William Cooper

William Cooper, sea captain, land agent, land reform politician (b in Britain 1786?; d at Sailor's Hope, PEI 10 June 1867).

Cooper, William

William Cooper, sea captain, land agent, land reform politician (b in Britain 1786?; d at Sailor's Hope, PEI 10 June 1867). During his lifetime, Cooper dwelt in controversy, a central mover in the century-long struggle of poor settlers to wrest Island land from the stranglehold of absentee proprietors. Although he and his followers flirted with violence, his agitation took the form of political pressure rather than armed uprising. As founder and leader of the Escheat Party, and speaker of the Legislative Assembly (1839-43), he advocated a radical confiscation of landlord property and its reallocation to those who farmed it. When reform did occur, culminating in the Land Purchase Acts of 1853 and 1875, it took the more moderate guise of purchase by the Island government and resale to tenants. Cooper's contribution was as a powerful focal point for tenant energy and frustration. After his death, he was largely forgotten. More recently, his name has been invoked by social critics from a working class perspective, and an adult education and research organization has been named, in his honour, the Cooper Institute. See also LAND QUESTION, PEI.