Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
June 2005

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia


William Henry Draper


Draper, William Henry (1801-1877), politician and judge, was born near London, England , on March 11, 1801, the son of the Rev. Henry Draper, a clergyman of the Church of England. He came to Canada in 1820, and studied law at Port Hope and Cobourg, Upper Canada. He was called to the bar in1828 (Q.C., 1842), and in 1829 he en­tered the law office of John Beverley Robinson in York (Toronto). From 1836 to 1840 he represented Toronto in the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada; and in 1836 he was appointed a member of the Executive Council of the province. During the rebellion of 1837 he served as aide-de-camp to Sir Francis Bond Head. In 1837 he was appointed solicitor-general for the province, and in 1840 attorney-general. On the completion of the Union of 1841 he became attorney-general for Upper Canada in the administration formed by Lord Sydenham, and he retained this office until the defeat of the government and the formation of the Baldwin-Lafontaine administration in 1842. In 1843 he was appointed a member of the Legislative Council; and on the resignation of Baldwin and Lafontaine later in the year, he was again sworn of the Executive Council, and became the chief adviser of Sir Charles Metcalfe. With Dominick Daly and Denis Benjamin Viger, he carried on the government for several months; and then he formed an administration, in which he took again the portfolio of attorney-general for Upper Canada . He resigned from the Legislative Council, and was in 1845 returned for London in the Legislative Assembly. His government having been sustained in the general elections of 1844, he was for three years the virtual head of the government, though without the recognized title of prime minister; but the difficulty of carrying on the administration with the small majority at his disposal was too much for him, and in 1847 he resigned office. A few weeks later he was appointed to the bench, and as a judge he spent the rest of his life. He was successively a puisne judge of the court of Queen's Bench in Upper Canada (1847-56), chief justice of the Common Pleas (1856-63), chief justice of Upper Canada (1863-9), and president of the court ofError and Appeal (1869-77). He died at Yorkville, near Toronto, on November 3, 1877.


In 1827 he married the daughter of Captain George White, R.N., and by her he had several children. In 1854 he was made a C.B. Though not commonly regarded as a member of the "Family Compact", and though theoretically in favour of responsible government, he was an old-fashioned Conservative. He was a speaker of very persuasive powers; and hence came his parliamentary sobriquet of "Sweet William".

Source  : W. Stewart WALLACE, ed., The Encyclopedia of Canada, Vol. II, Toronto, University Associates of Canada, 1948, 411p., pp. 235-236.

© 2005 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College