Originally, the Albany Congress was convened at the behest of the English Board of Trade in 1754 to address the fraying relationship of the colonial governments with the Mohawk, and by extension, the entire Iroquois Confederacy. In the process of gathering seven of the thirteen continental American colonies together, the imperial government and the colonies considered a plan for colonial union, although each for different reasons. The immediate reason for holding the conference was to meet the demands of the Mohawk tribe, which had been hurt by changes in the fur trade and the increasing migration of colonists westward from Albany. In the face of French expansion and aggression, keeping the Covenant Chain with the Six Nations of the Iroquois was crucial to colonial defense and imperial policy.
Native Americans expected a forum in which they could renegotiate their relationship as subjects and allies of Britain, gain substantial gifts, and obtain such concessions as a ban on liquor sales and the removal of obnoxious Indian commissioners, as in the Dutch-dominated commission of New York. The colonial governors saw this as an opportunity as well. Governors William Shirley of Massachusetts and Robert Dinwiddie of Virginia wanted to establish a common defense fund, given the increasing likelihood of another war with the French.
Connecticut and Pennsylvania saw the conference as an ideal time to carry out negotiations to purchase a large tract of Native American-held land coveted by powerful speculators. Benjamin Franklin, one of the delegates from Pennsylvania, however, had the most intriguing purpose of all a plan for colonial union and an American government. This was not entirely antithetical to royal authority, since the king, George II, and his ministers were in favor of altering colonial charters to streamline authority and smooth over the various policies and governmental structures.
Thus, the plan of union had interested royal support, as long as royal prerogative was preserved. The conference convened on June 19, 1754 in Albany, on the frontier of British authority in North America, within the crumbling fort whose defenses so concerned Dinwiddie and Shirley. Seven colonies sent delegations: Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New York.
Virginia held a separate, lower-profile conference that same summer to deal with frontier issues. While much of the public time centered on restoring the Covenant Chain, including the dramatic late arrival of the Mohawk, who demanded that the king name William Johnson as their representative, the delegates increasingly met privately to debate Franklin's plan for union. Left deliberately vague in outline, a committee quickly altered Franklin's original plan, suggesting a Grand Council with two to seven representatives from each colony, depending on that colony's contribution to an excise on liquor that would support the workings of the council.
With royal prerogative preserved by an appointed President-General or Viceroy, the council would have the power to declare war on or make peace with Native Americans and to control how men and supplies were to be impressed by the Crown. The revised plan also gave more control over western frontier land to the colonies. The committee even suggested imposing a Stamp Tax to fund greater bureaucratic efficiency and coordination.
The revised proposal went to the main body of delegates on June 28. It was debated until July 10, with additional features such as the requirement of an Act of Parliament to legalize the union and the reapportionment every three years of the number of delegates. Although the motion passed unanimously at Albany, it was received poorly by the assemblies and councils of the colonies themselves, who were startled by the surrender of Virginia militia to the French in the Ohio Valley and distracted by the impending Revolutionary War.
The issue became lost in the shuffle. Franklin's widely reprinted Unite or Die cartoons attempted to keep the idea going. The royal government did agree with the Mohawks and named two royal Indian Agents Johnson in the north, John Bruce in the south.
But a plan for union did not appear again until 1774, when Joseph Galloway suggested a plan nearly identical to the Albany proposal as a peacemaking measure between the Iroquois and the English colonists. Historiographically, the Albany Congress was used in the early national period by Franklin and John Adams to indicate the maturity and inevitable independence of the colonies from Britain. Later, it served to emphasize the degree to which the colonies might or might not have been inspired by the Iroquois Confederacy to unite themselves.
Margaret Sankey See also: Iroquois Confederacy; Johnson, Sir William; Military and Diplomatic Affairs (Chronology); Military and Diplomatic Affairs (Essay); Native American-European Relations. Bibliography Fenton, William. The Great Law and the Longhouse.
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998. Newbold, Robert. The Albany Congress and Plan of Union of 1754.
New York: Vantage, 1955. Shannon, Timothy. Indians and Colonists at the Crossroads of Empire: The Albany Congress of 1754.
Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2000. Ward, Harry M.Unite or Die: Intercolonial Relations 1690 1763.
Port Washington, NY: Kennikat, 1971. albanycongress alltravel8French and Indian War – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia alltravel8NerdTests. Com Test: Practice History Midterm alltravel8