Times Of Trial In American Statecraft: First In A Series

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The history of statecraft, in the U.S. as in every nation, is studded with great chances, to be seized or lost forever. To the people who lived through any such critical time, it was seldom clear when the decisive moment came or whose counsel M’as the best.

Sometimes, by luck or wisdom, the right course was taken and the ship of slate sailed serenely on to peace and prosperity. Who knows what wars and calamities might have beset the Republic if the Founding Fathers had not secured the aid of France in the Revolution? If Jefferson had not bought Louisiana? If Monroe had not stated his Doctrine? If Lincoln had not gone to war to preserve the Union?

These are questions which, happily, history has no need to answer. But there were other times when, as we can see in retrospect, opportunities were missed. The wars and calamities which followed provide the proof of these failures of statecraft.

One such missed opportunity, twenty years before the Revolution, was the Albany Plan of Union. Richard B. Morris, who discusses it in this article, is professor of history at Columbia University and author of several books on the Colonial and Revolutionary periods. His article is the first of a series, to be written by leading authorities under the general editorship of Allan Nevins, president of the Society of American Historians and chairman of the Advisory Board of AMERICAN HERITAGE .