SMITH, GERRIT (1797-1874), American reformer and philanthropist, was born in Utica (N.Y.), on March 6, 1797. About 1828 he became an active worker in the cause of temper ance, and in his home village, Peterboro, he built one of the first temperance hotels in the country. He became an abolitionist in 1835, after seeing an anti-slavery meeting at Utica broken up by a mob. In 184o he took a leading part in the organization of the Liberty Party, and in 1848 and 1852 he was nominated for the Presidency by the remnant of this organization that had not been absorbed by the Free Soil Party. An "Industrial Congress" at Philadelphia also nominated him for the Presidency in 1848, and the "Land Reformers" in 1856. In 184o and in 1858 he was a candidate for the governorship of New York on an anti-slavery platform. In 1853 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as an independent. At the end of the first session he resigned his seat. After becoming an opponent of land monopoly, he gave numerous farms of 5o ac. each to indigent families, and also attempted to colonize tracts in northern New York with free negroes ; but this experiment was a failure. Peter boro became a station on the "underground railroad"; and after 185o Smith furnished money for the legal expenses of persons charged with infractions of the fugitive slave law. With John Brown, to whom he gave a farm in Essex county (N.Y.), he became very intimate, and from time to time supplied him with funds, though it seems without knowing that any of the money would be employed in an attempt to incite a slave insurrection. Under the excitement following the raid on Harper's Ferry, he became temporarily insane, and for several weeks was confined in an asylum in Utica. He favoured a vigorous prosecution of the Civil War, but at its close advocated a mild policy toward the late Confederate States, declaring that part of the guilt of slavery lay upon the North. He even became one of the securities for Jefferson Davis, thereby incurring the resentment of Northern Radical leaders. He died on Dec. 28, 1874, while on a visit to relatives in New York city.
See 0. B. Frothingham, Gerrit Smith: a Biography (1879).
the question of reform at Oxford was again growing acute, he pub lished a brilliant pamphlet, entitled The Reorganization of the University of Oxford. His aspiration that colonists and Americans should be attracted to Oxford has been realized by Mr. Rhodes's will. His principal historical writings—The United Kingdom: a Political History (1899), and The United States: an Outline of Political History (1893)—make no claim to original research, but are remarkable examples of terse and brilliant narrative.
The outbreak of the American Civil War proved a turning point in his life. He warmly championed the cause of the North, and his pamphlets, especially one entitled Does the Bible sanction American Slavery? (1863), played a prominent part in converting English opinion. Visiting America on a lecture tour in 1864, he received an enthusiastic welcome, and was entertained at a public banquet in New York. In 1868 he threw up his career in Eng land and settled in the United States, where he held the professor ship of English and Constitutional History at Cornell University till 1871. In that year he removed to Toronto, where he edited the Canadian Monthly, and subsequently founded the Week and the Bystander.
He did not, however, cease to take an active interest in English politics. He stated that "if he ever had a political leader, his leader was John Bright, not Mr. Gladstone." Speaking in 1886, he referred to his "standing by the side of John Bright against the dismemberment of the great Anglo-Saxon community of the West, as I now stand against the dismemberment of the great Anglo Saxon community of the East." These words form the key to his views of the future of the British Empire. He always maintained that Canada, separated by great barriers, running north and south, into four zones, each having unimpeded communication with the adjoining portions of the United States, was destined by its natural configuration to enter into a commercial union with them, which would result in her breaking away from the British empire, and in the union of the Anglo-Saxons of the American continent into one great nation. These views are most fully stated in his Canada and the Canadian Question (r895).
Goldwin Smith died at his residence, The Grange, Toronto, on June 7, 191o.
See Arnold Haultain, Goldwin Smith, his Life and Opinions (1953), which includes Smith's journal during his first visit to America in 1864.