Albany Congress

At the outbreak of the French and Indian War, British officials urged colonial leaders to meet and prepare a defense strategy. The meetings that resulted are known as the Albany Congress, and they took place at Albany’s Stadt Huys (City Hall) from June 19 to July 11, 1754.

Discussions focused on two specific issues: Indian negotiations and unification of the British colonies. Colonial officials specifically wanted a commitment from the Iroquois Confederation supporting the British instead of their enemy the French. Iroquois leaders, however, were not anxious to commit themselves to either side, but prefered to wait and see if they could ally with the victor. Despite these obstacles, the Albany Congress did succeed at winning a moderate commitment from the Iroquois Confederation in return for bribes of weapons and supplies.

Prior to the meeting at Albany, Benjamin Franklin published a cartoon in the May 9, 1754, issue of his newspaper, The Pennsylvania Gazette, that showed a dissected snake with each part identified as one of the British colonies. The cartoon visualized the importance of unity as they confronted the French over control of the North America.

At the Albany Congress, Franklin and Massachusetts governor Thomas Hutchinson served as the main authors of what became known as the Albany Plan of Union. Simply stated, the document was a plan for a federated colonial government with an executive officer appointed by the King. This single executive officer would be responsible for Indian relations, military preparedness, and the execution of laws regulating various trade and financial activities. Delegates at Albany approved the Plan of Union, but neither King George II nor a single colonial assembly ratified it. Despise its rejection, some features of the plan were later adopted in the Articles of Confederation and the U.S. Constitution.

 

Magnifying Glass
Bust of Benjamin Franklin
Unidentified sculptor
Late nineteenth century
Marble
Albany Institute of History & Art, 1944.79.1
Magnifying Glass
“Join or Die” Cartoon
Printed in The Pennsylvania Gazette
May 9, 1754
Woodcut on paper