McCORD, WILLIAM KING, lawyer, landowner, justice of the peace, office holder, and judge; b. 14 Dec. 1803 in Dublin, second son of Thomas McCord* and Sarah Solomons (Solomon); m. 24 Feb. 1827, in Montreal, Aurelia Felicite Arnoldi, daughter of Daniel Arnoldi*, and they had two children; d. there 20 Oct. 1858.
William King McCord was born while his mother and father were on a visit to Ireland; his father was already established at Montreal and returned there with his family in 1805. Thomas McCord was a merchant, a police magistrate, and above all a prominent Montreal landowner. He had John Samuel, his eldest son, and William King partly taught by tutors. William stayed in Trois-Rivières in 1816 and 1817, and from 1818 to 1819 he studied at the Petit Séminaire de Montréal. There is no clear trace of his career in the next years, but it is known that he went to Great Britain. He is believed to have studied at Cambridge, because a letter written by John Samuel in 1825 mentions debts that William had contracted for this purpose. Whatever the case, he returned to Lower Canada in 1823 and the following year began legal training in Montreal under John Samuel. He appears then to have had some misgivings about his future. None the less he continued his legal studies at Quebec under William* and John Walker in 1825, finishing them there with Samuel Ussher in 1829. He was called to the bar at Quebec on 7 February of that year.
Little is known of McCord’s activity from the time he entered the profession until the rebellion of 1837–38. In 1828 he was apparently living in Saint-Joseph parish, in the village of Les Cèdres, where he began to practise as a lawyer a year later. From then on, he had difficulty with his creditors because he was slow to pay his accounts. In 1830 it seems that he was living at Quebec. After their father’s death in 1824, he and John Samuel had inherited his rights to the sub-fief of Nazareth at Montreal, but William had quickly entrusted his interest in this estate to his brother, who acted as his proxy. In 1836 he made another trip to the British Isles.
Some time after his return to Lower Canada, McCord began his career as a magistrate, during the period when the rebellion was being suppressed. He was recommended for the post of commissioner for the summary trial of small causes in 1838, and on 18 May 1839 was appointed stipendiary magistrate in the district of Montreal; as magistrate, he was involved in the arrest of rebels in Sainte-Scholastique parish (at Mirabel). In 1840 he applied for the office of sheriff of a district court, but instead was given commissions as justice of the peace and as police magistrate at Montreal.
McCord continued to have financial problems. In 1843 he was faced with numerous protests and the following year was even prosecuted for a debt. He then decided to sell his rights in the sub-fief of Nazareth, which were purchased for £8,000 on 2 Dec. 1844 by John James Day, a Montreal lawyer. McCord seems to have had no further debts or prosecutions.
Meanwhile, on 25 April 1844, he was appointed a judge of the Circuit Court of the district of Quebec. He held this post until 6 Oct. 1845, when he became inspector and superintendent of police for the city of Quebec. His new duties led him to play a supervisory role in the maintenance of law and order in the Quebec region. In 1846 he was also given the responsibility of organizing the river police, in collaboration with certain directors of the Quebec Board of Trade. In this capacity he seems to have done some travelling; at any rate he obtained permission that year to go to the United States to gather information on police organization there. On 3 Dec. 1845 he had been appointed commissioner for the relief of shipwrecked and destitute seamen, but he resigned on 19 Jan. 1848 because of a difference of opinion with a colleague.
In the mean time, McCord was made a qc on 14 June 1847, a title reconfirmed on 16 Sept. 1848. Then on 30 July 1849 he received a new commission as inspector and superintendent of police for the city of Quebec. Finally, on 25 Nov. 1850 he acceded to the office of judge of the Superior Court of Lower Canada. In addition to his many other pursuits, he had been involved in a number of organizations. A founder of the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec in 1824, he was also a member of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Montreal and William Henry.
William King McCord died on 20 Oct. 1858 in Montreal, at the age of 54. He had been living in Aylmer, in the Ottawa River region. As a sign of respect for him the members of the Montreal and Quebec bars wore mourning for 30 days. His son Thomas was named judge of the Superior Court of Quebec in 1873.
ANQ-M, CE1-63, 24 févr. 1827, 30 oct. 1828, 22 oct. 1858; CN1-7, 1er juin 1830, 18 janv. 1832; CN1-134, 28 juill. 1827; CN1-187, 26 juill., 8, 15 août 1843; 18 janv. 1844; 29 janv. 1845; CN1-192, 2 déc. 1844; CN1-332, 28 févr. 1828. ANQ-Q, CN1-188, 7 févr. 1824, 15 nov. 1825; E17/42, nos.3406–20; E17/43, nos.3421–53. McCord Museum, McCord papers. PAC, MG 24, B2; L3, 21; MG 30, D1, 20: 623–24; RG 68, General index, 1651–1841: 13, 627, 645, 679; 1841–67: 134, 137, 311–12, 316–17, 332–33, 346. Le Journal de Québec, 2 nov. 1858. Montreal Transcript, 22 Oct. 1858. Le National (Québec), 23 oct. 1858. Quebec Gazette, 22 Oct. 1858. Borthwick, Hist. and biog. gazetteer. The centenary volume of the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec, 1824–1924, ed. Henry Ievers (Quebec, 1924). Lefebvre, Le Canada, l’Amérique. P.-G. Roy, Les juges de la prov. de Québec. Elinor Kyte Senior, British regulars in Montreal: an imperial garrison, 1832–1854 (Montreal, 1981).