William Tangier Smith


Justice and Chief Justice of the New York Supreme Court of Judicature, 1691-1703 [intermittent]

Col. William Smith, known as “Tangier” Smith, was born in Newton in Northamptonshire, England on February 2, 1655. As a young man, he moved to British Tangier, a military and naval base in Morocco, North Africa, where he became a merchant, commander of the town militia, councilman, alderman and mayor. When the British abandoned the city during the Berber siege of 1684, he returned to London.

At the suggestion of the newly appointed Provincial Governor of New York, Thomas Dongan (who had been Lieutenant-Governor of Tangier before its fall), Colonel Smith and his family sailed for America and arrived in New York on August 6, 1686. Through land grants and purchases, Smith acquired an extensive estate on Long Island. Under a patent granted by Governor Benjamin Fletcher, these lands became the Manor of St. George.

In 1691, Smith was appointed to the Governor’s Council. He served as a judge of the special session of the Court of Oyer and Terminer convened for the Jacob Leisler Treason Trial. When the New York Supreme Court of Judicature was established by the colonial Assembly in April 1691, William Smith was appointed a justice of the court. The following year, Joseph Dudley, the first Chief Justice, was removed from office. On November 11, 1692, William Smith became Chief Justice, a position he held until January 21, 1701. He was reappointed Chief Justice on June 9, 1702 and served until April 5, 1703.

William Tangier Smith died on February 18, 1705 at his home in Sebonac, Long Island.



Hamlin, Paul M., and Charles E. Baker. Supreme Court of Judicature of the Province of New York, 1691-1704. New York, 1959.

The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record XX (1889).


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