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History of Toronto and County of York in Ontario
Part I: Chapter XXI. Upper Canada from the Peace to 1828


IMMEDIATELY after the war, measures were taken by the British Government to send a stream of immigration into Upper Canada. A large number of valuable settlers came at this time from Scotland. In 1816 an Act of the Upper Canada Parliament established Common Schools, the first of a series of measures destined to culminate into the present Public School system which has attracted the admiration of European nations. With increased prosperity the people of Upper Canada began to have leisure to observe the working of the machinery of Government. Much dissatisfaction was caused by the promised lands not being given to the militia who had served during the war. The Executive Government, too, was in the hands of a few influential men, for the most part connected more or less by family ties, who kept all offices, all emoluments, and well nigh all grants of land in their own hands, and about this time became known by the name which has such sinister association in Canadian History—that of the Family Compact.

At this time Robert Gourlay, a Scotch immigrant who was desirous of becoming a land agent, bethought himself of the expedient of addressing a number of blank forms containing each thirty-two queries as to agricultural matters in each district. Unfortunately he added another query: "What, in your opinion, most retards the improvement of your township in particular, or the Province in general?" This alarmed the Government, who were in the habit of conferring large grants of land on their own favourites, a practice which they well knew was injuring the Province. Gourlay began to be denounced as a republican and preacher of disloyalty; while on the other hand, the generality of the replies that poured into his hands denounced the Clergy Reserves as the bane of provincial improvement. The Clergy Reserves, set apart as an endowment for a State Church, took from the people one-seventh of the Province of Upper Canada. They were not m one place, but scattered here and there all over the Province. For the most part, they were waste, and this deteriorated the value of adjoining property, by their paying no tax, and infesting the neighbourhood with the wild beasts they sheltered. Finding himself the object of unjust attack, Gourlay proposed to the people of Upper Canada to petition the Imperial Parliament for an investigation of the affairs of the Province. On the ground of a passage in a draft of this petition, prepared by Gourlay, a prosecution was entered against him on a charge of libel. He was imprisoned for six months in Kingston gaol, but when tried was acquitted. He had even chance of becoming a popular leader, when he offended the Assembly by proposing to assemble a rival body, "the Convention;" and so lost popularity. The Family Compact were then able to hunt him down unhindered. A creature of their own basely swore that Gourlay was a seditious person. He was ordered to quit the country, and not doing so, was thrown into a cell at the old jail of Niagara whence he wrote some telling attacks on the Family Compact Government in the Niagara Spectator. But ill usage and prolonged incarceration told on his health. He became almost insane, and after being brought to trial, and condemned, was allowed to quit the country, where he owned a considerable tract of land. Thirty-five years later an old man whom no one knew visited the villages and farms on what had once been Gourlay's estate. It was Robert Gourlay himself, come to reclaim his land. The squatters, great or small, were compelled to come to terms with him. In 1822 he published his book on Canada. It is full of bombast and ill-temper, but contains much valuable information for those who wish to picture to themselves the state of things in this Province during the palmy days of the Family Compact. Maitland, the Lieutenant Governor, had completely identified himself with that party, and his unfair dealings with poor Gourlay made him more unpopular than any previous Governor. Notwithstanding misgovernment, Upper Canada was now more flourishing than ever, with a population of 120,000. In consequence of this, there was an increase of representation in the Assembly. Five new members were added to the Legislative Council, by far the most remarkable and influential of whom was the Rev. John Strachan, who afterwards became the first Church of England bishop of Toronto. This noteworthy personage made his first appearance in Canada as private tutor in the household of the late Richard Cartwright, of Rockwood, near Kingston, at a salary of fifty pounds a year. From this he was promoted to be teacher of the District school at the village of Cornwall, w here he married a widow with some money. Young Strachan had been bred a Presbyterian, but Presbyterianism at that time in Canada meant poverty. The Church of England was the Church of the Family Compact magnates, and to minister at its altars insured good pay and admission to the best society. So John Strachan threw aside his dislike to the "rags of popery," and the "kist o' whustles," and without difficulty was ordained. He became an extreme advocate of political absolutism and religious intolerance, and to the end of his long life hated non-episcopalian Protestantism with intense bitterness. In 1823, a new subject of contention arose between the Legislative Council and the Assembly, in consequence of the attempts of the Family Compact to set aside the election of Marshall Spring Bidwell, for Lennox and Addington. On one pretence or other they were successful for the time, and their creature, one G. Ham. was declared elected, but Bidwell was soon afterwards returned, and became Speaker of the Assembly. The Family Compact made themselves odious ui every way. The Assembly, in 1823, passed a law enabling Methodist ministers to solemnize marriage, but the Upper House, acting under Dr. Strachan's influence, threw it out.

On the 18th of May, 1824, the first trumpet note of reform was sounded in the publication of The Colonial Advocate of William Lyon Mackenzie. This remarkable man was the son of a poor Highland family of Perthshire. His grandfather had fought with the Cavalier Prince at Culloden, after which he had escaped with him to France. Young Mackenzie came to Canada in 1820, and for some time kept a small drug store in Toronto. The first few numbers of his paper showed a vigour and command of sarcasm hitherto unknown in Canadian journalism. It was eagerly read by the great body of the people in Upper Canada, and in proportion aroused the bitter hatred of the Family Compact; for Mackenzie designated the Legislative Council as the "tools of a servile power," pointed out the injustice of one church monopolising a seventh part of the Province, and freely criticised the unjust imprisonment of Gourlay. In 1826, the hatred of the Family Compact against Mackenzie rose to such a pitch that a mob of well-dressed rioters broke into the printing office in Mackenzie's absence, wrecked the printing machines, and threw the type into the lake. This outrage was almost openly sanctioned by the Family Compact. But Mackenzie was not to be thus suppressed. He sued the rioters, and gained his case, with £625 damages, and costs. Of course Mackenzie now became more popular than ever, and in 1828 was elected to the Assembly for the county of York by a large majority.

Meanwhile in Lower Canada discontent arid ill-feeling became worse and worse, though the colony continued to flourish. In 1826, McGiil College, Montreal, received a charter, and in 1828, a petition signed by 87,000 of the French Canadians, was sent by their delegates to the Imperial Parliament, a committee of which recommended that its prayer should be granted, and the whole of the revenue be placed under the control of the Lower Canada Parliament. Lord Dalhousie was now recalled, and Sir James Kempt, formerly Governor of Nova Scotia, was sent to succeed him, charged with a mission of reconciliation. He confirmed the election of Papineau as Speaker, called into the Council representatives of the popular party, and in 1829, raised the representation of Lower Canada from fifty members to eighty-four. In i830r Kempt was succeeded by Lord Palrner. In the same year, the entire control of the revenue was assigned to the Provincial Legislature. The property of the Jesuits, long the subject of dispute, was now definitely made over for educational purposes.

In 1832, a terrible outbreak of Asiatic Cholera passed over Canada, from a ship at the quarantine station on the St. Lawrence. A second visit of the same pest took place in the summer of 1834. By this time the popular party, kindled into enthusiasm by the fervent harangues of Papineau. began to dream of an independent Republic. Constitutional clubs were formed, and a convention was held. The Assembly also appointed the late Mr. Roebuck as their representative in the Imperial Parliament, where he was of the utmost service to Canada in explaining the tyranny of the executive of Lower Canada, which, unless it were abolished, he affirmed, would drive the colony into insurrection.


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