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Thomas Pownall to John Hancock, 1765
image courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Thomas Pownall (1722-1805) first visited the colonies in 1754, and it was on this tour that he met and became friends with Benjamin Franklin. Pownall held many political positions, including Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey and Governor of Massachusetts. Similar to many leaders in the colonies, he was a political moderate who believed that unity and federation between Britain and the colonies was vital in securing the empire. He believed in offering the colonies full rights of self-governance, subject to the King: “…the crown cannot establish any colony upon – or contract it within a narrower scale than the subject is entitled to, by the great charter of England,” he wrote in his Administration of the Colonies. Frustrated by the state of colonial politics, Pownall returned to England in 1760. Franklin was a frequent visitor to his London household.
In this letter, sent on Pownall’s behalf by Franklin, Pownall writes to John Hancock, whose uncle, Thomas Hancock, had control of nearly ₤5000 of Pownall’s money for use in speculative business ventures. In this letter, which traveled by private ship from London to Philadelphia where it was then carried to Boston, Pownall asks Hancock to send him a statement of his account so that Pownall may repay money he had borrowed from Hancock’s late uncle.
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