SMITH, Robert (1752-1838), of Bulcote Lodge, Notts. and 26 St. James's Place, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. 22 Jan. 1752, 3rd but 1st surv. s. of Abel Smith†, banker, of Nottingham, and bro. of George Smith*, John Smith II* and Samuel Smith I*. m. (1) 6 July 1780, Anne (d. 9 Feb. 1827), da. of Lewyns Boldero Barnard of South Cave, Yorks., 1s. 1da.; (2) 19 Jan. 1836, Charlotte, da. of John Hudson of Bessingby, Yorks., wid. of Rev. Walter Trevelyan, vicar of Henbury, Glos., s.p. suc. fa. 1788; cr. Baron Carrington [I] 11 July 1796; Baron Carrington [GB] 20 Oct. 1797.
Commr. Exchequer loan bills 1793; member, board of agriculture 1793, pres. 1801-3.
Capt.-lt. Bucks. yeomanry 1797, capt. 1798; capt. Deal Castle 1802-d.; lt.-col. 2 batt. Cinque Ports vols. 1803.
Smith, head of the prominent family banking partnership, retained the seat in Parliament for Nottingham in which he had succeeded his father. Politically he was ‘influenced only by personal attachment’ to Pitt; indeed he was reported to be ‘a man light and unfixed in his general manner, but it is understood that Mr Pitt has found him useful in matters of business and calculation’. In 1790 Pitt provided him with £5,000 from the secret service fund, probably to secure his brother Samuel’s return for Leicester.1
Smith had ‘no parliamentary talents’,2 though he sometimes acted as ministerial teller. He voted for the abolition of the slave trade, 18 Apr. 1791, in concert with Pitt and his cousin Wilberforce, for whose efforts in that direction he often acted as teller. He had been a supporter of the dissenters’ campaign of 1787-9, but turned his back on them in 1791. Pitt’s plans for parliamentary reform had also pleased him and on 21 Feb. 1793 he put in a few words for the reception of his constituents’ petition in favour of reform, denying that it was disrespectful to the House. On 28 Mar. he secured the exemption of stockings from the budget duties proposed by Pitt, again a compliment to his constituents. He presented their petition against the disastrous commercial effects of war with France, 8 Apr., but never showed any opposition to Pitt’s war policy. Pitt would not allow him to get away with an amendment to the franking bill allowing two enclosures under one cover, which was defeated by 41 votes to 7, 23 Feb. 1795. On 14 May 1795 Smith ‘got a strong proof of his general popularity by his being heard attentively for six or eight minutes, after the impatience of the House had suppressed several speakers of different distinctions who had proposed to offer their sentiments’. The subject was the Prince of Wales’s debts and Smith ‘seemed inclined to increase the sum allotted to the payment of debts’, being of the ‘secret junto’ which approved Fox’s notion of disposing of duchy of Cornwall resources to that end.3 Smith was in the minorities in favour of the Sunday observance bill, 13 Apr., and of Foster Barham’s motion reflecting on the conduct of the British commanders in Martinique, 2 June 1795. Later that year he interceded with Pitt to admit Talleyrand to England. He was a member of the loan committee. On 17 May 1796 he was thwarted when he tried to tag on a clause to the Quaker relief bill to liberate two women detained nine years in Nottingham gaol for refusing to appear in an ecclesiastical court. The Speaker advised him to withdraw it and Smith was told that the women were not Quakers. He promised a separate motion on their behalf in future, but it was left to others to continue the campaign after he had been raised to the Upper House.4
Smith’s loyalty to Pitt was sealed when he purchased the proprietary interests at Midhurst and Wendover before the election of 1796. He would have preferred Gatton to Midhurst, but failed to secure an exchange.5 On 9 June 1796 Pitt asked the Irish viceroy Camden for his approval of two Irish peerages:
The first will perhaps surprise you, though personally you will not feel averse to it. It is for our friend Bob Smith, who in addition to every other motive for wishing to gratify him, has as strong a political claim to any favour from government, as can be derived from choosing without expense four friends into the new Parliament for his own quiet seats, and finding at a great expense, and with great trouble, three others for himself and his two brothers. Putting private friendship out of the question, I think you will agree with me that this places him in a situation different from most supporters of any government.
Only one of his brothers was in fact returned, but after his own re-election Smith received his Irish barony. He chose the title of Carrington, ‘which has already been enjoyed by a person of the name of Smith, and as Garter asserts, by no other family whatever’, as the Duke of Portland informed the King. There was no blood connexion between the earlier peer and himself and there was some complaint at the ennobling of a commercial family. Lord Bathurst thought Carrington had ‘managed very ill; as I think he might have got that honour with less money, and more credit to himself, by not purchasing his boroughs’.6Carrington, who subscribed £20,000 to the loyalty loan for 1797, regarded the peace negotiations at Lille as a publicity exercise, with no prospect of success, but as strengthening Pitt’s hand in Parliament. Except as a government teller, he made no further mark in the House and was promoted to the English peerage a year later. He was still alive when Wraxall’s Memoirs described his peerage as the price for giving Pitt financial assistance, and repudiated the assertion, as well as another that he was about to be created Viscount Wendover when Pitt left office in 1801. At that time he did volunteer a contribution towards the settlement of Pitt’s debts, regarded by Pitt as a loan which he directed in his will to be repaid: it was, but against Carrington’s wish. His services had at once been acknowledged by Pitt when as warden of the Cinque Ports he made him captain of Deal Castle. There and at Wycombe Abbey, which he had purchased from Lord Lansdowne, Carrington frequently entertained Pitt before and after his return to power.7
Carrington transferred his political allegiance to Lord Grenville in 1806, somewhat to the indignation of inveterate Pittites. His son informed Lord Melbourne, 2 Feb. 1850, that it was their likely reaction that prevented him from accepting an earldom offered by Grenville. In the election of 1806 he regained Nottingham for one of his brothers and secured Hull for his son-in-law. He remained Grenville’s supporter out of office, occasionally returning men of talent with members of his own family for his borough seats. From 1815 he did not adhere closely to Grenville’s line, but in later years was certainly as conservative.8 He died 18 Sept. 1838.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Authors: P. A. Symonds / R. G. Thorne
- 1. Harewood mss, Canning to Rev. Leigh, 17 May 1796; Farington, ii. 269; PRO 30/8/229, ff. 260, 272.
- 2. Wraxall Mems. ed. Wheatley, iii. 391.
- 3. Kent AO, Stanhope mss 754/9, Eliot to Mrs Pretyman, 15 May; Berks. RO, Neville mss D/EZ6C1, Neville to Grenville, 28 May 1795.
- 4. PRO 30/8/179, ff. 110-16; Colchester, i. 58.
- 5. Camden mss C260, Smith to Camden, 15 or 25 Oct. 1795.
- 6. Ibid. C123/8; C226/3, Bathurst to Camden [Aug. 1796]; Geo. III Corresp. ii. 1415; Croker Pprs. ed. Jennings, ii. 302.
- 7. Camden mss C97, Carrington to Camden, n.d.; Annual Reg. (1838), 225; Gent. Mag. (1838), ii. 545; Stanhope, Pitt, iii. 83.
- 8. Farington, v. 72; Malmesbury Diaries, iv. 350; Creevey Pprs. ed. Maxwell, i. 214.