DEWAR, EDWARD HENRY, Church of England clergyman, theologian, and author; b. 31 Aug. 1812 at Amherstburg, Upper Canada, only son of Lieutenant John Dewar of the Canadian Fencibles regiment and his wife Maria; married twice, having one son by his first wife, Amy, and twin daughters by his second wife, Caroline Elliott, whom he married in 1859; d. 24 Oct. 1862 at Thornhill, Canada West.
Shortly after Edward Dewar’s birth his father died. Edward received his early education at Hamburg (Republic of Germany), and matriculated at Exeter College, Oxford, on 27 Jan. 1831. He received a ba in 1834 and an ma in 1837, and was therefore in Oxford at the genesis of the Oxford Movement in the Church of England by which he was greatly influenced. After his ordination he is known to have taught and was chaplain at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton, for six months in 1840 before returning to Hamburg as chaplain to the British residents. There he completed in 1844 German Protestantism, and the right of private judgment in the interpretation of Holy Scripture.
This work was a scathing attack on German liberal Protestantism. Scripture, Dewar argued, could be interpreted by recourse either to the principle of church authority, “Catholicity,” or to that of private judgement, “Rationalism.” The latter principle had in Germany permitted the “wildest speculations of fancy” from Luther onwards. Dewar, competent in the German language, traced increasing error through Wolff, Kant, Schelling, Hegel, and the Neo-Hegelians. He contrasted the melancholy state of religion in Germany with that in England, “excelled by no nation upon the earth for piety,” where catholicity was upheld. His book was important for its presentation of current German philosophy to English readers; Bishop John Strachan described it as “well known” in Canada.
Dewar returned to Canada in 1851. He assisted the Reverend H. B. Jessopp in establishing the Cobourg church grammar school, and he and his wife looked after the boarders. In October 1852 he became rector of St John’s church in Sandwich (Windsor), C.W., and despite ill health he played a notable part in the early development of Windsor. He built its first Anglican church, All Saints’, which opened on 10 Sept. 1857, and served as its rector while retaining his previous charge. Hopeful of rescuing the young from “grovelling pastimes,” he was a founder in 1855, and president in 1857, of the mechanics’ institute with its public library. He examined the children of the Protestant common school, yet championed in synod the right of all Protestant denominations to have their own separate schools. He was also interested in agricultural education.
In October 1855 the first issue of a 16-page monthly, the Churchman’s Friend, appeared at Paris (later moving to Windsor), edited by Dewar and the Reverend Adam Townley. Its aim was to explain and defend in simple language “true Church principles” in line with the high church theology of the Oxford Movement, and in 1857 it supported Alexander Neil Bethune* for bishop of the new “western diocese” which became the diocese of Huron. Dewar had earlier asked Strachan to nominate directly a candidate for clerical and lay approval in order to forestall the likely election of the evangelical Benjamin Cronyn*. After a controversial career the magazine died in 1857; Dewar attempted unsuccessfully to launch another in 1858.
Dewar was appointed rector at Thornhill, C.W., near Toronto, on 1 Oct. 1859. His wish to move to a place where he might be more influential in church affairs long antedated Cronyn’s election as bishop and had been frustrated mainly by Strachan’s desire to have “one of the most able and presentable of my clergy” on the borders of the diocese to “make some amends for our deficiencies on other parts of our border.” Dewar proved in 1861 a strong defender of Trinity College, Toronto, against Cronyn’s charges of Romish teaching by Provost George Whitaker*. In 1861 and 1862 Dewar was chosen a delegate to the provincial synod. His parishioners, however, complained of neglect.
Strachan regretted Dewar’s early death, recognizing his many contributions to the church. “He was not only a good churchman, and well read, but one on whom I could at all times depend. His manners were not indeed very polished and I found him distant and reserved, yet always correct and ready to support the right course.”
E. H. Dewar was the author of The Church Society of the Diocese of Toronto: a letter addressed to the incorporated members ([Windsor, Ont., 1858]); German Protestantism, and the right of private judgment in the interpretation of Holy Scripture: a brief history of German theology . . . (Oxford and London, 1844); The history of the English language: a lecture delivered at Cobourg, C.W., March 15th, 1852 (Cobourg, [Ont.] 1852); A letter to Dr. A. Neander . . . containing some remarks on his review of a work, entitled, “German Protestantism, and the right of private judgment in the interpretation of Holy Scripture” (Oxford and London, 1845); National calamities; a call to repentance: a sermon preached April 18th, 1855 . . . (Toronto, 1855); Plain words for plain people: an appeal to the laymen of Canada, in behalf of common sense and common honesty, being a review of the “Strictures” on the two letters of Provost Whitaker (Toronto, 1861); Specimens of the early-German Christian poetry of the eighth and ninth centuries . . . (London and Hamburg, 1845). PAO, Strachan (John) papers, letterbook, 1854–62, letters to Edward Dewar; no date package 8, personalia, “Memorandum giving a short sketch of the Rev. E. H. Dewar.” Trinity College Archives (Toronto), Strachan (John) papers, ser.1, 7 March 1851; 3, 10 May, 11 June 1855; 31 Oct. 1862. Churchman’s Friend (Paris; Windsor, [Ont.]), 1855–57. Church of England, Diocese of Huron, Minutes of the Synod (London, Ont.), 1858; Diocese of Toronto, Proc. of the Synod (Toronto), 1861–63. Windsor Herald (Windsor, [Ont.]), 17, 24 Feb., 27 Oct., 22 Dec. 1855; 14 March, 28 Nov., 26 Dec. 1856. C. F. Headon, “The influence of the Oxford movement upon the Church of England in eastern and central Canada, 1840–1900” (unpublished phd thesis, McGill University, Montreal, 1974).