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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/269

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SKETCH OF SIR DANIEL WILSON.

high reputation which it gave him—a reputation sufficiently indicated by Hallam's opinion that the book was "the most scientific treatment of the archæological evidences of primitive history that had ever been written"—procured him the appointment, in 1853, to the chair of History and Literature at University College in Toronto. He removed to that city, and, as one who knew him and the colony in those days has written, "he brought a new element into the life of the place, and indeed of the province. Representing 'letters,' and winning favor to them by his eloquent speech, in a community too much absorbed in business, he has left his mark clear and deep on young Ontario and the whole Dominion. Thousands have been consciously benefited by his character, life, and works." From this time till his death, nearly forty years after, his life was bound up with the interests of the college. It was his boast that for thirty years he never omitted a lecture. The work of his professorship harmonized with his tastes, and gave him a field in which his powers were soon felt. "As a lecturer in history," we are told, "he was noted for the breadth and liberality of his views, and for the spirit of toleration and courtesy which he displayed toward those who differed from him. In archæology and ethnology, subjects peculiarly his own, he never failed to excite interest, and generally succeeded in arousing no small degree of enthusiasm."

But other and less congenial duties were frequently cast upon him. The large endowment granted by the Government to the secularized university was deemed by the denominational colleges an injustice and an injury to themselves. A determined effort was instituted by their supporters to secure a division of it among the different colleges. An appeal was made to the Legislature, which referred the question to a committee. Before this committee. Prof. Wilson, as the foremost member of University College, was appointed to appear and defend the interests of his college and the cause of secular education. This he did with so much force of argument that the hostile attempt was promptly defeated, and was never afterward renewed. All controversy was distasteful to him, but when a cause dear to him was endangered, and the "perfervid Scottish temper" was once aroused, he could strike heavy blows. In the present case the usual reluctance was felt, but finally, he wrote, "I plucked up heart of grace, and found a grim satisfaction in mauling the assailants of our college militant."

In 1880, on the death of the Rev. Dr. McCaul, who was the first President of University College, Prof. Wilson was promoted to that office. The position gave at last the needed opportunity for the display of his remarkable energy and organizing talent, always directed by a judicious forethought and impelled by an un-