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Title: From Thomas Radcliff, Esq., Upper Canada, so the Rev. Thomas Radcliff, Dublin.
CollectionAuthentic Letters from Upper Canada [Rev. Thomas Radcliff]
SenderRadcliff, Thomas
Sender Gendermale
Sender Occupationsoldier
Sender Religionunknown
OriginAdelaide, Upper Canada
DestinationDublin, Ireland
RecipientRev. Thomas Radcliff
Recipient Gendermale
Doc. No.
Partial Date
Doc. Type
Word Count2538
Genrereligion in the colony
TranscriptAdelaide, January, 1833.
My dear Father,
A sketch of the state of religion in Upper Canada, may
not be unacceptable to you.
Episcopalian, as I am, it grieves me to observe that our
number of Church of England Ministers is lamentably
insufficient; and that unless prompt and energetic arrangements
be made, to meet the wants and desires of our
rapidly increasing colonists, there will be, with the absence
of sound religious principle, a proportional accession of
sects, or total indifference to, and ignorance of, any
religion. Many districts are in a deplorable state in this
respect; and, what is the worst feature, some of the
settlers themselves seem careless about it.
There are young families which have never been
baptised; and, I am credibly informed, that there are
fathers and mothers, nay, grandfathers and grandmothers, who have never been received by baptism into the Church
of Christ.
When prayer-books, catechisms, and tracts have been
offered to them, even without price, for the mere trouble
of calling at a clergyman's house to receive them, that
trouble has not been taken; the Canadians do not like to
lose time, even for such an important object as that of
spiritual instruction; and, as to wishing for clerical attendance
on the sick and dying, there are many professing
Episcopalians who would not spare a messenger to request
their pastor's services.
There are, however, some gratifying instances of the
delight with which, even from a very considerable distance,
whole famines come to meet the Church of England clergyman,
who will, in his periodical visit, have perhaps twenty
or thirty communicants, and will baptise ten or twelve
children, besides reading the churching service for their
mothers. In a Mission or Parish, where I stopped some
time on my journey, there is to be found in a certain small
portion of it, the following variety and classification of
religionists and free-thinkers.

Out of 360 souls,
Episcopalians . . . . 130
Presbyterians . . . . 102
Methodists, Baptists, Menonists and Roman
Catholics . . . . 73
2566694208280Without any form of religion . . . 55
Of Roman Catholics there are comparatively very few
in our province.
The number of Methodist Missionaries is very considerable.
Wherever a settlement is formed, there they are to be
found. Many of them are excellent men, and all of them
are really or apparently zealous; and from all I can hear
they have done infinitely more among the Indians in
promoting a knowledge of Christianity, than our clergymen
have been able, or anxious to effect. I know that
there exists, at this moment, a demand, (in mercantile
phraseology,) for thirty, or forty Church of England
If care be taken to select able, zealous and active men,
the happiest results will follow; but if a swarm of Drones
be sent among us, attracted merely by the temporal advantages
of a settlement, without higher motives and anxieties,
the degradation of our religion and the general contempt
of inefficient ministers, must be anticipated.
That a considerable change is likely to take place in
this respect, I have every reason to expect from the zealous
attention of our excellent governor, Sir John Colborne, to
all the best interests of the province; and especially as the
selection of clergymen, and their appointment to the rectories
of the new townships, will be, as I am informed, at
his disposal; and, being a man of great correctness, he
will strictly scrutinize the testimonials of those who may
offer themselves, and who will, no doubt, be required to
produce strong recommendations from their respective
But I much fear that the government of the parent country
has let the time pass by, when good might have been
effected through the instrumentality of our clergy. The
Methodist dissenters have obtained an ascendancy over our
infant population. Their habits of domiciliary visitation,
their acquaintance with the tastes and peculiarities of the
Canadians, their readiness to take long and fatiguing rides,
in the discharge of their self-imposed labours, render them
formidable rivals to our more easy going clergy.
I repeat, that it is of the utmost importance to send us
men of character and high religious attainments, deeply
convinced of the responsibility attached to their calling,
and determined that every other pursuit, and care, shall
be secondary to the great purpose, for which they are
designed, and to which they should be principally devoted.
I mean not to say that there are not here spiritual, and
earnest ministers of our own church, but unquestionably,
on a fair comparison with the sectarian preachers, on the
single point of zeal and ministerial industry, they do not
occupy the first place, however they may have the "vantage
ground" in other particulars.
How delightful would it be, in this great and improving
country, rising so rapidly into a state of civilization, which
is extending every hour, through the medium of British
emigration, to have this numerous body fully supplied
with pastors of their own church?—and how cheering
would it be to have their respective settlements anxiously
superintended by a zealous, well-educated, and well-informed
body of clergy?
In a political point of view, also, it would be important,
as here the Episcopalians are, one and all, attached to the
British Constitution. In the democratic principle, (wherever
it appears,) in the instigation to discontent, and in
disaffection to the laws, may always be traced the absence
of Church of England principles. In this fine province,
where a single grievance does not really exist, where there
are neither rents, tithes nor taxes to pay, nothing seems
wanting but a resident and regular clergy, to go frequently
in person among the people (who are inclined to quietness
and good order,) to encourage diem in their moral duties,
and to inform them in the spiritual doctrines of their religion.
Thousands in many parts of Canada have never seen
the face of a Protestant clergyman (of the Established
Church), and many thousands have been lost to our
Church from the want of regular pastors and the consequent
influence of itinerant teachers of innumerable
The forms of sectarian worship are very simple; they
generally commence with a prayer, (the congregation
sometimes kneeling) then a hymn, the people standing;
and a very long sermon concludes the service.
The dissenters here, as elsewhere, find great fault with
the frequent change of posture at our service. A Methodist
lady lately told a friend of mine, between jest and earnest,
that a fugle-man would be necessary in our churches. The
opinion here is that our liturgy is too long, and consequently
fatiguing to the attention;—that the Lord's prayer
is repeated too often, and that some other prayers might
be, at least occasionally, omitted. In the marriage ceremony
there are, (as they complain,)
parts that are objectionable, for instance the length of the
preamble, and the indelicacy of part of it. Some persons,
I understand, have been disposed to go away unmarried,
from the man's refusing to say, "with my body I thee
worship"—. One, contending that worship was due to God
alone, was induced to comply with the Rubrick only by
the positive refusal of the clergyman to proceed with the
ceremony, unless the form were acquiesced in.
A woman from the STATES, in the true spirit of independence,
left a church in this province, unmarried, from
her refusal to say "obey." She had previously determined
never to give the solemn promise required, and preferred
living with her intended spouse, unshackled by the yoke
of matrimony.
She now has three children, and lives happily with her mate.
You remember the old song—

A maid there was who did declare,
That if she ever married were;
No pow'r on earth should make her say,
Amongst the rites, the word Obey:
When this she at the church contest,
And when she saw the angry priest
Shut up hia book to go away,
She curtseying cried, Obey—Obey ! !

The first verse critically applies in the present instance;
but, it is to be regretted, that the dame in question did not
permit the second one to be equally in point.
In this region of Sectarianism, it would perhaps be
prudent to make some concessions as to mere points of
Form, which, when they do not involve any vital principles
of our religion, might be abandoned without injury
to our liturgy.
The Bishops in the States have authorised many alterations
in it; and have shortened the ceremony of Baptism,
in which the Creed is not repeated—a simple assent to it,
only, being required. For my own part, on the old-fashioned
principle, I dread innovation, lest it should
encourage too sweeping a reform. Being a true Church
of England man, I have been led into these remarks from
what I had an opportunity of learning upon my journey
hither, and from having been, since our arrival, without
any clergyman, which engaged my brother and myself
(though laymen) in the duties of the Sabbath, and we
have had a congregation of the chief part of the infant
settlement in our own log-houses. But this will be no
longer necessary, as a church is about to be built in
Adelaide, and a Mr. Cronin, as I understand, a correct,
talented, and zealous clergyman, is appointed to the situation.
Those clerical appointments are now called Rectories,
and will become most desirable settlements for zealous and
unambitious clergymen.
I believe it is not yet precisely ascertained to what extent
the fund, arising from the sale of the clergy reserves, can
be made available, as to the number of Rectories to be
formed, or the particular emolument of each; but it is
the intention to equalize them as much as possible. It is
said that one half of the land which the clergyman is to
have, is as glebe for his life, and the other half in perpetuity;
of this, I am uninformed, nor do I believe that
the arrangements are as yet permanently made, or they
would have more publicity; but I believe it is so far
determined, that a clergyman appointed to a new township,
is to enjoy the following benefits at the least:—Glebe,
200 acres, 50 of which are to be cleared at the expense
of government; Glebe-house, at first a Log-house, to be
replaced, in a year, by a Frame-house of suitable dimensions.
Cash income, £100 a year. This is all that has come to
my knowledge; but other advantages may be added. It
is said, for instance, that surplice fees will be received,
which, in a populous township, might add considerably to
the clerical income, and would be a fair and fit remuneration
for pastoral attention.
In our case, at Adelaide, a church is to be erected as
soon as convenient, probably within a year, and in the
mean time, a school-house is to be formed in the log-way,
to be used for Divine Service till the church is prepared.
The Archdeacons in the towns of Canada, I suppose from
the absence of higher Dignitaries, affect the episcopal
appearance as much as possible, observing the costume of
the standing collars, short cassocks, and rosettes in the
shovel hats. They have, alas! but one superior, the amiable
and truly religious Bishop of Quebec, whose extensive
duties are observed, with as much zeal and accuracy as
any one person can accomplish in a diocese of two immense
Provinces, which it is altogether impracticable for the most
anxious and devoted Prelate to visit within the year, much
less to regulate and superintend. We hear that in Ireland
you are striking off ten Bishops; I wish you could send
some of them to us—we have much occasion for them.
The humbler clergymen of our church, when riding
through their parishes, in travelling dress, resemble the
Irish Methodist Preacher. They carry a valise, containing
gown, surplice, books, communion elements, chalice and
cup, with a great coat and umbrella strapped over it.
Indeed you never see an equestrian traveller leaving
home for a couple of days, without a valise before or
behind him, for no one here is grand enough to have a
servant riding after him ; and, as to travelling in a waggon,
it is often utterly impossible, from the condition of the
roads, which render wheel conveyances insupportable.
The quantity of mud which a waggon has to encounter
is inconceivable; the useless trouble of washing it never takes
place.—The usual mode of clearing the wheels of the
adhesive mud being to strike them, when dry, on the
rims, with a heavy hammer, which, causing the dirt to drop
off, restores them, in the eye of an American, to a perfectly
dandyish appearance.
But this is a digression from the main point of my letter.
As connected with religion, I mus.t not omit a remark
or two on the subject of education in this country.
As there is a want of clergymen, so, I believe, there is
of schoolmasters. Those settled in townships generally
receive two dollars per quarter for each pupil (badly paid,)
and may have, perhaps, thirty pupils during the winter
months. They complain greatly, I am told, of being too
dependent on the whims and caprices of a few leading
persons around them. It would be desirable, if practicable,
to render correct and valuable teachers somewhat independent
in this respect. I have just heard, however, that some
arrangements to promote education have lately been made,
with the particulars of which I am not acquainted.
The school-houses are frequently used as places of
worship for the different sects. In a country where the
labour even of children is valuable to the colonist, it cannot
be expected that they will be left at school beyond the
age of ten or twelve years; it is, therefore, of supreme
importance that, previously to this period, they should
have all the advantage which sound and uninterrupted
education can confer. The Sabbath is shamefully desecrated
in many places, even by those who might be
expected to observe it. A clergyman in a certain township,
finding that drinking and Sabbath-breaking were prevailing
offences in his district, had a petition drawn up, and
signed by the respectable inhabitants about him, to have
fishing on Sundays prohibited by law: a point which
happily has been accomplished, and in that neighbourhood,
once remarkable for the most disrespectful negligence of
the Lord's day, there is now a strict observance of it.
Future generations will bless the memory of Sir John
Colborne, who, to the many advantages derived from the
equity and wisdom of his government, has added that of
a magnificent foundation for the purposes of literary
The lowest salary of any of the professors of this institution
is £300 per annum, with the accommodation of a
noble brick house, and the privilege of taking boarders, at
£50 per annum.
I have given you a sufficiently "lengthy" detail of those
matters, in which you as a clergyman must feel peculiar
interest, and as the limits of my closely written paper are
now filled up even to the minutest point of margin, I shall