SMITH, John II (1767-1842), of Blendon Hall, Kent and Dale Park, Suss.
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Family and Education
b. 6 Sept. 1767, 6th s. of Abel Smith†, banker, of Nottingham, and bro. of George Smith*, Robert Smith* and Samuel Smith I*. m. (1) 1 Dec. 1793, Sarah (d. 23 Sept. 1794), da. of Thomas Boone, commr. of customs, s.p.; (2) 6 Jan. 1800, Mary (d. 9 Apr. 1809), da. of Lt.-Col. Martin Tucker, 2s.; (3) 1 May 1811, Emma, da. of Egerton Leigh of West Hall, High Leigh, Cheshire, 2da.
Vol. London and Westminster light horse 1798.
Dir. W. I. Dock Co. 1804-11, 1817-24, 1828-30, 1832-5, dep.-chairman 1812-13, chairman 1814; treasurer, board of agriculture 1807-16; dir. Imperial Insurance Co. 1813.
Smith, a partner in the family banks at Nottingham, London and Hull, and from 1806 at Derby,1 was returned by his eldest brother, Lord Carrington, for Wendover in 1802. Like him he was a Pittite until 1806. He made no mark in debate in his first Parliament. He may have voted with Pitt on 3 June 1803, and certainly did so on 15 Mar. 1804 and again on the defence motions of 16, 23 and 25 Apr. 1804 that brought down Addington’s ministry. On Pitt’s death he followed his brother’s line of supporting the Grenville ministry, except where they controverted Pitt’s measures. At the ensuing election, with a seat on his brother’s interest for Midhurst as security, he revived his interest at Nottingham and came second on the poll. In November 1806, when Grenville asked Carrington if one of his brothers would second the address, John was chosen and in doing so, 19 Dec., paid tribute to Pitt’s memory.2 He was among the ‘staunch friends’ of the abolition of the slave trade, and voted for Brand’s motion against the Portland ministry, 9 Apr. 1807.
Smith followed Carrington’s line of opposition in the Parliament of 1807, but took it further than his brother. On 7 July 1807 he supported inquiry into places and pensions, stating that the ‘middling class’ of his constituents were unconvinced on parliamentary independence: ‘He was as adverse to the diminution of the crown at that moment, as he was to the disunion of the people by a religious cry’. He was an invariable supporter of Catholic relief, stating his case for it on 1 June 1810.3 He opposed the Copenhagen expedition and on 29 Feb. 1808 supported Whitbread’s bid for a mediated peace, seeing no end to the war and arguing that the state of Ireland required an armistice. He approved the local militia bill, 2 May 1808, as it was not conscriptive and he had favoured the volunteer system. On 19 May he was an advocate of sugar distillation against the landed interest’s preference for allowing distillation from grain. He opposed the convention of Cintra, 21 Feb. 1809, and, after questioning witnesses at the bar of the House on the Duke of York’s conduct, appeared in the critical minorities of 15-17 Mar. 1809. No further vote is known that session, but he steadily opposed Perceval’s ministry, January-March 1810, complaining of their military expenditure, 25 Jan., and was listed among their present adherents by the Whigs. He favoured the discharge of the radical Gale Jones, 16 Apr., and supported sinecure and parliamentary reform, 17 and 21 May 1810, as well as inquiry into the droits of Admiralty, 30 May. On 30 May and 8 June he presented his constituents’ petitions for parliamentary reform and for the release of Sir Francis Burdett. He voted with opposition on the Regency questions. He was an advocate of better pay for army officers, 22 May 1810, 4 Apr. 1811, and opposed the reinstatement of the Duke of York as c.-in-c., 6 June. He spoke in favour of the bank-note bill, 15 July 1811.
Smith deprecated alarm in the House about the activities of Luddite machine-breakers in Nottingham, 6 Feb. 1812. He blamed the sheer misery caused by unemployment and accepted the bill against frame breaking, 14 Feb., but not the Nottingham peace bill of even date; before it passed, he also became critical of the former bill. He supported a select committee on the framework knitters’ distress, 8 May, but the ensuing bill was rejected by the Lords. That session he also supported legislation to prevent the embezzlement of securities for money, 25 Feb., and advocated Irish tithe reform, 23 June—he had voted for it on 13 Apr. 1810. He supported retrenchment and sinecure reform and on 21 May 1812 voted for a more efficient administration.
Smith headed the poll in the Whig triumph at Nottingham in 1812 and acted steadily in opposition throughout the ensuing Parliament. He championed the Princess of Wales in debate, 17 Mar. 1813. He was not particularly critical of the chancellor’s finance plan, 26 Mar., seeing no harm in the application of the sinking fund to forestall additional taxation. On 6 Apr. he presented his constituents’ petition for peace, describing their economic distress: he had appealed to Whitbread beforehand to bring in a motion in conformity with the prayer of the petition.4 On 30 June he defended his constituents’ right to submit a printed petition for reform to the House. He objected to the rate burden of the new Kent gaol at Maidstone and to the folly of abandoning the bridewell at Dartford, near his residence, which served a populous district, 2 June. He approved the ordnance estimates, which covered improvements at Woolwich, 23 June. He was an opponent of the East India Company trade monopoly but on 5 and 8 July attacked the stipendiary curates bill as an invasion of private property, especially of the rights of incumbents of modest livings. He welcomed the abandonment of the death penalty for machine breaking, 6 Dec. 1813, as, apart from his preference for transportation, capital punishment was difficult to enforce. He favoured the abolition of the slave trade internationally, 2 May 1814. In accordance with his constituents’ wishes, he opposed altering the Corn Laws, 24 and 27 May 1814, 23, 27 Feb., 3 Mar. 1815: an awkward stance for him as treasurer of the board of agriculture.
Smith opposed the resumption of hostilities with Buonaparte by speech and vote, 7, 28 Apr., 25 May 1815; seconding the amendment on the latter date, he said that the country could ill afford war. He voted steadily for retrenchment. Presenting his constituents’ petition against the property tax, 28 Feb. 1816, he rebuked ministers for their delusions about the flourishing state of the country: distress had never been greater. He objected to mock economies, 25 Apr., and in accordance with his constituents’ wishes opposed the loan to Austria, 28 May. He opposed the suspension of habeas corpus in February 1817, again prompted by his constituents. He informed the House, 28 Feb., that he had recently been in France and had now to endorse a Frenchman’s claim to him that ‘all the boast of English freedom was a mockery’. He dismissed reports of radical societies and insurrection as ‘humbug’. He objected to capital punishment under the seditious meetings prevention bill, 10 Mar., and two days later advised the House not to reject petitions for reform because they were irregular. He voted for reform on Burdett’s motion, 20 May, and again opposed the suspension of habeas corpus in June. He admitted the inaccuracy of allegations about one detainee in Folkstone’s motion against the operation of the Act, 17 Feb. 1818, but supported it because other allegations might well be true. He excepted the Duke of Kent from his opposition to the royal dukes’ marriage grants, 15 May 1818. He voted for the repeal of the Septennial Act and against the aliens bill, 19 May, and supported Brougham’s motion on popular education, 3 June.
Smith gave up the hurly-burly of Nottingham elections for a quiet seat on his brother’s interest in 1818. His philanthropic tendencies were by then strongly developed.5 He was an admirer of his cousin Wilberforce and of Elizabeth Fry and a supporter of the regulation of cotton factories. On 22 May 1817 he had presented a petition for the revision of the Bankruptcy Laws to prevent fraudulent bankruptcies and on 10 June obtained a select committee, renewed on 28 Jan. 1818. He championed the resulting legislation, 18 Mar., 2 Apr., 7 May 1819. He deplored the prevalence of bank-note forgery and on 2 Mar., supporting a review of the criminal law, complained that youthful forgers forfeited their lives, while fraudulent bankrupts got off scot free. He gave evidence on the subject to the select committee approved that day. He also championed the committee on abuses in charitable foundations, 23 June 1819.
Smith, who had signed the requisition to Tierney to lead the opposition in 1818, continued to act with them, though his attendance was less regular than before. He disagreed, however, with a hasty resumption of cash payments by the Bank, preferring to leave it to the directors’ discretion, 25 May 1819. He would support the seditious meetings prevention bill only if its duration were limited, 2 Dec. 1819, and he voted in that sense, deprecating alarmism, 6 Dec. He favoured public relief for the distressed manufacturing districts, 9 Dec., admitting that machines had increased unemployment. He was an admirer of Robert Owen’s experiment at New Lanark, which he had viewed for himself and thought worthy of the House’s attention, 16 Dec. On behalf of the London publishers and booksellers, whose petitions he presented, he opposed the penalties under the blasphemous libel bill and the stamp duties bill. On 24 Dec. he defended the London merchant’s petition on commercial distress, which he had been invited to present, against a charge of its having been concocted by the government. Smith died 20 Jan. 1842.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Authors: Lawrence Taylor / R. G. Thorne
- 1. J. A. S. L. Leighton-Boyce, Smiths the Bankers, 125, 193, 243.
- 2. Fortescue mss, Grenville to Carrington, 28 Nov.; Grey mss, Howick to Carrington, 30 Nov., reply 2 Dec., Smith to Howick, 3 Dec. 1806.
- 3. Geo. III Corresp. v. 4188.
- 4. Whitbread mss W1/4233.
- 5. Fortescue mss, Carrington to Grenville, 9 June 1818; Romilly, Mems. iii. 332.