Military Governors and Imperial Frontiers c. 1600-1800: A Study of Scotland and Empires

By A. Mackillop; Steve Murdoch | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX
GABRIEL JOHNSTON AND THE PORTABILITY OF
PATRONAGE IN THE EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY NORTH
ATLANTIC WORLD
Tim Hanson

Lowlander Gabriel Johnston's gubernatorial administration lasted from November 1734 until his death on 17 July 1752 and, as such, was the longest tenure of any of North Carolina's royal governors. Johnston was born ca. 1698 in Southdean, Scotland, to Reverend Samuel and Isobel Hall Johnston, who were probable descendants of the Elsieshields branch of the Johnstons of Annandale [See Map 1]. Johnston's father was the minister for the Church of Scotland in Southdean. While Gabriel was still a child Reverend Johnston took a similar position in Dundee. For four years starting in 1711 Gabriel studied at the University of Edinburgh. In 1717 he entered the University of St. Andrews as a divinity student, graduating with a Master of Arts degree per supplicationem in 1720. Johnston held the Patrick Yeaman Bursay Chair while at St. Andrews. In 1721 he began attending the University of Leiden with the intent to study medicine, but only a month into his studies he applied for a patent to teach Hebrew at St. Andrews. A royal appointment in 1722 allowed him to occupy the chair of Hebrew at St. Andrews. In 1724 he was made Burgess and Guild Brother (gratis) of the city of Glasgow.

Johnston's ambitions and career interests, however, propelled him out of academia, and in 1727 he left St. Andrews to pursue political opportunities in London. For the next seven years Johnston would live in the household of his benefactor, Spencer Compton, 1st Lord Wilmington—President of the Privy Council—through whom he developed acquaintances with 'the Earl of Bath, Lord Anson, the Bishop of Worcester and a great many other Persons of Distinction'.1 Johnston's primary occupation in London was as a political writer

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1
NCCR (New York: 1968) 4, 935.

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