GIBSON, John (c.1637-1717), of Portsmouth, Hants.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1 Feb. 1696 - 1698
27 Jan. - 2 July 1702

Family and Education

b. c.1637, s. of Sir John Gibson of Alderstone, Ratho, nr. Edinburgh.  m. 2s. 2da. Kntd. 6 Sept. 1705.1

Offices Held

Capt. Dutch army 1675, maj. 1688; dep.-gov. Exeter 1688; lt.-col. of ft. Sir Robert Peyton’s regt. 1689, col. 28 Ft. 1694–8, 1702–4, half-pay 1698–1702; lt.-gov. Portsmouth 1689–d.; c.-in-c. land forces, Newfoundland 1697.2

Freeman, Portsmouth 1690–d.3


Gibson entered the Dutch army and obtained a captain’s commission in 1675. By 1688, when he accompanied William to England, he had attained the rank of major and was put in charge of the garrison left by the Prince at Exeter. As a reward for these services he was commissioned as lieutenant-colonel in the English army in 1689 and made deputy-governor of Portsmouth, where he spent most of his time. In February 1694 he bought the colonelcy of a foot regiment. Lord Ailesbury (Thomas Bruce†) claimed in his memoirs that in the winter of 1695–6 he was advised by Sir John Fenwick† to try to win over Gibson to the Jacobites, the strategic position of Portsmouth no doubt giving Gibson importance in their eyes. Ailesbury does not say, however, whether or not he made the attempt.4

On 19 Dec. 1695 Gibson contested a by-election at Portsmouth and was involved in a double return. The election was declared void on 24 Jan. 1696, but Gibson was returned unchallenged at the ensuing by-election. His duties at Portsmouth prevented him attending the House frequently, although he was undoubtedly a Court supporter. He was named as having signed the Association promptly, but must have signed some time after 16 Mar. when the Journals record that ‘Colonel Gibson, being at Portsmouth, and having signified that he will be speedily here and sign the Association’, it was ordered that he be given leave of absence. The following year he commanded the land forces on the Newfoundland expedition, leaving in March and returning in October. Gibson subsequently defended Captain John Norris*, who had been in command, from accusations of cheating the men of prize money and of filling the ships so full of prize goods that they could not leave harbour to attack the French. In February 1698 Gibson’s regiment was disbanded and he himself put on half-pay. Having stood down at the election of 1698, he was listed afterwards as a former Court supporter.5

In November 1701 Gibson intended to stand for Parliament at Petersfield, but his interest there proved insufficient and he probably gave up before the poll. At the outbreak of the war in 1702 he was given the colonelcy of one of the newly raised foot regiments and in the same year made his re-entry into the Commons at a by-election for Portsmouth, but only held the seat for a few months before the dissolution. He did not stand again for Parliament and soon became immersed in financial troubles, which forced him to consider selling his regiment in 1703. A buyer, Lieutenant-Colonel Lalo, was provided by the Duke of Ormond, but on 18 Oct. Gibson informed Ormond that both the Queen and Prince George were against the sale. Under pressure from Ormond, negotiations continued and on 22 Oct. Gibson wrote, presumably to the Duke’s secretary, expressing some dissatisfaction with Lalo’s offers:

Sir, I am at my wits’ end, my all is at stake, otherwise you may be sure I would not take this [action], especially when I know it must be laid before his Grace, the Duke of Ormond, lord lieutenant of Ireland, and hitherto my great benefactor. Besides, sir, how this may be taken at court here I do not learn, it may be the occasion of turning me out of all.

The sale went through in February 1704, apparently with no ill-effects for Gibson, who received a knighthood the following year. He remained deputy-governor of Portsmouth until his death on 24 Oct. 1717, aged 80.6

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Paula Watson


  • 1. DNB.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1689–90, p. 123; 1702–3, p. 380.
  • 3. R. East, Portsmouth Recs. 371.
  • 4. DNB; Ailesbury Mems. ii. 376.
  • 5. CSP Dom. 1697, pp. 62, 281, 459; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, ii. 85–86, 89.
  • 6. Add. 28892, f. 411; 33278, ff. 77, 79, 81; Boyer, Pol. State, vii. 612.