William Stephens Smith

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William Stephens Smith
William Stephens Smith.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 17th district
In office
March 4, 1813 – March 3, 1815
Preceded by None; district established
Succeeded by Westel Willoughby, Jr.
Personal details
Born November 8, 1755
Long Island, Province of New York
Died June 10, 1816(1816-06-10) (aged 60)
Lebanon, New York
Nationality United States
Political party Federalist
Spouse(s) Abigail "Nabby" Adams Smith
Children William, John, Thomas, Caroline
Residence Lebanon, New York
Alma mater College of New Jersey
Profession Military officer
Government official

William Stephens Smith (November 8, 1755 – June 10, 1816) was a United States Representative from New York. He married Abigail "Nabby" Adams, the daughter of President John Adams, and so was a brother-in-law of President John Quincy Adams, and an uncle of Charles Francis Adams.

Born on Long Island, he graduated from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) in 1774, and studied law for a short time.

American Revolutionary War[edit]

He served in the Revolutionary Army as aide-de-camp to general John Sullivan in 1776. Smith fought in the Battle of Long Island, was wounded at Harlem Heights, fought at the Battle of White Plains, was promoted to lieutenant colonel at the Battle of Trenton and fought at the Battle of Monmouth and Newport. He was on the staff of General Lafayette in 1780 and 1781, became an adjutant in the Corps of Light Infantry then transferred to the staff of George Washington.[1]

Years after the war[edit]

He was secretary of the Legation at London in 1784. While there, he met and courted John Adams's daughter Abigail ("Nabby"), whom he married in 1786.[2] He returned to America in 1788.

Smith was appointed by President Washington to be the first United States Marshal for the District of New York in 1789, and later supervisor of revenue. He was one of the originators of the Society of the Cincinnati, and served as its president from 1795 to 1797. He was appointed by President John Adams surveyor of the Port of New York in 1800. During this period the Smiths bought land in what was then the countryside outside of New York City, and planned to build an estate, which they called Mount Vernon, in honor of George Washington. They never lived there, but a carriage house on the property was later converted to a hotel and is now operated as the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum.

Colonel Smith raised private funds, procured weapons, and recruited soldiers of fortune to fight the Spanish territory of Venezuela. This action was inspired by Smith's renewal of acquaintance with Francisco de Miranda, whom Smith had first met when he was John Adams's secretary in London in 1783. On 2 February 1806, a force of filibusters, including Smith's son William Steuben, set sail on a chartered merchant vessel, the Leander. The Spanish captured the ship and the mercenaries. Steuben later escaped.

Colonel Smith was indicted in New York for violating the Neutrality Act of 1794 and put on trial. Colonel Smith claimed his orders came from U.S. President Thomas Jefferson and U.S. Secretary of State James Madison, who refused to appear in court. Judge William Paterson ruled that the President "cannot authorize a person to do what the law forbids." Colonel Smith stood trial and was found not guilty.[3]

In 1807 Smith moved to Lebanon, New York.

Smith was elected as a Federalist to the 13th United States Congress, holding office from March 4, 1813 to March 3, 1815. After the United States House of Representatives elections in New York, 1814, credentials of his election to the 14th United States Congress were issued by the Secretary of State of New York, but Stephens did not take or claim the seat. Part of the votes had been erroneously returned for "Westel Willoughby" (omitting the "Jr."), thus giving Stephens apparently a majority. On December 13, 1815, Westel Willoughby, Jr. was declared by a vote of the House entitled to the seat.

Smith died in Smith Valley in the town of Lebanon in 1816. He is interred in the West Hill Cemetery in the Town of Sherburne, on New York State Route 80.

Family[edit]

William Stephens Smith was the son of John Smith, a wealthy New York City merchant, and Margaret Stephens. He had many brothers and sisters, and his sister Sarah was married to Charles Adams, the son of John Adams and brother of John Quincy Adams.

In popular culture[edit]

Smith was portrayed by Andrew Scott in the 2008 miniseries, John Adams.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ First Generation of Marshals
  2. ^ Nagel, Paul C. 1987. The Adams women: Abigail and Louisa Adams, their sisters and daughters. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-503874-6
  3. ^ Ross, Shelley Washington Babylon Allison & Busby 1989
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
District restored
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 17th congressional district

1813 - 1815
Succeeded by
Westel Willoughby, Jr.