SMITH, Hon. Robert John (1796-1868).

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press

Constituency

Dates

1818 - 1820
1820 - 1831
1831 - 18 Sept. 1838

Family and Education

b. 16 Jan. 1796, o.s. of Robert Smith†, 1st Bar. Carrington, and 1st w. Anne, da. of Lewyns Boldero Barnard of South Cave, Yorks. educ. Eton 1805-11; Christ’s, Camb. 1811. m. (1) 17 June 1822, Hon. Elizabeth Katherine Weld Forester (d. 22 July 1832), da. of Cecil Weld Forester†, 1st Bar. Forester, 1da.; (2) 10 Aug. 1840, Hon. Charlotte Augusta Annabella Drummond Willoughby, da. of Peter Robert Drummond Willoughby (formerly Drummond Burrell†), 22nd Bar. Willoughby of Eresby, 3s. 2da. suc. fa. as 2nd Bar. Carrington 18 Sept. 1838; took name of Carrington by royal lic. 26 Aug. 1839. d. 17 Mar. 1868.

Offices Held

Ld. lt. Bucks. 1839-d; col. Bucks. militia 1839.

Biography

At the general election of 1820 Smith got his father Lord Carrington’s ‘reluctant assent’ to his offering for Buckinghamshire, where their estate at Wycombe Abbey gave them an interest, in the room of the retiring sitting Member. He stressed his ‘independent and disinterested conduct’ as Member for the family borough in the 1818 Parliament (where he had in fact voted regularly with the Whig opposition to the Liverpool ministry) and came in unopposed with the sitting Tory Lord Temple, the son of the 2nd marquess of Buckingham. He subsequently established himself as the representative of Buckinghamshire Dissent.1 Smith, who did not share his father’s political conservatism, continued to vote with the mainstream Whigs on most major issues, but from the 1823 session his attendance fell away dramatically. It is not clear whether it was he or Robert Percy Smith who spoke in favour of the Grampound disfranchisement bill, 5 June; but he voted silently for parliamentary reform, 9 May 1821, 25 Apr. 1822, 24 Apr., 2 June 1823, 27 Apr. 1826. His only recorded vote for Catholic relief in this Parliament was on 21 Apr. 1825. Before his attendance lapsed he voted spasmodically for economy, retrenchment and reduced taxation. He divided for abolition of the death penalty for forgery offences, 21 May 1823. He presented an anti-slavery petition, 6 Apr., and divided to condemn the prosecution in Demerara of the Methodist missionary John Smith, 11 June 1824. That autumn he took up the cause of two Baptist preachers who had been summarily goaled for vagrancy by an Anglican cleric magistrate of Buckinghamshire.2 He presented petitions from Newport Pagnell for enhanced protection for domestic corn growers, 16 May 1820, and from Chipping Norton complaining of agricultural distress, 15 Feb. 1822.3 He voted in the protectionist minority against the corn bill, 11 May 1826. He secured the production of documents pertaining to the outstanding Austrian loan of 1795, 1 Feb., 14 Mar., but was persuaded to drop another similar motion on 22 June 1821. On 22 Feb. 1822 Smith, who four months earlier had seemed to his acquaintance Maria Edgeworth prematurely aged and ‘much worn out’, threatened to move resolutions deploring ministers’ failure to call in the loan, but he did not do so.4

He was in the minority of magistrates who opposed Buckingham’s veto of placing official advertisements in the oppositionist Buckinghamshire Chronicle at the October 1821 sessions. A year later he promoted a campaign for inquiry into county expenditure.5 He was returned unopposed at the 1826 general election when, defying orchestrated ‘No Popery’ chants, he asserted his devotion to the cause of civil and religious liberty.6 He voted for Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827, 12 May 1828, and presented a favourable petition, 8 May 1828. He presented and endorsed a petition from Buckinghamshire lace manufacturers for a reduction of the duty, 15 Mar., and voted against the corn bill, 2 Apr. 1827.7 He brought up numerous Buckinghamshire petitions for repeal of the Test Acts, 7, 8, 15, 22 June 1827, 21 Feb., and divided to that effect, 26 Feb. 1828.8 He voted against the Wellington ministry on the ordnance estimates, 4 July 1828. He divided for Catholic emancipation, 6 and (as pair) 30 Mar., presented favourable petitions, 17, 20 Mar., and voted to allow Daniel O’Connell to take his seat unhampered, 18 May 1829. He was in the minorities on the address, 4 Feb., and the estimates, 19, 22 Feb., 22, 29 Mar., and voted for the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb., and the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 5 Mar. 1830. A month later his father declared his own unconditional support for the government and told Wellington that he hoped to ‘neutralize’ his son.9 He was not entirely unsuccessful, for Smith’s only known votes in the remainder of the session were for Jewish emancipation, 17 May, against the grants for South American missions (as a pair), 7 June, and consular services, 11 June, and for abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 11 June; he had presented a Chesham petition on this subject, 24 May 1830.

At the general election that summer he was returned unopposed for the county, promising to act on ‘independent principles’ and expressing his ‘detestation of slavery’. He was physically threatened by a mob assembled by his anti-Catholic Tory colleague.10 Ministers listed him as one of their ‘foes’, but he was absent from the division on the civil list which brought them down, 15 Nov. 1830. He presented petitions in favour of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 19 Mar., and divided for its second reading, 22 Mar., and against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. He brought up an anti-slavery petition, 28 Mar. 1831. At the ensuing general election he gave up his county seat to enjoy a quiet return for Chipping Wycombe on the family interest; an uncle came in for Buckinghamshire after a contest.11 He voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, but was sparing in his active support of its details and cast wayward votes against the partial disfranchisement of Chippenham, 27 July, and Guildford, 29 July 1831. He voted for its third reading, 19 Sept., and passage, 21 Sept., but was a defaulter on a call of the House, 10 Oct., when he failed to divide for the motion of confidence in the government. He voted for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, consistently if not regularly for its details, and, despite being too ill to attend the Dorset election committee, 5 Mar., for its third reading, 22 Mar. 1832.12 During the crisis of May he expressed to his uncle his ‘indignant feeling at the conduct of the Tories’ and told him that though ‘still unwell ... I would, were I in bed, go to ... the House of Commons if the government want support there or any address proposed to His Majesty’; he duly attended to vote for the address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry reform unimpaired, 10 May.13 He divided with administration on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 20 July. He was ‘disconsolable’ at the sudden death from cholera of his ‘young [28], beautiful’ wife on 22 July 1832, twenty four hours after appearing at the opera ‘in health and spirits’.14

Smith continued to sit for Chipping Wycombe until he succeeded his father to the peerage in 1838. He was one of the Liberal peers who opposed repeal of the corn laws in 1846. Five years later his county neighbour Benjamin Disraeli† (whom he had beaten at Wycombe in 1832 and 1835) described him as looking ‘bored to death [and] absolutely disgusted by the necessity of living on his lands’.15 He died in March 1868. He was succeeded by his eldest son Charles Robert (1843-1928), Liberal Member for Chipping Wycombe, 1865-8, who was created marquess of Lincolnshire in 1912.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher

Notes

  • 1. Althorp Letters, 102; Cent. Kent. Stud. Stanhope mss U1590 C132, Carrington to Stanhope, 20 Feb., reply, 22 Feb.; Wilberforce mss, Wilberforce to Butterworth, 25 Feb.; Jackson’s Oxford Jnl. 19, 26 Feb., 18 Mar. 1820; R.W. Davis, Political Change and Continuity, 62, 64.
  • 2. The Times, 7 Apr. 1824; Buckingham, Mems. Geo. IV, ii. 125.
  • 3. The Times, 17 May 1820, 16 Feb. 1822.
  • 4. Ibid. 2 Feb. 1821, 23 Feb. 1822; Edgeworth Letters, 255.
  • 5. Bucks. RO, Fremantle mss D/FR/46/9/9; 46/10/38; Davis, 62.
  • 6. Bucks. Chron. 3, 10, 17, 24 June 1826.
  • 7. The Times, 16 Mar. 1827.
  • 8. Ibid. 8, 9, 16, 23 June 1827.
  • 9. Add. 40309, f. 31.
  • 10. Bucks Gazette, 7 Aug.; Stanhope mss C228, Carrington to Lady Stanhope, 10 Aug. 1830.
  • 11. Add. 51663, Bedford to Holland [25 Apr. 1831].
  • 12. Southampton Univ. Lib. Broadlands mss SHA/PC/128; CJ, lxxxvii. 162.
  • 13. NatWest Archives, Smith/2/2658.
  • 14. Raikes Jnl. i