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

By Timothy J. Shannon | Go to book overview

[7] "A Diversity of Sentiment": In the Wake of the Albany Congress

All of the Assemblies in the Colonies have, I suppose, had the Union Plan laid before them; but it is not likely, in my Opinion, that any of them will act upon it so as to agree to it, or to propose any Amendments to it. Every body cries, a Union is absolutely necessary; but when they come to the Manner and Form of the Union, their weak Noddles are presently distracted.

-- Benjamin Franklin to Peter Collinson, December 29, 1754

It has been proved by some of our wise men and Boys . . . before a large body of people assembled in Town-Meeting, that you and the rest of the Commissioners at Albany have shown your selves by the projected plan for an Union, to be arrant Blockheads; and, at the same time, to have set up a Scheme for the destroying [of] the liberties and privileges of every British Subject upon the Continent.

-- William Clarke of Boston to Benjamin Franklin, February 3, 1755

The Albany Plan offered a bold, new conceptualization of the imperial relationship. If enacted, it would create an Anglo-American union within the British-Atlantic empire, molding separate and distinct colonies into a North American dominion, subordinate to Parliament's authority but also vested with its own legislative powers over the individual colonies. This vision of British North America's future, of course, was not without its detractors. Before the Albany Plan could be implemented, it had to pass muster in the colonies and in London. Each assembly would be anxious to protect its particular self-governing privileges; the Crown and Parliament would be concerned with preserving colonial dependence. On both sides of the Atlantic, the Albany Plan challenged ideas about the imperial relationship entrenched in the very institutions charged with enacting it.

In his memoirs, Franklin consigned the failure of the Albany Plan to this resistance from the assemblies and the ministry. "Its fate was singular," he

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