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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Term: Smith, Abram Daniel 1811 - 1865

Definition: lawyer, judge, b. Lowville, N.Y. He studied law in New York State, practiced there for a time, and in 1842 moved to Wisconsin, settling in Milwaukee where he set up a law practice. When the state supreme court was separately organized in 1853, Smith was elected associate justice. He served in this capacity from June, 1853, to June, 1859, and during his tenure on the high court bench also acted as reporter of the first 11 volumes of the "Wisconsin Reports." As associate justice of the state supreme court, Smith won national recognition in 1854, when he accepted the plea of Byron Paine (q.v.), counsel for abolitionist Sherman Booth (q.v.), who was charged with aiding in the escape of fugitive slave Joshua Glover. In the test case, Smith granted Booth his freedom on a writ of habeas corpus, and, in keeping with the arguments presented by Byron Paine, declared the Fugitive Slave Law unconstitutional and a violation of state's rights. When the federal court reversed the decision in 1859, Smith found himself out of favor; he was not nominated as a candidate for the state court, and instead saw Byron Paine, whose state's rights arguments he had accepted, elected in his place. For a short time, Smith continued to reside in Milwaukee, where he served as editorial writer for the Milwaukee Free Democrat. In 1861 he was appointed to the federal revenue service, left Wisconsin, and served in the Carolinas until his death. J. R. Berryman, Bench and Bar of Wis. (2 vols., Chicago, 1898); J. B. Winslow, Story of a Great Court (Chicago, 1912); Wis. Mag. Hist. 20; WPA MS.

[Source: Dictionary of Wisconsin biography]
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