SMITH, George (1765-1836), of George Street, Mansion House, London.
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Family and Education
b. 30 Apr. 1765, 5th s. of Abel Smith†, banker, of Nottingham and London by Mary, da. of Thomas Bird of Barton, Warws.; bro. of John Smith II*, Robert Smith* and Samuel Smith I*. m. 12 May 1792, Frances Mary, da. of Sir John Parker Mosley, 1st Bt., of Ancoats, Lancs. and Rolleston, Staffs., 9s. 6da.
Dir. E.I. Co. 1795-1833, dep. chairman 1805-6; dir. Westminster Fire Office 1786-8.
Maj. E.I. Co. vols. 1798.
In 1789 Smith paid £10,000 for a share of one-fifth in the mercantile business, based at Lothbury, London, of Edward and RenÃ© Payne, the sons of John Payne, co-founder with Smith’s father of the family’s London bank. On the withdrawal of his eldest brother Robert from the family banking concerns in 1792 George took his place as a partner in the Nottingham, London and Hull banks and, after the death of René Payne in 1799, was in joint control of the London branch with his younger brother John, while the senior partner, Samuel Smith, ran the Nottingham enterprise.1
Before the general election of 1790 Lord Eliot promised Robert Smith, a close personal and political friend of Pitt, to reserve a seat at St. Germans for Samuel in case he was unsuccessful in his intended candidature for Leicester. When Samuel won his election, Pitt, at Robert Smith’s request, asked Eliot to return George for St. Germans, but Eliot preferred to bring in one of his own sons.2 A seat for Lostwithiel was obtained for George Smith in 1791 from Lord Mount Edgcumbe, presumably by purchase.
Smith followed his eldest brother’s example by supporting government and was marked ‘pro’ in the ministerial election survey for 1796. Like Robert and Samuel, he voted for Foster Barham’s motion criticizing the conduct of Grey and Jervis in Martinique, 2 June 1795. No seat was found for him in 1796, but in 1800 Robert, now Lord Carrington, returned him for his nomination borough of Midhurst. Smith’s inclusion in the list of the minority who divided against the Irish master of the rolls bill, 19 Mar. 1801, may be a case of mistaken identity, for he remained loyal to Pitt, who in 1802 recommended him to Lord Gower as a candidate for Newcastle-under-Lyme. In the event Carrington took fright at the probable expense and returned him again for Midhurst.3 Initially he supported Addington’s ministry, but voted for Pitt’s question, 3 June 1803, for his call for an inquiry into naval strength, 15 Mar., and against government in the divisions of 16 and 25 Apr. 1804 which led to Addington’s resignation. He supported Pitt’s second ministry, but did not vote against the motion of censure on Melville, 8 Apr. 1805. Smith followed Carrington in his transfer of political allegiance to Lord Grenville after Pitt’s death. He evidently gave general support to the ‘Talents’, although he did not, as a former Pittite, vote for the repeal of the Additional Force Act, 30 Apr., and voted against the American intercourse bill, 17 June 1806. Reckoned a ‘staunch friend’ to the abolition of the slave trade after the 1806 general election, when Carrington brought him in both for Midhurst and for Wendover, his pocket borough, he paired in favour of Brand’s motion condemning the ministerial pledge, 9 Apr., and was present at the gathering of opposition Members after the 1807 general election.
Smith could usually be relied on to divide with the Whig opposition in major confrontations with government for the rest of the period, but his voting record, particularly after 1812, indicates that he was not a conscientious attender for routine business. He voted for Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May 1819, but neither joined Brooks’s nor signed the requisition to Tierney in 1818. Like Carrington, he aligned himself with the conservative wing of opposition. He took no part in the opposition to the renewal of war in 1815 and the terms of the peace settlement in 1816. He voted with opposition on the Duke of York scandal in 1809, but showed no active interest in the subsequent campaign for economical reform beyond voting against sinecures, 17 May 1810, 24 Feb., 14 Apr. and 4 May 1812. Even in the post-war period his votes for economy, retrenchment and reduced taxation were strikingly few. Smith voted against parliamentary reform, 21 May 1810 and 20 May 1817, did not divide against the suspension of habeas corpus in 1817 or the domestic espionage system in 1818, and took no part in the opposition to the repressive legislation of late 1819. He supported Catholic claims. His three known speeches in this period were all in defence of the East India Company: he denied allegations that it was bankrupt, 10 July 1806, moved for and obtained an inquiry into charges of corrupt practice in the disposal of Company patronage, with the aim of stifling current hostile rumours, 10 Feb. 1809, and argued against relaxation of the Company’s trading monopoly, 3 June 1813. Smith was said to have declined the offer of a baronetcy on the ground of having 15 children to provide for.4 He died 26 Dec. 1836.