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THE REVEREND DOCTOR RYERSON.*
BY JOHN GEORGE HODGINS, M.A., LL.D.
THE memories of great and noble men are a rich heritage to those who remain after they are gone. But it is no less true, that the waters of Lethe, alas, too soon pass over the memories, as well as the deeds, of even our greatest men. Who now speaks of our first Governor Simcoe; or, with intelligent appreciation, of Lord Elgin, our accomplished constitutional Governor-General; or of Sir John Beverley Robinson, or Robert Baldwin, as jurists and statesmen; for, to none of them has a single patriotic stone been raised, or a public memorial erected, to perpetuate their names and memory in "this Canada of ours." Yet truer sons to all her higher interests, and in their respective spheres, this Dominion has never known.
We have sought of later years to rescue from oblivion the names and deeds and memories of some of our most noted men, by erecting statues of them in the open air, and in the broad daylight, so that all may see the forms of those who have "deserved well of their country." Conspicuous among these is the statue of the subject of this sketch.
Having now been fifty years in the public service, and all of that time in connection with one of the most important departments of the Government, I have necessarily come in contact with many of our foremost public men, and noted strangers. Such a prolonged experience naturally enables one to estimate men and things by a standard of comparison, more or less high, as the years go by. That experience, and the moderating influence on opinion of time and distance, enables me to look the more dispassionately at the man we honour to-night, and at every side of his character. For his was indeed many-sided. No man, to my mind, better illustrated what may be termed the "evolution of character"-of early training and discipline-than did Dr. Ryerson.
As a youth, he was subject to many impulses, guided and controlled, as they were, by a Mother's loving hand. To her, he states, that he was "principally indebted for any studious habits,
* We have pleasure in reproducing the admirable paper read by Dr. J. George Hodgins, at the ceremony of unveiling the portraits of the Revs. Dr. Ryerson and Dr. Nelles at Victoria University. These portraits, by Mr. J. W. L. Forster, are two of the best portraits we have ever seen. Mr. Forster had splendid subjects to begin with and has caught the very spirit of the noble men whose portraits he has painted. —ED.
mental energy, or even capacity, or decision of character." From her, too, came religious instruction, "poured into his mind in childhood (as he said) by a mother's counsels, and infused into his heart by a mother's prayers and tears." When first under the influence of an awakened conscience, he became an ascetic, almost as pronounced in his methods of mental self-mortification as the veriest Trappist, with whose severe discipline Wesley himself was somewhat enamoured. When duty, however, called the youthful Egerton back to his father's farm, he obeyed "for the honour of religion," as he said; and in that spirit, he tells us, he " ploughed every acre of ground for the season, cradled every stalk of wheat, rye and oats, and mowed every spear of grass, pitched the whole, first on a waggon, and then from the waggon onto the hay-mow, or stack." While the neighbours were astonished at one man doing so much work, he said: "I neither felt fatigue nor depression, for the joy of the Lord was my strength.'" Then, as usher, or master, in his gifted Brother's school, and as missionary and farm-instructor to the Indians at the Credit, in 1826, you see the same zeal, the same self-sacrifice and devotion to duty, never flinching and never holding back.
Again, as the higher calls of the ministry required him to apply himself to acquire the necessary knowledge, he entered into that practical school of itinerancy, so noted in the history of the early Methodist preachers, and so celebrated in producing noble and heroic men in the early days of Methodism in this country.
And here I would pay a willing tribute, from my own experience, to the self-denying labours of these devoted men-the early Methodist preachers. It is now over sixty years (1833) since I left my father's house, in Dublin, to settle in the backwoods— first near London, and afterwards in Trafalgar. The years which I spent there are fragrant with many memories, and with pleasant associations of primitive farm life. And no less so, for the tender recollections of the simple services in school-houses in humble homes, or around the fires of the undisturbed campmeeting in the woods. My own strong conviction is that the debt which Canada owes to the early Methodist preachers, to the single-hearted exhorters and class-leaders, as well as the devoted Presbyterians and Baptists, who come later into the field, can never be repaid. To them is this country indebted for keeping alive, in those early days, the deep religious feeling and devotion which they themselves had created and developed.
In Dr. Ryerson's case, the contact with the writings of Wesley, of Blair, of Fletcher, and also of Blackstone, Locke and Paley, in that silent, thoughtful study, for which the long round of the
circuit gave such ample opportunity, implanted in his very nature those germs of noble and lofty views of constitutional and religious freedom, which soon had a wider field for their development.
No man's mental career and experience, however, more clearly demonstrated the truth of the trite adage that "there is no royal road to learning," than did Dr. Ryerson's. It was a long, toilsome, and upward road to him, during the first twenty years of his life. He had little more than reached that age, when he first crossed swords with the then foremost champion of the exclusive claims of one Church to civil and religious rights in Upper Canada.
And here, a slight historical digression will enable us to see that what this youthful writer undertook, in the crusade, on which he had so courageously entered, was a much more serious matter than men of to-day are generally aware of.
The grievance complained of originated twelve years before Dr. Ryerson was born. It was embedded in the very Constitution of Upper Canada in 1791. The germ of that whole after evil took root then; and, by the time that that evil was grappled with by Dr. Ryerson and others, between thirty and forty years had passed by, and it had acquired strength and power, so that it took as many more years of anxious toil and labour, as well as successive assaults and active fighting, before the contest was brought to a successful close.
Simcoe, our first Governor, was one of the most enlightened of his contemporaries, in regard to the more practical and material parts of his duty as Governor. Yet he always seemed to be haunted with a vague fear of "sectaries" gaining a foothold in this Province. According to his idea of colonial government, the Church and the State should be united; and, to accomplish this, he bent all his energies, after he came to Upper Canada. Even before he came among us as Governor, he had formulated his own theory as to what civil and religious form his own colonial government should take. As a member of the British Parliament, before he took office under the Constitutional Act of 1791, which he had helped to pass, he had an opportunity of expressing his views, and of maintaining his theory of colonial government in the House of Commons. To him, and to the members who sympathized with his views, were we indebted for what afterwards proved to be an unjust and unfortunate provision in the Constitutional Act of 1791, "for the support of a Protestant clergy," and for the endowment of Church of England parishes in Upper Canada,-a provision which, for more than half a century, was the unceasing cause of bitter strife and heartburning in this Province.
During, and after his time, the Church of England was always officially spoken of as the "Established Church of Upper Canada." And in setting apart the fifty-seven rectories in 1836, Sir John Colborne gave final effect to the Simcoe Act of 1791, which provided for the endowment of Church of England rectories in Upper Canada.
The Church and State views, so strenuously put forth by Governor Simcoe and those who surrounded, and those who succeeded, him, took strong hold upon the governing class of those days. They always maintained, as he did, that the Constitutional Act of 1791 provided for a State Church, and that the Act endowed it with reserves and prospective rectories. As the years went on, these views took a practical shape. In 1820, the Executive Government, under Sir Peregrine Maitland, established a system of Church of England" National Schools," as in England, without the knowledge or consent of the Legislature of Upper Canada, and four years after that legislature itself had passed a law establishing common schools in every settled township. In 1827 an exclusively Church of England Charter was obtained for the projected King's College. The application for this charter was accompanied by an ecclesiastical Chart-which afterward became very notorious-in which the number of non-episcopal churches, with their members, was dwarfed to insignificance. When the chart reached Upper Canada, in 1828, it raised such an indignant feeling in the country, that the House of Assembly took the matter up, and a report, strongly condemnatory of the chart, was prepared by a select committee of the House, based upon elaborate and conclusive evidence, obtained from over fifty witnesses, including many ministers and lay members of all the Churches. From this evidence Dr. T. D. Morrison prepared a revised and correct chart, and for this, being also a Methodist, he was dismissed from his employment. As a fitting protest against such treatment, Dr. Morrison was elected a member of the House of Assembly, and was afterwards Mayor of Toronto.
The climax of this high-handed and partisan policy was reached in 1831, when, in response to a respectful address from the Methodist Conference, Sir John Colborne reproached its members for their "dislike to any church establishment, or to the particular form of Christianity which is denominated the Church of England." He taunted them "with the accounts of disgraceful dissensions of the Methodist Church and its separatists," and closed by speaking of what he termed the "absurd advice given to the Indians by the Methodist Missionaries," and of their "officious interference." The Indians had already been told by executive sanction "that the Governor did not feel disposed to assist the