GAGE, William Hall (1718-91), of Firle, Suss. and High Meadow, Glos.
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Family and Education
b. 1 Jan. 1718, 1st s. of Thomas, 1st Visct. Gage [I], by his 1st w. Benedicta Maria Theresa, da. and h. of Benedict Hall of High Meadow, Glos. educ. Westminster 1728-35. m. 3 Feb. 1757, Elizabeth, da. of Sampson Gideon, and sis. and coh. of Sir Sampson Gideon, 1st Bt., s.p. suc. fa. as 2nd Visct. 21 Dec. 1754; cr. Baron Gage of Firle [GB] 17 Oct. 1780; Baron Gage of High Meadow [GB], with sp. rem. to his nephew, 1 Nov. 1790.
Equerry to Prince of Wales 1742-51; paymaster of pensions 1755-63, July 1765-Mar. 1782.
William Gage came of an old Sussex family, whose estate at Firle gave them a natural interest at Seaford. A former follower of the Prince of Wales, Gage joined the Pelhams after the Prince’s death; and in 1754 with Newcastle’s support was returned unopposed for Seaford. In 1755 he was appointed paymaster of pensions, and on 2 Nov. 1756, shortly before Newcastle resigned, wrote to him:1 ‘I am ready to follow your Grace and your fortune and shall have more satisfaction in laying down my employment to serve you than I felt pleasure, when his Majesty honoured me with it.’ Newcastle did not wish him to resign, and the new Administration had no intention of dismissing him. When in 1762 Newcastle went into opposition, Gage proved faithful; voted against the peace preliminaries, 9 and 10 Dec. 1762; and was dismissed. In the four divisions over Wilkes and general warrants, 1763-4, for which lists are extant, Gage voted with the Opposition, and Newcastle wrote to him on 18 Sept. 1764: ‘I have had so many and such constant proofs of your tender affection for me, scarce to have been paralleled by anybody.’2 On the formation of the Rockingham Administration in July 1765 Gage was reinstated in his old office.
Henceforth his politics were directed by two aims: to retain office and to obtain a British peerage. In June 1766 Rockingham supported his claim to a peerage, and the King promised to consider Gage when new peers were made.3 In November Rockingham classed him as ‘Swiss’ (prepared to support every Administration), and Townshend, in January 1767, as ‘Government’; but Newcastle for some time continued to believe that Gage would be directed by him. Thus he asked Gage to vote against Administration on the land tax, which Gage refused to do. ‘I have had such an answer from my Lord Gage that I shall write to him no more upon these subjects’, wrote Newcastle to Thomas Pelham on 22 Feb. 1767.4 Gage in fact voted with the court in this division. ‘I look upon him as entirely gone to the court in political sentiments’, wrote Rockingham to Newcastle, 4 Feb. 1768.5
Early in 1768 Gage expected to receive his British peerage at the dissolution of Parliament, and began discussing with Newcastle his successor at Seaford. But when he did not obtain his peerage he stood again at Seaford, and was returned unopposed. At a by-election in November Gage was invited by the Duke of Richmond and Lord Pelham to stand for the county, and at first accepted. But a week before the county meeting he informed Richmond that he must decline: ‘he says’, wrote Richmond to Pelham, 22 Nov. 1768, ‘he is sure that no man will refuse to let him off his engagement to the meeting when he tells him his story. That every man he has spoke to says he is perfectly in the right.’6 His reasons for declining are nowhere explained—possibly he feared it would affect his interest at Seaford.
Henceforth Gage voted consistently with Administration and eventually received his British peerage. Only two speeches by him are recorded during nearly 30 years in the House of Commons: for a motion on Hanoverian troops, 29 Mar. 1756,7 and against having his brother’s letter about quartering troops in America laid before the House, 2 Apr. 1765.8
He died 11 Oct. 1791.