Francis Smith (judge)

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Francis Smith
Born Francis Smith
(1847-06-30)30 June 1847
Freetown, Sierra Leone
Died 25 November 1912(1912-11-25) (aged 65)
London, England
Nickname Frans Smith
Occupation Puisne Judge
Language English
Nationality British Subject,
Education Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Wakefield, Middle Temple

Francis Smith, (1847–1912), was a Sierra Leonean Puisne Judge in the Gold Coast. Francis Smith was the second Sierra Leonean to qualify as a barrister after he passed the bar at Middle Temple on 26 January 1871.[1]

Early life and background[edit]

Francis Smith was born in 1847 to William Smith Jr., registrar of the Mixed Commissary Court in Freetown, and his wife, Charlotte Smith (née Macaulay).[2] William Smith was born in Cape Coast and was the son of a Fante princess and Judge William Smith Sr., (1795-1875) who served as head of the Mixed Commissary Church in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Charlotte Macaulay was born to Mary Harding, a Jamaican Maroon mother and Kenneth Macaulay, a distant relation of Lord Macaulay and second cousin to Zachary Macaulay.


Smith was educated at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Wakefield in Yorkshire.[3] After completing his secondary education, Smith entered the Middle Temple on 10 January 1868 and was called to the bar in 1871.[4]

Judicial career[edit]

Smith rose rapidly through the judicial ranks and was appointed Chief Magistrate of the Gambia in 1879.[5] He was appointed a Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of the Gold Coast Colony in 1887,[2] and later considered for appointment as Chief Justice.[6][7]

Family and descendants[edit]

Francis Smith was the younger brother of Dr. Robert Smith, (1840-1885), who served as Assistant Colonial Surgeon in Sierra Leone. Smith was the maternal grandfather of Frances Wright through her mother, Eva Wright (née Smith), and his great-grandson and namesake is Emile Francis Short, the first justice on the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice.

Retirement and death[edit]

At the time of his retirement in 1907, Smith was the only African serving on a superior court, and another would not be named until the 1930s.[8] He retired to England and died in London on 12 May 1912.[9][10] His achievements were recognized in glowing tributes across West Africa.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Mair, Robert Henry (1896). Debrett's Illustrated House of Commons, and the Judicial Bench. Dean & Son. p. 411. Francis Smith, son of William Smith, Esq. (formerly Registrar of the Mixed Courts of Justice, Sierra Leone), of Kenmuir, Jersey; b. 1847; Bar. Middle Temple 1871; appointed Ch. Magistrate in Gambia 1870, Acting Ch. Justice of W. African Settlements 1882, Puisne Judge of Gold Coast Colony 1887, and Acting Ch. Justice thereof 1888; was one of the Commrs. appointed by the Imperial Govt. to preside at trial of certain British subjets at the River Niger 1882. 
  2. ^ a b The Law Journal. The Law Journal. 22-1887. London: F.E. Streeten. 1888-01-28. p. 248. Mr. Francis Smith, barrister, has been appointed a Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of the Gold Coast Colony, in succession to Mr. Justice Macleod, who has been appointed Chief Justice of the Colony. Mr Justice Smith is the fifth son of Mr. William Smith, of Sierra Leone. He was called to the bar at the Middle Temple in Hilary Term, 1871, and has been for some years chief magistrate in the Gambia. 
  3. ^ Peacock, Mathew Henry (1892). History of the Free Grammar School of Queen Elizabeth at Wakefield. W.H. Milnes. p. 222. 1864. JAN. ...Francis Smith (Chief Justice, Gold Coast Colony)... 
  4. ^ Cromwell, Adelaid M (2014-02-04). An African Victorian Feminist: The Life and Times of Adelaide Smith Casely Hayford 1848-1960. Routledge. pp. 50–. ISBN 978-1-317-79211-6. In 1868 Francis Smith entered the Middle Temple to begin the study of law and was called to the bar in 1871, as the first African so qualified. 
  5. ^ Edward Fairfield, ed. (1886). The Colonial Office List for 1886. The Colonial Office List. 25. London: Harrison and Sons. p. 452. Smith, Francis, - Chief magistrate, Gambia, 7th April, 1879. 
  6. ^ "Colonial Service Gossip". The Colonies and India. London. 1895-04-27. p. 12. Retrieved 2016-08-30. (Subscription required (help)). The appointment of Chief Justice of the Gold Coast Colony continues to occupy the attention of many officials in search of promotion. It was at one time thought that probably the important office would be given to Mr. Justice Francis Smith, the Senior Puisne Judge of the Gold Coast, who for the past eight years has held that office, previous to which he was Chief Magistrate of the Gambia for eight years. Other names have been mentioned as probable candidates, but it is very unlikely that Sir Joseph Hutchinson's successor will be selected from the present West Coast legal officials. 
  7. ^ "Colonial Service Gossip". The Colonies and India. London. 1895-07-06. p. 10. Retrieved 2016-08-31. (Subscription required (help)). Mr. Francis Smith, who is at present acting as Chief Justice of the Gold Coast, pending the arrival of Mr. W. Brandford Griffith, is a native of West Africa, and has held the appointment of a Puisne Judge of the Colony for the past eight years. 
  8. ^ Goldman, Neal M. (2016). Fallible Justice: The Dilemma of the British in the Gold Coast, 1874-1944 (PhD). CUNY Academic Works. pp. 170,174. Retrieved 2016-08-31. The British attitude toward the abilities of indigenous attorneys as judges changed at the beginning of the twentieth century and following Smith’s retirement in 1907, no African was named to the superior court bench until the 1930's. 
  9. ^ Green, Jeffrey (2012). Black Edwardians: Black People in Britain, 1901-1914. Frank Cass Publishers. p. 273. ISBN 978-1-136-31830-6. The Review reported the death, on 25 November 1912, of judge Francis 'Frans' Smith, the Sierra Leonean who had served the Queen and her son in the Gold Coast, before returning to England where several of his sisters had homes. 
  10. ^ "Pursuant to an order of the Chancery Division of the High Court of Justice made in the matter of the Estate of Francis Smith deceased". The Gold Coast Leader. Ghana. 1913-04-26. Francis Smith died on 25 November 1912 at his residence at No. 13 Oxford Gardens, Notting Hill in London, England. He was survived by his wife, Juanita Cortis Smith, and his children including Robert Smith II, Eva Frances Wright, née Smith, Charlotte Brown Pobee, née Smith,