Lord George Gordon

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Lord George Gordon (26th December 1751-1st November 1793) was a British lord who started the Gordon Riots.

Biography

George Gordon was born in London on Boxing Day in 1751. He was educated at Eton and joined the Royal Navy, resigning after being refused command of a ship.

In 1774, Gordon was elected MP for Ludgershall, a rotten borough in Wiltshire. While in Parliament, he often criticized all major political factions, and formed the Protestant Association, a group dedicated to taking away the civil rights of Roman Catholics.

On the 2nd of June 1780, Gordon led a crowd of 50,000 people to London, where they attempted to force their way into the House of Commons, demanding the repeal of the 1778 Papists Act, which gave civil rights to Catholics prepared to swear their allegiance to the crown. Although the mob was dispersed, it reassembled and over the next few days Gordon's mob set fire to Newgate prison, pillaged houses where Catholics lived, destroyed Catholic cathedrals and wrecked many buildings (including the Bank of England) before the army finally succeeded in restoring order. Gordon was arrested and charged with treason for his part in the initial assault on Parliament, but he was acquitted in 1781.

In 1786, Gordon was excommunicated by the Archbishop of Canterbury after refusing to bear witness in an ecclesiastical suit, and converted to Judaism. The following year, Gordon was accused of committing Defamation against Marie Antoinette, the French ambassador and the British Ministry of Justice. As this was illegal at the time, Gordon was charged and, after being found guilty on all counts, fled to the Netherlands. However, representatives from the court of Versailles demanded Gordon be expelled, and he was forced to return to Britain, where he was immediately arrested. In 1788, he was sentenced to five years imprisonment in Newgate prison (which had been rebuilt since the riots) for the defamation charges.

In October 1793, Gordon caught typhoid fever, which had been a problem in Newgate prison at the time. He died of typhoid in his cell in 1793.

Trivia

Lord Gordon is a prominent character in the novel Barnaby Rudge, which is set during the riots.