Smith, John (1657-1726) (DNB00)

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SMITH, JOHN (1657–1726), judge, son of Roger Smith of Frolesworth, Leicestershire, was born on 6 Jan. 1657, and matriculated from Lincoln College, Oxford, on 12 Sept. 1676, at the age of nineteen (Foster, Alumni Oxon.) He entered Gray's Inn on 1 June 1678, was called to the bar on 2 May 1684, and, having been made a serjeant-at-law on 30 Oct. 1700, was appointed a justice of the common pleas in Ireland on 24 Dec. 1700, but was transferred to be a baron of the court of exchequer in England on 24 June 1702. In the leading case of Ashby v. White, arising out of the Aylesbury election, he gave his decision in opposition to the judgment of the majority of the court of queen's bench, and concurred in the view expressed by Lord-chief-justice Sir John Holt [q. v.] in favour of the plaintiff Ashby whose vote the returning officer, White (the defendant), had declined to record. On appeal to the House of Lords, the judgment was reversed, and the opinion of the chief justice and Baron Smith was confirmed (State Trials, xiv. 695; Hallam, Constitutional Hist. iii. 271–4). In May 1708 he was selected to settle the court of exchequer in Scotland, subsequently to the union with England, and for that purpose was made lord chief baron of the exchequer in Scotland, being still allowed (though another baron was appointed) to retain his place in the English court, and receiving 500l. a year in addition to his salary. He was re-sworn on the accession of George I as a baron of the English exchequer, although he performed none of the duties, and enjoyed both his English and his Scottish office until his death on 24 June 1726, at the age of sixty-nine. Smith was much attached to his native village of Frolesworth, where, by his will, he founded and endowed a hospital for fourteen poor widows of the communion of the church of England, who were each to have 12l. a year and a separate house.

[Nichols's Leicestershire; Foss's Judges of England; Foster's Gray's Inn Registers.]

W. R. W.