HORAN, EDWARD JOHN, Roman Catholic priest and bishop, scholar, and educator; b. 26 Oct. 1817, Quebec, son of Gordian Horan and Eleanore Cannon; d. 15 Feb. 1875 at Kingston, Ont.
Edward John Horan was born into an English-speaking family but received his early education in French. He entered the Petit Séminaire in Quebec in September 1830, where he had an excellent academic record. After then completing his course at the seminary of Quebec, he joined its faculty in 1839 as an instructor in English, a post he held until 1848. His scholarly interest, however, was in the sciences, then called natural history, a new subject in which he had been an apt pupil. He was especially concerned with scientific agriculture, seeking in technological advances some solution to the agricultural depression which had persisted in the St Lawrence valley through the 1830s. In 1843 he was appointed professor of natural history at the seminary.
His superiors encouraged his work and, in February 1848, agreed to send him to Harvard University in the United States for further training. Horan had hoped to study under the naturalist Louis Agassiz at Harvard but, unfortunately, Agassiz presented only infrequent lectures. Life in Boston, however, fascinated Horan; his letters reveal a wide circle of acquaintances, including publicist Orestes Brownson, then a Roman Catholic and in his conservative phase, who seems to have influenced the young cleric strongly. At the end of March 1848, Horan decided to transfer to Yale to follow the lectures of the celebrated scientist, Benjamin Silliman, and of his son Benjamin. The scholarly environment proved congenial, but the community of New Haven, where anti-Catholicism flourished in those early days of American nativism, did not. Horan wrote anxiously to his superior in Quebec that he “would be happy when the moment arrived when I can leave the United States, and exchange their vaunted liberty for the slavery of Canada, where at least one can serve God according to his conscience without fearing the torch of the incendiary.”
Returning to Quebec in the autumn of 1848, Horan resumed his teaching duties at the seminary in the sciences, and conducted geological field trips down the St Lawrence River. He worked closely with Louis-Ovide Brunet and Elkanah Billings. Increasingly he became involved in the administrative life of his institution. He was a director of the Petit Séminaire and secretary of the Université Laval council in 1855, and in 1856 the first superior of the École Normale Laval. These careers came to an end in 1858 when he was appointed fourth bishop of Kingston to succeed Patrick Phelan*. He was consecrated on 1 May at St Patrick’s Church in Quebec and moved immediately to his new diocesan seat. A continuing interest in the Université Laval was recognized in 1867 when he was named a director.
Bishop Horan was as efficient and firm an administrator in his diocese as he had been at Quebec. In the 17 years of his episcopate there was little disruption in its religious life. The surviving evidence of his social philosophy indicates that he had a conservative cast of mind, although his correspondence with the archbishop of Baltimore reveals a sympathetic attitude toward the trade union movement. In 1861 he introduced the Sisters of Providence of St Vincent de Paul who established the first house of providence in Canada West.
As bishop of Kingston, however, Horan’s principal concern was Catholic education in Canada West, and he took a great satisfaction in the passage of Richard William Scott*’s act in 1863 which provided for the extension of public aid to separate schools. Horan had played his part well in obtaining this legislation although he had worked behind the scenes, preferring, for obvious reasons, lay leadership in the cause of Catholic education.
Horan almost inevitably became involved in the web of patronage and politics that characterized public life in Canada in the late 19th century. He established a firm relationship with John A. Macdonald* and other prominent Conservatives. Yet he had a curious correspondent in Edmund Bailey O’Callaghan, once a Lower Canada rebel, and then the archivist of the state of New York. In a letter accompanying a new edition of the Jesuit Relations, which Horan was sending to O’Callaghan, there is evidence of a long and warm friendship between the two men. The major criteria for the bishop’s political support were soundness on the school question and allegiance to Macdonald. In 1861, a year that was not untypical, he wrote to Macdonald, George-Étienne Cartier, and Joseph Cauchon* (who had been a class-mate at the Petit Séminaire), seeking positions for various people, including his own brother-in-law. As the expected quid pro quo, Horan urged his parish priests to support the Conservative cause, writing, for example, to one correspondent, “I trust you will use your influence in this matter and direct the Catholic vote in a proper direction.” Locally, he exerted himself in Macdonald’s own riding. The Catholic vote of Kingston required careful cultivation and Macdonald relied heavily on the bishop through the years.
Horan retired in 1874 and was succeeded by John O’Brien. His death the following year prompted many laudatory obituaries, but perhaps his most significant accomplishment was the degree to which he furthered the integration of Roman Catholics into the public life of the province.
Archdiocese of Kingston, Archives, E. J. Horan papers. P.-G. Roy, Le vieux Québec (2v., Québec, 1923–31). Arthur Maheux, “L’abbé Edward John Horan (1817–1875),” Le Naturaliste canadien (Québec), LXXXVI (1959), 77–92.