Second Premier of British Columbia. Changing his name from Bill Smith (William Alexander Smith). Described in later years:
Contemporaries paint a portrait of an isolated person (he never married and had few intimate friends) with grandiose manners, prone to public outbursts of tears, and a fierce temper that sometimes degenerated into fist-fights. He had unusual phobias — including a fear of electricity. As he grew older, his eccentricities intensified, he became increasingly incoherent, and by 1895 he was declared insane.
Two years later, he was dead.
He was a “free thinker” in religious matters and opposed the introduction of prayers into the House of Commons in 1877. He was also strongly opinionated, given to outbursts of temper and prone to take political issues personally, using caustic language and invective against his opponents. A bachelor, he had many political friends but little private life. His frequently intemperate behaviour in public – for example, his breaking into tears while speaking or his fighting with fists and walking stick on Victoria streets – suggests perhaps a tendency to emotional imbalance. He was not, in the words of G. M. Sproat, a “patient partyman,” and lacked the “diplomatic quality” of a statesman. While in London in the mid 1870s, De Cosmos “caused much amusement generally by his language and demeanor,” and the colonial secretary, Lord Kimberley, in 1881 found him “a fearfully tedious man.” Interestingly, his eccentricities had proved less of a liability on Vancouver Island than on the national and international stages.