Abram D. Smith

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The Honorable

Abram D. Smith
Abram D Smith.jpg
1856 portrait by Samuel Marsden Brookes
Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court
In office
June 1853 – June 1859
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byByron Paine
Personal details
Born(1811-06-09)June 9, 1811
Lowville, New York, U.S.
DiedJune 3, 1865(1865-06-03) (aged 53)
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
Resting placeForest Home Cemetery
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Mary Augusta Reed (m. 1832; died 1866)
  • Mary Francis (Huggins) (Chapin)
  • (b. 1834; died 1916)
  • Maria Cecilia (Candee)
  • (b. 1839; died 1921)
  • Marius Smith
  • (b. 1843; died 1844)
  • Marion Augusta (Andrews)
  • (b. 1846; died 1915)

Abram Daniel Smith (June 9, 1811 – June 3, 1865), often abbreviated A. D. Smith, was an American lawyer, politician, and pioneer. As a leader of the Hunters' Lodges, he was elected President of the Republic of Canada in the midst of the Canadian Rebellions of 1837–1838. Later, he became a prominent lawyer in the Wisconsin Territory, and was one of the first justices of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, where he authored a major opinion against the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.[1]

Early life[edit]

Smith was born in Lowville, New York. He eventually settled in Sackets Harbor, New York, where he read law. Smith was a fervent member of the Equal Rights Party (also known as the Locofocos) an anti-Tammany faction of the Democratic Party in New York. They emphasized economic justice, and equal rights for all.[2]

He married Mary Augusta Reed (1811-1866) of Westford, Massachusetts, in the fall of 1832. Mary's family settled in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts, then at Castleton, Vermont. Smith probably met her there when he was attending Castleton Medical School, graduating in 1831. The Smiths moved to Cleveland, Ohio, in 1836 or 37, and he was elected a justice of the peace in Cleveland in March 1837.[3]

Canadian Rebellion[edit]

In Cleveland, Smith was a prominent leader of the Hunters' Lodge, a paramilitary organization which aligned itself with Canadian anti-royalist rebellions taking place in 1837 and 1838. After the rebels declared a new Republic of Canada, Smith was elected its president at a convention of Hunters' Lodges in Cleveland in September 1838. The Lodges were organized much like the Freemasons, of which Smith was also a member. In sympathy with the Canadian rebellion, the Hunters' Lodges launched the Patriot War against Canada in 1838, but it was ultimately unsuccessful due to the combined efforts of both the American and British governments.[3]


Smith moved to Milwaukee around 1842, and established a law practice. In December 1844, he was elected High Priest of the Milwaukee Royal Arch Chapter. The Grand Lodge of Wisconsin was formed on December 18, 1843, composed of three lodges (Warren, Madison, and New Diggings). By 1845, Smith was appointed deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge.[4] He was a candidate for Mayor of Milwaukee in 1851, but was unsuccessful.

In 1853, he was elected to the newly established Wisconsin Supreme Court.[5] One of his most famous decisions was given on "The unconstitutionality of the Fugitive Slave Act" in which he ruled that abolitionist Sherman Booth had not broken the law in freeing escaped slave Joshua Glover from capture. It made Wisconsin the only state to declare that act unconstitutional. The Supreme Court of the United States, however, overruled the Wisconsin opinion in the case of Ableman v. Booth. Afterwards, Smith was not renominated for another term on the Court, though he was replaced by ideological ally Byron Paine, who had been the attorney for Sherman Booth.[1]

He continued to reside in Milwaukee until 1861, when he was appointed to the federal revenue service in South Carolina, where he worked until his death.[1]

He died on June 3, 1865.

Electoral history[edit]

Milwaukee Mayoral Election, 1851[6]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
General Election
Democratic George H. Walker 1,841 55.19%
Democratic Abram D. Smith 1,495 44.81%
Plurality 346 10.37%
Total votes 3,336 100.0%
Democratic hold


  1. ^ a b c "Smith, Abram Daniel 1811 - 1865". Wisconsin Historical Society. 8 August 2017. Retrieved May 22, 2020.
  2. ^ Dunley, Ruth (2019). The Lost President: A. D. Smith and the Hidden History of Radical Democracy in Civil War America. University of Georgia Press. ISBN 9780820354545. Retrieved May 22, 2020.
  3. ^ a b Dunley, Ruth (2005–2006). "In search of A.D. Smith: A History Detective's Quest". The Wisconsin Magazine of History. Wisconsin Historical Society. 89 (2): 19–21.
  4. ^ American Masonic Register and Literary Companion: 115. 6 June 1845.CS1 maint: untitled periodical (link)
  5. ^ "Abram D. Smith (1811-1865)". Wisconsin Court System. Retrieved May 22, 2020.
  6. ^ "Charter Election Returns". Daily Free Democrat. May 21, 1851. p. 3. Retrieved May 22, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
New court Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court
1853 – 1859
Succeeded by
Byron Paine