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“These measures have, in all probability, hastened that disruption of the New from the Old World, which will begin a new era in the annals of mankind, and produce a revolution more important, perhaps, than any that has happened in human affairs." 1
Thus was American Independence heralded, and its influence foretold.
Constantly sympathizing with America, and impressed by the magnitude of the issue, his soul found another utterance, in 1778, in what he called “The General Introduction and Supplement to the Two Tracts on Civil Liberty, the War with America, and the Finances of the Kingdom.” Here again he sees a vision:
“A great people, likely to be formed, in spite of all our efforts, into free communities, under governments which have no religious tests and establishments. A new era in future annals, and a new opening in human affairs, beginning, among the descendants of Englishmen, in a new world. A rising empire, extended over an immense continent, without bishops, without nobles, and without kings.” 2
After the recognition of Independence and the establishment of peace, Dr. Price appeared with another tract: “Observations on the Importance of the American Revolution and the Means of making it a Benefit to the World.” This was in 1784. And here he repeated the exultation of an earlier day:
“With heartfelt satisfaction I see the revolution in favor of universal liberty which has taken place in America, - a revolution which opens a new prospect in human affairs, and
1 Additional Observations, p. 87.
begins a new era in the history of mankind. .... Perhaps I do not go too far, when I say, that, next to the introduction of Christianity among mankind, the American Revolution may prove the most important step in the progressive course of human improvement.”
Thus announcing the grandeur of the epoch, he states that it “may produce a general diffusion of the principles of humanity,” and may lead mankind to see and know “ that all legitimate government consists in the dominion of equal laws, made with common consent," which is another expression of the primal truth of the Declaration of Independence. Then, referring to the “community or confederacy” of States, he says, “I can almost imagine that it is not impossible but that by such means universal peace may be produced, and all war excluded from the world”; and he asks,“ Why may we not hope to see this begun in America ?” 2 May America be true to this aspiration! There is also a longing for Equality, and a warning against Slavery, with the ejaculation, in harmony with earlier words, · Let the United States continue forever what it is now their glory to be, a confederation of States, prosperous and happy, without lords, without bishops, and without kings.” 3 In the midst of the bloody conflict this vision had appeared, and he had sought to make it a reality.
His true friendship for our country and his devotion to humanity, with the modesty of his nature, appear in a letter to Franklin, 12th July, 1784, communicating a copy of the last production After saying that “it is intended entirely for America," the excellent counsellor proceeds :
1 Observations on the American Revolution, (London, 1785,) pp. 1-6. 2 Ibid., pp. 6, 14, 15.
8 Ibid., p. 72.
"I hope the United States will forgive my presumption in supposing myself qualified to advise them. . . The consciousness which I have that it is well intended, and that my address to them is the effusion of a heart that wishes to serve the best interests of society, helps to reconcile me to myself in this instance, and it will, I hope, engage the candor of others.” 1
The same sentiments which proved his sympathies with our country reappeared with fresh fires at the outbreak of the French Revolution, arousing, in opposition, the immortal eloquence of Burke. A discourse “On the Love of our Country,” preached at the Old Jewry, 4th November, 1789, in commemoration of the English Revolution, with friendly glances at what was then passing across the Channel, prompted the “Reflections on the Revolution in France.” The personal denunciation which is the beginning of that remarkable performance is the perpetual witness to the position of the preacher, whose prophetic soul did not hesitate to accept the French Revolution side by side with ours in glory and in promise.
GOVERNOR POWNALL, 1777, 1780, 1783. Among the best friends of our country abroad during the trials of the Revolution was Thomas Pownall, called by one biographer "a learned antiquary and politician," and by another "an English statesman and author." Latterly he has so far dropped out of sight that there are few who recognize in him either of these characters. He was born 1722, and died at Bath 1805. During this long period he held several offices. As early as 1745 he became secretary to the Commissioners for
Franklin's Works, ed. Sparks, Vol. X. p. 105.
Trade and Plantations. In 1753 he crossed the ocean. In 1755, as Commissioner for Massachusetts Bay, he had a share in the negotiations with New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, in union with New England, which resulted in the confederated expedition against Crown Point. He was afterwards Governor of Massachusetts Bay, New Jersey, and South Carolina, successively. Returning to England, he was appointed, in 1762, Comptroller-General of the army in Germany, with the military rank of colonel. He sat in two successive Parliaments until 1780, when he passed into private life. Hildreth gives a glimpse of his personal character, when, admitting his frank manners and liberal politics, he describes his habits as “rather freer than suited the New England standard.”?
Pownall stands forth conspicuous for championship of our national independence, and especially for foresight with regard to our national future. In both these respects his writings are unique. Other Englishmen were in favor of independence, and saw our future also; but I doubt if any one can be named who was his equal in strenuous action, or in minuteness of foresight. While the war was still proceeding, as early as 1780, he openly announced, not only that independence was inevitable, but that the new nation, “ founded in Nature and built up in truth,” would continually expand ; that its population would increase and multiply; that a civilizing activity beyond what Europe could ever know would animate it; and that its commercial and naval power would be found in every quarter of the globe. All this he set forth at
1 History of the United States, Vol. II. p. 476.
length with argument and illustration, and he called his prophetic words “the stating of the simple fact, so little understood in the Old World.” Treated at first as “unintelligible speculation” and as “unfashionable,” the truth he announced was “neglected where it was not rejected, but in general rejected as inadmissible,” and the author, according to his own language, "was called by the wise men of the British Cabinet a W’ild Man, unfit to be employed."1 But these writings are a better title now than any office. In manner they are diffuse and pedantic; but they hardly deserve the cold judgment of John Adams, who in his old age said of them that “a reader who has patience to search for good sense in an uncouth and disgusting style will find in those writings proofs of a thinking mind."2
He seems to have written a good deal. But the works which will be remembered the longest are not even mentioned by several of his biographers. Rose, in his Biographical Dictionary, records works by him, entitled “Antiquities of the Provincia Romana of Gaul”; “Roman Antiquities dug up at Bath"; " Observations on the Currents in the Atlantic Ocean”; “Intellectual Physics"; and contributions to the “Archæologia": nothing more. To this list Gorton, in his Biographical Dictionary, adds briefly," besides many political tracts, but without particular reference to the works on America. This is another instance where the stone rejected by the builders becomes the head of the corner.
At an early date Pownall comprehended the position of our country, geographically. He saw the wonderful means of internal communication supplied by its inland
1 Memorial to the Sovereigns of America, (London, 1783,) pp. 73, 74. 2 Letter to William Tudor, February 4, 1817 : Works, Vol. X. p. 241.