MACKENZIE, John Randoll (c.1763-1809), of Suddie, Black Isle, Ross.
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Family and Education
b. c.1763, 2nd but o. surv. s. of William Mackenzie of Suddie by Margaret, da. of Sir Alexander Mackenzie, 5th Bt., of Coul. unm.
2nd lt. Marines 1778, 1st lt. and adj. 1780; capt. 78 Ft. 1793, maj. 1794, lt.-col. 1796-d.; maj. Ross and Cromarty fencible inf. 1800, brevet col. 1801; maj.-gen.
Gov. Alderney Aug.-Oct. 1806.
Mackenzie began his military career in the marines, commanded by his uncle John Mackenzie. He served in India and in 1787 was introduced by his uncle Norman Macleod* to Lord Cornwallis, as he reported to his mother:
Colonel Macleod immediately urged his lordship in my behalf, and I hope and have some reason to think not in vain, but as his lordship is very cautious, I can only indulge myself in ideas, and I have been taught from a little experience not to buoy myself up on vain appearances.1
He derived no apparent benefit from his recommendation to the governor-general and returned to England in about 1792. His father had settled Suddie on him in 1790, and on his uncle’s death in 1791 he had ‘succeeded to some personal fortune’. Writing to his sister from Chatham, 5 Dec. 1792, he observed:
We have heard much in this country of the disaffected spirit of Scotland, and the violent republican spirit that has spread among them in imitation of the French. I hope in God this may not be true, for although I have no dread of foreign wars, yet the idea of civil commotions at home is dreadful. In this country the spirit of commotion is I am afraid too much spread, and disturbances seem very much to be dreaded, while our ministry are taking every step to suppress them, and I hope they will be attended with success.2
In 1793, Mackenzie obtained a commission in the 78th Foot, raised by his kinsman and friend Francis Mackenzie*, later Lord Seaforth. He served at the Cape and later in India, but on the cessation of hostilities there returned home in 1801 ‘in the hope of finding more active employment in Europe’. His chagrin on discovering that peace had been concluded with France was intensified when he heard of the outbreak of the second Mahrattan war, but he was unable to arrange a return to India. He joined the northern staff in 1803, took command of the militia in the five northern counties of Scotland the following year and served briefly as governor of Alderney in 1806, before returning north to take up staff duties at Dunbar.3
In 1802 he found himself at odds with Seaforth, then in Barbados, over the question of his responsibility for financial losses occasioned by his failure to complete recruitment of a second battalion of the 78th, but the dispute seems to have been settled amicably.4 In 1806, Seaforth put him up for Tain Burghs, where he had an electoral pact with Lord and Lady Stafford, and he was returned after a contest. Early in 1807 William Adam listed him among ‘friends of govt. unconnected with Lord Melville’ and he apparently supported the ‘Talents’. Although he was not in the original list of the minority who voted for Brand’s motion condemning the ministerial pledge, 9 Apr., it was said in the Morning Chronicle of 15 Apr. that he had been omitted in error. Yet in the Chronicle’s list of Members returned who were considered adverse to the Portland government, 22 June 1807, he was placed among those who had not voted on Brand’s or Lyttelton’s motions. It is nevertheless clear that he did go into opposition on the fall of the ‘Talents’. Seaforth, who took a contrary line, endorsed him with extreme reluctance at the 1807 election, when the Staffords retained him in the seat, and on 11 June William Maxwell II* told Lord Howick that he was one of the Scottish opposition Members who should be pressed to attend the meeting of Parliament.5 He was present to vote for Whitbread’s censure motion, 6 July 1807. Lady Stafford wrote to him, 31 Dec. 1807:
I am sorry I must plague you by pressing you to come to town for the meeting, but it is unavoidable ... I should think as you have been so long with your command that nothing could be said on that score for which parliamentary duty is not a sufficient excuse, and even a superior duty.6
The military authorities grudgingly granted Mackenzie leave of absence and he attended to vote against government on the Copenhagen expedition, 8 Feb., and the orders in council and Giffard’s appointment, 3 Mar. 1808. He is not known to have spoken in the House. In May 1808 the Staffords returned him for Sutherland, where the former Member had vacated because of political differences with them.
Immediately afterwards Mackenzie was transferred to the eastern staff and ordered to prepare for foreign service. He was given command of a brigade in the Peninsula where he served until he was killed at Talavera, 28 July 1809, ‘in or about his 47th year’. His obituary described him as ‘a zealous, steady, cool soldier; a mild and most friendly man’.7 His estates devolved on his widowed sister, by whose second marriage they passed to the Mackenzies of Scatwell.