army. On the information of a subordinate he was accused, in No. 40 of Wilkes's ‘North Briton’ (5 March 1763), ‘of passing inferior oats and falsifying the military accounts;’ but on the establishment of peace in 1763, the charges in the libel were investigated at his own desire, and he was honourably acquitted.
Pownall held liberal views on the connection of England with its colonies, and was a staunch friend to the American provinces. He explained his sentiments in his famous work on ‘The Administration of the Colonies,’ 1764, stating that his object was to fuse ‘all these Atlantic and American possessions into one Dominion, of which Great Britain should be the commercial center, to which it should be the spring of power.’ The loyalty of the colonies was in his opinion undoubted; but the settlers insisted that they should not be taxed without their own consent or that of their representatives. The true principles of commerce between Great Britain and her colonies were that they should import from Britain only, and send all their supplies to it; but he urged that to carry out the intention of the Act of Navigation, and to give the colonies proper facilities for trading, British markets should be established ‘even in other countries.’ In an appendix containing a memorial dated in 1756, and addressed to the Duke of Cumberland, he dwells on the wondrous means of intercommunication possessed by America through its noble rivers. The first edition was anonymous, but its successor, ‘revised, corrected, and enlarged,’ which came out in 1765, bore his name, and was dedicated to George Grenville. The third edition appeared in 1766, and the fourth, which was again much enlarged and contained a new dedication to the same statesman, in 1768. Pownall had forwarded to Grenville on 14 July 1768 the draft of the dedication, and had received from him a letter reiterating his convictions on American affairs, and hinting that he should like it to be made clear that the views of the writer were not necessarily those entertained by himself (Grenville Papers, iv. 312–14, 316–19). The dedication allowed that they differed on several points, again urged the attachment of the colonies to the mother country, but with the limitation as to taxation, and insisted that the British isles and colonies were a grand marine dominion, and ought to be united into one ‘imperium in one center, where the seat of government is.’ The fifth edition, in two volumes, is dated 1774, and it again appeared in 1777. The plan set out in the later issues for a general paper currency for America was drawn up by Pownall in conjunction with Franklin (Works of Franklin, ii. 353–4).
In the hope of carrying his political principles into practical action, Pownall was returned at a by-election on 4 Feb. 1767 for the Cornish borough of Tregony, and sat for it throughout the next parliament of 1768–1774. From that date until 1 Sept. 1780 he sat for Minehead (Abergavenny MSS.; Hist. MSS. Comm. 10th Rep. App. pt. vi. pp. 6–10; cf. Courtney, Parl. Rep. of Cornwall, pp. 176–7). At first he allied himself with the whigs, but he would not accompany the American colonists any further than to oppose any steps for the limitation of their liberty. From the beginning he announced that they would carry their opposition to taxation without representation to the extent of armed resistance. When the war broke out he became an adherent of Lord North; and when Burke brought forward, in November 1775, his conciliatory bill, it was opposed by Pownall. But he displeased his new friends by insisting that England's sovereignty over America had gone for ever, and by urging his countrymen to circumvent the French by making a commercial treaty with the revolted colonists. In February 1778 he spoke against the employment of the Indians; he then laid before the ministry a plan for peace, and at last (24 May 1780) he brought into the house a bill for making peace with America. Pownall was of course derided as visionary; he was called by Thomas Hutchinson ‘a man of parts, but runs away with strange notions upon some subjects’ (Diary, i. 303, 315), and it was urged that the support of such a tory would ruin the ministerial party (cf. Memoir of Josiah Quincy, Junr. pp. 205, 255–9; Hutchinson, Diary, i. 251; and Franklin, Works, v. 32–33). As a speaker he was ineffective, but he took infinite pains to preserve his orations. Many of them, and some with his own corrections, are in Cavendish's ‘Debates,’ and they were printed by Almon from his own manuscripts in his ‘Parliamentary Register.’ Pownall also assisted Almon in the twenty volumes of his ‘American Remembrancer.’
About 1784 Pownall gave up his house at Richmond, and spent much of his time in travelling. At the close of 1784 Joseph Cradock and his wife made the Pownalls' acquaintance in southern France, and notes of their travel are given in Cradock's ‘Memoirs’ (ii. 146, 178–97). Attacks of gout made him a frequent visitor to Bath; he died there on 25 Feb. 1805, and was buried in Walcot church. An epitaph to his memory was placed in Walcot church by his widow. Pownall married, on 3 Aug. 1765, at Chelsea,