The Albany Congress convened in a setting and context far different from those of the intercolonial congresses of the Revolutionary Era. Albany in 1754 was a colonial crossroads with split Dutch and British identities. Its Dutch population pursued the fur trade and other commercial interests with much of the same insularity as it had during the seventeenth century. But Albany was also a garrison town, an outpost of British power that became a center of imperial and intercolonial politics whenever colonial delegations traveled there to treat with the Indians. These treaty conferences followed the customs and agendas set by Anglo-Iroquois diplomacy, making Albany a crossroads for native and colonial cultures as well.
The treaty conference at Albany in 1754 is of particular significance because it laid bare a crisis in colonial Indian relations that had profound implications for the British Empire in North America. The broken Covenant Chain was part of a much wider problem in an empire that had long valued local autonomy and private commercial initiative over the systematic or centralized administration of power. Different participants in the Albany Congress responded to this breakdown according to their particular advantage. The Mohawks wished to see management of New York's Indian affairs removed from Albany's hands and restored to William Johnson's. Likewise, the colonial commissioners worked to deflate New York's power over the Covenant Chain so that they might put it to their own uses in acquiring Indian land and defending their frontiers. The New Yorkers, besieged on all sides, worked to restore an old order in intercultural relations that preserved their authority over Indian trade and diplomacy.