Josiah Audette

"Aware of the past, curious about the future, ready to argue the present." Tocqueville

Month: July, 2012

The Duty That Lies Nearest Us

(The following is an excerpt from Rev. George Monro Grant’s book, Ocean to Ocean, on the construction of the Dominion of Canada by its faithful surveyors.)

The work of engineers on the survey is a constant march; their shelter, even in the depth of winter, often only canvas; they have sometimes to carry their food for long distances, through swamps and over fallen trees, on their backs; and run all the risks incidental to such a life, without medical assistance, without notice from the press, without the prospect of plunder or promotion, ribands or pensions. To be sure there is the work of construction only, and the world has always given greater prominence to the work of destruction.

To construct is “The duty that lies nearest us.” “We therefore will rise up and build.” Our young Dominion in grappling with so great a work has resolutely considered it from a national and not a strictly financial point of view; knowing that whether it pays directly or not, it is sure to pay indirectly. Other young countries have had to spend, through long years, their strength and substance to purchase freedom or the right to exist. Our lot is a happier one. Protected “Against infection and the hand of war” by the might of Britain, we have but to go forward, to upon up for our children and the world what God has given into our possession, bind it together, consolidate it, and lay the foundations of an enduring future.

Looking back over the vast breadth of the Dominion when our journeyings were ended, ti rolled out before us like a panorama, varied and magnificent enough to stir the dullest spirit into patriotic emotion. For nearly 1,000 miles by railway between different points east of Lake Huron; 2,185 miles by horses, including coaches, wagons, pack, and saddle-horses; 1,687 miles in steamers in the basin of the St. Lawrence and on Pacific waters, and 485 miles in canoes or row-boats; we had travelled in all 5,300 miles between Halifax and Victoria, over a country with features and resources more varied than even our modes of locomotion.

From the sea-pastures and coal-field of Nova Scotia and the forests of New Brunswick, almost from historic Louisburg up the St. Lawrence to historic Quebec; through the great Province of Ontario, and on lakes that are seas; by copper and silver mines so rich as to recall stories of the Arabian Nights, though only the rim of the land has been explored; on the chain of lakes, where the Ojibbeway is at home in his canoe, to the plaines, where the Cree is equally at home on his horse; through the prairie Province of Manitoba, and the rolling meadows and park-like country, out of which a dozen Manitobas shall be carved in the next quarter of a century; along the banks of

“A full-fed river winding slow

By herds upon and endless plain,”

full-fed from the exhaustless glaciers of the Rocky Mountains and watering “The great lone land;”  over illimitable coal measures and deep woods; on to the mountains, which open their gates, more widely than to our wealthier neighbors, to lead us to the Pacific; down deep gorges filled with mighty timber besides rivers whose ancient deposits are gold beds, sands like those of Pactolus and channels chocked with fish; on to the many harbors of mainland and island, that look right across to the old Eastern Thule “With its rosy pearls and golden-roofed palaces,” and open their arms to welcome the swarming millions of Cathay; over all this we have travelled, and it was our own.

“Where’s the crowd that would not dare

To fight for such a land?”

Thank God, we have a country. It is not our poverty of land or sea, of wood or mine that shall ever urge us to be traitors. But the destiny of a country depends not on its material resources. It depends on the character of its people. Here too, is full ground for confidence. We in everything “are sprung of earth’s first blood, have titles manifold.” We come of a race that never counted the number of its foes, nor the number of its friends, when freedom, loyalty, or God was concerned.

The Fall of the Chesapeake

(The following is my third lecture in a series on “God’s Providence in Canadian History.”)


We commence where we left off. America is experiencing severe hostility from the British trade blockade and their impressment of American sailors. Furthermore, America is still encountering contentions with the Indians of Ohio Valley, specifically the Shawnee tribe headed by that impressive Indian leader, Tecumseh. Today we will observe a highly providential episode between America and Britain. The fall of the American Frigate, the Chesapeake by the British man of war the Leopard in 1807 was decisive in thrusting America into a declaration of war.


The United States frigate Chesapeake was one of the six small ships commissioned in the relatively new American navy. At secretary Knox’s suggestion, President Washington had constructed three 44 gun ships, among them the Chesapeake, and two additional 36 gun frigates. The Chesapeake had been docked four years in the navy yard at Washington as out of service when William Henry Allen received orders in January of 1807 to bring the ship back into service. Once operable Allen would join her as third lieutenant under the command of commodore James Barron, to relieve the Chesapeake’s counterpart, the Constitution, which lay in the Mediterranean ever since the end of the Tripolitan war.


Traveling into Philadelphia, Allen was given the daunting task to find 170 seamen and boys for the voyage. After three months of searching, Allen managed to get 47 thuggish men aboard a pack boat to join the Chesapeake. Later he recruited 10 more but had to release 4 and 6 others disappeared with the advance pay Allen gave them. Not only was Allen seriously undermanned but of the men he did have many were unfit or difficult to reign in for the mission at hand. “My guardian genius of good fortune certainly slumbered a little when she suffered me to be sent here” Allen wrote to his father, “What do you think of 60 or 80 Sailors, no doubt some of them wild Irishmen, let loose in this city after you have advanced them 18 to 70 dollars each… I never had so much trouble with a pack of rascals in my life.” 


Finally leaving the navy yard in Washington on May 9, Allen and his rascals sailed off to Norfolk where the ship was to complete here final fitting for sea. They sailed less than a mile into their two hundred mile journey when they struck and were grounded on a sandbar. Eight days into their journey the unversed crew managed to fell a spar while attempting to fix some improper rigging. The spar crashed to the deck instantly killing two men and seriously injuring a third. A few days afterward a clumsy sailor fell overboard and consequentially drowned. If this was not sufficient enough inconvenience for Henry Allen, 60 to 85 of the crew became sick with a virulent infection and remained so for the entire first leg of the voyage, three of the sick men died in the first few weeks, a dozen deserted the blighted Chesapeake making off with her boats, the ship struck shoals once again, and the cable broke while the crew heaved her off the shoal. On June 4 the ship finally arrived at Norfolk after a voyage cursed with ill luck.


Even when not sailing troubles still assailed them while in dock at Norfolk. The ship’s senior officer, Commodore James Barron, complained that the gunpowder supplied by the navy yard was frankly, “Not fit for service.” The navy department spitefully replied that he could have it “remanufactured” when he reached the Mediterranean. To make circumstances worse, Henry Allen found that half of the  cannon cartridges were the wrong size for the ship’s guns as he was performing a customary sixteen-gun salute to the grave of George Washington. Being docked at Norfolk, the Chesapeake received more bodies on board. Most were passengers who arrived with enough luggage that the ship’s deck had to be used to store it all, and four joined as sailors, all of whom were deserters of the British navy. Three were Americans who just escaped their impressment from the British ship, Melampus. Their escape account is a notable one. While officers of the Melampus were having a dinner party the “three musketeers”  jumped the captain’s rig and sailed for bay. Under a hail of musket lead they rowed to shore as mad men and safely arrived by sheer providence. The first of these remarkable deserters was an African American named Daniel Martin, the second was William Ware an American Indian, and the third was a white man, John Strachan. As for the forth recruiter on the Chesapeake, his name was Jenkin Ratford. Ratford was a British deserter from the British ship Halifax. Under the cover of a sudden squall aboard the HMS Halifax, Ratford jumped ship and rowed for shore. The captain of the Halifax himself stormed into Norfolk after him, but was only greeted by a verbal lashing from the rather foot lose and fancy free sailor. The Chesapeake while already having experienced more than enough trouble, would not give up the deserters to the British on account of their desperate need for manpower. This was too much for British Vice-Admiral George Cranfield Berkley. He forthwith sent off a rigid order for every British vessel to stop the Chesapeake at sea and take by force these deserters who had so pretentiously bit their thumbs at the British flag. “Whereas many Seamen, subjects of His Britannic Majesty, and serving in His Ships and Vessels as per margin, while at Anchor in the Chesapeake deserted and entered On Board the United States frigate called the Chesapeake, an openly paraded the Streets of Norfolk in sight of their Officers under the American flag, protected by the Magistrates of the Town, and the Recruiting Officer belonging to the above mentioned American Frigate… the Captains & Commander of His Majesty’s Ships and Vessels under my Command are therefore hereby required and directed in case of meeting with the American frigate the Chesapeake at Sea, and without the limits of the United States to shew to the Captain of her this Order; and to require to search his Ship for the deserters from the before mentioned Ships… and if similar demand should be made by the American, he is to be permitted to search for any Deserters from their Service, according to the Customs and usage of Civilized Nations in terms of peace and Amity with each other.”  Troubles were undoubtably brewing while the Chesapeake  was at bay.


The morning of June 22 the Chesapeake sailed off from Norfolk bound for the Mediterranean. As she sailed past a British squadron anchored in the American waters a fifty-gun man-of-war, the Leapard, detached itself from the squadron and sailed off in pursuit of the Chesapeake. This did not go unnoticed to Henry Allen who closely watched as the Leopard, several miles behind, unmistakably began to dog the American’s course. Within a mile, the Leopard came in sight, and to Henry’s consternation he noticed the Leopard’s lower gunports were open. By three in the afternoon the Leopard shot up on her windward quarter with all guns out, their tompions removed, now closing the gap between the Chesapeake to a dangerous sixty yards. The Leopard’s captain, Salusbury Pryce Humphreys, hailed that he had dispatches for the commander of the Chesapeake to which Commodore James Barron bellowed back from the Chesapeake that he would heave to. One of the ships sailing masters muttered, “This fellow is coming on board of us to demand deserters and if they are not delivered up we shall have hell to hold.”


Standard orders for every warship of every navy would have called for Commodore James Barron to order the Chesapeake’s men to their battle stations upon the approach of another ship of war. Yet Barron did not believe the British would attack and so made no attempt strike the drum roll signaling the men to clear the Chesapeake’s decks for action. Besides, the decks were full of baggage which the passengers from Norfolk had brought. In addition, dozens of immobilized and ailing seamen were lying on the deck taking in the fresh air and sun on the Chesapeake’s doctor’s orders. Barron had left the deck in such a state of disarray on account that the long voyage to the Mediterranean would provide plenty of time to get everything shipshape. Having heaved to, a young lieutenant from the Leopard, boarded the Chesapeake and inquired for an audience with Captain James Barron. Commodore Barron received the British Lieutenant, John Meade, in his cabin at a few minutes before four o’clock. The Briton handed the American a single dispatch, the written order from the British Vice-Admiral, George Berkley. Attached to this was a brief note from the Leapard’s captain, Salusbury Humphreys, which was his attempt, “As a gentleman, to soften and ameliorate the apparent severity and harshness” of the Vice-Admirals orders. “The Captain of the Leopard will not presume to say anything in addition to what the commander in chief had stated, more than to express a hope, that every circumstance respecting them may be adjusted, in a manner that the harmony subsisting between the two countries, may remain undisturbed.” Barron asked the lieutenant to wait as he wrote a reply. Barron took his time, a precious half hour passed before he handed over his answer in which he stated that he knew of no deserters on ship (A clear lie) and added that he was, “Instructed never to permit the crew of any ship that I command to be mustered by any other but her own officers.” Only as the lieutenant was being rowed back with the fateful message did Barron finally whisper to a ship’s officer, “You had better get your gun deck clear.”


The men were to get to their battle quarters without being seen or heard so as the British could not, as Barron explained, “Charge us with making the first hostile show.” The marine drummer not comprehending this uncommon procedure of silence, started beating his drum only to be walloped by the hilt of one of the ship’s officers swords. The crew did not know how to interpret this incident with the drummer and thought Barron’s order had been counter-commanded. Henry Allen, as captain of the second division of guns, rushed to his station and got his men clearing the 720 feet of six-inch anchor cable that encumbered the ship’s cannons. The passenger’s baggage, barrels and casks were thrown down the main hatch, and the sick men were carried into the cockpit. Meanwhile, the Leopard’s captain received the Commodore’s refusal and then hailed his opposite number warning the American to comply with the demand for inspection. Barron understood that if his ship was to stand any chance he would have to buy his men time. He attempted a delay by shouting back that he could not hear Humphreys. Humphreys hailed again and Barron replied, “I do not hear what you say.” Humphreys responded this time with a cannon shot which cut across the Chesapeake’s bow. Another shot followed which pierced the Chesapeake’s mast. Two more broadsides hit directly into the hull. One set loose a shower of splinters which tore into Commodore Barron’s right calf. A twenty-four-pound ball, barely missing Henry Allen, nailed right through the chest of a gunner standing beside him. Another solid shot manage to rip into the hull of the American frigate. Canister shot – small balls of lead and iron packed in sawdust, rained down upon the Americans. A second of the Leapard’s broadsides blasted the Chesapeake, rapidly followed by a third. A superior dashed to Henry Allen and screamed, “For God’s sake fire one gun for the honor of the flag, I mean to strike.” Allen shouted back that he needed powder to prime the guns, and with that Gordon himself charged to the magazine, grabbed two horns, dashed the length of the deck, and tossed them across the open main hatch down to Allen all through the piercing hail of canon, lead, and ship debris. Allen primed the guns but they would not fire because the iron was not hot enough to ignite the inferior gunpowder. Desperately, Allen drove his bare hands into the coal fire and with the red ambers he fisted, managed to fire off the first and only shot which the Chesapeake would make in return to the Leopard’s seventy five charges. Barron shouted down hatch to Allen, “Stop firing, stop firing! We have struck, we have struck.”


Three of the Chesapeake’s men were dead, eight were seriously wounded, one of which would later die from his wounds. Two boats from the British ship rowed over and boarded the tattered American frigate. The interrogation lasted three hours. Ratford was found hiding in the coal hold and he with the three Americans from the Melampus were taken in irons to the Leopard. The Leopard blithely took up her customary anchorage within the sovereign territory of the United States. The Chesapeake, on the other hand, with her mainmast shot through in three places, seven of her main and fore shrouds shot away, her mizzen rigging disintegrated, twenty four balls buried in her hull, and three and a half feet of water in her hold, slowly made for Norfolk. It was a humiliating return voyage, one which required them to pass the same squadron of anchored British ships they passed just that morning. But the Chesapeake was not the only one destroyed, the prisoners from the Chesapeake were transported aboard the Bellona to Halifax. Convicted of mutiny, desertion, and contempt at a court hearing where Ratford was given no counsel and offered no defense, he was hanged at 9:15 a.m from the fore yardarm of the ship he originally deserted. The three others, “In consideration of their former good conduct” were sentenced “Only to Corporal punishment.” Corporal punishment which entailed five hundred lashes apiece.


The battle only lasted fifteen minutes but its consequences were long lasting. The news made its way from port to port. In Norfolk, the militia was summoned to control the crowds. British diplomat to America Augustus J. Foster, who understood the rage of American mobs, hastened out of his carriage in New York and proceeded incognito as soon as he heard the news. It was fortunate he did so, for a crowd almost immediately congregated and threatened to throw his horse and curricle into the Hudson River. An armed mob in Hampton boarded tenders which had come ashore from the British squadron and demolished two hundred casks of fresh water and burned one of the boats. The funeral of the Chesapeake man who died from his wounds, Robert MacDonald, brought out four thousand citizens, officials, and dignitaries. Multitudes of Americans called for war, but such a measure was not a compatible tenet of President Thomas Jefferson’s Republican Party. Nonetheless the government did act. Secretary of State James Madison, upon hearing the news wrote to Jefferson, “Having effected her lawless & bloody purpose, [The Leopard] returned immediately to anchor with her squadron within our jurisdiction. Hospitality under such circumstances ceases to be a duty; it becomes a degradation.” Consequentially, Jefferson issued a proclamation which declared American waters off-limits to all British ships and furthermore that the “Interdicted ships are enemies”  and should the British land any men, his orders were to “Kill or capture them as enemies.”  On July 5, the cabinet called on state governors to make a militia force ready 100,000 men strong. Six months after the attack on the Chesapeake, Congress passed the Embargo Act of 1807, which effectively banned all trade between the United States and all other nations, essentially informing England and France to stop interfering with American vessels. Naturally this act caused exports to plummet. They fell indeed, at an alarming $22 million from a comfortable $108 million just before the Act. The government realized its self afflicting blunder, and the act was repealed in March 1809, the day before Madison was sworn in. Seven hundred gathered in Norfolk and gave a solemn toast to the wounded and dead of the Chesapeake to these bold words, “Their blood cries for vengeance, and when our Government directs, vengeance we shall have.”


While the British squadron did not leave, they certainly lied low until the sense of American rage began to ease. In England, the Vice-Admiral’s rigid order was disavowed by the Admiralty and he was recalled to London. Humphreys too was sent back to England and placed on half pay never again to command a ship at sea. The government offered to pay compensation to the families of the American seamen who were killed and publicly announced that it was contrary to British policy to stop national ships belonging to neutral power. Despite these conciliatory acts, the British government adamantly denied a comprehensive resolution halting the impressing of sailors on American ships. In Canada, British General Isaac Brock noted that “Every American newspaper teems with violent and hostile resolutions against England, and associations are forming in every town for the ostensible purpose of attacking these Provinces.” It wasn’t only the newspapers, president Thomas Jefferson himself stated, “If the English do not give us the satisfaction we demand, we will take Canada.”


For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

This 14th century rhyme reminds me of the Chesapeake. For want of proper gunpowder, correct cannon cartridges, a cleared deck, manpower, and command the Chesapeake fell to the Leapard. From the moment the ship left the Washington dock, to the every ill circumstance it encountered, to the passengers and their overwhelming baggage, to the four deserters enlisting with the Chesapeake, and to the disastrous event which followed the Chesapeake testifies to a carefully designed providence in our history.

A Matchless Scene

Nestled into the Banff National Park lies an unparalleled scene of Rocky beauty. I refer of course to the emerald colored lake of glass situated in the towering snow-crested mountains which we Canadians so adoringly call our own, Lake Louise. My grandparents visit this glorious vicinity every year. Before I could even walk they strolled me around the lake and to this day my family continues to return to this Canadian paradise. From my grandfather to my father to myself, Lake Louise has never failed to leave us with an increasing sense of awe at the Creator. The history of Lake Louise’s discovery is an intriguing one.


Thomas E. Wilson was a young Irish Canadian with a romantic passion for wilderness adventure. In 1875, bolstering his pluck, he forthrightly quit school in Ontario and set off for the unknown territory of the Canadian North West at the age of just sixteen. Overwhelmed with the fears which any lone youth voyaging across the northern wilderness would experience, he returned to his home in Ontario. Four years later he attempted once more, and this time there would be no return. Joining the historic North West Mounted Police he was stationed at For Walsh (Present day Maple Creek, Saskatchewan). When news arrived that a private company was embarking on the Canadian Pacific Railway’s construction in 1881, Wilson yearned to join the adventure. Hastily discharged from the Mounted Police he disembarked for Old Bow Fort in the shadow of the Rockies. It was here that young Tom Wilson would be be hired into Major A.B Roger’s survey crew as a packman.


The experience of surveying with Major A.B Rogers was by no means an easy one. Wilson’s own account of his first encounter with Rogers gives us an accurate picture of the stressed relationship which existed. While peacefully smoking his pipe on July 15, Wilson saw a company riding up the trail. Two Shuswap Indians were accompanying a elderly man wearing an old white helmet and brown canvas suite. “His condition” records Wilson, “dirty doesn’t begin to describe it. His voluminous side-burns waved like flags in the breeze; his piercing eyes seemed to look and see through everything at once… Every few moments a stream of tobacco juice erupted from between his side-burns; I’ll bet there were not many trees alongside the trail that had escaped the deadly tobacco juice aim.” This of course was the Major A.B. Rogers. Having approached Wilson, Rogers sharply inquired, “This Hyndman’s camp?” Wilson in silence nodded and guided Rogers to Hyndman’s tent. Hyndman emerged from his tent but gave no greeting to Rogers. “What’s your altitude?” demanded Rogers. Without even giving poor Hyndman adequate time to reply, Rojers bellowed, “Blue Jesus! Been here several days and don’t know the altitude yet. You. . . .!!” There followed what Wilson charitably described as, “A wonderful exhibition of scientific cussing which busted wide all Hyndman’s ‘Holy Commandments’ and inspired delighted snickers and chuckles of admiration from the men who had quickly gathered around.”  This set the tone of Rogers working association with every man. Wilson later wrote, “Every man present had learned, in three days, to hate the Major with real hatred. He had no mercy on horses or men – he had none on himself. The laborers hated him for the way he drove them and the packers for that and the way he abused the horses – never gave their needs a thought.” Rogers may have been tough, but such a disposition was necessary for the dangers at hand. George Monro Grant remarked of Rogers, “Not one engineer in a hundred would have risked, again and again, health and life as he did.”


Upon completion of the first of Roger’s survey’s, Wilson swore in frustration that he would never return to the mountains. Rogers, while an unsociable man, knew Wilson better. “You may think you’re not coming back but you’ll be here next year and I’ll be looking for you,” disclosed Rogers to Wilson as he rode off. Wilson spent his winter in the Little Snowy Mountains of Montana, but as the snow began to melt his romantic passion for wilderness adventure revived. “Longings for the unexplored solitudes of the far-away Canadian Rockies assailed me, nor could they be cast out.” The first of May, 1882 Wilson found himself, once again, begrudgingly waiting at the camp for the survey parties of the East to arrive. He would be glad he did so for what he was about to discover.


In August, while packing supplies for Rogers’ crew, Wilson encountered a band of Stony Indians. He inquired them concerning the mysterious roar of avalanches he was perpetually hearing in the distance. One of the band, Gold-Seeker, answered that these slides occurred on “Snow Mountain.” Gold-seeker continued to describe this particular mountain as laying high above “The lake of the little fishes” in the near distance. Immediately intrigued, Wilson asked Gold-seeker to guide him to the lake. The journey was long but richly rewarding for Wilson. The two men emerged from the dense Rocky pine forest to an incredible scene. Pierre Berton records it beautifully, “It was noon, and the sun, directly above him, shone down upon the pool around which mountains an glacier formed an almost perfect horseshoe. Forests that had never known an axe seemed to grow directly out of the shining surface. A mile and a half beyond, the backdrop of the scene was divided into three distinct bands of color – white, opal, and brown – where the glacier merged with the water.” Wilson named it Emerald Lake, on account of its mesmerizing green-blue color. (Later it would be renamed Lake Louise in honor of the Governor General’s lady.) The first words which escaped Wilson’s mouth upon this discovery would epitomize the sense of awe which every onlooker would experience thereafter. “As God is my judge, I never in all my explorations saw such a matchless scene.”

The Government Official – The Synonym of Justice, Equality, and Fair Dealing

William Ogilvie found his occupation when he was articled and apprenticed to the reputable surveyor Robert Sparks at the ripe age of twenty. Surveying for the Department of the Interior would be his life-long occupation and an adventurous one at that. In 1887, already well suited with over twenty-one years in the trade, Ogilvie made his way for the Yukon. Near the Forty-Mile Creek (In Southern Yukon) Ogilvie erected an observatory, which he built over the largest tree-stump he encountered in the vicinity. Upon this stump, some 18” in diameter and about 5’ off the ground, Ogilvie positioned his transit. It was from here he would specify the approximate location of the 141st meridian through a series of lunar calculations. This was not only a remarkable accomplishment for a surveyor, but the accuracy of Olgivie’s measurement was astounding. Twenty-two years later, a team of Canadian and American government astronomers found the Ogilvie line only a few yards west of the correct position. But not only was Ogilvie astute in his occupation, but was furthermore a man of great principle, as we clearly learn from his work for the Dominion Government in the Yukon during the famous Klondike Gold Rush. In the commemorating words of the Manitoba Free Press, “His name, the synonym of justice, equality and fair dealing. With great opportunities to enrich himself, yet he came out of the Yukon as he had gone into it, poor in pocket but rich in reputation.”


William Ogilvie arrived in Ladue, Yukon in the first month of 1897. He was given the formidable task of straightening out the Klondike claim tangle. The original staking of the Bonanza & Eldorado area was a true terror. Confusion, hysteria, and the chaotic seizing of claims by gold-thirsty prospectors resulted in disputes over many boundaries. It had come to such a point of calamity that work stopped completely, men fought, and owners pleaded Ogilvie to re-survey their claims. The task was colossal in both size and significance. The shifting of stakes by a few mere feet would mean the loss or gain of thousands of dollars. In 1887 the New York Times wrote, “Mr. Ogilvie reports that there are 100 claims on Bonanza Creek capable of yielding from $250,000 to $500,000 and thirty claims on Eldorado that will no doubt yield an average of $1,000,000 each…” Such a job was meant for a man of exceptional surveying capabilities and incorruptible moral. It was also a task for a man of chalcenterous resolve. Extensive travel through the treacherous Yukon rivers was a necessary risk. Most of Ogilvie’s explorations were carried on in two basswood canoes. Each canoe carried two men and 1,400 pounds of supplies and equipment. It was in these that Ogilvie and his outfit traveled over 2,500 miles in the Yukon wilderness.


In one such task, Olgivie was assigned to survey the claim of a local prospector in Lower Bonanza. Through this particular claim ran a twisted river, and along its winding banks the prospector had measured his claim’s legal five hundred feet. Ogilvie’s survey discovered the poor man was eight feet under the five hundred foot distance on account that the man had not properly measured in a straight line. Being the legal stake was five hundred feet, many claims were oversized and consequentially partitioned by Ogilvie’s surveys. These remaining slivers of now unclaimed land could be staggeringly valuable. One ten foot wide sliver in Eldorado was thought to be worth ten thousand dollars or double that amount. Another, just five inches wide, was sold to the adjacent owner for five hundred.


Jim White, an Irish prospector, attempted to use Ogilvie’s surveys to his advantage. Certain there was a fraction between Thirty-Six and Thirty-Seven Eldorado, White bullied the owners on either side to come to terms with him. To much of the neighbors amusement, the fraction White was so persuaded about was just three inches wide. Thus, the miserly Irishman was dubbed the nickname, “Three-Inch White.”


But the richest fraction of all Olgivie’s surveys was from that of John Jacob Astor Dusal’s stake at Two Above. Upon completion of the survey Olgivie found a triangle shaped sliver of land left over with its broadest point pushing an astonishing eighty-six feet. Dick Lowe, one of Ogilvie’s chainmen, inquired if the surveyor would consider staking it for himself. The dutiful reply was, “I am a government official and not permitted to hold property.You go down if you like and record.” Lowe did just that, and so claimed the richest single piece of ground ever discovered. Excavating one shaft down the claim Lowe discovered not a single trace of gold, but upon his second shaft he brought up forty-six thousand dollars. In due course the claim paid out over half a million dollars. Two of the richest creeks, Bonanza & Eldorado, deposited their gold into Lowe’s property. A wire had to be strung along the border of his claim so whenever a nugget was found on the boundary a plumb line was slid along the priceless wire to determine its happy owner. Lower got drunk upon the discovery and stayed that way.


There is only one exception to the rigid rule-keeping of the surveyor William Ogilvie. Upon surveying the upper limit of Clarence Berry’s Five, Olgivie discovered that Clarence Berry’s claim was forty-one feet six inches too long. Upon this very section of land Berry had been doing all his winter’s mining and his dump of paydirt still stood frozen on the plot. If the fraction was announced – as it was Ogilvie’s requirement – Berry would lose everything he had so diligently worked for through the Yukon winter. Furthermore Berry couldn’t stake it because he had already used up all his staking rights. Ogilvie was fully aware of this predicament and took Berry aside to privately relay the devastating news. Berry, immediately distressed, asked Ogilvie what was to be done. Ogilvie replied, “It is not my place to advice you. Haven’t you a friend you can trust…” “Trust – how?” “Why, to stake that fraction tonight and transfer it to yourself and partner.” It was a genius plan which mercifully saved Berry. Berry had his close friend George Byrne followed the detailed instructions of the staking method from Ogilvie and staked the property therewith in the small hours of the morning. As Ogilvie wrote, “A friend like that, in such a need, is a friend indeed.”

John Calvin

In case you did not know, yesterday we celebrated the 503rd birthday of the great reformer, John Calvin. The following is a considerably brief biography and commentary on the life and work of the reformer. Calvin was born July 10 (One biographer even nailed it down to 1:27 p.m.) in Noyon, France just seventy miles northeast of Paris.


In humble accordance with the wishes of his father, Gerard Calvin, John Calvin started his studies for the legal profession at the youthful age of fourteen in the three leading French universities (Orleans, Bourges, and Paris) from 1523 to 1533. Notwithstanding, Calvin, having no conviction for such a particular calling, turned to the study of Theology after his fathers death and found it a sphere of discipline which most aptly suited his natural endowments and personal choice. While Calvin had no affixing sentiments toward the legal profession he valued the education he did attain and would later dedicate one of his commentaries to an old teacher, Mathurin Cordier, with these grateful words, “When my father sent me, still only a boy, to Paris…, Providence so ordered it that for a short time I had the privilege of having you as my teacher, so that I might be taught by you the true method of learning.” Calvin would also dedicate a future commentary to his beloved Greek teacher, Melchior Wolmar of the University of Orleans. “Under your direction I added to the study of law Greek literature, of which you were than a celebrated professor.” As you can very well see, Calvin was an outstanding student and as such received his first Master’s degree at the modest age of eighteen. Dr. Lorraine Boettner in his brief biography of Calvin described him as, “Having been of a shy and retiring nature, very studious and punctual in his work, animated by a strict sense of duty, and exceedingly religious. He early showed himself possessed of an intellect capable of clear, convincing argument and logical analysis.”


The eminent church historian Phillip Schaff reminds us that, “All Reformers were born, baptized, confirmed, and educated in the historic Catholic Church, which cast them out; as the Apostles were circumcised and trained in the Synagogue, which cast them out.” John Calvin was certainly no exception to this historical precedent. Calvin was in his early years a devout Catholic of unblemished character.  At the age of twenty-two Calvin wrote his first book, De Celementia, on the Roman philosopher Seneca, and dedicated it to the bishop of his hometown monastery. In it Calvin wrote this work in pristine Latin, capably quoted 56 Latin writers, 22 Greek writers, and 7 historic church fathers. Yet rather abruptly, Calvin converted to the impoverished and oppressed Protestantism sect despite the prosperous future which waited for him as a Catholic theologian and churchman. In his own worlds, “God by a sudden conversion subdued my heart. I was immediately inflamed with so intense a desire to make progress therein, that although I did not altogether leave of other studies, yet I pursued them with less ardor.” Despite his new conversion, Calvin faithfully remained in the Catholic church with the honest intention of reforming it from within. However, circumstances changed readily on November 1, 1533.


Nicholas Cop a close friend of Calvin was delivering the inaugural oration on All Saint’s Day to a large assembly in the Church of the Mathurins having been elected Rector of the University just a month prior. The speech had been prepared by Calvin at Cop’s request. The oration was summarily a humble appeal to reformation and a valiant condemnation of the theologians of the day who Calvin portrayed as being ignorant of the Gospel. Naturally, the Sorbonne and the Parliament considered this academic lecture as a brazen manifesto declaring war on the Catholic Church and therewith burnt the document to ashes. Cop fled to his relatives in Basel, Calvin escaped from Paris, and 24 innocent Protestants were burned at the stake in public places as a result of the fury of the Catholics.


For the next three years Calvin traveled as a  religious refugee from France to Switzerland to Italy to finally Geneva, a newly declared Protestant city. Calvin had not intended to make a permanent abode in Geneva but providence would have it otherwise. His arrival in Geneva was made known to the Geneva reformer and evangelist, William Farel. Knowing Calvin to be a competent reformer, Farel hastened to secure Calvin to the city in order to save the struggling reformation movement. Schaff gives a remarkable account of Farel’s convincing Calvin to remain in a city which he wanted nothing to do with in the first place due to its severe nature. “Farel at once called on Calvin and held him fast, as by divine command. Calvin protested, pleaded his youth, his inexperience, his need of further study, his natural timidity, and bashfulness which unfitted him for public action. But all in vain. Farel, ‘who burned of a marvelous zeal to advance the Gospel,’ threatened him with the curse of Almighty God if he preferred his studies to the work of the Lord, and his own interest to the cause of Christ” Calvin, consistent with his submissive nature previously noted, felt, “As if God from on high had stretched out His hand.” Calvin conceded to Farel’s boisterous summons and accepted the call as a pastor in Geneva in 1536.


Calvin made for an excellent pastor during the pandemonium of the Catholic persecution and surge of the Protestant Reformation. Calvin with the heart of a pastor wrote, “I long for one holy communion of the members of Christ. As for me, if I can be of service, I would gladly cross ten seas in order to bring about this unity.” And of service Calvin was. R.C. Reed gives an account of Calvin’s notable perseverance in advancing the reformation, “He toiled for it to the utmost limit of his strength, fought for it with a courage that never quailed, suffered for it with a fortitude that never wavered, and was ready at any moment to die for it. He literally poured every drop of life into it, unhesitatingly, unsparingly. History will be searched in vain to find a man who gave himself to one definite purpose with more unalterable persistence, and with more lavish self-abandon than Calvin gave himself to the Reformation of the 16th century.” Calvin indeed also overcame as many trials as would be comparable to the crossing of ten seas. As Dr. Lorraine Boettner records, “Living in a fiercely polemic age, and standing on the watchtower of the reform movement in Western Europe, he was the observed of all observers, and was exposed to attacks from every quarter.”


Most significant of all Calvin’s achievements was that of his, “Institutes of Christian Religion,” the fist editions of which he published in Latin at just twenty-six years of age in 1536. Dedicated to, “His most Christian Majesty, Francis, King of the French and his Sovereign” the institutes were written as a help to the new and persecuted Protestants of France and greater Europe. “When I began this work, Sire,” continued Calvin to his king, “Nothing was farther from my thoughts than writing a book which would afterwards be presented to your Majesty… this labor I undertook chiefly for my country men, the French, of whom I apprehended multitude to be hungering and thirsting after Christ, but saw very few possessing any real knowledge of Him… But when I saw that the fury of certain wicked men in your kingdom had grown to such a height as to leave no room in the land for sound doctrine, I thought I should be usefully employed in the same work I delivered my instructions to them, and exhibited my confession to you, that you may know the nature of that doctrine which is the object of such unbounded rage to those madmen who are now disturbing the country with fire and sword.” The institutes were a marvel of intellectual precocity and were later enlarged to five times the size of the original. Most extraordinary of all was the fact that Calvin never made any radical departures from the doctrines set forth in previous editions, but  rather in every case built on the teachings of past works. Such theological consistency and regularity is an astounding literary precedent.  “The value of such a gift to the reformation” says Reed, “cannot easily be exaggerated. Protestants and Romanists bore equal testimony to its worth. The one hailed it as the greatest boon; the other execrated it with the bitterest curses. It was burnt by order of the Sorbonne at Paris an other places, and everywhere it called forth the fiercest assaults of tongue and pen. Florimond de Raemond, a Roman Catholic theologian, calls it ‘The Koran, the Talmud of heresy, the foremost cause of our downfall.’ Kampuchulte, another Roman Catholic, testifies that ‘It was the common arsenal from which the opponents of the Old Church borrowed their keenest weapons,’ and that ‘No writing of the Reformation era was more feared by Roman Catholics, more zealously fought against, and more bitterly pursued than Calvin’s Institutes.’ Its popularity was evidenced by the fact that edition followed edition in quick succession; it was translated into most of the languages of western Europe; it became the common text-book in the schools of the Reformed Churches, and furnished the material out of which their creeds were made.” Just a few weeks after the publication of the Institutes Bucer, who ranks third among the Reformers in Germany, wrote to Calvin, “It is evident that the Lord had elected you as His organ for the bestowment of the richest fulness of blessing to His Church.” The great Dr. B.B. Warfield wrote, “Of all the services which Calvin rendered to humanity – and they were neither few nor small – the greatest was undoubtably his gift to it afresh of this system of religious thought, quickened into new life by the forces of his genius.” “After three centuries and a half” Warfield continued, “It retains its unquestioned preeminence as the greatest and most influential of all dogmatic treatises… Even from the point of mere literature, it holds a position so supreme in its class that every one who would fain know the world’s best books, must make himself familiar with it. What Thucydides is among Greek, or Gibbon among eighteenth-century English historians, what Plato is among philosophers, or the Iliad among epics, or Shakespeare among dramatists, that Calvin’s ‘Institutes’ is among theological treatises.”


Dr. Lorraine Boettner hailed Calvin, along with Augustine, “As the two outstanding systematic expounders of the Christian system since St. Paul.”  And so it would be no surprise that Calvin wrote exegetical , expositional commentaries of nearly all books of the Bible in 55 volumes. Again, in the words of Boettner, “As Luther was the prince of translators, so Calvin was the prince of commentators.” Commentaries from the earliest centuries, following in the Roman Catholic history and tradition, allegorized the Scriptures, which, in the words of Reed, “Converts the Bible into a nose of wax, and makes a lively fancy the prime qualification of an exegete.” Calvin did no such act. Characterizing Calvin’s commentaries was the carefully observation of the meaning of the text line by line, word by word. Furthermore, while Calvin wrote with the lofty mind of a theologian, he mercifully expressed his thoughts in the everyday language of the layman. Additionally Calvin exposed the corrupt doctrines, practices, and traditions of the Roman Catholic Church while exalting the authority of Scripture alone. With Calvin’s superior education in the Latin, French, Greek, and Hebrew languages and his thorough understanding of theology his commentaries were like unto no other and remain so to this day.


Due to an attempt of Calvin and Farel to enforce a system of church discipline in Geneva which was deemed severe, it became necessary for them both to leave the city in 1538. Calvin and Farel requested that four reforms be made in the church of Geneva. Presented in a hand written letter to the Geneva Little Council, Calvin stated, “It is not possible to reduce everything to good order in a moment… But now that it has pleased the Lord a little to better establish His reign here, it seemed to us good… to confer together concerning these things… praying you in the name of God that… if… you see that our advice is from the holy Word of the Gospel, take good care that these observations be received and obeyed in your city…” The first observation was that, “In order to maintain the church in its integrity, the discipline of excommunication is necessary.” To the Geneva council excommunication was a mighty weapon, one which the Geneva state was not willing to properly render to the Geneva church. Calvin went on with his second request, “It would be well to require that the Communion of the Holy Supper of Jesus Christ be held every Sunday, at least as a rule.”The third article” Calvin continued, “Concerns the instruction of children, who without doubt ought to make a confession of their faith to the church.” And to make such a confession Calvin desired to write and implement a catechism to be taught to the children by their parents. Fourthly and finally Calvin requested, “There are the Psalms which we desire to be sung in the church.” The radicalness of this request is that no congregation had sung in a church institution for centuries. The councils did not decide against the singing of Psalms, the catechizing of children, but the “observations” of excommunication and the Lord’s Supper were near to intolerable. Counsel in direct dissent to Calvin and Farel ordered the two preachers not to exclude or excommunicate anyone from the Lord’s Supper, regardless of the religious abuse which would result. On Easter Sunday, after severe political and social hostility toward Calvin and Farel, both men denied the celebration of the Holy Communion outright to each of their respective churches. Council the following day gave the preachers three days to “Get themselves out of our city.” Calvin then journeyed to Strassburg where he was to spend the next three years enjoyably, as a professor, pastor, and author. It was to be here also that Calvin would meet his wife, Idelette de Bure and marry her in August. of 1940. During his leave of Geneva affairs became so dire that the fruits of the Reformation were in peril of being lost and Calvin was urgently requested to return to Geneva. “We pray you very earnestly that you would transfer yourself hitherward to us, and return to your old place and former ministry… Your good friends, The Syndics and Council of Geneva. October 22, 1540.” Calvin certainly didn’t hide his utter repulsion to the notion of moving back to Geneva in his letter to Farel, “Rather would I submit to death a hundred times than to that cross, on which one hand to perish daily a thousand times over.” Lest he had not made himself clear Calvin wrote again, but this time to Viret, “There is no place under heaven of which I can have a greater dread.” With much more imploring from Geneva, Calvin in his submissive nature returned in 1541 and continued where he left off. Such reservation against Geneva wasn’t unwarranted. “The Genevese” records Philip Schaff, “Were a light-hearted, joyous people, fond of public amusements, dancing, singing, masquerades, and revelries. Recklessness, gambling, drunkenness, adultery, blasphemy, and all sorts of vice abounded. Prostitution was sanctioned by the authority of the State, and superintended by a woman called the Reine de bordel. The people were ignorant. The priests had taken no pains to instruct them, and had set them a bad example.” Calvin’s return was not in vain though, in accordance with the cry of the reformation and the later inscription over the Geneva town hall, “POST  TENEBRAS LUX. “After Darkness Light.”


On the first Sunday John Calvin mounted the pulpit again to the waiting public. One would have expected him to speak on the reasons of his exile and return, but in faithfulness to the expositional teaching of the Scriptures, Calvin started at the exact verse where he had discontinued over three years earlier. Calvin brought much reform to the church in Geneva. In addition to implementing the four “observations” which had ousted him from Geneva in the first place, Calvin freed the church from government control. Thus essentially bringing about the separation of the church and state. In addition to his civil work, Calvin drafted his famous Ecclesiastical Ordinances for the Geneva church. As a direct result of Calvin’s faithful service, Geneva rose to a city famed for its quiet, orderly, and peaceable citizens.


All reformers were highly educated men and like Calvin, knew the value of sound education for the promotion of pure religion and public welfare. Such values of the reformation materialized in the erection of the Genevan University in 1552.  The famous Geneva academy opened in 1558 in which Calvin was an associate professor along with ten other respected teachers. The school gave instruction in grammar, logic, mathematics, physics, music, and the ancient languages. In its opening year over nine hundred students, mostly protestant refugees, enrolled. For over two centuries it remained the foremost academy of Reformed Theology and literary culture. In the words of the Scottish Reformer, John Knox, who was a student under Calvin’s institution at the time, the Geneva school was “The most perfect school of Christ that ever was on the earth since the days of the Apostles.”


Calvin died in the year 1564 at a comparatively young age of fifty-five. Thomas Beza, a close friend and academic colleague, describes his death being peaceful and then adds, “Thus withdrew into heaven, at the same time with the setting sun, that most brilliant luminary, which was the lamp of the Church. On the following night and day there was intense grief and lamentation in the whole city; for the Republic had lost its wisest citizen, the Church its faithful shepherd, and the Academy an incomparable teacher.” Schaff records that, “Calvin had expressly forbidden all pomp at his funeral and the erection of any monument over the grave. He wished to be buried, like Moses, out of the reach of idolatry. This was consistent, with his theology, which humbles man and exalts God.” Calvin’s close Geneva companion, William Farel, said on his death, “Oh, how happily he has run a noble race. Let us run like him, according to the measure of grace given us.”


Much, much more could be written (And has) on the life and ministry of John Calvin, and furthermore his lasting legacy. But if I were to sum it up, I would borrow from that famous line of Alfred North Whitehead and declare, “All Western Civilization is a footnote to… Calvin.”

The Sight & Sound of God’s Glory


Who did God create first to reflect his glory? Surprisingly, Lucifer. Lucifer was the first of God’s creation, made to reflect the sight and sound of the glory of God. We read in Ezekiel 28:13 (Where Lucifer is allegorized as the prince of Tyrus) “Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so…Thou wast perfect in all thy ways from the day thou wast created till iniquity was found in thee.” Here we discern that God created Lucifer with all treasured stones, thus typifying the particular nature of God’s magnificence and glorious splendor. Additionally, Lucifer had glorified drums and an organ built into him! Depicted herein, quite literally, is Lucifer as not merely the sight but moreover the sound of God’s glory. Notwithstanding Lucifer was cast out as profane because of his diabolical pride. While Lucifer was fashioned to display God’s wondrous glory his pride was the absolute destruction of this very capacity. Pride is cherishing our own glory, and shaming another’s. It was by this abominable sin that Lucifer fell, and it was to be by this precise sin also that man would fall. All who indulge in such a sinful nature must expect to perish by no common destruction.


Therewith, God created man in Lucifers place for this is what it means to be made “In the image of God.” It goes without saying that all mankind eventually fell in pride as Lucifer, and he hopelessly remains in this state of sin under God’s holy wrath outside the redemptive work of Christ. With the fall of himself and mankind, Lucifer’s one objective was (And has continued to be) the eradication of God’s glory. Ridding the universe of God’s image and image bearers through two simple courses… unreserved destruction or surreptitious distortion.


Today, consequentially, while our Canadian society is not experiencing a crisis of annihilation, we can distinguish the sight and sound of God’s image in man being gradually disfigured. The modern Christian man is rather like Lot in Sodom and Gomorrah where, as it says in 2 Peter 2:8, his soul was torn about by what he “Saw and heard.” Verily, in today’s culture of distorted images and sounds, the more distorted images we see the less we are able to believe in that which is unseen. In recent times I picked up an outstanding book by Neil Postman on modern entertainment and recreation, “Amusing Ourselves to Death.” What exactly does amusing mean? The definition won’t be too surprising when you consider it for a time. “a” is a Latin negative and “muse” means to think, which when amalgamated into one word essentially means, “Not to think.” Neil Postman certainly minces no benevolent words in declaring from the very title of his book that our culture is “Not-thinking itself to death.” Within the pages of the book Postman argues that the images, music, and entertainment which our culture nearly baptizes us in, permits and furthermore enables us to exist throughout life without giving a sober thought to anything. This is the modern crisis in our culture and is just one mode by which Satan distorts the glory of God in true image and sound. Distorting the sight of God’s glory and sound of God’s glory has left man in a meaningless, purposeless, vain, and empty world.


But there is hope. With the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit (Re-generating the glory of God in us) we can live again to glorify God. Through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, enabled by Christ’s work on the cross out of love for His Father, those who embrace the Gospel are brought back into the state for which they were originally created, to reflect the glory of God by forever delighting in God’s glory. Once again the images, sounds, art, and compositions we create and enjoy may reflect something of the true, undistorted, and undefiled glory of God. And for the Christian man, they simply must.

Preface to J.N. Rayzor’s, “Footprints of Time”

(When I cursorily browse through a book I will most often review its opening contents [Introduction, preface, forward, acknowledgements, etc…] I had the good providence of selecting this book and opening up to its preface. Never before have I read so inspiring a piece on the notable subject of books. The following is this very preface, masterfully written by R.N Rayzor in September 1, 1925 to his book, “Foot-Prints of Time.”)

“Books are teachers to the degree that they become the incarnation of truth.

As a teacher is not estimated by what he knows, but by what he is, and his communicableness; even so is a book – the more it has of the human pulse and personal warmth, even after cast into form of printers’ ink, the more readable and useful it is.

There are books that are statuesque, and books that are picturesque, and books that breathe – that have in them the life current of the soul. Like the mouth of a great river that rises and falls at the impulse of the tide from out the distant deep; like the sea-shell that murmurs with the music it learned while at home in the sea, so is a book filled with historical facts from without the distant past.

It is not philosophy in the scholastic world, nor theory in the political world, nor doctrines in the religious world, that have wrought effects, but philosophy, theory, and doctrines held in solution in men and books. If the life blood is dried out of them, they are but fit furniture for the herbarium or museum.

History is biography. When you read the biography of a score of the men of Israel, you are acquainted with its history. The same is true with any other nation or people.

As the St. Lawrence River draws from the fountain of Lake Ontario, and Ontario from the Niagara, and the Niagara from Erie which draws perennially from the upper lakes and the clouds, the historian draws upon the fountains above and beyond him.

When a stranger knocks at the door, we inquire, “Who is he?” “What is he?” Books are men and women transferred by thought to paper, and before admitting them to our homes, we should ask, “Who wrote it?” and “What is it?”

It is impossible to get high living from low thinking – they do not go together. Books that stimulate good thinking lead to a noble life, for goodness is just as contagious as evil.

A good book does not die when he who wrote it passes from earth.

Books influence the action of men. Acts make habits. Habits, character, which is greater than intellect, gold, or the world.

Life is a movement. We must travel. We can not stand still, and we dare not walk backward – death only is still.

He who refuses to make use of good books, flings away his manhood. Reading “The LIves of the Saints” made a Loyola. Reading, “The Life of John Huss” made a Martin Luther; “The Voyage of Captain Cook” made a William Carey; the “Life of Benjamin Franklin” made a Samuel Dew; Cotton Mather’s “Essays to Do Good” made a Benjamin Franklin. The influence of good books is inestimable.”

Introduction to the War of 1812

(This is the second transcript in a series of lectures I am presenting on Canadian History.)


This year is a special year for our nation, in it we commemorate the renowned War of 1812 between Canada and the United States of America. This was no Wellington’s battle and sadly Beethoven nor Tchaikovsky composed masterpieces for it, but it was a war which changed the course of history, or arguably, preserved its course. The War of 1812 confirmed Canada as a distinct entity with its own political identity in North America. Furthermore, it had proven Canada’s loyalty as a colony to its mother country, Great Britain, and moreover had providentially demonstrated its ability to defend, restrain, and even conquer the, debatably, third then most powerful nation in the world (Next to Napoleon’s France and Wellington’s England.)

Today I will give a brief introduction to the War of 1812 with the primary focus on Canada. We will give preliminary examination to the causes of the war (The British Blockade and Indian land), we will examine the state of Canada (A divided nation into Upper and Lower Canada), we will examine the state of the churches in Canada (The establishment of the Church of England and the struggle of the Catholic church and other denominations,) and we will examine the relationship of the two countries at war (One of torn loyalties.) As with all introductory lectures, we will be laying the setting and not yet examining the thrilling stories of the war itself. In our next lecture we shall take our first step back into history with the notable fall of the U.S frigate, Cheasepeak , a final event in thrusting America to a declaration of war.


1812, it was a year of colossal turmoil. England was in the midst of a fierce war with France. The greatest generals of the world, the most powerful war minds in history, Wellington and Napoleon, were in a fierce and bloody deadlock in Europe. In North America grim tensions were emerging. In the course of the European war Napoleon tactfully implemented the Berlin Decree of 1806 and the Milan Decree of 1807, France and all subjects under Napoleon’s rapidly expanding jurisdiction were banned from trading with Great Britain. In response the king of the seas, Great Britain, imposed a total naval blockade on all ports under French control under The Orders of Council in November of 1807. It was a stalemate. Napoleon’s chess pieces dominated land, while Great Britain ruled the waters. Under The Orders of Council the British warned that they would seize in the open ocean any ship that dared sail directly for a Napoleonic port, which is exactly what America had been doing as a tremendous source of export and profit. By 1805 the American merchant fleet engaged in foreign trade was growing by seventy thousand tons of shipping a year, at the end of the decade projections were a million tons (Which would be double what it was in 1800 when America already boasted of the world’s largest merchant fleet of a neutral nation.) With this tremendous   boom in American sea trade, Britain captured almost four hundred American vessels by 1812, some even within sight of the enraged U.S coast. The British would halt and board American ships on demand, and confiscate any contraband goods. If the British concocted any trivial evidence of such contrabands the ship would be held. The ships’ owners faced months of lost time, and contesting the seizures would incur thousands in legal fees alone. On the evening of April 25, 1806, the British ship Leander was performing its usual practice of halting American vessels just outside the New York harbor. A poorly chartered cannon shot from the Leander (Which was a common signal used to halt an outgoing American ship) accidentally struck a small coasting sloop. The ball tragically hit and decapitated the helmsman of the sloop, John Pierce. The killed man was brother to the captain of the ship, who immediately sailed back to the harbor and gathered a furious mob by marching his brothers body and separated head through the streets. The following day a party from the Leander returning to their ship were captured and paraded through the city by the crowd. Four of Leander’s officers were present on shore at the time and consequentially placed in jail for their own protection. The impassioned public held a massive funeral for the decapitated John Pierce. Yet beyond the maddening seizure of goods the British would search and impress contraband sailors. Thousands of British sailors had left their country and its ships for a more lucrative employment on American vessels. America’s growing merchant fleet created a huge demand for labor at the rate of 4,000 new sailors per year. By 1807 over 50,000 American’s were seafarers employed on American ships at a handsome $18 a month (More than double the British rate.) The British impressed as many as 7,000 American seamen for service in the Royal Navy on the grounds that they were deserters from British service. In the words of President John Madison, “That an officer from a foreign ship should pronounce any person he pleased, on board an American ship on the high seas, not to be an American Citizen, but a British subject, and carry his interested decision on the most important of all questions to a freeman into execution on the spot is so anomalous in principle, so grievous in practice, and so abominable in abuse, that the pretension must finally yeild.” John Quincy Adams stated with far less ambiguity what Madison precisely meant by “Finally yield.” “The practice of impressment” Adams stated,  “Is the only ineradicable wound, which, if persisted in, can terminate no otherwise than by war.” With no American navy to intimidate, the British thought little of this practice or of America for that matter. In the words of The London Courier at the time, “The sea is ours, and we must maintain the doctrine that no nation, no fleet, no cock-boat shall sail upon it without our permission” With equal confidence Thomas Jefferson from his retirement home at Monticello assured a fellow Republican politician that, “The acquisition of Canada this year, as far as the neighborhood of Quebec, will be a mere matter of marching.” The American’s felt little for the British and thought Canada would share the same sentiment. With the opening words of American General William Hull in his war proclamation, “INHABITANTS of CANADA! After thirty years of PEACE & prosperity, the UNITED STATES have been driven to Arms. The injuries & aggressions, the insults & indignities of Great Britain have once more left them no alternative but manly resistance or unconditional submission.” It was a relationship of pure spite.


The greatest problem for America was not only in the sea with Great Britain, but also on land with the Indians. America had always been at war with the Indians, more so than the French or English in Canada. Violating American pioneering of the land beyond the Appalachians, a territory which was actually conceded by America to the Indians in the Treaty of 1783 and furthermore confirmed by Jay’s Treaty in 1794, was a serious contention with the Ohio Valley Indians. The Indians were mercurial and unreliable, totally passive to the civilized rules of warfare and a proudly antonymous body. They acted upon their pleasures which were just as nomadic in their scope as their tepee’s were in domain. General William Hull set the tone in his war proclamation to the inhabitants of Canada, “The first stroke of the Tomahawk, the first attempt with the scalping knife, will be the signal for one indiscriminate scene of desolation. No white man found fighting by the side of an Indian, will be taken prisoner. Instant destruction will be his lot. If the dictates of reason, duty, justice and humanity cannot prevent the employment of a force which respects no rights, & knows no wrong, it will be prevented by a severe and relentless system of retaliation.” America wasn’t innocent of evil either, while they were signing an overwhelming 400 treatise with the Indians, they were making an even greater attempt to take their land in violation to those very treatise. It was savagery against subversion.


Two Shawnee brothers, Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh had risen great heights among the Indian people in the cause of Indian survival. Tenskwatawa, a hideous one-eyed man (Nicknamed, “The Prophet”) was a profound spiritual leader proclaiming visions that urged “Personal and social repentance” as a means of recovering spiritual vitality and physical victory. Tecumseh, on the other hand, was a handsome and renowned warrior for the Indian people. He was a truly remarkable figure. Tecumseh had formed a unity and leadership among the Indians which was hitherto unheard of, and had also gained the respect of the European man, a respect hard to come by for any Indian. Both brothers would not give up land to the growing population and settlement of the northern American states. Tecumseh famously stated, “No tribe has the right to sell land, even to each other, much less to strangers… Sell a country! Why not sell the air, the great sea, as well as the earth?… The only way to stop this evil is for the red man to unite in claiming a common and equal right in the land, as it was first, and should be now, for it was never divided.”


America saw it very differently. Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Indiana hungered to seize the land of native peoples and while they were at it Upper and Lower Canada. This would not only expand their borders, but would break the Canadian fur trade monopoly, make the hated British sting, and give the promise of cheap land to the strength of the Union. In America there was a small eloquent group that preached these verities from the hilltops, a party who Thomas Jefferson dubbed, “The War Hawks.” The unapologetically War Hawks were vehemently anti-British and believed the British agents were prodding the various tribes to revolt, they hated the new British colony situated so uncomfortably close to their border, and were un-reconcilably embittered against economic depression blamed on the British blockade. The American elections of 1810 resulted in the election of several of these anti-British War Hawks. With the British in their seas, the Indians in their way, and the new British Colony to their north the War Hawks aroused America to vote on war in June 4, 1812. But they were far from united, and President Madison hesitated to sign the fearful declaration. However, circumstances inverted radically as dispatches arrived from England reporting that the British Prime Minister, Spencer Perceval, had been assassinated by a lone gunman in the House of Commons on May 11. With the advantageous position now granted them Madison signed the declaration of war on June 18, 1812. History was made, North America joined Europe in the world of warfare.


It was a calm night at the British post at Fort George on the Niagara frontier. The English officers were entertaining their American guests at dinner when news arrived to the dinner party of the declaration of war. The British officers bid the American officers to keep their seats and insisted the meal continue as if no hostilities had been announced. The meal finished with much handshaking and confessions of regret as the British officers accompanied the American officers to their boats. In just a few weeks, each of the attendants to the dinner party would be ripping through each others fortifications with cannon, bullet, and bayonet. Such was the spirit of camaraderie between the two new North American Nations pre-War of 1812. Outside of the fierce political realm which the War Hawks dominated, citizens from each side of the border thought little on their differences. Almost everyone had a relative or friend on the other side of the border. Story has it that the first cannonball to be exploded across the Niagara river toward the American fort during the battle of Detroit killed the best friend of the British cannon operator. Trade between the two countries was rather uninhibited and many were land and business owners on both sides. Pierre Berton gives record of John Askin of Sandwich, Upper Canada. Askin was a fur trader and patriarch with a son-in-law, Elijah Brush, an American commander at Detroit. When the Americans invaded Sandwich, Askin was force to flee and Brush obligingly detailed men to harvest Askin’s crops. When Fort Detroit fell, Brush gave his personal papers, money, and members of his family to Askin’s care. None of this prevented Askin’s sons and grandsons from taking up arms and killing Americans or for that matter Elijah Brush from attacking Canada. Another instance is the Canadian town of St. Stephen who upon realizing that its American neighbor, Calais, could not obtain fireworks for its Independence Day festivities, obligingly helped out with a gift of gunpowder. Such a predicament between the nations is both humorous and sad to recount. Besides American family, friends, trade, land, business, and the neighborly spirit Canada had long been benefited by the immigration of American settlers. The settler population in Upper Canada (Established by the British Parliament under the Constitutional Act of 1791) consisted of 100,000 settlers by 1812, three out of five of which were newly arrived Americans brought either by the promise of land or loyalty to Britain. In lower Canada, 6,000 protestant loyalists had come into Quebec in 1784. These were the “Tories” of American revolutionary history who remained loyal to the British Empire. We will note this later, but the growth of Methodist and Baptist churches in Canada was also a large missionary endeavor headed by Americans. Neither country’s border citizens desired to be at war with each other. Congress in the words of a Kentucky editor was, “Driven, goaded, dragged, forced, kicked” into war by the War Hawks. America had not declared war on Canada, but had declared war on Britain, and consequentially Canada as a colony of Britain was to suffer the blows for such loyalty.  William Hull the American General wrote to Canada, “I come to find enemies not to make them, I come to protect you not to injure you.” Isaac Brock the British General wrote back less charitably, “Every Canadian Freeholder is by deliberate choice bound by the most solemn oaths to defend the Monarchy as well as his own property; to shriek from that Engagement is a Treason not to be forgiven”. Both fought for the honor of their nations, and did so valiantly.


The state of the church in Canada was that of a struggling one. Both America and Canada at the time were incredibly religious. Even at the turn of the 18th century you would be hard pressed to find any man not at the very least familiar with Scripture, never-mind Christian morality and conviction. By 1800 you would have the same problem even among the Maritime & Quebec Indians. Society of both nations was fundamentally Christian and rapidly growing with the determined missionary movement. Untold by historians, this was a war fought by Christians both claiming the blessing of God on their endeavors. William Hull wrote to Canada, “The United States offers you Peace, Liberty and Security your choice lies between these and War, Slavery, and destruction, Choose then, but choose wisely; and may he who knows the justice of our cause, and who holds in his hand the fate of Nations, guide you to a result the most compatible, with your rights and interests, your peace and prosperity.” While America’s religion was notably united, Canada’s was divided. With the victory of England over the French Canadians years ago there was significant contention socially and politically between the new establishment of the Church of England and the toleration of the Catholic Church. The instructions of the first British governor of the Province of Quebec, General James Murray, provided for the allowance of 65,000 Roman Catholics but gave him the daunting task of establishing the Church of England in due course. Catholics had little civic rights with the conquest of Britain, yet The Quebec Act of 1774 provided conciliatory policy which reversed the earlier plan to anglicize Quebec by allowing the French Canadians to retain their old semi-feudal system and civil law even as Britain was introducing English criminal law. The Act admitted Roman Catholics to citizenship and eligibility for public office, and allowed the Catholic church to retain its right to receive the tithe. This policy made controls actually lighter on the Catholic church than the previous French crown had. Ten years later in 1784, the new immigration of English speaking protestants to Canada petitioned for a division of the province to be for themselves. The Constitutional Act of 1791 modified but did not repeal The Quebec Act of 1774 and authorized the division of Canada into Lower Canada (Quebec) and Upper Canada (The later Ontario) with the boundary running along the Ottawa River. Tensions also appeared among competing groups of English, Scottish, Irish, German, and American groups who wanted some form of religious establishment or religious liberty.  These contentions often became significant over educational issues with the founding of schools. The Church of England enjoyed certain initial advantages of support from the government as the established church of the mother country. Presbyterian strength rose with the immigration from Scotland. The Baptist churches of Nova Scotia were strong enough to form a small association of churches in 1800. With the strong missionary enthusiasm in the dominion of Canada a missionary society was founded in 1814 by the Baptists. The Methodist movement in Canada was fueled by American methodist missionaries. From 1790 up to 1812, 76 methodist missionaries had been sent from the US. But the War of 1812 cut communication across the border, thus prohibiting the flow of methodist ministers. Additionally, invading forces distributed circuits and upset the life of many methodist societies. Numerous Americans left with the resurgence of the anti-American spirit and the Methodist movement struggled greatly. The development of the Baptists in Canada, like the methodists, was aided by missionaries from the United States. Likewise they too were weakened by the War of 1812. Outside Quebec, the Catholics were debilitated by lack of adequate ecclesiastical supervision with the turmoil of the French Napoleon period. The Catholic Church dominated the older, larger, French-speaking Lower Canada, while other protestant denominations laid their foundations in the new communities of English-speaking Upper Canada. In Lower Canada the Catholic church sought for recognition and independence from British supervision. The War of 1812 made it undesirable for the government to jeopardize Catholic loyalty, and so the Catholic church of Lower Canada received its wishes. Catholic Bishops were now being named into legislative council thus dashing hopes for the full establishment of the Church of England. Both the Catholics, headed by Joseph Octave Plessis the Bishop of Quebec, and the Church of England, headed by John Strachan, were active in guiding their congregations to support Britain through the war. Contrary to modern sentiment, Canada was a profoundly religious nation. Predominate enough to literally define Canada not only geographically, but also socially,  and politically.


Having established the historical setting of the War of 1812 it behoves us to examine the Biblical lawfulness of this war. From my previous lecture we examined that all things which occur in history are within God’s decreed will, and we necessarily conclude that the War of 1812 was indeed God’s decreed will. But the question remains, was it God’s prescribed will? Was America executing its Biblical prerogative in declaring war against Britain? Is war and such aggression even Biblical at all? Summarily, what is the Biblical doctrine of warfare? Pindar gave the adage, “Sweet is war to him who knows it not.” War is undeniably hellish, destructive, violent, and horrific, but a vivid reality nonetheless in the affairs of human history. Historically the church has held two doctrines when it comes to war: “Pacifism” and “Just War.” Scripture leads Christians to presuppose the just war doctrine over the pietistic, sectarian tradition of pacifism. Throughout Scripture God depicts His nature with reference to war (Ex. 15:3-9; Isa 42:13; Ps. 24:8; Deut. 32:41-42), God furthermore commanded Israel to engage in war and God cannot command His people to do that which is intrinsically evil, additionally the New Testament repeals no Old Testament regulations of warfare but rather upholds the state as the wielder of the sword (Rom. 13:1-4), and finally the just war doctrine bodes deep through church history in the teachings of Ambrose, Augustine, and Aquinas. William Einwechter summarizes the just war doctrine taught by these reformers in his constructive article, “A Christian Perspective on Just War.” 1. A just war is conducted by legitimate civil authority. God has given the state the sword as a means to restrain and punish evil by means of force, even to the point of death. (Rom 13:1-6; 1 Pet. 2:14) 2. A just war is based on a just cause. Augustine taught that the goal of just war was the restoration of international peace. Summarily just wars are ones which are a defense against aggression, or to help and defend an ally from aggression, or to overthrow rank tyranny and oppression by the rulers. 3. A just war is waged with right intention. Scripture instructs us that the intent behind our actions, however just, is morally determinative. Thus, as Alexander Mosely states, “A just war cannot be considered to be just if reasons of national interest are paramount or overwhelm the pretext of fighting aggression.” 4. A just war is undertaken only as a last resort. Matthew 18:15-17 teaches us the principle that ultimate sanctions should not be initiated until all reconciliatory actions have been depleted. 5. A just war is fought on the basis of a reasonable chance of success. This is not pragmatism or cowardice, but Biblical wisdom. Wisdom which Christ Himself taught so clearly  in Luke 14:28-32. 6. A just war has the establishment of a superior peace as its goal. Einwechter explains this sixth principle as, “The peace which is sought through going to war must be preferable to the peace that would have prevailed if the war had not been fought.” Finally 7. A just war is waged with proper discrimination between combatants and non-combatants. This is essentially the distinguishing of civilians from non-civilians and applying the appropriate behavior to both. In summary, Rushdoony wrote that “Warfare is a part… of a sinful order, but no less right under godly circumstances, and the right of the sword is by no means withheld because the war belongs to the state of sin. Hardly an aspect of our lives can be separated from this sinful order in any full sense, but the law of God speaks to covenant-keepers in a sinful world, not to men in heaven.” Or to put it simply and soberly as Solomon did, “There is a time for war.”


Upon consideration of the reformer’s doctrine of just war taken from Scripture I would conclude that the War of 1812 was indeed just. 1, It was the legitimate American government who declared war on Britain. 2, It was a just act of defense against the British abuse of their liberty and property. 3, It was with the intention of establishing peaceful trade and a strong nation. 4, It was a resort taken after years of wrongful aggression by the British. 5, It was certainly taken with reasonable possibility of success since they had defeated the British only thirty years earlier. 6, The temporary cost of peace was adequately proportional to the the peace which both nations experienced afterward and even to this day. 7, The war was fought with civility and proper discrimination between combatants and non-combatants. As far as the War of 1812 against the British is concerned it was a just war. I have with me here a copy of the War Proclamation from President James Madison, and as I read it see if you can distinguish some of these principles of Just War being met…


The War of 1812 between America and Great Britain was a war of tremendous consequence. At the end Britain recognized America, and America recognized Canada. The British diplomat Augustus J. Foster, who served as his country’s minister to America during the years of the war, acknowledged the war’s real, and enduring significance, “The Americans have brought us to speak of them with respect.” What The First War for Independence had not fully been able to perform The Second War for Independence (Or the War of 1812) did. For Canada it was a remarkable event. A nation of a mere 300,000 defended itself aptly from the attack of a nation 8 million strong. Henry Clay, a renowned War Hawk, wrote to the United States Senate, “The conquest of Canada is in our power. I trust I shall not be deemed presumptive when I state that I verily believe that the militia of Kentucky are alone competent to place Montreal and Upper Canada at your feet.”  Turns out he was presumptive. The war which was supposed to attach the British North to the American South accomplished exactly the opposite. It ensured Canada as its own entity, never to become part of the Union to the South. While Britain meant it for evil, God meant it for good. America won its peace and Canada gained its nationality. What a wonderful picture of God’s hand of providence in the affairs of men. The War of 1812 wasn’t serendipitous, but divinely ordained.

The Biblical Philosophy of History

(This is the first transcript of a series of lectures I have been teaching on Canadian history. Its purpose is to present the Biblical philosophy of history as a foundation to future lectures on “God’s Providence in Canadian History.)


Martin Luther declared “Historians are the most useful people and the best teachers, and they cannot be sufficiently honored, praised, and thanked.” The observation of the past is indispensable. Alexis de Toqueville in his work “Democracy in America” noted that the American’s were “Aware of the past, curious about the future, and ready to argue the present.” I believe this is an exemplary state of mind to be in.

Yet far surpassing these comments from Luther & Toqueville is the example and commands of the Word of God. In the book of Deuteronomy alone, Moses reminded the people perpetually of the history of their deliverance from Egypt and preservation in the wilderness, he encouraged them to teach this history diligently to the descending generations, and warned them never to forget it. In faithfully recounting God’s mighty acts to every generation they established God as their national identity, the object of their worship, and their source of law. When the historians of Israel failed in their task the people forgot and stumbled as a nation. But not only is Scripture – in its totality – a record of history, but it moreover gives us foundational commands, and doctrines to embrace concerning history. Consequentially, these truths will transform our philosophy of history.

Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons.” Deuteronomy 4:9

(Philosophy is the art of “Giving a reason.” In our instance we are looking at history so if the word philosophy confuses you in the title, we can simply rename it, “The Biblical Reason for History.”)

Quite obviously, I say Biblical to define the “type” of reason Christian’s hold. We will see in this message that it is far removed from the unbeliever’s reason(s) -or lack thereof- for history. So what is the reason for history?


The reason for history is to glorify God in rightly recording and recounting of how God executes His decrees, especially the exaltation of His Son and the creation of a people for Himself, through His divine acts of providence in the affairs of His creation in time.


The first thing which should be stated about the “Reason for history” is that there actually is one. Some would deny this, but for the Christian this is our basic premise.

The modern Darwinist state and institutions affirm there is no reason for history. Because when man is generated by nature he is made the mere product of his environment and is passive in his relationship with it. Nature made him, his environment conditions him, and natural evolution has complete sovereignty over his development. Thus man is an antonymous and independent being who’s purpose is incapacitated by his reasonless environment.

These Darwinistic institutions hate history, as it is full of providential meaning. Moreover they hate the future because it is unpredictable and uncontrollable by man. In Evolutionary hypothesis, the future is only determined by the ambiguity of random chance, evolution, and natural selection. Furthermore they hate the present because time is inescapable, time is limited, and time reminds them of their appointment with death.

And thus when a nation forgets, neglects, or rewrites history they stumble. How? Geoffrey Botkin in his article, “Why the Public School System Teaches Revisionist History”  wisely stated “Historical revisionism is the hammer in the blueprint of societal transformation toward humanistic utopia.” What does this mean? Botkin continues “Rebellious men seek to make all men passive, emasculated, through ignorance of history. Men without purpose become passive… As he becomes passive and cowardly this emasculated man places himself under the dominion of a new god for protection and provision – the social planners of their scientific secular sovereign state. This is why it has been so necessary for the modern statist governments to deny God’s history and theology. If God’s predestination is ruled out, man’s predestination or total planning can then take its place. When God’s enemies replace history with sociology the purpose of history ceases to be understanding; it becomes an instrument of control.

And so “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Hosea 6:4.


The Biblical reason for history begins with the decrees of God. Indeed the reason for creation, predestination, providence, and all of this created world initiates with the decrees of God. The Westminster Catechism states, “God’s decrees are the wise, free and holy acts of the counsel of His will, whereby, from all eternity, He hath, for His own glory, unchangeably foreordained whatsoever comes to pass in time, especially concerning angels and men.” This is the clear testimony of God Himself, “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from the ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” Isaiah 46:9-10.

God has not only foreordained, fore-planned, fore-decreed, and predestined everything come to pass according to His immutable and infallible will, but He has foreordained, fore-planned, fore-decreed, and predestined the means by which they come to pass. His sovereignty is comprehensive and universal. We confess with the four and twenty elders of Revelation chapter 4, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” 

Now the main objection which can arise to this – as it inevitably does in reformed arguments – “I cannot believe in God’s decrees, because it does not fit in with my views of human freedom.” After all, human action is in the forefront of history. For the sake of time let me quote John Calvin, “It is an insufferable wickedness to think that we, who can hardly crawl on earth, should take nothing as true except what submits itself to investigation by our eyes… But because of the dense darkness of the human mind by which all knowledge is rendered thin and perishable, Scripture builds for us a higher watchtower from which to observe God overruling all the works of men so as to direct them to the end appointed by Him.” “Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?” Romans 9:20


Now what is the eternal plan of God? What is the decree of God? The making of a people for Himself by His Son. Again, to be brief, the Westminster Catechism states, “God, having out of His own good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace to deliver them out of a state of sin and misery, and to bring them into a state of salvation by a Redeemer.” It would be a grave error to read this and imagine that we are the centerpiece of history and of the decrees of God. We are not, His Son is, never confuse the two. History is the account of the Father preparing a beautiful bride, the Church, for His glorious, worthy, and exalted Son. This is the projection of time. This is the end declared from the beginning. This is the pleasure of God. This is the reason of history. Not the tower of Babylon, not the humanist empire, not the socialist utopia, not the sovereign secular state, it is the Lord Jesus Christ. “Then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom of God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet.” 1 Corinthians 15:24-25

A significant aspect of the Biblical philosophy of history is that time does not come of a primeval past, but from eternity. In the evolutionary concept, time comes from the past, moves blindly in the present, and fades into a unknowable future. According to Scripture though, time is from eternity since it moves out of and in terms of the eternal decrees of God. Time does not develop with evolutionary fashion in the Biblical philosophy, instead, it unfolds from future to present to past. Nathan R. Wood stated, “The future is the source, it is the reservoir of time which some day will be present, and then past.” As R.J Rushdoony wrote, “The present… comes out from the invisible future. The present perpetually and ever-newly embodies the future in visible, audible, livable form; and returns again into invisible time in the past.”


God executeth his decrees in the works of creation and providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will.” Westminster Catechism. The reality of creation and providence are central to the doctrine of history and their verity is far removed from the “Natural process” hypothesis of revisionist historians, and the “God is dead” indoctrination of state institutions. Moreover, the implications and assumptions of this declaration are truly infinite in their scope and effect.


“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1. The implications of this truth are enormous, as also the denials of it have been. “The earth is the Lords, and the fulness thereof; the world, and the that dwell therein. For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.” Psalm 24:1 “And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the work of thine hands.” The universe being God’s workmanship forthrightly assumes the sovereignty of His decrees to be over everything, because everything is His own. The jurisdiction of His decrees is the universe, and it is in the universe where He executes His decrees.

Necessarily, man is not the product of His environment, but the handiwork of God. Man is not antonymous, but the creature of the Creator. History is not man’s to determine, but God’s to unfold. History is not of man, but it is of God because God created it in the beginning. Historical revisionism is rebellion against God and furthermore blasphemy. It is a conscious attempt by men to injure God’s work of creation, to rob men of passion and purpose, and to place men under a new god, namely, themselves. The goal of history revisionists is for all men to take every thought captive to the demands of the welfare state. The goal of Biblical history is for all men to take every thought captive to Christ and His work in the affairs of men. The stories on which the revisionists must focus their greatest creativity are those in which God’s providential grace is most evident. And the one story which God’s grace is most evident, above the Reformation, above the founding of America, above the adventures of our great Christian leaders is that of creation (With the exception of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.) Creation is not only the beginning of history, but the foundation of it.


God’s works of providence are His most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all His creatures; ordering them, and all their actions, to His own glory.” Westminster Catechism. Creationism and providence are logically inseparable. Because creation is the handiwork of God, creation is therefore determined by God. Herman Bavinck wrote, “From the very moment that the world in its entirety or each of its creatures was called into being by the creative act of God, they immediately come under the surveillance of God’s providence… God not only created the universe; He keeps the universe in existence second by second. God provides for and governs His creation and everything in it according to His predetermined plan. This is providence.” The Scriptures give loud testimony to this, “By Him all things consist.” Col 1:17b. “Upholding all things by the word of His power.” Heb. 1:3 “His kingdom ruleth over all.” Psalms 103:19.

The doctrine of providence is absolutely critical in history. R.C. Sproul is a theological teacher well known for his lectures and writings on God’s sovereignty and I believe he describes providence beautifully. “The doctrine of the providence of God leaves no room for fate, blind or otherwise. God is not blind; neither is He capricious. For Him there are no accidents. With God there are no cases of chance events… If chance exists, God cannot exist. If one molecule flies wild by chance, then God is not sovereign. If God is not sovereign, then God is not God. God and chance simply cannot coexist… Accidents are events we do not intend to take place. But there is another intentionality that transcends our intentionality. The intentions of God, as seen in the concurrence between the intents of Joseph’s brothers and the intent of God, are never subject to chance or fate. Chance is a repugnant term to ascribe to the actions of God. Albert Einstein was correct when he stated, ‘God doesn’t roll dice.’”


This doctrine absolutely thrills me when it comes to history. This is how the Biblical philosophy of history is mind blowing. How God has from eternity and for His own pleasure decreed what shall come to pass, and furthermore created the universe into existence to be the theatre of His action, and moreover has providentially prescribed everything that comes to pass in His sovereignty. Now it is our duty and privilege, especially us as Christians, to search the annals of time and history to uncover God’s providential purpose in the affairs of men.

We can examine God’s hand of providence in the great characters of the theatre of Canadian history such as our first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, the Chief Commissioner of the Hudson’s Bay Company, Donald A. Smith, the Lieutenant-Governor of the North West Territories and founder of Regina, Edgar Dewdney, the engineer in charge of the mountain division of the CPR, Major A.B. Rogers, the godly man who accompanied Major Rogers and founded of Lake Luise, Tom Wilson, the famous William Cornelious Van Horne, president of the CPR, and the godly minister of St. Matthew’s Church and secretary to the great surveyor Stanford Fleming George Monro Grant. I have only covered 15 years worth of history in those names, and all of which were involved in the building of the transcontinental railway. This is just a minuscule yet momentous piece of Canadian history and I’m greatly excited to commence in a series on the providence of God in Canadian history.

Yet as we recount the history of Canada we must comprehend what the Biblical philosophy of all of history is. The record of how God executes His decrees, especially the exaltation of His Son and the creation of a people for Himself, through His divine acts of providence in the affairs of His creation in time.