Thomas Gordon (writer)

Thomas Gordon (writer)

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Thomas Gordon was a Scottish writer and Commonwealthman.

Along with John Trenchard
John Trenchard (writer)
John Trenchard , English writer and Commonwealthman, belonged to the same Dorset family as the Secretary of State Sir John Trenchard.Trenchard was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and became a lawyer...

, he published The Independent Whig, which was a weekly periodical. From 1720 to 1723, Trenchard and Gordon, wrote a series of 144 essay
An essay is a piece of writing which is often written from an author's personal point of view. Essays can consist of a number of elements, including: literary criticism, political manifestos, learned arguments, observations of daily life, recollections, and reflections of the author. The definition...

s entitled Cato's Letters
Cato's Letters
Cato's Letters were essays by British writers John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, first published from 1720 to 1723 under the pseudonym of Cato , the implacable foe of Julius Caesar and a famously stubborn champion of republican principles....

, condemning corruption and lack of morality within the British political system and warning against tyranny. The essays were published as Essays on Liberty
Liberty is a moral and political principle, or Right, that identifies the condition in which human beings are able to govern themselves, to behave according to their own free will, and take responsibility for their actions...

, Civil and Religious, at first in the London Journal
London Journal
James Boswell's London Journal is a published version of the daily journal he kept between the years 1762 and 1763 while in London. Along with many more of his private papers, it was found in the 1920s at Malahide Castle in Ireland, and first published in 1950. In it, Boswell, then a young Scotsman...

 and then in the British Journal
British Journal
The British Journal was an English newspaper published from 22 September 1722 until 13 January 1728. The paper was then published as the British Journal or The Censor from 20 January 1728 until 23 November 1730 and then as the British Journal or The Traveller from 30 November 1730 until 20 March...

. These essays became a cornerstone of the Commonwealth man tradition and were influential in shaping the ideas of the Country Party
Country Party (Britain)
In Britain in the era 1680-1740, especially in the days of Robert Walpole , the Country Party was a coalition of Tories and disaffected Whigs. It was a movement rather than an organized party and had no formal structure or leaders...



He was born in Kirkcudbright
Kirkcudbright, is a town in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland.The town lies south of Castle Douglas and Dalbeattie, in the part of Dumfries and Galloway known as the Stewartry, at the mouth of the River Dee, some six miles from the sea...

 towards the end of the seventeenth century. He attended the University of Aberdeen
University of Aberdeen
The University of Aberdeen, an ancient university founded in 1495, in Aberdeen, Scotland, is a British university. It is the third oldest university in Scotland, and the fifth oldest in the United Kingdom and wider English-speaking world...


He went to London as a young man and taught languages. Two pamphlets on the Bangorian controversy
Bangorian Controversy
The Bangorian Controversy was a theological argument within the Church of England in the early 18th century, with strong political overtones. The origins of the controversy lay in the 1716 posthumous publication of George Hickes's Constitution of the Catholic Church, and the Nature and...

 commended him to John Trenchard, a whig politician; one was probably 'A Letter to the Lord Archbishop' (Wake) in 1719, who had written a Latin letter reflecting upon Hoadly, addressed to the church of Zurich. Gordon became Trenchard's amanuensis
Amanuensis is a Latin word adopted in various languages, including English, for certain persons performing a function by hand, either writing down the words of another or performing manual labour...


Robert Walpole
Robert Walpole
Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford, KG, KB, PC , known before 1742 as Sir Robert Walpole, was a British statesman who is generally regarded as having been the first Prime Minister of Great Britain....

 took Gordon into his pay, and made him first commissioner of the wine licenses, a post which he held till his death on 28 July 1750. Gordon was twice married, his second wife being Trenchard's widow.


A tract called the Independent Whig, published at the time of the rejection of the Peerage Bill (December 1719), was followed by a second part in January 1720, on the peace with Spain and the value of Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

 to England, several editions of which were issued. A weekly paper of the same name was then started, and carried on through the year, the articles by Trenchard, Gordon, and a third contributor, 'C.,' being distinguished in the fifth edition. It was first collected in one volume in 1721. To the fifth edition (1732) were appended 'The Craftsman,' a sermon, in the style of Daniel Burgess, also published separately, a letter to a 'Gentleman of Edinburgh,' and an epitaph on Trenchard. In a sixth edition (1735) there was added a third volume containing Gordon's letter to William Wake
William Wake
William Wake was a priest in the Church of England and Archbishop of Canterbury from 1716 until his death in 1737.-Life:...

 of 1719 and other tracts; a seventh edition appeared in 1743, and a fourth volume was added in 1747 containing tracts written during the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. The book was mainly an attack on the High Church
High church
The term "High Church" refers to beliefs and practices of ecclesiology, liturgy and theology, generally with an emphasis on formality, and resistance to "modernization." Although used in connection with various Christian traditions, the term has traditionally been principally associated with the...

 party, and on the title-page of later editions is called 'A Defence of Primitive Christianity … against the exorbitant claims of fanatical and disaffected clergymen.' Thomas Wilson
Thomas Wilson (bishop)
Thomas Wilson was Anglican Bishop of Sodor and Man between 1697 and 1755.He was born in Burton and Ness, in the Wirral, Cheshire, in December 1663. Having studied medicine at Trinity College, Dublin, he was ordained priest in 1689...

, bishop of Sodor and Man
Bishop of Sodor and Man
The Bishop of Sodor and Man is the Ordinary of the Diocese of Sodor and Man in the Province of York in the Church of England. The diocese covers the Isle of Man. The see is in the town of Peel where the bishop's seat is located at the Cathedral Church of St German, elevated to cathedral status on 1...

, tried to exclude it from his diocese, and got into trouble in consequence. It was translated into French by the Baron d'Holbach
Baron d'Holbach
Paul-Henri Thiry, Baron d'Holbach was a French-German author, philosopher, encyclopedist and a prominent figure in the French Enlightenment. He was born Paul Heinrich Dietrich in Edesheim, near Landau in the Rhenish Palatinate, but lived and worked mainly in Paris, where he kept a salon...


In 1720 Gordon and Trenchard began the publication of Cato's Letters. They appeared in the London Journal and then in the British Journal till Trenchard's death in 1723, and were reprinted in 4 vols. in 1724.

Gordon published, by subscription, a translation of Tacitus
Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors...

, in 2 vols. 1728 (dedications to the Prince of Wales and Walpole), which went through several editions, and seems to have been the standard translation till the end of the century. Edward Gibbon
Edward Gibbon
Edward Gibbon was an English historian and Member of Parliament...

 read it in his youth (Misc. Works, i. 41). In 1744 he published The Works of Sallust, with Political Discourses upon that author; to which is added a translation of Cicero's "Four Orations against Cateline." He published an 'Essay on Government' in 1747, and a 'Collection of Papers' by him appeared in 1748. Richard Baron
Richard Baron (dissenting minister)
Richard Baron was a dissenting minister, Whig pamphleteer, and editor of Locke, Milton and others.-Life:He was born at Leeds, and educated at the University of Glasgow from 1737 to 1740, which he left with a testimonial signed by Francis Hutcheson and Robert Simson...

 also published two collections of tracts by Gordon, 'A Cordial for Low Spirits,' 3 vols. 1751, and another by Gordon and others called 'The Pillars of Priestcraft and Orthodoxy Shaken,' 1752.

Gordon also wrote a preface to a translation from Barbeyrac called 'The Spirit of Ecclesiastics in all Ages,' 1722.

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