Front Page Titles (by Subject) CXLVIII: PLAN FOR SETTLING TWO WESTERN COLONIES IN NORTH AMERICA, WITH REASONS FOR THE PLAN 1 - The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. III Letters and Misc. Writings 1753-1763
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CXLVIII: PLAN FOR SETTLING TWO WESTERN COLONIES IN NORTH AMERICA, WITH REASONS FOR THE PLAN 1 - 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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The great country back of the Appalachian Mountains, on both sides of the Ohio, and between that river and the Lakes, is now well known, both to the English and French, to be one of the finest in North America, for the extreme richness and fertility of the land, the healthy temperature of the air, and mildness of the climate; the plenty of hunting, fishing, and fowling; the facility of trade with the Indians, and the vast convenience of inland navigation or water-carriage by the Lakes and great rivers, many hundreds of leagues around.
From these natural advantages it must undoubtedly (perhaps in less than another century) become a populous and powerful dominion1 ; and a great accession of power either to England or France.
The French are now making open encroachments on those territories, in defiance of our known rights; and, if we longer delay to settle that country, and suffer them to possess it, these inconveniences and mischiefs will probably follow:
1. Our people, being confined to the country between the sea and the mountains, cannot much more increase in number, people increasing in proportion to their room and means of subsistence.
2. The French will increase much more, by that acquired room and plenty of subsistence, and become a great people behind us.
3. Many of our debtors and loose English people, our German servants, and slaves, will probably desert to them, and increase their numbers and strength, to the lessening and weakening of ours.
4. They will cut us off from all commerce and alliance with the western Indians, to the great prejudice of Britain, by preventing the sale and consumption of its manufactures.
5. They will both in time of peace and war (as they have always done against New England) set the Indians on to harass our frontiers, kill and scalp our people, and drive in the advanced settlers; and so, in preventing our obtaining more subsistence by cultivating of new lands, they discourage our marriages, and keep our people from increasing; thus (if the expression may be allowed) killing thousands of our children before they are born.
If two strong colonies of English were settled between the Ohio and Lake Erie, in the places hereafter to be mentioned, these advantages might be expected:
1. They would be a great security to the frontiers of our other colonies, by preventing the incursions of the French and French Indians of Canada, on the back parts of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and the Carolinas; and the frontiers of such new colonies would be much more easily defended, than those of the colonies last mentioned now can be, as will appear hereafter.
2. The dreaded junction of the French settlements in Canada with those of Louisiana would be prevented.
3. In case of a war, it would be easy, from those new colonies, to annoy Louisiana, by going down the Ohio and Mississippi; and the southern part of Canada, by sailing over the Lakes, and thereby confine the French within narrow limits.
4. We could secure the friendship and trade of the Miamis or Twigtwees (a numerous people consisting of many tribes, inhabiting the country between the west end of Lake Erie, and the south end of Lake Huron, and the Ohio), who are at present dissatisfied with the French and fond of the English, and would gladly encourage and protect an infant English settlement in or near their country, as some of their chiefs have declared to the writer of this memoir. Further, by means of the Lakes, the Ohio, and the Mississippi, our trade might be extended through a vast country, among many numerous and distant nations, greatly to the benefit of Britain.
5. The settlement of all the intermediate lands, between the present frontiers of our colonies on one side, and the Lakes and Mississippi on the other, would be facilitated and speedily executed, to the great increase of Englishmen, English trade, and English power.
The grants to most of the colonies are of long, narrow slips of land, extending west from the Atlantic to the South Sea. They are much too long for their breadth; the extremes at too great a distance; and therefore unfit to be continued under their present dimensions.
Several of the old colonies may conveniently be limited westward by the Allegany or Appalachian mountains, and new colonies formed west of those mountains.
A single old colony does not seem strong enough to extend itself otherwise than inch by inch. It cannot venture a settlement far distant from the main body, being unable to support it; but if the colonies were united under one governor-general and grand council, agreeably to the Albany plan, they might easily, by their joint force, establish one or more new colonies, whenever they should judge it necessary or advantageous to the interest of the whole.
But if such union should not take place, it is proposed that two charters be granted, each for some considerable part of the lands west of Pennsylvania and the Virginia mountains, to a number of the nobility and gentry of Britain; with such Americans as shall join them in contributing to the settlement of those lands, either by paying a proportion of the expense of making such settlements, or by actually going thither in person, and settling themselves and families.
That by such charters it be granted that every actual settler be entitled to a tract of —— acres for himself, and —— acres for every poll in the family he carries with him; and that every contributor of —— guineas be entitled to a quantity of acres, equal to the share of a single settler, for every such sum of guineas contributed and paid to the colony treasurer; a contributor for —— shares to have an additional share gratis; that settlers may likewise be contributors, and have right of land in both capacities.
That as many and as great privileges and powers of government be granted to the contributors and settlers, as his Majesty in his wisdom shall think most fit for their benefit and encouragement, consistent with the general good of the British empire; for extraordinary privileges and liberties, with lands on easy terms, are strong inducements to people to hazard their persons and fortunes in settling new countries. And such powers of government as (though suitable to their circumstances, and fit to be trusted with an infant colony) might be judged unfit when it becomes populous and powerful, these might be granted for a term only; as the choice of their own governor for ninety-nine years; the support of government in the colonies of Connecticut and Rhode Island (which now enjoy that and other like privileges) being much less expensive than in the colonies under the immediate government of the crown, and the constitution more inviting.
That the first contributors to the amount of —— guineas be empowered to choose a treasurer to receive the contribution.
That no contributions be paid till the sum of —— thousand guineas be subscribed.
That the money thus raised be applied to the purchase of the lands from the Six Nations and other Indians, and of provisions, stores, arms, ammunition, carriages, &c., for the settlers, who, after having entered their names with the treasurer, or person by him appointed to receive and enter them, are, upon public notice given for that purpose, to rendezvous at a place to be appointed, and march in a body to the place destined for their settlement, under the charge of the government to be established over them. Such rendezvous and march, however, not to be directed till the number of names of settlers entered, capable of bearing arms, amount at least to —— thousand.
It is apprehended that a great sum of money might be raised in America on such a scheme as this; for there are many who would be glad of any opportunity, by advancing a small sum at present, to secure land for their children, which might in a few years become very valuable; and a great number, it is thought, of actual settlers might likewise be engaged (some from each of our present colonies), sufficient to carry it into full execution by their strength and numbers; provided only, that the crown would be at the expense of removing the little forts the French have erected in their encroachments on his Majesty’s territories, and supporting a strong one near the Falls of Niagara, with a few small armed vessels, or half-galleys to cruise on the Lakes.
For the security of this colony in its infancy, a small fort might be erected and for some time maintained at Buffalo Creek on the Ohio, above the settlement; and another at the mouth of the Tioga, on the south side of Lake Erie, where a port should be formed and a town erected for the trade of the Lakes. The colonists for this settlement might march by land through Pennsylvania.
The river Scioto, which runs into the Ohio about two hundred miles below Logstown, is supposed the fittest seat for the other colony; there being for forty miles on each side of it, and quite up to its heads, a body of all rich land; the finest spot of its bigness in all North America, and has the particular advantage of sea-coal in plenty (even above ground in two places) for fuel, when the woods shall be destroyed. This colony would have the trade of the Miamis or Twigtwees; and should, at first, have a small fort near Hochockin, at the head of the river, and another near the mouth of Wabash. Sandusky, a French fort near the Lake Erie, should also be taken; and all the little French forts south and west of the Lakes, quite to the Mississippi, be removed, or taken and garrisoned by the English. The colonists for this settlement might assemble near the heads of the rivers in Virginia, and march over land to the navigable branches of the Kenhawa, where they might embark with all their baggage and provisions, and fall into the Ohio, not far above the mouth of the Scioto. Or they might rendezvous at Will’s Creek, and go down the Monongahela to the Ohio.
The fort and armed vessels at the strait of Niagara would be a vast security to the frontiers of these new colonies against any attempts of the French from Canada. The fort at the mouth of the Wabash would guard that river, the Ohio, and the Cutava River, in case of any attempt from the French of the Mississippi. Every fort should have a small settlement round it, as the fort would protect the settlers, and the settlers defend the fort and supply it with provisions.
The difficulty of settling the first English colonies in America, at so great a distance from England, must have been vastly greater than the settling these proposed new colonies; for it would be the interest and advantage of all the present colonies to support these new ones; as they would cover their frontiers, and prevent the growth of the French power behind or near their present settlements; and the new country is nearly at equal distance from all the old colonies, and could easily be assisted from all of them.
And as there are already in all the old colonies many thousands of families that are ready to swarm, wanting more land, the richness and natural advantage of the Ohio country would draw most of them thither, were there but a tolerable prospect of a safe settlement. So that the new colonies would soon be full of people; and, from the advantage of their situation, become much more terrible to the French settlements than those are now to us. The gaining of the back Indian trade from the French, by the navigation of the Lakes, &c., would of itself greatly weaken our enemies, it being now their principal support. It seems highly probable, that in time they must be subjected to the British crown, or driven out of the country.
Such settlements may better be made now, than fifty years hence; because it is easier to settle ourselves, and thereby prevent the French settling there, as they seem now to intend, than to remove them when strongly settled.
If these settlements are postponed, then more forts and stronger, and more numerous and expensive garrisons, must be established, to secure the country, prevent their settling, and secure our present frontiers; the charge of which may probably exceed the charge of the proposed settlements, and the advantage nothing near so great.
The fort at Oswego should likewise be strengthened, and some armed half-galleys, or other small vessels, kept there to cruise on Lake Ontario, as proposed by Mr. Pownall in his paper laid before the commissioners at the Albany treaty.
If a fort was also built at Tirondequat on Lake Ontario, and a settlement made there near the lake side, where the lands are said to be good, much better than at Oswego, the people of such settlements would help to defend both forts on any emergency.
TO ROBERT CHARLES.1
Philadelphia, 1 February, 1757.
By this ship you will receive a box containing sundry copies of our last years’ Votes, to which are added, as you advised, the accounts of the expenditure of the fifty-five thousand pounds, and the subsequent thirty thousand. Also the papers relating to the employing of foreign officers. There is likewise in the box an authenticated copy of our late bill for granting one hundred thousand to the King’s use, and of the vote appointing yourself and Mr. Partridge agents, under the great seal, with all the late messages. You will see in the Votes a copy of the Proprietary Instructions, in which a money bill is made for us by the Proprietary, sitting in his closet at one thousand leagues’ distance.
The governor laid before us an estimate of the necessary expense for defraying the province one year, amounting to one hundred and five thousand pounds. We knew our inability to bear the raising of so great a sum in so short a time. We deducted the least necessary articles, and reduced it to one hundred thousand pounds, which we granted, and sent up the bill. Not that we thought this province capable of paying such a tax yearly, or any thing near it, but believing it necessary to exert ourselves at this time in an extraordinary manner, to save the country from total ruin by the enemy. The governor to use his own polite word, rejects it. Your English kings, I think, are complaisant enough to say they will advise upon it. We have no remedy here, but must obey the instructions, by which we are so confined, as to the time of rating the property to be taxed, the valuation of that property, and the sum per pound to be taxed on the valuation, that it is demonstrably impossible by such a law to raise one quarter of the money absolutely necessary to defend us. Three fourths of the troops must be disbanded, and so the country be exposed to the mercy of our enemies, rather than the least tittle of a Proprietary instruction should be deviated from!
I forbear to enlarge, because the House have unanimously desired your friend Mr. Norris, and myself, to go home immediately, to assist their agents in getting these matters settled. He has not yet determined; but if he goes, you will by him be fully informed of every thing, and my going will not, in my opinion, be necessary. If he declines it, I may possibly soon have the pleasure of seeing you. I am with great respect, Sir, &c.,
[1 ]Dr. Franklin was early possessed of the belief, that great advantage would redound to the English colonies on the sea-board by settlements beyond the Alleghanies under governments distinctly organized. Such settlements would not only rapidly increase in population, thereby strengthening the power of the whole, but would serve as a barrier to the other colonies against the Indians and French, who, in time of war, made descents upon the frontiers, kept the people in alarm, and caused great expense in raising troops and supporting an army to repel their invasions. He pursued this favorite object for many years, and after he went to England a company was formed, under his auspices, who petitioned for a grant to settle a colony west of the Allegany Mountains. Many obstacles were encountered, but the application was at last successful. The scheme was prevented from being carried into effect by the troubles immediately preceding the revolution.
[1 ]This prediction has been verified in a much less time than even the author anticipated.—Editor.
[1 ]Many years agent in England for the Assembly of Pennsylvania.