King's College, York (1827)

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The King's University College
Established by the Royal Charter
The first institution of higher learning in Upper Canada.
Also known as the University of Toronto

Origin and Development
Col. John Graves Simcoe, the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada, proposed that "provision should be made out of the public funds for the maintenance of [Protestant] religion and the promotion of higher education". Following this, one-seventh of public lands were dedicated by the Imperial Government for this purpose, and to "support the Protestant clergy" (Alexander, et al., 1906, p. 9).

It wasn't until his successor, Rev. John Strachan, took over as Lieutenant-Governor that interest in the project was revived again around 1820. Strachan began to form plans for an institution of higher learning in the province and was commissioned in 1826 to visit England in order to secure both land in the settled areas of the province, as well as a royal charter in order to give both character and dignity to the university. He returned with both consent from the Crown for land, and a charter "founding a university in close connection with the Church of England" (Alexander, et al., 1906, p. 11).

It was the religious affiliation of the university that garnered great controversy as the project continued toward fruition. The majority of settlers in the province we not Anglican, and as a response a committee was created to argue their cause. They created a report wherein they state, "the alarm and jealousy which this circumstance will produce throughout the Province...[and which] it has in some measure produced [will] prevent parents and guardians from sending their children to it, [and so] limit the benefits which might otherwise be derived from the institution...To be of real service, the principle upon which it is established must be in unison with the general sentiments of the people. It should not be a school of politics or of sectarian views. It should have about it no appearance of partiality or exclusion. Its portals should be thrown open to all, and upon none who enter should any influence be exerted to attach them to any particular creed or church" (Alexander, et al., 1906, p. 11). Several petitions were sent by inhabitants of the province to the British Parliament in protest of the charter. As a result, the charter came under question over the next 16 years, and the building of the King's College was delayed in numerous ways as debates continued between the House of Assembly and the Legislative Council with regards to the future of Upper Canada's first institution of higher education.

It wasn't until the dissolution of the House of Assembly in 1836 that a bill for the amendment of the charter finally passed. It stated that:

1. That the judges of his Majesty's Court of the King's Bench shall for and on behalf of the King be visitors of the College in the place and stead of the Lord Bishop of Quebec.
2. The president of the University on any future vacancy shall be appointed by His Majesty, his heirs and successors, without requiring that he shall be the incumbent of any ecclesiastical office.
3. The members of the College Council, including the chancellor and the president, shall be twelve in number, of whom the Speakers of the two Houses of the Legislature of the Province and His Majesty's Attorney and Solicitor-General for the Province, for the time being, shall be four, and the remainder shall consist of the five senior professors of arts and faculties of the said College, and of the principal of the Minor, or Upper Canada, College.
4. It shall not be necessary that any member of the said College Council to be so appointed, or than any member of the said College Council, or any professor to be at any time appointed shall be a member of the Church of England, or subscribe to any articles of religion other than a declaration that he believes in the authenticity and divine inspiration of the Old and New testaments, and in the doctrine of the Trinity. (Alexander, et al., 1906, p. 19-20)

King's College opened on the 8th of June, 1843 with 26 students enrolled. At its opening, the following courses were available:

   Belles Lettres

First professors (1842):

William Rawlins Beaumont, FRSC, Professor of Surgery
Rev. Dr James Beaven, chair of Divinity and Metaphysics and Ethics
Hon. William Henry Draper (resigned 1843 and replaced by William Hume Blake), Professor of Law
John King, MD, Professor of Medicine
Rev. John McCaul, Professor of Classics
Richard Potter, MA (Cambridge), chair of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy
Henry Holmes Croft, Professor of Chemistry
William Charles Gwynne, MB, chair of Anatomy and Physiology

The constitution of the university came under question again soon after the University's inauguration. The Baldwin University Bill of 1843 was introduced into Parliament. Soon after the Amendment Act of 1837 was introduced, severing the most important links connecting King's College with the Church of England. The presidency was no longer required to be annexed to the Archdeacon of York, and the members of the Council were no longer required to be members of the Church. In addition to this, the bishop was no longer the visitor of the University. However, following the changes to the constitution the staff remained largely the same. The Archdeacon of York became the Bishop of Toronto, and was still acting as president while the members of the Council remained the same. Because of this, no immediate changes were seen with regards to the University's religious affiliation, as most of the staff and students remained affiliated with the Church of England, albeit unofficially.

The changes in the constitution had a domino effect amongst the surrounding colleges. Queen's College proposed to unite with King's College, and stated that they "are ready to concur in any legislative enactment that shall empower them to limit Queen's College to the department of theological instruction" (Alexander, et al., 1906, p.27). It was reported that on May 3rd, 1843, Bishop John Strachan decline to place the proposal from Queen's College before the Council of King's College, and that the Government, although approving the union of the two colleges, expressed "that to the success of the scheme, the concurrence and hearty co-oporation of the Methodist body in this country is absolutely essential".

This suggestion from the government led to a correspondence between the Principal of Queen's College, Dr. Liddell, and the President of Victoria College, Dr. Ryerson. It was at this point that the scheme of a college union within one university was proposed, with as many separate colleges partaking as the country may require. When the Baldwin University Bill of 1843 was passed it constituted the formation of the University of Toronto, which would take on the power and functions of King's College.

The University united four colleges:

   King's College
   Regiopolis College
   Queen's College, and
   Victoria College

Winett, Frederick Victor, McCullough, Stewart W.. A Brief History of the Department of Near Eastern Studies.
Alexander, W.J., Langton, H.H., Macallum, A.B., University of Toronto. (1906). The University of Toronto and its Colleges, 1827-1906. Toronto: The University Library, Pub. by the librarian.