William Smith (judge)

William Smith (8 October 1697 – 22 November 1769) was an American lawyer and jurist.

William Smith
William Smith (New York Judge, born 1697).jpg
Attorney General of New York
In office
Preceded byRichard Bradley
Succeeded byWilliam Kempe
Personal details
Born(1697-10-08)8 October 1697
Newport Pagnell, England
Died22 November 1769(1769-11-22) (aged 72)
New York City, Province of New York, British America
Mary Het
(m. 1727; her death 1754)

Elizabeth Scott
(m. 1761; his death 1769)
ChildrenWilliam Smith
Joshua Hett Smith
Alma materYale College


Smith was born on 8 October 1697 in Newport Pagnell in England. He was the eldest of five sons born to Thomas Smith (1675–1745) and Susanna (née Odell) Smith (1675–1729).[1]

In 1715, he emigrated with his family to New York where his father became one of the founders of the First Presbyterian Church on Wall Street, inviting Jonathan Edwards to serve as minister.[2] Once in America, Smith studied religion, law and the classics at Yale College, graduating in 1719.[3]


After his graduation from Yale, he worked as a tutor there before being offered the presidency when he was 27 years old. Smith declined to begin a law practice in New York City.[1]

In 1751, he was appointed Attorney General of New York, followed by an appointment as a member of the Governor's Council, serving on the latter from 1753 until 1767. In 1760, Smith was offered the position of Chief Justice of the Province of New York. Against the advice of friends and family, he turned down the offer. Smith's son, the younger William Smith, was then offered the position, which he accepted.[4] In 1763, he became judge of the New York Supreme Court.[1]

He was involved in the establishment of the College of New Jersey, today known as Princeton University and was a trustee from 1746 until his death (Jonathan Edwards later served as president of the College in 1758).[5] Smith was also known for opposing the Anglican domination of King's College in New York (today Columbia University).[5]

Personal lifeEdit

In 1727, Smith was married to Mary Het (1710–1754), a daughter of René Het and Blanche Dubois, French Huguenots who fled France following the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. Together, William and Mary were the parents of fourteen children, including:[1]

After the death of his first wife in 1754, he married noted hymnwriter Elizabeth (née Scott) Williams (1708–1776) in 1761. Elizabeth, the widow of Elisha Williams (the 4th Rector of Yale College), was a sister to Thomas Scott and Dr. Joseph Nicol Scott, and the niece of Daniel Scott (an English nonconformist minister and lexicographer).[1]

Smith died in New York City on 22 November 1769.[8][9]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Bell, Whitfield Jenks (2010). Patriot-improvers: - 1997.- XX-531 p. American Philosophical Society. p. 134. ISBN 9780871692269. Retrieved 31 October 2019.
  2. ^ Fowler, Dorothy Ganfield (1981). A City Church: The First Presbyterian Church in the City of New York, 1716-1976. The Church. pp. 19, 22, 229. Retrieved 31 October 2019.
  3. ^ Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts. The Colonial Society of Massachusetts. 1912. p. 314. Retrieved 31 October 2019.
  4. ^ a b Spencer, Mark G. (2015). The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of the American Enlightenment. Bloomsbury Publishing USA. p. 983. ISBN 9781474249843. Retrieved 31 October 2019.
  5. ^ a b Ketchum, Richard M. (2003). Divided Loyalties: How the American Revolution Came to New York. Macmillan. p. 384. ISBN 9780805061208. Retrieved 31 October 2019.
  6. ^ McCaughey, Robert (2003). Stand, Columbia: A History of Columbia University. Columbia University Press. p. 10. ISBN 9780231503556. Retrieved 31 October 2019.
  7. ^ Smith Papers, Issues 23-30. Sims Pub. 1987. pp. 16, 18–19. Retrieved 31 October 2019.
  8. ^ Nelson, Paul David. "Smith, William". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/68746. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  9. ^ Greene, Nathanael; Showman, Richard K.; Conrad, Dennis Michael; Society, Rhode Island Historical (1984). The Papers of General Nathanael Greene: 18 October 1778-10 May 1779. Published for the Rhode Island Historical Society by the University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 9780807815571. Retrieved 31 October 2019.

External linksEdit