|In 1885 Smith was hired a supervisor by Flagler over the concrete construction process in
the Ponce de Leon Hotel but by January 1886 the relationship with Flagler came to an end.
Smith was an early abolitionist, a founder of the YMCA in the US and the Republican Party
The first YMCA in the United States was founded by 30-year-old retired sea captain
Thomas Valentine Sullivan in 1851 when he gathered a group of evangelicals from several
Boston churches. Twenty-five-year-old Franklin Smith, affiliated with Boston's Tremont
Temple, was one of those men. Smith was instrumental in drafting the new YMCA's
constitution and was elected its first president in 1855.
He was also asked to raise funds so he planned a world bazaar, which was staged at
Tremont Temple. Facades of world famous buildings were constructed and staffed by well-
known local residents who dressed in authentic costumes and sold items imported for the
event. The bazaar was spectacularly successful.
It is fair to say that Smith was one the founders of the Boston YMCA, the first YMCA
chapter in the United States.
Civil War Troubles
During the Civil War Smith got in trouble over Naval contracting. On June 17, 1864, two
weeks after the conclusion of the Hale hearings and two weeks before the report was to be
made public, both the Smith brothers were arrested. The attempt was being made to
discredit the Senate Report before it was released. Early in the morning, a detail of marines
grabbed Franklin and dragged him to a waiting boat. They had no warrant, only a
telegraphed order from Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy. The marines broke down the
door of Smith Brothers & Company, seizing records and correspondence, then did the same
at his residence. Company clerks were arrested when they arrived for work the next
morning; they were questioned and released. The business was forced to close because the
company's books and papers had been taken. Bail was set at $500,000. Smith was so
highly regarded by his fellow businessmen that nearly $1 million was pledged in less than two
days. The Massachusetts Congressional delegation, including Charles Sumner, Henry
Wilson, Henry L. Dawes, George S. Boutwell, William B. Washburn, Thomas D. Eliot, John
Denison Baldwin and John B. Alley went to the office of Navy Secretary Welles and offered
to guarantee Smith’s court appearance personally, but to no avail. Smith was finally released
on July 1, two weeks after his arrest and two days after the Hale report was submitted to
Congress. At the time, he still had not been charged with a specific crime, just "fraud upon
the United States" and "wilful neglect of duty as a contractor" with the Navy. However, his
bond was lowered to $20,000.
Smith started the process in a letter from February 12, 1863 trying to change government
"My Dear Sir: I am glad to notice by the papers that the resolution concerning contracts was
recommitted after debate, as I feared my suggestions were too late.
We have really no pecuniary interest in the amendments suggested; for it is impossible to
estimate whether the bill with or without them will be most favorable to our profit, if we make
further contracts. My motive in the effort made was, sincerely: first, for the good of the
government; second, that it might appear that all merchants who became contractors were
not inevitably, because in business connections with the government -- selfish sharpers.
The record we have made to date is a clear one; we are content to be judged by it. I regard
it as most fortunate that, without knowledge that any such legislation was pending, it
happened in my way to place our record with the Naval Committee.
If in the course of the debate sweeping animadversion may be made upon contractors under
the system hitherto, your sentiments of fairness, regard for the fame of Boston merchants,
and (may I presume!) your confidence in the undersigned, may prompt you to speak in reply.
With reference to "nominal prices," upon which so much is said, this is our reply: We were
compelled to use an old system, provided by law, as it long had been used and accepted by
the department, or retire from the competition.
If all houses who would be honorable dealers with the government thus retired from the field,
the government, with a bad system, would be entirely in bad hands.
We did our part, as soon as we comprehended the evils of the system, in recording our
regret that they existed, and our desire for their remedy.
With a renewal of thanks for your courtesy.
I am yours, respectfully and truly,
Franklin W. Smith.
Hon. D. W. Gooch, Washington, D. C.
On the publication of the report of the house rumors of retaliation upon Smith, by officials of
the Navy Department reached Boston, and were brought in person by Hon. J. P. Hale, on
his way to New Hampshire, who called at the warehouse of Smith Brothers, and said "The
Navy Department will slaughter Franklin W. Smith."
The following details are from Gideon Welles diary: June 27, 1864 “Mrs. Franklin W. Smith
of Boston sends me through Senator Sumner a touching and affecting letter in behalf of her
January 14, 1865 “In Boston the trial of Smith Brothers is brought to a close. It has been on
hand some three months. This P.M. (Saturday) Senator Sumner and Representive Hooper
called on me with a telegram from the counsel of Smith objecting to the court for the next
trial. F. W. Smith’s trial is ended; Ben is assigned for next week. The counsel request
Sumner to call upon me, and, if I will not grant their request, to go to the President. I told
them I was not disposed to consider the subject, and Sumner said he was not inclined to call
on the President.”
January 21, 1865 “Strange efforts are being made on the part our Massachusetts men for
Smith Brothers, who have been tried for frauds and convicted. This is but one of many
cases, and to relieve them because they are wealthy, and have position, ecclesiastical and
political, must prevent the punishment of others. The President wrote me that he desired to
see the case before it was disposed of. I told him I certainly intended he should do so after
witnessing the pressure that was brought to bear. He said he had never doubted it, but
‘There was no way to get rid of the crowd that was upon me,’ said he, ‘but by send you a
March 18, 1865 “The President this day returned the abstract made by Eames in the case of
F. Smith of Boston with an endorsement in his own handwriting, disapproving the verdict and
annulling the proceedings. It is, I regret to say, a discreditable endorsement, and would, if
made public, be likely to injure the President. He has, I know, been much importuned in this
matter, as I have, and very skillful and persistent efforts have been pursued for months to
procure this result. Senators and Representatives have interposed their influence to defeat the
ends of justice, and shielded guilty men from punishment, and they have accomplished it.
They have made the President the partisan of persons convicted and pronounced guilty of
fraud upon the government. Of course, rascality will flourish. I regret all this on the President’
s account, as well as that of the ends of justice. I had in my letter to the President invited a
conference after he had examined the case, and on Tuesday last, when he was not well and
was in bed, I had, among other things, mentioned Smith’s case. He said he had gone through
with Mr. Eames’ summing-up, an opinion which seemed to him to be able and impartial; that
he had handed the paper to Sumner to read, etc., and he would see me in relation to it when
Sumner returned the document. “
Senator Sumner studied the document overnight and wrote an opinion which summarized the
treatment of Franklin Smith:
"It is hard that citizens enjoying a good name, who had the misfortune to come into business
relations with the Government, should be exposed to such a spirit; that they should be
dragged from their homes, and hurried to a military prison; that, though civilians, they should
be treated as military offenders; that they should be compelled to undergo a protracted trial
by courtmartial, damaging their good name, destroying their peace, breaking up their
business, and subjecting them to untold expense,—when, at the slightest touch, the whole
case vanishes into thin air, leaving behind nothing but the incomprehensible spirit in which it
had its origin. Of course, the findings and sentence of the Court ought, without delay, to be
set aside. But this is only the beginning of justice. Some positive reparation should be made
to citizens who have been so deeply injured."
President Lincoln wrote his decision to Welles, the court-martial board and the Navy:
"I am unwilling for the sentence to stand and be executed, to any extent, in this case. In the
absence of a more adequate motive than the evidence discloses, I am wholly unable to
believe in the existence of criminal or fraudulent intent on the part of one of such well-
established good character as is the accused. If the evidence went as far toward establishing
a guilty profit of one or two hundred thousand dollars, as it does of one or two hundred
dollars, the case would, on the question of guilt, bear a far different aspect. That on this
contract, involving from one million to twelve hundred thousand dollars, the contractors
should attempt a fraud which at the most could profit them only one or two hundred, or even
one thousand dollars, is to my mind beyond the power of rational belief. That they did not, in
such a case, strike for greater gains proves that they did not, with guilty or fraudulent intent,
strike at all. The judgment and sentence are disapproved and declared null, and the accused
ordered to be discharged."
Franklin Smith would write a book about his experience called: The conspiracy in the U.S.
Navy department against Franklin W. Smith of Boston, 1861-1865, published in 1890.
Smith was held under The Act of Congress of July 17, 1862 that provided that: "any person
who shall contract to furnish supplies of any kind or description for the army or the navy, he
shall be deemed and taken as a part of the land or naval forces of the United States, for
which he shall contract to furnish said supplies, and be subject to the rules and regulations for
the government of the land and naval forces of the United States." This meant a military trial
and no trial by jury for Smith.
Senator John P. Hale from New Hampshire spoke in the senate: "Sir, it is impossible for me
to scan the motives of men; it is enough for me to deal with my own; but, standing here under
all the responsibilities which attach to me---fond as any man of what little reputation belongs
to me---careful of my work, I think, as most men---I aver before the Senate, before the
country and before God, that I have not a shadow of doubt that the sole offense for which
Mr. Smith was arrested was the evidence that he gave upon the occasion."
Congressman Dawes of Massachusetts: "I do not say why this unjustifiable course was
pursued toward these men. I only say that it happened immediately after they had testified
before an investigating committee of Congress, in reference to certain frauds that had come
to their knowledge, very near the doors of certain naval officials. Now, sir, I submit that it is
time for us to act."
Senator Sumner: "I am not astonished that these proceedings were used in the House of
Representatives as an argument for the total repeal of the act of Congress authorizing the trial
of civilians by courts-martial. Such a case as this must make us fear, that under this act,
justice may be sacrificed. It must make honest merchants hesitate to enter into business
relations with the Government."
On June 17, 1864 the Smith Brothers were arrested upon a military order from General Dix
at New York, upon the demand of Gideon Welles, and were sent to Fort Warren. A
detachment of Marines took possession of their warehouse. Their safe was forced, and all
book and papers seized. Soldiers invaded the home of Franklin W. Smith, broke locks, and
purloined all papers, even correspondence of deceased relatives.
The 1862 Military Contractor Court-Martial act that was the basis for Smith's trial was
declared unconstitutional by a federal circuit court in Kentucky in 1866
"Power delegated for National deliverance reaches bad hands and is turned to tyranny. If,
herein, atrocities have been recorded, to stimulate future jealousy of military absolutism and
watchfulness of its administration, this experience of its abuse will not have been in vain.
Individual persecution will have contributed to future public protection." Franklin Smith
Smith in Spain
Franklin: In the winter of 1882, while in Spain, I decided to build a winter home in St.
Augustine after the model which the experience of centuries had proved desirable in semi-
tropical countries. An oriental house of wood would be an anachronism; yet there was no
stone in Florida. To freight it from the north would be an extravagance. At Vevay, on Lake
Geneva, subsequently, the dilemma of material was relieved. In the neighborhood a chateau
was in construction...
Building of Villa Zorayda
In the following December (December 1, 1883) with a Boston mason, experiments were
made and the first concrete blocks of coquina sand and Portland cement were cast in St.
Augustine for the Villa Zorayda. They are preserved as valuable relics. Then the first course
around the lines of the dwelling here in depicted was laid in planks 10 inches high, and filled
with the mixture. In two days a range of handsome smooth stone was revealed. It was
followed by another immediately, and those layers hardened sufficiently to allow the raising
of the walls a course every other day. The partition walls were cast in with the main walls in
even courses also the arches of the court so that the building is practically a monolith. Arches
like the first cast, as seen in the illustration were re-enforced and anchored to the walls by
round iron rods. The outer walls were cored with an air chamber, bu a board buried in the
boxing and then raised, like a boat's center-board, before the concrete hardened. In thirty
days the walls were as hard as any building stone, and in a year as defiant of a drill as granite.
The Casa Monica
The Casa Monica of while illustrations are annexed, stands as a superb illustration of
concrete. A facade of above 400 feet, a tower of 100 feet in height,, balconies, arches,
cornices, battlements, etc are a homogeneous mass of solid and eloquent stone. It was a new
departure in this building to use the sea sand simply dredged from the flats of the harbor,
having not more than 1/10 conquina. It was found that the finer the material the more dense
and uniform in color the result.
The facade of the Villa Zorayda is nearly in three detached sections. If really separate, the
least jar of earthquake or the slightest settlement would be made apparent. For security
against either, the sections are bound by imbedded railroad bars through the entire width of
From a Design and Prospectus for a National Gallery of History of Art at Washington
by Franklin W Smith.
Laura Smith separated from her husband during the 1890s. In the 1900 census, Franklin
Smith's marital status was listed as "widowed", but Laura Smith did not die until 1915. The
year 1906 ended Smith's dreams when the banks foreclosed on his properties in St.
Augustine, Washington, D.C. and Saratoga Springs. Smith died in anonymity and poverty
five years later, disowned by his family and residing with his older sister Mary in Boston. He
was buried in the Smith family plot of Mount Auburn Cemetery at Cambridge,
|Franklin W. Smith
Secretary of the Navy
|Senator Charles Sumner