Clergy Reserves were tracts of land in Upper Canada reserved for the support of "Protestant clergy" by the Constitutional Act of 1791 which also established Upper and Lower Canada as distinct regions each with an elected assembly. One-seventh of all Crown lands were set aside. Although the first lieutenant governor of Upper Canada, John Graves Simcoe interpreted Protestant clergy to mean the clergy of Church of England only, by 1824, the Church of Scotland was also granted a share of the projected revenues.
The Clergy Corporation was incorporated in 1819 to manage the Clergy Reserves. After the Rev. John Strachan was appointed to the Executive Council, the advisory body to the Lieutenant Governor, in 1815, he began to push for the Church of England's autonomous control of the clergy reserves on the model of the Clergy Corporation created in Lower Canada in 1817. Although all clergymen in the Church of England were members of the body corporate, the act prepared in 1819 by Strachan’s former student, Attorney General John Beverly Robinson, also appointed the Inspector General and the Surveyor General to the board, and made a quorum of three for meetings; these two public officers also sat on the Legislative Council with Strachan. These three were usually members of the Family Compact.
The reserves were allotted in two hundred acre (80 ha) lots. Except in the Talbot Settlement, they were scattered haphazardly and were a serious obstacle to economic development. The Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada passed a law to sell the reserves in 1840, but it was disallowed by the imperial (British) government.
In the 1840s, a bill was passed distributing the profits of the clergy reserves amongst all leading Protestant groups (except for the Baptists, who refused to involve themselves in government funding). The lands were finally removed from church ownership and secularized in 1854 and the revenues from the reserves were transferred to the government.
Reform of the Clergy Reserves was a major issue in Canadian politics from its creation until its abolition. The controversy stemmed from the fact that many supporters of the religious endowment were part of the tory ruling class. Even Robert Baldwin, who was the leader of the struggle for Responsible Government did not advocate for complete abolition and chose to resign his seat rather than tackle the question.
- Fayey, Curtis. In His Name: The Anglican Experience in Upper Canada, 1791-1854 (1991)
- Lindsey, Charles; John Rolph (1851). The clergy reserves: their history and present position, showing the systematic attempts that have been made to establish in connection with the state, a dominant church in Canada, With a full account of the rectories. Also an appendix containing Dr. Rolph's speech on the clergy reserves, delivered in 1836. Printed at the "North American" press.
- Ryerson, Egerton (1882). Canadian Methodism: Its Epochs and Characteristics. Toronto: Methodist Book and Publishing House (Wm. Briggs).
- Strachan, John (1853). The clergy reserves: a letter from the Lord Bishop of Toronto to the Duke of Newcastle, Her Majesty's secretary to the colonies. Printed at the Churchman Office.
- Wilson, Alan (1968-01-01). The Clergy Reserves of Upper Canada: a Canadian mortmain. University of Toronto Press.
- Wilson, Alan (1969). The Clergy Reserves of Upper Canada. Ottawa: Canadian Historical Association. ISBN 0-88798-057-0.
- Wilson, George A. (1959). The Political and Administrative History of the Upper Canada Clergy Reserves, 1790-1855. Toronto: PhD Thesis, Dept. of History, University of Toronto. pp. 133ff.