Introduction

Colonial Americans responded to British attempts to assert additional control over their political and economic affairs with varying degrees of resistance. For the most part, the colonists attempted to balance their desire for imperial recognition of their traditional rights with statements of loyalty and affection towards the British king (and, to a lesser extent, Parliament). Public gatherings, for example, often included toasts that honored individual members of the British nobility, the long heritage of royal governance, the traditional rights of Englishmen, and the achievements of America in rapid succession. In a tempestuous time, these were not seen as contradictions: indeed, for Gouverneur Morris, the tensions between these concepts might have been all that stood between the colonists and complete anarchy. On the other hand, neither Thomas Jefferson (in A Summary View of the Rights of British America, August 1774) nor General Thomas Gage (in his letter to Peyton Randolph) appears to feel any tension over the question of loyalty whatsoever.

Joseph Galloway’s Plan of Union attempted to use the political confusion constructively, by proposing a new type of political union between the colonies and Britain in which political sovereignty would be divided more evenly. The Continental Congress ultimately rejected this solution, and it was never proposed to the crown.


Worthington C. Ford, et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789, 34 vols. (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1904-37), 1:49-51. Joseph Galloway (1731–1803) was a leading Pennsylvania politician, who ultimately became a Loyalist. He eventually relocated to Great Britain in 1778.


Resolved, That the Congress will apply to his majesty for a redress of grievances under which his faithful subjects in America labor; and assure him, that the colonies hold in abhorrence the idea of being considered independent communities on the British government, and most ardently desire the establishment of a political union, not only among themselves, but with the 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.

A plan of a proposed union between Great Britain and the colonies

That a British and American legislature, for regulating the administration of the general affairs of America, be proposed and established in America, including all the said colonies; within, and under which government, each colony shall retain its present constitution, and powers of regulating and governing its own internal police, in all cases whatsoever.

That the said government be administered by a president general, to be appointed by the king, and a grand council, to be chosen by the representatives of the people of the several colonies, in their respective assemblies, once in every three years.

That the several assemblies shall choose members for the grand council in the following proportions, viz.

New Hampshire.

Massachusetts Bay.

Rhode Island.

Connecticut.

New York.

New Jersey.

Pennsylvania.

Delaware Counties.

Maryland.

Virginia.

North Carolina.

South Carolina.

Georgia.

Who shall meet at the city of _______________ for the first time, being called by the president general, as soon as conveniently may be after his appointment.

That there shall be a new election of members for the grand council every three years; and on the death, removal or resignation of any member, his place shall be supplied by a new choice, at the next sitting of assembly of the colony he represented.

That the grand council shall meet once in every year, if they shall think it necessary, and oftener, if occasions shall require, at such time and place as they shall adjourn to, at the last preceding meeting, or as they shall be called to meet at, by the president general, on any emergency.

That the grand council shall have power to choose their speaker, and shall hold and exercise all the like rights, liberties and privileges, as are held and exercised by and in the House of Commons of Great Britain.

That the president general shall hold his office during the pleasure of the king, and his assent shall be requisite to all acts of the grand council, and it shall be his office and duty to cause them to be carried into execution.

That the president general, by and with the advice and consent of the grand council, hold and exercise all the legislative rights, powers, and authorities, necessary for regulating and administering all the general police and affairs of the colonies, in which Great Britain and the colonies, or any of them, the colonies in general, or more than one colony, are in any manner concerned, as well civil and criminal as commercial.

That the said president general and the grand council, be an inferior and distinct branch of the British legislature, united and incorporated with it, for the aforesaid general purposes; and that any of the said general regulations may originate and be formed and digested, either in the parliament of Great Britain, or in the said grand council, and being prepared, transmitted to the other for their approbation or dissent; and that the assent of both shall be requisite to the validity of all such general acts or statutes.

That in time of war, all bills for granting aid to the crown, prepared by the grand council, and approved by the president general, shall be valid and passed into a law, without the assent of the British Parliament.

Study Questions

A. Consider the enumerated lists of persons and things toasted; what do they suggest about how those attending the celebrations understood the ideas of “loyalty” and “rights”? What issues or concerns do they seem to have? Would you expect such persons to be “revolutionaries”? How do Gouverneur Morris and Thomas Jefferson respectively understand the political moment? How would you characterize the Galloway Plan in light of the other documents? Where does Joseph Galloway’s loyalty seem to lie?

B. Taken as a whole, how do these documents suggest citizens draw the line between “rights” and “loyalty” when considering their political activism? Compare this to the range of responses one might gather from later periods in American history, like the Civil War. What differentiates these situations from one another?

C. How does the understanding of “loyalty” of those advocating for American security in the twentieth century compare with the understanding of “loyalty” presented here? How would we evaluate the legacy of these early American political leaders and citizens against the arguments about “the end of history”?