MARLING, ALEXANDER, public servant and author: b. 11 April 1832 in Ebley (Gloucestershire), England, youngest son of John F. Marling, a cloth manufacturer, and his wife, the daughter of Malcolm McFarlane of Inverness, Scotland; m. in 1859 Julia Hewlett, and they had three children; d. 12 April 1890 in Toronto, Ont.
Alexander Marling immigrated to Canada with his parents in 1842 and entered Upper Canada College in Toronto that year. After graduation he remained in the city and spent five years in a mercantile house before being made a clerk in the department of education, under Egerton Ryerson, in 1854. Four years later he became chief clerk. According to his superior, Deputy Superintendent John George Hodgins*, Marling acquired a reputation for “thorough efficiency.” On the appointment of Adam Crooks as Ontario’s first minister of education in 1876, Marling was made secretary of the department, a post he held until his elevation in January 1890 to the rank of deputy minister succeeding Hodgins.
While working in the department of education, Marling had studied law, graduating from the University of Toronto in 1862. Unfortunately his duties “did not allow his advance to the bar” but he was a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada. He also published two books on education. The Canada educational directory, and year book for 1876, dedicated to Ryerson, was a useful compilation of information on the public and private educational systems and personnel in each province of Canada at that time; the sections on Ontario and Quebec were particularly detailed. A brief history of public and high school text-books authorized for the province of Ontario, 1846–1889, commissioned by the education minister, George William Ross*, and published in 1890, drew comparisons with practices in several American states and provided a useful summary of the textbook question. It was apparently part of Ross’s determined campaign to establish one authorized text in each subject.
Marling’s main avocational interests were the church and the military. He was a “steadfast adherent” to the Church of England, an advocate of religious instruction “whether in private, public or Sunday schools,” and a staunch supporter of Bishop Strachan School in Toronto, being a member of its council. He joined the volunteer force in 1862 at the time of the Trent affair [see Charles Hastings Doyle] and for some years was a member of the 3rd Battalion, Victoria Rifles, and the 2nd Battalion, Queen’s Own Rifles. After passing through the military school conducted by the 47th Foot he received a captain’s certificate.
Just three months after becoming deputy minister of education, the office he had no doubt coveted most during his career, Marling died and was succeeded by John Millar*.
Marling seems to have been a typical public servant: efficient and well liked but not spectacular. Obituary notices described him as a “first-class officer, accurate, painstaking, kindly, courteous and honourable,” and as “a Christian gentleman.” He also received the ultimate tribute to a public servant: “never have we heard of his doing anything with which either Minister, teacher or publisher could justly be dissatisfied.”
Alexander Marling was the author of A brief history of public and high school text-books authorized for the province of Ontario, 1846–1889, prepared by the Education Department (Toronto, 1890) and the editor of The Canada educational directory, and year book for 1876 . . . (Toronto, 1876).
AO, RG 2, E-1, box 3: J. G. Hodgins to Egerton Ryerson, 29 Nov. 1872. Canada Educational Monthly and School Magazine (Toronto), 12 (1890): 187–88. Educational Journal (Toronto), 4 (1890–91): 25. Cyclopædia of Canadian biog. (Rose, 1886), 620.