Manitoba History: The Rev. William Cockran: The Man and the Image
by Raymond M. Beaumont
No history of Red River would be complete without an analysis of the life of the Reverend William Cockran, whose influential ministry spanned the formative years of the settlement from 1825 to 1865.  Not surprisingly, a number of conflicting images of the man have evolved over the past century and a half. On the one hand, he has been idealized as a selfless, persevering, and heroic Anglican missionary, particularly in the works of historians and churchmen writing before the 1960s; on the other, he has been stigmatized in some recent publications as a racist, troublemaking, and dictatorial colonialist. The aim of this study is to analyze the negative images of Cockran articulated in the works of Frits Pannekoek and George van der Goes Ladd, in order to determine if they act as useful correctives to the less critical images of the past.
Glimpses of William Cockran can be found in his journals and correspondence preserved in the Archives of the Church Missionary Society, and in the histories and reminiscences of those who knew him best. A useful starting point for information on him is John E. Foster’s brief biographical sketch.  Cockran was sent out to Red River by the Church Missionary Society in 1825 to assist the Reverend David T. Jones, who had replaced John West in 1823.  Officers and labourers of the Hudson’s Bay Company were retiring with their native families and relations to this settlement, and it was to these people, most of them mixed-bloods, that Cockran directed his evangelical zeal.  He managed a mission farm and trained his converts in agriculture, in hopes that they could look after their temporal needs within the settlement and not have to travel about the country in search of food. He also worked to promote literacy and practical education among young and old alike. His first years were spent at Upper Church (later St. John’s Cathedral in Winnipeg), and at Middle Church (St. Paul’s). Then, in 1829, he moved downriver to the Rapids, where he established the Lower Church (now St. Andrews-on-the-Red). In 1831, he began to work with the Saulteaux, who were more resistant to Christianity than the mixed-bloods had been, but the support of Chief Peguis and the steady stream of Muskego Cree from the north brought some success, and by 1836 he was able to build a church (later St. Peter’s) at the Indian Settlement.  For the next ten years, he worked unceasingly, until a suitable replacement enabled him to retire on account of his deteriorating health. He moved with his family to Toronto, but recovered sufficiently to be able to return to the west the following year. He accepted the post of chaplain to the Hudson’s Bay Company and settled near St. John’s, but in 1851 gave up that position and went back to the Indian Settlement. It was while he was living there that David Anderson, first bishop of Rupert’s Land, made him an archdeacon in 1853.
Four years later, he moved to Portage la Prairie, where some of his former parishioners had established farms as early as 1852 and a church (St. Mary’s) by 1855. He worked among these people and the neighbouring Saulteaux for eight years. Then, in 1865, ill health again forced him to retire to Toronto, but he soon felt so much better that he returned to the west after only a few months’ absence. Good health proved illusory, however, for he died suddenly at Portage la Prairie on October 1 of that year and was buried shortly afterwards in the churchyard at St. Andrew’s, bringing to an end forty years of missionary service to the mixed-blood and aboriginal people of Rupert’s Land. With such a lengthy career, coinciding as it did with the critical first years of the Red River Settlement, it is not surprising that Archdeacon Cockran came under the scrutiny of historians during his lifetime and in the years since. Alexander Ross, an early settler and contemporary of Cockran at Red River, was one of the first in the colony to write about him. He said “of all the English missionaries that ever came to Red River, he [Cockran] was for a long time the greatest favourite ... due to his earnestness, his candour, and his zeal as a minister, qualities for which everyone esteemed him.”  Donald Gunn, another settler and contemporary, described Cockran as a “zealous and indefatigable preacher of the Gospel.”  Joseph James Hargrave, who arrived at the colony in 1861 to act as secretary for his uncle, Governor William Mactavish, said in his history of Red River that “Mr. Cochran [sic] is universally regarded in the colony as the founder of the English Church in Rupert’s Land, and from the date of his arrival till 1849 ... all the principal ecclesiastical business done may be said to have received its impetus from his personal energy.” 
Colin Inkster, writing in 1920, noted, “what a wonderfully many-sided man he [Cockran] was: a great preacher, teacher, a master builder, a master organizer and farm instructor,” and concluded his biography with a glowing quotation from Hargrave’s history.  The Reverend A. C. Garrioch’s First Furrows, published in 1923, paid homage to the earlier accounts, including that of Inkster, but it added much useful information about Cockran’s ministry at Portage la Prairie, where Garrioch “sat under his preaching as a boy and youth, and received life long impressions of his strong and simple faith and untiring energy.” 
This image of Cockran as an extraordinarily talented man, universally praised for his zealous and persistent missionary efforts, and acknowledged as the founder of the Anglican Church in Rupert’s Land, prevailed for years, even through the “turbulent 1960s.”  In 1963, for instance, Philip Carrington, former Archbishop of Quebec, described Cockran as “a man of great energy and a jack-of-all-trades; ‘minister, clerk, schoolmaster, arbitrator, peacemaker, and agricultural director’; he not only Christianised those Indians ... he civilised them.”  Church historian Thomas C. B. Boon, writing in 1962, began his chapter on “The Great Archdeacon” with an effusive quotation by Ross representing Cockran as the tireless, ever-active minister, then followed it up with Hargrave’s assessment, quoted above.  In an article written for the Winnipeg Free Press, October 2, 1965, commemorating the one hundredth anniversary of Cockran’s death, he added a similar quotation by Captain John Palliser.  Then in 1968, writing for The Beaver, he added an image of his own, namely that of William Cockran as inspired mentor because “the boys he schooled and trained so caught his vision of what the Indian people might become that they carried what they had learned beyond the Saskatchewan and Churchill Rivers ... into the valleys of the Columbia and Spokane Rivers in the present State of Washington.” 
Historian John E. Foster subscribed to a similar view. Writing in 1976, he suggested Cockran’s contribution could best be evaluated by studying the mixed-bloods, or Country-born, as he called them, of the next generation, because they suffered less than the Indian and Métis from the changes which swept through Red River during the nineteenth century. He believed they had been better able to adapt to change because of the great influence of Cockran on their culture. Indeed, he concluded, “More than any other person the Reverend William Cockran was responsible for encouraging much that allowed them to enter a new age with a minimum of pain.”  With that tribute, Foster aligned himself with a consensus going back to 1856, when Alexander Ross wrote his history of the Red River Settlement. It was a consensus about to be broken.
The break came in an article written by historian Frits Pannekoek, who argued that Red River society was not united prior to 1870; rather, it had already disintegrated into warring factions based on racial and religious hatreds encouraged in the main by the Anglican clergy.  These were, for the most part, “mediocre products from Islington College,” who prior to 1849 “were usually under the thumb of the senior missionary, the Rev. William Cockran.” Seeing themselves as an elite, they sought to turn the “raw settlement” into “a little Britain in the wilderness, with the parson as a major landowner, teacher, custodian of charities, and law giver.  British ways were extolled, while native ways were condemned.
Pannekoek’s interpretation of Cockran in turn influenced George van der Goes Ladd, whose book, Shall We Gather At The River, was published in 1986.  Ladd represented the Anglican clergy as imperialists of “enormous influence” whose colonial mentality dehumanized aboriginal people and contributed significantly to their decline. Cockran, in particular, was singled out in this regard.  Nevertheless, Ladd saw him as a contradictory figure. On the one hand, he was “Super Settler,” allied with the Hudson’s Bay Company in bringing the aboriginals under British control; on the other, he was “a bit of a Robin Hood,” a defender of those same people against exploitation by that company. 
Ladd’s assessment of Cockran was certainly not influenced by historian John Webster Grant’s Moon of Wintertime, even though he cited it in his bibliography. Writing in 1984, Grant had presented the established view of Cockran, and though aware of Pannekoek’s thesis, did not respond to it directly.  Instead, he defended the actions of the missionaries, portraying them as sincere, highly-principled men who had helped many Native people adjust to the inevitable changes coincident with European colonization.  Grant’s arguments did not modify Pannekoek’s position. In a historiographic paper published in 1991, Pannekoek reaffirmed his view that the clergy had “accentuated conscious and subconscious differences which were largely rooted in religion.”  His book, A Snug Little Flock, also published in 1991, took the same stance. Protestant clergymen were represented as major catalysts in the sectarian and racial dissension which allegedly plagued Red River prior to 1870, because they “assumed the principal roles in the most significant events of the settlement.”  Chief among them was Cockran, who by the 1850s, had become “at best venerable and at worst senile. His inflexibility had cost him the respect and devotion of both his congregation at St. Andrew’s and the Company’s retired officers.” 
Ladd also maintained his original position and added to it. Inspired by the works of psychoanalyst Alice Miller, he published a paper in 1991 representing Cockran as a “poisonous pedagogue,” who was at once “awesome protector” and “punitive disciplinarian.” According to Ladd, when fatherly example and exhortation failed, Cockran literally whipped the Native population of Red River into shape.  In a separate paper that year, Ladd further developed his ideas on this “pedagogical-theological complex” and concluded, “John West and his CMS associates were literally out of their mind[s].”  In other words, not only was Cockran an imperialistic bully bordering on senility, he was mad as well.
At this point, one might be inclined to echo the psalmist’s lament, “How are the mighty fallen!”  But in fact, do such sullied images, so different from previous norms, represent a clearer vision of the life and times of William Cockran, or accurately reveal his character and influence?
Certainly on the surface they represent a broader view, for earlier images were in the main uncritical and Eurocentric, regardless of the type of history in which they were included. Historian Frank A. Peake, who made a clear distinction between secular and religious or ecclesiastical history, characterized the latter from the middle of the nineteenth century to World War I, as either “local, antiquarian, denominational, propagandist or eulogistic.”  However, the so-called secular histories of Red River had much in common with this characterization. They were not church history per se, but their images of the missionaries, and especially of William Cockran, clearly indicated they were in harmony with its central biases. Aboriginal people hardly figured in the picture. Moreover, these early historians paid little attention to documenting their sources. This had changed, of course, by the time Boon were writing. However, even though he had tighter control of his references, his account of Cockran was essentially a chronology.  He also took no notice of the growing debate about the effect of European colonization, including the influence of Christian missions, on aboriginal cultures, a debate that was well underway among historians by the time Frits Pannekoek and George van der Goes Ladd came on the scene.
Although that debate broadened the perspective, it also raised the issue of secular bias, as exemplified in the reaction to John Webster Grant’s Moon of Wintertime, which considered aboriginal as well as Euro-Christian perspectives in missionary encounters. Reviewer Elwood Jones of Trent University acknowledged that Grant had tackled “most of the important questions which had beleaguered the subject,” but “avoided the major historiographical debates about Indian culture.” He felt Grant’s real concern was “the success of the missionary.”  Philip Goldring, on the other hand, felt the book was sensitive to both the missionary and the native, and offered a “religious alternative to the prevalent secular view of Indian missionary contact.”  Goldring attributed that view in part to the influence of anthropology, which he described as being focused on “inegalitarian social structures” and sympathetic to native discontent over the displacement of traditional religious norms by Christianity.  Anthropologists had also contributed to a secular suspicion of missionaries as “members of a small white elite in frontier communities” by taking an anti-colonial stand in support of traditional customs and values, a sentiment which found fertile ground in post-Hiroshima western society.  Indeed, some went far as to suggest that missionaries had a worse effect on native culture than did the traders. Goldring cited scholars like J. M. Bumsted, who “boldly asserted that ‘it was less [commercial] greed than religious idealism which did the Indian in,’ because the greed of the traders ‘was far less dangerous to Indian culture than that most exalted of human motives - selfless service to God.”  He also cited Toby Morantz and Daniel Francis, who “advanced the exaggerated view that missionaries undermined Indian self-respect and cultural pride. This at any rate was their intention.” 
Pannekoek acknowledged the danger. In his critique of John E. Foster, he said, “of all the historians dealing with missionaries he alone has not fallen into the secular trap which isolates the missionary as a singularly malevolent influence.”  Like Foster, he analyzed the effect of Cockran’s ministry on the mixed-bloods. However, to explain the social breakdown he perceived at Red River, he concluded, in contrast to Foster, “The settlement’s clergy and more specifically the Anglican clergy were mainly responsible for this disintegration.”  Although such a conclusion seemingly “isolates the missionary as a singularly malevolent influence,” Pannekoek later denied that he had stepped into the secular trap. 
Whatever the case, Pannekoek’s analysis was based on voluminous research, including Anglican sources, which he felt had been previously under-utilized.  Indeed, the seventeen page bibliography of his book covered nearly everything written about the subject of missionaries at Red River, ample evidence that he had gone beyond any previous researcher in the breadth of his sources. Nevertheless, historian J. R. Miller of the University of Saskatchewan felt his interpretation had “severe weaknesses,” that the limitations of his evidence often forced him “to speculate about motives and events,” and that his methodology could not answer “satisfactorily,” the new questions his research had raised. 
Although Miller did not mention the issue of secular bias in Pannekoek’s work, it needs to be addressed in the writings of George van der Goes Ladd. One might expect Ladd, a United Church minister, to be relatively free of secularism, although historian David Marshall’s study of Methodist, Presbyterian, and United Church clergy should give one pause. According to Marshall, the trend toward secularism was a gradual process beginning in the Victorian Era. Eventually, “Religion became an empty shell; the church’s mission became secularized.” In attempts to cope with the secular demands of their congregations, the Protestant clergy slowly moved away from personal salvation and the supernatural to a greater emphasis on morality and social justice.  Ladd’s ministry on the Peguis Indian Reserve certainly exposed him to issues of social justice, but unlike William Cockran, he did not turn to his Bible for answers.  Instead, he sought out a secular perspective from anthropology, political science, and psychology and applied it to the missionaries who had first christianized the people on that reserve. When he analyzed the records of the Church Missionary Society and other sources, he found enough to confirm the secular view. And although he claimed it was not his intention “to pass judgment on individuals, whose perception and action are culture-bound,” his polemical writing style did just that.  Indeed, his identification of the missionaries with imperialism made them accessories to what he described as a “British North American form of genocide.” 
Those are emotive words, indeed, for the post-Holocaust age in which we live. Ladd set the stage for them in the opening pages of his book, when he said the residents of Peguis Reserve “resembled oppressed people everywhere,” a situation for which “the church bore much of the responsibility” because its missionaries were “thorough-going racists ... incapable of distinguishing the Christian faith from English culture,” making them “ideological cadres of British colonialism.”  These phrases evoke strong feelings in a reading audience educated to the issues involved, especially in relationship to aboriginal people, but do they create a clearer picture of the missionary? Are they any better than the words of Reverend A. C. Garrioch concerning the death of Cockran?
We may smile at the quaintness of Garrioch’s language and look with condescending skepticism on his allusion to providence, but both language and allusion resonated with the views of his readers. Old and hackneyed though they may seem to us, in their day they had power. Boon certainly recognized this when he introduced his chapter on Cockran with the glowing quotation from Ross.  Pannekoek also understood the power of words to influence his readers. He began his article on the disintegration of Red River Society with the sentence, “In 1821 Red River was desolate, destitute and barbarous,” then reinforced it with “uncompromising struggle,” “ruthlessness and violence,” “death and whiskey,” “wild and motley crew,” and similar words and phrases to create an impression that the tiny colony was barely holding together. 
Of course, Pannekoek was preparing the reader to accept his contention that Red River was a deeply divided and racist society, a situation for which he largely blamed the Anglican clergy in general and William Cockran in particular. That hypothesis certainly had appeal after the 1960s when the role of the missionary in the repression of native culture was being seriously addressed not only by the historian, but by a large cross-section of the Canadian public. But can the case be substantiated? Does the negative imagery implicit in the interpretations of both Ladd and Pannekoek add to our understanding of a man like Cockran? Is the imagery sound, or do we accept it because our own untested assumptions are reinforced by the language and form used to develop it? To find out, we have to get past the rhetoric and look at the evidence, for both Ladd and Pannekoek based their authority on a broader analysis of existing sources.
In his book A Snug Little Flock, Pannekoek emphasized the divisions which so-called racist and imperialist clergymen like Cockran encouraged in Red River society. For instance,
The CMS source Pannekoek cited says nothing about Cockran’s alleged dislike of Hunter or his hostility to the other clergy. Hunter did explain his reasons for not signing the clerical petition and regretted that the Bishop pressed the point, but only mentioned Cockran’s name as one of the signatories.  In a letter not cited by Pannekoek, but written four days earlier than Hunter’s, Cockran gave his views on the controversy, but never once mentioned the opposition of Hunter or any other clergyman.  In view of his outspoken nature, it would be surprising if Cockran had not said something.  Also, none of Pannekoek’s earlier references proves Cockran’s hostility to the clergy who came in during the late 1840s. He did state that Cockran was never reconciled to the recently arrived clergy, and was at odds with them for the remainder of his career at Red River, but his footnote provides no proof.  In another reference, he described Smithurst’s criticism of Cockran, with no evidence of the latter’s reaction.  Pannekoek noted, too, that the clergy “polarized into two factors, one opposing and the other supporting the Rev. William Cockran,” but again gave no evidence of his response, and it is difficult to assess the significance of his statement that Cockran secured the dismissal of Smithurst in 1851 “because of his alleged but never substantiated involvement with young boys at St. Peter’s.” 
The sources cited do not document Cockran’s contentiousness; rather, Pannekoek’s text serves to create an impression that the evidence for it exists. Equally problematic is his alteration of the text in a direct quotation. The following renders Cockran’s words as Pannekoek wrote them.
However, add two sentences, and return the words, “surely Mr. Cockran,” deleted by Pannekoek, and the quotation takes on new shades of meaning.
Pannekoek was trying to prove that the clergy considered themselves an elite and worked closely with the elite of the Hudson’s Bay Company. According to his reasoning, the “respectable seminary” established by Reverend Jones for the sons and daughters of Rupert’s Land gentlemen, with high fees “to deter the socially unqualified” was evidence of that alliance, and resented by the “less fortunate” or “run-of-the-mill” Protestant mixed-bloods who had to send their children to inferior Protestant schools. The brouhaha over the Indian boys was cited as evidence of that resentment. Whatever the reason for removing the three words “surely Mr. Cockran,” to have left them in would have weakened Pannekoek’s argument. If Mr. Cockran and his “less fortunate” congregation could be united on the matter, it meant the alliance between clergy and elite could be seriously questioned.
Pannekoek also ignored Cockran’s own view of the matter. On the same page of his letter, Cockran said,
This does not sound like a man bent on division or in league with an elite. In fact, Cockran was suspicious of the efforts of the Hudson’s Bay Company to frustrate his plans at the Indian Settlement, which was enticing people to leave their hunting grounds and move to the colony.
If contentiousness is unverified, what of the charges of racism and imperialism? On the basis of his analysis of CMS documents, Pannekoek said, “Cockran made it quite clear that ‘the Dominant Race of this Continent are the English’ and that the Indian and Halfbreed would always be immoral, capricious, intractable, indolent, callous, prideful, wayward, extravagant, ingracious, improvident and careless.”  Those are hard words, but they are in fact a highly selective and misleading sampling of the evidence. Compare, for instance, the view expressed by Cockran in 1856, when, after more than two decades of missionary work at the Indian Settlement, he summed up his approach.
That was a typical Church Missionary Society perspective, which John H. Archer described as “a remarkably enlightened social view respecting native peoples and the development of indigenous churches.”  Historian Jean Usher called it “an optimistic outlook on other cultures and one which opened up the way to development by the external agency of the missionary. Isolation from western civilisation and ignorance of the Christian Gospel were seen to be the problems facing native people.”  However, this linkage of Christianity and civilization did not blind the Society to faults in the latter. Frank A. Peake, who was somewhat critical of the Church Missionary Society, acknowledged its recognition of social injustices in the so-called civilized world, when he said, “At the end of the 18th Century, there was among Evangelicals a growing feeling that the slave trade could only be eliminated by missionary effort.”  Certainly.CMS personnel were products of British society, but they were also part of an evangelical Christian sub-culture which could at times offer a trenchant critique of Britain’s worst vices. 
Cockran acknowledged those vices in his biting criticism of fur traders for their treatment of Indian people,
Clearly Cockran distanced himself from the trader, whom he saw as the oppressor, not only of the Indian, but also of the missionary, a point of view which challenges Pannekoek’s tendency to link them together in a common cause.  The quotation also reveals Cockran’s use of the animal metaphor, a characteristic of his writing style, for which Ladd condemned him, and one which will be explored shortly. Another characteristic of his writing is revealed in his lengthy description of spiritual deficiencies in Europeans, the “Hon. Company’s servants,” who settled at Red River and became Christians in their old age. Typically, Cockran wrote, “Yea, all the indolence, treachery, falsehood, cruelty, extravagance, cunning, ingratitude, sensuality, selfishness, pride, and superstition which ever meet in a human being must be exchanged for the virtues of the Gospel.”  Here we have an application to “the Dominant Race of this Continent” of the same kind of language Pannekoek implied was reserved exclusively for “the Indian and Halfbreed.” 
That language style can also be found in an exchange between Cockran and retired HBC officer William Hemmings Cook, who Pannekoek identified as one of Cockran’s “old friends.” In fact, Cockran described Cook in a journal entry as “one of the grossest infidels that is to be met with.”  The remark was provoked by a lengthy argument between the two men precipitated by Cook’s criticism of some of the “professing brethren.”  Cockran went on the offensive, charging Cook, who had formerly been a Chief Factor, with having
The passage reveals, in contradiction to Pannekoek’s assertion, that Cockran believed his converts were capable of progress, but that such improvement would not happen overnight. It also provides a further illustration of his style. Cockran was a master of the pejorative, which can be found throughout his extant writing. How much he used it in real life is difficult to say, but perhaps there is a hint in this same account.
Cockran was able to control his reproof in order to discourage Cook from taking out his spleen on his family, a reminder that what one thinks or writes is not necessarily what one says or does. Letitia Hargrave, the wife of Chief Factor James Hargrave of York Factory, wrote letters highly critical of those around her, but her position required she show more tolerance in her day-to-day behaviour.  Cockran had to be circumspect in his conduct, too. In one letter, for example, he said, “A great deal of odium has been attached to me by my colleague [Rev. David T. Jones] from time to time, but I have persevered in well-doing until I have lived down the prejudices which he has raised against me, and my example of industry is as valuable in its way, as the preaching of the Gospel.” 
Indeed, Cockran combined the “Word” with “Works,” not only to win Jones to his side, but also to convert the Native people, who he believed were as capable as the European of regeneration through the Gospel. Once converted, he defended them against detractors, condemned the fur trade which exploited them for economic advantage, and laboured for decades to promote their spiritual and economic welfare at the settlements at Red River and Portage la Prairie. This is hardly the behaviour of an imperialist. Nor does the evidence Pannekoek provides establish him as a racist. Cockran condemned the unrepentant sinner, regardless of race, and often in the bluntest of language.
George Ladd, like Pannekoek, twinned racism with British colonialism in his image of the missionary as “Super Settler.” In one of his arguments, he began by quoting the following passage from David Jones.
Ladd considered this evidence of “Jones’s colonial consciousness, a disposition to view native and settler as black and white opposites,” and referenced the writings of Frantz Fanon as context for his conclusion.  Among other things, Fanon said colonialism systematically negated the native person, a claim for which Ladd found convincing evidence in the journals and correspondence of the CMS missionaries at Red River, which he said “overflow[ed] with pronouncements that negate[d] the personhood of native people.”  Relying on Pannekoek’s analysis, he went on to link the missionaries with the elite of the colony, describing them as a “‘superior’ order whose task was to provide their ‘inferiors’ with leadership in every aspect of life.”  Then, harking back to the previous quotation by Jones, Ladd came to the following conclusion.
The cited documents contain nothing to support this claim. The letter to Bickersteth, dated 3 August 1829, makes no reference whatsoever to Peguis’s people. Instead, it discusses Cockran’s plan to reduce the costs of the Indian school and expand the mission farm, so as to be an example to his neighbours. Cockran was still working exclusively among the mixed-bloods arriving from the HBC forts. The report he made to the Secretaries, 25 July 1833, only mentioned the Saulteaux once. Since there was no available land at the Rapids, at his suggestion, six families of newcomers were “going to make an attempt to settle themselves among the Saulteaux Indians.” Ladd’s choice of sources could not have been more ill-suited to his purpose. Cockran’s only use of the pejorative was in reference to the unregenerate European servants of the Hudson’s Bay Company. 
In Frantz Fanon’s Manichean colonial world, the settler dehumanized the native, at times turning him into an animal through simile or metaphor.  Ladd readily found proof of this dehumanization in the animal images Cockran used constantly in his writing, quoting, for example,
Ladd did not give the context, but in fact this sentence was part of a reply to an inquiry about a school by Wewetheycapou, a Muskego Cree recently arrived at the Indian Settlement.  Cockran assured him a school would be built, adding that this was one reason the people were being advised to settle there. The other was for the salvation of their souls. To understand the context of the quotation, one needs the sentence just before it.
Cockran was contrasting the life of the farmer to that of the hunter, and of the Christian to that of the unconverted, saying the latter could not expect any mercy from God if he refused the call. Since he was speaking with Wewetheycapou, who had been a hunter all his life, the animal image made sense.  Ladd represents Cockran as having the same mentality as the settler, who saw natives as inconveniences to be swept out of the way or eliminated altogether like the Beothuk of Newfoundland. A review of Cockran’s journals and correspondence shows that image to be a gross misreading. He viewed hunting as the doom of the Indian, whereas farming offered the hope of temporal salvation. In one of his letters, he likened “the destiny of the human family, in this country,” to that of the “wild animal of the forest,” whose lot was a constant round of feast and famine, abundance and starvation. Then he made his central point that
In other words, when the Indian became civilized, when he gave up hunting and adopted the more abundant life of agriculture, he began to increase and multiply according to the commandment of God. In the same letter, Cockran offered proof, using statistics from the Indian Village itself. In 1832, when he began his experiment, only three families could be “induced to make a feeble attempt.” By 1856, there were one hundred and twenty-five families consisting of 600 individuals.  To Cockran, this increase was the result of “the cordial, and legitimate union of Civilisation and Christianity; upon the Indian Race. The former the Physician of the body; the latter the Physician of the soul. Both the free gift of God to man.”  Unlike “Super Settler,” Cockran’s aim was the preservation of the Indian. From his viewpoint, “The gradual increase of population, show[s] that the doom of the Red Race is not so desperate, as is sometimes supposed. We admit that the annual waste of life of the Red Man, in his natural state is fearful. But it is natural, it springs from natural causes. 
He believed, on the other hand, that Hudson’s Bay Company traders were destroying the Indian.
He went on to make an idealistic plea for their preservation, one which is singularly modern in its implications.
Cockran believed civilization, as he understood it, was the Indian’s best chance for survival. He saw the thriving settlements at Red River as proof that agriculture could provide for native people better than the fur trade. That view was echoed by David Anderson, Bishop of Rupert’s Land, in testimony given in London on 4 June 1857 before the Parliamentary Select Committee on the Hudson’s Bay Company. When asked about the increase of the Indian population at Red River, and whether he thought other settlements would produce the same result, Anderson replied, “I think so; I think when settled the Indians increase; up the country they would decrease, from want of food and want of clothing.”  Anderson well knew what perils the future held for the Indian. He said, “my hope is that the Indian may be raised in the interval before the civilization sweeps westward, as it must; and I always felt that my object is to raise a people as well as to give them Christianity.”  It is difficult to reconcile this objective with the image of racist imperialism put forward by Ladd and Pannekoek.
Finally, there is one last image, Ladd’s creation, which begs for analysis. The term “poisonous pedagogue” was invented by Swiss psychoanalyst Alice Miller, whose provocative theories about child-rearing were inspired by her need to explain how Adolph Hitler could have conceived the holocaust and why millions supported him in that cause.  Motivated by Miller and others writing about child-rearing practices, Ladd wrote two papers attempting to apply their thinking in the context of the CMS mission schools at Red River.  As revealed in the following illustrations, there are serious difficulties with his analysis.
According to Ladd, the Reverend Alfred C. Garrioch’s mature assessment of the relationship existing between Cockran and his Portage la Prairie flock “appears to have been coloured” by his childhood memories of the man.  Ladd followed up that speculation with a mix of guesswork and innuendo to imply that Cockran used physical violence to govern his congregation. Consider, for example, his statement, “But the young Garrioch was fully aware that Cockran did not govern the new settlement by his prayers alone.”  Then he set the stage for the next step in his argument by quoting Garrioch’s self-deprecating remark about his lack of physical prowess. Finally, he wrote,
In fact, Garrioch first spoke of the voyageurs’ wrestling to determine who was the strongest. Then, what he wrote in context was this:
Ladd left out the most significant part of this quotation. The phrase “and it is just possible,” interjects both irony and conjecture, and weakens the argument he was trying to make.
Ladd next quoted from Garrioch, “On more than one occasion the Archdeacon deemed it necessary to convince some flagrant transgressor in the community of the exceeding hatefulness of sin by laying hands upon him and giving him a sound threshing.”  This was a paraphrase from Colin Inkster which Garrioch used to introduce an old story about William Cockran.  Then with only minor variations, Garrioch repeated the same story as appeared in Inkster about Cockran beating an adulterer. Ladd did not quote that story at this point in his argument. Instead, he digressed to an incident involving Cockran’s alleged beating of a horse. He waited until page 65 to cite a “typical’ example of the “many stories” about Cockran’s encounters with bad men, who are “always native.” He did not use the example Inkster gave. Instead, he cited one from Robert B. Hill’s 1890 History of Manitoba, which is so similar to the ones mentioned by Inkster and Garrioch as to be virtually identical. Why did he ignore these latter accounts? One could speculate, but Hill’s version was the only one to identify the adulterer as an Indian, and added the significant sentence, “In questions of morality the Archdeacon’s fiat was law.” 
In reviewing forty years of personal journals and correspondence, Ladd could not find a good example to establish his case against Cockran. In the end, he relied on one story he described as typical, repeated by at least three different writers, and another involving a few sharp cuts of a whip on the backside of a horse. It is a poor argument, and misconstrued in any event, because whatever Cockran’s behaviour, it has to be judged within the context of its time. Conceptually and methodologically, Ladd has strained on a gnat, and swallowed a camel.
A survey of CMS sources challenges Ladd’s images. Cockran explained that the missionary influenced the natives by example.
In teaching a skill, he further wrote, it was wise to praise rather than censure.
The following quotations from Inkster, although perhaps embellished, illustrate the rather unorthodox methods of teaching Cockran apparently employed from time to time.
Corrigal’s rejoinder and the laughter of that congregation may tell us more than any twentieth-century historical study could ever do about the type of teacher William Cockran was.
Both Ladd and Pannekoek used primary and secondary sources, including the records of the Church Missionary Society, but they used those documents selectively, quoting them out of context or weaving them into their own narratives in subtle distortions designed to fit a strained interpretation. In the end, their negative images of William Cockran are not substantiated in the documents they used to make their case. In fact, they are contradicted in sources they saw fit to ignore.
More convincingly, historian John E. Foster focused his attention, not on Cockran’s image directly, but on its reflection in the successful adaptation of English-speaking mixed-bloods to the changes which engulfed them during the nineteenth century. These people acknowledged their debt to the “Venerable Archdeacon” at the time of his death in 1865, when his bier was taken from Portage la Prairie through the parishes of High Bluff, Poplar Point, Headingley, St. James, St. John’s, Kildonan, and Middle Church to its final resting place at St. Andrew’s. According to the Reverend Alfred C. Garrioch, who was one of those mixed-blood sons of Red River,
Those bared heads in their own way say as much on the character and missionary labours of William Cockran as any retrospective historical analysis can. Although they lacked the advantage of historical distance, the mixed-bloods stood cap-in-hand out of respect for a man they knew. With the advantage of a twentieth century perspective and a plethora of informative sources, Pannekoek and Ladd might have helped us know, too. Instead, they distorted Cockran’s image into caricature, leaving him more elusive than ever. In view of his impact on the development of the Red River Settlement, William Cockran deserves better treatment than that.
Special thanks to Kathryn Young of the University of Manitoba for helpful suggestions at the beginning of this study, to the staff at the Archives of Manitoba for their assistance as I researched primary sources, and to Jennifer S. H. Brown of the University of Winnipeg for editorial advice during the final stages of writing.
1. “Cockran” is the preferred spelling of his name, although “Cochrane” was used by his son Thomas. (For source, see Foster, “Cockran, William,” 134, cited below.) “Cochran” is incorrect, but it appears in some accounts.
2. John E. Foster, “Cockran, William,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9, ed. Francess G. Halpenny (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1976034-137. His manuscript biography contains additional detail, including a positive assessment of Cockran’s role in the development of Red River.
3. The Reverend John West was the first Protestant missionary at Red River. Sponsored jointly by the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) and the Church Missionary Society (CMS) he arrived there in 1820. During his three year stay, he established the Anglican mission at what later became St. John’s Cathedral, as well as the first school for Native catechists, from which came a number of influential missionaries, such as Henry Budd, James Settee, and Charles Pratt, who later worked among their Cree relatives.
5. Foster, 135. Foster did not adequately describe the origins of St. Peter’s residents. Except for Peguis and a few others, the Saulteaux never became farmers there. The bulk of the settlers were Muskego Cree whose surnames - Johnston, Thomas, Cook, Asham, Stevenson, and others - evoked their Hudson Bay roots.
6. Alexander Ross, The Red River Settlement: Its Rise, Progress, and Present State (London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1856; Minneapolis: Ross and Haines, Inc., 1957), 183.
9. Colin Inkster, “William Cochran,” in Leaders of the Canadian Church, ed. William Bertal Heeney (Toronto: The Musson Book Company Ltd., 1920), 60-61. See Hargrave, 110, for the quotation attributed to him. Inkster was Sheriff of Manitoba and a lay member of the Anglican Church.
11. This is how historian David B. Marshall characterized the 1960s, when the church, like many other institutions, came under intense criticism. While historian J. W. Grant thought this was a sudden phenomenon, Marshall believed it was the culmination of secular forces which had begun at least a hundred years earlier. See David B. Marshall, Secularizing the Faith: Canadian Protestant Clergy and the Crisis of Belief 1850-1940 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992), 4-16. Whatever the causes, the questions of the 1960s opened the door to a more critical analysis of the role of the church in society, including its efforts to evangelize aboriginal peoples.
17. Frits Pannekoek, “The Anglican Church and the Disintegration of Red River Society, 1818-1870,” in The West and the Nation: Essays in Honour of W. L. Morton, ed. Carl Berger and Ramsay Cook (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1976), 72-90. This article was based in part on: F. Pannekoek, “The Churches and the Social Structure in the Red River Area 1818-1870” (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Queen’s University, 1974).
19. George van der Goes Ladd, Shall We Gather At The River? (Toronto: CANEC [United Church Publishing House], 1986), 59. The specific quotation from Pannekoek is “recreate the English rural parish, a little Britain in the wilderness, with the parson as a major landowner, teacher, custodian of charities, and law giver.” See Pannekoek, 75, cited above.
23. Ibid., 109-111, 232. Grant acknowledged the missionaries made mistakes along the way, in part because they could not foresee the future, but he saw them essentially as positive, rather than divisive, forces.
24. Frits Pannekoek, “‘Insidious Sources’ and the Historical Interpretations of the Pre-1870 West,” in The Anglican Church and the World of Western Canada, 1820-1970, ed. Barry Ferguson (Regina: Canadian Plains Center, 1991), 31.
27. George van der Goes Ladd, “Father Cockran and His Children. Poisonous Pedagogy on the Banks of the Red,” In The Anglican Church and the World of Western Canada, 1820-1970, ed. Barry Ferguson (Regina: Canadian Plains Research Center, 1991), 61-65.
30. Frank A. Peake, “Reflections on Canadian Church History,” Journal of the Canadian Church Historical Society 22 (1) (April 1980): 46. Peake said, “a good deal of Canadian history has ignored religion as a social force while church history has frequently conveyed the impression that the events it describes took place in a vacuum untouched by contemporary political, social and economic influences.” In the early Red River histories, this distinction is blurred.
32. Elwood Jones, review of Moon of Wintertime: Missionaries and the Indians of Canada in Encounter since 1534, by John Webster Grant, Journal of the Canadian Church Historical Society 26 (2) (October 1984): 98.
34. Ibid., 46. His argument makes sense. Focused on describing indigenous cultures for insights into the human condition, anthropologists are likely to be unsympathetic with any outside forces likely to contaminate the pristine conditions of their cultural laboratory.
35. Goldring might have explained this more fully. Hiroshima, the Holocaust, and two devastating world wars have placed into question the social, economic, and religious values of Western civilization.
36. Goldring, 47. See also J. M. Bumsted, “The Grand Old Canadian Skin Game Revisited,” Bulletin of Canadian Studies (3) (Edinburgh, 1979), 68.
40. Pannekoek, “‘Insidious’ Sources,” 33. He said, rather lamely, “I can only state in my own defense that I do not see the missionary as disturbing an idyllic Native/Metis society completely at peace with itself.” But is this the only issue? Compare to Goldring, 46. Quoting Grant, Moon of Wintertime, 244, Goldring said, “The secular interpretation is far more concerned with inegalitarian social structures than with the ‘spiritual discernment necessary for traffic with the eternal order.’“ Surely this describes one aspect of Pannekoek’s interpretation of society at Red River. See Pannekoek, “The Anglican Church and the Disintegration of Red River Society, 1818-1870,” 74-75.
51. Pannekoek, A Snug Little Flock, 122. He cited as his sources “CMSA, James Hunter to H. Venn, 16 Dec. 1851; PAM, ARP [Alexander Ross Papers], William Ross to James Ross, 22 Aug. 1854.” The Alexander Ross reference, PAM, MG2, C14, Item 99, contains nothing to support Pannekoek’s statement.
52. Provincial Archives of Manitoba; Church Missionary Society Archives; Class “C”, North West America Mission, Rupert’s Land; C.1 /M, Mission Books, incoming letters, 1822-1876; C.1/M.5, 1851-1855; James Hunter to H. Venn, 16 Dec. 1851, 142-143, mf. A79.
54. For an example of Cockran’s directness, see PAM, CMSA, Class “C”, C.1/M, C.1/M.1, 1822-1833, Item 108, Cockran to the Secretaries, Grand Rapids, 25 July 1833, 532-534, mf. A77, in which he took the CMS to task for what he perceived as their lack of support.
55. Pannekoek, A Snug Little Flock, 99. His Note 2, p. 256, only gives the source for information on the students of Islington College and explains the best of them were reserved for service in India, while the marginal ones went to Rupert’s Land.
60. Pannekoek, A Snug Little Flock, 80. See his Note 1, p. 254. It reads, “These were the most frequent descriptions employed by the missionaries, especially Cockran. For detailed citations see F. Pannekoek, ‘The Churches and the Social Structure in the Pre-1870 West’ (Queens’, 1974), 21-23. 55.” In fact, the quotation from page 80 of his book is cited on page 55 of his thesis without any source cited as proof. The only Cockran reference, mentioned on thesis pages 22 and 23, was a letter written by him to E. Bickersteth, 3 August 1829. It contains neither of the statements attributed to Cockran in the quotation on page 80 of Pannekoek’s book.
61. PAM, CMSA, Class “C”, C.1/0, Original Letters, Journals and Papers, incoming 1822-1880, William Cockran, 1825-65; Letter from William Cockran to Secretaries, Indian Settlement, 25 July 1856, 1, mf. A84. Note: The page order on the microfilm copy of this letter is 1-2, 5-12, 3-4.
63. Jean Usher, “Apostles and Aborigines: The Social Theory of the Church Missionary Society,” in Prophets, Priests, and Prodigals: Readings in Canadian Religious History, 1608 to Present, ed. Mark G. McGowan and David B. Marshall (Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson Ltd., 1992), 18.
67. Pannekoek, A Snug Little Flock, 87. Pannekoek s postulated affiance between the missionaries and the fur trade elite to establish a little Britain at Red River is an oversimplification. In fact, the tensions between the two groups oint to quite different visions of what the ideal settlement was.
69. See Note 60. Although his text implies “the Dominant Race of this Continent” is a quotation from Cockran, Pannekoek does not cite a source containing this phrase.
73. Ibid., 34. Cook was hard on the Christian members of his house. On the same page, Cockran said, “At one time he entered the room where they were praying, and kicked the first he came to on the bottom, and said with an oath who taught him to pray.”
74. Margaret McLeod, ed., The Letters of Letitia Hargrave (Toronto: The Champlain Society, 1947), lv. McLeod adds, “She was kind to all about her. Wilson, the manager of the workmen, whom she ridiculed, adored her for her kindness to him.”
75. PAM, CMSA, Class “C”, C.1 /M, C.1 /M.1, Item 68, William Cockran to Rev. E. Bickersteth, Red River, 3 Aug. 1829, 343, mf. A77. Cockran was referring to Jones’ skepticism about the usefulness of the mission farm, a prejudice he knew he could overcome by making a success of the venture.
77. Ibid., 57. Of West Indian origin, but educated in France, Frantz Fanon, 1925-1961, was a psychoanalyst and social philosopher, who became actively involved on the side of the Algerian liberation movement against the French. His anti-colonial writings emphasized the socio-economic factors behind the racism directed against subject peoples.
79. Ibid., 59. He cited as his source “CMS Archives: Cockran to E. Bickersteth, 3 Aug. 1829.” Cockran did indeed use the terms “superior” and “inferior” in this letter, but specifically in the context of religion and industry, rather than class as Ladd implied. See PAM, CMSA, Class “C”, C.1/M, C.1/M.1, Item 68, Wm. Cockran to Rev. E. Bickersteth, 3 Aug. 1829, 343, mf. A77.
82. Ladd, Shall We Gather At The River, 58. Manicheism is a dualistic religious philosophy in which goodness, typified by light, God, or the soul, is in conflict with evil, typified by darkness, Satan, and the body. Developed by the Persian Manes and his followers, it lasted from the third to the seventh century A.D..
83. Ibid. He cited the source as Cockran’s journal, 24 Oct. 1832. The specific reference should be PAM, CMS, Class “C”, C.1 /M, C.1 /M.1, Item 111, Cockran’s Journal, 19 Aug. 1832 - 7 Aug. 1833, 451, mf. A77.
93. John E. Foster, “Rupert’s Land and the Red River Settlement, 1820-70,” in The Prairie West To 1905: A Canadian Sourcebook, ed. Lewis G. Thomas (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1975), 28-29. In response to a question about the Indians still involved in hunting, Anderson said those at Moose were doing very well. Because they were away from the mission much of the time, they had their own daily and Sunday worship. They were taught in their own language and used syllabics in communication. This indicates the CMS was flexible enough to change its missionary strategies according to circumstances.
94. Ibid., 30-32. Anderson also said that unless there were some safeguards in this colonization, the Indian would be sacrificed. When asked, “From what you have seen of the half-breed race at the Red River, do you despair of their being useful and prosperous members of a civilized community, under proper laws?”, he replied, “I do not despair in the smallest degree of them.”
96. For his sources, see Ladd, Father Cockran and his Children, 70-71, and Going-Up-The Hill: The Journey of Henry Budd, 20-22. For a response to the latter, see Raymond M. Beaumont, Origins and Influences, 186-192.
97. George van der Goes Ladd, Father Cockran and His Children, 62. The Reverend Alfred C. Garrioch, an Anglican minister, was raised under Cockran s tutelage at Portage la Prairie. See Note 10.
101. See Note 9 for details on Colin Inkster.
Page revised: 26 September 2012