The Albany Plan of Union: Definition & Summary

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  • 0:01 What Was the Albany…
  • 0:44 Background
  • 2:01 The Plan Summarized
  • 3:26 The Reaction
  • 4:04 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Erica Cummings

Erica teaches college Humanities, Literature, and Writing classes and has a Master's degree in Humanities.

The Albany Plan of Union of 1754 was a plan to unite the American colonies in a way that had never been done before. Though it was never implemented, it foreshadowed the later unification of the United States of America.

What was the Albany Plan of Union?

In the 1750s, the American colonies lacked any true sense of union, and most colonists were still loyal to the British government. But in 1754, a delegation of American colonists created the Albany Plan of Union. Should it have been fully adopted, the plan would have established a centralized government to oversee the colonies and to shore up defense for the looming French and Indian War. The Albany Plan of Union was not a plan for independence; in fact, it still subjected the colonial governments to British control. However, many British and Americans still considered the plan too extreme, so it was ultimately never implemented. Even still, the Albany Plan of Union foreshadowed the future unification and independence of these colonies.

Background: The Albany Congress

By 1754, the American colonies were bracing for war. No, not a war for independence. That would not come for another couple decades. Instead, the American colonies were about to become embroiled in the struggle known as the French and Indian War. In this war, which lasted from 1754-1763, Britain and France were fighting for control over land in North America. Britain wanted to ensure its American colonies could defend themselves should the French and their Indian allies attack. But since the colonies lacked any real cohesion, they could not adequately defend themselves.

Painting of the delegates in the Albany Congress
Painting of the delegates in the Albany Congress

Thus, a British governmental body convened at the Albany Congress to address these issues. Delegates from seven of the American colonies attended the Albany Congress, which met from June 19 to July 11, 1754, in Albany, New York. The goal of the congress was to establish a system of defense and negotiate relations with Native American allies, like the Iroquois. The delegates to the Albany Congress soon realized, though, that in order to accomplish these tasks, they needed to unify the colonies under a centralized government. Thus, they created the Albany Plan of Union. Though the delegates of the Albany Congress unanimously adopted the Albany Plan of Union, the British and the individual colonial governments rejected it.

Painting of Albany city hall, where the Albany Plan of Union was adopted
Painting of Albany city hall, where the Albany Plan of Union was adopted

The Albany Plan of the Union Summarized

So, what exactly did the Albany Plan of Union say? First, the Albany Plan of Union established a centralized government that could look out for the interests of the unified colonies. The British Crown would appoint a President-General to oversee this new government. In addition, representatives of the people would choose a Grand Council to assist the President-General. Every colony would have a number or representatives in the Grand Council, proportionate to the population in that colony. This government mirrors what would become the Executive and Legislative branches of the United States of America, except that the President-General of the Albany Plan of Union would be appointed, not elected.

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