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

Plotters Acquitted

The defense lawyers were also permitted in their closing statements to discuss whether Smith was being made a fall guy by the government and whether the United States and Spain were actually at peace or war. The prosecution countered that the jury should not lightly disregard the court's rulings that peace existed between the two countries and that the government's role in the Leander affair was irrelevant to Smith's guilt or innocence. But it was to no avail; after considering their decision for two hours, the jury returned with a verdict of "not guilty."

Almost immediately, on July 25, Ogden's trial began. The entire proceeding was a virtual repeat of the Smith trial; same judge, same lawyers, same witnesses, and the same issues—only the jury was different. The trial lasted a mere two days and Ogden, too, was acquitted of the charge facing him.

After the trials were over, Jefferson indicated that he was not dissatisfied with the juries' decisions. "I had no wish to see Smith imprisoned. He has been a man of integrity and honor, led astray by distress." Still, the president fired the U.S. marshal in New York City because he believed the marshal, who was also a friend of Smith's, had packed the jury panel with so many die-hard Federalists that an impartial jury could not be chosen at the trial.

Although Smith was acquitted, his career was now in shambles and he quietly retired to his farm in upstate New York. However, Smith briefly returned to public life in 1812 when he was elected to Congress.

Mark Thorbarn

Suggestions for Further Reading

Lloyd, Thomas. The Trials of WVilliam S. Smith and Samuel G. Ogden for. llisdemeanours, Had in the Circuit Court of the United States for the New York District, in July 1806. New York: 1. Riley and Company, 1974.

Nagel, Paul C. Descent from Glory: Four Generations of the John Adams Family. New York: Oxford University Press, 1983.

Raymond, Marcius D. "Colonel William Stephens Smith." New, York Genealogical and Historical Record 25, 4 (1894): 153-61.

Roof, Katharine Metcalf. Colonel 1Villiam Smith and Lady: The Romance of lVashington's Aide and Young Abigail Adams. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1929.

Withey, Lynne. Dearest Friend: A Life of Abigail Adams. New York: The Free Press, 1981.

Additional topics

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