Thomas Gage
Painting: by unknown artist

Royal Governor of Massachusetts: 1774

The commissioning of Thomas Gage as Royal Governor of Massachusetts was a clear sign that English tolerance of rebellion in Massachusetts had reached its limit. Gage had a decade of service in the English infantry, was familiar with combat in American from the French and Indian War, and had been Commander-In-Chief of British Forces in North America.

He began his administration in May of 1774, by enforcing a series of "Coercive Measures" imposed by England in response to the Boston Tea Party. The Boston Port Act closed Boston Harbor until the Colony made amends to the East India Tea Company, injured customs officers, and until the King certified that peace was restored in Boston. Further acts suspended Massachusetts' legislature, banned town meetings and juries, provided for troops to be housed in private residence, and enabled the Governor to suspend laws and move trials to England as he thought fit.

The revolutionary response came at the meeting of the Provincial Congress in 1774, where Massachusetts' political leaders planned for independence. By October, Governor Gage's ability to influence life through political means was all but ended. His rule increasingly became that of a military governor, an occupier of territory that ruled by force.

Gage ordered the arrest of Samuel Adams and John Hancock and in April of 1775 received orders to take "vigorous action without reinforcement." When he sent soldiers to seize military stores at Concord; the colonial militia resisted. On April 19, 1775, the shooting war of the American Revolution began in Lexington and Concord.

Thomas Gage would be the last of the Royal Governors. After five years of battle and recovery, a new kind of Governor would be created. Besides being democratically elected, there would checks and balances limiting their powers. But the question that remained was whether the revolutionary impulse in Massachusetts could be turned in to a cohesive government and what form would such a government take?