Gerrit Smith was born in Utica, New York, Hampton, Connecticut, on 7th March, 1797. He came from a wealthy family and used some of his money to fund the campaign for temperance.
In 1835 Smith joined the Anti-Slavery Society after witnessing its speakers being attacked by a wild mob in Utica. Five years later he played a leading role in the formation of the anti-slavery Liberty Party. He was their unsuccessful presidential candidate in 1848 and 1852.
Smith used his considerable wealth to set up communities of freed black slaves, this included a settlement in Virginia where John Brown established a refuge for runaway slaves. He was unaware that Brown used some of the money that he supplied to fund the raid on Harper's Ferry in October 1859.
Gerrit Smith died on 28th December, 1874.