Smith, Theophilus W.

Born: 1784-09-28 New York, New York

Died: 1846-05-06 Chicago, Illinois

Smith studied law with Aaron Burr and was admitted to the New York bar in 1805. He practiced law in New York City before moving to Edwardsville, Illinois, in 1816. He served as a state senator from 1822 until 1825, when the General Assembly elected Smith justice of the Illinois Supreme Court in 1825. He was impeached in 1832 but secured a “negative acquittal,” because a vote of twelve to ten was insufficient to convict him. In 1841, the General Assembly expanded the Supreme Court from four to nine justices, and divided Illinois into nine judicial circuits. Each Supreme Court justice presided over a circuit, and Smith was responsible for the Seventh Judicial Circuit. Abraham Lincoln appeared before Theophilus Smith in the Illinois Supreme Court in eight legal cases. He resigned from the bench in 1842. Smith was also active in Democratic politics.

Frederic B. Crossley, Courts and Lawyers of Illinois (Chicago: American Historical Society, 1916), 1:226-27; John J. Duff, A. Lincoln: Prairie Lawyer (New York: Bramhall House, 1960) 174; Usher F. Linder, Reminiscences of the Early Bench and Bar of Illinois 2nd ed., (Chicago: The Chicago Legal News, 1879), 260-63; John Palmer, ed., The Bench and Bar of Illinois: Historical and Reminiscent (Chicago: Lewis, 1899), 1:23-24; John Clayton, comp., The Illinois Fact Book and Historical Almanac, 1673-1968 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1970), 198-99; Newton Bateman and Paul Selby, eds., Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois (Chicago: Munsell, 1901), 489. Illustration courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, IL.