Smith Thompson

Smith Thompson

Eliza Livingston's Obituary
Thomas argues with Moore descendant
1941 Dutchess County Yearbook
Supreme Court Historical Society
Challenge to Slavery
Thompson Obituary

Smith Thompson
(11 Jan 1768, Philadelphia PA)
(18 Dec 1843, Poughkeepsie NY)
+ Sarah Livingston (10 Apr 1795, Dutchess Co)
(02 Mar 1777, Poughkeepsie NY)
(22 Sep 1833, Poughkeepsie NY)

    Gilbert Livingston Thompson[married Arietta Tompkins, dau of US VP Daniel Tompkins]
    Catharine Crannel Thompson[married Charles Joseph de Bresson]
    Edward Thompson
    Mary Louise Thompson[married John Henry Clack]

+ Elizabeth Davenport Livingston (10 Apr 1795, Dutchess Co)
(17 Mar 1805, Poughkeepsie NY)
(21 Mar 1886, Michigan)

    Eliza Livingston Thompson
    Jeannie Thompson[married Arietta Tompkins, dau of VP Daniel Tompkins]
    Smith Thompson[married Sarah A. Moore]

From Eliza [Livingston] Thompson Lansing
to Anne Livingston Goodrich (1851-1902)
December 15, 1851

Your letter has just reached me, and I hasten to tell you all I know about the poem 'Night Before Christmas.' It was approved and believed in our family to be Father's, and I well remember our astonishment when we saw it claimed as Clement C. Moore's.

Many years after my father's decease, which took place more than fifty years ago [1828]; at that time my brothers in looking over his papers found the original in his own handwriting, with his many fugitive pieces which he had preserved.

Smith Thompson - Supreme Court

1941 Dutchess County Yearbook

Mr. Thompson was a member of what was then known as the Jefferson Republican party. In 1825 his party nominated him for governor of New York but, due to discords in his party, he was defeated by Martin Van Burent. Van Buren was at the time nearing the height of his popularity, which, in less than a decade, carried him to the White House

. . .

On April 22, 1838, Justice Thompson purchased a farm of 133 acres from the heirs of Thomas Mitchell, on which he established the home where he lived the remainder of his life. This land was part of the farm owned by John Conklin, father of Susannah Conklin, who in 1742 had married Henry Livingston. Susannah and Henry were the grandparents of both of Smith Thompson's wives. The farm was bounded on the east by the Post Road, on the west by Hudson's river, on the south by the land of edward James and on the north by the Livingston farm. Judge Thompson named his property at Poughkeepsie "Rust Plaetz," two Dutch words meaniing Resting Place. He did so because the little stream which ran through his farm was called the Rust Plaetz Kill. The Rust Plaetz Kill is still flowing. It rises from a spring on the east side of the Post Road, at a place called by the Dutch settlers the "Rust Plaetz" (the resting place) because the Indians camped or rested there. Judge Thompson's land is now part of the Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery and it is an interesting and fitting coincidence that a stream always known as the "Rust Plaetz Kill" should traverse a modern burial ground.

Judge Thompson died at his home at Poughkeepsie December 18, 1843, and was buried in the Livingston family ground, formerly a part of the Livingston farm and now included within the bounds of the Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery. At the time of his death, the New York Tribune (December 19, 1843), said of him: "He was a man of the simplest and least pretending manners and his unassuming dignity of deportment was in perfect firmness with the love of justice which always characterized him." And the New York Evening Post, of the same date, said: "Judge Thompson was one of the most illustrious ornaments of American jurisprudence."

Smith Thompson - Mayor NYC

Supreme Court Historical Society

Smith Thompson was born about January 17, 1768, in Dutchess County, New York. He was graduated from Princeton University in 1788 and taught school and read law with an attorney in Poughkeepsie. In 1793, he joined a Poughkeepsie law firm. In 1800, Thompson was elected to the New York State Legislature, and one year later he served as a delegate to the New York State Constitutional Convention. In 1802, Thompson was appointed State District Attorney for the Middle District of New York, but before assuming his duties he was appointed to the New York Supreme Ct. He served there as an Associate Justice for twelve years and was named Chief Justice in 1814.

Thompson resigned from the New York Supreme Court in 1818 to accept an appointment as Secretary of the Navy from President James Monroe. He served in the cabinet until 1823 when, on December 8, President Monroe nominated him to the Supreme Court of the United States. Thompson gave up plans to run for President in 1824 and accepted the Supreme Court appointment. The Senate confirmed the appointment on December 19, 1823. Thompson served on the Supreme Court for twenty years. In 1828, while still on the Court, he made an unsuccessful run for Governor of New York. Thompson died on December 18, 1843, at the age of seventy-five.

Smith Thompson - Sec Nav

Amistad: The Federal Courts and the Challenge to Slavery
Smith Thompson (1768-1843), Associate justice of the Supreme Court and circuit justice on the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Connecticut.

Justice Smith Thompson participated in three separate stages of the Amistad case’s passage through the federal court system. As the justice assigned to the circuit courts for the Second Circuit, Thompson presided over the brief hearing of criminal charges directed against the Amistad captives in September 1839, and he ruled that the Mende could not be prosecuted in the courts of the United States for alleged acts that occurred on a foreign vessel at sea. During this same session of the circuit court, Thompson presided over the abolitionists’ appeal for release of the Mende under a writ of habeas corpus. He expressed his personal abhorrence of slavery, but reminded the lawyers that the Constitution and laws of the United States recognized the right of one person to control the labor of another. His duty, as he announced it to the court, was not to rule on the abstract right of slavery but on the proper jurisdiction of the district court. The justice denied the release of the Mende as long as they were the object of property claims pending before the district court.

Thompson again presided over the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Connecticut in April 1840 when that court heard the U.S. Attorney’s appeal of the district court decision ordering that the Mende should be returned to Africa. Thompson affirmed the district court decision without comment, on the assumption that it would in any case be appealed to the Supreme Court. He also rejected the plea from the Mende’s lawyers that the case be dismissed on the grounds that the United States had no interest in the Spanish property claims on which it based the appeal.

Justice Thompson then heard the arguments presented before the Supreme Court and joined the opinion written by his colleague Justice Story. In all of these proceedings, Thompson had little opportunity to comment on the merits of the various claims alleging that the captives from the Amistad were lawfully-held property of the Spanish planters.

Smith Thompson was born in New York and attended the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). He read law with James Kent, one of the most influential jurists and legal writers in the early republic. After a brief term in the state legislature, Thompson was appointed to the New York Supreme Court in 1802 and became chief justice of that court in 1814. He left the New York court in 1818 to accept President James Monroe’s nomination to serve as secretary of the navy. During his tenure as a cabinet secretary, the navy was responsible for enforcing the prohibition on the international slave trade, and Thompson was directly involved in the cases of two slave ships, the Antelope and La Jeune Eugenie, both of which became the subjects of federal court cases that served as precedents for Amistad.

In 1823 Monroe appointed Thompson to the Supreme Court of the United States. Thompson was assigned circuit duties in the Second Circuit, which consisted of New York, Connecticut, and Vermont. On the Court, Thompson supported a state rights position that was often in opposition to the nationalist ideas of Chief Justice John Marshall. He served on the Supreme Court until his death on December 18, 1843.


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