Born in Cranston, Rhode Island, WILLIAM SPRAGUE worked with his brother in a mercantile business, and the two men became the most extensive manufacturers of cotton goods in the world. Sprague was a member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, serving as speaker. Although he made an unsuccessful bid for the governorship in 1832, he won election in 1838 after serving one term in the U.S. House of Representatives. Although he received the largest number of votes among three gubernatorial candidates the following year, he did not earn fifty percent of the vote and the legislature—although authorized to do so—failed to choose a winner either among the candidates for governor or the candidates for lieutenant governor, as a result of which a state Senator assumed the governorship in an acting capacity. During Sprague's single term, legislation was enacted to regulate the government and management of the Narragansett Indian tribe, to license the sale of liquor, and to order a geological and agricultural survey of the state. After leaving office, Sprague was elected to fill a vacancy in the U.S. Senate, but retired two years later to assume his family business obligations after the death of his brother.
Mohr, Ralph S. Governors for Three Hundred Years (1638-1954): Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. State of Rhode Island, Graves Registration Committee, August 1954.
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 9. New York: James T. White & Company.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.