James Smith

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Smith, James, one of the signers of the American Declaration of Independence in 1776, was born in Ireland about the year 1720. His father emigrated to America in 1729, and settled as a farmer on the Susquehanna. James was educated at the College of Philadelphia, studied law, and for a time resided near Shippensburg as a lawyer and surveyor, but afterwards removed to York, where he continued to practise his profession the remainder of his life. He was esteemed a man of education and refinement. In 1774 he raised the first volunteer company in the State, for the purpose of resisting the domination of Great Britain, and he was a member of the convention to consider the expediency of abstaining from the importation of British goods, and of assembling a general congress.

His essay on The Constitutional Power of Great Britain over the Colonies in America is said to have given the first strong impulse to the revolution in his district. He was a member of the Pennsylvania Convention of January 1775, and of the Provincial Conference of 18th June, where he seconded Dr. Rush's resolution in favour of a declaration of independence. He was a member of Congress until November 1778, and in 1780 had a seat in the General Assembly of Pennsylvania. Drake says: "He was a man of great wit, and possessed of an original species of drollery, which was heightened by an uncouthness of gesture, a certain ludicrous cast of countenance, and a drawling mode of utterance." He died at York, Pennsylvania, 11th July 1806, aged about 86.

Sources

37a. Biographical Dictionary—American Biography: Francis S. Drake. Boston, 1876.

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