Thomas Gage in Spanish America

Topics: Religion, Spanish colonization of the Americas, Catholic Church Pages: 8 (3195 words) Published: November 14, 2008
Thomas Gage

The book, The English-American, is the personal account of the journey of Thomas Gage in Spanish America. The primary source available for my analysis is Gage’s original work edited by J. Eric S. Thompson, who provides an insightful introduction that supplements a more complete understanding of Gage’s character. The persona of Thomas Gage is relatively easy to understand and contemplate upon because of the tone of his work’s narrative, and how it vividly recreates his emotions of the time. Gage is obviously not a professional novelist; however he is extremely observant, making him a good travel writer. In addition, it seems that Gage is quite accurate in his descriptions and one can assume that he is relatively honest. Gage’s book was first published in 1648 and presented to Cromwell and company to persuade the English to invade the Spanish Americas. This presents an interesting conundrum: When did Gage decide to publish his work as an outline for an English invasion, and was he a spy for the entirety of his stay in Latin America? Although this question is disputed, it can be used as an example of Gage’s character, showing the turmoil that plagued his moral character. Superficially, it is apparent that Gage’s characteristics take on that of a scoundrel. This assumption is indeed warranted, and his acquisitive nature occurs with almost predictable frequency throughout the entirety of his work. In addition, his book was published after Gage had converted to the Protestant faith, and was meant as a means of gaining recognition. Therefore, since Gage sought to gain prominence in his new faith, this provides evidence for the critical nature of the narrative toward the Spanish colonists in America. However, an in depth look at Gage reveals a side that is not ignoble, but “as the bewildered victim of his own failure to reach a clear and lasting decision on his religious beliefs.” (Thompson xiv) Although Gage arrived in Mexico as a Dominican friar, he converted to radical Protestantism shortly upon returning to England. “In an age not remarkable for it religious tolerance, Gage seems to have been able to identify himself with both extremes of the Christian faith at one time or another, but the spirit of the age forced him to choose sides.” (Thompson xiv) This crisis of religious identity becomes an excellent issue for analysis, and Gage’s book provides ample information from which conclusions can be made. The agitation that Gage experienced toward his interpretation of Christianity would accumulate during his travels and experiences in Spanish America, and more specifically, become aggravated by the Spanish extortion of the Indians and the pronounced lewdness of the hypocritical and corrupt clergy. The consequential effects that these events had on Gage’s conscience would cause him to perceive intrinsic flaws in the Catholic doctrine and lead to his eventual apostasy from the Catholic faith. However, the duality of Gage’s character complicates an analysis of his religious orientation; therefore, the reasons used to establish a type of conclusion are ambiguous. Although his conversion to Protestantism was largely caused by his experiences in Spanish America, it also seems quite obvious that it was part of a scheme to advance himself socially. These inclinations to assume that all of Gage’s actions were selfish in nature are somewhat justified because of his generally sour reputation. However, the evidence presented in his book informs us that Gage had decided to convert in Guatemala, long before he returned to England. The process and chain of events that influenced Gage appear to begin soon after his arrival in America in 1625, and finally manifest during 1628-1629 while he is teaching at the University of Guatemala. Gage is very precise in his descriptions of negligent clergymen, and perhaps “he was driven to disclose and execrate all such frailties, however improbable they may have been, because they had...
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