Letter from Thomas Gage to Thomas Hutchinson

This is a drawing of a blank, open journal and a quill.

General Thomas Gage, Commander-in-Chief of all British forces in North America, writes to acting Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson concerning the state of affairs in Boston and the upcoming trials of those responsible for the Boston Massacre on March 5, as well as offering his own opinions on policies in the colonies.

New York, April 20th 1770


The Tale of Richardson which you mention in your favor of the 22d. Inst., shews what is to be expected on the Trial of Capt. Preston and the Soldiers of the 29th. Regt:. In my Accounts of the unhappy Transactions of the 5th: of March, I have not omitted to take the Situation of the Town, and temper of the People, the Effort to inflame them to a Hint of Revenge, and the Endeavour used to overawe the Judges. That these Circumstances rendered it next to impossible, that those unfortunate People could have a fair and impartial Tryal, or any Chance for their Lives, whether culpable or not: unless Government should interfere, and postpone Executions, till Reports were made to the King, that His Majesty might be able to judge, how far they are real objects of Royal Mercy. But my Letters unfortunately go home late, and the Tryals will come on, before any order can be received relative to them, unless they can be postponed to a longer Term. The Cause of Justice demands delay, but I am not able to Judge, how far the Law will admit of it, and therefore may act improperly in entreating you, as far as consistent with your Duty and Power, to get the Tryal delayed, as long as it shall be possible.

I hear nothing for certain about America, tho' generaly agreed all the Dutys complained of, Tea excepted, will be taken off. The Majority, as well as the Minority, greatly divided in their Opinion about America, some for enforcing Obedience to their Laws at all Events, others, tho' few in number, Agree with the Americans in their Sentiments about Taxation. A third Party is between these two Extremes, admits the Right, but would wave the Exercise of it, and Endeavour to heal by Moderate Measures.

You will permit me to trouble you, on a Subject which perhaps may be of no Consequence, tho' I think it deserves some Attention when all Circumstances are considered. I have been informed, and have Reason to believe my Information good, that a Person in London, who is employed by the People of Boston has sent over Patterns of Accoutrements and Caps some months ago, and if approved of was to bespeak a Number of cash, sufficient for 4000 Foot Soldier. The Motto on the Caps, Vim vi repellere licet. It is not easy to find out for what good purpose so particular a Commission has been given, and on that Account I beg the Favour of you to make some Inquiry into the origin and Occasion of it; and that it may be done with as much Caution and Secrecy as possible, that it may not appear any evil Designs are expected? or from whom the Information comes. The Person who gave me the Intelligence, desired his Name might not be mentioned.

I have the honour to be with perfect Regard & Esteem,


Your most obedient humble Servant,

Thos. Gage


Original document and transcription courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Access it here.