Smith, John (1655-1723) (DNB00)

SMITH, JOHN (1655–1723), politician, born in 1655, son of John Smith (d. 1690) of South Tedworth or Tidworth in Hampshire, matriculated from St. John's College, Oxford, on 18 May 1672, but did not take a degree, and was admitted student at the Middle Temple in 1674, although he was not called to the bar. As the son and heir of the owner of ‘a good estate,’ he entered upon political life, and represented in parliament: Ludgershall in Wiltshire, 1678–9, 1680–1, and in the Convention parliament of 1688–9; Beeralston in Devonshire, December 1691 to 1695; Andover in Hampshire for eight parliaments (1695–1713); and East Looe in Cornwall from 1715 to his death. Smith was throughout life a staunch whig and a firm adherent of the protestant cause; but from his excellent address and as ‘a very agreeable companion in conversation’ (Macky, Secret Services, Roxburghe Club, 1895, pp. 90–91) he remained on good terms with the tories. He was a bold speaker, with keen views which he expressed with clearness, and filled many important posts with reputation. In the Convention parliament he was the leading whip for the whigs; during the debates of the session 1693–4 he took an active part in the proceedings; he was a lord of the treasury from 3 May 1694 to 15 Nov. 1699, and chancellor of the exchequer from the last date to 29 March 1701. But he disapproved of the ‘partition’ treaty, and for some years was out of office; but on 24 Oct. 1705 he was elected speaker of the House of Commons, beating William Bromley [q. v.] by forty-three votes (Hist. MSS. Comm. 12th Rep. app. v. p. 183). In 1706 he was one of the commissioners for arranging the union with Scotland, and in October 1707, when the house assembled, with the addition of the Scottish members, he was re-elected speaker without a contest; but on 1 Nov. 1708 he resigned the post to Sir Richard Onslow. From November 1708 to August 1710 he again held the post of chancellor of the exchequer, and on his retirement he secured for himself a lucrative place as one of the four principal tellers of the exchequer, which he kept until death.

Sunderland was the object of his detestation, and Godolphin was his especial friend. He acted as a manager in the impeachment of Sacheverell, and is said to have been the messenger by whom Queen Anne sent the letter dismissing Godolphin from her service. Afterwards he joined the adherents of Sir Robert Walpole, in opposition to the ministry of Stanhope, and in 1719 resisted the proposal for limiting the numbers of the members of the House of Lords. He died on 30 Sept. 1723, and was buried near his father in the old church of South Tedworth on 4 Oct., a marble tablet being erected to his memory and to that of his father and eldest son by his fourth son, Henry Smith. He is described as of ‘middle stature, fair complexion’ (Macky, Secret Services, pp. 90–91). His estate afterwards passed to Thomas Assheton of Ashley Hall, near Bowden in Cheshire, who took the name of Smith. His daughter Mary married in 1705 the Hon. Robert Sawyer Herbert, second son of Thomas Herbert, eighth earl of Pembroke.

[Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Manning's Speakers, pp. 408–12; Members of Parliament, Official Return; Luttrell's State Affairs, iv. 495, 520, 523, v. 30, 32, 605, vi. 27, 226, 604, 616, 633; Macaulay's Hist. iv. 508; information from Rev. H. E. Delmé-Radcliffe.]

W. P. C.