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John Cotton Smith

Gov. John Cotton Smith

  • October 25, 1812 - May 8, 1817
  • Federalist
  • February 12, 1765
  • December 7, 1845
  • Connecticut
  • Yale University
  • Married Margaret Evertson; one child
  • Succeeded
  • Representative


JOHN COTTON SMITH, the last Federalist to serve as Governor of Connecticut, was born on February 12, 1765, in Sharon, Connecticut. He graduated from Yale University in 1783, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1787. Smith entered politics in 1793, when he was elected to Connecticut’s House of Representatives. He was reelected in 1796, and again in 1800, when he was chosen to serve as speaker. He also served as clerk of the Connecticut House of Representatives in 1799, and was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1800 until his resignation in August 1806. Smith served on the bench of Connecticut’s Supreme Court in 1809, and was lieutenant governor of Connecticut from 1810 to 1812. When Governor Roger Griswold died in office on October 25, 1812, Smith, who was lieutenant governor at the time, assumed the governor’s office. Smith was elected by popular vote to the governorship in 1813, 1814, 1815, and again in 1816. During his tenure, he continued to implement Governor Griswold’s rejection of placing the state militia under federal officers. Smith advocated the development of agricultural and shipping business within the state, and he was a proponent of Connecticut’s participation in the 1814-1815 Hartford Convention. His administration opposed reform and the liberal modification of the Connecticut Royal Charter. Smith left office on May 8, 1817, after losing his bid for reelection. He ran unsuccessfully again for the governorship in 1818, and 1819. Smith retired from public service, but stayed active ensuing his religious and academic interests. He was a member of the Connecticut and Massachusetts Historical Societies, and was president of the American Board of Foreign Missions from 1826 to 1841. He also served as president of the Connecticut State Bible Society, as well as the American Bible Society. Governor John Cotton Smith died on December 7, 1845, and is buried at the Hillside Cemetery in Sharon, Connecticut.


Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 1, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.

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