James McGill died on December 19, 1813 leaving a Will in which he bequeathed his 46-acre farm known as "Burnside" to the Honorable John Richardson and three other trustees. The condition was that The Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning (RIAL) establish, within ten years of his death, a University or College in his name. McGill further bequeathed the sum of 10,000 pounds to the trustees, payable to the Royal Institution, for the expenses associated with the establishment and maintenance of the College. If the College was not established, the property and funds would revert to James McGill’s heirs, the Desrivičres family.
The RIAL had been created in 1801 by a statute of the Province of Lower Canada, authorizing the Governor of the Province to appoint persons as trustees of schools in the Province. The trustees were declared authorized to purchase, receive, possess and retain lands and property in favor of the schools and for the purpose of advancing education in the Province.
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