Ryland, Herman Witsius (DNB00)

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RYLAND, HERMAN WITSIUS (1760–1838), Canadian statesman, born at Northampton in 1760, was younger son of John Collett Ryland [q. v.] and brother of John Ryland (1753–1825) [q. v.] He was educated for the army, and in 1781 was assistant deputy-paymaster-general to the forces under Burgoyne and Cornwallis in America, rendering important service at New York prior to its final evacuation in 1782. He returned to England with Sir Guy Carleton (afterwards first Lord Dorchester) [q. v.], who had negotiated the peace. In 1793 Lord Dorchester, being appointed governor-in-chief of British North America, took Ryland with him to Canada as his civil secretary; and thenceforward for many years Ryland's influence on the administration of affairs in Lower Canada was paramount. He was continued as secretary by Dorchester's successor, General Robert Prescott [q. v.], in 1797, and again (after serving with Sir Robert Miles, the lieutenant-governor) by Sir James Craig on 22 Oct. 1807. To Craig he seems to have been chiefly attached. He became also clerk of the executive council, clerk of the crown in chancery, and treasurer for the jesuits' estates; and he received a pension in respect of his services prior to 1804.

Ryland, a somewhat prejudiced Englishman, set himself to establish in Canada the supremacy of the crown and the church of England, and to anglicise the French Canadians. He was the fountain-head of the opposition to Archbishop Joseph Octave Plessis [q. v.]; in constant fear of ‘demagogues’ and ‘sedition,’ he advised the seizure of the reactionary press in March 1810. Soon afterwards he was despatched to England on a special mission, the objects of which were to obtain an alteration of the constitution of Lower Canada, to appropriate to the use of the crown the revenues of the jesuits' estates, and to induce the government to seize the patronage of the Roman catholic bishop of Quebec. On 31 July 1810 he arrived at Plymouth, and was admitted to a meeting of the cabinet on the subject of his mission on 22 Aug.; but after about two years' delay he returned unsuccessful to Canada, arriving at Quebec on 19 Aug. 1812. Meanwhile Sir James Craig had retired, and Sir George Prevost (1767–1816) [q. v.] took his place. The new governor did not approve Ryland's views, and, though Ryland came back with a recommendation from Lord Liverpool and with the honour of a seat in the legislative council, he did not retain his old position of secretary more than a few months, resigning in April 1813.

Henceforth Ryland's influence was chiefly felt in the legislative council; but after 1820 he appeared little in public life. He died at his seat, Beauport, near Quebec, on 20 July 1838. He was married, and left children settled in Canada. A son, George Herman Ryland (d. 24 Sept. 1883), was clerk of the legislative council.

[Morgan's Sketches of Celebrated Canadians; Christie's History of Canada, especially vol. vi.; Rogers's History of Canada.]

C. A. H.