GORDON, William, Lord Haddo (1679-1745).

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 June - 3 Dec. 1708

Family and Education

bap. 22 Dec. 1679, 4th but 1st surv. s. of George Gordon, 1st Earl of Aberdeen [S], by Anne, da. of George Lockhart of Torbreck, Sutherland.  m. (1) by c.1705, Lady Mary (d. 1710), da. of David Leslie, 5th Earl of Leven [S] and 2nd Earl of Melville [S], 2da. (1 d.v.p.); (2) 1 Apr. 1716, Lady Susan (d. 1725), da. of John Murray, 1st Duke of Atholl [S] and sis. of James, 2nd Duke, 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da. (1 d.v.p.); (3) 9 Dec. 1729, Lady Anne (d. 1791), da. of Alexander Gordon, 2nd Duke of Gordon [S], 4s. 1da.  Styled Ld. Haddo by c.1704; suc. fa. as 2nd Earl of Aberdeen 20 Apr. 1720.1

Offices Held

Burgess, Aberdeen 1699, Perth 1716.2

PC [S] 1704–7; commr. chamberlainry and trade [S] 1711–14.3

Commr. visitation, St Andrews Univ. 1718.

Rep. peer [S] 1721–7.


Although belonging to a clan whose chiefs were Catholic and staunch to the hereditary Stuart line, Gordon and his father were moderate episcopalians and Jacobites of the most cautious, not to say timid, variety. The eminent Presbyterian minister, William Carstares, observed that Haddo, ‘though he owneth himself to be episcopal in his judgment, yet is as regular in countenancing the established church as most else, and appears to be much concerned for the quiet of his country’. Others remarked that he was not without pride, while his career gave proof of a strong vein of personal ambition.4

The 1st Earl of Aberdeen, one of the Duke of York’s henchmen in Scotland in the 1680s, acted a prudent part at the Revolution, attending in Edinburgh in 1689 when required by the Williamite government, and communicating with Jacobite agents, if at all, only when approached. An ally of the cavaliers in the Scottish parliament, he consolidated his reputation there, appearing at one point as ‘the declared head of all the northern opposition’, but seems to have preserved a degree of independence. He supported the Union but absented himself from the critical divisions. Opinions differed as to the extent of his disaffection from the Revolution settlement. The Jacobites claimed to be ‘sure’ of him before 1708, and he was contacted prior to the invasion attempt of that year, though the nature of his response is unclear. During the emergency he was interned along with other suspected peers, and gave a bond of £3,000 as security. Claiming to be ‘surprised’ at his treatment, he protested loyalty to Queen Anne and was released quickly on grounds of advanced age.5

Lord Haddo, whom Jacobite emissaries had also believed to be theirs, and who had privately ‘expressed much loyalty’ to the Pretender, was returned for Aberdeenshire in the general election of 1708 while his father was in custody. As soon as the Parliament met, 21 freeholders petitioned on 27 Nov. against his election, protesting that he was ineligible as the eldest son of a Scottish peer, having not previously been entitled to a seat in the Scottish parliament. Haddo acknowledged that ‘our whole countrymen are against us in the House of Commons’, declaring himself ‘not much concerned what the event prove, though I am bound to do all the little I can’. According to a report by Charles Oliphant*, Haddo ‘particularly signalized himself’ during these debates. It was nevertheless a lost cause. Although the question of eligibility had been left ambiguous during the passage of Union (because a decision either way might have alienated some supporters of the treaty), the House now ruled against Haddo. This precedent was applied to all similar cases, a gesture which, in the opinion of the Squadrone supporter, Lord Yester, would help to ‘reconcile the barons and commons . . . to the Union’.6

Through Carstares, Haddo let it be known to the Tory administration after 1710 that ‘nothing would be more pleasing’ than ‘to have the honour of being an extraordinary lord of session’, a post for which his alleged application to legal studies would have fitted him, but he had to content himself with being recommended by the Duke of Atholl for a place on the commission of chamberlainry and trade. This brought no remuneration: the Treasury eventually authorized a payment of £1,000, but the money did not reach him. In February 1714, he requested Atholl

to mention me favourably both to the Queen and to my lord treasurer [Robert Harley*] . . . to assure her Majesty that it has always been our family principle, even in the worst of times, to show a firm adherence to the support of the monarchy and its prerogatives . . . and these sentiments are so fixed in me that nothing can ever make me depart from them.7

Haddo was suspected of negotiating with the Whigs in the immediate aftermath of the Hanoverian succession, both on his own behalf and as the spokesman for a small knot of Scottish Tories. During the Fifteen, he let the Jacobites down badly by fleeing to Edinburgh, thus earning the contempt of those who had previously trusted him and indeed in some cases had been ‘much guided by his sentiments’. Wooed by Stuart agents in 1718 at the suggestion of Lord Mar, once a close friend, he again showed himself to be ‘very cautious’, with ‘stomach’ only for ‘the money trade’ and not for ‘arms’. In 1721, after succeeding to the earldom, he stood against his Jacobite brother-in-law Lord Eglinton for a vacancy in the representative peerage, making his platform a vigorous opposition to any reintroduction of the peerage bill. While he enjoyed the backing of English Tories, and some Scottish Tories too, he was also on this occasion the favoured candidate of the Squadrone, and after his election was the only representative peer to join in the new opposition formed by Lord Cowper (William*). A year later, in the general election, he held himself aloof from entanglement, and recovered his ground with his former party colleagues in Scotland. However, his willingness to make compromises drew him back into an arrangement with the Squadrone in 1726 and cost him his place in the 1727 Parliament, when Scottish Jacobites ‘lay aside and did not meddle’ and the Argathelian faction carried the peers’ election. As late as 1733 he was still flirting with a ‘Country party’ alliance. Lord Lovat believed him to be a ‘very great man’ in 1741, praising his ‘good parts, his wisdom and prudence’. He took no part in Jacobite intrigues, however, and after his death, at Edinburgh on 30 Mar. 1745, his family stood loyally by the Hanoverians during the Forty-Five. He was buried at Methlick. A younger son by his third marriage, General William Gordon, was returned for New Woodstock in 1767.8

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. Scots Peerage ed. Paul, i. 89–93; Cromartie Corresp. i. 219–20, 289.
  • 2. New Spalding Club, Misc. ii. 479; Sandeman Lib. Perth, Perth burgh recs. B59/24/1/17, p. 37.
  • 3. Lockhart Letters ed. Szechi, 6; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxviii. 397.
  • 4. P. A. Hopkins, Glencoe, 89, 110; Seafield Letters, 130; HMC Portland, x. 411; HMC Stuart, vi. 555.
  • 5. Hopkins, 83, 182, 212, 355; W. Watt, Aberdeen and Banff, 271; Scot. Hist. Soc. ser. 3, xxiv. 266; HMC Laing, ii. 7, 78; HMC Portland, iv. 276; viii. 207; Baillie Corresp. 138; P. W. J. Riley, Union, 79, 216, 275; Seafield Letters, 193, 196; Seafield Corresp. 467, 477; Hooke Corresp. (Roxburghe Club), ii. 101, 136, 141, 239, 248; N. Hooke, Secret Hist. (1708), 173; HMC Lords, n.s. viii. 87–88, 92, 111, 155, 159, 178–9, 181, 188–9, 191.
  • 6. Hooke, 173; Orig. Pprs. ed. Macpherson, ii. 17; P. W. J. Riley, Eng. Ministers and Scotland, 110; SRO, Cromartie mss GD305 addit./bdle. 11, Haddo to Alexander Mackenzie, 27 Nov. 1708; SRO, Ogilvy of Inverquharity mss GD205/34/4, Oliphant to William Bennet*, 11 Dec. 1708.
  • 7. HMC Portland, x. 199, 411; Riley, Eng. Ministers and Scotland, 177–8, 183; Add. 61624, f. 15; Atholl mss at Blair Atholl, box 45, bdle. 9, no.1, Haddo to Atholl, 17 Dec. 1711.
  • 8. HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 505; Scot. Hist. Soc. Misc. x. 154–5; HMC Stuart, v. 366; vi. 285, 356, 555; vii. 350; W. Robertson, Peerage of Scotland (1790), 81–102, 104; HMC Townshend, 343; Lockhart Letters, 160–2, 174–5, 178; Riley, Eng. Ministers, 272; More Culloden Pprs. ed. Warrand, ii. 206–8; HMC Polwarth, iii. 285; Spalding Club, Misc. ii. 12, 17, 21; Wodrow, Analecta iii. 290, 439; Sir J. Ferguson, The 16 Peers of Scotland, 77–78; A. and H. Tayler, Jacobites of Aberdeen and Banff in the ’45.