SMITH, Joshua (1732-1819), of Erlestoke Park, nr. Devizes, Wilts.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



23 Dec. 1788 - 1818

Family and Education

b. 1732, 1st s. of John Smith, merchant, of Lambeth, Surr. by Mary, da. of Griffin Ransome of Lambeth. m. Aug. 1766, Sarah, da. of Nathaniel Gilbert, judge and member of legislative council of Antigua, 4da. suc. fa. 1787.

Offices Held

Dir. E.I. Co. 1771-3.


Smith’s father, a native of ‘Camno’ (sic) in Scotland, settled in London as a merchant. Smith became a timber merchant in partnership with one Drummond at Lambeth, and a shipowner. He invested in East India Company stock. He made his first bid to get into Parliament at Penryn in 1784 as a supporter of Pitt’s administration. He found a seat on his doorstep in 1788 and retained it unopposed for 30 years. In 1791 he made a gift of £500 to Devizes for its improvement and in 1803 another of £1,000, but it was not all plain sailing. In October 1801 Edward Loveden reported of him that ‘Joshua Smith was looking out for a new seat—whether he is now on better terms than he was some time back at Devizes I know not’.1 He benefited from the security of his colleague Henry Addington.

Smith was not an active Member. He may not have spoken in the House: it is difficult to say whether any of the speeches attributed merely to ‘Mr Smith’ were his. He was listed among opponents of repeal of the Test Act in Scotland in 1791. He voted for Pitt’s assessed taxes, 4 Jan. 1798. He was clearly well disposed to Addington’s ministry: the vote attributed to him in favour of Pitt’s naval motion of 15 Mar. 1804 is very questionable. On Pitt’s return to power he was listed among Addington’s following. On 11 June 1804 he joined the minority against Pitt’s additional force bill.2 He was in the same camp in July 1805, though there is no proof of activity. He supported the Grenville ministry’s repeal of the Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. 1806, but was listed ‘doubtful’ on the abolition of the slave trade and apparently opposed them on the Hampshire petition, 13 Feb. 1807. On 23 Mar. 1807 he took two week’s leave of absence.

Smith was listed ‘against the Opposition’ (under the name of Joseph Smith) by the Whigs in 1810 when he rallied to ministers on the Scheldt question, 5 and 30 Mar. He also joined them on the Regency question, 1 Jan. 1811, and on McMahon’s sinecure, 24 Feb. 1812. He paired in favour of the orders in council, 3 Mar. 1812, and may well have voted in the government minority against Stuart Wortley’s motion, 21 May. He was listed a Treasury supporter after the election of 1812. It appears that he voted for consideration of Catholic relief on 2 Mar. 1813 but, after falling ill, paired against the relief bill on 24 May. No further vote of his is certain and he took leaves of absence for illness in 1816 and 1817. His retirement in 1818, aged 86, came as no surprise. He died 20 Mar. 1819. Two of his brothers became baronets. His daughters married Lord Compton*, William Chute* and Charles Smith*. Erlestoke Park was purchased by George Watson Taylor*.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Berks. RO, Preston mss, Loveden to Sellwood, 29 Oct. 1801.
  • 2. Sidmouth mss, Henry to J. H. Addington, 12 June 1804.