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BEATTY, WILLIAM HENRY, lawyer and businessman; b. 10 Dec. 1833 in York (Toronto), son of James Beatty and Ann McKowen; m. there 26 April 1865 Charlotte Louisa Gooderham Worts, and they had two sons and three daughters; d. 20 Nov. 1912 in Toronto.

In 1830 James Beatty left Belfast and settled in York, where he became a merchant and a captain in the militia. Two years later he married the daughter of James McKowen of Dublin. William Henry Beatty, the eldest of their three sons and five daughters, attended Upper Canada College in 1842–45. In his mid twenties he began to study law: he was articled in Toronto to John Leys and attended lectures at Osgoode Hall. On 5 Feb. 1863 he was admitted as a solicitor and entered into partnership with Edward Marion Chadwick, also from a well-to-do Irish family and soon to be his brother-in-law.

The success of the firm was intimately connected with Beatty’s marriage in 1865 to a daughter of James Gooderham Worts*, a partner in the Gooderham and Worts distilling and milling operations and an important figure in such other businesses as the Bank of Toronto and the Canada Permanent Building and Savings Society. Beatty and his law firm, however, had to earn the family’s business; it was not until 1877 that the firm became the solicitors of the Bank of Toronto. By 1879 Beatty had moved his offices to the bank’s building at the corner of Church and Wellington. The link with the bank was solidified in 1881 when Worts became its president and Beatty its vice-president. The following year Worts died; in his will he had directed that Beatty be elected to succeed him on the bank’s board of directors. In addition to assuming this role, Beatty became an executor of his father-in-law’s estate and for many years directed its business interests.

After his firm had attracted the bank’s business, his associates were periodically required to argue debtors’ and creditors’ matters in court. The records of the firm at the time indicate that it was seeking to recruit barristers for this purpose; Beatty was called to the bar in 1880, possibly because he himself had to appear in court. Business was normally conducted through two sets of partners, for instance, in 1876, Beatty, Chadwick, and Lash and Beatty, Miller, and Lash. Each partnership likely practised a different type of law; this dual arrangement would also have permitted an equitable distribution of revenue where the firms did not bring in equal amounts.

Beatty and Chadwick remained partners for almost 50 years. Of the two it was Beatty who made the firm, in one estimate, “the largest legal business in Canada.” He recruited skilled practitioners, many of whom, such as William Renwick Riddell* and Wallace Nesbitt, would become leaders of the profession and members of the bench. He also brought in some Gooderhams and Blackstocks, who were related to the Gooderhams by marriage, and his own son Charles William. In 1901 the firm numbered 16 lawyers. As a commercial lawyer, Beatty helped clients establish and run their businesses. According to Cecil Francis Lloyd, he devoted “his time to questions of organization and management, leaving the execution of his plans to the . . . lawyers and expert office men with whom . . . he surrounded himself.”

But Beatty was more than a business lawyer. He was also a businessman. As the Bank of Toronto’s board noted at his death, “His wide experience in commercial affairs and his far-sighted and well balanced judgement made his counsels of the highest value and his deep sense of responsibilities . . . made him most scrupulous in the discharge of [his] duties.” By 1890 he had become the principal legal and business adviser to the Gooderham and Worts empire and was one of the most prominent members of Toronto’s financial community. After George Gooderham*’s death in 1905, Beatty effectively left law – David Fasken* became the firm’s managing partner the following year – and turned to running the Gooderham businesses. At various times he served as a director of Gooderham and Worts Limited (the company he had incorporated on Worts’s death to continue the partnership business), vice-president of the London and Ontario Investment Company and the Toronto General Trusts Corporation (Canada’s first trust company), and president of the Bank of Toronto, the Toronto Silver Plate Company, the Canada Permanent Mortgage Corporation, the Canadian Niagara Power Company, and the Confederation Life Association, an insurance company he helped found in 1870 and manage for over 40 years.

Beatty was active in the Toronto Board of Trade, and in 1894 he co-authored with Wallace Nesbitt two works for the board on arbitration rules. Two years later he represented it at the Congress of Chambers of Commerce of the Empire in London, England.

Although, in his own words in 1883, he did not take “any active interest in politics,” he was a “true blue Conservative.” When necessary Beatty used his political connections with Sir John A. Macdonald* and Sir Charles Tupper to assist his clients. In 1879, for example, he asked Macdonald to intercede on behalf of the Bank of Toronto, which was seeking to collect money owed by the government to one of the bank’s debtors in connection with the building of the Lachine Canal. In 1888 he called on the prime minister to assist the Gooderham and Worts distillery in preventing the Canadian Pacific Railway from using the former estate of his father-in-law, just north of the distillery, for a shunting yard. On Sir John A.’s death in 1891, he was chosen by the local Conservatives to chair the Macdonald Memorial Committee of Toronto. However, he consistently refused appointment as a qc when the honour was offered by Macdonald and by Tupper. It is possible that he had no interest in an honour that was intended primarily for barristers and would hold no significance for a commercial specialist other than prestige. Despite his Conservative connections, he may not have wanted a qc on the basis of political considerations alone.

Outside law and business, Beatty was a president (1892–1907) of the Old Boys’ Association of Upper Canada College, a member of the college’s board of governors, a club-man and yachtsman, and a member of St James’ Anglican Cathedral. In November 1910 he was forced by poor health to give up his various positions. He died two years later at his home, the Oaks, on Queen’s Park Crescent.

C. Ian Kyer

There is extensive material concerning William Henry Beatty in the archives of Fasken Campbell Godfrey, the Toronto law firm that he founded, as well as in the Toronto Dominion Bank Arch.

NA, MG 26, A: 8665–66, 8921–24, 58801–8, 166547–49. St James’ Cemetery and Crematorium (Toronto), Tombstone, lots 170–74, sect.C. Globe, 21 Nov. 1912. World (Toronto), 21 Nov. 1912. The Canadian law list (Toronto), 1901. Canadian men and women of the time (Morgan; 1898 and 1912). E. M. Chadwick, The Chadwicks of Guelph and Toronto and their cousins (Toronto, 1914); Ontarian families: genealogies of United-Empire-Loyalist and other pioneer families of Upper Canada (2v., Toronto, 1894–98; repr., 2v. in 1, Lambertville, N.J., [1970]; repr., vol.1, intro. W. F. E. Morley, Belleville, Ont., 1972), 1. Directory, Toronto, 1862/63–1900. J. E. Middleton and Fred Landon, The province of Ontario: a history, 1615–1927 (5v., Toronto, 1927–[28]), 5: 802–3. The roll of pupils of Upper Canada College, Toronto, January, 1830, to June, 1916, ed. A. H. Young (Kingston, Ont., 1917), 37, 104. Joseph Schull, 100 years of banking in Canada: a history of the Toronto-Dominion Bank (Toronto, 1958), 39–42. Standard dict. of Canadian biog. (Roberts and Tunnell), vol.1.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

C. Ian Kyer, “BEATTY, WILLIAM HENRY,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed September 24, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/beatty_william_henry_14E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/beatty_william_henry_14E.html
Author of Article:   C. Ian Kyer
Title of Article:   BEATTY, WILLIAM HENRY
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1998
Year of revision:   1998
Access Date:   September 24, 2023