SMITH, John (c.1656-1723), of South Tidworth, Hants.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Mar. 1679
15 Dec. 1691
Feb. 1701
Dec. 1701
1722 - 2 Oct. 1723

Family and Education

b. c.1656, o.s. of John Smith of South Tidworth. educ. St. John’s, Oxf. matric. 18 May 1672, aged 16; M. Temple 1675. m. (1) lic. 25 Aug. 1679, Ann, da. of Sir Nicholas Steward, 1st Bt., of Hartley Mauditt, Hants, s.p.; (2) 7 Nov. 1683, Anne, da. of Sir Thomas Strickland, 2nd Bt. of Boynton, Yorks., 4s. 3da. suc. fa. by 1690.1

Offices Held

Commr. for assessment, Wilts. 1679-80, Hants and Wilts. 1689-90; j.p. and dep. lt. Hants 1689-?d.

Ld. of Treasury 1694-9; PC 22 May 1695-d.; chancellor of the Exchequer 1699-1701, 1708-10, teller 1710-12, 1715-d.; Speaker of the House of Commons 24 Oct. 1705-1 Nov. 1708; commr. for union with Scotland 1706-7.


Although Smith’s family acquired the manor of South Tidworth, three miles from Ludgershall, from William Ashburnham and his wife in 1650, their history for the next 30 years is almost a blank. His father, a militia commissioner in 1659, was presumably a republican sympathizer. Smith himself was ‘a man of clear parts and of a good expression, from his first setting out in the world thoroughly in the principles and interests of the Whigs, yet with a due temper in all personal things with relation to the Tories’. His sisters married local squires of the second rank, and when he first entered Parliament in 1679 he was accompanied by three brothers-in-law, Edward Goddard, Thomas Bennett and Edmund Webb. As a member of the Green Ribbon Club, he was marked ‘honest’ on Shaftesbury’s list. He voted for the first exclusion bill, but left no other traces on the records of this Parliament, though he sat till the adjournment. He was defeated in August by the court supporter John Garrard and his petition was never reported. In 1681 he was involved in an undecided double return. It was probably Smith’s father who drank Monmouth’s health at the time of the Rye House Plot and declared that he would make a very good king; moreover he showed the informant the arms in his closet, saying: ‘When time comes, I shall venture as far as any man’. He was apparently on the run when he drew up his will in 1686, and had presumably made over his estate to Smith.2

Smith regained his seat in 1689, and became an active Member of the Convention. He was appointed to 44 committees, acted as teller in four divisions, and made 29 speeches. He helped to draft the address offering support for a war against France, and was named to committees for inquiring into the delay in relieving Londonderry, to inspect the references in the Journals to the Popish Plot, to prepare the impeachment of some Jacobite propagandists and to consider the Lords’ amendments to the bill of rights. He spoke frequently on the indemnity bill, opposing the motion for an amnesty because it would not content the people:

If we name not some persons we must allow their offences. I speak for the justice of the nation. Those who have got estates by our misfortunes will get into the Government, and you go about to qualify them for it.

He had no doubt that the seizure of Papists’ estates, as a reprisal for James’s conduct in Ireland, would serve to finance the war for the present. On 24 June he supported the attempt of his brother-in-law, Sir William Strickland, to debate the arrest of Peregrine Osborne, accusing Secretary Nottingham (Daniel Finch) of breach of privilege. He was appointed to the committee for reversing the conviction of Titus Oates and helped to prepare reasons for the conference of 22 July. After the recess he was the first Member named to bring in an attainder bill. He was also among those instructed to inquire into war expenditure, to examine a prisoner about the leakage of military secrets, to receive information about abuses in victualling, and to consider the mutiny and desertion bill. In the debate on the state of the army on 26 Nov. he declared:

In plain English, knaves and villains are employed, and those who would not give their consent to take away the Penal Laws and Test could not get into their places, and others that did are got in. I would desire the King in our address to tell us who were the occasion of putting these men in. As long as you have the same councils, you will have the same things done.

He acted as teller against adjourning the debate, and helped to prepare the address on the lines he had proposed. He was also teller against adjourning the debate on the disabling clause in the bill restoring corporations, for which he voted. Sir Robert Sawyer, however, found, both in debate and division, ‘no defender more unexpected than Mr John Smith’, who may have hoped to enlist his interest at Andover.3

But Smith failed to find a seat at the general election, and was out of the House until 1691, when he came in for Bere Alston as a country Whig. He was reviled as a turncoat when he took office in 1694, but although he stood aloof from the Junto he was always loyal to Whig principles. As one of the ‘treasurer’s Whigs’, he was elected Speaker of Anne’s second Parliament, and in 1710 helped to manage the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell. He died on 2 Oct. 1723. His son Thomas sat as a Whig in four Parliaments between 1709 and his death in 1728.4

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. Hants Mar. Lic. 1669-80, p. 96; The Gen. n.s. i. 157; London Mar. Lic. ed. Foster, 1247; PCC 159 Dyke, 217 Richmond.
  • 2. VCH Hants, iv. 393; Burnet ed. Routh, v. 228; Grey, ix. 309; CJ, ix. 639, 707; CSP Dom. 1683-4, p. 269; PCC 159 Dyke.
  • 3. CJ, x. 91, 295, 296, 323, 337; Grey, ix. 319, 348, 357, 450, 534; R. Morrice, Entering Bk. 3, p. 93.
  • 4. D. Rubini, Court and Country, 95; G. Holmes, Politics in the Age of Anne, 228-9.