“[Americans] have never confessed their crimes, and they don’t know how to confess their crimes…If you can’t confess, you can’t be forgiven, and if you can’t be forgiven, you can’t get past it. That is the sin against the Holy Ghost…The only way to get past it is to confess.”–James Baldwin paraphrasing Matthew 12: 32 in an interview with Ben Chavis, 1980, in I Heard It Through the Grapevine.
As anticipated, the naysayers regarding my book Somersett, or Why and How Benjamin Franklin Orchestrated the American Revolution have begun to appear, challenging the mode of intrigue whereby Benjamin Franklin carried out his nefarious scheme to bring about revolution by the American colonies. The motive is clearly established and need not be reiterated here. Likewise, the circumstances regarding Franklin’s acquisition of the Hutchinson letters from Thomas Pownall, a theory well-developed by no less an authority on American history than Bernard Bailyn have gone unchallenged. So, the concern raised is familiar: where is the concrete evidence regarding the role of Franklin in using the case of Somersett v. Steuart to advance the cause of revolution among the southern American colonies?
When we closed the previous essay, Thomas Pownall had won a seat in Commons in 1767, and was quickly involving himself with the Whig sector of Dowdeswell, Barre, and Savile, and ultimately would ally with Edmund Burke as well, after 1769. Shortly after his entry into Parliament, he spoke out against the suspension of the New York Assembly. New York had demonstrated against the Quartering Act of 1765, refusing to offer any room or board to the British army that arrived in New York harbor upon its arrival in 1766. As a result, Parliament called for suspension of any bills passed by the New York Assembly. Pownall realized that this measure was sure to escalate animosity in the colonies, and begged Parliament not to take this step. Over his arguments against censorship of the Assembly, the measure was approved. Unrelenting, Pownall again spoke out against quartering of soldiers in Boston in 1769, pointing out the potential for stirring up “bad tempers and ill blood.” Ultimately, he was able to achieve some modifications to the Quartering Act to avoid the assessment of tax support by the colonies but was unable to prevent the quartering of British soldiers in Boston in March, 1770.
Thomas and John Pownall, prominent commoners in London in the 1750’s-1770’s, have been all but forgotten by history, but their positions in the British government proved pivotal for Benjamin Franklin and the American patriots in their rebellion against Great Britain.
The Woke Surgeon: Who was minding the colonial store in the two decades leading up to the American Revolution?
For reasons unclear, and perhaps due in part to the arcane system of British government during the early years of George III, historians have rendered short shrift to the straightforward question of “Who precisely was in charge of the British colonies in North America? Who in the British government in London was the overseer of this disjointed collation of cities in North America? The answer is not as straightforward, and to a degree explains the success the colonists achieved in separating themselves from a corrupt British government.
John Alleyne does not appear as a key character in the Interlude in the book Somersett or Why and How Benjamin Franklin Orchestrated the American Revolution. But ongoing research about this relatively unknown attorney reveals a more complex biography, and a far more intriguing interaction with Benjamin Franklin than that story would at face value suggest.
“The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.”
If there is any consideration of a “hero” to the controversial story of Somersett it would have to be David Barclay. No one is without guile, but Barclay’s public persona was most assuredly forthright and honest. And in Somersett he constantly provides the Greek chorus speaking truth amid the intrigue and keeping focus on the…
It seems somewhat sad that John Fothergill would be recalled today only as Benjamin Franklin’s doctor, rather than as the observational innovator that he was, and man who determined early in life that regardless of the obstacles placed before him, he would acquire a medical education. He was six years Franklin’s junior, born at Carr…
Phillip Goodrich’s appearance on KTLA 5 Morning News (Los Angeles) Originally aired July 3, 2020