Johnstone, James (1719-1800?) (DNB00)

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JOHNSTONE, JAMES, Chevalier de Johnstone (1719–1800?), Jacobite, was son of James Johnston or Johnstone, a merchant at Edinburgh, where he was born in 1719. In 1738 he visited his uncles, Hewitt and General Douglas, in Russia, but his father objected to his idea of entering the Russian service. In 1745, against the will of his father, though the latter was a Jacobite, he joined the Young Pretender at Perth, was aide-de-camp to Lord George Murray, and acted also in that capacity to the prince, with whom he remained till the defeat at Culloden. A dream that he was at Edinburgh, and was relating his adventures to Lady Jean Douglas (who was distantly related to his mother, and had always been kind to him), induced him to change his purpose of concealing himself in the mountains. He accordingly made his way, not without hairbreadth escapes, to Edinburgh, had secret interviews with his father, was concealed for two months in Lady Jean's house, ultimately reached London, stayed there some time, and eventually embarked at Harwich for Holland, in the guise of servant to Lady Jean. Hearing that Charles Edward had got safely to Paris, Johnstone went thither at the end of 1746, in the hope of joining a second expedition. In 1749 he received 2,200 livres out of the forty thousand livres assigned by the French court to Jacobite refugees. In the following year he became ensign in the French marines, and after a narrow escape from shipwreck reached Louisbourg. In 1751 he returned to France, went back to Louisbourg in 1752, and was promoted lieutenant in 1754. On the capture of Louisbourg by the English he escaped to Canada, was aide-de-camp to Lévis, superintended the entrenchments at Quebec, and on Lévis's departure for Montreal became aide-de-camp to Montcalm. On the capitulation of Quebec and the evacuation of Canada by the French he went back to France, General Murray, the English commander, generously ignoring his real nationality. Disgust at juniors being promoted over his head seems to have deterred Johnstone from seeking further employment. He obtained a pension, ultimately fixed at 1,485 livres, seems to have resigned himself to an inactive life, and apparently held no communication with his family. His parents, moreover, and his sister Cicely, wife of the sixth Lord Rollo, had died. His pension was cut down by Terray's financial expedients, and the revolution led to its being suspended or annulled. In 1791 he petitioned the assembly, which voted him five hundred livres, on the ground of his age and of his having ‘lost all his property in Scotland;’ albeit he intimates in his book that his father, contrary to expectation, left little or nothing. The Colonial Archives at Paris contain several of his petitions about his pension and the cross of St. Louis, eventually conferred on him, but do not show the date of his death.

In 1820 Messrs. Longman purchased from the Chevalier Watson (evidently Robert Watson (d. 1838), secretary to Lord George Gordon, and afterwards president of the Scots College, Paris) a French manuscript, in which Johnstone related his adventures in 1745 and in Canada. Watson seems to have represented that the manuscript was deposited by Johnstone at the Scots College, but he may have received it direct from Johnstone, as they were distantly related by marriage. The chapters respecting 1745 were published in 1820, under the title of ‘History of the Rebellion of 1745–46, translated from a French Manuscript originally deposited in the Scots College at Paris.’ The book went through three editions. The manuscript was afterwards bought by John Leslie of Powis, great-grandson of Jean Johnstone, Johnstone's younger sister, and his brother, Mr. Hugh Fraser Leslie, allowed Mr. Charles Winchester, advocate, Aberdeen, to publish in 1870 a fresh translation of the entire memoirs, including the Canadian portion. The original manuscript was lent by W. Campbell Maclean, esq., to the Stuart Exhibition in 1889. The work, evidently written late in life, but prior to the French revolution, is entertaining, although too full of trite reflections. It is unsparing in its criticisms on Charles Edward and his advisers.

[Johnstone's Hist. of Rebellion; Colonial Archives, Paris; Archives Parlementaires, xxxi. 39; Livre Rouge (Pension List), 1790; Douglas's Peerage of Scotland.]

J. G. A.