JOHN STRACHAN (/ˈstrɔːn/ ; April 12, 1778 – November 1, 1867)
was an influential figure in
Upper Canada and the first Anglican
Toronto . He is best known as a political bishop who held
many government positions and promoted education from common schools
to helping to found the
University of Toronto .
Gauvreau says in the 1820s he was "the most eloquent and powerful
Upper Canadian exponent of an anti-republican social order based upon
the tory principles of hierarchy and subordination in both church and
state." Craig characterizes him as "the Canadian arch tory of his
era" for his intense conservatism. Craig argues that Strachan
"believed in an ordered society, an established church, the
prerogative of the crown, and prescriptive rights; he did not believe
that the voice of the people was the voice of God."
Dr. Strachan built his home in a large yard bound by Simcoe Street ,
York Street, and Front Street . It was a two-storey building that was
the first building in
Toronto to use locally manufactured bricks. The
gardens and grounds of the property occupied the entire square and
became a local
Toronto landmark, being given the name "The Bishop's
Palace". After Dr. Strachan's death the home was converted into a
private hotel called The Palace Boarding House.
* 1 Life and work
* 1.1 Early life
* 1.3 Educational interests
* 1.4 First Nations
* 1.5 High Church views
* 2 Commemoration
* 3 References
* 4 Further reading
* 5 Contemporary sources
* 6 External links
LIFE AND WORK
Strachan was the youngest of six children born to the overseer of a
granite quarry in
Scotland . He graduated from King\'s
Aberdeen in 1797. After his father died in an accident in
1794, Strachan tutored students and taught school to finance his own
In 1799 he emigrated to Kingston ,
Upper Canada to tutor the children
of other British and
United Empire Loyalist immigrants. In Kingston
one of his students was
John Beverley Robinson , future attorney
general of Upper Canada. At the same time, he studied to become
In 1803 Strachan was ordained as a priest in the
Church of England .
He moved to
Cornwall, Ontario , where he taught at a grammar school
and married Ann McGill née Wood, widow of Andrew McGill, in 1807.
Together they had nine children, some of whom died young.
He moved to York,
Upper Canada , just before the
War of 1812 , where
he became rector of St. James\' church (which would later become his
cathedral) and headmaster of the Home District Grammar School . This
school, also known as "The Blue School" taught students from five to
seventeen and emphasized a practical means of learning. Students
recited abridged speeches from the House of Commons, learned Latin,
and were encouraged to ask questions of their fellow pupils. A
conservative, Strachan supported his nation during the War of 1812,
using his sermons to support the suspension of civil liberties. Upon
hearing that of the fall of Fort Detroit to British forces, Strachan
declared in a sermon: "The brilliant victory...has been of infinite
service in confirming the wavering "> The bust of Strachan in the
Trinity quad, Trinity College, Toronto, as seen on a winter morning
Much of Strachan's life and work was focused on education. He wanted
Upper Canada to be under
Church of England control, in order to avoid
American influence. He tried to set up annual reviews for grammar
schools to make sure they were following
Church of England doctrines,
and tried to introduce Andrew Bell 's education system from Britain,
although these acts were vetoed by the Legislative Assembly . In 1827
Strachan chartered King's College, an
Anglican university, although it
was not actually created until 1843.
In 1839 he was consecrated the first
Anglican bishop of Toronto
alongside Aubrey George Spencer , the first Bishop of Newfoundland ,
Lambeth Palace August 4.]. He founded Trinity College in 1851 after
King's College was secularized as the
University of Toronto .
In 1835 he was forced to resign from the Executive Council, and he
resigned from politics in 1841 after the Act of Union . He continued
to influence his former students, although the
Family Compact declined
in the new
Province of Canada . Strachan helped organize the Lambeth
Anglican bishops in 1867 but died that year before it
was held. Strachan was buried in a vault in the chancel of St. James\'
Cathedral . He was succeeded by
Alexander Neil Bethune .
Strachan was elected a member of the
American Antiquarian Society in
Strachan was concerned with the Native peoples and called on people
to embrace these "sons of nature" as brothers. He claimed that the
United States desired
Upper Canada primarily to exterminate the
indigenous tribes and free up the West for American expansion.
Strachan defended the autonomy of the Natives, the superiority of
British governance, and the centrality of
Upper Canada in the theatre
of war against the U.S. He rejected the prevalent assumption at the
time that Natives were simply pawns in the contest and gave an
original and influential explanation of why
Upper Canada was vital to
both Native and Imperial concerns.
HIGH CHURCH VIEWS
Strachan was intensely devoted to the promotion of the Anglican
position in Canada. He was born a Presbyterian in Scotland, but he
never fully accepted it and first received communion at an Anglican
church in Kingston. He was strongly influenced by the High Church
bishop of New York,
John H. Hobart
John H. Hobart . Strachan preached that the
Anglican Church was a branch of the universal church, and that it was
independent of both Pope and king. Like most Protestants of the era he
denounced the Roman Catholic Church for corruption. He rejected the
revivalism of the Methodists as an American heresy, and stressed the
ancient practices and historic liturgy of his church. While a High
Churchman, Strachan's view alienated many of his clergy and laity who
were drawn from the ranks of Irish Protestant immigrants of more
He actively promoted missionary work, using the Diocesan Theological
Cobourg to train clergy to handle frontier conditions.
Much of his effort after 1840 was undermined by theological disputes
in the Church, as between High Church tractarians and Low Church
evangelicals. He also faced external attacks from political reformers
and rival denominations.
* A plaque at the
University of Toronto erected by the Ontario
Archaeological and Historic Sites Board commemorates the residence of
John Strachan (1778-1867). The Bishop's Palace is the site
where assembled the Loyalist forces that defeated William Lyon
Mackenzie during the Rebellion of 1837. "On this site stood the
"Bishop's palace", residence of Bishop
John Strachan (1778-1867),
built in 1817-18 while he was the incumbent of St. James Church. Born
in Scotland, he came to
Upper Canada in 1799 where he achieved
prominence as an educator and churchman and was consecrated first
Anglican Bishop of
Toronto in 1839. He served as a member of the
province's Legislative Council 1820-41 and of the Executive Council
1815-36. During the Rebellion of 1837, the Loyalist forces that
defeated William Lyon Mackenzie near Montgomery's Tavern assembled on
the grounds of the Palace."
* In the summer of 2004, a bust of
John Strachan was erected in the
quadrangle of Trinity College at the University of Toronto.
* Strachan Avenue, running from the original site of Trinity College
to Lake Shore Blvd., is also named in his honour.
* ^ Gauvreau, 2004
* ^ G. M. Craig, "STRACHAN, JOHN," in Dictionary of Canadian
Biography Online (2000)
* ^ A B Peppiatt, Liam. "Chapter 15: Bishop Strachan’s Mansion".
Robertson's Landmarks of
* ^ Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
* ^ "MCGILL, JAMES", article in Dictionary of Canadian Biography
* ^ "STRACHAN, JOHN", article in Dictionary of Canadian Biography
* ^ Peppiatt, Liam. "Chapter 40: The Old Blue School at York".
Robertson's Landmarks of
* ^ A B C Benn, Carl The War of 1812, London: Osprey, 2002 page 77.
* ^ Benn, Carl The War of 1812, London: Osprey, 2002 page 78.
* ^ Benn, Carl The War of 1812, London: Osprey, 2002 page 79.
* ^ Benn, Carl The War of 1812, London: Osprey, 2002 pages 79-80.
* ^ A B Benn, Carl The War of 1812, London: Osprey, 2002 page 80.
* ^ Frederick Vaughan (2003). The Canadian Federalist Experiment:
From Defiant Monarchy to Reluctant Republic. McGill-Queens. pp.
* ^ J. L. Granatstein (2011). Canada\'s Army: Waging War and
Keeping the Peace. U. of
Toronto Press. pp. 4–5.
* ^ Pierre Berton (2011). Flames Across the Border: 1813–1814.
Random House Digital, Inc. pp. 29–30.
* ^ Curtis Fahey, In His Name: The
Anglican Experience in Upper
Canada, 1791-1854 (1991)
American Antiquarian Society Members Directory
* ^ James Tyler Robertson, "The 'Children of Nature' and 'Our
Province': The Rev. John Strachan's Views on the Indigenous People and
the Motives Behind the American Invasion of Upper Canada, 1812-1814,"
Ontario History (2012) 104#1 pp 53-70.
* ^ Oliver R. Osmond, "The Churchmanship of John Strachan," Journal
of the Canadian Church Historical Society, (1974) 16#3 pp 46-59.
* ^ J. D. Purdy, "
John Strachan and the Diocesan Theological
Institute at Cobourg, 1842-1852," Ontario History (1973) 65#2 pp
* ^ Bishop\'s Palace
* Boorman, Sylvia. John Toronto: a biography of Bishop Strachan
Toronto and Vancouver, 1969).
* Christie, N. "In these times of democratic rage and delusion", in
The Canadian protestant experience, 1760–1990, ed. G. A. Rawlyk
* Craig, G. M. "STRACHAN, JOHN," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography
* Fahey, Curtis. In His Name: The
Anglican Experience in Upper
Canada, 1791-1854 (1991), focused on Strachan
* Flint, David. John Strachan, pastor and politician (Toronto,
* Gauvreau, Michael. "Strachan, John (1778–1867)", Oxford
Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
accessed 13 Sept 2013
* Henderson, J.L. John Strachan, 1778–1867 (Québec, Presses de
l'Université Laval, 1970), in English
* Robertson, Thomas B., The Fighting Bishop: John Strachan, the
First Bishop of Toronto, and Other Essays in His Times (Ottawa:
Graphic Publishers, 1926).
* Bethune, Alexander Neil. (1870). Memoir of the Right Reverend John
Strachan, D.D., LL.D., First Bishop of Toronto. Toronto: Henry
* MacDonald, William Peter. (1834). Remarks on Doctor Strachan\'s
Pamphlet against the Catholic Doctrine of the Real Presence of
Christ\'s Body and Blood in the Eucharist; Addressed by him to his
Congregation of St. James\' Church, in York, Upper Canada, and
Occasioned by the Honorable John Elmsley\'s Publication of the Bishop
of Strasbourg\'s Observations on the Sixth Chapter of St. John\'s
Gospel. Kingston: James MacFarlane and Company.
* Melville, Henry. (1852). The Rise and Progress of Trinity College,
Toronto; with a Sketch of the Life of the Lord Bishop of
Connected with Church Education in Canada. Toronto: Henry Roswell.
* Patton, Henry. (1868). A Sermon, on the Life, Labours, and
Character, of the Late Honourable and Right-Reverend John Strachan
D.D., LLD., Lord Bishop of Toronto, and in Connection with the Bishop
Strachan Memorial Church, Cornwall. Montreal: John Lovell.
* Strachan, John. (1827). Remarks on Emigration from the United
Kingdom. London: John Murray.