GORDON, Cosmo (c.1736-1800), of Cluny, Aberdeen, and Kinsteary, Nairn.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1774 - Mar. 1777

Family and Education

b. c.1736, 1st s. of John Gordon of Cluny, Aberdeen. educ. Marischal Coll. Aberdeen 1749-53; adv. 1758. m. 30 June 1786, Mary, da. of Henry Baillie of Carnbroe, Lanark, s.p. suc. fa. 14 Sept. 1769.

Offices Held

Baron of the Scottish court of Exchequer 1777-d.; trustee for fisheries and manufactures in Scotland 1778; rector Marischal Coll. 1782-3, 1786-7.


Gordon’s father was factor to Cosmo George, 3rd Duke of Gordon, and, as tacksman (or lessee) of the Spey salmon fishings, amassed a fortune with which he purchased the estate and castle of Cluny. In 1763 the Kinsteary estate was sold to Cosmo Gordon for £4,200 by its bankrupt owners whose electoral interest in Nairnshire was finally extinguished in 1772.1 In 1774 Gordon stood for the county with the support of old John Campbell of Calder, to whom the principal interest belonged. Opposed by William (Johnstone) Pulteney, sitting Member for Cromarty (which alternated with Nairn in representation), Gordon was returned by 11 votes to 2, and Pulteney’s petition was subsequently dropped.

In Parliament he supported North’s American policy, and in the debate of 2 Feb. 1775 spoke strongly ‘against any compromise or lenient measures with America till she entirely submitted’.2In the debate, 3 Nov. 1775, on the ministry’s action during the recess in sending Hanoverian troops to garrison Gibraltar and Minorca, he asserted that the measure was certainly illegal, but condemned Sir James Lowther’s motion as an ‘abstract proposition’ which might ‘carry too severe a censure upon an act which he was convinced was well meant and very expedient’. He suggested that the question of illegality might be emphasized by altering the terms of the preamble to the indemnity bill introduced by North, and accordingly moved the previous question. Burke ridiculed his argument: ‘The Hon. Member knew the measure was illegal yet he would vote in favour of it ... it is an argument of the majority’. But, when the Commons majority allowed no alteration in the preamble, and when the Lords entirely rejected the bill, Gordon ‘condemned the conduct of the minister, respecting the indemnity bill and disapproved of introducing foreigners into the dominions ... without the consent of Parliament’.3 Retaining, how