The Albany Plan of Union

Ben Franklin looked around the colonies and saw that they were each operating independently from each other.  With the looming threat of the French and Indian War presenting a clear and present danger to all of the colonies, it made sense to form alliances for each of the colonies to support the other should a threat arise.  Franklin’s experience in Philadelphia, where he organized a militia and defensive positions on the Delaware River to protect the city from French Privateers who taking the opportunity to pillage coastal settlements.  He saw strength in unity, and used the example of the Iroquois as inspiration for likeminded individuals to organize and discuss the prospect of united the colonies.  Franklin published articles and the cartoon above in his Philadelphia Gazette newspaper, which had the desired effect of bringing together likeminded individuals to push for the unified colonies.

Albany was chosen as a central place, and in 1754 delegates were chosen from several of the colonies to form the Albany Congress to discuss the union.  Of the 13 colonies, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Maryland and Pennsylvania participated in the Albany Congress.  The delegates met at the Albany “Stadt Huys”, the original state house in the region.  This plan of unification was the first formal meeting on this topic amongst the colonies.  Ultimately England and the governors of the colonies proved too much to overcome and the proposal developed in Albany was refused, but the concepts discussed during the Albany Congress was the root of the United States that would form twenty years later with the Declaration of Independence.

At Albany the delegates proposed a “Grand Council” and a “President General” from England as leader.  Concepts that would later become the United States’ Congress and President.  Another key concept that Franklin was developing around this time was representation as a prerequisite for taxation.  The colonies were either “English” and warranted representation, or they were an “enemy state” annexed by England.  This proved a catalyst for what happened two centuries later.

While Ben Franklin was the most famous of the delegates in the Albany Congress, there were many influential people chosen as delegates.  One of the delegates from New Hampshire was Theodore Atkinson, who had risen to be a Chief Justice in the colony and also a Colonel in the militia.  Theodore Atkinson owned a farm in Plaistow, New Hampshire.  In 1767 the land that the farm was on split from Plaistow to form a new town called, of course, Atkinson.

As a resident of Atkinson for 24 years I’d heard stories of Theodore Atkinson, but never made the connection to Benjamin Franklin that the Albany Congress represented.  It seems that my 2H18 reading list is already paying dividends.