The Influence of John Graves Simcoe

Most of us in Canada celebrate the Civic Holiday on the first Monday in August. In some regions it is known as Simcoe Day. The historical figure behind this holiday was John Graves Simcoe, a British Army general and the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada from 1791 until 1796 in southern Ontario. He founded the village of York, which is now Toronto, and was involved in introducing courts of law, trial by jury, English common law, and freehold land tenure.

One of the most significant laws John Graves Simcoe was instrumental in introducing was the abolition of slavery in Canada. He believed in a model community built on conservative principles and is seen by many Canadians as a founding figure in Canadian history. Simcoe’s abolition work began when he witnessed the mistreatment of a slave by the name of Chloe Cooley. Some time later, guided by his Christian principles against slavery, he influenced the English colonists of Upper Canada to pass a law against it in 1793. Slavery ended in Upper Canada in 1810, nearly 25 years before it was abolished in the British Empire by 1834.

“The principles of the British Constitution do not admit of that slavery which Christianity condemns. The moment I assume the Government of Upper Canada under no modification will I assent to a law that discriminates by dishonest policy between natives of Africa, America, or Europe.”

— John Graves Simcoe, Address to the Legislative Assembly

In today’s world, we can be inspired by the actions of John Graves Simcoe as he endeavoured to protect those who were vulnerable in society. Although he did not live a perfect life while engaging primarily in military action for the British Empire throughout his career, he still embraced his Christian convictions throughout his life.

The challenge for us today is to become engaged in our circle of influence and make a difference for others, especially those who are vulnerable around us. My prayer is that we treat one another with respect and equality and be encouraged by the words of the Apostle Paul in Galatians 3.28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (NKJV)

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