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LETTER FROM JAMES ALEXANDER TO CADWALLADER COLDEN, RESPECTING THE ABOVE HINTS.
New York, [June] 9th, 1754.
I had some conversation with Mr. Franklin and Mr. Peters, as to the uniting the colonies, and the difficulties thereof, by effecting our liberties on the one hand, or being ineffectual on the other. Whereon Mr. Franklin promised to set down some hints of a scheme that he thought might do, which accordingly he sent to me to be transmitted to you, and it is enclosed.
To me, it seems extremely well digested, and at first sight avoids many difficulties that had occurred
Some difficulties still remain. For example, there cannot be found men tolerably well skilled in warlike affairs to be chosen for the grand council, and there is danger in communicating to them the schemes to be put in execution, for fear of a discovery to the enemy.
* Mr. Peters was one of the delegates to the Albany Convention from Pennsylvania. The following is a list of all the delegates.
Whether this may not be in some measure remedied by a council of state, of a few persons to be chosen by the grand council at their stated meetings, which council of state to be always attending the governorgeneral, and with him to digest beforehand all matters to be laid before the next grand council, and only the general, but not the particular, plans of operation.
That the governor-general and that council of state issue orders for the payment of moneys, so far as the grand council have beforehand agreed may be issued for any general plan to be executed. That the governor-general and council of state, at every meeting of the grand council, lay before them their accounts and transactions since the last meeting, at least so much of their transactions as is safe to be made public. This council of state to be something like that of the United Provinces, and the grand council to resemble the States-General.
That the capacity and ability of the persons to be chosen of the council of state and grand council be their only qualifications, whether members of the respective bodies that choose them or not. That the grand council, with the governor-general, have power to increase, but not to decrease, the duties laid by act of Parliament, and have power to issue bills of credit on emergencies, to be sunk by the increased funds, bearing a small interest, but not to be tenders. I am, dear Sir,
Your most obedient,
and most humble servant,
REMARKS ON THE HINTS FOR A SCHEME OF UNION, BY CADWALLADER COLDEN.
It seems agreed on all hands that something is necessary to be done for uniting the colonies in their mutual defence, and it seems to be likewise agreed that it can only be done effectually by act of Parlia
ent. For this reason I suppose that the necessary funds for carrying it into execution, in pursuance of the ends proposed by it, cannot be otherwise obtained. If it were thought, that the Assemblies of the several colonies may agree to lay the same duties, and apply them to the general defence and security of all the colonies, no need of an act of Parliament.
Quare; Which best for the colonies; by Parliament, or by the several Assemblies?
The King's ministers, so long since as the year 1723, or 1724, had thoughts of sending over a governorgeneral of all the colonies, and the Earl of Stair was proposed as a fit person. It is probable, the want of a suitable support of the dignity of that office prevented that scheme's being carried into execution, and that the ministry and people of England think that this charge ought to be borne by the colonies.
Quare; Is the grand council, with the governorgeneral, to have a legislative authority? If only an executive power, objections may be made to their being elective. It would be in a great measure a change of the constitution, to which I suspect the crown will not consent. We see the inconveniences attending the present constitution, and remedies may be found
without changing it, but we cannot foresee what may be the consequences of a change in it. If the grand council be elected for a short time, steady measures cannot be pursued. If elected for a long time, and not removable by the crown, they may become dangerAre they to have a negative on the acts of the governor-general? It is to be considered that England will keep their colonies, as far as they can,.dependent on them; and this view is to be preserved in all schemes to which the King's consent is necessary.
PLACE AND TIME OF MEETING.
It may be thought dangerous to have fixed meetings of the grand council, and in all the colonies at certain times and places. It is a privilege which the Parliament has not, nor the Privy Council, and may be thought destructive of the constitution.
Some estimate ought to be made of the produce which may be reasonably expected from the funds proposed to be raised by duties on liquors, &c., to see whether it will be sufficient for the ends proposed. This I think may be done from the customhouses in the most considerable places for trade in the colonies.
MANNER OF FORMING THE UNION.
No doubt any private person may, in a proper manner, make any proposals which he thinks for the public benefit; but, if they are to be made by the commissioners of the several colonies, who now meet at Albany, it may be presumed that they speak the sense of their constituents. What authority have they to do this? I know of none from either the Council or Assembly of New York.
However, these things may be properly talked of in
conversation among the commissioners for further information, and in order to induce the several Assem blies to give proper powers to commissioners to meet afterwards for this purpose."
REASONS AND MOTIVES
ON WHICH THE PLAN OF UNION WAS FORMED.
THE Commissioners from a number of the northern colonies, being met at Albany, and considering the difficulties that have always attended the most necessary general measures for the common defence, or for the annoyance of the enemy, when they were to be carried through the several particular Assemblies of all the colonies; some Assemblies being before at variance with their governors or councils, and the several branches of the government not on terms of doing business with each other; others taking the opportunity, when their concurrence is wanted, to push for favorite laws, powers, or points, that they think could not at other times be obtained, and so creating disputes and quarrels; one Assembly waiting to see what another will do, being afraid of doing more than its share, or desirous of doing less, or refusing to do any thing, because its country is not at present so much exposed as others, or because another will reap more immediate advantage; from one or other of which causes, the Assemblies of six out of seven colonies applied to,
The preceding papers were first printed in the Appendix to SEDGWICK's Life of William Livingston. The manuscripts, from which they were copied, are contained in the archives of the NEW YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY. The paper, containing Colden's Remarks, is in his own handwriting. - EDITOR.