SMYTH, William (?1744-1827), of Drumcree, co. Westmeath.

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



1801 - 8 Feb. 1808

Family and Education

b. ?1744, o.s. of Thomas Smyth of Drumcree by 1st w. and cos. Alice, da. of Thomas Nugent of Clonlost. educ. Kilkenny sch. 14 Mar. 1753, aged 9; Trinity, Dublin 1761; M. Temple 1762. m. (1) 1766, Maria, da. of Mark Synnot of Drumcondragh, co. Armagh, 1s. 1da.; (2) 12 Jan. 1790, Frances, da. of Hamilton Maxwell of Drumbeg, co. Down, 1s. 3da. (3) Apr. 1806, wid. of Rev. George Graydon, s.p.

Offices Held

MP [I] 1783-1800.

Sheriff, co. Westmeath 1770-1.


As Member for the county from 1783, Smyth supported government, seldom asking a favour,1 except on the question of the Union. At Westminster, where he had not taken his seat by 25 Mar. 1801, it was thought that he was one of those respectable Irish country gentlemen who by attention could be induced to favour administration. An opportunity arose on his application for a church living for a friend in September 1801, promised by Lord Camden previously: this was described as ‘the only request Mr Smyth ever made to government though he has uniformly supported the administration’. The viceroy finally granted the request a year later, ‘not only because Mr Smyth had been generally a friend to government before the Union but because he considers this attention as a new obligation, and that his colleague Mr Rochfort is also obliged by it’. Rochfort, who liked to claim that Smyth acted under his direction, may have been to blame for Smyth’s abstaining with him (though in England) from supporting government on the Prince of Wales’s finances, 4 Mar. 1803. The official comment was ‘shabby old fellow’.2

Shortly before Addington’s ministry fell, Smyth applied to the viceroy for a district paymastership for his bankrupt brother. Hardwicke promised it to him, but finding that Smyth was still in Ireland, 30 Apr. 1804 (the day Addington resigned), ‘desired that it may be intimated in plain terms that the way to get what he wants is to go over to Parliament and support government’. Although Smyth was thought likely to support Pitt’s second ministry, the viceroy had to press for his attendance in May 1805 and hoped he would be induced to undertake the journey by gratitude for ‘attention in two instances concerning which he was anxious’, but Smyth was a widower with an ailing daughter and sought to excuse himself, 1 June. For this he was labelled ‘doubtful’ in July. The Grenville ministry met with the same problem: the chief secretary noted of him: ‘is willing to support government but is not easily got to attend’. Nor did he ever, apparently, utter in debate. Despite this, he promised better support in future and was protected at the election of 1806. He evidently abstained from voting against the Portland ministry on 9 Apr. 1807, but was reported to have done so, with his colleague, on 15 Apr.3

There is no evidence that he continued in opposition and when he informed the Castle that he was ready to resign his seat at a convenient moment, 10 Jan. he confidently requested two favours: promotion for his brother, the paymaster of Newry, and the appointment of his friend James Lyne as assistant barrister. On 8 Feb. the chief secretary moved for a new writ although he had not yet been awarded the escheatorship of Munster: the opposition party in Westmeath had been urging Smyth to delay his resignation for their benefit.4 Smyth, whose son Robert was county Member from 1824 until 1826, died 30 May 1827.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: Arthur Aspinall


  • 1. Add. 33103, f. 122.
  • 2. PRO 30/9/1, pt. 3/5, Smyth to Abbot, n.d.; PRO 30/9/9, pt. 1/4, 28 Sept. 1801; Add. 35712, f. 125; 35766, f. 321; 35772, f. 63.
  • 3. Add. 35705, f. 302; 35710, f. 106; 51661, Bedford to Holland, 2 Sept.; Fortescue mss, Grenville to Elliot, 15 Oct. 1806; Dublin Evening Post, 23 Apr. 1807; Wellington Supp. Despatches, v. 19.
  • 4. Wellington mss, Smyth to Wellesley, 10 Jan., Wellesley to Trail, 11 Feb. 1808; Add. 40221, ff. 13-42 (Westmeath); HMC Fortescue, ix. 175.