Albany, New York played host to a meeting of the colonial minds from June 19 – July 11, 1754 as representatives from all colonies gathered to discuss the uniting of North America’s British colonies in an effort to protect themselves from a pending onslaught from the French. This gathering, later dubbed the “Albany Congress/Conference”, planted the seeds which later grew and bloomed into the United States of America. During the 17th century, several of the New England colonies had come together to form the New England Confederation. However, the Albany Congress was the first time in the 18th century members from the various colonies gathered to discuss a form union of some manner.
Conducted by the British Board of Trade, one of the aims of the conference was to secure for England the loyalty of the Iroquois Confederacy. Also referred to as the Iroquois League, the confederacy was composed of five Indian nations (later six) across the northern part of New York State. The five original members of the Iroquois Confederacy were the Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Seneca and Cayuga. In 1722, the Tuscarora joined and the organization was now referred to as the “Six Nations” by the British.
The goal of the conference was to gain a treaty with these nations, knowing they would play an important role between France and England as the two super-powers battled for controlling rights of North America during the French and Indian War, North America’s portion of the Seven Years War between England and France.
150 representatives from the Six Nations gathered in Albany with delegates from the seven northern British colonies (Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York) who advocated practical measures in an effort to regulate Indian affairs more closely, in addition to the western migration of numerous pioneers. The conference ended as the Indians received from the British presents and promises, but did not commit themselves to the stated cause.
During the gathering Benjamin Franklin proposed a plan establishing a colonial union. 11 of the colonies would come together with a president appointed by the Crown. Between two and seven delegates from each colony would be sent to a “grand council” which held the legislative powers. This plan was rejected by the legislatures of the various colonies due to not wanting to share the power they each already had. Though the concept was tossed by the Conference; in time to come, a large number of the ideas would be incorporated into the Articles of Confederation in 1777 and later the Constitution in 1787. Had Franklin’s idea not been tossed, but instead the colonies “jumped on the bandwagon” at the time and put the suggestion into practice, the likelihood of the American Revolution occurring at the time it did, or at all, may never have happened.
In 1789, Benjamin Franklin was quoted as saying:
“On reflection it now seems probable, that if the foregoing plan or some thing like it, had been adopted and carried into execution, the subsequent separation of the colonies from the mother country might not so soon have happened, nor the mischiefs suffered on both sides have occurred, perhaps during another century. For the colonies, if so united, would have really been, as they then thought themselves, sufficient to their own defense, and being trusted with it, as by the plan, an army from Britain, for that purpose would have been unnecessary: The pretences for framing the Stamp-Act would not then have existed, nor the other projects for drawing a revenue from America to Britain by acts of Parliament, which were the cause of the breach, and attended with such terrible expence of blood and treasure: so that the different parts of the empire might still have remained in peace and union.”