GORDON, James Adam (1791-1854), of Naish House, Wraxall, Som. and Moor Place, Much Hadham, Herts.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press



1830 - 1831
25 Feb. 1832 - 1832

Family and Education

b. 16 Apr. 1791, o.s. of James Gordon† of Moor Place and Harriet, da. of Samuel Whitbread I† of Bedwell Park, Beds. educ. Harrow 1805; St. John’s, Camb. 1809. m. 24 Sept. 1832,1 Emma Katherine, da. of V.-Adm. Thomas Wolley of Clifton, Bristol, s.p. suc. fa. 1822. d. 4 Mar. 1854.

Offices Held

Sheriff, Som. 1830-1; recorder, Tregony 1830.


Gordon’s family had made their fortune in the West Indies in the eighteenth century and purchased plantations there and landed estates in England. On the death of his father (a Tory Member despite his marriage to a sister of the advanced Whig Samuel Whitbread) in 1822, he inherited property in Somerset and Hertfordshire, while the personalty, which was sworn under £100,000, was sold in order to purchase more land in England. A survey of his West Indian inheritance in 1824 showed that he owned 885 acres (with 460 slaves) in Antigua, 421 acres in St. Vincent and 112 in St. Kitt’s.2 He became laird of Knockspock and Terpersie, Aberdeenshire, in succession to a cousin in 1836.3 At the general election of 1826 he offered for Tregony against the interest of the Whig patron, the 3rd earl of Darlington, and he was involved in a double return made by rival mayors. The Commons confirmed the election of his opponents, 29 Nov. 1826, and his petition was unsuccessful.4 He subsequently purchased Darlington’s property in the borough and was installed as recorder, 8 Apr. 1830.5 His ambition was to be returned for Somerset and he canvassed the county in the summer of 1829. According to Henry Hobhouse of Hadspen, he was ‘nearly unknown’ in the county and his politics were ‘quite so’, his father had ‘cut his throat’, his ‘mother (who was Whitbread’s sister) is deranged’, and ‘the young man himself has been under restraint’; his ‘only pretension ... seems to be in the length of his purse’.6 In the event, his appointment as sheriff in 1830 precluded him from standing at the general election that summer, and he returned himself and a friend for Tregony, despite local opposition.7

The duke of Wellington’s ministry listed him as one of the ‘good doubtfuls’ with the additional note that he was ‘a friend’. He voted with them in the crucial division on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. He divided against the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, which proposed the disfranchisement of Tregony, 22 Mar., and for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. At the ensuing general election he retired and returned Charles Arbuthnot, son of the former Tory minister, in his place. However, this appears to have been a temporary arrangement and in February 1832 he required Arbuthnot to vacate, a decision that the latter’s father deplored ‘on public grounds’, as ‘it would have been wiser ... to have ... done it during the recess’, and he had ‘chosen the exact moment when it will produce the worst effect’. Gordon was returned at the resulting by-election, although he again faced local opposition.8 He divided against the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., and the third reading of the revised reform bill, 22 Mar. 1832. The Times listed him as having paired for increased Scottish county representation, 1 June.9 It is not clear if he was the ‘Hon. Capt. Gordon’ who paired against ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 12 July 1832. He is not known to have spoken in debate. At the dissolution later that year he disappeared from the House along with Tregony.

Gordon died in March 1854. He left Stocks House, near Ware, Hertfordshire, and its surrounding estates to his wife, and instructed that the remainder of his property be sold to pay for a very large number of individual bequests and annuities, with the residue going to his wife. Knockspock and Terpersie passed to his nephew, Henry Percy Gordon (d. 1876), but the fate of his West Indian plantations is not known.10

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Terry Jenkins


  • 1. IGI (Herts.).
  • 2. PROB 11/1655/195; IR26/904/282; V.L. Oliver, Antigua, ii. 22-28.
  • 3. D. Wimberley, Fam. of Gordon of Terpersie, 17-18.
  • 4. West Briton, 16 June 1826.
  • 5. Ibid. 4 Apr. 1828, 9 Oct. 1829; PP (1835), xxiii. 650.
  • 6. Dorset RO, Fox-Strangways mss D/FSI, box 332, Gordon to Ilchester, 27 Sept. 1829; Add. 40399, f. 310.
  • 7. West Briton, 6 Aug. 1830.
  • 8. Aberdeen Univ. Lib. Arbuthnot mss, Arbuthnot to son, 1 June 1831, 16 Feb.; R. Cornw. Gazette, 3 Mar. 1832.
  • 9. The Times, 4 June 1832.
  • 10. PROB 11/2193/451; IR26/1995/359; Wimberley, 17-18.