COCHRANE (afterwards COCHRANE JOHNSTONE), Hon. Andrew James (1767-1833), of 13 Alsop's Buildings, New Road, Marylebone, Mdx.

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



4 May 1791 - 31 Mar. 1797
1807 - 7 Mar. 1808
7 July 1812 - 5 July 1814

Family and Education

b. 24 May 1767, 8th surv. s. of Thomas Cochrane, 8th Earl of Dundonald [S], and bro. of Hons. Alexander Forrester Inglis Cochrane* and George Augustus Frederick Cochrane*. m. (1) 20 Nov. 1793, Lady Georgiana Hope Johnstone (d. 17 Sept. 1797), da. of James, 3rd Earl of Hopetoun [S], 1s. d.v.p. 1da.; (2) 21 Mar. 1803 at Martinique, Amelia Constance Gertrude Etienette, da. of Baron de Clugny, gov. Guadeloupe, wid. of Reymond Godet of Martinique, div. ‘soon after’. Took additional name of Johnstone on 1st m.

Offices Held

Cornet 23 Drag. 1783; lt. 19 Drag. 1786; lt. and capt. 60 Ft. 1790; lt.-col. 79 Ft. 1794, brevet col. 1797; col. 8 W.I. Ft. 1798, brig. (W.I.) 1799, res. 1805.

Gov. Dominica Mar. 1797-1803; PC 26 Apr. 1797.


Cochrane’s father died when he was 11 and he was assisted in his military career by his uncle and elder brothers. On 26 Oct. 1790 he wrote to the prime minister, reminding him that he had presented an address to the King from Madras the year before, on the recovery of his sanity, and announced that he had no wish to return to India as a subaltern. He had had to decline the captaincy of an independent company for ‘want of affluence’. Writing to Pitt again on 16 Apr. 1792 for military promotion, his ‘great object in life’, he suggested the lieutenant-colonelcy of the 60th Foot. He admitted that he had no particular claim on Pitt. That was true, for he had entered Parliament the year before, on a vacancy for Stirling Burghs, after a contest in which he had failed to obtain ministerial support, awarded by Henry Dundas to his opponent.1

In 1793 Cochrane took the additional surname of Johnstone on his marriage to a daughter of Lord Hopetoun, whose half-sister Dundas had recently married. Giving a silent support to ministers, he proceeded on active service to the West Indies in 1795, but secured his re-election in 1796 against his cousin Sir John Henderson*, who had a grudge against Dundas and could not tolerate Cochrane Johnstone’s alliance with him. On 30 Nov. 1796 Cochrane Johnstone took a month’s sick leave. On the same day that Henderson’s petition against his return failed he was appointed, by Dundas’s influence, governor of Dominica and so vacated his seat.2

According to hostile testimony, the governorship brought out the worst in Cochrane Johnstone’s character.3 Charges of arbitrary rule (there were tales of his shameless trading in negroes, forcing his soldiers into field labour and maintaining a harem) led to his being recalled in 1803 and to his commission being suspended. He was passed over in the military promotions that year when he expected to become a major-general, and not until 28 May 1804 did he learn from the Duke of York that he faced a court martial; nor could he secure trial until March 1805. He and his accuser, Maj. John Gordon, bandied allegations of peculation and both were found to have committed irregularities, but Cochrane Johnstone regarded himself as cleared. He found that this view was not taken in other quarters: the Duke of York, whom he regarded as having prejudiced the judge advocate-general against him, would not concede him promotion and he felt obliged to resign his commission. He then attempted to force the duke’s hand. On 28 June 1805 Gen. Richard Fitzpatrick raised the question of his grievances in the House, promising a motion next session to prevent abuse of the prerogative by the judge advocate-general; he was echoed by Lord Suffolk in the Lords on 4 July. Cochrane Johnstone went on to publish a Defence of his conduct, to which he prefixed a letter to the duke critical of the ‘present administration of military law’.4

The change of ministry in 1806 affected these proceedings. Cochrane Johnstone himself acted as Lord Moira’s ‘ambassador’ in his negotiations with Lord Melville’s party in Scotland.5 On 2 May 1806 he informed the Duke of York’s secretary that, unless the military promotion that he had been led to expect from a reported change of heart by the duke was imminent, he would set off to the West Indies to recoup his damaged fortunes. This overture was rejected, as was another of 25 June to Lord Grenville. In September he was thought of as a likely candidate for Westminster and toyed with the idea of standing for Middlesex; then he proposed standing with his nephew Lord Cochrane at Honiton, but assisted him instead. He had indeed won sympathy in radical quarters, notably from William Cobbett, (Sir) Francis Burdett* and John Horne Tooke*. It seems, however, that he lobbied 200 Members before he could prevail on one (Whitbread) to present a petition to the House stating his grievances. Whitbread, who was duly scolded for it by Lord Howick, did so on 10 Mar. 1807. Fitzpatrick (now secretary at war) claimed that under the new regime the judge advocate could no longer abuse his powers. Two Members admitted to having seen no practical purpose in agreeing to present the petition, but a third seconded its reception, to no effect.6

In 1807 Cochrane Johnstone and his brother George contested Grampound at the instigation of Sir Francis Burdett and ousted the patron (Sir) Christopher Hawkins*. Their nabob brother Basil offered them the security of his purse.7 There was some doubt as to their politics. The Marquess of Buckingham hoped they would act with opposition ‘for I hear that such is their tone’; but other Grenvillites thought that government had secretly supported their election.8 Cochrane Johnstone soon indicated that he was a ‘no party’ man. On 30 June 1807 he drew the House’s attention to the rate of mortality among the troops sent to the West Indies, where he himself had lost half his regiment: ‘to the humanity of the women of colour, many a British officer owed his existence’. He called for investigation by a board of generals. He also wanted abuses in the army clothing department investigated, 2 July. On 7 July he supported his nephew’s motion for the exposure of Members’ places and pensions. Next day he complained that George Galway Mills had become a Member merely to escape his creditors. The same day he moved for an account of the sale of commissions since 1795, not, he insisted, to discredit the Duke of York, but as a check on public money. On 14 July he explained how he would reduce military expenditure by 2 per cent and subsequently embarrassed government by exposing abuses in the West Indies.9 He also moved for the accounts of the army agents, of the officers’ widows’ pensions and of the compassionate list, 20 July. He supported Sheridan’s motion for inquiry into the state of Ireland, 13 Aug. 1807.

Cochrane Johnstone’s zeal in the House was probably intensified by the foreknowledge that he would be unseated on petition for want of the necessary property qualification. So he was in March 1808, but he had by then been at Tortola for several months. He had in April 1806 tried to interest William Windham in a Russian expedition to drive the French out of Guadeloupe and Martinique, and two months later offered to purchase dollars for the government. From Tortola he wrote to Castlereagh, on 15 Nov. 1807, a letter of introduction for Gen. Miranda whose scheme to liberate South America and open it up to British commerce he enthusiastically endorsed. He took up residence at the customs house on the appointment of his brother Alexander, then commander of the Leeward station. It was Lord St. Vincent who said of him and his brothers, ‘The Cochranes are not to be trusted out of sight, they are all mad, romantic, money-getting and not truth-telling—and there is not a single exception in any part of the family’. Cochrane Johnstone was soon charged with defrauding the crown of revenue due from the sale of Danish property on their captured islands, in which he was auctioneer and agent, and with bribing a prize court judge in the process. He was arrested, but released on parole and escaped to England.10

In April 1809 Lord Holland discovered Cochrane Johnstone in Andalusia ‘on a commission from government to forward a speculation of his own by which he is to make according to his own account prodigious sums of money—whether it is a job or not I am sure I do not know but he seems inclined to coax his friend Cobbett into conniving at it’. He apparently obtained a contract to procure muskets for the Spanish junta at 3 guineas apiece; he had them made in Birmingham for 17s. each and duly sailed to Vera Cruz for payment. Arriving there in June 1809, he assisted the British government by shipping 3 million Mexican dollars to England for the Russian service, but could not resist smuggling or drawing large bills on the Treasury without authorization. Moreover he was in receipt of goods from the Spanish colonies in exchange for an order for arms which he never shipped to them. His hopes of gain proved delusive: he invested disastrously in the wool trade between Lisbon and New York, where most of 2,149 merinos shipped by him in the winter of 1810 perished on arrival. His venture was supposed to be pro bono publico, as a bid to prevent Buonaparte from seizing Spain’s merino sheep.11

Cochrane Johnstone’s return to Parliament in July 1812, when his brother George made way for him, was a debtor’s expedient. In the House he spoke on the West India revenues bill, 20 July, and revived one of his subjects of five years before on 29 July when he proposed the replacement of free-booting army agents by a supervised board of agency. If he was a rogue, he was a plausible one. Since June 1811 he had laid siege to William Beckford* with the ostensible view of preventing the mismanagement of the latter’s West Indian estates. Beckford was not deceived and commented, ‘it’s a difficult alchemy to condense his vapours—the confounded, mawkish, pompous braggart’, and prophesied: ‘There’s another person who will not come to a good end’. To Beckford, Cochrane Johnstone confided his ‘Santa Croix speculation’. It involved buying a sugar plantation with 1,600 negroes on it on the former Danish island for £25,000 down, and transferring to it all the negroes on his Dominican plantations. This speculation, he claimed, he ‘certainly would not have entered on ... had I not viewed it as a fund for increasing the fortune of the head of my family—all my views are bent to increase my gallant nephew’s prospects—my daughter is already amply provided for’.12

In the general election of 1812 Cochrane John-stone toyed with the idea of contesting Wendover, was rebuffed at Penryn and fell back on Grampound, where he survived a contest. He was infuriated to discover that the Prince Regent put it about that he was a Treasury nominee, and called for an explanation from McMahon and Charles Arbuthnot. The latter admitted that he had not even applied for government support, though they had not thought of opposing his return; he believed Cochrane Johnstone would be ‘friendly to Government’ and listed him a Treasury supporter. This was perverse. Cochrane Johnstone informed Beckford in October 1812 that the Wellesley-Canning junto was the only ‘set’ he respected and on 3 Dec., in debate, he suggested further public honours for Wellesley’s brother Wellington; but he was neutral on the Catholic question and he remained linked with Burdett, whose Regency motion he supported on 23 Feb., though he ‘showed no inclination to say a word’.13

By then he had already embarrassed the government by giving notice of a motion on the Princess of Wales’s plight. The Prince Regent was sure that it could be turned to his advantage and, as Cochrane Johnstone accommodated government on 26 Feb. by postponing his motion until 4 Mar., those Whigs who wished to make the Princess’s case a party question dismissed him as ‘no friend of hers but only one acting with Carlton House’. On 4 Mar. he postponed the motion until next day, when the gallery was cleared, and then proposed ‘alone and unsolicited’ an investigation of the legality of the commission of 1806 to inquire into the Princess’s conduct. Whitbread had no difficulty in overriding him when he stated the Princess’s case from the opposition’s viewpoint and the proposal was negatived without a division. Cochrane Johnstone then bragged that ‘it was a proud day for him, because it had completely established the innocence of ... the Princess of Wales’. The gallery was again cleared, but ‘half a dozen Members immediately went into it to take notes, and the debate was given to the public more accurately than usual’. Sir Robert Heron, reporting this, assessed the episode:

He is said to have considerable talents, and certainly there appeared no deficiency of them upon his trial before a court martial, but on this occasion, they were not shown. He had been a long time the day before in conversation with Lord Yarmouth; and, for some hours before he brought forward his motion, he was in deep consultation, in the House, with Sir F. Burdett. It was very difficult to guess whether he was friendly or adverse to the Princess, and I am strongly inclined to think, his object was to have been bought off by the Prince. The latter, however, declared himself much pleased with the intended motion, thinking it would effect his object, without his incurring the odium of first agitating the business. The effect of the debate was certainly not favourable to him. Mr Whitbread, in defence of the Princess, exerted a very powerful eloquence. Lord Castlereagh was very weak and much irritated. Ministers are said to be divided on this, as on the Catholic question, Lord Sidmouth’s party being supposed ready to go great lengths to satisfy the Regent, but the House shows the strongest disinclination to assist them in it.

According to Thomas Creevey, Cochrane Johnstone assured Whitbread that Yarmouth, a stranger to him, had ‘made up to him ... with every kind of means to induce him to go on, both assuring him of every promotion, advantage and ... above all of every kind of support from the ministry’. Cochrane Johnstone tried again on 24 Mar., when he sought to discredit the characters of Sir John and Lady Douglas, formerly of the Princess’s household. He was indisposed and was allowed to read his speech, but his motion was thwarted.14 He had been in the minority supporting Creevey’s motion to abolish one of the joint paymasterships of the forces on 8 Mar. His last fling in the House was a set of resolutions in favour of investigating possible frauds by Ordnance agents, 7 July 1813.

Cochrane Johnstone’s next scrape had more serious consequences for him. In February 1814, with his nephew Lord Cochrane, he was implicated in a fraud on the Stock Exchange through the agency of an adventurer named De Berenger, who started a false rumour of Buonaparte’s defeat and death in battle. Stocks at once rose significantly, enabling Cochrane Johnstone to speculate advantageously until the rumour was contradicted. On 22 Mar. he assured the House that he could clear his name. On 23 May, on Whitbread’s motion, he announced that he had nothing to add to what he had said in his own defence in the press and in a pamphlet against the defamatory allegations made by the Stock Exchange committee. He was put on trial in King’s bench in June for conspiracy to defraud, and found guilty, but absconded. When he was expelled the House on 5 July, two Members testified to having seen him at Calais on 21 June. The affair nearly ruined his nephew’s career. He proceeded to Lisbon and thence to the West Indies (January 1815). The government were informed of his movements and warned his brother Alexander not to harbour him. He discovered that his plantations in Dominica had already been sold to satisfy his creditors and failed to recover them by legal action. In 1819 he made a fresh start with a coffee plantation in Demerara, transferring slaves from Dominica; but, henceforward, he was more outwitted than outwitting. In 1829, when a fraudulent claim of his on the French government was exposed, he was resident in Paris. His address in May 1832 was 96 rue du Faubourg St. Honoré. He was dead by 21 Aug. 1833, when an inventory of his effects was compiled.15

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. PRO 30/8/124, ff. 20, 24; 148, ff. 206-9.
  • 2. J. Wilson, Biog. Index (1808), 247.
  • 3. A. McKenrot, Secret Mems. of the Hon. Andrew Cochrane Johnstone (1814).
  • 4. Parl. Deb. v. 648, 762.
  • 5. SRO GD51/1/195/8, 18.
  • 6. Fortescue mss; Prince of Wales Corresp. v. 2171, 2228; Bodl. Eng. Hist. b. 200, f. 45; Add. 22906, f. 183; Pol. Reg. 5 July, 9, 23, 30 Aug., 13 Sept. 1806; Whitbread mss W1/4849.
  • 7. Bodl. Eng. Hist. b. 197, ff. 63-66.
  • 8. Fortescue mss, Fremantle to Grenville, 18 May; Fremantle mss, Buckingham to Fremantle [31 May 1807].
  • 9. Perceval (Holland) mss 14, f. 1.
  • 10. Add. 37883, ff. 199, 201; Wickham mss 5/57, Cochrane Johnstone to Wickham, Mon. [1806]; Castlereagh Corresp. vii. 405; Grey mss, St. Vincent to Howick, 19 July 1806; McKenrot, 19-27.
  • 11. Fortescue mss, Holland to Grenville, 24 Apr.; NLW mss 2790, H. to Lady C. Williams Wynn, 23 Apr. 1809; Melville, Cobbett, ii. 36; NLS mss 2264, ff. 87-108; 9049, ff. 13-38; Add. 38737, f. 360; 38833, f. 260; 45042, f. 124.
  • 12. B. Alexander, Life of Fonthill, 100, 119, 124; Beckford mss, Cochrane Johnstone to Beckford, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 29 Oct., 9, 14, 23 Nov. 1812.
  • 13. Fortescue mss, Carrington to Grenville, 8 Oct. 1812; Geo. IV Letters, i. 183, 241.
  • 14. Colchester, ii. 423; Fortescue mss, Fremantle to Grenville, 26 Feb., Williams Wynn to same, 6 Mar.; Manchester Coll. Oxf. Shepherd mss, Creevey to Rev. Shepherd, 10 Mar. 1813; Letters of Princess Charlotte, 60; Brougham mss 10348, 18533; Heron, Notes (1851), 11-12; Colchester, ii. 433.
  • 15. Colchester, ii. 508; NLS mss 2265, ff. 81, 83; 9049, ff. 57-170.