JACKSON, JAMES, Methodist minister; b. 1789 or 1790, probably in New York State; d. 6 July 1851 in Norwich, Upper Canada.
All that is known of James Jackson’s background is that his father’s family was in Potsdam, N.Y., during the War of 1812 and immigrated to Edwardsburgh Township, Upper Canada, following that conflict. At some later date Jackson may have served as presiding elder’s supply assisting the Reverend Isaac B. Smith on the Yonge Street circuit, near York (Toronto), of the Methodist Episcopal Church, an American body that had missions in Upper Canada. In 1817 Jackson was recommended for its ministry and was sent to the Duffin’s Creek circuit in Pickering Township, returning in 1818 to the Yonge Street charge. Ordained deacon in 1819, he was assigned to the Long Point circuit where he remained until 1821, an unusually long term of three years at a time when one-year appointments were the normal Methodist practice. From 1821 to 1824 he served on the Westminster and the Thames circuits near London.
Jackson was popular among the church’s followers. John Saltkill Carroll*, a colleague, said that he “was certainly one of the most attractive preachers of that day,” an assessment reflected in the success he enjoyed. During his last year at Long Point he reported an increase of 102 members from the 404 recorded in 1819, and at Westminster membership grew from 356 to 475. It was at this time, however, that conflict arose between Jackson and the church’s leaders, including William Case, and a major part of the 1822 session of the Genesee Conference was spent debating his status. A motion to expel him was reduced to a temporary suspension of his ministry and a reproof from the presiding bishop. Despite the questions raised about his temperament and style of ministry he was ordained a preacher in 1824 and reassigned to the Westminster circuit the following year.
In 1826 Jackson was superannuated because of poor health and began work as a mission school teacher in Westminster. His problems with the church continued, now largely relating to its association with the American parent. In his desire for independence he sided with Henry Ryan*, a fellow preacher, and agitated for the complete separation of the Canadian church. The two were not satisfied when that goal was achieved in 1828 and organized conventions to disrupt the new body, called the Methodist Episcopal Church in Canada. In 1829 Jackson was charged with making slanderous statements concerning certain preachers, and with the misuse of mission funds. He did not appear in his own defence and was expelled.
Jackson then assisted Ryan in organizing the Canadian Wesleyan Methodist Church, a “reformed and pure Church” whose government featured lay representation and an elective presidency; Although the Ryanites did succeed in attracting some members from the Methodist Episcopals, their numbers remained small, and in 1833 the movement received a major setback when Ryan died. Jackson, who had returned to the arduous labours of an active preacher, then assumed the leadership, serving as president of conference in 1835. His most urgent problem was the possibility of a general return of his members to the Methodist Episcopal Church in Canada following its union in 1833 with the Wesleyan Methodist Church. The merger with that British body had reduced the hostile feelings within his own group toward the Methodist Episcopals. To counter the threat he campaigned for union with the Methodist New Connexion Church, an English sect which was also an exponent of stronger lay representation in church government. He succeeded in 1841 when the 1,915 members of his church joined that group to form the Canadian Wesleyan Methodist New Connexion Church. Jackson, then serving on the Welland Canal circuit, became its first president. As Carroll commented, “This union put that body on a much more respectable footing than it had ever been before.”
In 1843 the British parent body requested that the Canadian mission send a delegate to England to report on its work and to raise funds, and Jackson was chosen. The clergyman sent from England to be superintendent of the mission in Canada wrote a letter introducing Jackson to his counterpart in England. It provides clues to the difficulties Jackson encountered in his pastoral ministry: “Bro Jackson is a sanguine go ahead man he leaves consequences for other people to think about. In the management of business he is determined and persevering but lacks prudence. He is also very fond of controversy There is hardly a body in the Province but he has been at war with, less or more either with their doctrine or govt. . . . At the missionary services and in Revival meetings I think you will find him an acquisition. I hope our friends will bear with his American peculiarities.” His tour was partially successful in that contributions to the missionary society of the English church increased by one-third, but his appeal for financial support to liquidate the Canadian church’s debt was less rewarding. He then suggested a great Canadian bazaar: friends in England would donate goods to Canada where they could be sold and the proceeds applied toward a theological seminary, houses for ministers, and financial grants to missionaries. The plan was accepted and goods arrived from England, but no record of the outcome has been found.
After his return to Canada, Jackson served the Hamilton and Welland Canal circuits (1844–45) before becoming supernumerary minister at Waterford (1846), Malahide Township (1847), and Norwich (1849–50). Apart from serving a third time as president of conference in 1848, he rapidly declined as a leader in the united church. The dominant influence became the superintendent and preachers who were sent out from England. Jackson “labored till increasing infirmities obliged him to retire.” He died on 6 July 1851 at the age of 61. It is not known whether he ever married. The church he helped form and served at great personal cost barely exceeded 7,000 members at its peak and was the first of the smaller Methodist groups to unite with the Methodist Church of Canada in 1874.
SOAS, Methodist Missionary Soc. Arch., Methodist New Connexion Church, Foreign and Colonial Missions Committee, corr.., North America, John Addyman to W. Cooke, 25 July 1843; James Jackson to Cooke, 21 April 1844 (mfm. at UCA). UCA, Biog. files, James Jackson; Albert Burnside, “The Canadian Wesleyan Methodist New Connexion Church, 1841--–1874” (typescript, 1967), 26, 148–49; “Relationships between the Methodist Church in the Canadas, the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States, and the Wesleyan Methodist Society in England, 1791–1847” (typescript, 1959), 29–30. Canadian Wesleyan Methodist New Connexion Church, Minutes of the annual conference (Toronto), 1852: 7–8. Cornish, Cyclopædia of Methodism, 1: 43, 240, 468. Carroll, Case and his cotemporaries, 2: 95–96, 98–99, 306, 390–91; 3: 1, 3, 253–54, 295. [H.] O. Miller, A century of western Ontario: the story of London, “The Free Press,” and western Ontario, 1849–1949 (Toronto, 1949; repr. Westport, Conn., 1972), 21–23, 25–26. J. E. Sanderson, The first century of Methodism in Canada (2v., Toronto, 1908–10), 1: 141, 206, 226. Thomas Webster, History of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Canada (Hamilton, Ont., 1870), 228–29. D. J. Brock, “The confession: Burleigh’s prehanging ‘statement’ mystery” and “That confession again: error leads to further probe, suggestion of Burley’s innocence,” London Free Press (London, Ont.), 10 April 1971: 8M and 24 April 1971: 8M respectively. H. O. Miller, “The history of the newspaper press in London, 1830–1875,” OH, 32 (1937): 120–21.