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Erik Visits as American Grave, Part 110


This is the grave of John Smilie.

Born in 1741 in Ireland, Smilie immigrated to Pennsylvania around 1760. He became involved with the Patriots in Lancaster County, fighting as a volunteer in 1776 and 1777. Beginning in 1778, and served in the Pennsylvania legislature. He was a very small government guy, opposing any kind of centralizing power in the state, such as a state bank, which he believed would undermine small farmers in the state and promote the interests of Philadelphia bankers. Naturally, he opposed the Constitution as giving the federal government too much power. He became a leading anti-Federalist in Pennsylvania. His greatest fear was the use of a strong government against the press. He saw a future where anti-government opponents would be prosecuted for libel by a strong state. Of course, the Constitution was ratified and Smilie was elected to Congress from 1793-95 and again from 1797-1812. He was a strong Jeffersonian, but, demonstrating where politics would go as the 19th century went on, began to turn against the South by taking a very harsh stance against the international slave trade. He became particularly known for demanding the death penalty for those who smuggled slaves into the United States after 1807, when the Constitution disallowed the practice. Smilie died in Washington in 1812.

John Smilie is buried in Congressional Cemetery, Washington, D.C.

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