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The Albany Plan of Union

Accounts.

That the general Accounts shall be yearly settled and reported to the several assemblies.

By communicating the accounts yearly to each assembly, they will be satisfied of the prudent and honest conduct of their representatives in the grand council.

Quorum.

That a quorum of the Grand Council impowered 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.

The quorum seems large, but it was thought it would not be satisfactory to the colonies in general, to have matters of importance to the whole transacted by a smaller number, or even by this number of twenty-five, unless there were among them one at least from a majority of the colonies; because otherwise the whole quorum being made up of members from three or four colonies at one end of the union, something might be done that would not be equal with respect to the rest, and thence dissatisfactions and discords might rise to the prejudice of the whole.

Laws to be transmitted.

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.

This was thought necessary for the satisfaction of the crown, to preserve the connection of the parts of the British empire with the whole, of the members with the head, and to induce greater care and circumspection in making of the laws, that they be good in themselves and for the general benefit.

Death of the President General.

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.

It might be better, perhaps, as was said before, if the crown appointed a Vice President, to take place on the death or absence of the President General; for so we should be more sure of a suitable person at the head of the colonies. On the death or absence of both, the speaker to take place (or rather the eldest King’s-governor) till his Majesty’s pleasure be known.

Officers how appointed.

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.

It was thought it might be very prejudicial to the service, to have officers appointed unknown to the people, or unacceptable; the generality of Americans serving willingly under officers they know; and not caring to engage in the service under strangers, or such as are often appointed by governors through favour or interest. The service here meant, is not the stated settled service in standing troops; but any sudden and short service, either for defence of our own colonies, or invading the enemies country; (such as, the expedition to Cape Breton in the last war; in which many substantial farmers and tradesmen engaged as common soldiers under officers of their own country, for whom they had an esteem and affection; who would not have engaged in a standing army, or under officers from England.) — It was therefore thought best to give the council the power of approving the officers, which the people will look upon as a great security of their being good men. And without some such provision as this, it was thought the expence of engaging men in the service on any emergency would be much greater, and the number who could be induced to engage much less; and that therefore it would be most for the King’s service and general benefit of the nation, that the prerogative should relax a little in this particular throughout all the colonies in America; as it had already done much more in the charters of some particular colonies, viz. Connecticut and Rhode Island.

The civil officers will be chiefly treasurers and collectors of taxes; and the suitable persons are most likely to be known by the council.

Vacancies how supplied.

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.

The vacancies were thought best supplied by the governors in each province, till a new appointment can be regularly made; otherwise the service might suffer before the meeting of the President General and grand council.

Each Colony may defend itself on Emergency, &c.;

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 expence 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.

Otherwise the Union of the whole would weaken the parts, contrary to the design of the union. The accounts are to be judged of by the President General and grand council, and allowed if found reasonable: this was thought necessary to encourage colonies to defend themselves, as the expence would be light when borne by the whole; and also to check imprudent and lavish expence in such defences.

Remark, Feb. 9. 1789.

On Reflection it now seems probable, that if the foregoing Plan or some thing like it, had been adopted and carried into Execution, the subsequent Separation of the Colonies from the Mother Country might not so soon have happened, nor the Mischiefs suffered on both sides have occurred, perhaps during another Century. For the Colonies, if so united, would have really been, as they then thought themselves, sufficient to their own Defence, and being trusted with it, as by the Plan, an Army from Britain, for that purpose would have been unnecessary: The Pretences for framing the Stamp-Act would then not have existed, nor the other Projects for drawing a Revenue from America to Britain by Acts of Parliament, which were the Cause of the Breach, and attended with such terrible Expence of Blood and Treasure: so that the different Parts of the Empire might still have remained in Peace and Union. But the Fate of this Plan was singular. For tho’ after many Days thorough Discussion of all its Parts in Congress it was unanimously agreed to, and Copies ordered to be sent to the Assembly of each Province for Concurrence, and one to the Ministry in England for the Approbation of the Crown. The Crown disapprov’d it, as having plac’d too much Weight in the democratic Part of the Constitution; and every Assembly as having allow’d too much to Prerogative. So it was totally rejected.

July, 1754; February 9, 1789

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