Hon. William Smithe
|7th Premier of British Columbia|
January 29, 1883 – March 28, 1887
|Lieutenant Governor||Clement Francis Cornwall|
|Preceded by||Robert Beaven|
|Succeeded by||Alexander Edmund Batson Davie|
|MLA for Cowichan|
October 16, 1871 – March 28, 1887
|Preceded by||first member|
|Succeeded by||Henry Fry|
|Born||June 30, 1842|
|Died||March 28, 1887 (aged 44)|
Victoria, British Columbia
Smithe was born William Smith in England and moved to Canada in his youth, settling on Vancouver Island in 1862 as a farmer. In 1871, he ran in BC's first election and won a seat in the new provincial legislature. There he added the final "e" to his name, probably to distinguish himself as clearly as possible from the colourful figure of Amor De Cosmos. De Cosmos, also then a member of the legislature, had likewise been born as "William Smith," but in a characteristically grand gesture had legally adopted instead a new name meaning "Love of the Universe."
By 1875 Smithe had become the informal leader of the opposition to Premier George Anthony Walkem's government, but yielded the leadership to Andrew Charles Elliott. Smithe was in Elliott's short lived cabinet from 1876 to 1878 before returning to the opposition benches and again became opposition leader.
In 1883, Smithe became the seventh Premier of British Columbia and initiated the Great Potlatch era in which governments made generous grants of public resources and land to private entrepreneurs. He also settled disputes with the federal government which had stalled the construction of the transcontinental Canadian Pacific Railway. Asked on one occasion whether he thought British Columbia should be annexed to the United States, he suggested instead that Washington and Oregon be annexed to British Columbia. Smithe remained premier until he died in office in 1887.