Thomas Gage (c. 1597 – 1656) was an English clergyman.
He was the son of the English Catholic gentleman John Gage, from 1622 a baronet, and his wife Margaret. The family were strong Catholics and were intermarried with other Catholic families, including that of Sir Thomas More, the former Lord Chancellor.
John Gage wanted his son Thomas to become a Jesuit, and to this end sent him for a schooling with the Jesuits of the College of St. Omer in the Low Countries and seems to have been an unremarkable pupil. From St Omer he was sent for further education with a view to becoming a Jesuit priest to the English College at Valladolid in Spain. Valladolid was the scene of a good deal of rivalry and bad feeling between the different religious orders, a situation worsened by the temperamental and political tensions between the Spanish and the English. Gage developed a contempt for the Jesuits and like numerous other students of the English College at that period took refuge with a rival establishment, choosing the Dominicans. Gage himself claims that it was this that led to his being disowned by his father.
Having been sent to the English College at Valladolid, in Spain, he showed his first sign of a difficult character when he developed a loathing for the Jesuits who ran the College, left and entered the Dominican, being ordained a priest in. As a Spanish Dominican he served as professor of rhetoric in the convent of Jerez, and then volunteered in 1625 for the mission to the Philippines. There was a hitch. Before his departure a royal decree forbade any foreigner, under severe penalties, to go to the Spanish colonies. Gage was hidden in a barrel and the party of thirty or so Dominican friars sailed from Cadiz, on July 2 1627.
Further embittered, he decided to accompany friar Francisco Moran into new territories of Guatemala to learn the language and ways of the Amerinds. This he did and preached to two communities of Mixco and Pinola for five years. It seems likely that this was already in his mind at least in part a largely mercenary operation, aimed at gathering funds to finance a return to England. Gage gathered a handsome 9,000 crowns, in what proportion honestly gained is left unclear. By 1635, with this sum accumulated, Gage, now increasingly disenchanted with Spanish America, was ready to return to Europe, requested permission from the Dominican Provincial, was refused and was posted instead to Petapa. After a year there he decided to run for it. All in all he had spent the years 1625-1637 in Mexico and Guatemala.
Turning his wealth into pearls and precious stones, on January 7 1637, he made his way through Nicaragua and sailed from Costa Rica on February 4 losing most of his money to Dutch corsairs en route. He finally reached Spain on November 28 1637, and in 1638 arrived in England. There, after an absence of twenty-six years, he discovered that he had been disowned and disinherited by his father, long deceased, though he was welcomed and treated well by his family. He could not get along with his fellow Dominicans in England and soon traveled to Rome, though his doubts about his faith continued. On the way out he called on his brother Colonel Henry Gage at his winter quarters near Ghent. This journey, lengthened by ill-health and wartime conditions, brought him a number of adventures, but also the opportunity to visit Protestant communities in both Germany and France. In Rome, where he continued to conceal his leaning to Protestantism, he involved himself in a variety of intrigues.
Despairing now perhaps more or less of everything, he returned from Rome to England in September 1640, and began to take an active part in the parliamentary troubles in England, and then in 1642 publicly abandoned the Catholic Church for a Puritanical form of Anglicanism. He became a "Preacher of the Word" and as a means to improve the lukewarm reception he had received among Protestants and by the Parliamentarian part, he married. Though for this he was rewarded with the rectorship of Acrise in Kent, he had won for himself general ridicule by a sermon he preached that summer in St Paul's, London, and published in October under the title "The Tyranny of Satan, discovered by the teares of a converted sinner [...] by Thomas Gage, formerly a Romish Priest, for the space of 38 yeares, and now truly reconciled to the Church of England". That he was no clown but a dangerous and spiteful man came clearly to light in December 1642 when he testified against the priest Thomas Holland, whom he had known at St. Omer and Valladolid, and obtained a sentence of hanging, drawing and quartering which was effectively carried out. The following year, 1643 it was the turn of the Franciscan Francis Bell, with the same result. On September 7 1644 the Jesuit Ralph Corby was executed on his evidence.
Gage then set about exploiting his life's experience, and published a book, The English-American his Travails by Sea and Land in 1648, which was as much a political pamphlet and an adventurer's prospectus as a traveller's tale.
That of Thomas Holland was not the only death for which Gage was responsible among the Catholics. In 1650 two priests were arrested, the Jesuit Peter Wright and the Dominican Thomas Middleton or Dade. Wright had been chaplain in Ghent and in England to Thomas Gage's soldier brother Henry and had attended Henry at his death. Dade was the provincial of the English Dominicans. Gage was the chief prosecution witness. His brother George visited him and pleaded with him not to stain himself with judicial murder. Thomas Gage promised to desist and did get Dade, against whom he had a personal grudge, off the charge. Possibly Gage was afraid for his own safety if he let the trial collapse. The execution of Wright was not popular and Gage's treachery, compounded by his attack on his late brother Henry's good name, earned even the rebuke of the court.
In 1651 came an attempt to win back some public regard with his 'A duell betvveen a Iesuite and a Dominican : begun at Paris, gallantly fought at Madrid, and victoriously ended at London, upon fryday the 16 day of May, Anno Dom. 1651 / by Thomas Gage, alias the English American, now preacher of the word at Deal in Kent, in several printings, and then his A full survey of Sion and Babylon, and a clear vindication of the parish-churches and parochial-ministers of England [...], or, A Scripture disproof, and syllogistical conviction of M. Charles Nichols, of Kent : delivered in three Sabbath-dayes sermons in the parish church of Deal in Kent, after a publick dispute in the same church with the said Mr. Charles Nichols, upon the 20. day of October 1653''.
Supplies ran low, the joint commanders squabbled and morale plunged when the soldiers learned they were not to plunder the Spanish colonies. The aim was to secure a base of operations in the Caribbean and from there to threaten Spanish trade and treasure routes in central America and weaken Catholic influence in the Americas. Arriving off Santo Domingo on April 13, 1655, the expedition found that it had been reported beforehand and the Spaniards were ready. In shore the English forces suffered greatly from heat and drought during their march through difficult tropical terrain. Moreover, contrary to Gage's confident prediction, the Indians fought with the Spanish had taken measures of defense. Coupled with the democratic habits of the Roundheads, the result was fiasco.
Moving on, the fleet anchored on May 11 off Jamaica, landed the troops of General Venables, and, after a desperate resistance by the Spaniards, captured the island. Though Spain formally ceded Jamaica to England in 1670, the slaves ("Maroons") released by the Spanish harassed the English efficiently into the 18th century. The expeditions commanders were later to be charged with deserting their posts, briefly imprisoned in the Tower, and relieved of their commands. As to Thomas Gage, before the immediate operation was concluded he died (probably of dysentery), in 1656.
For an article by Hether Sebens http://historicaltextarchive.com/sections.php?op=viewarticle&artid=451
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