SMYTH, John Henry (1780-1822), of Heath Hall, nr. Wakefield, Yorks.

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



9 June 1812 - 20 Oct. 1822

Family and Education

b. 20 Mar. 1780, 1st s. of John Smyth† of Heath Hall and Lady Georgiana Fitzroy, da. of Augustus Henry Fitzroy†, 3rd duke of Grafton. educ. Eton 1793-8; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1798; M. Temple 1801; European tour 1802. m. (1) 25 July 1810, Sarah Caroline (d. 29 May 1811), da. of Henry Ibbetson of St. Anthony’s, Northumb., s.p.; (2) 16 Apr. 1814, his cos. Lady Elizabeth Anne Fitzroy, da. of George Henry Fitzroy†, 4th duke of Grafton, 2s. 4da. suc. fa. 1811. d. 20 Oct. 1822.

Offices Held

Under-sec. of state for home affairs July 1804-Feb. 1806.

Capt. S.W. Yorks. yeomanry 1803.


Although the well-connected Smyth, a classical scholar of some distinction, had held office under Pitt, he was by inclination a liberal Whig, who had joined Brooks’s on 3 May 1811 and voted steadily with opposition in the House. He was again returned unopposed for Cambridge University in 1820 but is not known to have voted or spoken in the first session of the new Parliament. Illness may have been responsible for this inactivity, for on 30 May 1820 he was given six weeks’ leave on account of ill health. In 1821 he voted irregularly with opposition. He took no part in their attacks on the conduct of the Liverpool ministry towards Queen Caroline, but he voted in condemnation of the Allies’ revocation of the new constitution in Naples, 21 Feb. He divided for army reductions, 14, 15 Mar., repeal of the additional malt duty, 21 Mar., 3 Apr., when he contended that this tax, which was costly to collect, could be abolished if savings were made in military establishments and that the best preparation for war was to ‘husband our resources in peace’. In the same vein he declared, when supporting Hume’s motion to reduce the grant to the Royal Military College, 30 Apr., that it was not ‘of sufficient advantage to the community to be maintained in its present state during the existence of so much distress in the country’. He voted for repeal of the Blasphemous and Seditious Libels Act, 8 May, and in protest against delays in the inquiry into the courts of justice, 9 May. He was in the opposition minorities in favour of parliamentary reform, 18 Apr., 9 May, and reform of the Scottish county representation, 10 May. Yet his views on reform seem to have been essentially moderate: when Lambton presented a petition from some disfranchised freeholders of Lyme Regis, 12 Apr., Smyth contended that Lord Westmorland’s legitimate electoral influence there should not be condemned as ‘corrupt and improper’. He voted for inquiry into Peterloo, 16 May, and cuts in the ordnance estimates, 31 May. He divided for Catholic relief, 28 Feb., and on 16 Mar. challenged the hostile petition from the University, which Lord Palmerston, his ministerialist colleague there, had claimed to be a ‘unanimous’ representation of the scholars’ opinions on the issue.1 A dedicated opponent of slavery, he urged the government to put pressure on France and Portugal to ensure that the agreements they had signed prohibiting the slave trade were not flouted, 13 June.2 On 27 June 1821 he voted for Hume’s motion for economy and retrenchment.

For the whole of the 1822 session there is no record of activity. Illness presumably prevented his attendance, for, prior to his early death at Hastings in October 1822, he had ‘been some months resident’ there ‘for the recovery of his health’.3 His ‘old and attached friend’ Lord Lansdowne was pained by his loss.4 His will was proved at York, under £5,000, 4 Mar. 1823.5

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Robin Healey


  • 1. The Times, 17 Mar. 1821.
  • 2. Ibid. 14 June 1821.
  • 3. Gent. Mag. (1822), ii. 472.
  • 4. Add. 51690, Lansdowne to Lady Holland, 27 Nov. 1822.
  • 5. IR26/977/758.