JOHNSTONE, Sir James, 4th Bt. (1726-94), of Westerhall, Dumfries.

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



1784 - 1790
17 June 1791 - 3 Sept. 1794

Family and Education

b. 23 Jan. 1726, 1st s. of Sir James Johnstone, 3rd Bt., of Westerhall by Hon. Barbara Murray, da. of Alexander, 4th Baron Elibank [S]; bro. of William Pulteney*. educ. Leyden Acad. 1745-6. m. bef. 3 July 1759, Louisa Maria Elizabeth Colclough, wid. of Rev. John Meyrick, vicar of Edwinstowe, East Retford, Notts., s.p. suc. fa. as 4th Bt. 13 Dec. 1772.

Offices Held

2nd lt. marines 1748; capt. Scotch brigade in Holland 1747-56; capt. 19 Ft. 1756, 66 Ft. 1758, maj. 1761; maj. commdt. 101 Ft. Nov. 1762; half-pay 1763; lt.-col. 1772.


Johnstone lost his seat at Dumfries in the 1790 election after a display of robust independence in Parliament.1 He was, however, returned on a vacancy for Weymouth in the following year, on the interest of his brother William Pulteney. Having supported Pitt over the Regency in 1789, he remained an adherent of administration in his last Parliament, several times speaking: against the adjournment of the debate on the Oczakov question, 29 Feb. 1792, he said that ‘the minister was on his trial and they were his jury: they ought therefore ... not [to] separate before they had heard all the evidence, and the defence, and given their verdict’. He permitted himself some sarcasms at the expense of the Duke of York, when the latter’s establishment was discussed, 7 Mar., being of the opinion that the revenues of the bishopric of Osnabrück should enable it to be reduced. On 4 Apr. he upheld the public lottery as a tax on folly, but was for an inquiry into any abuses of it. Finally, ‘he wished to deliver his sentiments on the slave trade before he departed hence, and was no more seen’, 25 Apr. 1792: he was for immediate abolition, adding that on his West Indian property he had found that he could raise sugar by the plough as successfully as with the use of slaves. He was remarkable for his laconic style of speaking, ‘being seldom more than a minute and a half on his legs’. He threatened to introduce a bill against long speeches.2

Johnstone’s health was failing and he was thereafter probably absent from the House. He died 3 Sept. 1794. His brother William wrote to Hiley Addington (6 Sept.),

I have had the misfortune to lose my brother, Sir James Johnstone, after a long illness, which he bore without a murmur. He was most generally beloved, but not more than he deserved, for there never was a warmer heart or a more honourable mind. As a public character his views were always perfectly pure and disinterested and you will not wonder that I am sincerely afflicted by his loss.3

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. C. L. Johnstone, Hist. of Johnstone (1909), 242.
  • 2. Parl. Portraits (1795), ii. 118; Oracle, 9 Oct. 1795.
  • 3. CJ, xlviii. 318; Sidmouth mss.