JOHNSTONE, Sir Patrick (d. 1736), of Edinburgh

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1707 - 1708
25 Nov. 1709 - 1713

Family and Education

Yr. s. of Joseph Johnstone of Hilton, Berwicks., by Mary, da. of Sir Robert Douglas of Blackerstone, Berwicks.  m. 19 June 1684, ?Margaret Kynneir, 6s. 2da.  Kntd. by 1702.1

Offices Held

Burgess, Edinburgh 1684, merchant councillor 1694, bailie 1695, 1699, baron bailie (Canongate) 1696, provost 1700–2, 1704–6, 1708–10; burgess, Canongate 1697.2

MP [S] Edinburgh 1702–7.

PC [S] 1700–2, 1704–6; commr. union with England 1702, 1706; Equivalent [S] 1707–15.


Johnstone, a younger son of a minor Berwickshire laird, was apprenticed to an Edinburgh merchant in 1677 and became a burgess in 1684. He was elected to the town council in 1694, and was assessed at 10,000 merks under the Edinburgh poll tax of the same year. Having been first appointed to the magistracy in 1695, Johnstone rose to the provostship five years later. In accordance with the rule that no provost could serve for more than two years consecutively he resigned in 1702, but was twice re-elected (in 1704 and 1708). Johnstone entered the Scottish parliament in 1702, where he proved a loyal supporter of the Court. He was appointed to the union commission in 1706, not simply as a mark of personal favour, but also as a placatory gesture towards the capital’s governing body. Johnstone succeeded in obtaining important concessions for Edinburgh, such as the continuation of the ale duty; and the majority of the council was persuaded that union with England was necessary. The populace remained unconvinced, however, and vented its frustration on Johnstone. In October 1706 his house was attacked by the mob, ‘who threw stones at his windows, broke open his doors and searched his house for him, but he having narrowly made his escape prevented his being torn in a thousand pieces’. In parliament Johnstone voted the Court line with some curious exceptions, opposing the ministry over drawbacks, the preservation of Scots law, and the arrangements for parliamentary representation at Westminster. These wayward votes probably amounted to the registering of token dissatisfaction on behalf of the council rather than his own strong personal opinions. As a reward for supporting the Union he was put on the Court slate of Scottish representatives to the first Parliament of Great Britain and appointed to the Equivalent commission.3

On 19 Nov. 1707 Johnstone presented a petition to the House from Scottish merchants complaining of the English failure to live up to promises of free trade under the Union, specifically that goods imported into Scotland prior to 1 May were being seized when carried into England. Johnstone’s concern for Scottish economic interests was also evident in his management of a bill to regulate linen manufacture until it was left to languish in committee. He was also involved in the drafting of another measure relating to Scottish economic interests, a bill to encourage the salmon fishery (2 Feb. 1708).4

Johnstone did not stand for re-election in 1708, giving way to Sir Samuel MacClellan, the current provost of Edinburgh. It soon became clear that ill-health might force MacClellan to retire from Parliament and that Johnstone would be the most likely replacement. His political importance was confirmed by re-election to the provostship in September. After MacClellan’s death a year later, Johnstone stood unopposed at the parliamentary by-election. In January 1710 he reported that he had obtained an exemption from the coal tax and a reduction in the window tax, both of which would benefit Edinburgh. His desire to support the ministry and his own Presbyterian convictions led him to vote for the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell. In March 1710 he was possessed of £2,000 of Bank of England stock, to qualify as a director. At his re-election in 1710 Johnstone was classified as a Whig by Richard Dongworth, the Duchess of Buccleuch’s episcopalian chaplain. The defeated candidate Henry Hamilton, who was reputed a ‘Court Tory’, petitioned against the return. During the uncertain period between the first presentation of this petition in December 1710 and its resolution in favour of Johnstone 15 months later, both he and Hamilton appeared on different parliamentary lists. Johnstone was classified as a ‘worthy patriot’ who exposed the mismanagements of the previous administration, but his known activities flatly contradict this assessment. He was active on behalf of the Edinburgh magistracy in its legal battle with James Greenshields, the episcopalian minister whose imprisonment by Edinburgh magistrates was made a cause célèbre by the Tories. And Johnstone, who was on good terms with Robert Walpole II*, gave clear proof of his Whig credentials by voting on 7 Dec. 1711 for the ‘No Peace without Spain’ motion. On 21 Jan. 1712 he ‘vigorously opposed’ the introduction of the Scottish toleration bill and, out of the House, assisted the Presbyterian divine, William Carstares, in attempts to have the bill stopped by ministerial influence. He duly voted against its passage on 7 Feb. It was reported in March that Johnstone was ‘heartily glad’ to have pleased the Kirk by his conduct, for he was ‘resolved neither to act contrary to his own conscience or to the opinion of our Scots ministers, who, he believes, are heartily for the interest and honour of our country’. He told against Scottish Tory interests on 13 Mar. over the re-committal of the controverted election for Anstruther Easter Burghs, and received on the same day confirmation of his own right to sit for Edinburgh. His concern for Scottish trading interests overcame party feeling, however, in his appointment on 22 Mar. to assist the Scottish Tory George Yeaman in the drafting of a linen bill, which, unlike Johnstone’s earlier initiative, passed into law. He was also active in seeking financial aid for the construction of a new dock at Leith, but despite favourable audiences with ministers and the Queen, was unable to obtain satisfaction. He presented several loyal addresses on the peace from Edinburgh and the convention of royal burghs, all strongly supportive of the Hanoverian succession. He does not appear to have taken a prominent part during the 1713 session in the campaign to dissolve the Union in the wake of the malt tax crisis, although urged to do so by his constituents. He failed to vote on 4 June against the French commerce bill, but did so on 18 June, being also listed as a Whig. Johnstone did not stand in 1713 nor subsequently, and died on 7 Sept. 1736. His eldest son, Patrick, followed him in trade but did not aspire to a political career.5

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: David Wilkinson


  • 1. Retours of Heirs, i. Berwicks. 326, 415; Scot. Rec. Soc. xxi. 30; xxvii. 366; lxxxii. 51; Hist. Scot. Parl. 384.
  • 2. Scot. Rec. Soc. lix. 279; lxxxiii. 36; Extracts Edinburgh Recs. 1689–1701, pp. 158, 182, 207, 270, 289; 1701–18, pp. 91, 163.
  • 3. M. Wood, Ld. Provosts of Edinburgh, 57–58; info. from Dr P. W. J. Riley on members of Scot. parl.; Boyer, Anne Annals, iii. app. 43; Edinburgh Recs. 1701–18, pp. 118–19, 133, 363; P. W. J. Riley, Union, 283, 331; Lockhart Mems. ed. Szechi, 78, 118, 143; Intimate Soc. Letters of 18th Cent. ed. Duke of Argyll, i. 51; P. W. J. Riley, Eng. Ministers and Scotland, 209.
  • 4. SRO, Mar and Kellie mss GD124/15/510/7, John to James Erskine, 20 Nov. 1707.
  • 5. Folger Shakespeare Lib. Newdigate newsletter 17 June 1708; Huntington Lib. Stowe mss 53(4), p. 196; Egerton 3359 (unfol.); Christ Church, Oxf. Wake mss 17, f. 268; G. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne, 233; Edinburgh Recs. 1701–18, pp. 186, 191, 198, 206, 219, 235, 364, 366–8; NLS, Advocates’ mss, Wodrow pprs. letters Quarto 6, ff. 94, 144; Scots Courant, 6–8 Aug. 1712, 13–15 May 1713; Parlty. Hist. i. 138; Hist. Scot. Parl. 384.