Thomas Gage

Portrait by John Singleton Copley, 1768—69

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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.

[Thomas Jefferson] was undoubtedly complicated. He mingled the loftiest visions with astute backroom politicking. He spared himself nothing and was a compulsive shopper, yet he extolled the simple yeoman farmer who was free from the lures of the marketplace. He hated obsessive money-making, the proliferating banks, and the liberal capitalistic world that emerged in the Northern states in the early nineteenth century, but no one in American did more to bring that about. Although he kept the most tidy and meticulous accounts of his daily transactions, he never added up his profits and losses. He thought public debts were the curse of a healthy state, yet his private debts kept mounting as he borrowed and borrowed again to meet his rising expenditures. He was a sophisticated man of the world who loved no place better than his remote mountaintop home in Virginia. This slaveholding aristocrat ended up becoming the most important apostle for liberty and democracy in American history.

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