ASSHETON SMITH, Thomas (c.1752-1828), of Faenol, Caern. and Tidworth, Hants.
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Family and Education
b. c.1752, 1st s. of Thomas Assheton (who took the additional name of Smith) of Ashley, Cheshire by w. Mary Clayton, heiress of Brymbo Hall, Denb. educ. Eton 1761-5. m. 27 Apr. 1773, Elizabeth, da. of Watkin Wynne of Foelas, Caern., 3s. 5da. suc. fa. 1774.
Sheriff, Caern. 1774-5, 1783-4, Anglesey 1784-5; ld. lt. Caern. 1822-d.
Maj. S. Hants vol. cav. 1797, lt.-col., res. 1803; lt.-col. commdt. Caern. mercantile vols. 1803; lt.-col. Caern. militia 1808.
Assheton Smith sat for Caernarvonshire in his first Parliament on the strength of his Welsh estate and the protection of Lord Bulkeley. In 1780 he was dropped by Bulkeley and left out of arrangements for the county at subsequent elections. He was nevertheless something of a bogey to his successors there, being thought interested in standing in 1790 and again (or more probably his son) in 1802; but the threat receded.1 He had found an opening in Hampshire, where he had another estate more amenable to his enthusiasm for country sports. His collateral ancestor John Smith had represented Andover 1695-1713 and it was there that he presented himself. The established interests kept him at bay in 1796, but a year later he took advantage of the disarray of the patrons to come in unopposed. He made himself secure in the seat, to which his son of the same name, an even more fanatical sportsman, succeeded in 1821.
Assheton Smith was an inconspicuous supporter of Pitt’s administration and less well disposed to Addington’s. On 31 Mar. 1802 and again on 4 Mar. 1803 he voted for inquiry into the Prince of Wales’s finances. Lady Spencer informed her husband on the Saturday after the latter division:
Assheton S[mith] was here this morning and such a thorough paced country pate as him I never saw; sulky at everything; angry with the P[rince], despising the government and at last voting for a committee because he might as well know how matters really were, as remain ignorant.2
He also joined opposition to Addington on the defence divisions of 16, 23 and 25 Apr. 1804. He was listed a supporter of Pitt in September 1804 and, after voting against the censure of Melville on 8 Apr., in July 1805. He was not well disposed to the Grenville ministry, opposing them on Ellenborough’s seat in the cabinet, 3 Mar. 1806, and on their repeal of Pitt’s Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. He was listed ‘adverse’ to the abolition of the slave trade. On 6 Feb. 1807 he presented and was forced to explain a petition from Hampshire alleging improper official interference in the county election. On 13 Feb. he moved that it be referred to a committee of privileges, but was thwarted by 184 votes to 57.
Assheton Smith usually supported successive administrations after 1807. He rallied to Perceval’s ministry when it was hard pressed, January-March 1810, being then listed ‘against the Opposition’ by the Whigs. He opposed the release of the radical, Gale Jones, 16 Apr. 1810. His next known votes were against sinecure reform, 4 May 1812, and against the motion for a more efficient administration, 21 May. He took a month’s leave on 5 June. Listed a Treasury supporter after the election of 1812, he opposed Catholic relief throughout in 1813 (again in 1817). It seems that he voted against a peacetime militia, 28 Feb. 1815, and for the postponement of the corn bill, 3 Mar. After supporting the army estimates, 6 and 8 Mar. 1816, he opposed the property tax, 18 Mar. He was in the majority on the composition of the finance committee, 7 Feb. 1817, and supported the suspension of habeas corpus and its consequences, 23 June 1817, 5 Mar. 1818. Enlisted by the ministry to do so, he supported the ducal marriage grants, 15 Apr. 1818, having avoided civil list questions during the previous few sessions.3 He was a Pitt Club member by 1817. In the next Parliament he rallied to ministers on the critical divisions of 29 Mar., 18 May and 10 June 1819.
Smith developed the slate quarries on his Welsh estate, enclosing over 2,500 acres of common by Act of Parliament (1806) and linking them to Port Dinorwic by road.4 After his retirement from the House in 1821, he spent the rest of his life in Caernarvonshire, having become lord lieutenant. He died 12 May 1828.