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William S. Smith and Samuel G. Ogden Trials: 1806

Rebel Vessel Sails From New York

Whatever was said at that dinner, by the end of the month a prominent federal official in New York, Colonel William Stephens Smith, was using his influence to obtain men, money, and war material for Miranda. A Revolutionary War hero, former diplomat, and, since 1800, surveyor of customs for the Port of New York, Smith had known Miranda for over 20 years and had once toured with him across Europe. In addition, Smith had impeccable connections: his father-in-law was former President John Adams and his brother-in-law was U.S. Senator (and future president) John Quincy Adams.

On February 2, 1806, Miranda sailed from New York City for Venezuela on an American-owned vessel, the Leander, with 180 men (mostly Americans) and weapons. Among the adventurers was Colonel Smith's 19-year-old son, William Steuben Smith. However, the Leander was soon captured by the Spanish. Miranda escaped, but the young Smith and the others did not. (William Steuben Smith later eluded his captors and made his way home.)

After the Leander's seizure became public, Colonel Smith and the ship's owner, Samuel Ogden, were arrested for violating the Neutrality Act of 1794. That law made it illegal to "set on foot directly or indirectly within the United States any military expedition or enterprise to be carried on against the territory of a foreign … state with whom the United States is at peace."

On March 1, Judge Matthias Talmadge of the U.S. District Court in New York, questioned Smith and Ogden and they signed incriminating statements outlining their roles in the affair. (These statements were later introduced into evidence at Smith's and Ogden's trials.)

Smith and Ogden were formally indicted on April 7. If convicted, they each faced up to three years in prison. In the meantime, the president dismissed Smith from his post.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1637 to 1832William S. Smith and Samuel G. Ogden Trials: 1806 - Miranda Dines At The White House, Rebel Vessel Sails From New York, President's Role At Issue