Thomas Gage

Portrait by John Singleton Copley, 1768—69

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QUICK FACTS
BORN:
1719 - 20 in East Sussex, England
  DIED:
2 April 1787 in London, England

Thomas Gage, British general and colonial governor of Massachusetts, second son of the first Viscount Gage, was born in 1721. He entered the army in 1741 and saw service in Flanders and in the campaign of Culloden, becoming lieutenant colonel in the 44th foot in March 1751.

In 1754 he served in America, taking part the following year in General Braddock’s disastrous expedition against Fort Duquesne. In 1758 he became colonel of a new regiment, and served in General Amherst’s operations against Montreal. He was made Governor of Montreal, and promoted to major general in 1761. In 1763 he succeeded Amherst in the overall command of British forces in America and in 1770 became a lieutenant general.

In 1774 he was appointed Royal Governor of Massachusetts and in that capacity was entrusted with carrying into effect the Boston Port Act. The difficulties which surrounded him in the execution of his office at this time of the gravest unrest culminated in 1775, and in the action of 19 April at Lexington he initiated the American Revolutionary War. Following the Battle of Bunker Hill, Gage was succeeded by General Sir William Howe and returned to England.

He became a general in 1782, and died in 1787.

ADAPTED FROM:
Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911 ed.

As in the case of his career as commander-in-chief, Washington’s most important act as president was his giving up the office. The significance of his retirement from the presidency is easily overlooked today, but his contemporaries knew what it meant. Most people assumed that Washington might be president as long as he lived, that he would be a kind of elected monarch like the king of Poland. Hence his retirement from the presidency enhanced his moral authority and set a precedent for future presidents.

Gordon S. Wood
Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815 (2009)