Major General Edward Smith, 1777-1793

Winterbottom describes Smith as a 'shadowy figure', giving no biographical details other than he was described, on appointment following the death of Governor Wood, as Colonel of the Fourth Regiment of Horse. In the German Parish Register under 1787 is an entry for the confirmations of "Miss Kitty Cooke & Miss Penelope-Ann Cooke, daughters to the Lady of his excellency Edward Smyth Esq Governour in Chief of this Isle". He he married a widow Penelope Cooke on 24 July 1786 at St George's Hanover Sq, Westminster - she died 9th June 1821, aged 76 and in her memorial tablet is described as the daughter of Sir William Bowyer of Denham Court, Bucks - her first husband was a career soldier, Col George John Cooke of Harefield Park who died May 1785.

Smith died, aged 76, on January 5th 1809 - his memorial, like that of his wife, is in Bath Abbey and states "Col of the 43rd Regt and Governor of Fort George in Jamaica" - no mention of his 16 year stint as Governor of the Isle of Man.

Appointed by Whitehall to uphold the English influence - John Murray describes him as "a total stranger to the manners, laws, and customs of the Isle of Man" before bitterly criticizing the hasty (and probably unconstitutional) passage of the 1777 reform acts.

Roper (a strong partisan of the Duke of Atholl's cause) goes even further: in 1825

This gentleman, from the moment of his appointment, seems to have been haunted by a spirit of legislation ; and being surrounded by persons anxious for the establishment of their own encroachments, and the consequence deterioration of the Duke’s rights and being himself entirely ignorant of every thing relating to the Island, he was led immediately to concur in certain Acts of Tynwald, and flattered into doing so, by those who had cunning enough to persuade him he was himself capable of drawing those Acts when, in fact he was only a tool in the hands of his advisers.

and later in discussing the Act which removed the appellate status of the Keys placing more power in the hands of the Governor

Governor Smith was led to conceive himself a Judge as well as a Legislator, and that the Keys indulged his folly, and purchased the abolition of the Grand Enquest, by relinquishing to the Governor the appellate jurisdiction in jury cases. Ill calculated as the Keys are for the trust reposed in them as an Appellate Court, Governor Smith thinking himself better qualified in his own person alone, to correct the errors of a Jury, and thereby improve that mode of trial, evinces a degree of vanity, pride, and arrogance, and in an Englishman indicates such ignorance of the principles of the British Constitution as to disqualify him for his situation

In many ways these comments were very unfair to Smith who produced several thoughtful essays on what could and should be done but as he writes in a 1789 letter to Daniel Callow "it has long vex'd me to be constantly and sternly told from office, that they would hear of no Insular Concerns, claims, or requisitions untill the Duke of Atholls demands and propositions should be settled. Thus repeatedly & repeatedly rudely putt off ..". The two major acts at the start of his governorship would appear to be the total as the Duke of Atholl and his Scottish 'friends' in Parliament could and did effectively block the necessary Royal Assent being given to any Insular Bill.

Smith would appear to have been away from the Island for much of the time, leaving day-to-day control in the hands of the Lieutenant Governor initially Dawson and later Shaw, both of whom in private letters were extremely critical of the behaviour of the Duke of Atholl..

The appointment of Richard Bowyer as Adjutant to the Manx Fencibles formed in 1779 would appear to be some nepotism on behalf of his wife's family.

Smith's departure in 1793 allowed Westminster to appoint the 4th Duke of Atholl as Governor and near 30 years of conflict between Governor and the Keys.


D. Winterbottom Governors of the Isle of Man since 1765 Douglas: Manx National Heritage 1999 (ISBN 09524019-5-9)


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
© F.Coakley , 2000