Gordon, George, Lord

views updated


GORDON, GEORGE, LORD (1757–1793), English proselyte. A younger son of the third duke of Gordon, he entered Parliament in 1774 but attracted little notice until 1779 when he became president of the United Protestant League which opposed measures in relief of Catholic disabilities (1779). After the violent London "No-Popery" Riots (1780), Gordon was tried for high treason but was acquitted. He again appeared as Protestant champion in 1784 in the quarrel between the Dutch and Joseph ii. He subsequently developed an interest in Judaism. Although rebuffed by the London rabbinical authorities, he was circumcised in 1787, either in Holland or in Birmingham (where he lived for a time), assuming the name of Israel b. Abraham. He became scrupulous in religious observance, growing a long beard and rebuking those who were not as devout as himself. He was tried for libels on the British government and Marie Antoinette of France and sentenced in 1788 to imprisonment in Newgate, London. Here he surrounded himself with foreign Jews, ate only specially prepared food, refused to see any Jew who was not bearded, and held regular services with a minyan in his apartment. He died in prison, but was buried not in the Jewish cemetery but in his family's burial plot. Paradoxically, Gordon was one of the best-known British Jews of his time.


P. de Castro, Gordon Riots (1926); Solomons, in: jhset, 7 (1915), 222–71; P. Colson, Strange History of Lord George Gordon (1937); C. Roth, Essays and Portraits in Anglo-Jewish History (1962), 183–210; Roth, Mag Bibl, index. add. bibliography: odnb online; Katz, England, 304–10, index.

[Cecil Roth]