Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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GAGE, Thomas, Irish traveller, born in Limerick. Ireland, in 1597; died in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1655. His father sent him in 1612 to Spain to study in the Jesuit College, but he was filled with a great aversion to the Jesuits, and joined the Dominicans in 1621. He was afterward professor of rhetoric in the convent of Jerez, and later asked and obtained leave to join a party of missionaries to the Philippine islands, but before his departure a royal decree was promulgated forbidding any foreigner, under severe penalties, to go to the Spanish colonies. But the president of the mission, Jacinto Calvo, hid Gage in a hogshead, and they sailed from Cadiz, 2 July, 1627, with twenty-seven Dominican friars. After various adventures the party reached Mexico, where Gage decided to remain, and he taught Latin for some time in the convent school. In 1626 he was employed as Indian teacher and missionary in Guatemala, and afterward obtained the rich parish of San Jose de Amatitlan, where he occupied himself more in amassing wealth than in caring for his flock. When, in 1636, he obtained from the general of the order permission to return to Europe, he had 9,000 ducats in his possession. As the provincial put difficulties in his way, he turned his wealth into pearls and precious stones, and on 7 January 1637, left his parish secretly, and, making his way through the province of Nicaragua, sailed from the gulf-coast of Costa Rica on 4 February After losing most of his fortune in an adventure with Dutch corsairs, he finally reached Spain on 28 November, 1637, and in 1638 arrived in England, after an absence of twenty-six years. After a visit to Italy in 1639, he took an active part in the parliamentary troubles in England, and publicly abjured Roman Catholicism in the cathedral of St. Paul in 1644. He was rewarded with the rectory of Deal, and there prepared for publication his work, "New Description of the West Indies, and a Journey of 3,300 Miles on the Mainland of Mexico and Central America, with a Residence of Eleven Years in the Indian Cities of Guatemala, with a Grammar of the Poconchi Language" (London, 1648), which he dedicated to Oliver Cromwell. This book made a sensation, as, although it was full of gross exaggerations and some flagrant untruth, it laid for the first time before the public a description of the Spanish possessions in America, the knowledge of which so far had been jealously guarded by the authorities. The work passed through several editions, and was translated into the principal languages of Europe. As Gage in his work had treated of the great riches of Mexico and Central America, Cromwell's attention was attracted, and, after many consultations with the author, an expedition against the Spanish colonies was resolved upon. On 11 March, 1655, a fleet of twenty-three sail. under Vice-Admiral Penn, having on board 6,550 troops and marines, left Bristol, with Gage on board as guide. The fleet arrived before Havana on 15 April, but, as the expedition had been reported beforehand, the Spaniards had taken measures of defense. After taking some booty on the coast of Santo Domingo, the fleet anchored on 9 May before Spanish Town, Jamaica, landed the troops of General Venables, and, after a desperate resistance by the Spaniards, captured the whole island, which has since remained a British colony. Before the conquest was concluded, Gage died of dysentery.
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