Launchpad: The Albany Congress and Political Identity (North American Colonists)

Examine the historic map by Emanuel Bowen of the British American Plantations below. Look at the Northeast and the area marked Iroquois:

A Map of the British American Plantations, 1754, by Emanuel Bowen

  • Identify the text in the two lines below the word “Iroquois.” Make sure that you view the map in its largest format – In Internet Explorer use the Zoom Level on the bottom right of the browser frame
  • Locate the boundaries between the British colonies and the Native Americans.
  • Discuss the lack of boundaries shown on the map.
  • Discuss how you know what areas “belonged” to the colonists and to the Indians.

Compare the Bowen 1754 map with a present day map that shows the English colonies in 1750

  • How do the borders differ on this map?

Familiarize yourself with the role of the British North American colonies in the eighteenth century by reading this passage:

Darla Davis, “To tax or not to tax: 2/5 Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Group A

Read Thomas Pownell, British imperial administrator, selection from his 1765 The Administration of the Colonies, pages 35-38. Following the sample annotation, highlight evidence such as phrases, words, and concepts that help to answer the questions below.

  • What were British colonial leaders, American colonists, and Native Americans each looking for in North America?
  • What were their political goals?
  • How did they hope to achieve them?
  • How did they want political life in America to be organized?
  • What rules did they want?

Group B

Read Benjamin Franklin’s Albany Plan (which was drafted and accepted at the Albany Congress but rejected by colonial assemblies and the British Crown), and excerpts from A Plan for a Colonial Union, Franklin’s 1754 letters to the colonial governor of Massachusetts, written a few months after the Congress and answer the questions below.

  • What were British colonial leaders, American colonists, and Native Americans each looking for in North America?
  • What were their political goals?
  • How did they hope to achieve them?
  • How did they want political life in America to be organized?
  • What rules did they want?

Group C

Read the speech by Hendrick, a Mohawk Indian leader and diplomat, delivered to the Albany Congress, “You are Like Women, Bare and Open, without any Fortifications." (PDF)

  • What were British colonial leaders, American colonists, and Native Americans each looking for in North America?
  • What were their political goals?
  • How did they hope to achieve them?
  • How did they want political life in America to be organized?
  • What rules did they want?

Students in each one of the three groups should read their annotations to the entire class. Then the class as a whole should diagram the three author’s political ideas and visions of the future of the colonies noting where these authors’ idea and visions are similar and where they are different, complimentary or antagonistic.

  • What are the different concepts of empire being offered?
  • What are the arguments being made for how empire should work?
  • Who was making these arguments?

Construct a chart of the goals of three of the groups of people who occupied and contested the North American continent in the mid-eighteenth century: British colonial officials and interest groups, North American colonists, and Native Americans (sample chart) First, for the colonists and the Native Americans, construct a three-column chart based on the answers.

  • What did each group want in North America? (e.g., what were their goals, how did they hope to achieve them, how did they want life in America to be organized, what did they want the rules to be, etc.?)
  • What were some of the conflicts between the colonists and the Native Americans?
  • What were some of the conflicts between the colonists and the British officials?
  • What were some of the differences among the colonists such as gender, race, and ethnicity? How might those differences have affected relationships between the colonists and the British officials?

The entire class should go through the questions above again in a discussion about the British officials and the colonists. Return to the chart.