Daily Archives: March 28, 2007

Item of the Day: The Administration of the Colonies by Thomas Pownall (1765)

Full Title:  The Administration of the Colonies by Thomas Pownall, Late Governor and Commander in Chief of his Majesty’s Provinces, Massachusetts-Bay and South-Carolina, and Lieutenant-Governor of New-Jersey.  The Second Edition, Revised, Corrected, and Enlarged,  Pulchrum est benefacere reipublicae, etiam bene dicere haud absurdum est.  Sallustius.  London:  Printed for J. Dodsley, in Pall-Mall, and J. Walter, at Charing-Cross.  MDCCLXV.

To the Right Honourable George Grenville, First Lord Commissioner of His Majesty’s Treasury, Chancellor of the Exchequer, &c, &c, &c.


Whoever considers the importance of the North-American colonies, and the necessary connection of their affairs with those of Great Britain, must congratulate the public upon having a minister, who will take pains to understand the commerce and interests of the colonies, who will seriously enter into the administration of them, and who is equal in firmness to pursue those interests in that line only, which connects them with the welfare of the mother country; who, convinced that the mother country has a just and natural right to govern the colonies, will yet so administer the power of that government in the genuine spirit of the British Constitution, as shall lead the people of the colonies, by the spirit of laws and equity to that true and constitutional obedience, which is their real liberty.

The experience I have had in the affairs of the colonies must at least have given me a practical knowledge of them:  And the relation I have borne to the people has given me an affection for them.  Not being employed in any department, wherein that knowledge can be reduced to practice, I thought it a duty, if indeed it may be of any use, to publish my sentiments on this subject; and I have taken the freedom, Sir, of addressing them to you.

I have professed an affection for the colonies, because having lived amomgst their people in a private, as well as public character, I know them; I know that in their private social relations, there is not a more friendly, and in their political one, a more zealously loyal people, in all his majesty’s dominions.

Whatever appearances or interpretation of appearances, may have raised some prejudices against their conduct on a late occasion, I will venture to affirm, that fairly, firmly, and openly dealt with, there is not, with all their errors, a people who has a truer sense of the necessary powers of government; and I will rest the truth of this assertion on the good effect, which you will have the pleasure to see derived to this country, and to the colonies, from the firmness and candour with which your part of the American business has been conducted.

When the subjects, especially those of a popular state, become alarmed, they are soon inflamed; and then their demagogues, perhaps the worst, as well as the lowest part of the people, govern.  The truly great and wise man will not judge of the people from their passions — He will view the whole tenor of their principles and of their conduct.  While he sees them uniformly loyal to their King, obedient to his government, active in every point of public spirit, in every object of the public welfare —  He will not regard what they are led either to say or do under these fits of alarm and inflammation; he will, finally, have the pleasure to see them return to their genuine good temper, good sense and principles.  The true movements of government will again have their effect; and he will acquire an ascendancy over them from the steady superiority of his conduct.

While such is the temper of the great minister, there cannot be too much caution and prudence exercised in preventing the inferior members or officers of government from acting under any sense of resentment or prejudice, against a people improperly supposed to be under disfavour:  For by the mutual aggravation and provocations of such misunderstanding towards each other, even a wise people may be driven to madness.  Let not the Colonists imagine that the people of England have an ill idea of them, or any designs of oppressing them.  The people of England love them.  Let not the people of England imagine that the Colonists have a wish but for their welfare, and to partake of it as fellow-subjects — For the people of the colonies would sacrifice their dearest interests for the honour and prosperity of their mother country; and the last wish of their hearts will be for ever to belong to it.  I have a right to say this, because experience has given me this impression of them.  I do not say it to flatter them; I never did flatter them, when I was connected with them in business, but I speak it as a truth which I think should be known, lest the intemperance and imprudence of their false or mistaken patriots should give any undue impressions to their disadvantage, and cause any alienation of that natural affection which at present subsists, and will, I hope, for ever subsist between the People of Great Britain and those of the colonies.

May that minister who shall interweave the administration of the colonies into the British administration, as a part essentially united with it, may he live to see the power, prosperity, and honour, that so great and important an event must give to his country.

With the highest esteem and regard, I have the Honour to be,


Your most obedient,

and most humble servant,



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Filed under 1760's, American Revolution, Colonial America, Great Britain, Posted by Rebecca Dresser