The Albany Congress met in Albany from June 19 to July 11, 1754. Holding daily meetings at the City Hall, official delegates from seven colonies considered strategies for Indian diplomacy and put forth the so-called Albany Plan of Union.
Unsure of its authority to participate, the province of New York sent only an unnofficial delegation which included Lieutenant Governor James De Lancey and two men with strong Albany connections, William Johnson and Peter Wraxall. The Mohawks and other Native groups were represented at the meetings as well.
Aside from its overall significance, the Albany Congress was a not unimportant event in the history of Albany. The Albany meeting site pointed up Albany's function as the last outpost of European-style civilization before the frontier - a place where settlers, officials, and native peoples had and would continue to come together to consider items of mutual concern. Among the agendas for the convention, was a plan to replace provincial Indian Commissioners with a Royal Superintendant of Indian Affairs - which was aimed directly at the Albany Indian commissioners who were seen by the British as self-interested merchants whose core ambitions were antagonist to Imperial policy.
The meetings brought Benjamin Franklin and other important Americans to Albany - opening up the inland community to the outside world. The trip was instructive for many of these colonial leaders. Over a month of intensive activity, the convention gave notoriously insular Albany people ranging from the city fathers to the rank and file citizenry their first prolonged contact with other Americans whose cultural heritage was substantially different from their own. For all concerned, the summer of 1754 provided memories and lessons that many of them would not forget.
The Albany Congress has been accorded a place in most standard American history books and in virtually all the historical accounts of the history of Albany. It also has been the subject of two major monographic studies!
Detail from a set of four thematic murals (each with three historical senerios) painted by David C. Lithgow for display at the New York World's Fair in 1939. Those murals are in the collection of the New York State Museum. Other modern renderings of the historic conclave are depitcted online.
Robert C. Newbold, The Albany Congress and the Plan of Union of 1754 (Vantage Press of New York, 1955), a self-published but solid political/diplomatic narrative. Timothy J. Shannon, Crossroads of Empire; Indians, Colonists, and the Albany Congress of 1754 (Cornell University Press, 2000), a social history of the convention and a reinterpretation of its significance. A number of published articles are noted in these works!
posted: 10/3/00; last revised 5/13/02