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Manitoba History: Reverend Frederic B. Du Val: Winnipeg’s Fearless Foe of Social Vices

by Melanie Methot
Augustana University College, Camrose, Alberta

Number 44, Autumn / Winter 2002-2003

This article was published originally in Manitoba History by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make it available here as a free, public service.

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From a small number of wooden stores and residences in 1870, Winnipeg became the home to nearly eight thousand persons by 1881. Five years later, the census counted 20,238 Winnipeggers. For each five-year period between 1886 and 1916, population growth was never less than 23 percent, and reached 113 per cent in 1906. What historian Alan Artibise labels the “commercial class”—merchants and businessmen, real estate agents and financiers, contractors and manufacturers—monopolized municipal politics. They held most elected municipal offices and they used their influence to protect and further their own interests. They played a prominent role in the city’s rapid industrialisation and the swift expansion of commerce, thrusting forward a promotional campaign which included the distribution of pamphlets praising their city’s potential. [1] From this form of publication, one naturally expects overly flattering descriptions. In a 1886 paean of praise edited by W. T. Thompson and E. E. Boyer, readers were introduced to the nearly flawless city:

The history of Winnipeg, with its wonderful growth and marvellous progress, reads like a chapter from some work of romance. It seems almost miraculous that in a short space of fifteen years there has arisen here the city of to-day. Fifteen years ago no city, no railroad, no street, no church, no school-house, no home—nothing but a small post of the Hudson’s Bay Co., where the native Indians gathered to dispose of their furs- To-day, the thirty thousand people, the twenty-five millions of business, massive mercantile blocks, railways connecting with the Atlantic and the Pacific and stretching to the great cities of the United States, church edifices of magnificent structures and proportions, elegant schoolhouses, miles of street railway, the mansion and residence, the electric light, the comforts and refinements of the highest type of civilized life. It is indeed one of the marvels of the age—a growth unprecedented, a progress unsurpassed in the history of the world. [2]

Throughout the hundred fifty pages or so, factual material on Winnipeg’s businesses and businessmen set an optimistic mood. Describing the 1882 boom, the authors stressed that “public and private works of great magnitude also changed the appearance, the comfort, and the healthfulness of the city infinitely for the better.” [3] It seemed that nothing could jeopardize the great destiny of the Chicago of the North. There was, of course, no mention of infant mortality or of contagious diseases, nor did the few words devoted to housing depict the living conditions of all. These factors were, however, all barometers of a city’s health.

But the Western promoters’ conception of a perfect society was limited to reaching as quickly as possible the status of a big city. Success, in their minds, could only be measured by the size of the city, the number of industries, and the value of the output. Douglas Francis points out: “Few boosters thought in terms of selling the cultural qualities of their towns and cities. Such ‘extravagancies’ were by-products of wealth that reflected a city’s prosperity rather than led to its enrichment.” [4] The only mission of civic boosters was rapid growth. They refused to open their eyes to see that urban social and moral conditions were often less than satisfactory.

The Winnipeg press, for the most part, adopted the boosters’ attitude. From 1885 to around 1904, municipal administrations enjoyed the general support of the city’s newspapers. Several contributors had voiced some concerns regarding the fitness of previous administrations, [5] but from 1904 on the criticisms mounted and became more visceral, direct and acerbic. For instance, D. J. Kenway wrote in the Winnipeg Free Press: “Is it not high time that public opinion was thoroughly aroused regarding the hopless [sic] incompetence of our present civic authorities in every department of civic administration? From the mayor down to the meanest scavenger, the same utter disregard for the right of the public is plainly marked.” [6] Critics, however, declined to accuse the mayor or the aldermen of corruption. They pointed instead to the mixed priorities of the council.

Like in many other North American cities, Winnipeg urban social reformers were greatly concerned with the city itself. Every imaginable committee was set up to fight the “evils” that tended to concentrate in the city. The Law and Order League, the Dominum Alliance, the Social and Moral Reform Council League, the Citizens Committee for the Suppression of Vice, the Women Temperance Christian Union, to name only the most prominent, spearheaded morality campaigns to “purify” the city.

Vices were not necessarily more prevalent in Winnipeg than in other industrial cities, although after headlines opposing Reverend Shearer’s infamous comments, [7] Winnipeg received a reputation as the “rottenest.” Appointed to investigate “social vices,” Judge Robson reported in 1911 that: “A policy of toleration of the offence [prostitution] in a limited area, with regulations as to conduct, was adopted by the Police Commissioner.” [8] “Segregation,” as Winnipeggers referred to the practice, was not a phenomenon unique to Winnipeg, but it was probably more pronounced in the “booster city” of the Prairies since municipal administrators, mostly preoccupied with rapid and sustained growth, turned a blind eye to prostitution. [9]

Deteriorating conditions, faced by many citizens, and the obvious toleration of social vices, prompted men and women to raise their voices against social deprivation, injustice and the loosening of morals. Men of the cloth, rather than municipal politicians, were clearly expected to lead social and moral reform movements. Winnipeg newspaper advertisements linked pastors with social reform. For instance, Rev. C. J. Freeman, “a famous reformer” endorsed Dr. Williams’ Pink Pills, [10] while Reverend Galbraith, “a careful student of social reform,” vouched for Dr. Agnew’s Catarrhal Powder. [11] The choosing of these men to endorse their products illustrates the importance companies attributed to pastors. Also marking their importance in the social reform movement, The People’s Voice printed a series of articles on “Labor and the Church” and on “Church and Social Questions.” Preachers were also called upon to promote municipal reform. [12]

Presbyterian Reverend Frederik B. Du Val has not made it into the history textbooks, yet in his time the minister was a prominent social reformer. As the Winnipeg Free Press reported in 1915, Du Val “has been a fearless leader of civic reforms.” [13] To study the man, analyse his social philosophy and assess his impact, can only add to our understanding of social and moral reform, and of Winnipeg at the turn of the century.

The Man

Born in the United States of a Scottish mother and a father whose ancestors were Huguenots, young Du Val grew up in Maryland. He studied at the Hightstown Classical Academy (New Jersey) and earned a Master of Arts from Princeton University in 1875. A year later, he married Caroline Kearfott. They had nine children. Du Val attended Princeton Theological Seminary, and in 1886 he received a Doctorate of theology from Wooster University in Ohio. Following two years in Toledo, Ohio, in 1888 Du Val began his long career as the leading minister of Winnipeg’s Knox Church that would only end in 1916. He then received the title of pastor emeritus. Elected moderator of the Presbyterian General Assembly in 1908-1909, he occupied other important positions such as councillor of Manitoba University, member of the Board of Management, senator of the Manitoba College, and member of the Joint Committee on Church Union. [14] He was chair of the Citizen Committee and of the Ministerial Association, as well as one of the prominent and active member of the Winnipeg Moral and Social Reform League. All three organizations were created to lead the fight against “social evils.”

Knox Presbyterian Church, Winnipeg, no date. Rev. Frederic Du Val served as leading minister at Knox between 1888 and 1916.
Source: Archives of Manitoba

Du Val’s Social Philosophy

Du Val’s Princeton education certainly contributed to his views towards science and religion. David Livingstone has shown how the Princeton theological professors worked to accommodate their theology with evolutionist theories. [15] Du Val fit in with other Canadian Presbyterian preachers who developed, as Michael Gauvreau documents, “a theology that strove to reconcile elements of the new critical thought with the traditions of the revival.” [16] Du Val was at ease establishing relations between medicine and religion. [17] “Both classes of men, the minister and the physician,” he stated, “were necessary in dealing with the ills of humanity, and it was desirable that each should know something of the curative means used by the other.” [18] His colleague and close friend, Reverend Kerr, noted that: “From his early manhood, he interpreted the relation between science and religion, so that none of his people were ever perturbed by the bugbear of evolution or biblical criticism.” [19]

Despite his “enlightened” views on science, Du Val’s social philosophy tended to be narrow-minded, even if Saturday Night stressed that he was “a highly educated man; a man of infinite tact.” [20] While it is hardly debatable that Dr. Du Val was “highly educated,” his tactfulness, however, is another story. It seems that Du Val made many enemies during his long life. Reverend Kerr stated that at times, in his fight against the “base elements,” Du Val ran great personal dangers. [21] Never hesitating to engage in public debates, Du Val wrote to newspaper editors, replied to letters, or visited government officials to voice his concerns. He had strong views on Sabbath’s observance, the Manitoba School Question (and Roman Catholic power), church union, labour relations and political rings, but it was as an outspoken and fearless foe of prostitution that he left his mark on the boom city of the West.

Early in his career, Du Val established himself as a passionate foe of liquor consumption, gambling, and prostitution. They were “the three great moral reforms” that he fought. [22] For Du Val, temperance was definitively an important question. [23] As a member of the Dominion Alliance, he visited the Manitoba legislature to raise his concerns. [24] The Winnipeg Tribune acknowledged his commitment to the cause in a 1902 cartoon where he is depicted dancing with Reverend J. B. Silcox in preparation for the battle. [25]

A 1902 editorial cartoon in the Winnipeg Tribune depicts Du Val (left) and Rev. J. B. Silcox as they ‘prepare for battle’ on the temperance issue.

But Du Val was associated mostly with one cause, the eradication of the social evil. “Prostitution is the lowest, cruelest, filthiest and most injurious offsprings of perdition,” [26] he once said. He never minced his words when he spoke of the vice: “The propagation of the idea that such a monstrous, filthy evil is a necessity would soon render all law against vice a nullity, make vice itself institutional, and set up chastity as a farce.” [27]

As Mariana Valverde has pointed out, “prostitution was central in social purity thought and practice because it mobilized the powerful symbolism of the whore of Babylon in the campaign to clean and purify the city.” [28] Du Val authored the pamphlet The Problem of Social Vice in Winnipeg “in the hope of rendering some humble service to the latest edition of our Christian Civilization, and insuring a purer nobler life to our posterity.” [29] He argued that “where there is a letting down of the moral ideals and concessions made to the indulgence of vice, there is an increase in foul imaginations, filthy speech and obscene practices, that insure a rapid increase of moral degeneracy.” [30] For him, physical degeneracy was intricately linked to the moral degradation of society. This is why prostitution had to be fought at all costs. The pamphlet was a passionate indictment of segregation. Du Val charged that:

a minority who choose to degrade the sacred powers of generation, and by the use of aphrodisiacs, and the cultivation of filthy imaginations, bring themselves into a pathological debasement, that seems to themselves to demand a permanent institution of sexual vice, have no right, Divine or human, to maintain such an institution to the injury of the commonweal. [31]

In addition to his pamphlet, Du Val dedicated many sermons to the issue, wrote letters and articles in newspapers, organized mass meetings, and participated in the Royal Commission on the Suppression of Vice in Winnipeg. [32]

His crusade against prostitution can be divided into two stages. At first, Du Val was not against the idea of solving the prostitution issue “quietly and calmly”. He was ready to follow the civic authorities “subtle” ways. He specified that when named chairman of the Ministerial Association’s Committee,

I was distinctively upon the platform laid down by myself that I would exhaust every means of getting the matter settled in private, that I deprecated going to the public; that I even charged members not to go to the public press with speech or letter on the subject; I endured the low innuendo [sic] in a low news column of secretly shielding the dereliction of officers, and the abuses of a reporter, who will deal more kindly some day, for trying in a gentlemanly way to keep our counsels on the subject out of the public mind. This matter has been under advisement for over two years- that does not look like rashness. [33]

The “commercial class’s” deaf ear, however, forced him to revise his tactic, and to advocate a different approach. In 1903, 1905, 1909 and 1910, the Ministerial Association and other prominent Protestant ministers pushed civic officials to take positions on prostitution. These ministers were then accused of “having placed a nasty stigma on the fair name of Winnipeg.” [34] F. S. Chapman wondered: “Why this city should be advertised as a hotbed of vice,” adding that “men do not take their wives and daughters to church to hear filth from the pulpits.” [35]

Witnessing how the Point Douglas segregated district persisted to exist, his ardour for the cause simply grew. He took an active part in the Royal Commission on the Suppression of Vice, attending sessions, impatiently waiting to give his expert opinion on segregation. If he ever hesitated to accuse the authorities of corruption, in 1913 the gloves were off as he boldly denounced “the ‘lowbred modem political rings’ who let in their friends to get rich out of governmental moves and opportunities.” [36] Three years later when he formally retired, Du Val chose to focus his final sermon on his early struggles “against social vice, against a threatened affiance of the police with the underworld, and against political debauchery.” [37] The heart of his retirement sermon indicates that the eradication of prostitution had been his most important mission in life. For Du Val prostitution was far more than a local issue, it was a holy war to save the whole country and thus it had to be fought fiercely, even if it meant breaking old alliances. Indeed, his dealings with the mayor, councillors and civic employees disillusioned him. He could not accept the fact that the people in a position of power did not find the prostitution “curse” as serious as he did.

Through his discussions on prostitution, Du Val revealed his view of women. He believed that “their [young women’s] employment at less than a living wage,” drove some “to sell the priceless pearl of their virtue to the brute of a man who is ready to purchase it.” [38] Although he acknowledged that prostitution was one of the oldest vices, he nevertheless remarked that the nature of the economic system exacerbated the problem. Yet, he did not propose reforms to alter women’s economic opportunities. Also, he failed to see that some women were not necessarily forced into the trade but that they “decided,” as historian Rhonda Hinther argues, that “prostitution was the most viable strategy they could employ” to support themselves. [39]

Du Val continuously stressed that the prostitution problem should be solved by men. Men, not women, were asked to attend his talk on segregation. [40] He plainly stated in his 1910 pamphlet, The Problem of Social Vice in Winnipeg, that “[women] were courteously informed that their help was not needed, that no woman’s name should be mentioned, it would be a man’s battle.” [41] He held this belief so firmly that he mentioned it in his last official sermon as pastor of Knox Church. It is clear that for Du Val, only men could solve the “social vice” problem. He reminded his readers that he had “placed in the public press, a card of readiness to relieve any of the unfortunate girls who wanted to be sent home, or who desired to follow a better life, with the assurance that their names would be kept secret,” stressing that “noble men stood by him.” [42] Although Du Val mentioned the economic system and “the brute of a man who is ready to purchase women’s virtue,” his strategy to eradicate prostitution indicates that ultimately women were responsible for the persistence of the curse. After all, if there were no more prostitutes, logic has it that men would simply not engage in the sex trade! Du Val focussed his energies on reforming prostitutes rather than “purifying the souls” of patrons. What emerges from analysing his solutions is his Presbyterianism.

The passive role that women were to play in society was very much a part of the perspective of the Presbyterian church. Reverend A. P. Dunn declared in 1936 that Presbyterianism had placed the highest value on its men, and had for a long time undervalued its women. [43] Using the case of Reverend See, who permitted women to speak from his pulpit in Newark (New Jersey), historian Lois Boyd illustrates how the Presbyterian church officially took a narrow view of women’s place in society. In 1876, Reverend See was charged before the presbytery with disobedience and later found guilty as Presbyterians believed that the pulpit was not a woman’s place. [44] Presbyterian women were not expected to take an active role in the Church nor in social reform. As John Moir found, it was only in 1907 that “the Presbytery of Winnipeg petitioned the General Assembly to set apart deaconesses to ‘serve the Church as nurses, parish visitors, dispensers of charity, and in other way that may prove desirable.’” [45] Even then, as Phyllis Airhart points out, the Presbyterian General Assembly “expressively declared that recognition of the deaconess order was not to be regarded as endorsement for the ordination of women.” [46]

Brian Fraser argues that for Presbyterians: “it was the social responsibility of men to take the virtues of Christian character they had learned in the private sphere of the home into the public realms of business, politics, religion, and social reform.” [47] In Du Val’s circles, women were simply not expected to play the leading role in social reform.

His campaign against prostitution also reveals some personality traits. It appears that Du Val did not see it as being below a minister to make personal attacks on his opponents. Taking on the Commission on the Suppression of Vice in Winnipeg, he zealously questioned Mr. Daly (police magistrate of the city). First, he “tactfully” specified that “no one has ever heard me say any word of disrespect against the police. I approach them in the position of one seeking for light.” He added:

the chief and I have been friends for 23 years, but what I want to ask is this not the proper procedure when the force finds out that it is incompetent to execute the law, are not one of two processes right; namely, either to resign the position or ask the authorities in Ottawa to make such amendments to the law as would enable the police to execute the law? [48]

Armed with medical knowledge and world statistics, Du Val proceeded in showing how detrimental the policy of segregation was. [49] But when Mr. Daly produced an article containing views contrary to his own, Du Val descended into personal attacks: “I knew General Bingham [the author of the mentioned article] personally for some time. He is an old solder [sic]; not a policeman. He is a disappointed man. I personally don’t want that premise fixed.” [50] So convinced was he of the shortcomings of segregation that when his “medico-moral” arguments were not automatically accepted, [51] Du Val flashed famous names from John Hopkins University who congratulated him on his “clear head and logical faculty.” [52] Moreover, his pamphlet was nothing more than a pompous document where he made many pretentious observations such as: “After thirty-five years of meditation upon medico-moral subjects relating to the purifying of the springs of human well being—meditation originally started by conversing with Professors A. Guyot and the elder Gross, I am compelled to conclude ...” [53]

Du Val’s self righteousness on this particular issue contributed to the souring of his relations with Winnipeg’s commercial class. [54] Concurrently, the blind eye of the authorities to prostitution seems to have contributed to his changed social outlook. In fact, his views on Labour and Capital started to shift coincidentally at the same time that he clashed with the civic authorities in regards to segregation.

Like other social reformers of the era, Du Val tackled the labour question. The Voice reported that Reverend Du Val “preached on the conditions under which the workman of today existed.” [55] In that sermon, the pastor pointed out that: “In Great Britain and the older countries laws were gradually being changed making it easier for the toiler, but it was only by hard and earnest agitation on the part of the workers that these changes were being made.” [56] The labour newspaper reported that the minister described the relation between employer and employees as strained:

There was a big gap, labor and capital were at war with one another, and yet the best interests of labor and capital depended on their working harmoniously together. Although there are many good employers, yet there are some who treat their men like tools. [... The worker] became a spoke in the business machine, but owing to the big competition in the labor market that spoke can be replaced. [...] Men are wisely coming to the conclusion that to better themselves in their station in life they must join a labor organization, thereby, all bargaining together, they make more headway than by individual effort. [57]

Although Du Val seemed to side with Labour and to advocate unionism in this particular speech, the minister was not always identified as a labour supporter; in fact, he often antagonized elements of the working class. The Free Press noted that Du Val “indignantly protested against the world ‘guild’ [to be associated with the Christian Endeavour Society because]; it had a bad odor, its history was that of labor union.” [58] This comment is not that surprising considering that suspicions of labour unions were still being cultivated in many church circles. [59] Nevertheless, a man who signed his letter to the editor of the Free Press, the “Jackdaw” vividly highlighted that Du Val was not Labour’s best ally:

The general tenor of his remarks [Du Val] would seem to seek to cast aspersions upon organizations of labor, and to lend the inference that they are at variance with what is right and just, so much so, that the very name ‘guild’ as having applied to a shoemakers’ union forces it into such disrepute that it is rendered unworthy to be used in connection with the reverend gentleman’s conception of a young people’s society. Why should Dr. Du Val or any other man of intelligence seek to cast a slur upon an organization which never injured him, and to which respectable members of his congregation have allied themselves for mutual protection and benefit? Men who, while not rejoicing in their erudition, nevertheless are just as capable of discerning what is necessary and right in the affairs of everyday life, and men who have just as high ideals as Dr. Du Val, are members of the trade-unions, and feel very much less disgraced by that fact than surprised at his unseemly remarks. [60]

In another sermon on the “Labor Question”, Du Val’s partipris was evident:

Capital and labor are, however, antagonistic, but naturally friends and mutually interdependent. Equal division would result in barbarism, for it is in supplying the luxuries and not the necessities that the working classes get their rewards. The progress of a nation can be best measured by its luxuries. Capital is also necessary for launching great industries and all great schemes must be under the management of accumulations of capital. As to the prices, they are not fixed by the factory, but by the purchaser, by the demand. Capital therefore should be protected, though it itself needs also to be governed. Strikes should be declared unlawful. Labor and capital both must sacrifice something to the general cause. [61]

Du Val endorsed Capital’s point of view by asking that strikes, the only weapon that Labour had, be declared illegal. Moreover, he even suggested that Capital be protected. Clearly, the business community found in the “Reverend Doctor” a true friend. The Minister emphatically congratulated businessmen for “beginning to think earnestly upon local affairs.” [62] His endorsement of the “commercial class’“ new plan to administer the city also reveals his allegiances.

With time, however, Du Val’s position shifted considerably. He became more critical towards Capital’s practices and governments in general. [63] When saddlery workers were dismissed for refusing to sign conditions which were manifestly a strike at organized labour, Du Val supported them: “[Du Val] felt the whole matter should be placed before the department of labor, and, if the laws of Canada did not meet the circumstances then they ought to alter the laws. Dr. Du Val continued that this was only the ancient fight of human rights against arbitrary powers, and they knew who would prevail in the end.” [64]

In another published sermon, he confirmed his new position towards Labour:

The age had it own ways of sinning against the spirit of humanity. Much of the animal in men works out its selfishness. Where it cannot work by force of arms and by chain, it often does by the higher faculties of the mind. It affects the great monopolies to draw exorbitant revenues from helpless people. The mischief it once did without law it now does by law. By skilful manipulation of legislation and parliaments it draws from the people, in an indirect way, fortunes a thousand-fold more fabulous than masters ever drew from the labor of slaves. [... Du Val] felt free to say that there are more white slaves in great cities than there were ever black ones in Southern fields, slaves of poverty, vice and hopeless degradation. [65]

His stand on Sabbath observance also reflected a change of heart. At first, he forcefully defended Sabbatarian legislation [66] thus opposing Labour since most workers clearly rejected the “act for the better observance of the Lord’s Day.” [67] “He made an impassioned appeal to the committee not to permit Sunday street cars. Salus populi suprema lex [For the good of the people, the law is supreme],” reported the Nor Western in 1895. Reverend Du Val argued:

Why should there be a depreciation of Christianity because it is Christian. There has not been a law passed which has not been the cause of years of controversy, consequently has been stated by an English writer, laws are the outcropping of the will of the people. The Duke of Argyle was right when he said ‘the perfection of our law is the perfection of our liberty’. The highest law known is the moral good of the people. Since the civil war in the States, and since the Sabbath day became an open day, crime has increased 250 per cent in that country. [68]

By 1906, however, Du Val had completely changed his mind. He declared “Sunday cars are a necessity in Winnipeg. They should be inaugurated in the interests of the citizens.” [69] His new stand on labour issues corresponded with his clash with the civic authorities regarding the best way to deal with the prostitution problem.

Willing to discuss and engage in the hottest issues of his time, he debated the Manitoba School Question. The Manitoba Act of 1870 guaranteed continuity of French Catholics and English Protestants duality in Manitoba’s public schools, but with the massive influx of the latter in the 1890s, the duality was challenged. The new settlers began to ruthlessly assail French- speaking, Catholic rights. Du Val’s take, just like his attitudes towards women, shows how his social philosophy was rooted in Presbyterianism. Moir argues that Canadian Presbyterians advocated church union and a “free unsectarian system of schools” as a defence against militant Catholicism. [70] This was certainly true for Du Val. A Free Press journalist reported:

Dr. Du Val expressed the warmest and kindest feeling for all Roman Catholic people and said there were countless thousands of good people in the communion. It was the system to which the most strenuous opposition must be manifested. This system, the individual members of the Church did not understand, and they did not appreciate the dangers. [71]

A group of Presbyterian ministers parade to the Walker Theatre, Winnipeg, 1916.
Source: Foote Collection, Archives of Manitoba

Although acknowledging that the Canadian constitution recognized the rights of Catholics, Du Val added that both the British North America (BNA) Act and the Quebec Act “had been the subjects of great controversy.” Beyond the questions of these Acts, he specified, was “the question of elementary human justice and equity. An Act of parliament did not make a thing right.” Du Val identified a serious problem in the presence of what he saw as two contradictory forces in the BNA Act: “a free conscience on the one side, and religious absolutism on the other.” The British system favoured the development of a free conscience, but by recognizing the rights of Catholics, Du Val inferred, the constitution endorsed religious absolutism. For him, the separate school system allowed “children [to be] trained to look at a foreign potentate. If there were conflict between king and pope, a good Catholic in Canada must look to the pope.” [72]

His total rejection of the Catholic faith is even more apparent when he declared: “It was said that the demand of Roman Catholics for separate schools was a demand of the conscience. This was true but it was a demand of the conscience papally educated.” [73] Du Val clearly believed that a “papally educated conscience” was simply not good. Definitively, a Presbyterian conscience was far better as “It claims for man the right of private judgment. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. This makes him tolerant of, and fraternal with, those who differ from him, yet tones him with a sense of individual responsibility,” preached Du Val. [74] If Presbyterians were to be tolerant of the ones who differ from them, it seems that they could make an exception for Catholics.

Du Val went on to accuse Catholics of being unpatriotic and disloyal:

The Roman Catholic was demanding at the present moment from the state, rights which would afterward be used against and to the detriment of the state. There were countless noble people under the sway of the Roman church, but that organization was no longer, and for centuries had not been, a simple religious association. It was a great worldwide political power. [75]

“World-wide political power” was a direct reference to the perceived threat of Roman Catholic power, something which Du Val thought had to be fought arduously.

To Du Val’s inflammatory prose, A. Gerritsma, a Catholic priest, expeditiously replied: “Because Dr. Du Val with his ‘protestantly’ educated conscience does not believe in separate schools, is no reason why Catholics who with their ‘papally educated conscience’ do believe in them, should not have them.” Gerritsma directed the readers of the Free Press to Du Val’s lack of tact:

In one breath Dr. Du Val expresses ‘the warmest and kindest feeling for all Roman Catholics,’ and in the next breath brand them as rebels and anarchists, accusing them of allegiance to a foreign potentate. [...] Dr. Du Val made another brilliant remark when he said: ‘It was the system to which most strenuous opposition must be manifested. This system the individual members of the church did not understand, and they did not appreciate the danger.’ A splendid tribute to the 1,300 Catholic laymen, the best and most intelligent in this province, who assembled in meeting here a few weeks ago, publicly professed their allegiance to this system. [76]

Father Gerritsma obviously hit a nerve as Du Val immediately retaliated, and with even more verve than before, starting his letter with a personal attack: “Father Gerritsma, in his usual vein of language, loud and vulgar, has accused me of branding Roman Catholics as ‘rebels, anarchists,’ etc.” To defend himself against the perceived attack of Gerritsma, Du Val cited from his manuscript rather than from the Free Press article that the priest referred to. The Minister concluded his letter to the editor with another insult to Catholics: “I only ask now that the children be not educated away from fellowship one with another, and that they be not so reverentially biased toward absolute obedience to a foreign potentate as to make it hard for them to render a ready loving loyalty to their country’s laws.” [77] Father Gerritsma rebutted “I do not address myself directly to him, since, having descended to personalities, he deserves to be treated with silent contempt.” [78] The priest simply asked Du Val to prove that Catholics were less loyal than Protestants or to apologize.

Unsatisfied with attacking Roman Catholics in Canada, as “papally educated” and unpatriotic, Du Val also accused the Catholic Church and its parochial schools of producing an inordinate number of criminals: “The statistics go to show that the Roman Catholic system and its parochial schools turn out a tremendous greater proportion of criminals than the public schools. The reason seems to be that the individual is not so fully cultivated in reasoning as to be an individual judge of right and wrong, but is left dependent on some arbitrary authority.” [79] He continued maligning Catholics as incapables of thinking for themselves:

The idea of elevating the cry for separate schools into the realm of conscience, he [Du Val ] could not but feel, was a Popally suggested and Papally trained conscience to build up out of innocent children a Papal system, whose unreasoning solidarity was equalled only by former inertia of China and fanatical stolidarity [sic] of Moslem world. It started in a falsely assumed right to control the thought of the world, and perpetuating its power by preventing as far as possible, the rise of any thought not subject to its will. Thus it handicapped the individual with intellectual slavery and endangered the state by its ‘imperium in imperio.’ [80]

Du Val’s charged interjection testifies to the sensitivity of the topic, and reveals his strong conviction that the Catholic faith should be extinguished as it “handicapped the individual.” Just like the six Presbyterian “social uplifters” that Brian Fraser studies, Du Val was evidently “convinced that the values and culture of Anglo-Saxon Protestantism were the key to moral and social progress in Canada.” [81] Also, the exchange between the minister and the priest clearly illustrates Du Val’s obvious disdain towards Catholicism, and speaks volumes about his so-called “tactfulness”.

Moir specifies that church union was the other strategy Canadian Presbyterians put forth to combat militant Catholicism. Du Val earnestly advocated the unification of the Protestant churches. He organized and managed the first Christian Endeavour Society ever formed in Manitoba. [82] Christian Endeavour associations were created in evangelical Protestant Churches to strengthen spiritual life and promote Christian activities among its members. Within a few years of its creation, the organization had become not only interdenominational but international. As a member of the Joint Committee for Church Union, Du Val was definitively perceived as a champion of the church union movement. The Free Press communicated that “Dr. Du Val spoke for union with his usual devotion and vigor.” [83] His obituary highlighted that “he was from the first day a strong advocate of church union and did good service in advancing the movement.” [84] The one article where Du Val discussed church union does not constitute in itself a direct attack on Catholicism, yet paired with his discourse on separate school, his endorsement of protestant church union can be seen as a means to combat Catholic strength. [85]

Du Val’s social philosophy was not static, he did change his mind and attitude towards labour issues. He adapted to circumstances. The passion within, however, never faded.

Du Val’s Impact

After nearly forty years spent in Winnipeg, twenty-seven as pastor of Knox Church, Reverend Dr. Frederic B. Du Val passed away at eighty-one, one morning in the spring of 1928. His popularity and long residency in the city certainly contributed to the fact that his funeral was one of the largest witnessed in Winnipeg. [86] During his years as pastor, Knox Church was often filled to capacity. [87] Indeed, forty years of preaching are bound to have an impact, or at least some influence on parishioners. In 1912, “Criticus” rightly remarked that “A preacher must be no ordinary man if he is to feed the flock of Christ in one charge for such a period [twenty-three years] with unwearied freshness, sustained power, and comforting grace.” [88]

Du Val succeeded in gaining the affection and respect of his congregation. His parish found him irreplaceable. When he submitted a letter of resignation in early 1914 citing health reasons, the congregation convinced him to postpone his retirement. [89] This was the same congregation that had thrown a surprise party for his twentieth wedding anniversary, and offered the Du Val couple many lovely and expensive gifts such as “a fine china dinner and tea service, hand painted jardiniere, a beautiful salad bowl, a dozen plates in royal Worcester work, a solid silver salad knife and fork, a sterling silver soup and gravy ladle, a fine damask table cover and a set of table napkins,” as well as a comfortable and handsome study chair for the minister. [90] These luxury gifts indicate that within the Knox congregation there were many well-off parishioners, but equally, the celebrations showed that Du Val was, without a doubt, greatly respected and appreciated.

On the twenty fifth anniversary of Knox Church, he was presented by the Young People of Knox Church with a silk pulpit gown an a recognition address: “We, the Young People of Knox Church, approach you with feelings of thankful remembrance of your kindness to us, and gratitude for the spiritual influence you have been able to exert upon us during nearly nine years of our history.” [91] This is the closest one can come in measuring his impact on “souls”.

Obituaries are not necessarily the most objective assessment of a person’s life, yet the recurrent remarks his friends made attest that Du Val was perceived as a fearless foe of social vices. Reverend Kerr said: “In the early days there was no more stalwart champion with everything that was good and right in the life of the city and a fearless antagonist of all the base elements. At times in his fight he ran great personal dangers, but that made him fight all the harder.” [92] Reverend Christie mentioned that: “The debt we owe to his clear moral leadership in the early days is enormous.” [93] While the Free Press reported: “[Dr. Du Val] has lived [in Winnipeg] for 40 years, not only as a minister of one of its leading churches, but also as man who was profoundly interested in civic righteousness and who, again and again, braved the displeasure of officials by his actions on government and evil living.” [94] The editor added a few days later: “Our city has seen no keener fighter against the vicious element.” [95]

Gambling did not vanish from Winnipeg, prohibition was not enforced, nor did prostitution disappear, although the segregated district finally ceased to exist in 1912. Du Val persistent efforts to get rid of it must have played a role in the final outcome. Not suffering from any lack of self-esteem, he himself acknowledged that he had won the social evil battles. [96] The Free Press also conferred on him victory writing that “just because of his utter fearlessness these characters (vicious elements) began to slink off to a safer climate.” [97] Even if Du Val was unsuccessful at defeating all the “evil” forces of the industrial order, he was successful in raising public consciousness to what he considered to be the ills of society. That his ideas were published in pamphlets and newspapers with readers even commenting on them confirms his influence.


In general, Winnipeg’s city council enjoyed a reputation of efficiency and effectiveness. In fact, the booster mentality of the West readily explains why social reform in Winnipeg was taken on mostly by men of the cloth. Since municipal administrators, mostly preoccupied with rapid and sustained growth, turned a blind eye to “social purity,” Du Val believed that he had no choice but to speak out against these ills.

In the end, Du Val poses more as a moral reformer than as a social or political one. For him, it was the moral character on both a personal and a communal level, that would ensure the regeneration of social existence and the continuance of providential progress. This is why Du Val believed it so important to deal forcefully and promptly with the social evil. “If the moral foundations of the State were removed collapse was imminent,” he warned his parishioners. [98] The fight against prostitution in Winnipeg was essential to insure not only the well-being of the city but also of the West and the country in general. As he put it: “As Winnipeg goes, so goes the coming West, and the springs from which future generations shall drink in their characters, will be purified or poisoned right here.” [99] He concluded his last official sermon by stating that: “It is only as you keep the heart of the great centres pure and strong that the good red blood of a nobler life can flow out to the whole body politic.” [100]


1. Alan Artibise. Winnipeg: A Social History of Urban Growth, 1874-1914, (Montreal, McGill-Queen’s: 1975) p. 25, 102-125.

2. W. T. Thompson and E. E. Boyer (eds) The City of Winnipeg—The Capital of Manitoba, and the Commercial, Railway and Financial Metropolis of the Northwest: Past and Present Developments and Future Prospects. (Winnipeg, Thompson & Boyer: 1886) reproduced in Alan F. J. Artibise. (ed). Gateway City. Documents on the City of Winnipeg 1873-1913. Volume V: The Manitoba Record Society Publications, (Winnipeg, The Manitoba record Society in Association with The University of Manitoba Press: 1979) p. 46.

3. Ibid., p. 59.

4. Douglas Francis, Images of the West. Changing Perceptions of the Prairies, 1690-1960, (Saskatoon, Western Producer Prairie Books: 1989), p. 117.

5. For instances, in “Municipal Elections” the editor of the Daily Nor Western (DNW) wrote: “There has been a lamentable lack of zeal and effort in the direction of educating the public sentiment to the need of a better municipal government and the necessity of selecting careful and capable men for municipal officers.” 14 December 1896. A contributor to the People’s Voice wrote: “Has the record of last year, with its secret star chamber legislation, been sufficiently satisfactory in its results to justify us in folding our hands and allowing things to go on as they are [?]”, “The Civic Election”, 2 October 1897.

6. D. J. Kenway, “Winnipeg Criticized”, Winnipeg Free Press (WFP), 14 September 1904.

7. “They have the rottenest conditions of things in Winnipeg in connection with question of social vice to be found in any city in Canada.”

8. Judge Robson, Segregation or Toleration of Vice. The Duty of the Police Authorities. The Enforcement of the Law (Toronto, The Moral and Social Reform Council of Canada: 1911), p. 5.

9. For a discussion on prostitution and segregation in Winnipeg at the turn of the century, see Alan Artibise, “Red Lights in Winnipeg: Segregated Vice, Moral Reformers and Civic Politics: in Winnipeg: A Social History of Urban Growth, 1874-1914. And, Rhonda Hinther, “The Oldest Profession in Winnipeg; The Culture of Prostitution in the Point Douglas Segregated District, 1909-1912.”, Manitoba History, Spring/Summer 2001, p. 2-13.

10. “A Famous Reformer”, DNW, 23 November 1895.

11. “A Careful Student of Social Reform”, DNW, 8 April 1895.

12. In a column of the DNW, 23 February 1895 we learn that: “Some time ago, a civic federation was organised to promote purity in municipal politics, and to advance the cause pastors were asked to preach concurrently on the subject.”

13. WFP, 13 December 1915.

14. Henry Morgan, Canadian Men and Women of the Time. A Handbook of Canadian Biography, (Toronto, William Briggs: 1912) p. 358.

15. David Livingstone, “Darwinism and Calvinism: The Belfast-Princeton Connection”, ISIS, Vol. 83, No. 2, 1992, p. 408-428.

16. Michael Gauvreau, The Evangelical Century. College and Creed in English Canada from the Great Revival to the Great Depression. (Montreal-Kingston, McGill-Queen’s University Press:1991), p. 143.

17. “Ignorance Great Foe of Humanity”, WFP, 25 March 1912.

18. F. B. Du Val quoted in Ibid.

19. Reverend Kerr, quoted in “Many Attend Funeral of Rev. F. B. Du Val”, WFP, 18 May 1928.

20. Quoted in Henry Morgan, Canadian Men and Women of the Time. A Handbook of Canadian Biography, (Toronto, William Briggs: 1912), p. 358.

21. Reverend Kerr, quoted in “Many Attend Funeral of Rev. F. B. Du Val”, WFP, 18 May 1928.

22. “Dr. Du Val Gives up his Pastorate”, WFP, 20 March 1916.

23. “Presbyterian Synod”, DNW, 10 November 1893.

24. “Temperance Advocates”, DNW, 21 February 1896.

25. “Confirms News of Retirement”, WFP, 11 May 1914.

26. F. B. Du Val, “Dr. Du Val on the Civic Issue”, WFP, 6 December 1910.

27. F. B. Du Val, “Dr. Du Val on the Social Evil”, WFP, 7 August 1901.

28. Mariana Valverde, The Age of Light, Soap, and Water. Moral Reform in English Canada, 1885-1925, (Toronto, McClelland and Stewart: 1991), p. 78.

29. F. B. Du Val, The Problem of Social Vice in Winnipeg, (Winnipeg, Moral and Social Reform Committee: 1910), p. 4.

30. Ibid., p. 29.

31. Ibid., p. 26.

32. See, “Monster Mass Meeting in Moral Crusade”, WFP, 17 November 1903. “Letter from Dr. Du Val”, WFP, 20 February 1908. “Rev. Dr. Du Val Discusses Segregation Question”, 2 May 1910. “Dr. Du Val’s Reply”, WFP, 9 December 1910.

33. F. B. Du VA “Rev Dr. Du Val to His Worship”, WFP, 20 November 1903.

34. “Civic Candidates Define Policies”, WFP, 9 November 1903.

35. F. S. Chapman, “A Pointed Observation or Two”, WFP, Rare Books and Special Collections Division, McGill University Librairies, (J. B. Silcox Papers), MS353, File 3.

36. “Denounces Modern Political Rings”, WFP, 4 August 1913.

37. “Dr. Du Val Gives up his Pastorate”, WFP, 20 March 1916.

38. F. B. Du Val, The Problem of Social Vice in Winnipeg, p. 19.

39. Rhonda Hinther, p. 14.

40. F. B. Du Val quoted in “Rev. Dr. Du Val Discusses Segregation Question”, WFP, 2 May 1910. And, “Monster Mass Meeting in Moral Crusade” WFP, 17 November 1913.

41. F. B. Du Val, The Problem of Social Vice in Winnipeg, p. 14.

42. F. B. Du Val, quoted in “Dr. Du Val Gives up his Pastorate”, WFP, 20 March 1916.

43. John Moir, Enduring Witness. A History of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, (Hamilton, Presbyterian Church in Canada: 1974), p. 288.

44. Lois A. Boyd, “Shall Women Speak? Confrontation in the Church, 1876”, Journal of Presbyterian History, Vol. 56, No. 4, p. 271-296.

45. John Moir, p. 180.

46. Phyllis Airhart, “Ordering a New Nation and Reordering Protestantism 1867-1914.” in The Canadian Protestant Experience 1760-1990, ed George Rawlyck, (Burlington, Ontario, Welch Publishing Company: 1990), p. 121.

47. Brian Fraser, “James A. Macdonald and the Theology of the Regenerators”, Nation, Ideas, Identities. Essays in Honour of Ramsay Cook, eds. Michael Behills and Marcel Martel, (Don Mills, Oxford University Press: 2000), p. 11.

48. Judge Robson, Report on the Commission on the Suppression of Vice in Winnipeg, 1911, Manitoba Legislative Library, p. 362 and p. 364.

49. Ibid., p. 363.

50. Ibid., p. 365.

51. It was the case for Daly and a certain A. E. Potter who wrote a letter in the Free Press, 8 December 1910.

52. F. B. Du Val, “Dr. Du Val’s Reply”, WFP, 9 December 1910.

53. F. B. Du Val, The Problem of Social Vice in Winnipeg, p. 4.

54. “Dr. Du Val Gives up his Pastorate”, WFP, 20 March 1916.

55. “Employer-Employee”, The Voice, 21 October 1898.

56. F. B. Du Val, quoted in Ibid.

57. Ibid.

58. “Presbyterian Century Fund”, WFP, 14 November 1901.

59. Phyllis Airhart, p. 123.

60. The Jackdaw, “Dr. Du Val and Trades Unionism”, WFP, 16 November 1901.

61. F. B. Du Val, quoted in “Pulpit Views of Labor Question”, WFP, 7 September 1903.

62. “Striking Need of Civic Reform”, WFP, 6 November 1905.

63. “Dr. Frederic Du Val Observes Jubilee”, WFP, 3 May 1913.

64. “Ministers Assist Saddlery Workers”, WFP, 24 October 1911.

65. “Present Day Need for Wise Leaders”, WFP, 11 August 1913.

66. “Citizens Protest” , DNW, 31 March 1898.

67. “Sunday Observance”, DNW, 16 April 1898.

68. “Sunday Street Cars”, DNW, 25 June 1895.

69. “Sunday Cars Are Now a Necessity”, WFP, 5 February 1906.

70. John Moir, p. 121.

71. “Rev. Dr. Du Val on Separate Schools”, WFP, 1 April 1912.

72. F. B. Du Val quoted in Ibid.

73. Ibid.

74. F. B. Du Val, sermon preached for the 25th anniversary of Knox Church in Knox Church. Souvenir, 1872, 1897: Quarter Century Knox Church, Winnipeg (Winnipeg: 1897).

75. “Rev. Dr. Du Val on Separate Schools”, WFP, April 1, 1912.

76. A. Gerritsma, “Dr. Du Val on Separate Schools”, WFP, 2 April 1912. Ibid.

77. F. B. Du Val, “Dr. Du Val’s Reply to Father Gerritsma”, WFP, 4 April 1912.

78. A. Gerritsma, “Letter from Father Gerritsma”, WFP, 9 April 1912.

79. Du Val, quoted in “Declares Ground are not Tenable”, WFP, 18 August 1913.

80. Ibid.

81. Brian Fraser, The Social Uplifters. Presbyterian Progressive and the Social Gospel in Canada, 1875-1915, (Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University Press: 19880, p.x.

82. “Knox Church”, The Morning Telegram, 19 December 1898.

83. “Too Much Time Given Up to Church Union”, WFP, 9 June 1913.

84. “Rev. F. B. Du Val Dies from Sudden Attack”, WFP, 16 May 1928.

85. “Church Union Talks by Rev. Dr. Du Val”, WFP, 5 February 1912.

86. “Many Attend Funeral of Rev. F. B. Du Val”, WFP, 18 May 1928.

87. “Employer-Employee”, The Voice, 21 October 1898, “Ignorance Great Foe of Humanity”, WFP, 25 March 1912, “Dr. Du Val Occupied Knox Church Pulpit”, WFP, 20 April 1914.

88. Criticus, “The Man and His Message”, WFP, 19 October 1912.

89. “Confirms News of Retirement”, WFP, 11 May 1914.

90. Pastor and Wife”, DNW, 4 November 1895.

91. Knox Church. Souvenir, 1872, 1897: Quarter Century Knox Church, Winnipeg, p. 7.

92. Reverend Kerr, WFP, 16 May 1928.

93. Reverend David Christie, WFP, 16 May 1928.

94. WFP, 16 May 1928.

95. “Many attend funeral of Rev. F. B. Du Val”, WFP, 18 May 1928.

96. “Dr. Du Val Gives up his Pastorate”, WFP, 20 March 1916.

97. “Many attend funeral of Rev. F. B. Du Val”, WFP, 18 May 1928.

98. “Dr. Du Val Gives up his Pastorate”, WFP, 20 March 1916.

99. F. B. Du Val, The Problem of Social Vice in Winnipeg, p. 29.

100. “Dr. Du Val Gives up his Pastorate”, WFP, 20 March 1916.

Page revised: 14 October 2012

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