GORDON, John (c.1655-1730), of Aberdeen

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



1708 - 1710

Family and Education

b. c.1655, ?1st s. of John Gordon (d. 1692), merchant, of Aberdeen by Christian, da. of John Henderson of Auchlee, Aberdeen.  m. his cos. Janet (d. 1731), da. of Alexander Gordon, merchant, of Aberdeen, 4s. (3 d.v.p.) 1da.; other ch. d.v.p.1

Offices Held

Burgess, Elgin 1682, Old Aberdeen 1719; councillor, Aberdeen, 1705–9, 1714–15, Apr. 1716–19, provost, Aberdeen 1706–8, 1717–18.2


A substantial Aberdeen merchant, from a local commercial dynasty descended (four generations back) from the 2nd Earl of Huntly, Gordon had operated from the early 1680s as a factor in the Scottish staple at Campvere in Zeeland, and was still transacting business in Rotterdam as late as 1702. His uncle and father-in-law, provost in 1688–90 and commissioner for Aberdeen in the Scottish parliament, was a mainstay of the Revolution interest in the burgh. Gordon himself was a devout Presbyterian. In 1708, as provost, he was the first to sign a loyal address from the council on the occasion of the Jacobite invasion attempt, which expressed to Queen Anne the hope ‘that the reformed religion may for ever be established and flourish more and more in your Majesty’s dominions’.3

Provost Gordon defeated James Scott I* at the 1708 election for Aberdeen Burghs, and was supplied with detailed instructions from his own council for the guidance of his parliamentary conduct. These primarily related to matters of local interest, but in national affairs he was urged to protect the interests of the Kirk and support ‘any act for imposing a subsidy for defraying the expense of carrying on the war against the French’. Lord Seafield reckoned him among those ‘who are my friends and I hope will serve her Majesty faithfully in this Parliament’. Gordon, who is not known to have spoken in debate, was only appointed to three drafting committees, all of Scottish or local relevance: to encourage the fisheries (18 Dec. 1708), to prevent the embezzlement of ship-wrecked goods (20 Dec.), and to confer ‘free status’ on two ships (19 Feb. 1709). He probably presented two petitions from Aberdeen in February 1709, the first against the chartering of any privileged trading company in contravention of the Union, and the second to recover drawbacks for exports of cured fish, the latter topic being specifically mentioned in instructions from his constituents. He also pursued a petition from the burgh to the Treasury for the grant of the estate of one James Douglas, who had died intestate, and was subsequently thanked for his efforts by the council. During his tenure, he was paid over £425 for parliamentary expenses. The money may have been needed, for on 16 Feb. 1710 he complained of a breach of privilege against someone who had begun legal proceedings against him in Scotland while Parliament was in session. As a Scottish Presbyterian he naturally voted for the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell. Apparently in consequence of his disappointing performance, Gordon was dropped from Aberdeen council in September 1710 and discouraged from seeking re-election to Parliament.4

In March 1711 Gordon’s son received a call from the Aberdeen presbytery to the living of Old Deer, but when the ordinand presented himself in the parish he and his father, and their supporters, were ‘rabbled’ by an episcopalian mob, some of whom reportedly gave vent to Jacobite sentiments, in an incident which was to pave the way for the Scottish Toleration Act of the following year. Gordon held the provostship of Aberdeen once more, in 1717–18, when he participated in the royal commission which purged the university of episcopalian and allegedly Jacobite elements. Afterwards he was made an honorary burgess of Old Aberdeen. In 1724 he donated £1,000 to his local session for poor relief, with the proviso that he and his wife were to receive the interest on the money for the rest of their lives.5

Gordon died on 24 Aug. 1730, aged 75, and was buried in St. Nicholas’ church, Aberdeen.6

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. Scottish N. and Q. ii. 183–4; [H. B. Tomkins], Table Showing Fams. Descended from Sir Alexander Cumming . . . (1877); A. M. Munro, Memorials of Aldermen, Provosts and Vice-Provosts of Aberdeen, 185–7, 200–1, 211.
  • 2. Elgin Recs. (New Spalding Club), ii. 463; Recs. Old Aberdeen (New Spalding Club), i. 281; Aberdeen City Archs. Aberdeen burgh recs. 1/1/58, council reg. 1705–21; Munro, 185–7, 200–1, 211.
  • 3. Pollable Persons in Aberdeenshire 1696 (Spalding Club), ii. 598; Munro, 185–7, 200; Scot. Urban Hist. ed. Gordon and Dicks, 101; Reg. PC Scotland, 1683–4, pp. 111–12; 1684–5, p. 131; 1690, p. 669; A. M. Munro, Notes on MPs for Aberdeen, 36–37; Recs. R. Burghs Scotland, iv. 181, 219, 221, 304; Scot. Hist. Soc. ser. 1, xlvi. 299; Extracts Aberdeen Council Reg. (Burgh Recs. Soc.), 1643–1747, pp. 335–7.
  • 4. Aberdeen burgh recs. 8/1/8, 124–6, 145, draft instructions to Gordon, [1708], council to same et al., 27 Feb. 1710; 1/1/58, p. 204, council reg. 27 Sept. 1710; Seafield Letters, 109; CJ, xvi. 102, 115; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxiv. 196; Munro, Aldermen, 202; W. Kennedy, Annals of Aberdeen, i. 236; Recs. Old Aberdeen, i. 177; [Tomkins], Table.
  • 5. Wodrow, Analecta, i. 328–9; Wodrow Corresp. ed. McCrie, i. 218; W. Watt, Aberdeen and Banff, 278; Officers and Graduates of King’s Coll. Aberdeen 1495–1860 ed. Anderson (New Spalding Club), 27; Munro, 201.
  • 6. Scottish N. and Q. 183.