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William Henry Draper, late Chief Justice, who died at his residence in Yorkville, on the 3rd of November, 1877, was a native of Surrey, England, born March 11, 1801. In his youth he went to sea, and, as we learn from the Canada Law Reporter, showed the stuff he was made of, “when, alone at his post, a young cadet, he defended it from mutineers until assistance came, felling one of his assailants dead at his feet with a blow from a handspike, his only weapon.” At the age of nineteen he abandoned a seafaring life, and came to Canada, reaching Cobourg early in June, 1820, and three years later began to study law at Port Hope, in the office of Thomas Ward. He finished his studies with the Hon. G. F. Boulton, of Cobourg, acting about the same time as Deputy Registrar of Northumberland and Durham.
Being called to the Bar in 1828, he came to Toronto, and took charge of the business of Attorney General Sir John B. Robinson. In November, 1829, he was appointed reporter to the Queen’s Bench, which office he held for eight years. In 1842 he was created a Queen’s Counsel.
Sometime prior to this date Mr. Draper had gone into politics; early in 1836 was elected to the Legislative Assembly to represent Toronto; in December of that year was called to the Executive Council, and on the 23rd of the following March became Solicitor-General, holding that position until the Union of the Provinces, in 1841, in the February of which year Robert Baldwin took his place and he became Attorney-General and Premier of United Canada. In April, 1843, Mr. Draper was made a Legislative Councilor, but at the request of Governor-General Metcalfe, resigned his seat in the Upper House, and once more became Attorney-General, representing London in the Legislative Assembly.
In 1847 Mr. Justice Hagarman, Puisne Judge of the Court of Queen’s Bench, died, and in June of that year Mr. Draper took that office. In February, 1856, he took the place of Sir James Macaulay, as Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas, and held that office until he was transferred to the Queen’s Bench, and became Chief Justice of Upper Canada, in July 1863.
Judge Draper was not only a very sound lawyer, but an adept at expounding the law, showing his perfect mastery of it as a science. The writer already quoted says” his law was clean cut, no jagged edges; no ends to pick up at the close of a judgment. He never deviated from the point at issue. He gave the law, the whole law and nothing but the law on the particular subject in question at the time.” We may add that in every respect he honored the ermine.
In 1857 the Canadian Government sent him to England to lay before the Home Government Canadian rights in connection with the Northwest Territories; and time has shown that the appointment was judicious. On more than one occasion he was offered knighthood, but had the modesty to decline it.