The Agony of an Imperial Whig
An Englishman is the unfittest person on earth
to argue another Englishman into slavery.
-- Edmund Burke, 1775
ON THE HOT SUMMER AFTERNOON of August 27, 1774, while Paul Revere was preparing for yet another ride to Philadelphia, a senior British officer sat at his desk in Danvers, Massachusetts, seething with anger and frustration. Lieutenant-General the Honourable Thomas Gage was commander in chief of British forces in the New World. Mighty powers were his to command. A single stroke of his fine quill pen could start regiments marching from the Arctic to the Antipodes. The merest nod of his powdered head could cause fortresses to rise on the far frontier, and make roads appear in the trackless wilderness. In the late summer of 1774, General Thomas Gage was the most powerful man in North America.
And yet as he toiled over his endless correspondence in a borrowed country mansion on this sweltering August day, his letters overflowed with impotent rage. The source of his frustration was a political office that he had recently been given. In addition to his military duties, the King had appointed him Royal Governor of Massachusetts, with orders to reduce that restless province to obedience and peace. Parliament had armed him for that task with special powers such as no Royal Governor had possessed before. For months he had tried to act with firmness and restraint, but the