Lord George Gordon

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Gordon, Lord George (1751–93). Soon after his election to Parliament in 1774 Lord George, third son of the 3rd duke of Gordon, began to exhibit signs of mental derangement and religious mania. His frequent lectures to the House of Commons were not much appreciated: ‘the noble lord has got a twist in his head,’ remarked one sympathetic member, ‘a certain whirligig which runs away with him if anything relative to religion is mentioned’. Gordon's reply was that he and his supporters ‘had not yet determined to murder the king and put him to death, they only considered that they were absolved from their allegiance’. On 2 June 1780, as president of the Protestant Association, he presented a monster petition denouncing concessions to the catholics. Six days of rioting and looting followed and Gordon was tried for treason. It was argued on his behalf that he had not intended violence and had tried to discourage it, and he was acquitted. He subsequently converted to Judaism and, convicted of libel, spent the last five years of his life in comfortable confinement in Newgate prison. See also Gordon riots.

J. A. Cannon

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Lord George Gordon, 1751–93, English agitator, whose activities resulted in the tragic Gordon riots of 1780 in London. In 1779, Gordon assumed leadership of the Protestant Association, an organization formed to secure repeal of the Catholic Relief Act of 1778 (see Catholic Emancipation). On June 2, 1780, he led a huge crowd to present a petition to Parliament, and the demonstration rapidly turned into an orgy of destruction and plunder that lasted a week. The jails were broken open, and probably more than 800 people were killed and injured. Some 21 rioters were executed, but Gordon was acquitted through the efforts of his lawyer, Thomas Erskine. Dickens vividly described the riots in Barnaby Rudge.