Mount Saint Elias

Above: First sited in 1741 by Europeans, Mount Saint Elias, 2008. Courtesy National Park Service. Right: Fort Necessity, French and Indian War.

Fort Necessity

Pre-Revolution Timeline - The 1700s


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  • Timeline

  • 1754 Detail

    June 19, 1754 - Albany Congress held between representatives of the colonies to discuss mutual defense, plus a treaty of alliance with the Six Nation tribes as tensions between British and French increase.

    Albany Congress

    It was at the request of the British Board of Trade, the body that administered the colonies, that colonial reprsentatives meet, discuss mutual defense, and a way to gain a treaty with the Six Nation tribes (Mohawk, Oneida, Seneca, Onandaga, Cayuga, Tuscarora). They knew the tension between France and England could soon lead to open war past the initial conflicts such as that at Fort Duquesne over territorial claims in the Canadian provinces, the colonies of New England, and expansion west. Great Britain wanted allies and soldiers from tribes that would be friendly toward their cause, plus cooperation between the colonies themselves.

    On June 19, 1754, seven colonies met for the first time at City Hall in Albany, Colony of New York. Virginia and New Jersey had declined. Delegates from Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island held daily meetings through July 11. The meetings were the first time the colonies held such a convention, although it was not about creating a nation, at first, but pursuing renewals of peace with the Iroquois, Mohawk, and other Indian tribes, plus other mutual defense issues. Gaining the trust and alliance with Indian tribes was difficult for the British with their tactic of settlement was often to push the tribes out of the settled areas, while the French allowed the tribes to live around them.

    Benjamin Franklin, however, was more concerned with an alliance amongst the colonies, and called for such a union, which he, and co-author Thomas Hutchinson, named the Albany Plan. After discussions and modifications, the Albany Plan was passed in committee and the entire conference. The plan included not only the colonies in attendance, but all British colonies in North America. They sent the plan back to England and sought approval from the colonial assemblies. Neither liked the plan. It was rejected by the Board of Trade, never presenting it to the Crown, and the colonial assemblies voted no, fearful of a central taxing authority and wanting to protect their individual colonial charters.

    Delegates of the Albany Congress

    There were twenty-one delgates to the Albany Convention of 1754. They included William Pitkin, Oliver Wolcott, and Elisha Williams of Connecticut; Abraham Barnes and Benjamin Tasker Jr. of Maryland; Thomas Hutchinson and Oliver Partridge of Massachusetts, plus Meshech Weare and Theodore Atkinson of New Hampshire. James DeLancey, William Johnson, Philip Livingston, and William Smith represented New York, and Benjamin Chew, John Penn, Richard Peters, Isaac Norris, and Benjamin Franklin represented Pennsylvania. Rhode Island sent Martin Howard and Stephen Hopkins. Additional staff included Conrad Weiser and William Franklin, Benjamin Franklin's son.

    James DeLancey, acting Governor of New York, presided.

    What Happened to the Original Mission?

    If the original mission was to effect a mutual defense union between the colonies and tribes, it certainly seems lacking in the second part of that goal, i.e. seeking renewal of their alliances south of the Great Lakes. Yes, there were discussions amongst the members of the Congress about Indian issues. It was somewhat a general thought that the Indians had respect for the French and the way they fortified their territory, but knew that the British were better trade partners, often underselling the French.

    On June 24, 1754, two forts were proposed built in Indian territory to protect the tribes, one on the Onandaga and the other in Seneca territory. It was pushed for discussion until the idea of a formal union was addressed. On July 1, reports of the meetings of the days before included attendance by the Upper and Lower Castle of the Mohawks. There were speeches by the Indians in response to the delegates, various plans to solve disputes, and an exchange of gifts. Hendrick, a Mohawk chief, was the Indian spokesman; Conrad Weiser served as interpreter. Hendrick angrily spoke of the disinterest of the British toward them, "You have thus thrown us behind your back, and disregarded us, whereas the French are a subtle and vigilant people, ever using their utmost endeavors to seduce and bring our people over to them." The question of forts arose again, but in the end, it was the question of colonial unity that took the highest priority. A general treaty known as the Covenant Chain with the Six Nations was renewed, however, with a commitment for the British to construct forts. Beyond that, there was little done to address particular Indian affairs.

    Full Text, Albany Plan 1754

    Albany Plan of Union 1754

    It is proposed that humble application be made for an act of Parliament of Great Britain, by virtue of which one general government may be formed in America, including all the said colonies, within and under which government each colony may retain its present constitution, except in the particulars wherein a change may be directed by the said act, as hereafter follows. 1. That the said general government be administered by a President-General, to be appointed and supported by the crown; and a Grand Council, to be chosen by the representatives of the people of the several Colonies met in their respective assemblies. 2. That within -- months after the passing such act, the House of Representatives that happen to be sitting within that time, or that shall especially for that purpose convened, may and shall choose members for the Grand Council, in the following proportion, that is to say, ...

    Massachusetts Bay 7, New Hampshire 2, Connecticut 5, Rhode Island 2, New York 4, New Jersey 3, Pennsylvania 6, Maryland 4, Virginia 7, North Carolina 4, South Carolina 4. Total 48.

    3. -- who shall meet for the first time at the city of Philadelphia, being called by the President-General as soon as conveniently may be after his appointment.

    4. That there shall be a new election of the members of the Grand Council every three years; and, on the death or resignation of any member, his place should be supplied by a new choice at the next sitting of the Assembly of the Colony he represented.

    5. That after the first three years, when the proportion of money arising out of each Colony to the general treasury can be known, the number of members to be chosen for each Colony shall, from time to time, in all ensuing elections, be regulated by that proportion, yet so as that the number to be chosen by any one Province be not more than seven, nor less than two.

    6. That the Grand Council shall meet once in every year, and oftener if occasion require, at such time and place as they shall adjourn to at the last preceding meeting, or as they shall be called to meet at by the President-General on any emergency; he having first obtained in writing the consent of seven of the members to such call, and sent duly and timely notice to the whole.

    7. That the Grand Council have power to choose their speaker; and shall neither be dissolved, prorogued, nor continued sitting longer than six weeks at one time, without their own consent or the special command of the crown.

    8. That the members of the Grand Council shall be allowed for their service ten shillings sterling per diem, during their session and journey to and from the place of meeting; twenty miles to be reckoned a day's journey.

    9. That the assent of the President-General be requisite to all acts of the Grand Council, and that it be his office and duty to cause them to be carried into execution.

    10. That the President-General, with the advice of the Grand Council, hold or direct all Indian treaties, in which the general interest of the Colonies may be concerned; and make peace or declare war with Indian nations.

    11. That they make such laws as they judge necessary for regulating all Indian trade.

    12. That they make all purchases from Indians, for the crown, of lands not now within the bounds of particular Colonies, or that shall not be within their bounds when some of them are reduced to more convenient dimensions.

    13. That they make new settlements on such purchases, by granting lands in the King's name, reserving a quitrent to the crown for the use of the general treasury.

    14. That they make laws for regulating and governing such new settlements, till the crown shall think fit to form them into particular governments.

    15. That they raise and pay soldiers and build forts for the defence of any of the Colonies, and equip vessels of force to guard the coasts and protect the trade on the ocean, lakes, or great rivers; but they shall not impress men in any Colony, without the consent of the Legislature.

    16. That for these purposes they have power to make laws, and lay and levy such general duties, imposts, or taxes, as to them shall appear most equal and just (considering the ability and other circumstances of the inhabitants in the several Colonies), and such as may be collected with the least inconvenience to the people; rather discouraging luxury, than loading industry with unnecessary burdens.

    17. That they may appoint a General Treasurer and Particular Treasurer in each government when necessary; and, from time to time, may order the sums in the treasuries of each government into the general treasury; or draw on them for special payments, as they find most convenient.

    18. Yet no money to issue but by joint orders of the President-General and Grand Council; except where sums have been appropriated to particular purposes, and the President-General is previously empowered by an act to draw such sums.

    19. That the general accounts shall be yearly settled and reported to the several Assemblies.

    20. That a quorum of the Grand Council, empowered to act with the President-General, do consist of twenty-five members; among whom there shall be one or more from a majority of the Colonies.

    21. That the laws made by them for the purposes aforesaid shall not be repugnant, but, as near as may be, agreeable to the laws of England, and shall be transmitted to the King in Council for approbation, as soon as may be after their passing; and if not disapproved within three years after presentation, to remain in force.

    22. That, in case of the death of the President-General, the Speaker of the Grand Council for the time being shall succeed, and be vested with the same powers and authorities, to continue till the King's pleasure be known.

    23. That all military commission officers, whether for land or sea service, to act under this general constitution, shall be nominated by the President-General; but the approbation of the Grand Council is to be obtained, before they receive their commissions. And all civil officers are to be nominated by the Grand Council, and to receive the President-General's approbation before they officiate.

    24. But, in case of vacancy by death or removal of any officer, civil or military, under this constitution, the Governor of the Province in which such vacancy happens may appoint, till the pleasure of the President-General and Grand Council can be known.

    25. That the particular military as well as civil establishments in each Colony remain in their present state, the general constitution notwithstanding; and that on sudden emergencies any Colony may defend itself, and lay the accounts of expense thence arising before the President-General and General Council, who may allow and order payment of the same, as far as they judge such accounts just and reasonable.

    Although the Albany Plan was not approved at the legislative level of the colonies and likely would have been rejected even more forcefully if presented to the British Parliament, you can easily see its impact on later documents of the First Continental Congress.

    Image above: Engraving of Representatives at the Albany Congress, 1973, Allyn Cox. Courtesy Architect of the Capitol via Wikipedia Commons. Image Below: Hendrick, chief of the Mohawk Indians, who had negotiated peace between the Six Nations and the British at the Albany Congress, 1755, Gentleman's Magazine. Courtesy Library of Congress. Info Source: Avalon Project, Documents in Law, History, and Diplomacy, Yale Law School, Documents Illustrative of the Formation of the Union of the American States. Government Printing Office, 1927. House Document No. 398. Selected, Arranged and Indexed by Charles C. Tansill;; ""Six Nations of Ignorant Savages": Benjamin Franklin and the Iroquois League of Nations," Nancy Dieter Egloff, 1987, William and Mary College; Wikipedia Commons.

    Hendrick, Chief of the Mohawk Indians

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