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PART II. AMERICAN POLITICS.
AMERICAN POLITICS PRIOR TO THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE UNITED STATES.
ALBANY PAPERS. [Referred to in Memoirs of the Life, Part II.] Containing, I. Reasons and Motives on which the Plan of Union for the Colonies was formed;—II. Reasons against partial Unions;—III. And the Plan of Union drawn by Benjamin Franklin, and unanimously agreed to by the Commissioners from Nerc Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, met in Congress at Albany, in July 1754, to consider of the best Means of defending the King's Dominions in America, fyc. a War being then apprehended; with the Reasons or Motives for each Article of the Plan.
I. 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, had granted no assistance to Virginia, when lately invaded by the French, though purposely convened, and the importance of the occasion earnestly urged upon them; considering moreover, that one principal encouragement to the French, in invading and insulting the British American dominions, was their knowledge of our disunited state, and of our weakness arising from such want of union; and that from hence different colonies were, at different times, extremely harassed, and put to great expense both of blood and treasure, who would have remained in peace, if the enemy had had cause to fear the drawing on themselves the resentment and power of the whole; the said commissioners, considering also the present incroachments of the French, and the mischievous consequences that may be expected from them, if not opposed with our force, came to an unanimous resolution,—That an union of the colonies is absolutely necessary for their preservation.
The manner of forming and establishing this union was the next point. When it was considered, that the colonies were seldom all in equal danger at the same time, or equally near the danger, or equally sensible of it; that some of them had particular interests to manage, with which an union might interfere: and that they were extremely jealous of each other: it was thought impracticable to obtain a joint agreement of all the colonies to an union, in which the expense and burthen of defending any of them should be divided among them all: and if ever acts of assembly in all the colonies could be obtained for that purpose, yet as any colony, on the least dissatisfaction, might repeal its own act, and thereby withdraw itself from the union, it would not be a stable one, or such as could be depended on: for if only one colony should, on any disgust, withdraw itself, others might think it unjust and unequal that they, by continuing in the union, should be at the expense of defending a colony, which refused to bear its proportionable part, and would therefore, one after another, withdraw, till the whole crumbled into its original parts. Therefore the commissioners came to another previous resolution, viz. That it was necessary the union should be established by act of parliament.
They then proceeded to sketch out a plan of union, which they did in a plain and concise manner, just sufficient to show their sentiments of the kind of union that would best suit the circumstances of the colonies, be most agreeable to the people, and most effectually promote his majesty's service and the general interest of the British empire. This was respectfully sent to the assemblies of the several colonies for their consideration, and to receive such alterations and improvements as they should think fit and necessary; after which it was proposed to be transmitted to England to be perfected, and the establishment of it there humbly solicited.
This was as much as the commissioners could do.1
II. Reasons against partial Unions. It was proposed by some of the commissioners,
'Dr. Davenant was so well convinced of the expediency of an union of the colonies, that he recites, at full length, a plan contrived, as he says, with good judgment, for the purpose. Davenant, Vol. I. p. 40, 41, of Sir C. Whitworth's edition. B. V. —This, and other notes with similar initials, are those of Mr. Benjamin Vaughan.
to form the colonies into two or three distinct unions; but for these reasons that proposal was dropped even by those that made it: viz.
1. In all cases where the strength of the whole was necessary to be used against the enemy, there would be the same difficulty in degree, to bring the several unions to unite together, as now the several colonies; and consequently the same delays on our part, and advantage to the enemy.
2. Each union would separately be weaker than when joined by the whole, obliged to exert more force, be oppressed by the expense, and the enemy less deterred from attacking it.
3. Where particular colonies have selfish views, as New York with regard to Indian trade and lands; or are less exposed, being covered by others, as New Jersey, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maryland; or have particular whims and prejudices against warlike measures in general, as Pennsylvania, where the Quakers predominate; such colonies would have more weight in a partial union, and be better able to oppose and obstruct the measures necessary for the general good, than where they are swallowed up in the general union.
4. The Indian trade would be better regulated by the union of the whole than by partial unions. And as Canada is chiefly supported by that trade, if it could be drawn into the hands of the English (as it might be if the Indians were supplied on moderate terms, and by honest traders appointed by