James Smith

by Janelle Pavao

James Smith was a Pennsylvania delegate to the Continental Congress, and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Other than this, not a lot is known about the life of James Smith, as there was not always sufficient documentation back in that time.

James Smith was born on September 17, 1719 in Ulster, Ireland. In 1727, the Smith family immigrated to Pennsylvania. As a boy, he was educated by a clergy, and when he was older attended the Philadelphia Academy to complete his education. After he finished college, he studied law with his brother for fun, and then passed the Pennsylvania Bar in 1745.

When Smith was 41, he married a younger woman by the name of Eleanor Armor. Together they had five children, before Eleanor died. Four of their five children would also die before reaching adulthood.


James Smith, signer of the Declaration of IndependenceJames Smith, signer of the Declaration of Independence
Public domain image.

As tension grew with Great Britain, Smith grew worried that the Americans were too hasty to cut ties with their mother country. In 1774, he submitted a paper on the subject at the provincial assembly. In his essay, he suggested that the colonies boycott all British goods and see how they reacted. James argued that if you hurt the British merchants in their pocketbook, then they would deal with the Parliament for the colonists.

Later that year, after many of the more hurtful British conflicts had transpired, James Smith helped organize a militia group in Pennsylvania. They elected James as their captain, and as the strife with the British grew, so did the number of volunteers in their militia. At this point, any thoughts of reconciliation were gone from James' mind.

In 1775, James was elected to the state assembly in Pennsylvania. In 1776, he was elected delegate to the Second Continental Congress for Pennsylvania, after Pennsylvania decided that they needed to replace some of their delegates with ones in favor of independence. Later that year, James Smith signed the Declaration of Independence.

Through the war it is unclear exactly what James did, but it is believed that he most likely fought in the war as well as participating in the Congress.

James Smith died on July 11, 1806.

James Wilson, signer of the Declaration of Independence

James Wilson, signer of the Declaration of Independence

John Morton, signer of the Declaration of Independence

John Morton, signer of the Declaration of Independence

Return to Signers of the Declaration of Independence


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