The Thomas Smith papers contain 159 letters and 1 financial document relating to Admiral Thomas Smith. The materials span 1730-1762, with the bulk covering the period between 1748 and 1755. Smith wrote three of the letters in the collection to various recipients; the remainder is his incoming correspondence.
The letters document many aspects of Smith's service in the Royal Navy between 1734 and his 1758 retirement. Much of the correspondence concerns the patronage and assistance that Smith extended to promising young officers, including Samuel Hood, 1st Viscount Hood; John Amherst; brothers Michael and John Becher; and Benjamin Moodie. Hood wrote 21 letters in the collection, beginning in 1748, when he was just 23 years old. His correspondence relates to the development of his naval career, his personality, and his relationship with Smith. On May 8, 1753, Hood described spending a week attending to the wreck of the HMS Assurance off the Isle of Wight, during which time he was denied a government-funded servant, about which he wrote, "choler still up." In other letters, Hood mentioned gifts of prawns and wine that he had secured for Smith. Hood wrote his final two letters in the collection from North America. On August 5, 1754, he wrote about his enjoyment of Charleston, South Carolina, and his desire to command the HMS Jamaica . On May 5, 1755, while in Hampton Roads, Virginia, he anticipated General Edward Braddock's expedition against the French and their Indian allies, and worried that the French would "quit all the Forts…before any of them can be knock'd in the head." Smith's other protégés wrote to express their gratitude at his continuing assistance and to provide news on their families and careers.
Several of the letters in the collection relate to naval engagements and foreign affairs. On April 1, 1741, William Frederick Huxley wrote details about the taking of Boca Chica during the Battle of Cartagena de Indios in present-day Colombia, including travel through "Fire & Smoke" and the death of 20 sailors. On September 8, 1745, George Anson, 1st Baron Anson, requested that Smith "hasten" several ships in order to prevent communications between France and Scotland, stating that the safety of England "depends in a great measure upon our Cruizers." In a retained copy of a letter to Tyringham Stephens, dated September 14, 1755, Smith ordered that captured French ships be sent to a convenient English port and guarded to prevent theft. A letter from an informant who called himself "Tel Truth," warned Smith about the trade encroachments of foreign ships piloted by the English and the Irish, and gave a list of names of the traitors (June 10, 1756).
Although nothing in the collection relates to John Byng's trial, it does contain an affectionate earlier letter from Byng to Smith, thanking him for his good wishes on his promotion and looking forward to sailing together on the Royal Sovereign (August 25, 1746).