GORDON, James (?1758-1822), of Moor Place, Much Hadham, Herts.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



31 Jan. 1785 - 1790
1790 - 1796
27 Jan. 1808 - 1812

Family and Education

b. ?1758 in Antigua, o.s. of James Brebner (afterwards Gordon), c.j. of the Ceded Islands (1767), by Anne, da. of William Lavington, judge, of Antigua. educ. Winchester ?1768: St. John’s, Camb. 13 Oct. 1775, aged 17; L. Inn 1775, called 1780. m. 10 July 1789, Harriet, da. of Samuel Whitbread I*, 1s. suc. fa. 1807.

Offices Held


Gordon, whose father had practised as a barrister in Antigua before succeeding to his uncle’s estates and name, entered Parliament as a supporter of Pitt. He came in for Truro on Lord Falmouth’s interest. From 1789, with the Duke of Gordon’s backing, he was pressing for an under-secretaryship and Pitt gave him some encouragement.1 Later, hearing that Pitt ‘thought of one of the boards’ for him, he wrote to him:

If it was one tenable with a seat in Parliament, I thought it too considerable for that purpose, and as I had been desired to mention a pension on hearing nothing of the first place that I expected, I did it, and it is now more than a year I mentioned to you that mode of doing it, and I hoped from what you said it would not have been long before it was obtained.2

Gordon wrote to Pitt again on 3 Apr. 1794 thanking him for ‘the favour’ which had been done him: ‘To myself it is certainly much more desirable than holding any place on such conditions’.3 He had been listed ‘doubtful’ on the Test Act repeal question in April 1791, but had acted as teller against the Birmingham petition for reform, 2 May 1793. On 26 Jan. 1795 he voted in the minority for Wilberforce’s amendment on the question of peace; but on 10 June he was government teller for the Austrian loan. Although he owned more than 1,400 acres in Antigua and neighbouring islands,4 there is no record of his voting on the slave trade. He did not secure a seat, though desirous of one, at the following general election.5

When he returned to the Commons it was as a personal follower of John Cust*, when he succeeded to the Brownlow peerage in 1807, brought in Gordon as his replacement. No speech by him is known; but he voted assiduously with government against the Scheldt inquiry, January-March 1810, against parliamentary reform, 21 May 1810, on the Regency, 1 Jan. 1811, and against sinecure reform, 4 May 1812. Perceval’s death ended Gordon’s parliamentary career. From about 1796 until about 1814 he was a practising barrister, of New Court in the Inner Temple. He died 18 Feb. 1822. It was later alleged that he had ‘cut his throat’.6

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: M. H. Port


  • 1. PRO 30/8/139, f. 98.
  • 2. Ibid. f. 102 (dated only 2 May, but prob. 1793).
  • 3. Ibid. f. 100.
  • 4. V. L. Oliver, Antigua, ii. 27.
  • 5. PRO 30/8/197, ff. 247, 248.
  • 6. Add. 40399, f. 310.