Appointed by President James Madison
Robert Smith was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, November 3, 1757, the youngest of John and Mary Buchanan Smith's five children. Less than two years later, the Smiths moved to the small but flourishing port city of Baltimore, Maryland; two of the five Smith children, sons Robert and Samuel, played significant roles in the history of Baltimore and Maryland.
As the American Revolution commenced, Robert attended the College of New Jersey, today Princeton University, where he graduated with the class of 1781. In striking contrast to his older brother Samuel, who became an illustrious soldier of the Revolution, Robert saw but limited service, participating in the Battle of Brandywine. Throughout their very long lives, Samuel Smith always overshadowed his youngest brother.
As the new American Republic was launched, Robert Smith's career flourished. He studied law, becoming an attorney. He speculated in Virginia and Kentucky lands, laying the foundation of his future fortune. In 1789, Robert was chosen to be a Maryland presidential elector, casting a vote for the nation's first leader, George Washington. From 1793 to 1798, Smith was in Maryland's Senate. Between 1796 and 1800, he served in Maryland's House of Delegates; concurrently, he was a member of Baltimore's City Council for the three years ending in 1801. As the new century dawned, Robert Smith was a prominent citizen of Baltimore and Maryland.
As businessmen and merchants with far-ranging interests, the Smiths were Federalists, that is, supporters of President Washington and the economic policies advanced by Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton left office in 1795 as Washington did in 1797. Under the new president, John Adams, the United States found itself in an undeclared war with France. Adams and the Federalists put the country on a war footing, increasing taxes and undermining civil lib-erties in the notorious Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. Samuel Smith, then in Congress, voted against this legislation; soon he and his brother were targets of Maryland Federalists in the vicious political atmosphere that marred the decade.