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Lord Elgin
Chapter VII - The History of the Clergy Reserves (1791-1854)


For a long period in the history of Canada the development of several provinces was more or less seriously retarded, and the politics of the country constantly complicated by the existence of troublesome questions arising out of the lavish grants of public lands by the French and English governments. The territorial domain of French Canada was distributed by the king of France, under the inspiration of Richelieu, with great generosity, on a system of a modified feudal tenure, which, it was hoped, would strengthen the connection between the Crown and the dependency by the creation of a colonial aristocracy, and at the same time stimulate the colonization and settlement of the valley of the St. Lawrence; but, as we shall see in the course of the following chapter, despite the wise intentions of its promoters, the seigniorial tenure gradually became, after the conquest, more or less burdensome to the habitants, and an impediment rather than an incentive to the agricultural development and peopling of the province. Even little Prince Edward Island was troubled with a land question as early as 1767, when it was still known by the name St. John, given it in the days of French rule. Sixty-seven townships, containing in the aggregate 1,360,600 English acres, were conveyed in one day by ballot, with a few reservations to the Crown, to a number of military men, officials and others, who had real or supposed claims on the British government. In this wholesale fashion the island was burdened with a land monopoly which was not wholly removed until after the union with the Canadian Dominion in 1873. Though some disputes arose in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick between the old and new settlers with respect to the ownership of lands after the coming of the Loyalists, who received, as elsewhere, liberal grants of land, they were soon settled, and consequently these maritime provinces were not for any length of time embarrassed by the existence of such questions as became important issues in the politics of Canada. Extravagant grants were also given to the United Empire Loyalists who settled on the banks of the St. Lawrence and Niagara rivers in Upper Canada, as some compensation for the great sacrifices they had made for the Crown during the American revolution. Large tracts of this property were sold either by the Loyalists or their heirs, and passed into the hands of speculators at very insignificant prices. Lord Durham in his report cites authority to show that not "one-tenth of the lands granted to United Empire Loyalists had been occupied by the persons to whom they were granted, and in a great proportion of cases not occupied at all." The companies which were also in the course of time organized in Great Britain for the purchase and sale of lands in Canada, also received extraordinary favours from the government. Although the Canada Company, which is still in existence, was an important agency in the settlement of the province of Upper Canada, its possession of immense tracts--some of them, the Huron Block, for instance, locked up for years--was for a time a great public grievance.

But all these land questions sank into utter insignificance compared with the dispute which arose out of the thirty-sixth clause of the Constitutional Act of 1791, which provided that there should be reserved for the maintenance and support of a "Protestant clergy," in the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, "a quantity of land equal in value to a seventh part of grants that had been made in the past, or might be made in the future." Subsequent clauses of the same act made provision for the erection and endowment of one or more rectories in every township or parish, "according to the establishment of the Church of England," and at the same time gave power to the legislature of the two provinces "to vary or repeal" these enactments of the law with the important reservation that all bills of such a character could not receive the royal assent until thirty days after they had been laid before both Houses of the imperial parliament. Whenever it was practicable, the lands were reserved under the act among those already granted to settlers with the intention of creating parishes as soon as possible in every settled township throughout the province. However, it was not always possible to carry out this plan, in consequence of whole townships having been granted en bloc to the Loyalists in certain districts, especially in those of the Bay of Quinte, Kingston and Niagara, and it was therefore necessary to carry out the intention of the law in adjoining townships where no lands of any extent had been granted to settlers.

The Church of England, at a very early period, claimed, as the only "Protestant clergy" recognized by English law, the exclusive use of the lands in question, and Bishop Mountain, who became in 1793 Anglican bishop of Quebec, with a jurisdiction extending over all Canada, took the first steps to sustain this assertion of exclusive right. Leases were given to applicants by a clerical corporation established by the Anglican Church for the express purpose of administering the reserves. For some years the Anglican claim passed without special notice, and it is not until 1817 that we see the germ of the dispute which afterwards so seriously agitated Upper Canada. It was proposed in the assembly to sell half the lands and devote the proceeds to secular purposes, but the sudden prorogation of the legislature by Lieutenant-Governor Gore, prevented any definite action on the resolutions, although the debate that arose on the subject had the effect of showing the existence of a marked public grievance. The feeling at this time in the country was shown in answers given to circulars sent out by Robert Gourlay, an energetic Scottish busy-body, to a number of townships, asking an expression of opinion as to the causes which retarded improvement and the best means of developing the resources of the province. The answer from Sandwich emphatically set forth that the reasons of the existing depression were the reserves of land for the Crown and clergy, "which must for long keep the country a wilderness, a harbour for wolves, and a hindrance to compact and good neighbourhood; defects in the system of colonization; too great a quantity of land in the hands of individuals who do not reside in the province, and are not assessed for their property." The select committee of the House of Commons on the civil government of Canada reported in 1828 that "these reserved lands, as they are at present distributed over the country, retard more than any other circumstance the improvement of the colony, lying as they do in detached portions of each township and intervening between the occupations of actual settlers, who have no means of cutting roads through the woods and morasses which thus separate them from their neighbours." It appears, too, that the quantity of land actually reserved was in excess of that which appears to have been contemplated by the Constitutional Act. "A quantity equal to one-seventh of all grants," wrote Lord Durham in his report of 1839, "would be one-eighth of each township, or of all the public land. Instead of this proportion, the practice has been ever since the act passed, and in the clearest violation of its provisions, to set apart for the clergy in Upper Canada, a seventh of all the land, which is a quantity equal to a sixth of the land granted.... In Lower Canada the same violation of the law has taken place, with this difference--that upon every sale of Crown and clergy reserves, a fresh reserve for the clergy has been made, equal to a fifth of such reserves." In that way the public in both provinces was systematically robbed of a large quantity of land, which, Lord Durham estimated, was worth about L280,000 at the time he wrote. He acknowledges, however, that the clergy had no part in "this great misappropriation of the public property," but that it had arisen "entirely from heedless misconception, or some other error of the civil government of the province." All this, however, goes to show the maladministration of the public lands, and is one of the many reasons the people of the Canadas had for considering these reserves a public grievance.

When political parties were organized in Upper Canada some years after the war of 1812-14, which had for a while united all classes and creeds for the common defence, we see on one side a Tory compact for the maintenance of the old condition of things, the control of patronage, and the protection of the interests of the Church of England; on the other, a combination of Reformers, chiefly composed of Methodists, Presbyterians, and Baptists, who clamoured for reforms in government and above all for relief from the dominance of the Anglican Church, which, with respect to the clergy reserves and other matters, was seeking a quasi recognition as a state church. As the Puritans of New England at the commencement of the American Revolution inveighed against any attempt to establish an Anglican episcopate in the country as an insidious attack by the monarchy on their civil and religious liberty--most unjustly, as any impartial historian must now admit[17]--so in Upper Canada the dissenters made it one of their strongest grievances that favouritism was shown to the Anglican Church in the distribution of the public lands and the public patronage, to the detriment of all other religious bodies in the province. The bitterness that was evoked on this question had much to do with bringing about the rebellion of 1837. If the whole question could have been removed from the arena of political discussion, the Reformers would have been deprived of one of their most potent agencies to create a feeling against the "family compact" and the government at Toronto. But Bishop Strachan, who was a member of both the executive and legislative councils--in other words, the most influential member of the "family compact"--could not agree to any compromise which would conciliate the aggrieved dissenters and at the same time preserve a large part of the claim made by the Church of England. Such a compromise in the opinion of this sturdy, obstinate ecclesiastic, would be nothing else than a sop to his Satanic majesty. It was always with him a battle a l'outrance, and as we shall soon see, in the end he suffered the bitterness of defeat.

In these later days when we can review the whole question without any of the prejudice and passion which embittered the controversy while it was a burning issue, we can see that the Church of England had strong historical and legal arguments to justify its claim to the exclusive use of the clergy reserves. When the Constitutional Act of 1791 was passed, the only Protestant clergy recognized in British statutes were those of the Church of England, and, as we shall see later, those of the established Church of Scotland. The dissenting denominations had no more a legal status in the constitutional system of England than the Roman Catholics, and indeed it was very much the same thing in some respects in the provinces of Canada. So late as 1824 the legislative council, largely composed of Anglicans, rejected a bill allowing Methodist ministers to solemnize marriages, and it was not until 1831 that recognized ministers of all denominations were placed on an equality with the Anglican clergy in such matters. The employment of the words "Protestant Clergy" in the act, it was urged with force, was simply to distinguish the Church of England clergy from those of the Church of Rome, who, otherwise, would be legally entitled to participate in the grant.

The loyalists, who founded the province of Upper Canada, established formally by the Constitutional Act of 1791, were largely composed of adherents of the Church of England, and it was one of the dearest objects of Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe to place that body on a stable basis and give it all the influence possible in the state. A considerable number had also settled in Lower Canada, and received, as in other parts of British North America, the sympathy and aid of the parent state. It was the object of the British government to make the constitution of the Canadas "an image and transcript" as far as possible of the British system of government. In no better way could this be done, in the opinion of the framers of the Constitutional Act, than by creating a titled legislative council;[18] and though this effort came to naught, it is noteworthy as showing the tendency at that time of imperial legislation. If such a council could be established, then it was all important that there should be a religious body, supported by the state, to surround the political institutions of the country with the safeguards which a conservative and aristocratic church like that of England would give. The erection and endowment of rectories "according to the establishment of the Church of England"--words of the act to be construed in connection with the previous clauses--was obviously a part of the original scheme of 1791 to anglicize Upper Canada and make it as far as possible a reflex of Anglican England.

It does not appear that at any time there was any such feeling of dissatisfaction with respect to the reserves in French Canada as existed throughout Upper Canada, The Protestant clergy in the former province were relatively few in number, and the Roman Catholic Church, which dominated the whole country, was quite content with its own large endowments received from the bounty of the king or private individuals during the days of French occupation, and did not care to meddle in a question which in no sense affected it. On the other hand, in Upper Canada, the arguments used by the Anglican clergy in support of their claims to the exclusive administration of the reserves were constantly answered not only in the legislative bodies, but in the  Liberal papers, and by appeals to the imperial government. It was contended that the phrase "Protestant clergy" used in the Constitutional Act, was simply intended to distinguish all Protestant denominations from the Roman Catholic Church, and that, had there been any intention to give exclusive rights to the Anglican Church, it would have been expressly so stated in the section reserving the lands, just as had been done in the sections specially providing for the erection and endowment of Anglican rectories.

The first successful blow against the claims of the English Church in Canada was struck by that branch of the Presbyterian Church known in law as the Established Church of Scotland. It obtained an opinion from the British law officers in 1819, entirely favourable to its own participation in the reserves on the ground that it had been fully recognized as a state church, not only in the act uniting the two kingdoms of England and Scotland, but in several British statutes passed later than the Constitutional Act whose doubtful phraseology had originated the whole controversy. While the law officers admitted that the provisions of this act might be "extended also to the Church of Scotland, if there are any such settled in Canada (as appears to have been admitted in the debate upon the passing of the act)," yet they expressed the opinion that the clauses in question did not apply to dissenting ministers, since they thought that "the term 'Protestant clergy' could apply only to Protestant clergy recognized and established by law." We shall see a little farther on the truth of the old adage that "lawyers will differ" and that in 1840, twenty-one years later than the expression of the opinion just cited, eminent British jurists appeared to be more favourable to the claims of denominations other than the Church of Scotland.

Until 1836--the year preceding the rebellion--the excitement with respect to the reserves had been intensified by the action of Sir John Colborne, lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada, who, on the eve of his departure for England, was induced by Bishop Strachan to sign patents creating and endowing forty-four rectories[19] in Upper Canada, representing more than 17,000 acres of land in the aggregate or about 486 for each of them. One can say advisedly that this action was most indiscreet at a time when a wise administrator would have attempted to allay rather than stimulate public irritation on so serious a question. Until this time, says Lord Durham, the Anglican clergy had no exclusive privileges, save such as might spring from their efficient discharge of their sacred duties, or from the energy, ability or influence of members of their body--notably Bishop Strachan, who practically controlled the government in religious and even secular matters. But, continued Lord Durham, the last public act of Sir John Colborne made it quite understood that every rector possessed "all the spiritual and other privileges enjoyed by an English rector," and that though he might "have no right to levy tithes" (for even this had been made a question), he was "in all other respects precisely in the same position as a clergyman of the established church in England." "This is regarded," added Lord Durham, "by all other teachers of religion in this country as having at once degraded them to a position of legal inferiority to the clergy of the Church of England; and it has been most warmly resented. In the opinion of many persons, this was the chief predisposing cause of the recent insurrection, and it is an abiding and unabated cause for discontent."

As soon as Sir John Colborne's action was known throughout the province, public indignation among the opponents of the clergy reserves and the Church of England took the forms of public meetings to denounce the issue of the patents, and of memorials to the imperial government calling into question their legality and praying for their immediate annulment. An opinion was obtained from the law officers of the Crown that the action taken by Sir John Colborne was "not valid and lawful," but it was given on a mere ex parte statement of the case prepared by the opponents of the rectories; and the same eminent lawyers subsequently expressed themselves favourably as to the legality of the patents when they were asked to reconsider the whole question, which was set forth in a very elaborate report prepared under the direction of Bishop Strachan. It is convenient to mention here that this phase of the clergy reserve question again came before able English counsel at the Equity Bar, when Hincks visited London in 1852. After they had given an opinion unfavourable to the Colborne patents on the case as submitted to them by the Canadian prime minister, it was deemed expedient to submit the whole legal question to the Court of Chancery in Upper Canada, which decided unanimously, after a full hearing of the case, that the patents were valid. But this decision was not given until 1856, when the whole matter of the reserves had been finally adjusted, and the validity of the creation of the rectories was no longer a burning question in Upper Canada.

When Poulett Thomson came to Canada in the autumn of 1839 as governor-general, he recognized the necessity of bringing about an immediate settlement of this very vexatious question, and of preventing its being made a matter of agitation after the union of the two provinces. The imperial authorities had already disallowed an act passed by the legislature of Upper Canada of 1838 to reinvest the clergy reserves in the Crown, and it became necessary for Lord Sydenham--to give the governor-general's later title--to propose a settlement in the shape of a compromise between the various Protestant bodies interested in the reserves. Lord Sydenham was opposed to the application of these lands to general education as proposed in several bills which had passed the assembly, but had been rejected by the legislative council owing to the dominant influence of Bishop Strachan. "To such a measure," says Lord Sydenham's biographer,[20] "he was opposed; first because it would have taken away the only fund exclusively devoted to purposes of religion, and secondly, because, even if carried in the provincial legislature, it would evidently not have obtained the sanction of the imperial parliament. He therefore entered into personal communication with the leading individuals among the principal religious communities, and after many interviews, succeeded in obtaining their support to a measure for the distribution of the reserves among the religious communities recognized by law, in proportion to their respective numbers."

Lord Sydenham's efforts to obtain the consent "of leading individuals among the principal religious communities" did not succeed in preventing a strong opposition to the measure after it had passed through the legislature. Dr. Ryerson, a power among the Methodists, denounced it, after he had at the outset shown an inclination to support it, and the Bishop of Toronto was also among its most determined opponents. Lord Sydenham's well-meaning attempt to settle the question was thwarted at the very outset by the reference of the bill to English judges, who reported adversely on the ground that the power "to vary or repeal" given in the Constitutional Act of 1791 was only prospective, and did not authorize the provincial legislature to divert the proceeds of the lands already sold from the purpose originally contemplated in the imperial statute. The judges also expressed the opinion on this occasion that the words "Protestant clergy" were large enough to include and did include "other clergy than those of the Church of Scotland." In their opinion these words appeared, "both in their natural force and meaning, and still more from the context of the clauses in which they are found, to be there used to designate and intend a clergy opposed in doctrine and discipline to the clergy of the Church of Rome, and rather to aim at the encouragement of the Protestant religion in opposition to the Romish Church, than to point exclusively to the clergy of the Church of England." But as they did not find on the statute book the acknowledgment by the legislature of any other clergy answering the description of the law, they could not specify any other except the Church of Scotland as falling within the imperial statute.

Under these circumstances the imperial government at once passed through parliament a bill (3 and 4 Vict., c. 78) which re-enacted the Canadian measure with the modifications rendered necessary by the judicial opinion just cited. This act put an end to future reservations, and at the same time recognized the claims of all the Protestant bodies to a share in the funds derived from the sales of the lands. It provided for the division of the reserves into two portions--those sold before the passing of the act and those sold at a later time. Of the previous sales, the Church of England was to receive two-thirds and the Church of Scotland one-third. Of future sales, the Church of England would receive one-third and the Church of Scotland one-sixth, while the residue could be applied by the governor-in-council "for purposes of public worship and religious instruction in Canada," in other words, that it should be divided among those other religious denominations that might make application at any time for a share in these particular funds.

This act, however, did not prove to be a settlement of this disturbing question. If Bishop Strachan had been content with the compromise made in this act, and had endeavoured to carry out its provisions as soon as it was passed, the Anglican Church would have obtained positive advantages which it failed to receive when the question was again brought into the arena of angry discussion. In 1844 when Henry Sherwood was solicitor-general in the Draper-Viger Conservative government he proposed an address to the Crown for the passing of a new imperial act, authorizing the division of the land itself instead of the income arising from its sales. His object was to place the lands, allotted to the Church of England, under the control of the church societies, which could lease them, or hold them for any length of time at such prices as they might deem expedient. In the course of the debate on this proposition, which failed to receive the assent of the House, Baldwin, Price, and other prominent men expressed regret that any attempt should be made to disturb the settlement made by the imperial statute of 1840, which, in their opinion, should be regarded as final.

A strong feeling now developed in Upper Canada in favour of a repeal of the imperial act, and the secularization of the reserves. The Presbyterians--apart from the Church of Scotland--were now influenced by the Scottish Free Church movement of 1843 and opposed to public provision for the support of religious denominations. The spirit which animated them spread to other bodies, and was stimulated by the uncompromising attitude still assumed by the Anglican bishop, who was anxious, as Sherwood's effort proved, to obtain advantages for his church beyond those given it by the act of 1840. When the LaFontaine-Baldwin ministry was formed, the movement for the secularization of the reserves among the Upper Canadian Liberals, or Reformers as many preferred to call their party, became so pronounced as to demand the serious consideration of the government; but there was no inclination shown by the French Canadians in the cabinet to disturb the settlement of 1840, and the serious phases of the Rebellion Losses Bill kept the whole question for some time in the background. After the appearance of the Clear Grits in Upper Canadian politics, with the secularization of the reserves as the principal plank in their platform, the LaFontaine-Baldwin cabinet felt the necessity of making a concession to the strong feeling which prevailed among Upper Canadian Reformers. As they were divided in opinion on the question and could not make it a part of the ministerial policy, Price, commissioner of Crown lands, was induced in the session of 1850 to introduce on his sole responsibility an address to the Crown, praying for the repeal of the imperial act of 1840, and the passage of another which would authorize the Canadian legislature to dispose of the reserves as it should deem most expedient, but with the distinct understanding that, while no particular sect should be considered as having a vested right in the property, the emoluments derived by existing incumbents should be guaranteed during their lives. Mr. Price--the same gentleman who had objected some years previously to the reopening of the question--showed in the course of his speech the importance which the reserves had now attained. The number of acres reserved to this time was 2,395,687, and of sales, under two statutes, 1,072,453. These sales had realized L720,756, of which L373,899 4s. 4d. had been paid, and L346,856 15s. 8d. remained still due. Counting the interest on the sum paid, a million of pounds represented the value of the lands already sold, and when they were all disposed of there would be realized more than two millions of pounds. Price also pointed out the fact that only a small number of persons had derived advantages from these reserves. Out of the total population of 723,000 souls in Upper Canada, the Church of England claimed 171,000 and the Church of Scotland 68,000, or a total of 239,000 persons who received the lion's share, and left comparatively little to the remaining population of 484,000 souls. Among the latter the Roman Catholics counted 123,707 communicants and received only L700 a year; the Wesleyans, with 90,363 adherents, received even a still more wretched pittance. Furthermore 269,000 persons were entirely excluded from any share whatever in the reserves. In the debate on the resolutions for the address LaFontaine did not consider the imperial act a finality, and was in favour of having the reserves brought under the control of the Canadian legislature, but he expressed the opinion most emphatically that all private rights and endowments conferred under the authority of imperial legislation should be held inviolate, and so far as possible, carried into effect. Baldwin's observations were remarkable for their vagueness. He did not object to endowment for religious purposes, although he was opposed to any union between church and state. While he did not consider the act of 1840 as a final settlement, inasmuch as it did not express the opinion of the Canadian people, he was not then prepared to commit himself as to the mode in which the property should he disposed of. Hincks affirmed that there was no desire on the part of members of the government to evade their responsibilities on the question, but they were not ready to adopt the absurd and unconstitutional course that was pressed on them by the Clear Grits, of attempting to repeal an imperial act by a Canadian statute.

Malcolm Cameron and other radical Reformers advocated the complete secularization of the reserves, while Cayley, Macdonald, and other Conservatives, urged that the provisions of the imperial act of 1840 should be carried out to the fullest extent, and that the funds, then or at a future time at the disposal of the government "for the purposes of public worship and religious instruction" under the act, should be apportioned among the various denominations that had not previously had a share in the reserves. When it came to a division, it was clear that there was no unanimity on the question among the ministers and other supporters. Indeed, the summary given above of the remarks made by LaFontaine, Baldwin, and Hincks, affords conclusive evidence of the differences of opinion that existed between them and of their reluctance to express themselves definitely on the subject. The majority of the French members, Messrs. LaFontaine, Cauchon, Chabot, Chauveau, LaTerriere and others, voted against the resolution which affirmed that "no religious denomination can be held to have such vested interest in the revenue derived from the proceeds of the said clergy reserves as should prevent further legislation with reference to the disposal of them, but this House is nevertheless of opinion that the claims of existing incumbents should be treated in the most liberal manner." Baldwin and other Reformers supported this clause, which passed by a majority of two. The address was finally adopted on a division of forty-six Yeas and twenty-three Nays--"the minority containing the names of a few Reformers who would not consent to pledge themselves to grant, for the lives of the existing incumbents, the stipends on which they had accepted their charges--some perhaps having come from other countries to fill them and having possibly thrown up other preferments."[21] The address was duly forwarded to England by Lord Elgin, with a despatch in which he explained at some length the position of the whole question. In accordance with the principle which guided him throughout his administration of Canadian affairs--to give full scope to the right of the province to manage its own local concerns--he advised Lord Grey to repeal the imperial act of 1840 if he wished "to preserve the colony." Lord Grey admitted that the question was one exclusively affecting the people of Canada and should be decided by the provincial legislature. It was the intention of the government, he informed Lord Elgin, to introduce a bill into parliament for this purpose; but action had to be deferred until another year when, as it happened unfortunately for the province, Lord John Russell's ministry was forced to resign, and was succeeded by a Conservative administration led by the Earl of Derby.

The Canadian government soon ascertained from Sir John Pakington, the new colonial secretary, that the new advisers of Her Majesty were not "inclined to give their consent and support to any arrangement the result of which would too probably be the diversion to other purposes of the only public fund ... which now exists for the support of divine worship and religious instruction in the colony." It was also intimated by the secretary of state that the new government was quite ready to entertain a proposal for reconsidering the mode of distributing the proceeds of the sales of the reserves, while not ready to agree to any proposal that might "divert forever from its sacred object the fund arising from that portion of the public lands of Canada which, almost from the period of the British conquest of that province, has been set apart for the religious instruction of the people." Hincks, who was at that time in England, at once wrote to Sir John Pakington, in very emphatic terms, that he viewed "with grave apprehension the prospect of collision between Her Majesty's government and the parliament of Canada, on a question regarding which such strong feelings prevailed among the great mass of the population." The people of Canada were convinced that they were "better judges than any parties in England of what measures would best conduce to the peace and welfare of the province." As respects the proposal "for reconsidering the mode of distributing the income of the clergy reserves," Hincks had no hesitation in saying that "it would be received as one for the violation of the most sacred constitutional rights of the people."

As soon as the Canadian legislature met in 1852, Hincks carried an address to the Crown, in which it was urged that the question of the reserves was "one so exclusively affecting the people of Canada that its decision ought not to be withdrawn from the provincial legislature, to which it properly belongs to regulate all matters concerning the domestic interests of the province." The hope was expressed that Her Majesty's government would lose no time in giving effect to the promise made by the previous administration and introduce the legislation necessary "to satisfy the wishes of the Canadian people." In the debate on this address, Moria, the leader of the French section of the cabinet, clearly expressed himself in favour of the secularization of the reserves in accordance with the views entertained by his Upper Canadian colleagues. It was consequently clear that the successors of the LaFontaine-Baldwin ministry were fully pledged to a vigorous policy for the disposal of this vexatious dispute.

A few months after Lord Elgin had forwarded this address to the Crown, the Earl of Derby's administration was defeated in the House of Commons, and the Aberdeen government was formed towards the close of 1852, with the Duke of Newcastle as secretary of state for the colonies. One of Sir John Pakington's last official acts was to prepare a despatch unfavourable to the prayer of the assembly's last address, but it was never sent to Canada, though brought down to parliament. At the same time the Canadian people heard of this despatch they were gratified by the announcement that the new ministers had decided to reverse the policy of their predecessors and to meet the wishes of the Canadian legislature. Accordingly, in the session of 1853, a measure was passed by the imperial parliament to give full power to the provincial legislature to vary or repeal all or any part of the act of 1840, and to make all necessary provisions respecting the clergy reserves or the proceeds derived from the same, on the express condition that there should be no interference with the annual stipends or allowances of existing incumbents as long as they lived. The Hincks-Morin ministry was then urged to bring in at once a measure disposing finally of the question, in accordance with the latest imperial act; but, as we have read in a previous chapter, it came to the opinion after anxious deliberation that the existing parliament was not competent to deal with so important a question. It also held that it was a duty to obtain an immediate expression of opinion from the people, and the election of a House in which the country would be fully represented in accordance with the legislation increasing the number of representatives in the assembly.

The various political influences arrayed against Hincks in Upper Canada led to his defeat, and the formation of the MacNab-Morin Liberal-Conservative government, which at once took steps to settle the question forever. John A. Macdonald commenced this new epoch in his political career by taking charge of the bill for the secularization of the reserves. It provided for the payment of all moneys arising from the sales of the reserves into the hands of the receiver-general, who would apportion them amongst the several municipalities of the province according to population. All annual stipends or allowances, charged upon the reserves before the passage of the imperial act of 1853, were continued during the lives of existing incumbents, though the latter could commute their stipends or allowances for their value in money, and in this way create a small permanent endowment for the advantage of the church to which they belonged.

After nearly forty years of continuous agitation, during which the province of Upper Canada had been convulsed from the Ottawa to Lake Huron, and political parties had been seriously embarrassed, the question was at last removed from the sphere of party and religious controversy. The very politicians who had contended for the rights of the Anglican clergy were now forced by public opinion and their political interests to take the final steps for its settlement. Bishop Strachan's fight during the best years of his life had ended in thorough discomfiture. As the historian recalls the story of that fight, he cannot fail to come to the conclusion that the settlement of 1854 relieved the Anglican Church itself of a controversy which, as long as it existed, created a feeling of deep hostility that seriously affected its usefulness and progress. Even Lord Elgin was compelled to write in 1851 "that the tone adopted by the Church of England here has almost always had the effect of driving from her even those who would be most disposed to co-operate with her if she would allow them." At last freed from the political and the religious bitterness which was so long evoked by the absence of a conciliatory policy on the part of her leaders, this great church is able peacefully to teach the noble lessons of her faith and win that respect among all classes which was not possible under the conditions that brought her into direct conflict with the great mass of the Canadian people.


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