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JACOB, EDWIN, educationist and Church of England clergyman; baptized 9 Dec. 1793 in Painswick, Gloucester, England, son of John and Namaria Jacob; d. 31 May 1868 at Cardigan, York County, N.B.

Little is known of Edwin Jacob’s family background but his extensive education suggests a certain level of affluence and social position. In 1811 he entered Corpus Christi College, Oxford, a college founded in 1516 to provide a classical education, which in Jacob’s day had chairs only in Greek, Latin, and theology. He was granted his ba in 1815, an ma in 1818, and from 1820 to 1827 he was a fellow of his college. Ordained a Church of England clergyman in 1827, he served for two years as rector of St Pancras, Chichester, and in 1829 was awarded a dd from Oxford.

Married to Mary Jane Patterson, daughter of an official of the East India service, Jacob’s influential friends included Sir Howard Douglas, lieutenant governor of New Brunswick (1823–31), who recommended him as vice-president and principal of King’s College, Fredericton, when it received a royal charter in 1829. He was also appointed to the chair of divinity. Jacob arrived in the colony with his young family on 11 Oct. 1829, and took up residence near the Nashwaak River. In addition to his college duties he served as missionary to the parish of St Marys and the surrounding country. He also built up a thriving farm at Cardigan to augment his small college income, insufficient for a family of two daughters and six sons. In 1840 Jacob hoped he would become bishop of the new see of New Brunswick, which was in prospect; Bishop John Inglis* of Nova Scotia apparently supported him, but three years later when the archbishop of Canterbury created this see, he named the Reverend John Medley* of Exeter Cathedral the first bishop.

During the 1840s the entire New Brunswick educational system, including King’s College, came under attack by reforming critics and liberal educationists, who had long regarded the college as the bastion of Tory privilege and Anglicanism; its learned principal shared in its unpopularity, especially after responsible government was introduced, a change “most distasteful” to the “worthy Doctor who had no sympathy with Colonial political progress,” as the Fredericton Head Quarters later noted. Partially succumbing to these pressures, the predominantly Anglican assembly passed a bill in 1845 taking the college presidency from the archdeacon of the Church of England in New Brunswick and barring Jacob and the other professors from membership on the college council, which was now open to non-Anglicans. In 1849 Jacob argued that a proposed suspension of the chair of divinity was contrary to the college’s charter and that, if it was carried out, he would be unable to meet his financial obligations, including maintenance of his farm, which he felt was contributing “to the agricultural importance of my adopted country.” An appeal to Sir Howard Douglas, no longer lieutenant governor but still, after 14 years, a visitor of the college, saved the divinity chair, but Jacob’s stipend was reduced by two-thirds.

Calls for change continued. In 1851, when the assembly debated a motion to convert the college to an agricultural school, Jacob denounced the move in his encaenial address: “We must not listen to the cry which calls us from the pursuit of truth and virtue to the lower paths and grosser occupations of the multitude.” The motion was defeated, but the new lieutenant governor, Sir Edmund Walker Head, saw the need for change. He had already helped to establish an engineering course and in 1852 he suggested a study of the college to rescue it from “a position of comparative inaction and consequent danger.” Jacob was named to a three-man study committee but it accomplished little. Two years later, Albert James Smith*, a strong supporter of the Methodist college at Sackville, argued that an institution with only 15 students did not warrant public support and introduced a bill to discontinue the £2,200 grant to King’s College. A bitter debate lasting 15 days ended when the house accepted Head’s suggestion for a commission of inquiry. The five members were John Hamilton Gray*, James Brown, and John Simcoe Saunders* of New Brunswick, John William Dawson*, superintendent of education for Nova Scotia, and Egerton Ryerson* of Canada West. Their report, released in 1855, brought a new public attack on the college, but because of the general instability of the provincial governments, its recommendations were not debated until 1858.

By an act of 1859 which incorporated the report’s major recommendations, King’s College became the University of New Brunswick, a non-denominational provincial university. The chair of theology which Jacob had held for 30 years was abolished, and he was demoted to a professorship of classical and moral philosophy. Jacob appealed to the Duke of Newcastle, arguing that an act of a provincial legislature could not supplant a royal charter, but Lieutenant Governor John Henry Thomas Manners-Sutton* had assured the concurrence of the Colonial Office in the assembly’s decision. Refusing to recognize the new order, Jacob was finally pensioned off in 1861. Even then, he had to be evicted from the university premises; when confronted in his classroom, he had but one student, his daughter. In the ancient Oxonian tradition, to the end he was endeavouring, as he said, “to communicate knowledge intrinsically valuable, with the disposition to use it for the common benefit.” He died in seclusion on his farm in 1868.

According to historian W. S. MacNutt*, Jacob “was probably the only public functionary in the province upon whom the political changes of the passing years had made utterly no impression.” An official memorial volume of the university was somewhat kinder: noting that “much of the opposition which greeted his efforts was ignorant, short-sighted and misguided,” it concluded that “social and cultural conditions in the young colony were simply not ripe for work of the kind and standard he was prepared to offer.”

Richard Wilbur

PANB, REX/pa/Education papers, University of New Brunswick, 1815–90. UNBL, Edwin Jacob file; King’s College, College Council, minutes, 1829–61. Head Quarters, 22 Aug. 1866, 3 June 1868. Edwin Jacob, Sermons intended for the propagation of the Gospel (Fredericton, 1835). A catalogue of all graduates in divinity, law, medicine, arts and music, who have regularly proceeded or been created in the University of Oxford, between October 10, 1659, and December 31, 1850 . . . (Oxford, 1851), 358. Hannay, History, of N.B., II, 145–66. G. H. Lee, An historical sketch of the first fifty years of the Church of England in the province of New Brunswick (1783–1833) (Saint John, N.B., 1880). MacNutt, New Brunswick. Desmond Pacey, “The humanist tradition,” The University of New Brunswick memorial volume, ed. A. G. Bailey (Fredericton, 1950), 61–62.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Richard Wilbur, “JACOB, EDWIN,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed December 11, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/jacob_edwin_9E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/jacob_edwin_9E.html
Author of Article:   Richard Wilbur
Title of Article:   JACOB, EDWIN
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1976
Year of revision:   1976
Access Date:   December 11, 2023