Gordon, John, (fifteenth or) sixteenth Earl of Sutherland 1660?-1733, only son of George, (fourteenth or) fifteenth earl of Sutherland, and Lady Jean Wemyss, daughter of David, second earl of Wemyss, and widow of Archibald, earl of Angus, was probably born in 1660, his parents having been married on 11 Aug. 1659. While still Lord Strathnaver he took an active part in public affairs. In 1689 he took arms in support of the revolution and William III, and in conjunction with Sir Thomas Livingstone, commander of the forces, wrote a letter, dated 3 July 1689, to Viscount Dundee, to whom he was related by marriage, offering to be his mediator with William. He was appointed a privy councillor by William III, under whom he commanded a regiment of infantry in Flanders. On his father's death in 1703 he succeeded as Earl of Sutherland, and on 11 July 1704 took the oaths and his seat as a lord of parliament. He attended all the parliaments between that date and the union of 1707, and made repeated efforts to obtain payment of certain arrears of pay due to his regiment. In 1704 he was nominated on the privy council of Queen Anne. He supported the union between England and Scotland in parliament, and was one of the commissioners for arranging its terms. On its consummation he was chosen one of the sixteen representative peers of Scotland, and was continued as such at three subsequent elections in 1715, 1722, and 1727. In 1715 he was appointed president of the board of trade and manufactures, and about the same time lord-lieutenant of the eight northern counties of Scotland: Sutherland, Caithness, Orkney, Ross, Cromarty, Inverness, Elgin, and Nairn.
In the same year when Mar's rebellion broke out he at once proceeded to his own district, raised forces which the government agreed to equip, and endeavoured to prevent the Earl of Seaforth from joining Mar. With six hundred men from his own estates and those of Lord Reay, Sutherland joined Colonel Robert Munro, who had collected six hundred men at Alness. Seaforth raised three thousand highlanders, and threatened an attack upon Sutherland, who retired. Seaforth took possession of Inverness, and then joined Mar for the battle of Sheriffmuir. Sutherland marched to recover Inverness, but was forestalled by Lord Lovat. They held it during the rebellion, and when Seaforth on returning to the highlands attempted, in conjunction with the Marquis of Huntly, to retake Inverness, Sutherland assailed him, and obliged him to tender his submission. Huntly also surrendered shortly afterwards. When the rebellion was quelled, Sutherland proceeded to London, where in June 1716 he was invested by George I with the order of the Thistle, and in September following received an annual pension of 1,200l. as a recognition of his services. Mackay says of Sutherland: He is a very honest man, a great asserter of the liberties of the people; hath a good rough sense, is open and free, a great lover of his bottle and of his friend; brave in his person, which he hath shown in several duels; too familiar for his quality, and often keeps company below it; is a fat, fair-complexioned man, forty-five years old (Memoirs, p. 201). He died in London on 27 June 1733.
Sutherland was thrice married: First, to Helen, second daughter of William, lord Cochrane, son of William, first earl of Dundonald. Her sister was married to Viscount Dundee. By her he had a son and two daughters, William, lord Strathnaver, and Ladies Jean and Helen. Secondly, to Lady Catherine Talmash, widow of James, lord Doune, and second daughter of Sir Lionel Talmash and Elizabeth, duchess of Lauderdale. Thirdly, to the widow of Sir John Travel, an English lady of fortune. He had no issue by his second and third wives. On the marriage of his son in 1705 to Catherine Morrison of Prestongrange, Sutherland resigned the earldom in his son's favour, retaining the life-rent, but the son predeceased him 19 July 1720. This son's son, also William, succeeded his grandfather as (sixteenth or) seventeenth earl in 1733, and, dying in 1750, was succeeded by his son William as (seventeenth or) eighteenth earl. The last earl left an only daughter, Elizabeth, who successfully claimed the title of Countess of Sutherland 21 March 1771, and married George Granville Leveson-Gower, first duke of Sutherland [see Leveson-Gower, Elizabeth].
Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland, vols. viii-xi. passim
Fraser's Chiefs of Grant, ii. 96, iii. 253
Burton's Hist. of Scotland, 1689-1748
Hist. MSS. Comm. 2nd Rep. App. pp. 177-80.
Contributor: H. P. [Henry Paton]