HOPE, William Johnstone (1766-1831), of Raehill, Dumfries.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



22 May 1800 - 1802
8 Nov. 1804 - 1830

Family and Education

b. 16 Aug. 1766, 3rd s. of John Hope, of Craigiehall, Linlithgow and bro. of Charles Hope* of Granton, Edinburgh. educ. Edinburgh h.s. 1774-6. m. (1) 8 July 1792, Lady Anne Hope Johnstone (d. 28 Aug. 1818), da. of James, 3rd Earl of Hopetoun [S], 4s. 2da.; (2) 30 Oct. 1821, Maria, da. of Sir John Eden, 4th Bt., of West Auckland, Durham, wid. of Frederik Willem, 6th Earl of Athlone [I], s.p. KCB 2 Jan. 1815; GCB 4 Oct. 1825.

Offices Held

Entered RN 1777, lt. 1782, cdr. 1790, acting capt. 1790, capt. 1794; col. marines 1811-12; r.-adm. 1812; c.-in-c. at Leith 1813, 1816-18; v.-adm. 1819.

Ld. of Admiralty Apr. 1807-Mar. 1809, Mar. 1820-7; member of ld. high admiral’s council May 1827-Mar. 1828; treasurer, Greenwich Hosp. 1828, subsequently commr.; PC 24 Nov. 1820.


Hope entered the navy under the aegis of his uncle Captain Charles Hope at the age of ten. In 1787 during service he fell foul of Prince William, who complained to the King of his ‘most violent, obstinate, and quarrelsome disposition’, but was one of the heroes of the glorious First of June, and was employed in the Anglo-Russian expedition to Holland in 1799 and in the Mediterranean a year later. He resigned his command in 1801 and returned home. He had been returned to Parliament in his absence in a reshuffle arranged by Henry Dundas of what he termed the ‘family confederacy’, succeeding his kinsman Alexander Hope as Member for Dumfries Burghs. His eldest brother Charles disliked the arrangement, so he informed Robert Dundas, 25 Apr. 1800,

and I gave the same opinion to Lord Hopetoun and him [William] above two years ago. He has not fortune at present for Parliament. He cannot afford either to live with his family in London or to live separate from it. And as to anything that he is to gain by it, you know well that he has too much spirit to make a trade of Parliament—and in his profession, his character is such that his friends are entitled to ask anything for him, to which his standing in the service can possibly give him a claim. So I see nothing that can follow to him, but much expense which he cannot afford, and much domestic inconvenience, of which from his profession he has already enough. However ... if he thinks this a good thing for himself, I shall rejoice at his success, as much as if I heartily approved of it.1

Hope went out of Parliament in 1802 without having drawn attention to himself, though his manners were reported to have made him ‘popular’ with his constituents’.2

In 1804, having been obliged to resign his North Sea command for health reasons, he was again returned to Parliament by the Dundas connexion, this time on a vacancy for Dumfriesshire, with a view to thwarting an opposition to the established interests there, in which he succeeded. He had welcomed the prospect of Pitt’s return to power and was duly listed a supporter of Pitt’s second ministry. In April 1805 the Whig gossip Creevey reported that Hope thought Pitt ‘a damned rascal’ for his part in the censure of Lord Melville, and would desert him. By 9 May he had departed from London. On hearing this, Melville informed Alexander Hope on 10 May that Hope probably

avoided conversation with me because he had made up his mind unalterably to the line he has prescribed to himself. I understand he has an intention of vacating his seat, and from Lady Ann’s dispositions you may naturally suppose that is a decision to which she will endeavour to fix him.

But Hope did not vacate his seat, and his rebellion appears to have melted in the face of family disapproval.3 He shared the abstentionist line of Melville towards the Grenville ministry, though on 26 Mar. 1806 he assured Lord Spencer, in a bid for government support against an opponent in the county, that his own principles were ‘for the support of the government of the country and that part of it more especially over which your lordship presides’. When he met with an opposition at the election of 1806, he was reported as saying that he would ‘only support such measures that bid to keep the enemy from our gates etc.’.4 He secured his reelection, and with the advent of the Portland ministry became, on Melville’s recommendation, a lord of the Admiralty.5

Hope evidently anticipated that Melville would be restored to the Admiralty, and failing this, and dissatisfied with the conduct of that department, he at length resigned in March 1809, to be with his ailing wife and father-in-law in Scotland.6 In January 1810 his brother Charles was alarmed by ‘a very laconic epistle’ which Hope had sent to the prime minister on being asked to attend the opening of the session, which was ‘an unfriendly and what some people might suppose a surly letter’; on top of which, Hope was ‘also promulgating generally his determination not to attend ... which may lead others to imagine that there is no particular occasion for their attendance’. His brother hoped he would be the only absentee from among their Scottish friends, and feared his conduct would be construed in Dumfriesshire as ‘unfriendly to the present government’. He could not imagine that Hope was ill. Hope assured Melville, 17 Jan. 1810, that he had been very ill and could not contemplate attendance for some time, but added that he was dissatisfied with the prime minister’s treatment of Melville ‘and his abominable overture to Lords Grenville and Grey’, which showed the government to be ‘such a set of political cowards, that I am certain we shall be given up at last to Jacobinical hands, without a struggle’. He added, apropos of Perceval’s ‘temporizing methodistical system’, ‘there may be a time when a country had better be governed by bold scoundrels than those who won’t do right for fear of giving offence’.7

There is not much evidence for Hope’s attendance in Parliament thereafter, though he was listed ‘against the Opposition’ by the Whigs in 1810 and paired with ministers on the Scheldt inquiry, 30 Mar. 1810, and on the orders in council, 3 Mar. 1812. He took leaves of absence on 29 Apr. and 8 June 1812. He was listed a supporter by the Treasury after the election of 1812. His seat was not in danger. He took six weeks’ leave on 9 Mar. and paired against the Catholic relief bill, 24 May 1813. His command at Leith evidently detained him mostly in Scotland during that Parliament, though on 8 May 1815 he voted for the civil list and on 6 and 8 Mar. 1816 he turned up to vote for the army estimates. A week later he again took leave, and no further votes survive before 1820. On 21 Aug. 1814, writing to the prime minister for a regiment for his brother John, he boasted that it was the only favour he had asked of government.8 He died 2 May 1831.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Geo. III Corresp. i. 363; NLS mss 8, f. 95.
  • 2. SRO GD224/581, C. Hope to Buccleuch, 13 Aug. [1802].
  • 3. Creevey Pprs. ed. Maxwell, i. 36; SRO GD51/1/85; Hope of Luffness mss, Melville to A. Hope, 10 May, J. Hope to same, 13 May 1805.
  • 4. HO102/19, f. 302; Blair Adam mss, Sir J. L. Johnstone to ?J. Gibson, 4 Dec. 1806.
  • 5. SRP GD224/668/12/18, Melville to Buccleuch [1 Apr. 1807].
  • 6. SRO GD51/1/157/3; Geo. III Corresp. v. 3840.
  • 7. SRO GD51/1/157/1, 2.
  • 8. Add. 38259, f. 19.