7 George Munro and the Big Change, 1879-1887

Munro’s professorships. John Forrest. Women students. Student celebrations. Founding the Law School, 1883. Retirement of Principal Ross. Fighting the city over the Parade. Failure of union with King’s, 1884-5. Getting the new building on the South Common, 1887.

George Munro was born near Pictou in 1815, apprenticed to a printer at twelve, and became a teacher at Pictou Academy at nineteen. In 1850 he went to the Free Church Academy in Halifax to teach mathematics and physics, becoming principal two years later. He had brought the academy to a flourishing condition when, amid much regret, he resigned in 1856. The reason he gave was health, but a private one was his uncertainty about his vocation; he had been preparing to be a Presbyterian minister – that calling for many intellectually minded young men in the nineteenth century. Rumour had it that after preaching one sermon he resolved never to preach another. He had no joy in eristic discourse from the pulpit. He was reserved, even shy, and in later life never sought, indeed retreated from, the limelight. He sailed for New York in October 1856, at the age of thirty-one.[1]

He spent his first years in New York working for Appleton’s, the publisher, learning the business of magazine and mail order publishing from the ground up. In 1866 he started on his own with the Fireside Companion, a weekly family paper, which was highly successful both in the United States and in Nova Scotia. By that time on various trips back to Nova Scotia – Halifax was an easy two-to-three-day trip by steamer – he had met and married his second wife, Catherine Forrest, sister of the Reverend John Forrest, and of James Forrest, a Halifax business man. Munro sent his son by his first marriage to Dalhousie College in 1874. By 1877 Munro was publishing The Seaside Library, a reprint series of British books – and thus free from copyright – of high quality: Dickens, Thackeray, Bronte, as well as history, biography, and travel.[2] He amassed a good deal of money, investing some of it in well-chosen American stocks, some in a printing plant on Vandewater Street, New York. A main source of wealth turned out to be New York real estate. A friend was later to remark of him, “Business was his play and his passion and he brought to bear upon it such sagacity, such keenness of vision, such skill in devising his plans and such promptitude in their execution as would in other fields have won battle or founded states.”

Ill from overwork, Munro found time at last in 1879 to take a long summer holiday in Halifax, living with his brother-in-law John Forrest on Brunswick Street. They talked and walked much. Forrest knew the needs of Dalhousie all too well after six months on its board. Desperate is not too strong a word for Dalhousie’s financial condition. Talk of closing Dalhousie down was heard on every side. The most pressing need was to find the money to replace J.J. MacKenzie in physics. One day, as Forrest was explaining this, Munro looked at him and said quietly, “If you will find the man for the chair of Physics, I will find the money.” Forrest took him at his word, and announced the offer to a stunned Board of Governors on 21 August 1879. It was the scale that made them gasp: $2,000 per annum! Even the premier of Nova Scotia was only paid $2,400 per year. To fund $2,000, assuming 5 per cent interest, required a capital of $40,000. The Board of Governors’ enthusiasm, in their thanks to Munro, was understandable:

Mr. Munro’s liberality is on a scale that is without parallel in the Educational History not of Nova Scotia alone but of the Dominion of Canada and his action in giving the patronage of the Chair to the Governors instead of availing himself of the privilege secured to him by Statute by nominating a Professor, enhances their sense of indebtedness.

It would be called the George Munro Chair of Physics. The professor would be J.G. MacGregor, appointed that very autumn of 1879, brought back from the English grammar school whither he had gone in 1877.[3]

This great gift did not solve Dalhousie’s problems, but it gave hope, where previously there had been little, that it might be possible to overcome them. That it could not solve them was illustrated a few months later. One day – it was 18 January 1880 – there was a knock on the door of the West Room, where Charles Macdonald was lecturing. He was called out. His back was hardly turned before the students turned to high jinks, throwing notebooks about. But one of the students near the door overheard something and shouted above the din, “Be quiet boys – there’s bad news about De Mille.” The silence that followed was intense. When Charlie came back he said in a broken voice, “I cannot go on, gentlemen; my beloved colleague Professor De Mille is dead.” De Mille had died of pneumonia that morning, at the age of forty-eight. He was given a university funeral and buried in Camp Hill cemetery. His death left a tremendous gap; worse, Dalhousie found it impossible to find the money to fill his chair of history and rhetoric.[4]

Photograph of John Forrest c.1896
John Forrest, c.. 1896, President, 1885-1911. “He had a prodigious memory for people and faces, and a shrewd judgment of them.”
Lismer sketch of George Munro
George Munro, a Lismer sketch reproduced from Harvey’s Dalhousie. “Reserved, even shy, and never sought the limelight.”

In October 1880 George Munro was back in Halifax. He visited the college in the company of John Forrest, and met the governors, who greeted him, as well they might, with some enthusiasm. Two weeks later it was announced, through the Reverend Robert Murray, editor of the Presbyterian Witness, also on the board, that Munro was offering a second chair, in history, at $2,500, on condition that John Forrest resign his church of St. John’s and accept duty at Dalhousie as professor of history. It was this second gift that really lifted Dalhousie from despair. Principal Grant of Queen’s, still on the Dalhousie board, could scarce contain his elation:

You simply take away my breath. I have just read your letter and do not know what to say first. Munro must be going to die. Evidently he is too good for this world. His first [1879] gift saved Dalhousie. His second will turn the tide of ambitious students that was setting in to the larger institutions up here and make it flow to Dalhousie.[5]

When the proposal was first made to Forrest he had hesitated, but friends pressed, and Murray suggested to the board that a word from them might just do the trick. It did. Forrest was appointed as George Munro professor of history on 15 March 1881. John Forrest was tall and straight, in figure and in manner; forthright he was, without many half-tones or pretence. One student thought of him armed with a claymore going into battle with his Scottish clan. Forrest had talents that can be described as political: a prodigious memory for people and faces, and a shrewd judgment of them, that reminded others of his great and otherwise very different contemporary, Sir John A. Macdonald. Ere long the students came to call him “Lord John.” Some sentimental doggerel, referring to his later years as president, gets him about right:

Fine me again, Lord John, fine me again, Please soak me for sups and swat me for ten, But grasp my hand firmly, say it out loud, “Of course I know you, you’re Donald MacLeod.”

Lord John and Athletics
Forrest was the first governor, and the first professor, who was fully conscious of how little Dalhousie did for its students. He had seen enough of American colleges to be well aware of what Dalhousie did not have, and did not do. His inaugural address of 1881 was preoccupied with it. Student life, he said, had plenty of trials; there was much to make it dreary and miserable. Most students were strangers to Halifax and desperately needed a good reading room and, even more, a good gymnasium. “During the past nothing, absolutely nothing, has been done to make student life enjoyable… To me the wonder is that Dalhousie has attracted as many students as she has.” As a governor he pushed for a gymnasium in the teeth of resistance from his board colleagues. They thought it an expensive luxury. He got his way by offering to pay for fitting up a gymnasium in the old brewery. The board gave up the rent, and Forrest guaranteed any shortfall between expenses and receipts. It cost him $31.36 in 1882-3, and $130.72 in 1884-5. Then the worst was over.[6]

Urged on by Forrest, the students formed the Dalhousie Athletic Club (DAC) in 1884. Out of that came the Dalhousie rugby team. One of its first games was against Acadia, played in a gale on the South Common on 15 November 1884. The wind benefited Acadia in the first half and then, unobligingly, died down for the second. The DAC gave full marks to the Acadia team, which won by one point; the Dalhousie minutes proudly pointed out that such a narrow defeat, against such a team, was no disgrace to any team in the province. “You did nobly Acadians, and deserve credit for it! And, although, it would have been an advantage to us if you had read the rules a little more carefully, and acted up to them a little more closely, yet we make no complaint for perhaps you also saw imperfections in us.” Altogether, a civilized performance, at least as written! After the game the players repaired to the Halifax Hotel, where they bathed wounds and satisfied hunger, and no doubt slaked thirst.

The rugby team led to debate in the club about college colours for the football jerseys. There was sentiment briefly for garnet and blue, but a committee sensibly arranged to see samples of jerseys and the result was the official adoption in 1887, of black and gold (or yellow as it often turned out to be) as the Dalhousie colours. Dalhousie’s colours were thus chosen by the rugby players, not by either board or Senate. Whatever official impetus there was came from John Forrest.[7]

Photograph of Dalhousie football team, 1908
Dalhousie football team, 1908. English rugby was played until after the Second World War, when Dalhousie mounted its first Canadian football team.

A Touch of Hubris
With John Forrest as Munro professor of history in 1881, Dalhousie had acquired two high-salaried chairs, physics and history, and Munro’s quarterly cheques to keep them so. At this point, in February 1881, Conservative Premier Simon Holmes asked Dalhousie if it would be willing to surrender its degree-granting powers to a general examining body, in return for getting the government grant. To Holmes’s blunt question – he was never long on tact – the Dalhousie board and its Senate returned an equally decided answer. On 10 March 1881 the Senate unanimously resolved:

That for this College to resign its University powers, would in any circumstances be a serious loss of prestige; that it would by many be thought equivalent to taking rank with those denominational colleges, if any[,] which may accept the proposal of the Government; and that it would in view of the recent additions to the teaching staff of the College and the encouragement offered to students, be a discouragement not only to prospective but also to past benefactors whose generosity may be supposed to have been elicited by the expectation that Dalhousie College was about to occupy a prominent place among the Universities of the Dominion.That there are strong objections well understood by practical educators, to any central and degree-conferring Board, such as that which the Government proposal seems to contemplate… that independence and originality on the part of the teacher… are sacrificed to the cram of text-books…

That the Senate at the same time cordially approves of the object the Government has in view viz. to secure that the Educational fruits of the college Grants should be certified as satisfactory, but is of opinion that the proposal of the Government would for many reasons fail to attain its laudable object.

There was some pride, even hubris in this; certainly the gifts of George Munro had given the college a new confidence, a refurbished sense of itself and its role in Nova Scotian education. Still, it has to be remembered that Dalhousie was not rich, nor were its problems with what would now be called cash flow much altered by Munro. He gave endowed chairs and money tied to student bursaries; that did not mean accessibility to working cash. When Professor Macdonald was ill in April 1882, Professor Johnson, mathematics McGill, prepared the Dalhousie honours mathematics examinations. The board were grateful, as well they might be, for they could only pay Johnson by drawing on capital account, hence “they feel forced to accept his generous offer to give his services gratuitously.”[8]

Women’s Students, 1881
Hardly less important than Munro professorships was a new departure in 1881: the admission of women students. The moral and philosophical foundation of this change was in the Zeitgeist of the later 1860s and 1870s. When young John Thompson and Annie Affleck were courting in Halifax in 1867 they talked much, even argued, about “work and woman’s position.” Nor should one forget Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, written in 1879. Its theme, the right of a woman, in this case married with children, to pursue her own self-expression and development, created a storm in Europe and elsewhere. “I have been your doll-wife,” Nora Helmer told her husband, “[now] I must try to educate myself…” How this was to be done in Nova Scotia in the 1870s was raised by Principal Ross opening the eighth session of Dalhousie, on 1 November 1870. He suggested the building of a college for women students at the south end of the Parade. That was looking to American examples, such as Vassar, the woman’s college at Poughkeepsie on the Hudson River, established in 1865. In the American mid-west there were coeducational colleges, notably Oberlin in Ohio, founded in the 1830s. John Clark Murray, professor of moral philosophy at McGill, urged the latter option – the admission of women students into male colleges – and at once. Woman, he said, was immorally subjected to man because of being deprived of the education she needed in order to support herself. “It was,” said Murray, “but a cruel jest to preserve social usages by which vast numbers of women must either marry or starve, and then jeer at them for the eagerness with which they choose the more tolerable of these fates.” Coeducation, what Murray was aiming at, did not happen at McGill so soon. In the 1880s McGill established “separate but equal” classes, which had the virtue neither of a completely separated college like Vassar, nor of coeducation. The McGill student paper did not think much of the system. It wanted coeducation.[9]

The Dalhousie Gazette urged coeducation too. It opposed the conventional wisdom, repeated in the Halifax Evening Reporter for 1877, that sewing and cooking were more important in a girl’s education than geometry. The Gazette took the position that to be a useful member of society a young lady should be given a proper academic education. Finishing schools, like “Mrs. Fitzflummery’s,” that taught exquisite manners, bad French, and ear-torturing performances at the piano, were better left to those who had some talent. The Gazette thought Pictou Academy an excellent example of coeducation at the grammar school level.[10] Coeducation at Dalhousie was taken up with more vigour as the 1870s drew on. Almost all the stock objections centred, said the Gazette in 1876, on boarding colleges. Dalhousie wasn’t one. There was nothing in Dalhousie’s charter to prevent admission of women students. All they had to do was to apply: “We doubt very much if any serious resistance would be offered.”

So, in fact, it proved. The question came before the Board of Governors in July 1881. Could lady students be admitted? Could they compete for Munro bursaries? Munro himself was in favour, Principal Ross strongly so, as were also Forrest and Lawson. Young women were to be placed on the same level as the young men. The Presbyterian Witness, puritan though it often was in many ways, much approved Dalhousie’s admitting women. The board did not bother to inform the Senate, assuming the Halifax papers would do that; the secretary, Charles Macdonald, also secretary of the Senate, was asked in mid-summer by a prospective lady student, Alice Cameron, whether she needed to read all seven books of Caesar’s Gallic Wars for entrance, or would the first four suffice? (In 1892-3, and probably also in 1881, the requirements for matriculation into Dalhousie were Books IV and V of the Gallic Wars, and Book III of the Aeneid.) Macdonald got the letter while he was down at St. Margaret’s Bay; he answered her as best he could, noting that all he knew officially about women students was from newspapers and local comment. By that time, September 1881, Dalhousie had had inquiries from all over the province, and from as far away as Ontario. On Macdonald’s return in October, he brought before Senate the board’s resolution, which Senate copied and approved,

that application having been made to this Board on behalf of several young women for leave to matriculate and enter the College as undergraduates and it being desirable to grant such application and to make a general regulation as to the admission of women to all the rights and privileges of this College, Be it therefore resolved that female students shall hereafter be entitled to attend lectures and after passing the prescribed examinations to be admitted as undergraduates of this College, and to compete for and take all such prizes, honours and exhibitions and Bursaries as are now open to male students, so that hereafter there shall be no distinction in regard to College work or degrees between male and female students.[11]

Senate also exempted lady students, at their request, from having to wear academic gowns.

Principal Ross greeted the women undergraduates that November, all two of them, with a graceful speech at convocation. They had both taken Munro bursaries. The only problem Ross foresaw was the difficulty of making “staid, stern ‘bachelors’ out of bright lively young ladies.” What would happen, he asked jocularly, when they took masters of arts degrees? “I would prefer to call them masters of hearts.” On this flat but characteristic pun, and with a benediction, the 1881 session formally opened.[12]

Photograph of senior class, 1885.
Senior class, 1885. Margaret Florence Newcombe, Dalhousie’s first woman graduate, became principal of the Halifax Ladies’ College.

Women students wanted to be equal to men in both standards and scholarships. Dalhousie saw to it that they were, and they would do extremely well. Still, young ladies seriously bent upon their business are apt to estimate insufficiently the distracting power of their presence. There is a delightful poem from University of Aberdeen, c. 1930, that suggests the problem:

When I was a begent,[13]
A beardless young begent,
And you wore a tassel of blue,
I toyed with my Latin,
And played with my Greek,
But all that I studied was you.

The Dalhousie Gazette, looking to the future, suggested in 1878 that restless looks and nervous actions in male students would be inevitable; nevertheless it promised to “make these halls as attractive and pleasant as possible. Smokers take warning! Ladies, we bid you welcome within the precincts of Dalhousie College.” If women did come, the Gazette suggested in 1880, it would repress “every tendency towards rowdyism among the boys.” That was more than male human nature could deliver; still, three years later the Gazette concluded that the presence of women students had already “raised the tone of college life”; and, contrary to some male expectations, they were clearly equal to the work.[14]

Eliza Ritchie (BL ’87) found Dalhousie’s doors opened ungrudgingly: “no fight, inch by inch, had to be fought, as in other places.” On the contrary, she said, the early women students at Dalhousie could never forget the courtesy and kindness of professors, who strove to “relieve the apprehensions of the timid, and to encourage the efforts of the ambitious.” She was impressed, too, with the fact that two-thirds of Professor Schurman’s classes in English literature were women. She stressed the importance of college life for intelligent young women:

The girl whose education is pronounced finished at sixteen or seventeen years of age when she leaves school, is at that time too immature to carry on by herself the studies for which she may have a natural aptitude. Too often she becomes a mere pleasure-seeker, restless and discontented … Her active brain has been refused its right to healthy work, and loss inevitably follows.[15]
Photograph of Eliza Ritchie, Bachelor of Letters, 1887
Eliza Ritchie, Bachelor of Letters, 1887, Dalhousie’s first woman graduate to go on to a PH.D. She became professor of philosophy at Wellesley College.

Munro Bursaries and Munro Days
Many women students, perhaps 40 per cent, came with bursaries. Dalhousie had not had many of those. That, too, came from Munro, in 1880. He wanted to upgrade not only the salaries of Dalhousie professors, but, more important, raise the diverse standards of the high schools. There were three good ones: Pictou Academy, Halifax High School (started in 1879), and Prince of Wales College in Charlottetown. The original Munro bursaries were distributed regionally, so as to vitiate the unfair competition of those three good high schools. By 1885 it was agreed that the system was too cumbersome, and the Munro bursaries were then thrown open to all comers. At first junior bursaries were included, but after Sir William Young offered five first-year bursaries or scholarships, the Munro exhibitions and bursaries settled into a pattern: five senior exhibitions at $150 a year for two years, plus ten senior bursaries at $100 a year for two years, all for students entering the third year of a four-year program. Since Munro scholars’ fees, about $40 a year, were paid by the board, and living in Halifax ran about $18 a month, a senior exhibition covered most expenses. They were worth working and writing examinations for. Forrest remarked in 1886, to a reporter from the Gazette, “They have had the effect of elevating the standard. This is one of the most marked results. The students who compete for bursaries are much better prepared for college work than those who merely go up for matriculation.”[16]

n 1881 the students asked for a special university holiday in honour of George Munro. Their suggestion to the board was that the third Wednesday in January be designated the George Munro Memorial Day. By 1885 it had migrated to the last Friday in January, and later moved into February. In the 1890s it would appear in November. Munro Day in 1883 was celebrated, as it often would be, by a sleigh-ride to a Bedford hotel. Wednesday, 17 January was a brilliant day, clear and cold, that encouraged even waverers to go. Over fifty Dalhousians (of a total full-time undergraduate enrolment of sixty-six) awaited the arrival of the three four-horse sleighs that drove up on the Parade in front of the college, amid a jingle of bells. The nine miles to Bedford along Bedford Basin was done at a rattling good pace – about eight miles an hour. Students could sometimes measure their speed against a railway train which then, as now, came between the road and the water. They disembarked at the local hostelry. Dinner was served at six o’clock, a scene, said the 1885 reporter, “of carnage and consumption,” through soup, fish, meat, and desserts of all kinds. At length the chairman, “with a fatherly regard for the welfare of his companions ordered a cessation of hostilities” and the toasts and speeches began. In 1883 the toast to Munro came first, followed by a dozen or more others with proposers and responders for each. Speeches were supposed to be both witty and edifying, not easy to manage with a quantity of beer or wine on board. After the last toast, to “Our Next Merry Meeting,” singing invariably followed. Of course, there were always some voices, as the Gazette observed, reminding one of the old rhyme,

Swans sing before they die
‘Twere no bad thing
Should certain persons die
Before they sing.

After an hour or so of this, the drivers called “all aboard” and the sleighs started back for Halifax. In 1885 they had moonlight all the way, so enjoyable indeed, that everyone was sorry when the college was reached, after only an hour and five minutes.[17]

The Munro Day sleigh-ride was the big event of the students’ year in the mid-1880s. Students could not much share the amusements of the Halifax public; the best they could manage was skating – outdoors at Chocolate Lake or indoors at the Halifax rink – on winter Saturday afternoons. They were at church on Sunday. Students were expected to go to church; those under twenty-one, not living with parents or guardians were required to inform the president by mid-October which churches they would attend during the session. The ministers of such churches were then given the names and addresses of these students. It was a form of control, in loco parentis, but with amenities added. After church service students could often be observed outside the church door; there were two possibilities – walking home a young lady, or an invitation to Sunday dinner or Sunday tea. Students were invariably hungry and boarding-house fare not usually appetizing.

Board and room in Halifax then cost from $3.50 to $5.00 a week, about $100 per annum. One of the many difficulties for students was to find a suitable boarding house. One student averred, with feeling, “that the bill-of-fare in the majority of those places is the most uncertain thing of earth.” Another said that boarding-house keepers were only too consistent, supposing students were possessed of iron constitutions that needed only “hash and india-rubber beefsteak” to survive.

Whether he enjoyed Dalhousie for the four years depended greatly on the student himself. Women students often boarded at the Halifax Ladies’ College on Barrington Street, and thus enjoyed a form of collective life; but the male students were scattered all over the city, and found it hard to meet outside of class. Student societies existed: the Debating Club met every Saturday night. Later, in the 1890s, there was the Philomathic Society, meeting every fortnight to discuss literature, science, and philosophy, though it disappeared after the turn of the century. The YMCA came in the later 1880s, meeting every Saturday night, to be followed a decade later by the YWCA, meeting Monday afternoons at five o’clock. The Delta Gamma Society, to which “all lady students” were eligible, was a fixture by the end of the 1880s.

While it could be argued that for male students the deficiences of boarding-house life would encourage greater vitality for their societies, it does not seem to have done so. Two decades later the Gazette noted: “Dalhousie students, from the fact that they are scattered throughout the city, find it easy to neglect the advantages to be derived from association. Moreover her societies are few. Hence we stand in danger of a too restricted college life.”[18] In the 1880s, the era of Munro’s benefactions, that would have been thought all to the good. Restricted social life usually had as concomitant hard-working students, the kind Munro remembered and approved.

Munro kept on giving. In June 1882 he offered to found a third chair, in English literature and rhetoric. For this he nominated a Prince Edward Islander, Dr. Jacob Gould Schurman. He was a graduate of Prince of Wales and Acadia, who had taken his doctorate in Edinburgh, and then studied for two years in Germany. He had returned in 1880 to teach literature, psychology, and political economy at Acadia. Perhaps Munro already knew that the twenty-eight-year- old Schurman was acquainted with his daughter Barbara, for she married him in 1884. Schurman it was who settled what seems to have been a vexed question in the 1880s – the pronunciation of “Dalhousie.” Schurman had the bright idea of writing to Lord Dalhousie, the thirteenth earl, who replied as follows:

My Dear Sir, – I have always pronounced my own name as if the “ou” in it were sounded like the “ow” in “now.” An uneducated Scotchman, talking very broad Scotch, would probably pronounce it like … “Dalhoossie.” What the ancient pronunciation may have been, I don’t know, but all educated Scotch people would pronounce my name in the same way that I do, and would have no hesitation about it.[19]

Founding the Law School
In 1883 Munro launched the fourth of his chairs, in constitutional and international law. “It is generally conceded,” read Munro’s letter to the board, “that the success of Dalhousie imperatively demands that a Faculty of Law be established… Professor Weldon of [Mount Allison College] Sackville is recommended by competent judges as most suitable to be at the head of a Law Faculty and he is willing to accept.” The salary was to be $2,000. The board accepted at once and struck a committee to organize a law faculty.[20]

n 1883 most Nova Scotian lawyers had a bare minimum of training. Only a quarter of them had university degrees; most went straight from school to apprenticeship. If it was to a busy practice, the lawyer running it often did not have time for teaching an apprentice; if the lawyer had ample leisure for teaching, odds were he wasn’t fit for anything. After a few years of that came the bar examination, a two-hour paper covering the whole range of English jurisprudence. Benjamin Russell, later a law teacher himself, remembered how he was invited to cram for that examination. He was taken, confidentially, to a friend’s and there introduced to a washtub full of papers, the accumulated examination questions from a generation of law students. A diligent perusal of these, Russell was assured, and the candidate would certainly pass, and very likely with high marks.[21]

In 1874 a group of Halifax lawyers was incorporated under the name of the Halifax Law School, not unlike the Halifax Medical College in organization and purpose. But it never really got off the ground. In 1881, at the time of the failure of the University of Halifax, John Thompson, by then the attorney general of Nova Scotia, had an act passed to allow the establishment of a law faculty of Dalhousie College. Munro’s money would not establish a faculty, but it would set up one full-time professor. Such a man would gather around him a group of unpaid lawyers and judges, each of whom would receive $100 a year for the privilege of lecturing to Dalhousie students.

The moving spirit of the faculty was well chosen; Richard Chapman Weldon, aged thirty-two, was professor of mathematics (and occasionally political science) at Mount Allison. Weldon was a farm boy brought up near Sussex, New Brunswick, who was positively cajoled by his father into going to Mount Allison. There he met Benny Russell, up from Halifax, and they became lifelong friends. Russell recalled how Weldon stood head of everything, a man who took all knowledge for his province, and who got his BA at age seventeen to prove it. Weldon taught school, then came back to Mount Allison to teach mathematics. After that he went, on the thinnest savings possible, to Yale to do a PH.D. in law. He was back at Mount Allison in 1873, then again went abroad to study at Heidelberg for a year, again returning as professor of mathematics, from 1875 to 1883. Thus Weldon came with experience from several academic worlds; he wore all of it effortlessly, guilelessly, luminously. He was one of the few people of whom it may be said that his outward appearance was an accurate reflection of his mind and spirit. As A.S. MacKenzie described him, “Nature cast him in her noblest mould… his large well-proportioned, erect figure, handsome leonine head and flashing eye commanded immediate attention. One instinctively felt here was a great man. His intellect matched his exterior.” He was a clear, even brilliant teacher, and he impressed a whole generation of students not only with his mind and character, but with his charm of manner and his basic kindliness.[22] It ought to be remembered, more often than it is, that the Dalhousie Law Faculty in 1883 was an experiment. The idea of a university school of law was an innovation in Canada. French Canada with its civil law tradition needed and expected legal training in universities, hence the law schools at Laval, Université de Montreal (then a branch of Laval), and McGill; but Osgoode Hall in Toronto, established in 1889, with “its hard-nosed practitioners’ slant” was a sharp contrast to Dalhousie where law was not merely a technical craft, but a liberal education.[23]

Photograph of Richard Weldon, Dean of Law
Dean Richard Weldon, Dalhousie’s first dean of law, 1883-1914. “He was a clear, even brilliant teacher, and he impressed a whole generation of students… with his mind and character.”

There is one aspect of the Dalhousie Law Faculty so central it must be noted – Weldon’s emphasis on public service:

In drawing up our curriculum we have not forgotten the duty which every university owes to the state, the duty which Aristotle saw and emphasized so long ago, of teaching the young men the science of government. In our free government we all have political duties some higher, some humbler… We may fairly hope that some of our students will, in their riper years be called upon to discharge public duties. We aim to help these to act with fidelity and wisdom.

Of all Munro’s great gifts to Dalhousie, perhaps the choice of Weldon in constitutional law was the most fruitful one of all.[24]

The first thing the Dalhousie board did, within three weeks of accepting Munro’s offer, was to send three able lawyers with academic interests to Boston and New York. They were to see what the law schools there actually did. The three were John Thompson, by then on the Nova Scotia Supreme Court; Wallace Graham, a lawyer in Halifax private practice; and Robert Sedgwick, an early Dalhousie graduate (’67) and a member of the Dalhousie board. What impressed Thompson and his colleagues was not so much the Harvard method of legal education; Dalhousie was not to adopt it anyway, or Columbia’s, but would rather put the emphasis on public, constitutional, and international law. What impressed the three lawyers were the American libraries, legal as well as general. The juxtapositions even now are striking, when Dalhousie’s law library is substantial enough. What it was then, when its total books were zero, was almost intimidating. Professor Forrest’s inaugural of 1881 dwelt on this very point: “Going from Canada and visiting any of the leading institutions of the United States we feel at first like giving up in despair. Looking at their beautiful grounds, their spacious and elegant buildings, passing through their well filled libraries and museums.” He held out hope, however; nearly all American institutions had to contend with poverty at the start. The Dalhousie lawyers’ committee set to work the moment they returned, dunning lawyers and judges for donations and for books. By the end of 1883 some 2,800 law books had been acquired, with personal money and effort by Thompson, Graham, Sedgewick and others.[25]

There was no room any more for the law library and classrooms in the Dalhousie College building on the Parade. Instead they were in two large ground-floor rooms in the new Halifax High School, at the corner of Brunswick and Sackville streets. The building is still there. After a couple of years, when the high school needed the rooms, Russell and Weldon, the two old friends, acquired Sir Brenton Halliburton’s house on Morris Street. He had been chief justice of Nova Scotia from 1833 to 1860, and his son John (of the duel with Howe) owned it until his death in 1884. The Dalhousie board had no money for that kind of undertaking, so Russell and Weldon bought it themselves for $4,000 on their own personal mortgage, and rented it to Dalhousie for $400 a year. They also spent the summer of 1885 personally putting up shelves for the books. The law students liked Halliburton Hall, its cosiness and seclusion, and regretted giving it up, as they were to do in 1887.[26]

Munro Professor of Metaphysics
But there was one more chair to come; in 1884 Munro established the chair of metaphysics. It is to be noted that the two last chairs he established were legal and philosophical, as if, having met the needs of physics, history, and literature, he felt law and philosophy were the next most obvious of Dalhousie’s weaknesses. This time Munro chose a professor already at Dalhousie, whose specialty happened to be Kantian ethics, his future son-in-law, Jacob Gould Schurman, another protean intellectual, and already Munro professor of English literature and rhetoric. William Lyall, professor of logic and metaphysics, would now become professor of logic and psychology, the latter an interest he had long had.

To the now vacated Munro chair of English literature came an Ontarian, W.J. Alexander, of Hamilton. He took his BA at the University of London, and a PH.D. from Johns Hopkins. He too had spent time in Germany, at the University of Berlin in 1883 and 1884, going straight from there to Halifax at the age of twenty-nine.

Alexander’s specialty was Browning. He was to marry a Halifax girl, Laura Morrow, in 1887. Several other Dalhousie professors married Halifax girls. Schurman probably met Barbara Munro in Halifax. Charles Macdonald married Mary Stairs in 1882. Lawson had married a Halifax widow, Mrs. Caroline Knox, in 1876.

The five Munro professors were exceptional men. All but Forrest had done postgraduate work in Germany. Two of the five, Forrest and MacGregor, were Pictou County and Dalhousie. But the three others were from outside Dalhousie and it was not accidental. After the failure of the University of Halifax, Dalhousie made a deliberate choice to turn efforts at consolidation in a different direction, to combine strengths rather than to comprehend weaknesses. The idea seems to have come from Robert Sedgewick, whom the alumni elected to the Dalhousie board in 1883. Munro agreed that Dalhousie, while recruiting her own ablest men, should cast her net as widely as possible.

From 1880 to 1894 Munro also provided some $83,000 in exhibitions and bursaries. Half of the first twenty-five women graduating from Dalhousie were supported in this way. And if one capitalizes the $12,500 income of the five Munro professors on the basis of 5 per cent, the capital sum needed to endow the professorships was $250,000. That plus the $83,000 meant that Munro gave Dalhousie something like $333,000. In 1993 terms that would mean about $8 million, and that at a time when gifts to universities were rare. It is small wonder that contemporaries were amazed at the magnitude and range of Munro’s donations to Dalhousie. Actually, Dalhousie did not get that capital at once. For a number of years Munro covered the salaries with quarterly instalments, sometimes of stock. In 1893, however, he set up a trust fund to support the chairs. There were no more gifts after 1884, nor were there any in Munro’s will. However, Dalhousie held $82,000 in promissory notes, covering the balance of the endowment for the five chairs, which were duly honoured over a period of two years after Munro’s death in 1896.[27]

Munro’s tremendous example started others thinking along the same lines. Alexander McLeod was a wealthy Presbyterian businessman who ran a thriving wholesale wine and grocery business on Hollis Street. In 1881, by then a childless widower of ninety, McLeod drew up a will giving $200,000 for numerous bequests, the residue to go to Dalhousie to establish a special fund to endow at least three professorships. McLeod died on 15 January 1883; what finally came to Dalhousie was $62,000 (in 1993 terms about $1.5 million). Johnson, Lawson, and Liechti were all taken off Dalhousie money and made McLeod professors, in classics, chemistry, and modern languages respectively.[28]

Death of Principal Ross
Munro’s brother-in-law, John Forrest, was now about to become president. Principal Ross had been visibly failing over the past several years. The board had struck a committee on the principalship in 1878, about the time of Forrest’s appointment to the Board of Governors. That inquiry seems to have had no immediate effect, presumably because Ross was not ready to retire if he could help it. He had made financial sacrifices over the years, giving up his farm at West River to go to Truro, and giving up his house in Truro to come to Halifax in 1863. His wife died in the later 1870s and his daughter Helen, married to Joseph Howe’s son William, died then too, leaving Ross with his little Dartmouth farm, an unmarried daughter, and two grandchildren to look after. Pensions were meagre. In December 1883, Ross agreed to resign both his chair of ethics and the principalship; pressure was coming not only from the board, but from the Presbyterian Synod which needed the money. Ross retired on 1 May 1885. He was then nearly seventy-four, and there was a general, if largely unvoiced, impression that his retirement was overdue. He died suddenly at home in Dartmouth, in March of 1886. The Senate passed a resolution usual in such cases, but it was stiff and formal. What Ross did for Dalhousie may not seem significant, but in the early years he had steered it through some very difficult water. He was a stout captain when the going was tough; if he lacked flair, he had great moral strength. G.G. Patterson, one of Ross’s students and no mean authority, claimed that it was Ross who established Dalhousie’s emphasis on teaching, for which it was already famous. In the context of the development of Dalhousie in the 1880s Patterson could say Ross was felix opportunitate mortis, happy in the fitting time for his death.[29]

When Ross retired, the name “principal” retired with him. Forrest seems to have preferred “president,” and Dalhousie’s chief executive officer has been president ever since. At Forrest’s accession the Parade question, and with it Dalhousie’s next life, was reaching its final phase.

Dispute over the Parade
Dalhousie College had had the Parade since it was deeded in 1818 by Lord Dalhousie. He had not consulted the city magistrates when he did it, nor did he have to. Still, the city claimed it had always been a public square, used for military and public gatherings since 1749. In fact, between 1749 and 1818 it was reserved by the crown for military purposes, but without denying public access. Its very name, Grand Parade, testified to its old military function. The Duke of Kent had put a fence around it in 1796 to delimit and beautify it, and since 1818 the fence had been kept, more or less as funds allowed, by Dalhousie College. When Halifax was incorporated in 1841, the act specified what land was transferred to its jurisdiction; the Grand Parade was not included.[30]

By the 1870s the place was an eyesore. Dalhousie’s fencing and finances were both broken down, and the walls facing Barrington Street were positively dangerous. The editors of the Dalhousie Gazette were sure that their grandchildren in the 1920s would still be floundering through the mud of the Grand Parade on their way to classes on wet mornings. To the many complaints, Dalhousie said it had no money for expensive repairs. If the city and its public wanted the improvements effected, then let the city and the public pay for them. The city replied that it wouldn’t do so without title. The issue became more heated in the 1870s because Halifax really needed a new city hall. The old one was an 1810 brick courthouse at the bottom of George Street. The antiquated place leaked rain at the top and sewage at the bottom. In March 1874 City Council agreed that the best place to build a new city hall was the south end of the Parade, opposite Dalhousie College. Legislation was drafted. The question of the title would be cleared by legislative fiat. The bill passed the Assembly but ran into opposition in the Legislative Council. St. Paul’s Anglican Church was not at all happy about a city hall just outside its doors, nor was Dalhousie College much taken with losing one-quarter of its Parade. The Legislative Council defeated the bill.

The City Council then chose another site, one-third of a mile further north along Barrington Street. This was unpopular and it failed. The city and public really wanted the Parade, and neither was very scrupulous about getting it. Why should a private corporation, Dalhousie, block the well-understood wishes of the public, and for a patent public need? The answer was that the private corporation had title. If so, there were three choices: Dalhousie College could be bought out; the legislature could be persuaded to legislate them out; or the title could be disputed before the courts. The city did not want to spend the money on first option, especially as a number of aldermen believed it was the city’s anyway; they had had no luck with the legislature; thus litigation was the only option open.

The Dalhousie board had no interest in litigation to test a title they believed, on good grounds, valid. They preferred negotiation. The college and the city were close to an agreement in January 1877. The title of Dalhousie to the north end of the Parade would be confirmed, with enough of the Parade to exclude noise; the rest would go to the city for $10,000. The city would agree to maintain and beautify the whole Parade. That compromise was actually recommended by the city’s Committee of Laws and Privileges to City Council. It passed by a vote of eight to seven, but was put down for reconsideration and then defeated. Finally the mayor wrote in February 1877, enclosing a resolution of City Council, and asked Dalhousie, almost like a duellist, to name their counsel for litigation. Judge Ritchie on the Dalhousie board moved that that be done, provided “all previous offers by way of compromise are withdrawn.”[31]

A new complication was a legacy from Miss Isabella Cogswell of $4,000 to beautify the Grand Parade, to go to whoever had title, on condition it be open to the public in perpetuity. She died in December 1874; her solicitors naturally refused to release the money when title was in dispute, and there was a time limitation after which the money would revert to charity.

Negotiations were still pending when, in April 1879, the City Board of Works deposited a large quantity of granite on the northern end of the Parade, near the college. If that was intended to get litigation started, it did. When the case came up in the autumn of 1879, the city, perhaps owing to newly discovered doubts about its claim to title, took advantage of some minor irregularity and the case was delayed until 1880. It was tried in the autumn of 1880 by Justice Weatherbe, a graduate of Acadia. Weatherbe charged the jury strongly in favour of Dalhousie, mostly on the ground of Dalhousie’s undisturbed possession of the Parade since 1818. But five jurors were not persuaded; the jury split, and thus the law case failed. According to the Presbyterian Witness, the city was trying to get its way by bluster and force. Litigation was then abandoned, and resort was had to what the issue had long needed, compromise and open-minded negotiations. The new compromise was embodied in an act of the legislature in April 1883. All of the Grand Parade south of a line fifteen feet from the front of the college was given to the city, free of encumbrances. There was one condition: the city had no right to sell or lien any of the Parade that lay north of the northern line of George Street. The part of the Parade on which Dalhousie stood, and the fifteen feet in front, was wholly vested in the Dalhousie College. The city would also pay the college $500 a year in perpetuity, as long as the college stayed within the city limits of Halifax.[32] That settled the dispute over the Parade. The city collected the Cogswell money and then set conscientiously to work, rebuilding the stone walls and putting in iron railings. The Grand Parade began to look more like its name.

Sir William Young, chairman of the Dalhousie Board of Governors since 1848, found the busyness and complications of the 1880s more than he could manage. He was now eighty-five, and resigned in September 1884. The board wanted him to reconsider; he agreed to stay on the board, and let someone else be chairman. The Dalhousie board were grateful and said so.

Sir William Young was in a position to render invaluable service to this institution. His practical sagacity, his brilliant talents, his cautious statesmanship, his unfailing prudence were laid under tribute to advance the interests of this college. He stood by it loyally in its days of weakness and to his counsels is due much of its strength today.[33]

That eulogy was laying it on with a trowel, but it gets at Sir William’s careful approach to education and politics. He was succeeded as chairman by Adams G. Archibald, lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia from 1873 to 1883, who had been particularly helpful in negotiations with city and government over the Parade. Archibald was appointed in December 1884, and faced almost at once some new questions. One of them was the prospect of union with King’s College.

Union with King’s Proposed
King’s had been badly hit by the end of the government grants in 1881. Professor J.G. MacGregor of Dalhousie came to a King’s Alumni meeting, probably in 1882, urging King’s to appoint a committee to discuss with Dalhousie the possibilities of union. That move was then defeated by the King’s Alumni by one vote. But negotiations later resumed and early in 1885 Archibald and President Forrest met with King’s College representatives at the Old Dutch Church. Bishop Binney, hitherto strongly opposed to any move to Halifax, was taken by surprise at the range and generosity of Dalhousie’s terms. The proposal was to establish at Halifax a new university, under a new name. Dalhousie would sell its existing Parade building, and put up a new one. All Dalhousie exhibitions and bursaries would be open to students from either institution. King’s would endow one chair. Like Dalhousie, it would give no further arts degrees, but King’s would retain its divinity degree. The King’s group was rather pleased by the Dalhousie proposals, for King’s financial picture was bleak. The deficit for 1884-5 was $1,340 more than King’s income of $6,300, and savings had to come from somewhere. In Bishop Binney’s view it could only come from reduction in staff and King’s staff was already too small.[34]

The results of these discussions came eventually to the King’s board and the alumni. The King’s Alumni Association was peculiar in that it allowed admission of members who were not actually alumni. All they had to do was to pay the two-dollar fee, and they could become semiofficial and vote using a member’s proxy. At the meeting in Windsor on 24 June 1885, there were 105 alumni votes and thirty-two proxies. Most of the proxies were, it was said, Windsor residents, sworn to keep the college in Windsor. The bishop moved union with Dalhousie, somewhat reluctantly indeed, but believing there was no viable alternative. Dr. Mather Almon moved the three months’ hoist to it. Judge De Wolfe, who seconded the hoist, maintained that Dalhousie was in poor financial condition compared to the other colleges, and that it was liable to complete collapse owing to its dependence on George Munro. The Munro chairs, De Wolfe emphasized, were not yet endowed; they were paid for by cheques drawn on New York from time to time. At any moment Munro’s business might fail. Not only that, but he was the publisher of “cheap and not always wholesome literature.”[35] Add to that the danger of going to Halifax. Who knew where Dalhousie would put its new building? Think, said Dr. Almon, of the Halifax High School, “bounded on one side by brothels and another by grog shops.” When the vote came, the King’s alumni turned down the union proposal by a two-thirds majority. The Halifax papers of both political parties jumped on the alumni. “Demagoguism and prejudice,” said the Morning Herald, “will never long succeed in keeping students at a weak and decaying college.” What the King’s alumni did do, said the Morning Chronicle, was to make way for “the virtual destruction of the college they pretend to love so dearly.”[36]

Dalhousie Needs a New Site
With or without union with King’s, Dalhousie needed changes and they could not be too long delayed. The city engineer, E.H. Keating, was inclined to prefer the Dalhousie College part of the Parade to the south end of it. He made an inspection of the college building to see if it would do as a city hall. He asked Dalhousie to name a price. Even now Dalhousie College might possibly stay put; its problem was space. If Dalhousie stayed on the Parade, expansion of premises was going to be necessary. The governors were inclined to sell out and move. They replied in September 1885 to Keating that they would sell for $30,000 plus suitable space on city land, provided the $500 annual income, from the act of 1883, were left intact. The city were not pleased at this asking price; they offered $25,000 and no land.[37]

At this point the Miller property became available. This was a generous tract of land in the south end of the peninsula, backing onto Point Pleasant Park, from Tower Road to the harbour. The Board of Governors called in the Senate, to debate the best course of action. President Forrest said the professors could accommodate themselves to any site, but it was the students that concerned him. He dreaded moving the college so far from the centre of the city, beyond easy access by horse-car routes. Professor Lawson and Liechti did not want to go anywhere. The present building had many advantages and it would not be difficult to effect enlargements that would meet Dalhousie’s needs for some time to come. Macdonald feared a move too. It would be some time, he said, before Dalhousie could put up any accommodation for students; currently Dalhousie was relying much upon the boarding houses of the North End. Thus the Miller property would be a great disadvantage; where were the boarding houses? Weldon and Alexander both wanted the Miller site, perhaps for its inherent attractiveness. Lyall wanted space, wherever it could be found. At the end of that meeting the board agreed to buy the Miller property if it could be got reasonably. But reasonable the owners were not; they asked at least $25,000. That seemed to Dalhousie grossly overpriced.[38]

By March 1886 a faculty committee decided that the expansion of the old building would not provide sufficient space. Dalhousie would have to provide for the Law Faculty, for the expansion of the library, for future staff, and for laboratory space. Thus the Parade site could not longer be thought of as permanent. At that point the committee was thinking of a time in the future when perhaps one or more of the denominational colleges might want to be on the Dalhousie campus. Faculty used the example of Melbourne University in Australia under the Colony of Victoria Act of 1881; that allowed the University of Melbourne affiliation with Anglican, Methodist, and Presbyterian residential colleges. Here the recent negotiations with King’s undoubtedly had influence on Dalhousie’s thinking.[39]

Several Dalhousie governors had been looking at a city property on what was then called the South Common, land north of the poorhouse at South Street and Robie, five acres of open land, at the corner of Morris (University Avenue) and Robie Street. Would the city give this land to Dalhousie and $25,000 for the Parade site?[40] The offer was predicated on a behind-the-scenes promise of Sir William Young. The $25,000 the city might pay Dalhousie for its Parade site would not be enough for a new building. If the old Dalhousie had cost £13,000 (i.e., about $52,000), how much would a new one cost that would have to be at least treble the size? True, no one seems to have been thinking of stone. The new Halifax High School of 1879 was of brick. It was at this juncture that Sir William Young offered to fund the difference between $25,000 and a new building with $20,000 of his own money. It was offered on one condition: that the new Dalhousie be built on free city land. Sir William was not putting up $20,000 simply to buy a piece of Halifax real estate.

In April 1886 the City Council accepted the Dalhousie offer, and legislation went forward that very session of the legislature. The act confirmed at last the city’s full title to the whole of the Grand Parade, and the gift of the Morris and Robie streets property to Dalhousie. There was one condition to the gift: the land would revert to the city if it were sold out or leased by Dalhousie. The city would continue to pay Dalhousie $500 a year. The city did not do badly. The 1879 value of the Parade site was about $48,000; even after the legislation of 1883 Dalhousie still possessed a quarter of it, and the Dalhousie building had cost $52,000. The lot the city offered on the South Common was worth about $4,000.

The city took over the Dalhousie property as of 1 October 1886, Dalhousie leasing it for six months until April 1887. Once it got its hands on the property, the city set to work taking apart the old building. No sentiment stayed its hand; nor, it is fair to say, was there much public interest in saving the building. The students had mixed feelings. “Old Dalhousie has gone,” said the Dalhousie Gazette, “and its site is occupied by a rising structure, which will tell a tale of Haligonian pride and magnificence… Ugh! those old musty walls that left a stain on the clothes of the followers of Minerva! the strong savour of ancient days that pervaded the entire building!”

Yet students were not without their sentiments about the trying moment when old Dalhousie passed into the hands of the city. “Some of our happiest memories are associated with the whitewashed walls of the old gray stone building which has vanished from sight… What though in the cheerless rooms, our books and manuscripts were the sport of winds from Aeolian caves.” Progress was the watchword. A fine, spanking new city hall, with three storeys, a high mansard roof, and a tower would be a fitting mark of the progress and development of the city in the 1880s, rather than the old, modest, one-and-a-half storey, ironstone Dalhousie. That old stone was still good; the city hall contractors used it in the foundations of the new building. The new outside foundation stones were granite, but the inside was the old Dalhousie ironstone of 1820-1. On 18 April 1887 the workmen took out the cornerstone, and the tin box that had been there for fifty-seven years was opened the next day. It contained a brown pulpy mass, the remnants of the papers put there in 1820; but the original brass plate marking the occasion in 1820, and four George III coins were still in good condition.[41]

Nine days later, on 27 April, the cornerstone of the new Dalhousie was laid. The board had been busy. In May 1886 it issued a set of instructions for architects interested in submitting plans. The new building was to be of brick, the exterior of the best face-brick, with terracotta or stone trimmings. There were to be three storeys, with parts of the building running to four. There was to be a good basement, with the foundation walls tied with iron. The inside partitions of the basement and first storey were to be of brick. The first storey was to be five feet above the outside grade. There was to be an arts library of 1,400 square feet and a museum of the same size; both should be designed so as to be reused as classrooms. There was to be “a spacious Lobby” of 700 square feet from which the main staircase would ascend. The registrar’s room was to be “a small office” near the main entrance. The whole building, read the instructions, was “to be capable of great extension.” Finished, and with heating installed, it was to cost no more than $50,000.[42]

Those were the requirements, and architects were asked to conform, but of course submit their own designs since the board was “desirous of obtaining the best.” Designs were to be submitted by 30 June 1886, and a prize of $150 was offered for the best. The winning architect was J.C.P. Dumaresq, who donated 1 per cent of his commission to Dalhousie. Tenders were called for and opened in October. The highest tender was $73,850 from S.M. Brookfield of Halifax. They were good builders; they had built Fort Massey Church in 1871 and two major sugar refineries in the 1880s. But Dalhousie stuck to the lowest tender, which was from E.A. Milliken of Moncton, at $53,846. They were also the low bidders in the contract for building the new city hall. The Milliken tender was accepted, and the building to be ready by 15 September 1887. Thus did it come to the laying of the cornerstone. The day before the weather was stormy, auguring ill for an outdoor ceremony, but the 27th was as lovely an April day as Nova Scotia was likely to produce. Large crowds came out; by two in the afternoon there were two thousand people on the field at Morris and Robie. Sir William Young, showing all his years, duly laid the granite stone. His speech was read for him by President Forrest. Among the crowd were three men, G.G. Gray, Garrett Miller, and W.H. Keating, who had all been present at the 1820 laying of the cornerstone by Lord Dalhousie.[43]

Engraving of Sir William Young, c. 1880
Sir William Young, c. 1880, from a contemporary engraving. “He was generous with his money and liked people to know it.”

It was Sir William Young’s last public appearance. He died ten days later. He had chaired the Dalhousie Board from 1848 to 1884, through many vicissitudes. He and Joseph Howe, united about Dalhousie and politics, enjoyed only a modicum of cordiality between them. Howe thought of Young as timid and unenterprising, except where money was concerned. It was Howe who was mainly instrumental in reviving Dalhousie in 1863, not the chief justice and chairman of the Dalhousie Board. Young was generous with his money, but liked people to know it. He left half of the residue of his estate to Dalhousie, and an endowment for the Sir William Young Gold Medal to the undergraduate with the highest standing in Mathematics. That was a touch from Dalhousie traditions.

At the time of Young’s death the old Dalhousie on the Parade was slowly coming down. The mortar was hard and the stone still good, and it was not easy going. The contractor underestimated his costs and the whole contract had to be re-tendered for in 1888. The old Dalhousie was thus going, but in many ways it had symbolized the Dalhousian. Those bare, unadorned walls and corridors, the rugged benches and desks seamed with initials, impressed the student that Dalhousie meant work, not buildings, still less comfort. The Dalhousie student’s athletic opportunities had been limited, his social instincts underdeveloped, the cultivation of his aesthetic tastes negligible: but there were great professors and they mattered. It was their ability as teachers and scholars that was so impressive. Marks were low, honours were hard to come by, whatever a student got he certainly earned. As one put it, “Flowery sentences, rhetorical commonplaces, and windy words wilted or collapsed in the northern atmosphere of old Dalhousie. What the student said he was supposed to have thought out. Precision and reality were supreme academic virtues.”[44]

It was a good legacy to bequeath to the big new brick Dalhousie now going up on the five acres out at the corner of Robie and Morris streets.

  1. See W.D. Forrest, “Our First Great Benefactor,” in the Dalhousie Alumni News, October 1943, pp. 23-4. Reference to Munro’s leaving Halifax is in Presbyterian Witness, 25 Oct. 1856.
  2. See Peter Waite, The Man from Halifax, Sir John Thompson, Prime Minister (Toronto 1985), pp. 263-5, where I have essayed a short history of copyright, with particular reference to the United States and Canada.
  3. For George Munro, see Judith Fingard, “George Munro,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography, 12: 771-3; also A.J. Crockett, George Munro, the Publisher (Halifax 1957) which originally appeared as four articles in the Dalhousie Review, 1956; Board of Governors Minutes, 21 Aug. 1879, UA-1, Box 14, Folder 3, Dalhousie University Archives.
  4. George Patterson, “Concerning James DeMille,” in More Studies in Nova Scotian History (Halifax 1941), p. 145; Senate Minutes, 19 Feb. 1880, Dalhousie University Archives.
  5. Board of Governors Minutes, 15 Oct. 1880, UA-1, Box 14, Folder 3, Dalhousie University Archives; Letter from Murray to Sir William Young, 28 Oct. 1880, Board of Governors Correspondence, UA-1, Box 4, Folder 13, Dalhousie University Archives; Letter from Munro to Young, 27 Jan. 1881, from New York, Board of Governors Correspondence, UA-1, Box 4, Folder 14, Dalhousie University Archives; Senate Minutes, 15 Mar. 1881, Dalhousie University Archives.
  6. Dalhousie Alumni News, Feb. 1939, “Lord John,” by “G.F.,” pp. 4-5. For Forrest and the gymnasium see Dalhousie Gazette, 29 Nov., 27 Dec. 1888; for his 1881 inaugural, see Dalhousie Gazette, 11, 26 Nov. 1881. The doggerel, Dalhousie Gazette, 14 Apr. 1920, by “Smoke ’97”; Morning Chronicle, 27 Apr. 1911, as Forrest steps down as president.
  7. Minutes of the Dalhousie Athletic Club (1884-1899), UA-33, Box 8, Folder 6, Dalhousie University Archvies. The club began 22 Apr. 1884, with Professor Forrest as honorary president. The account of the 15 Nov. 1884 game with Acadia is by the club secretary, A.S. MacKenzie, later president of Dalhousie. For the colours question, see meetings of 13 Dec. 1886; 20 Apr., 30 Oct. 1887.
  8. Letter from S.H. Holmes to James Ross, 28 Feb. 1881, Board of Governors Correspondence, UA-1, Box 4, Folder 14, Dalhousie University Archives; Letter from J.W. Ketch to John Doull, 11 Mar. 1881, Board of Governors Correspondence, UA-1, Box 4, Folder 14, Dalhousie University Archives; Senate Minutes, 10 Mar. 1881, Dalhousie University Archives; Board of Governors Minutes, 4 May 1882, UA-1, Box 15, Folder 2, Dalhousie University Archives.
  9. For Ross’s speech see British Colonist, 3 Nov. 1870, reporting the opening of the Dalhousie session. For McGill, see Stanley Brice Frost, McGill University: For the Advancement of Learning, 1801-1895 (Montreal 1980), pp. 251-5, 261.
  10. Halifax Evening Reporter, 28 Feb. 1877; Dalhousie Gazette, 16 Nov. 1872.
  11. Letter from A. Alice Cameron to Macdonald, 22 Aug. 1881, Board of Governors Correspondence, UA-1, Box 4, Folder 14, Dalhousie University Archives; Senate Minutes, 24, 30 Oct. 1881, Dalhousie University Archives.
  12. Dalhousie Gazette, 11 Nov. 1881.
  13. The Aberdeen word for freshman.
  14. The University of Aberdeen poem was recited by the sheriff of Edinburgh, Nigel Thomson, 8 May 1988, and recalled by Professor Henry Best, of Laurentian University; Dalhousie Gazette, 23 Nov. 1878; 17 Jan. 1880; 19 Dec. 1884.
  15. Morning Chronicle, 23 Nov. 1911, “Women’s Debt to Dalhousie.” This was written at the time of a major Dalhousie campaign, and may have been a little couleur de rose. By this time she was Dr. Eliza Ritchie, who took a PH.D. from Cornell and taught philosophy at Wellesley for ten years before returning to Halifax in 1899. For a more important perspective, see Paul Axelrod and John G. Reid, Youth, University and Canadian Society. Essays in the Social History of Higher Education (Kingston and Montreal 1989), esp. Judith Fingard’s essay, “College, Career and Community: Dalhousie Coeds, 1881-1911,” pp. 26-50.
  16. Board of Governors Minutes, 31 Aug. 1880; 9 July 1881, UA-1, Box 14, Folder 3; 15 Oct. 1885, UA-1, Box 15, Folder 2, Dalhousie University Archives. For the interview with Forrest, see Dalhousie Gazette, 15 Dec. 1886, p. 33.
  17. The 1883 sleigh ride is in Dalhousie Gazette, 16 Jan. 1883. The 1885 one is also in the Dalhousie Gazette, 6 Feb. 1885. For the swan song, see Dalhousie Gazette, 3 Dec. 1886.
  18. See “Student Life in Halifax” by the “Freshmen,” Dalhousie Gazette, 23 Feb. 1884, and its 1904 version, 11 Dec. 1904. The Dalhousie calendars list student societies and their times of meeting.
  19. The letter is printed in the Dalhousie Gazette, 21 Mar. 1884, with a minor error which I have corrected.
  20. Board of Governors Minutes, 22 Mar. 1883, UA-1, Box 15, Folder 2, Dalhousie University Archives.
  21. Halifax Evening Reporter, 26 Sept. 1876; see especially John Willis, A History of Dalhousie Law School (Toronto 1979), p. 23.
  22. John Willis, A History of Dalhousie Law School (Toronto 1979), p. 26; Charles Morse (’85), later editor of the Canadian Bar Review, has a description of Weldon in CBR 11 (1933), pp. 402-3. A.S. MacKenzie’s tribute is in the Dalhousie Alumni News, December 1925.
  23. Willis, Dalhousie Law School, p. 21.
  24. Weldon’s inaugural address of 30 Oct. 1883 is in the Dalhousie Gazette, 10 Nov. 1883.
  25. There is a full description of this effort, and of the shortcomings of the Dalhousie Library in other respects, by J.T. Buhner, the law librarian, 1883-4, in the Dalhousie Gazette, 7 Dec. 1883.
  26. Board of Governors Minutes, 3 July 1885, UA-1, Box 15, Folder 2, Dalhousie University Archives; Willis, Dalhousie Law School, p. 38.
  27. For an important light on the hiring of the Munro professors in the 1880s, see the letter from Judge Benjamin Russell, Dalhousie Gazette, 7 Nov. 1923. For the Munro endowment, see Board of Governors Minutes, 11 Dec. 1896; 16 June 1897, UA-1, Box 15, Folder 2, Dalhousie University Archives.
  28. Acadian Recorder, 16, 18, 28 Jan. 1883; Evening Mail, 22 Jan. 1883; Board of Governors Minutes, 22 Apr. 1884, UA-1, Box 15, Folder 2, Dalhousie University Archives. See especially the unpublished paper by Michael C. Haynes, “The Alexander McLeod Endowment: an Investigation,” 1 May 1992.
  29. Presbyterian Witness, 13 Oct. 1883, reporting meeting of the Maritime Presbyterian Synod, 9 Oct. 1883; Senate Minutes, 1 Apr. 1886, Dalhousie University Archives. For an account of Ross’s life, see Novascotian, 20 Mar. 1886, and Morning Herald, 16 Mar. 1886. A more extended life is by G.G. Patterson, “Dalhousie’s Second Principal - an Old Boy’s Tribute” in Patterson’s Studies in Nova Scotian History (Halifax 1940), pp. 100-5. The phrase is from Tacitus.
  30. See John A. Bell, “Dalhousie College and University,” 1887, pp. 35-8, MS-13-59, SF Box 73, Folders 3 and 4, Dalhousie University Archives. Bell was Dalhousie gold medallist in 1883. The City Council’s view of the Parade question is set out in City of Halifax, Annual Report, 1877-8. There is a good account by Walter C. Murray, president of the University of Saskatchewan from 1908 to 1937, “The College and the Parade,” Dalhousie Gazette, 28 Nov. 1902, partly based on the Bell manuscript.
  31. Halifax Evening Reporter, 31 Jan. 1877; Board of Governors Minutes, 4 Jan., 16 Feb. 1877, UA-1, Box 14, Folder 3, Dalhousie University Archives.
  32. Presbyterian Witness, 20 Nov. 1880; Murray, “The College and the Parade,” p. 38.
  33. Board of Governors Minutes, 30 Sept., 9 Oct. 1884, UA-1, Box 15, Folder 2, Dalhousie University Archives.
  34. See F.W. Vroom, King’s College: A Chronicle, 1789-1939: Collections and Recollections (Halifax 1941), p. 12.6; a modern and more searching perspective of King’s is Henry Roper, “Aspects of the History of a Loyalist College: King’s College, Windsor and Nova Scotian Higher Education in the Nineteenth Century” in Anglican and Episcopal History 61 (1991), pp. 443-59. See also Board of Governors Minutes, 11 Mar., 2 Apr. 1885, UA-1, Box 15, Folder 2, Dalhousie University Archives; Morning Chronicle, 26 June 1885.
  35. Munro’s Seaside Library was, indeed, cheap - that is, inexpensive. That it was not always wholesome depends upon one’s view of Dickens, Thackeray, Reade, and Seaside No. 1000, a new text of the Bible.
  36. Morning Chronicle and Morning Herald, 25, 26 June 1885.
  37. Board of Governors Minutes, 2, 17 Apr. 1885, UA-1, Box 15, Folder 2, Dalhousie University Archives.
  38. Board of Governors Minutes, 30 Nov. 1885, UA-1, Box 15, Folder 2, Dalhousie University Archives.
  39. Board of Governors Minutes, 24 Mar. 1886, UA-1, Box 15, Folder 2, Dalhousie University Archives. There is reference on 6 Mar. to S.M. Brookfield having prepared an estimate for enlarging the existing Parade building, but no indication of what the estimate was, or what changes were proposed.
  40. Board of Governors Minutes, 26 Mar., 15 Apr. 1886, UA-1, Box 15, Folder 2, Dalhousie University Archives.
  41. Board of Governors Minutes, 12 Oct. 1886, UA-1, Box 15, Folder 2, Dalhousie University Archives; Dalhousie Gazette, 4 Nov. 1887, and 7 May 1888, valedictory address by David M. Soloan. For the 1820 cornerstone, see Novascotian, 23 Apr. 1887.
  42. The printed set of instructions to prospective architects turns up at the back of Board of Governors Correspondence.
  43. Board of Governors Minutes, 12, 18 Oct. 1886 give details about tenders, UA-1, Box 15, Folder 2, Dalhousie University Archives. On laying the cornerstone, see Morning Chronicle and Morning Herald, 28 Apr. 1887.
  44. Dalhousian, May 1914, in Dalhousie University Archives.


The Lives of Dalhousie University: Volume One, 1818-1925 Copyright © by Governors of Dalhousie College and University. All Rights Reserved.

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