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1754: CX: TO PETER COLLINSON - Benjamin Franklin, The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. III Letters and Misc. Writings 1753-1763 
The Works of Benjamin Franklin, including the Private as well as the Official and Scientific Correspondence, together with the Unmutilated and Correct Version of the Autobiography, compiled and edited by John Bigelow (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904). The Federal Edition in 12 volumes. Vol. III (Letters and Misc. Writings 1753-1763).
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TO PETER COLLINSON
Philadelphia, 18 April, 1754.
Since September last, having been abroad on two long journeys and otherwise much engaged, I have made but few observations on the positive and negative state of electricity in the clouds. But Mr. Kinnersley kept his rod and bells in good order, and has made many.
Once this winter the bells rang a long time during a fall of snow, though no thunder was heard or lightning seen. Sometimes the flashes and cracks of the electric matter between bell and bell were so large and loud as to be heard all over the house; but by all his observations the clouds were constantly in a negative state, till about six weeks ago, when he found them once to change in a few minutes from the negative to the positive. About a fortnight after that he made another observation of the same kind, and last Monday afternoon, the wind blowing hard at southeast and veering round to northeast, with many thick, driving clouds, there were five or six successive changes from negative to positive, and from positive to negative, the bells stopping a minute or two between every change. Besides the methods mentioned in my paper of September last of discovering the electrical state of the clouds, the following may be used. When your bells are ringing, pass a rubbed tube by the edge of the bell, connected with your pointed rod; if the cloud is then in a negative state, the ringing will stop; if in a positive state, it will continue, and perhaps be quicker. Or suspend a very small cork ball by a fine silk thread, so that it may hang close to the edge of the rod-bell; then, whenever the bell is electrified, whether positively or negatively, the little ball will be repelled and continue at some distance from the bell. Have ready a round-headed glass stopper of a decanter, rub it on your side till it is electrified, then present it to the cork ball. If the electricity in the ball is positive, it will be repelled from the glass stopper, as well as from the bell; if negative, it will fly to the stopper.
TO CADWALLADER COLDEN
Philadelphia, 30 August, 1754.
I have now before me your favors of July 23d, and August 15th. I return Mr. Pike’s Philosophia Sacra. His manner of philosophizing is much out of my way.
I am now about to proceed on my eastern journey, but hope to be at home in the winter, the best season for electrical experiments, when I will gladly make any you desire. In the mean time I should be glad if you would communicate the thoughts you mention, that I may consider them. If you please, direct them to me at Boston.
There must, I think, be some mistake in what you mention, of my having sent to Mr. Collinson the paper you wrote me on water-spouts. I have the original now by me, and cannot recollect that I ever copied it, or that I ever communicated the contents of it to Mr. Collinson or any one. Indeed, I have long had an intention of sending him all I have wrote, and all I have received from others on this curious subject, without mentioning names; but it is not yet done.
Our Assembly were not inclined to show any approbation of the plan of union; yet I suppose they will take no steps to oppose its being established by the government at home. Popular elections have their inconveniences in some cases; but in establishing new forms of government, we cannot always obtain what we may think the best; for the prejudices of those concerned, if they cannot be removed, must be in some degree complied with. However, I am of opinion that when troops are to be raised in America, the officers appointed must be men they know and approve, or the levies will be made with more difficulty, and at much greater expense.1
It is not to be expected that a Quaker Assembly will establish any but Quaker schools; nor will they ever agree to a tax for the payment of any clergy. It is intended by the Society, that the schoolmasters among the Germans shall teach English.
I am glad the representation is agreeable to your sentiments. The letter to Lord Halifax I suppose your son sends from New York.
Since my return I have received from Italy a book in quarto, entitled Dell’ Elettricismo Artificiale e Naturale, Libri Due, di Giovambattista Beccaria de’ CC. RR. delle Scuole Pie, printed at Turin, and dedicated to the King. The author professedly goes on my principles; he seems a master of method, and has reduced to systematic order the scattered experiments and positions delivered in my paper. At the end of the first book, there is a letter addressed to the Abbé Nollet, in which he answers some of the Abbé’s principal objections. This letter being translated into French, I send you the translation for your perusal, and will send you the Italian book itself by some future opportunity, if you desire it. It pleases me the more, in that I find the author has been led by sundry observations and experiments, though different from mine, to the same strange conclusion, viz., that some thunder-strokes are from the earth upwards; in which I feared I should for some time have been singular.
With the greatest esteem and regard I am, dear Sir, &c.,
P. S.—Please to send me the French piece by the first opportunity, after you have perused it, directed to me at Boston.
PLAN OF UNION FOR THE COLONIES
In anticipation of unpleasant complications with France, the Lords of Trade directed commissioners to be appointed in several of the provinces, to assemble at Albany for the specific purpose of conciliating and attaching to them the Six Nations, whose alliance was of vital importance in case of a war with France. The commissioners met on the 19th of June, 1754. The colonies of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland were represented by twenty-five commissioners or delegates. Franklin was the commissioner from Pennsylvania. Several days were spent in distributing presents and holding “talks” with the Indians. On the 24th of June the journal of the commissioners shows the following record:
“A motion was made that the commissioners deliver their opinion whether a union of all the colonies is not at present absolutely necessary for their security and defence. The question was accordingly put, and passed in the affirmative unanimously.
On a motion made, that a committee be appointed to prepare and receive plans or schemes for the union of the colonies, and to digest them into one general plan for the inspection of this Board; Resolved, that each government choose one of their own number to be of that committee. Accordingly were appointed Thomas Hutchinson for Massachusetts, Theodore Atkinson for New Hampshire, William Pitkin for Connecticut, Stephen Hopkins for Rhode Island, William Smith for New York, Benjamin Franklin for Pennsylvania, and Benjamin Tasker for Maryland.”
It is a significant and curious fact that, with the exception of those from Massachusetts, none of the delegates had any instructions to discuss the question of a union of the colonies for mutual defence, or for any other purpose. Their instructions restricted them to the concerting of measures best calculated to secure the friendship of the Six Nations, and to resist the encroachment of the French and their allies. The Massachusetts commissioners were authorized to “enter into articles of union and confederation for the general defence of his Majesty’s subjects and interests in North America, as well in time of peace as of war.” Though not within the instructions of the commissioners, there are abundant reasons for believing that some plan of union was the subject of much more thought and discussion than the friendship of the Indians, a subject, however, which was not neglected. It certainly had been the uppermost thought in Franklin’s mind for some time. The Pennsylvania Gazette for May 9th, 1754, contains an account, evidently from his pen, of the capture by the French of Captain Trent’s party, who were erecting a fort (afterwards Fort Duquesne) at the fork of the Ohio. After narrating the particulars, and urging union to resist aggression, he adds: “The confidence of the French in this undertaking seems well grounded in the present disunited state of the British colonies, and the extreme difficulty of bringing so many different governments and assemblies to agree in any speedy and effectual measures for our common defence and security; while our enemies have the very great advantage of being under one direction, with one council, and one purse.” At the end of the article is a woodcut, in which is the figure of a snake, separated into parts, to each of which is affixed the initial of one of the colonies, and at the bottom in large capital letters the motto, Join or Die. It is not surprising, therefore, that when Franklin arrived at Albany, he had in his pocket a “plan of union” which he had submitted to several influential friends in New York, and which received their approval. Several other plans were submitted to the committee, but his was approved of, and reported to the commissioners. Its various features were under discussion twelve days, and finally adopted, subject to the confirmation of Parliament, which was judged necessary to give such a union validity. Though the commissioners were nearly or quite unanimous in approving Franklin’s plan of union—Trumbull says the Connecticut delegates did not approve of it, though they did approve of the union,—it met with a very different reception from the colonial assemblies to whom it was submitted, while in England, it proved so unacceptable that the Board of Trade did not even recommend it to the notice of the king. Franklin says: “The Assemblies all thought there was too much prerogative in it, and in England it was thought to have too much of the democratic.” The home government had doubtless much the same reasons for discouraging such a union as the Roman emperors had for refusing to allow the servile population to be put in uniform; they did not care to give them such facilities for learning their own strength.
Short Hints towards a Scheme for Uniting the Northern Colonies
To be appointed by the King.
To be a military man.
To have a salary from the crown.
To have a negation on all acts of the Grand Council, and carry into execution whatever is agreed on by him and that Council.
One member to be chosen by the Assembly of each of the smaller colonies, and two or more by each of the larger, in proportion to the sums they pay yearly into the general treasury.
—— shillings sterling per diem, during their sitting, and mileage for travelling expenses.
PLACE AND TIME OF MEETING
To meet —— times in every year, at the capital of each colony, in course, unless particular circumstances and emergencies require more frequent meetings and alteration in the course of places. The governor-general to judge of those circumstances, &c., and call by his writs.
Its fund, an excise on strong liquors, pretty equally drunk in the colonies, or duty on liquor imported, or —— shillings on each license of a public house, or excise on superfluities, &c., &c. All which would pay in some proportion to the present wealth of each colony, and increase as that wealth increases, and prevent disputes about the inequality of quotas. To be collected in each colony and lodged in their treasury, to be ready for the payment of orders issuing from the governor-general and Grand Council jointly.
DUTY AND POWER OF THE GOVERNOR-GENERAL AND GRAND COUNCIL
To order all Indian treaties. Make all Indian purchases not within proprietary grants. Make and support new settlements by building forts, raising and paying soldiers to garrison the forts, defend the frontiers, and annoy the enemy. Equip guard-vessels to scour the coasts from privateers in time of war, and protect the trade, and every thing that shall be found necessary for the defence and support of the colonies in general, and increasing and extending their settlements, &c.
For the expense, they may draw on the fund in the treasury of any colony.
MANNER OF FORMING THIS UNION
The scheme being first well considered, corrected, and improved by the commissioners at Albany, to be sent home, and an act of Parliament obtained for establishing it.1
Letter from James Alexander to Cadwallader Colden, Respecting the Above Hints
New York, [June] 9, 1754.
I had some conversation with Mr. Franklin and Mr. Peters1 as to the uniting the colonies, and the difficulties thereof, by effecting our liberties on the one hand, or being ineffectual on the other. Whereon Mr. Franklin promised to set down some hints of a scheme that he thought might do, which accordingly he sent to me to be transmitted to you, and it is enclosed.
To me it seems extremely well digested, and at first sight avoids many difficulties that had occurred to me.
Some difficulties still remain. For example, there cannot be found men tolerably well skilled in warlike affairs to be chosen for the Grand Council, and there is danger in communicating to them the schemes to be put in execution, for fear of a discovery to the enemy.
Whether this may not be in some measure remedied by a council of state of a few persons to be chosen by the Grand Council at their stated meetings, which council of state to be always attending the governor-general, and with him to digest beforehand all matters to be laid before the next Grand Council, and only the general, but not the particular, plans of operation.
That the governor-general and that council of state issue orders for the payment of moneys, so far as the Grand Council have beforehand agreed may be issued for any general plan to be executed. That the governor-general and council of state, at every meeting of the Grand Council, lay before them their accounts and transactions since the last meeting; at least so much of their transactions as is safe to be made public. This council of state to be something like that of the United Provinces, and the Grand Council to resemble the States-General.
That the capacity and ability of the persons to be chosen of the council of state and Grand Council be their only qualifications, whether members of the respective bodies that choose them or not. That the Grand Council, with the governor-general, have power to increase, but not to decrease, the duties laid by act of Parliament, and have power to issue bills of credit on emergencies, to be sunk by the increased funds, bearing a small interest, but not to be tenders. I am, dear Sir,
Your most obedient,
It was thought that if the least colony was allowed more than 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 though 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 fixed; 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
—who 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 centre 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, travelled. 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 Philadelpiha 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 to twenty days; the majority may be there in much less time.
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.
Some colonies have annual assemblies, some continue during a governor’s pleasure; three years was thought a reasonable medium, as affording a new member time to improve himself in the business, and to act after such improvement, and yet giving opportunities, frequently enough, to change him if he has misbehaved.
PROPORTION OF MEMBERS AFTER THE FIRST THREE YEARS
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.
By a subsequent article it is proposed that the General Council shall lay and levy such general duties as to them may appear most equal and least burthensome, &c. Suppose, for instance, they lay a small duty or excise on some commodity imported into or made in the colonies, and pretty generally and equally used in all of them, as rum, perhaps, or wine; the yearly produce of this duty or excise, if fairly collected, would be in some colonies greater, in others less, as the colonies are greater or smaller. When the collector’s accounts are brought in, the proportions will appear; and from them it is proposed to regulate the proportion of representatives to be chosen at the next general election, within the limits, however, of seven and two. These numbers may therefore vary in the course of years, as the colonies may in the growth and increase of people. And thus the quota of tax from each colony would naturally vary with its circumstances, thereby preventing all disputes and dissatisfaction about the just proportions due from each; which might otherwise produce pernicious consequences, and destroy the harmony and good agreement that ought to subsist between the several parts of the Union.
MEETINGS OF THE GRAND COUNCIL, AND CALL
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 due and timely notice to the whole.
It was thought, in establishing and governing new colonies or settlements, regulating Indian trade, Indian treaties, &c., there would be 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.
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.
The speaker should be presented for approbation; it being convenient, to prevent misunderstandings and disgusts, that the mouth of the Council should be a person agreeable, if possible, both to the Council and President-General.
Governors have sometimes wantonly exercised the power of proroguing or continuing the sessions of assemblies merely to harass the members and compel a compliance; and sometimes dissolve them on slight disgusts. This it was feared might be done by the President-General, if not provided against, and the inconvenience and hardship would be greater in the general government than in particular colonies, in proportion to the distance the members must be from home during sittings, and the long journeys some of them must necessarily take.
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.
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 travelling than residing at the place of meeting.
ASSENT OF PRESIDENT-GENERAL AND HIS DUTY
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.
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.
POWER OF PRESIDENT-GENERAL AND GRAND COUNCIL; TREATIES OF PEACE AND WAR
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.
The power of making peace or war with Indian nations is at present supposed to be in every colony, and is expressly granted to some by charter, so that no new power is hereby intended to be granted to the colonies. But as, in consequence of this power, one colony might make peace with a nation that another was justly engaged in war with, or make war on slight occasions without the concurrence or approbation of neighbouring colonies greatly endangered by it, or make particular treaties of neutrality, in case of a general war, to their own private advantage in trade, by supplying the common enemy,—of all which there have been instances,—it was thought better to have all treaties of a general nature under a general direction, that so the good of the whole may be consulted and provided for.
That they make such laws as they judge necessary for regulating all Indian trade.
Many quarrels and wars have arisen between the colonies and Indian nations through the bad conduct of traders, who cheat the Indians after making them drunk, &c., to the great expense of the colonies, both in blood and treasure. Particular colonies are so interested in the trade, as not to be willing to admit such a regulation as might be best for the whole; and therefore it was thought best under a general direction.
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 boundswhen some of them are reduced to more convenient dimensions.
Purchases from the Indians, made by private persons, have been attended with many inconveniences. They have frequently interfered and occasioned uncertainty of titles, many disputes and expensive lawsuits, and hindered the settlement of the land so disputed. Then the Indians have been cheated by such private purchases, and discontent and wars have been the consequence. These would be prevented by public, fair purchases.
Several of the colony charters in America extend their bounds to the South Sea, which may be perhaps, three or four thousand miles in length to one or two hundred miles in breadth. It is supposed they must in time be reduced to dimensions more convenient for the common purposes of government.
Very little of the land in those grants is yet purchased of the Indians.
It is much cheaper to purchase of them, than to take and maintain the possession by force; for they are generally very reasonable in their demands for land: and the expense of guarding a large frontier against their incursions is vastly great; because all must be guarded, and always guarded, as we know not where or when to expect them.1
That they make new settlements on such purchases, by granting lands in the King’s name, reserving a quit-rent to the crown for the use of the general treasury.
It is supposed better that there should be one purchaser than many; and that the crown should be that purchaser, or the Union in the name of the crown. By this means the bargains may be more easily made, the price not enhanced by numerous bidders, future disputes about private Indian purchases, and monopolies of vast tracts to particular persons (which are prejudicial to the settlement and peopling of the country), prevented; and the land being again granted in small tracts to the settlers, the quit-rents reserved may in time become a fund for support of government, for defence of the country, ease of taxes, &c.
Strong forts on the Lakes, the Ohio, &c., may, at the same time they secure our present frontiers, serve to defend new colonies settled under their protection; and such colonies would also mutually defend and support such forts, and better secure the friendship of the far Indians.
A particular colony has scarce strength enough to extend itself by new settlements, at so great a distance from the old; but the joint force of the Union might suddenly establish a new colony or two in those parts, or extend an old colony to particular passes, greatly to the security of our present frontiers, increase of trade and people, breaking off the French communication between Canada and Louisiana, and speedy settlement of the intermediate lands.
The power of settling new colonies is, therefore, thought a valuable part of the plan, and what cannot so well be executed by two unions as by one.
LAWS TO GOVERN THEM
That they make laws for regulating and governing such new settlements till the crown shall think fit to form them into particular governments.
The making of laws suitable for the new colonies it was thought, would be properly vested in the President-General and Grand Council, under whose protection they must at first necessarily be, and who would be well acquainted with their circumstances, as having settled them. When they are become sufficiently populous, they may by the crown be formed into complete and distinct governments.
The appointment of a sub-president by the crown, to take place in case of the death or absence of the President-General, would perhaps be an improvement of the plan; and if all the governors of particular provinces were to be formed into a standing council of state, for the advice and assistance of the President-General, it might be another considerable improvement.
RAISE SOLDIERS AND EQUIP VESSELS, &C.
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.
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 that 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 neighbouring colonies, who refuse to join, on a presumption that such forts will be built and kept up, though 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 landside, being covered by other colonies, reap but little immediate benefit from the advanced forts.
POWER TO MAKE LAWS, LAY DUTIES, &C.
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 burthens.
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.
GENERAL TREASURER AND PARTICULAR TREASURER
That they may appoint a General Treasurer and Particular Treasurer in each government, whennecessary; 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.
The treasurers here meant are only for the general funds, and not for the particular funds of each colony, which remain in the hands of their own treasurers at their own disposal.
MONEY, HOW TO ISSUE
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.
To prevent misapplication of the money, or even application that might be dissatisfactory to the crown or the people, it was thought necessary to join the President-General and Grand Council in all issues of money.
That the general accounts shall be yearly settled and reported to the several Assemblies.
By communicating the accounts yearly to each Assembly, they will be satisfied of the prudent and honest conduct of their representatives in the Grand Council.
That a quorum of the Grand Council, empowered to act with the President-General, do consist of twenty-fivemembers, among whom there shall be one or more from a majority of the colonies.
The quorum seems large, but it was thought it would not be satisfactory to the colonies in general to have matters of importance to the whole transacted by a smaller number, or even by this number of twenty-five, unless there were among them one at least from a majority of the colonies; because otherwise, the whole quorum being made up of members from three or four colonies at one end of the union, something might be done that would not be equal with respect to the rest, and thence dissatisfaction and discords might arise to the prejudice of the whole.
LAWS TO BE TRANSMITTED
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.
This was thought necessary for the satisfaction of the crown, to preserve the connexion of the parts of the British empire with the whole, of the members with the head, and to induce greater care and circumspection in making of the laws, that they be good in themselves and for the general benefit.
DEATH OF THE PRESIDENT-GENERAL
That in case of the death of the President-General, the Speaker of the Grand Council for the time beingshall succeed, and be vested with the same powers and authorities, to continue till the King’s pleasure be known.
It might be, perhaps, as was said before, if the crown appointed a vice-president, to take place on the death or absence of the President-General; for so we should be more sure of a suitable person at the head of the colonies. On the death or absence of both, the speaker to take place (or rather the eldest King’s governor) till his Majesty’s pleasure be known.
OFFICERS, HOW APPOINTED
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.
It was thought it might be very prejudicial to the service to have officers appointed unknown to the people, or unacceptable; the generality of Americans serving willingly under officers they know, and not caring to engage in the service under strangers, or such as are often appointed by governors through favor or interest. The service here meant is not the stated, settled service in standing troops, but any sudden and short service, either for defence of our colonies or invading the enemy’s country (such as the expedition to Cape Breton in the last war, in which many substantial farmers and tradesmen engaged as common soldiers, under officers of their own country, for whom they had an esteem and affection, who would not have engaged in a standing army or under officers from England). It was therefore thought best to give the Council the power of approving the officers, which the people will look upon as a great security of their being good men. And without some such provision as this, it was thought the expense of engaging men in the service on any emergency would be much greater, and the number who could be induced to engage much less, and that therefore it would be most for the King’s service and general benefit of the nation that the prerogative should relax a little in this particular throughout all the colonies in America, as it had already done much more in the charters of some particular colonies, viz., Connecticut and Rhode Island.
The civil officers will be chiefly treasurers and collectors of taxes; and the suitable persons are most likely to be known by the Council.
VACANCIES, HOW SUPPLIED
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.
The vacancies were thought best supplied by the governors in each province, till a new appointment can be regularly made; otherwise the service might suffer before the meeting of the President-General and Grand Council.
EACH COLONY MAY DEFEND ITSELF ON EMERGENCY, &C.
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.
Otherwise the union of the whole would weaken the parts, contrary to the design of the Union. The accounts are to be judged of by the President-General and Grand Council, and allowed if found reasonable. This was thought necessary to encourage colonies to defend themselves, as the expense would be light when borne by the whole; and also to check imprudent and lavish expense in such defences.
THREE LETTERS TO GOVERNOR SHIRLEY
CONCERNING THE VOICE OF THE PEOPLE IN CHOOSING THE RULERS BY WHOM TAXES ARE IMPOSED
Tuesday Morning [December 17, 1754].
I return you the loose sheets of the plan, with thanks to your Excellency for communicating them.
I apprehend, that excluding the people of the colonies from all share in the choice of the grand council will give extreme dissatisfaction, as well as the taxing them by act of Parliament, where they have no representation. It is very possible that this general government might be as well and faithfully administered without the people as with them; but where heavy burthens are to be laid upon them, it has been found useful to make it as much as possible their own act; for they bear better, when they have, or think they have, some share in the direction; and when any public measures are generally grievous, or even distasteful, to the people, the wheels of government move more heavily.
ON THE IMPOSITION OF DIRECT TAXES UPON THE COLONIES WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT
Wednesday Morning [December 18, 1754].
I mentioned it yesterday to your Excellency as my opinion, that excluding the people of the colonies from all share in the choice of the grand council would probably give extreme dissatisfaction, as well as the taxing them by act of Parliament, where they have no representation. In matters of general concern to the people, and especially where burthens are to be laid upon them, it is of use to consider, as well what they will be apt to think and say, as what they ought to think. I shall therefore, as your Excellency requires it of me, briefly mention what of either kind occurs to me on this occasion.
First, they will say, and perhaps with justice, that the body of the people in the colonies are as loyal, and as firmly attached to the present constitution and reigning family, as any subjects in the King’s dominions.
That there is no reason to doubt the readiness and willingness of the representatives they may choose to grant from time to time such supplies for the defence of the country as shall be judged necessary, so far as their abilities will allow.
That the people in the colonies who are to feel the immediate mischiefs of invasion and conquest by an enemy, in the loss of their estates, lives, and liberties, are likely to be better judges of the quantity of forces necessary to be raised and maintained, forts to be built and supported, and of their own abilities to bear the expense, than the Parliament of England, at so great a distance.
That governors often come to the colonies merely to make fortunes, with which they intend to return to Britain; are not always men of the best ability and integrity; have many of them no estates here, nor any natural connexion with us that should make them heartily concerned for our welfare; and might possibly be fond of raising and keeping up more forces than necessary, from the profits accruing to themselves, and to make provision for their friends and dependents.
That the counsellors in most of the colonies being appointed by the crown, on the recommendation of governors, are often persons of small estates, frequently dependent on the governors for office, and therefore too much under influence.
That there is therefore great reason to be jealous of a power in such governors and councils to raise such sums as they shall judge necessary, by drafts on the Lords of the Treasury, to be afterwards laid on the colonies by act of Parliament, and paid by the people here; since they might abuse it by projecting useless expeditions, harassing the people, and taking them from their labor to execute such projects, merely to create offices and employments, and gratify their dependents, and divide profits.
That the Parliament of England is at a great distance, subject to be misinformed and misled by such governors and councils, whose united interests might possibly secure them against the effect of any complaint from hence.
That it is supposed an undoubted right of Englishmen not to be taxed but by their own consent, given through their representatives.
That the colonies have no representatives in Parliament.
That to propose taxing them by Parliament, and refuse them the liberty of choosing a representative council to meet in the colonies, and consider and judge of the necessity of any general tax and the quantum, shows a suspicion of their loyalty to the crown, or of their regard for their country, or of their common sense and understanding, which they have not deserved.
That compelling the colonies to pay money without their consent, would be rather like raising contributions in an enemy’s country, than taxing of Englishmen for their own public benefit.
That it would be treating them as a conquered people, and not as true British subjects.
That a tax laid by the representatives of the colonies might be easily lessened as the occasions should lessen; but being once laid by Parliament, under the influence of the representations made by governors, would probably be kept up and continued for the benefit of governors, to the grievous burthen and discontent of the colonies, and preventions of their growth and increase.
That a power in governors to march the inhabitants from one end of the British and French colonies to the other, being a country of at least one thousand five hundred miles long, without the approbation or the consent of their representatives first obtained to such expeditions, might be grievous and ruinous to the people, and would put them upon a footing with the subjects of France in Canada, that now groan under such oppression from their governor, who for two years past has harassed them with long and destructive marches to Ohio.
That if the colonies in a body may be well governed by governors and councils appointed by the crown, without representatives, particular colonies may as well or better be so governed; a tax may be laid upon them all by act of Parliament for support of government, and their Assemblies may be dismissed as an useless part of the constitution.
That the powers, proposed by the Albany Plan of Union to be vested in a grand council representative of the people, even with regard to military matters, are not so great as those which the colonies of Rhode Island and Connecticut are intrusted with by their charters, and have never abused; for, by this plan, the president-general is appointed by the crown, and controls all by his negative; but in those governments the people choose the governor, and yet allow him no negative.
That the British colonies bordering on the French are properly frontiers of the British empire; and the frontiers of an empire are properly defended at the joint expense of the body of the people in such empire. It would now be thought hard by act of Parliament to oblige the Cinque Ports or sea-coasts of Britain to maintain the whole navy, because they are more immediately defended by it, not allowing them at the same time a vote in choosing members of the Parliament; and as the frontiers of America bear the expense of their own defence, it seems hard to allow them no share in voting the money, judging of the necessity and sum, or advising the measures.
That, besides the taxes necessary for the defence of the frontiers, the colonies pay yearly great sums to the mother country unnoticed; for
1. Taxes paid in Britain by the landholder or artificer must enter into and increase the price of the produce of land and manufactures made of it; and great part of this is paid by consumers in the colonies, who thereby pay a considerable part of the British taxes.
2. We are restrained in our trade with foreign nations; and where we could be supplied with any manufacture cheaper from them, but must buy the same dearer from Britain, the difference of price is a clear tax to Britain.
3. We are obliged to carry a great part of our produce directly to Britain; and where the duties laid upon it lessen its price to the planter, or it sells for less than it would in foreign markets, the difference is a tax paid to Britain.
4. Some manufactures we could make, but are forbidden, and must take them of British merchants; the whole price is a tax paid to Britain.
5. By our greatly increasing the demand and consumption of British manufactures, their price is considerably raised of late years; the advantage is clear profit to Britain, and enables its people better to pay great taxes; and much of it being paid by us, is clear tax to Britain.
6. In short, as we are not suffered to regulate our trade and restrain the importation and consumption of British superfluities, as Britain can the consumption of foreign superfluities, our whole wealth centres finally amongst the merchants and inhabitants of Britain, and if we make them richer, and enable them better to pay their taxes, it is nearly the same as being taxed ourselves, and equally beneficial to the crown.
These kinds of secondary taxes, however, we do not complain of, though we have no share in the laying or disposing of them; but to pay immediate heavy taxes, in the laying, appropriation, and disposition of which we have no part, and which perhaps we may know to be as unnecessary as grievous, must seem hard measures to Englishmen, who cannot conceive that by hazarding their lives and fortunes in subduing and settling new countries, extending the dominion and increasing the commerce of the mother nation, they have forfeited the native rights of Britons, which they think ought rather to be given to them, as due to such merit, if they had been before in a state of slavery.
These, and such kinds of things as these, I apprehend will be thought and said by the people, if the proposed alteration of the Albany plan should take place. Then the administration of the board of governors and council so appointed, not having the representative body of the people to approve and unite in its measures, and conciliate the minds of the people to them, will probably become suspected and odious, dangerous animosities and feuds will arise between the governors and governed, and every thing go into confusion.
Perhaps I am too apprehensive in this matter; but having freely given my opinion and reasons, your Excellency can judge better than I whether there be any weight in them; and the shortness of the time allowed me will, I hope, in some degree excuse the imperfections of this scrawl.
With the greatest respect and fidelity, I have the honor to be
Your Excellency’s most obedient
and most humble servant,
ON THE SUBJECT OF UNITING THE COLONIES MORE INTIMATELY WITH GREAT BRITAIN, BY ALLOWING THEM REPRESENTATIVES IN PARLIAMENT
Boston, December 22, 1754.
Since the conversation your Excellency was pleased to honor me with, on the subject of uniting the colonies more intimately with Great Britain, by allowing them representatives in Parliament, I have something further considered that matter, and am of opinion that such a union would be very acceptable to the colonies, provided they had a reasonable number of representatives allowed them; and that all the old acts of Parliament restraining the trade or cramping the manufactures of the colonies be at the same time repealed, and the British subjects on this side the water put, in those respects, on the same footing with those in Great Brtiain, till the new Parliament, representing the whole, shall think it for the interest of the whole to re-enact some or all of them. It is not that I imagine so many representatives will be allowed the colonies as to have any great weight by their numbers, but I think there might be sufficient to occasion those laws to be better and more impartially considered, and perhaps to overcome the interest of a petty corporation, or of any particular set of artificers or traders in England, who heretofore seem, in some instances, to have been more regarded than all the colonies, or than was consistent with the general interest or best national good. I think, too, that the government of the colonies by a Parliament in which they are fairly represented, would be vastly more agreeable to the people than the method lately attempted to be introduced by royal instruction, as well as more agreeable to the nature of an English constitution and to English liberty; and that such laws as now seem to bear hard on the colonies, would (when judged by such a Parliament for the best interest of the whole) be more cheerfully submitted to and more easily executed.
I should hope, too, that by such a union the people of Great Britain and the people of the colonies would learn to consider themselves as not belonging to different communities with different interests, but to one community with one interest; which I imagine would contribute to strengthen the whole, and greatly lessen the danger of future separations.
It is, I suppose, agreed to be the general interest of any state, that its people be numerous and rich; men enow to fight in its defence, and enow to pay sufficient taxes to defray the charge; for these circumstances tend to the security of the state and its protection from foreign power. But it seems not of so much importance whether the fighting be done by John or Thomas, or the tax paid by William or Charles. The iron manufacture employs and enriches British subjects, but is it of any importance to the state whether the manufacturer lives at Birmingham, or Sheffield, or both, since they are still within its bounds, and their wealth and persons still at its command? Could the Goodwin Sands be laid dry by banks, and land equal to a large country thereby gained to England, and presently filled with English inhabitants, would it be right to deprive such inhabitants of the common privileges enjoyed by other Englishmen,—the right of vending their produce in the same ports, or of making their own shoes, because a merchant or a shoemaker living on the old land might fancy it more for his advantage to trade or make shoes for them? Would this be right even if the land were gained at the expense of the state? And would it not seem less right if the charge and labor of gaining the additional territory to Britain had been borne by the settlers themselves? And would not the hardship appear yet greater if the people of the new country should be allowed no representatives in the Parliament enacting such impositions?
Now, I look on the colonies as so many countries gained to Great Britain, and more advantageous to it than if they had been gained out of the seas around its coasts and joined to its lands; for, being in different climates, they afford greater variety of produce and materials for more manufactures, and being separated by the ocean, they increase much more its shipping and seamen; and since they are all included in the British empire, which has only extended itself by their means, and the strength and wealth of the parts are the strength and wealth of the whole, what imports it to the general state whether a merchant, a smith, or a hatter grows rich in Old or New England? And if, through increase of the people, two smiths are wanted for one employed before, why may not the new smith be allowed to live and thrive in the new country, as well as the old one in the old? In fine, why should the countenance of a state be partially afforded to its people, unless it be most in favor of those who have most merit? And if there be any difference, those who have most contributed to enlarge Britain’s empire and commerce, increase her strength, her wealth, and the numbers of her people, at the risk of their own lives and private fortunes in new and strange countries, methinks ought rather to expect some preference. With the greatest respect and esteem, I have the honor to be
Your Excellency’s most obedient
and humble servant,
[1 ]Soon after writing this letter Franklin set out on a tour to New England.
[1 ]The author had recently returned from the Convention at Albany, where he had proposed his celebrated Plan of Union. This Plan, and Mr. Colden’s remarks on some parts of it, may be found in No. CXII.
[1 ]This paper was communicated to James Alexander, with the following note.
“Mr. Alexander is requested to peruse these Hints, and make remarks in correcting or improving the scheme, and send the paper with such remarks, to Dr. Colden for his sentiments, who is desired to forward the whole to Albany, to their very humble servant,
[1 ]Mr. Peters was one of the delegates to the Albany Convention from Pennsylvania.
[1 ]The several Articles, as originally adopted, are printed in Italic type, the reasons and motives in Roman.
It is to be observed that the union was to extend to the colonies of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina (being all the British Colonies at that time in North America, except Georgia and Nova Scotia), “for their mutual defence and security, and for extending the British settlements in North America.” Another plan was proposed to the Convention, which included only New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, and New Jersey. This was printed in the volume of the collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society for 1800. It is a rough draft of the above plan, with some unimportant variations. It would seem, by the Hints communicated to Mr. Alexander, that Franklin himself did not at first contemplate any thing more than a union of the northern colonies.—Sparks.
[1 ]To guard against the incursions of the Indians, a plan was sent over to America (and, as I think, by authority), suggesting the expediency of clearing away the woods and bushes from a tract of land, a mile in breadth, and extending along the back of the colonies. Unfortunately, besides the large expense of the undertaking (which, if one acre cost £2 sterling, and six hundred and forty acres make a square mile, is £128,000 first cost for every hundred miles), it was forgotten that the Indians, like other people, knew the difference between day and night, and that a mile of advance and another of retreat were nothing to the celerity of such an enemy. This plan, it is said, was the work of Dean Tucker.—B. V.
If the absurdity of such a scheme is not in itself sufficiently glaring, it may be added, that bushes would soon start up and grow into trees again, and the expense of clearing must be often repeated.
[1 ]It is stated by Mr. Benjamin Vaughan, that these letters first appeared in the London Chronicle for February 6 and 8, 1766, with prefatory remarks signed “A Lover of Britain.”
“The Albany Plan of Union,” says this writer, “was sent to the government here for approbation. Had it been approved and established by the authority from hence, English America thought itself sufficiently able to cope with the French, without other assistance; several of the colonies having alone, in former wars, withstood the whole power of the enemy, unassisted not only by the mother country, but by any of the neighboring provinces. The plan, however, was not approved here, but a new one was formed instead of it, by which it was proposed, that ‘the governors of all the colonies, attended by one or two members of their respective councils, should assemble, and concert measures for the defence of the whole, erect forts where they judged proper, and raise what troops they thought necessary, with power to draw on the treasury here for the sums that should be wanted, and the treasury to be reimbursed by a tax laid on the colonies by act of Parliament.’—This new plan, being communicated by Governor Shirley to a gentleman of Philadelphia (Dr. Franklin) then in Boston (who has very eminently distinguished himself, before and since that time, in the literary world, and whose judgment, penetration, and candor, as well as his readiness and ability to suggest, forward, or carry into execution, every scheme of public utility, hath most deservedly endeared him, not only to our fellow-subjects throughout the continent of North America, but to his numberless friends on this side the Atlantic), occasioned the following remarks from him, which perhaps may contribute in some degree to its being laid aside. As they very particularly show the then sentiments of the Americans on the subject of a parliamentary tax, before the French power in that country was subjected, and before the late restraints on their commerce, they satisfy me, and I hope they will convince your readers, contrary to what has been advanced by some of your correspondents, that those particulars have had no share in producing the present opposition to such a tax, nor in disturbances occasioned by it, which these papers indeed do almost prophetically foretell.”
[1 ]Respecting this letter, Mr. John Adams said (in his History of the Dispute with America, first published in 1774). “Dr. Franklin, who was known to be an active and very able man, and to have great influence in the province of Pennsylvania, was in Boston in the year 1754, and Mr. Shirley communicated to him the profound secret, the great design of taxing the colonies by act of Parliament. This sagacious gentleman and distinguished patriot, to his lasting honor, sent the governor an answer in writing, with the following remarks on his scheme.” Mr. Adams then quotes the principal parts of the above letter.—Editor.