The Faces of Reason: An Essay on Philosophy and Culture in English Canada, 1850-1950

By Leslie Armour; Elizabeth Trott | Go to book overview

TWO
REASON AND AUTHORITY

James Beavenand Natural Theology

BEAVEN Elements of Natural Theology1 was published in London in 1850, a year after King's College, Toronto, in which he had been Professor of Divinity, was officially closed and prior to his appointment as Professor of Metaphysics and Ethics at the University of Toronto. Fittingly enough--though probably accidentally--it marks both Beaven's personal transition from professional theologian to professional philosopher and the transition of academic philosophy in English Canada from a fiefdom of religion to an independent concern.

The moment was an interesting and crucial one in the development of what was to become Canada. Thirteen years after Mackenzie's rebellion and seventeen years before Confederation sectarianism was the crucial issue. In what was to become Ontario, Methodists and Anglicans, led respectively by Egerton Ryerson and John Strachan, struggled for social, political, and educational power. Presbyterians, Baptists, and a host of other sects were only slightly less obvious in the struggle. The two "Canadas" had been brought into uneasy union as an aftermath of Lord Durham's conviction that the colonists could hardly govern themselves worse than the British did and that the French in "Lower Canada" (now to be "Canada East") ought to be assimilated into a general culture. Protestant and Catholic now faced one another as two dominant blocks in a union--a situation which exacerbated the concerns of Catholics in English Canada.

Ironically, Egerton Ryerson, who had been appointed Assistant Superintendent of Schools of Upper Canada ( Ontario) in 1844, was sent abroad to look for solutions to the sectarian struggles and chose Ireland as a model. (He had inspected the Prussian model, too, but, not surprisingly, concluded that Prussian education would go down badly amongst his constituents.) Ireland, however, was still an undivided

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1
James Beaven, Elements of Natural Theology ( London: F. and J. Rivington, 1850). Hereafter referred to as Elements.

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