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   Chapter 15 No.15

Formation of the Union By Albert Bushnell Hart Characters: 3400

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


[Sidenote: Indian treaty.]

[Sidenote: Union proposed]

Foreseeing a general colonial war, the Lords of Trade, in September, 1753, directed the colonial governors to procure the sending of commissioners to Albany. The first purpose was to make a treaty with the Iroquois; but a suggestion was made in America that the commissioners also draw up a plan of colonial union. In June, 1754, a body of delegates assembled from the New England colonies, New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. The Indian treaty was duly framed, notwithstanding the ominous suggestion of one of the savages: "It is but one step from Canada hither, and the French may easily come and turn you out of your doors." On June 24 the Congress of Albany adopted unanimously the resolution that "a union of all the colonies is at present absolutely necessary for their security and defence;" and that "it would be necessary that the union be established by Act of Parliament."

[Sidenote: Franklin's scheme.]

Since the extinction of the New England Confederation in 1684 (Colonies, § 69) there had been no approach to any colonial union. The suggestions of William III., of the Lords of Trade, of ministers, of colonial governors, and of private individuals had remained without effect To Benjamin Franklin was committed the task of drawing up a scheme which should at the same time satisfy the colonial assemblies and the mother government. The advantages of such an union were obvious. Combined action meant speedy victory; separate defence meant that much of the border would be exposed to invasion. Franklin hoped to take advantage of the pressure of the war to induce the colonies to accept a permanent union. His draft,

therefore, provided for a "President General," who should have toward the union the powers usually enjoyed by a governor towards his colony. This was not unlike a project in view when Andros was sent over in 1685. The startling innovation of the scheme was a "Grand Council," to be chosen by the colonial assemblies. The duty of this general government was to regulate Indian affairs, make frontier settlements, and protect and defend the colonists. The plan grew upon Franklin as he considered it, and he added a scheme for general taxes, the funds to be raised by requisitions for specific sums on the separate colonial treasurers.

[Sidenote: The union fails.]

The interest of the plan is that it resembles the later Articles of Confederation. At first it seemed likely to succeed; none of the twenty- five members of the congress seem to have opposed it, but not one colony accepted it. The charter and proprietary colonies feared that they might lose the guaranty afforded by their existing grants. The new union was to be established by Act of Parliament. Of government by that body they knew little, and they had no disposition to increase the power of the Crown. The town of Boston voted "to oppose any plan of union whereby they shall apprehend the Liberties and Priviledges of the People are endangered." The British government also feared a permanent union, lest it teach the colonies their own strength in organization. The movement for the union had but the faint approval of the Lords of Trade, and received no consideration in England. As Franklin said: "The assemblies all thought there was too much prerogative, and in England it was thought to have too much of the democratic."

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