Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
A. R. Allen
This thesis is an exhaustive study of one man's social thought, its nature, roots and development, and its relationship to social, political and cultural currents in his contemporary society. It is an exercise in the history of ideas, not as systematic philosophic thought, but as a popular, living, cultural force, acted out in the reality of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Canadian historical landscape.
John Wilson Bengough was, in his time, a popular and prominent social critic, journalist and lecturer. Known not only throughout Canada, but indeed over much of the English speaking world, he was perhaps most famous for his didactic cartooning, pathetic poetry, and his untiring support of social reforms such as the single tax and prohibition. Although many Canadian historians have utilized his graphics and commentaries to illustrate their interpretations of the country's past, no one had undertaken a study of the nature and origin of his observations, no one had identified or understood his ideological roots, and no one had even considered the role or effect of the ideas he expressed in the shaping of late nineteenth and early twentieth century Canadian society. This thesis, as a study of J. W. Bengough, examines the nature, roots and development of his social thought, explains its application, and attempts, in so doing, to advance a better understanding of mid- and late-Victorian Canadian social processes.
Chapter I sets the framework for the study, documenting some formative influences of his early years, illustrating his rise to national prominence and identifying his graphic didactic commentaries on political and social events of the 1870's. Chapter II and III, examine and evaluate his popular appeal and his effect on political events. Chapter IV, perhaps the most important in terms of an identification of the roots of his social thought, examines his ideological foundations in the Protestant ethic, and place Bengough within a tradition of interpreters of a Christian vocational ethic. Chapter V and VI illustrate the adaptation of his ideology to contemporary social problems, and chapter VII identifies Bengough within the tradition of Candian Protestant thought in its secular expression and application.
In a narrow sense, this thesis argues that Bengough is a representative of an intellectual tradition with its roots deep in the Canadian religious heritage and it identifies his graphic, poetic and vocal appeals for the employment of Christian values in social problems as an important early step in the development of later radical reform movements, especially the social gospel movement. In a wider sense, it illustrates the importance of ultimate values in the impetus for social reform. Using Bengough as an example, it illustrates the essential role that ideas, in this case Christian ethics, played in the development of Canadian culture and social structure. And yet, while it attempts to provide some answers about the role of Bengough and his ideas in Canadian history, its conclusion and arguments often lead, instead of to answers, to further questions.
Kutcher, Stanley Paul, "John Wilson Bengough: Artist of Righteousness" (1975). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 513.
McMaster University Library