Sir Charles]. It has been supposed that the name Sidney referred to a kinship with the Strangford family of Smythe, which had intermarried with the Sidneys [see Smythe, Percy Clinton Sydney, sixth Viscount Strangford]. After a few years at school at Tonbridge and at Bath, Smith entered the navy in June 1777, on board the Tortoise storeship, going out to North America. In January 1778 he was moved from her to the Unicorn, a small 20-gun frigate, which was in company with the Experiment on 25 Sept. 1778 when, near Boston, she drove on shore, and captured the American frigate Raleigh; and again, on 3 May 1779, when she drove on shore, and captured or destroyed three French frigates in Cancale Bay [see Wallace, Sir James]. From September to November 1779 Smith was borne on the books of the Arrogant, then fitting at Portsmouth, and on 25 Nov. he joined the Sandwich, flagship of Sir George Brydges Rodney (afterwards Lord Rodney) [q. v.], and in her was present in the action off Cape St. Vincent on 16 Jan. 1780, and in the three actions with De Guichen on 17 April and 15 and 19 May 1780.
On 25 Sept. 1780 Smith was promoted by Rodney to be lieutenant of the Alcide, with Captain (afterwards Sir) Charles Thompson [q. v.], and in her was present in the action off the Chesapeake on 5 Sept. 1781, in the operations at St. Kitts in January 1782 [see Hood, Samuel, Viscount Hood], and in the battle of Dominica on 12 April 1782. On 6 May 1782 he was promoted by Rodney to the command of the Fury sloop, and on 7 May 1783 he was posted to the Alcmène. Early in 1784 the Alcmène returned to England and was paid off, and in the spring of 1785 Smith went to France, where, for the next two years, he resided for the most part at Caen, studying French and going much into French society, so that he acquired perfect familiarity with the language. His excursions led him along the coast, visiting the places which he had learnt to know from the sea some seven or eight years before. At Cancale a fisherman told him that he had picked up forty round-shot near a windmill, which, wrote Smith to his brother, ‘I remember amusing myself with firing at. 'Tis an ill wind that blows nobody any good; for he sold them for old iron for twelve sous a piece.’
In 1787 Smith paid a visit to Gibraltar, and conceiving, from reports of the excessive insolence of the emperor of Morocco, that a war was imminent, undertook a journey through his dominions ‘in order to acquire a knowledge of his coasts, harbours, and force.’ On his return in May 1788 he forwarded to the admiralty a report of his observations, accompanied with a request that he might have the command of a small squadron on the coast, his local knowledge, he submitted, making up for his want of seniority and experience. As the war, however, did not take place, he went, in the summer of 1789, to Stockholm with six months' leave of absence. In December he applied for a twelve months' extension of this leave, but in January suddenly returned to England, with a view to obtaining permission to accept the offer of a command in the Swedish fleet. At the same time he charged himself with the English ambassador's despatches, and with a direct message from the king of Sweden. It was probably this irregularity which led to his cold reception by the government, who refused to recognise him as the self-constituted representative of Sweden, and declined to give him any answer to the message he had brought. He returned to Sweden without even the permission to accept the king's offers, and thus, though during the campaign against Russia in the Gulf of Finland in the summer of 1790 he served sometimes with the fleet, as aide-de-camp to the Duke of Sudermania, the commander-in-chief, and sometimes on shore, on the personal staff of the king, it was only as a volunteer, and without well-defined authority. The position was one of great difficulty, and excited much jealousy. Neither the king, nor the duke, nor any of the responsible officers knew anything about the conduct of a fleet, and if they escaped defeat in the action of 3–4 June, or blundered into victory on 9 July, it was only that the equal ignorance of the Russians permitted Smith's efforts to balance those of the English officers in the Russian service, or, after their death, to turn the scale [see Trevenen, James]. The armistice which followed the battle of 9 July led to a peace between the contending powers, and in August Smith returned to England. Gustavus III constituted him a knight grand cross of the order of the Sword, with the insignia of which George III formally invested him at St. James's on 16 May 1792.
Almost immediately after this he went out to Constantinople on a visit to his younger brother, Charles Spencer Smith, then ambassador to the Porte, being entrusted, he used afterwards to say, with a secret mission, and probably intending to volunteer for service with the Turks, should the war with Russia continue. Towards the end of 1793 he received the news of the war and the general order to return to England at once. Calling at Smyrna, he found there a considerable number of seamen, similarly called