Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 22.djvu/168

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

himself at Montrose. Gordon was chosen by the barons of Galloway their representative in parliament, and was member of that body from 1641 to 1649. He was also as an elder a member of the general assembly of the church of Scotland in 1641, and was a prominent member of the committees of war, and for raising forces and taxes in the stewartry of Kirkcudbright. In 1641 he was appointed on a parliamentary commission for the further examination of the Marquis of Montrose and others on trial with Montrose, the screening of whom from certain charges he warmly opposed. He stoutly repudiated the claims of Charles I to Ecclesiastical supremacy. In conversing about Gordon with the Earl of Galloway, Charles jocularly dubbed him ‘Earl of Earlston,’ and Gordon was sometimes popularly so styled. The king wished him to become one of the Nova Scotia baronets, but Gordon declined to purchase such an honour with money.

He was also appointed on parliamentary commissions for the plantation of churches and raising of taxes, but on both of these, by an ordinance of parliament in July 1644, he was replaced by James McDowell of Garthland, because ‘that Alexander Gordonne of Erlestoun is so infirme that he cannot attend the service.’ He was stricken with palsy for some time before he died, which greatly disabled him, but he continued in parliament, until 1649, and in that year was nominated for a military command in connection with the operations then intended against the Commonwealth of England. As one of the interested heritors he took an active part in the erection of the parish of Carsphairn, Kirkcudbrightshire, in 1644.

Gordon died in 1654, and a contemporary, John Livingstone, who knew him well, says he was ‘a man of great spirit, but much subdued by inward exercise, and who attained the most rare experiences of downcasting and uplifting’ (‘Memorable Characteristics’ printed in Select Biographies, Wodrow Soc., i. 343). Of his marriage there was issue three sons and one daughter. The eldest son, John, predeceased him on 29 Oct. 1645, and the second son, William (1614-1679) [q. v.], whose son Alexander, also a covenanter, is noticed in the next article, succeeded as Laird of Earlston. The third son was Robert, a merchant, and the daughter, Margaret, in 1638 became the wife of a neighbouring proprietor, Francis Hay of Arioland.

[Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland, vols. v. vi.; McKerlie's History of Lands and their Owners in Galloway, iii. 414, 415, iv. 73-6; Simpson's Traditions of the Covenantors, ed. 1846, pp. 348-50.]

H. P.

GORDON, Sir ALEXANDER (1650–1726), of Earlston, covenanter, eldest son of William Gordon (1614-1679) [q. v.] of Earlston, and Mary, daughter of Sir John Hope of Craighall, Fifeshire, was born in 1650. His grandfather was Alexander Gordon (1587-1654) [q. v.] Like his father he became a zealous presbyterian. He was present at the battle of Bothwell Bridge. One of his tenants saved him during his flight by dressing him in woman's clothes and setting him to rock a cradle. Within a few days he was proclaimed a rebel and cited to appear as such before the justiciary court at Edinburgh on 8 Feb. 1680. In his absence he was condemned to death and his estates were forfeited. For a time he lurked in the neighbourhood of his own estates, and had many narrow escapes. On one occasion, in the dress of a servant, he helped the dragoons in searching the house for himself.

On 11 Oct. 1681 Earlston was appointed by the privy council a military garrison. Gordon escaped to Holland along with his wife, Janet, daughter of Sir Thomas Hamilton of Preston, whom he had married on 30 Nov. 1676. He returned to Scotland early in 1682, and on 15 March of that year was with one John Nisbet commissioned by the ‘societies’ to proceed to the Netherlands (Faithful Cantendings, pp. 18-66). Nisbet and Gordon travelled together to London, but Gordon alone crossed to Holland. He returned and met with his constituents at Edinburgh on 8 May 1683, when they renewed his commission, and that same night he set out for Newcastle. He embarked there for Holland with a person named Edward Aitken, and both were seized by some customs officers. They were sent for trial to Edinburgh, where, on 10 July 1683, Aitken was condemned to death on the simple charge of harbouring Gordon.

A trial was thought superfluous, but Gordon was several times examined in reference to his knowledge of the Rye House plot. His depositions on these occasions, viz. 30 June, 5 July, and 25 Sept. 1683, with Nisbet's letter, and his own commission from the ‘societies’ in Scotland, are printed at length by Spratt in his ‘True Account of the Horrid Conspiracy against the late King.’ published 1685, pp. 74-7, 91-109. On 16 Aug. he had been brought to the bar of the justiciary court, and the sentence of death and forfeiture formerly passed upon him having been read to him, 28 Sept. was fixed as the date of his execution. The king ordered the Scottish privy council to put Gordon to the torture of the boots in order to extort from him the names of his accomplices. The council replied that it was irregular to tor-