Israel Smith

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Israel Smith (born April 4, 1759 in Suffield , Hartford County , Colony of Connecticut , † December 2, 1810 in Rutland , Vermont ) was an American politician, lawyer, senator , congressman and governor of the US state of Vermont.

Lawyer and local politician

Like many later leaders on the threshold of the 18th and 19th centuries, Israel Smith was from the neighboring state of Connecticut, where he spent his childhood. He studied at what would later become Yale University , where he graduated in law in 1781. He then decided to practice as a lawyer and moved to Vermont. First he settled in Rupert , where he opened a law firm and took his first steps in regional politics. He moved to Rutland around 1790.

By this time he had already been a deputy in the Vermont House of Representatives for a year in 1785 . From 1788 to 1791 he again served as a representative of the interests of his constituents in this body. During this period he was one of the most active politicians who tried to resolve the disputed border issues with New York and made preparations for the adoption of a local constitution . Smith also served as a delegate to the Vermont Constituent Assembly.

Congressman and Senator of Vermont

When Vermont was admitted to the Union as a federal state in 1791, Israel Smith ran for a seat in the US House of Representatives in its western district . In a fierce election campaign between himself and the other two leading figures in Vermont, Matthew Lyon and Isaac Tichenor , Smith got 35 percent of the vote in the first ballot, putting him in second place. But in the runoff between Lyon and himself, most of the votes (68.4%) went to his lot.

Israel Smith represented the interests of his home state in the House of Representatives of the Union from 1791 to 1796. In the years 1792 and 1794 Lyon challenged him again in the election, finally taking the seat at the fourth attempt. It was around this time that Smith became a member of the Democratic Republican Party .

After his political departure from the federal level, Smith turned back directly to Vermont, where he again took place in the State House of Representatives from 1797. In late 1797 he was appointed presiding judge of the Vermont Supreme Court . However, he gave up this office the following year. In 1800 he was re-elected to Congress, where he served his last term of office until 1802.

During this phase he made a statement about judges that is still quoted in judicial life in the USA today: "nothing gives [a judge] greater pleasure than to have it in his power to correct an error, which he may discover in a former opinion. "

But immediately afterwards he gave up the possibility of re-election because the citizens elected him to the US Senate . He held this office until 1807.


Then came the last successful argument with his old rival Isaac Tichenor, who had been Vermont governor for over a decade. To compete against him, Smith resigned his Senate mandate and defeated Tichenor in the election that followed. But after only one year, Tichenor managed to get back his office in the early elections.

As a result, Isaac Smith retired from politics to his hometown of Rutland. Shortly thereafter, his health gradually deteriorated. At the age of 51, Smith died in Rutland, which is where he found his final resting place. Vermont prematurely lost one of the most versatile politicians of his generation, who was the only one who managed to hold all political offices in their top positions. Most of his political adversaries outlived him by several decades.


  • Walter H. Crockett: Vermonters: A Book of Biographies. Stephen Daye Press, Brattleboro 1931

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