A History of the United States Constitution
Chapter title – July 10, 1754, – Albany Plan of Union Adopted
Albany Plan of Union
When Benjamin Franklin learned that colonial leaders planned a Congress in Albany, New York in 1754 to plan united action on several issues he printed the cartoon “Join or Die,” in his newspaper. The cartoon appeared in The Pennsylvania Gazette and featured a dead snake cut into thirteen pieces, the implication being that the colonies, like a snake cut into pieces, would perish if they remained disunited.
Reasons for the Albany Congress
Originally encouraged by the King and Parliament to propose a treaty to deal with the Iroquois tribe, Colonial leaders also intended to discuss taking united action on several other issues regarding mutual defense. The French still controlled Canada and the Spanish threatened from the south. There was always the threat from the various Amerindian tribes. During this time the French were stirring up the native tribes in the Ohio Valley to attack the British settlements in Virginia and Pennsylvania. The colonies that bordered Canada suffered frequent incursions from the northern tribes. Many colonial leaders were coming to the conclusion that a plan for united defense from all colonies would be beneficial to all. Not surprisingly, Benjamin Franklin came up with a plan. The colonial assemblies in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New Hampshire all sent representatives to this Congress. Pennsylvania chose Benjamin Franklin to represent the colony.
An Emerging Idea
The idea of a united Colonial government had occurred to many Colonial leaders at the time, Franklin among them. Many had published articles outlining proposals for these plans. Franklin was one of these men and during his trip from Philadelphia to Albany he penned letters to several of the New York delegates with proposals. During this trip he wrote a draft version of his plan.
The Albany Congress
The Congress held its first session on June 19, 1754. The delegates held a vote on June 24 to consider union and the result was a unanimous consensus to formulate a plan for union. The committee charged with writing it submitted a draft version on June 28. From that date until July 10, the Congress debated and revised the plan. On July 10, 1754 the delegates voted to adopt the plan and sent it out to the colonial assemblies for consideration.
Rejection by the Assemblies, the King and Parliament
Parliamentary leaders and the King studied the plan and decided not to push it in the colonies. They had initially encouraged a union of some sort but upon considering the plan they feared that they were creating a political entity that they could not control. The various assemblies considered the plan and all rejected it. They feared losing some of their power and taxing authority to a centralized government. The colonies were not quite ready for a unified government. Delegates from these colonies first met on June 19, 1754.
It is proposed that humble application be made for an act of Parliament of Great Britain, by virtue of which one general government may be formed in America, including all the said colonies, within and under which government each colony may retain its present constitution, except in the particulars wherein a change may be directed by the said act, as hereafter follows.
1. That the said general government be administered by a President-General, to be appointed and supported by the crown; and a Grand Council, to be chosen by the representatives of the people of the several Colonies met in their respective assemblies.
2. That within — months after the passing such act, the House of Representatives that happen to be sitting within that time, or that shall be especially for that purpose convened, may and shall choose members for the Grand Council, in the following proportion, that is to say,
Massachusetts Bay – 7
New Hampshire – 2
Connecticut – 5
Rhode Island – 2
New York – 4
New Jersey – 3
Pennsylvania – 6
Maryland – 4
Virginia – 7
North Carolina – 4
South Carolina – 4
Total – 48
3. — who shall meet for the first time at the city of Philadelphia, being called by the President-General as soon as conveniently may be after his appointment.
4. That there shall be a new election of the members of the Grand Council every three years; and, on the death or resignation of any member, his place should be supplied by a new choice at the next sitting of the Assembly of the Colony he represented.
5. That after the first three years, when the proportion of money arising out of each Colony to the general treasury can be known, the number of members to be chosen for each Colony shall, from time to time, in all ensuing elections, be regulated by that proportion, yet so as that the number to be chosen by any one Province be not more than seven, nor less than two.
6. That the Grand Council shall meet once in every year, and oftener if occasion require, at such time and place as they shall adjourn to at the last preceding meeting, or as they shall be called to meet at by the President-General on any emergency; he having first obtained in writing the consent of seven of the members to such call, and sent duly and timely notice to the whole.
7. That the Grand Council have power to choose their speaker; and shall neither be dissolved, prorogued, nor continued sitting longer than six weeks at one time, without their own consent or the special command of the crown.
8. That the members of the Grand Council shall be allowed for their service ten shillings sterling per diem, during their session and journey to and from the place of meeting; twenty miles to be reckoned a day’s journey.
9. That the assent of the President-General be requisite to all acts of the Grand Council, and that it be his office and duty to cause them to be carried into execution.
10. That the President-General, with the advice of the Grand Council, hold or direct all Indian treaties, in which the general interest of the Colonies may be concerned; and make peace or declare war with Indian nations.
11. That they make such laws as they judge necessary for regulating all Indian trade.
12. That they make all purchases from Indians, for the crown, of lands not now within the bounds of particular Colonies, or that shall not be within their bounds when some of them are reduced to more convenient dimensions.
13. That they make new settlements on such purchases, by granting lands in the King’s name, reserving a quitrent to the crown for the use of the general treasury.
14. That they make laws for regulating and governing such new settlements, till the crown shall think fit to form them into particular governments.
15. That they raise and pay soldiers and build forts for the defence of any of the Colonies, and equip vessels of force to guard the coasts and protect the trade on the ocean, lakes, or great rivers; but they shall not impress men in any Colony, without the consent of the Legislature.
16. That for these purposes they have power to make laws, and lay and levy such general duties, imposts, or taxes, as to them shall appear most equal and just (considering the ability and other circumstances of the inhabitants in the several Colonies), and such as may be collected with the least inconvenience to the people; rather discouraging luxury, than loading industry with unnecessary burdens.
17. That they may appoint a General Treasurer and Particular Treasurer in each government when necessary; and, from time to time, may order the sums in the treasuries of each government into the general treasury; or draw on them for special payments, as they find most convenient.
18. Yet no money to issue but by joint orders of the President-General and Grand Council; except where sums have been appropriated to particular purposes, and the President-General is previously empowered by an act to draw such sums.
19. That the general accounts shall be yearly settled and reported to the several Assemblies.
20. That a quorum of the Grand Council, empowered to act with the President-General, do consist of twenty-five members; among whom there shall be one or more from a majority of the Colonies.
21. That the laws made by them for the purposes aforesaid shall not be repugnant, but, as near as may be, agreeable to the laws of England, and shall be transmitted to the King in Council for approbation, as soon as may be after their passing; and if not disapproved within three years after presentation, to remain in force.
22. That, in case of the death of the President-General, the Speaker of the Grand Council for the time being shall succeed, and be vested with the same powers and authorities, to continue till the King’s pleasure be known.
23. That all military commission officers, whether for land or sea service, to act under this general constitution, shall be nominated by the President-General; but the approbation of the Grand Council is to be obtained, before they receive their commissions. And all civil officers are to be nominated by the Grand Council, and to receive the President-General’s approbation before they officiate.
24. But, in case of vacancy by death or removal of any officer, civil or military, under this constitution, the Governor of the Province in which such vacancy happens may appoint, till the pleasure of the President-General and Grand Council can be known.
25. That the particular military as well as civil establishments in each Colony remain in their present state, the general constitution notwithstanding; and that on sudden emergencies any Colony may defend itself, and lay the accounts of expense thence arising before the President-General and General Council, who may allow and order payment of the same, as far as they judge such accounts just and reasonable.
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