Wilmot Vaughan's A Plan for the better Government of British America, 1769: Imperial Fantasies in the Throes of Crisis
- Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal
- University of Pennsylvania Press
- Volume 19, Number 3, Summer 2021
- pp. 641-658
- Additional Information
This essay introduces and prints for the first time Wilmot Vaughan's A Plan for the better Government of British America (1769). Vaughan authored this manuscript, currently held by the New-York Historical Society, while serving a single-year term on the Board of Trade. Vaughan believed that the imperial crisis would lead inexorably to an American revolution if Britain failed to radically alter the constitutional basis and institutional apparatus of its empire. To prevent such a revolt, he recommended thirty-seven distinct reforms, including the creation of a new "Kingdom of North America and the Isles," one governed by an American parliament and headed by an executive Lord Lieutenant lodged in a fortified Bostonian palace. Though some of Vaughan's recommendations were prescient, others reflect a complete misunderstanding of the mentality and politics of Britain's white North American colonists, particularly his prescriptions for Anglican establishments and Indigenous delegations to the new American parliament. A Plan for the better Government of British America reveals the limits of imagination and the extent of ignorance among Britain's imperialists as its American colonies hurdled toward rebellion in the 1760s.