SMITH, John Spencer (1769-1845).

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1802 - 1806

Family and Education

b. 11 Sept. 1769,1 3rd s. of John Smith of Midgham, Berks. and Dover, Kent by Mary, da. of Pinckney Wilkinson of Burnham, Norf.; bro. of Sir William Sidney Smith*. educ. Worcester, Oxf. 1790. m. 1798, Constance, da. of Baron Herbert, Austrian minister at Constantinople, 2s.

Offices Held

Ensign, 1 Ft. Gds. 1790; lt. 8 Ft. 1792.

Sec. in charge of affairs at Constantinople 1795-8, sec. of legation 1798, of embassy 1798-1801, minister plenip. ad. int. 1798-1801; envoy extraordinary to Württemberg 1802-4.


Smith, ‘originally bred at court in the capacity of a page to one of the royal family’, purchased a commission in the Guards before travelling in Turkey with his elder brother William Sidney Smith, who wrote to Lord Auckland from Constantinople, 16 Mar. 1793:

I mentioned some time ago to my uncle that this place ... seemed to require a secretary of legation ... I at the same time mentioned my brother John Spencer Smith who is with me here as particularly qualified for that career by epistolary readiness and talent and adapted to it. His knowledge of the place and study of the Turkish language may be an additional recommendation.

Smith, who now abandoned his military career, served as private secretary to the ambassador Robert Liston and was left in charge of affairs on Liston’s departure from Constantinople in November 1795. He was not officially appointed secretary of legation until 1798, and claimed to have spent ‘exactly double’ his income in maintaining the British mission. The foreign secretary Lord Grenville, his cousin by marriage, was able to relieve his financial difficulties, but was unable to reconcile him to serving in a subordinate position under Lord Elgin, who arrived at Constantinople as ambassador in November 1799. He reluctantly granted Smith leave to return home in January 1801.2

He landed in England in June 1802, just in time to accept an invitation to contest Dover, where his father had long resided. His brother, who had declined a prior invitation to contest Dover because he had already agreed to stand at Rochester, acted on his behalf and assured the leader of the independe