JOHNSTONE, Sir John Lowther, 6th Bt. (1783-1811), of Westerhall, Dumfries.
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Family and Education
b. 1783, o.s. of George Johnstone† of Taplow, Bucks., 4th s. of Sir James Johnstone, 3rd Bt.†, of Westerhall, Dumfries by Charlotte, da. of James Dee of Lisbon. m. 14 Jan. 1804, Charlotte, da. of Charles Gordon of Cluny, Aberdeen, 1s. 2da. suc. fa. 1787; uncle (Sir) William Pulteney* as 6th Bt. 30 May 1805.
Ensign 2 Ft. Gds. 1800, lt. half-pay 1802, lt. and capt. 1804; capt. 21 Ft. 1804; ret. 1806.
Johnstone was four when his father died. According to his aunt Miss Dee, ‘Jackey’ was ‘stout and well and merry; happily for him he is too young to know the magnitude of his loss’. Sure that his only legitimate son would ultimately inherit Westerhall from his childless uncle William, Johnstone’s father made substantial provision for his natural sons in India and left his lawful heir £200 per annum, with the injunction that from the age of six he should be educated in Scotland as befitted the heir to an ancient estate in Dumfriesshire. At Edinburgh ‘Jock’ prepared for university with a tutor.1
In 1800 he became an ensign in the Coldstream Guards. In London he got in with a ‘bad set’. In February 1802 when he was ill at Edinburgh, the Duke of Cumberland took a keen interest in his welfare and induced Richard Vyse* to make him his aide-de-camp. He got into a scrape and in June 1802, when he was ordered to his regiment in London, left debts of over £10,000 in Edinburgh. In London he behaved no better, associating with blackguards and absconding to Scotland. The duke washed his hands of Johnstone, who promised to mend his ways and for a time resumed his military career.2
A year after his marriage he succeeded to his uncle William’s baronetcy and Dumfriesshire estate. On the strength of this he gave up the army and contested the ensuing county election (1806), ‘vigorously’ supported by Lord Grenville whose administration he backed; but he was defeated. He then hoped to come in for Dumfries Burghs, or to purchase an English borough. In 1807, after promising to try the county again, he offered himself instead at Taunton, but withdrew.3 In 1808 he inherited from his aunt the Countess of Bath the patronage of Weymouth and, after giving a dinner to the corporation, took a house there.4 At the next vacancy he was returned there unopposed. Johnstone died 24 Dec. 1811, aged 28, before he could make any mark in public life. No speech by him is known, but he voted with the opposition majority of 1 Jan. 1811 on Lord Gower’s amendment to the Regency proposals, and again with the opposition on Ponsonby’s motion amending the Household clause of the same, 21 Jan. In his will he named four trustees for the Weymouth estate who were to be also guardians of his children: the Duke of Cumberland; Charles Herbert Pierrepont*, Viscount Newark; David Cathcart, advocate; and Masterton Ure*.5
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
- 1. C. L. Johnstone, Hist. of Johnstone (1909), 242; Hickey Mems. ed. Spencer, ii. 380, gives a racier account.
- 2. Bucks. RO, Howard Vyse mss B/32/23-43, 52-55.
- 3. Fortescue mss, Grenville to Lauderdale, 25 Oct.; Blair Adam mss, Johnstone to Gibson, 4 Dec., Gibson to Adam, 10 Dec.; Edinburgh Advertiser, 8-11 Apr. 1806, 21-24 Apr.; Som. RO, SAS/TN160/1, address 3 May 1807.
- 4. Fortescue mss, Cuninghame to Grenville, 18 Aug. 1808.
- 5. Gent. Mag. (1811), ii. 660; PCC 228 Oxford.