The gift was instigated by the then Mayor of New York, Whitehead Hicks, and agreed by the Common Council on May 20, 1773. The Mayor:
Communicated to this Board that General Gage Intends Shortly to Leave this province for Europe, & that as his Conduct has been Generally Approved of by the Inhabitants of this City, therefore proposed that this Board Should Address him & at the same time prefer him with the freedom of this Corporation, the Seal whereof to be Enclosed in a Gold Box.
On June 7, 1773, the Mayor and Board waited on his Excellency the Honorable Thomas Gage to make the presentation. The recipient responded with an equally elegant note of thanks ending:
I esteem myself highly honoured by your enrolling my Name in the List of your Citizens and I accept your present with gratitude, as a Memorial of your Affections, and as such I shall ever carefully preserve it. It is my Ardent Wish, that your City may increase & prosper & that its Inhabitants may continue a flourishing & happy people, to the End of Time.
Thomas Gage (1721-1787) was the second son of Thomas, 1st Viscount Gage, an Irish peer, and his wife Benedicta. He received his first commission in 1741 and served in Ireland, Flanders, and Scotland. In 1754 Gage came to North America to combat the French, fighting alongside the then little-known George Washington. An enthusiastic and capable officer, Gage was commended for his “gallant conduct” and twice wounded in action. After the capture of Montreal and Quebec, Major-General Gage was appointed Governor of Montreal, where he was noted for his conciliatory rule.
Gage married in 1758 Margaret, daughter of Peter Kemble, president of the Council of New Jersey, and his wife Gertrude Bayard. In 1763 Gage was named Commander-in-Chief of the whole British Army in North America, with his headquarters in New York. He ran a vast military machine of more than 50 garrisons and stations stretching from Newfoundland to Florida and from Bermuda to the Mississippi. With his wife’s connections among the local elite, the couple were popular in New York, entertaining in their house in Broad Street. The General had more problems with the restless people of Boston, who resisted English taxes and acts more than loyalist New York.
In 1773, the Gages decided to return to England, for the General the first time in twenty years. This departure was marked by the presentation of this Freedom box, ending a nine year residency which J.R. Alden, the General’s biographer, called “probably the happiest years in the life of Thomas Gage.” Sent back the following year as Royal Governor of the difficult Massachusetts, Gage dispatched the troops that triggered Paul Revere’s famous ride – some historians theorize that a patriotic Lady Gage may have given first notice – and the “battles” of Lexington and Concord. After the bloody battle of Bunker Hill and criticism over his actions in London, Gage resigned his position. On October 10, 1775, the General left America for the last time. He died in 1787, and the Freedom Address which accompanied this box is retained in the Gage family collection at Firle Place, Sussex (U.K.).
The minutes of the New York Common Council for June 6, 1773, include an order for the Treasurer to:
pay to Otto Parisien or order the Sum of £30:16 for a Gold Box made by order of the Board, for Enclosing the City Seal, Annexed to the Freedom, which the Corporation presented to General Gage this day.
Otto Philip Daniel Paris[i]en was the son of a diplomat from Brandenburg stationed at the French court and spoke three languages. He advertised in the New York Gazette in 1763 as “Goldsmith, from Berlin, makes all Sorts of Platework, both plain and chased, in the neatest and most expeditious Manner; likewise undertakes chasing of any piece of old Plate, at his House, the lower End of Batto Street.” This suggests that he himself was responsible for the chased arms of the City of New York on this box, and David Barquist has suggested that Parisien may have served as an outworker chaser for Myer Myers’ workshop in the years before his naturalization. Parisien remained in New York after the Revolution, advertising through 1792 and eventually retiring to New Rochelle, where he died in 1811.
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