Melancton Smith, delegate to the Continental Congress

Melancton Smith (1744 – 1798) was a New York delegate to the Continental Congress.  He was born on Long Island, home schooled and moved to Poughkeepsie, where he became a a delegate to the first New York Provincial Congress in New York on May 22, 1775. He served in the Continental Line Regiment on June 30, 1775, which he organized as the Dutchess County Rangers.

Smith moved to New York City in 1785 where he was a prominent merchant. He helped found the New York Manumission Society in opposition to slavery and served in the Continental Congress from 1785 to 1787. He was the most important Anti-federalist member of the State ratification convention at Poughkeepsie in 1788.  Smith became convinced that New York had no choice but to accept the ratification of the Constitution and could not afford to wait until it had been amended. His vote for the Constitution, with the recommendation of amendments, broke Anti-Federalist ranks and brought down Governor George Clinton’s wrath.

He was one of the few important landowners and merchants among the Anti-Federalists, and Smith continued in the Clintonian party. He was elected to the Assembly in 1791 and canvassed the state for Clinton in 1792 against John Jay. He has been cited as author of the more prominent Antifederalist essays written to encourage voters to reject ratification of the Constitution.

He died during the yellow fever epidemic in New York City in 1798 and is buried in Jamaica Cemetery, Jamaica, Queens, New York.

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