Smith was born on 20 January 1809 in London, and died in Berlin on 3 February 1874. He was the son of John Prince Smith, a law reporter of Walthamstowe in Essex. In 1817 Smith (Senior) was appointed second fiscal in Demerara and Essequibo; he died at Demerara in 1822. Both John Prince Smith and his sister accompanied their father to the West Indies. Smith was educated at Eton in 1820, but on his father's death he joined Messrs Daniel, a firm of London merchants, which he left in 1828. He worked for two years variously as banker's clerk, parliamentary reporter and journalist in London and Hamburg. At the age of twenty-two he settled in Prussia after obtaining a position as an English and French teacher in Cowle's Gymnasium at Elbing on 5 April 1831; thereafter, he integrated himself into German cultural and political life. He taught at the school until 1840, when he resumed his work as a journalist. In 1846 he moved to Berlin and married Auguste Sommerbrod, the daughter of an eminent banker. Smith joined a circle of men in Berlin who held left-wing political views and therefore were called ‘the Free’.
From The Biographical Dictionary of British Economists in Oxford Reference.