JOHNSTONE, Sir John, 1st Bt. (d. 1711), of Westerhall (Westraw), Dumfries.

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



1707 - 1708

Family and Education

1st s. of Sir James Johnstone, MP [S], of Westerhall, by Margaret, da. of John Bannatyne of Corehouse, Lanark.  m. (1) c.1687, Rachel, da. and coh. of James Johnston of Sciennes, Edinburgh, 1da. (2) Agnes (d. 1710), da. of Sir Robert Dalzell, 1st Bt. of Glenae, Dumfries, s.p.; bro. of William Johnstone*.  suc. fa. 1699; cr. Bt. 25 Apr. 1700.1

Offices Held

Cornet Ld. Yester’s tp. of horse 1689; lt. Earl of Annandale’s tp. of horse, 1689, capt. 1691; capt. Col. Richard Cunningham’s regt. Drag. [later 7th Hussars] by 1695, brevet-maj. 1703, lt.-col. by 1711.2

MP [S], Dumfriesshire 1700–7.

Burgess, Edinburgh 1702.3


Johnstone had already established his military career when he succeeded his father as the member for Dumfriesshire in the Scottish parliament in May 1700. His political activity was characterized by loyalty to the Court in pursuit of professional advancement. Unlike his brother William, who was solely a client of the Earl (later Marquess) of Annandale, Sir John moved between patrons with relative ease. Thus Annandale was influential in obtaining Sir John’s baronetcy, yet his election for the county was endorsed by Annandale’s greatest rival, the Duke of Queensberry. He proved loyal to the Court in 1700–1 and remained with the ‘rump’ in 1702. Even the ‘New Party’ experiment of 1704 failed to alter his attachment to the ministry of the day, despite Queensberry’s exclusion. Johnstone’s vote against the Duke of Hamilton’s succession motion in 1704 is significant, precisely because he failed to join the phalanx of disgruntled Queensberryites who cynically supported Hamilton. He now gave his allegiance to the Duke of Argyll and voted solidly for the Union, with only an occasional and insignificant absence. Rewarded with inclusion on the Court slate of Scottish representatives to the first Parliament of Great Britain, he attended at Westminster but failed to make his mark. He did not stand for Dumfriesshire in 1708, being no longer supported either by Queensberry or Annandale.4

Johnstone’s military career, however, continued to progress, particularly after Hon. William Kerr* acquired the colonelcy of his regiment in 1709. This situation influenced the electoral calculations of Kerr’s brother, the Duke of Roxburghe, who hoped to secure Johnstone’s vote for William Bennet* in the Roxburghshire election of 1710. Unfortunately, Johnstone failed to attend and was listed as one of those defaulters who contributed to Bennet’s defeat. His absence may be attributed to unsuccessful efforts to secure Dumfries Burghs, which necessitated both canvassing on his own account and supporting James Murray* in the shire. In March 1711 Kerr was ordered to prepare his regiment for service in Flanders and Johnstone duly arrived in London in early April. He was shocked to discover that in the course of a parliamentary committee on military affairs ‘a certain great man’ had stated that Johnstone ‘was an old man and not able to serve’. According to Kerr’s account, he vowed ‘with a swinging oath’ that he would take his detractor ‘by the nose’, but was nevertheless persuaded to let the matter drop. His determination to serve actively was proved during the siege of Tournai, where he was fatally wounded. He died on 30 Sept. 1711 and Kerr reported that he ‘called for me and named me perpetually, we having ever lived like brothers, but when I saw him . . . he did not know me, which I own did not afflict me a little’. Johnstone was succeeded in his title and estates by his brother, William.5

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: David Wilkinson


  • 1. Hist. Scot. Parl. 382–3; Roxburghe mss at Floors Castle, bdle. 797, William Kerr to Countess of Roxburghe, 7 Feb. 1710; C. J. Johnstone, Hist. Johnstones, 154, 164–5.
  • 2. Hist. Scot. Parl. 383; Scot. Rec. Soc. iii. 146.
  • 3. Scot. Rec. Soc. lix. 281.
  • 4. W. Fraser, Annandale Fam. Bk. ii. 201–2, 339; Boyer, Anne Annals, iii. app. 43; info. from Dr P. W. J. Riley on members of Scot. parl.; APS, x. 24; P. W. J. Riley, Union, 331; CJ, xv. 395.
  • 5. Roxburghe mss, bdle. 756, Duke to Countess of Roxburghe, 12 Aug. 1710; bdle. 726, same to same, 22 Mar. 1711; bdle. 749, Kerr to [same], 30 Jan. 1711; bdle. 1068, same to same, 7 Apr. 1711; bdle. 1075, same to same, 19 Oct. 1711; Services of Heirs, i. 1710–19, p. 14.