1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Aberdeen, George Gordon, 1st Earl of

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ABERDEEN, GEORGE GORDON, 1st Earl of (1637–1720), lord chancellor of Scotland, son of Sir John Gordon, 1st baronet of Haddo, Aberdeenshire, executed by the Presbyterians in 1644, was born on the 3rd of October 1637. He graduated M.A., and was chosen professor at King’s College, Aberdeen, in 1658. Subsequently he travelled and studied civil law abroad. At the Restoration the sequestration of his father’s lands was annulled, and in 1665 he succeeded by the death of his elder brother to the baronetcy and estates. He returned home in 1667, was admitted advocate in 1668 and gained a high legal reputation. He represented Aberdeenshire in the Scottish parliament of 1669 and in the following assemblies, during his first session strongly opposing the projected union of the two legislatures. In November 1678 he was made a privy councillor for Scotland, and in 1680 was raised to the bench as Lord Haddo. He was a leading member of the duke of York’s administration, was created a lord of session in June and in November 1681 president of the court. The same year he is reported as moving in the council for the torture of witnesses.[1] In 1682 he was made lord chancellor of Scotland, and was created, on the 13th of November, earl of Aberdeen, Viscount Formartine, and Lord Haddo, Methlick, Tarves and Kellie, in the Scottish peerage, being appointed also sheriff principal of Aberdeenshire and Midlothian. Burnet reflects unfavourably upon him, calls him “a proud and covetous man,” and declares “the new chancellor exceeded all that had gone before him.”[2] He executed the laws enforcing religious conformity with severity, and filled the parish churches, but resisted the excessive measures of tyranny prescribed by the English government; and in consequence of an intrigue of the duke of Queensberry and Lord Perth, who gained the duchess of Portsmouth with a present of £27,000, he was dismissed in 1684. After his fall he was subjected to various petty prosecutions by his victorious rivals with the view of discovering some act of maladministration on which to found a charge against him, but the investigations only served to strengthen his credit. He took an active part in parliament in 1685 and 1686, but remained a non-juror during the whole of William’s reign, being frequently fined for his non-attendance, and took the oaths for the first time after Anne’s accession, on the 11th of May 1703. In the great affair of the Union in 1707, while protesting against the completion of the treaty till the act declaring the Scots aliens should be repealed, he refused to support the opposition to the measure itself and refrained from attending parliament when the treaty was settled. He died on the 20th of April 1720, after having amassed a large fortune. He is described by John Mackay as “very knowing in the laws and constitution of his country and is believed to be the solidest statesman in Scotland, a fine orator, speaks slow but sure.” His person was said to be deformed, and his “want of mine or deportment” was alleged as a disqualification for the office of lord chancellor. He married Anne, daughter and sole heiress of George Lockhart of Torbrecks, by whom he had six children, his only surviving son, William, succeeding him as 2nd earl of Aberdeen.

See Letters to George, earl of Aberdeen (with memoir: Spalding Club, 1851); Hist. Account of the Senators of the College of Justice, by G. Brunton and D. Haig (1832), p. 408; G. Crawfurd’s Lives of the Officers of State (1726), p. 226; Memoirs of Affairs in Scotland, by Sir G. Mackenzie (1821), p. 148; Sir J. Lauder’s (Lord Fountainhall) Journals (Scottish Hist. Society, vol. xxxvi., 1900); J. Mackay’s Memoirs (1733), p. 215; A. Lang’s Hist. of Scotland, iii. 369, 376.  (P. C. Y.) 

  1. Sir J. Lauder’s Hist. Notices (Bannatyne Club, 1848), p. 297.
  2. Hist. of his own Times, i. 523.