SMITH, Abel (1717-88), of Nottingham

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1774 - Feb. 1778
1780 - 1784
1784 - 12 July 1788

Family and Education

bap. 14 Mar. 1717, 3rd s. of Abel Smith, Nottingham banker, by Jane, da. of George Beaumont of Chapelthorpe, Yorks.  m. 1745, Mary, da. of Thomas Bird of Barton, Warws., 6s.

Offices Held


In 1756 Smith became head of the family banking business, and under his direction it expanded rapidly, branches being established in London in 1758 and later at Lincoln and Hull. He was closely associated with Henry, 2nd Duke of Newcastle, and in 1774 was returned by him for Aldborough, apparently to hold the seat in case Lord Lincoln, who stood for Nottinghamshire, should be defeated. On 22 Oct., after Lincoln had been returned, Smith wrote to Newcastle:1

The consequences of your Grace’s kindness in electing me for Aldborough, I had not sufficiently reflected upon when I last had the pleasure of writing to your Grace ... I have since seriously considered the affair, and whichever way I turn my eyes, I see many solid advantages accruing to my family from a seat in Parliament, the best of which, the article of franking, will save a very considerable expense in so very extensive a business as that I am engaged in. I take the liberty therefore of hinting to your Grace that as Lord Thomas Clinton will undoubtedly represent Westminster, and in all probability Mr. Charles Mellish Pontefract, it may be in your Grace’s power to continue me for Aldborough during the whole of this present Parliament. ...
With regard to my conduct in Parliament I will only say that if I should have the misfortune to differ essentially in sentiments from your Grace I will vacate the borough if you should desire it.

Smith continued Member for Aldborough on this understanding. He supported North’s Administration; in 1776 became a partner with William James and Richard Atkinson in a Government contract for victualling troops in Canada;2 and was a considerable subscriber to Government loans. In February 1778, when Newcastle wanted the seat for William Hanger, Smith took the Chiltern Hundreds.

In 1780 he was returned for St. Ives on the interest of Humphrey Mackworth Praed, and voted with North until the end. On 25 Feb. 1782 during the debate on North’s loan he made what seems to have been his first speech in the House.3 He had belonged to a group of bankers who had made an offer for the loan which North had refused, and accused him of being partial in the allotment and of being influenced by parliamentary considerations.

He did not vote on Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783, but was classed by Robinson as a follower of North. On 25 Apr. 1783 he made his second intervention in debate, this time to complain of not having had a share in Lord John Cavendish’s loan, and to defend his firm against imputations that ‘in former loans they had made a very improper use of the part they had given them, and materially hurt the business of other bankers’.4

Smith voted against Fox’s East India Bill, 27 Nov. 1783, and supported Pitt; and was returned by Edward Eliot for St. Germans on Pitt’s recommendation. In the division on parliamentary reform of 18 Apr. 1785 he paired in favour of reform; except this, no other vote by him in this Parliament is recorded, and he is not known to have spoken again.  He died 12 July 1788.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: John Brooke


  • 1. Newcastle (Clumber) mss.
  • 2. T54/42/173-5.
  • 3. Debrett, vi. 303-4.
  • 4. Ibid. ix. 650-2, 653-4, 658-61.