JOHNSON, William (c.1660-1718), of Blackwall, Mdx.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
Asst. R. Africa Co. 1687-9; commr. for assessment, Mdx., Suff. and Aldeburgh 1689-90; dep. lt. Tower Hamlets 1689-at least 1702; committee E.I. Co. 1690-91, 1698-9, 1702-5; elder bro. Trinity House 1709-d.; commr. for sewers, Tower Hamlets 1712.2
Gent. of privy chamber 1690-1702; capt.-gen. of Guinea 1716-d.3
Johnson was sent out to Bengal as a factor for the East India Company. Described as both ‘ingenious’ and ‘hopeful’, he distinguished himself by spying on the interlopers, and carrying tales to the governor, Hedges. His cousin, a captain of one of the company’s ships, wrote:
If there is money to be got I am sure [he] will do it as soon as anyone in this place, ... for he does take the greatest delight in business that ever I see. ... Those that are his friends love him as if he were their brother, and those that are his enemies fear him as being too cunning for them. ... He has got the love of the natives to such a height that they would do anything for him.
When Hedges was recalled in 1683 for suppressing a critical report to (Sir) Josiah Child, which Johnson, his only friend in India, had opened and brought to him, the court wrote:
Mr Johnson we look upon as a young man whose heat and youth was intemperately drawn in and managed by Mr Hedges ... and therefore, as well in respect to his father, deceased, who hath left him a great estate, we do not require you to send him home.
He returned to England of his own volition, however, and set up as a merchant, trading to Africa and the Peninsula. He was able to buy himself a manorial property in Suffolk, but lived chiefly near his brother’s shipyard at Blackwall.4
Johnson was returned for Aldeburgh in 1689 on his brother’s interest, and held the seat for the rest of his life. A Tory in politics, he voted to agree with the Lords that the throne was not vacant, but he was not active in the Convention. His six committees included those to consider the management of the East India trade, the bill for restoring corporations, and a petition from the Royal Africa Company. Although he remained a Tory after 1690, like his brother, he signed the Association in 1696. After the Hanoverian succession he accepted an appointment as governor of Guinea under the Royal Africa Company, and died at Cape Coast Castle in November 1718. In his will he estimated his personal estate at £20,000. His son Henry, the author and traveller, considered standing for Aldeburgh in 1734, writing to the Earl of Strafford that ‘my name may somewhat facilitate my election, as those people are under some obligation to our family’. But none of his descendants entered Parliament.5
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Author: Paula Watson
- 1. East Anglian, iii. 198; Add. 22187, f. 219; Hedges Diary (Hakluyt Soc. lxxiv), 249; PCC 218 Tenison; The Ancestor, x. i63.
- 2. Add. 22187, f. 127; SP44/165/305; information from Henry Horwitz; HMC Townshend, 211.
- 3. Carlisle, Privy Chamber, 206.
- 4. Add. 22186, ff. 22, 27; Hedges Diary (Hakluyt Soc. lxxiv), 141, 163, 186; (lxxv), p. cciii; Copinger, Suff. Manors, v. 171.
- 5. Add. 22187, f. 219; Hist. Reg. Chron. iii. 43; PCC 218 Tenison; DNB; Add. 22221, f. 509.