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Gerrit Smith Papers

Letter to Gerrit Smith from Frederick DouglasGerrit Smith (1797-1874) was an American social reformer, abolitionist, politician, and philanthropist. Born in Utica, New York, he spent much of his life in nearby Peterboro. Smith's grandfather, Colonel James Livingston, fought in the American Revolution and his first cousin, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, was a founder and leader of the women's suffrage movement. Smith was non-sectarian in his religious views, active in the temperance movement, an avid and outspoken abolitionist (he was a financial backer of John Brown of Kansas, whose raid on Harper's Ferry nearly led to Smith's prosecution), and three times ran for President of the United States. His philanthropic gifts are said to have exceeded $8 million over his lifetime. Although he rarely ventured far afield from his central New York village, and spent less than two years in elected public office, his biographer Ralph Volney Harrow says, "He and a few others like him furnished the oratory, the written propaganda, and the emotional fervor necessary to keep good causes constantly before the public" (Harlow, Ralph Volney, Gerrit Smith, Philanthropist and Reformer, New York, Henry Holt and Co., 1939, p.v.)

The Gerrit Smith Papers contain business, family and general correspondence (1795-1897); business and land records (1775-1910); writings (1820-1924); miscellaneous files, and maps (1790-1827).

The Gerrit Smith Pamphlets and Broadsides Collection includes various circulars, speeches, sermons, and tracts which deal with such topics as abolition, suffrage, temperance, transportation, and the postal system.