J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Friday, May 08, 2015

“My beloved wife Margaret Gage“

One of Boston 1775’s long-running questions is how much evidence there is for the belief that Margaret Gage, American-born wife of Gen. Thomas Gage, betrayed her husband by leaking his plans about the march on 18-19 Apr 1775 to Dr. Joseph Warren. After David Hackett Fischer made a case for that hypothesis in Paul Revere’s Ride, the story was widely retold at Boston historic sites.

That theory rests on the conclusion that Thomas and Margaret Gage became estranged after April 1775, with the general sending her home to England and treating her coldly thereafter. But, as I noted back here, they continued to have children.

Asa Gage of Atlanta, who notes that Margaret was “a distant cousin,” sent some additional material related to the Gages’ later life. With his permission, I’m sharing portions of his transcription of the general’s will, proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury and obtained through the British National Archives.


Margaret had two children after she returned to England, both conceived after the possible estrangement:

  • Emily Gage, b. 25 Apr 1776.
  • William Hall Gage, b. 2 Oct 1777.
Further, in his 1786 will the general takes very good care of Margaret, and refers to her as “beloved” on several occasions. Again, he may be bowing to convention in his language, but it does raise a question. He also made her his executrix:
…first I give unto my beloved wife Margaret Gage all my linen plate china and books together with my horses and equipage and also all my liquors of every sort and also all my pictures except my two miniature pictures . . .

it is my desire that what I have herein before given to my said wife shall be at her disposal at her pleasure. . . .

In trust to permit and suffer my wife Margaret Gage to hold and enjoy my said house in Portland Place with the appurtenances and all the goods and household furniture therein and to receive the rents and profits thereof for her own use and benefit during her life . . .

my said trustees shall during the life of my said wife receive the rents and benefits of my said plantations and estates in the island of Montserrat and do and shall pay one moiety or half part of the clear yearly rents and profits thereof unto my said wife during her natural life . . .

if any surplus should remain after the payment of my debts and funeral expenses upon trust to pay one third part of such surplus unto my said wife for her own use . . .

lastly I do hereby nominate constitute and appoint my said dear brother William Hall Lord Viscount Gage and my beloved wife Margaret Gage executor and executrix of this my last will and guardians to my children until they attain their respective ages of twenty one years 
Finally, Margaret’s brother Samuel Kemble of Friday Hill, Essex County, was one of three trustees for the general’s house in Portland Place, his plantations and estates on the island of Montserrat, his 18,000 acres of land on the Mohawk River in the New York state in North America, and other miscellaneous properties.

All in all, I see evidences of a continued normal relationship between Thomas and Margaret, but haven’t found any indication of actual estrangement.

Thanks to Asa Gage for this additional information and sound analysis.

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