Contributions of the Iroquois, 8: The Albany Plan of Union

karl h schwerin (schwerin@UNM.EDU)
Tue, 2 Jul 1996 10:28:53 -0600

"The plan of union that emerged from Franklin's pen was a skillful
diplomatic melding of concepts that took into consideration the Crown's
demands for control, the colonists' desires for autonomy in a loose
union, and the Iroquois' stated advocacy of a Colonial union similar to
theirs in structure and function." The Crown would appoint a
president-general to serve as general administrator. The individual
colonies would be allowed to retain their own constitutions 'except in
the particulars wherein a change may be directed by the said Act [the
plan of union] as hereafter follows.'

"The retention of internal sovereignty within the individual colonies,
politically necessary because of their diversity, geographical
separation, and mutual suspicion, closely resembled the Iroquoian
system. The colonies' distrust of one another and the fear of the
smaller that they might be dominated by the larger in a conferadtion may
have made necessary the adoption of another Iroquoian device: one colony
could veto the action of the rest of the body. As in the Iroquois
Confederacy, all 'states' had to agree on a course of action before it
could be taken." The Grand Council, a unicameral legislature patterned on
the Iroquois Great Council was proposed, with similar organizational features.

"Franklin's Albany Plan of Union provided for a different number of
representatives from each the Iroquois system provided for
differing numbers from each of its five nations." And the 48 delegates
proposed for the Grand Council closely approximated the 50 in the
Iroquois Great Council. "There is no documentary evidence, however, that
Franklin intended such a slavish imitation." (Johansen 1982:71-72)

Following its passage by the Albany Congress, Franklin's plan died in the
colonial legislatures who were not yet to surrender even minimal
authority to a central government. It took two decades and the
Revolutionary War before Franklin was able to repackage the Albany plan
as the Articles of Confederation. After the Continental Congress
convened, word went out to the Onondaga "that the colonists had finally
lit their own Grand Council fire at Philadelphia" (Johansen 1982:74-75).

The text of the Albany Plan of Union may be found in Grinde 1977:169-171
Karl Schwerin SnailMail: Dept. of Anthropology
Univ. of New Mexico Albuquerque, NM 87131

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