McGILL AND ITS STORY
McGILL AND ITS STORY 1821-1921
By CYRUS MACMILLAN
AUTHOR OF "CANADIAN WONDER TALES," ETC.
LONDON: JOHN LANE NEW YORK: JOHN LANE COMPANY TORONTO: CANADIAN BRANCH THE OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS
Copyright, 1921, by JOHN LANE
TO MY McGILL COMRADES
WHO FELL IN THE WAR 1914-1918
We who remain shall grow old, We shall feel the snows of cheerless winter; But you shall be forever young, With you it shall be forever spring, Where you wander through the willows Of the valley in your West.
The following pages give in general outline the century story of McGill University. They have no pretension to the title of detailed History, for it has been possible to chronicle only the circumstances which shaped the University in its infancy and the important events of its succeeding years. The story is one of struggle and disappointment, of discouragement and controversy, and of ultimate success and triumph. The men who made McGill were men of far and clear vision, of unfaltering courage and unwavering faith. They never doubted the final breaking of the clouds; they were baffled only to fight better in their forward march on behalf of national enlightenment. They believed in the future greatness of Canada, and of the place of education in moulding their country's destiny. The students of to-day who enjoy the advantages of a great seat of learning are not always conscious of the toil and the anxiety, the weariness and the fret of their College's early years; they perhaps do not always appreciate their glorious heritage and the efforts and the sacrifices of those who scorned delights and lived laborious days in order to leave that heritage behind. The author's hope is that the story of struggle herein recorded may deepen our gratitude for our privileges, and our reverence for McGill and the men who made it.
It has been impossible here to enter into minute details of organization or administration or personnel. The book is a story of epochs rather than of individuals,—but epochs in which the sign posts ever pointed onward. Biographical material has, therefore, been reduced to a minimum and no attempt has been made to give names or notices of Professors, many of whom, the writer is well aware, should otherwise receive appreciative reference as among the makers of McGill. With the exception of the portrait of the present Principal, too, the photographs include of necessity only those who are already numbered with the University's past.
The writer's deepest thanks are here expressed to those without whose assistance this story could not have been told. He is grateful to Professor Stephen Leacock for advice and encouragement; to the Principal, the Governors, and the Secretary of McGill, Mr. A. P. S. Glassco (Science, 1901), for permission to examine letters and minutes; to Dr. J. A. Nicholson, (Arts, 1887) for his valuable aid in locating and obtaining access to documents; to the staff of the Redpath Library, especially Miss D. A. Lomer, for their unfailing and patient help in the search for records; to Mr. J. W. Jeakins, Secretary of the Graduates' Society, and to Mr. E. Ardley of the Redpath Museum for kind assistance; to the attendants in Archives for many courtesies; to George B. Fraser, Esq., for permission to photograph prints; to the late Rev. Dr. Robert Campbell whose knowledge and memory of old Montreal was wide and vivid; and particularly to John Lane, Esq., of the Bodley Head for his personal interest and experienced advice in the preparation of this volume.
Since the information concerning the ancestry of James McGill is at present meagre, I should be glad if any reader possessing information as to his ancestry and early career would communicate with me in Canada, or with my publisher, Mr. John Lane, The Bodley Head, Ltd., Vigo Street, London, England, so that this section of the book may be amplified in future editions.
MCGILL UNIVERSITY, July, 1921.
I. THE ROYAL INSTITUTION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING 15
II. THE DAWN OF MCGILL 29
III. DELAY AND DIFFICULTY 44
IV. THE COLLEGE OPENED 73
V. ANXIOUS YEARS 102
VI. THE COLLEGE IN THE FIRST MCGILL BUILDINGS 155
VII. THE STRUGGLE FOR EXISTENCE 184
VIII. COLLEGE LIFE IN MID-CENTURY 212
IX. SIR WILLIAM DAWSON AND THE MAKING OF MCGILL 221
X. HIGHER EDUCATION FOR WOMEN 248
XI. THE LARGER MCGILL OF OUR DAY 256
APPENDIX A. (THE WILL OF JAMES MCGILL) 277
APPENDIX B. (THE CHARTER) 281
APPENDIX C. (THE DAWSON MEMORIAL ADDRESS) 291
APPENDIX D. (THE PETERSON MEMORIAL ADDRESS) 299
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
JAMES MCGILL, FOUNDER Frontispiece From painting attributed to Gilbert Stuart
MONTREAL IN THE DAYS OF JAMES MCGILL 32 From a print in the collection of Sir Frederick Williams Taylor
THE BURNSIDE ESTATE, JAMES MCGILL'S HOME 42
THE REV. DR. G. J. MOUNTAIN, PRINCIPAL 1823-1835 74
DR. A. F. HOLMES, THE FIRST DEAN OF THE MEDICAL SCHOOL 86 Copy by R. Harris of painting destroyed in fire at Medical Building. Artist unknown.
THE REV. JOHN BETHUNE, ACTING PRINCIPAL 1835-1846 102
PLAN OF MCGILL GROUNDS 118
PROPOSED ORIGINAL BUILDING 134 H. B. Parry, Architect
THE REV. ARCHDEACON W. J. LEACH, VICE-PRINCIPAL 1846-1886 180 From a painting by Wyatt Eaton
E. A. MEREDITH, PRINCIPAL 1846-1851 184
MCGILL IN 1855 212
SIR WILLIAM DAWSON, PRINCIPAL 1855-1893 222 From a painting by Wyatt Eaton
WILLIAM MOLSON 232 From a painting by John Phillips, 1861
PETER REDPATH 236 From a painting by Robert Harris
SIR WILLIAM MACDONALD 238
SIR WILLIAM PETERSON, PRINCIPAL 1895-1919 240
JOHN H. R. MOLSON 244
DEAN ALEXANDER JOHNSON, VICE-PRINCIPAL 1885-1903 248
PERCIVAL MOLSON 252
LORD STRATHCONA 254
DR. CHARLES E. MOYSE, VICE-PRINCIPAL 1903-1920 258
SIR ARTHUR CURRIE, PRINCIPAL 1920- 266
DR. FRANK D. ADAMS, VICE-PRINCIPAL 1920- 268
MCGILL IN 1921 272
The photographs from which the prints were made are the work of Norman and of the Rice Studios.
THE ROYAL INSTITUTION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING
THE ROYAL INSTITUTION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING
The Charter under which McGill University was established, was obtained on March 31st, 1821. The century mark in the University's history has now been passed. One hundred years is a long period in the life of a nation or a country; it is a longer period still in the life of an individual; but it is perhaps longest relatively in the life of an educational institution, particularly if that institution had its birth in struggling pioneer days. It is a period in university life which sees, as a rule, an undreamed of growth and development from small beginnings to unlimited influence, from scanty resources and great disappointments to a large if not always adequate endowment and equipment, from a merely local service to a national and even a world educational power. This is distinctly true of the century of McGill University's story. It began as a College, intended to minister to a very small community. It has grown in one hundred years to serve the world. It has graduated over twenty-five hundred Bachelors, over thirty-three hundred Doctors of Medicine, over nineteen hundred Engineers, over eight hundred Lawyers besides holders of higher or graduate degrees; it has given hundreds of graduates to high positions in the Church, the State, and industrial and educational institutions. It has drawn its students from all lands, and it has sent its products in trained men and women into every country on the globe. Long ago it divested itself of the merely local, and to-day the old term, Studium Generale, used in the middle ages to designate a University, may well be applied to McGill,—"a School where students of all kinds and from all parts are received."
The establishment of McGill University was but part of a more comprehensive plan to improve educational conditions in Canada in the beginning of the 19th century. After the peace treaty of 1763, which ended the Seven Years' War and gave Canada to the British, immigration to the colony was comparatively small, and little effort was made by the Home Government to provide educational opportunities for the children of those who sought happiness or fortune in the new land beyond the ocean. Indeed, in that time the authorities were too busy trying to solve difficult problems at home to devote much energy to the internal problems of the colony. They had no time and perhaps they had even less care for their colonists. The treaty of 1763 had not brought peace. The advocacy for political change was causing deep anxiety and the new radicalism under the plea for the new democracy was making a slow but steady advance which troubled the statesmen of the age. Then came in quick succession the American Revolution, the French Revolution and the Peninsular War, all of which absorbed the attention of the Home Government. By her steadfast attitude in 1776, Canada had proved her right to expect and to receive sympathetic attention and encouragement from the Home Government, but it is perhaps not to be wondered at that in the circumstances of the troubled period the educational advancement of Lower Canada was neglected or ignored, and that educational opportunities were practically non-existent.
In other parts of Canada education seems to have received more sympathetic interest. Particularly in the Maritime Provinces good schools had been established, largely, however, through the efforts of the colonists themselves. A new impetus was given to education by the arrival of many settlers from the United States during and after the Revolution. These settlers had enjoyed in New England excellent educational advantages; they had lived close to great universities with their beneficent influence, the Universities of Harvard and Yale, of Williams and Dartmouth and Brown, and they determined to establish in their new home the educational facilities which they had already enjoyed in another land. It was felt in Lower Canada that similar opportunities should be speedily provided for the English-speaking children of the country. The majority of settlers in Lower Canada were of Scottish origin. They were largely soldiers or the descendants of soldiers who had fought in the Highland Regiments during the campaign of 1759, and who after the Treaty of Paris in 1763 had taken up the land assigned to them by the Crown. Many of these soldiers, too, later became fur-traders and entered the service of the North-West Company. These settlers were all eager that their children should have at least an elementary education. It was felt, too, that in the unrest and the uncertainty of the period immediately following the American Revolution it was not advisable to send students in search of higher professional training to the universities of the United States, which in the days of their British allegiance had attracted Canadian students in large numbers. But above all, the settlers realised the necessity for the establishment of schools in which the children of the French-Canadians should be taught English. It was declared that from the national point of view such training would have a far-reaching influence on the future of Canada as an integral part of the British Empire, and that without such instruction, which would result in a bond of language, Canada could never be a united land.
Efforts were accordingly made to establish a system of free schools, with the hope that later a university might be founded. As early as 1787 the matter received the serious consideration of the Legislative Council, and a scheme of education in the Province was actually prepared. But the scheme met with vigorous and determined opposition from one section of the community and it was in the end abandoned by the authorities after a somewhat bitter controversy. Some years passed without further action. In 1797 General Simcoe, the first Governor of Upper Canada, and his Executive Council decided to establish a Seminary for higher learning in that Province. They invited Mr. Strachan, a graduate of St. Andrews' University, Scotland, to organise the College but before he arrived in Canada General Simcoe was removed from office and the establishment of the proposed university was long delayed. The plans of Upper Canada in 1797 to establish a university, although their fulfilment was long postponed, inspired the people of Lower Canada to greater efforts on behalf of education. They continued their agitation, but their efforts had little immediate success. The conditions in Lower Canada were earnestly and anxiously set forth in the following appeal made to the Governor-General, Sir R. S. Milnes, by the Rev. Dr. Jacob Mountain, Lord Bishop of Quebec, on October 19th, 1799:
"There is so intimate and obvious a connection between the education of youth and the general state of public morals, that I trust I shall not be thought to deviate from the duties that are more particularly assigned to me, if I presume to solicit your Excellency's attention to the disadvantages under which the Province has long laboured from the want of proper schools for the instruction of the children both of the higher and of the lower orders of the community.
"In doing this, it is by no means my intention to enter into the examination of these disadvantages so far as they are common to us with every other society which is without proper institutions for the education of youth; I shall take the liberty of mentioning such only as appear to be in a great measure peculiar to ourselves.
"Let me be permitted, then, to suggest the danger which may result to the political principles and to the future character as subjects of such of our young men among the higher ranks as the exigency of the case obliges their parents to send for a classical education to the colleges of the United States.
"In these Seminaries, most assuredly, they are not likely to imbibe that attachment to our constitution in Church and State, that veneration for the Government of their country, and that loyalty to their King, to which it is so peculiarly necessary in the present times to give all the advantage of early predilection in order to fix them deeply both in the understanding and the heart.
"To obviate this danger, it would seem expedient to found at least one good Grammar School in this Province and to invite able Masters from England by the liberality of the endowment.
"It may not be improper to state here that there is already at Quebec a respectable school, which offers the means of instruction to those who are designed for the more accurate professions, or for the pursuits of Trade and Commerce in which, together with the lower branches of education, are taught the Latin language, Mathematics, and Navigation, by a master well qualified for the task he has undertaken. I would wish to suggest the expediency of insuring the continuance of this advantage (which has not hitherto been duly appreciated) by some mark of the protection of the Government.
"But it is not only good Grammar Schools for the education of such young men as are designed for the learned Professions or who from their rank in society may hereafter fill situations of great political importance in the Province that are wanted; a more humble but a not less important branch of the community seems to call also for your Excellency's benevolent attention.
"It is well known that the lower orders of the people in this Province are for the most part deplorably ignorant; that the very slender portion of instruction which their children obtain is almost entirely confined amongst those, who do not live in the Towns, to the girls alone; and more especially, it is notorious that they have hitherto made no progress towards the attainment of the language of the country under which government they have the happiness to live.
"This total ignorance of the English language on the part of the Canadians draws a distinct line of demarcation between them and His Majesty's British subjects in this Province, injurious to the welfare and happiness of both; and continues to divide into two separate peoples those, who by their situation, their common interests and their equal participation of the same laws and the same form of Government, should naturally form but one.
"If the evils are confessedly great which arise from this want of a community of language, it should seem expedient to endeavour to provide an immediate remedy for the defect, and it should also seem that this can only be done by facilitating as much as possible the means of acquiring the English language to the children of the Canadians.
"The plan which I would beg leave to submit for this purpose is simple and I trust practicable. Its aim may appear to be humble, but its effects, I am persuaded, would be in a high degree beneficial and important.
"It is briefly this:—that a certain number of English School Masters, to be hereafter determined, should be employed and paid by the Government; that one of these should be placed in each of the cities and towns, and in the most considerable villages for the purposes and under the express obligation of teaching the English language gratis to a certain number of the Canadian children, and writing and arithmetic when required, at an easy rate; that Trustees or Commissioners should be appointed to manage the fund which the Government in its bounty may see fit to appropriate to the end, to determine the number of Masters that may be required, their respective salaries, and the number of children they shall respectively teach gratis, to fix the rate at which Writing and Arithmetic shall be taught on, and to have the power of removing the Masters for incapacity or neglect of duty, and of promoting them successively to the more lucrative situations for able and meritorious conduct.
"I would barely hint, by way of a leading idea upon this subject, that the salaries might perhaps extend from L20 to L60 per annum according to the number of inhabitants in the Village, Town, or City in which the Teacher should be placed, and that it might perhaps not improperly be a condition that he who received a payment of L20, should be obliged to teach English gratis to ten Canadian children, he who received L30 to fifteen children, and so on in proportion.
"The importance and extent of this subject demand, I am well aware, more local information and better judgment than I have been able to apply to it;—I presume only to suggest it as an object not unworthy of immediate consideration to your Excellency's superior wisdom."
This appeal was submitted by the Governor-General to the Executive Council of Lower Canada and was approved by that body. It was then forwarded to the Colonial Office for further consideration. As a result, on July 12th, 1800, the Duke of Portland, sent to the Lieutenant-Governor a long despatch from which the following extracts indicate that the Home Government sympathised with the Lord Bishop's suggestion:—
"With respect to making a suitable provision for the education of youth in Lower Canada, and more particularly for laying a foundation for teaching the English tongue generally throughout the Province, I not only fully coincide with the sentiments expressed by the Bishop of Quebec and concurred in by the Executive Council on this point, but I am of opinion that the proposed Free Schools for this purpose should be established under the express condition of teaching the English language gratis to the children of His Majesty's subjects resident within the district for which such schools are established, without any limitation as to the number of such children.
"The Master should certainly be authorised to make a reasonable demand for teaching Writing and Arithmetic or, what would be still better, the terms may be settled from time to time by the Trustees or Governors of such Free Schools in the appointing of which it is His Majesty's pleasure that the Governor, Lieutenant-Governor, or person administrating the Government for the time being, the Bishop of Quebec, the Chief Justice of the Province, and the Speaker of the Assembly should always be of the number.
"In addition to the Free Schools for teaching the English language, (which I consider to be of the first necessity, and for the establishment of which you will consider yourself hereby authorised to appropriate from the Provincial revenues such sums as may be necessary to pay the salaries of the Masters who shall from time to time be appointed by you), it will be necessary in one or perhaps two instances to have recourse to others of the higher order and of the nature of our Public Schools here, in order that neither the means nor the necessary encouragement may be wanting to cultivate the study of the learned languages. It appears to me that this establishment will be sufficient for the present, although in due progress of time Foundations of a more enlarged and comprehensive nature will be requisite for the promotion of Religious and Moral Learning and the study of the Arts and Sciences. With this view His Majesty, ever ready to manifest his paternal consideration and regard for his subjects, and desirous to afford all possible assistance and encouragement to his Province in carrying into execution an object of such importance as the instruction and education of youth, has signified to me his Royal pleasure that you should upon consulting the members of His Majesty's Executive Council report to me in what manner and to what extent it would be proper to appropriate a portion of the Crown Land or revenues arising therefrom for this purpose."
As a result of the agitation for the providing of educational opportunities in Lower Canada, the Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning was established by Act of the Legislature in 1801. Under this Act, the King gave directions for the establishment "of a competent number of Free Schools for the instruction of children in the first rudiments of useful learning; and also as occasion should require for foundations of a more comprehensive nature." It was declared that "His Majesty had further signified his intention that a suitable portion of the Lands of the Crown should be set apart, and the revenue thereof appropriated to these purposes." The Act provided that all property which should thereafter be given, bequeathed or purchased for educational purposes was to be vested in the trustees of the Royal Institution, with the necessary powers of management. Provision was made for the establishment of Free Schools at specified places throughout the Province by the authority of the Government, and for the building and repairing of schoolhouses, but not for the salaries of the masters. Accordingly, elementary free schools were soon erected in different parts of the Province, and several teachers were appointed by the authorities.
Notwithstanding the passing of the above Act, educational advancement in the Province for many years made but slow progress. There was no adequate system of management. In 1803, Lord Hobart issued instructions to the effect that a portion of the Crown Lands was to be set apart for the promotion of education. These instructions were not carried out; at best such a scheme would have been insufficient for the purpose; subsequent experience in the case of the Clergy Reserves proved the inefficacy of such an appropriation. There was a long delay in establishing the Corporation which the Act of 1801 had in view. In 1815, the Home Government directed the Provincial Government to proceed with the election of trustees under the Act, but it was not until 1818 that trustees were finally appointed. The trustees included the Lord Bishop of Quebec as Principal; the Lord Bishop of Montreal; the Chief Justice of Lower Canada; the Speaker of the Legislative Council; and the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.
It is unnecessary to enter here into the details of the early history of the Royal Institution. Its first years were years of struggle. The schools erected under its authority were one-room buildings of cedar logs. Indeed, they were mere log-huts, but they provided the first free English Education in Lower Canada, and laid the foundation for a Canadian nationality. The records of the Royal Institution indicate the determination with which teachers and officials battled sturdily with poverty, and with discouraging conditions. The Secretary's salary was always many months in arrears, and he frequently complained, with unfortunately but little satisfaction, that not only had he given his time for some years without remuneration, but that he had expended even his own fuel and candles. In 1819, thirty-seven schools were in existence in the Province; these were occupied by fifty-three Teachers; the total expenditure for education was L883.10; the highest salary paid was L100,—at Quebec and at Montreal; the lowest salary was L11.5; the average salary was L18. It was pointed out by the authorities that these salaries were not intended to be the sole support of the teachers, but that they were meant "to operate as an aid and encouragement for the exertions and contributions of the inhabitants themselves."
Although the salaries were small and the school-buildings and equipment very poor and uncomfortable, the discipline of the Royal Institution seems to have been surprisingly strict and exacting. Criticism of teachers, their methods and the books they used, was plentiful and continuous. It was not unusual for teachers to be censured "for not keeping school at all," or for giving too many holidays, or for tardiness in opening school in the morning and eagerness in closing it in the afternoon. At least one teacher was warned that his arrears in salary would not be paid, and that he would be instantly dismissed "if he did not treat his wife with greater kindness." The teachers were billetted among the inhabitants in their respective districts; after a few days' sojourn in one house they moved on to another, thus making all the settlers bear in turn the burden of providing their food and lodging. In this way they managed to exist on their scanty salaries, which were frequently unpaid for many months. The school-buildings were used at times by travelling missionaries for religious services. This seems to have been a source of much annoyance to the authorities; the teachers rather than the inhabitants of the district were always held responsible, and were frequently severely reprimanded for permitting such use of the schoolhouses. It was not unusual for teachers to be told plainly by letter from the Secretary that they would be dismissed or "that no part of the salary hitherto granted by the Government would be allowed, unless the Methodists were wholly and immediately excluded from using the school-room as a place of worship."
The Royal Institution had many difficulties to contend with. Although its methods were not always efficient and its management was not always adequate, it is deserving of gratitude for laying the foundation of English education in what was to be later the Province of Quebec. It not only guided for many years elementary and grammar school education, but it planned for the establishment of a State or Government College where higher education could be obtained. But before the proposed plan was carried into effect, provision was made by a citizen of Montreal for the endowment of a College to bear his name. As a result, the Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning supervised the establishment of McGill College and directed it in its infancy, for under the Act of 1801 all property and money given for educational purposes in the Province of Lower Canada was placed under its control.
THE DAWN OF MCGILL
During the discussion in the Legislature of educational conditions in Lower Canada which resulted in the establishment of the Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning under the Act of 1801, one of the most prominent members of the Provincial Parliament was James McGill, a merchant and fur-trader who represented the West Ward of Montreal in the Legislative Assembly. Only meagre facts about the life of James McGill are available and the documentary evidence bearing on his career is scanty. He was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on the 6th of October, 1744. His parents were natives of Banffshire. After an elementary school education in his native town he entered Glasgow University at the age of twelve, in accordance with the custom of those days which permitted attendance at a University at a very early age. The Matriculation Album of Glasgow University contains the following entry:
1756, Jacobus McGill, filius natu maximus Jacobi mercatoris Glasguensis.
Nine years later, his younger brother Andrew entered the University, as indicated by the following record in the Matriculation Album:
1765, Andreas McGill, filius natu quintus Jacobi mercatoris Glasguensis.
Like so many other adventurous Scotchmen of that period, after completing his education James McGill determined to seek his fortune in the new land beyond the horizon, from which wondrous stories of the wealth and romance of the fur-trade were drifting to the old world. He emigrated to the American Colonies, where he remained for some years, and where he was later joined by his younger brother, Andrew. But before the American Revolution the brothers moved to Canada and in 1775 they were firmly and prosperously established in business in Montreal, where the older brother became connected with the famous fur-trading North-West Company. That he was at that time regarded as one of the leading citizens is evident from the fact that he was selected for many important and responsible civic duties. During the American Revolution when Canada was invaded and General Guy Carleton withdrew all the troops to Quebec and left Montreal to its fate, James McGill was one of those who saw the folly and uselessness of resistance. He preferred to save the city from unnecessary destruction and he was one of the twelve citizens,—six French and six English,—who were selected to sign the capitulation of the city to General Richard Montgomery on November 12th, 1775. His five associates were John Porteous, Richard Huntley, John Blake, Edward Gray and James Finlay. On December 2nd, 1776, he married Mrs. Marie Charlotte Guillemin, a French Roman Catholic lady, the widow of a French Canadian gentleman, Joseph A. T. Desrivieres. The ceremony was performed by the Rev. David Charbrand Delisle, Rector of the Protestant Parish of Montreal and Chaplain of the Garrison. The Church record reads:—"1776, James McGill, Esq., and Mrs. Charlotte Guillemin, widow, were married by Licence the 2nd December, 1776." Mrs. James McGill was born in Montreal in 1747, the daughter of William Guillemin and Claire Genevieve Foucault. She married Joseph A. T. Desrivieres in Montreal on the 19th of September, 1763, at the age of sixteen.
Soon after his arrival in Montreal James McGill acquired the Burnside estate of forty-six acres, with the Burnside Manor, in which he resided during the remainder of his life. He took into partnership, under the name of "McGill and Todd," his friend, Isaac Todd, a man of keen business ability and of civic prominence.
James McGill is described by his contemporaries as of "a frank and social temperament," in figure "tall and commanding, handsome in youth and becoming somewhat corpulent in his old age," and in his leisure time "much given to reading." He was a prominent member of the Beaver Club, the members of which were all fur-traders who had amassed considerable wealth in their calling. A contemporary had a memory of him in jovial mood at one of the festal meetings of this Club, "singing a voyageur's folk-song with sonorous voice, and imitating, paddle in hand, in time with the music, the action of the bowman of a canoe ascending a rapid."
Because of his pleasing personality, his prosperity and business strength, and his marriage connections with another race and religion, he was held in respect and popularity by all classes, irrespective of nationality or creed. It was therefore but natural that he should enter political life after the granting of the Constitutional Act by the Home Government in 1791. He was selected, with J. B. Durocher as his colleague, to represent the West Ward of Montreal in the first parliament of Lower Canada which met on the 17th of December, 1792. Later he became a member of the Legislative Council, and in 1812 he was appointed one of the commissioners for removing from the city the old walls which had been built in 1724. He took a prominent part in the Militia organisation; during the war of 1812 he was honorary Colonel of the Montreal Infantry Volunteer Regiment; later and before hostilities ended, although he was too old for active service, he was promoted to be Brigadier General, and he seems to have had a large part in directing the administration of the various Militia units. After a busy, active and strenuous life of unselfish service for his community and of devoted efforts for the promotion of tolerance and harmony between races and creeds as the one sure foundation for a united Canadian nationality, he died in Montreal on December 19th, 1813, at the age of sixty-nine, and was buried on December 21st. The official record of his death reads: "On the nineteenth day of December, one thousand eight hundred and thirteen, the Honourable James McGill, Colonel, Commandant of the Montreal Militia, died, and was buried on the twenty-first following." The certificate of death was signed by his partner, Isaac Todd, and by Thomas Blackwood, a native of Lanarkshire, Scotland, who was at one time employed in the firm of McGill and Todd, and who later formed a business partnership with Francis Desrivieres.
Mrs. James McGill survived her husband less than five years. She died in Montreal on the 16th of April, 1818, aged seventy years and nine months, and was buried on the 18th following. There were no children from the marriage.
James McGill was born of Scotch Presbyterian parents and he grew up in the church and religion of his fathers. When he settled in Montreal there was no Church of Scotland in the city. The first Presbyterian congregation in Montreal consisted of a small group of Scottish settlers. It was organised without a church building in 1786 by the Rev. John Bethune, who ministered to its members from March 12th in that year until he moved to Upper Canada in May, 1787. But it was but a temporary organisation and had no continuous status. From 1787 to 1790 there is no record of the holding of a strictly Presbyterian service in the city. The only Protestant body holding service regularly was known as "the Protestant Congregation of Montreal," the pastor of which was the Rev. David Charbrand Delisle, one of the three clergymen who had been employed by the Church of England to labour among the French-Canadians. He was Rector of the Parish of Montreal and Chaplain of the Garrison. This congregation worshipped until 1789 in the Church of the Recollet Fathers, which with great tolerance and courtesy was for twenty years at their disposal; in 1789 they were given the Chapel belonging to the Jesuits' College, then Government property; they opened it for public worship in December under the name of Christ Church.
Like all the young Protestant Scotchmen living in Montreal at that time, James McGill became by necessity a member of the Protestant Episcopal Congregation. The adherents to the two Protestant creeds were tolerant and harmonious in their relations one with the other and they were content to worship together. In 1789 when the Bishop of Nova Scotia visited Montreal an address was presented to him by the Church Wardens, and by "a committee of the Protestant inhabitants of Montreal," irrespective of their former creed. The majority of the latter were Scotch Presbyterians. The Bishop was met at Pointe aux Trembles by the reception committee. One of the "Protestant inhabitants" who signed and presented the address was James McGill. There is no doubt that the larger number of this "committee of Protestant inhabitants," at that time identified with the Protestant Episcopal Congregation of Montreal, returned to the Church of their fathers as soon as a Church was built, several of them becoming office-bearers. The precise action taken by James McGill is uncertain. He seems to have divided his allegiance between the two communions; while not severing his connection entirely with the Church of England he gave his support to the establishment of a Church of Scotland and later became identified with it. When the St. Gabriel Street Church, the first Presbyterian Church in Montreal, was built in 1792, he subscribed ten guineas towards the construction of the building. He signed the call to the first pastor of the Church, the Rev. James Somerville; he thereafter contributed three pounds a year to his stipend and occupied pew No. 16 in the Church. His brother Andrew later contributed five pounds towards removing the remaining debt from the building. The Rev. Mr. Somerville, the pastor of the Church, officiated at Andrew's funeral. There is little doubt from the records that James McGill regarded himself as of the Church of Scotland although he was for a time, in those days of somewhat surprising religious harmony and tolerance, a member of the Protestant Episcopal Church of Montreal.
One of James McGill's most intimate friends and confidants in Canada was the Rev. John Strachan, afterwards the Right Reverend Bishop of Toronto, who was thirty-four years his junior. He was a native of Aberdeen, Scotland. He received his M. A. from King's College, Aberdeen, in 1797, and then attended for some months Divinity Classes at St. Andrew's University, near which he had a post as a Parish schoolmaster. Towards the end of 1797, he came to Canada by invitation to organise a seminary of learning in Upper Canada, but the plan was abandoned and he became tutor in a private family in Kingston, Ontario. He offered himself as a candidate for the pastorship of the St. Gabriel Street Presbyterian Church on September 21, 1802, but before his letter was received another applicant, the Rev. James Somerville, had been accepted. Later he took orders in the Anglican Church and was appointed to the Church at Cornwall. He opened there a school and his fame as a teacher was soon widespread. Among his pupils were the three sons of the Rev. John Bethune who had established the first Presbyterian Congregation in Montreal, one of whom afterwards became Rector of Christ Church and acting-Principal of McGill University. In 1807, he married the widow of James McGill's younger brother, Andrew, formerly Miss Wood of Cornwall, and he was thus brought into closer relationship with the McGill family. His enthusiasm for education and for its advancement in Canada was unbounded and it is evident that he impressed his ideas as to ways and means and methods on the mind of his wealthy merchant friend. James McGill was a believer in the value of education; he knew what it had done for his own home-land, and what Scotland, educationally, was doing for the world. He determined that the torch which for him had been lighted in Glasgow University should burn likewise for those who would succeed him in the land of his adoption. He had indicated that determination during the consideration of the subject in the Legislature. But on the question of method he sought advice from his young teacher friend, Strachan, whom he frequently visited in the latter's home in Cornwall. During these Glengarry visits there was many a happy and roseate night of mingled sociability and high seriousness, after the custom of their race and time, when the two friends, the young educationalist and the older man of wealth, with similar vision, sat late in discussion of the Canadian educational problem and of plans for its solution.
In a letter to the other surviving executors of James McGill's will, written from York [Toronto] on May 31, 1820, seven years after James McGill's death, the Rev. Dr. Strachan gave interesting information on these discussions and their bearing on the circumstances leading up to the practical working out of James McGill's dreams on education as evidenced later in his will. He wrote: "It was, I believe, at Cornwall during one of the visits which Mr. McGill made to Mrs. Strachan and me that his final resolution respecting the erection of a College after his name, endowing it, etc., was taken. We had been speaking of several persons who had died in Lower Canada and had left no memorial of themselves to benefit the country in which they had realised great fortunes. And particularly I mentioned a University, as the English had no Seminary where an Academical Education could be obtained. We had repeated conversations upon the subject, and he departed determined to do something and with some inclination to leave twenty instead of ten thousand pounds, together with Burnside, and even to make some preparations before his death, expressing at the same time a wish that if he did anything I should take an active part in the proposed College."
It was soon after the visit referred to that James McGill made his will,—on March 8, 1811. He bequeathed to the Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning, in trust, the sum of L10,000 and his Burnside Estate of forty-six acres, together with the dwelling house and other buildings, for the erection on the estate, and the endowment, of a University or College on the express conditions,—and these were the only conditions imposed,—that the University be erected and established within ten years of his death and that one of the Colleges to be comprised in the University should be called "McGill College." If the College was not erected in the time specified the conveyance to the Royal Institution was to be null and void; and the estate and endowment were to revert to his widow, and after her death to her first husband's nephew, Francis Desrivieres and to his legal heirs. He named as executors of the will John Richardson, James Reid, John Strachan, and James Dunlop.
These executors were all close personal friends of the testator. The career of John Strachan has already been outlined. Although it was not specified in the will that he should be connected with the proposed College, it may be assumed that because of his close friendship, his marriage connection, and his established reputation as a brilliant and successful educationalist with definite ideas on Canadian nationality, James McGill desired that he should have a prominent part in the organization of the College and that possibly he should be its first Principal. That this desire was stated to the trustees seems certain. In a letter written from Toronto some years after James McGill's death, while the trustees who knew the circumstances were still living, Bishop Strachan said:
"If it had been my desire, it was certainly in my power to have been at the head of it [McGill College] for it so happened that I had some difficulty in prevailing with my friend, Mr. McGill, to forbear annexing it as a condition to his bequest that I should fill that situation;" and he added that "a Professorship in McGill College was never desired or thought of by me, nor could any situation in that institution have formed an inducement to me to leave this Province to which I have been for so many years devoted."
The three trustees associated with the Rev. Dr. Strachan as administrators of the will were all prominent in civic and provincial affairs. They were all Scotchmen and were connected with St. Gabriel Street Presbyterian Church. John Richardson, partner in the mercantile house of Forsyth, Richardson and Co., was a native of Banffshire, Scotland. He represented the East Ward of Montreal in the first Parliament of Lower Canada, which met in 1792, and he took his seat at the same time as James McGill, his colleague from the West Ward. With the latter, he was one of the commissioners appointed for the removing of the old city walls in 1802 and it was through his influence that the bill providing for the construction of a canal to Lachine was passed. The firm of which he was a member contributed L20 towards the building of St. Gabriel Street Presbyterian Church and he personally subscribed L3 a year towards the minister's stipend; he occupied pews No. 6 and No. 47. He was one of a committee of three formed to purchase the land on which the General Hospital now stands; he was chairman of the committee which superintended the construction of the Hospital and was later chosen as its first president. He died in 1831, aged seventy-six.
The Honourable James Reid, the second trustee named, was admitted to the Bar of the Province in 1794; he was raised to the Bench as a puisne Judge in 1807, and later in 1823 he was made Chief Justice of Montreal. He subscribed one guinea a year to the stipend of the first pastor of St. Gabriel Street Presbyterian Church and occupied pew No. 14. He died in 1848 at the age of seventy-nine. After his death, his widow erected to the memory of her husband the southwest wing of the Montreal General Hospital.
James Dunlop, the fourth trustee named, settled in Montreal in 1777 and established a general store in St. Paul Street. He took an active part in the military organisation during the War of 1812, and served as Major under Brigadier General James McGill. He subscribed ten guineas towards the building of St. Gabriel Street Presbyterian Church and his name appears for ten pounds on a special subscription list for liquidating the debt on the original building; he signed the manifesto in favour of the first pastor of the Church, the Rev. James Somerville; he contributed five pounds annually towards his salary and occupied pews No. 19 and No. 99. He died in 1815 at the age of sixty.
James McGill's estate sloped from the base of Mount Royal towards the St. Lawrence River. It consisted of forty-six acres of fertile land extending south to what is now Dorchester Street and reaching from the present University Street on the east to what are now McTavish and Metcalfe Streets on the west. St. Catherine Street and Dorchester Street were not then in existence and Sherbrooke Street was but a narrow road running through the farm. East, west and south of the estate were open fields and a few scattered houses, and the city proper lay a long distance away, beside the water-front. A small stream of water passed through the farm. It entered from the east near the present Milton Street entrance on University Street; it then turned south and was increased in volume by the water from a spring near the site of the Macdonald Engineering Building. It passed on through the present tennis courts in "the hollow" by the Physics Building, crossed Sherbrooke Street where it was joined by another small stream from the southwest, and then flowed close to Burnside House and on towards the city. It is recorded that the name Burnside was given to the estate because of this stream or "burn" as the Scotch called it. James McGill's home, Burnside House, a large stone building, was situated on the present McGill College Avenue, about midway between the present Sherbrooke and Burnside Streets on the left-hand side looking south; it was demolished in 1860 to make room for the buildings now in that locality. A narrow road led from near the front of the house to what is now St. Antoine Street. The estate was divided into small sections which were later rented for purposes of cultivation or pasture. It contained numerous trees and shrubs, and was at that time regarded as one of the most valuable and desirable parts of the district of Montreal.
In the days of James McGill, Montreal was a small town of from twelve to fifteen thousand inhabitants, and of these the large majority were French. Indeed, the whole province had but a scanty population. One-third of the houses were wooden huts. The town stretched out along the water-front in a series of narrow blocks and straggling streets. The trade with foreign countries was exceedingly small. The entire carrying capacity of ships annually arriving at Quebec did not exceed 12,000 tons, and only a few of these ships went on to Montreal. In 1813, the year of James McGill's death, only nine vessels entered Montreal from the sea, and their total capacity was but 1,589 tons. At the end of the 18th century, the exports of furs and other products from the entire province was little more than half a million pounds sterling. Strange and primitive customs were still in vogue in the city. The price of bread was regulated by "His Majesty's Justices of the Peace," and bakers were required to mark their bread with the initials of their name. Slavery was not unknown, and a sale advertisement towards the end of the century included in the articles to be sold "a stout, healthy negro man about 28 years of age,—an excellent cook, and very fit for working on a farm." A mail for England was dispatched about once a month. It went by way of New York and took from three to four weeks to reach that city; it was then forwarded by packet-ship to England, and usually at least four months passed before an answer could be received. The incoming mail was put off the New York packet at Halifax; it came overland from Halifax to Montreal, this part of the journey alone taking nearly four weeks.
Such was the somewhat primitive city in which James McGill lived and laboured and amassed his wealth. Such was the community to the service of which he contributed unstintingly of his material substance, his energy and his talent. Such, too, were the conditions in which this hard-headed, practical business man dreamed a dream,—a dream of a greater Canada with a distinctly Canadian nationality trained to solve its own problems in its own way, and of the necessity for providing for the youth of the great land mirrored in his mind the privileges of an adequate education similar to that which he had enjoyed in his own native country. For James McGill seems to have been a combination of the practical Scottish business man and the dreaming Scottish mystic. Like the other early Canadian pioneers of his race he was a hard-fisted man battling by necessity in a hard-fisted new world, but he kept in that new world the spiritual vision born of Scottish glens and mists and hills. He worked like his ancestors for the building of churches and schools and court houses, symbolic of religion, education and law, as milestones of civilisation in a new land and without which no country could make progress. He knew that without the torch of a free and liberal education the land of promise to which he had come and from which he had received much, could not advance to what he believed to be its destined place of power and service in the world. And so he dreamed of a great University which would not only be local in its usefulness, serving a small city which his faith told him would one day grow to giant size, but also national in its influence, and ministering to the enlightenment of that larger Canada which his vision saw in the far and dim distance. The making of his bequest two years before his death for the establishment and the endowment of McGill College was the first step towards the fulfilment of his hopes. But between the dream and its ultimate realisation lay long and troubled years of baffling difficulty and bitter discouragement, and at times, despair.
DELAY AND DIFFICULTY
Less than three years after he had made his bequest, James McGill died, in December, 1813. Soon after his death the executors of his will sought to fulfil his desire with reference to the establishment of a College, and to ensure that the conditions imposed with regard to time would be complied with as speedily as possible. But they were confronted by obstacles over which they had no control. The will bequeathed the Burnside Estate and the Endowment Fund to the executors in trust, on the understanding that they should as soon as convenient after the testator's death convey it to the Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning, to be used by them as provided under the Act of 1801. But, as we have seen, the organization of the Royal Institution was bitterly opposed by one section of the community. Every effort to have trustees appointed and to have the Institution put in actual operation was frustrated. The authorities feared to cause friction or discord, and they preferred postponement. There was therefore no Royal Institution, other than in name only, to which the McGill bequest could be conveyed. There were no trustees. It was necessary first for the executors and those interested in the establishment of the College to effect the actual organization of the Royal Institution by securing the appointment of trustees as called for by the Act. They continued, with vigour, to impress this necessity upon the authorities in order that the McGill bequest should not lapse, and they were promised prompt action. But in that troubled period of warfare the Home Government was involved in too many difficulties to devote time to the problem. Action was for these various reasons consequently long delayed and it was not until 1818 that the promise was fulfilled and that the authorities at last appointed Trustees and established in fact the Royal Institution. Were it not for the fear of losing the legacy,—a misfortune which after all was narrowly averted,—and the persistent efforts of the executors, the appointment would have been doubtless longer delayed. The Provincial Legislature could not appoint trustees without orders and they were unwilling to make any grant of money without authority from the Colonial Office.
But as a result of the hopeful promise made to the executors by the authorities towards the close of 1814, the former began to discuss and to put forward plans for the carrying out of the desire of the founder of the College. The Rev. Dr. Strachan was their spokesman. On February 14, 1815, he wrote to three personal friends who were then members of the Legislature of Lower Canada asking their co-operation and assistance, advising haste, and setting forth his own ideas on the establishment of McGill College,—ideas based on his knowledge of educational conditions in Canada and on his own experience of nearly twenty years in educational work. He urged the Provincial Legislature to act independently of the Home Government and to grant the funds necessary to put the College at once in operation, and he suggested making use of the Jesuits' Estates or the Crown Lands for this purpose. From this letter the following extracts are of interest:
"As we [the Executors] have sent the necessary documents to the Commander of the Forces to point out the necessity of his acting promptly in establishing a College according to the conditions of Mr. McGill's Will, and as it is probable he may apply to the House of Assembly upon the subject, I furnish you with my ideas.
"The scheme enclosed for the two Schools and College is as economical as it can well be to render it respectable and useful. The number of students will not be great for some years, nor will it ever be such as to make the Professorships lucrative. Even the Principal will hardly ever be able to reach one thousand pounds per annum, a remuneration sufficiently moderate for the accumulated duties which he will have to perform and to maintain in such an expensive place as Montreal the dignity of his station. If the Provincial Parliament waits for something to be done by the King all will be lost,—for the Government have too many things to call their attention. But when the matter is once set on foot, an address from the Legislature can at any time procure assistance from His Majesty's Ministry. Yet six thousand pounds per annum appears to me a trifle, considering the increased opulence of the country. It is not probable that the Roman Catholics will object to such an arrangement,—they have already three Seminaries said to be well endowed,—but if any of them be poor the Legislature ought to grant them pecuniary relief.
"I say nothing respecting religion, but in the Chapel of the University Lectures on Theology may be given to Protestant students, which Roman Catholics shall not be required to attend. There are many particular regulations which I do not mention, I just furnish a crude outline.
"You are to recollect that if nothing be done, you will soon lose Mr. McGill's donation. The time will never again be so propitious. I say nothing about the nomination of Professors; men of some talent must be selected and of great zeal for the promotion of the Sciences. The first Principal will have many difficulties to encounter and may not live to see the Seminary in a very flourishing condition, but it will ultimately exceed the most sanguine expectations.
"I prefer the form of the Scotch and German Universities to the English, or rather a mixture of both plans, because much more may be done at one-fourth of the expense. In the English Universities the public Professors seldom lecture more than once a week,—many of them not at all; the whole system of teaching is conducted by Tutors and emulation and a love of study is kept up among the students by fellowships, etc. The great opulence of Cambridge and Oxford is far beyond our reach, and although I should be sorry ever to see them lose a shilling, for I think them wisely adapted to so rich and populous and learned a country as England, I consider them unfit for this country. Our professors must each during the session, give two, three, or even four courses of lectures, till the funds afford the means of increasing their number.
"I must further add on the subject of finding Professors, that gentlemen newly from England, and accustomed to the wealthy Universities of that country, may not always possess the qualities necessary to make them useful in this projected Seminary. Learning they may have in abundance, but the industry, labour (I may say drudgery) and accommodation to circumstances cannot be expected from them. There are several gentlemen in this country qualified for the first race of Professors, and after the Seminary is once set agoing there will be no risk in electing Englishmen to fill vacant chairs, because the rules and regulations being established, all must submit.
"I have only mentioned one restriction, the Principal to be of the Church of England. This, I think necessary on many accounts. The Seminary must and ought to have a distinct religious character, and this simple regulation will confer it without circumscribing its liberality and openness to all persuasions. I think also the Principal's department should be Moral Philosophy or Theology."
In the same letter Bishop Strachan outlined his suggested scheme for the organisation of McGill College. He pointed out "that the necessity of sending young men out of the Province to finish their education has been found both dangerous and inconvenient; that reason and policy equally demand that our youth be educated in the Province, or in England, if we wish them to become friendly to our different establishments and to the Parent State; that few can defray the expense of sending their children to England, and, if they could, the distance from parental authority is dangerous to their morals; and that there is at present no Seminary in which the English youth of Canada can obtain a liberal education."
To remedy these alleged evils, he therefore proposed that there should be established "two Grammar Schools, one at Quebec, and one at Montreal, each under a Rector or Head Master and three Assistants, at which the following branches of education shall be taught: the Greek, Latin, French and English languages, Writing, Arithmetic, Geography, and Practical Mathematics. These schools, to be appendages and nurseries for a University to be established on the model of the Scotch and German Universities in the neighbourhood of Montreal, on the property bequeathed for that purpose by the late Honourable James McGill, and to be named as he desired, McGill College or University; that the following branches of academical education be taught in the said University, (1) Greek and Latin; (2) Natural History and Botany; (3) Mathematics and Astronomy; (4) Natural Philosophy and Chemistry; (5) Moral Philosophy, Logic and Rhetoric; (6) Surgery and Anatomy; (7) Civil and Public Law; that the Professors of Surgery and of Civil and Public Law shall not be required to reside within the College; that a house be provided within the College for a Principal and four Professors; that the members of the University be constituted a Corporation capable of sueing and being sued, and of receiving donations of money and lands, etc., for the benefits of the Institution; that the Principal be always a clergyman of the Church of England; that young men of all denominations, as Christians, be freely admitted to the different lectures; that new Professorships be established as soon as the funds will admit; that the University be represented in the House of Assembly by two Members; that no degree be conferred upon a student who has not resided three years; that an attendance of three years at the University shall entitle a student to be called to the Bar one year earlier than any other, provided he be of age; that a report of the state of the University be annually laid before Parliament; that there be frequent Visitations by the Bishop, the Chief Justice, the Speaker of the House of Assembly, etc., appointed a committee for that purpose; and that there be two public examinations every year."
Dr. Strachan estimated the expense of the necessary buildings to be L18,000, "made up of L4,000 for each of the two Grammar Schools including residence for the Head Masters, and L10,000 in addition to James McGill's bequest of L10,000, an excellent site and house extremely commodious for the Principal or one of the Professors." The annual expense of the Grammar Schools was estimated at L2,000, "made up of L300 a year to each of the Head Masters, L200 a year to each of two second Head Masters, L100 a year to each of four Under Masters, and L300 to each school for servants, repairs, library, premiums, etc." It was added that "this will render them desirable, and together with a moderate fee, payable by each scholar to his respective Teacher, will make them an object to men of talent!"
The total annual expense of the University was estimated at L4,000, made up as follows: "The Principal to be also a Professor, L750; the Senior Professor, L500; three Professors, L400 each; the Professor of Surgery and Anatomy, and the Professor of Civil and Public Law, L200 each; in addition each Professor is to enjoy a moderate fee from the students attending his lectures; for the purchase of books for the Library, L300; for the purchase of Philosophical and Chemical apparatus, L250; for the purchase of Plants for the Botanic Garden, L100; Librarian's salary, L100; Gardener's salary, L100; Servants and Contingencies, L300." It was explained that smaller salaries were given to the Professors of Surgery and Law because "they will be Professional men not expected to reside in the College or to be exclusively confined to its duties, but attending at the same time to their private practice."
Three reasons were given by Dr. Strachan for preferring Montreal to Quebec as the place for the establishment of the University: "its more central position; its greater suitability for a Botanic Garden; and the large sum of money and a most beautiful estate already given for the express purpose." In conclusion, Dr. Strachan wrote: "Thus it appears that for an appropriation of L18,000, and six thousand pounds per annum, an establishment may be formed of incalculable importance to the Province, in a religious, moral and political light. The Legislature might in a few years be relieved from the burden by procuring from the Crown the Jesuits' Estates to be given for the support of the Institution, and by grants of lands capable of becoming productive. The allowance for Philosophical and Chemical apparatus will in a few years become too great; the surplus may then assist the library."
The three members of the Legislature to whom this letter was sent by Dr. Strachan at once brought it to the attention of their colleagues, and the question was again referred to the Home Government. It seems to have been pressed with earnestness and persistence but it was apparently not regarded as very urgent by the Colonial Office. The authorities were evidently too busy with the Napoleonic Wars in Europe and America, and with their own internal problems to give much attention to Colonial education, and the year passed without further action. Finally, on the 30th of December, 1815, Lord Bathurst wrote from Downing Street to Sir Gordon Drummond, then administering the Government of Lower Canada, the following letter asking for information about the Jesuits' Estates, and intimating the intention of the Government to proceed with the establishment of a College or Colleges in the Province, for the erecting of which the revenues of these estates might be used:
"His Royal Highness, the Prince Regent, being desirous of marking by some permanent establishment the high sense which he entertains of the exertions made by the Provinces of Canada during the late war with the United States, has been pleased to signify his intention of founding and endowing in the Province one or more Colleges for the education of youth. An establishment so necessary cannot be too early accomplished, and although the details of such a measure are not completely arranged, yet Montreal has been from its central situation selected as the town best fitted for such a purpose. There does not appear any reason why the commencement of the work should not take place immediately. You will, therefore, lose no time in selecting such a spot in the immediate vicinity of Montreal, taking care that the ground selected be sufficiently extensive to leave an adequate space for the formation of walks and gardens, and you will proceed without delay to enclose it for that purpose. You will further take the necessary measures for acquainting the trustees in whose hands the late Mr. McGill deposited by will a sum of L10,000 in aid of this object, that it is the intention of His Majesty's Government to commence such an undertaking and to call upon them as soon as the plan shall have been definitely settled for the application of the funds entrusted to them for the purpose of erecting the building. I forbear in this first stage of the undertaking to mention either the assistance which His Majesty's Government is prepared or may be enabled to give or that which the Province may be disposed to contribute. The benefits of such an establishment are such as must be felt both in the Colonies and in the Mother Country, and when felt cannot but ensure on the part of both a hearty co-operation and liberal support.
"With a view to the endowment of a College, the estates lately belonging to the Jesuits and now in possession of the Crown, afford a resource of which His Majesty's Government are to a certain extent determined to avail themselves. But previous to deciding upon the extent of the establishment it is necessary that I should be informed of the present value of these Estates, of their capability of improvement and of the mode in which their revenues have hitherto been disposed of.
"I have therefore to desire that you will as early as possible furnish me with adequate information upon these several points. Upon the receipt of which His Majesty's Government will lose no time in entering upon the final arrangement of an establishment calculated to afford to all classes of His Majesty's subjects in the Province that degree of education and those means of improvement which they have hitherto been compelled to seek at a distance from home."
It is evident from the above letter that the writer had no knowledge of the conditions of James McGill's will nor was he aware that before Colleges could be established it was first necessary to appoint Trustees for the Royal Institution and thereby to enable that body to assume control of educational institutions established in the Province, as already provided for by the Act of 1801. However, the Executors of the McGill will were informed, as requested, of the Home Government's intention, and the information asked for with reference to the Jesuits' Estates was forwarded to the Colonial Office. Lord Bathurst was apparently meanwhile made acquainted with the conditions of the will and with the Act of 1801. A few weeks later, on March 14th, 1816, he again wrote to Sir Gordon Drummond, as follows:
"My despatch of the 30th December will have informed you of the determination of His Royal Highness the Prince Regent to avail himself of the return of peace to forward the important objects of education and instruction in His Majesty's Dominions, and especially in the Provinces of Canada. When I then addressed you I had not had an opportunity of perusing the will of Mr. McGill which afforded by the liberality of his bequest such important assistance in carrying such an object into effect. I have since been furnished with a copy of the will of which an extract is enclosed for your consideration. You will no doubt observe that the mode in which the bequest is directed to be made, no less than the nature of it, superseded the necessity of carrying into effect the instructions conveyed to you on the 30th December under an erroneous impression of its contents. You will therefore consider that instruction to be recalled and in lieu of adopting any measures for enclosing a spot well fitted for the erection of the University, you will suspend all measures of such a nature till the necessary preliminary arrangements have been made in conformity with the Act of Parliament of the Province of Lower Canada passed in the 41st year of His Present Majesty, entitled 'An Act for the Establishment of Free Schools and the Advancement of Learning in this Province.' Those arrangements you will immediately carry into effect, by appointing under the Great Seal of the Province the following persons to be Trustees of the Schools of Royal Foundation in the Province in the manner and for the purposes specified in the Act and constituting them a Body Corporate by the name of the Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning. The persons to be nominated in the first instance are the Governor, Lieutenant-Governor, or person administering the Government for the time being; the Right Reverend Jacob Mountain, Bishop of Quebec; Jonathan Sewell, Esq., the Chief Justice of the district of Quebec; James Monk, Esq., the Chief Justice of the district of Montreal; the Reverend J. O. DuPlessis, Superintendent of the Romish Church.
"As soon as this preliminary arrangement shall have taken place you will call upon the persons named in Mr. McGill's will for the execution of the trust reposed in them, and you will by an early opportunity receive detailed instructions for your future proceedings."
Three weeks later, on the 9th April, 1816, Lord Bathurst forwarded to Sir Gordon Drummond the following despatch containing the names of additional Trustees and cancelling for obvious religious, political and racial reasons which would prevent criticism the former appointment of the Governor:
"In my despatch of the 14th ult., I conveyed to you the instruction of His Royal Highness, the Prince Regent, to nominate and appoint under the Provincial Act of 1801 a Body Corporate for the Advancement of Learning, and I communicated to you the names of several persons who appeared best qualified for such a duty. It has since appeared more advisable to increase the number of Trustees to eight in order to obviate the inconveniences which if the number were less might arise from the non-attendance of individual members. It has been deemed proper also in order to obviate all objections which might be grounded on the circumstances of the peculiar situation in which with regard to this commission the Governor is placed, to withdraw from that commission the name of the Governor or Officer administering the Government. You will therefore take the necessary measures for inserting in the Patent the following names in lieu of those which I have previously specified, viz.—Jonathan Sewell, Esq., Chief Justice of the district of Quebec; James Monk, Esq., Chief Justice of the district of Montreal; the Right Rev. Jacob Mountain, Bishop of Quebec; Rev. J. O. DuPlessis, Superintendent of the Romish Church; the Rev. Dr. Alexander Sparke of the Church of Scotland; John Richardson, Esq., of Montreal, a member of the Executive and Legislative Councils; William Bachelor Coltman, Esq., of Quebec, a member of the Executive Council; and John Reid, Esq., of Montreal, one of the Judges of the Court of King's Bench."
Notwithstanding the above instructions the Provincial Government was slow to act, for reasons already specified. Opposition to the establishment of the Royal Institution continued to be powerful and somewhat bitter, and two years passed before trustees were finally appointed. The Rev. J. O. DuPlessis, the Superintendent of the Romish Church, objected to becoming a member of the Board, and later declined. Meanwhile vigorous efforts were made to have the grants for schools and the McGill bequest augmented by the Crown, through the use of Crown Lands or the revenues of the Jesuits' Estates as partly promised in Lord Bathurst's letter of December 30, 1815.
As a result of these persistent efforts by some members of the Legislature and by church authorities interested in education, the Home Government realised that the funds devoted to educational institutions were lamentably insufficient and that additional means should at once be provided for the better equipment of schools and for the engagement of a greater number of teachers. They seem to have realised, too, that the bequest of James McGill was not in itself sufficient to provide for the erection of College buildings and for a subsequent endowment. They therefore decided after much consideration to make use of the estates of the Jesuits which had reverted to the Crown on the extinction of the order. For several years the assigning of the revenues of these estates to educational and religious purposes under Protestant control had been advocated and by the strange irony of history this was in time brought about. Indeed, as early as February 10th, 1810, Sir Gordon Drummond, then administering the Government of Lower Canada, wrote from Quebec to the Colonial Office stating that the Anglican Cathedral in Quebec "was badly in need of repair and that for the purpose of repair there was little hope of obtaining from the inhabitants of Quebec any contribution worthy of consideration." He therefore asked that the Home Government should authorise him to devote to the purpose part of the revenue arising from the Jesuits' Estates, the whole of which "to the amount of more than L4,500 annually has hitherto been transferred to the Military chest." And he added, "I beg leave to suggest my opinion that this is the most proper source from which the means of repairing the cathedral can be drawn, and indeed, that this fund might with propriety in the future be applied to the general support of the places of worship of the Established Church throughout the Province."
In answer to this request, however, no immediate action was taken, for although the Home Government had a legal right to dispose of the Estates as they saw fit, they naturally wished to proceed slowly and tactfully in order to avoid religious friction or bitterness within the Province. In 1815, when, as already pointed out, it was intimated by the Colonial Office that the Jesuit Estates might possibly be appropriated in aid of the McGill bequest, there seems to have been no intention to limit the assistance which should be provided by this increased revenue to McGill College alone. On the contrary, the object appears to have been to use the additional funds in order that, irrespective of race or creed, the benefits of education might be diffused as widely as possible throughout the country. But delay again followed, and it was not until the next year that definite instructions were issued by Lord Bathurst for the transfer of the Jesuits' Estates to the Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning. These instructions were contained in the following historic letter, destined to have so large a part in the establishment of McGill College and in Canadian education, and forwarded to the Officer Administering the Government of Lower Canada by Lord Bathurst from Downing Street on May 10th, 1816:
"I have already expressed to you the gracious intention of His Royal Highness, the Prince Regent, to forward the extension of education in the Provinces of Canada and I have pointed out the preliminary measures necessary on your part to give effect to that intention. In furtherance of this object, I have received the commands of His Royal Highness to instruct you to transfer to the Trustees of the Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning all those estates which formerly belonged to the Society of Jesuits, which, since the abolition of that order, have been vested in the Crown, in order that the Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning may possess present means for establishing and maintaining the Seminaries which it may be necessary to found and may possess the revenue which cannot fail progressively to increase in proportion to the improvement of the Provinces and the consequent demand for additional means of instruction.
"In transferring, however, those estates to the management of the Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning, you will retain for the future disposal of His Royal Highness the accumulation of the rents and profits of preceding years which may be either in the hands of the Receiver of those estates, or which may have been by him paid to the Colonial Government, and you will with as little delay as possible transmit to me a detailed account of the amount of the Fund which has been so created."
Meanwhile the executors of the will of James McGill had been again informed of the definite intention of the authorities to proceed with the erection and endowment of a College at Montreal, and on May 13th, 1816, John Richardson, one of the surviving executors, acknowledged on behalf of himself and his colleagues receipt of the information in the following letter, in which, remembering perhaps Lord Bathurst's letter of December 30, 1815, they emphasised the conditions imposed in the will:
"We have the honour of receiving your letter of the 9th inst., written by command of His Excellency, the Administrator in Chief, to acquaint us that His Majesty's Government have it in contemplation to erect and endow a College at Montreal and that it is their intention as soon as the plan of this establishment shall be definitely settled, to call upon us as Trustees of the Will of the late Mr. McGill for the application of the lands entrusted to us for that purpose.
"And further desiring to be acquainted for His Excellency's information, what are the extent and advantages considered with reference to the object proposed of the House and property of the late Mr. McGill in the vicinity of Montreal and whether the grounds are sufficiently extensive to have an adequate space for the formation of walks and gardens,—in compliance with His Excellency's desire, we have to acquaint you that the grounds above mentioned contain about forty-six superficial arpents in a very healthy, moderately elevated, and pleasant situation, well watered, at a convenient distance from the city towards the mountain, and consequently appear to be sufficiently extensive and well calculated for every purpose of the contemplated establishment. There are already upon the premises a good stone house of two and a half stories, a barn, office, and a large garden, which may be applied to the residence of the President or some of the Professors or to other useful purpose connected with the object in view.
"We have further to acquaint you for His Excellency's information that the devise by the late Mr. McGill is upon several conditions, one whereof is that 'one of the Colleges be named McGill College, or if only one College should be selected, then that the said one shall be called McGill College!' Another of the conditions is 'that it be erected upon the tract so devised.'
"We therefore take the liberty of suggesting that it will be needful in forming the plan of the establishment to attend to these conditions so as to enable the Trustees to act in conformity to the trust reposed in them by the will of the deceased."
Two years of inaction followed, and even after the trustees of the Royal Institution were appointed, delay characterised the efforts of the authorities. There seems to have been considerable disagreement between the Home Government and the Provincial Government with regard to the exact objects for which the revenue of the Jesuits' Estates was intended, and on the method of distribution. The Home authorities would not agree to assign any of the revenue to aid in the establishment of McGill College. Finally, in 1819, Lord Bathurst directed the Duke of Richmond, the Governor-General, immediately to commence the building of McGill College, and he authorised him to defray the expense which it might in the first instance be necessary to incur "from any funds which might be in the hands of the Receiver of the Jesuits' Estates." But this instruction was not carried out. Its object seems to have been merely to prevent the lapse of the McGill bequest in conformity with the expressed condition of the will that the College should be erected within a definite time. Further, the proposed assistance from the Jesuits' Estates seems to have been an advance and not a gift. It is unnecessary here to follow in detail the disagreement and the struggle arising from the distribution of the revenue of these estates. For several years the subject was one of controversy, and meanwhile the cause of education suffered. In 1823 Lord Bathurst recommended to the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury that a loan of L50,000 at 4% interest should be granted to the Royal Institution, but this recommendation was not complied with. In 1825 a system was proposed by Lord Dalhousie, and subsequently followed, by which the management of the estates was taken over by the Inspector of the King's Domain under the control of the Governor in Council. He was allowed an agent in each district to collect the rents which were then turned in at stated periods to the Receiver General. For several years, however, particularly in 1830 and 1831, the question of assigning the revenues from the estates for the purpose of education was repeatedly under discussion, but no pledge for such financial assistance was given by the Home Government. At last, in 1831, the Home Government surrendered the Jesuits' Estates to the Provincial Legislature, and against much opposition the schools were placed under the control of the House of Assembly. The salaries of teachers were greatly reduced; they were granted on an annual vote on condition that instruction be given by each teacher to at least twenty pauper scholars. As a result, it was stated by those opposed to this new plan that "the schools were nothing more than places of cheap education for the children of people in the lower walks of life." But notwithstanding this criticism the schools of the Province seem to have flourished to some extent at least under the new system. But it should not be forgotten that the Jesuits' Estates which had so long been the subject of discussion and controversy had in the end a very prominent part in the early history of McGill College. It was because of the funds derived from them when all other sources of revenue were exhausted that the trustees of the Royal Institution, and the executors of the will of James McGill, were permitted to prove in the courts the legality of the McGill bequest and to prosecute successfully their claims to his Burnside estate.
In accordance with Lord Bathurst's instructions to the Duke of Richmond in 1819, the Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning proceeded to have the McGill property transferred from the executors of the will to their own control. They gave a power of attorney to S. Sewell, who subsequently continued for several years to act on their behalf. But delay again characterised the efforts of the Royal Institution, and it was not until January 18th, 1820, that final application for the transfer of the McGill estate was made to the three surviving executors, Hon. John Richardson, Hon. James Reid, and the Rev. Dr. Strachan. The estate was then in possession of Francis Desrivieres, the nephew of the first husband of Mrs. James McGill. He was occupying Burnside House, James McGill's former home, and he was in control of the lands, products and rents of the estate. On receipt of the request from the Royal Institution, the executors wrote to Mr. Desrivieres on January 20th, 1820, informing him that a University or College was about to be erected and established "for the purpose of education as designated in the will and in conformity to the conditions therein presented," and asking "when the tract of land and premises now in your possession can be delivered over without subjecting you to unnecessary inconvenience."
This inquiry was the beginning of a long and wearying controversy which resulted in protracted litigation and ended finally in an appeal to the Privy Council. The reply to the above request indicates that the Desrivieres family was not inclined to give up the property without a struggle. Francis Desrivieres wrote, "I beg leave to mention that when the demand for the property in question is made by the Corporation referred to [The Royal Institution], I will determine how far a compliance with that demand ought to take place on my part." The executors forwarded this reply to the Attorney for the Royal Institution with the comment "you will perceive that it is evasive." They further stated their intention to proceed nevertheless with the conveyance, "which, when completed, will be handed over to you; it will then rest with your Corporation to pursue such measures as may be considered proper on the occasion."
The necessary papers for the transfer of the estate, but not the endowment fund,—from the executors of the will to the Royal Institution were finally completed in May, 1820; on June 7th following, the conveyance was effected and the Deed was recorded on August 3rd. It was evident, however, to the executors that difficulties were in the way of securing possession of the property. In a letter to the Rev. Dr. Strachan, written on the 24th of May, 1820, the two remaining living executors, John Richardson and James Reid, said: "We are sorry to say that a general belief prevails, and we fear is too well founded, that Mr. Desrivieres, the residuary legatee, means to contest this bequest of his venerable benefactor. If that shall be really his intention, it will speedily be known by a refusal after a formal demand is made by the Corporation for the delivery of possession of the aforesaid grounds and premises,—whereupon a suit will be instituted against him in the October term." To this letter Dr. Strachan replied, "I should hope that Mr. Desrivieres will have a greater respect for the memory of his greatest benefactor than to contest a Legacy which goes to establish an institution which he had so much at heart."
That the "general belief" and the fears above referred to were not groundless was soon apparent. Formal application for the vacating and the giving up of the estate was made by the trustees of the Royal Institution. The application was curtly refused. Francis Desrivieres was in possession of the estate and he determined to remain in such possession until the Courts should decide otherwise. His solicitors based their claim, on his behalf, on the plea that a college had not yet been erected, that no steps had been taken towards its erection, that there was no intention to proceed with its establishment, and that it was now too late to comply with the conditions of the will with reference to time. With respect to the endowment fund, they claimed that they were not obliged to pay it until a college had been actually erected as provided in the will. As a result of these claims, a suit was at once instituted in the Courts by the Royal Institution for the purpose of obtaining possession of the estate, and on October 3rd, 1820, the Board passed a resolution authorising their attorney, Mr. Sewell, to secure the aid of Mr. Stuart as counsel in the case. Mr. Sewell subsequently had the assistance of Mr. Ogden, Mr. Vallieres de St. Real, Mr. Griffin, and Mr. Cochrane.
The Board soon realised that if their suit was to be carried to a successful conclusion they must have funds to meet necessary expenses. They applied to the Governor-General for financial assistance, and as a result a sum of L200 was advanced to them as a loan, from the proceeds of the Jesuits' Estates. They realised, too, that it was necessary at once to give the College some semblance of organisation. Their solicitors advised the securing of a Charter without delay, and on February 7th, 1821, the Secretary of the Board wrote to Mr. Sewell, stating that "application for a Charter will be made to His Majesty's Government without loss of time, but it is the unanimous opinion of the Board that the case should proceed." The Charter [here included as appendix B] received the sanction of the Crown on March 31st, 1821, and formed the basis of the court plea of the Royal Institution. Two years later the Board decided to secure a teaching staff, and by 1824 they had appointed a Principal, who was to be also Honorary Professor of Divinity, and four Professors. The latter held merely pro forma appointments, and were intended to fulfil a technical legal requirement; none of them ever lectured in the University, and when the College was actually opened five years later those who still remained willingly resigned to leave the Governors free to fill all Professorships as they desired. But the fact of their appointment doubtless helped the Board in the suit then pending.
It is needless here to outline in detail the litigation that followed. In answer to the Desrivieres claim, the Board contended that, as required by the testator, McGill College had now been, to all intents and purposes, erected and established by Letters Patent under the Great Seal, and by the appointment of Professors. All the conditions of the will had therefore, they said, been fulfilled. Accordingly on November 8th, 1821, they made a formal demand upon the executors, the Hon. John Richardson and the Hon. Justice Reid, for the transfer of the legacy of L10,000 with interest due since the death of the testator. Francis Desrivieres was in possession of this money, and on December 4th, 1821, the executors called on him for its payment. He replied that it would not be paid until the college had been built and established, as the case connected with property only had not yet been decided, and he did not regard the mere obtaining of a Charter as fulfilling the conditions of the will. As a result the executors and the Board issued instructions on December 26th, 1821, for the instituting of a second suit to obtain possession of the endowment fund, and the two suits proceeded.