Albany Plan of Union


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There were indications that the Six Nations, influenced by French emissaries, were becoming alienated from the English. The colonists were uneasy, and the British government, acting upon the advice of the royal governors in America, sent a circular letter to all the colonial assemblies, proposing the holding of a convention at Albany, to be composed of committees from the several legislatures and representatives of the Six Nations. Seven of the assemblies responded, and on June 19, 1754, twenty-five delegates assembled in the old City Hall at Albany. James De Lancey, acting governor of New York, presided, and he was authorized by the Virginia legislature to represent that colony in the convention. The chiefs of the Six Nations were there in great numbers, of whom "King Hendrick," of the Mohawks, was leader. To the Indians De Lancey first spoke, and Hendrick responded in words of bitter reproof of the English for their neglect of preparations for danger.  "Look at the French," he said; " they are men; they are fortifying everywhere; but, we are ashamed to say it, you are like women, bare and open, without any fortifications. It is but one step from Canada hither, and the French may easily come and turn you out-of-doors." But the business with the Six Nations was closed amicably and satisfactorily by a treaty of friendship. The Massachusetts delegation was authorized to propose a measure quite as important as a treaty with the Indians. It was an invitation for the convention to consider the question whether a union of the colonies for mutual defense was not desirable; and they were empowered to agree to articles of union or confederation. The proposition was favorably received, and a committee, composed of one delegate from each colony, was appointed to draw up a plan. The fertile brain of Dr. Benjamin Franklin, a delegate from Pennsylvania, had conceived a plan before he went to the convention. It was reported by the committee and adopted by the convention, the Connecticut delegates alone dissenting. It proposed a grand council of forty-eight members, to be chosen by the several assemblies, the representatives of each colony to be, in number, in proportion to the contribution of each to the general treasury. No colony was to have more than seven or less than two members. This congress was to choose its own speaker and have the general management of all civil and military affairs, and to enact general laws in conformity to the British Constitution. It proposed to have a president-general, appointed and paid by the crown, who should have a negative or veto power on all acts of the congress, and to have, with the advice and consent of the congress, the appointment of all military officers, and the entire management of Indian affairs; the civil officers to be appointed by the congress with the approval of the president-general. This plan of government bore a strong resemblance to our national Constitution, which Franklin assisted in framing more than thirty years afterwards. This plan was submitted to the Lords of Trade and Plantations. They did not approve of it, nor recommend it to the King for consideration. They thought there was too much democracy in it. The assemblies did not favor it, because they thought there was too much prerogative in it. So it was rejected.



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