Benjamin Franklin : an American Life by Walter Isaacson

Benjamin Franklin : an American Life by Walter Isaacson

Author:Walter Isaacson
Language: eng
Format: mobi
Tags: Azizex666, General, United States, Historical, Revolutionary Period (1775-1800), Biography & Autobiography, History
ISBN: 9780743258074
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Published: 2003-01-01T05:00:00+00:00

Franklin’s First Articles of

Confederation Plan

For the colonies to cross the threshold of rebellion, they needed to begin conceiving of themselves as a new nation. To become independent of Britain, they had to become less independent of each other. As one of the most traveled and least parochial of colonial leaders, Franklin had long espoused some form of confederation, beginning with his Albany Plan of 1754.

That plan, which was never adopted, envisioned an intercolonial Congress that would be loyal to the king. Now, in 1775, Franklin put forth the idea again, but with one big difference: although his plan allowed for the possibility that the new confederation would remain part of the king’s empire, it was designed to work even if the empire broke apart.

The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union that he presented to the Congress on July 21, like his Albany Plan, contained the seeds of the great conceptual breakthrough that would eventually define America’s federal system: a division of powers between a central government and those of the states. Franklin, however, was ahead of his time. His proposed central government was very powerful, indeed more powerful than the one eventually created by the actual Articles of Confederation that the Congress began to draft the following year.

Much of the wording in Franklin’s proposal was drawn from New England confederation plans that stretched back to one forged by settlements in Massachusetts and Connecticut in 1643. But the scope and powers went far beyond anything previously proposed. “The Name of the Confederacy shall henceforth be The United Colonies of North America,” Franklin’s detailed thirteen articles began. “The said United Colonies hereby severally enter into a firm League of Friendship with each other, binding on themselves and their posterity, for their common defense against their enemies, for the security of their liberties and properties, the safety of their persons and families, and their mutual and general welfare.”13

Under Franklin’s proposal, the Congress would have only a single chamber, in which there would be proportional representation from each state based on population. It would have the power to levy taxes, make war, manage the military, enter into foreign alliances, settle disputes between colonies, form new colonies, issue a unified currency, establish a postal system, regulate commerce, and enact laws “necessary to the general welfare.” Franklin also proposed that, instead of a single president, the Congress appoint a twelve-person “executive council” whose members would serve for staggered three-year terms.

Franklin included an escape provision: in the event that Britain accepted all of America’s demands and made financial reparation for all of the damage it had done, the union could be dissolved. Otherwise, “this confederation is to be perpetual.”

As Franklin fully realized, this pretty much amounted to a declaration of independence from Britain and a declaration of dependence by the colonies on each other, neither of which had widespread support yet. So he read his proposal into the record but did not force a vote on it. He was content to wait for history, and the rest of the Continental Congress, to catch up with him.


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