SMOLLETT, Alexander Telfer (c.1764-1799), of Bonhill, Dunbarton.

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



15 May 1797 - 27 Aug. 1799

Family and Education

b. c.1764, 1st s. of Alexander Telfer Smollett of Bonhill by Cecilia, da. of John Renton of Lamberton, Berwick. unm. suc. fa. 1799.

Offices Held

Entered army c.1783 as lt. 16 Drag., capt. 1792; lt.-col. 26 Drag. 1795; capt. and lt. 1 Regt. 2 Ft. Gds. 1797, brigade maj. 1798.


Smollett, who was great nephew to the novelist of that name, was a member of the Speculative Society at Edinburgh, 1783-6. He served in the West Indies ‘with singular talents and great bravery’ from the commencement of the revolutionary war. His father possessed ‘a pretty good estate’ and was attached to Lord Elphinstone in Dunbartonshire politics,’ but Smollett was brought into Parliament as the nominee of the Duke of Montrose, who was allied to Elphinstone. On 23 Sept. 1797 he informed Dundas that he would be ‘happy to make himself useful in support of administration’, an offer which was accepted, but his military career interfered with his parliamentary duties and he took little part in debates. His principal success in the Commons lay in his early advocacy of an income tax. He presented a petition from Dunbartonshire in favour of the measure on 7 May 1798. He was consistent when, on 18 May, he voted in opposition to the government and in favour of a motion for ‘raising no new land tax without taxing all other property, as far as that can be ascertained’.

He was the first officer to be killed at the battle of Alkmaar, 27 Aug. 1799, a few months after the death of his father. His younger brother, Adm. John Rouett Smollett, succeeded to the family estates, although Smollett left nothing but debts, with the result that no member of his family would assume responsibility for the administration of his effects until 1841.

Gent. Mag. (1799), i. 170; ii. 899; Pol. State of Scotland 1788, p. 90; NLS mss 23, p. 81, secretary’s minute bk. no. 2, 23 Sept. 1797.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: D. G. Henry