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.
PRESIDENT-GENERAL AND GRAND COUNCIL
"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."
It was thought that it would be best the President-General should be supported as well as appointed by the crown, that so all disputes between him and the Grand Council concerning his salary might be prevented; as such disputes have been frequently of mischievous consequence in particular colonies, especially in time of public danger. The quitrents of crown lands in America might in a short time be sufficient for this purpose. The choice of members for the Grand Council is placed in the House of Representatives of each government, in order to give the people a share in this new general government, as the crown has its share by the appointment of the President-General.
But it being proposed by the gentlemen of the Council of New York, and some other counsellors among the commissioners, to alter the plan in this particular, and to give the governors and councils of the several Provinces a share in the choice of the Grand Council, or at least a power of approving and confirming, or of disallowing, the choice made by the House of Representatives, it was said:
That the government or constitution, proposed to be formed by the plan, consists of two branches; a President-General appointed by the crown, and a Council chosen by the people, or by the people's representatives, which is the same thing.
That, by a subsequent article, the Council chosen by the people can effect nothing without the eonsent of the President-General appointed by the crown; the crown possesses, therefore, full one-half of the power of this constitution.
That in the British constitution the crown is supposed to possess but one-third, the Lords having their share.
That this constitution seemed rather more favorable for the crown.
That it is essential to English liberty, that the subject should not be taxed but by his own consent, or the consent of his elected representatives.
That taxes to be laid and levied by this proposed constitution will be proposed and agreed to by the representatives of the people, if the plan in this particular be preserved;
But if the proposed alteration should take place, it seemed as if matters may be so managed, as that the crown shall finally have the appointment, not only of the President-General, but of a majority of the Grand Council; for seven out of eleven governors and councils are appointed by the crown;
And so the people in all the colonies would in effect be taxed by their governors.
It was therefore apprehended, that such alterations of the plan would give great dissatisfaction, and that the colonies could not be easy under such a power in governors, and such an infringement of what they take to be English liberty.
Besides, the giving a share in the choice of the Grand Council would not be equal with respect to all the colonies, as their constitutions differ. In some, both governor and council are appointed by the crown; in others, they are both appointed by the proprietors. In some the people have a share in the choice of the council; in others, both government and council are wholly chosen by the people. But the House of Representatives is everywhere chosen by the people; and, therefore, placing the right of choosing the Grand Council in the representatives is equal with respect to all.
That the Grand Council is intended to represent all the several Houses of Representatives of the colonies, as a House of Representatives doth the several towns or counties of a colony. Could all the people of a colony be consulted and unite in public measures, a House of Representatives would be needless, and could all the Assemblies conveniently consult and unite in general measures, the Grand Council would be unnecessary.
That a House of Commons or the House of Representatives, and the Grand Council, are thus alike in their nature and intention. And, as it would seem improper that the King or House of Lords should have a power of disallowing or appointing members of the House of Commons; so, likewise, that a governor and council appointed by the crown should have a power of disallowing or appointing members of the Grand Council, who, in this constitution, are to be the representatives of the people.
If the governors and councils therefore were to have a share in the choice of any that are to conduct this general government, it should seem more proper that they choose the President-General. But, this being an office of trust and importance to the nation, it was thought better to be filled by the immediate appointment of the crown.
ELECTION OF MEMBERS
"Withinmonths after the passing such act, the House of Representatives that happen to be sitting within that time, or that shall be 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."
It was thought, that if the least colony was allowed two, and the others in proportion, the number would be very great, and the expense heavy; and that less than two would not be convenient, as, a single person being by any accident prevented appearing at the meeting, the colony he ought to appear for would not be represented. That, as the choice was not immediately popular, they would be generally men of good abilities for business, and men of reputation for integrity; and that forty-eight such men might be a number sufficient. But, tho it was thought reasonable that each colony should have a share in the representative body in some degree according to the proportion it contributed to the general treasury, yet the proportion of wealth or power of the colonies is not to be judged by the proportion here fixt; because it was at first agreed, that the greatest colony should not have more than seven members, nor the least less than two; and the setting these proportions between these two extremes was not nicely attended to, as it would find itself, after the first election, from the sums brought into the treasury, as by a subsequent article.
PLACE OF FIRST MEETING
"The Grand Council shall meet for the first time at the city of Philadelphia, in Pennsylvania, being called by the President-General as soon as conveniently may be after his appointment."
Philadelphia was named as being nearer the center of the colonies, where the commissioners would be well and cheaply accommodated. The high roads, through the whole extent, are for the most part very good, in which forty or fifty miles a day may very well be, and frequently are, traveled. Great part of the way may likewise be gone by water. In summer time the passages are frequently performed in a week from Charleston to Philadelphia and New York; and from Rhode Island to New York through the Sound in two or three days; and from New York to Philadelphia by water and land in two days, by stage, boats and wheel-carriages that set out every other day. The journey from Charleston to Philadelphia may likewise be facilitated by boats running up Chesapeake Bay three hundred miles. But if the whole journey be performed on horseback, the most distant members, viz., the two from New Hampshire and from South Carolina, may probably render themselves at Philadelphia in fifteen or twenty days; the majority may be there in much less time. . . .
MEETINGS OF THE GRAND COUNCIL, AND CALL
"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 due and timely notice to the whole."
It was thought, in establishing and governing new colonies, or settlements, regulating Indian trade, Indian treaties, etc., there would every year sufficient business arise to require at least one meeting, and at such meeting many things might be suggested for the benefit of all the colonies. This annual meeting may either be at a time or place certain, to be fixed by the President-General and Grand Council at their first meeting; or left at liberty, to be at such time and place as they shall adjourn to, or be called to meet at by the President-General. In time of war, it seems convenient that the meeting should be in that colony which is nearest the seat of action. The power of calling them on any emergency seemed necessary to be vested in the President-General; but, that such power might not be wantonly used to harass the members, and oblige them to make frequent long journeys to little purpose, the consent of seven at least to such call was supposed a convenient guard. . . .
"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."
It was thought proper to allow some wages, lest the expense might deter some suitable persons from the service; and not to allow too great wages, lest unsuitable persons should be tempted to cabal for the employment, for the sake of gain. Twenty miles were set down as a day's journey, to allow for accidental hindrances on the road, and the greater expenses of traveling than residing at the place of meeting.
ASSENT OF THE PRESIDENT-GENERAL
"The assent of the President-General shall be requisite to all acts of the Grand Council, and it shall be his office and duty to cause them to be carried into execution."
The assent of the President-General to all acts of the Grand Council was made necessary, in order to give the crown its due share of influence in this government, and connect it with that of Great Britain. The President-General, besides one-half of the legislative power, hath in his hands the whole executive power.
RAISE SOLDIERS AND EQUIP VESSELS
"They shall raise and pay soldiers and build forts for the defense 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."
It was thought that quotas of men, to be raised and paid by the several colonies, and joined for any public service, could not always be got together with the necessary expedition. For instance, suppose one thousand men should be wanted in New Hampshire on any emergency. To fetch them by fifties and hundreds out of every colony, as far as South Carolina, would be inconvenient, the transportation chargeable, and the occasion perhaps passed before they could be assembled; and therefore it would be best to raise them (by offering bounty-money and pay) near the place where they would be wanted, to be discharged again when the service should be over.
Particular colonies are at present backward to build forts at their own expense, which they say will be equally useful to their neighboring colonies; who refuse to join, on a presumption that such forts will be built and kept up, tho they contribute nothing. This unjust conduct weakens the whole; but the forts being for the good of the whole, it was thought best they should be built and maintained by the whole, out of the common treasury.
In the time of war, small vessels of force are sometimes necessary in the colonies to scour the coasts of small privateers. These being provided by the Union will be an advantage in turn to the colonies which are situated on the sea, and whose frontiers on the land-side, being covered by other colonies, reap but little immediate benefit from the advanced forts.
POWER To MAKE LAWS, LAY DUTIES, &c.
"For these purposes they shall 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."
The laws which the President-General and Grand Council are empowered to make are such only as shall be necessary for the government of the settlements; the raising, regulating, and paying soldiers for the general service; the regulating of Indian trade; and laying and collecting the general duties and taxes. They should also have a power to restrain the exportation of provisions to the enemy from any of the colonies, on particular occasions, in time of war. But it is not intended that they may interfere with the constitution and government of the particular colonies; who are to be left to their own laws, and to lay, levy, and apply their own taxes, as before.
1The "Plan" here printed was drawn up by Franklin at the request of a committee which had been entrusted with the task. Franklin based it on an outline plan which he had drawn up some time before. The Albany Congress, to which the plan was submitted in 1754, comprized 25 delegates, representing seven of the coloniesNew Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. Some sort of union had long been desired by the colonies, and altho this attempt ended in failure, it has historic importance as the most notable attempt at federation made by the colonies before the Revolution. Franklin ascribed its failure to the fact that the Congress itself "thought there was too much prerogative in it, and England thought it to have too much of the democratic." The Congress became useful, however, in familiarizing the people with the idea of uniona familiarity which helped forward in later years the movement for union of action against England. Printed in "Old South Leaflets."Return to text.
WASHINGTON'S EXPEDITION TO
THE OHIO AND THE BATTLE
OF GREAT MEADOWS