SMITH, Thomas II (d. 1716), of Glasgow

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1710 - 19 Jan. 1716

Family and Education

1st s. of Thomas Smith, apothecary of Glasgow.  educ. ?Glasgow Univ. 1693.  m. by 1709 Janet, ?da. of John Crosse (Corse), merchant of Glasgow, 1s.  suc. fa. 1707, bro. 1711.1

Offices Held

Burgess, Glasgow 1707, bailie 1707–8, dean of guild 1709–11, 1713–15.2

Commr. for stating army debts, 1715–d.3


The son of a Glasgow apothecary, Smith rose rapidly in municipal office after his father’s death, being made a bailie at the first election after his admission to the burgess roll. The following year he was elected dean of guild, in effect ‘president of the merchants’, with powers to determine trading practices and standards. His father-in-law, John Crosse, was perhaps a former holder of this office, and was also a correspondent of Robert Wodrow, the celebrated Presbyterian minister of Eastwood, near Glasgow. The evidence, however, is merely circumstantial. Copies of parliamentary reports derived from letters by Smith have survived in Wodrow’s papers, and the originals were clearly loaned to him by Crosse. Some of Smith’s letters were addressed directly to the provost of Glasgow; others were written to his family. Crosse himself took care to remind Wodrow on one occasion that ‘I send you the enclosed to peruse and return as soon as you can because I am desired to show them to the provost’. These reports are of considerable historical importance, but it is not always possible to attribute them to Smith with any certainty. Wodrow had several sources of political information, and did not systematically note authorship on reports which now exist only as copies in his own hand.4

Smith succeeded Robert Rodger as Member for Glasgow Burghs in 1710, and like him was involved in the American and West Indian trade. They shared a common Whig outlook, which had been evident in joint declarations at the time of the Jacobite invasion scare two years previously. As might be expected, Smith was classified as a Whig in the electoral analysis of Richard Dongworth, chaplain to the Duchess of Buccleuch. Smith and Rodger were rivals for the provostship in 1711, when there was ‘much heat, and talk, and partying’. Smith failed to secure the endorsement of the outgoing provost, John Aird, who supported the victorious Rodger. In terms of performance at Westminster, however, there was no comparison: Smith outshone Rodger in both application to business and ability in debate.5

Smith arrived in London for the start of the session, and voted with the Whigs over the Bewdley election on 14 Dec. 1710. He reported debates from a consistently Whiggish perspective, for example giving the benefit of the doubt to those under scrutiny by the new Tory ministry. He wrote in glowing terms of the abilities of Robert Walpole II* and described the Earl of Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*) as an ‘honest man, and a hearty friend to our country and the Revolution’. His sympathy, as a Presbyterian Scot, for the English Dissenters was also evident in his reports of election cases. The inclusion of Smith in the list of ‘worthy patriots’ who exposed the mismanagements of the previous administration was clearly an error, and his alleged appearance among the ‘Tory patriots’ who opposed the continuation of the war should be seriously questioned. ‘There is not a firmer man in the House than the dean of guild’, stated the Duke of Montrose’s factor, Mungo Graham* in December, ‘and I dare say is led by nobody’. Smith supported Graham over the disputed Kinross-shire election, reporting the latter’s failure to retain the seat as a piece of victimization by Scottish and English Tories. He co-operated with Sir Patrick Johnston* in January 1711 in resisting attempts to take the command of ‘Scots cruisers out of the hands of the provosts of Edinburgh and Glasgow’, and in the same month made what was perhaps his maiden speech in the committee of ways and means, opposing William Lowndes over the imposition of an export duty on British linen:

Smith of Glasgow made a brave speech on it, and indeed did it very well. But there were so many pretensions of other people upon several other parts of that branch that they durst not venture to break the proposal, so it went by the lump; however, Smith has got Mr Harley’s [Robert*] promise that in the bill they will receive a clause that theirs shall be no more then sixpence on 40 ells . . . though in several pieces; which will make the duty a pretty easy one.

Smith also joined in Scottish opposition to a duty on water-borne coals. He spoke again on 22 Feb., rounding on George Lockhart in a debate on the merits of the Dumfriesshire election in which the question of registering episcopalian baptisms had been raised. Lockhart claimed that post facto registration was commonplace, but Smith stated that he had ‘never known any person who had baptized their children with the episcopal clergy seek to have their children enrolled in the register of baptisms, nor ever heard of it’. In response to Lockhart’s references to Glasgow’s notorious intolerance, Smith implied that all episcopalians were non-juring Jacobites. In March he expressed profound disquiet at the Lords’ decision in favour of the episcopalian minister James Greenshields, responding to the crowing of Scottish Tories by reminding them of the ‘the cruelty and barbarity of the former times’. ‘You have got in your finger by it’, he informed one informal gathering of Scots Members, ‘your next attempt will be to get in your hand, which if you should, for my part I’ll expect no quarter from you’.6

It is difficult to distinguish Smith’s involvement in parliamentary business as recorded in the Journals from that of namesakes in the House; but he was almost certainly the ‘Mr Smith’, who was responsible for managing a bill to encourage Scottish naval stores through the House. An interest in Equivalent business is evident from his appointment on 14 May to the drafting committee on a bill empowering Scottish barons of exchequer to examine the accounts of commissioners, a measure he presented on the 18th. He was also concerned with putting Glasgow’s case to ministers over a dispute with Greenock about customs rights.7

In the second session Smith voted for the ‘No Peace without Spain’ motion on 7 Dec. 1711, and opposed the occasional conformity bill, despite suggestions by some Scottish Presbyterians that their position might be strengthened by having its provisions extended to the established church in Scotland. The fact that ministers of the Kirk would have to take the Abjuration provided one argument against such a move, as did the inevitable consequence of formal toleration for episcopalian worship. ‘For my part’, reported Smith, ‘I see no[ugh]t that I can do but vote against the bill. It is what I am afraid would divide our church among ourselves.’ He nearly changed his mind at the last minute, however, once the Whigs had given up the fight. Persuaded by the eminent Presbyterian William Carstares to move a clause relating to Scotland at the report stage on 20 Dec., Smith was disconcerted to find that the bill had been reported and read a third time in a single day:

When I came to the House the question was just putting, that the bill do pass, I found it was too late, and could do or say nothing, but give my negative to the bill . . . which was the only ‘No’ that I observed in the House, there not being 70 persons met and among those scarce a Whig.

Also during December, Smith was active in a successful campaign to have a clause added to the land tax bill, settling the proportion of tax payable by each Scottish burgh. His confidence was misplaced that Glasgow and its allies would thereafter be ‘secure from any oppression’ because ‘the land rent is to be the standard according to which every burgh is to be rated in the tax roll’. Bitter controversy was to ensue at the next convention of royal burghs, rendering the clause ineffective. His activities on behalf of Glasgow were formally recognized by a payment authorized by the town council in late December of £66 13s. 4d. to cover his London expenses. In the new year Smith’s attentions were principally directed towards opposing episcopalian toleration. He was closely involved with Carstares and the Presbyterian lobby in London, and vainly attempted to enlist the support of Nicholas Lechmere, a leading Whig spokesman in the Commons. He recorded with some asperity that only four English Members voted against the Scottish toleration bill on 7 Feb. 1712. Shortly after this defeat he claimed that he had ‘nothing to write but one piece of bad news after another’. Having acted as a teller against the Scottish patronages bill on 7 Apr., he lamented the passage of measures ‘which so evidently break in upon our church and constitution’.8

During the summer prorogation of 1712, Smith returned to Scotland and was given joint responsibility with Aird and Rodger for organizing tactics in the convention of royal burghs. Smith, who deemed the new Land Tax Act ‘the best law we have obtained for Scotland since the Union’, fully expected opposition from Edinburgh because ‘a settled rule for assessing the burghs . . . would lessen their and their friends’ power’. He recognized that implementing a system of assessment based on rental values was by no means straightforward, but believed firmly in the principle that any rule was better than none. ‘If the rule by the land rent of each burgh be not equal’, he argued, ‘they who object against it, I hope will show one that is more so.’ Furthermore, the mere existence of a regulation was an improvement because when taxation was ‘left to discretion nobody can know where the stop will be’. Opposition organized by Edinburgh proved too strong, however, and after several years of wrangling the scheme was entirely abandoned (see GLASGOW BURGHS).9

At the outset of the 1713 session, Smith indicated his continuing attachment to the Whigs by voting for James Stanhope’s amendment to the Address on 10 Apr., and recorded that, defeat notwithstanding, the point had been made that there was to be no ‘approbation of the peace unseen’. His attitude soured slightly during the malt tax crisis, Smith complaining that the Whigs ‘are not much concerned for our distress and, they being the minority apprehend themselves not affected by any hardships laid on by the majority’. He spoke out during the early stages of the crisis, drawing attention on 22 May to ‘a very great blunder in the bill’ in that it taxed the Scots more, not equally, because it stipulated malt could only come from Scotland to England via Carlisle and Berwick where it would pay 6d. a bushel above the duty, whereas no such provision applied to English malt taken into Scotland. He was suspicious, however, of the ensuing campaign to dissolve the Union, regarding this as a Jacobite stalking-horse and taking particular satisfaction from the adverse reaction among English Tories towards their Scottish counterparts. Hostility to the ministry and fears for Scottish trade explain his attitude to the French commerce bill. He voted silently against the second reading on 4 June, and spoke ‘with very good reasons’ in defence of Scottish fishing interests at the engrossment stage on the 18th, duly voting against the bill. Privately, he also expressed the view that ‘our linen manufactures will be destroyed by importation of French linens’. His involvement in committee-work in this session remains difficult to distinguish from other Smiths in the House.10

Smith was re-elected in 1713: his proven diligence together with an electoral arrangement to support Daniel Campbell* for Lanarkshire averted a contest. He was classified as a Hanoverian in Lord Polwarth’s analysis of Scottish returns. In his place at the commencement of the session, he continued to report home regularly on parliamentary affairs. His account of the debate of 18 Mar. 1714 over the expulsion of Richard Steele was full of praise for Walpole, who ‘exhausted almost the whole argument’; but he also lauded Sir David Dalrymple and George Baillie for drawing attention to payments for Highland chieftains. Smith concluded that ‘the Whigs look upon it as a conquest and indeed I believe a majority was never so roughly handled by a minority. I cannot but say that some who voted against us, did not seem all pleased when the plainest things were said.’ His appreciation that anti-Jacobitism was creating common ground among formerly antagonistic Scottish factions was also evident in his enthusiastic report of a recent speech in the Lords by the Duke of Argyll; he also noted approvingly that Argathelian Members were now voting regularly with the Whigs. He was assiduous in his attendance, enduring inter alia an all-night sitting on the disputed election for Brackley in order to support the Whigs. On 12 Apr. Smith was named in the report of the public accounts commission in connexion with alleged customs fraud. Examined under oath, he had nevertheless ‘refused to give us any satisfaction, and said he did not apprehend himself obliged to answer such questions’. The conduct of (Sir) Thomas Hanmer II during the ‘succession in danger’ debate on 15 Apr. earned Smith’s thoroughgoing approval. He viewed the emergence of Hanoverian Toryism as further proof of underlying hostility to Jacobitism in England. The ministry appeared to him not only ‘ridiculous’, but contemptible for ‘abandoning our allies’ and embracing an ‘inglorious and infamous peace’. In the course of the debate Smith had clashed briefly with Lockhart over voluntary arming in western Scotland. He denied that Glasgow was arrogating to itself authority belonging to the Queen’s troops, maintaining that such actions were prompted by loyalty alone. He voted on 12 May for a Whig wrecking amendment to the schism bill that sought to extend its provisions to Catholics. In the remainder of the session he opposed various Scottish Tory measures: bills for restoring lay patronage; bills for the resumption of bishops’ rents (thankfully referred to a committee of inquiry, though ‘the exchequer could easily have given an account’); and bills for regulating the Scottish militia. This last he surmised was designed to disarm opponents of Jacobitism. His continuing interest in Scottish trade had also been evident in nomination, on 28 May, to draft a bill to regulate linen manufacture.11

Returned once more for Glasgow Burghs in 1715, Smith enjoyed the combined support of the dukes of Argyll and Montrose, who put aside their customary rivalry to ensure the unopposed election of a Whig. He was noted as such in both the Worsley list and another comparative analysis of the 1713 and 1715 Parliaments. Rewarded with a minor office in August 1715, Smith died the following year on 19 Jan. The financial straits of his widow were indicated by her sale shortly afterwards of his copy of the printed statutes. Having paid £5 sterling for these volumes, Glasgow council responded positively to her subsequent petition that, in serving the town, Smith had ‘laid aside his private affairs’ to such an extent that his business ‘dwindled to nothing and he became very much decayed in his estate’. In addition to the expenses of £1,200 Scots for attendance in Parliament, she was granted 2,000 merks for the education of her son, Thomas, then aged seven. In this manner Smith’s ‘care and application’ were recognized, both in his parliamentary capacity and in furthering the interests of ‘the inhabitants in their private concerns during his remaining at London’.12

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: David Wilkinson


  • 1. Scot. Rec. Soc. lvi. 196, 272; Recs. Univ. Glasgow, iii. 153; Extracts Glasgow Burgh Recs. iv. 582, 597–8; Services of Heirs, 1st ser. 1710–19, p. 25.
  • 2. Scot. Rec. Soc. 272; Glasgow Recs. 415, 445, 453, 510.
  • 3. Cal. Treas. Bks. xxix. 869.
  • 4. J. Gibson, Hist. Glasgow, 128; Glasgow Recs. iii. 38, 93, 140; NLS, Advocates’ mss, Wodrow pprs. letters Quarto 5, ff. 138–9, 151; Wodrow Corresp. ed. McCrie, i. 356–7.
  • 5. SHR, lx. 64; Seafield Corresp. 455, 464; Wodrow, Analecta (Maitland Club, lx), i. 356–7.
  • 6. Wodrow pprs. letters Quarto 5, ff. 55, 103, 105, 111, 119, 128, 130, 138–9, 153–4, 178, 193; SRO, Mar and Kellie mss GD124/15/1020/4, Sir James Dunbar, 1st Bt.*, to Ld. Grange (Hon. James Erskine†), 14 Dec. 1710; SRO, Montrose mss GD220/5/807/12, Graham to Montrose, 21 Dec. 1710; GD220/5/808/11, 18a–b, same to same, 27 Jan., 13 Feb. 1711; Lockhart Pprs. i. 326.
  • 7. HMC Portland, x. 165–6.
  • 8. Wodrow pprs. letters Quarto 6, ff. 53–54, 57, 71, 90, 93, 107, 137, 170; Glasgow Recs. iv. 470–1.
  • 9. Glasgow Recs. 484, 489–91, 502, 515; Wodrow pprs. letters Quarto 6, f. 72.
  • 10. Wodrow pprs. letters Quarto 7, ff. 123, 125, 129–30, 155, 158, 168; Wodrow Corresp. 402; SRO, Cromartie mss GD305 addit./bdle. 15, [–] to Cromarty, 20 June 1713; Parlty. Hist. i. 70.
  • 11. Wodrow pprs. letters Quarto 8, ff. 60, 65, 70, 95–96, 118, 126, 135.
  • 12. Glasgow Recs. 582, 597–8, 643; Scot. Rec. Soc. vii. 462.