Continental Congress, First

The First Continental Congress was the colonies’ reaction to Parliament’s passage of the Coercive Acts of 1774. The Coercive Acts, characterized by American colonists as the Intolerable Acts, culminated almost a decade of political unrest that began with the Stamp Act crisis in 1765. These acts were intended to assert British authority in the colonies. The first of these laws, the Boston Port Bill, closed Boston Harbor to all commerce until the city compensated the East India Company for property destroyed during the Boston Tea Party. Bostonians refused to pay for the tea and organized committees of correspondence to petition the other colonies for support. The Coercive Acts caused a significant rise in political awareness and activity throughout the thirteen colonies, and most responded favorably to the call for a colonial congress. Fifty-five delegates arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to attend the First Continental Congress; only Georgia did not send a delegation. Congress convened in Carpenter’s Hall on September 5, 1774, and Peyton Randolph of Virginia was elected to preside over the body. In order to preserve colonial unity, it was decided that each colony would receive an equal vote. Congress was principally concerned with two issues, establishing the nature and extent of colonial rights and determining the best method to protect these rights. The delegates were divided into two committees. The trade committee examined the British commercial system to identify oppressive trade regulations. The grand committee, fundamentally the more important of the two, determined the colonies’ rights, identified when their rights had been violated by Britain, and proposed action to defend these rights. Fifty-five delegates to the First Continental Congress, representing every colony except Georgia, convened at Carpenter’s Hall in Philadelphia from September 5 to October 26, 1774. They gathered in response to the Coercive Acts and other British efforts to assert authority. (Atwater Kent Museum of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania/Bridgeman Art Library) Committee deliberations were interrupted in mid-September when Paul Revere rode into Philadelphia with the Suffolk Resolves, which had been adopted in Massachusetts after British general Thomas Gage fortified Boston Neck. These resolves represented the most drastic opposition taken against British authority. They denounced the Coercive Acts and urged resistance by withholding tax payments and organizing a colonial militia. The Suffolk Resolves confronted Congress with a dilemma. Congress opposed open conflict with Britain, preferring a negotiated settlement, but it also feared appearing too conservative and losing its leadership position. Congress, therefore, unanimously endorsed the Suffolk Resolves but warned Massachusetts not to form an independent government or take offensive military action. After endorsing the Suffolk Resolves, Congress returned to its agenda and remained in committee for the next few weeks. On October 14, Congress adopted the Declaration of Rights, which stated that colonial rights rested on three pillars: the laws of nature, the British constitution, and the colonial charters. Congress then turned its attention to defending these rights within the imperial system. Debate centered on what form of trade embargo should be imposed against Britain. The Massachusetts delegation favored an immediate stoppage to all trade, while several Southern colonies opposed any ban on the export of tobacco, rice, or indigo. The First Continental Congress culminated with the adoption of the Association of 1774 on October 20. The Association imposed a ban, to begin on December 1, on all British imports and on the consumption of East India Company tea. The prohibition on American exports to Britain, Ireland, and the West Indies was scheduled to begin on September 10, 1775, after the tobacco crop was harvested. Rice was excluded from the ban. To enforce the Association, Congress called for the election of committees in every town, city, and county in the colonies. These committees were authorized to inspect customs house records and publish the names of offenders in the local newspaper. Association violators were socially and economically ostracized from the community. The Association of 1774 represented the beginning of the movement to replace British authority in the American colonies. The local committees that enforced the Association supplanted British government and became revolutionary institutions, the means by which colonial authority was exercised at the local level. The Association was ultimately a failure due to the fact that it did not accomplish its primary objective, British imperial reform. It was, however, the most successful system of economic coercion ever devised by the colonies. In 1775, British imports decreased to a fraction of the previous year’s totals. After adopting the Association, the First Continental Congress concluded its business by drafting a petition to the king, as well as addresses explaining its action to the people of America, Britain, and Quebec. Congress dissolved on October 26 with the understanding that, if necessary, a second Continental Congress would convene on May 10, 1775. Thomas Nester See also: Coercive Acts (1774); Politics and Government (Chronology); Politics and Government (Essay); Revolutionary War. Bibliography Jillson, Calvin, and Rick K. Wilson. Congressional Dynamics: Structure, Coordination, and Choice in the First American Congress, 1774 1789. Stanford Studies in the New Political History. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1994. Marston, Jerrilyn Greene. King and Congress: The Transfer of Political Legitimacy, 1774 1776. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987. Rakove, Jack N. The Beginnings of National Politics: An Interpretive History of the Continental Congress. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979. Second Continental Congress – Sobel Wiki – Wikia alltravel8First Continental Congress- Wannabe – YouTube alltravel8Events That Lead Up To The Revolutionary War. by alltravel8

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