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Cosmo Gordon

Male 1748 - 1825  (~ 76 years)

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  • Name Cosmo Gordon 
    Born Clashdow, Morayshire, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Christened 28 Dec 1748  Mortlach Parish, Banffshire, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location  [1, 2
    Gender Male 
    Died 07 Feb 1825  Liverpool, Lancashire, England Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    • Name: Cosmo Gordon
      Gender: Male
      Burial Date: 07 Feb 1825
      Burial Place: Liverpool, Lancashire, England
      Indexing Project (Batch) Number: I00540-3
      System Origin: England-EASy
      Source Film Number: 2147886
      Reference Number: item 1-3 p 143
      Collection: England Deaths and Burials, 1538-1991
    Will Jun 1825  Liverpool, Lancashire, England Find all individuals with events at this location  [3

    • Cheshire & Lancashire: - Wils and Administrations, 1821-1825
      Lancasbire Wills
      County: Cheshire
      Country: England
      Gordon, Cosmo, Liverpool, customs officer. W Jun 1825

      Cheshire & Lancashire: - Wils and Administrations, 1821-1825
      Marton Marriages. Addenda Et Corrigenda.
      Lancasbire Wills
      County: Cheshire
      Country: England
      Gordon, Cosmo, Liverpool, customs officer. W Jun 1825
    _UID FEDA0401183E4DE08A24ADAD50F43C07EFED 
    • Cosmo Gordon: was baptized Dec. 28, 1752, before the same witnesses as his siblings. The Birnie Manuscript deals at great length with him. He was employed early in life in establishing the use of "Cudbear," invented by his brothers-in-law, George and Cuthbert Gordon, sons of Thomas Gordon of Fotherletter. (Fetterletter?)

      (Cudbear is the northern European equivalent to Parelle. The commonest lichen used was Ochrolechia tartarea but others were used too.

      The name was coined by George and Cuthbert Gordon who applied for a patent in 1758 which came about after George, a coppersmith from Banffshire, while mending a copper boiler in a London dye-house, noticed an orchil dye being used which was similar to his native crottles in the Highlands. His brother Cuthbert was a dye merchant in Leith.

      The Birnie MS says that soon after his marriage (in 1778) he was induced to purchase the office of one of the nineteen Deputy King's Waiters of the Customs of the Port of London for an annuity of 70 during the life of Kenneth MacPherson, one of the Inquest of the Customs, and also during that of his wife (who was Mrs. Cosmo Gordon's eldest sister). This annuity be paid for 34 years. Macpherson had got the billet by way of compensation for not having obtained the office of a Searcher in the Port fo London according to a promise made by Lord North to his friends, "James MacPherson, of Ossian notoriety, and to Sir John MacPherson, Governor General of Bengal."

      The emoluments, however were much smaller than Gordon expected, so he "turned his attention to the improvement of the revenue" in order to increase his income. He first suggested to Pitt "a scheme for the improvement of the duties arising from wood, by defining under a specific description each individual article in terms so clear and precise as to render doubt and evasion impossible, which with additional duty advanced that branch of the Customs from an average of 43,000 to the considerably more than half-a-million annually."

      He next suggested to Mr. Pitt the measure of warehousing tobacco. This took place on January 6, 1786, when he was appointed Comptrolling Surveyor of the Warehouse in London, with the promise of being principal surveyor so soon as an arrangement could be made for the retirement of a Mr. Thomas, then an old and infirm officer, which took place the year following. (The "Gentleman's Magazine" records the fact, Dec 1788.) The measure of warehousing tobacco having proved so beneficial to the Revenue as to cause a greater quantity to pay the duty of fifteen pence a pound than formerly had paid only sixpence and a fraction, Mr. Pitt, with a view of suppressing the frauds committed in the manufacture of snuff and tobacco, directed him in 1788 to suggest such regulations as appeared to him proper for placing these manufactures under the inspection of the Excise; and the measures which he proposed for that purpose being approved of a Bill was framed in conformity to the, and was passed into an Act of the 29th George III cap. 69.

      While this Act was passing through the two Houses of Parliament, Cosmo was directed by the two Houses, through Mr. Pitt, to be in constant attendance to explain to himself and the members who supported the measure whatever doubts or objections arose upon any of the clauses, and also to supply Mr. Pitt from time to time with observations upon the various objections made by the evidences brought forward by the opposers of the Bill, and while it was in the House of Commons he was considered to be so much the author of the measure as to be indulged with the kind of privilege which the author of every measure before the House of Commons usually has of sitting in the House below the Bar during the time it may be under discussion. But the most formidable opposition having been made in the House of Lords, where the witnesses are examined on oath, and the Chancellor, Lord Thurlow, upon its introduction being considered as rather unfriendly to it, Cosmo was directed by Mr. Pitt to digest as concisely as he could the purport and intent of the several clauses, with distract and separate heads explanatory of the forces and utility of each of them, and so as to serve as an index to the Bill.

      The outline of it was given to Lord Hopetoun before it was finished. The Chancellor desired to see it, and, on being informed by whom it was drawn up, appointed Cosmo to attend him next morning with such an Index. He accordingly waited upon Lord Thurlow and put into his hands a complete Index, and discussed with him all the clauses, and he was so far satisfied s not only to say that if the Minister had sent Cosmo to him before the Bill was brought in it should have met with no opposition from him, but he also requested Cosmo to attend him every day in his own chamber at th House of Lords, both before he took his seat on the Wool sack and after he left it.

      During these interviews he talked freely to Cosmo upon what he thought of the kind of evidence that was brought forward, and upon the whole became a convert to the measure. Cosmo had repeated interview with all the Lords who supported the measure, and even with some of those who opposed it. They admitted that the arguments he had stated in his Index were unanswerable, and consequently, if the measure had not been coupled with an extension of the Excise Law it was otherwise unobjectionable.

      In the beginning of the 1801 Administration, after a discussion in Parliament, there was set on foot a scheme for supplying such Associations as had been formed in various parts of England for the relief of the poor with herrings from the Firth of Forth and such other kinds of fish as could be procured in Scotland. Difficulties having arisen in executing such orders as these Association had given, Cosmo was directed on January 23rd to proceed to Edinburgh and to such other places in Scotland as he should find necessary for furthering the views of Administration, and to carry on a correspondence with those in the different parts of England who were desirous of obtaining supplies of fish, as well as to supply the fish curers with such quantities of salt as they required.

      Cosmo soon after his arrival at Edinburgh, and when he had taken proper measures for forwarding to England large quantities of herrings from Burntisland and Leith, proceeded along the East Coast as far as Peterhead, with a view of securing a sufficient supply of cod and ling. He reported the proceedings from time to time to the Treasury, and a change of Administration having then taken place by the resignation of Mr. Pitt and the appointment of Mr. Addington to succeed him, Cosmo received the following letter from Mr. Rose before he quitted the Treasury: -- "Sir, -- The whole of your proceedings since you left London on the service of furthering supplies of herrings, cod, ling, &c., &c., for the several parts of England, and also with salt for the fisheries, meet with the entire approbation of the lords Commissioners of me to acquaint you with.

      The prices at which you state the mud cod and dried ling may be had of a good quality render it highly probable that the Committees at some of the places at least will avail themselves of a supply of these fish, especially of the former, and you have done perfectly right to make the prices and facility of supply as generally know as you could - I am, &c., GEORGE ROSE, Treasury Clerk -- 12th March 1801." Cosmo was directed by the Treasury of the new Administration to remain in Scotland and inquire generally into the state of the fisheries in every part of that kingdom, until it should be ascertained whether the productiveness of the ensuing harvest should render it necessary to supply the poor in England any longer with fish. He consequently continued there until September, and on his return to London made his report to the Treasury on the herring fishery; and Mr. Vansittart, the Secretary to the Lords, informed him that he had placed the whole in so clear and striking a light that, he had placed the whole in so clear an striking a light that, if the country should fortunately be at peace, the fishery laws should undergo a complete revision. In 1803 he sent an "account of the Dutch herring fishing," communicated to him by two Dutchmen to the Highland Society, of which he had become a member on June 29, 1801.

      Cosmo now resumed the duties of his own office as Principal Surveyor of the Tobacco Warehouse, only, at the desire of the Commissioners of the Customs, employing his spare time in inquiring into the proceedings of the department of Searchers in London, and reporting his opinion thereon. This he executed faithfully, and pointed out that from the very loose system they pursued that the Revenue was exposed to innumerable frauds of great magnitude, particularly in regard to the examination of goods entered for bounty or drawback: that it could not be ascertained by any document or voucher in their office whether any parcel of such goods had actually been examined by any searcher, although debentures were signed and passed for the payment of great sums of money on the faith of their having been examined and shipped for exportation. All that could be seen in their office was a kind of rotation, stating on what duty each searcher was supposed to be employed in attending each day and at what places; but that he was on such duty on that day or that he or any other searcher had seen the goods said to have been shipped from that place on that or any other day could not be traced from any record kept in their office.

      The Commissioners were much struck with this, and requested Cosmo to lay before them the means of correcting so great an abuse, to which he briefly replied that in his opinion no effectual remedy could be applied unless the number of searchers were increased, and every part of their duty placed upon and entirely new footing. In the meantime the Treasury received in formation of frauds to a great extent through the negligence of the searchers in suffering the books in their office to lie open to every one inclined to look into them, by which the quantities of goods might be altered to suit any fraudulent design. This, as Cosmo had foreseen, was actually done by a person who himself in formed the Treasury of it, upon receiving both an indemnification and a reward. The facts were minutely inquired into by Mr. Swainson, who was then one of the Surveyors General, and the whole found to be done precisely as the informer had stated. While the inquiry was making the Lords of the Treasury were desirous of ascertaining how far it was expedient to extend the Warehousing system to the several out-ports in England, and in December 1804 Cosmo was selected upon the part of the Customs to examine the accommodations which each port possessed for the security of the Revenue.

      In this service he was engaged nine months, traveling from port to port from south to north and from east to west no less than 2897 miles, and during his absence, without the least solicitation on his part, Mr. Pitt amongst the last papers he signed was Cosmo's appointment to the Surveyor of the Searchers, then considered to be the best office in the out-door department of the Customs in London. The business of this office, according to the system recommended by Mr. Swainson, and adopted by the Board. Cosmo had the happiness to establish and to carry on to the entire satisfaction of all parties for the space of two years; but at the conclusion of 1806 the Treasury, in pursuance of a report from Mr. Frewin, the Chairman of the Board of Customs, directed that an office conversant in all the parts of the Warehousing business as carried on at the docks in Liverpool might be sent there to place it as far as local circumstances would admit, upon the same footing as London, and to remain in it until such officers as might be appointed were qualified and instructed in that duty.

      In this the most arduous and difficult service he was ever engaged in Cosmo continued ten months, and even then, when he returned to London, he told the Board that in a few months it would be advisable to inquire how far the officers were adhering to the system that had been laid down for their government. But at this juncture, in consequence of the death of Mr. Onslow, Mr. Swainson, then the Secretary, was appointed Collector of Liverpool, and being a stranger at that place, he requested Cosmo to accompany him for a few weeks on his first appearance there; and, as Mr. Nicholas Saumarez, brother to Admiral Sir John Saumarez, had been appointed the Principal Surveyor of the Warehouses and Surveyor of the Searchers at Liverpool, with the same salary as Cosmo had in London, it was suggested, as Mr. Swainson and he had lived so many years in the strictest habits of intimacy and friendship with each other, how agreeable it would prove to them both for Cosmo to exchange situations with Mr. Samarez, and which being sanctioned by the Treasury, Cosmo removed altogether from London early n 1808, and took upon him the business at Liverpool.

      In which situation he continued ten years, when by exerting himself in the discharge of it far beyond what one at his time of life ought to have done, his health began to decline so rapidly as to render it prudent for him to retire. "He continued for a year in the same precarious state, until he was relieved by a violent bleeding at the nose; soon after which his health began to improve, and by the mercy of Almighty God he is now writing these memoirs (Birnie MS) in as comfortable state of health as any one can expect to enjoy in the 74th year of his age."

      He was twice married. His first wife, whose name does not appear in the Birnie MS, died Nov. 24th 1796. He then married, January 12, 1808, Mrs. Sarah Butler, widow of Mr. John Butler. He had two sons:

      (1) Thomas Gordon, by the first wife. The Birnie MS says he "seemed to possess rather more than common abilities, and never was sent to any school except to learn French, having acquired all the knowledge he had under his father. Indeed he was almost self-taught, for he used to say that what one had heard and seen and could not teach himself to do he was not teach himself to do he was not worth being taught it. He prided himself in his penmanship and accuracy in accounts, and at the time of his death he kept as elegant a set of mercantile books as any in London." He died October 1798, in his 19th year.

      (2) Robert Henry Butler Gordon, who was third mate in the Albion East Indiaman and died the preceding year at Bencoolan, on his voyage to China, in the 24th year of his age. [2]
    Person ID I6571716  7_families
    Last Modified 6 Jul 2010 

    Father Harry Gordon,   b. Abt 1720, Of Hardhaugh, Morayshire, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Yes, date unknown 
    Mother Helen Burges,   b. Abt 1718, Clashdow, Morayshire, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Yes, date unknown 
    Married Abt 1748  , Morayshire, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Family ID F1993120  Group Sheet

    Family 1 Magdalen Gordon,   b. Abt 1754, Fotherletter, Morayshire, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 24 Nov 1796, Liverpool, Lancashire, England Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 42 years) 
    Married 12 Sep 1779  London, London, England Find all individuals with events at this location  [4
     1. Thomas Gordon,   b. 1779, , , Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Oct 1798, London, London, England Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 19 years)
     2. Robert Henry Butler Gordon,   b. Abt 1780, , , Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1804, Bencoolan, , , (Singapore, China) Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 24 years)
    Last Modified 20 Oct 2006 
    Family ID F2056848  Group Sheet

    Family 2 Mrs. Sarah Butler,   d. Yes, date unknown 
    Married 12 Jan 1808  London, London, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Last Modified 10 Nov 2001 
    Family ID F2056849  Group Sheet

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - - Clashdow, Morayshire, Scotland Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsChristened - 28 Dec 1748 - Mortlach Parish, Banffshire, Scotland Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMarried - 12 Sep 1779 - London, London, England Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMarried - 12 Jan 1808 - London, London, England Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 07 Feb 1825 - Liverpool, Lancashire, England Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsWill - Jun 1825 - Liverpool, Lancashire, England Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Maps 
     = Link to Google Earth 
    Pin Legend  : Address       : Location       : City/Town       : County/Shire       : State/Province       : Country       : Not Set

  • Sources 
    1. [S120309] Scotland, Banff, Mortlach Parish Records, Church of Scotland. Parish Church of Mortlach, (Salt Lake City [Utah] : Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1977. FHL Film # 990989), FHL Film # 990989., Cosmo, son to Harry Gordon and Helen Burges in Hardhaugh was baptised 28 Dec 1748. Witnesses: Charles Burgess in Clashdow and John Forbes in Keithhack..

    2. [S120321] The Gordon's of Laggan, John Malcolm Bulloch, (Banff, The Banffshire Journal Office, The Banffshire Field Club, 1907), Lee Drew has one of the few copies in existance...

    3. [S697858] England, Cheshire: Parish and Probate Records, (

    4. [S121606] Boyd's Marriage Index 1538 - 1840, (, 1779, GORDON, COSMO and GORDON, MAGD - LONDON (ST EDMUND THE KING), LONDON.