Galloway’s Plan of Union

Joseph Galloway

September 28, 1774

Resolved That this Congress will apply to his Majesty for a Redress of Grievances under which his faithful Subjects in America labour, and assure him that the Colonies hold in Abhorrence the Idea of being considered independant Communities on the British Government and most ardently desire the Establishment of a political Union not only among themselves but with their Mother State upon those principles of Safety and Freedom which are essential in the Constitution of all free Governments and particularly that of the British Legislature. And as the Colonies from their local Circumstances cannot be represented in the parliament of Great Britain, they will humbly propose to his Majesty and his two Houses of Parliament the following plan under which the Strength of the whole Empire may be drawn together on any Emergency, the Interest of both Countries advanced and the Rights and Liberties of America secured.

In the hand of Joseph Galloway and endorsed by James Duane: “Resolves intended to be offered by Mr Galloway & Seconded by J. D. for promoting a Plan of Union between G. B. & A. But as the plan itself was rejected by the Congress; the Resolves became fruitless & were not proposed.”

1 Galloway introduced his plan of union on September 28, when Congress was in the midst of debate on the subject of “the means most proper to be used for a restoration of American rights,” which had been under discussion since the 22d. Although not entirely germane to the discussion, the plan was apparently offered as an alternative to the use of economic pressure against Britain, as Galloway and others were reluctant to form an association to enforce a boycott. From John Adams’ notes of debates it is clear that Galloway spoke at length on the subject and that Duane, John Jay, and Edward Rutledge supported him. But the evidence on whether the proposed resolution printed above was ever formally submitted is conflicting. Although Duane’s endorsement on this document suggests that it was not—”the Resolves became fruitless & were not proposed”—his endorsement on Galloway’s Plan of Union printed below—”Seconded & supported by the New York Delegates. But finally rejected and ordered to be left out of the minutes”—supports a contrary conclusion.

Aside from Adams’ notes of debates and the two Duane endorsements quoted, the contemporary evidence bearing on this question and not originating with Galloway himself consists of two Samuel Ward diary entries of September 28 and October 22, 1774, and Charles Thomson’s manuscript journal of proceedings (see illustrations), Within a few months of Congress’ adjournment, a story was in circulation that Galloway’s plan had been rejected by a single vote, and all mention of it had been erased from the minutes of proceedings. Galloway first gave this account to Gov. William Franklin, who reported it to Lord Dartmouth, together with copies of Galloway’s plan and proposed resolutions, in a letter of December 6, 1774. JCC, 1:48-51; N. J. Archives, 1st ser. 10 (1886): 504. “They [Congress] not only refused to resume Consideration of it, but directed both the Plan and Order to be erased from their Minutes, so that no vestige of it might appear there.” And Galloway restated this version in a pamphlet which he sent to James Rivington for publication in February 1775. A Candid Examination of the Mutual Claims of Great-Britain, and the Colonies: with a Plan of Accommodation, on Constitutional Principles (New York: James Rivington, 1775), p. 52.

In London William Franklin’s letter to Dartmouth was apparently circulated within the ministry, and by February Congress’ dismissal of Galloway’s plan had been discussed in the House of Commons. This was reported to Galloway in a February 25, 1775, letter from Benjamin Franklin, who had also received a copy of the plan from Galloway. “Lord Gower I believe alluded to it, when in the House he censur’d the Congress severely, as first resolving to receive a Plan for uniting the Colonies to the Mother Country, and afterwards rejecting it, and ordering their first Resolution to be eras’d out of their Minutes.” Franklin, Writings (Smyth), 6:311.

It is unlikely, nevertheless, that Congress ever formally voted upon the question of “the Establishment of a political Union” with Britain or that Secretary Thomson made and then expunged from the journals a regular entry pertaining to the plan. Rather, Galloway apparently was dissuaded on September 28 from actually submitting his resolution to a vote; whereupon a motion was made and adopted to have the plan “lye upon the table,” presumably to be taken up for reconsideration at any later appropriate time. His most carefully phrased statement on the subject, given in testimony before the House of Commons in 1779, supports this view. “It was proposed and debated a whole day, and carried upon the question, six Colonies to five, that it should be resumed and further considered. I have in my hand the introductory resolve [the same as that printed above] of Congress in my own writing, which identically was delivered by me in Congress. It is indorsed in the hand of Charles Thompson, the then and present Secretary to the Congress… ’Mr. J. Galloway’s Motion 28th Sept. 1774.’” The Examination of Joseph Galloway, Esq; Late Speaker of the House of Assembly of Pennsylvania. before the House of Commons, in a Committee on the American Papers, 2d ed. (London: J. Wilkie 1780), p. 48.

It is not at all improbable that Thomson returned to Galloway the endorsed copy of the motion, which had been read and discussed at length, after the vote had been taken to reconsider at a later date. And no special significance should be attached to the fact that Thomson made no regular entry in the minutes for September 28. He often made cumulative entries summarizing two or three days’ activities—thus: “Wednesday and Thursday being taken up in the consideration and debates on the means, &c., the Congress met on Friday, Septr. 30 and upon the question, Resolved…” And many proposals came before Congress which Thomson formally ignored altogether. Perhaps the most significant of these was Benjamin Franklin’s plan of confederation, introduced July 21, 1775, which had a reception similar to that accorded Galloway’s plan. JCC, 2:194-99; and Benjamin Harrison to Unknown, November 24, 1775. Thomson’s notation, following his September 27 entry and marked for insertion at the point of his “x”—”Wednesday. Here insert Mr. Galloway’s motion & plan”—was probably meant only as a copyist’s instruction and was obviously added and lined out after he made the entry for September 30. Of course Galloway, as a member of the committee appointed October 21 “to revise the minutes of the Congress,” would have seen this deletion. JCC, 1:101. It is understandable that he would have been distressed, particularly since on October 22 the delegates rejected a motion to reconsider the plan, and even that he later portrayed himself to governors William Franklin and Cadwallader Colden as the victim of a conspiracy. But if he pardonably exaggerated his treatment in his reports to high-ranking royal officials and in various pamphlets written during the next six years, he was not the only delegate who could have denounced Congress for ignoring his proposed recommendations.

Little evidence survives to explain the circumstances which led to rejection of the motion to reconsider his plan on October 22. Perhaps the most telling is to be found in the exchange that took place between John Dickinson and Charles Thomson on the one hand and Galloway on the other, early in 1775. In a lengthy rebuttal to Galloway’s Candid Examination, which they submitted to the Pennsylvania Journal; and the Weekly Advertiser, March 8, 1775, Dickinson and Thomson provided some interesting details which merit equal consideration with Galloway’s story. “Much has been said against the Congress, for rejecting this plan. The matter, I am told, stands thus—When it was first introduced in Congress, most of the members heard it with horror—as an idle, dangerous, whimsical, ministerial plan. Some of the ’Pennsylvania Oracles,’ Friends, with whom infinite pains had been taken before hand, moved to have it committed. This was rejected, then, a motion was made that the plan might lye on the table to be taken up at any future day. This was carried in the affirmative. When the minutes came revised, towards the end of the sitting, the Plan was omitted. Here the patriot [Galloway] raged—and insisted on his right to have it on the Minutes. The question was put, and a great majority thought the inserting it in the Journal would be disgracing their records, and accordingly rejected it. Certainly, in Society, every question must, of course, be determined by a majority. If then a majority were of opinion, that the inserting it on their Journal would be disgraceful and injurious, they unquestionably had a right to reject it. If his plan was defencible, why did he not enter into the argument with a Gentleman from Virginia who challenged him to it, and who said, he could prove it to be big with destruction to the Colonies? ’Tis true he did, when thus called upon, say, that he would defend it, if the Congress would appoint a day for that purpose. But this, Sir, was when all was hurry, and the forms of business only, delayed their breaking up.”

For Galloway’s “reply” to Dickinson and Thomson, and further discussion of the entire exchange, see Joseph Galloway, A Reply to an Address to the Author of a Pamphlet, entitled, ’A Candid Examination of the Mutual Claims of Great Britain and her Colonies,’ &c. (New York: James Rivington, 1775); Julian P. Boyd Anglo-American Union: Joseph Galloway’s Plans to Preserve the British Empire, 1774-1788 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1941), pp. 45-5(); and Robert M. Calhoon, “’I Have Deduced Your Rights’: Joseph Galloway’s Concept of His Role, 1774 1775,” Pennsylvania History 35 (October 1968): 372-73.

Finally, in addition to the sources noted above and the account Galloway elaborated in his 1780 statement printed below, another account that he sent to two Philadelphia newspapers in April 1775 also bears significantly on the consideration given his plan. In response to a charge appearing in William and Thomas Bradford’s Pennsylvania Journal; and the Weekly Advertiser on April 5, 1775—that Galloway claimed credit not due him and that Benjamin Franklin (at the Albany Congress in 1754) was the true author of the plan—Galloway asserted that Franklin’s name had been deliberately associated with the plan when it was circulated among the delegates in Congress. “I shall offer but one argument more in vindication… that he [Galloway, speaking in the third person] could entertain no design of taking from Doctor Franklin, or the Congress of 1774, the merit of the first [plan]. He carried with him to the Congress the plan of 1754, with the reasons under every article. Which induced the then Commissioners to adopt them, in the Doctor’s own writing. He shewed it to several of the members, as the plan proposed by the Doctor, and agreed to by the Commissioners. He delivered it to one of the delegates, without the least injunction or reserve. From that Delegate it passed into the hands of several others, until the gentleman to whom it was first delivered could not, for some time, discover in whose hands to find it. This was done to enable the members to compare the two plans, to digest the better the one then proposed, and if any addition could be made to it, that it might be done when taken into consideration agreeable to the rule of the Congress [i.e., to the motion to reconsider the plan].” The Pennsylvania Gazette, April 26, 1775; and Story & Humphrey’s Pennsylvania Mercury, and Universal Advertiser, April 28, 1775. is a project of the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University

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