Declaration of Independence

The Woke Surgeon: Dr. Franklin in the wake of the Scottish Enlightenment

Dr. Franklin would be back in London at the outset of 1772, with a renewed zeal for the American colonies and their future, and a far greater clarity of purpose. He turned 67 on January 17, but now seemed twenty years younger, rejuvenated in his interest in the Club of Honest Whigs, and particularly in his relationship with Fothergill, Pownall, and Barclay. If a Revolution is what it would take to free Pennsylvania from the proprietors, then a Revolution it would be. Now able to articulate to the two Quakers, Fothergill and Barclay, the economic ruin that the British ministry under Hillsborough was wreaking on both Great Britain and her American colonies, Franklin made revolution appear more abstract and more appropriate. Franklin now spoke not of Locke’s “life, liberty, and property”, but rather Adam Smith’s “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Ultimately and improbably, Smith would find himself quoted for eternity in the Declaration of Independence four years later.

Scottish Enlightenment

The Woke Surgeon: Benjamin Franklin returns to Scotland in 1771

By the time Dr. Benjamin Franklin (now twice “doctored” with a bookend honorary degree from Oxford in 1762 to go with his honorary degree from St. Andrews in 1759, as we learned) returned to Scotland in 1771, much had changed. Franklin, in frequent discussion with Thomas Pownall and other Whigs in London, had come to realize that his concept of Pennsylvania as an independent nation was fraught, and with Pownall’s encouragement he had broadened his outlook to include all the colonies from Georgia to Massachusetts.

St. Andrews

The Woke Surgeon: Franklin visits Scotland and returns home with a new name

Benjamin Franklin traveled to Great Britain on three separate occasions prior to the American Revolution, for varying reasons and with varying successes. His first trip was at the encouragement of the blowhard Royal Governor Sir William Keith in 1725 and the promise of development of key contacts and capital support for Franklin’s endeavors in Philadelphia. This all proved ephemeral, but one enduring coincidence of the 18-month sojourn in London was the employment of Franklin at the printing houses of Samuel Palmer and John Watts. Presumably it was the Watts contact that led him into contact with William Strahan, a young master printer from Edinburgh working in London in the 1730’s. The two would develop a correspondence which culminated in Strahan sending David Hall to Philadelphia in 1744. Franklin and Hall entered a partnership and by 1748, Franklin was able to withdraw from the shop as a silent partner.

Adam Smith - David Hume Young

The Woke Surgeon: The Scottish Enlightenment, Two Cities, Two Stars

The Woke Surgeon: The Scottish Enlightenment, Two Cities, Two Stars, Part II:

We heard in the previous essay that Francis Hutcheson in Glasgow and Henry Home in Edinburgh would usher the Scottish Enlightenment into the world of education, offering an inseparable combination of theory and practical application that would literally produce modern civilization in Europe, and subsequently throughout the world. It is not an overstatement.

Lord Kames

The Woke Surgeon: The Scottish Enlightenment and the American Revolution, Part I

The Scottish Enlightenment – Part One:

On May 1, 1707, England and Scotland formally introduced a new concept to the world: Great Britain. The two nations who had fought for centuries in senseless wars along the “Borderlands” finally came together in uneasy truce to become a single nation, facilitated by the elimination of the old Scottish Parliament while retaining their courts, their church, their universities, and their nobility/landholders. Scotland, which had faltered into chronic economic depression over the previous forty years after the English Civil War and the subsequent downfall of their beloved House of Stuart, feared that this would further destroy their economy to the point of total absorption into England. They needn’t have worried so: the Union, feted to this day with the official flag, the “Union Jack” (“jack” being a nautical term for a flag) would prove an economic boon to Glasgow and to a lesser extent, Edinburgh, that was unprecedented.

Frederick North 2nd Early of Guilford

The Woke Surgeon: The Close of the Pownall Brothers’ Reign in the American Department

When we last left the Pownall brothers, Thomas had secured the Hutchinson letters and passed them on to Benjamin Franklin, who passed them on to Thomas Cushing in Boston, who passed them on to Samuel Adams, who leaked them to the Boston press generally. Chaos and a tea party ensued. And in turn this was followed by the Coercive Acts from London, known in the United States forever as the “Intolerable Acts.”

William Legge, Second Earl of Dartmouth

The Woke Surgeon: Lord Dunmore and George III’s Secret Army

When we left off, Lord Dunmore had been transferred from the Governor’s house in New York to the Governor’s house in Virginia. Whether a step up, a step down, or just another step in Dunmore’s career, he found himself thrust into a political situation unlike any he had previously experienced. The Virginia of 1771 was a predominantly agricultural society with a labor source that was predominantly slave-based. Slavery was not unknown anywhere in the British empire at that time: there were likely 15,000-20,000 Black slaves in Great Britain then. In the American northern colonies, there was likely not a printer, a brick mason, a ship’s master, a furniture maker, a building contractor, or a shop owner that didn’t own a slave. The exceptions would have been the northern alternatives to Black slaves: indentured servants or apprentices. Both the latter were considered “slaves with an expiration date.” Black slaves were unique in that their status was considered a life sentence. As we noted in the previous essay, Dunmore was favorably inclined to the adage of “when in Virginia, do as the Virginians do” and proceeded to purchase a total of 57 slaves himself, over the course of his five years in the colony.

Virginia Williamsburg Attractions

The Woke Surgeon: Governor Dunmore in America

When we last left off with John Murray, Fourth Earl Dunmore, he had just been appointed by George III as Royal Governor of New York, to replace the late Henry Moore. This served two purposes for Lord Gower: it filled a much-needed empty post in the American colonies, and it eliminated an inept aspirant to power in the British government. As was Lord Dunmore’s habit throughout his adult life, he was in no hurry to accede to an assigned post. He would have personal goods for his large family, as well as furnishing for the Governor’s mansion, loaded onto two ships bound for Manhattan; only one would ever arrive. And after having been appointed in December 1769, he finally arrived at Sandy Point on October 18, 1770. As Thomas Pownall had experienced almost exactly 17 years previously when he arrived as secretary to Governor Osborne (an ill-fated administration of six days duration), there was much festivity and excitement on arrival. Lieutenant Governor Cadwallader Colden, a fellow Scot, and General Thomas Gage, Commander-in-Chief of British forces in North America, escorted Dunmore and his family to Fort George, the official Governor’s residence in New York City. En route they were pleased to see the new statue of George III which had arrived that summer with the Governor’s furniture. That statue would be famously pulled down and decapitated within six short years.

Fourth Earl Dunmore

The Woke Surgeon: George III’s secret army in Virginia, 1772-1776.

After we left the Pownall brothers in charge of the British foreign service to North America in the years leading up to the American Revolution (see the previous series of essays on the Pownalls on my website), naysayers have come forward doubting the influence of the Somersett decision in the southern American colonies, especially Virginia. Addressing this concern, this essay may apparently be enlightening to those who still wish to espouse the noble causes of the Revolution. The undercurrent cause is unfortunately not only possible, but probable. It lies in the person of John Murray, the Fourth Earl Dunmore.