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William Smith (South Carolina senator)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

William Smith
William Smith-SC.jpg
United States Senator
from South Carolina
In office
November 29, 1826 – March 4, 1831
Preceded byWilliam Harper
Succeeded byStephen Miller
In office
December 4, 1816 – March 4, 1823
Preceded byJohn Taylor
Succeeded byRobert Hayne
Member of the South Carolina Senate
from the York district
In office
November 28, 1831 – December 17, 1831
Preceded byBenjamin Person
Succeeded byWilliam Hill
Member of the South Carolina House of Representatives
from the York district
In office
November 22, 1824 – November 29, 1826
Preceded byMulti-member district
Succeeded byWilliam McGill
Personal details
York County, South Carolina
DiedJune 26, 1840 (aged 77–78)
Huntsville, Alabama, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic-Republican (Before 1825)
Democratic (1828–1840)

William Smith (ca. 1762 – June 26, 1840) was an American politician from the state of South Carolina. He served two terms as a Senator in the United States Senate, the first from 1816 to 1823 and the second from 1826 to 1831. During his life Smith was one of the most prominent political leaders in the state of South Carolina.[1] He formed an intense rivalry with John C. Calhoun, arguing against Calhoun's nationalist views, and advocating for states' rights.[2]


Early life and career

Smith was born in 1762 in either North Carolina or York County, South Carolina. Not much is known about his early life outside of his education. He first attended a school named Bullock's Creek, where he befriended classmates Andrew Jackson and William H. Crawford.[3]:106 Then, he attended Mt. Zion College in Winnsboro, South Carolina, which was the first preparatory school in the region.[4] He once stated to a friend stated that his life could be described as "wild, reckless, intemperate, rude and boisterous, yet resolute and determined."[3]:107 To that same friend he also credited all of his success to a promise he once made to his wife, Margaret Duff, to forego alcohol.[3]:107

Smith's law career began on January 6, 1784 when he was admitted to the bar. In one notable case, his client who had been charged for killing a horse failed to appear before the court. Smith did not see the man for a number of years until he ran into him in the Hall of the House of Representatives. The man, known to Smith by the surname "Elchinor", now went by the name John Alexander and was a Representative for the state of Ohio. Smith ensured that Representative Alexander paid him for his previous services.[3]:108

Political career

Smith became a member of the South Carolina Senate in the early 1800s and ended his career in that body as Senate President. In 1808 he became a judge. As a jurist his temperament was considered "tyranical but fair."[5]:97 Then In 1816, Smith was elected a United States Senator, after defeating Charles D. Pringle for the seat. Shortly after taking office, Smith began a political feud with John C. Calhoun which would last the duration of his political career in South Carolina.[5]:98

The feud between Calhoun and Smith resided in their different political philosophies, when Smith joined the Senate, Calhoun was still a nationalist who believed in internal infrastructure improvements and a "broad construction" of the Constitution, two concepts which Smith found repugnant.[5]:98 In response to Calhoun's growing popularity, Smith formed a coalition of States' Rights allies which included Thomas Cooper, Stephen Decatur Miller, Josiah J. Evans, and David Rogerson Williams.[5]:98 The South Carolina nationalists led by Calhoun "favored a few national roads because of national military necessity", they repudiated small-scale local appropriations.[5]:98 But, to the Smith faction, even roads for purported military use would instead be used to bolster the economy of other states.[5]:99 This concept of South Carolina in competition with the nation for economic prosperity was common at the time in the South Carolina elite.[6]

Smith was one of the first Southerners to argue, at the time of the Missouri Compromise in 1820, that slavery was a positive good. In 1828, seven electors from Georgia chose him for vice president, instead of Calhoun, the Democratic nominee. He was also a splinter candidate for vice president in 1836: Virginia refused to accept Richard Mentor Johnson as the Democratic vice presidential candidate, and voted for the ticket of Martin Van Buren and William Smith, putting Johnson one electoral vote short of a majority; the Senate went on to elect Johnson.

In 1832, he moved to Louisiana, having lost his political base in South Carolina. In 1836, he moved on to Huntsville, Alabama, and was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives for Madison County from August 1, 1836, holding that seat for the rest of his life.

On March 3, 1837, outgoing President Andrew Jackson nominated Smith to the Supreme Court. Five days later, the newly seated Senate of the 25th Congress confirmed Smith's nomination by a vote of 23–18. However, Smith declined the appointment and did not serve.[7]


  1. ^ "Smith, William". Retrieved 2020-06-09.
  2. ^ "William Smith - Online Library of Liberty". Retrieved 2020-06-09.
  3. ^ a b c d O'Neall, John, B. (1859) Biographical Sketches of the Bench and Bar of South Carolina. Vol. 1. p. 106-114.
  4. ^ "Mt. Zion Institute". SC Picture Project. 2015-02-04. Retrieved 2020-06-10.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Freehling, William W., 1935- (1992). Prelude to Civil War : the nullification controversy in South Carolina, 1816-1836. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-507681-8. OCLC 24955035.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ Downey, Tom (2005). Planting a capitalist south : the transformation of western South Carolina, 1790-1860. Louisiana State University Press. pp. 70–71. ISBN 978-0-8071-3531-0. OCLC 46403540.
  7. ^ "Supreme Court Nominations: present-1789". Washington, D.C.: Office of the Secretary, United States Senate. Retrieved August 26, 2018.

External links

U.S. Senate
Preceded by
John Taylor
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from South Carolina
Served alongside: John Gaillard
Succeeded by
Robert Hayne
Preceded by
William Harper
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from South Carolina
Served alongside: Robert Hayne
Succeeded by
Stephen Miller
Party political offices
New political party Democratic-Republican nominee for Vice President of the United States(1)
Succeeded by
Martin Van Buren
Preceded by
Martin Van Buren
Democratic nominee for Vice President of the United States(2)
Succeeded by
Richard Johnson(3)
Succeeded by
James Polk(3)
Succeeded by
Littleton Tazewell(3)
Notes and references
1. The Democratic-Republican nominee split this year between Smith and John Calhoun.
2. The Democratic nominee split this year between Smith and Richard Johnson.
3. The Democratic nominee was split this year between three candidates.
This page was last edited on 8 April 2021, at 17:14
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