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Stuart, John Ferdinand Smyth (DNB00)


STUART, JOHN FERDINAND SMYTH (1745–1814), American loyalist, born in 1745, claimed descent through both parents from the Duke of Monmouth. According to his own doubtful statement, his father, Wentworth Smyth, was son of the Duke of Monmouth by Lady Henrietta Maria, granddaughter of Thomas Wentworth, earl of Cleveland, and daughter of Thomas, lord Wentworth. She died eight months after Monmouth's execution, and her son was said to have been adopted by Colonel Smyth, an aide-de-camp of Monmouth, who made him his heir. Wentworth Smyth joined in the risings of 1715 and 1745, and was killed in the highlands at some later date. At the age of sixty-six he is reputed to have married Maria Julia Dalziel, a girl of fifteen. She was represented to be granddaughter of General James Crofts, natural son of the Duke of Monmouth, by Eleanor, daughter of Sir Robert Needham of Lambeth. It is vaguely stated that she predeceased her husband, dying three years after her marriage.

The reputed son, John Ferdinand Smyth, who in 1793 adopted the name of Stuart, studied medicine at Edinburgh University. He then emigrated to America, and, settling near Williamsburg in Virginia, practised as a doctor in the district. When the rebellion broke out Smyth found himself the only loyalist in the neighbourhood, and on 15 Oct. 1775 he was compelled to abandon his home. He served in several regiments with the rank of captain, distinguishing himself, according to his own account, by his zeal and activity. He showed equal capacity in the most different situations. At one time he raised a special company of picked men for frontier work, and at another commanded an armed sloop in the bay of Chesapeake. He was several times made prisoner, and on one occasion was kept in irons for eighteen months. On proceeding to England at the close of the war a pension of 300l. a year was settled on him, a very partial compensation for his losses. Yet in 1784, on some insinuations secretly made against him to the commissioners for American claims, even this was suspended and never restored. In consequence he was reduced to extreme poverty, and was glad to accept the position of barrack-master. He made strenuous representations to government, and in 1795 demanded justice from Pitt peremptorily. In the same year he was persuaded to accompany Admiral Sir Hugh Cloberry Christian [q. v.] to the West Indies, where he was thrice shipwrecked and was present at the capture of St. Lucia. On his return to England he was informed that his claims were of too ancient a date to be entertained. He was knocked down and killed by a carriage at the corner of Southampton Street, London, on 20 Dec. 1814, leaving a widow destitute, two sons, and a daughter (Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. viii. 495, ix. 232, 334).

He was the author of: 1. ‘A Tour in the United States of America,’ London, 1784, 8vo. This book gives an account of his sojourn and travels in North America and of the share he took in the war. His delineation of rural society in the States is vigorous but not flattering. The republican opinions of the colonists were obnoxious to a loyalist, while their barbarous manners were repellent to a gentleman. 2. ‘A Letter to Lord Henry Petty on Coercive Vaccination,’ London, 1807, 8vo, a violent diatribe against vaccination (Chambers, Book of Days, i. 628). 3. ‘Destiny and Fortitude: an heroic poem on the Misfortunes of the House of Stuart,’ London, 1808, fol.

[Stuart's Works; The Case of Ferdinand Smyth Stuart, London, 1807, fol.]

E. I. C.