Benjamin Franklin Makes Analogy Between a Proposed Union of the Colonies and the Iroquois League

_To James Parker_

Dear Mr. _Parker_, Philadelphia, March 20, 1750,1.
I have, as you desire, read the Manuscript you sent me; and am
of Opinion, with the publick-spirited Author, that securing the
Friendship of the _Indians_ is of the greatest Consequence to these
Colonies; and that the surest Means of doing it, are, to regulate the
_Indian_ Trade, so as to convince them, by Experience, that they may
have the best and cheapest Goods, and the fairest Dealing from the
_English_; and to unite the several Governments, so as to form a
Strength that the _Indians_ may depend on for Protection, in Case of
a Rupture with the _French_; or apprehend great Danger from, if they
should break with us.

This Union of the Colonies, however necessary, I apprehend is
not to be brought about by the Means that have hitherto been used for
that Purpose. A Governor of one Colony, who happens from some
Circumstances in his own Government, to see the Necessity of such an
Union, writes his Sentiments of the Matter to the other Governors,
and desires them to recommend it to their respective Assemblies.
They accordingly lay the Letters before those Assemblies, and perhaps
recommend the Proposal in general Words. But Governors are often on
ill Terms with their Assemblies, and seldom are the Men that have the
most Influence among them. And perhaps some Governors, tho' they
openly recommend the Scheme, may privately throw cold Water on it, as
thinking additional publick Charges will make their People less able,
or less willing to give to them. Or perhaps they do not clearly see
the Necessity of it, and therefore do not very earnestly press the
Consideration of it: And no one being present that has the Affair at
Heart, to back it, to answer and remove Objections, _&c._ 'tis easily
dropt, and nothing is done. -- Such an Union is certainly necessary
to us all, but more immediately so to your Government. Now, if you
were to pick out half a Dozen Men of good Understanding and Address,
and furnish them with a reasonable Scheme and proper Instructions,
and send them in the Nature of Ambassadors to the other Colonies,
where they might apply particularly to all the leading Men, and by
proper Management get them to engage in promoting the Scheme; where,
by being present, they would have the Opportunity of pressing the
Affair both in publick and private, obviating Difficulties as they
arise, answering Objections as soon as they are made, before they
spread and gather Strength in the Minds of the People, _&c. &c._ I
imagine such an Union might thereby be made and established: For
reasonable sensible Men, can always make a reasonable Scheme appear
such to other reasonable Men, if they take Pains, and have Time and
Opportunity for it; unless from some Circumstances their Honesty and
good Intentions are suspected. A voluntary Union entered into by the
Colonies themselves, I think, would be preferable to one impos'd by
Parliament; for it would be perhaps not much more difficult to
procure, and more easy to alter and improve, as Circumstances should
require, and Experience direct. It would be a very strange Thing, if
six Nations of ignorant Savages [the Iroquois] should be capable
of forming a Schemefor such an Union, and be able to execute it in
such a Manner, as that it has subsisted Ages, and appears indissoluble; 
and yet that a like Union should be impracticable for ten or
a Dozen _English_ Colonies, to whom it is more necessary,
 and must be more advantageous; and who cannot be supposed
to want an equal Understanding of their Interests.

Were there a general Council form'd by all the Colonies, and a
general Governor appointed by the Crown to preside in that Council,
or in some Manner to concur with and confirm their Acts, and take
Care of the Execution; every Thing relating to Indian Affairs and the
Defence of the Colonies, might be properly put under their
Management. Each Colony should be represented by as many Members as
it pays Sums of Hundred Pounds into the common Treasury for the
common Expence; which Treasury would perhaps be best and most
equitably supply'd, by an equal Excise on strong Liquors in all the
Colonies, the Produce never to be apply'd to the private Use of any
Colony, but to the general Service. Perhaps if the Council were to
meet successively at the Capitals of the several Colonies, they might
thereby become better acquainted with the Circumstances, Interests,
Strength or Weakness, _&c_. of all, and thence be able to judge
better of Measures propos'd from time to time: At least it might be
more satisfactory to the Colonies, if this were propos'd as a Part of
the Scheme; for a Preference might create Jealousy and Dislike.

I believe the Place mention'd is a very suitable one to build a
Fort on. In Times of Peace, Parties of the Garrisons of all Frontier
Forts might be allowed to go out on Hunting Expeditions, with or
without Indians, and have the Profit to themselves of the Skins they
get: By this Means a Number of Wood-Runners would be form'd, well
acquainted with the Country, and of great Use in War Time, as Guides
of Parties and Scouts, _&c_. -- Every Indian is a Hunter; and as
their Manner of making War, _viz_. by Skulking, Surprizing and
Killing particular Persons and Families, is just the same as their
Manner of Hunting, only changing the Object, Every Indian is a
disciplin'd Soldier. Soldiers of this Kind are always wanted in the
Colonies in an Indian War; for the _European_ Military Discipline is
of little Use in these Woods.

Publick Trading Houses would certainly have a good Effect
towards regulating the private Trade; and preventing the Impositions
of the private Traders; and therefore such should be established in
suitable Places all along the Frontiers; and the Superintendant of
the Trade, propos'd by the Author, would, I think, be a useful

The Observation concerning the Importation of _Germans_ in too
great Numbers into _Pennsylvania_, is, I believe, a very just one.
This will in a few Years become a _German_ Colony: Instead of their
Learning our Language, we must learn their's, or live as in a foreign
Country. Already the _English_ begin to quit particular
Neighbourhoods surrounded by _Dutch_, being made uneasy by the
Disagreeableness of disonant Manners; and in Time, Numbers will
probably quit the Province for the same Reason. Besides, the _Dutch_
under-live, and are thereby enabled to under-work and under-sell the
_English_; who are thereby extreamly incommoded, and consequently
disgusted, so that there can be no cordial Affection or Unity between
the two Nations. How good Subjects they may make, and how faithful
to the _British_ Interest, is a Question worth considering. And in
my Opinion, equal Numbers might have been spared from the _British_
Islands without being miss'd there, and on proper Encouragement would
have come over. I say without being miss'd, perhaps I might say
without lessening the Number of People at Home. I question indeed,
whether there be a Man the less in _Britain_ for the Establishment of
the Colonies. An Island can support but a certain Number of People:
When all Employments are full, Multitudes refrain Marriage, 'till
they can see how to maintain a Family. The Number of Englishmen in
_England_, cannot by their present common Increase be doubled in a
Thousand Years; but if half of them were taken away and planted in
_America_, where there is Room for them to encrease, and sufficient
Employment and Subsistance; the Number of _Englishmen_ would be
doubled in 100 _Years_: For those left at home, would multiply in
that Time so as to fill up the Vacancy, and those here would at least
keep Pace with them.

Every one must approve the Proposal of encouraging a Number of
sober discreet Smiths to reside among the _Indians_. They would
doubtless be of great Service. The whole Subsistance of _Indians_,
depends on keeping their Guns in order; and if they are obliged to
make a Journey of two or three hundred Miles to an English Settlement
to get a Lock mended; it may, besides the Trouble, occasion the Loss
of their Hunting Season. They are People that think much of their
temporal, but little of their spiritual Interests; and therefore, as
he would be a most useful and necessary Man to them, a Smith is more
likely to influence them than a Jesuit; provided he has a good common
Understanding, and is from time to time well instructed.

I wish I could offer any Thing for the Improvement of the
Author's Piece, but I have little Knowledge, and less Experience in
these Matters. I think it ought to be printed; and should be glad
there were a more general Communication of the Sentiments of
judicious Men, on Subjects so generally interesting; it would
certainly produce good Effects. Please to present my Respects to the
Gentleman, and thank him for the Perusal of his Manuscript.
I am,
Yours affectionately.