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The Albany Plan of Union

Place of first Meeting.

— who shall meet for the first time at the city of Philadelphia in Pensylvania, being called by the President General as soon as conveniently may be after his appointment.

Philadelphia was named as being near the center of the colonies and where the Commissioners would be well and cheaply accommodated. The high-roads through the whole extent, are for the most part very good, in which forty or fifty miles a day may very well be and frequently are travelled. Great part of the way may likewise be gone by water. — In summer-time the passages are frequently performed in a week from Charles Town to Philadelphia and New York; and from Rhode Island to New York through the Sound in two or three days; and from New York to Philadelphia by water and land in two days, by stage-boats and wheel-carriages that set out every other day. The journey from Charles Town to Philadelphia may likewise be facilitated by boats running up Chesapeak Bay three hundred miles. — But if the whole journey be performed on horseback, the most distant members, (viz. the two from New Hampshire and from South Carolina) may probably render themselves at Philadelphia in fifteen or twenty-days; — the majority may be there in much less time.

New Election.

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 shall be supplied by a new choice at the next sitting of the assembly of the colony he represented.

Some colonies have annual assemblies, some continue during a governor’s pleasure; three years was thought a reasonable medium, as affording a new member time to improve himself in the business, and to act after such improvement; and yet giving opportunities, frequent enough, to change him if he has misbehaved.

Proportion of Members after the first three Years.

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).

By a subsequent article it is proposed, that the general council shall lay and levy such general duties as to them may appear most equal and least burthensome, &c. Suppose, for instance, they lay a small duty or excise on some commodity imported into or made in the colonies, and pretty generally and equally used in all of them; as rum perhaps, or wine: the yearly produce of this duty or excise, if fairly collected, would be in some colonies greater, in others less, as the colonies are greater or smaller. When the collectors accounts are brought in, the proportions will appear; and from them it is proposed to regulate the proportion of representatives to be chosen at the next general election, within the limits however of seven and two. These numbers may therefore vary in course of years, as the colonies may in the growth and increase of people. And thus the quota of tax from each colony would naturally vary with its circumstances; thereby preventing all disputes and dissatisfactions about the just proportions due from each; which might otherwise produce pernicious consequences, and destroy the harmony and good agreement that ought to subsist between the several parts of the union.

Meetings of the Grand Council, and Call.

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 due and timely notice to the whole.

It was thought, in establishing and governing new colonies or settlements, regulating Indian trade, Indian treaties, &c. there would be every year sufficient business arise to require at least one meeting, and at such meeting many things might be suggested for the benefit of all the colonies. This annual meeting may either be at a time or place certain, to be fixed by the President General and grand council at their first meeting; or left at liberty, to be at such time and place as they shall adjourn to, or be called to meet at by the President General.

In time of war it seems convenient, that the meeting should be in that colony, which is nearest the seat of action.

The power of calling them on any emergency seemed necessary to be vested in the President General; but that such power might not be wantonly used to harass the members, and oblige them to make frequent long journies to little purpose, the consent of seven at least to such call was supposed a convenient guard.


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.

The speaker should be presented for approbation; it being convenient, to prevent misunderstandings and disgusts, that the mouth of the council should be a person agreeable, if possible, both to the council and the President General.

Governors have sometimes wantonly exercised the power of proroguing or continuing the sessions of assemblies, merely to harass the members and compel a compliance; and sometimes dissolve them on slight disgusts. This it was feared might be done by the President General, if not provided against: and the inconvenience and hardship would be greater in the general government than in particular colonies, in proportion to the distance the members must be from home, during sittings, and the long journies some of them must necessarily take.

Members’ Allowance.

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.

It was thought proper to allow some wages, lest the expence might deter some suitable persons from the service; — and not to allow too great wages, lest unsuitable persons should be tempted to cabal for the employment for the sake of gain. — Twenty miles was set down as a day’s journey to allow for accidental hinderances on the road, and the greater expences of travelling than residing at the place of meeting.

Assent of President General and his Duty.

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.

The assent of the President General to all acts of the grand council was made necessary, in order to give the crown its due share of influence in this government, and connect it with that of Great Britain. The President General, besides one half of the legislative power, hath in his hands the whole executive power.

Power of President General and Grand Council.

Treaties of Peace and War.

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.

The power of making peace or war with Indian nations is at present supposed to be in every colony, and is expressly granted to some by charter, so that no new power is hereby intended to be granted to the colonies. — But as, in consequence of this power, one colony might make peace with a nation that another was justly engaged in war with; or make war on slight occasions without the concurrence or approbation of neighbouring colonies, greatly endangered by it; or make particular treaties of neutrality in case of a general war, to their own private advantage in trade, by supplying the common enemy; of all which there have been instances — it was thought better to have all treaties of a general nature under a general direction; that so the good of the whole may be consulted and provided for.

Indian Trade.

That they make such laws as they judge necessary for regulating all Indian trade.

Many quarrels and wars have arisen between the colonies and Indian nations, through the bad conduct of traders; who cheat the Indians after making them drunk, &c. to the great expence of the colonies both in blood and treasure. Particular colonies are so interested in the trade as not to be willing to admit such a regulation as might be best for the whole; and therefore it was thought best under a general direction.

Indian Purchases.

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.

Purchases from the Indians made by private persons, have been attended with many inconveniences. They have frequently interfered, and occasioned uncertainty of titles, many disputes and expensive law-suits, and hindered the settlement of the land so disputed. Then the Indians have been cheated by such private purchases, and discontent and wars have been the consequence. These would be prevented by public fair purchases.

Several of the colony charters in America extend their bounds to the South Sea, which may be perhaps three or four thousand miles in length to one or two hundred miles in breadth. It is supposed they must in time be reduced to dimensions more convenient for the common purposes of government.

Very little of the land in those grants is yet purchased of the Indians.

It is much cheaper to purchase of them, than to take and maintain the possession by force: for they are generally very reasonable in their demands for land; and the expence of guarding a large frontier against their incursions is vastly great; because all must be guarded and always guarded, as we know not where or when to expect them.

New Settlements.

That they make new settlements on such purchases by granting lands in the King’s name, reserving a quit-rent to the crown for the use of the general treasury.

It is supposed better that there should be one purchaser than many; and that the crown should be that purchaser, or the union in the name of the crown. By this means the bargains may be more easily made, the price not inhanced by numerous bidders, future disputes about private Indian purchases, and monopolies of vast tracts to particular persons (which are prejudicial to the settlement and peopling of a country) prevented; and the land being again granted in small tracts to the settlers, the quit-rents reserved may in time become a fund for support of government, for defence of the country, ease of taxes, &c.;

Strong forts on the lakes, the Ohio, &c. may at the same time they secure our present frontiers, serve to defend new colonies settled under their protection; and such colonies would also mutually defend and support such forts, and better secure the friendship of the far Indians.

A particular colony has scarce strength enough to extend itself by new settlements, at so great a distance from the old: but the joint force of the union might suddenly establish a new colony or two in those parts, or extend an old colony to particular passes, greatly to the security of our present frontiers, increase of trade and people, breaking off the French communication between Canada and Louisiana, and speedy settlement of the intermediate lands.

The power of settling new colonies is therefore thought a valuable part of the plan; and what cannot so well be executed by two unions as by one.

Laws to govern them.

That they make laws for regulating and governing such new settlements, till the crown shall think fit to form them into particular governments.

The making of laws suitable for the new colonies, it was thought would be properly vested in the President General and grand council; under whose protection they will at first necessarily be, and who would be well acquainted with their circumstances, as having settled them. When they are become sufficiently populous, they may by the crown, be formed into compleat and distinct governments.

The appointment of a Sub-president by the crown, to take place in case of the death or absence of the President General, would perhaps be an improvement of the plan; and if all the governors of particular provinces were to be formed into a standing council of state, for the advice and assistance of the President General, it might be another considerable improvement.

Raise Soldiers and equip Vessels, &c.;

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.

It was thought, that quotas of men to be raised and paid by the several colonies, and joined for any public service, could not always be got together with the necessary expedition. For instance, suppose one thousand men should be wanted in New Hampshire on any emergency; to fetch them by fifties and hundreds out of every colony as far as South Carolina, would be inconvenient, the transportation chargeable, and the occasion perhaps passed before they could be assembled; and therefore that it would be best to raise them (by offering bounty-money and pay) near the place where they would be wanted, to be discharged again when the service should be over.

Particular colonies are at present backward to build forts at their own expence, which they say will be equally useful to their neighbouring colonies; who refuse to join, on a presumption that such forts will be built and kept up, though they contribute nothing. This unjust conduct weakens the whole; but the forts being for the good of the whole, it was thought best they should be built and maintained by the whole, out of the common treasury.

In the time of war, small vessels of force are sometimes necessary in the colonies to scour the coast of small privateers. These being provided by the Union, will be an advantage in turn to the colonies which are situated on the sea, and whose frontiers on the land-side, being covered by other colonies, reap but little immediate benefit from the advanced forts.

Power to make Laws, lay Duties, &c.;

That for these purposes they have power to make laws, and lay and levy such general duties, imports, 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 burthens.

The laws which the President General and grand council are impowered to make, are such only as shall be necessary for the government of the settlements; the raising, regulating and paying soldiers for the general service; the regulating of Indian trade; and laying and collecting the general duties and taxes. (They should also have a power to restrain the exportation of provisions to the enemy from any of the colonies, on particular occasions, in time of war.) But it is not intended that they may interfere with the constitution and government of the particular colonies; who are to be left to their own laws, and to lay, levy, and apply their own taxes as before.

General Treasurer and Particular Treasurer.

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.

The treasurers here meant are only for the general funds; and not for the particular funds of each colony, which remain in the hands of their own treasurers at their own disposal.

Money how to issue.

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 impowered by an act to draw for such sums.

To prevent misapplication of the money, or even application that might be dissatisfactory to the crown or the people, it was thought necessary to join the President General and grand council in all issues of money.