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The Hon. Dr. Thomas Simpson Sproule

The Honourable Dr. Thomas Simpson Sproule (October 25, 1843 – November 10, 1917) was a Canadian parliamentarian, Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons from 1911–1915, and a member of the Canadian Senate from 1915–1917.


Early life and education

Sproule was born to James and Jane (née Mitchell) Sproule, farmers who had emigrated to King Township, Canada West from County of Tyrone, Ireland.[1]

His parents moved to Grey County when he was young, and he attended public schools there before studying at University of Michigan and the University of Victoria. He left school for two years before returning to Victoria University, graduating in 1868 with a degree in medicine.[1]

Doctor, businessman and politician

After graduation, Sproule first practised medicine at Craighurst, Ontario before moving to Galesburg, Michigan. He moved back to Grey County, settling in Markdale, Ontario, where he also owned a drug store and a large cattle farm, and invested in local businesses such as a flour mill and lumber yard.[1]

He turned to politics and succeeded the retiring William Kingston Flesher as MP of Grey East in the 1878 election as a Conservative MP. He was subsequently re-elected eight times in succession.

In 1881, he married Mary Alice Flesher, daughter of the politician he had succeeded, and they had a daughter, Lillian.[1]

Political views

Sproule was a staunch Protestant from an Irish Unionist background. He was a member of the Orange Order, and rose to the position of "Master and Sovereign". In 1906, he became "President of the Imperial Grand Council of the World". The Order was noted for its anti-French and anti-Catholic views, particularly in that period.

As a Conservative MP, he was a supporter of Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald, but his loyalty to Orangeism led him to differ with his party's leadership on issues of language and religion, particularly on the Manitoba Schools Question. Sproule opposed any concession to Catholic Separate Schools or French language instruction.

Following the fall of the Conservative government in the 1896 election, largely due to divisions over the school issue, he became a pronounced critic of the immigration policies of Sir Wilfrid Laurier's government. Sproule opposed the admission to Canada of non-British migrants. He supported the abolition of French language instruction in Ontario schools, and the implementation of Regulation 17. Sproule also opposed the expansion of French language services by the federal government.

Speaker of the House

Following the defeat of the Laurier government in the 1911 election, the new Conservative Prime Minister, Robert Laird Borden, nominated Sproule to the position of Speaker of the House of Commons. Because Sproule had to lead the House in prayers in both English and French, he embarked on French lessons despite being a life-long opponent of the language.

During a thirty-six day filibuster on the question of the government's naval bill, Sproule lost his patience after weeks of 24 hour sessions, and became the first Speaker ever to "name" a member of the House for disorderly conduct.

Illness and death

Sproule was forced to retire from the Speakership due to ill heath, and was named to the Canadian Senate in 1915. He served for two years until his death in 1917.


External links

Parliament of Canada
Preceded by
William Kingston Flesher
Member of Parliament from Grey East
Succeeded by
Electoral district was abolished in 1914


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