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City and capital of the State of New York; the oldest existing town within the domain of the original thirteen States; was first settled by Dutch traders in 1614, who built a trading-house on Castle Island, a little below the site of Albany, and eight years afterwards Fort Orange was built on that site. The settlement was called Fort Orange at first, then Beverswyck, and after the Province of New Netherland passed into the possession of the English it was called Albany, the second title of Duke James, afterwards James II. of England. Albany is yet full of the descendants of its early settlers, and has a large present importance by reason of its trade relations with the Western and Southern States, promoted by its exceptional shipping facilities by river, railroad, [90] and canal. In 1890 the population was 93,313; in 1900, 94,151.

Albany is especially noted in history because of the colonial conventions held there. The following is a synopsis of their most important transactions:

First colonial convention.

Thoroughly alarmed by the opening hostilities of the French and Indians on the frontiers, the colonies of Massachusetts, Plymouth, and Connecticut sent commissioners to Albany to hold a conference with the chiefs of the Five Nations, all of whom, excepting the Mohawks, had renewed their covenant of friendship with the English. This covenant was renewed June 27, 1689, previous to the arrival of Count Frontenac in Canada. The commissioners held the conference in September following. They tried to persuade the Five Nations to engage in the war against the Eastern Indians. They would not agree to do so, but ratified the existing friendship with the English colonies. “We promise,” they said, “to preserve the chain inviolably, and wish that the sun may always shine in peace over al our heads that are comprehended in the chain.”

Second colonial convention.

In the summer of 1748, when news of the preliminary treaty of peace reached the colonies, a convention or congress of colonial governors was called at Albany for a two-fold purpose: (1) to secure a colonial revenue, and (2) to strengthen the bond of friendship between the Six Nations and their neighbors in the West, and the English. Only Governors Clinton and Shirley, two able commissioners from Massachusetts, and one (William Bull) from South Carolina. were present. With the latter came the grand sachem and some chiefs of the Catawbas, a nation which had long waged war with the Iroquois. There was an immense number of the Six Nations present. The royal governors failed to gain anything for themselves in the way of a. revenue. but satisfactory arrangements with the Indians, including the tribes along the southern borders of Lake Erie, were made. At that conference the commissioners from Massachusetts (Andrew Oliver and Thomas Hutchinson) presented a memorial for adoption, praying the King so far to interpose as that, while the French remained in Canada, the more southern colonies, which were not immediately exposed to hostilities, might be obliged to contribute in a just proportion towards the expense of protecting the inland portions of New York and New England. Clinton and Shirley signed and approved of the memorial, which was sent with it to the Board of Trade and Plantations.

Third colonial convention.

The kindly attitude manifested towards the French by the Six Nations excited the jealousy and alarm of the English, especially of Governor Clinton, of New York. As yet, the Iroquois had never recognized the claim of the English to dominion over their land, and they were free to act as they pleased. Clinton called a convention of representatives of the several English-American colonies at Albany, and invited the Six Nations to send representatives to meet with them. Only Massachusetts, Connecticut, and South Carolina chose to incur the expense. Delegates from these colonies met the chiefs of the Six Nations (July 5, 1751) and made a treaty of friendship. The “King” of the Catawbas and several chiefs accompanied the South Carolina delegate (William Bull), and a peace between that Southern nation and the Iroquois was settled at the same time.

Fourth colonial convention.

There were indications that the Six Nations, influenced by French emissaries, were becoming alienated from the English. The colonists were uneasy, and the British government, acting upon the advice of the royal governors in America. sent a circular letter to all the colonial assemblies, proposing the holding of a convention at Albany. to be composed of committees from the several legislatures and representatives of the Six Nations. Seven of the assemblies responded, and on June 19, 1754, twenty-five delegates assembled in the old City Hall at Albany. James De Lancey, acting governor of New York, presided, and he was authorized by the Virginia legislature to represent that colony in the convention. The chiefs of the Six Nations were there in great numbers, of whom “King Hendrick,” of the Mohawks, was leader. To the Indians De Lancey first spoke, and Hendrick responded in words of bitter reproof of the English for their neglect of preparations for danger. [91] “Look at the French,” he said; “they are men; they are fortifying everywhere; but, we are ashamed to say it, you are like women, bare and open, without any fortifications. It is but one step from Canada hither, and the French may easily come and turn you out-of-doors.” But the business with the Six Nations was closed amicably and satisfactorily by a treaty of friendship. The Massachusetts delegation was authorized to propose a measure quite as important as a treaty with the Indians. It was an invitation for the convention to consider the question whether a union of the colonies for mutual defence was not desirable; and they were empowered to agree to articles of union or confederation. The proposition was favorably received, and a committee, composed of one delegate from each colony, was appointed to draw up a plan. The fertile brain of Dr. Benjamin Franklin, a delegate from Pennsylvania, had conceived a plan before he went to the convention. It was reported by the committee and adopted by the convention, the Connecticut delegates alone dissenting. It proposed a grand council of forty-eight members, to be chosen by the several assemblies, the representatives of each colony to be, in number, in proportion to the contribution of each to the general treasury. No colony was to have more than seven or less than two members. This congress was to choose its own speaker and have the general management of all civil and military affairs, and to enact general laws in conformity to the British Constitution. It proposed to have a president-general, appointed and paid by the crown, who should have a negative or veto power on all acts of the congress, and to have, with the advice and consent of the congress, the appointment of all military officers, and the entire management of Indian affairs; the civil officers to be appointed by the congress with the approval of the president-general. This plan of government bore a strong resemblance to our national Constitution, which Franklin assisted in framing more than thirty years afterwards. This plan was submitted to the Lords of Trade and Plantations. They did not approve of it, nor recommend it to the King for consideration. They thought there was too much democracy in it. The assemblies did not favor it, because they thought there was too much prerogutive in it. So it was rejected.

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