SMITH, John I (c.1655-1723), of South Tidworth, Hants.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. c.1655, 4th but only surv. s. of John Smith of South Tidworth by Mary, da. Sir Edmund Wright, alderman, of London. educ. St. John’s, Oxf. matric. 18 May 1672, aged 16; M. Temple 1674. m. (1) 1 Sept. 1679, Anne (d. 1680), da. of Sir Nicholas Steward, 1st Bt.†, of Hartley Mauditt, Hants; (2) lic. 7 Nov. 1683, Anne (d. 1727), da. of Sir Thomas Strickland, 2nd Bt.†, of Boynton, Yorks., sis. of Sir William Strickland, 3rd Bt.*, 3s. 4da. (1 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1690; uncle Thomas Smith, 1692.1
Ld. of Treasury 1694–1701; PC 23 May 1695; commr. prize appeals 1695–7; chancellor of Exchequer 1699–1701, 1708–10; commr. union with Scotland 1706; teller of Exchequer 1710–12, 1714–d.2
Speaker of the House of Commons 1705–8.
Smith enjoyed a reputation for political ability and integrity during his lifetime but otherwise remains a somewhat colourless figure. No doubt his inoffensive personality contributed to his employment in government office for most of the period, and indeed, he attracted little of the vitriol which accompanied the careers of other politicians. In the words of one sympathetic contemporary, Smith was
a gentleman of much honour, a lover of the constitution of his country, a very agreeable companion in conversation, a bold orator in the House of Commons when the interest of his country is at stake, of a good address, middle stature, fair complexion.
Smith’s grandfather, Thomas, was a successful London merchant. In 1637 he agreed to lay out £14,000 for the marriage of his eldest son, John, and his purchase in 1650 of neighbouring estates in North and South Tidworth, situated in Wiltshire and Hampshire, was evidently part of this settlement. John Smith senior and family appear to have divided their time between South Tidworth (where he was assessed as having 21 taxable hearths in 1665) and his father’s house in St. Mary Aldermanbury, London. Smith senior was described as of this parish in 1662 in the marriage licence for one of his daughters, three of whom married Wiltshire gentlemen, all MPs. A fourth married the Tory city leader Sir Samuel Dashwood*. It is unclear whether it was father or son who in 1684 was informed against as having declared he would give the Duke of Monmouth armed support. A previous identification of this incident with John Smith snr. is not supported by any strong evidence, and indeed his age at the time (68) might suggest otherwise. Smith snr. was buried at South Tidworth on his death in 1690.3
A consistent Whig under Charles II and James II, the younger John Smith may have contested Ludgershall in 1690, but came in at a by-election for Bere Alston in December 1691. Very active as both a speaker and committeeman, Smith, at this stage of his career in the Commons, often associated with Hon. Thomas Wharton*, William Palmes* and his brother-in-law Sir William Strickland. In his first three sessions, he frequently spoke and acted for the opposition, but the selective nature of his support suggests that he was motivated less by Country principles than by the desire to oust the Tories from the mixed administration and secure office for himself.4
On 31 Dec. 1691, in a move favoured by the Court, Smith opposed the Lords’ clause on the treason trials bill as giving too much power to the Upper House, and on 5 Jan 1692 was added to the conference committee on this bill. On the other hand, he was a teller against agreeing with the calculation of the committee of the whole for the charge of the army for Ireland on 2 Jan. On 6 Jan. he moved with William Palmes that the particulars of the civil list and the revenue be laid before the House, and on the 12th he and the leading Country spokesman Paul Foley I successfully proposed a figure of £200,000 from the revenue to be applied to the war, although on the same day he was against Foley’s proposal that City bankers and the East India Company lend money to the government. Three days later he argued from a ‘Country’ perspective against a proposal that Hull corporation might be allowed to quarter a garrison in the town.5
Along with other Country MPs, Smith was an enthusiastic supporter of drawing upon forfeited estates in England and Ireland as a source of revenue for the war: he moved to bring in a bill to vest the estates in the King and Queen, and was closely involved with the measure as it progressed through the Commons. He spoke in the debate on the bill on 28 Jan. 1692, supporting Sir Thomas Clarges’ move for a commission to inquire into claims to Irish lands, and suggesting that the King be allowed a percentage of the forfeitures. At the report stage on 9 Feb. he and Robert Harley secured an amendment fixing the King’s share at a third, rather than £30,000 as originally proposed. On 18 Feb., speaking in support of the attempt to hold back the poll bill until the Lords had passed the forfeiture bills, he
reflected severely on the Court in making opposition to these bills of forfeitures; and that though thereby he had no prospect of their passing this session, yet he hoped if ever this Parliament met again they would lay their hands on the forfeited lands and apply them to carrying on the war – though grants may be made thereof to particular persons – and that before they give any money the next session.
He took some part in the attack on the East India Company, acting as a teller on 8 Jan. in favour of leaving the word ‘an’ as part of the question to bring in a bill to establish ‘an East India Company’ rather than substituting ‘the’; and in the debate on 6 Feb. he was reported as saying that he was ‘not for the old company for I think they have forfeited all pretence to your favour’. He was also listed by the East India interlopers on 22 Feb. as one of the MPs to be consulted on their proposed address to the King for a new company. He made a number of speeches on financial affairs, particularly on Sir Edward Seymour’s poll bill, which he opposed on 18 Jan., calling it ‘the unequallest tax that can be’, and to which he proposed several improvements. On 15 Feb. he was in favour of adding a clause to the bill which would have revived the commission of accounts and extended its life for a further term.6
In the next session, 1692–3, 30 speeches by Smith are on record, many of them direct attacks on Tory ministers. During the debates on the naval mismanagements at the start of the session he joined in Whig attempts to exonerate Admiral Edward Russell* and the largely Whiggish Admiralty Board, and to implicate the Earl of Nottingham (Daniel Finch†), observing in the debate on 21 Nov. 1692:
As to those gentlemen who have the management of your fleet, I doubt not of their fidelity and industry; but if they had as much skill too, so long as they have not power within themselves but must receive their orders from above from others, I expect no better success. There is the true reason of the miscarriages of the descent.
On 15 Nov. in the debate on the King’s Speech he spoke in favour of a Whig motion to consider the accounts and alliances before supply and, responding to William III’s request for advice, declared: ‘I think it is absolutely necessary for this House to give their advice for I think matters are so out of order in this government, that unless we give our advice and that very freely we can never hold together one year longer.’ On the subject of foreign officers in the army there are three reports of his speech on 23 Nov. which differ significantly, although all agree that he did not favour the removal of officers already in place but supported a motion that no foreign officers should be appointed for the future. His remarks, as reported by Luttrell, included a stern warning against attempting to govern by a standing army. The two other reports, however, make no mention of this. In one he was said to have declared ‘I am not fond of a favourite . . . but consider, you are putting out and putting in officers for the King’, and in another, Smith appears to have put the emphasis on giving ‘some satisfaction’ to the army, ‘it being the business of some disaffected to possess the army of the King’s affection to foreigners, and that the Parliament will turn them off when the war is done unregarded’. He returned to the attack on Nottingham on 30 Nov., speaking twice in the debate to the effect that: ‘the weakness of your government I cannot deny; that there are some men false to it I believe; and if there be men in office that have a principle of another King’s right I would address against such persons’. On 5 Dec. he supported Paul Foley I’s motion condemning the inadequacies of the naval campaign during the summer, and the failure to carry through a descent on the French base at Brest. In a subsequent debate (20 Dec.) he did not, however, show any support for Wharton’s move for an address requesting Nottingham’s removal (to the annoyance of Wharton’s brother Hon. Goodwin*), but made it clear that his criticisms of the Admiralty were not directed at Admiral Russell:
for my part I am very well satisfied with the answer your admiral has given you to the papers now before you, and therefore I think you can do no less than declare our entire satisfaction in his conduct and return him thanks for the same.
On 30 Dec. Smith and other Whigs were opposed to holding another conference with the Lords on the descent, and when the question was raised again on 2 Jan. 1693, he supported Foley’s motion for a committee to search for precedents on the matter. Having spoken on 28 Nov. 1692 on the Court side in favouring the proposal not to enforce the provisions of the treason trials bill until after the war, Smith then emphasized his own loyalty (throwing doubts on Nottingham’s) on 1 Dec. by offering a clause to the bill that anyone declaring that William and Mary were usurpers, or that others had a greater right, would be guilty of high treason. The clause was immediately controversial and was rejected, but it prompted a bill for the preservation of the King and Queen and their government. He spoke in favour of committing this bill on 14 Dec., denying that it was ‘a snare’, adding that ‘some gentlemen have taken exception to some parts of the bill, and for that reason I am for committing it’.7
Smith also stepped up his activity against the East India Company, recommending on 17 Nov. that the House consider regulating the trade, and subsequently chairing these proceedings in the committee of the whole on 24 Nov. and 7 Dec. He was the sole Member appointed on 10 Dec. to draft and bring in a bill, which he presented on 14 Dec., but on 22 Dec. he caused a dispute by leaving the chamber just as the committee was to start work, apparently to avoid taking the chair. After some confusion the sitting was abandoned and when the House next considered the bill in committee, Sir John Guise, 2nd Bt., was named chairman. On 21 Feb. 1693, annoyed at the delaying tactics employed by the Old Company’s friends, he supported moves for an address to dissolve the present company.8
In other speeches during the session Smith tackled supply issues, as on 2 and 3 Dec. 1692 when he supported moves to consider all the estimates for the forces before proceeding to ways and means. On 13 Dec., he sought to forestall possible ministerial proposals by speaking against a general excise but in favour of a land tax. He later opposed a motion, on 9 Jan. 1693, to add to the land tax bill a clause which would have had the effect of extending the commission of accounts until 25 Apr. 1693. At the end of this debate he was appointed to the committee to draft a clause to appropriate part of the land tax to finance the navy, and the next day presented it to the House. Also on the 10th he opposed an opposition clause to the land tax bill which would have suspended the payment of all pensions during the war. On 21 Jan. he supported Paul Foley’s demand for a committee of inquiry into Burnet’s Pastoral Letter in opposition to those who wanted the book burnt. On local matters, Smith was one of the friends of the 1st Duke of Bolton (Charles Powlett I†), warden of the New Forest, who on 8 Feb. opposed the bill for the increase and preservation of timber in the New Forest. On 17 Feb. he spoke and told against the bill for preventing the exportation of wool. He also offered a clause at the report stage of a supply bill on 20 Feb. to prevent the interference of customs officers in elections, but it was rejected by the Commons ‘being thought too large’. He spoke only once on the triennial bill, on 7 Feb., when he supported the first clause that a Parliament must be held every year. His silence was glaringly satirized in a pamphlet, Speech Intended to have been delivered on the Triennial Bill, in which the author purported to give the speech Smith had failed to make because ‘of changing his coat’. In fact, Smith seems to have been consistent in opposing this bill: acting as a teller on 7 Feb. in favour of a proposed clause that ‘nothing in the Act [for triennial Parliaments] should extend to take away the King’s prerogative to dissolve any Parliament sooner than three years’. He was also consistent, but in opposition, in the matter of the Irish forfeitures, moving on 22 Feb. for an inquiry into whether funds raised were being used in the manner appointed by Parliament (22 Feb.); and two days later supporting the motion for an address to stop the further granting of forfeitures and to take account of how they had so far been disposed. Not surprisingly, on the same day he was appointed to the committee to prepare an address on the mismanagement of affairs in Ireland.9
Smith continued to attack the now ousted Lord Nottingham in the 1693–4 session, when he acted as a teller on 17 Nov. in favour of leaving the words ‘and treacherous’ in a resolution ‘that there hath been a notorious and treacherous mismanagement of the fleet this year’, and spoke on 21 Nov. against the Tory admirals Henry Killigrew* and Sir Ralph Delaval* (considered Nottingham’s nominees) for the loss of the Smyrna convoy. He was later named to two conference committees with the Lords on the subject of naval mismanagement (3, 16 Jan. 1694). On 11 Dec. he expressed reservations about increasing the number of land forces to 94,000, challenging the government to prove that this would save Flanders and that there was sufficient money to do it, saying: ‘Can gentlemen tell you, if you can come up to this proportion that Flanders is reasonably to be preserved? If not, you had better have your money in your pocket to preserve yourselves.’ He added, however, that if ‘that can be done, I can come up to it. If treaties are ever so unequally made, it is certain, this year you must come up to them.’ He was a teller against committing Lord Falkland (Anthony Carey*) to the Tower on 7 Dec., Falkland having been accused by the commission of accounts of obtaining £2,000 from the crown by underhand means. His antipathy to the legislation for triennial parliaments also continued, and on 22 Dec. he was teller against omitting a clause (favoured by the Court) declaring a session to have been held even if there had been no activity. On another theme of continuing interest he was appointed to a committee to bring in a bill to vest forfeited Irish estates in the crown for the use of the war (12 Jan. 1694).10
By February 1694, amid the reconstruction of the ministry after the fall of Nottingham, there were rumours that Smith would be made a lord of the Treasury. This speculation was no doubt fuelled by a conciliatory speech of his on 1 Feb. when, during a debate on the King’s veto of the place bill, he suggested that the House await the fate of the next set of bills to be sent up before considering its next move. Rather surprisingly, on 22 Dec. 1693 he had acted as a teller against the Whig side in the disputed election at Stockbridge (20 Dec. 1693), although it may have been a tactical move aimed at disfranchising this notoriously venal borough altogether. Smith actually presented a bill for this purpose on 8 Jan. 1694, which he managed through the Commons, and for a while he was teller at its third reading on 30 Mar. On 27 Apr. he received his expected appointment to the Treasury on which the anonymous author of the ‘Club Men of the House of Commons’ commented:
Jack Smith doth not in the least think it base
To forswear ever having, and then take a place;
It makes a blot in his name, but no blush in his face.
From his appearance in this satire he has been identified as a member of the Whig Rose Club. He was listed as a subscriber of above £4,000 to the Bank of England in 1694.11
Smith’s activity during the 1694–5 session is less well documented though he now acted generally on the Court side. After the death of Simon Smith in January 1695, the Journals help to illustrate John Smith’s contribution to proceedings more clearly. It had almost certainly been John Smith who was teller on 13 Dec. 1694 in a division on the triennial bill, against limiting the life of the current Parliament to five years, the Court favouring six. In May 1695 the Earl of Sunderland’s ally, the former secretary to the Treasury, Henry Guy*, wrote to the Earl of Portland that he had obtained Smith’s co-operation in a proposed grant to Portland from the King which was likely to meet parliamentary opposition, although his assertion that Smith was complaining of ‘very ill usage’ by the chancellor of the Exchequer, Charles Montagu*, must be viewed sceptically, Guy being an enemy of Montagu. Smith himself wrote to Portland in 1695, thanking him profusely for his favour: ‘it is to your good offices that I am owing for his Majesty’s great grace to me’, while at the same time seeking to promote his friend John Hawles* for the place of solicitor-general, to which end he declared, ‘I will engage my reputation that he will faithfully discharge his trust’.12
At the 1695 election Smith transferred to Andover, near to his seat at Tidworth, and which he continued to represent uninterruptedly until 1713. In the first session of this Parliament he showed solid support for the Court. He was forecast in January 1696 as likely to support the Court in the divisions concerning the proposed council of trade and was an early signatory of the Association. As his recorded activity shows, he was chiefly concerned this session with matters relating to the recoinage, and in particular was involved in the drafting of remedial legislation. He was chairman on 6, 8 Feb. and 10 Mar., of the committee of the whole House on the bill to encourage good silver coin and plate to be handed in and recoined. Not surprisingly, he also voted with the government in March on fixing the price of guineas at 22s. before conveying the bill to the Lords on the 26th. On the subject of the proposed land bank, Charles Montagu claimed at the end of May 1696 that the Treasury had capitulated: ‘after having given so much opposition to it in the House of Commons, Mr Smith and I resolved to show a particular inclination to give it all despatch in the Treasury’, although the sincerity of their commitment may in fact be doubted.13
In the next session, Smith’s main business was the vigorous prosecution of Sir John Fenwick†. He favoured proceeding by way of a bill of attainder and was one of the inner group of Whig ministers who met to discuss tactics and who managed the affair in Parliament. On 6 Nov. 1696, Smith and John Grobham Howe ‘fell to words’ about the truth of Fenwick’s papers, and on the motion to initiate a bill of attainder, Smith was one of those who ‘stood to it resolutely’. He offered his opinions more than once on 13 Nov., and by the end of the debate had grown impatient with those who had first objected that there were not enough witnesses and who were now asking if witnesses could be called on particulars not specified in the bill. On 16 Nov. he spoke twice in favour of hearing the evidence given by Cardell Goodman before his flight to France and on the 17th, supporting the bill’s committal, he said:
this gentleman hath had as full a hearing as ever any person had upon any bill of attainder or impeachment whatsoever; and he hath had the advantage of counsel in this case, which, as has been told you, was excepted out of the late Act of Parliament, and of the most able counsel too . . . It hath been always one principle I have laid down, that if a plot be discovered, and not thoroughly prosecuted, it strengthens and grows upon you, and ten to one if it does not subvert the government . . . I take it that there have been much greater men in it; and when I see such a struggle both to get people out of gaol, and send people out of the way, and all arts used that can be, I must suppose when such extraordinary courses are taken that there is something still to be done; and I would not have men by bribing of witnesses think to secure themselves.
On 23 Nov. he made another long speech in favour of the third reading of the bill and on 25 Nov. voted for the attainder. On 21 Jan. 1697, Smith displayed his sensitivity to the dignity of the House when the recorder of London, in his explanation before the House of his efforts to quell a noisy demonstration which had recently occurred outside the Parliament buildings, blundered badly and caused some merriment. Smith felt obliged to ‘give a just reprimand to the laughers for exposing the dignity of the House upon so solemn an occasion’.14
During the government reshuffle in the spring and summer of 1697 a compromise administration emerged, which was dominated by the Junto, but, despite the best efforts of Smith and others to win the King over, Lord Wharton (formerly Thomas) remained excluded from political office. Smith, apparently discontented at what he took to be the King’s coldness towards the Whigs, went so far as to tell William in April that he would resign, although he was eventually persuaded to stay.15
Smith particularly distrusted the influence of the Earl of Sunderland. The Earl’s resignation from his post of lord chamberlain in December left the Junto ministers without a channel of communication to the King, who refused to have direct dealings with them. On 1 Feb. 1698 Montagu wrote that Smith was determined to have no contact with Sunderland and he was unsure whether Smith could be mollified. An attempt a few days later to patch up a reconciliation between Sunderland and the Junto, through the good offices of the Duke of Shrewsbury, was wrecked by Smith. James Vernon I* reported to Shrewsbury on 5 Feb. 1698:
Coming . . . to the House I found Mr [Charles] Montagu startled at what a leading man had said to him.
I suppose it is Mr Smith, though he did not name him, who had been expostulating with him about an intended accommodation which he heard was driving on; and he declared, that for his part, he would have nothing to do with a man [Sunderland] who had been at the bottom of the vexations put upon them, and that he and his emissaries had, to the utmost of their power, been contriving their ruin: others might be as good-natured as they please, and forget all that was passed; but, for his part, he would never trust those who were capable of such practices, and he must leave those who would enter into such engagements.
I am satisfied unless these prejudices can be removed, it will be in vain to think of a reconciliation. Mr Smith is too honest and too considerable a man to have any such thing done without his approbation; and I think that should be first obtained before any further steps be made.
Smith could not be brought round, and threatened to resign if the ministry resumed dealings with Sunderland. According to Vernon, ‘his firmness has made Mr Montagu much cooler in the thoughts of it; so that I begin to think it impracticable’. Consequently, the plan was dropped.16
One of the things Smith held against Sunderland was his alliance with Charles Duncombe*. In October 1697 it was reported that Smith feared efforts would be made to restore Duncombe to his former place as cashier of the excise. In December Duncombe attempted to implicate Montagu in the scandal over the false endorsement of Exchequer bills, a furore which some may have tried to extend to Smith himself, although without success. Montagu cleared himself, and the Whigs counter-attacked, pointing the finger at Duncombe. On 23 Jan. 1698 a motion was proposed calling for one of the officials implicated in the fraud to be taken into custody. Although it was already late, a debate arose which the Speaker (Paul Foley I) interrupted to say must end unless candles were to be brought in:
Mr Smith would have diverted, saying he had something to offer by way of compromise. The Speaker, being a little impatient to make an end for the night, repeated his compromising in an exposing way, insomuch that Mr Smith told him he should learn more manners, and when the House was up, the question being carried against candles, Mr Smith told the Speaker, if he treated him no better, he would pull him by the nose. The friends of both had threatened they would complain to the House, but two nights passing between, it was considered there had been passion on both sides and therefore no mention was made of it.
On 18 Feb. Smith warmly defended his colleague Montagu from another attack, this time by the Country Tory Hon. John Granville, over a grant made to him by the King.17
In the debates on the standing army, Smith spoke for the Court on 10 Dec. 1697 and 8 Jan. 1698. Shortly after the former debate, the satire Advice to a Painter appeared in which it was claimed that Smith had command over William Palmes and Sir William Strickland in the Commons, and cast aspersions on his character:
Smith while he seems good natur’d frank and kind,
Betrays th’inveterate rancour of his mind.
Later in the session, Smith was especially preoccupied with issues concerning the New Forest and managed a bill for the preservation of timber there, which he finally conveyed to the Lords on 28 Mar. 1698. Also in March he opposed a bill against blasphemy, supporting various attempts to kill it off by promoting wrecking clauses and delays, and on 31 Mar. ‘declared frankly against the bill and therefore he would have it put off that it might silently die (ipsissima verba)’. On 18 May he was appointed to the conference committee on the subject. In the last three months of the session, Smith supported Montagu in his successful bid to establish the New East India Company (to which Smith was himself a subscriber), the pair being described as ‘the great champions against a monopoly’. Smith also fell in with Montagu’s wish in September to grant the office of auditor of the Exchequer (vacated by the death of Sir Robert Howard*) to Montagu’s brother, Christopher*, and which in effect was to be held on Charles Montagu’s behalf.18
After his own re-election in July 1698, Smith attended a meeting of Whigs at Tunbridge Wells at the end of August, possibly about the terms of the forthcoming Partition Treaty, signed in September. There were still elections to be influenced in September when Vernon informed the Duke of Shrewsbury that Smith had been ‘very pressing’ on behalf of a friend, apparently behind Shrewsbury’s back, which Vernon declared: ‘I think . . . so unjust and tricking that I could not come up to it’. Vernon later detected ‘a very great coldness’ from Smith and Montagu, and it appeared that neither trusted Vernon’s commitment to the party. Smith was classed as a placeman in a list of September 1698 and as a Court supporter in a comparison of the old and new House of Commons.19
Smith was now joined in the House by John Smith II, and once again Smith’s record of activity in the Journals becomes obscured. In the first session of the new Parliament, he spoke on 6 Dec. 1698 in favour of the nomination of Sir Thomas Littleton, 3rd Bt., as Speaker. On the same day Vernon reported that a Junto meeting had decided against a projected prorogation (possibly as being more favourable to Littleton’s election), and that only Smith had been for going ahead, fearing ‘it would be looked upon as a trick’ if a decision only just taken should immediately be reversed. Smith was evidently concerned about maintaining the appearance of propriety and on 14 Dec. he no doubt participated with other Treasury lords in defending their record on supply, declaring that ‘the formal steps of raising money had been more punctually observed during the war than at any time before’. On 23 Dec. he spoke against the disbanding bill, but on 4 Jan. 1699 Vernon noted that Smith did not support his proposal to recommit the motion to reduce the land forces to 7,000, ‘thinking that would be to no purpose’. Smith and Montagu had ‘all along feared this occasion of disuniting’. One source claimed that they had left the House just as the question was put. At third reading on 18 Jan. the disbanding bill unexpectedly came under fire from many sides, and Smith now added his voice in a wide-ranging speech which included support for the last-minute rider to exclude the King’s Dutch guards from the bill. Not surprisingly, he voted against the bill. Two months later, on 18 Mar., he and Montagu were taken aback when the King attempted once more to except the Dutch guards from disbandment, protesting that they had known nothing of it beforehand, and wondered that the King should again attempt it, ‘especially when it was too late to be remedied’. In the debates at the end of March on the land tax Smith was for giving the commissioners a discretionary power to order the collection of it, as not to do so would be to mistrust their ‘justice and integrity’.20
The administration’s lack of success in the Commons, and the King’s continued reliance on a mixed ministry, led Smith to consider resigning to take up a vacant tellership of the Exchequer. He was only persuaded to stay on the promise of promotion, and on 31 May 1699 was made chancellor of the Exchequer in succession to Montagu. The appointment of the Earl of Tankerville to the Treasury, however, caused Smith some annoyance as, despite his seniority, he was obliged to yield precedence to the peer. Montagu resigned in October and the new Treasury commission, issued on 14 Nov., was now headed by Tankerville, leaving Smith as one of the chief spokesmen for the Treasury in the Commons.21
On 2 Dec. 1699 Smith attended a Junto meeting to discuss tactics over the affair of Captain Kidd’s piracies, and on 5 Dec. he was among those who opposed the motion declaring the illegality of Kidd’s grant. He also spoke for Bishop Burnet on 13 Dec. during the debate on a motion to remove the bishop as preceptor to the Duke of Gloucester. On the 15th Smith was named to a committee to draft a bill to apply the Irish forfeitures to public use, a Court move designed to deflect the Commons from inquiring into grants of Irish estates to private individuals. Vernon wrote on 23 Dec. that there was talk of an attack on Smith ‘for begging the reversion of’ a Welsh estate, but the House was prorogued for a fortnight and when it met again the matter was not raised.22
On 18 Jan. 1700 Smith reluctantly spoke in support of Vernon’s motion, made at the King’s insistence, that one-third of the resumed Irish forfeitures should be kept for his personal disposal. The failure of this motion hastened the disintegration of the ministry, now under severe attack in the House. Indeed, the debate on 18 Jan. produced another motion censuring those ministers who had facilitated grants by the King of forfeited Irish estates. Smith was reportedly reticent in his own defence and only after the question was passed did he ‘seem to insinuate’ that he had generally opposed these grants. He was present during the attack on Lord Chancellor Somers (Sir John*) on 13 Feb. over the procurement of grants from the crown, which resulted in an argument between Smith and his frequent adversary in the Commons, Sir Edward Seymour. Smith’s defence that ‘they had trod in paths beaten for them by others’ called forth some pointed remarks from Seymour, at which Smith exposed as dubious some of Seymour’s profits from his former post at the Treasury. Although the attack on Somers was defeated, the Whig ministers were not inclined to stir up the Commons’ temper. Smith was concerned on 23 Mar. to press the commissioners of accounts to explain how they would provide the £77,000 which he computed the forces would require above what had been allowed. Receiving unsatisfactory answers, he declared he would issue what was allowed and let the paymaster take care of the rest. On 11 Apr. Smith again defended Lord Somers, this time from a charge made by Charles Godolphin that people recommended by Somers to places in the custom house had cost the public £20,000 by their neglect, saying, ‘if that had been so, it would have become him to let the Treasury know it, but this was the first time they ever heard of it’.23
After the dismissal of Somers on 27 Apr. 1700 and the appointment of a Tory as lord keeper, the King assured the remaining Whigs in the administration, including Smith, ‘that he has no other thoughts but of employing the Whigs . . . [and] Mr Smith gave assurances of his zeal and perseverance in his Majesty’s service’. In June Smith delivered to Vernon the Duke of Shrewsbury’s key of office as lord chamberlain, to be returned to the King. The expected appointment of Lord Godolphin (Sidney†), as first lord of the Treasury continued to be delayed, apparently because of the conditions Godolphin insisted upon, one of which (ironic in view of Smith’s later loyalty to Godolphin) was that Smith, as a Whig, should be removed. However, there was a reluctance ‘to deprive this man of his post without compensating him elsewhere; he would be dangerous in Parliament if he joined with the malcontents, and he knows the secrets of the finances, which few understand’ and in the end Smith was retained.24
Before the opening of the first Parliament of 1701, L’Hermitage reported that Smith had a reputation as a very honest and able man. Smith, now the only ‘Mr Smith’ in the House, was third-named to the committee of privileges and elections on 13 Feb., and the following day spoke for including the words ‘effectual measures’ to maintain ‘the peace of Europe’, in an address on the King’s Speech, a wording opposed by the Tories as implying support for war. Smith may have felt that the Whigs’ weakness in the Commons had left him too exposed to retain his post of chancellor of the Exchequer in the new Treasury commission, despite being offered it by the King, and he resigned on 23 Mar. 1701. It was reported that he
perceived some men in the House had a mind to be picking at him, and his party not in, as you imagine, made him rather choose to quit than stay in and not have the credit he might expect in his post, and being in the condition you mention to be able to stand steady upon his own land.
Described by the French ambassador in this session as one of the leaders of the Whigs in the Commons, Smith had his work cut out for the next three months in defending other leading Whigs from Tory attacks. On 29 Mar. he spoke against Harley’s move to censure Somers over the treaty. He is not recorded as speaking in the debate on 14 Apr. on whether to impeach Somers, Orford (formerly Russell) and Halifax (as Montagu had become), but on 16 Apr. he was in favour of an amendment to the proposed address urging the King to remove the three lords from his counsels, demonstrating that ‘w[e] were only angry at the [Partition] Treaty as giving so great dominion of Spain to France and that we would not be satisfied to have France have all’. Then, on 9 May, during the debate on helping the Dutch, in answer to the Tory Sir Bartholomew Shower’s fulminations against the Treaty of Partition and the impeached lords, Smith reflected ‘upon all the miscarriages and heats of the angry party and spoke of the necessity of our exerting ourselves at this time’. He took the occasion of the reading of the articles of impeachment against Somers on 16 May to criticize both Seymour and Howe for their assaults on Somers’ passing of grants. The next day, Smith helped to defeat the East India Company’s loan proposal, moving a question that the public credit be maintained and being seconded by Sir Richard Cocks, 2nd Bt., who reported that Speaker Harley had endeavoured to disallow the motion on a technicality. The sparring between Smith and Seymour persisted, and on 28 May the latter produced a letter which revealed Smith as a client of the Duke of Bolton, who had been accused of interfering in the disputed election for Winchester. On receiving the Lords’ message on 31 May setting a date for the trial of Orford, Smith moved for a new committee to search for precedents on the message, and was himself named to it. His aim may have been to speed the trials in accordance with the impeached lords’ wish. Following the committee’s report on 4 June, Smith was in favour of trying the lords in the order in which they had been impeached, with Somers first, as ‘giving colour for mankind to believe that we were the readier for those that we first impeached’.25
In the last Parliament of the reign, in which Smith was classed as a Whig by Robert Harley, he seconded the motion to choose the Court-approved Sir Thomas Littleton as Speaker on 30 Dec. 1701. When a debate on supplying the navy, probably on 9 Jan. 1702, could not take place because the accounts were not ready, Smith suggested that ‘the necessity being so pressing’ they should discuss the army instead, although this was opposed by the Tories on the grounds that it was not the order of the day. In the partisan debates over disputed elections in January, Smith defended Lord Somers from accusations of bribery by Musgrave, and some days later supported a petition against the two Tories returned for Malmesbury. On 17 Jan. he had been appointed to a committee to bring in a bill to prevent bribery at elections. It was falsely rumoured late in January that he would return to office and replace the Earl of Ranelagh (Richard Jones*) as paymaster-general of the army. In the debate on the land tax bill on 3 Mar. Smith was successful in having a place clause added to it which would relieve the burden on the property of non-jurors and papists who had been charged at double rates but now qualified for single rates. Following William III’s death, a struggle over naming the chairman of the committee of ways and means developed on 9 Mar., with Smith proposing Hon. Henry Boyle, and Musgrave proposing William Bromley II. Eventually, Boyle was accepted. On 18 Mar. Smith moved to consider the recent abjuration oath, the period in which it could be taken being soon due to expire, and he was appointed to the committee to consider the matter in detail. An examination of the mismanagement of the receivers-general, which took place on 25 Mar. 1702, was aimed primarily at Smith and other Treasury officials, but failed to make any headway. During the debate on the address of thanks to the Queen on 30 Mar., Smith took grave offence at Seymour’s speech that the Queen’s generosity in giving £100,000 of her own money for public expenditure showed what ‘it was to have a Queen that was entirely English’, and was reported to have replied that ‘none but one whose heart was truly French would make a reflection on his late Majesty’.26
On 9 Apr. 1702 during proceedings on a private Irish forfeiture bill, Smith took occasion to summarize in a long speech the history of the Irish forfeitures, in the course of which he managed to defend William III’s grants of forfeited lands as being the result of the Commons’ contrary and ill-considered proceedings, which he roundly criticized. He declared that the House had confirmed,
all the popish estates in Ireland and all the hardships lay upon the poor Protestant purchasers and the Protestants in general. That we had disturbed the quiet of the whole kingdom and that by what we gave away and what the commissioners spent and the charge that attended them there would be very little left to the public.
He pursued this theme on 17 Apr. when he said there had not been due care taken in entailing estates on Protestants, which may have been directed at an Irish estate bill prepared by Sir John Bolles, 4th Bt. On 2 May, Smith, not surprisingly, was against voting to address the Queen to exclude foreigners from the army, as ‘invading the prerogative and that we should grow by degrees and tell the Queen whom she should employ as well as whom she should not’. Two days later in a debate on a bill for meeting ‘deficiencies’ and preserving the public credit, ‘many reflections’ arose between Sir Edward Seymour and Smith; the former again tilting at the late ministry, and Smith replying that the present one had not made a very auspicious beginning when, being about to declare war, Dutch ships were being seized by French privateers ‘under the noses of our men of war and [the]y to give no assistance’.27
Smith successfully contested Andover in July 1702, and it was reported the following month that Smith ‘is come over and made a Privy Councillor and waits for a place’. In the new year, on 13 Feb. 1703, he voted for agreeing to the Whig Lords’ amendments to the bill for extending the time permitted for taking the Abjuration, and was added to the conference committee with the Lords on the prosecution of Lord Halifax on 23 Feb. In the next session he maintained his opposition to legislation against occasional conformity, speaking on 26 Nov. 1703 against a motion allowing William Bromley II leave to bring in such a bill. He was first-named on the 27th to the committee to receive proposals on means to increase the number of seamen, and during the debates on this issue that day and on 4 Dec., though differing from Harley in favouring the naturalization of foreign seamen, he seconded Harley’s proposal for a bounty on seamen. When the news of the Scotch Plot was communicated to the House on 17 Dec., Smith was first-named to a committee of address of support to the crown, and the next day, in a move aimed by the Whigs against Secretary Nottingham, he was first-named to a committee of inquiry into the proceedings of the Upper House against disaffected persons. On the report of this committee on 20 Dec. it was resolved to appoint a committee of Address to request that no prisoners be taken from custody without royal consent, to which Smith was also named. Ironically, on 3 Feb. 1704 he was obliged to petition the Commons, requesting that the reversion of a Welsh estate granted to him by William III be excluded from the bill for the resumption of grants, it not being, he claimed, any part of the crown demesnes and of no advantage to the public.28
In the third and last session of this Parliament Smith was forecast in October as a probable opponent of the occasional conformity bill, spoke against it on 15 Nov., and voted against it or was absent on 28 Nov. It was probably this vote which led to his being classed as ‘Low Church’ in a list of the 1705 Parliament. A Tory attack on Godolphin for advising the Queen to accept the security acts passed during the summer by the Scottish parliament was countered by the Junto, and in the Commons’ debate on 13 Dec. Smith continued this support of the lord treasurer’s actions, reportedly expressing his opinion that the Scots, being an independent people, had a right to pass what legislation they chose. Moreover, there should be no inquiry into who had advised the Queen to pass these acts, the Queen was Queen of Scotland as much as of England and therefore had to consider the interests of the Scots as well as the English. He was otherwise involved in the passage of a bill prohibiting trade with France, which he carried up on 5 Mar. 1705. On 12 Jan. Smith and the solicitor-general (Sir) Simon Harcourt I were given the task of drafting a bill for the better prevention of correspondence with the Queen’s enemies, and Smith was named on 6 Mar. to a committee to confer with the Lords on their amendment of the bill.29
As early as February 1705 Smith’s support of the Court led to rumours that he had been given a pension of £1,500 and that the Whigs wanted him as Speaker in the next Parliament. The choice of a Speaker was not an easy one for the Court; eventually, to prevent an alliance of extreme Whigs and Tories, a decision to nominate Smith was taken during the summer of 1705. Lord Treasurer Godolphin announced the Court’s choice to a meeting of some 30 placemen on 25 July, telling them:
there was a party that nothing would satisfy but wresting the administration out of the Queen’s hands . . . but he thought in such a conjuncture they could not do the Queen or their country better service than in choosing Mr Smith for their Speaker, whom he recommended to them as a very honest gentleman and expected they would all recommend him likewise to their friends in the country; and further that it might be objected that he was of the Whig party, but assured them that he had found those under that character, though under no obligation to the government, yet to have been hearty friends to it and for supporting her Majesty’s administration.
Godolphin organized Smith’s nomination through Robert Walpole II and his friends, not the Junto, and Harley and Henry St. John II were brought over to support the choice of Smith as a ‘moderate’. The Court’s choice was soon widely known and much was made by Smith’s opponents of the irregularity of ‘any lords meeting with commoners to think of a Speaker’, let alone attempting to recommend one: ‘This is blown up to the devil by the Tories and some Whigs seem to grumble.’ At the opening of Parliament on 25 Oct. the contest for the Speakership produced great excitement and an unusually high attendance of 455 Members. Smith was formally nominated by the Marquess of Granby (John Manners) and seconded by Walpole. His victory was not a foregone conclusion, and according to a newsletter:
there was a great contest . . . and a great many warm speeches in the House of Commons before the choice of a Speaker was made, each side endeavouring to lessen the abilities of the contrary candidate. Against the honourable gentleman that fills the Chair they objected a speech he made in the House in the late reign for keeping on foot a considerable body of regular troops as necessary in that conjuncture, of being at a late meeting in which a peer was present about agreeing upon a person to be Speaker . . . all which was easily answered.
Seymour was one of those who objected to Smith, saying that ‘matters were brought to that pass that a man of very small abilities might be able to supply the Chair; and that it was but very lately that the House had made choice of a Privy Councillor’. Smith was chosen over the Tory William Bromley II by 248 votes to 205. Immediately afterwards it was reported that the Kit-Cat Club was toasting his success. The author of a satire on his politics wrote:
He may serve for one of his Grace of Canterbury’s watermen, for to look one way and row another is their business: an Englishman with a Scotch heart, an Irish pair of heels and a Spanish countenance. He goes to Church because the Queen does. He is a state hermaphrodite – an ambidexter – Jacob Tonson with his two left legs, makes not such an awkward figure as he does.
A more accurate assessment, however, was that of Cunningham who wrote of the 1705 Parliament that whereas some Whigs did not ‘conform’ to Godolphin, others were ‘thorough courtiers’, but Smith ‘held a middle course between both’.30
Smith’s election to the Chair began a close association with Godolphin, which lasted until 1710. Smith appears to have been determined to reap the benefit of this association, and in November 1705 he recommended Thomas Stanwix* for a regiment to Godolphin’s friend the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†). His own family soon benefited from his new status and connexions, as his nephew was made a Speaker’s chaplain in 1705, and the following year his son Thomas Smith I* became clerk of the council in extraordinary. Listed as a placeman in 1705, Smith demonstrated his Court Whig orientation on 4 Dec. 1705 when, in a committee of the whole on the affairs of Scotland, he spoke in favour of postponing a vote on the invitation to the Electress Sophia until the House had considered the regency bill. At the second reading of this bill on 19 Dec. Smith insisted that the Tory Charles Caesar withdraw from the House after his highly controversial remarks about Lord Godolphin. On 18 Dec., in the debate on the ministry’s bill for the repeal of clauses in the Aliens Act to facilitate negotiations for a treaty of union with Scotland, he was reported to have spoken twice against a repeal and for a suspension instead. One historian has speculated that this action was part of ‘a very devious manoeuvre’ by the Junto in their attempt to control negotiations for a union, but the available evidence is insufficient to establish Smith’s motive, or whether he was acting for the Junto or the Court. Indeed, the report of the debate concluded that being supposed ‘entrusted with the Court secret, his conduct has given birth to various speculations’. It may be that a suspension was considered by the Court as more of an incentive to a treaty for union than a repeal. In a further debate on 20 Dec., ‘after everybody had given it over, the Speaker kept it two hours from being approven, still insisting to have their clauses suspended, but he was forced to yield at last too’. It was rumoured by contemporaries that Smith had been persuaded to his action by a Scottish friend, ‘a certain man’, who is not further identified. During the Christmas recess, Smith attended a party meeting at Lord Halifax’s. He then made some five speeches in committee on the regency bill in January 1706, including, possibly, an attempt to delay consideration of the ‘whimsical’ place clause. On 9 Feb. 1706 he supported a section of the wine merchant community in advising against agreeing to the Lords’ proposal to permit the temporary importation of French wine.31
The 1706–7 session seems to have been comparatively quiet for Smith. On presenting two money bills to the Queen on 21 Dec. 1706, he compared the diligence of the Parliament for the prosecution of the war with that of the army, and L’Hermitage remarked that MPs said that the pervading co-operative spirit had not been seen for a century. During the summer Smith’s son, Thomas I*, travelling on the Continent with the Earl of Scarbrough’s son, paid a visit to the Elector of Hanover (the future George I) who later wrote to Scarbrough, ‘Mr Smith’s merit has long been known to me. I know how much he deserves the important post he fills.’ Smith had been chosen in May as one of the commissioners for the Union, and on 23 Oct. 1707 was unanimously chosen Speaker of the first Parliament of Great Britain.32
After the relatively smooth progress of the last session, that of 1707–8 proved a particularly difficult one for the Court. The Junto leaders, annoyed at being kept out of office, mounted several fierce attacks on the ministry. Smith acted as one of the managers for the Court in the Commons, against his former allies, becoming known as one of the ‘Lord Treasurer’s Whigs’, a group which included Hon. Henry Boyle and Lord Coningsby (Thomas). The fact that Smith’s friend Robert Walpole II and other Walpole associates also sided with Godolphin in this session may have influenced Smith’s actions. In committees of the whole on 29 Nov. and 4 Dec. 1707, he spoke on behalf of the Court against the attack on the Scottish privy council by the Squadrone, the Junto and the Tories, causing one observer to conclude that there seemed to be ‘a disposition . . . to come to the old division of Court and Country, rather than Whig and Tory’. Then, on 11 Dec., Smith unsuccessfully attempted to use his position as Speaker to block a division on a Court amendment to the resolution on the powers of Scottish j.p.s. William Bennet, who moved the question, described the Squadrone’s and the Tories’ triumph: ‘eventually I proposed the question and was seconded with such a shout that it was not in the Speaker’s power to delay it, although he was our mortal enemy in that business’. Smith and other Whigs, such as Boyle and Walpole, also came into Secretary Harley’s plan, which was approved by Godolphin, to defeat the Junto over the bishoprics crisis in December. The next year, on 17 Feb. 1708, in the debate on supply, Smith spoke against a proposal from the Hollow Sword Blade Company for lending money which it was argued would undermine the Bank of England. The ‘Lord Treasurer’s Whigs’ became even more important after the breach between Godolphin and Harley in January 1708, and in the reconstruction of the administration which followed, Smith was appointed to his former post of chancellor of the Exchequer. He continued to be paid as Speaker until the end of the session on 15 Apr. 1708, taking up the chancellorship on 22 Apr. with a salary of £1,600 p.a. and fees of £200. As was noted by the Earl of Mar, none of the recent appointees ‘are in with the Junto . . . so that does not look as the Court were to give all up to them as was given out’.33
Smith’s relations with the Junto remained cool during the summer, and on hearing that Sir Richard Onslow, 3rd Bt., was to be the Court candidate for Speaker in the new Parliament, Lord Wharton was reported to have remarked peevishly that:
it would have been much more for the service of the Court to have consulted with the whole body of the Whigs that are here [in London] about so important a point as the choice of a Speaker, than only Mr Smith, whose opinion no man valued.
Smith, on the other hand, commented in a letter to the Duke of Marlborough that his recent victory at Oudenarde would ‘give a check to faction, and the purposes of self-designing men who can never be satisfied while they see (as they think) themselves neglected’. After the agreement between the ministry and the Junto in November 1708, one Whig commented:
those that were engaged, as Smith, Compton and others, to be the heads of a new ministry and the managers of this Parliament are prettily dropped and can’t in my opinion be so well pleased in coming under those that they had set at defiance as they say they are.
Any chagrin Smith might have felt was, however, well concealed and he retained his office. In November 1708, following the opening of the new Parliament, Smith wrote to Marlborough that they had made a promising start to the sessions, having made an address which he believed would please Marlborough, ‘and I think we will go on to your satisfaction’. By January 1709, however, Smith was not so sanguine, writing to Marlborough, ‘I am very sensible of how much the malice of disaffected people will be employed in disturbing the public business this sessions and what advantages they propose by the divisions among the Whigs’. He added loyally that Godolphin was doing everything possible ‘to quiet men’s minds or to gratify their desires . . . how . . . ill is he requited by them your Grace very well knows and I am afraid the same humour will continue’. In this session Smith was also appointed to eight drafting committees, being first-named to those for raising supply, for ascertaining and payment of allowances to be made for certain exports from Scotland before 1 May 1707, and for enlarging the Bank of England’s capital stock (13 Jan., 21 Feb., 8 Mar.). On 16 Feb. it was reported that he, Lowndes, Coningsby and ‘the rest of that gang’ had as last year opposed the Scottish drawbacks. As might be expected he voted for naturalizing the Palatines in February–March 1709. Smith’s daughter, Anne, became a maid of honour to the Queen early in 1709, marrying Colonel Alexander Grant* in May the same year. Towards the end of March, Smith had written to Marlborough recommending his future son-in-law for the command of a regiment, which he thought Marlborough would favour rather than allow Lord Islay to have it and thereby ‘suffer a power to be raised so high in Scotland, that already can be so little depended on here’. In the debates on the bill for improving the Union (the treasons bill), Smith, although he had been a commissioner for the Union and had personal ties with Scots, who all opposed the bill, showed that his loyalty to the Court was the stronger influence. Thus, he spoke for the bill on 5 Apr. and opposed the two opposition clauses on the 8th. On the 15th, when the Commons debated the Lords’ amendment to the bill, it appears from one report that Smith opened the debate for the Court, apparently indicating that he would have preferred the original unamended version (as promoted by the Court), but that they should now pass the bill as amended. It may have been Smith who proposed giving prompt consideration to the amendments in order to avoid losing the bill before the end of the session. During this year Smith was also involved in administering the private estate of Prince George, who had named him one of his executors.34
Smith’s relations with the Junto seem never to have regained their earlier cordiality, and in November 1709, despite a meeting of leading Whigs at Smith’s house, and efforts by Somers in particular to convince him of the necessity of Orford’s appointment to the Admiralty, he was ‘too disgusted by the ungrateful returns which he complains he has had from them after having been made their instrument in this business that he talks of nothing but retiring’. In early January 1710 it was reported that he had refused to succeed Sir Thomas Littleton as treasurer of the navy.35
Smith attended a meeting of the Board of Trade in November 1709 to consider the problem of the influx of Palatine refugees, and was one of those to endorse a project for settling 1,000 of them in Jamaica. In the 1709–10 session of Parliament, he was first-named to the committee to draw up the Address. It was expected that he would assist his son-in-law Alexander Grant* in the debate on the disputed election for Ross-shire on 3 Dec., but the most important business of this session was undoubtedly the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell for which Smith was one of the Commons’ managers. On 13 Dec. 1709 he spoke in favour of Gilbert Dolben’s motion that Dr Sacheverell’s sermon should be voted a seditious libel, and moved an amendment adding the phrase ‘the late happy Revolution’ to the list of institutions and events that Sacheverell had denigrated. He was appointed the following day to the committee to draw up the articles of impeachment. On 11 Jan. 1710 he spoke against the Tory motion to recommit the articles and on 1 Mar., at the trial itself, ably supported Sir Thomas Parker’s speech on the fourth article, being one of the few throughout the trial to speak without notes. He began by noticing that in the sermon
preached on a day appointed to commemorate the blessings we enjoy by the late happy Revolution, there is not one particular clause to show forth those blessings, or the mischiefs that were then likely to come upon us, but all the tenor of his discourse is to show the maladministration of the government and the dangers that have been coming upon the Church, ever since the Revolution . . . so that it is plain that he had no thoughts of the blessing of that deliverance nor any dislike to the conduct of those times.
He continued that Sacheverell’s supporters ‘gave out that we design to narrow our obedience to her Majesty’, but
we . . . own the greatest duty and submission to our sovereign; but we cannot bear that a reflection should be cast upon the resistance that was used at the Revolution, and we hope your lordships will never admit a question to be raised of the legality of it.
My lords, the Acts of Settlement of the crown depend upon that legality, if that be illegal, the others in consequence are void; and though her Majesty has an hereditary right to the crown, yet I take those Acts to be her great security.
He maintained that Sacheverell was among those who
will not allow the Church to be out of danger, while the civil magistrate has the government of the Church. . . . but the Commons can never admit the Church as established by law to be in any danger during her Majesty’s administration.
He finished by saying:
when the clergyman acts contrary to his function and, instead of reproving vice and immorality, takes upon him to reproach the government; when instead of preaching peace and charity and other moral virtues he takes upon him to raise jealousies, ferment divisions and stir up sedition, ’tis high time for the justice of the nation to put a stop to it: as such a person we charge Dr Sacheverell and think we have made good our charge, and cannot doubt your lordships’ justice upon the offender.
He voted for the impeachment and later he described the Lords’ sentence on Sacheverell as a ‘ridiculous judgment’.36
Despite the superficial unity given to the Whigs by the trial there was still something of a rift between the Junto and the ‘Lord Treasurer’s Whigs’. In June 1710 it was observed that ‘Smith and Coningsby talk now as much against the lords [of the Junto] as ever’. Smith had also been paying attention to Robert Harley, and, after the latter’s appointment to the Treasury, Peter Wentworth wrote to Lord Raby: ‘some think that Mr Smith has made his court so well that he’ll keep in’. This was not quite correct since Smith resigned at the same time as Godolphin. Some sources claim that Smith actually carried the Queen’s letter instructing the lord treasurer to break his staff, but a more likely account is given by Hon. James Brydges*, writing on 24 Aug. 1710 to John Drummond, who declared that after Godolphin had received the Queen’s letter by the hand of a servant he sent for Smith and
as soon as he was come, he [Godolphin] read the letter to him . . . After which he told him that his sending for him was to desire him to be an eye witness of his obedience to the Queen’s commands, upon which he broke the staff, and desired Mr Smith to go and acquaint the Queen with it, which he did and at the same time surrendered his own employment.
The Queen was not inclined to lose Smith, but he declared he ‘could serve under none but Lord Godolphin’. Elected without challenge for Andover again in 1710, Harley gave him one of the lucrative tellerships of the Exchequer in September. News of his place surprised Tories, and one correspondent enquired of Edward Harley*: ‘is he so formidable that it is requisite to buy his silence with so considerable a place? Surely he has merited nothing from this ministry.’ Whigs were also puzzled, and Adam de Cardonnel* wrote to Horatio Walpole II*, ‘Mr Smith’s coming in again is a mystery we are as much pushed to unriddle as you are. I wish you would put the question to your friend Bickerstaffe.’ In November there were even rumours that Smith might be the Court candidate for Speaker. A Tory wrote anxiously to Harley on 4 Nov.:
we have had a report very industriously spread among us that Jack Smith was to be proposed by the Court for Speaker. ’Tis not to be imagined what alarm it gave for some time. I hope we shall never split twice upon the same rock.
The report was untrue. Classed as a Whig in the ‘Hanover list’ of the 1710 Parliament, Smith supported the Court’s proposals for raising supply in late January 1711. He contributed to the debates on two election disputes, opposing a motion by the Tory George Lockhart on 20 Jan. in the Wigtownshire election debate, and on 19 Feb. attempted to assist his friend Bishop Nicolson against accusations of having interfered in the Carlisle election. On 2 Feb. he spoke, as he had done in the 1705 Parliament, against allowing the importation of French wine, opposing a motion to repeal the prohibition on trade with France. His parliamentary activity seems to have decreased in this session, although as there were now three ‘Mr Smiths’ in the House it is difficult to distinguish their respective activities. Despite his proximity to the ministry, Smith’s old political associates Boyle and Coningsby, though both now out of Parliament, continued to command his friendship, and Harley may have thought he had got a poor return from Smith when, on 25 May 1711, he opposed the Court amendment on the South Sea bill.37
In the next session Smith voted on 7 Dec. 1711 for the motion demanding ‘No Peace without Spain’, thereby virtually ensuring his dismissal, which duly came at the end of the session. In the debate on supply on 9 Apr. 1712 he responded to Tory pronouncements on the necessity of peace by saying that he thought more money could be found and by proposing taxes on exported tobacco and on carriages. In the last session of the Parliament, he told on 4 May 1713 against a second reading of the bill to suspend the duties on French wines, and may have spoken against this bill again on 6 May. This opposition was probably linked to his speech against the French commerce bill on 14 May, when he and other Whigs argued that it would ruin Britain’s trade. On 10 June he joined in the defence of those merchants who had given evidence against the treaty of commerce, as ‘no man should be reprimanded for standing up for the trade of Great Britain’: he voted against the bill on the 18th. On 25 June he defended the late ministry from charges that at midsummer 1710 the debts on the civil list were £400,000, saying that ‘to his certain knowledge the debts of the civil list in August 1710 did not amount to above £150,000’. His proposal to address the Queen for accounts of these arrears was rejected. He then, on 26 June, seconded a proposal by the chancellor, Robert Benson, that the Queen set aside money from the crown revenues for raising a loan to pay off the debt.38
It was reported in August and September 1713 that, having failed to win Smith over, the ministry had endeavoured to ensure his neutrality and had at last gained the upper hand. The result was that, at the last minute and to the annoyance of local Whigs, Smith refused to stand again at Andover. In 1715, however, he returned to Parliament and office, remaining a staunch Whig. He died on 2 Oct. 1723 and was buried in the old church at South Tidworth.39
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Authors: Paula Watson / Sonya Wynne
- 1. IGI, London, Hants; Vis. London (Harl. Soc. xvii), 243; Hants Mar. Lic. 1669–80 ed. Willis, 96; Hants Vis. (Harl. Soc. n.s. x), 187; London Mar. Lic. ed. Foster, 1247; Soc. of Geneal. special documents coll. ‘Smith’; PCC 217 Richmond, 159 Dyke, 73 Fane.
- 2. CSP Dom. 1695, p. 112; 1697, p. 511.
- 3. Macky Mems. (Roxburghe Club, 1895), 90–91; PCC 104 Mico, 159 Dyke; London Mar. Lic. 1246; VCH Wilts. xv. 157–8; VCH Hants, iv. 393; Hants Hearth Tax, 1665 (Hants Rec. Ser. xi), 254; Mar. Lic. Fac. Off. (Harl. Soc. xxvi), 290; The Commons 1660–1690, iii. 442; CSP Dom. 1683–4, p. 269; St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury (Harl. Soc. Reg. lxvi), 95.
- 4. HMC Portland, viii. 28.
- 5. Luttrell Diary, 100, 114, 122, 124, 131.
- 6. Ibid. 103, 117, 138, 141–2, 159, 170, 174, 178, 180, 187, 193–4; Bodl. Rawl. C.449, 22 Feb. 1692.
- 7. Luttrell Diary, 222, 224, 227, 229–30, 245, 244, 265, 274, 276, 281, 294, 318, 320; Grey, x. 260–1; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland (Bentinck) mss PwA 2385, debate, 23 Nov. 1692; Bodl. Carte 130, ff. 339–40.
- 8. Luttrell Diary, 235, 336, 436.
- 9. Ibid. 284, 287, 311, 256–8, 360, 407–9, 428, 435, 439, 442, 447; D. Rubini, Court and Country, 106–7.
- 10. Cobbett, Parlty. Hist. v. 783; Grey, x. 362.
- 11. Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 273; Grey, 386; Poems on Affairs of State ed. Cameron, v. 431; H. Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm. III, p. 209; Add. 42593, f. 40; Centre Kentish Stud. Stanhope mss U1590/059/3, Robert Yard* to Alexander Stanhope, 3 July 1694.
- 12. Portland (Bentinck) mss PwA 502, 513, Guy to Portland, 31 May, 18 June, 20 Aug. 1695; PwA 1159, Smith to Portland, n.d. .
- 13. Add. 34355, f. 1; Horwitz, 180–2.
- 14. Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, i. 41, 47, 49, 58–59, 215; Shrewsbury Corresp. 417, 425; Cobbett, v. 1003, 1008, 1028, 1035, 1049, 1053, 1091–3; Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss 46/57, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 21 Jan. 1696[–7].
- 15. Robbins thesis, 178; Coxe, 478.
- 16. Shrewsbury Corresp. 533; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, i. 483–5; ii. 2, 8.
- 17. Montagu (Boughton) mss 46/157, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 30 Oct. 1697; CSP Dom. 1698, pp. 43, 98; HMC Portland, iii. 596.
- 18. Cam. Misc. xxix, 356, 358; Poems on Affairs of State ed. Ellis, vi. 22–23; BL, Trumbull Misc. mss 57, Sir Gilbert Dolben* to Sir William Trumbull*, 31 Mar. 1698; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, ii. 73, 131, 166, 170–1; Shrewsbury Corresp. 561.
- 19. Montagu (Boughton) mss 47/79, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 30 Aug. 1698; Horwitz, 240; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, ii. 173, 217.
- 20. Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, ii. 224, 227, 246; Cam. Misc. xxix, 363, 371, 380, 384; Suff. RO (Ipswich), Gurdon mss mic. 2, p. 23, Sir William Cook to Thornhagh Gurdon, 5 Jan. 1698[–9]; Bodl. Tanner 22, f. 6; Cocks Diary, 20.
- 21. BL, Althorp mss, Halifax pprs. box 3, R. Crawford to Mq. of Halifax (William Savile*), 30 May 1699; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, ii. 247; Add. 17677 TT, f. 183; Luttrell, iv. 495; Montagu (Boughton) mss 47/163, 184, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 30 Mar., 15 May 1699; Portland (Bentinck) mss PwA 1498, Vernon to Portland, Aug. 1699; CSP Dom. 1699–1700, p. 291.
- 22. Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, ii. 373, 375–6, 398; Cocks Diary, 42; Horwitz, 262.
- 23. Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, ii. 412–13, 447; iii. 22; Cocks Diary, 51; Som. RO, DD/SF 4107(a), ‘Debate on the Lord Chancellor’, 15 Feb. 1699[–1700]; Montagu (Boughton) mss 48/49, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 23 Mar. 1699[–1700].
- 24. Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, iii. 62, 86; Add. 17677 UU, f. 356; 30000 D, f. 333.
- 25. Add. 7074, f. 3; 17677 XX, f. 190; 30000 E, f. 108; Horwitz, 282; CSP. Dom. 1700–2, p. 278; N. Yorks. RO, Worsley mss ZON 13/1/243, Thomas Frankland ?I* to Thomas Worsley I*, 1 Apr. 1701; PRO 31/3/188, f. 8; Cocks Diary, 79, 100, 102, 119, 131, 133, 153, 157, 161.
- 26. Add. 17677 XX, ff. 169, 182, 186; Cocks Diary, 193, 215, 232, 241–2, 249, 256, 260; Strathmore mss at Glamis Castle, box 75, bdle. 1, newsletter 31 Mar. 1702.
- 27. Cocks Diary, 263–4, 269, 279, 281.
- 28. Add. 22852, ff. 10–11; Atterbury Epistolary Corresp. iii. 140; NMM, Sergison mss, ff. 450–2; P. W. J. Riley, Union, 71.
- 29. Bull. IHR, xxxvii. 179; W. A. Speck, Birth of Britain, 81; Add. 17677 ZZ, f. 531.
- 30. Univ. Kansas Spencer Research Lib. Methuen–Simpson corresp. MS C163, ?John Methuen* to Sir William Simpson, 27 Feb. 1704[–5], 31 July, 6 Nov. 1705; Bull. IHR, xxxvii. 20–46; Churchill Coll. Camb. Erle mss 2/12, James Craggs I* to ?Thomas Erle*, 26 July 1705; HMC Portland, iv. 268; Burnet, v. 228–9; J. A. Manning, Speakers of the House of Commons, 410; Cunningham, Hist. GB, i. 460.
- 31. Add. 17677 BBB, f. 103; 61287, ff. 135, 137; 61295, ff. 134–5; Evelyn Diary, v. 615–16; Luttrell, vi. 27; Cam. Misc. xxiii. 32, 51, 58, 67, 72–73, 77, 81; Speck, 94, 96; Riley, 166–8; SRO, Mar and Kellie mss GD 124/15/259/4, William Cleland to James Erskine, 18 Dec. 1705; GD 124/15/256/7, Mar to same, 20 Dec. 1705; Nicolson Diaries ed. Jones and Holmes, 348.
- 32. Add. 17677 CC, f. 27; Orig. Pprs. ed. Macpherson, ii. 57, 63; Cobbett, vi. 538–9.
- 33. G. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne, 229, 234; Huntington Lib. Stowe mss 57(2), p. 6; NLW, Plas-yn-Cefn mss 2740, E. Gibson to [?bp. of Hereford], 6 Dec. 1707; Roxburghe mss at Floors Castle, bdle. 739, Bennet to [Countess of Roxburghe], 16 Dec. 1707; EHR, lxxxii. 744; Montagu (Boughton) mss 48/190, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 17 Feb. 1707[–8]; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxiii. 220; Mar and Kellie mss GD 124/15/754/20, Mar to Erskine, 24 Apr. 1708.
- 34. Duchess of Marlborough Corresp. i. 152, 157; 61366, ff. 57, 141–2; 61297, ff. 180–1; 61288, f. 137; Stanhope mss U1590 C9/31, Sir John Cropley, 2nd Bt.*, to James Stanhope*, 22 Nov. 1708; Boyer, Anne Annals, v. 490; NLS, ms 7021, f. 159; Nicolson Diaries, 493, 495; Trumbull Misc. mss 53, James Johnston* to Trumbull, 15 Apr. 1709; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxiii. 220.
- 35. Add. 57862, ff. 52–57; 61367, ff. 38, 65–66, 75; 61546, f. 150; Duchess of Marlborough Corresp. i. 294.
- 36. Duchess of Marlborough Corresp. i. 171; Add. 38501, ff. 155, 173; 47026, f. 5; 61599, f. 114; G. Holmes, Sacheverell, 89–90, 92, 101, 137, 149, 155, 231; Trial of Dr Sacheverell (1710), 100–1.
- 37. Duchess of Marlborough Corresp. i. 342; Wentworth Pprs. 130, 131, 144; Stowe mss 57(4), p. 112; Salop RO, Forester mss, Sir William Forester* to George Weld II*, 10 Aug. 1710; Wodrow, Analecta, i. 309; HMC Portland, iv. 623; Mar and Kellie mss GD/124/15/1020/5, 9, Sir James Dunbar, 1st Bt.*, to Ld. Grange (James Erskine†), 20 Jan., 3 Feb. 1711; NLS, Advocates mss, Wodrow pprs. letters Quarto 5, ff. 105, 138; PRO NI, De Ros mss D638/55/9, Boyle to Coningsby, 28 Apr. 1711.
- 38. Add. 17677 FFF, f. 155; 22226, f. 167; NSA, Kreienberg despatches 11 Apr. 1712, 8, 15 May, 26 June 1713; Wentworth Pprs. 335; Cobbett, vi. 1222, 1231; SRO, Cromartie mss GD 305 addit. bdle. xv, [–] to [–], 20 June 1713; Douglas diary (Hist. of Parl. trans.), 25 June 1713.
- 39. Huntington Lib. Huntington mss HM 44710, ff. 201–2, 213–14; Stanhope mss U1590/C9/28, Duke of Bolton to [James Stanhope], 20 Aug. 1713; Camb. Univ. Lib. Cholmondeley (Houghton) mss 681, [–] to Robert Walpole II, ; Hist. Reg. Chron. 1723, p. 42.