Covenanter Democracy: Scottish Popular Religion, Ethnicity, and the Varieties of Politico-religious Dissent in Upper Canada, 1815-1841


  • Michael Gauvreau


The Anglican Church functioned as the primary institution for the transmission of Tory values in the British colonies, a fact recognized and stolidly defended by Upper Canadian elites, who used the church as their central weapon against any challenge to the Tory state from the American Republic or from internal dissent. One underexplored variable that affected the shape and diversity of the Protestant and Reformist critique of Anglican Toryism was ethnic identity, which often found its primary expression through religion. Nowhere was the fit between ethnicity, evangelical religion, and politics more overt than among Scottish Presbyterian Seceders who emigrated in large numbers to Upper Canada in the years after 1815. As an examination of the relationship between their faith and political radicalism illustrates, the critique of Tory-Anglican dominance did not emanate from a unified and homogeneous Reformist ideology, but rather from several divergent strands of political radicalism anchored in dissenting religious cultures and practices.