M.A. Trinity Coll. Dublin, 1828; LL.B., LL.D., 1835; deacon Church of Ireland, 1831; priest, 1833.
Univ. examiner & class, tutor Trinity Coll., Dublin, 1828-38; princ. Upper Canada Coll., 1839-42; prof, class., logic, rhet., & belles lettres King's Coll., U. Toronto, 1842-50; vice pres., 1842-8; pres., 1848-50; prof, class. & pres. U. Toronto, 1850-3; vice chancellor, 1853-5; prof. class. & pres. University Coll., U. Toronto, 1853-80; ed. The Maple Leaf, 1852-3; 1854-80.
The Metres of the Greek Tragedians Explained and Illustrated (Dublin, 1828); Remarks, Explanatory and Illustrative, on the Terentian Metres (Dublin, 1828); Dionysius Longinus on the Sublime (Dublin, 1829); Selections from Lucian (Dublin, 1829); Q. Horatii Flacci satirae et epistolae (Dublin, 1833); The First Book of the Histories of Thucydides, &c (Dublin, 1834); Remarks on the Course of Classical Study pursued in the University of Dublin: Addressed to the Candidates for Honours by John McCaul, A.M. (Dublin, 1834); K. Nordiske Oldskrift-selskab, Report Addressed by the Royal Society of Northern Antiquaries to Its British and American Members (trans.) (Copenhagen, 1836); Scansion of the Hecuba and Medea of Euripides (Dublin, 1836); The Metres of the Odes of Horace Explained, new edition (Dublin, 1838); Carl Christian Rafn, Supplement to the Antiquitates Americanae (trans.) (Copenhagen, 1841); The University Question Considered by a Graduate (Toronto, 1845); Quinti Horatii Flacci Satirae Epistolae et Ars Poetica (Dublin & London, 1846); Britanno-Roman Inscriptions (Toronto & London, 1863); Christian Epitaphs of the First Six Centuries (Toronto & London, 1869).
McCaul played a fundamental role in developing higher education in Upper Canada (now Ontario). From Ireland he brought high scholarship to a relatively primitive society, which still lacked a functioning university. Among his Dublin publications his edition of Horace should be singled out for its quality and adoption as a textbook by the grammar schools of Ireland. His early studies of prosody won him international attention and prompted his appointment as principal of Upper Canada College (founded 1829), Toronto, where he developed a famous "seventh form," the nearest thing to university study at the time. Subsequently he brought the curriculum and ideals of Trinity College Dublin to the newly founded King's College in Toronto where he served as Vice President (under the rambunctious Bishop John Strachan) and professor of classics. He was the most scholarly of its first professors; his demanding standards in classics evoked criticism as unrealistic from some fellow educators. Yet by the 1850s he accepted the need to reduce the curricular demand and dominance of classics and oversaw the introduction of new subjects, the allowing of "options," and the weakening of classical matriculation standards. His continuing scholarship was capped by his publication of his two internationally recognized studies in epigraphy, an academic interest begun in Ireland, but particularly difficult to pursue in New World conditions. When King's College was transformed into the first University of Toronto in 1850, McCaul continued on as President until 1853, and when the University of Toronto became a non-teaching, degree-granting institution in 1853 with one affiliated college (University College), he was appointed the affiliate's "perpetual" president. For over 40 years McCaul was widely respected as a scholar, teacher, author, administrator, and kindly counselor and known for his eloquence, especially his convocation addresses marked by apt classical quotations. A cultivated gentleman, with a forceful personality and the gift of Irish eloquence, with widely recognized scholarly and political credentials (but not always acclaimed for his attachment to the "Family Compact"), he was also a tenor soloist, an instrumentalist, and composer; and he founded the First Philharmonic Society in Toronto.
ApCAB 4:78; University College, A Portrait, ed. Claude T. Bissell (Toronto, 1953); G. M. Craig, Diet. Can. Biog. 11:540-2; John King, John McCaul, Croft, Forneri, Personalities of Early University Days (Toronto, 1914), 15-101; MacDCB 78:431-2; Henry James Morgan, Bibliotheca Canadensis (Ottawa, 1867); G. M. Rose, Cyclopedia of Can. Biog. (Toronto, 1888) 165; Toronto Daily Mail (13 Apr. 1867) 6; UT Monthly 27 (1926-7) 61-2, 114-5, 158-9; Malcolm Wallace in University College: A Portrait 1853-1953 (Toronto, 1953) 36-7; W. S. Wallace, History of the University of Toronto (Toronto, 1927); William Wedd, "The Reverend John McCaul, LL.D.," UT Monthly 2 (1901-2) 2-5.