British Friends of the American Revolution

By Jerome R. Reich | Go to book overview

12
Governor Pownall Fights to the Finish

We have already recounted Thomas Pownall's plan for a British "commonwealth" and his attempts to explain the colonial situation and point of view to his fellow members of the House of Commons. As we shall see in this chapter, his lack of success did not deter him from continuing, if not intensifying, his efforts.

Pownall's shift to the ministerial side may account for his silence when petitions requesting repeal of the Coercive Acts and other questions relating to the colonies were discussed during January and February 1775. He explained his reluctance to speak as the result of a promise he made during the 1774 debates, "as to opinions, I shall never more trouble the House with mine on the subject [of America]," though he remained ready to supply information if requested. 1 He broke his vow of silence, however, to support Lord North's proposal to conciliate the colonies by a tentative surrender of Parliament's power to tax them, if they would tax themselves. He thought the proposal "a fair and just preliminary that must lead to peace." 2

Pownall approved of North's proposal as a "preliminary," because it appeared to him to be a first step toward the realization of the guidelines he had suggested in the 1774 edition of The Administration of the British Colonies. In a second volume, which he added to the work at that time, Pownall conceded that American representation in Parliament was no longer, if it ever had been, acceptable to either party in the dispute and that the only alternative to a return to the status quo prior to 1763 (which he opposed) was an "American union" into which the colonies would unite but still remain a dominion of the British empire. 3

In the speech supporting North's proposal, Pownall stressed that it must be followed by a "compact" between Great Britain and its North American colonies to give them "once for all, such a constitution as is fit for such dependent communities within the empire" [italics in original]. Otherwise

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