sole equipment was a wife, a blanket and an axe. Shaver is the anglicized form of the Dutch name variously spelled.

William Smith is described by Carroll as one of the most cultivated and excellent young men of the Canada connexion. He was of Scotch origin, born in Niagara in 1802. As a young man he was engaged in business with his uncle, James Lyons, and both had business associations with Charles Biggar of Carrying Place, then a bustling village. In a revival the three partners were converted. Smith became a class leader, and in 1824 repaired to the Methodist Seminary at Cazenovia where he studied for two years, thus adding a knowledge of classics and science to his training in business. He was the first Canadian to enrol at the school just opened. After teaching in the Indian School at Grape Island for a time, an employment which he found monotonous, he entered the regular work of the ministry. In December 1830 we find him taking an important part in the great public meeting at York.

James Rogers Armstrong is described by Ryerson, writing in 1833, as “a pious and wealthy merchant” of York. In 1826 we find him residing at Kingston and conducting Peter Jones and some converted Indians on a tour through the district. Moving to York in 1828, he at once identified himself with the growing Methodist cause there. His wife was the president, and a daughter the treasurer, of the Female Missionary Society of that place, a “novel enterprise” whose officers presented their first report to the Conference of 1829 “with diffidence”. Two younger daughters and a son attended Cazenovia.

The terms of this deed were probably by no means exceptional. Frequently throughout Upper Canada Methodist meeting houses were used by other denominations.

We have no details of this accident. We may perhaps assume that it was on the journey home after the second convention at Hallowell.

We may conclude from this note and the introduction to the letter that the postal service was not entirely safe or private.

On February 27th Case crossed the St. Lawrence with a group of Indians to tour the Eastern States in the interests of missions. The party included Miss Barnes and Miss Hubbard, teachers; Peter Jones; at least three other adult Indians, Simpson, Snake and Hess; and a number of children, boys and girls. The double purpose of the trip was to raise funds for the missions and to arrange for the publication of Peter Jones’ translations of Scripture and hymns. The venture was a success in every way. On the very day this letter was written a meeting attended by 2,000 children was held in New York. While in that city, the party was the guest of Francis Hall, publisher and friend of missions, who had visited the Credit the previous year. By May 18th the party had returned to Grape Island.

Ryerson had been deputed to visit Rev. William Fisk and offer him the position of Bishop or Superintendent of the Canadian church.

Rev. Richard Reece was a prominent member of the British Conference. He had been President in 1816 and was to be again President in 1835. In 1826 he had been one of the two delegates of the British Conference to carry fraternal greetings across the Atlantic to the American Conference. Richard Reece’s ministry went back to Wesley himself, and he had the distinction of travelling without interruption a longer period than any other Wesleyan preacher—fifty-nine years.

The man in question was Andrew Prindle, Ryerson’s senior by more than twenty years. We know nothing definite of the indiscretion referred to. Carroll merely says, (Vol. III, p. 212):

“At our present date (1829), he was mentally vigorous; and he was strong in body, but so corpulent and unwieldy as to render it very difficult for him to perform the work of an itinerant preacher in Canadian circuits such as they were in that day”.

Circuit riding was only for accincti, as Tacitus would say—men girded. Night rides from Copetown to York, or a day’s journey from Ancaster to Oxford (52 miles) with a sermon and a meeting thrown in were for the elect of body as well as spirit. From a minute of Conference we learn that he was sociably (and convivially) inclined, and was a member of the Masonic order, which in a Methodist preacher was regarded as a very doubtful proceeding.

The Female Missionary Society, a novel and bold experiment in Canada, was well established in New York.

The lady was Miss Hetty Hubbard, the school teacher at Grape Island, who with Miss Barnes accompanied Case on this tour.

Ryerson forwarded the letter to his brother George, who wrote the name of the sender and the date on the back of the letter, and folded it long and narrow to be kept in a package, as was customary with old letters before the days of envelopes.

A young Indian by the name of Peter Jacobs.

Journal of Peter Jones, p. 206.

Dr. Mountain was the son of the late Bishop of Quebec, and after an interval of about ten years, himself became Bishop.

Journal of Peter Jones, p. 227.

The Journals of the Conference. Apparently Ryerson, although not an officer of Conference, had been appointed to wait on Fisk, but had merely written him in November. The written refusal of Fisk is postmarked April 9th at Niagara. Richardson probably would not know of its contents by the 11th, and was still arranging for the interview in person.

Jackson made his headquarters in the Westminster district, and was greatly disturbing this and other western circuits. He was expelled from the church at the next Conference.

As noted above (p. 54) the Ryan party received a grant from the public revenues for several years. Strachan would probably be included in the “etc.”



August 1829 to September 1831

The Conference of 1829 assembled on the 26th of August at Ancaster. It was distinctly a Ryerson Conference. Case and Richardson were re-elected President and Secretary, but two of the three Presiding Elderships went to William and John and the selection for the editorship of the new connexional paper lay between George and Egerton. The first step in the matter of establishing a weekly newspaper had been taken at the Conference of 1828. The minutes carry the following resolution:

Resolved that a Committee consisting of W. Ryerson, Philander Smith, David Wright, J. Richardson and T. Madden be appointed to superintend the establishment and circulation of a weekly paper to be entitled the Christian Guardian.[1]

In the meantime, the necessary information as to expenses had been secured. The printing apparatus would cost $700, and it was estimated that the annual expenditure would be $2,050. Against this was the sum of $800 forwarded from the American Conference as the Canada Conference’s share of the profits of the Book Room. In 1829 the Conference resolved to proceed with the enterprise. Stock was issued to the amount of $2,000 in shares of $20. These shares the preachers purchased themselves; but it was provided that if they were not all taken up at the Conference, friends were to be induced to purchase them. To what extent the itinerants were able themselves to finance the undertaking has not been recorded, nor do we know who proposed the name, The Christian Guardian, with its suggestion of armed defence. It had been provided that the editor should be elected “annually, by ballot, without debate”,[2] and when the ballots were counted, Brother Egerton prevailed over Brother George by one vote. This we learn from Anson Green, who says:

I was in favour of Mr. George Ryerson, but his brother John preferred Egerton, and he elected his candidate by a majority of one. I was satisfied, only I desired to find something for George Ryerson to do and keep Bro. Egerton in our circuit work.[3]

Franklin Metcalf, the resident preacher at York and the chairman of the 1829 committee of Conference on the project, was appointed Assistant Editor.

As to editing and printing the paper, Ryerson himself says that the hardships and difficulties of producing the paper during the first year in their poverty and without a clerk “can hardly be realized and need not be detailed”.[4] It would appear that the senior editor was given a fairly full hand in determining the policy of the paper. Neither Metcalf nor the printing committee of five laymen, namely, Jas. R. Armstrong, Wm. Patrick, Jas. Howard, T. D. Morrison and Barnabas Brennan, appear to have taken any large part in the management. To Ryerson’s ability and industry the immediate success of the venture must be attributed. The first impression was 1100, though the subscribers numbered less than 500. Three years later the subscription list had increased to some 3,000 and the paper was unquestionably the most widely read of the weeklies of the province. There were, of course, no dailies at the time, and not a few editors were like Mackenzie, who was not always sure that the week would see his paper issued.

The amount of reading matter crammed into the eight quarto pages of The Christian Guardian would appal a modern editor: no illustrations—no head lines—no display advertisements to attract or distract the reader—no crowding of feature news in the front page in the hope that the reader may sample and search elsewhere. All was plain and straightforward and solid. Gradually advertising came—a half inch, an inch, or two or three inches of space at most: a runaway apprentice, Weller’s Stage route, the steamer Sir James Kempt, Robert Baldwin’s appeal to the electors of York, Rev. Dr. Phillips’ new Presbyterian school, Upper Canada College, an advertisement for a first rate Brewer immediately followed by a notice of a temperance meeting at Thorold. A few shops came to advertise regularly, notably the general store of Jas. R. Armstrong. But these advertisements are kept strictly in their place at the end of the paper.

Turning to the Guardian from the secular press of the day, and even from Ryerson’s pamphlets, one is impressed by the charity and moderation which prevails. Clearly the editor is at pains—and here the gentle sanity of Metcalf may have helped—to conduct what was primarily a religious journal in a Christian spirit, keeping as far as possible from the bitter controversy of the period and softening the asperities of political life. He takes particular pleasure, for instance, in commenting upon the orderly conduct and the courtesy of the candidates in the by-election in York, which was necessitated by the elevation of Attorney General Robinson to the Bench, and which gave Robert Baldwin his first brief taste of public life. Only once or twice, perhaps, may he be said to deviate from this policy. In the issue of February 6, 1830, he publishes a strong letter written by his brother George in reply to an anonymous article appearing in the Kingston Herald. The writer had attempted to discredit George Ryerson’s evidence before the Select Committee of the House of Commons in 1828. The four-column reply is a severe rebuke to this mischievous assailant. It quotes largely from the evidence and presents an argument which in clarity and weight quite equals anything yet produced by Egerton. One is led to wonder just how the history of Upper Canada might have been affected if John had been by two votes less influential in the Conference of 1829. In the course of his argument he comes to the defence of two of his liberal friends in Toronto. Of Jesse Ketchum’s opposition to a bill which would have disenfranchised Canadians born in the United States, he has this to say:

In thus triumphing over the selfish designs of interested men, Mr. K. and his friends have done more for the stability of British authority in this colony and the peace and prosperity of the country, than any equal number of individuals in the Province.

The evils of patronage are disclosed in a statement as to T. D. Morrison:

Dr. Morrison was a clerk in the Surveyor General’s office, and a nominal Churchman, but from conscientious motives he joined the Methodists—for this, without a single cause of complaint alleged against him, he was dismissed from his situation, and cast destitute upon the world.

The editor himself has at least one barbed remark to make. After years of agitation a Marriage Bill had finally passed both Houses in March 1829, but sanction was refused by the Governor. The Bill was sent to England to be laid before the King, and nearly two years elapsed before it received the Royal assent. Ryerson’s comment is:

Under such circumstances, and especially as the Royal instructions have uniformly declared the intention of His Majesty to consult and act agreeable to the wishes of his faithful subjects in U.C., I may ask, whether it is not more than probable His Majesty’s Royal Assent would have been given to such a bill before this time, had it not unfortunately fallen in company with some ruthless vagrant (in the shape of a secret communication) who has slandered, abused, and tommehawked it at the foot of the Throne.

But excursions into the region of politics in the first year of the Guardian are exceptional. In general, the paper adheres to the definite policy set down in the first issue: “The fact we may furnish; but for interpretation, our readers must look into the resources of their own minds, or to other periodicals.”

Two topics which particularly appealed to the Guardian during its first year were missions, particularly Indian missions, and the temperance movement. In almost every issue news items, often of considerable length, appear on the progress of the Indian Missions in Upper Canada. George Ryerson and Peter Jones are frequent contributors, and here for the first time are published considerable extracts from the latter’s diary. The conversion of the Indians, with their education in letters and manual arts, was proceeding apace. In the course of an interesting account of a mission to the tribe on Yellowhead Island, in what is now Lake Couchiching, George Ryerson incidentally discusses the various possibilities of joining Georgian Bay to Lake Ontario by a canal or by a railroad.

The temperance movement in Canada had its birth at about the same time as the Guardian. The society at Ancaster, whose organization meeting on October 24, 1829, was reported in the third issue of the Guardian, was one of the first to be organized in Canada. Its object was “to restrain the use of arduous spirits to cases in which the use of them may be recommended by medical advice”. The mover and seconder of the resolution for the formation of the society were Egerton Ryerson and John Rolph. Rolph’s speech on this occasion was printed in the Guardian of January 2, 1830, and January 9th, four columns in each issue. It will be noted that at this time the temperate use of wine and beer was not abjured by members of these societies; but the place of all beverages, including tea, came in for review in the pages of the Guardian. As the movement swept across the province in 1830 almost every issue either recorded the formation of some new society or presented some incident or argument to bring home to its readers the evils of drunkenness and tippling, and the dangers even of moderate indulgence.

It is quite evident from the outset that the editor is determined to provide interesting and even amusing information on less serious topics. On the basis of this miscellany a valuable study might be made of the manners and tastes of the people of Upper Canada. Such jokes as appear are rather of the nature of wit than humour, and would provoke a smile rather than a laugh. At the beginning a Ladies’ Department and a Youths’ Department are presented, but these are not regularly sustained throughout the year. Accidents and murders are simply and briefly described and usually in such a way as to point a moral. But in any issue one is likely to find homely topics of interest, such as hints on health, a definition of female beauty, methods for removing grease, how to shift a hive of bees, cure for stammering, remarkable marriages, how to destroy rats and mice, the art of brewing, the relative merits of a brush and comb. We can very well imagine that the several members of the family would be deeply disappointed when the Post Office failed of its duty, as it often did, and the Guardian missed delivery.

As the end of his first year as editor approached, and at the same time a general election,[5] Ryerson, with his finger on the political pulse of Upper Canada, appears to have realized that his policy of neutrality had been carried too far. He finds himself in a position of some delicacy. He has received letters from several of the candidates asking for the support of the Guardian. One of these communications is made the subject of a considered editorial pronouncement. Ryerson states that he finds it impossible to announce his support of this or that candidate. The interest of the paper is primarily with issues, not with individuals. On the great questions of equal religious privileges and general education he is prepared to express himself in no uncertain terms. However, he calls upon the individual candidate to commune with himself after this fashion:

I am now about to give my name and influence towards entailing upon my posterity and country a dominant Priesthood—a partial system of education—a monopoly in the hands of a few individuals, of one seventh of the Province, and all the national calamities which invariably accompany such a state of things;—or to confer upon the present and future generations of Canada the means and opportunities of education,—the tranquil and various advantages of equal religious freedom and privilege—and the enviable estate of general contentment and easy independence: Now [to] which of these will I give my voice to become my children’s and country’s inheritance?[6]

He deprecates the influence of sectarian feelings in making a choice and notes,

that the most industrious, able and successful supporters of the religious rights and general interests of the people of this Province for years past, are Churchmen and Presbyterians and Catholics—only let them be of the right sort, men who do not just now begin to trumpet their liberal patriotism, but men who have showed in the trying times of bygone years the integrity of their principles and the sincerity of their intentions, to do to others as they would others should do to them in like circumstances.[7]

No comment whatever appears on the outcome of the election, which took place in October. The failure of Baldwin in York and Rolph in Middlesex must have been a matter of disappointment, as well as surprise, to the editor. Perhaps we may infer from the last sentence above quoted that Ryerson realized that the liberal movement in the province was attracting to itself unworthy support which was bound to weaken it. In the face of a rebuff to the party of Bidwell, Rolph and Ketchum—all men very much after his own heart—he determined to alter his policy as editor. The references in his letters to George to “a most decided course”[8] and to taking up the whole question “decidedly, fully and warmly”[9] indicate a new attitude unmistakable in the issues of the Guardian of the next two years.

The Conference of 1830 swung to the eastern end of the province. It assembled on August 17th in the town of Kingston, but adjourned one week later to Belleville. Peace and unanimity prevailed in its deliberations. The Guardian had proven a success, and Ryerson was continued in the editorship without opposition. Metcalf was made a Presiding Elder, and William Smith, who replaced him at York, became Assistant Editor.

This Conference like its predecessor had a momentous decision to make. It resolved to embark on no less an undertaking than the establishment of a seat of higher learning. For some time the matter had been in contemplation. At the Ancaster Conference of 1829, so the minutes inform us, it was

Voted—that a Committee of Five be appointed to take into consideration the propriety of establishing a Seminary and drawing up a Petition to the next session of the Provincial Parliament for an act of incorporation. The Committee to be nominated by the Chair and appointed by the Conference. The following persons were accordingly appointed.

Franklin Metcalf, John Ryerson, Wm. Ryerson, Anson Green and James Richardson.

Two days later the committee reported, and the report was taken up item by item and adopted, and filed as No. 17E.[10] Nothing further appears to have been done between conferences. But in the Guardian of June 5, 1830, a stirring letter appears from Belleville signed “a Methodist Youth” and demanding to know why something was not being done to provide education in Upper Canada and to prevent the exodus of young Canadians to institutions in the United States. The eager lad offers his “mite, £10”, for such a purpose. By the autumn of 1830 opinion had ripened, and Conference appointed a committee whose report was adopted as follows:

1. Resolved, that it is expedient to establish a Seminary of learning to be denominated the —— to belong to, and under the direction of the conference of the M. E. Church in Canada.

2. Resolved, that the committee appointed by the Conference to fix the place of the location of the above Seminary meet for that purpose at Hallowell, the 27th Jany., 1831, at 9 o’clock A.M.

3. Resolved, that the above committee have authority to determine the place of the location of a Seminary, and if in the judgment of the Committee, the amt. received by good subscriptions or otherwise be such as to justify the undertaking, they shall have full authority to obtain by purchase or otherwise a suitable situation, to choose Trustees for the time being, to appt. a building committee, and to transact all other business necessary to forward the building, as far as practicable till the next session of the conference.

4. Resolved, that the place, Constitution, and design of said Seminary be published, and that each preacher belonging to the conference be furnished with a copy of the same and also a form of subscription, and that they be requested to use their utmost endeavours to obtain funds and scholars for this institution.[11]

A fifth clause in the report was defeated: “Resolved that every preacher belonging to the travelling connexion having a child or children and having travelled eight years, shall at all times have the tuition and board of one scholar gratis”. The sturdy circuit riders were not asking for benefit of clergy. No one was to be allowed to say that their founding the Academy was an act of selfishness.

The members of the Committee chosen to determine the location were: from the Niagara District, Thos. Whitehead, John Ryerson, and Samuel Belton; from the Bay of Quinte District, Wm. Ryerson, D. Wright, and J. Beatty; from the Augusta District, Wm. Brown, Thos. Madden, and James Richardson. After a spirited contest, Cobourg finally was chosen as the site. It offered several advantages: a fine situation overlooking the lake; proximity to a thriving town and busy port; most liberal local subscriptions, including a gift of the property by Geo. B. Spenser; a location probably more central to the Methodist population of the province than York or any other of the competing towns. It was determined that the administration should be in the hands of a Board of nine trustees and five visitors, all chosen by the Conference. But while under Conference and founded by it in the interests of religion as well as learning, broad and liberal principles were to apply. It was enacted that “no system of Divinity shall be taught therein; but all students shall be free to embrace and pursue any religious creed, and attend any place of religious worship which their parents or guardians may direct”.

This was the reply of the Methodist Conference to the Government’s neglect of higher education in the province. The University Charter secured by Strachan in 1827 had produced nothing except discord and two or three sinecures; there was no prospect of the opening in the near future of a provincial institution of higher learning. Upper Canada College was making some progress, but its appeal was to the wealthier classes, and its curriculum was strictly classical. Ambitious lads of small means throughout the province had nowhere to turn. The Presbyterians had become concerned about the matter, and in their Presbytery at Brockville, early in 1830, had passed a resolution favouring the establishment of such an institution, but so far nothing had come of it. The Methodists regarded the need as urgent, and in lieu of wealthy benefactors or state subvention they set themselves to the task of raising the funds by small subscriptions throughout the circuits. Several of the subscription books have an honoured place in the archives of the College. The names appear under the several circuits, and opposite each signature is the amount promised, payable in four annual installments. Thus the Conference years 1829 and 1830 were years of high adventure for the Methodists of Upper Canada. For Ryerson himself they were crowded with labours, for which he received merely the regular salary for a married itinerant, that is $250. The editing and printing, on the plan proposed and with the facilities at hand, was a Herculean task; and in later years he shuddered to think of the effort it had involved. Naturally in such a case private correspondence suffered. The letters of interest preserved in this period are few. Events must be followed largely through the pages of the Guardian.

The first of the letters is one from James Richardson to George Ryerson. Richardson had spent a year on the Credit Mission, succeeding Egerton Ryerson, and George in turn had succeeded him. The letter is reproduced as throwing some light on the relation of the Indians to the economic life of the province.

October 2, 1829, Jas. Richardson, Jr., Niagara, to George Ryerson, Esqr., Missionary, River Credit.

My dear Sir

As I know of no way of getting the Salmon over for which I spoke, will you have the goodness to direct Bro. Jones to dispose of them except 2 or 3 which I may bring over with my sleigh in winter, as I expect to be round your way in the course of the winter. I will let you have my cutter for $23; if you please to take it, let me know that I may furnish myself with one here. Drop a line by mail should no other direct conveyance offer as soon as possible.

As I came home I stoped at Bro. James Gage’s and in conversation with him found he was much displeased with the Indians for holding their fish so high. He says his son could obtain them for less than ⅓ Cy; take large & small together and some of them were not worth more than ½ that. He remarked that Wm. Kerr and others expressed great disatisfaction with the Indians for what they consider taking advantage of the privilege granted them and also for haughtiness in their manner of dealing with their old friends. I am afraid that unless they be moderate and civil, a prejudice will be excited against them which may prove very detrimental to the missionary cause. Would it not be well for them to have an understanding of these things and govern themselves accordingly. The respectable part of the inhabitants would be pleased to have the Indians supported in the privilege if they could purchase of them at a moderate price. Please excuse the liberty I take in making those remarks.

I found all well and we enjoy peace in all our borders. Bro. Green has been brought near to death by fever but is now recovering.

With love to all, I remain

Your affectionate friend & Brother

Jas. Richardson Jr.

Should there be any boat or any mode of conveying a barrel of good salmon to St. Catharines, I would be glad to have it sent, as I could easily dispose of what I should not want. But as I know of no conveyance I cannot positively order them.

April 26, 1830, H. C. Thomson, Kingston, to Rev. E. Ryerson, York.

Dear Sir:

I am favored with yours of the 5 ult., objecting to the payment of my account for printing the “Claims of Churchmen and Dissenters”, and containing a remittance of £15 15, which sum is at your credit.

With respect to the charge for the work, I have only to observe, that the paper cost £45, and the folding and stitching £10, so that only £60. 12 remains to pay for the trouble and labor which it occasioned. The Book was expected to contain only 150 pages, instead of which there are 232. This circumstance ought to be some excuse for the delay in printing. I cannot admit that the 200 errors discovered by your correspondent are justly chargeable to me, as many of them were doubtless in the copy, and you had an opportunity of preparing the Errata, which does not point out one fourth of that number.

It is evident that a loss must be sustained, but I do not think that I ought to be the loser to the amount you propose. I will, however, agree to the following arrangement, viz.: you keep the 700 copies forwarded to York, and I will make the best I can of the 500 in my possession and in the hands of my agents; I shall then expect you to pay me Fifty-five pounds, less £12.8.9 received, which is the amount of Cash actually paid for paper & stitching. Thus I will lose £60.12, which appears to me punishment enough for the delay and errors that have occurred.[12]

I am,

dear sir,

Yours truly,

H. C. Thomson

In July, 1829, Sarah Rolph, wife of George Ryerson, had died leaving two young children. She was buried at the Credit amidst the grief of the Indian women whose lot she had sought to improve by efforts beyond her strength. The Guardian of Nov. 2, 1829 has a touching description of her funeral. Egerton took the two children to his home in York.

October 11, 1830, Rev. E. Ryerson, York, to Rev. George Ryerson, Brantford.

My dear Brother:

In acknowledging your kind favor of the 6th ult. I have to apologise for not writing before. In the multiplicity of business on Post day, it escaped my mind until after the mail was closed.

The children are very well—appear to be contented—and I think are improving. [Here follows an account in some detail of the conduct and petty misdemeanours of the two children, Fanny and Joseph.] We endeavour to take care of your children as we would our own in like circumstances, and I trust we shall be able to do it to much greater advantage to them and less trouble to ourselves when we remove from this hateful corner.[13]

Of the two, I think we can do much better by Fanny than Joseph. I shall feel it a duty and a pleasure, as far as is in my power to comply with all your requests respecting them.

I herewith forward you a parcel of papers, which may, perhaps, contain some items that will be interesting to you, altho’ most of the papers that are of any importance we cut up, or keep until they would become stale to you.

As to elections, Mr. Bidwell, who is now in town, thinks that the majority of them below this will be favorable. There is no doubt of McKenzie & Ketchum’s being returned. Mr. Baldwin’s success is uncertain. I do not know what the prospects are in other counties.[14]

I am glad to hear that you enjoy peace of mind and feel an increasing attachment to your charge. It is more than I do. I am scarcely free from interruptions long enough to settle my mind on any one thing, and sometimes I am almost distracted. I hope it will be better when we remove the establishment.

On questions of right and liberty, as well as in other subjects, I am resolved to pursue a most decided course. Your retired situation will afford you a good opportunity for mental improvement and writing useful articles on various subjects.

Mrs. Armstrong and Family are well. Mrs. R. joins in affectionate respects to you. I hope you will write often & freely.

Your affectionate

E. Ryerson

November 1, 1830, Rev. Egerton Ryerson, York, to Rev. Geo. Ryerson, Brantford, Grand River, U.C.

My dr. Brother:

I should have written to you before but for my continual press of business. Mr. Sharp kindly called upon me on Saturday, and I intended to have written by him, but was prevented by unexpected visitors.

The children are well, and I think are improving. Fanny is acquiring an increased taste for her book. Joseph is broken of his bad propensity, and is becoming a good boy, and I am in hopes Fanny will become a fine girl. We try to instruct them all in our power, but Joseph does not seem to improve in his talking.

Miss Bliss, preceptress at Cazenovia, has paid a visit to this place and returned. Miss H. Rolph[15] would have come with her, but expecting you hourly, determined to wait your arrival, and return with you.

I have no news of importance. The posture of affairs in England appear, upon the whole, more favorable to Reform than in U. Canada.[16] We are resolved to double our diligence—To have general petitions in favor of the abolition of every kind of religious dominancy circulated throughout the Province, addressed to the Provincial and Imperial Parliaments, and take up the whole question decidedly, fully & warmly. Perhaps you can furnish some articles on the subject.

I understand that a meeting was held by the Church of England people, in the Court House on Friday last, to form a Society for Christianizing the Indians from this to Baffin’s Bay. The plan of it, or the proceedings of the meeting, I have not heard.

We intend to remove our family next week, and glad I shall be when we get through with it.

Our London Xtian Advocate is very interesting. It is becoming daily more decided. It evidently sides with the Whig interest. It copies a good deal from our paper, and refers to us very respectfully. I think that and the World will espouse our cause, if we were to commence a correspondence with them and furnish them with reports of our House of Assembly, etc., etc. I wished you were here to write to the World and Mr. Reece, etc.

We must be up and doing while it is called to day—It is the right time. There is a new and Whig Parliament in England and I am sure our own House of Assembly dare not deny the petitions of the people on this subject.

I hope to hear from you shortly. Cannot you come to York soon? Have you no missionary intelligence?

We are all well.

Yours affectionately

in haste

E. Ryerson

January 20, 1831, Rev. Wm. Bell, Perth, to Rev. E. Ryerson, York, U.C.


Rev. Dear Sir:

Though differing from you in many particulars, yet in some we agree. Your endeavours to advance the cause of civil and religious liberty have generally met my approbation. Some of your writings that I have seen discover both good sense and christian feeling. The liberality too you have discovered both in regard to myself and in regard of my brethren has not escaped my observation. God is Love! And love is the fulfilling of the law. It is the atmosphere of heaven and the more we breathe in it while on earth the better.

Be not discouraged by the malice of the enemies of religion. Bear in mind that the carnal mind is enmity against God and he that hateth Him that begot will hate also them that are begotten of Him.

Your Guardian I have seldom seen but from this time I intend to take it regularly. If you can send it from the beginning do so. If not, send what you can and from this time consider me one of your “constant readers”. The matters in which we differ are nothing in comparison of those in which we agree.

Tell your brother George that his statements before the Canada Committee are the most correct and sensible I have seen and if they do not suit Dr. Strachan and his friends we cannot help it!

We have heard of various kinds of wisdom; but the wisdom which comes from above is first pure and then peaceable, etc. Under the influence of this wisdom I say Peace be with all that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and truth.

I am Dear Brother

In the bonds of Christian affection

Yours truly

Wm. Bell

The manner in which William Bell, the Presbyterian minister in the fine Scotch settlement of Perth, introduces himself to Ryerson reveals something of the place which the Guardian was coming to have in the province. Hodgins has given certain postal returns for 1830-31 to show that the Guardian paid more postage in that year than thirteen “following” papers whose names and payments he mentions. This has sometimes been interpreted as meaning that the Guardian had a larger circulation than any other thirteen prints in Upper Canada.[17] In strict accuracy, the postal returns show that the Guardian in the years 1831 and 1834 paid approximately as much postage as its three nearest competitors combined. But postal returns are not a reliable criterion of circulation. A newspaper like the Guardian with a large number of rural subscribers would use the mails more, proportionately, than such papers as the York Courier. In any case, it is probably well within the mark to say that under Ryerson’s editorship the Guardian rapidly became much the most widely read and widely influential paper in the province.

The “most decided” course which Ryerson had resolved to pursue during his second year as editor brought readers to the Guardian. It also made its editor a subject for chastisement by the government. He had a considerable part in two separate petitions forwarded to the Imperial Parliament in 1831; and the Governor, objecting to such agitation, was to inform the Conference that it was presuming quite too much with its paper and its Academy and its insistence on equal rights in religion.

The first of these petitions was the result of a remarkable gathering in York of earnest and determined men in December, 1830. It may be inferred that this meeting was directly the outcome of the unsatisfactory results to the reform cause in the general elections held in October. The new Legislature could not be depended upon, and the liberal-minded citizens of Upper Canada felt that once more they must turn to the Imperial Parliament. Robert Baldwin took the chair, and the Rev. Wm. Smith, now the Methodist preacher at York, was secretary. The result of the meeting was the formation of a committee of twenty-three members, with power to add to their numbers, committed to the preparation and circulation of a second petition drafted by Jesse Ketchum and Ryerson on behalf of the “Friends of Religious Liberty”. The committee consisted of three members of the Church of England, ten Presbyterians, eight Methodists, one Baptist and one Friend. The Anglicans were Dr. William Warren Baldwin, who was named chairman of the committee, his son Robert, and Joseph Cawthra, erstwhile member for Simcoe. There were only three preachers on the committee—Jenkins, Smith and Ryerson,—and two members of the Legislature—Ketchum and Mackenzie. This was probably the last time that the citizens of York of liberal sentiments were able to unite in a common undertaking. They produced a document setting forth in some detail the inequalities of the existing situation. It noted how the Clergy Reserves, whether disposed of or held for increase in value, were causing the “labours of the many to be turned to the undeserved aggrandizement of the few”, and how many members of the Church so enriched were dissatisfied with the whole system. Its prayer was summarized in a concluding sentence:

May it therefore please your Honourable House, to take the subject of promoting religion and education in Upper Canada, into your most serious consideration:—to take such steps as may be within the constitutional powers of your Honourable House to leave the ministers of all denominations of Christians to be supported by the people among whom they labour, and by the voluntary contribution of benevolent societies in Canada and Great Britain—to do away with all political distinctions on account of religious faith—to remove all ministers of religion from seats and places of political power in the Provincial Government—to grant to the Clergy of all denominations of Christians the enjoyment of equal rights and privileges in every thing that appertains to them as subjects of His Majesty’s Government, and as ministers of the Gospel, particularly the right of solemnizing Matrimony, of which many of them have long been deprived, contrary to the repeated and unanimous votes of the House of Assembly—to modify the Charter of King’s College established at York in Upper Canada, so as to exclude all sectarian tests and preferences—and to appropriate the proceeds of the sale of lands heretofore set apart for the support of a Protestant Clergy, to the purposes of general education and various internal improvements.[18]

This document was sedulously passed along the highways and by-ways of Upper Canada, and again George Ryerson was asked to lay the views of his fellow citizens of like mind before the Imperial Parliament.

By the end of March it had been sufficiently signed, and George Ryerson was on his way to England. The Bishop and clergy took up the challenge and projected a counter petition. It was May 7th, however, before the readers of the Guardian, and we may conclude the public of Upper Canada generally, knew anything definite about their action. On that date the Guardian prints the text of this second petition as copied from the Farmers’ Journal and thanks the editor for publishing it. “We think it was not intended for the public eye in Canada,” says Ryerson. “At all events it has been kept secret until it is too late for the persons implicated to send home to the British Government a refutation of its gross perversions of truth.”

In analysing the petition from the Lord Bishop of Quebec and his clergy, and criticising it paragraph by paragraph, Ryerson brings out an interesting bit of information. The clergy had stated:

It has appeared to your Petitioners that the peace of society, and the interests of religion would be best consulted by their forbearing to excite even their own congregations to an expression of their opinion in the same popular form. . . .[19]

In his comment Ryerson notes that a public meeting was in fact called in the Court House of the Newcastle District by the Rev. A. N. Bethune to oppose the petition of the Friends of Religious Liberty. The meeting broke up without coming to a decision, since it was discovered “that most of the persons upon whose cooperation Bethune was depending to sanction and promote his measure, were either circulating, or had signed, or were favourable to the other petition”. Ryerson adds,

We think that Mr. Bethune deserves credit for thus bringing the measures, expressive of his real sentiments, before the public, and putting them to the test of public opinion; and if such a measure would succeed in any town or village in Upper Canada, we believe it would in the vicinity of Cobourg, under the management of Mr. Bethune.[20]

This may have been the only public meeting called, and Bethune’s failure may have determined the method finally adopted. It was simpler and easier and, above all, quicker; so that the Lord Bishop and Mr. Bethune, adequately fortified, were able to sail by the same packet as George Ryerson and reach London, being relayed by a skiff, a few days before the latter with his bulkier missive.

The voyage on the Birmingham shall be described by George Ryerson himself, who was probably quite in the dark as to what was in the portmanteau of the Lord Bishop.

Near the Coast of Ireland, Lat. 50, Lon. 9,

April 25, 1831.

My dear Brother:

I wrote to you on the 24th March from the Coast of America near New York. At that time I did not anticipate so long a passage, confidently expecting to be in London by this date; but He who rules the winds and directs the storms hath ordered otherwise. We have had rather a rough passage but without any disasters. 17 days head wind drove us many degrees from our course, as far as 36 South Latitude, in the same parallel with Gibraltar and not many hundred miles from that place. At 10 o’clock tonight (about one hour hence) we will be in Latitude 50° 54 North and Longitude 8° 20 West 42 miles South East from the Old Kinsale-Head, in Ireland, where the Albion was wrecked in 1820. Yesterday we fell in with an English vessel 4 days from Liverpool for South America; as it was calm the Captain ordered the boat to be let down and sent on board, and we procured an English Paper giving us the first intelligence we had received from Europe since the 4th February. From it we were gratified to learn that public affairs were going on much more prosperously in England, and Reform was the order of the day; that Poland was successfully maintaining the struggle with Russia; but that Ireland, poor ill-fated Ireland, was in a most wretched state, etc. We were rejoiced to learn that, that nauseous drug, “Toryism”, had become a very stale and cheap article in Great Britain. You know it has been customary in England to ship unfashionable and unsaleable goods for the Canada markets. If this filthy article be sent that way, our Solicitor General and his liberal coadjutors may procure, “Dog cheap”, abundance of that ultra loyalty that has long fattened upon corruption, trampled upon the rights of the people, frittered away the constitution, and squandered the best blood of England.

The incidents of our voyage are so few and uninteresting that I need not take up your time by dwelling upon them, particularly as my fellow-traveller Peter Jones will write to you more in detail, and under the influence of those more vivid impressions which the novelty of the scenes he remarks on, cannot but make upon his mind.

A description of the general routine and incidents of one day will with a small allowance for wind and weather, etc. answer for the whole. About half past 7 o’clock the steward’s bell rings to prepare for breakfast; about 8 o’clock the breakfast bell rings; if the night has been rough several vacant seats may be seen—bad appetites—distant intimations of stomachs in distress—many anxious inquiries addressed to the Captain, as, “how does the ship head? The Latitude? The Longitude? Any prospects of a change, etc., etc.?” The operation of eating being performed, a short respite takes place, when at 12 o’clock the table is again spread with a variety of eatables, wines, etc. Another intermission now prepares the company for a plentiful dinner which is served up at 4 o’clock—tea about 6, and for those who wish it, some other refreshment about 10 in the evening. This is a faint outline of one day’s eating and drinking. To this we may add a few of the inconveniences that sometimes attend the operation. We will suppose that the sea, no unusual occurrence, is very rough at our dinner hour; by a sudden roll of the ship a dish of gravy is emptied into the lap of one gentleman, a boiled ham makes a sudden stride in the direction of another, etc., etc. During the intervals between hours, when the wants of animal nature are attended to, the passengers occupy or amuse themselves in various ways; some read, others write—walk upon deck, or employ, to kill time, in amusements less edifying and innocent.

You will perceive by this slight sketch, that a man who is fond of idleness and good cheer, and who at the same time is favored with a good appetite may make himself quite comfortable; but as this does not happen to be my case, I find the voyage exceedingly tedious.

By the gentlemen who compose our company nine different countries are represented; and our religious and political sentiments are almost as diversified as our places of nativity. We have adherents of the English Church, the Dutch Church, Lutheran, Methodist, Roman Catholic, etc., Monarchists—Republicans, Whigs and one poor Tory, a quiet good gentleman—His lordship the Bp. professes not to be a Tory and a “right divine” man. I have no doubt of his sincerity, for he certainly is a very good and liberal man. But our diversity of opinion has not been allowed to interrupt the harmony of the company, and the utmost kindness and good feeling has uniformly prevailed.

Since writing the above, we have with a gentle breeze sailed many miles along the coast of Ireland. Last night we saw the sun in all his splendor gently sink behind the distant hills of the “Emerald Isle”—We are now (27th April) lying nearly becalmed in St. George’s Channel about —— miles from Liverpool. We were today boarded by the Captain of a ship from Grenock who informed us that the question of “Reform” was lost in the Commons by a majority of 8. This put new life in Mr. B. A dissolution of Parliament will be the consequence, which will necessarily detain me considerably longer in England.

Thursday Morning, 28th. This morning we found ourselves nearly becalmed about 8 miles off Holy Head the North West extremity of the Isle of Anglsea in Wales and 60 miles from Liverpool. This place is nearly opposite to Dublin, which is 60 miles distant, and the mountainous coast of Carnavonshire in North Wales for many miles may be seen. Notwithstanding the weather is dull and smoky, I have this moment, without the aid of a glass, counted 77 ships and other vessels in sight, most of them sailing in the direction of Liverpool.

Thursday Evening. The tide has drifted us back as much in the afternoon as we made in the morning. About noon a small boat came off from Holy Head; the Bishop and three other passengers went ashore intending to proceed to London from this place, as from the state of the weather it is uncertain when we shall reach Liverpool. But as we could not take our baggage, Mr. Jones & myself had to remain with the ship. The tide is now in our favor and we are making a little progress; Holy Head light still in sight.

Liverpool, 30th April, 1 o’clock.

We have this moment reached this place. We wish to go to London this afternoon, if possible, to be at the Anniversary of the British and Foreign Bible Society on the 1st of May. I have only time to conclude my letter without adding any thing respecting the town. We find the whole country in a flame of patriotism. The Parliament has been dissolved by the King in a manner suited to the energy and promptitude that characterizes all his acts. He is emphatically “the friend of the people”, and no King was ever more popular. Never was there in England such preparations for a general Election. All other business appears to be laid aside. The Election in this town takes place on Monday. General Gascoyne is now making a speech in the town hall. He is an anti-reformer, and will probably lose his election.

You can scarcely conceive the excitement which prevails. We are at the Talbot Inn, and at this moment several thousand people, friends of Mr. Dennison, are assembled in the street and in the House.

Yours, etc.,

George Ryerson

August 6, 1831, George Ryerson, Bristol, to (Rev. Egerton Ryerson)

My dear Brother,

I wrote to you as soon as I landed at Liverpool also enclosing a letter from Peter Jones, but as I do not see it acknowledged in the Guardian I fear it has miscarried.[21] In our letters we gave some account of our voyage. We kept no copy. I have since written but I believe Bro. Jones has not. I have not written to you as often as I should have done had I not written to Dr. Morrison and forwarded the papers to him, which I considered the same as writing to yourself so far as business & news were concerned. Peter Jones has recovered a considerable degree of health. After his return to London he experienced several weeks’ delay in getting his translation prepared for the press in consequence of a letter from the Committee on the translations of the York Bible Society, Drs. Harris, Baldwin & Mr. Wenham, stating that the translation was imperfect, etc. He had in consequence to go over the whole translation with Mr. Greenfield, the Editor of The Bible Society Translations. Mr. Greenfield is a very clever and pleasant man & has an extensive knowledge of languages—he very soon acquired the idiom of the Chippewa so that he became better able to judge of the faithfulness of the translation. It is probable Mr. Wenham understands the idiom of but one language & thinks all others must conform to that; to these qualifications for censorship I may add a large share of bigotry, and a very competent sprinkling of self-sufficiency, and no little personal hostility to Methodism. I attribute the letter chiefly to the influence of these qualifications on the understanding of Mr. Wenham. Mr. Greenfield went carefully through every sentence with Mr. Jones and made some unimportant alterations, when he expressed himself much pleased with the translation and thinks it is the most literal of any published by the Bible Society. It is now passing through the press and we expect it to be finished in time to send to Canada by the 25 inst.

We came to this place to attend the Wesleyan conference and were publickly introduced to them by the President, Mr. Marsden, & we have been treated by them with much kindness and attention. Before the conclusion on the last day I gave them a short account of the rise, change, and present standing of our connection in Canada, and stated that we now stood precisely in the same relation to our brethren of the Methodist conferences in the United States, as we do to our brethren of the Wesleyan conference, independent of either, agreeing in faith, in religious discipline, in name & doctrine and unity of spirit, but differing in some ecclesiastical arrangements rendered necessary from local circumstances. I also expressed my firm conviction that the situation in which we stand is decidedly that the best calculated to spread Methodism & vital religion in Canada & that if expedient I could adduce satisfactory reasons to support this opinion. This last statement I do hot think gave so much satisfaction as the others, for what Pope said of Churchman (“Is he a churchman, then he’s fond of power”) may also be literally applied to Wesleyan ministers, & I may add, to Englishmen generally—and our brethren cannot with pleasure see us exist in a British Colony independent of their control. I was therefore very pointed and explicit on this subject. My prayer is—“May the Lord continue to save from the government of an European Priesthood!” I have reason to know that they would gladly govern us, and for that purpose would not hesitate to afford pecuniary aid, but I still most heartily pray “Good Lord deliver us”. I do most heartily rejoice that our country lies beyond the Atlantic and is surrounded by the atmosphere of freedom. A few months’ residence in this country would lead you to value this circumstance in a degree that you can scarcely conceive of, and you would with unknown energy address this exhortation to the Methodists & to the people of Canada, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith God’s Providence hath made you free, and in this abound more & more”. I also assured them of our respect and love for them as our fathers & elder brethren. And mentioned my reasons for giving them this information to prevent future collision & misunderstandings, etc.

The Conference closed yesterday (5th inst.) after a session of only 9 days, an unusually short time.

You will no doubt wish to have my undisguised opinion of the Wesleyan Conference & connection. What I say is in confidence and for your private information, for it would be unhandsome and ungenerous in me, besides its impolicy, to publish anything to their disparagement after having received much civility and some kindness from them.[22] But to you I will speak freely. I admire their talents & zeal as preachers & in numerous instances their devoted piety as Christians. I approve of many parts of their system—: but further than that I cannot go. Perhaps I do not use too strong terms when I say that I detest their politics and I much dislike their blind veneration for the writings of Mr. Wesley (excellent in themselves, but not inspired, & containing much of human infirmity & the prejudices of a High Church education); their exalted opinion of themselves & their system, their servile reverence for great men and great names and their servile & time-serving clinging to the skirts of a corrupt, secularized and anti-Christian Church. They are very generally either anti-reformers or half-hearted, lukewarm, hesitating reformers. I speak particularly of the preachers, and especially of the older ones. Amongst the body of the Wesleyan people & many of the young preachers I am happy to say that more liberal views and feelings are fast gaining ground. And many of the old preachers who were tories are gradually coming around to more liberal principles. But altogether I fear that the Wesleyan Conference is an obstacle to the extension of civil & religious liberty. I hope I may be disappointed, but I have the best reason to fear, that if the Reform Bill pass into a law & the elective franchise be so extended as to give them a great influence in elections, that the members returned by their influence will not be men for reforming and purifying the Church & State. The Reform Bill is only important as it enables the people to return an independent Parliament, but if when the people receive the privilege of voting they return a tory or aristocratic parliament the object of the Bill will be defeated, and the present system of extravagance, of pensions, sinecures, tythes, etc., etc. will continue. A peaceable reform in these matters is, I fear, very distant.

But to return to the Conference; every act is a legislative act, even on so trifling a subject as, whether a certain chapel shall have an organ, etc., and at the conclusion of the conference the whole proceedings, resolutions, etc., etc., are by a vote of the 100 legalized, signed by the President and Secretary, and become laws binding on the whole connection. The Conference is thus with [out] check or control a legislative & executive body, disposing of large annual funds, four times the revenue of U. Canada, the funds [of] the Missionary Socy. alone amounting annually to about $450,000, and passing regulations affecting the interests and liberties of a population larger than that of U. Canada. How far the existence & exercise of such an authority is consistent with [the] character that Christ gives of His ministers, I will not pretend to decide. I believe it is not suited to the meridian of America. This Conference is more devotional in their manner of doing business than ours, that is, prayer and other religious exercises more frequently recur. Many of their customs might be very profitably imitated by us.

I looked around with much attention to see if we could obtain a suitable Gen. Superintendent in the Wesleyan Conference, but I think not. They are too well provided for to be willing to leave this country for Canada & too arbitrary, or something approaching near to it, in their feelings & habits to be borne by our preachers. I was more pleased with the manners & sentiments of the Irish Delegates, but on inquiry I found, to use the words of my informant, that they were too churchified, many having sons educated for the Church or already Clergymen; in short I think it will be far better for you to look to the U.S. for a Gen. Superintendent. Better to bear the temporary censure of enemies in Canada, then the permanent evil & annoyance of having a Church & State Tory Superintendent from this country. I mention these things only by the way as reasons why I paid more particular attention to the conduct and principles of the W. ministers at conference.

The Conference or Missionary Socy. have not given up their intention of establishing an Indian Mission in U. Canada, but in consequence of my remonstrances have delayed it. A letter was read from the U. States inviting them to send a delegate to the next Genl. Conference. They declined it on account of the expense, but finally consented that if the Missionary Society chose to send a deputation to visit their missions in the West Indies & Canada & to take this in the plan they might do it. I recommended this measure & told [them] they would gain more than the expense by the missionary information they would collect and at the same time invited them to take our conference in the plan, as I knew it to be the wish of our preachers; they assented to it. I think it probable the Missionary Society will do this, and such a visit to U. Canada will no doubt prevent them interfering with our missions & will be highly gratifying to all parties.

In answer to brother Richardson I wish you to say that I submitted his letter to the Missionary Committee and I was some time after told by Dr. Townly, one of the Secretaries, that they would by no means withdraw their missionary from Kingston as it was still their intention to establish a mission to the Indians in U. Canada & that this station would then be very necessary to them. I wish to apprise you of their intentions but I think you had better say nothing about it publickly, only be prepared should any division be attempted, as I see they are a little vexed that emigrants from their Societies should augment our numbers & I should not [be] at all surprised if they again attempted to form Societies in U. Canada. I think it will not be done this year.

The session of Conference passed with much harmony & unanimity. It is remarkable that they have had no increase the last year, but as they appeared to be unwilling to speak on the subject I could not learn the exact state of the Societies. A respectable Wesleyan in Birmingham expressed to me much surprise and uneasiness that they had not increased during the year. He said when he reflected on the immense machinery in operation, their travelling preachers, great body of local preachers, Sunday Schools, etc., he could not account for it. The connection is also enormously in debt for chapels, etc. The whole morning service of the Church is now read in most of the Wesleyan Chapels & with as much formality as in the Church. Many of the members when they become wealthy and rise in the world join the Church and their wealth & influence are lost to the Society. Organs are also introduced into many of their chapels. [The letter is incomplete]

George Ryerson was measurably just in his estimate of the British Wesleyans, but it took Egerton nine years fully to realize it. The union with the British Conference completed in 1833 was destined to last only seven years. It had disturbing effects at its inception, detracted from the effectiveness of the church while it continued, and when broken off caused a serious disruption and the loss to the Canadian Conference of several of its ablest ministers. In fact it took British Methodism some sixty years to change the political complexion given it by its founder. “John Wesley had been a Tory and a High Churchman. His High Churchmanship was modified because it interfered with his work, his Toryism was subject to no such strain, and remained unaltered.”[23]

Wesley, however, insisted on the “no politics” rule amongst the preachers, and this was observed in the letter after his death as well as during his life. His mantle very shortly was assumed by a man of like mind, wanting in Wesley’s range of interest and restless energy, but equally authoritarian. “Jabez Bunting, who dominated Methodism for half a century, was politically a Tory, and, whilst preserving the traditional Methodist attitude of isolation from politics, he used his influence to discourage Liberal and Radical elements within the Connexion.”[24] Under the strict system of British Wesleyan discipline, a member could be expelled at the will of the Superintendent of his Circuit, and Radicals frequently found themselves unwelcome and excluded from the Societies. In the light of this attitude the decrease in membership in 1831, here noted by George Ryerson, was not surprising. Many a Methodist must have entertained an admiration for Lord Durham, otherwise known as “Radical Jack”, and his political associates. A distinct change in attitude came in 1849; but in the thirties the “Friends of Religious Liberty” in Upper Canada had little to expect from the British Wesleyans. This fact, however, they had yet to learn by sad experience.

George Ryerson interviewed Lord Goderich, the Colonial Secretary in the new administration, on June 5, 1831, and discussed further with him in a letter of July 20th a suggestion which his Lordship had made in reference to the University Charter. This was to the effect that King’s College might be confined to members of the Episcopal Church and another College endowed “for the accommodation of other denominations, that is, for the country generally”. In discussing this proposal with deference but with candour, George Ryerson points out “that many of the most powerful opposers of the institution in its present character and of the system of an ecclesiastical establishment with which it is identified are churchmen”, and that 30 or 40 youths from Upper Canada are now pursuing their studies in the United States and at least six of these from York where Upper Canada College is located, and “these youths are from the families of English people and Canadian loyalists”.[25] Speaking for the petitioners he assures his Lordship,

that we act from principles, and not from jealousy or party spirit. And I am well assured, that the only certain security and permanent protection for British power in North America will be to give those Colonies a liberal Government, free and popular institutions, and full power to regulate and manage all their internal concerns, civil, literary, and ecclesiastical, themselves.

When on October 14th the petition finally was presented by Joseph Hume to the House of Commons, it met with a favourable reception. Even the former Tory Secretary of State, Sir George Murray, gave it qualified support. When Lord Goderich wrote to the Lieutenant Governor on November 2nd, he earnestly recommended the surrendering of the University Charter, and expressed the conviction that the Clergy Reserves were wrong in principle and a serious obstacle to material progress as well as to good will and affection on the part of the people towards the Clergy.

Meanwhile the Bishop of Quebec and Mr. Bethune were representing the other side of the case. The latter in his Memoir of Bishop Strachan tells us something of this visit. He says that Dr. Stewart had been urged by Dr. Strachan and others to go, since from family connection he had influence with several of the ministry, but he does not mention the petition from the Clergy. Lord Goderich was most friendly to them. He made a proposal in regard to the University “to divide the endowment, giving one half to the Church of England, with her present Charter unchanged; and the other half to the Province for the establishment of a University entirely satisfactory to the Colonial mind”.[26] Bethune himself favoured the proposal, but “others of more weight and experience differed”, and the Bishop declined the offer. Thus nothing was done. A half loaf failed to satisfy, and a whole loaf could not be had, in view of public opinion. Only after two denominations had founded their own universities in Upper Canada did the “others of more weight and experience” capitulate, so that the walls of a provincial university might begin to rise.

The Conference of 1831, meeting in York on August 31st, thought it well to address a Memorial to the King in refutation of certain statements contained in the Lord Bishop’s petition. A letter from the Colonial Secretary, dated May 2, 1831, (three days after the arrival in London of Dr. Stewart), had advised all and sundry in Upper Canada that any petitions to His Majesty or the Secretary of State should pass through the hands of the Governor in order to regularize procedure and facilitate action. By way of courtesy, and in compliance with this suggestion, the Conference presented its Memorial to Sir John Colborne for forwarding to His Majesty, as follows:

To the King’s Most Excellent Majesty


The Memorial of the President and Itinerant Ministers of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Canada, assembled in Conference—

Most humbly sheweth:

That your Memorialists have read with pain a copy of a Petition, purporting to be from the “Bishop and Clergy of the Diocese of Quebec”, lately forwarded from this Province to be presented to your Majesty by the Lord Bishop of Quebec; in which the motives, character, and conduct of your Memorialists are represented in a false and prejudicial light, and the state of public opinion respecting the claims of the Episcopal Clergy to the Clergy Reserve lands in this Province, is, by intelligible and strong insinuations, stated to be quite different from what it really is.

Your Memorialists regret the occasion of addressing Your Majesty on the topics brought forward in the petition of the Episcopal Clergy. They consider that points of difference, not affecting the essential principles of the Christian Faith, but of merely prudential consideration, ought not to destroy or interrupt the exercises of Christian friendship and mutual good will among different classes of Christian Ministers, whose avowed object is to impart to mankind the instructions and blessings of a common Gospel. But your Memorialists conceive that for them, under present circumstances, to remain any longer silent, either as to statements and insinuations which relate to themselves, or, to the general question of a Church Establishment in Upper Canada, would be a dereliction of duty to Your Majesty, to themselves, and to the religious interests of the Province; for the improvement and happiness of which, and its undisturbed continuance under Your Majesty’s benificent Government, your Memorialists deem it alike their duty and privilege to pray and labor.[27]

The Memorial proceeds in detail and at some length to correct the misstatements of the petition; at the conclusion the Methodist preachers put themselves on record as to the policy of their Church:

The Methodist Church in Canada includes at this time sixty travelling Ministers, upwards of one hundred and fifty local Preachers, and nearly thirteen thousand communicants;—and your Memorialists impart religious instruction to at least one fourth of the whole population of Upper Canada. But they do not ask for themselves any part of the proceeds of those lands heretofore set apart for the support of a “Protestant Clergy”; nor could they desire any public provision which would be opposed to the general wishes of those for whose welfare they profess to labor; for they cannot conceive that any system of doctrine or form of worship should be forced upon a province any more than upon an individual. Your Memorialists ask nothing from the Government by way of public support but that which they confidently believe will not be withheld from them—“protection, equal and impartial protection”.

When the Committee of Conference, of which Egerton Ryerson was a member, called upon the Lieutenant Governor in connection with the Memorial to the King, Sir John was not content simply to comply with their request that he should forward the document with enclosures, but astonished his visitors by reading them a lecture. Having done so, he handed the document from which he read to the Committee, requesting its return. They copied the lecture and returned the copy. His secretary sent the copy back and asked for the document itself. This was returned with the request for a certified copy, here reproduced as follows:


I shall not fail to transmit to the Secretary of State your Memorial addressed to the King.

In returning my best thanks to you for your good wishes I may venture to affirm that the assurances of your desire & determination to promote the interests of pure Religion will afford general satisfaction, because a very unfavorable impression has been made from one end of the Province to the other as regards an imputed secular interference on the part of your Preachers—an impression, I am afraid, that must tend to counteract the salutary effect that ought to result from the active piety and zeal of your Society. I refer with reluctance to the public opinion formed of the Doctrines inculcated by Ministers of any denomination of Christians, or of the principles which they are said to espouse; but on this occasion I think it right to acquaint you that, although the character of your Ministers is probably aspersed, and although they may not, as it is said, take advantage of the influence acquired by their sacred Office, to conduct the political concerns of the people committed to their care to be instructed only in the Words of eternal life, yet I cannot imagine that if there were not some grounds for the imputation of their inconvenient attention to secular concerns, a desire for the return of the Wesleyan Missionaries to resume their pastoral labors in this Province would not have been generally expressed. This conclusion may be erroneous, but I am in some measure led to it from the reports which I have received of the absurd advice offered by your Missionaries to the Indians, and their officious interference; if any reliance can be placed on the statements of the Indians themselves, the civilization of whom the Superintendents of the Indian Department are endeavoring to accomplish.

With our excellent Constitution, in this Province, I trust, we shall always find a sufficient number of the supporters of civil and religious freedom without the interference of the Ministers of the Gospel. Your Preachers whether they are brought from the United States or from any other foreign Country will I hope experience, while they act honestly and respect British institutions, the same protection, encouragement and freedom which all Americans enjoy who have found an asylum among us and choose to live under the British Government in this Province and securely enjoy the rights of our own Colonists, which are assured to every Denomination, party, sect or persuasion.

Your dislike to any Church Establishment, or to the particular form of Christianity which is denominated the Church of England, may be the natural consequence of the constant success of your own efficacious organized System. The small number of our church is to be regretted, as well as that the organization of its Ministry is not adapted to supply the present wants of the dispersed population in this new Country; but you will readily admit that the sober-minded of the Province are disgusted with the accounts of the disgraceful dissensions of the Episcopal Methodist Church and its separatists, recriminating Memorials, and the warfare of one church with another. The utility of an Establishment depends entirely on the piety, assiduity and devoted zeal of its Ministers, and on their abstaining from a secular interference which may involve them in political disputes.

The labors of the Clergy of Established Churches in defence of moral and religious truth will always be remembered by you who have access to their writings and benefit by them in common with other Christian Societies. You will allow, I have no doubt, on reflection that it would indeed (with the inconsiderable population in the Province) be imprudent to admit the right of Societies to dictate on account of their present numerical strength, in what way the Lands set apart as a provision for the Clergy shall be disposed of. Ample information on the question has been laid before the Imperial Parliament, and no inconvenience while it is pending can arise in respect to the occupation of these Lands; for there are more acres now offered for sale than purchasers can be found for them.

In a few years the Province will be peopled by millions of our own countrymen, and many of the arrangements of His Majesty’s Government will have reference naturally to the population of the Mother Country destined to occupy the Waste Lands of the Crown.

The system of Education which has produced the best & ablest men in the United Kingdom will not be abandoned here to suit the limited views of the leaders of Societies, who perhaps have neither experience nor judgment to appreciate the value or advantages of a liberal education; but the British Government will, I am confident, with the aid of the Provincial Legislature, establish respectable Schools in every part of the Province; and encourage all Societies to follow their example.

A Seminary, I hope, will not be styled exclusive, that is open to every one, merely because the Classical Masters are brought from our own Universities.

It may be mentioned without giving offence to the Members of any church or persuasion that there are few individuals who think that Ministers of the Gospel can conduct political Journals, and keep themselves unspotted from the world, and put away all bitterness and wrath and clamor and evil speaking, which the attacks of their adversaries may engender: or that their avocation will not force them to spend their time like the Athenians in their decline, in nothing but “either to tell or hear something new”. I am persuaded that the friends of religion will strongly recommend Ministers of the Gospel to labour to increase the number of Christians rather than the numbers of their own Sects or Persuasions; to close their Churches and Chapels against all political meetings, and indeed all meetings for the transaction of secular business,—and never to permit their consecrated places to be profaned by the Party Spirit of the hour.

The motives which prompted the writing of this curious document can only be surmised. Hitherto Colborne’s attitude towards the Methodists had been fair enough. The sneering reference to their want of education, as well as the whole tone of the letter, suggests personal pique and gives some colour to Hodgins’ view that he “resented the efforts of the Methodist Conference to establish an Institution which might possibly prove a rival to Upper Canada College”,[28] which he without consulting the Legislature had just founded.

It is evident that Ryerson was not a little worried by this deliverance of His Majesty’s representative and the pointed reference to his editorship. In a brief editorial introducing it he sighs, “We confess that the flesh is quite wearied with our present responsibilities: may we ask an interest in the supplications of those who have an interest to impart.” In his dejection he seems to doubt that all his readers would wish to pray for him. Nevertheless he takes occasion to reply to Sir John, through his secretary, in a letter which while studied in its tone of respect is pointed enough to meet the needs of the situation. It is doubtful if Ryerson ever penned a more effective rejoinder, or Sir John ever received one less to his liking. It was dated Dec. 15, 1831, and six days later, along with the letter to which it was a reply appeared in the Christian Guardian.[29]

After deprecating any desire to add to the Governor’s responsibilities or difficulties, Ryerson confesses that he is compelled so to write since “His Excellency assumes the correctness of every material slander which has been circulated against them” [the Methodist preachers]. He observes how serious an effect this must have on British opinion.

If His Excellency’s representations of the Methodist Clergy to His Majesty’s Government correspond with those contained in His answer to their address—their respectful and courteous address—they must undoubtedly be viewed by a Sovereign whose good opinion it is their high ambition to deserve and enjoy, as the very reverse of the Ministers of righteousness and peace, and their expressions of attachment to His Majesty’s Royal Person and Government, must appear but the deceitful vapourings of interested hypocrisy.

He then proceeds to deal with the imputed “secular interference” of the preachers. He sets over against one another the evidence to be found in the Report of the Select Committee of the Provincial Parliament and the irresponsible paragraphs of scurrilous prints. The Methodist preachers, impartially judged, will be found as “desiring to possess no other power than that which personal worth bestows and to enjoy no other wealth than the voluntary contributions of their faithfully instructed flocks”.

As to the “general wish” for the return of the Wesleyan missionaries, he asserts that the wish is not general, but particular on the part of those who desire “to divide and destroy its [the Conference’s] influence, and to erect high church and political toryism on its ruins”.

He cannot imagine what His Excellency means by “absurd advice to the Indians”, and trusts that “it will be admitted on all hands that the Methodist Conference have given pretty strong proof of a desire to ameliorate the condition of the Indian tribes”. He admits, however, that the Missionaries have at times been seriously embarrassed by drunkenness and immorality on the part of workers and others sent amongst them by the Indian Department, now directly under the oversight of the Governor.[30] His Excellency had admitted the small number of the Church of England and noted some defect in the organization of its ministry. Ryerson remarks that it would have been well for the honour of the Church and the peace of the province if the Venerable Archdeacon of York had made the same admission instead of claiming that the tendency of the whole population was towards the Church; and expresses the belief that it is its political relation to the government which makes its organization weak.

The reply to Sir John’s remarks on the limited education of the Methodist clergy must appear in full.

In the next place, His Excellency has thought proper to taunt the Methodist Clergy with their supposed ignorance—with having “neither experience nor judgment to appreciate the value and advantages of a liberal education”. To the advantages of a university education the Methodist Clergy may not make pretensions; nor may many of the Episcopal Clergy; nor may hundreds of other Ministers of the Gospel who have shown by their works, that they were more thoroughly versed in the essential qualifications of able Ministers of the New Testament than those who could pompously boast of their long residence in College halls. No Ministry in the Province is more successful than that of the Methodists; nor are any congregations larger and more numerous, or more intelligent. At least one fourth of the population have shown a preference for the Ministrations of those on whose incapacity His Excellency has seen fit to reflect. If exertions to extend the “advantages of a liberal education” indicate a “judgment to appreciate” them, the Methodist Clergy are at this very hour employing their utmost energies for the promotion of that great object among the youth of the Province.

The charge as to “publishing political journals” is met by a review of the purpose of the Guardian and a comparison of its success with the failure of a similar journal sponsored by the Bishop of Quebec. “Ministers of the Episcopal, Presbyterian and Baptist churches as well have not thought it inconsistent with their sacred office to conduct such journals.”

Infinitely more fitting [this to Strachan] is such an employment to a Minister and more profitable to the World, than sitting in the Legislature and guiding the affairs of the State. Whether “few individuals” or many think favourably of such a course, is, I think, sufficiently attested by the fact, that the “journal” which has attracted His Excellency’s anxious attention, receives a support and patronage from the public unequalled by any other publication in British North America; a patronage which, after the thorough trial of two years, is rapidly increasing.

After calling attention to the fact that only in the case of one chapel has the rule of no political meetings been violated, and this through the indiscretion of two trustees, an act publicly condemned in the Conference paper, Ryerson brings his rejoinder to an end.

In conclusion, I beg to observe that if undue liberty has been taken in the preceding observations, the impropriety is one of ignorance not of design, and has arisen from the extraordinary strictures which His Excellency has thought proper to avail himself of a particular occasion to make.

To His Excellency, I cheerfully offer the tribute of every personal respect, as has the Conference of which I have the happiness to be a member, however unworthy we may be of His Excellency’s confidence or respect in return. We must however, still claim and exercise the privilege, guaranteed by the constitution, of regulating the affairs of our own household in that way which we conceive will best conduce to the permanence and success of our own ecclesiastical and religious institutions, and the great interests of our common christianity.

I have thought it due to His Excellency, to make the foregoing remarks, previous to laying the whole matter before the public.

I have the honour to be,


Your most obedient,

Humble Servant,

E. Ryerson

When Sir John’s lecture to the Methodists came to the attention of Lord Goderich his observations were briefer and less thorough than those of Ryerson, but just about as severe as the formality of official correspondence permitted. In future, Sir John had the Conference in greater respect. We are not informed that he became a faithful reader of the Guardian, but he did give Ryerson his blessing when the latter went to England in the interests of the Academy. To one at least of the two great enterprises of the Conference he had become reconciled.

From the ink and hand it is clear that the words “Christian Guardian” were later added in the Minute Book.

Thomas Webster: History of the Methodist Episcopal Church in America, p. 231.

Green, p. 135.

S.M.L., p. 93.

The death of George IV and the succession of William IV was the occasion of the dissolving of a Legislature which had run only two years and by pressing for reforms had made itself not a little objectionable to the Government and the Governor. The same reason did not exist when William IV was succeeded by Victoria, and there was no dissolution of Parliament.

C. G., Oct. 2, 1830


October 11, 1830

November 1, 1830.

And lost—a sad illustration of the folly of filing reports rather than inserting them in minutes.

These clauses are reproduced directly from the Minutes. The version usually printed is copied from the Guardian and differs from the Minutes in certain respects.

Amongst the papers is a receipt for £42.11.3, acknowledged on August 23, 1830 by H. C. Thomson as being the balance due.

The first office of the Guardian was on March Street, “a thoroughfare of ill repute” (Scadding, p. 170), north of the New Court House and near the gaol. In January, 1831 better quarters were occupied over the new brick store of Jas. R. Armstrong on King Street.

Both Bidwell and Ryerson were over sanguine as to the election. The eastern part of the province was not “favourable”, and Kingston returned Christopher A. Hagerman to be the new Solicitor General. Ketchum headed the poll in York County and Mackenzie had a safe, if not a large lead, over Washburn who stood next. Baldwin was defeated in York town. The official party were able to elect as Speaker, Archibald McLean, who sat for Stormont, by a majority of twelve votes over Bidwell, who with Peter Perry survived in Lennox and Addington.

Helen Rolph, sister of George Ryerson’s late wife, had been one of the first Canadian girls to attend Cazenovia.

By the irony of fate, the electors of Upper Canada had returned a Legislature lukewarm or even hostile to reform at the very time that the tide of sentiment in England was carrying that country to the Reform Bill of 1832.

S.M.L. p. 144. N. Burwash: History of Victoria College, p. 5. Miss A. Dunham: Political Unrest in Upper Canada, 1815-1836, p. 151.

C.G., Dec. 18, 1830. The petition was drawn up by Ryerson and Ketchum.

C.G., May 7, 1831.

C.G., May 7, 1831.

Both these letters reached the editor safely, and were such as could be printed in the Guardian. They appeared in the issue of June 25, 1831.

A striking phrase. From the monumental History of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society by Findlay and Holdsworth, in five volumes, we learn just how George Ryerson and Peter Jones were received by the Wesleyan authorities (Vol. 1, p. 423).

“On presenting himself at Hatton Garden, Jones was informed that he could not be allowed to utilize the English missionary platforms for the Canadian missions; but a grant of £300 on this account was offered him on behalf of the Missionary Society, on condition that he should be at its disposal during his sojourn in the country. To these terms, with some demur, he and George Ryerson consented. . . . The British missionary leaders saw a new and promising field opened to them, which, as they judged, the Canadian Church could very imperfectly occupy. . . . Overtures were made accordingly from Hatton Garden, not with the best grace, for the transference of the Indian Missions, and their incorporation in the work of the British Society, which could not consent to grant pecuniary aid without powers of control.”

Maldwyn Edwards: John Wesley and the Eighteenth Century, p. 14.

E. R. Taylor: Methodism and Politics, 1791-1851, p. 13.

C.G., Jan. 25, 1832.

Bethune: Memoir of Bishop Strachan, p. 133.

C.G., November 16, 1831.

Documentary History, Education in Upper Canada, Vol. II, p. 10.

Hodgins is wrong in stating that “for various reasons, (apparently prudential at the time) this reply was never published in the Christian Guardian” (Story of My Life, p. 98). The reply was printed with Ryerson’s rejoinder in the Guardian of December 21, 1831. It runs to some 5,000 words.

In subsequent issues of the Guardian instances of such conduct appear, and notably one case at Coldwater in Simcoe County where Samuel Rose (father of Dr. S. P. Rose and grandfather of Professor H. J. Rose) as teacher over his name lays serious charges of incompetence and intemperance against the Indian agent.



September 1831 to October 1833

For ten years the arrangement of 1820 between the Wesleyan Missionary Society of London and the Upper Canada Episcopal Methodists had been maintained honourably on both sides. The Missionary Society had confined its interests to Lower Canada and Kingston in Upper Canada, while the Episcopals had surrendered Lower Canada and were content to see their work increase year by year among the settlers and Indians in the upper province. But a cloud was appearing on the horizon. George Ryerson had seen it, and had warned Egerton. The British Conference once more was insisting on entering Upper Canada, and of this decision Dr. James Townley, Secretary of the London Missionary Society officially notified the Canada Conference.

There can be little doubt that the pressure was political in its origin. It was not just zeal for the saving of souls, or for the extension of that international polity, the Kingdom of Heaven. In the name of religion, pure and undefiled, they were playing the game of the Government party. The Wesleyan authorities, still predominantly Tory in complexion, were persuaded that the miasma of republicanism had floated across the Great Lakes and settled over their brethren in Upper Canada; otherwise how could they criticize the government as they were doing? But they did not put it quite that way. They argued that the appeal for funds made by Peter Jones in England had indicated inability on the part of the Canadians to cope with the demands; and that the British Society could hardly be expected to contribute without some oversight. Further, they claimed to be absolved from the agreement of 1820, since it had been made with the American Conference, not with a separate Canadian church.

The central figure in the drama of 1832, or “plot”, as the acid Webster has it, was Robert Alder. He is thus portrayed by Carroll:

He was medium-sized, but compact—his was a very large head, surmounted by a luxuriant coating of curly locks—his full face bore a very remarkable resemblance to that of King George IV. He had, like a vast number of other great men, been a printer in early life. His preaching was elaborate, dignified, and not wanting in power. As a pulpit man, he stood high at the time of which we write, and long after.[1]

His early ministry had been passed in the Maritime Provinces. Returning to England from Montreal, his last charge in British North America, he became active in the London Wesleyan Missionary Committee. In 1827 he gave evidence before the Select Committee of the House of Commons. Replying to the question, “Are the Methodist congregations in Upper Canada under the direction of the missionaries sent out by the British Conference?”, he stated,

They are not: hitherto they have been under the direction of the Methodist conference of the United States; that connection, however, is now dissolved, and we expect that an arrangement will soon be made, by which the Methodists of Upper Canada will be brought to act under the direction of the British conference, as the Methodists of Lower Canada have done for several years.[2]

After five years the expectation had become a resolution; and it was he who was appointed by the Committee to visit Canada in 1832 and place missionaries in the upper province. In the spring he wrote John Ryerson to the effect that “he with twelve missionaries would, in the course of a few days, sail from England”.[3] John Ryerson was dismayed at “the prospect of rival Methodist congregations in every town and principal neighborhood”. For many days, he tells us, he ate little and slept less. Finally one day when walking along Bay Street, a plan suddenly came to his mind, as though “some supernatural power had suggested it”. He talked over the idea with Egerton, who “after some consideration” concurred. Then the members of the Missionary Board were consulted and general agreement reached.

The plan was simple and scriptural; it involved turning the other cheek. The English Conference had demanded the coat; they were given the cloak also. The Canadian proposal included union, the acceptance of a British president, the adoption of the English Discipline as far as was practicable, and the surrendering of the Indian Missions to the direct superintendence of the London Committee.

Alder must have been not a little surprised at this turn of events. When he arrived in York in June with three, not twelve, missionaries he was received with open arms. The pulpit in the Methodist Chapel was opened to him. He was attended by Egerton Ryerson on a visit to the Credit Mission. Even when he had forwarded a gratuitous address to the Lieutenant-Governor on behalf of the Wesleyan missionaries of the Canada district, stating that they were “prompted no less from a sense of duty than from inclination to abstain from all political disputes” and that they endeavoured faithfully to observe the advice, “Fear thou the Lord and the King, and meddle not with them that are given to change”, the Guardian was meekness itself. It took no offence from the fact that the address had first been published in that bitterly hostile journal, the Courier. It copied the address from the Courier without critical comment, merely placing beside it the complimentary address of the Conference on Sir John’s arrival in the colony.

When the Conference met at Hallowell in August, the outlines of union were reduced to twelve brief clauses. After careful consideration they were adopted by a large majority. No record has been preserved of the vote for or against. Green reports that the Conference “was somewhat divided in sentiment on the subject”, and that “Case, Metcalf, and Whitehead were opposed to the change”.[4] Had the members of Conference been aware of the communications which had passed, and were about to pass, between Alder and the British and Canadian authorities, the issue might well have been different.

To Egerton Ryerson the decision must have been one of peculiar difficulty. For seven years he had battled manfully for certain principles, alike political and religious. He had achieved much; but much remained still to be done. While his mission had brought him into terrific conflict with Strachan, while it had forced him to cross swords with the Governor, while it had caused a Tory-Irish mob at Peterboro to burn him in effigy along with Mackenzie, he had the satisfaction of knowing that the church he championed was rapidly extending its borders, and that the paper he edited was gaining in influence and circulation each year. Union with the Wesleyans would involve many adjustments from which he must have recoiled. Possibly at times it may have appeared a hopeless task, with Governor, Assembly and Wesleyans opposed, to accomplish the aims for which he had striven so valiantly. In the Guardian of August 29, 1832, he sets down six advantages which he trusted would result from the proposed measures. They do not stress the things of the spirit; it is doubtful if they quite satisfied him. Immediately, the decision involved his yielding the editorship to Richardson and taking a charge at St. Catharines, till it should be time for him to go in the spring to England to discuss the proposals with the British Conference as delegate from the Canada Conference. He was to return in time for the next session of Conference to be held in York when, if all agreed, the union would be consummated.

We have no definite information that either he or John was aware that a grant of £900 to missions was involved, and that the Canada Conference was thereby to be placed in the position so often deprecated by the Guardian in the case of the Catholics and the Kirk as well as the Church of England. Nor would Alder have shown them a letter he sent to Sir John Colborne immediately after Conference, dated Montreal, August 27, 1832, telling him of a result much more favourable than he had “allowed myself [himself] to anticipate”.[5] Alder notes the terms agreed upon and two others not before mentioned, “that the propriety of continuing camp-meetings shall be seriously considered, and that the Christian Guardian shall, for the future, be an exclusively religious journal”. “From these statements,” he continues, “your Excellency will perceive that I have rigidly adhered to those great principles to which I had occasion to advert during the several interviews with which you were pleased to honor me.”[6] He expects to be made the first President of the Canadian Church, and ventures to ask His Excellency’s opinion of such an arrangement.

Over the next few months of Egerton Ryerson’s life an almost complete silence hangs. We have no diary, no record of his sermons, and only one letter. Bereaved in his own home and perplexed as to the future, he was passing through perhaps the darkest days of his life.

If the days were dark for Ryerson, they were beginning to be stormy as well as dark for the liberal movement to which he had attached himself. It was not long after the new Parliament assembled in November, 1831, that the government forces determined to get rid of Mackenzie. They could find no irregularity in his election, but they soon discovered that he had “libelled” his colleagues in the words, “Our representative body has degenerated into a sycophantic office for registering the decrees of as mean, as mercenary an executive as ever was given as a punishment for the sins of any part of North America in the 19 century.”[7]

This for Mackenzie was a fairly moderate statement, indeed much more moderate than many of the things said against him both inside and outside the House. However, in spite of the sane arguments of Bidwell and others on the floor of the House and the strong editorials of the Christian Guardian and other prints as to the freedom of the press, they condemned him by their vote and expelled him from the House on December 12, 1831.

The by-election was held in the Red Lion Inn up Yonge Street, and gave ample proof of the sharp difference of opinion between the electors of the riding of York and the majority of the Legislature. In the issue of Jan. 4, 1832 the Guardian prints an account of the proceedings as “communicated”.

The Election closed on Monday afternoon about 3 o’clock, P.M., the poll having been opened about an hour and a half; at the close the poll stood thus—

Mr. Mackenzie119
Mr. T. Street1

Mr. Street was nominated by Col. Thompson, and, I understand, had the promise of Col. Washburn’s interest. But as well might you uproot Mount Atlas, as to resist the people of the wealthiest, and most populous County in Upper Canada, when united as the voice of one man, and roused by an infringement upon their rights. The assemblage was the largest that has ever been witnessed in the Home District on any occasion, notwithstanding it was the day on which Town Meetings were held in every Township. The assemblage at one time was generally estimated at between 2 and 3000, and it is believed that there would have been twice that number, had not the Election been appointed on the day of the Township meetings. Previous to the opening of the poll, about 40 sleighs came through the Town and escorted Mr. Mackenzie to the hustings. On the morning of the Election, Mr. Mackenzie distributed a great number of large handbills, headed, “Articles of Impeachment or Public Accusation, to be submitted to the consideration of the Electors of the County of York, in County Court assembled, on January 2nd, 1832, by Mr. Mackenzie, their late member, against the Lieutenant Governor of the Province and advisers of the Crown.” The handbill was half of an Imperial sheet, and contained five columns of closely printed matter, and embraced numerous and specific charges against the conduct of the Lieutenant Governor, the Executive and Legislative Councils, and the majority of the present House of Assembly. In his speech to the Electors, Mr. Mackenzie read his handbill, commenting upon it, and stated, in conclusion, that if the people of the county believed the charges were true, they would elect him; if not, he would wish to return to private life. After the close of the poll, a Gold Medal and Chain was presented to Mr. Mackenzie by a committee appointed for that purpose, with an address read by Mr. Charles Mackintosh, to which Mr. Mackenzie made a short reply. This medal cost $250 and is a superb piece of workmanship. On one side is the Rose, Thistle and Shamrock, with the words—“His Majesty King William 4th, the People’s Friend”. On the other side is inscribed—“Presented to Wm. L. Mackenzie, Esquire, by his Constituents of the County of York, U.C. as a token of their approbation of his political career, January 2nd, 1832”. A procession was then formed, to escort Mr. Mackenzie to the town. Mr. Mackenzie was placed on the second story of an immense sleigh belonging to Mr. Montgomery, which was drawn by four horses and carried between 20 and 30 men, and two or three Scotch Musicians. From 50 to 100 sleighs followed, and between 1 and 2000 of the inhabitants. The procession passed by the Government House, from thence to Parliament House, thence to Mr. Cawthra’s, and then to Mr. Mackenzie’s own house—giving cheers at the different places. One of the most singular curiosities of the day was a little printing press, placed on one of the sleighs warmed by a furnace, on which a couple of boys continued, while moving through the streets, to strike off their New Year’s Address and throw it to the people. Over the press was hoisted a crimson flag, with the motto, “The Liberty of the Press”. The mottos on the other flags were—“King William IV and Reform”, “Bidwell and the glorious Minority”, “1832, a Good beginning”, “A Free Press the Terror of Sycophants”, “Mackenzie and the People”. The proceedings were conducted with general order and sobriety—though with much spirit. No treats were given. I was told by some electors, that a proposal to treat the electors would have been considered as a general insult. Thus has the County of York ten times more than undone in one hour, what 24 vain inconsiderate men employed six days in doing at an expense to the Province of 2 or 3000 dollars. The responsibility of the consequences of these proceedings, rests with those whose spleen and party spite originated them.

In the editorial columns a brief note informs us that the following day Mr. Mackenzie took his seat in the Legislature after being introduced to the Speaker by Messrs. Perry and Ketchum as “Wm. L. Mackenzie, Esq., member for the County of York, in the place of Wm. L. Mackenzie, Esq., expelled from this house”. The following issue reports his second expulsion from the House.

January 3, 1832, Mary Ryerson, York, to Mr. James Lewis,[8] Grimsby.

My dear Brother & Sister:

Being entirely alone this evening except my little children who are both asleep, I thought it good opportunity of dropping a few lines to you. We are all well at present for which we have great cause to be thankful to our Gracious Redeemer for his long continued goodness & mercy to us. I hope these few lines may find you & your family enjoying the same blessing. I am told it is very sickly in town—four or five funerals in a day.

Mr. McKenzie had his election yesterday. I thought that there never were so many people in the town of York before. The procession came down Yong street upwards of 50 sleighs & took Mckenzie about a mile up, agoing strait where the election was held. After he was elected the procession proceded back to town & [it] was thought there were more than a hundred sleighs, with many cheers by the way. His constituents presented [him] with a gold medal which cost a hundred and fifty pounds. They went to the Governor’s & gave him a salute and then went to the parliament house. When the members heard them acoming, they adjourned & every one took his hat and ran. I have not heard since noon from the house. They had kept closed doors the first part of the day and would not so much as let the reporters in. I have not heard since. McKenzie’s expulsion from the house & the Governor’s reply to the petition presented to him by our Conference has caused a very great excitement and it is hard to know how it will terminate.

We have had good sleighing ever since we were over & cannot see why Levi does not come over [unless] he is waiting for the snow to go away. I thought certainly he would have come over last Saturday. I hope that him & Hannah will come next Saturday without fail. If all is well I wish very much that you & Betsy would come over & mother. If you have apples to sell I think you would sell them very soon for half a dollar a bushel, or a dollar and half a barrel; that is the price for apples here. I hope Levi will fech us some lard & a few cabbages. They are dear here.

Please remember me to all enquiring friends. Tell mother I think she might come over if she wanted to. I wish to be remembered affectionately to her.

No more at present but remain

your affectionate Sister,

Mary Ryerson


P.S. McKenzie has got his [seat] today about noon. I wish you would write soon.

January 5, 1832, York, J. Givins, Chief Superintendent of Indian Affairs, Upper Canada, to Rev. Egerton Ryerson, York.


Mr. Clench, the Superintendent of the Munsee Town Indians on the River Thames having notified to me that a Schoolmaster may be appointed with much advantage to the Establishment, both with respect to the Indians residing there, and to those expected from Big Bear Creek, I have it in command from the Lieutenant Governor to request you will be pleased to acquaint me whether such an appointment will interfere with the arrangements of the Methodist Conference.[9]

I have the honor to be,


Your most obedient servant,

J. Givins

March 29, 1832, Geo. Ryerson, London, to Egerton Ryerson, York, Upper Canada.

My dear Brother:

I avail myself of Mr. Monro’s kind offer to be the bearer of a small parcel & a letter, to write a few lines, all that the time will admit. I assure you I sympathize with you in your afflictions.[10] I know how to feel for you, and you as yet know but a small part, a very small part, of your trials. Years will not heal the wound. I am even now often quite overwhelmed when I allow myself to dwell upon the past. I [scarcely] need to suggest to you the common place topics of comfort & resignation, but I have no doubt you will see the hand of God so manifestly in it that you will say, “it was well done”. I will further add that the saying of St. Paul was at no time so applicable as at the present. “But this I say, brethren, the time is short; it remaineth that both they that have wives, be as though they had none, and those that weep as though they wept not—for the fashion of this world passeth away”. I Cor. vii, 29, etc. I well know that “the day of the Lord”, which he hoped & waited for, is now at the very door; and I believe you will see it & possibly the Lord may intend you for one of those chosen witnesses whom he will fill with his spirit to warn & prepare the world for his coming.

I send by the mail two nos. of The Sun. One contains a sketch of an exposition of viii ch. Rev. by Mr. Baxter; it contains a tolerable outline of the truth. . . . The students of Prophecy were at first only instructed in Christ’s Kingdom over Israel in the flesh, but since the Spirit has been given to open these things they have learned that all these things are first fulfilled spiritually in the mystical Israel,—that is true believers—the children of promise or faith.

I again warn you to avoid popular politics. There is a mystery of iniquity about the subject which you do not understand but which will be manifested as the “kingdom of the beast” & the “Man of Sin”. Thessalonians & Rev. Who is Lord of Lords & King of Kings? & to whom does all power belong & from whom does it rightfully come but from him who redeemed the earth? What is a beast?—earthly, unbelieving, cruel—from the ground not from heaven. What is the character of the present popular movements & whence is the power they acknowledge? From the earth. The consummation of this will produce the kingdom which Christ will destroy by the breath of his mouth & the highways of his coming.

I am still detained by my inability to close the business of Mrs. Rolph’s estate.[11] Peter Jones intends sailing on the 16th April. The present prospect is that I shall not be ready to accompany him, though I much desire it if it please God. Elder Case has not sent me the order I mentioned of money due me from the M. Socy. I shall keep the money from P. Jones & I wish you to see that it be placed to his credit with the Socy. when he arrives. I also shall get him to advance what is due to the Tract Society for books, hoping that you will have sold the books. In much love

I am Dear Egerton your affectionate brother

Geo. Ryerson

I write in much haste

April 6, 1832, George Ryerson, London, to Rev. Egerton Ryerson, York, Upper Canada.

My dear brother,

I wrote to you 2 weeks ago informing you in a few words of my welfare & of the probability of my being detained for the want of means to return till I could get a part of Mrs. Rolph’s estate settled. I have been detained so long on expences & continually advancing money for postage & other matters for the Committee that I hope not to be disappointed in having the money paid to you to be given to Peter Jones on his arrival. I was nearly six months attending on that business to bring it to the only practicable arrangment, that is of having it submitted to the Legislature of U. Canada with such recommendations & instructions as would give satisfaction to the country by consulting the wishes & interests of all parties. On the last page I give an account of money that I have had to advance not connected with my private expences which are heavy and which fall on myself. I wish you to receive the money from the Committee and also the balance due me on the £100 which the[y] agreed to pay for my time & expences though my expences alone are very much more. This is your authority for receiving the money in my name. . . . You may sell any of my own books if necessary to raise the money. I am not careful about them, but I am very desirous to owe no man anything but to love one another. I do not righteously owe these societies the amt. but I have from a wish to do good to my country taken upon myself a responsibility, that I have had cause to regret. You will do me a great kindness my dear brother in attending to this business.

I have been often applied to for letters of introduction to you, particularly of some who have an eye to becoming preachers in Canada. I do not like the general manner of these inquiries. I notice they all inquire first and apparently with the most solicitude about the pecuniary part—the last & least of the concerns of a true minister & one truly called. . . . Beware, I beseech you of these “Little foxes”—they will spoil your tender vines (Canticles II, 15, Ezekiel XIII, 4-16). There are hosts of them in this country and like their progenitors of Judea they will still compass sea and land to make one proselyte. They have lost none of their primitive zeal, and this zeal is now whetted to the utmost keenness by the hardness of the times at “home”. The Wesleyans have a very abundant share of this kind of men, & many willing to emigrate, as they will inform you (after making the more important preliminary inquiries), “for the good of souls”! But be warned, and be sure you “try the spirits”. I know such who go out to spy out the land, to ascertain whether it will be more gainful to join you or to persuade the Wesleyan M. Socy. to carry into operation their ambitious plans & employ them.

You spoil certain persons here by your flatteries. If you knew with what sneering contempt Mr. Watson speaks of American Methodist Episcopacy & ordination, and “that Christian Guardian”, you would let his praises rest till they were awarded by him who judges not “by the sight of the eye”. Mr. Wesley was of a highly respectable family & he was a humble man & humbled himself on all occasions; the same I may say of Dr. Clarke. Mr. Watson has risen from the most humble mechanical profession you can conceive of—a patten tie maker—and I have met with few Christian ministers with more supercilious pride of intellect, particularly of fancied superior intellect. Dont encourage by fawning either him or the Missionary Society of which he is the organ. They have no friendly feeling or designs towards Canada Methodism, & let their spies report to them that in the strength of the Humble Saviour you fear them not, but will stand fast in your liberty wherewith Christ hath made you free. From some expressions in a letter of Elder Case, I would gather that some of our brethren have formed very unjust apprehensions in regard to my conduct towards this Society, as though I had countenanced or encouraged their plans in regards to Canada. Nothing could be more erroneous. I resisted their designs at every intimation of them, both in the Committee & in their Conference & gave no little offence by so doing, & so little did I approve of the Society that I have for the last 8 months lived at my own private expence as I could not conscientiously connect myself with their plans & proceedings. I believe none of my brethren will give more substantial proofs of disinterestedness.

I have never more in my life been shut up to walk in all things by simple faith than I have for some months past. Yet I was never kept in greater stedfastness & peace of mind, nor had such openings of the spirit & life of Jesus in my soul. I have in myself the most substantial evidence of the reality of the work of God in this place, which I have mentioned in several letters. The judgments of God are spreading apace—the Cholera is more deadly in London, and it has now broken out in Ireland and in the citie of Paris where it is said to be very destructive.[12] You need no other evidence of its being a work of God than to be informed that it is made the public mock of the infidel population of this city, a state of feeling & conduct in regard to this pestilence that never perhaps was witnessed in any country & that would make a heathen or a Mahometan ashamed. I have seen gangs of men traversing the streets and singing songs in ridicule of the Cholera & have seen caricatures of it in the windows. The “tongues” & the “cholera” have become the song of the drunkard; the one God speaking & warning in his church and the other his doing the same in his providence by judgments. I am sorry to see that you have copied some of this blasphemy into your paper. Do not so any more till you are better informed lest you be found fighting against God. The Lord has the nation & the world to warn of his speedy coming & the world has risen up to put down the warning voice, but he will not be delayed though all are unbelieving. The text of this warning you will find Rev. XIV—6, 7. . . . My business still detains me, or rather the Lord by preventing the final settlement of my affairs, but Mr. Jones has left this city for Canada to embark from Liverpool on the 24th. I intend to write by him next week. He proposes to spend a few weeks in the U. States. He has been very successful in collecting for the Missions. He was introduced to their Majesties, the King & Queen, & treated with much kindness. The amt. advanced by Mr. Jones to me for which I wish you to make the provisions to repay him as it is money for the Missionary Society is £50 Stg.

You may suppose that I am very desirous to return to my own country & to my family & my friends, but by faith I crucify the desires of the flesh, when providence says they must not be indulged. My dear Egerton you are much on my heart & I may say the same of your brothers—pray that you may with all readiness enter into the mind & counsels of the Lord—for I fear that many strong men will fall. Dont lean upon an arm of flesh, I mean an arm of flesh in the most specious & seductive form—human opinions. You are scarcely aware of how much of our religion stands upon no other basis. The Papists amidst much rubbish have retained the whole truth; Protestants have horribly marred it in their fear of retaining any of its rust. I have not time to fill my paper, but request you give my love to my brothers & famys. and to my dear friends & brethren.

Pray for me dear Egerton. May the peace of God be with you.

Yours most affectionately,

Geo. Ryerson


P.S. I have recd. your papers to 8th March as early as the 7th April.

April 14th.

Thus with a request for a brother’s prayers, George Ryerson passes out of our correspondence. He had definitely abandoned his political interests and associated himself with the “Irvingite” movement, afterwards organized as the Catholic Apostolic Church. Edward Irving (1792-1834) was a Scot, a graduate of Edinburgh and a minister of the Established Church of Scotland. As a young man he had been tutor to Jane Welsh, and a strong mutual attachment developed between them. It was Irving who introduced Jane to Carlyle in 1821. For some time he assisted the great Chalmers at Glasgow, but achieved fame only after his call to London to become minister of the Scots church at Hatton Garden. The admiration of Sir James Macintosh for his eloquence, and an incidental reference in one of Canning’s speeches in the House of Commons, brought him into prominence. He was compelled to move to a new and larger church in Regent Square. Although increasingly unorthodox, he was not expelled from the Church of Scotland till 1830. He was a friend of Coleridge, whose mystical, and obscure philosophy made a deep appeal to him. The second coming of Christ, divine healing, and the gift of tongues were elements in the farrago which constituted his peculiar creed, held together in a setting of elaborate ritual and semi-oriental liturgy. The gift of tongues was not vouchsafed to Irving himself. Among the prominent members of his congregation was Henry Drummond, banker and member of the Commons for West Surrey. In 1833, Egerton Ryerson attended his meetings, but was not greatly impressed. His diary entry reads:

Today I went to hear the celebrated Edward Irving. His preaching, for the most part, I considered commonplace; his manner, eccentric; his pretensions to revelations, authority, and prophetic indications, overweening. I was disappointed in his talents, and surprised at the apparent want of feeling manifested throughout his whole discourse.[13]

It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the loss of George Ryerson to the liberal movement in Upper Canada. As has previously been noted,[14] he was the first Upper Canadian to plead the cause of reform effectively in Great Britain. His two visits of 1828 and 1831 and his presenting of the numerously-signed petitions on both occasions definitely convinced the British authorities of the inaccuracy and disingenuous nature of representations which had reached them from Upper Canada. But interested as George Ryerson was in politics, his interest in religion was greater; and now separated for more than a year from the problems of Upper Canada, bereaved and solitary in a land where the foundations of society might appear to be crumbling, he accepted the strange teaching of Edward Irving. The effect upon Egerton of the withdrawal of his oldest, and perhaps ablest, brother from an interest in public affairs is all too apparent during the next few years of his life. He came increasingly to depend upon John for advice. John was shrewd and practical, but, unlike George, he had never been deeply moved by the liberal thought that was the leaven of the times. Had Egerton accepted George’s estimate of the spirit of the British Wesleyans—an estimate which agrees closely with that of the historians of Wesleyan Missions[15]—and had he rejected the policy of expediency advocated by John, he and the Church he served might have been spared distress and disillusionment. And it would not have been necessary to record a certain compromise of principle involved in maintaining friendly relations with Robert Alder and his associates.

November 21, 1832, Egerton Ryerson, St. Catharines, U.C., to Rev. R. Alder. (copy)

Rev. & Dear Brother,

I had hoped to have heard from you previous to your embarking for England. I suppose your other pressing engagements prevented it. In the hasty scrawl I sent you from Hallowell I mentioned some discussion that took place between Mr. Case and myself. On that point I would only add that the question for the union was principally sustained by my brothers in the discussion, and was sanctioned by the vote of the large majority of the Conference.

The proceedings of Conference in this affair, when made known, met with the nearly unanimous approbation of the membership, and there was every prospect that but one opinion & feeling would be entertained in regard to it throughout our Societies. But in some parts where Presidential visits have been made, certain local preachers have found out that the Societies ought to have been consulted, that they have been sold (“by the Ryersons”) without their consent, that no Canadians will henceforth be admitted into the Conference, that our whole economy will be changed by arbitrary power, and all revivals of religion will be stopped, and that something ought to be done. The first of these objections is the most popular; but they have all failed to produce the intended effect, to the extent desired by the disappointed few. The object contemplated is to produce an excitement that will prevent me from going to England and induce the Conference to retrace its steps. But wherever explanations have been given, the fears of every candid mind have been removed, and not more than one out of twenty in any place could be persuaded to do any thing to promote these secretly instilled views of a disappointed man, who, I understand, intends to leave the country should the union take place. Such appeals, however, tho’ they cannot excite positive opposition, may produce indifference; especially as the result of the whole affair is yet rather a matter of conjecture than of moral certainty. The consequence may be that collections may not be taken up to a sufficient amount in our Societies (the mode recommended by our Conference) to defray my expenses to England. In such a case I shall be at liberty to act my pleasure; and should I go I shall incur some personal risque, which I shall be unwilling to do without a strong probability of being successful in my mission. The merit or demerit of the measure has been mainly ascribed to me, and on its result, should I cross the Atlantic, my standing in a great degree depends. If our proposals should meet with a conciliatory reception, and your Committee would recommend measures, rather than require concessions in the future proceedings of our Conference, every thing can be accomplished without difficulty or embarrassment. Should you be appointed President, you know that I am willing as an individual to adopt your whole economy without exception, ex animo. You also know that my brothers are of the same mind, and that a majority will readily concur. But caution and delicacy will be necessary in those matters which relate to the membership, especially when fears have been excited. I earnestly beg that you will have the kindness, without delay, to write me the apparent prospects in regard to this important business. May the Lord direct aright!

I am, my dear Brother,

Yours very truly,

E. Ryerson

The reference to “presidential visits” and “a disappointed man” do less than justice either to the writer or to William Case. Case lived out his useful life in Upper Canada. Earnest, devoted, and agreeable as he was, he never quite reached the stature of a statesman. However, in this instance his views were probably as sound as those of his critic. Grape Island and the frontier circuits, which Case liked to travel, were in the suburbs of the present problem; John and Egerton Ryerson were at York and felt the full impact of the plan laid by Alder and his confederates. Carroll also knew his York; as a boy he had played under the oaks that bordered the bay. He notes one small but significant detail. When the four Wesleyan missionaries visited York in July before the Conference, all four were given an opportunity to preach; two of them preached in the Chapel, but Alder and Hetherington had the District School opened to them.

No instance had ever occurred of any Methodist minister preaching in one of these school houses; and no one believes that they would have been granted, if asked, to any Canadian preacher; but now the Metropolitan school-house, under the direction of the Archdeacon of York himself, is thrown open to two newly-arrived Wesleyan ministers.[16]

At all events, there is no evidence to support the view that Case was not honest and unselfish in his approach to the whole problem. It is true that he had been acting as President of the Conference for four years; there may have been some twinge of pride at the thought of handing over the presidency to Alder or some other appointee of the British Conference. But there is no need to suppose that this was so important a factor in determining his attitude as was a recognition of the fact, apparent to George Ryerson, that any control by British Wesleyans was not likely to make permanently for peace and union among the Methodists of Upper Canada. Even Egerton himself seems to have feared that the British Conference might “require concessions” rather than “recommend measures”.

While this is the only letter preserved of the correspondence between Ryerson and Alder at this time, other letters are referred to in The Story of My Life. Evidently as the months passed and collections for the fund to defray his expenses to England came in more slowly than anticipated, Ryerson became very doubtful as to the wisdom of undertaking the mission at all. Case was right in taking the view that the circuits ought to have been consulted more than they were before the action taken at the Conference of 1832. It would have been difficult, of course, to get the opinion of the Quarterly Meetings; the whole situation had developed suddenly. And technically the union was not a question which required submission to the Quarterly Meetings; the ministers evidently regarded it as something which it was quite within their province to determine.[17] Nevertheless, it would have been prudent to refer so important a matter directly to all the Quarterly Meetings and not merely to accept the casual expression of opinion on the part of those few laymen who were able to assemble at Hallowell and who were allowed by special provision to hear the discussion in Conference. The British Wesleyans, it is true, paid little or no attention to the opinion of the lay members, and their ministers had an authority which would have been resented in Upper Canada. As it proved, the Conference had committed itself rather hurriedly to a course which effected union with the British Wesleyans but imperilled unity of spirit amongst their own flock in Upper Canada.

On March 4, 1833, Ryerson left York to proceed by way of Kingston and New York to England, where he remained until the middle of August. His main purpose was to forward the union, and to this he devoted the greater part of his time. For four weeks he travelled through the country, addressing missionary meetings in eighteen different counties. Everywhere he was cordially received. Before leaving Canada he had been not a little doubtful of the undertaking, but after six weeks in England he could write to Richardson expressing confidence that the terms to be agreed upon would “disappoint the enemies and satisfy the expectations and wishes of the friends of Methodism in Upper Canada”. When the Conference assembled at Manchester on July 31st the business was well in hand, and the large and representative committee which was appointed on the question had no trouble in agreeing on the terms of union, which followed closely the Canadian proposals. The President of the Canadian church was to be named each year by the British Conference, and also the Superintendent of Indian and other missions, to which a grant of £1,000 was made. The Canadian Conference, as heretofore, were to select all other officials and assign preachers to their circuits. The Rev. George Marsden, twice President of the British Conference, was appointed as the representative to the Canadian Conference, and Joseph Stinson as Superintendent of Missions. In replying to the Address presented by the Canadian Conference the British Conference referred to Ryerson in the following terms:

We are truly thankful for the appointment of your excellent Representative, the Rev. Egerton Ryerson. The urbanity of his manners, his pious deportment, and his efficient public labors, have strengthened the general feeling in favor of the proposed union; and the talent and temper with which he has negotiated the business entrusted to his management, have proved him worthy of your confidence.[18]

Ryerson had also been commissioned by Conference to “embrace every opportunity and do all in his power [to sol]icit donations and subscriptions for the completing of the U.C. Academy and [to m]ake enquiry as to the practicability of procuring suitable teachers; to [endeav]our to enlist the committee in behalf of the institution, so as to afford such [aid and] patronage in raising funds as they may [cons]ider prudent and justifiable”.[19] He was able to enlist the interest of several members of the Conference and two members of the Government. The Right Honourable Edward Ellice, Secretary of War, who knew and had investments in Canada, unsolicited contributed £50, and the Earl of Ripon (Lord Goderich), now Keeper of the Privy Seal, £5. Calvinistic dissenters Ryerson found especially friendly. A “pious and estimable female” collected £12. Altogether he secured for the Academy £111.17.0. Sterling. He was not successful in getting a Principal.

The third, and last, and least, of his concerns in England was with politics—or rather with the Reserves and kindred questions affecting the churches, which in Canada impinged on politics. He had intended to go to Ireland in June, but was informed in a letter from Canada that petitions on the Reserves had arrived at Portsmouth, and that he was needed for their presentation. He still felt he should persist in his Irish engagement, but a day or two later early in the morning Mackenzie called at his lodgings and prevailed upon him to remain in London and see Ellice about the petitions.

Now Mackenzie had been more than a year in England. Following a dastardly attack on him at his lodgings by henchmen of the official party at Hamilton on March 19, 1832,[20] in which he was kicked and beaten, and a riot with considerable damage to the office of the Advocate four days later in Toronto, he had determined to withdraw his person and his ideas from the affronts of Tory mobs and a hostile legislature and at the same time to lay the grievances of Upper Canada before a higher tribunal. He sailed from New York on May 1st, and arriving safely in England was soon busily at work laying siege to the Colonial Office, assisted by Hume, Roebuck and Cobbett, as well as by D. B. Viger of Lower Canada and George Ryerson of Upper Canada. His industry was prodigious, and the mass of literature—Mackenzie had never learned that virtue resides in the mean—that he piled on the desk of Lord Goderich was sufficient hopelessly to antagonize a less considerate and conscientious man than the then Secretary. Rarely has a more amazing public document been penned by a busy official than the despatch of Lord Goderich to Sir John Colborne of November 8, 1832, dealing with the grievances Mackenzie had presented. As printed in the Guardian of February 6, 1833, it occupies eight full columns and extends to some 13,000 words. When it was forwarded by Sir John to the Legislative Council, that body promptly returned it to the Governor declaring that it did not require serious consideration. The Assembly considered it; but in the debate both the Attorney General, H. G. Boulton, and the Solicitor General, C. A. Hagerman, did not spare Lord Goderich in their criticism of his attention to what was described as “Mr. Mackenzie’s rigmarole trash”.[21] Whereupon the Assembly also resolved to send the despatch back, but after debate and by a vote of 22 to 17. Bidwell in an able speech did not fail to call attention to the fact that Lord Goderich had thought it well to receive a man whom the Legislature had expelled as unfit for their company.

At Mackenzie’s solicitation, then, Ryerson went to Ellice. Ellice was very friendly. He asked Ryerson what he thought of Mackenzie’s statement that two or three thousand troops would be needed for Upper Canada in case Hagerman and Boulton were reappointed. Ryerson replied that he “was confident very large deductions must be made from them [Mackenzie’s opinions] on that point”.[22] He concurred in the view, however, that such a step would be impolitic. He further took occasion to comment on the need of better facilities for education, and this brought up the question of the Reserves as well as the Academy, to which Ellice subscribed fifty pounds. Here Ellice suggested that he should see Stanley, and arranged for an appointment two days later. At this and a second interview he laid before Stanley with his usual thoroughness documents and arguments bearing on the Clergy Reserves. Hagerman presented similar statements on the side of the Church of England.

In addition to interviews with members of the Government, Ryerson also had some contact with the more radical friends of Mackenzie. His contacts with Hume were confined to three occasions. The first meeting was necessitated by the fact that he had received the petitions from Canada with instructions that they were to be presented by Hume. At the time, he protested to Mackenzie against the use of Hume as an agent on a matter affecting religion, but together they went to see Hume. The interview lasted about fifteen minutes. The second interview was of about the same duration. Hume proposed to present the petitions through Goderich, as he disliked Stanley. Ryerson insisted that they should be presented through the proper person, the present Colonial Secretary, and Hume consented. The third occasion was at the presenting of the petitions to Stanley, when they had no private conversation and Hume excused himself while Ryerson was speaking on the Reserves. The bearing of these facts will appear later.

In addition to this business connected with public affairs in Upper Canada, Ryerson improved his acquaintance with British politics by listening to the debates in the Commons for several nights, and in the Lords on one occasion. His movements and interests during an absence of seven months from Canada are further revealed in the six letters which follow.

March 21, 1833, Egerton Ryerson, New York, to Rev. J. Ryerson, Hallowell.[23]

My dear Brother:

On account of the Liverpool packet, (Birmingham) which had been advertised to sail on the 24th, being laid up, I shall sail in the morning in a London packet (York), a very elegant ship—the passage to London being the same as that to Liverpool. I did not arrive here until the day before yesterday, coming by the way of Hartford, Middletown, and Newhaven, (Conn.) finding that route cheaper and more pleasant than down the Hudson River by land. I staid with Dr. Fisk all night and part of two days; I need not say I was gratified and benefitted, and received from him some valuable suggestions respecting my mission to England and agency for the Academy. He was unreserved in his communications, and is in favor of the object of my mission, as were Br. Waugh, Dr. Bangs, Durbin, etc. I have conversed with them all and they seem to approve fully of the proceedings of our conference in the affair. As I have so many letters to write to my friends in Canada before I embark, and must do it all tonight, I have only time to say a word on these matters. I have been cordially received by all our brethren here and on the way. I came with Br. F. Reid[24] from Middletown to this city—he wished to be remembered to you, as did Dr. Fisk also. It is now two hours after midnight—I must bid you farewell. I shall write to you soon after my arrival in England.

Your most affectionate

E. Ryerson

April 12,[25] 1833, Egerton Ryerson, Portsmouth, to Rev. James Richardson.

My dear Sir,[26]

We arrived in this port this morning about 11 o’clock, after a very pleasant passage (in the packet ship York) of 21 days. I take the coach this evening, and expect to be in London tomorrow morning. Our ship is one of the steadiest best sailing ships in the line, and Captain Nye inferior to none in his profession, either in courtesy or skill. The London line of packets always stop at Portsmouth and land their passengers, who can go from thence to London in 8 hours. I was more or less sick every day during the whole passage. To place my foot again on terra firma was more than usually desirable.

This morning was clear and beautiful, and the entrance into the harbour to Spithead, through a long narrow channel of 26 miles, with the Isle of Wight on the right and the Hampshire coast on the left, afforded us a delightful and animating prospect.[27] The land on the country side rose gradually from the water’s edge to some miles distance—the Island (the favourite resort of gentlemen in the summer) reminds one of the garden of Eden—and the appearance of one farm house after another—here and there a magnificent plantation, and splendid gothic castle, with the beautifully cultivated green fields, indicate neatness, comfort and wealth.

E. Ryerson

April 30, 1833, Egerton Ryerson, Wesleyan Mission House, Hatton Garden, London, to Rev. James Richardson, Editor, Christian Guardian.[28]

My dear Sir:

As I stated to you in a note written a few moments after landing, I arrived at Portsmouth the twelfth instant, just one month from the day I left Kingston, U.C.—with a delay also of five days on the road previous to embarking at New York. No coach leaving Portsmouth for London until 9 in the evening, I employed the afternoon in examining the military fortifications, dock-yard, and shipping at this impregnable place.

[Here follows a description of the fortifications, the dock-yard, the old Victory (where he placed his hand on the spot on which Nelson leaned his head in death), some Botany Bay convicts awaiting sailing, and finally in the evening a visit to a prayer meeting in the Methodist Chapel and the kindness of a member he accosted there.]

I arrived in London about six o’clock the following morning, and after taking some refreshments, etc., at the London Coffee House, I called at the Wesleyan Mission House, where I was affectionately received by the Rev. Mr. Beecham, the excellent and the only surviving Secretary of the Missionary Society—his two colleagues, Messrs. Watson and James, having within a few months of each other been called to their reward, leaving behind them not only examples and works and labors which speak loudly to thousands while they are dead, but the most affecting dying testimonies of the truth, power and blessedness of those doctrines of which they were two of the most talented and popular advocates in the Connexion from the pulpit, and the former from the press. I was kindly invited to take up my residence at the Mission House, in the bereaved family of the late Mr. James, consisting of a deeply pious and very interesting wife and seven children. Being too feeble and not yet recovered from my long sea sickness, to accept of any of the invitations to preach the following day, I sat as a hearer;—and perhaps a short account of my first Sabbath in England may not be uninteresting to many of your readers.

In the morning I went with the family to Great Queen Street Chapel, rather the largest in the city, and combining in its architecture plainness and elegance, convenience and taste. The Rev. George Marsden, late president of the conference, preached from I John ii, 1, 2. Mr. Marsden is one of the most apostolic-looking old gentlemen that I ever saw; he is upwards of 60 years of age. The burden of his sermon was Christ our propitiation and advocate, with an application to sinners, backsliders, and fearful believers. Of the matter of the discourse I could not pretend to offer any opinion, as my mind was too much excited, and my feelings at times quite overcome, in hearing such an old servant of Christ pour forth all the powers and sympathies of his soul in developing the heart melting truths of redemption and present salvation.[29] At three o’clock p.m., I went to the chapel again, and heard Mr. Marsden address the Sunday Schools connected with that chapel. It was affecting to see and hear such a venerable patriarch surrounded by 4 or 600 children, and addressing them with parental tenderness and simplicity on the importance and advantages of early piety, relating several anecdotes that had come under his own observation. After he had concluded his remarks, at his request, I spoke a few words to them, and concluded by singing and prayer. I immediately repaired to the large vestry in the rear of the chapel, to what is called a fellowship meeting—a quarterly meeting of four or five classes, and serious persons, for speaking (as in love-feast) and prayer. The place was filled to overflowing—the first part of the meeting was concluded and those present were engaged in prayer. I thought the interest of the meeting might have been increased by a little more attention to order[30]—but perhaps in this I might have been in some respects as deserving of counsel as some of my zealous neighbors. After two or three had prayed—and they did indeed pray with might and main—the leader of the meeting requested the whole congregation to stand up, and having related an anecdote most appropriate to his purpose, he requested all penitent sinners who felt the need of a present salvation to sit down. “All you [said he] that are saved into the Kingdom of God, or don’t want to be saved, stand up; and all you that want to be saved, sit down”. Such as sat down were invited forward near the speaker; about a dozen complied, and kneeled down by a table that extended nearly half the length of the room. Those who did not advance to the table were conversed with and prayed for where they were. After two or three had prayed the conductor of the meeting told those of the penitents who had obtained pardoning mercy to rise up, and the rest to continue kneeling. Six rose, when the doxology, beginning with

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow”

was sung. As it was now about five o’clock, and preaching was to begin at six, the congregation was dismissed with a request that all who could conveniently would remain, and that if any penitents who had not yet found mercy would continue to seek the Lord there, several of God’s instruments would tarry with them, adding, “you need not be afraid that there is no mercy or grace left for you, because Jesus Christ has saved a whole lot of you—he has loads of it left yet, and will give it to you as freely as ever”. The meeting was precisely like one of our liveliest Saturday Night quarterly prayer meetings. It was a gracious season; but Mr. Beecham told me it was nothing uncommon.

[Here follows an account of the evening sermon in City Road Chapel by Mr. Lessey.]

I made my first humble attempt at preaching in England on Tuesday evening, the 16th inst., in the City Road, or Mr. Wesley’s Chapel, on account of Mr. Lessey’s illness, with an epidemic influenza which has laid up half London, and seriously delayed business in many of the public offices, and from which I have not escaped. Beside this chapel stands the house owned and occupied by the venerable Wesley; in the rear of it is his tomb, adjacent to which lie the remains of Dr. A. Clarke, and the Rev. Richard Watson. In front of the chapel, on the opposite side of the street, are the celebrated Bunhill Fields, among whose illustrious dead sleeps the dust of the venerated Dr. Watts. Had I room I should be glad to send you some account of the funeral of the Rev. Rowland Hill, at which I was present, and heard the Rev. Wm. Jay, author of several volumes of excellent sermons, preach an admirable discourse. I also attended the London District Meeting of Preachers, consisting of all the travelling preachers in the City of London, and about 30 miles of the surrounding country. About 40 preachers were present. The proceedings embraced examination of character of candidates, of state of the circuits, of the state of preachers families in want, of providing for them, of collections, etc. etc., together with official sketches of the characters and deaths of the preachers who have (as Mr. Entwistle, Sen., the chairman, expressed it) “gone home”. Amongst these were Dr. Clarke, Messrs. James, Watson, Stanly, and others. Sketches of these proceedings you may expect hereafter. On Wednesday evening last I attended the anniversary of the London District Missionary Society, of which I will send you some account by the next packet. On Thursday Evening I heard the Rev. Robert Newton, the president of the conference, preach in the City Road Chapel, and was introduced to him yesterday by Mr. Alder. Mr. Newton appears to be a very courteous man in his social intercourse—is mighty in doctrine, word, manner and spirit—is upwards of six feet, in person straight, well proportioned, a noble forehead, dark, penetrating eyes, an open countenance, and commanding and variously modulated voice. His style of preaching is perfectly plain, occasionally interspersed with anecdote—his articulation distinct, often rapid—his manner and gestures, though frequently very animated, perfectly natural and spontaneous—his aim appears to be at the heart, and I should think he seldom misses his mark. He is by some called the “Orator of Methodism”, but I should be inclined to question the correctness of the appellation in all respects. Mr. Newton’s greatest strength evidently lies in description and narrative; common things from him appear new, or quite uncommon.

It is remarkable, that while the funds of every other religious and benevolent society in Great Britain have diminished during the past year, the funds of the Methodist Missionary Society [which are the largest in the kingdom] have considerably increased.[31] This perhaps is mostly owing, not merely to their persevering exertions in this department of the evangelization of the world, but to the extensive revivals of religion which have taken place and are still prevailing throughout a large portion of the circuits in the kingdom. I learn from official returns already received, that notwithstanding the political agitation, emigration, etc., there has been a nett increase since the last conference of 12,000. And I heard Mr. Marsden, in concluding the Missionary Meeting the other evening with prayer, praise the Lord that “in different parts of the kingdom he was converting sinners not only by scores and hundreds, but by thousands”. It is regarded as a glorious year of jubilee to the Zion of Methodism in this country, as it certainly is in the New World. A great interest is felt in this country for the extension of the work in the British Provinces, in Upper and Lower Canada, and the Indian tribes; and all the preachers with whom I have conversed appear only anxious to know what means are best adapted to the promotion of the good cause there, in order to adopt them. Mr. Alder’s account of Methodism in Upper Canada has produced a most favourable impression, and I heard him speak of it the other night, at a missionary meeting, in higher terms than I ever heard any other man.[32]

Yours truly,

Egerton Ryerson

June 24, 1833, Egerton Ryerson, Hatton Garden, London, to Mr. James R. Armstrong, York, Upper Canada.

My dear Sir,

I write you [a] few words by Mr. McKenzie and I only have time to write a very few. He embarks this afternoon for Quebec. I refer you to my letter to Mr. Patrick[33] for particulars respecting the general affairs of my mission. I have no doubt of its advantageous results in harmony, peace and extended operation.

I apprehend that Mr. Stanley’s appointment to the Secretaryship of the Colonies will not be very beneficial to us.[34] The reason of Lord Goderich and Lord Howick (Earl Grey’s son) retiring from that office was that they would not bring any other bill in parliament on Slavery, but one for its immediate & entire abolition. I understand that H. J. Boulton is appointed Chief Justice of Newfoundland & that Mr. Hagerman is re-appointed Sol. Genl., and that Lords Goderich & Howick are sadly annoyed at Mr. Stanley’s course.

It will only be for the friends of good government to resist these new measures, and pray for the re-appointment of Lord Goderich, or insist upon a change in the colonial policy towards Canada. This part however belongs to political men. But I am afraid it may have an unfavourable bearing upon our religious rights & interests. A powerful interest is in active operation here.

I received Mr. Richardson’s letter on Saturday, mentioning the petitions to the care of Mr. Hume—not the person to present a petition to his Majesty on religious liberty in the colonies,[35] and especially after the part he has taken in opposing the bill for emancipating slaves in the West Indies. It has incensed the religious part of the nation against him. He is connected with the West India Interest by his wife—and his abandoning all his principles of liberty in such a heart-stirring question, destroys confidence in the disinterestness of his general conduct, and his sincere regard for the great interests of religion. I shall call upon him this morning. I expect however to leave London this afternoon for Ireland. My return to London at all depends upon whether I can do anything in this petition business. What I say, however, respecting these affairs is in confidence. It should not be known that we are not pleased with the present Secretary for the Colonies, etc.

I have been two nights to the House of Commons; heard them debate one night on Slavery in the West Indies, & the other on tithes in Ireland. O’Connell was one of the speakers. I have no time to make remarks or mention individuals, but there was not much dignity in the collected wisdom of the nation in some of the proceedings. I went into the Court of King’s Bench & heard Chief Justice deliver a charge to a Jury on a civil case. He looks & speaks something [like] old Mr. Bidwell,[36] only he is a younger man, about 55 or 60. I have visited several of Public Institutions to witness varied wisdom of the Divine Architect in “making the world and all things therein”, as well as to examine the productions of human ingenuity, skill & superstition.

I am anxious to return to Canada. I beg to be most affectionately remembered to Mrs. Armstrong & the family,[37] to Mr. & Mrs. Irving to whom I would have written had it not been quite unnecessary after what I have stated in my letter to Mr. Patrick. And I have not time to write half the letters I ought to write. It is difficult to get a moment for retirement except very early in the morning or after twelve at night. It is not the way for me to live. I had however a very profitable & good day yesterday. I preached & superintended a Lovefeast last evening in City Road Chapel. It was a very good one, only the people were a little bashful in speaking at first, like some of our fearful York friends, who are always so very timid, such as Dr. Morrison, Mr. Howard, Mrs. Richardson & others.

Yours very affectionately,

E. Ryerson

July 13, 1833, Egerton Ryerson, 77 Hatton Garden, London, to the Editor of the Christian Guardian.

My dear Sir:

The address from Upper Canada to the King, praying for the disposal of the Clergy Reserves to the purposes of education, and that all denominations of Christians may be placed upon the same footing, was presented to the Secretary for the Colonies on Monday the 8th ult. The important interests involved in the objects of this address have induced me to sacrifice the pleasure and a journey through part of the land of heroes and statesmen, poets and orators, philosophers and divines. I have had two interviews with Mr. Secretary Stanley on the subject of this Address, and have drawn up a statement of the grounds on which the House of Assembly, and great body of the people of Upper Canada, resist the pretensions and claims of the Episcopal Clergy. Mr. Hagerman has been directed to do the same on behalf of the Episcopal Clergy. Assurance has been given that the question will be shortly decided. As I say nothing here that I am afraid to have laid before the Canadian public, my statement may hereafter be published in U. Canada. It may, however, be satisfactory to some of your readers, who feel so intense an interest in the subject, should I furnish a brief outline of what I shall in a day or two lay before His Majesty’s Government on this all important question. It is drawn up in four separate papers, ranged under the four following heads:

“I. Observations, designed to show that the Church of England is not the Established Church of Canada, and that the provision for a Protestant Clergy, made in the Act of 1791, was not intended for the exclusive benefit of the Clergy of that Church.”

“II. Observations on the two adverse Addresses which have been recently presented to His Majesty’s Government from Upper Canada, on the subject of the Clergy Reserves, the mode of their circulation, the statements they contain, and the reasons assigned in the Episcopal Clergy Address for the appropriation of the Reserves to their exclusive advantage.”

“III. Observations, designed to show, from the erroneous and contradictory statements of the Agents and Clergy of the Church of England on this question, and the proceedings of the U. Canada House of Assembly, that the Reserves ought not to be appropriated as an endowment to the Clergy of that Church.”

“IV. Observations on the present state of the question, and the probable effects of the different decisions to which His Majesty’s Government may come in respect to it.”

Often and fervently have I wished that I possessed the head, and tongue, and pen, of some I know in U.C. in the statement and discussion of this question of law, of equity, of policy, and of religion.

The advocates of the Episcopal claims certainly have a right to their opinions, and are entitled to respect as well as those who dispute those claims. But unfairness and untruth cannot be justified in either. I ought not to be surprised at any thing these days, but I confess I was a little surprised to find the Colonial Secretary fully impressed at first that Methodist Preachers in Canada were generally Americans, (Yankees)—that the cause of the great prosperity of Methodism there was the ample support it received from United States funds—that the missionaries in U. Canada were actually under the United States Conference and at its disposal. And the Colonial Secretary manifested a little surprise also, when I turned to the Journals of the U.C. House of Assembly, (with which I happened to be armed,) and produced proof to the reverse, which was pronounced “perfectly conclusive and satisfactory”. And a little surprised did His Majesty’s Colonial Secretary appear to be, when I cited him to the proceedings of the present House of Assembly, and showed him the resolutions, amendments, votes and names on the Clergy Reserves, where Mr. Sol. General Hagerman was left in a minority of six, and Mr. Attorney General Boulton in a minority of three. Mr. Secretary Stanley turned to the dates, to convince himself that such were the votes of the present House of Assembly.

I suppose that there is some curiosity and speculation in Upper Canada at the re-appointment of the Crown Officers, Messrs. Boulton and Hagerman, to office under the present administration. I have good authority for stating that it has been in consequence of assurances and proofs that these gentlemen gave His Majesty’s Government, that their conduct had not been opposed or disrespectful to the Government, and that the newspaper reports exaggerated and misrepresented their speeches and proceedings in regard to Lord Goderich’s despatch of the 8th of last November. I was not present nor in York when those proceedings took place. All that I can, or have been able to say, is, that I had never heard any complaints of that kind before. It is a serious affair for reporters to misrepresent public men in such a way as to remove them from office. Some measures should be adopted to prevent misrepresentation on any side.[38]

I shall not write again until I leave, which will be the 8th of next month, Providence permitting. I have tho’t it might be desirable for me to write this much by this packet.

Yours truly,

E. Ryerson

August 7, (1833), Strangeways, Anne Marsden to Rev. E. Ryerson.


Dear Sir,

At length my rebellious heart is subdued by reason and by grace. I am made willing to give up my excellent Husband to what is supposed to be a great work. I am led to hope that as a new class of feelings are brought into exercise, that perhaps some new graces may be elicited in my own character, as well as that of my dear Husband; at any rate, it is a sacrifice to God, which I trust will be accepted, and both in a private and a public view be overruled for the glory of God.

I take the liberty of addressing this Note to you, Sir, because I am sure, notwithstanding your repeated attempt to reconcile me to this affair, I must have appeared very cold, and very unamiable to you; but the fact was simply this, I could not see you, or converse with you, without so much emotion, as quite unnerved me; therefore I studiously avoided you. Pardon me, dear Sir, in this; it is no part of my natural character to treat my friends unkindly, but I had not been prepared to expect such a trial.

My conduct in this affair may appear to you very extraordinary, but did you know the happiness which dear Mr. M. and I have enjoyed in each others society, for thirty-six years, you could not be surprised that I should be unwilling to give up so many months as will be required, for this Mission; but to God and his Church, I bow in submission.

I trust you will have a good voyage, and will have the happiness of meeting your dear children well. Believe me, dear Sir, yours with sincere respect, and affection,

Anne Marsden

This letter shows Ryerson in a somewhat new light. The Rev. George Marsden was willing to undertake the mission to Upper Canada, but his wife could not bear to let him go. Apparently Ryerson undertook to persuade her. At length he succeeded. When not engaged in controversy, Ryerson was the most agreeable and charming of men. His personality was irresistible, as this touching letter attests. So the Rev. George Marsden returned with Ryerson, to attend the special Conference at York and become the first President of the new body. The choice seems to have been an excellent one. He not only played the part but looked the part admirably. He quite impressed that thorough-going Canadian, Anson Green, on his first Sunday in Canada when he reached Hamilton via New York and Niagara Falls.

As Mr. Marsden got out of the carriage at the church door, he amused the youngsters greatly by his antique dress: he wore a round-breasted coat, short breeches, and black silk stockings, with silver knee and shoe buckles. He is rather under-size, venerable in appearance, plain, but evangelical in preaching, and deeply pious. He is an ex-President of the British Conference; and having come down to us from Wesley, his experience must be great. I have quite fallen in love with this holy, apostolic man. He will do us good. He is more like Solon than Demosthenes; like Lord Chesterfield than Sir Isaac Newton; but he is more like Mr. Case than either. He has the plainness of Bishop Hedding in style, but does not equal him either in depth of thought or grasp of intellect. For pulpit power and oratory, he has several superiors in our Conference; but there is a vein of goodness, disinterested benevolence, and holy zeal visible in all his acts which makes him a welcome and useful guest amongst us.[39]

The Conference convened on October 2nd at York. The articles of union were considered singly and passed, Carroll says, unanimously, the one dissenting member, Joseph Gatchell, absenting himself. Green, however, says that when the nays were called the veteran Thomas Whitehead “stood up, as straight as an Indian, and smoothing himself down in front with both hands, said, ‘I am an up and down man’ ”.[40] With this honest gesture he then fell in line. Case gracefully yielded the presidency, retaining the title of General Missionary to the Indian Tribes. A legal opinion was read from Bidwell and Rolph to the effect that the claim on church property would not be impaired by relinquishing Episcopacy. Another increase in numbers was recorded, 1,138. The increase in the previous year had been 3,553, the largest in the history of the Church. The Conference entered union with a membership of 16,039, having added 60 per cent. to their numbers during the five years of independence. Ryerson was elected Secretary, and at the same time Editor—a unique tribute to his success in England and the confidence of his brethren.

But trouble soon developed with certain of the British missionaries. John P. Hetherington at Kingston refused to co-operate in any manner with William Ryerson, who was assigned to that place; and John Barry, who had been ministering to some Wesleyans in the little George Street Chapel, was equally obdurate in his attitude. This was quite to the liking of the Courier which on October 26th carried the following news item:

The Rev. John Barry, late member of The British Wesleyan Congregation in this town, who left the place in consequence of the late mock Union between Mr. Marsden and the American Methodists, arrived in town this morning in company with the Rev. Mr. Sutcliffe (British Wesleyan Missionary from Montreal) who is about to take charge of the congregation lately under the pastoral care of Mr. Barry in this town, to be totally unconnected with the Ryersonian American Methodists or with any persons connected with them. The Rev. Mr. Barry returns to Montreal to take the place of Mr. Sutcliffe, to be also entirely unconnected with the Ryersonian faction.

November 7, 1833, Rev. J. Ryerson, Hallowell, to Rev. Egerton Ryerson, York.

My dr. Brother

On Monday last I returned from Kingston, & as you are doubtless ankeious to hear of our prospects, I drop you a line to let you know the state of things there. There is no union & no prospect of any, between the two congregations, so long as Mr. Hethrington remains there. The bitterness of his feallings beggers all discription & he is doing all he can to excite the same kind of fealing in the minds of others & then publish abroad how much their members are opposed to the Union. Why Mr. Marsden should have left him there after the arrangements which were made at the conference & knowing his fealings is a mistery to me. No dout before next May he will do much harm. Barry has also been back, called the members together, exhorted them to stick together, informing them that they had had a Special District Meeting & that they had sent an agent home & that York & Kingston would not be given up, etc., etc.[41] I understand he accompanied Mr. Sutcliff to York on the same errand. Wm. & myself called on Mr. Hethrington. He said there could be no union, that we were Radicles, that they would not be unighted with us, that the District Meetings of Lower Canada, Hallafax, etc, intended to make common cause of it, especially they intended to remonstrate against giveing up York & Kingston, that the conferencial union otherwise they did not care as much about. He said they intended to appeal to the British conference & if they were not heard they would appeal to the British People. He also said that our church government was as much Episcopal as it ever was, we had only changed the name & that he did not believe that any English Preacher had a right on divine authority to ordain our Preachers as Mr. Marsden had done, or words to this amount, etc., etc. If the British conference will allow its members to throw fire-brands, arrows & death around in this way & reprobate their proceedings after this manner with impunity, they are very different men from what I have always taken them to be. As week & imperfect as we are, we would kill or cure a person who would proceed in this manner in short order.[42] There would be no difficulty whatever with the congregation (with 4 or 5 individual exceptions) were it not for H—., B— etc.

On Monday morning I first saw the last Guardian & at the same time the Colonial Advocate.[43] What will be the results of your remarks on the Political Parties in England I can not say, though doutless they will occation much speculation, some jealousy & bad fealling, etc. I have some times thought you had better not have writen the article, particularly at this time, yet I have long been of the opinion that we had (both with regard to measures & men) leaned to much towards Radicleism & that it would be absolutely necessary sooner or later to disengage ourselves from them entirely. You can see plainly that it is not Reform but Revolution they are after, & we would fare sumptuously, should we not, with Radcliff,[44] McKenzey, etc. for our rulers. I have also felt very unpleasant in noticeing the endeavours of these men together with some of our own members to introduce their Republican Leaven into our Eclesiastical Polity. And it is not a little remarkable that not one of our members who have entered into their Politicks, but has become a furious leveler in matters of Church Government. Witness Dr. Morrowson, J. Cumer, E. Perry, Jas. Lyons, etc., etc., etc. And these very men are the most regardless of our reputation & the most ready to impune our motives & defaim our character, when we in any way cross their track. There are some things in your remarks I don’t like—what you say about Mr. Atwood, etc., I think had been better left out. But uppon the whole I am glad of its apperrence, & I hope whenever you have occation to speak of the Government, etc., will do it in terms of high respect. But at the present the less said about Polliticks or Political men the better; yet I am ankeous to obtain the confidence of the government & entirely disconnect ourselves with that tribe of villans with whom we have been too intimate & who are at any time ready to turn round and rend us when we don’t please them. I fear Wm. is so much attached to those men & their measures that he will injure us & himself too. But perhaps he will come over after a little.

I have writen this letter in very great haist; you will excuse the blunders. I will write again soon. Please write soon. As ever

Yours, etc.,

J. Ryerson

This, then, was the fruit of the sacrifice of complete autonomy made by the Conference to avoid collision: some Canadian preachers and more Canadian laymen fearful lest cherished principles might have been sacrificed, and certain British Wesleyans still lending themselves to the old game of the enemies of Methodism—Divide et Impera. It would not be surprising if already it had occurred to John Ryerson that he had mistaken the origin of the voice which came to him that day on Bay Street, when he thought it providential.[45]

Case, Vol. III, p. 88.

Report from the Select Committee on the Civil Government of Canada, p. 297.

Epochs, p. 299.

Green, pp. 160-61.

Webster, p. 262.

Ibid., p. 263.

Colonial Advocate, Dec. 1, 1831.

This letter came to the Library of Victoria University, through the kindness of Professor E. W. Banting, as one of ten letters written by Mrs. John Ryerson to her brother, James Lewis.

This letter makes it clear that Sir John Colborne had recanted as to his strictures upon the Methodists for their “absurd advice to the Indians” (see p. 145). He was now prepared once more to adopt a policy of co-operating with the Methodists in the matter of the education of the Indians. It is peculiar that he writes to Ryerson rather than Case, the proper official of the Conference.

In the Christian Guardian of February 1, 1832, appeared the following brief note:

“Died this morning at half past five o’clock, Hannah, wife of the Rev. E. Ryerson, aged 28 years. She has left, to sustain her loss, a husband and two children—a son and daughter—the former aged two years and a half, the latter two weeks and three days. In her life were most conspicuous the graces of patience, meekness and love; during the whole of her last illness was remarkably illustrated what has been called ‘the majesty of faith’, or what the Apostle terms, ‘the riches of the full assurance of faith’, and ‘the riches of the full assurance of understanding’. . . . The funeral will take place on Friday next at two o’clock, P.M., at Hamilton, Gore District.”

See p. 33.

The ravages of the cholera in Canada, rather curiously, are not mentioned in our correspondence. The Guardian, however, during those terrible weeks gives considerable information to its readers both as to the progress of the plague and as to the best remedies to be employed. A graphic account is given by Green (pp. 186-188) of the symptoms and of his recovery in the home of Col. Arnold on the St. Lawrence. He was overtaken on the road, but managed to reach this hospitable home, where his life was saved by a potent dose administered by Miss Margaret. The plague was at its worst in Canada in midsummer, 1832. There was a less serious outbreak in 1834.

S.M.L., p. 116. Among the Ryerson papers is a long unpublished account of one of these meetings describing its conduct graphically and in considerable detail.

See p. 36.

Findley and Holdsworth: History of the Wesleyan Missionary Society, Vol. I, pp. 424-442.

Case, Vol. III, p. 352.

The full clause of the Discipline, as passed in 1828, is given in Case, Vol. III, p. 216.

C.G., Oct. 16, 1833.

This minute is found on a somewhat mutilated page of the frail Minute Book of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Canada, 1828-32. This is the least well preserved of the four old Minute Books of Conference in the possession of the Library of Victoria University. Burwash is in error in stating (History of Victoria College, p. 25) that Ryerson’s first official connection with the college was in 1835. In addition to the above commission, he was a member of successive Academy committees in 1832, 1833, and 1834.

The principal assailant, William Johnston Kerr, Esq. (the esquire is to be noted) at the fall assizes was fined £25 for his part in the affair. His accomplice, one George Pettit, “A strapping son of Vulcan,” appears to have escaped the court.

In view of the part taken in this debate, these officials were notified that their resignations would be acceptable. Boulton was later given the post of Chief Justice of Newfoundland. Hagerman appealed in person to Stanley, who succeeded Goderich, and was reinstated.

C.G., Dec. 11, 1833.

This letter appears in the Guardian of April 17, 1833, not in the correspondence. John forwarded the letter to the editor, noting that it was a private letter not written for publication.

The Rev. Fitch Reid, the first regular preacher of York (see p. 50), was now a successful pastor in New England.

This letter appears in the Guardian of May 29th.

The degree of formality preserved between Ryerson and his first colleague as an itinerant is interesting.

Ryerson was still a young man—he reached his thirtieth birthday on the voyage—and impressionable enough to respond with enthusiasm to his first view of the English countryside.

This letter appears in the Guardian of June 26, 1833.

This admission draws attention to the fact that the mode of the Methodists tended peculiarly to the cultivation of the emotions. Professor A. P. Coleman, one of the oldest living graduates of Victoria College, recalls a sermon to the undergraduates in his day by Ryerson, distinguished both for its length and the tears of the preacher.

By this Ryerson evidently means the ejaculations so characteristic of the early Methodists, and so disturbing to a Scot from Dundee. See p. 19.

It has been noted that the membership of the British Wesleyan connexion declined in 1830-31. Again it was on the increase and by such means as Ryerson has described from the experience of his first Sunday in England. It was a matter of morning, afternoon and evening on Sunday, with week-day services added.

Ryerson means to suggest, perhaps, that in this speech of Alder’s there was no indication that he regarded the present members of the Canada Conference as not quite capable of looking after the spiritual wants of Wesleyans emigrating from the British Isles or of the aborigines. Only on the grounds of such mistrust could the sending of British missionaries be explained. Again he is reassuring his friends in Upper Canada.

The name of William P. Patrick appears frequently in connection with various enterprises in York. In 1818 he became a class leader in the old “framed meeting house” and the first superintendent of the first Sunday School in York. At that time he was a Clerk of the Legislative Assembly. His sister was married to Dr. T. D. Morrison. In 1829 we find him on the printing committee of the Christian Guardian. In 1833 he was treasurer of the Temperance Society of York, of which in that year the Hon. J. H. Dunn, Receiver-General, was President and Jesse Ketchum and Rev. Wm. Rintoul were vice-presidents. He was one of several leading Methodists later to be caught up in the Irvingite movement. He was a liberal and a Methodist; his name does not appear in Scadding.

So it appeared also to the Upper Canada Courier, edited by George Gurnett, and controlled by H. J. Boulton, serving the interests of the official party and being served in turn by extensive patronage in the way of advertising. The Guardian of May 15th reports that the appointment of Stanley was proclaimed through the town with great triumph by The Courier sending his boy blowing a tin trumpet along the streets as he distributed a bulletin announcing it. The bulletin contained as usual “a liberal quantum of abuse upon the Methodists, proclaiming their downfall”.

While in England Ryerson had learned a good deal about Joseph Hume—the fortune he had made in India, his connection with the Greek loan, his coolness in the anti-slavery movement, his capacity for and interest in economics as distinct from religion. The judgment he formed of this able man, so long a force to be reckoned with in the British House, is substantially the verdict of history.

This was Barnabas Bidwell, a graduate of Yale, who became Attorney General of Massachusetts. Being accused of embezzlement—unjustly as he always protested, and as a result of political conspiracy—he withdrew to Canada in 1810, settled at Bath and earned his living as a school teacher. He was elected to the Legislature for Lennox and Addington in 1821, thus greatly adding to the strength of the reform element. An emissary was sent to Massachusetts, however, to pry into his career, and he was expelled from the House, whereupon his constituents elected his son, Marshall Spring Bidwell, in his stead.

The juxtaposition of these two sentences is interesting. At least one member of the family, the oldest daughter, may have noted it.

This letter appears in the Guardian of September 4th. In the same issue by way of comment Richardson makes the following observations: “The reports, as published in the newspapers, had been before the public of Canada some months before these gentlemen left the country; they had gone the rounds of the papers, had become a common subject of remark and animadversion, and had been under the scrutiny of the members of the House of Assembly, in the discussion respecting compensation to reporters, when the Guardian in particular was complimented for the correctness of its reports, by several members who are known to be opposed to its general principles; and all this in the presence of Mr. Boulton, who spoke on the occasion, was in favour of paying the Reporters, and took no exceptions to the reports of either his own or Mr. Hagerman’s speeches; and yet, according to Mr. Ryerson’s letter, it is said, they were so shamefully misrepresented as to cause their dismissal from office.”

Green, p. 175.

Green, p. 176.

This is evidence that certain British preachers from the first had sought to maintain an organization separate from the Conference. At the end of the conference year 1833-34, according to the articles of union, they were to come under the control of the Canadian Conference. This they were unwilling to do.

The explosion here referred to shook all Upper Canada. It becomes the subject of our next chapter.

The difficulties of maintaining discipline with an absentee president were already appearing. Canadian Methodism in its turn was experiencing something of the disadvantages of a colonial status.

James Radcliffe, editor of the Cobourg Reformer.

See p. 154.



October 1833 to June 1834

The Conference of 1833 had restored Ryerson to the editorship of the Guardian. Richardson retired with a brief editorial, generous in its references to his successor. The latter’s reply was in kind, with complimentary references to his “excellent predecessor”. Richardson’s editing had been sound and restrained—and measurably dull. When Ryerson resumed control he determined to brighten the paper. Largely with this in view,[1] he presented in the Guardian of October 30th the first of a series[2] of articles giving his personal observations on English public affairs under the title, “English Impressions”.

These innocent and casual “Impressions” were as spark to tinder in Upper Canada, such were the circumstances and such the persons involved. For some years a spirited contest had been waged against special privilege. The champions of the people most prominent in the public eye were Mackenzie and Ryerson. Their efforts had been to the same end, though they had employed different means and approached the problem from different angles. To Mackenzie the question was largely one of economic justice, to Ryerson it was primarily one of religious equality. To be sure, their interests converged in the broad field of liberty and equal rights. As to politics, Mackenzie tended to be doctrinaire, Ryerson to be particular and practical. Occasionally they had served together on committees, as for example in 1831, but in general, though fellow townsmen, their lives had moved in different orbits. While in England they had together approached the British Government. Here a third person was involved, Joseph Hume, powerful as an unattached member of the House of Commons because of his great industry and his knowledge of commerce and finance. He had been acting as agent for the Reformers of Upper Canada, and in his general political attitude had much in common with Mackenzie. Mackenzie’s youngest son, born in England, was given the name, Joseph Hume. In England Ryerson moved amongst the Methodist people, in religion fervid, in social intercourse cordial, and in politics inclining to be conservative. But he mingled also to some extent with public men, and became convinced that a radical and atheist was not the man to forward in Parliament the cause of religion in Upper Canada, whatever he might accomplish in other matters less dear to Ryerson’s heart. He told Mackenzie so in London, apparently without serious offence. In the first of his “Impressions”—incidentally and amongst many other observations—he said the same thing to the Canadian public, but with surprising effect in a political atmosphere already gathering for an outbreak.

Impressions made by our late Visit to England


More times than we can tell have we been asked, since our return to Canada, “What do you think of England?” And as often have we vaguely answered, “Much better upon the whole than I had anticipated”. To one who had been born and educated under the British government;—whose earliest, and tenderest, and strongest recollections, were associated with British institutions;—whose forefathers and relatives had fought, and some of them bled, in defence and support of the claims of the British government, in successive wars;—whose warmest aspirations embraced the stability and prosperity of the British crown; who had been an anxious spectator of passing events in Great Britain for some years past, and had upon more than one occasion remarked upon her institutions, condition, and prospects;—to one thus circumstanced and excited, a personal visit to the “sea-girt isle” presented objects of no ordinary attraction, and awakened the strongest feelings of curiosity. To notice every thing that attracted our attention, or that is worthy of observation, is foreign from our present purpose, as it would require a volume rather than a column, a month rather than an hour, to journalize the excursions of every day’s walk and ride, and reduce to chapter and section the tattle of every tea-party chit-chat, stage-coach rencontre, diversified scenery of park and field, and hill and dale, with palaces and castles, cathedrals and country seats, customs and manners, virtues and vices, prejudices and parties. We will merely state the impressions made upon our own mind during four months’ residence in England, in regard to public men, religious bodies, and the general state of the nation.

There are three great political parties in England—Tories, Whigs and Radicals, and two descriptions of characters constituting each party. Of the first, there is the moderate and ultra tory. An English ultra tory is what we believe has usually been meant and understood in Canada by the unqualified term tory; that is, a lordling in power, a tyrant in politics, and a bigot in religion. In religion, he is superstitious or sceptical, as it happens; in morals, he is profane or devout, sensual or abstemious, spendthrift or miser, as inclination and interest may prompt; in opinions, he is as intolerant as he is illiberal. This description of partizans, we believe, is headed by the Duke of Cumberland, and is followed not “a-far off” by that powerful party, which presents such a formidable array of numbers, rank, wealth, talent, science, and literature, headed by the Hero of Waterloo. This shade of the tory party appears to be headed in the House of Commons by Sir R. Ingles, member for the Oxford University, and is supported, on most questions, by that most subtle and ingenious politician and fascinating speaker, Sir R. Peel, with his numerous train of followers and admirers. Among those who support the distinguishing measures of this party are men of the highest christian virtue and piety; and our decided impression is, that it embraces the major part of the talent, and wealth, and learning of the British nation. The acknowledged and leading organs of this party are Blackwood’s Magazine and the London Quarterly.

The other branch of this great political party is what is called the moderate tory. In political theory he agrees with his high-toned neighbour; but he acts from religious principle, and this governs his private as well as public life—he contemplates the good of the nation and the welfare of mankind, without regard to party measures, and uninfluenced by political sectarianism. To this class belongs a considerable portion of the evangelical clergy, and, we think, a majority of the Wesleyan Methodists. This class, embracing for the most part, within the sphere of its religious exertions, the Bible, Tract, Church and Wesleyan Missionary Societies, evidently includes the great body of the piety, christian enterprise, and sterling virtue of the nation. It repudiates connexion with any avowedly political party;—its politics are those of justice—its charities are liberal—its measures are disinterested—its honour is inviolable—it supports established institutions from the authority of the Divine word instead of the caprice of expediency; moderate, but unbending and persevering in its purposes; and in time of party excitement, alike hated and denounced by the ultra tory, the crabbed whig, and the radical leveller. Such was our impression of the true character of what, by the periodical press in England, is termed a moderate tory. From his theory (to which he seldom or never insists upon your subscribing) we in some respects dissent; but his integrity, his honesty, his consistency, his genuine liberality and religious beneficence, claim respect and imitation. Of this class Lord Goderich (now Earl Ripon) is a fair specimen and bright ornament; as may be supposed by his despatches to the government of this and other British North American Colonies; and to this class, we understood in England, that His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor, Sir John Colborne, had always been attached and associated.

The second great political, and now ruling party in England, are the whigs—a term synonymous with whey, applied, it is said, to this political school, from the sour and peevish temper manifested by its first disciples—though it is now rather popular than otherwise in England. It is, however, not so popular as it was before the passing of the Reform Bill—as the whig administration has not fulfilled the expectations of the public in its measures of retrenchment and reform. The whig appears to differ in theory from the tory in this, that he interprets the constitution, obedience to it, and all measures in regard to its administration, upon the principles of expedience, and is therefore always pliant in his professions, and is ever ready to suit his measures to the Times; an indefinite term, that also designates the most extensively circulated daily paper in England, or in the world, which is the leading organ of the whig party, backed by the formidable power and lofty periods of the Edinburgh Quarterly: whereas the tory maintains the implied contract of existing institutions and established usages, and the authority of Revelation as the true foundation of obedience to the civil government. To us, the theory of the truth lies between the two; in practice there is but little difference. The present whig ministry have not retrenched a farthing of their own salaries, (with one or two exceptions) any more than did their predecessors in office; and the present Premier has inducted more of his relatives into lucrative offices and livings, during the last two years, than did Lord Liverpool during the whole of his administration. The leaders of this party in the House of Lords are Earl Grey and the Lord Chancellor; at the head of the list in the House of Commons stand the names of Mr. Stanley, Lord Althorp, Lord John Russell, and Mr. McAuley.[3] In this class are also included many of the most learned and popular ministers of dissenting congregations. There appears to be no peculiar tendency in the examples, influence, and measures of the great politicians of this school to improve the religious and moral condition of the nation.

The third political sect is called Radicals; apparently headed by Messrs. Hume and Attwood; the former of whom, though acute, indefatigable, persevering, popular on financial questions, and always to the point, and heard with respect and attention in the House of Commons, has no influence as a religious man; has never been known to promote any religious measure or object as such, and has opposed every measure for the better observance of the Sabbath, and even introduced a motion to defeat the bill for the abolition of colonial slavery; and Mr. Attwood, the head of the celebrated Birmingham political union, is (if we may judge from hearing him speak two or three times in the House of Commons) a conceited, boisterous, hollow-headed declaimer. Never did we hear any public man speak, of whom we formed so unfavourable an opinion as of Thomas Attwood.

Radicalism in England appeared to us to be but another word for Republicanism, with the name of King instead of President. This school, however, includes all the Infidels, Unitarians and Soci[a]nians in the Kingdom; together with a majority of the population of the manufacturing districts. The notorious infidel character of the majority of the political leaders and periodical publications of this party, deter the virtuous part of the nation from associating with them, though some of the brightest ornaments of the English pulpit and nation have leaned to their leading doctrines in theory. And perhaps one of the most formidable obstacles to a wise, safe and effectual reform of political, ecclesiastical and religious abuses in England, is, the notorious want of religious virtue or integrity in many of the leading politicians who have lamentably succeeded in getting their names identified with reform; which keeps the truly religious portion of the nation aloof, and compels it in practice, to occupy a neutral ground. And it is not a little remarkable that that very description of the public press which, in England, advocates the lowest radicalism, is the foremost in opposing and slandering the Methodists in this Province. Hence the fact that some of these Editors have been among the lowest of the English Radicals previous to their egress from the Mother Country.

Upon the whole, our impressions of the religious and moral character, patriotism, and influence of the several political parties into which the British nation is unhappily divided, were materially different in some respects, from personal observation, from what they had been by hear-say and reading. The conclusions to which we came were, 1. That there is nothing in the peculiar tenets of the different political parties, that can reasonably debar their advocates from religious communion with each other,—and, therefore, should never be made a condition of it; since there are included in each, men of generous patriotism, inviolable integrity, solid learning, and scriptural orthodoxy and piety. 2. That no Christian could safely and wisely identify himself with either of them, since they all alike—as parties—seek their own honor and gain, and care little or nothing for the interests of what he regards as the sum of human happiness. 3. That the most rational and effectual means for a true Christian to reform vice and correct abuses, is to know, enjoy, and always abound in the work of Him who went about doing good.

(to be continued)

Mackenzie’s observations in the Colonial Advocate were penned and printed on the day the “English Impressions” appeared in the Guardian.

Second Edition      Advocate Office      Wednesday night [Oct. 30]


[This in very large type on the third page.]



The Christian Guardian, under the management of our rev. neighbour Egerton Ryerson, has gone over to the enemy, press, types, & all, & hoisted the colours of a cruel, vindictive tory priesthood. His brother George when sent to London became an easy convert to the same cause, and it appears that the parent stock were of those who fought to uphold unjust taxation, stamp acts, and toryism in the United States. The contents of the Guardian of tonight tells us in language too plain, too intelligible to be misunderstood that a deadly blow has been struck in England at the liberties of the people of Upper Canada, by as subtile and as ungrateful an adversary, in the guise of an old and familiar friend, as ever crossed the Atlantic. The Americans had their Arnold and the Canadians have their Ryerson; and oppression and injustice, and priestly hypocrisy may triumph for a time and wax fat and kick, but we yet anticipate the joyful day as not far distant in which the cause of civil and religious freedom shall win a great and lasting victory in this favoured land.

[Then in somewhat smaller type.]

The thorough defection of The Guardian and the Ryersons will leave York without a Newspaper having the least pretence to independence of principle, during the coming winter, and my remarks of tonight may lessen my chance of success in the Toronto riding next General Election, and perhaps render it expedient for me to decline being a candidate for the county in the case of an expulsion next month.[4] But I hesitate not a moment, in expressing my sentiments—deceit and hypocrisy under the broad mantle of religion have not vanquished me. No, I was the dupe of a jesuit in the garb of a methodist preacher, and believed Egerton that I had been in error in opposing the Union, the fruits of which are so very soon ripened, but he and his new allies, the church and state gentry, shall now have me on their rear. Of course my plan of operations must be changed, for I feel that I am unable in my present condition to contend against such powerful odds. I held out in the good old radical cause, as an editor, as long and as well as I could—more my friends did not expect of me. Elder Ryan, poor fellow, is in his grave, but I well remember his telling me, “I have found out the Ryersons, and before long the people of Canada will find them out”. He was right.

Ryerson’s Rejoinder[5]


We extract the above from the last number of the Colonial Advocate; and whatever may be the intelligent reader’s opinion of Mr. McKenzie’s insignificance or importance, veracity or dishonesty, merits or demerits, we beg liberty, once for all, to make a few remarks on his very extraordinary statement. Mr. McKenzie seems to have taken great offence at our Editorial article of last Wednesday’s Guardian, headed, “Impressions made by our late visit to England”. It will be perceived from the date and circumstances under which Mr. McKenzie made his statement, that it was the ebulition of the moment and written under the excitement of passion: it therefore claims a favourable construction and lenient consideration. Our article contained the first part of a series of observations we intend to offer on the religious and political condition of Great Britain, as it appeared to us during our short residence there. This part of our remarks was confined to the political parties which exist in England; and of whose moral character, as parties, we endeavoured to give a true picture. We did so 1st, as a subject of useful information; 2nd. To correct an erroneous impression that had been industriously created, that we are identified in our feelings and purposes with some one political party; 3. To furnish an instructive moral to the Christian reader, not to be the passive or active tool, or blind thoroughgoing follower of any political party, as such. We considered this called for at the present time on both religious and patriotic grounds. We designed this expression of our sentiments, and this means of removing groundless prejudice and hostility, in the least exceptionable and offensive way; and without coming in contact with any political party in Canada, or giving offence to any, except those who had shown inveterate and unprincipled hostility to Methodism. We therefore associated the Canadian ultra tory with the English radical, because we were convinced of their identity in moral essence, and that the only essential difference between them is, that the one is top and the other bottom. We therefore said “that very description of the public press which, in England advocates the lowest radicalism, is the foremost in opposing and slandering the Methodists in this Province”.

That our Christian brethren throughout the Province, and every sincere friend to Methodism, do not wish us to be an organized political party, we are fully assured;—that it is inconsistent with our profession and duty to become such, we have on more than one occasion declared.

[Here follow several references to this effect from the Guardian.]

That the decided part we have felt it our duty to take in obtaining and securing our rights in regard of the Clergy Reserve question, has had a remote or indirect tendency to promote Mr. McKenzie’s political measures, we readily admit; and we have even inserted petitions and other public documents embracing a variety of secular matters, for the single and sole purpose of bringing this great question to a successful issue—precisely in the same way as thousands of the friends of negro Emancipation in England have supported Candidates for Parliament with the sole object of abolishing slavery, although they would thereby be virtually instrumental in promoting other favorite objects of such candidates with which they had no fellowship whatever. But that we have ever supported a measure, or given publicity to any documents from Mr. Mackenzie, or any other political man in Upper Canada, on any other grounds than this, we totally deny, and could, were it necessary, produce abundant evidence to prove.

Mr. McKenzie’s attack therefore, must have been called forth upon one, or all of four grounds: 1. That our language was so explicit as to remove every doubt and hope of our encouraging a “thick and thin” partizanship with him or any man or set of men in Canada; or 2. That we did not speak in opprobrious, but rather favorable terms, of His Excellency the Lt. Governor; or 3. That we expressed our approbation of the principles and colonial policy of Lord Goderich (now Earl Ripon) and those who agree with him; or 4. That we alluded to Mr. Hume in terms not sufficiently complimentary. If the abuse of Mr. McKenzie’s pen has been created by the first of these causes, we can neither sympathise with him in his disappointment, nor retract our avowal, often made before, yet it seems never credited either by Mr. McKenzie or his opponents. We are confident we speak the sentiments of our whole church when we say we can never consent to become what our enemies have represented us—“a political faction”. If Mr. Mckenzie’s wishes are crossed and his wrath inflamed, because we have not entered our protest against His Excellency the Lt. Governor, when we had learned the views of His Majesty’s Government on a reply of His Excellency to an address of our Conference about two years ago, and when every unfavorable impression had been removed from the mind of His Majesty’s Government which said reply might have created, and when good will was expressed towards the Methodists as a people, we have not so learned to forgive injuries—we have not so learned to “honor and obey magistrates”—we have not so learned our duty as a minister, and as a christian, and as a body of christians—we have not so learned to “follow peace with all men”. We, as a religious body, and as the organ of a religious body, have only to do with Sir John’s administration as far as it concerns our character and rights as British subjects; His Excellency’s administration and measures in merely secular matters lie within the peculiar province of the political journalists and politicians of the day. If our offering a tribute of grateful respect to such as Lord Goderich, who has proved himself the firm and magnanimous friend of the persecuted Baptist and Methodist Missionaries in the West Indies—who had declared in his despatches to Canada his earnest desire to remove every Bishop and Priest from our Legislature, to secure the right of petitioning the King to the meanest subject in the realm, to extend the blessings of full religious liberty and the advantages of education to every class of British subjects in Canada without distinction or partiality, and in every possible way to advance the interests of the Province;—if honouring such men and such principles be “hoisting the colours (as Mr. Mackenzie says) of a cruel, vindictive tory priesthood”, then has Mr. Mackenzie the merit of a new discovery of vindictive cruelty; and with his own definition of liberty, and his own example of liberality, will he adopt his own honorable means to attain it, and breathe out death and destruction against all who do not incorporate themselves into a strait-jacket battalion under his political sword, and vow allegiance and responsibility to every thing said and done by his “press, types, and all”.

But if it be the fact, as we suspect it is, that the treasonableness (under Mr. Mackenzie’s government) of last Wednesday’s Guardian consists in our speaking rather indifferently of Mr. Hume, then do we plead guilty; and submit to the intelligent reader, that when we, who, as well as a large portion of the people of Upper Canada, had been accustomed to regard Mr. Hume as the consistent and devoted friend of religious and civil liberty, found, on visiting England, that this same Mr. Hume would not (when publicly called upon and when publicly stating his belief) even avow his faith in the Bible—was profane in language, even while consulting on the religious interests of Canada, and instead of supporting the prayer of the Clergy Reserve petition at the Colonial Office to that effect, seemed to be impatient at having its merits urged, and immediatly introduced the general topic of the administration of the government—when we ascertained that the great advocates of religious liberty in its broadest extent in England, such as Dr. Cox (Baptist Minister), Dr. J. P. Smith, Dr. Styles, etc. (Independent Ministers) regarded Mr. Hume as an enemy to their principles—when we learned that Mr. Hume was an enemy to the persecuted Baptist and Methodist Missionaries in the West Indies, and gave the weight of his influence to perpetuate the enormities of the persecuting slaveholders, Priests and magistrates, and at length introduced and advocated a motion to defeat the bill for the abolition of Colonial Slavery, and spoke and voted against any measure for the observance of the deplorably violated Sabbath in England—when we both heard and saw, in the House of Commons, Mr. Hume speak on and vote for a clause in the East Indian Charter, to erect a twofold church establishment in India, embracing one Roman Catholic and two Episcopalian Bishops, with a salary of one or two thousand pounds each, without any regard to any other religious body—when we knew all this, we ask what sort of religious and civil freedom the people of Upper Canada would desire us to recommend them to expect from such a source, notwithstanding the show of plausible letters and liberal professions? And we ask the people of this Province, whether they would be likely to enjoy much more liberty under the slave holding, missionary persecuting, government of Mr. Hume, even with Mr. Mackenzie private Secretary, than that under which they now live? And if “a deadly blow has been struck in England at the liberties of the people of Upper Canada, by as subtile and as ungrateful an adversary, in the person of an old and familiar friend, as ever crossed the Atlantic”, we would ask whether this “deadly blow” has been struck by him who, from want of discernment or of honesty, holds up Mr. Hume as the right arm of the Canadian’s liberty, wealth and knowledge, or by him who, desiring neither civil war nor revolution, would give the people of U. Canada a sufficient intimation not to trust in a broken reed or a false friend, for all that is dear to them as Christians, as Men, and as British subjects.

As to the nature of the “deadly blow” which we have “struck in England at the liberties of the people of Upper Canada”, or our advocacy of “civil and religious liberty”, we refer the reader to the communications which we laid before the British government, and which will be found in the columns of this day’s paper, and submit to the reading public whether we have not faithfully advocated the principles of “civil and religious freedom” and expressed ourselves more strongly, and to a greater extent on the administration of affairs in this Province, than we had ever presumed to do before, either publicly or privately, or than we should have thought it advisable to publish at the present time, in the organ of any religious body, except under existing circumstances.

But Mr. Mackenzie is not contented with abuse and falsehood against us: he must attack Mr. George Ryerson also, and proclaim him as “an easy convert to a cruel, vindictive tory priesthood”; an individual who has altogether retired from public life, and embraces no set of politics but “obedience to the powers that be”; an individual who reads no other book but the Bible and only busies himself with instructing the ignorant, relieving the destitute and comforting the distressed; an individual who never ceased a single day for more than six months to advocate the object for which he went home to England, until he succeeded in getting a despatch sent out by Lord Goderich, authorising the Colonial Legislature “to vary or repeal” the Clergy reserve appropriation, which was all that the petitioners could desire or His Majesty’s government give; an individual who visited Mr. Mackenzie and family in London from week to week during protracted afflictions, and showed them all possible kindness until the day of their departure; an individual who, when Mr. Mackenzie having received no remittances from his friends in Canada, and his resources completely exhausted, (and not daring to let his wants be known to his liberal friend Mr. Hume) borrowed and furnished Mr. Mackenzie with a considerable sum of money,[6]—When Mr. Mackenzie, causelessly, and in his absence, and after the occurrence of such circumstances, drags such an individual before the Canadian public “as an easy convert to a cruel, vindicitive tory priesthood”, we ask if Mr. George Ryerson has not good reason to regard Mr. Mackenzie as “as subtile and ungrateful an adversary, in the guise of an old and familiar friend, as ever crossed the Atlantic”.

      *      *      *      *      *      

Of Mr. Mackenzie we have but little to say. We have never, directly or indirectly, expressed our opinion publicly of his merits or plans of operation; though we have often been accused with originating and supporting them. Whatever measures Mr. Mackenzie may have originated and pursued—however beneficial many of them may be, and whatever influence he may have acquired—he is not indebted to us for the ingenuity, excellence, or success of the one, nor the power of the other, but to his own unparalleled industry, his financial taste and talents, and his extraordinary public exertions. Wishing, in private life at least, to be the “friend of all and the enemy of none”, we have conversed, freely and friendly, in years past, with both Mr. Mackenzie and his opponents, and have always found Mr. Mackenzie as a man open, generous, ardent, punctual, and honourable to all his engagements; and have believed, that however exceptionable much of his proceedings and writings were, their general tendency would be to secure rigid economy in the public expenditure, and remove abuses which candour must admit have gradually grown up in some parts of the administration of public affairs; which, however, are not peculiar to Upper Canada, nor foreign to many of the States of the neighbouring Republic, and which abound in Great Britain. We, therefore, resolved not to become umpire or partizan between Mr. Mackenzie and his opponents in any way whatever—notwithstanding the great annoyance he gives them and many high public men in the Province. We regret that we have been compelled to do otherwise—desiring that all members of our society, and our readers in general of whatever merely political predilections, might feel themselves equally at home in their church membership, and equally profited by our editorial labours. Mr. Mackenzie’s great strength and merits, like those of his friend Mr. Hume, consist in eliciting facts and useful state documents, in which, we think, they have rendered important service to Upper Canada; but Mr. Mackenzie, not like his friend Mr. Hume, fails in the employment of his facts, and applies many of them to purposes of abuse, irritation, and excitement, instead of ingenuous, argumentative, conciliatory removal of abuses and improvement of imperfections. “Facts, (says Bulwer,) like stones, are nothing in themselves; their value consists in the manner they are put together, and the purpose to which they are applied.” So notorious is Mr. Mackenzie’s incapacity to make a judicious use of his facts, and his rashness and imprudence, and violence, (of which the article that has called forth these remarks is a striking but not an uncommon specimen,) that a distinguished legal gentleman, (evidently the Brougham of Upper Canada) and Member of the House of Assembly, known as a sincere friend of the people, never would identify himself with Mr. Mackenzie, nor commit himself into Mr. Mackenzie’s hands; nor become responsible for his statements or measures; nor defend Mr. Mackenzie, nor advocate any of his measures, except in connexion with some great general principle, dear and valuable to every British subject.[7]

We may now dismiss Mr. Mackenzie from our columns, and can only justify our devoting so much of our columns and time to an article of this nature, upon the ground that under all the existing circumstances of the case, and of the Province, a full exposition of our views was alike due to ourselves, our friends, the church, and the public.

But the matter was not so easily settled for the public, or the church, or his friends. How disturbed they were—and continued to be—is revealed in the correspondence of the next few weeks. Amongst others, letters from three of the brothers illustrate the varied reactions to Mackenzie’s attack and Ryerson’s defence. The first to write was William, who in his own peculiar circumstances felt the effect of the entry of the divisive sword of politics into the Methodist body. The situation in which William Ryerson was placed immediately after the Union was absurd enough. The most eloquent of all the Methodist itinerants, formerly a successful Presiding Elder, and honoured only in June of this year by being brought from Brockville to York to preach the first sermon in the new Chapel on Adelaide Street, now finds himself in poverty and eclipse, more or less under the superintendency of a factious Wesleyan, a comparative newcomer from Ireland. Small wonder that his sense of justice is outraged and his ardour frozen.

November [after the 8th], 1833, Wm. Ryerson, Kingston, to Egerton Ryerson, York.

Dr. Br.

Through the mercy of God we are all well at present and not quite starved or frozen to death, although our friend Mr. Marsden (his position & unqualified promise to the contrary notwithstanding) by his friendly arrangement in leaving Mr. Hetherington to foment troubles & if possible excite more violent feelings among his friends has done all that he could not only to starve us, but also greatly to limit if not altogether prevent our usefulness.

I need not say what my feelings were when I arrived at this place and learned that arrangements were made so contrary to positive assurances, both to the Stationing Committee and to myself, in violation of the understanding with the conference and in defiance of the opinions & wishes of every one of our friends in the town or country, arrangements which have not only wounded & grieved the feelings of friends, and rendered the prospect of a union in this place more than ever doubtful, if not entirely hopeless, but also by which a large portion of the support of my large & helpless family is cut off, and after being compelled to relinquish the prospects of considerable usefulness, and a respectable support which was secured to me, and put to the unreasonable trouble & expense of breaking up & removing to this place, I find myself & helpless family thrown on a few poor members & friends for support not one of whom either in or out of the Society feel able or willing to give more than six dollars per annum & nearly one half of whom will not give one, and am thus left with nine in family to struggle through the best way I can. . . .

As to the prospects of an union it is my opinion that firm & judicious measures after the Conference would have easily triumphed over every difficulty & have saved nearly all of the W. Society at least every one that is worth saving; but as affairs have been managed, I speak advisedly when I say I do not believe a union ever will take place unless we allow Mr. Barry, Hetherington, etc. to reform our discipline to suit their views & feelings and also dictate in what manner our press shall be conducted. And after all Mr. Marsden’s and others puffing about Union and hearty & friendly feelings, etc., etc., all I can say I hope they were and still are sincere; however a little stronger evidence of their sincerity would be acceptable at least to me. As to the feelings and conduct of Mr. H. & his friends, you may see a specimen of them by reading a communication in the U. Canada Herald of the 6th of Novm. signed “A British Wesleyan”, which piece if Mr. Hetherington did not write it himself he has & still does express his approbation of it and assisted in correcting the proof sheet at the press.

You probably wish to know what are our prospects. I am sorry to say they are very discouraging & there is but little hope of their improving this year. As to the Guardian I am sorry to inform you that it has been much more popular than it is at present, and indeed if your English impressions are not more acceptable & useful in other parts than they are here, it will add little to your credit or to the usefullness of your paper to publish any more of them. Your last reply to Dr. Barker,[8] however satisfactory in other respects, is not considered very creditable as to its spirit and language, and one of your sincere friends said to me, if you did not out-Dalton Dalton[9] himself you was not far behind him, and I assure you that titles & names you apply to Dr. B. such as “Mushroom-born Patriot of Kingston, callumniating scribler, his professions, etc. heartless & hypocritical, his composition pitiable & ridiculous; dismiss him & all his fraternity from the columns of the Guardian, etc., etc.” breathe [very lit]tle of the spirit of Christ or his Gospel & are very little credit [to any] one especially a minister of the Gospel, and did you know Dr. B. personally you would treat him with at least common courtesy; he has ever treated the Guardian & the Methodists with respect & is the only editor with the exception of the Brockville Recorder that has treated you with any personal respect (compare his paper with the last Reformer) & yet he is the only one, the C. Advocate not excepted, that has been treated in return with the greatest severity if not roodness. I know you have been shamefully abused & treated in a most base manner & by no one so much so as the [Cobourg] Reformer. I am told that on his way down to Kingston before your English impressions were published he was showing a list of high Tories among [whom] were all the Ryersons & that he was soliciting your subscribers to give up such a contemptible paper as the C.G. & take the R. but I do not think the Spectator should be ranked amongst them. I hope you will take back or offer some short apology for such severity to him and at the same time expose the obvious designs etc. of the Reformer to our friends especially in the Newcastle & Prince Edward Districts. I cannot, however, but observe that it is rather unfortunate that if you did not intend to flatter or conciliate the Tory party in this country at the expense of the feelings of many of your valuable Friends, you should express yourself in such a way as to be altogether misunderstood by both friends and foes in every part of the country, not only editors but every other individual from whom I have heard & such certainly was the opinion of Mr. Bidwell at one time whatever it may be now.

I should be happy to receive a line from you and respects to Mrs. R.[10]

Yours affectionately,

Wm. Ryerson

November 14, 1833, Rev. Alvah Adams,[11] Prescott, to Revd. E. Ryerson, Editor of the Guardian, York. (Money letter—£2.5.0)

Dear brother

I assure you that I am much grieved and disappointed in not having the Guardian sent to me.

      *      *      *      *      *      

I am sorry to say there are a few disturbers of our Zion in these parts, some who seem bent on making mischief.

You need not be surprised that the Grenville Gasette speaks so contemptuously of you and the cause in which you have been and are still engaged, for he has all along opposed the Union and particularly lately. Nor need you marvel that he speaks so disrespectfully of the Temperance Society in Prescott, for in reference to himself he has lately (tho’ once a zealous advocate of temperance) gone back to the flesh pots of Egypt and as I am credibly informed has been expelled [from] the M. Church in consequence, I.E. for intoxication,[12] and considering his late spirit and practice and the fact that he has around him, not far off some anti-peace-making agitators, “speaking evil of the things that they understand not”, accounts in a great measure for the torrent of scurrilous invectives with which his useless collums have of late abounded.

I have been considerably embarrassed in taking up collection on this Circuit to mete your expenses to and from England, not knowing the whole amount of expenses and what remains to be paid. I have been publicly & privately questioned on these points, and in one place a collection was refused to be taken up, till explainations are given. By this you will see that in too many places I am environed with jelousy. Perhaps you could give a few statements of your expesnes, etc, on a peace of paper and enclose it with my Guardian. The public in these parts will expect some remarks in the Guardian on what is said in the Grenville Gasette of the 12th inst.[13]

Excuse my prolixity and scrall and believe me as ever

Yours affectionately,

Alvah Adams

November 15, 1833, Rev. J. Ryerson, Hallowell, to Rev. Egerton Ryerson, York.

My dr. Brother

The following subscribers, obtained by Mr. Shephard, you will please forward the paper to . . .

Your article on the Political Parties of England has created much excitement; through these parts, the only good that can result from it is the breaking up of the Union which has hithertofor existed between us & the Radicles. Were it not for this I should much regret its appearance, but we had got so closely linked with those fellows in one way or another that we cannot exspect to get rid of them with out fealling the shock & perhaps it may as well come now as any time. We have reason to respect Sir John Colburn & it is our duty & interest to support the Government. And although there may be some abuses which have crept in, yet uppon the whole I believe that we enjoy as many Political & Religious advantages as any people & publick affares are as well managed as in any place on earth. And as it respects the Reformers so called, take Bidwell & Rolph from them & there is not scarcely one man of character, Honour or even deacency among them, but with very few exceptions (I mean the leaders) they are a banditti of compleat vagabonds. To disengage ourselves entirely from them is a work of no little difficulty. We have a host of Radicles in our Church—I am sorry to say it but it is so. On this account I give it as my opinion that the best way for the present is to have nothing to say about Polliticks or Political Men, but treat the government with great respect & such papers as the Kingston Cronical, Muntreall Gazette, with great civility, but the Radicle papers with intire neglect. The Kingston Spectator has come out in his true character. Radcliff is prepareing a heavy charge against you, but let them come; fear them not. I hope they will all shew themselves now. I thought you, in your reply to McKenzey, did not speak suficiently desided in favour of Sir John; in every way he is much better than his enemies. Although it would not be well to say this now, yet I would not ever [seal] acknowledge that he had been guilty of any sins whatever. You say you have not chainged your views, etc., but I hope you have in some respects. Although you never was a Radicle, yet have not we all leaned to much towards them & will we not now smart for it a little; but one thing, the sooner the smarts come on the sooner they will be over. Please write me amediately about these things & also about the union, how Mr. Stinson feals, etc. You see the missionarys are making great efforts & the object is to have Kingston & York made exceptions to the general arrangements. Do you think it possible that the committee will listen to them. If they do confidence will be intirely destroyed, the union will be at an end & we ruined. If the British conference for the sake of gratifying a few [factious?] individuals or even congregations will in the least degree infringe the articles of agreement, then all union is gone; we can have no confidence hereafter; but I hope better things. And I hope you & Mr. Stinson[14] will communicate to the M. committee & confute their slanders. Their object is to make the M.C. & British conference believe that we have supported Radicle Politicks to an unlimited extent, etc., & that the People will not submit to the Union when they (the Missionarys) are the authers of the whole of it; there would not have been five exceptions to a universal acquiescence with the union had it not of been for Barry—Hetherington & Croscomb. Mr. Hetherington told me they were getting back no. of the Guardian to prove that we had been Political intermedlers. And they have reported about Kingston that Mr. Marsden told them that if they could make it appear that we had done thus & so that they should be exempted from the Union & be supplied with a missionary from home.

Yours affectionate Brother

John Ryerson

November 20, 1833, John Ryerson, Hallowell, to Rev. Egerton Ryerson, York.

My dr. Brother

Although I have received no letter from you since I saw you, yet I cannot suppress the desire I have of troubling you again with a few lines, especially as I deeply feal for you in the present state of agitation & trial. My own heart aiks & sickens within me at times.[15] I have no douts—however much of the philosopher you may be—but that you at times participate in the same fealings, but persueing a conciensious course I hope you will at all times be able to say, “Courage my soul, thou needst not fear—thy great provider still is near”. I fear more from the opposition of the Missionary party to the union than what I do from any other quarter; if Mr. Stinson should become disaffected towards the union or our church & suspitions should be excited at home & should the connection there from any consideration undertake to retain Kingston & York, we shall be compleatly ruined. In case of such an event I will retire amediately & bid farewell to the strife & toil we have been in ever since we have been traveling Preachers. I wish you would write to me without delay & let me know how Mr. Stinson stands affected & also (without reserve) what your own feallings & views are on these subjects. Let me know who have thrown up their paper; what Dr. Rolph thinks,[16] etc., etc.

You will have seen the Reformer before this comes to hand. I think it is of much more importance for you to persue & expose that fellow than any one else; his paper is in many Methodist houses & unexposed he will do more harm then all the rest. I hope you will take pains & handle him thoroughly. You of course will not fail to shew that it is the Reformer’s aim to create jealosy & make scism in our church. This is evident from the last number; witness his quiries & answers on the first page—all writen by himself no dout—the article from the Upper Canada Herald & his editorial reference to it, as also the drift of all his remarks respecting the Guardian. It will be particularly important to expose the fellow in this point of vue & to let the publick know that his present enmity to Methodist Doctrine & Discipline is no new thing & that this is not the first time he has endevoured to break her ranks & to throw fire brands, arrows & death among his friends.[17] I would give them no explanation about my political views atoll; you are not a politician, nor the Guardian a political paper. I would not again call Bidwell Brohan [Brougham]. But I would treat all their inquiries & slander on that subject after this with silent contempt & take good care not to lean a hair’s breadth towards Radicleism. One reason of their making this bellowing is to scare you & induce you to say something which will excite the jealosy of the government & the disapprobation of our British Brethren & thereby destroy us with all parties. I would consult Mr. Stinson as much as posable. On the 900 pounds grant I am of the opinion that had the government of made it to our conference for missionary purposes—the instruction & improvement of the Indians—it would have been our duty to have received it, or any other sum, for that purpose. Supposeing the government had of given £900 for the benefit of the Indians in Upper Canada, & had employed suitable agents themselves—schooll teachers, mechanicks to build houses, etc—would not the justice & propriety of such an act be universally acknowledged. But now because the Government sees fit to appropriate £900 for the benefit of the Indians through the agency of the M. Missionary Society, we by those fellows are reproached for destroying that which we once built up. I say & I say it openly, that whatever the government may give for the education & improvement [of] the Indians, we, I hope, will thankfully receive; that four times the sum £900 would be less than the Indians ought to have annually; that the country owes a far greater det then this to them & there are no so suitable agents through which the Indians can receive what the government is in duty bound to give them as the Methodist M. Society.[18] On this subject I think you ought not to beat the bush but come out plainly; it will be much the best policy. Pardon the liberty I take in expressing my views. You can give what wait to them you think proper. The enclosed $50 is to go towards the $70 you paid William, the rest I will send you as soon as I can.

Ever yours,

J. Ryerson

November 21, 1833, David Wright et al.,[19] St. Catharines, to Egerton Ryerson, Editor, Chris. Guardian, York.

For the Christian Guardian


Brethren & Friends,

We, the undersigned, ministers of the W.M.C. in B.N.A., desirous to avert the evils which may probably result to our Zion from impressions made by certain political remarks in the Editorial department of late numbers of the Guardian, take this opportunity of expressing our sentiments for your satisfaction, and to save our characters from aspersion.—

First—We have considered, and are still of the opinion, that the Clergy of the Episcopal Church ought to be deprived of every emolument derived from Governmental aid and what are called the Clergy reserves.

Secondly—That our political views are decidedly the same which they were previous to the visit of the Editor of the Guardian to England; and we believe that the views of our brethren in the ministry are unchanged.


David Wright

James Evans, Junr.

William Griffis, Jun.

Henry Wilkinson

Edwy Ryerson



Dear Brother,

You need not to be surprised at the foregoing—it is in our opinions loudly called for.

On our Circuits we find it impossible to stem the torrent of opposition which is setting upon us; arising from your late (as we consider) injudicious & uncalled for remarks.

We consider that the Guardian has, in the estimation of the public, been identified with a political party—viz. the Reformers of Upper Canada.

We consider that, as a body, we have positively remonstrated against the emoluments of the Episcopal Clergy, and the endowment of their church.

We never were, nor are we now, one in opinion with the “moderate Tory”.

If you have changed your political opinions we have not; and we consider that you as the organ of the conference have misrepresented us, and thus opened the way for our brethren to pour censure on us; of which we can assure you they are not sparing.

We shall be unable, unless something be speedily done to produce a powerful reaction, to persuade our people to continue the Guardian. Orders on all hands are “discontinue my paper”. We exert ourselves to induce the people to wait in hopes of a turn in the tide, but every paper makes bad worse, and unless some step be taken by you, or us and others, or all, it is a gone case.

We hope you will give the address to the “Brethren and friends” a place in the next Guardian or we shall have to seek it a place elsewhere.

St. Catharines

21st Nov., 1833

David Wright

James Evans, Junr.

William Griffis, Junr.

Henry Wilkinson

Edwy Ryerson

November 22, 1833,—R. Smith, Edwardsburg, to Rev. E. Ryerson, Editor, Christian Guardian, York.

Dear Sir,

Being at the house of Mr. Webster this morning he informed me he was going to take your Paper but being called away in great haste he desired me to write to you, and wish you to send his Paper to Prescott Post Office; if you could send him the Paper from the time you commenced Editor the last time you might pack up all the books & papers and get Peter Shaver, esqr., to Frank them. He wishes if it could be to commence as from the time above mentioned. On receiving his first paper he wished me to inform you he would immediately pay the Preacher stationed in Prescott. Address John Webster, Esq., Collector at the Port of Johnston. I would beg leave to state to you the desire of many in this part of the country, viz. a great number of the ministers in the Methodist connection in England have departed this life the last two years; if you would have the goodness to publish from the Minutes the names of those Ministers that have died with the short account to each name as published in the minutes would be very pleasing to many who received their first conversion under their ministry, and I think it would have a tendency to soffen some feeling of opposition to you. We are in want of some channel to obtain information from home and we are in hopes your Paper will prove the channel.[20] We cannot forget when we were first brought to God and all information as above will be the most gratifying we can have. May God bless you and keep you above all your enemies, and daily fill you with the holy Ghost. Amen.

R. Smith

November 26, 1833, Edwy Ryerson, Stamford, to Rev. E. Ryerson, York, Guardian Office.

Dear Brother

You will excuse my apparent remissness in not attending to the interests of the establishment with more promptness and zeal. I have not obtained, as yet, a list of the subscribers, or delinquents, on this circuit, but expect I shall the next time I see Mr. Wright. The present agitated state of the societies on this circuit, partly from the union, and in a greater degree, from your “Impressions” (which would have been a blessing to our Societies, had they never been conceived) make it very unpleasant to ask even for monies due the office, much less solicit new subscribers.

This part is in a state of commotion, politics run high, and religion low. The Guardian has turned “tory” is the hue & cry, and many appear to be under greater concern about it then they ever did about the salvation of their souls. Many, again, have got wonderfully wise, and pretend to reveal the secrets of your policy, as in profession a friend, but in reality an enemy. Many again in the third place, have turned great polititions, who formerly were only notible for ignorance, knowing as much about the politics of the province as they do about Mehomit.

Under these unpleasant circumstances the Ranters have availed themselves of the oportunity of planting themselves at nearly all our posts, and sowing tares in our societies; they are not very sparing of the character of the English preachers.

Perhaps you have received a few lines, signed by several preachers, and my name among them. Those were my impressions at the time, and for such impressions, you had given every reason. There manifestly appeared a different tone in your writing, comparing it with your views on the same points before your mission home. I conceived you had a right to change, but I felt no disposition to follow you. Therefore for the satisfaction of our friends, I thought it my duty in connection with my brethren to make my protest. I have however, since seeing the last number of the Guardian, been led to believe you had not changed from what you was.

Many have regreted (of the preachers) that you was put in the editorial chair & feel strongly disposed to exert their influence that you may not be replaced.[21]

We enjoy pretty good health, but poor spirits.

Please send the Guardian to Isaac Bowman, Stamford.

On my next tour, I shall strive to collect for the paper.

Yours truely,

Edwy Ryerson

November 29, 1833, A. Davidson, Port Hope,[22] to The Editor of the Guardian, York.

Rev. & Dear Sir:—

I have had an opportunity of seeing most of the Provincial papers which exhibit a miserable picture of the state of the Press. The conduct of editors ought, I think, to be exposed which has been attempted in the foregoing. You are at liberty to make such verbal alterations as you may think necessary. I have my reasons for introducing the paragraph about reform; it expresses my views, will tend to conciliate Reformers, and cannot be objected to by the most violent Tory, at least I never saw one but would go as far.

I told Mr. Radcliffe last week that I would not give a pin for such papers as he lately published. He seemed much mortified as he always pretended to think very favorably of my opinion. Indeed according to his repeated acknowledgments I have assisted him both in writing and in circulating his paper more than any other person.

I have been afraid that from so much unmeritted abuse you would quit the Guardian in disgust, and I am glad to see that though your mind may be as sensitive as that of any other person you remain firm.

W. C. Crafton, a Clerk of John Brown’s, and formerly editor of the Brockville Gasette, wishes me to order your paper, commencing with your impressions in England. A. Culross lost in the street the first No. of the present volume—perhaps you can replace it.

I am, Dear Sir,

Very respectfully yours,

A. Davidson

N.B. We have obtained about £130 towards the church—we want £250 or £300.

December 3, 1833, James Evans,[23] St. Catharines, to Revd Egerton Ryerson, York.

Dear Brother,

I have taken upon me the responsibility, on account of your promise to acquit yourself of “all charges”, to withhold this week from publication in the St. Catharines[24] paper the communication sent for the Guardian. I am glad that you have made us this promise—nevertheless I with my brethren from all of whom I have heard, or have seen them, think it necessary that it should be inserted in the next Guardian—we have no objections to any remarks you may make on the measure. We consider its insersion in the Guardian loudly called for and we do not desire to be driven to [ins]ert it elsewhere.

You request me in Br. Vandusen’s letter not to solicit any to continue the Guardian who dissatisfied & who wish to discontinue. This is worse than all beside. And do you suppose that in opposition to the wish of the conference and the interest of the church, I shall pay attention to your request. No my brother I cannot, I will not. It shall be my endeavour to obtain & continue subscribers by allaying as far as practicable their fears rather than telling them as you request that they may discontinue & you will abide the consequences. I am astonished! I can only account for your strange & I am sure unRyersonian conduct & advice on one principle—that there is something ahead which you through your superior political spyglass have discovered & thus shape your course—while we landlubbers, short-sighted as we are have not even heard of it. If so why not tell us? and thus fill our mouths with those arguments which so fully “justify” you in “heart” and are worth (if they give you a quiet sea in these tempestuous times) to us a great price. I had I thought only a line or two to write but I have spun it out, & in all my remarks altho plain I assure you I desire nothing but good to you & the church, and remain as ever


James Evans

December 6, 1833, Egerton Ryerson, York, to Rev. David Wright.[25]

My dear Brother,

I received yours of the 3rd instant last evening, and hasten to answer it by the returning mail. I beg to say that I cannot publish the criminating declaration of which you speak. You will, therefore, act your pleasure respecting it. But at the same time, I feel it a duty to myself, to the cause & to you to give you a further statement of my views, of what I will do, and of the consequences of the course you say you at present intend to pursue. The charges against me are either true or false. If they are true, are you proceeding in the Disciplinary way against me? Tho’ I am Editor for the Conference, I have individual rights as well as you, and the increased responsibility of my situation should render those rights if possible still more sacred. And if our Conference will place a watchman upon the walls of its Zion, & then allow its members to plunge their sword into his bowels at pleasure or whenever they think he has departed from his duty, without even giving him a court-martial trial, then is it composed of a different description of men from what I think it is. If, as you say, I have been guilty of imprudent conduct, or even “misrepresented my brethren”, make your complaint to my Presiding Elder, according to discipline, & then may the decision of the Committee appointed be published in the Guardian or any where else that they may say. So much as to the disciplinary course. Again, if the “clamor” as you call it, against the Guardian be well founded, are you helping the Guardian, or contributing to its support, by corroborating the statements of that clamor? Can you consistently or conscientiously ask an individual to take or continue to take the Guardian, when yourselves publish to the world your belief that its principles are changed? Will this quiet the “clamor”? Will this reconcile the members over whom you may have influence? Will this unite the Preachers? Will this promote the harmony of the Church? Will it not be a firebrand rather than the “seeds of commotion”? Will not other Preachers publish their sentiments also as to whether I have changed or not? & what will be the result? Dr. Morrison, Joshua VanAllen & one or two others got a meeting of the Mail members of the York Society & proposed resolutions similar in substance to yours, which were opposed & reprobated by Br. Richardson on the very disciplinary & prudential ground of which I speak & rejected by the Society.[26]

[Here he protests that he has not changed his sentiments, nor does he deserve such a reward for his years of service to his brethren.]

I will now say what I will do if you desire it. I will publish that you fully concur in the principles & opinions as expressed by the Editor in the Guardian of the 20th instant, or that, as aspersions have been thrown out against you & other Preachers, you declare your political sentiments unchanged, that the Episcopal Clergy ought to be deprived of all governmental aid & of all the proceeds of the Clergy Reserves. I do not pretend to dictate the words. Your sentiments can thus be expressed in full and implicate nobody & be expressing no opinion in regard to the Editor or the accusations against him, and if you find the direct or indirect criminating of the Editor necessary to your ministerial success, you can do so in all our congregations, but that success does not, in my opinion, require you to do so elsewhere. If you desire the brethren to wait a few weeks, why not wait that long yourselves? I shall next week finish all my explanations, some of which were excluded by other matter from this week’s paper. But if you are determined to implicate me, I have only to see [say] I must then seek redress in the disciplinary way at the next Conference. I beg that this may be sent immediately to Br. Evans & other Brethren concerned, & if you resolve to publish, I wish you without delay to get a copy of this & my last letter to you drawn off by my brother Edwy & sent to me. May God bless you & preserve the Church.

Yours affectionately,

E. Ryerson

January 8, 1834, John Ryerson, Hallowell, to Rev. Egerton Ryerson, York.

My dr. Brother

I returned from Kingston yesterday. William’s congregation is increasing & he appears to be in purty good spirits. The £10 you sent him was a very timely assistence to him, as he has received from the station little more than his moveing expences, although the expences of his family are very great.[27] The Missionary Society will have to afford considerable assistance. William still thinks that the publication of your impressions “was most injudicious”. I tried to convince him otherwise, but with how much success I cannot tell. I heard little of Mr. Hetherington & his congregation. There is no intercourse between Wm. & him & very little between the two congregations. Wm. thinks that Mr. Stinson is of the opinion that should the Kingston & York congregations hold out against the union, the British conference will make them exceptions to the Articles of Union. I confess I am not without my fears unless we permit the missionarys to model our church government as they may think proper. But one thing I will say, that whoever may be the agents in making any alterations in our economy hereafter, I will not be one. With improvements, alterations, unions & discussions we have agitated long enough & if I keep my present mind I am done with such business henceforth & forever. At our conference it was understood & expressly stated that no alterations would hereafter be attempted, etc. & so we have assured the people, but behold before the iron is cold some other alterations are mooted—do way with P.E., lessen the districts, etc. etc. & a dozen other things which will necessarily follow. & the reason urged for it is worse then the thing itself, namely, if we don’t the missionarys “will write home to the superintendents, raise such a storm in England, etc. etc.” If this is the way we are to be governed & if this is the state of the connection at home, the Resolutions of Union, on parchment or paper, is a miserable farse.

I received a letter from James Lewis[28] yesterday; he informs me H. Willson has left Society & a number of others will follow, that they are greatly agitated in those parts, that the Local Preachers & others are to have a general meeting in Berford [Burford] soon for the purpose of reorganising the M. E. Church, that H. Willson says that he is the only legal minister of the 50 Chapel, & that all the church property will be theirs, etc. He, James, says John Willson[29] had been home for three weeks writing, etc. & he thinks that a mighty effort will be made to get the chapels. I think it is very important that the Discipline be published as soon as possible. The Resolutions have passed five circuits on this District; they probably will pass two more & perhaps all. So soon as I get to the Ct. where they have not passed I will let you know the result. Some Local Preachers are to have a meeting at Bellville about ordination. I understand it will be next friday. The Resolutions are generally approved of, only they say nothing about ordination [which] is the great stick with them. The Politicle frenzey is a good deal subsided. The publication of the Resolutions in the Guardian and your remarks uppon them will doubtless do good. The Preachers on the District are much engaged & appear to be of one mind. I will write again soon. I wish you would write & let me know how the Resolutions have succeeded on the other Districts.

As ever affectionately yours

J. Ryerson

March 4, 1834, Mehetabel Ryerson, Vittoria, to Egerton Ryerson, York, Guardian Office.

Dear Egerton

It is with emotions of gratitude to God that I now attempt to write to you and let you know the state of my health which is as good as usual. Surely the Lord is good and doeth good and his tender mercies are over me as a part of the work of his hands. And I find that my affections are daily deadining to the things of earth, and my desires for any earthly good continually decreasing, and an increaseing desire for holiness of heart and conformity to all the will of God, and think I can say with the poet, “Come life come death or come what will, His footsteps I will follow still”. I long to say “I live, yet not I; Christ liveth in me”. Besiege a throne of [grace] in my behalf. Pray that the Lord would finish his work and cut it short in righteousness and make my heart a fit temple for the Holy Ghost to dwell in. And oh my son be continually on your guard, you have need to believe firmly, to pray fervently, to work abundantly; live Holy daily; watch your heart; guide your senses; redeem your time; love Christ and long for Glory. Give my love to your wife and tell her for me to live as she will wish she had when she comes to die. Love to all enquiring friends and except a share yourself from your affectionate Mother

Mehetabel Ryerson

P.S. I observed in the Guardian an advertisement stating that a small seal skin trunk had been left at the York Hotel in december last containing wearing apparel and if not relieved in 3 weeks from the 19th of Feb. it would be sold to pay charges. Mr. Harris thinks William took them both on board the Steam Boat.

I have a crock of Butter; if you know of any chance of sending it, let me know of it.

The above is the only letter from Ryerson’s mother preserved in this collection. Nowhere in the correspondence is it stated that she became a member of the Methodist body. It is probable that with her husband she retained her connection with the Church of England. The language of the Methodist class meeting, however, was not unfamiliar to her, as the above fully attests. It is interesting also that the practical matters which bespeak the careful housewife, and which were the occasion of writing, are relegated to a postscript; the body of the letter breathes only religion. Amid the confusion in church and state, she at least is undisturbed.

March 29, 1834, Joseph Hume, Bryanston Square, to W. L. Mackenzie, Esq., M.P., York. U. C.[30]

My dear Sir:

I lately received files of the Vindicator and Reformer Journals, and am pleased to observe that the Electors of the County of York continue firm and consistent in their support to you, and that you manifest the same determined spirit of opposition to abuse and misrule.

The government and the majority of the Assembly appear to have lost that little portion of common sense and of prudence which society in general now possess, and they sacrifice the greatest of principles in gratifying a paltry and mean revenge against you.

Your triumphant election on the 16th and ejection from the Assembly on the 17th must hasten that crisis which is fast approaching in the affairs of the Canadas, and which will terminate in independence and freedom from the baneful domination of the Mother Country, and the tyrannical conduct of a small and despicable faction in the Colony.

I regret to think that the proceedings of Mr. Stanley, which manifest as little knowledge of mankind as they prove his ignorance of the spirit and liberal feelings of the present generation, encourage your enemies to persevere in the course they have taken. But I confidently trust that the high minded people of Canada will not, in these days, be overawed or cheated of their rights and liberties by such men.—Your cause is their cause—your defeat would be their subjugation.—Go on, therefore, I beseech you, and success—glorious success—must inevitably crown your joint efforts.

Mr. Stanley must be taught that the follies and wickedness of Mr. Pitt’s Government in the commencement of the French Revolution, cannot be repeated now either at home or abroad without results very different from what then took place. The proceedings between 1772 and 1782 in America ought not to be forgotten; and to the honor of the Americans, and for the interests of the civilized world, let their conduct and the result be ever in view.

I have lately seen, with mingled feelings of pity and of contempt, the attacks made by Mr. Ryerson against my public and private conduct, and also against those who generally act with me. I candidly acknowledge that, of all the renegades and apostates from public principle and private honor which during a long course of public life I have known (and with regret I say I have known many) I never knew a more worthless hypocrite or so base a man as Mr. Ryerson has proved himself to be.

I feel pity for him, for the sake of our common nature, to think that such human depravity should exist in an enlightened society, and I fear that the pangs of a guilty and self condemning conscience must make his venal and corrupt breast a second Hell; and ’ere long, render his existence truly miserable.

I feel utter contempt for any statement that Mr. Ryerson can make of my private or public conduct, altho’ he has had every opportunity of private intimacy[31] and of public observation to know the truth.

It is humiliating to the character of man; aye and particularly of a pretended religious man, when I recollect with what earnestness he sought and obtained my sincere and zealous assistance to forward the cause of civil and religious liberty which he then advocated—You who witnessed his expression of thanks and of gratitude to me in public and in private, verbally and in writing, for the aid I had given him—You who heard his objections to any religious sect receiving any pecuniary assistance from the state, as subversive of religion and of moral independence, must view with detestation the course which Mr. Ryerson has taken. When you recollect that I invariably treated him with kindness and attention as the representative of a good cause and of a distant people,—that my time, amidst public business of importance, was always given with pleasure to attend to him and the objects of his mission,—you will agree with me that the black and heartless ingratitude of such a man deserves to be received with pity and with ineffable contempt. When, moreover, it is known to you that there is not one word of truth in Mr. Ryerson’s Satanic effusions, I leave his pious and religious friends in Canada to unmask the hypocrite and throw him, as he deserves to be, an outcast from every honest society. . . .

In the hope that I shall never again meet with so abandoned a character as Mr. Ryerson has proved himself to be; and trusting that the people of Canada, in vindication of truth and honor, will treat him as he deserves,

I remain, Yours sincerely,

Joseph Hume

P.S. The people in Lower Canada are taking the means of forcing their affairs on the government, and will I hope succeed.

J. H.

The foregoing articles and letters have been presented without fundamental comment. It has seemed best to print the essential documents in this dispute, so serious in its consequences, and allow the reader from these to form his own conclusions. Lest, however, certain misrepresentations current at the time and persisting even in recent works should become fixed in history, it is perhaps necessary here to make some general observations on Ryerson’s political views and principles. Ryerson suffered, as in stirring times many great and good men have suffered, by reason of the fact that he chose the middle way and was subject to attack from both sides. He could not have done otherwise. His sanguine disposition, the good he saw in men about him, his deep religious faith, forbade him to abandon himself to the extreme demands of political parties. But in the heat of contest, and particularly when his opponents had wounded him in his family pride or his love of the church espoused at some sacrifice to comfort, he at times forgot himself, and more than once in the columns of the Guardian do we find him admitting his fault. But a careful reading of his pamphlets and of his written opinions, so fully expressed in the Guardian for several years, will convince the reader that the modern author who, while admitting that she had not access to the files of the Christian Guardian, yet states that “Ryerson had mixed religion and radical politics in his paper”, suggests that his “apostasy” was due to the “promise of government aid”, and declares that he had “political interests rather than political principles”, is chargeable with temerity at least.[32] While possessed of a lively interest in public questions and persons, Ryerson never abandoned himself to the support of any political party, nor did he ever place himself in bondage to any politician. For this he was misjudged; like Cicero, he was regarded as a political trimmer. But courage, tenacity of purpose, and kindliness and charm in personal relations usually prevailed in the end over baffling circumstances and dissolved the hostility of opponents. His panacea for the ills of Canada was good-will and unselfish devotion, with impeachment at the bar of public opinion as the penalty for public offences. The need for revision of the Constitutional Act did not appear pressing to him as it did to Baldwin. Essentially he was a liberal conservative. And he tended to see the good in each side quite as much as the evil.

By 1834 definite names happily had not attached themselves to political parties. It is true the current English terms, with the exception of “Whig”, were in use in Upper Canada, but while Ryerson was rash enough to attempt to classify the public men of England, and to define the parties to which they belonged, he would hardly have cared to do the same with public men in Upper Canada. At the extremes he recognized radicals, though the word was new, and tories; but the great bulk of the Methodist people for whom he spoke stood in a sort of “No Man’s Land” between these extremes, and there he wished to keep them. As a proof of the fact that party lines were not clearly drawn in Canada, the manner of announcing results of general elections may be cited. The successful and defeated candidates were never placed under party names. Nor in the House was party allegiance by any means maintained. Hence an Attorney General could find himself in a House generally favourable to the Government in a minority of six, and a Solicitor General find himself in a minority of three on another important measure. Since the introduction of the Cabinet system party lines have been more clearly drawn and party ties more rigid.

In one respect Egerton Ryerson, with his brothers, was strongly conservative—the old loyalist tradition had taken deep root. In another respect they were all inclined to be liberals and reformers—they believed in equal privileges to all classes and opinions. But the terms Conservative and Liberal were not yet definitely assigned to parties. Certainly in any ordinary use of the word Ryerson was never a radical; though not closing his mind, he inclined to respect authority. Rarely, however, does he allow himself to speak in general terms on these matters, so that his political views are to be inferred from his attitude on particular questions of public policy. Perhaps the nearest he comes to any formal statement is in an editorial article of Nov. 13, 1833, in which he replies to the repeated slander that the Guardian and the Methodists were republicans. He reprints an article of March 27th, 1830, in part, quoting with approval the words in which Dr. Adam Clarke describes the British Constitution in its three elements or estates:

These three estates are perfectly mixed by the constitution; they counterbalance each other, each having an equal legislative authority; and this government possesses in itself all the excellences of the three forms. It can only become corrupt when any of the three estates preponderates over the rest. In its nature and regular operation, it secures the prerogative of the monarch; it preserves the honor and property of the nobility; it respects and secures the rights of the people; it is, in a word, a limited monarchy, a popular aristocracy, and an ennobled democracy. God grant it permanence!

But in Canada in the year 1833 any such beautiful balance of constitution was conspicuously wanting. The authority of Sir John Colborne, as representing the monarchy, was restricted to be sure, but less by any rational or responsible system of advice than by the necessity of living his life in York and at the same time consulting a distant Downing Street; the members of the small Executive Council and the larger Legislative Council, responsible only to the Governor and conscience, may not always have been as “mean and mercenary”, as Mackenzie had the hardihood to call them, but they were certainly not “popular” in the sense in which Ryerson uses the term; while the Legislative Assembly, representing the “ennobled” democratic element in the constitution, had objected to the term “sycophantic” so decidedly because there was real danger in 1832 that the reading public might believe the term appropriate. But quite apart from the defective machinery of government, a growing tendency to popular violence was developing, particularly amongst supporters of the government. For this Ryerson held the press primarily responsible. Richardson, who edited the paper for three weeks during Ryerson’s absence, concurred in this opinion:

It is with pain we observe the spirit which has been engendered in this Province, by means of an abusive, slanderous and inflammatory press, supported by the wealth and influence of men in office, and by the art and cunning of interested and evil minded persons . . . we are led to them [such remarks] from observing the turbulent spirit which has manifested itself at most of the public meetings of late in the Province . . . so that the several motions are not decided by reason, judgment, sense or numbers, but by noise and violence. And all that a certain party has to do to carry their measures, is to raise a party strife in a few naturaly turbulent spirits, by means of liquor, or the prejudices of education, country, or opinions; or, what is worse than all the rest,—religious bigotry; and having prepared them by timely misrepresentation and slander, bring them up to the contest, and carry their resolutions by acclamation, alias, noise and clamour . . . if this state of things is much longer encouraged, as we have reason to fear it has been, we will soon be governed, not by a Monarchy, Aristocracy, or Democracy, but by a Mob-ocracy, alike fatal to Religion, good morals, order, peace, and the happiness of society.[33]

In further reference to the riots in Toronto, Richardson observed:

The disorder which disgraces those meetings of late has in no instance originated with the yeomanry or mechanics of the country, but with a few poor ignorant men of turbulent dispositions, accustomed in other countries to similar scenes of riot, and who are here prepared for, and led on to the work by interested individuals who seem to be much alarmed at any attempt to correct abuses, or the expression of public sentiment in a calm dispassionate manner, and therefore use every means to prevent it, that, by taking advantage of disorder and confusion, they may represent the voice of the people very different from what it really is.[34]

In this connection he quotes the abusive language of several newspapers, including the Courier, the Western Mercury, and the Cobourg Star. From the Courier is taken the following: “. . . and Hogg the miller headed a herd of the swine of Yonge Street”—this of the founder of a thriving business at what is now known as Hogg’s Hollow, who had come to town to attend a public meeting under the chairmanship of Jesse Ketchum. The meeting ended in a riot precipitated by partisans of the government. The Steamboat Hotel was the headquarters of the disturbers, who were “plentifully supplied with stimulating liquors”.[35]

A somewhat different angle of the situation was brought out in a similar display of violence to personal property at Peterboro, in which both Ryerson and Mackenzie were burned in effigy. Here definitely the tactics of the Tory party were disclosed; they were determined to identify the politics of Ryerson with those of Mackenzie. Upon this Ryerson comments:

Much pains have been taken by the Anti-reformers to identify the Editor of this paper with Mr. Mackenzie, although we have never said one word in favour of Mr. Mackenzie or his proceedings. . . . Sorry indeed should we be to be so destitute of moral courage and principle, and so regardless of the public welfare and happiness, as to advocate bad measures because Mr. Mackenzie opposed them, or to oppose good measures and equitable principles because Mr. Mackenzie advocates them.[36]

Another and even more eloquent comment on the growing lawlessness of the period came from that stalwart reformer, the Rev. William Jenkins.



By either a Kerrite, Brownite, or Soupkitchenite[37]

Living, as I susposed in peace with all men, and wishing even my greatest enemy better than perhaps he wishes himself, I conceived myself entitled to civil usage, neither knowing nor conscious of doing or wishing any evil to any one. Nevertheless about six weeks ago I bought, for eighty dollars, a horse; but had him only a few days when I found him stabbed mortally in several parts of his body. He lingered out his existence with most excrutiating pain till a few days ago, when he died. Had the perpetrator one half-hour of the pain the innocent beast endured, he would form another opinion of the worse than Brutal action he hath been guilty of. . . . Do they think to intimidate me from duty by such treatment? If they do they are grossly mistaken. I would even rather die myself, doing my duty, than live by neglecting it; and had he tryed the same conduct with me he hath with my horse, he would likely have found that justice gives more fortitude than a villian ever yet possessed. Right ends are always obtained by just and lawful means, and a villian’s end may ever be clearly seen by the wickedness of the way he takes to gain it. This is not the first nor fourth time I have been thus used for doing my duty since I came to Canada. If maintaining British rights and vindicating the ways of God to man is to be thus treated in Canada, what vexation will it soon produce? If persisted in is it not to be feared that it will have the most awful and tremendous consequences, and will turn our Goshen into an Aceldema—May the Almighty God prevent it, and in his own time and manner destroy (by converting or removing) those who are destroying the earth.

William Jenkins

Minister of the Presbyterian Churches in Markham,

Vaughan and Scarboro

P.S. Mr. Ryerson, please give this publicity in your useful and well conducted paper.

W. J.[38]

Ryerson was greatly disturbed by these manifestations of violence. In the issue of January 8, 1834, he concludes an article entitled “Clergy Reserves—Government Pledges—Revolutionary Symptoms” with the words, “We believe, for many reasons, that affairs in this Province are approaching a crisis which will require skill in the helmsman to keep the ship from foundering; and watchfulness on the part of the Christian lest he perish in the whirlpool of party spirit.”

Certainly it was not his intention to add to the acerbity of public discussion through his “English Impressions”. His identifying the attitude of the Canadian tories with that of the English ultra tories, for whom he had as little to say as for the radicals, could hardly have been expected to suggest apostasy to that party. The capital offence was his reference to Hume, and Ryerson fully intended to injure Hume’s influence with the Methodist reformers of Upper Canada. He may have reflected that the criticism of Hume would excite Mackenzie, but such an effect would be incidental, and for that matter Mackenzie’s reactions were becoming increasingly incalculable. At any rate he was only saying to the public what he had said to Mackenzie himself, and to John R. Armstrong and others. We may be sure that nothing was further from his thoughts than to wound the feelings of his brother editor at a very tender spot; that very week Mackenzie had buried his son, Joseph Hume, aged eleven months. The inference that this fact had much to do with Mackenzie’s sudden outburst—so difficult to explain on rational grounds—is strengthened by his statement that his resolve to discontinue the publication of the Colonial Advocate was occasioned by a “sudden and unforseen domestic calamity” for which he was “wholly unprepared”, together with “other causes”, doubtless financial.

It is clear that the disturbance caused by his article took Ryerson quite by surprise. It may be gathered from his reply that his first thought was to let Mackenzie’s anger pass. Had he done so, the history of Upper Canada might have been appreciably different. But Mackenzie returned to the attack with a further slighting and irrelevant reference to his brother George, and with the suggestion that the church he loved had sold itself for 900 pieces of gold. Thus was he in turn wounded in his two tenderest loyalties. His fault—for weakness it was, but to the gain of history—was to think it his duty to challenge untruth in any form; and he could not resist setting his assailant and the public right on every phase of the whole matter. The result was a breach which not only shattered friendships and embittered feelings, but which deprived Mackenzie of the steadying influence of a great body of Methodists amongst his supporters, and thus hastened his course towards armed revolt.

In this difficult period of his life Ryerson had no longer the advice of his oldest brother. George had seen much of Hume and Mackenzie in England, and it is greatly to be regretted that his sane judgment and intimate knowledge of the men involved were not available at the time. From Edwy and William and John advice did come. Edwy, whose roots were shallow, soon saw that his censure was hasty. William was too depressed by poverty and the old country faction—largely Irish—in Kingston, to be of much help. His injunction “to breathe more of the spirit of Christ and the Gospel” was needed; also perhaps the weight of his influence as a liberal leaning towards radicalism. John did not fail to impress his views. In his letter of November 15th we behold him in his true political colour. Egerton had not gone over to the Tories “press, types and all”, but John evidently had. In a broad way the political strategy he recommended to Egerton was sound. John Ryerson never lacked courage. He concluded that, since it was impossible to work longer with Mackenzie, the sooner the break came the better. Rolph himself soon came to the same opinion; hence his subsequent waiving of his claim to become the first mayor of the city of Toronto in March, 1834, and his withdrawal from the City Council.[39] Bidwell too was drawing away; Ryerson who knew him intimately says that he never would identify himself with Mackenzie.[40]

In the midst of assaults from the press, and the dissonant advice of his brothers and brethren, Ryerson stood his ground. As the months passed, and as he kept their attention fixed on what he had said and what he had not said, gradually the opinion of those he had chosen to satisfy came around to his side. Hume’s personal attack in the House of Commons and the publication in the Advocate of a similar diatribe, with the “baneful domination” sentence, finished the work. As to the former the London Times of August 6th remarked:

Of Mr. Ryerson whom Mr. Hume so grossly abuses we know nothing; but we dare say, when the whole truth comes to be laid open, that Mr. Ryerson will have just as much to say against Mr. Hume as Mr. Hume has at present to say against Mr. Ryerson.

Of the latter, Canadians who were not committed to separatist and republican policies were bound to agree that Ryerson’s observations, however uncalled for they may have appeared at the time, had proven prophetic.

“. . . our object, and only object, in giving our impressions to the public was to entertain and profit. We never consulted any individual on the subject—nor did any individual but the author and printer see them until they appeared in print—nor had we determined to write them two days before they were written. . . .” C.G. Dec. 11, 1833.

When the dust had to a degree subsided, other articles were printed by Ryerson (C.G. Dec. 18 and Dec. 25, 1833), but they dealt only with religious conditions and did not fall upon dynamite.

Thomas Babington Macaulay, who represented the new constituency of Leeds in the first Reform Parliament.

This sentence, curiously enough, was omitted when the article was reprinted in the Guardian on November 6th. In the last column of the same page Mackenzie informs his readers that “this is our last regular number”. Within two weeks, however, he again appears before the public in a sheet of the same size called the Advocate not the Colonial Advocate. The term Colonial may have irked him, or a change in name may have had financial advantages.

C.G. November 6, 1833.

This money was borrowed from the Hon. Spencer Percival, a prominent member of Irving’s Society. Yet Mackenzie actually associated Percival with George Ryerson in a subsequent attack on the Ryersons appearing in one of his Almanacs. Opposite the date April 1st, he writes: “Brother George Ryerson began to preach toryism in the unknown tongues. Elected Elder by Parson Irving with Brother Spencer Percival who has a pension of £2000 a year”. He goes on to speak of office in Irving’s church as being “a very lucrative trade”. The reiterated attack on his brother George greatly annoyed Egerton and called forth a scathing rebuke to Mackenzie for his ungenerous conduct. (C.G. Nov. 6, 1833)

M. S. Bidwell.

Dr. Barker of the Kingston Spectator was the only editor in Upper Canada, as Ryerson states in the issue of November 20th, who attempted a formal review and criticism of the Impressions.

Thomas Dalton had been the editor of the Kingston Patriot, a print notorious even in Upper Canada for its forcible language. In 1832 Dalton moved to York, where for some years he continued to edit the Patriot. He was greatly impressed by Mackenzie’s blast against Ryerson. In the Patriot of November 8th, he wrote:

“We have seen Mr. McKenzie’s supplement to his last Advocate, and to do it justice, it is the most powerful thing he ever put forth. It is said of the swan that he never sings but once, and that is when he is dying.”

Ryerson’s second marriage took place on the 8th of November to Mary, eldest daughter of James R. Armstrong of York. The extract from the diary (S.M.L., p. 120) is in part as follows:

“After many earnest prayers, mature deliberation, and the advice of an elder brother, I have decided within the last few months to enter again into the married state. The lady I have selected, and who has consented to become my second wife, is one whom I have every reason to believe possesses all the natural and Christian excellencies of my late wife. She is the eldest daughter of a pious and wealthy merchant, Mr. James Rogers Armstrong. For her my late wife also entertained a very particular esteem and affection; and, from her good sense, sound judgment, humble piety, and affectionate disposition, I doubt not but that she will make me a most interesting and valuable companion, a judicious housewife, and an affectionate mother to my two children. . . .”

Carroll introduces Alvah Adams as “the son of parents who showed untiring love to Methodism, and the fruit of Mr. Metcalf’s ministry in the Perth settlement, who baptized him by immersion in the river Tay”. (Case, Vol. III, p. 206.) His school advantages are described as “pretty good”. He had “sprightly manners” and was “a captivating singer”. Though not possessing “strong original powers of thought”, he had “a readiness in appropriating the thoughts of others”. During the few years of his itinerant ministry he travelled in the eastern section of the province.

Without doubt the attitude which the Guardian and the Methodist preachers were taking on temperance, and their reiterated exhortation to total abstinence, had much to do with the dislike of Methodism in certain quarters. Here intemperance became a matter of action by the Church authorities of Prescott and reduced the membership by one, an editor at that. However the traffic and use of alcoholic beverages was not yet quite outlawed by the Methodists. The gentleman who laid the corner stone of Upper Canada Academy in 1832, Dr. John Gilchrist, in addition to several other business enterprises operated a distillery at Keene, thus assisting in the production of a staple commodity which at that time was sold by the gallon at a less price than milk fetches today.

In the Guardian of November 20th, Ryerson pays some attention to the Grenville Gazette. He quotes briefly other extracts and this: “Judas was content with 30 pieces of silver and Esau with a mess of pottage; but Priest Ryerson and the Conference, through Mr. Marsden, must have 900 pieces and the promise of 1,000 more!” He then remarks, “This exceeds and supercedes any comment; and we will merely ask the reader what sort of liberty he would be likely to enjoy, under the government of a man who can utter such statements? and what sort of fellowship he can have with such a spirit?”

Marsden’s connection with the affairs of Methodism in Upper Canada was titular and temporary. Joseph Stinson, as superintendent of Missions, was the man on the spot, and to him John Ryerson looked for assistance.

Determined a man as John Ryerson was, even he quailed before the storm of opposition which the announcement of a government grant and the publication of the Impressions had brought upon the Methodists and the Guardian.

A clear evidence of the reliance placed on the judgment of this great reformer.

Radcliffe of the Cobourg Reformer, who advertised Ryerson to his little world as a “sanctimonious savage”, was ably seconding the assaults of the Advocate. In fact, when Mackenzie had recovered from his first rush of anger at what he regarded as Ryerson’s desertion, he reflected that there were still two papers which would fight the cause of Radicalism, the Cobourg Reformer and the British Colonial Argus of Kingston. The latter he quotes as asking at this time, “What is to become of the Cobourg Seminary, which, from corner to top-stone was built with the money of reformers?” It is a curious coincidence, not without significance, that the corner stone of the Upper Canada Academy was laid on the very day on which the second Reform Bill received the royal signature.

The grant had not been definitely ear-marked for Indian work. However, the Canadian preachers resolved that no one should be able truthfully to say that they had received one shilling from the Government towards their own salaries. Hence it was arranged that the grant should be allotted exclusively to Indian work, its expenditure directly under the control of the London Missionary Society. The Indians were regarded as in a peculiar sense the wards of the Government. Thus was begun a practice which survives a century later in the arrangement between the Federal Government and the United Church of Canada for the support of the Indian work at missions like Muncey and Edmonton.

The preachers who signed this protest, which they hoped to have printed in the Guardian, were all travelling in the Niagara District. David Wright was superintendent of the Stamford Circuit, with Edwy Ryerson to assist him; James Evans, superintendent of the St. Catharines circuit; Henry Wilkinson, superintendent of the Ancaster Circuit; William Griffis was stationed at Canboro.

This letter indicates that Ryerson’s broader policy of publishing news from “home” had won him friends and subscribers among the British immigrants. Their claims had to be considered. In fact, the great volume of immigration in the early thirties had not a little to do with causing Union to appear the best solution.

Usually Hodgins is reasonably faithful, though not punctilious, in following the text of the letters he publishes. In this letter, however, reproduced in part (S.M.L., p. 133), the sentence, “Many again, have got wonderfully wise, and pretend to reveal the secrets of your policy, as in profession a friend, but in reality an enemy” reads “Many, again, have got wonderfully wise, and pretend to reveal (as a friend, but in reality as an enemy) the secrets of your policy”. And the meaning of a second sentence, “Many have regretted (of the preachers) that you was put in the editorial chair and feel strongly disposed to exert their influence that you may not be replaced” has been quite perverted. Hodgins has it, “Many of the preachers are rejoiced that you were put in the editorial chair and feel strongly disposed to exert their influence that you may not be replaced”. Evidently Hodgins did not catch Edwy’s meaning of “replaced”, which is used in the letter, as not infrequently at that time, in the original sense, “placed back”. Having made this error he needs must alter “regretted” to “rejoiced”. His hero comes off better in the change, but history suffers.

Alexander Davidson was a prominent layman at Port Hope. He published a hymn book, as a private venture, and advertised it in the Guardian. Later he was appointed postmaster at Niagara.

James Evans (1801-1846) was born at Kingston-on-Hull, England, the son of a sea captain. He received a good education, and as a young man migrated to Canada. With his younger brother, Ephraim, he soon turned from pioneering to school-teaching. Each had a novel in process of writing when they were converted under Metcalf’s preaching and put away such folly. After a year in the Indian School at Rice Lake he was now in the regular work. He later became famous as a missionary to the Indians of Hudson Bay, and as the inventor of the Cree syllabic alphabet.

this was my orders when a copy was left with me.

This strong letter perhaps affords as good an illustration as we have of Ryerson’s manner of handling opposition in the Conference. David Wright was one of the older members of Conference; the minutes of 1823 read, “David Wright, aged thirty, wife and three children—admitted”. By the year 1833 he had attained the superintendency of the fine Stamford circuit. Palpably a Reformer, his volatile soul had been stirred by the hue and cry raised against Ryerson. The latter’s appeal to discipline resulted in the question being raised next Conference as from the Niagara District Meeting and prevented a discussion in the press.

Richardson, whose training and temper had predisposed him to order and propriety, would at once realize that the Discipline of the Methodist Conference provided a better means of dealing with such issues than that of airing them in the public press. Dr. Morrison was a strong reformer—and with some excuse (see p. 116).

The Ryerson brothers frequently helped one another in money matters. Egerton was particularly generous, and never laid up a store against old age.

John Ryerson’s wife was a sister of James Lewis, whose sister Anna was the wife of Hugh Willson. The Lewis family had their origin in New Jersey. They had settled on Fifty Mile Creek in the late eighties. The Willsons, also from New Jersey, came a few years later.

For some years John Willson, a younger brother of Hugh, had been estranged from the Conference. As Speaker of the Assembly during the enquiry of 1828 he had served them well, but, in subsequent years as a member for Wentworth in the Legislature had opposed them at every point. It was he who was said to have secured money from Strachan for Ryan.

This letter appeared in the Advocate of May 22, 1834, and was reproduced in the Guardian of May 28th. It did great damage to the Reform party, but gave Ryerson an opening, of which he was not slow to avail himself.

See p. 174. The most probable explanation of the discrepancy is not that Hume was deliberately falsifying, but that he too (see p. 14) was confusing George and Egerton Ryerson.

Aileen Dunham: Political Unrest in Upper Canada, 1815-1836, p. 151. On the whole, a careful and well-documented study.

C.G., March 28, 1832.

C.G., Apr. 4, 1832.

C.G., March 28, 1832.

C.G., Apr. 25, 1832.

Kerr was the assailant of Mackenzie in Hamilton; Brown, a leader in the riotous burning of Mackenzie and Ryerson in Peterboro; and soupkitchenites, the proletariat of York.

C.G., June 20, 1832.

Dent: The Upper Canada Rebellion, Vol. I, p. 269.

See p. 205.



June 1834 to December 1835

The immediate effects of the quarrel were the secession of the Episcopals and the financial embarrassment of the Academy, with still further departures from the policy of pure voluntaryism. The Episcopals were in many ways the successors to Henry Ryan and his waning party. The name “Episcopal” had no particular significance. Indeed their opponents declared that it was an afterthought, calculated to give them a claim to the church property of the Wesleyans—a claim which in spite of irritating and prolonged litigation they were never able to establish in law. The real ground of dissension was their belief that the union would increase the authority of Conference at the expense of local preachers and laymen, and that it was in reality a tory and authoritarian movement within the church aimed at those whom John Ryerson, in private at least, described as “furious levellers in matters of Church Government”. As for the Academy, there was much truth in the remark of the British Colonial Argus that “from foundation to top-stone it had been built with the money of reformers”—the word being broadly defined, and not applied to a political party. For as the preachers had carried throughout the circuits from the Ottawa to Amherstburg their subscription books[1] with the principles of the institution set down in each, as farmers and mechanics and merchants and occasionally men in the professions had entered their names for smaller or larger sums to be paid in four annual instalments, all had done so in the firm conviction that the whole system which entrusted higher education in the land exclusively to men nourished on the Thirty-nine Articles was in need of reform. Later subscriptions secured by Lord and Stinson from the Governor, and John Strachan and J. B. Robinson and others, could not alter the fact that in conception the Academy was an enterprise of reformers. But as the anti-government press continued to assail Ryerson and the Union, fear and suspicion came into the minds of these scattered subscribers. To make matters worse, the country fell into hard times—or a depression, as economists with their graphs now have it. Thus the later instalments often were left unpaid, and the Conference was compelled to look elsewhere for assistance.

In 1834 Conference met in June at Kingston, but under clouded skies. The membership in the year had declined by 1,109. The President, the Rev. Edmund Grindrod, appointed by the British Conference, had not arrived owing to a slow voyage and illness after landing. Discontent was rife. It was clear that Union had raised grave doubts in the minds of many Canadians, and at the same time had failed to appeal to the immigrant “causes” at Kingston and York. But from the Minutes one would never judge that all was not well in Zion. Throughout its ten days the sessions appear to move in calm and orderly fashion. It is necessary to read between the neat lines penned by James Richardson, duly elected Secretary, to realize the tenseness of the proceedings. In the absence of the President, Case was voted to the chair. The names of sixty-one members were called. Then Robert Alder arose and reported he had been appointed to supply the President’s place. By resolution Alder’s claim was recognized, and he took the chair. We are not informed that there was any debate on the matter at the time, but it would not be surprising in those days of forthright speech if there was. Green’s comment is: “Strictly speaking, Mr. Alder had no right to the chair; and, not being a member of our Conference, we had no right to appoint him; but the President had requested him to act until his arrival, and, out of courtesy to both, we allowed him to take the chair, confirming all he did after Mr. G. arrived on Saturday. On Sunday the President preached a dry sermon, which produced no effect except that of disappointment.”[2]

Ryerson did not escape criticism. He was accused by the York District meeting of having changed the wording of the Discipline in printing. A committee was appointed on the matter and its report passed and filed as “No. II K”. But this was only a minor matter. A minute on page twenty-four reads, “Proceeded to ballot for Editor of the Xn G. James Richardson was elected to this office.” Carroll records that this “made a profound sensation among the friends of last year’s editor”.[3] A minute of the following day reads, “James Richardson having declined to serve as Editor of the Xn G., the Conference proceeded to ballot for another. Egerton Ryerson was elected.” Hodgins tells us nothing of all this; he states that Ryerson had resolved to retire from the editorship, but was not permitted to do so. The version of the Minutes and of Carroll, who was present, must be accepted. This incident affords an additional illustration of the fact that each of its members—and Ryerson as much as any—was subject each year to the pleasure of the Conference. Further, this pleasure was expressed fairly and freely by the ballot, at a time when its advocacy for provincial elections was still considered a mark of dangerous radicalism. But while thus chastening him, his brethren elected him to several important committees, including that on the Academy. A resolution passed on the second last day of Conference proves that the seed he had sown as editor had not gone to the birds of the air. It was resolved,

That this Conference views with feelings of disgust and cannot but express its unqualified reprobation of the letter from Joseph Hume Esqr. M.P. addressed to, and lately published by William L. McKenzie Esqr., and of the slanderous attack therein made upon our beloved brother the Rev. Egerton Ryerson, in whose integrity and honorable principles we are happy to express our unshaken confidence. We also avail ourselves of this occasion to disclaim in terms of strong indignation the revolutionary principles and purposes contained in said letter . . . .

There may also be some significance in the fact that it was resolved, “That the Building Committee of the U. C. Academy be composed of the same gentlemen as were appointed last year, except Messrs. Gilchrist and McCarty, and that Messrs. Goldsmith, Austin B. Carpenter and John Beatty, Jr. be requested to act as members thereof.”

A report was drafted by Ryerson himself and accepted by the Conference stating that while the Guardian was to be “properly a religious and literary journal”, it was free to explain and defend Methodist doctrines and institutions “in the spirit of meekness”, but was not to be the “medium of discussing political questions, nor the merits of political parties”.[4] The following day the Advocate, under the heading “Reformers! The Prospect Darkens”, declared:

The re-appointment of Mr. Egerton Ryerson to the office of editor of the Guardian, the approbation of his proceedings by the Conference of Methodist preachers, and their silence or rather worse than silence relative to the £900 bribe and the other official doucours which have fallen to their lot are but signs of the times.

Ryerson, however, no longer replies in kind. In the issue of July 2nd, in the course of an editorial which does credit to his head and heart, he deals with certain criticism which had been made, states his desire at all times to be fair and impartial, and concludes:

We now take occasion frankly and voluntarily, (and without heretofore intimating our intention to any human being, of so doing,) to state, that during the last year, under extraordinary circumstances, it is true, we have made remarks unnecessarily and unbecomingly harsh and severe; and although we believe to the best of our knowledge the correctness of every material statement that we have made in regard to men and measures, we deeply regret the appearance of many sentences and paragraphs, and several articles in the columns of the Guardian, during the year. We hope that past experience may teach us forbearance and wisdom, in at least some degree, whilst we continue to crave the indulgence as well as candour of an enlightened religious public, in its criticism and estimate of our labours.

Whilst the Wesleyans were in session at Kingston preparations were in process for the first regular provincial meeting of the Episcopate on Yonge Street. This was held on June 25th, 1834, “just ninety years, to a day”, as Webster points out,[5] after Wesley’s first conference. It consisted of only four ordained preachers, none of them in active service, and a few lay preachers; but Webster considered it the first conference. It was decided to call a larger meeting at Belleville on February 10th. The Rev. John Reynolds, a Methodist preacher, for some time located and keeping store at Belleville, was named Superintendent; and at another meeting held at Trafalgar, later in the same month, he was chosen first Bishop of the new body, which took the name, and regarded itself as the successor, of the former Methodist Episcopal Church in Canada. As such, it claimed the property which the Wesleyans supposed they had taken into union. A test case prolonged in litigation was made of the Waterloo Chapel, four miles north of Kingston, of which certain Methodists in the name of the Episcopals had taken possession, changing the lock. Other chapels were occupied, and in certain sections, especially where dissatisfaction existed among the lay preachers, the new body rapidly acquired strength and numbers. Within a year it could claim to have 21 preachers and 1,243 members; by the following year the membership was nearly doubled, and within ten years it had reached 8,880.

The opinion is expressed by Findlay and Holdsworth[6] that the unfortunate manner of the President of 1834, Edmund Grindrod, had much to do with creating dissatisfaction on the part of the lay, or local, preachers. He had peremptorily rejected their request to be allowed ordination while still continuing secular pursuits. In this attitude, however, he was supported by a majority of the Conference, and particularly by William Ryerson. The decision took the following form:

Resolved that whereas in the judgment of this conference the practice of ordaining men to the office of the holy ministry engaged in secular pursuits is contrary to the principles and practice of the venerable founder of Methodism, it is resolved that in future the ordination of local Preachers shall cease, as the altered circumstances in which the connexion is placed render it unnecessary and inexpedient.

The ordained local preacher was essentially a product of pioneer conditions. Devoted men of large families found it difficult to support their dependents from voluntary givings and without private means or earnings. Then at the end of the year, if itinerants, they would be confronted with the difficulty and expense of moving to another locality. The situation which excused the temporary locating of itinerants logically would countenance the occasional ordination of local preachers.[7] But by the Conference of 1834 the door was closed, and this appeared to many to be another proof of aggrandizement by the British Wesleyans; their young men were to come in and occupy land pioneered by others.

The Episcopals were particularly strong in the Bay of Quinte District where John Ryerson was Presiding Elder. Thus he found himself beset on both sides, by the Episcopal levellers whose prospective Bishop lived at Belleville, and the Wesleyan die-hards at Kingston who feathered “a kingly nest for the Superintendent of Missions”.

October 25, 1834, John Ryerson, Hallowell, to Rev. Egerton Ryerson, City of Toronto.

My dr. Brother

I received your kind letter yesterday. I have sent notes before precisely in the same state & they were filled up & accepted without any objections being made to them. The work of schism has been purty extencive on some parts of this District. There have left and been expelled on the Waterloo Ct. 150, on the Bay of Quinty 40, in Belleville 47, Sidney 50, on Cobourg 32, making in all 320. There have been received on these circuits since conference 170 which leaves a ballance against us of 150. I am much displeased with Mr. Stinson’s proceeding in Kingston which has done more to injure me & to promote the work [of] schism on the Bay & Waterloo Cts. then anything else. From the beginning I have informed the friends in Kingston and on those Cts. that Kingston was to be given up, that it was to become a congregation of our conference the same as any other congregation. Since the last conference the friends in Kingston have been told by Wm. & myself that these arraingements were now to go into opperation, etc. & that Mr. Stinson was appointed there particularly in reference to this very business. But Mr. Stinson comes to Kingston & what does he tell his congregation, as he calls them, “that it is no such thing, that they are to remain as they ever were, that the Chairman of the Bay of Quinty District has no charge of him nor them, that the superintendent of Missions or some person appointed directly from England will always be their superintendent & therefore you have got every thing in your own way”. Accordingly when I held my first Qt. Meeting for that place, Mr. Stinson had a quarterly meeting in his chapel at the same time. I know he kind of apologised to me for haveing it at that time, but it was a mear evogation; he did it no dout to shew the Wesleyan congregation that I had no charge of them. Mr. S. told me that he considered that I had no charge of them & he had so informed his people. To be sure he taulks about union etc. but what does he mean by that purty term, which I have long since been sick of hearing. Why the union he means is that our congregation shall be unighted to them under the superintendance of what I have stated above. A kind of Missionary Supt,—a kingly nest for the superintendent of Missions with one or two curates to do his work for him. The plain object is to run our congregation down. And accordingly a week or so before I was at the last Qt. Meeting, Mr. S . . . friends fited up a house for Tuesday night preaching within a stone throw of our chapel. I have not had even an invitation to Preach, in Mr. Stinson’s Chapel. I have not time nor patience to mention one half of the trickory & abomination of their proceedings. Sufice it to say at present that nine tenths of the M. S. is in favour of the conference union & that Mr. S. is at the bottom of the difficulty & if you, Mr Marsden and the resolutions of Union have deceived conference & myself—which you have done, if Mr S—statements be true—it is the [last] deception which shall ever be practiced upon me in this affare. I shall lay this whole [seal] before conference when I hope to clear myself of the Blood of this affare, nor will a few fare speeches & hypocritical pretentions divert me from my purpose. All our friends in Kingston are deeply wounded & not one of them will remain in the church if Mr. Stinson’s doctrine is imbraced, nor do I believe that 5 of them will remain if the union does not take place in the way that they have been informed that it was to be. I feal deeply for them; they have stood by us through many a storm. I have much more to say but have not time now.

Yours affectionately

J. Ryerson

P.S. You will see from what I have said above that I am not putting my trust in ther “arm of flesh” at the present, however much I may have sined in this respect before, & that I have done so I am now painfully conscious & I find to my sorrow that [I] have been leaning on a broken reed. One thing I have to console myself with is that in advocating union I was sincear & thought it would be for the best, but every result of it thus far has been dizasterous & gloomy without a single iota of any thing growing out of it that is beneficial to us. I can never favour any party but I cant go on in this way & I never saw my way so clear to retire as now. You will excuse my very haisty & miserable scrall.[8]

J. R.

November 21, 1834, J. Stinson, Kingston to Rev. Egerton Ryerson, City of Toronto.

My dear Brother

I received a letter from Mr. Lunn of Montreal the other day, in which he desired me to order a Guardian for him. He intends to take it regularly & will be glad if you will send the first Guardian of the present volume. Let him have them next week; he will send the pay by the first opportunity.

Mrs. Talkin of this town also wishes to take it; let her have the first of the present volume also. The enclosed is Mrs. Talkins pay in advance.

At our Quarterly meeting last week our Leaders agreed to admit of an interchange of pulpits; we begin next Sunday; I hope it will be attended with good.

I had a conversation with your brother John at Napanee the other day—Tuesday—which surprised and pained me not a little. He maintains that Mr. Marsden, Mr. Alder & Mr. Grinrod gave the Canada Conference to understand that Kingston was to be given up entirely to the Canadian Conference & he said that if it were not so given up, it will be a violation of the articles of Union, etc., etc. He referred to you as supporting this view of the subject & threw out the idea in no very obscure terms that I had been sent to Kingston to induce our people here to give themselves up to the Canadian Conference & that in failing to accomplish that object I had greatly embarrassed him in his District. I can only say, that I have acted in perfect accordance with the instructions Mr. Grinrod & Mr. Alder gave me & have done my utmost to promote the Union of the two Societies, in this Town. But it is not very likely that much union can exist, while persons are allowed to remain in the other society who have acted & continue to act most dishonourably to our members & while some of the Preachers of this District tell our leading members that “There are two English missionaries in the Canada Conference now but that they will get rid of them as soon as possible”. If these persons have not sufficient generosity & piety to subdue, they ought to have sufficient policy to conceal their spleen, at least from people who have all along opposed the union from a fear that they should be deprived of their own ministers & their own discipline. If things are carried with too high a hand, we shall lose our Kingston Chapel and congregation altogether, & should the Kingston people be compelled in defence of their own privileges to shut their chapel against us, it will be next to impossible to keep things quiet in Lower Canada. I do not think it is necessary to sacrifice the union to Kingston, nor is it necessary to sacrifice Kingston, because a number of disaffected radicals in the Bay of Quinte like to make the state of things here an excuse for their anti Methodistical proceedings. If there were no Kingston in existence these men would never cordially love the Union. More of this hereafter.[9]

We are all delighted with Mr. Lord[10] & expect great good from his residence amongst us. I have been sick all week. I took a severe cold in my head & eyes while at Napanee. Will you be so kind as to send me those American Papers which contain the articles on the “preaching of Christ crucified”. I will return them when I have read them. With kind love to yourself & Sister Ryerson & Mr. Armstrong’s family,

believe me dear Sir

Yours truly

J. Stinson

December 14, 1834, Mary Ryerson,[11] Hallowell, to Mr. James Lewis, Grimsby.

My Dear Brother

I have been anxously waiting for several weeks to receive a letter from some of you, but not receiving any I sit down and strive to ease my feelings by writing to you. We are all well at present, but have all been sick with colds which are very prevalent here. Mr. Ryerson[12] left last thursday for Cobourg and expects to be gone near three weeks. Prospects on this circuit are pretty good as it respects religion, but in every other respect very poor. The Farmers say they never [had] such hard times. For the Farmers there is little or no money to be got at all. I suppose you have heard large stories about the Episcopals in these parts. There has been no disturbance on this circuit at all. The letters in the last Guardian give a correct statement with regard to the bay and Sidney circuits. There were about 40 left in Belville. Some have come back and many others would come if they could. The increase in society there since Br. Wilkinson[13] has been there is nearly that number so that the loss is not much felt. Mr. Gatchel’s[14] coming down here has been a great hurt to their cause. One Local Preacher said to Mr. Ryerson if he was to be their Presiding Elder he would have nothing more to do with them. We feel very anxous to hear from you all. I have been fancing that some of you are sick that you are delaying writing on that account. We have only received two letters since we came down. I think it is to bad. I expect you have a great deal of business on your mind but I think you might spend a few moments in the course of two or three months to write to me.

I hope you will [write] immediately on receiving this and let us know how you are all a doing, how Hughy is getting along. It has been reported here that Mr. Metcalf was a going to join the Episcopals.[15] How is Levi and Mary, Mr. Beach and Anne. Tell [her] that I think she might write to me if was to try very hard. If Mr. Ryerson’s coat is at your place yet, I wish you to keep it till he comes up to Conference. I received a letter from Mary Swayze.[16] She has had the fever this winter [but] she has got able to attend to her school again. She has about 50 scholars. The children are going to school and learning very well. Egerton is begining to cypher. He says he thinks a great deal about little Levi. Please remember us affectionately to Mother and Betsy and enquiring friends. I remain my Dr. Brother

Yours affectionately

Mary Ryerson

P.S. Please write soon without fail.

January 28, 1835, John Ryerson, Hallowell, to Rev. Egerton Ryerson, City Toronto.

My dr. Brother

I herewith enclose you my sermon. As you will see I preached this sermon on Thanksgiving Day. Two or three days after there was a publick meeting called in our Chapel, when a resolution was passed, thanking me for my sermon & requesting a coppy of it for publication; but I excused the matter & had no idea of writing it, untill I received your letter when I concluded to do so. It is the most popular sermon I ever preached here & is entirely original. The magistracy & gentry of this place say they will give five dollars a coppy for it.

I wish you would send me John Barten. I am very much in want of young man to assist Br. McMullen; he is the only one I can think of. I think we can make him useful. Let him come amediately. We will find him a horse. Give him a way bill & direct him Charls Bigger, Esq, Carrying Place.

The more I think of your leaving the office, the more unfavourably I think of it; there is a tremendous opposition to it in these parts among both Preachers & People. I think it will do the paper amense harm; you had better stop untill conference. I think Richardson will get no support as Editor & it will be as easy to get another in as though you left the office now. More than one hundred persons have professed religion at Consecon & Pleasant Bay. We had a powerful meeting last sabbath at Sidney. Please write me amediately & let me know how things are in Toronto, the seat of war. You of course will correct & improve my sermon as you think. Br. McNabb coppyed it for me. I think there was too much Egotism in the last paper.

Yours very affectionately

in haist

J. Ryerson

What circumstances may have suggested to Ryerson his giving up the paper in the course of the year we do not know. His leader of January 21st on the “Present State and Prospects of the Guardian” is cheerful enough. He notes that six of the seven papers which combined against the Guardian have ceased to exist, gone into other hands, or adopted a more friendly attitude, while the Guardian finds its readers increasing and its position more firmly established. Then, forgetting certain high resolves, he goes on to pay his respects to Mackenzie in a sentence which invites trouble:

The very author of that infamous warfare against us, and who had blown himself into a “little brief authority” by the whirlwind which he himself had created, has already sunk into disgraceful insignificance in the very place where he has been best known and where he had originated, and for a time successfully carried on all his plans of unhallowed warfare and civil disorganization; and is as rapidly sinking into oblivion in the legislature as in other parts of the province.

This is a reference to the results of the election for aldermen in Toronto. The candidates of the Alliance Society (Mackenzie’s organization) were well beaten by those of the Constitutional Society. In St. David’s ward, Mackenzie and Lesslie polled only 70 and 75 votes respectively, to 126 and 122 for Robert Baldwin Sullivan and George Duggan; and the aldermen elected Sullivan as the second mayor by acclamation. However, Mackenzie was not quite a spent force in the province. He was again a member of the Legislature, and the great majority of the members elected in the Provincial elections of October, 1834, were favourable to the Reform cause, so that Bidwell once more was chosen Speaker. Here for two years in a congenial atmosphere Mackenzie was able to carry on reprisals against Ryerson and the Conference, and pursue other labours more profitable to himself and the Province.

February 20, 1835, W. Ryerson, St. Catharines,[17] to Rev. Egerton Ryerson, City of Toronto.

Very Dr. Br.

I recd. your most valued favour this morning and cannot let one hour pass without answering it, and returning my grateful acknowledgments for your kind favour enclosed,[18] but especially for the brotherly spirit of sympathy & affection which breathes in every line & word of your most interesting letter. The spirit & feeling makes the deeper impression on my mind when I recollect that you have your own difficulties & troubles but which do not appear so wholly to occupy your mind as to prevent your feelings of friendship & sympathy for others. How sincerely do I pray that the God of mercy & truth may graciously support you under all your trials & difficulties and in his good time bring you out of them purified as gold. I fere that I might have made an improper statement of my domestic affairs; what I did say, I do not recollect, but certainly did not intend to complain of our poverty, etc, for although we have recd. very little as yet this year, I certainly could have hired my wood hauled although I did not feel myself able to pay a man for doing so without embarasing myself otherwise. My reason for adverting to the affair at all was to justify my declining to furnish a sermon for the press, namely, a want of time, as well as a want of ability, and not to trouble my Dr. friends with my affairs, especially when I could not forget that they had burdens enough of their own to bear. With your permission I will return your kind pecuniary favour in my next, after thanking you a thousand times for your kindness.

My principle reason for troubling you with another dull letter so soon is to remove as soon as possible a very improper impression, which it appears I have unfortunately made on your mind respecting my feeling towards Mr. Lord. . . . What I intended was to caution you against placing too much reliance on the friendship & support of Mr. Stinson and Mr. Lord. My reason for doing this was that in every instance in which I had placed any particular reliance on the friendship or engagements of any of the leading Brethren from England, I had been deceived.[19]

      *      *      *      *      *      

I perceive we shall be much embarrassed about the editorship of the Guardian. I agree with you that Br. Evans is the most suitable of any one beside the present editor if he positively refuses if elected (although I think it very doubtful whether we could induce the Confce. to elect him.)[20] I do not know who we can get; let the paper be given up an hundred times sooner than Richardson should be permitted to disgrace it again.[21] Perhaps Providence will point out some suitable person before your term expires. There is another unpleasant circumstance to which I would advert. When I was over at Toronto last fall I gave you a full statement about the Beaver Dam Chapel and my engagement to consult Mr. Rolph & Bidwell on the subject of the deed & you will recollect that I was prevented by being very unwell (which proved to be the beginning of a severe turn of the fever) from calling on them myself. You told me you would call & consult them on the subject immediately after I left the town. I think you parted with me at your own house or at Br. Armstrong’s & when you went out I understood you was going then to see them. Afterwards I recd. your letter in which, if I recollect right, you said that “after consulting legal authority”, or “the highest legal authority”, I am not certain which, “such appeared to be the state of the case”, etc. etc. Fully believing you had consulted Mr. R & B. & concluding as a matter of course that they were the legal authority referred to, I unhesitatingly stated that such was the case to the Qt. Meeting of the St. Cath. Crt. However it appears that Mr. Swayze has been over to Mr. R. & enquired if you had consulted him, & Mr. R. has said you have not; he then enquired of you & you informed him that you had not said any thing to Mr. R. or B. on the subject; hence I am accused with but little reserve of lies or falsehood & the use that is made of this affair is very unpleasant indeed. I wish you would write to Edwy[22] or my self by the 21, when our Qt. Meeting will be at this place, a few words in explination, etc.

You will endeavour to read this as well as you can. I have written in the greatest haste; my horse is waiting as I am just starting for Niagara.

My affectionate regards to Mrs. R., Br. Armstrong & family & all friends

Yours affectionately,

W. Ryerson

According to the Guardian of July 9, 1834, the Conference had resolved “to recommend petitioning from the Methodist congregations generally, and others friendly to the object, to the different branches of the Provincial Legislature, at its ensuing session, for a grant to aid the subscriptions to complete and put into successful operation the Upper Canada Academy”. The Minutes of Conference do not contain any account of this important decision; it was probably included in the unrecorded report of the Academy Committee. Until the following March nothing appears to have been done in the matter. Almost certainly no petitions were circulated; perhaps it was found that the friends of pure voluntaryism amongst the Methodists were too numerous for that. Only towards the end of the Legislative session did the officers of Conference take any action, and then to ask not for a grant, as the Conference had ordered, but merely for incorporation.

The petition had a short and mysterious history in the Assembly. It was brought up by John P. Roblin, member for Prince Edward, on March 14th and laid on the table.[23] Three days later it was read, and referred to a select committee consisting of J. P. Roblin, Peter Shaver of Dundas, and Hermanus Smith of Wentworth, thereon to report by bill or otherwise.[24] On March 25th Roblin informed the House that the Committee had agreed to report by bill, a draft of which he was prepared to submit whenever the House would be pleased to receive the same.[25] The bill was read a first time, and a second reading promised for the next day. But something happened before the next day, and we hear nothing more of the bill, nor have we any means of knowing its terms. The Guardian says nothing further, and no reference appears in our letters. A reasonable inference is that several circumstances combined to cause the withdrawal of the bill. It was felt that within the Assembly it would have to face the hostility alike of voluntaryist reformers and friends of the Anglican interests, with the practical certainty that if it passed the Assembly it would fail in the Council. Then the House was much more interested in two other measures—the amending of the King’s College Charter, and the diverting of the Clergy Reserves to purposes of General Education. In event of the success of this latter measure friends of the Academy might have expected it to benefit. But much fruitless time was spent in discussing these bills. The Rebellion, the Durham Report, and the Act of Union had to intervene before King’s College could open its doors, and these events and many more before what remained of the Reserves was secularized. But if the House was hostile to the Academy Bill, the officers of Conference themselves were lukewarm. Lord and Richardson were not the men to forward the measure, the former by reason of ignorance of the country and a certain feebleness of spirit, the latter because he was disinclined to ask aid from the government and was already on his way out of the church. We are not made aware that any of the Ryersons had a part in these negotiations. Egerton doubtless in some quarters stood the blame—as he paid the penalty—for their failure.

To the Honourable the Commons House of Assembly of the Province of Upper Canada


The Petition of the undersigned humbly sheweth:

That the Conference of the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Canada have, at a very heavy expense, and by the aid of the voluntary liberal subscriptions of the friends of Education in this Province, and elsewhere, erected and nearly completed, in the vicinity of Cobourg, Newcastle District, the Building for a Seminary of Learning, to be called the “Upper Canada Academy”, the object of which is the education of the youth of the Methodist connexion and other youth of the Province, with special care of their religious and moral principles and habits, as the union of education and Christian morality is essential to the well-being of every civilized country.

Nine Trustees have been appointed by the Conference (the three first on the list to go out annually, and the vacancies to be filled up by the Conference) who shall hold in trust all the property belonging to the Institution.

A Board of Visitors is provided for, consisting of five to be annually chosen by the Conference, who shall be associated with the Trustees, in appointing the Principal and Teachers, in forming all the Regulations and By-Laws, which relate to the government and instruction of the students, and in managing all the affairs of the Institution. To this joint Board the Principal and Teachers are to be amenable for their conduct.

The Board of Trustees and Visitors are to furnish annually to the Conference a full and explicit statement of the literary state of the Institution, and a full detailed account of its finances.

That in order to further the objects of said Academy, so much needed and so well adapted to promote the educational interests of this Province, an Act of Incorporation is necessary.

The undersigned, therefore, by order and on behalf of the Conference of the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Canada, humbly pray that your Honourable House will take the premises into your gracious consideration, and pass an Act to authorize and provide for the succession of Trustees to hold property of and for the said Academy.

And, as in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

William Lord


James Richardson


March 14, 1835

This application is the first definite admission that the noble attempt to build and operate an institution of learning by the voluntary contributions of members and friends of the Methodist body had failed. Men like James Richardson, avowed advocates of pure voluntaryism, must have winced in signing this communication. Economic conditions, political unrest, and, as will appear, certain extravagant ideas of Mr. Lord, combined to produce the embarrassment. But it was a great venture.

In the Guardian of June 15, 1835, Ryerson states that between £7,000 and £8,000 had been subscribed and £3,000 collected. Green gives the amount of the indebtedness as £4,100, and adds, “To this amount, at least, we think we are justly entitled. 740,275 acres of land were set apart for higher education; a venerable divine has laid the hand of spoliation upon 225,944 acres of these lands for King’s College; and 66,000 acres have been given to the Upper Canada College; and why should not Upper Canada Academy have some assistance from the same quarter? King’s College has already expended three times the amount which we ask; and the foundation stone is not yet laid!”[26]

Failing with the people of Upper Canada, as represented in the Assembly, the Conference appealed to the King through the Governor for endowment as well as incorporation. This decision was made at the 1835 Conference, which met at Hamilton on June 10th, and the letter which implemented it was dated Hamilton, June 16th, and signed by Lord as President and Ryerson as the new Secretary, on the same day as the adoption of the report of the Academy Committee. The report had also recommended the appointment of a committee of four “to raise immediate means to carry on the building”; had named five visitors as follows: William Lord, John Ryerson, William Lunn, Esq., of Montreal, Dr. John Rolph[27] and Jas. R. Armstrong of Toronto; and had decided to apply to the British Conference for a Principal.

To His Excellency

Sir John Colborne, K.C.B.

Lieut. Governor of the Province of Upper Canada, and Major General commanding His Majesty’s Forces therein, etc., etc., etc.



We, His Majesty’s dutiful and loyal subjects, the Ministers of the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Canada, assembled in Conference, beg leave again to assure Your Excellency of our affectionate esteem, and gratefully to acknowledge Your Excellency’s ardent desire, and successful exertions to promote the religious improvement of the Indian tribes and the New Settlements, and to advance the educational and general interests of this happy and flourishing Province.

We are fully aware, from Your Excellency’s frequent communications to Parliament, and invariable course of proceeding that Your Excellency has no object more at heart than the education of the youth of this Province; and especially when the advancement of that noble object, by whomsoever promoted, is based upon Christian principles, and is connected with a vigilant and efficient guardianship over the morals of the pupils. In this light we are persuaded Your Excellency will regard every effort for the promotion of education made by us as a body of Christian Ministers, and will extend to it your approbation and assistance.

We are therefore encouraged to present, through Your Excellency, the accompanying Memorial to the King’s Most Excellent Majesty, praying for a Royal Charter to incorporate a Seminary of Learning, and for an endowment of lands and pecuniary assistance to relieve the Institution from existing embarrassments and to carry it into successful operation.

We respectfully request Your Excellency to transmit this Memorial to England, to be laid before His Majesty; and we earnestly solicit the powerful, and we doubt not efficient, aid of Your Excellency’s recommendation and influence in behalf of its objects.

We offer our daily supplications to the Divine Being for Your Excellency’s health, happiness and prosperous administration over this important portion of the British dominions; and we can assure Your Excellency of our devoted attachment to that Constitution and Government under which we have the happiness to live.

Signed in behalf, and by order of,

the Conference


June 16th, 1835

William Lord, President.

Egerton Ryerson, Secretary.

Ryerson had resolved at the Conference of 1834 to retire from the editorship at the end of the year. Plans had been laid, as we have seen, during the year for the succession of Ephraim Evans, who had been given a taste of the work during a two weeks’ vacation of the editor. He was elected by Conference, whether with or without serious opposition we are nowhere informed.[28] Ryerson once more took a charge, the difficult and strategic Kingston station. Here he hoped to settle down once more in the pastorate, and concern himself only with such church politics as were sure to present themselves for settlement in the town which was the headquarters of the London Missionary Committee. A few days after his arrival he wrote a chatty letter to S. S. Junkin, his young friend and assistant at the Guardian office, whose reliable reports of the proceedings of the Assembly place Canadian historians under considerable obligation.

July 15, 1835, Egerton Ryerson, Kingston, to Mr. S. S. Junkin, Guardian Office, City of Toronto.

My dear Brother,

I seize a leisure moment to write you a few lines this morning. We are not yet in our own house. We are lodging at the house of Mr. Cassady, the lawyer, where we receive every possible kindness and attention.[29] I have not yet been able to open any of my books; I am all heads and points. I cannot, therefore, furnish any lucubrations however crude, for the Guardian, until I get settled. I am highly pleased and delighted with Br. Evans’ commencement.[30] He has begun as if he would become better and better. The Guardian never appeared a tenth part as interesting to me. I am glad to see that the pecuniary interests of the establishment are like to be greatly advanced by advertising patronage. I doubt not but the prosperity of the establishment this year will exceed that of any former year. I shall try and do what I can to get some new subscribers in this town, tho the depressed state of it is beyond all former precedent. Business appears to be almost entirely suspended. I will thank you for the accounts of subscribers for this town. The parcels have arrived. I will sell and transmit the proceeds of the Minutes[31] for this town as early as possible. The parcels will be duly forwarded.

I am told the Correspondent & Advocate[32] abounds in ribaldry against me. I have scarcely seen a paper since I left Toronto except the Guardian; nor do I desire to see any thing that is said about me. I thank Br. Evans for his kind remarks. I think they are sufficient. I hope he will not embroil himself any farther on my account. Bull has quite overshot the mark. I thought Br. Evans’ remark calculated to bring out a disclaimer from Mr. R....d....n of any “fellowship” with O’Grady.[33] I suppose the O’Grady & Mackenzie party are striving to divert public attention from the “Grievance Committee” proceedings.[34] I hope you will write me by the Cobourg steamer on Tuesday next all the domestic news, good, bad and indifferent.

I have been very kindly received here. Strong prejudices in the minds of individuals existed against me. But they are not only broken down but in the principal cases are turned into warm friendship already. Some who were as bitter as gall and croaking from day to day “the glory has departed” are now like new born babes in Christ, are happy in their own souls, praying for sinners, and doing all they can to build up the cause. I can scarcely account for it. I never felt more deeply humbled than since I came here. I have indeed strove to give my whole soul, body and spirit to God and his Church anew, but I have had scarcely a tolerable time in preaching. Yet the divine blessing has specially accompanied the word. On Wednesday night last the fallow ground of the hearts of professors seemed to be completely broken up. On Thursday night I was in the country, but was told the prayer meeting was the largest that had been held for two years. On Sunday evening we had prayer meeting after preaching. Several came to the alter, two or three of whom found peace. I closed it at nine o’c., but some staid and others collected and it was kept up until near one O’C in the morning. On Monday night the altar was surrounded with penitents, and the meeting, I was told (for I was not there) was better than any former, and was kept up until after midnight. Our preaching & leaders’ meeting last night was a good time. We have preaching and prayer meeting again tonight. We have formed the Leaders’ meeting of both chapels into one to the satisfaction of the brethren on both sides.[35] I now begin to hope for better times. My soul was bowed down like a bulrush for some days after I came here. But I thank God I have a hold upon the salvation of Christ that I had not felt for a long time before; and I do believe the Lord our God will help us and bless us. I have preached at Waterloo twice since I came down. The last time several penitents came to the altar—two professed to find peace, but it was upon the whole a dry time to me. They are hard cases there. I attended a very blessed Quarterly Meeting on the Isle of Tanti[36] on Thursday last. It was the best day to my own soul that I have experienced for years.

At the request of the building committee I shall go up to Adolphustown[37] on Sunday a week to open a new chapel there. I can assure you, my dear Brother, I feel like a man liberated from prison; but I have reason to believe that the people are in general amazingly disappointed in my pulpit exercises. They expected great things—things gaudy, stately & speculative—and I give them the simplest & most practical things I can find in the Bible, and that in the plainest way. You would be amused at the sayings of some of the plain Methodist people. They think it is the “real pure gospel, but they did not expect it so from that quarter”. I am told that Barker has said in his Whig that my pulpit talents are nothing. I am very glad to have this impression go abroad—it will relieve me from distressing embarrassments, and enable me to do much more good in a plain way—for I know the utmost I can attain in the pulpit is to make things plain, and, sometimes, forcible.

I have given you a sort of diary of my labours and feelings because I have nothing else to write from this palzy-struck town & because I am perhaps more inclined to chat than you are to read. I am very anxious to hear how you are getting on in Toronto. How are the preachers received? How are they likely to succeed?[38] Br. Davidson was highly esteemed here. How are the Bay street folks shaping their course? Are our good meaning Irvingite friends as sure as ever that we are come to the stepping-off-place at the end of the world?

Thursday morning, 16th

I send this by an English local preacher who has just called on his way from Montreal to Toronto. I believe Br. Evans knows him. We had a very blessed prayer-meeting last night, after preaching. A considerable number of penitents came to the altar, and some found peace. The work seems to be deepening among the Society. Br. Stinson has been quite ill for a week past with a violent obstinate cold. He is mending a little, and has undertaken to go to Gananoque today. I think we shall have a comfortable & prosperous year.

I will thank you to call upon Preston, the tailor, and settle my a/c with him. We hope to get in our own house in a few days, probably Monday or Tuesday next.

As Mr. Armstrong will like to know all that we are doing, thinking and saying, and as I have not time to write another scrawl, please give him this to decipher, until the Cobourg arrives on Saturday, when they may expect a letter from Mrs. Ryerson (!!) and possibly from me likewise. My kindest regards to Brothers Evans, Lang & Davidson, Brs. Taylor, Hamilton and other inquiring friends, especially Mr. Lawrence.

I shall expect a long letter from you by the Cobourg on her return. Mrs. R. joins me in kind regards.

Yours very affectionately

Egerton Ryerson

July 20, 1835, Monday even’g., S. S. Junkin, Toronto, to Rev. E. Ryerson, Kingston.

My dear Sir,

Although it is nearly eleven o’clock I take a few minutes before going to bed to write you—not a letter, but an apology for one. It would be almost an unpardonable neglect in me not to comply with your kind request to send you something by the Cobourg tomorrow morning. I feel very thankful for your long affectionate and interesting letter. I have shown it to some friends, and they are glad to hear of your good prospects at Kingston. Our preachers seem very anxious for a revival of religion here, and your letter, and one that Mr. Lang[39] recd. from Mr. Stinson, has stirred them up still more. Last evening at Geo. St. chapel prayer meeting was held after Mr. Lang preached. I was not there, but heard that it was a good time—continued till about 10 o’clock—8 or 10 at the alter—one professed to experience religion. Tonight there is a prayer meeting at Mr. Evans’ of all the official members (including the trustees) of both chapels specially for a revival. I think it is a good time. I passed the house between nine and ten o’clock, and quite a crowd was standing listening; your brother William, who arrived in the evening, was praying, and all seemed to be much engaged.[40] If there was any truth in the remark that “when the Lord is about to revive his work the Devil revives his also”, we might hope to see better times soon; for as I have heard several remark, never did drunkeness, sabbath breaking, and other sins of cities abound to such an extent as within a week past.[41] A meeting is appointed to be held in Geo. St. chapel tomorrow evening at 7½ o’clock and to continue till ten or later; and a similar meeting in Newgate St. chapel on Wednesday evening.

The preachers appear to be well received by the people, but how they can be comfortably provided for by the (present) Society is more than I can imagine. Mr. Lang is not above a mediocrity as a preacher, but warm and persuasive, and tells plain truths in a plain way. He is not afraid to “mention hell to ears polite”. The Bay St. (Irvingite) friends appear to be getting along as usual. Mr. Patrick[42] was twice at preaching yesterday, and seemed to listen to Bro. Davidson[43] with great attention; but did not assist in singing. I do not know that they are favourable to singing in the mixed congregation. [Here follows a full account of the Evans-Richardson dispute.]

I do not know that you will find any thing of interest in this hasty written scrawl, except what relates to Mr. R.’s affair. I thought you [would] like to know about that. I shall be glad to hear from you often when you find time to write, but cannot promise always to acknowledge the receipt of your letters, for I have hardly a spare moment to write. I purpose to make a visit to my parents next Thursday, if well, and stay a few days. Give my kindest regards to Mrs. Ryerson, and to Mr. and Mrs. Stinson when you see them.

I am yours

most affectionately

S. S. Junkin

P.S. The box of books for Bro. Healy and the parcel for Bro. Ferguson directed to Mr. Stinson’s care, which are sent with this by the Cobourg, you will see to forwarding with as little delay as possible. I have paid the freight of both to Kingston, and you will please pay charges at Kingston, if there are any, but not the forwarding freight.

S. S. J.

September 22, 1835, S. S. Junkin, Toronto, to Rev. E. Ryerson, Kingston.

My Dear Sir,

I was again disappointed of an opportunity of writing to you last night, as I intended to do, and therefore just send you a hasty line, as a memento, this morning by S. E. Taylor on his way to Montreal. We have nothing new here at present. Mr. Evans went to Cobourg to see the Sol. Genl. immediately on recpt. of your letter concerning the ejectment suit in the case of the Waterloo chapel. He retained him in case an action is entered; and he (Sol. Genl.) wishes to have a copy of The Declaration of the Plaintiff’s counsel as soon as the trustees receive it, and a fee of 10 dollars. He also saw Mr. Bidwell at the Newcastle Assizes, and spoke to him on the subject. He was rather unwilling to take a fee or be retained on our side of the cause, as he had returned the fee sent him by the others and refused to act in the former intended suit. The fee was handed by the “Episcopals” to Mr. Cassidy, and by him sent to Mr. Bidwell. I think you will be glad to know that he does not plead for them.[44] What is the meaning of R. Richardson being concerned in the affair of the chapel, and supporting the Radical “Episcopals”? I thought he was a great Tory, and one who in Methodist affairs “cared for none of these things”. Might it not be possible that there was some under current flowing between Toronto and Kingston, more than’s in Ontario? I hope not; but it would be no harm to keep a sharp look out.[45] You have likely seen Mr. Richardson’s last “production”, as he calls his former one, in the Correspondent and Advocate. It purports to be a reply to Mr. Evans’ statement of the case, some things in which he says has an “unfavourable bearing upon him”, and is his reason for publishing again. To be sure some of them have an “unfavourable bearing” upon him; but how could it be otherwise? That is his fault, and not Mr. Evans’s. He tried to make them “bear” as lightly on him as possible—much more indeed than I would have done, or than was necessary to his argument in some places. He has got his thanks. He sent the article first to the Guardian, and Mr. Evans wrote him a long friendly letter giving his reasons for not publishing it, but it appears they were not satisfactory. I would attempt to describe the article to you if I thought you had not seen it. But I could not properly. It must be seen to be properly appreciated. The Conference I suppose will handle him roughly for his conduct, and then what? They were very wrong in not allowing him to locate. A request for a location ought hardly to be refused, for the man who makes it is no longer an itinerant in spirit, unless some peculiar circumstances of personal affairs or want of health is the cause.[46]

Several pretend to be dissatisfied with your communication. You see we pared it pretty well, but I think improved it. Some are so unreasonable, I am told, as to ask why was it published and Mr. Richardson’s rejected. They might with as much propriety ask why we continue the Guardian after rejecting Mr. Richardson’s article. I perhaps should not say so much about this affair, but our enemies you know try to make a great deal of it. I think Mr. Evans’ conduct is generally approved by the preachers and people, and as he wrote to Mr. R. he is determined not to submit the matters at issue between them to the decision of “the world”. Give my best respects to Mrs. Ryerson. Mr. Taylor and Armstrong will probably call on you, if the Boat stops long enough, and tell you more particularly of our affairs here.

Yours affectionately,

S. S. Junkin

The “pared” letter is dated September 5th, and appears in the Guardian of September 16th. Evidently its purpose is to tell his friends and enemies that he is still alive and happy in his work, and that he is not in the least disturbed by the fiery darts of his detractors in the press. To begin with, he congratulates and warns his successor:

You know there is a description of persons on certain dangerous coasts who live by plundering the wrecks of ships, which they decoy upon the rocks by making false lights upon distant interior elevations or mountains. The persons with whom you have to deal appear not to be unacquainted with the tactics of those mountaineer “moon cursers”.

He sympathizes with Evans in having to peruse so many of “the works of darkness”. He has not read one of their journals since he left Toronto. But these men can do the Methodists no real harm; a mendicant news-dealer is not the ruler of the public mind. Kingston, for example, has had more than its share of this type of paper, yet nowhere has he ministered to more intelligent and affectionate congregations. The worst accusation against the Methodists is that they have been “bribed”, and this because they are the humble agents in expending a few hundred pounds of voluntary donations from the Crown, as well as their own and the contributions of the Christian public, to ameliorate and improve the religious and civil condition of those aboriginal tribes who once owned the soil on which we live, and to whom tens of thousands of pounds would not be an adequate remuneration for the country they have lost and the evils they have sustained from the white population. He could give instances to show that the detractors of Methodism are dishonest at heart and have chuckled at their success in prejudicing the public mind. “They are, indeed, professed reformers; and so are we,—but with this material difference; we begin with men, they begin with things; we begin about morals, they begin about dollars; we begin with insisting upon the rights of the Sovereign Majesty, they begin with insisting upon their own rights. . . .” He concludes with the prayer that the Methodist ministry may pursue its one work through good report and evil report.

The point and temper of the letter show that the sword of controversy had not rusted while hanging on the wall of a parsonage for three months.

The observations on the press of the day in this letter are direct and timely. But Evans scarcely needed the advice of the letter to warn him against the baiting of his fellow editors. This is apparent from the excellent manner in which he handled a little affair with O’Grady. In the issue of August 19, 1835, Evans had devoted half a column to an account of the formal presenting of the bridge on the forks of the Don River to the Corporation of Toronto by Capt. Bonnycastle of the Royal Engineers. The addresses of presentation and acceptance are given, together with a lively description of the royal salute, and the band of the 15th Regiment playing “God Save the King”, while Mayor Sullivan and the members of the city council and a large number of citizens passed uncovered over the bridge; then three cheers for his Britannic Majesty and the “large concourse of spectators of all classes” dispersed. Evans expressed pleasure at having witnessed such a display of loyalty and dignity and good humour on the part of participants and spectators.

But the next week he was to suffer for it. O’Grady thus delivers himself in the Correspondent and Advocate:

And happy indeed the Reverend gentleman seemed to have been amidst the “robes of office”, the smoke of gunpowder, the flashes of artillery, the flattering of addresses the roars of plaudits and the bumpers of wine, if indeed he condescended to say grace for his jovial companions at the closing of the feast! . . . What is the cause of this new and unusual worldliness in that journal? Believe it, incredulous readers, it is the spirit caught from the bribe.

Thence he proceeds to enlarge on how the glory of Methodism has been obscured by this grant of £1,000 “from the pockets of the people”. To which Evans replies with the statement that

the story of our being present at the dinner is altogether of his own invention; that we never knew that there was a dinner given on the occasion, nor do we know it now, notwithstanding his assertion. We saw no bumpers of wine, no liquors of any kind on the spot, nor any persons in a state of inebriety, and retired home in company with two other ministers after the ceremony was concluded.[47]

Then follow two paragraphs on the staleness of the vituperation about bribes and on how amusing it is to hear “a repudiated and degraded Romish priest mourning over the obscuration of the glories of Methodism”.

Ryerson was not the only one to advise Evans to avoid the snare of such fowlers as O’Grady. A Methodist of about thirty years standing in a letter had quoted for his edification Nehemiah’s reply to Sanballat and Geshen—“I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease while I leave it, and come down to you?”[48]

O’Grady and his friends doubtless would say that the curse of Upper Canada was the lack of responsibility of the Government to the Legislature. Ryerson might well have replied, and it is clear the thought was much in his mind in the years after 1833, that a hardly less serious curse was the lack of responsibility to any power on earth or heaven of a legion of journals which like the waves of mid-ocean swelled and foamed for a moment and were forgotten. For instance, in the town of Hamilton within six years no less than eight papers commenced and terminated their existence. From all of which it appears that “yellow journalism” is not an invention of this generation. Our enterprising forefathers in Upper Canada achieved this also.

The chapter concludes with two letters from Ryerson to Junkin, and another letter from Mrs. John Ryerson to her brother.

September 24, 1835, Egerton Ryerson, Kingston, to Mr. S. S. Junkin, Guardian Office, City of Toronto.

My very dear friend and Brother,

My poor little John has been removed to the other and better country. He died day before yesterday about noon.[49] He became a perfect skeleton, yet continued to walk until within ten minutes before his death. After attempting to take a spoonful of milk, he leaned back his head and expired in my arms, without the slightest visible struggle. He has suffered much, but expressed a desire that he might live, so that he could see his little Sister. But the night before he died, he told Mary that he wanted to die for he suffered so much and he wished to go to his Mother. He told me a few days before he died, that he hoped to go to heaven because Jesus had died for him and loved him.

O my dear Brother, I feel as a broken vessel in this bereavement of the subject of so many anxious cares and fond hopes. But this I do know, that I love God, and supremely desire to advance his glory, and that he does all things for the best. I will therefore magnify his name when clouds and darkness envelope his ways, as well as when the smiles of his providence gladden the heart of man. O may he make me and mine more entirely and exclusively his than ever. In this prayer and purpose Mrs. R. does most devoutly join me.

I thank you for your very kind and interesting letter. I beg a similar favor from you whenever you can spare a moment. I agree with you in the opinions you express. Br. Evans has more than justified what I assured some of the preachers (who feared his warmth) as to his coolness, discretion and forbearance. He has raised himself 20 percent in the estimation of the preachers, while Mr. R. has lowered himself in the same ratio. My brother John told me that he had heard but one opinion on the subject among preachers and people, except Ebenezer Perry. I have not seen either of Mr. R.’s letters. Br. E. cannot more effectually advance his own influence, and disappoint and defeat Mr. R. than by taking no further notice of his “productions”. Br. E.’s christian and manly explanation set the matter at rest in the minds of our friends. I do not feel concerned, for I am sure the Lord is pre-eminently for us, and I believe the enemies of our Zion have gone the length of their chain. I have not heard any thing more of the writ of ejectment by the Episcopals. Present my affectionate regards to Br. Evans; tell him I received his letter, and will keep the necessary lookout. Please put the accompanying letters in the Post Office without delay. Mrs. R. joins me in kind regards.

Yours very affectionately

Egerton Ryerson

November 14, 1835, E. Ryerson, Kingston, to Mr. S. S. Junkin.

My very dear Brother,

I do thank you most heartily for your very affectionate and interesting letter, but I have not time to answer it. I think you will see good days yet in Toronto when the “old leaven” gets fully purged out.

We all go into one chapel tomorrow, which will finish the union. Thank the Lord for it. Every one of our members of the “American” Society (so called heretofore) has already taken sittings in the newly enlarged chapel, and all things appear to be harmonious and encouraging.[50] No public notice has yet been given for renting the pews, yet every one in the body chapel has already been taken by our brethren and immediate friends; and notwithstanding the new chapel will hold more than both the old ones, we are not likely to have enough sittings to meet the applications that are likely to be made, when it is known out of the Society, tho’ the whole chapel above and below (except one form around the gallery) is pewed.[51]

You will not be more surprised to learn than I was that I have to take another trip to England. We had just got comfortably settled, had become acquainted with and got the goodwill of the people on all sides, and are happy in our souls and in our work. Nothing but the alternative, as Mr. Lord deeply feels, of the sinking or success of the Academy could have induced me this year to have undertaken such a task. But, as you know, my motto is the cause of God, not private considerations.

The boat is going. Please send me the sixth volume of the Guardian. I will try and write again. My love to Br. Evans.

Yours as ever

E. Ryerson

December 8, 1835, Mary Ryerson to Mr. James Lewis, Grimsby.

Dear Brother

I again take up to communicate to you how we are and how we have been since I wrote last. We are all enjoying good health for which we have great reason to be very thankful. I would have written amediately on receiving your letter but I was just starting to Kingston with Mr. Ryerson. You have heard before this time that Egerton has again gone to England. I suppose he leaves New York today. We were in Kingston when he and his wife left. He has gone to make collections for the Academy. The friends in Kingston regretted very much his leaving. He has been very useful there since the Conference in uniting both Societies together. They have enlarged one of the Chapels so that it is sufficiently large for both societies and they were together two sabbaths before he left. The people considered it a great sacrafice to lose their Pastor as they expressed themselves in the Love feast the Sabbath I was there, and he felt it a great sacrafice to pack up their things after being settled in their own house about two months. Her friends thought it would be for her health to go with him. He will not return before next summer some time. The committee of the Academy found it necessary that some great exertions must be made and they thought Egerton was the most suitable to go home to England.

You wished to know how the Epsicopals were agetting along with the Waterloo Chapel. There has been no trial about [it] yet. We have possession of the house. Our friends did not wish to try them for house breaking till they would take out a writ of ejectment and then the title of the house could be tried at the same time, which they have at length consented to do, and both suits are to come on at the next assises. The Episcopals are doing nothing in these parts but taking the rubbish from our church. Bishop Runnels [Reynolds] is more immersed in worldly business than ever. Poor Biam [Byam] lives about a mile from us and he is I am told as poor as poverty itself. He is the circuit preacher here, and he is as little respected here as where he came from.

My Dr. Brother I am glad to hear that you are all well and doing well. When I reflect upon the afflicting senes that I witnessed while at your house last summer, I think I feel more than when I was there. Often do I think can it be that Betsey is gone. Oh if it were not for an assurance that she has gone to inherit a house not made with hands eternal in the heavens, my heart would almost break. After all her toiling and working she has gone to rest and we are left perhaps to pass through many afflictions. These things are unknown to us. O James you must be father and mother both. Don’t neglect the education of the girls. Oh how often have I been embarresed for the want of a better education since I was married and in rasing my own family. I am glad to hear that Hannah is with you yet. I hope she will stay as long as she can. Mr. Ryerson expects to go with Mr. Lord to the General Conference which sits the first of May next in Cincinnatti in Egerton’s place. He will be gone about six weeks. I have had some thought of coming up to the fifty and stop till he comes back if I wont be to much trouble to my friends with my family. He will come up that way. He will have to leave here the middle of April. You see I have written a long letter to make up loss time. Please remember us to all our friends and Mother in particular and write soon and I will not be so negligent hereafter.

I remain your affectionate Sister,

Mary Ryerson.

When Ryerson took up his residence in Kingston a second mission to England was not in contemplation. But scarcely had he settled down to the quiet life of a pastor in a congregation now established in peace and in pews when he was instructed by the President of Conference to come to the rescue of the Academy; and this involved an appeal to the British Government for a Charter and for financial aid. Of the conversations which preceded this decision on the part of Lord, we are not made aware either through the official records or in this correspondence. That the legality or propriety of the procedure was questioned is shown by the fact that the Conference of 1836 thought it necessary by resolution to confirm Lord’s action. Presumably he had called together the emergency committee appointed to deal with the financial affairs of the college; but the Conference was jealous of its authority.

The affairs of the College were indeed desperate. Twice the expected date of opening was postponed. The building was practically complete, yet only half of the funds necessary to open it were in hand. Lord had sanctioned expenses on grounds and fences, which were regarded as extravagant, saying that John Bull would never fail them. Meanwhile he and other trustees had obligated themselves to the banks, which were insisting on more than faith in John Bull. Matters came to a crisis in the autumn, and Ryerson was ordered to leave his work in Kingston. Taking his wife with him and placing his daughter in the care of grandparents at Long Point and at Hamilton, he left for New York in November, little thinking that his mission would involve an absence of nineteen months, and these amongst the most critical in the history of Canada. He bore with him several letters of introduction, and notably one from Sir John Colborne, commending the Academy to the consideration of the Government.[52] The voyage was long and rough, occupying twenty-nine days, during the whole of which time the Ryersons suffered more or less from seasickness. “We were little more than shadows of our former selves on our arrival”, Ryerson says.[53] Immediately after the New Year he presented his credentials and began his long siege of the Colonial Office.

For many years one only of these subscription books was in the possession of the College, but in 1931 several others were found at the former home of Dr. John Beatty of Cobourg, having come to him through his father, the Rev. John Beatty, treasurer of the College. Through the kindness of Dr. E. Stanley Ryerson, of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, the grandson of Egerton Ryerson and of Dr. John Beatty, these were restored to the College. The entries opposite certain names are eloquent: “Patrick Crawford, £5—refuses to pay; Willard Bartlett, £5—insolvent; John C. Grant, £10—bad.” Opposite most of the names the sums paid are marked down with the date of payment, but against the names of two such notable Reformers as Thomas Parke of Westminster and Peter Matthews of Pickering no word stands to indicate payment or refusal, merely their commitments, £5 and £4 respectively. Scores of subscriptions of less than a pound are recorded, and only two of one hundred pounds, those of James R. Armstrong and Ephraim Perry. Several subscribers gave hundred-acre farms.

Green, p. 183.

Case, Vol. III, p. 444.

C.G., June 25, 1834.

Webster, p. 319.

Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society, Vol. I, p. 249.

The Quakers, a numerous and highly respectable sect in Upper Canada, had purely a lay ministry. Similarly, the Mennonites, Dunkers and Latter Day Saints.

A hasty and miserable scrawl indeed! But it places the historian of Methodism under a considerable obligation. It is well that John Ryerson let himself go as he does in this and so many of his letters. Whatever his mood, he usually said something.

Here we have the other side of the case. Stinson lays the blame less on the “continuing” British congregation at Kingston than on the contumacy of certain unnamed radicals in the Bay of Quinte district. It is interesting that Hetherington’s attitude is not mentioned.

The Rev. William Lord had been named President of the Canadian Conference. He had spent his life in England. Carroll says of him (Vol. III, p. 475),

“He had been 23 or 24 years in the ministry, and along with some classical attainments, was a sound practical theologian, and a good preacher. His manners were plain and homelike, admirably adapted to win the confidence of Canadians, bating at times a little English brusqueness.”

A second letter of the Banting series.

In speaking to her brother Mary Ryerson called her husband “Mr. Ryerson”. John Ryerson inspired, possibly required, a proper respect.

Henry Wilkinson was received on trial at the Conference of 1831. He became a man of mark among the Methodists. He entered the ministry as a married man, having already made a success of business. Carroll thus describes his preaching (Case, Vol. III, p. 312):

“[He] combined with these powers of argument and cogency in controversy, great unction as a preacher and power and success as a revivalist. He was untiring in study and research; and showed great originality and tact in making use of the materials prepared by others. He carefully wrote his sermons, and used notes liberally in the pulpit, and yet infused the most tremendous energy into the whole. He could be melting and tender, but he rather excelled in the terrific. He used to commence calmly, proceed slowly, and kept the command of himself till he had acquired the perfect mastery of his theme and his audience, when in putting the strong points of his argument, he would come down like the lightning’s flash, the falling avalanche, or the tornado’s sweep.”

Joseph Gatchel was born in the United States, served as an itinerant in Canada for some years before the war of 1812 and located about that time. He returned to the work and was the one member of Conference who refused to vote for union, withdrawing from the room. He appeared later to acquiesce and accepted a superannuation allowance from the Conference. In view of his action in accepting an allowance and then going over to the Episcopals, it was resolved at the Conference of 1835 that “Joseph Gatchel who has withdrawn under very dishonourable circumstances, is, therefore dropped without further notice.”

The same thing was said of Case. It was true of neither, though the fact that it was reported may be regarded as indicating how disturbed was the Methodist mind. Metcalf in time located on a poor farm on the Ottawa, but remained with the Conference.

Swayze is a Niagara Peninsula name. In the more settled parts of the province, women were beginning already to teach. Mary Swayze had been educated at Cazenovia.

William Ryerson was again one of the Presiding Elders (or Chairmen, as following the British custom they came to be called). He superintended the Niagara District, with headquarters at St. Catharines. Poverty still troubled him, and such problems as getting out his winter’s wood. With his experience as a young man in Oxford, it would be time rather than capacity or desire which would prevent him from cutting it himself.

The brothers frequently helped one another financially. Egerton was particularly generous and never laid up a store against old age.

William had not yet recovered from his experience in Kingston.

This, together with the reference in the previous letter by John, makes it clear that the choice of editor was not always spontaneous. Ephraim Evans was Egerton’s choice as successor. The President, William Lord, also favoured Evans, as we know from a letter of May 6th. Carroll depicts Ephraim Evans as tall, well-made and graceful, and when young, decidedly handsome.

The vote at the Conference of 1834 would indicate that the preachers generally did not share William’s opinion of Richardson’s editing of the paper. But in the meantime, he had been edging towards the Episcopals.

Edwy was the Superintendent of the St. Catharines circuit, and at Quarterly Meeting could explain the mistake to the brethren whose minds had been disturbed.

Journal of the House of Assembly, p. 238.

Ibid., p. 257.

Ibid., p. 287.

Green, p. 196.

This connection with the Academy was revived after his exile, through the affiliation of the Rolph School of Medicine with Victoria College. At this time Dr. Rolph stood high in the regard of Methodists. For example, in 1833, though not a Methodist, he had been asked to preside at the Missionary Meeting held during Conference. For some reason, probably connected with the Mayoralty episode (see p. 235), he had refused to stand for Parliament in 1834, though assured of election for Middlesex County.

Findlay and Holdsworth (Vol. I, p. 431) state that at this Conference “the politics of the Guardian came in for severe criticism at the hands of Richardson and Metcalf, the recognized ‘Liberal’ leaders, and Ryerson yielded the editorship to Ephraim Evans, who was regarded as a ‘safe’ man”. The Minutes of Conference reveal nothing as to this criticism, nor have we been able to find other documentary authority. Evidence has already been presented that Ryerson’s withdrawal from the editorship was not as a result of anything said or done by the Conference of 1835.

Henry Cassidy was a lawyer who had studied with M. S. Bidwell. He was a Churchman and a Conservative. In 1839 he was Mayor of Kingston. His wife was related to Ryerson.

Ephraim Evans, indeed, had made a very good beginning, and with becoming modesty:

“On assuming the important duties devolving upon us as Editor of the most widely circulating journal published in the Province, and which has interested the public mind perhaps to a greater extent than any other of its periodicals, we cannot but feel strongly the responsibility under which we are laid, and our inadequacy to the performance of the task imposed upon us so contrary to our private inclination and expressed desire.” (C.G., July 1, 1835)

He then outlines his policy as editor of a literary and religious, but not a political, paper. “With all political parties”, he avers, “we are determined, ‘if it be possible, as far as lieth in us, to live peaceably’, but to sacrifice our rights or the rights of our people to none.”

The Minutes of Conference were printed and sold to members throughout the Province.

The last copy of the Advocate (see p. 198) appeared on November 4, 1834. After that date it was merged with The Correspondent, which since 1832 had been edited by a former Catholic priest, the Rev. William John O’Grady. A native of Cork, he had gone to Brazil with a body of British emigrants and from there had come to Toronto in 1828. His success in the Catholic Mission in Toronto was immediate. By 1830 Bishop Macdonnell had made him a Vicar General. Then trouble of some sort arose, and he was excommunicated. After appealing in vain to both the Lieutenant Governor and Rome, he founded The Correspondent. He was ready with his pen, and even more reckless than Mackenzie, and in the merger the Advocate lost nothing in spice.

The reference is to an editorial note appearing in the Guardian of July 1st.

“Since writing the above, the Toronto Recorder has fallen into our hands. We regret exceedingly that the Editor in defending the late Editor of The Guardian from the abuse of the Correspondent & Advocate, has made such disgraceful allusion to the Rev. Mr. Richardson; between whom and the writer of the abusive article above referred to, we cannot think there exists any fellow feeling.”

Richardson had been accused by the Recorder of canvassing for office both as Secretary and Editor. He was much annoyed because Evans had not come to his defence, as he had to Ryerson’s, and because he had refused to print in the Guardian a letter of Richardson’s in which he denied these charges and accused Evans of unfairness. Evans had been willing to print it with the omission of the accusation against himself, but Richardson would not make the changes and actually went before the public in the columns of the Correspondent and Advocate.

Mackenzie was getting into some difficulty over the Seventh Grievance Report. He had been chairman of the Committee (and Dr. Morrison one of the other three members) which had compiled this famous and elaborately documented report of 556 pages. The report was brought down at the end of the session, and two thousand copies were ordered to be printed by an empty House after a very brief debate. It is a mine of information, but poorly organized and not always accurate. The Methodists had just cause to complain about certain statements made of them.

The first step in the long delayed union of the rival congregations.

Now Amherst Island. Is the name Indian, or Latin (worth so much)?

The new chapel was dedicated on the site of the first Methodist chapel erected in Upper Canada. John Ryerson tells us that he had seen the subscription list, circulated in the early nineties, for the old house. We have in this collection the Rev. Rowley Heyland’s letter of invitation to Egerton.

Owing to politics and Irvingism, the city circuit had a difficult year and barely held its own. The Mormons also took heavy toll, but mainly outside the city on the Yonge Street circuit, which declined from 951 in 1833 to 578 in 1836.

Matthew Lang was a native of Lancashire. He had been brought from the Lower Province, where he spent most of his ministry of twenty-seven years. He was a man of ordinary talents but unblemished character, and quite above intrigue.

A rather striking picture of old Toronto. A summer evening. Windows and doors in Ephraim Evans’ house open. A prayer meeting in progress. The orator of Canadian Methodism prays. A crowd gather on the street. Junkin pauses for a little while, then goes on to his work.

Mackenzie had exclaimed against the prevailing drunkenness in one of the last issues of the Advocate. In its issue of July 1st the Guardian deplored the trips of a pleasure boat on the Sabbath to the Island where the tavern was kept open and drunkenness and rowdyism prevailed.

Carroll says that Patrick had a beautiful and well trained voice. After forty years he recalls with rapture his starting up “Rock of Ages” and the favourite New Year’s hymn of dedication. Here Junkin regards his refraining from singing as worthy of comment. These were sad days for the Methodists of Toronto.

John C. Davidson, junior preacher in the city, had been born and educated in Ireland. Like so many of the itinerants he had taught school and his first preaching was done in his school house. After attaining some distinction in the Conference as city preacher and Chairman of a district, he went over to the Church of England in 1854. Carroll describes him as “urbane and courteous”, but as having “that sort of parsonic, perfunctory manner and taste”, which gave him “a predilection for liturgical, not to say ritualistic, services”. (Case, Vol. V, p. 179)

Bidwell had given the Conference a legal opinion on the effect of Union upon church property and could not very well act for the Episcopals. The Wesleyans would have been better served by him than by Hagerman, whom they probably chose because they thought he would have more influence with the Bench. The fact that he was retained is an evidence of the change in the attitude of the Conference to the government.

Lake Ontario moves rather slowly from Toronto to Kingston. Junkin wonders whether ideas were flowing more rapidly between James Richardson in Toronto and R. Richardson in Kingston, who was interesting himself in the Waterloo Chapel case.

It would have been better for himself and all concerned had Richardson withstood the appeal of the President at the Conference in June and located, as he had planned to do. To air his grievance against Evans in the Correspondent and Advocate did him less than credit.

C.G., Sept. 2, 1835.

C.G., Aug. 12, 1835.

The Guardian of October 7th carries the death notice, “At Kingston, on the 22nd ult., John William, only son of Rev. Egerton Ryerson, aged 6 years, 1 month and 18 days.” The death rate among children, and particularly in the towns, a century ago was appalling. Only a few months before this, Bidwell had lost his only son, a promising boy who bore his father’s name; and Case in this same month had buried his only child, who died from “a bowel complaint under which she suffered for three weeks”.

Egerton Ryerson finally achieved what William had despaired of. (See p. 207.)

As the Methodists became more “respectable”, they took to pews. No doubt in Kingston room was left for sinners. In a recent article in the New Outlook, the recollections of an old lady who worshipped in the Adelaide St. Church in Toronto are quoted to the effect that Ryerson’s wife used to lock the pew of her distinguished husband to keep the curious from intruding.

Sir John’s letter of introduction contains a curious phrase—“The President and ministers of the Wesleyan Methodist Conference, deputed by the Wesleyan Committee in London to superintend their affairs in Canada, find it necessary to solicit subscriptions.” To whichever party the “their” refers, the phrase indicates an attitude to Canada and the Methodists incurably colonial.

Ryerson continued to be a bad sailor, and his many trips across the Atlantic were always a trial to him.



January 1836 to July 1836

The history of Ryerson’s protracted negotiations with the Colonial Office during 1836 and 1837 can be fairly accurately reconstructed from the many letters and despatches of this collection[1] and from his official report published in the Guardian of February 1, 1837. During the first few weeks he accomplished little. Three letters were required to extract an interview from Lord Glenelg. The last of these letters was written on January 24th; it complained that his time was being lost to the interests of those on whose behalf he had been sent to England. Two days later he was received, and found Glenelg “courteous and communicative”.[2] Then he turned to the Under-Secretary, the Right Honourable Sir George Grey, asking him for an interview on the educational improvement of Canada. Grey was a man of simple piety, business-like in his habits and charitable in his judgments. He was not a great debater, nor personally ambitious, but later as Home Secretary for many years he commanded and retained the respect and confidence of the nation.[3] It is possible that Ryerson had met him in 1833, and this may account for his turning to an Under-Secretary. In any case, Grey was the sort of man to whom an appeal could be made on a matter involving religion and education. He replied to Ryerson in five days, granting an interview and apologizing for his delay in answering.

Possibly at the suggestion of Grey, Ryerson next wrote to the Right Honourable Edward Ellice. Ellice had subscribed fifty pounds to the Academy in 1833, when Minister of War in the Cabinet. Since 1834 he had not held office, but now and for many years he moved powerfully behind the scenes, being much consulted by successive governments by reason of his wealth and political sagacity. His grandfather had established a business in New York, and his father, who had taken the loyalist side in the War of Independence, had moved to Montreal, and in time had become managing director of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Edward was educated at Winchester and Aberdeen. He entered business and after serving an apprenticeship in his father’s London house went to Canada in 1803 and engaged in the fur trade. In 1820 he was instrumental in uniting the North West Company, to which he had been attached, with the Hudson’s Bay Company, to the advantage of the company, the country and himself. In giving evidence before the Select Committee of the House of Commons in May, 1828, he declared himself a proprietor of land in both Upper and Lower Canada. It was to Ellice’s great influence with the administration and to Grey’s interest in religion, that Ryerson owed the success of his mission, next to his own indomitable will. It is improbable that he could have accomplished anything through Glenelg, whose weak administration of the affairs of the Canadas was already disturbing the House and was soon to bring himself and the Government much trouble. From the time of Ellice’s intervention, however, Glenelg treated Ryerson with much consideration.[4]

But discouragement and tedious delay still awaited the Conference and their representative. On February 29th Ryerson received from Grey a letter which informed him of a change in policy which rendered it impossible for the Government to give financial aid to the Academy. The local Legislature in future was to have full control over the Casual and Territorial revenues. The practice of giving free grants of land was to be discontinued, on the ground that experience had shown that land could not be advantageously employed by a numerous body. The best that the Home Government could promise, and this Glenelg did in his next letter, was to ask the Lieutenant Governor to recommend to the Legislature the making of a grant to the Academy; which meant that the Council and the Assembly, continually at variance on matters of religion and education, were to be asked to forget their differences and agree on this awkward business of helping the Methodist preachers. This was bad news for anxious debtors. And the next three weeks were to bring little cheer. A letter to Glenelg on March 3rd brought the reply, through James Stephen, that the terms of the Charter had been referred to the Law Officers of the Crown, and this involved delay at least. At this stage, and in such straits, Ryerson turned once more to Ellice. At his suggestion he again saw Glenelg. A decision not to press for financial aid was withdrawn and a new stage in negotiations was reached, with Ryerson seeking to convince the Colonial Office that the Methodists were showing themselves, as evidenced by the Guardian, a people worthy of support.

The Law Officers found two defects in the draft submitted, one merely technical, and the other technical also, but involving an important theory. Undismayed, Ryerson undertook on April 16th to meet these objections. Without the aid of the Statutes of Upper Canada or the advice of anyone versed in Colonial law, in a closely-reasoned letter he made his point as against the opinions of the legal advisors of the Government. Two weeks later the Attorney General was informed that the Government was anxious to meet the wishes of the applicants, and was requested to grant Ryerson an interview. This was done. At the suggestion of the Law Officers a “legal gentleman” was secured to give the Charter its final form; previously Ryerson had not used a professional draftsman. By June 4th two matters still remained unsettled. The word “church” had been changed to “connexion”, and Ryerson wished to have “church” restored, that being the term used in Canada. In this he succeeded. The other question had to do with the annual amount the trustees would be allowed to hold, but this he did not regard as material. It was July 12th, however, before Stephen could write that all was satisfactorily arranged.

Meanwhile, as we learn from his diary, Ryerson was begging, with but slight success, in London—£5 from Lord Ashburton, £5 from Thomas Baring, 10 guineas from Thomas Wilson & Co., £10 from A. Gillespie, but nothing from Sir Robert Peel, nor Lord Kenyon, nor the Bishop of London, “a handsome and very courteous man”.[5] In all he had secured subscriptions to the amount of some £200, a result which he regarded as disappointing. He had found time also on several occasions to discuss the political situation in Upper Canada with the Colonial Secretary, to begin a series of letters for The Times on affairs in the Canadas, and to keep Canadian readers informed as to his views on the questions agitating the Province through several letters in the Guardian. These activities—broadly political in character, and not unrelated to his success with the Charter—will be described in Chapter IX. This chapter is confined to the correspondence concerning the Charter.

January 10, 1836, Egerton Ryerson, 20 Guilford Street, Russell Square, to The Rt. Honorable Lord Glenelg, His Majesty’s Principal Secy. of State for the Colonial Department.

My Lord,

I had the honor, on Saturday the 2nd instant, to present to Mr. Stephen, to be laid before your Lordship, a letter from Sir John Colborne, on the subject of which I am earnestly desirous to obtain an interview with your Lordship.

As I have been deputed to this country on behalf of a numerous and meritorious denomination of Christians in Upper Canada, and for the accomplishment of an object towards which the inhabitants of that province have voluntarily contributed to an amount beyond all precedent[6] in so young a colony; and as it will be impracticable for me to accomplish any other part of my mission until I shall have had an opportunity of laying the matter before your Lordship and learned the result of your Lordship’s deliberations on it; I, therefore, on behalf of the Conference of the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Canada, most respectfully and earnestly solicit your Lordship to honor me with an audience at your Lordship’s earliest convenience.

I have the honor to be,

My Lord,

Your Lordship’s most obdt. humble servant

Egerton Ryerson

January 24, 1836, Egerton Ryerson, 20 Guilford Street, Russell Square, to The Rt. Hon. Lord Glenelg.

My Lord

I beg to express to Your Lordship my sincere thanks for your very kind note of the 15th instant; but not having heard from Your Lordship since, and apprehending that numerous engagements of important business (which I know must pressingly occupy your Lordship’s time & attention) have precluded from your recollection my application to Your Lordship for an audience at as early an hour as convenient, I hope your Lordship will pardon the liberty I take in again drawing your attention to it. I can assure your Lordship I shall trespass upon your valuable time but a few minutes. I trust your Lordship will appreciate my anxious importunity, when I inform your Lordship that as I cannot properly apply for individual aid towards bringing the Upper Canada Academy into efficient operation until after I shall have ascertained what aid will be afforded by His Majesty’s Government, my time is, under present circumstances, totally lost to the interests of the community on whose behalf I have been sent to this country.

I have the honor to be, My Lord,

Your Lordship’s obedient humble servant

Egerton Ryerson

February 1, 1836, W. Lord, Montreal, to Rev. E. Ryerson, 77 Hatton Garden, London, England.

My Dear Brother,

Knowing that a few lines from this side the Atlantic will always be acceptable, I venture to trouble you once again. Since my last nothing new has transpired, but there has been a continuation of former troubles. All the Bills have arrived, & through the kindess of Mr. Counter & some other friends I have been able to meet them. But the accomodation is only temporary. In two months the difficulties will be repeated, unless you have obtained relief. I hope by next Packet to hear of your prospects. I was thankful to learn from the Papers of your very quick passage.[7] You will, long before you receive this, no doubt, have written to authorise me to draw upon you or upon some one into whose hands you have paid the money. You had better pay it to Mr. Alder, Mr. Mason or some one in preference to the Bank & then there will not be any percentage. As I have obtained only temporary assistance, if I do not hear from you soon, I must draw upon you. But I will defer it as long as I can. I am most anxious to know what your success & prospects are. Let nothing discourage you, but go fully to your object. It is now sink or swim. For the last time we are buffeting with the waves. But He who reached his hand to Peter will not let us sink. I hope you have received all your letters & the Book. In former communications I have given you every information respecting them. As I shall have left Montreal before I can have a reply from you, please to write to Mr. Stinson, as I shall authorize him to transact all money affairs respecting the Acad. Promptness & dispatch are very necessary.

Let me know respecting Tutors, or you had better communicate with your Brother John, or Mr. Stinson. If a Principal can be obtained, I trust a second & third master can be easily found in these provinces. Mr. Case goes to Cincinnatti, if you do not return. Should you be able to return I shall be glad to be joined by you.[8] In that case, you must write to Mr. C. in time to keep him at home. I expect to be at N. York April 3rd; afterward I mean to proceed to Cincinnati. If I do not hear from you before, be sure to write to me at Cincinnatti. Let your letters be long & full of Methodistical information. I am daily expecting the paper you promised respecting the Book Question.[9] I should like well to understand it. If any thing strikes you, write. Have you the prospect of remaining a year in England? How does Mrs. R. like [it]? Do you preach with freedom? I think you will find yourself more at home than when in England last.[10]

We have a good work going forward at Montreal. Several have lately found peace. Our congregations are very large & deeply affected. Bro. Green was here last week & preached.[11] An U.C. Presiding Elder preaching with acceptance in Montreal! Who would have thought of such a thing when Bros. E. Ryerson & Stinson were denied the Pulpit. . . .

Sir John Colborne arrives here tonight. He is to be escorted into the City with great respect. As it will be dark, torches, etc. will be sent out. He was conducted out of Toronto by vast numbers of persons in carriages, etc. In short, the greatest respect was shewn to him. May his successor be as deserving of respect.[12] I know not the present state of things of this Province. I have lately been so much engaged that I have seldom seen a newspaper, & as our people are happily preserved from politics[13] I scarcely ever hear them mentioned. I hope that good will result from apparent evil. It is a time for prayer & much devotedness to God. The Church has now a very important part to act. My time is gone. Writewrite—often. Mrs. L. unites with me in love to Mrs. R, self & my brethren & friends.

I remain,

Yours etc.

W. Lord

February 6, 1836, Egerton Ryerson, 20 Guilford Street, Russell Square, to The Rt. Hon. Edward Ellice.



In the interviews with which I was honored by you, when I was in this country in the summer of 1833, I mentioned to you the contemplated establishment, by voluntary subscription, of a Seminary of Learning under the direction of the Conference of the Methodist Church in Upper Canada, and adapted to the general circumstances of the Province; and that when we should have completed the buildings, we would make application for a Royal Charter and assistance from His Majesty’s Government to promote the efficient and extended operations of the Institution.[14] You expressed a strong desire for the success of this undertaking, and with a generosity and kindness which both surprised and affected me, presented me with fifty pounds to promote it, and assured me of your readiness to support by your influence any reasonable application that might be made in behalf of so noble an object. In an interview with Lord Ripon, (who had a few weeks previous retired from the Colonial Office) with which I was honored during the same week in which I received so unexpected and valuable a token of condescension and liberality from you, His Lordship expressed the same sentiments and feelings with yourself and kindly suggested to me the proper mode of making application in order to ensure success. The buildings of this educational establishment are now completed, and are sufficiently spacious to accommodate 170 pupils, with lodgings, etc.—60 more than attend the Upper Canada College. A principal[15] has been engaged; and the Institution will be opened on the first of next June, if our expectations of encouragement in this country are not disappointed. I have been sent by the authorities of the Methodist Church in Canada to promote an application which was made to His Majesty’s Government by the last annual Conference of its Ministers for a Charter and assistance in the manner recommended by Earl Ripon. I have reason to believe that no nobleman in England can do so much to forward the objects of my mission as yourself—no one has given so strong an expression of a desire to do so—nor do I suppose any one in this country is so well acquainted with the wants & circumstances of Upper Canada. You are aware of the great labors, usefulness & justly acquired influence of the Methodist denomination in Upper Canada—that its Ministers have never received nor asked for any grants from Government for their support, notwithstanding their many privations and extensive travels and arduous toils in that new country; and that our present application is in behalf of an object purely educational, upon broad & liberal principles—an object to which the inhabitants of that infant province have voluntarily contributed four thousand pounds,[16] and which has been strongly recommended by His Excellency Sir John Colborne.

Under these circumstances, and emboldened by your former condescending kindness and direction for me to address you at any time I might deem it expedient, I take the liberty to solicit an interview with you on the objects of my mission to this country at your earliest convenience.

I have the honor to be,


Your obedient and much obliged servant

Egerton Ryerson

For want of such an Institution upwards of sixty of the youth of that Province are attending Seminaries of learning, under a similar management in the United States, where nearly two hundred of the Canadian youth have been taught the elementary branches of professional education during the last 5[?] years.

February 12, 1836, Egerton Ryerson, 20 Guilford Street, Russell Square, to Sir George Grey



I herewith enclose the statement, addressed to Lord Glenelg, which you recommended me to draw up, respecting the literary Institution in U. Canada concerning which you kindly honored me with an interview a few days since. I earnestly beg an examination of it by yourself, as well as by Lord Glenelg.

As you seemed to inquire with deep interest in regard to the effects of Christianity upon the habits and condition of the Indian Tribes in U. C,[17] I take the liberty to enclose for your perusal the last Missionary Report that was printed previous to my leaving that Province. As I have referred to it in my communication to Lord Glenelg, I will thank you to put it into his Lordship’s hands, when you shall have perused it. It is the only copy I could obtain to bring with me to this country; I shall therefore be under the necessity of requesting the use of it again, after my business with the Colonial department is decided upon; a decision which I await with great anxiety, as it embraces the object of my mission to this country. If any further information be required, I shall be happy at any time to receive your commands.

I have the honor to be


Your obedient humble servant

Egerton Ryerson

P.S. By the accompanying Missionary Report & Minutes of last Conference it will appear obvious that the aid granted by his Majesty’s Government to the Wesleyan Missionary Committee, has been wholly applied to the Instruction of the Indian Tribes, and no part of it towards the support of the Methodist Ministry in U. Canada. The American Secretary at War, in his last official report, speaking of the various measures which Government had adopted for the benefit of the Indians in the United States, says that “Churches are built” and “Missionary Institutions among them are aided from the treasury of the United States”. The United States Government have not referred this matter to the disposal of any local state legislature;[18] and it is earnestly to be hoped that his Majesty’s Government will not be behind that of the United States Republic in its continued liberality towards ameliorating the condition of the aboriginal and much injured inhabitants and possessors of the finest portion of the British colonial dominions.

February 12, 1836, Egerton Ryerson, 20 Guilford Street, Russell Square, to Lord Glenelg.



My Lord

I have the honor to enclose herewith a written statement explanatory[19] of the objects, character, etc. of the literary Institution respecting which I was the other day honored with an interview by your Lordship; and also the nature and grounds of our application to His Majesty’s Government, and the reasons which I submit to your Lordship’s judgment respecting the inexpediency (in the present state of the Church establishment question in U. Canada, and also from other considerations which I have mentioned) of referring the question of a grant and endowment to the Colonial Assembly.

Not on my own account, nor on account of any merit in the accompanying imperfect statement, but for the sake of the important object and interest to which it with all possible brevity refers, I entreat your Lordship’s examination of it, as I am sure your Lordship’s kindness and desire to promote education amongst all classes of His Majesty’s subjects in the Colonies, as well as at home, will incline your Lordship to come to the most favorable conclusion. The sum of money applied for[20] is a mere fraction to his Majesty’s Government, but is very important to the object for which it is asked. I shall await with earnest anxiety your Lordship’s decision.

In order to give as little trouble as possible to your Lordship’s department, I have prepared and herewith transmit a draft of the Charter[21] prayed for, prepared in accordance with the Constitution adopted & published when the establishment of the Institution was determined upon, and when subscriptions for the erection of the requisite buildings were solicited and procured.

I have the honor to be

My Lord,

Your Lordship’s obedient humble servant

Egerton Ryerson

February 16, 1836, John Ryerson, Hallowell, to Rev. Egerton Ryerson, 77 Hatton Garden, London, England.

My Dear Brother

I should have writen to you before, only I was ankeious for two or three things to be settled first, about which I wished to speak to you. Your friends in Kingston (& all the Methodists there seem to be such) spoke much about you & your successful labours, in the Love feast we held the sabbath after you left. Br. Counter, Jenkins & others said after your departure, that they were unwiling to have a married man or any body, but one who might easily be removed, for they were resolved to have you for their Preacher next year, that they had a claim to you & they were determoned to mentain it. So it is understood as a settled point that you are to come to Kingston on your return. Your place is now supplied by a young man from Muntreal by the name of Johnson;[22] he was formerly a resident in Kingston & was awakened under the Preaching of Brother Davidson. He is singularly pious & very popular & useful. I have only seen him once; I was much pleased with him; he is a warm advocate for the temperence cause. My Qt. Meeting will be there next sabbath, when I exspect to form a more particular acquaintence with him. Some three or four weeks after you left here I wrote to Mr. Lord aviseing him of my having been appointed by you to attend the A. G. Conference etc. On the receipt of which he wrote to me saying “that ‘by and with’ his & Mr. Stinson’s advise & your own warm approvel, Mr. Case had been appointed before he, Mr. Lord, left Kingston & he had writen to Mr. Case accordingly & that Mr. Case’s apt. could not now be reversed, etc., etc.” In reply to this letter I said to Mr. Lord if Mr. Case had been appointed I had nothing more to say, but would cheerfully acquies in the arrangement & the more so as I was not at all ankeious about going myself & I thought in several respects Mr. Case was the most suitable person. I thought it the most adviseble to make this matter as easy as possible, especially as I was personally concerned & to press the thing would place you in no very enviable light, as Mr. Lord asserted that you had appointed Mr. Case & this was dun before he, Mr. Lord, left Kingston. I am also quite satisfied not to go & the more so as I believe that the whole difficulty has arisen out of Mr. Lord’s hostility to me, on the account of my haveing ventured to differ from him in my opinion on some subjects. I saw Elder Case a few days ago; he says that Wm. & some of the preachers at the west are makeing quite a noise about you or Mr. Lord attempting to appoint your successor & saying that neither of you nor boath of you had or have any authority to do any such thing, etc. They have had a meeting at which there were 12 or 14 Preachers present; they passed some Resolutions, the substance of which was, to request Mr. Lord to call a special session of conference for the purpose of electing a Deligate to serve in your place. Whether or not Mr. Lord will comply with this request, I cannot say; I very much hope he will not. The expense, loss of time, etc. at this important season of the year for our work render, in my opinion, such a measure most inexpedient & absurd. I am told the whole difficulty originated with William & that he is not a little ankeious to go himself, etc. I am more & more satisfied that Wm. is unfit for any important charge; the best place for him is to be a stationed Preacher: he is utterly destitute of that prudence which a chairman of a District ought to possess.[23]

The members of the Academy building committee are to meet Mr. Lord next Tuesday at Brockville. The collections in this country go on very slow. I hope & pray that good luck will attend your efforts on the other side of the Atlantick; everything depends on the isue of your mission. May the Lord give you favour in the eyes of the people & good success in your vastly important work.

For 10 or 12 days past I have been attending Missionary meetings. . . . Mr. Lang & Stinson say that this District is in far the best state, in every way, of any district in the Province. This affords me some satisfaction, as my last year is drawing too a close & when it terminates I intend, please God, to give up my chairman business, at any rate for the present. Have you writen anything to the Sl. General about the chapel case; please dont forget nor neglect to do so. The altercations & quarls which have taken place in the house this session, between Perry & McKenzie, especially about the Greavence Report, etc.,[24] have raised you much in the estimation of the People. The correctness of your views & statements are now universally acknowledged & your defamers distested by all candid men. Political things in this country are working very favourabely at the present time; the Radical party are going down hedlong; & may a gracious Providence speed them on their journey. The Guardian is doing purty well, full better then I exspected. I am informed that the Radicle preachers intend making another effort at our next conference to ellect Mr. Richardson again; I should think however that they would not succeed. I hear nothing more of Mr. Richardson’s & Evans’ difficulty. My health has been very poor this winter & so has our dr. little Egerton’s; he is now however a little better. I intend in the spring to take him to Boston, Long Island, etc., as it is believed that the sea air will be of great service to him & myself also. Powley[25] & one or two others of the E—— party have applied & got certificates from the Quarter Sessions of the Midland District. Please write as often as you can & say when you exspect to return. I see it announced in the paper that the Packet you went in got safe over after a passage of 18 days. Mary joins me in kindest regards to Mrs. Ryerson. Wishing you success in your important work and a safe return to Canada, I remain, my very Dear Brother,

Yours most affectionately,

J. Ryerson

February 23, 1836, Egerton Ryerson, 20 Guilford St., Russell Square, to The Rt. Hon. Lord Glenelg, Colonial Department



My Lord

The necessity of making immediate engagements in respect to Tutors, etc., in order to open on the first of next June the Literary Institution, the circumstances of which I have already laid before your lordship, together with the pecuniary embarrassments I am likely, in connexion with the Trustees, to be involved, compel me to inquire respecting the decision to which your Lordship has come on this subject. In my communication to your lordship of the 13th ult. I stated that the Trustees of this Institution had, after contributing individually to the utmost of their ability, borrowed two thousand pounds (£2,000) of the Provincial Banks, upon their own personal responsibility, confidently hoping to obtain a grant from the government to enable them to repay it as the instalments became due—namely at the rate of 33⅓ per cent every ninety days. Since I addressed my last communication to your lordship, I have received a letter from the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, in which he says, “By the packet of the 24th inst., or of the 1st of February, I shall draw upon you for £200 or £300. The money cannot be obtained in these provinces. The business now rests with you. You perceive that until we obtain relief from you we shall be in great trouble and difficulty. I shall wait most anxiously for your reply”.

Under these circumstances, your lordship will readily conceive the painful anxiety I feel to learn the decision of your Lordship in respect to our application for a charter & grant. From accidental occurrences,[26] I was not able to bring the case under your lordship’s consideration at so early a period after my arrival in this country as I had expected; and this protracted delay occasions great inconvenience and embarrassment to the Trustees, & Managers of the Institution in U. Canada, who are waiting to learn the possibility of and what arrangements will be necessary for opening it at the time advertised—the first of next June. I had hoped to have avoided the mortification of stating the particulars of our embarrassments, but I am persuaded that your Lordship only requires to know the circumstances of the case, in connexion with the grounds of our application, which I have heretofore stated, to do every thing consistent with your lordship’s sense of duty & philanthropy in order to promote so useful and important an object in this emergency.

If any further inquiries be deemed necessary, I shall be happy to answer them. I beg to solicit an answer at your lordship’s earliest convenience.

I have the honor to be

My Lord

With great respect,

Your Lordship’s obedient

humble servant

Egerton Ryerson

March 3, 1836, Egerton Ryerson, 20 Guilford St., Russell Square, to The Rt. Honble Sir George Grey, Colonial Department.


I have the honor to acknowledge your letter of the 29th ultimo conveying the decision of the Right Hon. Lord Glenelg respecting the application for a Grant and endowment in aid of the literary Institution which I have had the honor to bring under his Lordship’s consideration.

I beg to express to his lordship, and yourself, my sincere thanks for the grave and anxious consideration which has been bestowed upon this subject. I now crave the indulgence of a few explanatory observations, and beg to draw his lordship’s attention to that part of the memorial of the Methodist Conference which has not yet been disposed of. It required no assurance to satisfy me, and those by whom I had been deputed to this country, that whatever might be his Lordship’s decision in this case, it would not arise from any indifference on the part of His Majesty’s Government to the interests of education, either at home or in the Colonies; and whilst I find myself, as well as the Trustees of this Institution, placed in a situation too painful to think of, far be it from me to complain of this decision, or attempt to persuade His Majesty’s Government to depart—in a particular case however pressing—from great principles and plans of Colonial Government which its experience and matured deliberations have deemed expedient to adopt. I beg, however, to remark, that the determination of His Majesty’s Government in respect to the Casual and Territorial Revenues of Upper Canada was not known when I left that Province; nor was I aware of the change in the Land granting department, mentioned in your letter, at least so far as to prevent the endowment by the Crown of any public Institution deserving its patronage and encouragement.

When the buildings of this Institution were sufficiently advanced to justify, in the opinion of its promoters, an application for a Charter, etc., it became a question of deliberation as to whom and how application should be made. Sir John Colborne was consulted on the subject, I think, in February or March, 1835. The conclusion was, that as the Casual and Territorial revenues were at the disposal of His Majesty’s Government—as King’s College University had been chartered by the King—as special encouragement had been held out to laudable efforts to promote education in Upper Canada by a most gracious despatch from His Majesty—and as the consideration of the question would not be affected here by the collisions of local party feeling, it was most advisable to address His Majesty on the subject. Accordingly the conference of the Wesleyan Methodist Church, at its annual meeting in the following June, adopted a Memorial to the King, praying for a charter, grant and endowment. Obtaining no intelligence of the reception of this Memorial, and the Trustees being likely to become embarrassed, I was requested, and consented at great personal inconvenience, to proceed to this country with a [view] of drawing the attention of His Majesty’s Secretary of State for the Colonies to this application, and to endeavour, by the aid of a government appropriation and individual liberality to remove the impediments to the immediate and efficient operations of the Institution. Such are the circumstances under which we have been induced to lay this matter at the foot of the Throne.

Permit me also to observe, that it is far from my belief, much more from my intention to intimate, that a recommendation from His Majesty’s Government to the Provincial Legislature on this, or any subject, would be nugatory. On the contrary, I believe such a recommendation would have great weight and exert a very salutary influence in several respects. But what I desired and intended to impress upon his Lordship’s mind, was, that a reference of the application to the provincial legislature—even if successful—would not relieve the Trustees from their present embarrassments, as such an application cannot possibly be made before the next session of the provincial parliament; 2. That I doubted our obtaining assistance from the local legislature while the Clergy Reserve question remained unsettled. My apprehension arose not merely from the reasons I stated, but from the fact that appropriations out of the Clergy Reserves had been resolved by the House of Assembly for School purposes, and had failed in the legislative Council. Nor did I wish to be understood to intimate that this course of proceeding originated from the ephemeral passions of the moment, but from an opinion long entertained by a large majority of the House of Assembly, and, I may add of the people of Upper Canada, that scarcely [an] interest[27] is of too pressing a nature not to be made subservient to the recognition of the long asserted wishes of the people in favor of the appropriation of the Clergy reserves and the proceeds of the sale of them to the purposes of education. And my remarks on this point were intended to refer principally to the sum required to relieve the Trustees and bring the Institution into immediate operation, and not to aid which might be extended to it in future years.

I should consider it a dereliction of duty to those on whose behalf I act, were I not to state frankly the disappointment which must be felt at the decision come to by His Majesty’s Government respecting landed endowments for literary institutions—a decision which entirely extinguishes the hope of ever obtaining any permanent aid of this kind; and especially as this decision affects, exculsively in Upper Canada, the Institution established by the Methodist Conference, inasmuch as King’s College University has been already endowed with 325,000 [acres] of land, and £1000 sterling per annum for sixteen years, although the buildings are not yet erected, and Upper Canada College has been endowed with 66,000 acres of land, and an annual grant of upwards of £2,000, though the number of students taught in it has only averaged from 100 to 130. Though the experience of other Colonies may lead to an unfavorable conclusion in respect to such endowments, yet I think, it will be found, on examination of the several reports of sales and leases of land in Upper Canada, that the lands placed at the disposal of the College Corporation have been managed as advantageously, in proportion to the quantity possessed, as the lands managed by the Crown Commissioners, or by the Agents of the Canada Company. Another circumstance which must add to the poignancy of the disappointed expectations of the numerous friends of this Institution, is that the Ministers of the Wesleyan Methodist Conference in Canada have never asked nor received, nor do they ask, from His Majesty’s Government one farthing for their individual support, though they have not, to say the least, been behind the very Chief of their brethren in privations, labours and usefulness in that Colony. And whatever changes may have taken place in Upper Canada during the last four years in other respects, I can assure His Lordship that no change has taken place in the views expressed by the House of Assembly respecting the Casual and Territorial revenues for these last ten years.

I repeat that I have not made these remarks with any view or expectation of inducing His Lordship to adopt a different conclusion in respect to either a grant or an endowment for this Institution, but to correct misconceptions of my statements in several particulars and to explain several circumstances referred to in your letter, that no unfavorable impressions might be made from want of perspicuity, or explicitness or fulness in any former observations. I trust his Lordship will quite approve of the liberty I have taken, and believe that I have said nothing which has not been dictated by conviction and a sense of duty.

I have now but two resources left. The one is to try and collect, by application to individuals, the sum necessary to relieve the Trustees. The other is, to try and loan, on security on the premises on which the buildings of the Institution have been erected, a sufficient sum of money to enable the Trustees to open the Institution at the time appointed. In proceeding to accomplish both these objects, his Lordship will at once perceive the importance of my being made acquainted with the decision of His Majesty’s Government respecting that part of the application which relates to the Charter. For I can of course, solicit individual liberality, and negotiate a loan with much greater probability of success if I can say the Institution is chartered by royal authority than otherwise. As his lordship expressed no objection whatever to the granting of a Charter, but, if I recollect rightly, spoke rather favorably of it, I have assumed that in this respect the application of the Methodist Conference will be approved of; but I have no authority to state anything on this point until I shall have been officially informed of his lordship’s decision. The application I have had the honor to advocate is now reduced to two points: 1. A charter; 2. The recommendation of His Majesty’s Govt. to the Provincial Legislature, that at a future Session it may make an appropriation in furtherance of the important objects of this Institution. I beg the favor to be informed of the result of his Lordship’s deliberations on these two points, as soon as may be convenient. I earnestly hope and pray that they may be favorably entertained.

I have the honor to be


Your very obedient humble Servant

Egerton Ryerson

March 18, 1836, Jas. Stephen, Downing Street, to Revd. Egerton Ryerson


I am directed by Lord Glenelg to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 3rd instant, soliciting his Lordship’s decision in respect to the issue of a Charter to the Upper Canada Academy established by the Wesleyan Methodist Society in that Province.—In reply I am to inform you that his Lordship has referred to the Law Officers of the Crown the question whether any legal objection exists to the issue of such a Charter, and until his Lordship shall receive an answer to that reference, it will not be possible for him to adopt any decision on the subject.

In regard to the second point alluded to in your letter Lord Glenelg directs me to state, that he will not fail to direct the Lt. Governor of Upper Canada to recommend to the favourable attention of the Legislature of that Province the claims of the Upper Canada Academy to their protection and support.

I have the honor to be


Your most obedt. Servant

Jas. Stephen

March [20th] 1836,[28] Egerton Ryerson to Right Hon. Edward Ellice



Though it is now nearly midnight, and I have but just returned from the services of a public meeting in which I have had to take a part, I cannot retire to rest without giving some feeble expression to the grateful emotions of my heart for your unsolicited, and therefore the more valued, kindness. I had understood that the Canadas were so entirely out of your department that it would be of no use to see you on the subject of my mission to this country, but I feel that for any success which may attend the application I have had the honor to lay before His Majesty’s Government, I shall be indebted to your kind interposition more than to that of any other individual. I had indeed relinquished all intention of repeating or pressing my application for pecuniary aid to the Institution on behalf of which the Wesleyan Conference in Canada had applied, because I thought, from the answer of Lord Glenelg through Sir George Grey, that granting the aid asked for would infringe upon a course of policy which His Majesty’s Government had, upon mature deliberation, deemed necessary to adopt in administering the government of Upper Canada. And I thought we had better suffer, than desire the government in the least degree to embarrass itself. This is the first favour we have ever asked of the Government. It has always been my aim to throw as few difficulties in the way of administering the government as possible. For several years past I have avoided agitating questions in the province which I thought the Government ought to settle, and the settlement of which I endeavoured to promote by private letters to gentlemen connected with the Executive and by strong representations to Sir John Colborne in personal interviews.[29] I do not ask for a farthing for myself or the Wesleyan Methodist ministers in Canada, notwithstanding the strong and well-supported claims we have to a portion of the Clergy Reserves. But if aid can be afforded to this Institution without interfering with the general plans of the government, I feel satisfied that to no other object can a portion of the proceeds of the sales of Crown lands be more advantageously and usefully applied.

I really think that our application is moderate indeed, considering the grants which have been made even for the personal support of ministers of the Churches of England and Scotland—besides other advantages—and considering that even from confession of those not very friendly to us, the Methodists are by far the most numerous, and have, from the earliest period of the province, been the most active and useful denomination of Christians.

I know not that I can urge any additional arguments upon the attention of Lord Glenelg. If you will employ it, I place ten times the reliance upon your peronsal mediation and influence with his lordship than anything I can say in the most laboured communications.

I know that references of a personal nature are in general unbecoming and disgusting. But it may further satisfy you that your good-will and kind assistance will not be misplaced, or do other than extend British influence, when I state that my father was an officer in the British Army during the American Revolution and is still on half-pay; that he has held office under the government for more than half a century, and has been successively for many years high sheriff, chairman of the Quarter Sessions, and Col. of the 1st regiment of Militia, in the London District; that on account of his great zeal in defence of the country the United States government offered a large reward for his apprehension during the last war; that all his sons held offices under the government up to the time of our entering into the Christian Ministry, in which three brothers besides myself are now employed among the Wesleyan Methodists in Upper Canada. But at the same time I should in candour say, that, as far as proper to our profession, we have been as anxious to promote a liberal constitutional government in time of peace, as we have been zealous to defend it in time of war.

I have been betrayed into this egotistic statement by the remark made by Lord Glenelg today in reference to extending British influence in Upper Canada.

I beg pardon for this hasty scrawl and for so long an intrusion upon your valuable time.

I am, Sir,

With sentiments of grateful esteem,

Your very obliged servant

Egerton Ryerson

March 21, 1836, Egerton Ryerson, 20 Guilford St., Russell Square, to Jas. Stephen, Esq.


I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 18th instant, conveying Lord Glenelg’s answer to my letter of the 3rd instant. I cannot deny myself the satisfaction, on my own account, and on behalf of those by whom I have been sent to this country, to express my grateful acknowledgments to his Lordship for this liberal and valuable expression of approval and recommendation on the part of His Majesty’s Government of an Institution and efforts to promote it which I am satisfied will not be found, to say the least, inferior to any yet contemplated in promoting the educational and moral interests of Upper Canada and of the aboriginal tribes[30] of that province. I trust a more fitting opportunity will hereafter present itself for me to express something of what I feel on this subject. I have been assured by the Law Officers of the Crown that no delay should attend the consideration of the Charter by them. I hope therefore soon to be favoured with his Lordship’s decision on this point also; so that I may be enabled to proceed to negotiate, if possible, a loan in order to aid in relieving the Trustees from embarrassments which are every day pressing more heavily upon them.

I have the honor to be


Your most obedient humble Servant

Egerton Ryerson

March 29, 1836, Egerton Ryerson, 20 Guilford St., Russell Square, to Lord Glenelg.


My Lord,

I beg your Lordship will not judge me of impatience on account of my troubling you again at so early an hour. When I was last honored with an interview by your Lordship, I expressed my earnest desire to obtain at as early moment as possible the commendatory note which your Lordship was kindly pleased to signify a willingness to favour me with, as I deemed it unadvisable to make any further applications to individuals until I should be able to avail myself of the advantage of so important and I believe in most cases so essential a recommendation to the success of my applications. Again, as the Trustees of the Institution (respecting which I have already given your Lordship so much trouble) must, at the latest, make provision to meet the demands of the banks against them before the 15th of May, I was most anxious to obtain your Lordship’s decision on the other parts of my application in time to advise them of it by the Liverpool and New York packet of the 1st of April that they may know precisely what to depend upon. I take it for granted that your Lordship has been apprised of the withdrawal of my previous acquiescence according to your Lordship’s kind suggestion.

The object of this note is to beg of your Lordship to be informed on these points, if possible, this evening, or tomorrow morning, as tomorrow evening’s mail is the last by which I can write to Canada by the Liverpool packet of the 1st instant.

I take the liberty to enclose you a printed paper, containing the views and feelings of other gentlemen in Canada besides Sir John Colborne.

I likewise avail myself of this opportunity to direct your Lordship’s attention to some parts of the accompanying numbers of the U. C. “Christian Guardian” newspaper, published under the auspices of the Conference of the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Canada. In the Guardian of the 10th of February your Lordship will find the Editor’s observations on your Lordship’s instructions to the Lt. Governor of that Province, and in the number for the 24th of February your Lordship will find the Editor’s congratulatory remarks on the recent elevation of the Hon. Messrs. Dunn, Baldwin and Rolph to the office of Executive Councillors, the latter of whom your Lordship will recollect I earnestly recommended to that office in the first interview with which I was honoured by your Lordship after my arrival in this country. The brief articles referred to will at once show your Lordship the political feelings and position of the most numerous religious denomination in Upper Canada.

I also enclose a supplement to the same paper, in which I have marked passages in some of the speeches, that will clearly establish the correctness of my remarks to your Lordship on the “Grievance Committee Report”. For a full explanation of that part of the Report which referred to the Methodist Conference, I would refer your Lordship to the speeches of Messrs. Perry & Roblin, especially the latter, as it is both brief and explicit. Mr. Perry’s strong feelings against me personally will be quite intelligible to your Lordship when I state that previously to my resigning the Editorship of the Guardian, I severely animadverted upon his conduct in moving for the printing of a document which contained so many palpable and gross misrepresentations of a denomination which embraced the great body of his constituency.

I have the honor to be,

My Lord,

Your Lordship’s most obedient

obliged servant

Egerton Ryerson

April 13, 1836, Jas. Stephen, Downing Street, to Rev. E. Ryerson.


With reference to Sir G. Grey’s letter of the 18th ultimo, I am directed by Lord Glenelg to inform you that his Lordship has received from the Law Officers of the Crown their opinion in point of Law on the Draft of a Charter for incorporating the Upper Canada Academy transmitted in your letter of the 12th of February last.

The Law Officers observe that, altho’ they see no objection to the granting a Charter for incorporating an Academy in Upper Canada for the education of youth in Christian principles, they consider that there is considerable objection to granting such a Charter in the form suggested by you.—According to the Draft which you have submitted, the Academy would be entirely under the control and management of the Wesleyan Conference, a body which is not recognized as having any separate existence, and which may possibly cease to exist. The proposed Charter does not name the persons who are to be incorporated, but leaves to the Wesleyan Conference the power of naming from time to time the individuals of whom the Corporate body is to consist. It is observed that this might lead to much inconvenience, both from the difficulty of knowing with certainty who are the persons from time to time constituting the Wesleyn conference, & from the possibility that that body might omit to make the appointments necessary for keeping up the Corporation.

The Law Officers are, therefore, of opinion that if His Majesty should be pleased to grant a Charter of Incorporation to the proposed Academy, it must be done by incorporating certain individuals to be named in the Charter, and by providing for the keeping up of the Institution by means of some known & recognized body or functionary to whom the Power may be given of supplying vacancies as may be thought fit.

I have the honor to be


Your most obed. Servant

Jas. Stephen

As Ryerson points out in his report to the Conference, this opinion, if acted upon, would have changed the entire character and management of the Academy. The Law Officers who gave the opinion were Sir John Campbell, then Attorney General, and later Chief Justice of England and Lord High Chancellor, and Sir R. M. Rolfe, then Solicitor General, and later Baron of the Exchequer and Lord Chancellor. The long letter which embodies Ryerson’s argument against the most highly placed lawyers of Great Britain is now presented. In some ways it is the most remarkable of Ryerson’s letters. The circumstances of its writing have been noted in the introduction to the chapter. Lest it excite incredulity that a layman unfortified by some of the books and documents bearing on the case should enter the lists against such legal talent and prevail, the argument is reproduced in full. It merely proves that necessity knows neither law nor lawyers.

April 15, 1836, Egerton Ryerson, 20 Guilford St., Russell Square, to James Stephen, Esquire, Under Secretary of State for the Colonial Department.


I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 13th instant, conveying the opinion of the Crown Officers on the Draft of Charter for incoporating the Upper Canada Academy.

In reply I beg to submit the following observations for Lord Glenelg’s consideration.

The principal objections made by the Crown Officers appear to me to be two: 1. That the persons proposed to be incorporated are not named; 2. That the Institution will be placed under the control of an unknown body.

The first of these objections can be easily removed. In the first draft of Charter, a blank was left for the names of the persons whom the Conference had chosen as Trustees. But on examining the Royal Charter for the incorporation of King’s College, Toronto, Upper Canada, in 1828, I perceived that the names of the first College Council were not inserted, only a provision made for their appointment from a certain description of persons therein described. I therefore thought the insertion of the names of the primary Trustees of this Institution unnecessary. I will, however, furnish their names for insertion in the charter applied for, should the other and chief objection be removed or waived.

In respect to the objection made by the Crown Officers relative to the control of the Institution by the Wesleyan Conference in Canada, I must say, at the outset that: whatever modifications may be introduced into the phraseology of the proposed charter, it is not in my power nor in the power of the Wesleyan Conference itself, now to place the Institution under any other control. All the donations and subscriptions for the establishment of the Institution in Canada were given or promised on the conditions stated at the beginning of each subscription book; one of which conditions is, that the Institution shall be under the control of Trustees appointed from time to time by the Conference. I herewith annex a copy of the heading of each subscription list by which His Lordship will perceive that the transfer of the control of the Institution, as suggested by the Crown Officers, cannot be made without forfeiting the uncollected portion of the subscriptions in Canada, and breaking faith with those who have nobly contributed to its establishment. This is an alternative which I am sure His Lordship would neither desire nor countenance. Nor could the Crown Officers have been at all aware of it when they made the suggestion.

I am likewise quite sure that his Lordship will concur in the opinion that there would be no sufficient guarantee for the Christian character of the Institution, were it placed under the absolute control of private individuals, irrespective of other considerations than the general provisions of the proposed charter. I doubt not but I shall also have his Lordship’s concurrence in the observation, that the Wesleyan Conference in Canada, as the pastoral head of a large Christian community, could not consistently identify itself with, or employ its concentrated influence and exertions in support of an Institution for Education, to be placed under the control of irresponsible persons, and independent on [of] its oversight. It will, I am satisfied, appear obvious to His Lordship, that an Institution, the primary object of which, as heretofore fully stated, is the education of youth, poor young men of religious character and promising talent, and native Indian youth, connected with Methodist congregations, ought to be placed substantially under the superintendence of the pastoral head of the Church, on whose exertions it is dependent for its existence and operations. Even in the case of “King’s College” Toronto, U.C. designed for a Provincial University, the Royal Charter requires that the Lord Bishop of Quebec shall be visitor, and the Archdeacon of York, ex-officio President, and that certain religious qualifications shall be required of all persons who may hold any office in the establishment. But in the Institution on behalf of which application is now made, no sectarian restriction is imposed in the selection of Professor Teachers, or in the attendance of students. I beg also that it may be borne in mind, that this Institution is not for the education of young men for the Methodist Ministry, but is purely literary in its character and objects; nor are the sons of Methodist Ministers to enjoy the slightest advantage in the Institution over any other youth of the Province.

I now address myself to the different points of the leading objection made by the Crown Officers. The first is, that the Wesleyan Conference in Canada as a Body, is not recognized as having any separate existence. If this were so, I humbly submit that I know not why it should be considered an insuperable or serious objection to the Charter, religiously situated as Upper Canada is, and when the Conference of the Methodist Church in Upper Canada, as a body, is better known—if possible—than any functionary or other body in that Province and I think worthy of as much respect and confidence.

I readily admit that the term conference does not occur in any British or Provincial Statute; nor am I aware that the term convocation occurs in any Statute in reference to the Clergy of the Church of England in Canada, yet they and their convocational Acts are known and recognized. The same is true in respect to the Ministers of the Methodist Church in U. Canada. By a Statute of that Province, passed in the ninth year of George the Fourth, entitled “An Act for Relief of the Religious Societies therein named”, provision is made for the holding of Church and Parsonage Property by Trustees of the Methodist Church, and their successors appointed in such manner as may be specified in the deed, which deed, in every case, confers to such Trustees and their Successors, a trust of Church, Chapel or Parsonage (as the case may be) according to the Rules and Discipline which now are or hereafter may be, adopted by the Conference of said Church, for the occupation of any Wesleyan Methodist Minister or Preacher, or Ministers or Preachers, he or they being a Member or Members of the said Wesleyan Methodist Church, and duly authorised as such by the said Conference etc. In all cases, it is provided, in the appointment of Trustees and the filling up of vacancies, that the nomination is with the superintending Minister, appointed by the Conference; and the legal proof of such appointment of Trustees is an entry of their names into a Book of Record kept for that purpose, subscribed by the Minister and other persons present at the time of such appointment.

Another, as it appears to me, more direct and ample proof of this point, is furnished in the Statute of Upper Canada, passed in the second year of his present Majesty, commonly called “The Marriage Act” by the provisions of which “any clergyman or Minister, professing to be a Member of the Church of Scotland, Methodists” etc. who “shall have been regularly ordained according to the rites and form of the Church of which he professes to be a Clergyman or Minister” is authorised to solemnize the ceremony of marriage, after having produced proof to the Quarter Sessions of the District in which he resides of his regular ordination according to such rites and form. Here as it appears to me, is a recognition not merely of the ritual of the Church of Scotland in Canada, but equally of that of the Methodist Church; for the rites of the Church cannot be judged of except by a reference to its ritual, which ritual of the Methodist Church in Canada not only prescribes the form of the ordination of Ministers, but also how they shall be elected to holy orders by the Conference, who shall compose the conference, what are its powers, and what is the official record and due proof of its acts. Now as in the Statute 31st George the Third Cap. 31st where reference is made to Clergymen of the Church of England who shall have been regularly ordained according to the rites and ceremonies of the said Church, there is a recognition not only of the Clergy of the Church of England in Canada, but also of the ritual or Prayer Book of that Church; so, I conceive, that in the Marriage Act referred to, there is an equally direct and explicit recognition both of the Ministers and the ritual or Discipline of the Methodist Church in Canada.

I beg also to refer to an important circumstance connected with that “Marriage Act”, which, I think, will free it from any objections which may be thought to exist against it on this point, as a mere act of the local legislature. That Act, after it had passed the two branches of the U. C. Legislature was considered to be one of those acts which were required by the Stat. 31st Geo. the Third cap. 31st to be reserved for the consideration of His Majesty and be laid on the tables of the two Houses of the Imperial Parliament. When it was laid on the table of the House of Commons, in 1829, Sir George Murray, who was then Secretary of State for the Colonies, said there were certain objections to it, but after the lapse of nearly two years, when the Earl Grey Ministry came into power, the Royal Sanction to that Act was communicated to the Lt. Governor of Upper Canada by the Earl of Ripon. It is therefore, the Act of His Majesty, and tacitly of the Imperial Parliament, as well as of the provincial legislature. Were it necessary to say anything more on this point, I might add the fact that in the Statute 31st George the Third C. 31 commonly called the Constitutional Act of Upper Canada, “Ministers” of other “forms of faith and worship” are recongized and are excluded from sitting in the House of Assembly as well as Clergymen ordained according to the rites of the Church of England and of the Church of Rome.

I hope the foregoing observations may remove from His Lordship’s mind the objection against a charter being granted for an Institution, under the control of the Methodist Conference in Canada, on the ground of that body not being known or recognized. I must at the same time crave on this point His Lordship’s kindest consideration and indulgence, as it is a question of Law, and therefore quite aside from my professional pursuits, as I have access to no person versed in Anglo-Colonial law questions of this kind, and as I have not even the Statutes of Upper Canada by me, and therefore write principally from recollection, I humbly hope and pray that a mere legal technicality, and my own deficiency, may not be considered sufficient to defeat an object so important and confessedly laudable, and render worse than nugatory all the expense and efforts which have been employed to promote it. For I can assure His Lordship that I would not have been sent or appeared here as an applicant on this subject, had not despatches from His Majesty held out encouragement to proved and acknowledged laudable efforts to promote education in Upper Canada, and had not this mode of application been suggested by a former noble Secretary of State for the Colonial Department, and had it not been recommended in preference to any other mode of application by His Majesty’s Representative in Upper Canada. And however unofficial the remark may be—which I trust His Lordship’s kindness will pardon—I cannot refrain from observing, that the anxiety and feelings of my own mind cannot be easily described or conceived on account of the unanticipated and unavoidable delays which have attended the consideration of this whole affair, and the reflection that the accumulated pecuniary liabilities must now come upon the noble minded individuals who had generously assumed the responsibility of a large debt, before I can communicate to them either relief or encouraging intelligence.

In respect to the objection that the Wesleyan Methodist Conference in Canada may cease to exist, I must frankly express my belief, that there is a much stronger possibility of the parties ceasing to exist to whom has been consigned by Royal Charter the control and the filling up of vacancies in the Council of the contemplated “King’s College University”, in Toronto, U. Canada.

In order, however, to obviate every difficulty, as far as possible, I beg to propose the following modifications in the form of the Charter prayed for.

1. That the names of the persons to be incorporated shall be inserted in the Charter.

2. That the following words in the second paragraph of the proposed charter, namely “The Conference or ecclesiastical Assembly of the Wesleyan Methodist Church at its annual meetings” shall be amended thus: “the Ministers of the said Wesleyan Methodist Church at their regular meetings, held annually according to the rites and ceremonies of said Church”. For surely referring to the regular ordination of Ministers according to the rites and ceremonies of said Church, is a recognition fully equal to referring to regular meetings of Ministers, held annually according to the rites and ceremonies of said Church. And the former recognition has already been made by a joint Act of the Imperial Parliament and Provincial Legislature.

3. That wherever the term Conference occurs, it shall be erased and superseded by the word Ministers.

4. That in the event, the Ministers of the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Canada should not meet annually according to the rites and ceremonies of said Church; or should fail to make the necessary appointments for keeping up the Corporation according to the Provisions of the Charter; or should cease to exist, then, in such case, the Institution shall henceforth become the property of the Crown, or be placed at the disposal of the Provincial Legislature.

By these modifications the objections of the Crown Officers will, I think, be substantially obviated; there will be no further recognition of the Methodist Ministers in U. Canada as a body, than has been already made both by His Majesty’s Government and the local Legislature; the objects of the desired Charter will be also accomplished, which are—not the conferring of literary degrees, but the obvious and necessary purposes of convenience and security, in holding and managing property in a corporate capacity, and in perpetual succession, according to the Prospectus or Constitution of the Institution which was issued when the first subscriptions were solicited and given, or promised, and which is herewith annexed.

I therefore again submit most respectfully and earnestly, the whole question to his Lordship’s early and most favourable consideration.

I have the honor to be,


Your most obedient humble Servant

Egerton Ryerson

April 22, 1836, Sir George Grey, Downing Street, to Rev. E. Ryerson


I am directed by Lord Glenelg to inform you that he has had under his consideration your letter of the 22nd ulto. on the subject of the application of the Wesleyan Methodist Conference for pecuniary assistance towards the Academy about to be opened at Cobourg in Upper Canada. His Lordship directs me to express his regret that he does not feel at liberty to depart from the decision on this subject which has been already conveyed to you in my letter of the 29th February last.

With reference to the representations which have been received from the Wesleyan Society respecting the withdrawal of the allowance made to them in 1832 from the Casual and Territorial Revenue of Upper Canada, I am to inform you that Lord Glenelg has been in communication with the Earl of Ripon.[31] I am now directed to enclose for your information a Copy of the answer which has been received from Lord Ripon on the subject, together with the copy of a Despatch which Lord Glenelg has addressed to the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada,

I am


Your most obedient

humble Servant

Geo. Grey

May 31, 1836, W. Lord, Toronto, to Rev. E. Ryerson, 77 Hatton Garden, London, England.

My Dear Brother,

I am thankful to inform you that I returned to this City a few days ago in good health after a long & in several respects a perilous journey. . . .

And now for money. We are in greater difficulties than ever. We are all distressed. Drafts are becoming due & the banks have ceased to discount in consequence of the stagnation of trade through “stopping the supplies”. The stagnation is complete, the consternation is indescribable. We have agreed upon the following mode of relief. Mr. Armstrong will draw upon you for about £500 in July, unless he hears from you, in the meantime, that he can draw through the medium of the Commercial Bank. Mr. A. wishes me to say that you must give authority to some person to accept the Bill in case of your absence. It will be drawn upon you at 77 Hatton Garden. Do not forget this. In my former letters I have informed you that I have not drawn upon you, nor shall I. It has given me great surprise & sorrow to ascertain that upwards of £5000 are wanted to relieve us from our difficulties.[32] What an unfathomable depth this building has been. You must stay in England until the money is got. In Canada it cannot be obtained; and upon the maturest consideration I am fully satisfied that the Institution will not bear any debt. I will help you all I can. In your last (March 22nd, and if you have addressed me at Cincinnati, I fear I shall not receive it), you say that Mr. Richey must go to Cobourg,[33] but no official communication has been sent to either of us, though we might have heard from the Committee months ago—no preacher has arrived to take his place. The Institution is going to be opened & there is not a Principal, for Mr. Richey will not, nor ought he to, leave Montreal without official direction. This will have a most withering effect. I cannot account for our communications on such important subjects remaining unnoticed. I am going to Hallowell Camp Meeting, then to Conference. Hope to be in England latter end of July. Have not decided what way I take, N. York or the River. A word on politics. The House was dissolved on Monday last. There will be a deadly fight. There is however a great re-action, & it is hoped that many conservative members will be returned in the places of revolutionists. Sir Francis is continually receiving loyal addresses. His replies are very good. He is just the man for the times. He has ready talent and tact, prudence, firmness & temper, & a fine manly British heart. The Radicals knash their teeth, but they cannot bite. Sir Francis has made some developments of their pecuniary corruption which are astounding. The high party are looking to the Methodists to save the country. Your letter has been circulated extensively & it is enlightening & encouraging many.[34] Sir John Colbourne’s promotion has diffused among all good subjects unbounded joy. In Lower Canada the English party are bent upon a change & Government must hear their cry, or will soon be too late. The[y] need not hesitate respecting the adoption of the strongest measures. The French will not disturb them. The feudal system must be broken up & the French language must cease.[35] My love to Mrs. Ryerson & all friends. Will you send the other half sheet to the President. Mr. & Mrs. Armstrong, bros., sister & many friends send their love. They are all well.

I remain,

Affecty. yours,

W. Lord

June 16, 1836, Geo. Grey, Downing Street, to Revd. E. Ryerson


I am directed by Lord Glenelg to acknowledge the receipt of your Letters of the 4th & 8th Inst., on the subject of the Draft of a Charter which has been prepared with the concurrence of the Law Officers of the Crown for incorporating the Upper Canada Academy, established by the Wesleyan Society near Cobourg in Upper Canada. In reply I am to convey to you the following answer.

Lord Glenelg has no hesitation in complying with your desire to substitute the term “Wesleyan Methodist Church” for that of “Wesleyan Methodist Connexion”, as the designation of the Body under whose control the Academy is to be placed. In regard to the amount of property which the Trustees should be empowered to hold, his Lordship considers that its annual value should be limited to £2,000. If you are authorized to concur in this limitation his Lordship will be prepared to recommend to His Majesty to grant to the Trustees of the Upper Canada Academy a Charter of Incorporation in the form prepared by the Law Officers with the modifications now suggested.

Lord Glenelg has not failed to devote his attentive consideration to the arguments adduced by you in support of the claims of this Establishment to pecuniary assistance from the Revenue in the Province at the disposal of the Crown. His Lordship is confident that you will not attribute to him an indifference to the interests of Religion, or suppose him to be unmindful of the meritorious exertions in this behalf of the Wesleyan Body, when he states that it is not in his power at the present moment to depart from the decision which he has lately communicated to you on this matter. Although the present Session of the Upper Canada Legislature has closed without any arrangement in regard to the Casual and Territorial Revenue, his Lordship does not consider that the question is thus finally settled. Until the House of Assembly shall have had an opportunity of deliberately considering the proposal on this subject of His Majesty’s Govt., Lord Glenelg would not feel justified in applying any portion of the Casual and Territorial Revenue of the Province towards an object which, however important & commendable, that Revenue has not hitherto been pledged to assist. His Lordship desires me to express the regret with which he has felt himself compelled to refuse assistance towards an Establishment in whose success he cannot but feel a lively interest. He trusts that the application for assistance which you are authorized to make to Charitable Bodies and to Individuals in this Country, will not be without effect, and he feels assured that when the Public mind in Upper Canada shall have recovered from that agitation which now unhappily disturbs it, the exertions of the Wesleyan Body and the claims of the Upper Canada Academy will be cheerfully acknowledged by the House of Assembly, to whose favorable notice he will direct the Lt. Governor to recommend them.

I have the honor to be,


Your most obedt. Servant,

Geo. Grey.

July 12, 1836, Jas. Stephen, Downing Street, to Revd. E. Ryerson


With reference to Sir G. Grey’s letter of the 16th Ulto., I am directed by Lord Glenelg to inform you that the Draft of an additional instruction to the Governor of Canada, directing him to pass under the Public Seal of the Province of Upper Canada, a Charter for the incorporation of the Upper Canada Academy, having on the 6th Inst. been submitted to His Majesty in Council, His Majesty was graciously pleased to approve of that Draft; and to command that the necessary instrument for giving effect to it, should be forthwith prepared and submitted for His signature.

In communicating to you this intelligence, Lord Glenelg desires me to express the gratification which he has felt in bringing under His Majesty’s notice the claims of an Institution so commendable as the Upper Canada Academy. He would indeed, have desired to afford to it some pecuniary assistance from the Crown Revenues of the Province, but circumstances connected with the present political aspect of the Canadas have rendered such a measure impossible. His Lordship trusts however that your applications to Charitable Societies and to Individuals in this Country may not be without success, and he will have much pleasure in directing the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, hereafter to bring the claims of the Upper Canada Academy under the notice of the Provincial Legislature.

I have the honor to be


Your most obedient humble Servant

Jas. Stephen

One by one apparently insurmountable difficulties in connection with the Charter had been overcome by skill and importunity. The letter of July 12th, announced the scaling of the last rampart. Of course, there still remained the matter of finances. Here, there were four parties to be satisfied—the Colonial Office, the Legislative Assembly, the Legislative Council, and finally and unfortunately the new Governor.

While these negotiations were in process at Downing Street, the little village of Cobourg was preparing for the opening of the Academy, the cause of all the trouble. On June 18th the doors were opened to students. The weather was propitious. The sun shone with unusual splendour. Evans could scarcely forbear considering it “a delightful omen of the light and effulgence of that day of sanctified science, which is yet to bless this infant country”[36]. After a service in the Methodist Chapel, where Stinson preached on the text, “That the soul be without knowledge, it is not good”, a procession was formed and made its way up to the Academy. Mr. Edward Crane, the architect of what was perhaps the finest building in Upper Canada, led the procession, then the Building Committee, then the steward; then the ministers present; then the Principal, flanked by Case and Whitehead; then the students, the choir and the spectators. The architect handed the keys to Anson Green, the chairman of the district (it was in the interregnum of presidents of Conference), who gave an address on the history of the enterprise. He then formally invested the Principal, the Rev. Matthew Richey, with the charge of the institution. Richey was at his best in an oration, and of his address on this occasion Evans ventures to say “for correctness of sentiment, chasteness of style, elegance of diction, and gracefulness of delivery, [it] has . . . never been excelled, perhaps not equalled, in the Province”. Mark Burnham’s choir from Port Hope added to the interest of the service by appropriate pieces of vocal and instrumental music.

Several of these, having been preserved by Hodgins in his Documentary History of Education, are not here reproduced.

S.M.L., p. 159.

His grandson, Grey of Falloden, inherited many of his qualities.

Robert Baldwin experienced such difficulty in securing an interview with Glenelg a few months later that he contented himself with presenting his valuable suggestions on responsible government by letter.

S.M.L., p. 160.

The Committee of the House of Assembly, on the grant to U. C. Academy could report on February 21, 1838, that “the exertions of the Methodist Church in the accomplishment, so far, of this object are unparalleled”.

The papers in error had reported a quick voyage of 18 days.

The General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States was to meet at Cincinnati in May. Ryerson had been appointed co-delegate with Lord.

The delicate question between the Canada and American Conferences had to do with the share of the profits of the Book Concern (see p. 80), which the former claimed but which the latter declared had been forfeited by union with the British Conference.

i.e. in preaching. In general Ryerson would appear to have quite enjoyed his visit in 1833.

Towards the end of January, Anson Green and his wife had journeyed to Montreal by cutter. Three days they travelled through such snow as they had never seen. For some distance they rode “on the top of a fence where the stakes now and again exhibited their ends on either side”. Green preached in Great St. James Street Chapel, and rather disturbed the President by his method. “Mr. Lord,” he tells us, “was opposed to inviting people forward for prayers. He had not been accustomed to such proceedings; but when I left the pulpit, and took my stand down among the people, several persons came to me unasked, and begged me to pray for them, which I did, and God was with us in his converting power” (Green, p. 199). On their return by way of the Lake of the Two Mountains, they stayed for a few days with Franklin Metcalf and his wife, now located on a farm at Point Fortune.

On the whole Sir John Colborne had been a good governor. He was a man of easy temper and proper dignity, and had managed pretty well to avoid trouble in the Province during his long tenure of seven years, while at the same time causing some uneasiness in the Colonial Office because he kept it ill-informed as to the actual situation in Upper Canada. Disturbed by the revelations of The Seventh Grievance Report, the Secretary had decided to move him to Lower Canada; but the evils Mackenzie elaborated were largely inherited by Sir John, and difficult, if not impossible, of correction under the constitution.

As from an English pharisee to a Canadian publican.

This is the only intimation that the Conference had any such thing in mind as early as 1833.

Matthew Richey, the Principal Elect, was born in the north of Ireland in 1803, where he received a classical education. He migrated as a lad to the Maritime Provinces and there he progressed through the various stages of ordination in the Methodist Church. In 1835 he moved to Montreal. We are not informed as to the circumstances under which he was preferred for the principalship of the Academy. Carroll thus depicts him: “For the power and pleasantness of his voice; ease and gracefulness of elocution; ready command of the most exuberant and elevated language, amounting almost to inflation of style; together with rich variety of theological lore, he scarcely ever had a superior, if an equal, in British North America. He was gentleman-like in his manners, Christian in his spirit and demeanour, and soundly Wesleyan in his teachings.” As to appearance, he was “very tall and slender, but straight and graceful, as were all his movements. His hair was very light colored and very curly, surmounting what an American writer pronounced ‘a comely old country face’.” (Case, Vol. IV, p. 108).

If this figure is accurate, something like £1,000 had been received since June 1835.

It is probable that Ryerson’s personal knowledge of Indian missions had not a little to do with commending the claims of the Academy to Grey.

This also has been the policy in Canada since Confederation. Indian affairs are a federal concern, and the government has a co-operative arrangement with the churches in connection with Industrial Schools on the Indian Reserves. Evidently Ryerson was afraid that the Provincial authorities would shirk their responsibilities in the matter.

The statement is a beautifully executed manuscript of nineteen pages.

The sum of £4000 was asked for, “to relieve the trustees, to aid in part towards furnishing the establishment, and in purchasing a Library”.

See D.H. Vol. II, p. 263, for the draft of the charter in its original form.

Carroll knows very little about him. He did not remain long a preacher.

Egerton had asked John to substitute (see p. 271); the President had asked Case and claimed to have Egerton’s “warm approval” for this. John is too prudent to dispute the matter—especially as it would raise the question of the propriety of Egerton’s having tried to pass on the honour to a brother. William, however, being zealous for democratic methods (it is not necessary to suppose that he had a personal motive) is quite upset by the whole affair.

Peter Perry, the unofficial leader of the Reform forces in the Assembly (Bidwell was Speaker, and Mackenzie ranged at large) had sought to explain in the House why he could not vote for the adoption of the Grievance Report, although in the dying hours of the previous session he had moved the printing of 2,000 copies of it. He was compelled to admit that at the time he had not even read the text. His attempt to explain the inconsistency had brought him into bitter conflict with Mackenzie. The report, however, was adopted on February 6th by a vote of 24 to 15.

Powley had been one of the two Episcopal delegates who sought in vain for recognition for their schismatic body at Cincinnati. Here he is applying for a certificate to perform the marriage ceremony.

We know of no occurrences which may be termed “accidental”, other than those resulting from the rather notorious procrastination and indecision of Glenelg.

“Scarcely interest” is the reading of the copy (Q series, 307) in the Public Archives of Canada. The rough draft of the letter with the Ryerson papers reads: “That every interest should be made subservient”.

The draft of this letter is not dated. Across the corner appears in Ryerson’s hand, “early in 1836”. Hodgins thinks (D.H. Vol. II, p. 252) it was written immediately after the receipt of the letter from Sir George Grey on February 29th. A reference at the end of the letter, and Ryerson’s report on his mission (p. 274) place the letter on the 19th or 20th of March, the date of the second interview with Glenelg.

Cf. the “political spyglass” suggestion of James Evans (p. 220).

The Indians made a good talking point with the British public. In the course of a century, probably less than a score of students of Indian origin have entered Upper Canada Academy or Victoria College. This estimate, since its writing, has been confirmed in conversation with Robert Steinhauer, who graduated in 1887 and regards himself as the most recent Indian alumnus.

The grant to the London Missionary Society had been made for two years and then discontinued. Ryerson had urged its renewal, as well as the granting of aid to the Academy.

This is a larger sum than is elsewhere mentioned. Lord is panicky.

Matthew Richey had been recommended to Ryerson as Principal, but Lord had expected to receive official advice from the London Missionary Committee of his transfer from the Montreal circuit to Cobourg.

This must refer to his letter of March 30th, appearing in the Guardian of May 25th and reproduced on p. 315. William Smith in Political Leaders in Upper Canada (p. 207) summarizes this letter but gives its date as March 15th.

Durham was not original in favouring a policy of forced assimilation. Ryerson appears never to have held such an opinion; on the contrary, at the age of forty he spent three hard months in learning the French language.

C.G., June 29, 1836.



January 1836 to July 1836

For some years political feeling in Canada had been growing in intensity and bitterness. Though Glenelg desired tranquillity above all else, in his change of governors of 1836 he only added to the acerbity. He had been astonished by the disclosures of the Seventh Grievance Report, and regarded Colborne as derelict in duty in not having kept him better informed. He doubtless wished the new Governor to be a man who would write despatches. For this, or some other better reason, the choice fell upon Francis Bond Head, who had seen some little military service, and been involved in a mining enterprise in South America, but was chiefly known as a Poor Law Commissioner and as possessing a ready and lively pen. Of political experience he was innocent, or of political philosophy—at least such philosophy as Glenelg and his colleagues favoured. But he could and did write. It is interesting, but not necessary, to speculate upon the possibility that his choice was the result of a mistake in identity—that Edmund Head was chosen and Francis Head called. At first it looked like a good appointment. On that Ryerson and Hume agreed. The latter wrote to Mackenzie that good things might be expected, and that he was anxious that “all the reformers should receive Sir Francis in the best possible manner”.[1] Mackenzie never did things by halves. Hence the new governor as he entered Toronto through much snow on January 23rd found the walls placarded in large letters, “Sir Francis Head, a tried reformer”. He was greatly surprised, for as he confesses, “I was no more connected with human politics than the horses that were drawing me—as I had never joined any political party, had never attended a political discussion, and had never even voted at an election.”[2] However, he accepted the situation with the “most perfect indifference” and met in private conference the leading men of the city of all shades of political opinion.


The members of the Executive Council were now only three—a bare quorum; and it was necessary to make new appointments. The unanimous opinion pointed to Robert Baldwin as worthy of a seat. Since his defeat in 1830 after one short session in the Legislative Assembly, Baldwin had retired from politics and devoted himself to law and attendant business interests. His high character and pronounced views on Responsible Government were recognized in Upper Canada, and he had been recommended by Colborne to the Colonial Office for a seat in the Legislative Council. Head invited him to the executive, but Baldwin demurred. On February 19th, after many conferences with Baldwin and Rolph and John Henry Dunn, Head persuaded these three to accept office. Baldwin later confessed that the new councillors gave their consent “as a mere experiment”.[3] Ryerson had recommended Rolph (see p. 324) for a seat on the Executive Council. We have no reason to suppose that he would have been unfavorable to Baldwin or Dunn. In the case of Baldwin, we have no record of any contact since they had worked together as “Friends of Religious Liberty” in 1831. James Henry Dunn, in addition to his official duties as Receiver General, in a quiet way took an active part in the affairs of York and Toronto. He was a Churchman of liberal tendencies; and his interest in temperance and in the Bible Society, of which he was president, would bring him into frequent touch with Ryerson.[4] But the new Executive soon discovered that they were far from being a Cabinet. They found that they were merely consulted on “land matters”; on questions of policy, the Governor did not ask their advice. Within a fortnight of their appointment, they wrote a closely-reasoned letter to the Governor, claiming under the Constitution the right to be taken into his confidence in important matters of state, to which he replied that his responsibility to His Majesty could not be shared and if they did not agree they might resign. This they did, and thus Upper Canada was told that the old Compact bottles would never hold new wine.

To the more radical members of the Assembly, the incident was regarded as clear proof that a thorough overhauling of the Constitution was necessary. On the other hand, the Governor was resolved never “to surrender to a democratic principle of government . . . so long as the British flag waved in America”.[5] The long despatch, almost a volume, which Glenelg had placed in the hands of Sir Francis, urging him to pursue a conciliatory course, had been fruitless. Within two months of his arrival in the colony, the fair hopes for the correction of abuses by the new Governor were shattered. The Governor accused the Assembly of wishing to possess themselves of the government “for the sake of lucre and emolument”, and the Assembly accused the Governor of acts “arbitrary and vindictive” and statements “palpably opposed to candour and truth”. With such mutual criminations a dissolution was inevitable, and the Assembly played into Sir Francis’ hands by stopping supplies. The Assembly had not intended to cut off all supplies, but only those required for the civil list and the administration of justice. Head beat them at their own game. He refused his assent to all money bills. The result was that expenditure on roads and public works was immediately stopped. The Guardian of May 11th has an editorial on “Fruits of Agitation”, beginning, “We understand that nearly a thousand mechanics and labourers, from different parts of the district, have embarked at this city for the United States since the close of the session of Parliament, in consequence of the anticipated cessation of all internal improvement during the ensuing season, as the baneful result of stopping the supplies.” It quotes the Cobourg Star to the effect that the previous Sunday forty more workers from the rear parts of the Newcastle district had left the Cobourg wharf to seek work on the other side. And generally throughout the province the blame for unemployment was laid to the Assembly.

The Methodist Conference was never so political as during these months. Week after week without let or hindrance Evans urged his readers to support the Governor and the Constitution. Indeed the Governor’s party was known as the Constitutional party. Leading tories in Toronto organized a British Constitutional Society. Not to be vanquished by a label, their more moderate opponents founded the Constitutional Reform Society, with Dr. W. W. Baldwin as president. Mackenzie even was at pains to name his new paper The Constitution. But the Governor had called the contest on his own ground; he was able to reduce it to a simple question of loyalty. In this enterprise, as our correspondence and the Guardian amply attest, the Methodists gave him every support. Lord and Evans and John Ryerson at home were as yet undisturbed by his jaunty ways and extravagant words; and Egerton Ryerson abroad, never having seen the man, believed him a bulwark against revolution—not its fomenter.

March 30, 1836, Egerton Ryerson, London, to The Editor of the Christian Guardian.[6]

My Dear Sir

I have hitherto abstained from making any remarks on the affairs of the Canadas, or the measures of His Majesty’s Government for their adjustment—because I was not prepared to express any opinion. But as I know a deep interest is felt in these matters by my fellow-countrymen in Canada, I will devote the present letter to them.

The Royal Despatches to His Excellency Sir Francis Head and His Majesty’s Commissioners in Lower Canada have returned, and have given universal satisfaction to the real friends of Canada in this country, although some such as Roebuck & Co. who are well paid for it,[7] bluster a little. Previous to the arrival of these Instructions great dissatisfaction was felt by gentlemen in London connected with Canada, in regard to the management and course of affairs in the Lower Province. Now confidence is restored, in consequence of which the credit of Canada is rapidly on the rise again. You can scarcely imagine the effect the internal agitation in Canada has upon its commercial credit, and the value of landed property or security amongst capitalists and merchants in this country. It limits our commercial credit both as to amount and duration—this compels our merchants to sell their goods higher, and give shorter credit, and thus the interests of our farmers and all other classes of purchasers are injuriously affected. The idea also of going to a country which is represented as the hotbed of contention, is repulsive to the feelings of persons of property who think of emigrating—they therefore direct their attention to the United States, where the form and prerogatives of different branches of the Government are duly acknowledged, whatever rival faction there may be. It is thus that the ambitious and reckless agitators in our Province rob it of more credit and accession of capital than is expended annually for the support of the whole Executive Government. That portion of the inhabitants of Canada who support agitators have only their own folly and party spirit to blame for the depression and injury done to their own and their country’s interests. It was an admirable remark of His Excellency Sir Francis Head in an excellent message to the House of Assembly, “that he had better attract into Upper Canada the superabundant capital and population of the Mother Country, by encouraging internal peace and tranquility, than to be observed occupying himself only in re-considering the occurrences of the past”. . . .

In respect to Upper Canada, nearly as much is known in the Colonial Office of our affairs and our public men as we know ourselves. The adoption of the Grievance Committee Report, in the very teeth of the instructions and decisions of His Majesty’s Government—which condemned the most material parts of the Report—is perfectly understood here; and the Government likewise know that the House of Assembly was elected not to change the Constitution of the Province (as that Report contends for, and as the Despatches of His Majesty’s Government in commenting on it show), but to pass laws for the welfare of the Province according to the Constitution; and before the King’s Government will believe that the people of Upper Canada have departed from their loyalty to that Constitution, and those relations to the Government of the Mother Country to which they have so long and so often professed attachment, a direct appeal, I believe, will be made to them by dissolving the present Assembly,[8] and giving the inhabitants of Upper Canada an opportunity of electing an Assembly truly representing their feelings and wishes as to the maintenance or annihilation of the Constitution of the Province and the established and heretofore acknowledged prerogatives of the British Crown. I think I can guess what the answer of the people of Upper Canada would be, should His Majesty’s Government put the question to them. I may hereafter advert to the principal points which I believe are here considered of the most vital importance.

It affords me much pleasure to bear a still stronger testimony, than was contained in a former letter, to the qualifications and character of His Excellency Sir Francis Head. I have not heard one word from any quarter to his disparagement; while I have heard high testimonies borne to his character and talent by distinguished public men of opposite parties. An influential gentleman connected with Canadian affairs, told me the other day, that he knew His Excellency Sir Francis Head (I think) intimately—that he was a most able and active business man—was ready and talented with his pen—and “Sir, (said he) he will be in every part of your Province in six months’ time, if it be possible—he will leave nothing undone that he can do for the welfare of the Province.” I rejoice to learn that His Excellency in his Government satisfies all parties but the party that wishes to subvert the existing Constitution of the Province—that “happy Constitution of the country which (as His Excellency expressed it in his message to the Assembly of the 15th of February) it was the avowed and undisguised object of His Majesty’s Government to maintain inviolate”.

[Here follows an elaboration of the Compact theory of government, and ridicule for those who “flippantly” dub the constitution an “experiment”.]

I observe also that it has been said, that the Constitution of Upper Canada is a mere Act of Parliament, and may therefore be changed or repealed the same as any other Act. But this is as fallacious as to say that the law by which every freeholder in Upper Canada holds and disposes of his land is a mere Act of Parliament, and therefore may be forthwith repealed or altered to suit the purposes of certain scheming men. There are several essential points of difference between the Act of our Constitution and other Acts, either of the Imperial or Provincial Legislature.—I will advert to but one; namely, the Constitutional Act contains the articles of agreement or of the civil compact between the inhabitants of Upper Canada and the Crown of Great Britain and Ireland. Proclamation was made offering this Act containing these articles of civil compact to the population of Upper Canada and those who desired to settle there in 1791, in place of the former Government by a Council. It was hailed as a boon by the first representatives of the people of Upper Canada. In the articles of the civil compact in this Act the rights and immunities and prerogatives of the Crown are defined on the one side, and the rights and the immunities and priveleges of the people of Upper Canada, on the other side. Under these articles of civil compact large numbers of persons have emigrated to and settled in Upper Canada, both from Europe and the United States, and many have been born and grown up in the country; and nearly all have sworn unreserved and hearty allegiance to the British Crown under these articles of Government; yet certain persons improperly assuming the name of Reformers, rise up and say, that even those vital parts of the Constitutional Act or Articles of the civil compact which actually determine the respective prerogatives and rights of King and People, may and ought to be changed at the bidding of the majority of the Assembly, as readily as a Township Officers’ Bill!

I beg pardon for this long intrusion upon the local affairs of Upper Canada. It is because my heart is alive to the interests of my native country; and, having frequent intercourse with persons here who read the Canadian papers, I learn, and feel most deeply, the injury done to the credit and value of U. Canada, by keeping the vital principles of the Government floating upon the unsettled waters of agitation. It leads the most intelligent men in England, as well as many who would otherwise become resident in our country, to view U. Canada on a par with the South American semi-civilized Republics, where the form of government is unsettled or ever changing, and where property itself is unsafe. It is difficult in some instances to make them see and feel the difference.

I hope my friends and fellow subjects in Upper Canada will receive the foregoing observations on matters of great importance in the same spirit of candour and love of country, in which I trust they have been written. I can say what cannot be truly said by many of the “Grievance Committee” party in respect of themselves, that I have never received one farthing of public money from any quarter, and my humble support to my King and country is unbought, unsolicited, and spontaneous.

I purpose next week to send you a letter of religious and general intelligence. All branches of trade and business, except the agricultural, are said never to have been in so high a state of prosperity as at the present time.

Yours, very truly,

Egerton Ryerson

The above letter shows that Ryerson had not been uninfluenced by opinion in the circles in which he had been moving in England. In his conversations with the Secretary and Under Secretaries of the Colonial Office and in his begging from bankers and business men, he had come to realize how necessary it was to the credit and prosperity of Canada that the fear of a second American revolution should be removed. Having so decided, in this letter to the reading public of Upper Canada and in his political activities during the next few months he threw himself definitely on the conservative and loyalist side. In a previous chapter we have described him as a liberal conservative, but in this letter there appears little of liberal thought. In outlining the compact theory of government and arguing for it with all his eristic skill he does not allow himself to reflect that the British constitution itself was in constant process of change and that constitutions are durable only as they accommodate themselves, however tardily it may be, to changing conditions.

There can be no doubt that he was deeply concerned by the length to which some of his former associations had been prepared to go. The fact, for instance, that Dr. Morrison, who had been a member of his congregation in York, was prepared as a member of the Committee to subscribe to the matter and findings of the Grievance Report must have greatly disturbed him. Further it was quite apparent that members of the Legislature, if unchecked by Governor and Councils, were not averse from turning their politics to their own profit. It may, perhaps, be inferred that this latter fact had not a little to do with his present attitude to the Reform party and, in particular, with the writing and publishing of our next letter. The Peter Perry letter was written on the day following the Compact Theory letter. After appearing in the Guardian on June 1st, it was reprinted, whether by Ryerson’s wish or not, as an election fly-sheet under the caption, “Peter Perry Picked to Pieces by Egerton Ryerson”. Now since 1824 Perry and Bidwell had represented Lennox and Addington, and after the retirement of Rolph from the Assembly and the elevation of Bidwell to the Speakership, Perry was regarded as the leader of the Reform party. It was as such that Robert Baldwin addressed to him the great letter of March 16th, which explained the reasons for the resignation of the Executive Council and set forth his theory of responsible government. Dent has this to say of Perry:

Although thirty-four years have elapsed since his death, Mr. Perry is still well remembered by the older generation of our politicians. During the twelve years succeeding his entry into public life he was one of the most conspicuous Reformers in the Province. Though not possessed of a liberal education, and though his demeanour and address were marred by a sort of impetuous coarseness, he was master of a rude, vigorous eloquence which under certain conditions was far more effective than the most polished oratory would have been. He was certainly the ablest stump orator of his time in this country, and there was no man in the Reform ranks who could so effectively conduct a difficult election campaign. No man was more dreaded by his opponents, more especially by those who had to encounter him while a contest was pending. It may here be added that he continued to take an active part in politics down to a short time before his death in 1851.[9]

In the debate on the Grievance Report in 1836, Perry had thought it well to oppose Mackenzie and Morrison and the majority. In a long speech, he admitted that while in 1835 he had moved that the Report be printed, he had “never set his foot in the Committee Room nor had he read a word of it”;[10] he had believed it contained valuable material, but he was now aware that it contained a good many misstatements, some of which he proceeded to set forth. Coming to the grants to religious bodies, as the Guardian reports, he “indulged in a long strain of invective against Mr. Ryerson for what he alleged to be a departure from former principles”, which the Guardian forbears to publish “as that gentleman is not in the country to defend himself”. George Rykert, member for the second riding of Lincoln, took occasion, however, to say a word on Ryerson’s behalf, defending the use in the Guardian of the word “smuggled” in reference to the manner of securing the printing of the Report.

The hon. member for Lennox and Addington, had taken this occasion to indulge in the most bitter invective against the Rev. Mr. Ryerson. But for his (Mr. R.’s) part, he did not think that they were called upon to discuss the character of Mr. Ryerson; and he thought it discreditable to the character of that house for members to take advantage of their parliamentary privilege to abuse individuals who could not be heard in their defence. Mr. Ryerson was, he believed a highly esteemed member of the society to which he belonged, and if he had done any thing for which he deserved to be denounced as a traitor, hypocrite, and other names which had been so freely applied to him by the hon. member for Lennox and Addington, he would leave him to the judgment of the society and his God,—having no doubt but justice would be done him. The hon. member seemed to have taken great offence at some remarks in the Guardian newspaper, as to the manner in which the report was got through the house;—but he (Mr. R.) did not think there was any thing very far wrong in the Guardian’s statement on that subject. He was sure it must be in the recollection of every hon. member who was present on the occasion, that it was brought in after midnight and laid on the table, and immediately ordered to be printed without being read, and on the following day when members were desirous of ascertaining its contents it could not be found. After a good deal of enquiring it was discovered that the hon. member for the second riding of York had, without the knowledge or consent of the house, taken the liberty to carry it down into the city for the purpose as he admitted, of getting parts of it copied to send to his friend Mr. Papineau, and it was not seen again in the house until the hon. member for Simcoe moved a resolution to rescind the order for printing it—then, and not before, it was when asked for laid on the table. If such kind of manoeuvering was not a species of smuggling he must confess he did not understand the term.[11]

March. 31, 1836, Egerton Ryerson, 77 Hatton Garden, London, to The Editor of the Christian Guardian.

My dear Sir

I have this day received the Guardian of the 10th, 17th and 24th of February, together with a Supplement of the 20th, containing the parliamentary debate on the famous “Grievance Committee Report”, which I was informed sometime since by Lord Glenelg, had been adopted by a majority of the Assembly. I have enclosed these papers to Lord Glenelg, directing his Lordship’s attention to the Editor’s remarks on the Royal Instructions to His Excellency Sir Francis Head, etc., and marking passages in some of the speeches which illustrated and confirmed what I had previously stated to His Lordship, that the principles and statements put forth in that document had never been discussed, nor even read, in the House of Assembly, whatever might be the sentiments of the honourable members respecting them. As I have been honoured with a conspicuous place in the debates of the Assembly on that Report, I solicit a little space in your columns, and beg the attention of my old friends (for friends I know I have in Canada) to a few remarks on the scurrilous attacks made by Mr. Perry, in this and in a former debate. And first, I would ask, if Mr. Perry’s constituents elected him as their Representative to traduce the characters of individuals? And did he express what he believed to be the sentiments, feelings and wishes of the majority of those who sent him to the House of Assembly when he was abusing me? Would it not have shown more of the man of honour and honesty for him to have answered me through the press, the medium through which I spoke, when I was in the Province, and when I even opened the columns of the Guardian to any one who thought himself misrepresented, than for him to wait several months until I was absent from the country, and then availing himself of his Parliamentary privileges, do what an honorable and ingenuous mind could never stoop to do—attack an individual in such a way that he could not answer for himself? I again put it to Mr. Perry, as well as to his constituents, whether in all this he was truly and faithfully representing the wishes of that part of the people to whom he owes his seat in the Assembly?[12]

[Here follows a discussion of Perry’s blunder in moving for the printing of 2,000 copies of a report he had never read, and the effect of this act in misleading the Colonial Office.]

The only other calumny of Mr. Perry’s that I will notice, is, that I have turned my back upon the rights of the people, etc. Of this, I might, I think, safely leave my friends and the Canadian public—and Mr. P’s constituents—to judge. But on this point also I will leave Mr. P. without excuse or refuge, by a simple statement of facts. In the first place, the leading schemes of the “Grievance Committee party”, such as elective Legislative Council, elective Magistrates, etc.—are of only two years’, and others of still more recent, growth—therefore, I could never have been identified with them. Formerly this party denied any intention to change the Constitution of the country, but declared their only object to be the reform of abuses. If they have chosen to renounce their formerly in-a-thousand-instances-avowed attachment to the Constitution of the Province, and advocate changes in that very Constitution which four years ago they prayed might be transmitted “unimpaired to their posterity”, and yet designate these changes in principles and objects by the old term reform, I must, with every unperverted Canadian British subject, refuse all fellowship with such proceedings, from a full conviction that my oath of allegiance binds me to support the British Crown according to the written and acknowledged Constitution of the Province as it existed when that oath was taken. Oaths are serious things; and a man must have made considerable progress in the road of depravity before he can tamper or jest with them. . . . The principal and only subject of importance discussed in the Province with which I consider myself to have been identified, and from which Mr. Perry has charged me with departing, is that of an Ecclesiastical Establishment in the Colony. On this point, what I have published up to the close of my editorial career might be sufficient refutation of the charge . . .

Another illustration of Mr. Perry’s calumny, that I have turned my back upon the interests of the people, is that, amongst several suggestions which I took the liberty to offer to Lord Glenelg, the Colonial Secretary, for the welfare of Upper Canada, in my first interview with His Lordship after my arrival in London, I strongly recommended the appointment of a certain gentleman of known popularity to the Executive Council.[13] I mentioned this in a private letter to a friend in Canada, before the late appointments took place; but I should never have thought of adverting to it publicly, had not the persevering efforts of my enemies to create prejudice against me prompted me to do so. I pretend not to say that any of my suggestions have had, or will have, any influence with His Majesty’s Government; but it will be satisfactory to my friends in Canada, and, if possible, shame my calumniators, to know what I have endeavoured to do.

Mr. Perry seems to consider himself as a sort of King in Lennox and Addington, and appears to regard it as a degree of infringement upon his Sovereign prerogatives that I should be appointed by the Conference even so near the borders of his empire as Kingston;[14] and he cannot but view it as a conspiracy to dethrone him from his legislative dignity!—Really, how much more he thinks of himself than others, and how much he is to be pitied under his alarming apprehensions! But I doubt whether the Conference thought of such a man as Peter Perry being in existence when they determined to station Egerton Ryerson in Kingston. To the best of my recollection I never thought of him during the whole of my journey from Toronto to that place; and those of Mr. P’s. constituents with whom I had the great pleasure, and I may add profit, of intercourse during two short visits amongst them, at their particular request, can bear record whether the object and tendency of my ministry was to dethrone Peter Perry, or to break down the power and influence of a much more formidable and important personage—the power of him that ruleth in the hearts of the children of disobedience.

I think it is not difficult to conjecture the cause of Mr. Perry’s ire. I can easily imagine Mr. Perry, the night before he delivered his speech on the “Grievance Committee Report”, revolving the following soliloquy in his mind:—“I am in a sad dilemma. Last winter I voted not merely to print a thousand, but moved an amendment to print and circulate two thousand copies of this Report, which I thought would so tell upon the country, that the Methodist Conference would be forsaken—the Episcopal party be triumphant—and my utmost wishes be accomplished; but the tables have been completely turned by that Ryerson, who, having truth and justice on his side, has so defended the Conference, and exposed the misrepresentations contained in the Report, and so held up to condemnation those who voted for printing it, that the most illiterate of my constituents can no longer be deceived, and I am pestered by them from Dan to Beersheba about that Grievance Committee Report, and my having voted to print and circulate it. What must I do? To defend that Report and keep my seat in the House of Assembly is impossible; for the friends of the Methodist Church in Lennox and Addington are entirely too strong for me. I am not inclined to give up my seat, for I find that whilst I am strenuously defending the rights of the people, I can also procure and locate U. E. rights for myself, especially as I have such free access to the Surveyor General’s Office, having brought in and carried thro’ the House of Assembly a bill to increase the salaries of Clerks in that office. I must therefore tack about; and must now say that I moved to print two thousand copies of a book, at more than two thousand dollars expense to the country, for the information of the people, when I did not know whether that book contained sense or nonsense, truth or falsehood, loyalty or treason. Yes! I must even deny that I am responsible for any thing contained in a book that I voted to publish. I must go further—I must in fact defend the Methodist Conference itself against the calumnies contained in that book, or I must lose the support of some of my most influential constituents. I must actually attest to the truth of every material statement made by Ryerson on this subject, and I must, and that is worst of all, employ the materials that he has furnished, in undoing what I have heretofore done. But as Ryerson has brought me into this predicament, I am resolved to revenge myself upon him; and as he has actually compelled me to speak the truth on this business in reference to the Methodist Conference—notwithstanding all my public and private insinuations to the contrary for the last two years—I am determined to denounce him as though he had said nothing about it worthy of credit.”

And now, Mr. Editor, I have but a word or two more to say to Mr. Perry; perhaps he will think I have said too many already. But I must further say to him that I have been very good natured while writing the whole of this letter. I have sometimes written seriously—at other times pleasantly. But I can assure Mr. Perry I shall never trouble him with another letter of this kind, if he will henceforth willingly and heartily do that justice to the Methodist Conference and Church which he was compelled to do in his speech on the Grievance Committee Report; nor do I wish his constituents to remember any of his transgressions either against me or my friends.—There was a time when Mr. Perry defended the Methodists nobly and effectually. I have not forgotten it—though he may please to designate me a “traitor”. If he will take his stand where he did once as a Constitutional Reformer—if he will defend the Methodists against the calumnies and destructive designs of the party now labouring to injure them, and the principal emissary of which he despises in his heart—I will venture to say, that whether I am in Kingston or in England, the Methodists in Lennox and Addington will not be Mr. Perry’s enemies, and may even yet allow him to be the Representative of their rights, liberties and characters. But if he should continue the course that he has pursued during the last two years—and that which the majority of the present Assembly pursued in adopting that calumnious Report, and in advocating changes in the Colonial Constitution destructive of its peace and connexion with the Parent State—can he expect that the Methodists are such traitors to the peace, character and interests of their own Church and of their country as to support or countenance him? . . .

Yours, very faithfully,

Egerton Ryerson

May 1, 1836, S. S. Junkin, Toronto, to Rev. E. Ryerson, 77 Hatton Garden, London.

My very Dear Sir,

Mr. I. L. Perrin leaves this place for Liverpool in the morning, and I gladly embrace the opportunity of sending you a chapter of news by him. . . .

Our Parliament was pro[ro]gued on the 20th ult. after such a session as was never before seen in Upper Canada. You will form some tolerable idea of the state of affairs when I tell you, they stopt the supplies, and the Governor stopt (or “reserved”) all the money bills, and refused the contingencies. The House of Assembly had, however, drawn £2,000 early in the session; about £1,500 of which was paid to O’Grady for printing the Grievance Report,[15] etc., and to Brewer for binding; leaving £500 which was divided among the Clerks at the close of the session. The contingent account of the past session of our reforming, economical Assembly, is said to amount to about £8,000! If you have recd. the Guardian, you will have become acquainted with the immediate cause of the rupture between the House and the new Governor. I say immediate, for you are aware that it was intended to kick up such a rumpus if their revolutionary demands of “responsible government”, etc. were not complied with, and a threat to that effect held out at the close of last session. Shortly after the new Governor arrived, he added Robt. Baldwin, Dr. Rolph and Mr. Dunn to the Ex. Council. Here Dr. Rolph (for it is charged by the public to him)[16] brought forward the question of responsible government, and most unaccountably duped the old councillors, as well as the new ones, to sign a document on the subject, which they presented to the Governor. But, as Peter Perry would say, “They got the wrong pig by the ear.” He replied to their document, and at once dismissed them all from the Council; or gave them a hint to resign too intelligible to be mistaken. He appointed R. B. Sullivan, Wm. Allan, Capt. Baldwin & Mr. Elmsley in their room. The Assembly espoused the cause of the Council, glad of such a glorious opportunity to bring forward their designs. The Governor is a masterly hand at the pen; and gave the Assy. such a castigation in his prorogation speech as never Assembly got before on this side the Atlantic, or on the other side since the days of Cromwell. Of course the Governor must be recalled or Parliament disolved, for he & they cannot meet again. A dissolution is expected, and the utmost efforts are being put forth by the two parties. It is not easy to foretell the result, but I am inclined to think from what I hear from all parts that the majority of the country will go with Sir Francis. It will be a death struggle; and one in which British supremacy in the North American colonies is deeply involved. The documents which passed between the Governor and the late Council were referred to a committee of the House of Assembly, Perry chairman, and one of the most abusive and insulting documents that ever emanated from a Legislative body, was brought forth at the close of the session in the shape of a report, on which was founded an address to the King & House of Commons, all of which were adopted by the House. I herewith send you some papers and a pamphlet which will give you more information than I can write. The papers were sent before, but I send them again for fear they miscarried.

I have occupied so much room already that I must be brief as possible on another subject of their doings. At the commencement of the session the House adopted the Grievance Report. I hope you recd. the papers containing the debate and Mr. Evans’s capital remarks on the subject. They then appointed a committee to enquire whether the charges against the Methodists in that Report were true! Tommy Parke, chairman,[17] and Dr. Morrison, Grand Inquisitor, nine members in all, who all voted for the Grievance Report except Roblin; and of course instead of being disinterested judges were on their own trial before the public. What barefaced iniquitous humbug! you will indignantly exclaim; and so it was. Mr. Evans was most shamefully insulted and abused by them when giving evidence; but they met their match, and he recorded some things on their Journals which they did not relish very much. Elder Case acted like a man,—like a Methodist,—like a member of the Conference. But Richardson—what shall I say of him? The sensation awakened in my breast by the mention of the name is painful, and I have to pause; but were I to describe his conduct as it appeared to me, I would draw a picture black as night, had I patience to finish it. Suffice it to say, that he was their man; the opinions they wanted they readily obtained from him. And those opinions were not limited to money matters; but extended to the Guardian, the Missions, and in fact to every thing connected with the Conference. Conversations in Conference were related, etc., etc., etc. of the same kind. Elder Case was much pained, as was Armstrong, Taylor, and indeed every Methodist in the room. Sometimes in answering questions he would tell the truth, but not the whole truth; and Mr. Evans had to pump it reluctantly out of him, by putting questions through Mr. Roblin—no pleasant task, but absolutely necessary for the character of the Church. Roblin acted nobly. Vaux acted in his true character of a snake in the grass, and put in evidence some letter from the London Miss’y Committee, written about the time of the Union, in which the politics of the Guardian are mentioned with disapprobation, which came into his possession while Secretary of the Miss’y. Society, and which he had improperly retained after he was no longer Secretary. The Committee have made a report in which a desperate effort is made to destroy the character of the Conference,[18] but I have no doubt it will recoil upon their own heads; for it, coupled with the conduct of the committee, will arouse the Methodists against the party at the expected ensuing election. Perhaps it is Providential to save the Province.

Mr. & Mrs. Lawrence[19] are well, and send their respects to you and Mrs. Ryerson. Please remember me kindly to Mrs. Ryerson.

I wish to trouble you to do a favour for me, viz. to procure and bring me a good watch. I have seen some advertised on the cover of the Eclectic Review which I think would answer me. They are to be had at T. Cox Savory’s, 47 Cornhill, London. I wish to get one of the following description, as per advertisement, viz. patent lever, silver, with double bottom cases—price £6, 6. 0.—with latest improvements, etc. By attending to this little matter for me, you will much oblige me.

I am, dear Sir, with every sentiment of respect & esteem,

Yours most truly,

S. S. Junkin

P.S. When do you expect to return? Write us often. How do you succeed in your mission? Who will be our next President?


May 4, 1836, John Ryerson, Hallowell, to Rev. Egerton Ryerson, London, England, 20 Guilford St., Russell Square.

My very Dear Brother

I received your kind letter of the 27th of February only last Monday, consequently it was more then two months on the way: from your letter I learn that you had not received my letter which I sent some time the first of January. I hope you have got it in this time. I would have writen to you sooner then I did, but after your departure every thing for several weeks seemed to be so perfectly stationary that I could not think what to say that would be new to you, & another thing I am not a sinner above all that dwell in London in this respect. Did not my Dear Brother promis to write immediately on ariveing in England, but behold ye, the First Epistle of Egerton to John is dated the 27th of February, 1836; so I think we will balance acts. & let the time past suffice & do better hereafter.

In my former letter I mentioned to you the state of the Kingston Society. I was there last week & herd many particular inquiries about you: when you would return, etc., etc. They still expect you to be their preacher next year, & they say that if the President should take up his residence there, they do not whish him to have charge of them.[20] This was said to me by Mr. Counter, etc. They have had a four days Meeting lately; about 20 professed religion. The young man Johnson is clever & very popular. Mr Stinson, I think, dose the very best he can. Mr. Stinson intends moveing to Toronto after Conference, although he says that he will remain in Kingston & supply the station until you arive, which we expect will be the first of September at the lateist. Religion is prospering well on this district. There are revivels on all the Cts. save one; some of these revivels are powerful, especially on the Peterborough & Hallowell circuits & also in Bellville station, although the work there is principlely in the country on the opposite side of the Bay from Bellville. Mr. Stinson says that our district is desidedly in the best state of any in the Conference. Br. McMullin[21] was at Hamilton the last of winter & saw William there. He says that W— told him that he “had conceived the following plan: that is to ellect Richardson Editor of the G— next year & that this would conciliate the fealings of all parties etc., etc., & that he was proposeing his plan to his preachers”. William said to McMullin at the same time that he did not think that Richardson would accept of it, etc., but it would then show our good will. I told McMullin that I was utterly astonished to hear such fulsome & unjudicious trash coming from a quarter from whence I might expect wiser & better things. I pointed out to McMullin the weakness, the impollicy, the absurdity & wickedness of such a measure; since, I have communicated my views to the preachers, all of whom agree with me intirely. You may be surprised in hearing of such a thing, but you will not be more surprised then I was & should Wm. & some of his preachers join with the Radical members of Conference it will give them a majority. I think however that when I see Bevitt, McNabb, Sheperd & Musgrove, I can prevent them voteing for Richardson.[22] You perhaps will inquire, “What can be Wm.’s motives in mooting such a thing”. Permit me to say what I think his motives actually are. I think it was or is for the purpose of inflicting punishment on us—you and I—for his not being appointed your successor instead of me as deligate to the American G— Conference. No sooner was it known at Hamilton that I was appointed your successor then the Niagara District was all in commosion; it was said that you had no power to nominate a successor; that the A— G— Con. would not receive a deligate in this way, etc. etc. & behold ye a special District Meeting is called at which Resolutions are passed requesting Mr. Lord to call a special conference to “elect a deligate”. After this farse was over and Mr. Lord had declined calling “an especial conference”, the next thing I heard was the skeam of electing Richardson. All this while, Wm. never wrote a word to me, nor has he until this day. I am glad of one thing; that I had declined going to the G— C— & had resigned in favour of E. Case (makeing a virtue of necessity) before I heard a word of their proceedings at Hamilton. Stinson told me it was all Wm.’s work, but I did not say to him what I now say to you, you may be sure. I assure you I very much fear that our Dear Br. in some of his splenetick movements will dash his foot against a stone. Pardon me for troubling you about a thing, which to my own mind & doutless to yours, is & will be unpleasent.[23]

Before this letter reaches you, you will have heard of the rupture between his Exelency, Sir F. B. Head & the House of Assembly. The Governor who is a man of extrodinary talents is acquireing immense popularity in the country & the House of Assembly are a hissing & a by word. We are all very ankeious that His Exelency should dissolve the House & it is strongly exspected. Should he do so & there be a new election, there will be a horible thining among the Radicals—not one of them would be returned from the bounds of this district; every niggar of them would be kicked over the wall without doubt. Mr. Samson, late member from Bellville, died lately, & there has been a new election, which terminated last Saterday. The candidates were Mr. McNabb, a conservative, & Reynolds, a son of the celebrated Bishop. This riding you will recollect is the stronghold of Episcopal Radicalism. The Episcopate, so called, & the Roman Catholicks joined together & as many more children of devel as they could press into their service. Br. Wilkinson writes to me that the Radicals made the most extrodinary efforts ever known, “electioneering, siding, quarling, lying” & every thing else that could be thought of, to get Reynolds elected; they even got votes all the way from Hamilton Gore District. Perry & Roblin were the whole week makeing the most extrodinary efforts ever known on such an occation; but it all would not do. McNabb was elected with little exertion & there were conservative votes on the ground who did not vote, as it was not necessary. Every Wesleyan Methodist in Bellville was on the right side & so they were from the country with 8 or 10 exceptions. The Radicals felt thus deeply interrested & were induced to make such extrodinary exertions as they were painfully ankeious to convince His Exelency that the country was with them & would support them & therefore it would be impollitic in him either to oppose them, or dissolve them.[24]

I hope the Lord will give you good success in collecting for our Seminary; everything depends on the success of your exertions. Four thousand pounds is the least that will answer. There are 18 hundred or 2000 pounds due Mr. Lord, £800 due Peter Jones, & to the builders for fencing, outhouses, furniture, etc. etc. there is a debt of about 1200 pounds more. O!! How awfully we have got involved in this most painful & protracted business. O! if you can help us out of this mire the Lord reward you. I am greatly puseld to know what to do. I had concluded to go to the States, perhaps I better take your advice.[25] I hope the Lord may direct me. My health is bad. I took a violent cold 2 weeks after you left from which I have not yet recovered; I begin to fear I never shall. My lungs, I am afraid, are radically affected. But still I hope after the warm wether comes I will get better. The winter was very long & the spring is very late. We had sleighing for more then four months; the steem boats have just commenced runing.

You will please excuse this scrall. We had compeny this evening & I did not commence writing until late; it is now nearly one o’clock. I think it strange that you say not one word about our brother George.[26] Please remember me kindly to him. I have very strong hopes of meeting him in Heaven. Please when you write next, tell me about him & what the Irvinites are doing. Almost to the close of another Conference year. O! how swifly time is passing. May God prepare us for its termination. I never thought so much about dieing as I have lately & I never had such a fear of death; it makes me tremble sometimes all over when I think of it. Sometimes I feal the consolation of divine love, but at other times I am led to exclaim “Who can resolve the doubt that loves my ankeious brest”. Mary joins me in love to Mrs. R. & self. Plese remember me very respecfully to Mr. Alder. I am, my dear Brother, as ever

very affectionately yours

J. Ryerson

June 3, 1836, Egerton Ryerson, 20 Guilford St., Russell Square, London, to Sir George Grey.



At this eventful crisis of Canadian affairs, and, whilst an application from the Wesleyan Conference there for the Royal patronage & favour is under consideration, Lord Glenelg will doubtless be desirous of knowing what course of conduct is pursued by that body in respect to the question at issue between the King’s Representative and his assailants; or, in other words, between monarchy and republicanism—for the latter is what the opponents of His Excellency Sir F. Head and His Majesty’s Government demand under the name of the “transcript of the British Constitution”.[27]

I therefore enclose the last three received numbers of a religious newspaper, published under the direction of the Wesleyan Conference in that Province. The “Guardian”—though so decidedly religious in its character—is the most extensively circulated paper in either of the Canadas, paying nearly one-half more to the post office than any other publication, a circumstance that speaks strongly in favour of the religious taste and feeling of the country.[28]

[References to articles in the Guardian on the crisis.]

I am happy to be able to add that His Exy. Sir F. Head’s replies generally to the addresses which have been presented to him have been so happily conceived and expressed as to produce on the whole an impression upon the public mind decidedly in his favour; and I learn from private sources that a very considerable reaction of feeling has already taken place in the public mind in that province. The question which has raised such a storm must have come to an issue before long, and probably the manner in which it has been brought before the public will ultimately prove most favourable to the interests of his Majesty’s Government and to the peace and welfare of that province. I have now no doubt that with the influence of His Majesty’s Government on his side His Excellency will be able in case of a dissolution of the present Assembly and a new election, to obtain a signal and complete triumph over the advocates of new principles of government.

His Lordship will probably recollect that in the first interview with which I was honoured by him in February last, I expressed my conviction, that notwithstanding the appointment of a new Governor, a dissolution of the present Assembly would have to take place before the views of his Majesty’s Government could be carried fully into effect. The leading topics of the Grievance Committee Report (especially an elective Legislative Council & a provincial Cabinet[29]) had not agitated in Upper Canada when the present Assembly was elected. The test by which a majority of the members was returned, was their disapproval of the proceedings of the late Assembly in expelling Mr. Mackenzie several times for the same offence. A strong feeling was excited in U. Canada by that proceeding, as it was considered an infringement upon the elective franchise. That is the reason why there is a greater amount of ignorance, vulgar prejudice & Mackenzie spirit in the present House than has ever been collected in any one House of Assembly in Upper Canada, or than, I believe, will ever be elected again.

The proroguing speech of His Excellency will, I doubt not, make a very strong & most favourable impression on the public mind in Upper Canada.[30] As the affairs of that province will now be taken into consideration by his Majesty’s Government, there are three subjects on which I would respectfully request an interview with Lord Glenelg, yourself and Mr. Stephen. 1. The Clergy Reserve question—a plan to meet the circumstances of the Province & not deprive the Clergy of the Church of England of an adequate support. 2. The Legislative Council—how it may be rendered more influential & popular, without rendering it elective, or infringing (but rather strengthening) the prerogatives of the Crown. 3. The Executive—how its just authority, influence & popularity may be promoted and established, so as to prevent the occurrence of that embarrassment in which it is now involved, not from improper acts, but from an actual deficiency of the requisite operative means to secure the Royal prerogative from insult and invasion.

I am aware that each of these subjects is surrounded with difficulty, and that no plan proposed will be entirely free from objections; but, with his Lordship’s permission, I would, at any convenient hour, state, in few words, those views which my acquaintance with the province has impressed on my own mind & which I have not seen suggested in any official document or public journal, but which have been favourably thought of by two or three respectable gentlemen connected with Canada to whom I have stated them.

I have the honor, etc.

June 4, 1836, Sir James Stephen, Downing Street, to Rev. E. Ryerson


I am directed by Lord Glenelg to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the [3rd] instant on the subject of the present state of affairs in Upper Canada, and enclosing for his Lordship’s perusal some copies of the “Guardian” newspaper. Lord Glenelg desires me to express his acknowledgments for your communications, and with reference to your request for an interview to inform you, that he will be happy to receive you at this office on Monday next at 2 o’clock, should that suit your convenience.

I have the honor to be


Your most Obedt. Servant

Jas. Stephen

The ice had been well broken. Ryerson’s request was written to Grey on Friday the 3rd, replied to by Stephen on Saturday the 4th, and the appointment made with Glenelg for Monday the 6th to discuss not the Charter of the Academy but the three great questions which were agitating Upper Canada. On receipt of this, Ryerson might well have recalled with a smile those anxious weeks in January while the door of the Colonial Office was still barred.

June 14, 1836, William Ryerson, Steamboat Kingston, Bay of Quinty, to Rev. Egerton Ryerson, 77 Hatton Garden, London.

Dr. Br.

I have just time to say that our Conference has just closed; we have had a very harmonious, pleasant & in several respects important session. Our business has been conducted with a harmony & unanimity which has not been felt or known in Canada for years past. An address to the Lieut. Governor, a very loyal although moderate one, was carried unanimously, all the young prs. on trial, who were present, being also allowed to vote on that occasion; this was equally gratifying & surprising to all the friends of British Supremacy. Mr. Croscomb from Montreal, who was present, was so surprised & gratified and I may say delighted on the occasion that he could hardly contain himself. I did not know for a short time, but he would be constrained from the violence of his feeling to jump up & shout; he informed the congregation in Kingston last Sabbath that it was the very best Conference he had ever attended either in Europe or America.

The conference have also adopted a very good address to the King which I hope will be acceptable & useful. We are on the eve of a new election; the excitement through the country at large, & especially the parts where I am best acquainted, exceeds anything I have ever known. I feel very fearful as to the results. There would be very little cause for doubt or fear as to the results, was it not for one of the last acts of Sir John Colborne’s administration in establish[ing] & endowing near sixty, I believe 57, rectories. Knowing as I certainly did that the public mind was strongly opposed to any measure of that sort or any step towards a legal establishment, yet I could not believe the feeling was so strong as it actually is, and if the election should turn out most disastrous to the best interest of the country, it can only, or chiefly be attributed to that unjust & most impolitic act. We are anxious & willing to do all that we consistently can,[31] but everywhere the rectory question meets us, and I am compelled to believe that while a vast majority are devotedly loyal, yet many of our gracious sovereign’s best & most affectionate subjects would almost prefer revolution to the establishment of a dominant church, thus sought to be imposed upon us. I was at Long Pt. a few days since. The friends were all well. Your little daughter was quit