419 | To John Pownall

    Boston, Decr 14, 1765.


    Dear Sr,

    I doubt not but the present State of America will occasion a great Diversity and some perplexity in the Councils of Great Britain. This must show a necessity of regulating the Colonies effectually without delay, & may give an Opening to the consideration of some proposals which have been heretofore disregarded. You may remember that about a Year & a half ago, I sent home a small argumentative piece, entitled, principles of Law & Polity, &c:1 I sent but 4 copies of it;2 & as I knew you would have the command of one or two of them, did not send one directly to You. As it was then taken no notice of, I suppose it is now entirely forgotten. And yet It is now worth while to revise it, to see how hastily those Evils, which I supposed then to be at no great distance, have come upon us. The present Distresses of the American Governments are fatal & unhappy Comments upon my Work, such as I never desired to see. A further delay of a parliamentary Regulation of the American Governments, & above all, [ascer]taining3 the Nature of their Subordination, will, [I fear, m]ake the Business irretrievable. When [the American]s have actually acquired the power of defying the parliament, which some of them vainly pretend to now, a separation will soon follow. The weak patchwork government of this Country has no power to defer such an event one hour after the people have resolved upon it.

    I now send you a Copy of the Principles, &c. exactly the same as was sent last Year; & desire that you would again peruse it & apply it to the present Times. If you should think that it may be made servicable to the grand business in hand, you will apply ^use^ it to that purpose either by communication in ms, or if it is like to be of general use, by printing Only in the latter Case, I must desire to be concealed; & in the former I would not have my Name used except to those Ministers to whom I am subordinate: The 4 Copies were sent last year to Lord Halifax, Lord Hillsborough, Lord Barrington, & Mr Jackson. You was at the same time made acquainted with it, & no one else. Having now looked over at a Years distance, I find no reason to alter any Position in it, excepting one which the alteration of Circumstances has occasioned my thinking otherwise of. in Art. 12 I say “That an Union in Parliament is impracticable to the generality of the British External Dominions.” Now it is not absolutely impracticable but rather difficult & inconvenient. But notwithstanding its difficulty & apparent impropriety,4 It seems to me at this time to be capable of being made an useful Expedient or rather a refined Stroke of policy. This I will proceed to consider Separately.5

    The chief Arguments of the Americans against their Being subject to Acts of Parliament which impose inland Taxes (& it will hold equally good against all other Acts of Parliament for the regulation of their internal Policy) is that they are not represented in Parliament. This is the Palladium6 of their Cause: but they have of late discovered that this is a dangerous Argument; for if the Parliament should allow them to send representatives, they are concluded, & must then be bound by Acts of Parliament according to their own Principles. Therefore of late when they use this Argument, they add that such a representation is impracticable. Now it certainly is not strictly impracticable; tho’ it may be difficult, inexpedient, or improper. But it seems to me that it is both expedient & proper for the present time & Purposes. The Parliament must now interpose for regulating the Policy of America, or else all things will run into Confusion. But if they proceed to such regulation whilst the Americans dispute their Authority, what can be expected but an enforced Obedience, whilst the Seeds of Opposition lie ready to shoot up in a proper Season? Whereas if the Parliament first removes the Pretence for the Colonies not being subject to it, there can be no pretence for their disobedience afterwards.

    Besides, If the Parliament should undertake so important a work as the new modelling the Governments in America, which seems to me to be at this time unavoidable, It appears reasonable that the Colonies should have their Deputies in the House both to hear & to speak upon the subjects relating to them. If they were allowed this Liberty (even tho’ they did not accept it, as probably some of them would not) they could not complain of their rights being disposed of without their being heard, as they do now. For a Liberty of sending representatives would conclude them whether they sent them or not. And this leads me to say that I do not propose American Representatives as a perpetual Establishment, but only as a temporary Ordinance. When the Business is done, (for which Ireland affords both a precedent & a pla[. .])7 the Governments new modelled, their legislatures established upon constitutional principles & a permanent bottom, & a recognition of the Supremacy of the Parliament of Great Britain passed the New Legislatures as a first [and?]8 conditional Act, there will be no longer occasion for American Representatives; they may then return & serve in their own Assemblies, which may be then as separate ^from that of Great Britain^ as that of Ireland.

    I have made this letter longer than I intended; indeed the Subject of it engages all my thoughts. I hope the present Disorders of America will occasion such effectual measures being taken, as will prevent the like for the future. The Stamp Act seems to me to be like some sudden Accident to an human body, which occasions its flinging out some latent disease, which if it had been concealed much longer would have been past curing. I hope the State Doctors have discovered this disease in time, & will apply proper remedies to it: they must begin with palliatives, but they must search it to the bottom before they have done.

    I am, &c.

    John Pownall Esqr.

    AL, LbC BP, 5: 55-59.