Upper Canada: The Formative Years, 1784-1841

By Gerald M. Craig | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9
Religion and Education in the 1820's and 1830's

The efforts of the Family Compact to encourage the settlement and the economic advance of Upper Canada along lines that would make it a truly British and loyal province were paralleled by an even more vigorous determination to guide religious and educational growth to the same end. Despite considerable opposition the first set of policies was generally supported in the province and could usually count on the backing of the British government. With religion and to a lesser extent with education it was, however, very different. The Compact's attempt to ensure to the Church of England the position and privileges of church establishment and to give that church a leading role in education, especially in the proposed provincial university, were overwhelmingly opposed in the province. The result was a series of bitter and unrelenting controversies, marked with the kind of passion that only religious divisions can produce. All parties appealed constantly to the British government for support, often to be met by an evasive and indecisive response, which heightened rather than diminished the controversies.


I

The leaders of the provincial government in the Maitland era were no more satisfied with the state of religion in Upper Canada than their predecessors had been before the War of 1812. In their eyes the Church of England was still too weak in relation to the other Protestant denominations, especially the Methodists.

The expansion of Methodism into Upper Canada had been viewed with alarm from earliest times. In 1794, for instance, the Anglican Bishop of Quebec reported to the Secretary of State that "The greatest bulk of the people have and can have no instruction but such as they receive occasionally from itinerant and mendicant Methodists, a set of ignorant enthusiasts,

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