GORDON, Sir John, 2nd Bt. (?1707-83), of Invergordon, Cromarty.
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Family and Education
b. ?1707, 1st s. of Sir William Gordon, M.P., 1st Bt., of Invergordon by Isobel, da. of Sir John Hamilton, S.C.J., of Hallcraig, Lanark. m. (1) Miss Raines (d. 20 Aug. 1729), gd.-da. of Sir Richard Raines, s.p.; (2) 18 Feb. 1739, Mary Weir, ?his cos., wid. of Hon. George Ogilvie, s.p. suc. fa. 9 June 1742.
Sec. for Scottish affairs to the Prince of Wales 1745-51; sec. and chamberlain to the principality of Scotland 1753- d.
Gordon’s father was a London-Scottish merchant and banker, owning considerable property in Sutherland, Ross and Cromarty, but who afterwards fell into financial difficulties. John Gordon, on his father’s death, succeeded to his seat and his close connexion with the Prince of Wales. On the Prince’s death he attached himself to the Pelhams, who obtained for him a place.
In 1754 he was returned for Cromarty, apparently unopposed, and also took an active and aggressive part in the Ross-shire election, in support of James Stuart Mackenzie. Listed ‘pro’ by Dupplin, he sought further favours.1 Although, during the negotiations of 1757, Gordon was listed by Newcastle among his Scots supporters, he voted 2 May 1757 against Newcastle on the Minorca inquiry; and as his finances improved, showed his true colours. In October 1757 he recorded in his diary:
Thank God I still have between £800 and £900 per annum, subject to a debt only of about £7000, besides the salary of my office ... I [am] now able to stand against ministerial close fistedness for [I am] not obliged to be equal dependent as formerly when my situation subjected [me] to slights at their hands ... Disgustful to be always soliciting ... The cloud of private anxieties is now wearing off. I could stir in business if encouraged ... I [am] said to be losing ground; not to be well in the closet ... My sole connexion and attachment are to the Prince’s family. I owe them much, though I have also suffered much by ’em.
Gordon maintained friendly relations with the Hardwicke family. In April 1758, during the debates on the habeas corpus bill, he wrote to Philip Yorke proposing a review of Scots law affecting the liberty of the subject. Hardwicke consulted Lord Advocate Robert Dundas, who replied, 16 Nov. 1758, listing his objections:
But as I am well informed that Sir John said in a pretty remarkable place that he etc. etc. were resolved to push it this session of Parliament, my intention is to prepare to defend against attack, particularly in concert with our president and some other of the judges.
In June 1760 Gordon again showed his active interest in law when he submitted papers to Hardwicke on the rights of vassals of the principality of Scotland.2
In preparation for the general election Gordon began his campaign for Tain Burghs against Sir Harry Munro in 1757. The real contest, however, lay between Colonel John Scott and Gordon, who after violent controversy was defeated but continued the battle in the courts. His election lawsuits were still before the House of Lords in 1766,3 by which time Gordon was engaged in an equally bitter and unsuccessful campaign to carry Cromarty in 1768 against William (Johnstone) Pulteney. An opponent wrote on 10 June 1768: ‘Sir John ... has almost mined himself by the immense expense he has run into, litigating every point with Mr. Pulteney.’4
Embittered and cantankerous, pursuing his personal and political opponents with violent abuse and frequent lawsuits, Gordon never succeeded in re-entering Parliament, but remained extremely active in the affairs of Ross and Cromarty, and in 1780 had the satisfaction of assisting Henry Dundas to secure the return for Ross-shire of his nephew John Mackenzie, Lord Macleod, whom he had made his heir.
He died 25 May 1783.
Ref Volumes: 1754-1790
Author: Edith Lady Haden-Guest
- 1. Gordon’s diary, J. M. Bulloch, Gordons of Invergordon, 87.