« ZurückWeiter »
lagcs, contributed nothing to the expense. Sometimes also the disputes, which subsisted between the governors and assemblies, prevented the adoption of means of defence; as we have seen was the case in Pennsylvania in 1745. To devise a plan of union between the colonies, to regulate this and other matters, appeared a desirable object. To accomplish this, in the year 1754, commissioners from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, met at Albany Ur. Franklin attended here, as a commissioner from Pennsylvania, and produced a plan, which trom the place of meeting, has been usually termed, "The Albany Plan of Union!" This proposed, that application should be made for an act of parliament, to establish in the colonies a general government, to be administered by a president-general, appointed by the crown, and by a grand council, consisting of members, chosen by the representatives of thedifferent colonies; their number to be in direct proportion to the sums paid by each colony into the general treasury, with this restriction, that no colony should have more than seven, nor less than two representatives. The whole executive authority was committed to the president-general. The power oflegislation was lodged in the grand council and the pres\dent-general jointly; his consent being made necessary to passing a bill into a law. The power vested in the president and council was, to declare war and peace, and to conclude treaties with the Indian nations; to regulate trade with, and to make purchases of vacant lands from them, either in the name of the crown, or of the union; to settle new colonies, to make laws for governing these, until they should be erected into separate governments; and to raise troops, build forts, and fit out armed vessels, and to use other means for the general defence; and, to effect these things, a power was given to make laws, laying such duties,imposts, or taxes, as they should find necessary, and as would be least burdensome to the people. All laws were to be sent to England for the king's approbation; and, unless disapproved of within three years, were to remain in force. AH
officers of the land or sea service were to be nominated by the president-general, and approved of by the general council; civil officers were to be nominated by the council, and approved of by the president. Such are the outlines of the plan proposed, for the consideration of the congress, by Dr. Franklin. After several days discussion, it was unanimously agreed to by the commissioners, a copy transmitted to each assembly, and one to the king's council. Tha fate of it was singular. It was disapproved of by the ministry of Great Britain, because itgave too much power to the representatives of the people; and it was rejected by every assembly, as giving to the president-general, the representative of the crown, an influence greater than appeared to them proper, in a plan of government intended for freemen. Perhaps this rejection, on both sides, is the strongest proof that could be adduced of the excellence of it, as suited to the situation of America and Great Britain at that time. It appears to have steered exactly in the middle, between the opposite interests of both. Whether the adoption of this plan would have prevented the separation of America from Gr-jat Britain, is a question which might afford much room for speculation. It maybe said, that, by enabling the colonies to defend themselves, it would have removed the pretext upon which the stamp-act, tea-act, and other acts of the British parliament, were passed; which excited a spirit of opposition, and laid the foundation for the separation of the two countries. But, on the other hand, it must be admitted, that the restriction laid by Great Britain upon our commerce, obliging us to sell our produce to her citizens only, and to take from them various articles, of which, as our manufacturers were discouraged, we stood in need, at a price greater than that for which they could have been obtained from other nations, must inevitably produce dissatisfaction, even though no duties were imposed by the parliament; a circumstance which might still have taken place. Besides,as the president-general was to be appointed by the crown, he must, of necessity, be devoted to its views, and would, therefore, refuse to assent to any laws, how. em salutary to the community, which had the most remote tendency to injure the interests of his sovereign. Even should they receive his assent, the approbation of the king was to be necessary; who would indubitably, in every instance, prefer the advantage of his own dominions to that of his colonies. Hence would ensue perpetual disagreements between the council and the president-general, and thus between the people of America and the crown of Great Britain:—while the colonies continued weak, they would be obliged to submit, and as soon as they acquired strength, they would become more urgent in their demands, until, at length, they would shake oB die yoke, and declare themselves independent.
Whilst the French were in possession of Canada, their trade with the natives extended very far; even to the back of the British settlements. They were disposed, from time to time, to establish posts within the territory, which the English claimed as their own. Independent of the injury to the fur trade, which was considerable, the colonies suffered this further inconvenience, that the Indians were frequently instigated to commit depredations on their frontiers. In the year 1753, encroachments were made upon the boundaries of Virginia. Remonstrances had no effect. In the ensuing year, a body of men was sent out under the command of Mr. Washington, who, though a very young man, had, by his conduct in the preceding year, shown himself worthy of such an important trust. Whilst marching to take possession of the post at the junction of the Allegany and Monongaliela, he was informed that the French had already erected a fort there. A detachment of their men marched against him. He fortified himself as strongly as time and circumstances would admit. A superiority of numbers soon obliged him to surrender Fort Necessity. He obtained honourable terns for himself and men, and returned to Virginia. The government of Great Britain now thought it necessary to interfere. In tin year I755, General Braddock, with some regiments of regular troops and provincial levies, was sent to dispossess the French of the posts upon which they had seized. After the men were all ready, a diffiuuu
ty occurred, which had nearly prevented the expedition. This was the want of waggons. Franklin now stepped forward,and with the assistance of hie ton, in a little time procured a hundred and fifty. Braddock unfortunately fell into an ambuscade, and perished, with a number of his men. Washington, who had accompanied him as an aid-de-camp, and had warned him, in vain, of his danger, now displayed great military talents in effecting a retreat of the remains of the army, and in forming a junction with the rear, under Colonel Dunbar, upon whom the chief command now devolved. With some difficulty they brought their little body to a place of safety, but they found it necessary to destroy their waggons and baggage, to prevent them from falling into the hands of the enemy. For the waggons which he had furnished, Franklin had given bonds to a large amount. The owners declared their intention of obliging him to make a restitution of their property. Had they put their threats in execution, ruin must inevitably have been the consequence. Governor Shirley, finding that he had incurred those debts for the service of government, made arrangements to have them discharged, and released Franklin from his disagreeable situation.
The alarm spread through the colonies, after the defeat of Braddock, was very great. Preparations to arm were everywhere made. In Pennsylvania, the prevalence of the quaker interest prevented the adoption of any system of defence, which would compel the citizens to bear arms. Franklin introduced into the Assembly a bill for organizing a militia, by which every man was allowed to take arms or not, as to dim sliould appear fit. The quakers, being thus left at liberty, suffered the bill to pass: for al-hough their principles would not suffer them to fight, they had no objection to their neighbours fighting for them. In consequence of this act a very respectable militia was formed. The sense of impending danger infused a military spirit in all, whose religious tenets were not opposed to war. Franklin was appointed colonel of a regiment in Philadelphia, which consisted of 1200 men.
The north-western frontier being invaded by the enemy, it became necessary to adopt measures for its defence. Franklin was directed by the Governor to take charge of this. A power of raising men, and of appointing officers to command them, was vested in him. He soon levied a body of troops, with which he repaired to the place at which their presence was necessary. Here he built a fort, and placed the garrison in such a posture of defence, as would enable them to withstand the inroads, to whrch lie inhabitants had been previously exposed. He remained here for some time, in order the more completely to discharge the trust committed to him. Some business of importance at length rendered his presence necessary in the Assembly, and he returned to Philadelphia. The defence of her colonies was a great expense to Great Britain. The most effectual mode of lessening this was, to put arms into the hands of the inhabitants, and to teach them their use. But England wished not that the Americans should become acquainteu with their own strength. She was apprehensive, that, as soon as this period arrived, they would no longer submit to that monopoly of their trade, which to them was highly injurious, but extremely advantageous to the mother country. In comparison with the profits of this, the expense of maintaining armies and fleets to defend them was trifling. She fought to keep them dependent upon her for protection; the best plan which could be devised for retaining them in peaceable subjection. The least appearance of a military spirit was therefore to be guarded against; and, although a war then raged, the act of organizing a militia was disapproved of by the ministry. The regiments which had been formed under it were disbanded, and the defence of the province entrusted to regular troops.
The disputes between the proprietaries and the people continued in full force, although a war was raging on the frontiers. Not even the sense of dauber was sufficient to reconcile, for ever so short a time, their jarring interests. The Assembly still in. fisted upon the justice of taxing the proprietary eg