British Friends of the American Revolution

By Jerome R. Reich | Go to book overview
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of office. With this addition, he felt that its present constitution would enable the United States to grow into a prosperous and powerful nation that would teach the world "Political Truths . . . to render men more free and happy under Government." Interestingly enough, in the body of this memorial, Pownall also made a plea for the abolition of imprisonment for debt, which he called "not relevant to the ends of distributive Justice and contrary to every idea of the advantages which the community is supposed to derive from every individual." He also expressed a hope that the United States would abolish slavery. Pownall felt that their gratitude at winning their own freedom might impel Americans to "extend this blessing to their fellow creatures." 24

In Three Memorials ( 1784), which included the Memorial to the Sovereigns of Europe and the two Memorials he had sent to the king early in 1782, Pownall added a long preface reviewing his own role in the struggle and the errors of the British government, which he severely censured for precipitating, mismanaging, and then prolonging the conflict. One wishes to know what Pownall's reaction was to the Constitutional Convention and to the government it created but the records fail to enlighten us. One may only assume from his Memorial to the Sovereigns of America that he preferred it to the Articles of Confederation.

Pownall's last years were spent as a country gentleman and antiquarian. He eschewed politics but did take an interest in reform of the corn laws. He was also sympathetic to Latin American independence and gave much support to Francisco de Miranda. Pownall's last written work, A Memorial Addressed to the Sovereigns of Europe and the Atlantic ( 1803), recommended a commercial and military alliance between Great Britain and the United States, which would liberate Latin America and lead to the creation of an Atlantic federation. 25 Two years later, in 1805, Pownall died at the age of eighty-three. He always felt himself a prophet without honor. True, his concepts of a British commonwealth and an Atlantic community of nations were perhaps ahead of their time. Today, however, we can recognize Pownall as a true and enlightened "friend" of peace and liberty.

R. C. Simmons and P. D.G. Thomas, eds., Proceedings and Debates of the British Parliaments Respecting North America, 1754-1783 (hereafter referred to as Parliament Debates), IV, pp. 277-278.
Thomas Pownall, The Administration of the British Colonies, 5th ed., II, pp. 86-87.
Simmons and Thomas, Parliament Debates, V, p. 443.


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