In 1754, the American colonies faced a grave threat from France. Britain and France had entered the final phase of a century long imperial conflict over the New World. Virginia’s George Washington engaged French forces at Fort Duquense near modern Pittsburgh sparking a world war. In response, over 20 colonial representatives met at Albany, New York to plot a defense. Pennsylvania’s Ben Franklin put forth his Albany Plan to unify and coordinate the colonies. Although never adopted, the Albany Plan inspired the U.S. Constitution and other attempts to unify America.
The millennium old British-French rivalry extended to North America. Throughout the 17th and 18th century, the two powers waged war globally with North America emerging as the final battleground. The final phase of the colonial rivalry began in 1754. British investors in the Ohio Company worried over French designs in territory claimed by both Virginia and Pennsylvania. Virginia Governor Robert Dinwiddie ordered George Washington into the region to deliver a letter ordering the French to leave. The French refused and Dinwiddie ordered Washington to safeguard the Ohio Company’s interests. A clash occurred, Washington surrendered, and war declared.
Shortly after hostilities ensued, seven northern and middle colonies met at Albany to discuss Indian affairs and the French conflict. Benjamin Franklin forwarded his plan for the common defense and unification. Franklin’s plan called for a crown appointed president and a Grand Council made up of representatives selected by the colonial legislatures. In the end, the Albany Congress adopted Franklin’s plan and forwarded it to London and the colonial assemblies. However, both the crown and colonial assemblies rejected the plan outright. Franklin blamed blind provincialism in the colonial rejection. Meanwhile, London did not want the unruly colonies coordinating with one another. They feared unification would make the colonies even more unruly and less governable.
The colonies became less governable without the Albany Plan. Two decades later, Lexington and Concord inaugurated the American Revolution. The First Continental Congress returned to Franklin’s plan when those seeking accomodation with Britain attempted to tweak the idea to bridge the gap between the colonies and Britain. The attempt failed, but the Albany Plan returned in the form of the Articles of Confederation. In the end, the Articles of Confederation led to the Constitution. Franklin’s 1754 plan proved the first step toward the country’s eventual governmental framework.
The British defeated the French in the Seven Years’ War. The removal of the French threat led to the American Revolution. Benjamin Franklin put forth a guide to unified colonial government at the Albany Conference. The colonial assemblies and royal government rejected the plan outright. However, the Albany Plan germinated for decades before being dusted off at the First Continental Congress. The plan morphed over the next decade before the colonies evolved into the United States.