Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Howland, William Pearce

HOWLAND, Sir WILLIAM PEARCE (1811–1907), Canadian statesman, born at Paulings, New York, on 29 May 1811, was son of Jonathan Howland, a descendant of John Howland, who migrated from England in 1620. His mother's maiden name was Lydia Pearce. After education at the common school of his native place and at Kinderhook Academy, Howland went to Canada in 1830 and found employment in a general store at Cooksville, Ontario. His business interests rapidly grew, and in association with his brother Peleg he soon owned a number of country stores, and made large profits in lumbering and rafting ventures. For some years he was in business near Brampton, Ontario, and later went into the milling and grain business with his brothers Peleg and Frederick. He bought the Lambton mills, near Toronto, in 1840.

In 1857 Howland was elected to parliament, representing West York as a follower of the advanced liberal leader, George Brown [q. v. Suppl. I]. In 1862 he alienated himself from that leader by accepting the portfolio of finance in the (Jolin Sandfield) Macdonald-Sicotte liberal administration. Brown and Mowat refused to join on the ground that the cabinet was hostile to the principle of representation by population. Howland and McDougall, the only Ontario liberals in the ministry, defended themselves from the charge of party disloyalty by asserting that they were acting solely in the interests of confederation? Howland remained in cabinet office for six years. In 1862 he was sent to England with Sicotto on militia matters. At the same time he pursued negotiations with reference to the Intercolonial railway and to the proposed cession of Rupert's Land by the Hudson's Bay Company. He had an acute prevision of the rich possibilities of the Canadian north-west. Subsequently he founded the Rescue Company for the purpose of capturing the growing traffic between the British settlers in the Red River country and the Americans at St. Paul, Minnesota, and with a view to establishing communications linking the trade of Toronto with the north-west and ultimately with the Pacific coast. Finally in 1880 Howland headed a syndicate for the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

Meanwhile in 1863 Howland had exchanged his financial portfolio for that of receiver-general. This he retained till the following year, when he became postmaster-general (1864–6). In 1865 he and (Sir) Alexander Galt [q. v. Suppl. I] visited Washington as commisioners for Canada to consider reciprocal trade with the United States. Next year he succeeded Galt as finance minister. In Dec. 1866 he took part in the London conference which resulted in the confederation of the Canadian provinces, and he became minister of inland revenue in 1867 in the first confederation cabinet under Sir John Alexander Macdonald [q. v.]. He resigned his portfolio in July 1868 to become lieutenant-governor of Ontario, and he filled that post until 1873. Thenceforth he confined his attention to business. For his services at the time of confederation he was appointed C.B., and in 1879 he was created K.C.M.G. He died at Toronto on 1 Jan. 1907, and was buried there.

He married thrice: (1) in 1843 Marianne Blythe (d. 1849), by whom he had a daughter and two sons, both subsequently mayors of Toronto, and both dying before their father; (2) in 1866 Susanna Julia (d. 1886), widow of Captain Hunt; and (3) Elizabeth Mary Rattray, widow of James Bethune, Q.C.; she survived him.

Of two portraits in oil, one is in Government House and the other in the National Club, Toronto; there is a bust by Miss Mildred Peel, R.C.A. (Lady Ross), in the normal school.

[The Times, 3 Jan. 1907; Toronto Globe; Canadian Men and Women of the Time; Dent, Canadian Portrait Gallery, 1881, iii. 124; private information.]

P. E.