Indians and Colonists at the Crossroads of Empire: The Albany Congress of 1754

By Timothy J. Shannon | Go to book overview

[3] A Provincial Path to Albany: Benjamin Franklin and Colonial Union

JOIN, OR DIE.

-- Pennsylvania Gazette, May 9, 1754

On May 3, 1754, word reached Philadelphia that Virginia militiamen building a fort on the forks of the Ohio River had surrendered to a French army. The May 9 edition of Benjamin Franklin Pennsylvania Gazette reported this news and warned of French plans to "establish themselves, settle their Indians, and build Forts, just on the Back of our Settlements . . . from which . . . they may send out their Parties to kill and scalp the Inhabitants, and ruin the Frontier Counties." This item ended by comparing "the present disunited State of the British Colonies" with that of the French, who were "under one Direction, with one Council, and one Purse." It was immediately followed by a cartoon of a snake divided into eight pieces (Fig. 3.1). Initials placed by each segment of the snake denoted particular colonies or groups of colonies: New England, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. A caption beneath the snake read "JOIN, OR DIE."1

This cartoon and its accompanying report on the Virginians' surrender to the French circulated rapidly throughout other colonial newspapers. Four days after publication in the Pennsylvania Gazette, they appeared with minor variations in the New-York Mercury and the New-York Gazette. The May 20 edition of the Boston Evening-Post reprinted the paragraph on the Virginians' surrender without the snake cartoon. The following day this item also appeared in the Boston Gazette, with a differently styled version of

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1
BF Papers, 5:273-75.

-83-

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