JOHNSON, Sir Henry (c.1659-1719), of Blackwall, Mdx. and Friston, Suff.
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Family and Education
b. c.1659, 1st s. of Henry Johnson, and bro. of William Johnson. m. (1) 20 May 1686, Anne, da. and h. of Hugh Smithson, Haberdasher, of Old Exchange Precincts, London, 1da.; (2) 11 Mar. 1693, Martha (d. 18 July 1745), suo jure Baroness Wentworth, da. and h. of John Lovelace, 3rd Baron Lovelace of Hurley, s.p. suc. fa. 1683; kntd. Mar. 1685.1
Capt. of militia ft. Tower Hamlets by 1683, col. by Aug. 1688-at least 1697; j.p. Mdx. 1685-7, 1689-d., Berks. 1695-d., Suff. by 1701-d.; committee E.I. Co. 1684-91, 1698-1702; dep. master of shipwrights’ co. Rotherhithe 1686; commr. for encroachments, Tower of London 1686; assessment, Mdx., Suff. and Aldeburgh 1689-90; dep. lt. Tower Hamlets 1689-?d., Mdx. 1692-?d., Berks. and Oxon. 1702-?d., elder bro. Trinity House 1700-d., master 1707-9; commr. for sewers, Tower Hamlets 1712.2
Johnson negotiated his first contract to build a ship for the East India Company when still under age. ‘An ingenious young gentleman’, according to Samuel Pepys, he was nevertheless ‘above all personal labour’ and ‘too well provided for to work much’. With this last comment Johnson would have strongly disagreed, evading all his life so far as he could the charitable bequests in his father’s will. Roger L’Estrange described him in 1683 as a disciple of Ferguson the plotter, apparently confusing him with his neighbour Thomas Johnson of Mile End, subsequently Whig candidate for Middlesex. In fact Johnson was a Tory and a churchman, knighted by James II in 1685, and removed from local office two years later. In addition to the Blackwall yard which he had inherited, he owned shares in 38 merchant ships and held £3,675 East India stock at the Revolution. Nothing but the threat of a quo warranto could shake his interest at Aldeburgh, where he had ‘almost revived the town by building three half-parts of fishing vessels (when all their shipping was lost) and adventuring them to sea with the principal of the townsmen’. As colonel of the Tower Hamlets militia during the Revolution he was responsible for conveying Judge Jeffreys to the safety of his last earthly lodging.3
Johnson and his brother represented Aldeburgh in the Convention and its 11 succeeding Parliaments. A moderately active Member, he voted to agree with the House of Lords that the throne was not vacant, and was appointed to 14 committees. He was the first Member named on 20 Mar. 1689 to the committee to prepare defence estimates for times of peace, and he was among those entrusted with repealing the Corporations Act and inquiring into exactions by customs officials and the affairs of the East India Company. In November, after the recess, he was appointed to three more committees of inquiry, into the expenses of the war, the administration of martial law on St. Helena, and the activities of the press gang. When it was proposed to remove Sir Richard Haddock from the victualling office, Johnson declared, in his only recorded speech:
I believe the navy will stand still without Sir Richard Haddock, he is a man so conversant in the affairs of the navy. You have been offered security for his appearance. He was against the dispensing power and was turned out by King James.
Johnson remained a Tory after 1690, though he signed the Association in 1696. After his second marriage he resided chiefly on the Wentworth estates in the south Midlands. He died of gout at Bath on 29 Sept. 1719, aged 60, and was buried in the Wentworth vault at Toddington, though in a manner sufficient to distinguish his common clay from the remains of his noble kinsmen. His vast wealth and interest were inherited by his son-in-law, the 1st Earl of Strafford of the second creation.4
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Author: Paula Watson
- 1. East Anglian, iii. 198; Add. 22187. f. 96; J. R. Woodhead, Rulers of London, 153.
- 2. CSP Dom. July-Sept. 1683, p. 49; 1686-7, p. 21; Eg. 1626, f. 60; Add. 22187, ff. 116, 127; Mdx. RO, MJP/CP5a; information from Henry Horwitz; SP44/165/305; Cal. Treas. Bks. viii. 533; HMC Townshend, 211.
- 3. Cal. Ct. Mins. E.I. Co. ed. Sainsbury, x. 314; Cat. Pepysian Mss (Navy Recs. Soc. xxvi), 78; Lysons, Environs, iii. 470; CSP Dom. July-Sept. 1683, pp. 49, 125; Econ. Hist. Rev. ii. 263; Add. 22185, f. 14; E. Suss. RO, Winterton mss, Godfrey to Turnor, 3 Dec. 1688; Add. 22183, f. 140.
- 4. Add. 22185, f. 14; Grey, ix. 445; Wentworth Pprs. 280; W. C. Hutton, Fam. of Wentworth, 137.