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John Smith

Birthdate:
Birthplace: Lancaster, PA, United States
Death: circa 1794 (62-79)
Balto County, MD, United States
Place of Burial: Balto., Md
Immediate Family:

Son of Samuel Smith and Sidney Smith
Husband of Mary Adams Smith
Father of Maj. General Samuel Smith (Maryland militia), U.S. Senator; Mary Smith; Robert Smith, U.S. Secretary of the Navy and State; Margaret Nicholas; Esther Stevenson and 1 other

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About John Smith

John Smith (c. 1735 – July 30, 1824) was one of the first two U.S. Senators from the state of Ohio. He reluctantly resigned from the Senate under charges of alleged complicity in the Burr conspiracy.

Little is known of his early life. He was born in Virginia around 1735; the identity of his parents are unknown. He prepared for the ministry, and was pastor in various Baptist congregations in Virginia and Ohio during the 1790s and then began a profitable business supplying military posts near Cincinnati, Ohio.

He was a member of the Northwest Territorial legislature 1799–1803 and a delegate to the Ohio state constitutional convention in 1802. He was a leader of a group that supported statehood in opposition to the Territorial Governor Arthur St. Clair. Upon the admission of Ohio as a State into the Union, he was elected as a Democratic-Republican to the United States Senate and served in the 8th, 9th and 10th Congresses (1803–1808).

While in the Senate, Smith continued his profitable trading ventures in Louisiana and West Florida and pursued numerous land investment schemes. In 1805, former Vice President Aaron Burr sought his support in organizing a military expedition against Spanish Florida. Although Smith claimed he had no interest in Burr's plot to force secession of Spanish territories, he agreed to provide supplies for the proposed expedition. When President Thomas Jefferson later issued an alert, charging that Burr's actual purpose was an invasion of Mexico, Smith responded patriotically by financing weapons to defend against the Burr expedition and delivering those weapons to New Orleans. These travels caused him to miss weeks of Senate sessions and led the Ohio legislature to charge him with dereliction of duty and to demand his resignation.

Although Smith ignored that demand, he found his troubles increasing as a court in Richmond, Virginia, indicted him in mid-1807 for participating in Burr's conspiracy. As he traveled to Richmond, he learned that the charges against him were dropped after the court acquitted Burr on a technicality.

But on December 31, 1807, a Senate committee chaired by John Quincy Adams recommended that Smith be expelled from the Senate. A trial was held in 1808, with Adams leading the attack. Smith was defended by Francis Scott Key and Robert Goodloe Harper, who argued that Smith may have been naive, but was not a traitor. The expulsion resolution fell one vote short of the required two-thirds majority. Smith resigned on April 25, the last day that Congress was in session for the year.

Smith had enjoyed a close friendship with President Thomas Jefferson early in his Senate career, though that relationship was ruined, along with Smith's political career, by his implication in the Burr treason. Smith was forced into bankruptcy and later moved to St. Francisville, Louisiana, where he died in 1824.

The History of Cincinnati and Hamilton County Ohio, published in 1894, indicates that Smith died in Hamilton County, Ohio on June 10, 1816, although this is apparently incorrect, since later sources [1] [2] agree on his death in 1824.


John Smith (c. 1735 – July 30, 1824) was one of the first two U.S. Senators from the state of Ohio. He reluctantly resigned from the Senate under charges of alleged complicity in the Burr conspiracy.

Little is known of his early life. He was born in Virginia around 1735; the identity of his parents are unknown. He prepared for the ministry, and was pastor in various Baptist congregations in Virginia and Ohio during the 1790s and then began a profitable business supplying military posts near Cincinnati, Ohio.

He was a member of the Northwest Territorial legislature 1799–1803 and a delegate to the Ohio state constitutional convention in 1802. He was a leader of a group that supported statehood in opposition to the Territorial Governor Arthur St. Clair. Upon the admission of Ohio as a State into the Union, he was elected as a Democratic-Republican to the United States Senate and served in the 8th, 9th and 10th Congresses (1803–1808).

While in the Senate, Smith continued his profitable trading ventures in Louisiana and West Florida and pursued numerous land investment schemes. In 1805, former Vice President Aaron Burr sought his support in organizing a military expedition against Spanish Florida. Although Smith claimed he had no interest in Burr's plot to force secession of Spanish territories, he agreed to provide supplies for the proposed expedition. When President Thomas Jefferson later issued an alert, charging that Burr's actual purpose was an invasion of Mexico, Smith responded patriotically by financing weapons to defend against the Burr expedition and delivering those weapons to New Orleans. These travels caused him to miss weeks of Senate sessions and led the Ohio legislature to charge him with dereliction of duty and to demand his resignation.

Although Smith ignored that demand, he found his troubles increasing as a court in Richmond, Virginia, indicted him in mid-1807 for participating in Burr's conspiracy. As he traveled to Richmond, he learned that the charges against him were dropped after the court acquitted Burr on a technicality.

But on December 31, 1807, a Senate committee chaired by John Quincy Adams recommended that Smith be expelled from the Senate. A trial was held in 1808, with Adams leading the attack. Smith was defended by Francis Scott Key and Robert Goodloe Harper, who argued that Smith may have been naive, but was not a traitor. The expulsion resolution fell one vote short of the required two-thirds majority. Smith resigned on April 25, the last day that Congress was in session for the year.

Smith had enjoyed a close friendship with President Thomas Jefferson early in his Senate career, though that relationship was ruined, along with Smith's political career, by his implication in the Burr treason. Smith was forced into bankruptcy and later moved to St. Francisville, Louisiana, where he died in 1824.

The History of Cincinnati and Hamilton County Ohio, published in 1894, indicates that Smith died in Hamilton County, Ohio on June 10, 1816, although this is apparently incorrect, since later sources [1] [2] agree on his death in 1824.

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John Smith's Timeline

1723
1723
Lancaster, PA, United States
1752
July 27, 1752
Carlisle, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, United States
1755
1755
Albemarle, VA, United States
1757
November 3, 1757
Lancaster, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, United States
1762
1762
Balto City, , Md
1766
1766
Baltimore County, Maryland, United States
1767
1767
1794
1794
Age 71
Balto County, MD, United States
????
Balto., Md