William Penn’s plan for a colonial union (1697)


The following plan for forming a colonial union in North America was drafted and presented by William Penn in 1697:


“A brief and plain scheme how the English colonies in the North parts of America – that is, Boston, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and Carolina – may be made more useful to the crown and one another’s peace and safety with an universal concurrence.

That the several colonies before mentioned do meet once a year, and oftener if need be during the war, and at least once in two years in times of peace, by their stated and appointed deputies, to debate and resolve of such measures as are most advisable for their better understanding and the public tranquillity and safety.

That two persons, well qualified for sense, sobriety, and substance, be appointed by each province as their representatives or deputies, which in the whole make the congress to consist of 20 persons.

That the king’s commissioner, for that purpose specially appointed, shall have the chair and preside in the said congress.

That they shall meet as near as conveniently may be to the most central colony for ease of the deputies. (Since that may in all probability be New York, both because it is near the centre of the colonies and for that it is a frontier and in the king’s nomination, the governor of that colony may therefore also be the king’s high commissioner during the session, after the manner of Scotland.)

That their business shall be to hear and adjust all matters of complaint or difference between provinces. As where persons quit their own province and go to another, that they may avoid their just debts, though they be able to pay them … where offenders fly justice, or justice cannot well be had upon such offenders in the provinces that entertain them … to prevent or cure injuries in point of commerce … to consider the ways and means to support the union and safety of these provinces against the public enemies…

That in times of war, the king’s high commissioner shall be general or chief commander of the several quotas upon service against the common enemy, as he shall be advised, for the good and benefit of the whole.”