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Canadian History
Hon. Adam Crooks


LL.B., late Minister of Education for the Province of Ontario, was the son of Honourable James Crooks, a gentleman who took a prominent and creditable part in public affairs. Adam Crooks was born at "The Homestead", in the township of West Flamboro', Wentworth, on the 11th of December, 1827. The family is of Scottish descent, and settled in Canada in 1794. Young Crooks attended the public schools in his own neighbourhood, and in his twelfth year he entered Upper Canada College. In his eighteenth year he matriculated at King's College - now the University of Toronto - and stood first in classics. In his second quarter he took the Wellington scholarship, and, when graduating, carried off the gold medal for classics and the first silver medal for metaphysics. He now began the study of law, and was called to the bar of Upper Canada in 1851. He opened an office in Toronto, where he soon established a lucrative practice. His business habits are very correct, and in his profession he was painstaking and thorough. The degree of M.A. was conferred upon him in 1852, and in 1856 he maried Emily, youngest daughter of the late General Thomas Evans, C.B., of Montreal, a distinguished officer who fought at Lundy's Lane in 1812. His wife died at Toronto in 1868. In 1863 Mr. Crooks received the degree of LL.B., and the following year was elected vice-chancellor of the University of Toronto, which position he held till 1872, when he resigned. In 1863 he was created a Queen's counsel. In politics mr. Crooks was a Liberal. In 1867 the Reform party was badly in need of new blood, and leading members pressed Mr. Crooks to offer himself for parliament. He, therefore, offered himself for the West Riding of Toronto, for the provincial legislature, but was unsuccessful. Four years later, however, he carried the same constituency. In the Blake administration Mr. Crooks was attorney-general. When Mr Mowat re-constructed his Cabinet in October, 1872, Mr. Crooks became provincial treasurer, and to this department was added, in 1876, that of minister of education. In 1875 he was defeated for East Toronto, but was soon afterwards elected for South Oxford. He resigned the provincial treasurership in 1877, Hon. S. C. Wood taking that office. Mr. Crooks, a cultured scholar himself, always took the deepest interest in education. A labour of love as well as of duty was his administration in the Education department, but he did not escape censure. His opponents railed against him bitterly for what they called his bigotry and his partisanship. It has always seemed to the writer that, to a large extent, Mr. Crooks was made the scapegoat of his party. He had to bear upon his own shoulders alone sins which often were not his own, but those of his colleagues and the department. Education was made to pay tribute to party expediency, as every other department in the public service is, and Mr. Crooks was held responsible. But when his health and mind gave way, there was not, so far as this writer has seen, any one among his colleagues, among those colleagues who had manipulated education to their own end to stand up and say a word for him. Indeed by their silence they affected to be a little scandalized themselves at the state into which educational affairs had fallen. Mr. Crooks had a number of faults as an administrator. He wavered at the time when firmness was required, and every now and again threw the department into the throes of general change. Out of this grew dissatisfaction over the country; out of it grew the disgusting rivalry between publishers, and the demoralizing scenes of canvassing and bribery among school boards and school trustees which afterwards prevailed throughout the province. But for this, even, Mr. Crooks was only in a measure responsible. He should get credit for all that he did in the cause of education. He was always courteous, and won the good will even of those who differed from his judgment and his methods.


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