Smith, William (I)

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Smith, William (I)

SMITH, WILLIAM (I). (1697–1769). Colonial jurist. New York. Born in Buckinghamshire on 8 October 1697, Smith was the son of a tallow chandler who brought his family from England to New York in 1715. Smith graduated from Yale in 1719 and three years later received his master of arts degree. He remained at Yale as a tutor until April 1724, when he turned down the position of rector and moved to New York, becoming a member of the bar. Smith became a prominent attorney and ally of the Livingstons, joining their battle against the governor's authority and the De Lancey family. His most famous case was that of the printer John Peter Zenger from 1734 to 1736. For his role in defending Zenger's right to publish, Smith and his partner, James Alexander, were disbarred, leaving Zenger to look outside New York for his next attorney, Andrew Hamilton of Philadelphia. It took two years, but Smith and Alexander finally won readmission to the bar through the intercession of the assembly. In 1760 he declined the office of chief justice of New York, since it was to be held at the pleasure of the governor, but was associate justice of the supreme court from 1763 until his death in New York City on 22 November 1769. By his first wife, Mary, daughter of René and Blanche (DuBois) Het, he had fifteen children, including William (II) and Joshua Hett Smith.

SEE ALSO Smith, Joshua Hett; Smith, William (II).


Bonomi, Patricia U. A Factious People: Politics and Society in Colonial New York. New York: Columbia University Press, 1971.

Smith, William. Papers. New-York Historical Society, New York City.

                            revised by Michael Bellesiles

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Smith, William (I)

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