Junius Smith: Pioneer of the Steam Trade, Abolitionist, and Horticulturist

The Litchfield Law School founded by Tapping Reeve in Litchfield, Connecticut trained roughly 1,000 students from 1784 to 1833. The Law School, in conjunction with the Litchfield Female Academy founded by Sarah Pierce in 1792, produced many future leaders of young America. From United States senators and justices to vice presidents and governors, the Litchfield Law School helped to shape many remarkable Americans.

Junius Smith, who attended the Law School in 1802, fit the typical profile of most students at the Law School. With the steep cost of tuition, room, and board for both of the Litchfield schools, the students who attended these schools were disproportionately from wealthy families.2 Of those who attended Tapping Reeve’s Law School, a majority also attended colleges such as Yale first.3 Junius fit both of these criteria. He was the son of an American Revolutionary War veteran and successful merchant, Major General David and his wife Ruth Hitchcock Smith. Junius, like two of his siblings before him, attended Yale and graduated in 1802. After attending Yale, Junius went straight to law school in Litchfield and graduated sometime around 1804 when he moved to New Haven, Connecticut to open up a law practice.

As a college graduate and the son of a wealthy family, Junius fit the typical profile of a law student studying under Tapping Reeve. Like hundreds of students before and after him, he would also go on to lead a life that was far from typical. Like the innovative and forward-thinking law curriculum he received from Tapping Reeve and his associate James Gould, Junius soon developed his own progressive vision, not for the American legal system, however, but for the future of American commerce.

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