For all who love history - and not just history - but the history of how our great country began - this site is for you! Brave men and women took a stand over 230 years ago against tyranny and won! A nation of immigrants began its trek to becoming the greatest nation in the world.
Before the Continental Congress met several events
occurred. The first – the Boston Tea
Party. The second was the Intolerable
Acts instituted by Britain where the Boston Harbor was closed until the tea was
paid for, and the governor of Massachusetts was given the power of a dictator.
These acts incited the colonists to band together and call for action. This
meeting became known as the 1st
The First Continental Congress met from September 5th
to October 26th in 1774. The
members from every colony except Georgia met at Carpenter’s Hall in
Philadelphia where the Pennsylvania Congress usually met. Georgia was busy with problems with Creek
Indian nation and needed Britain’s help in fighting them. The men who came to
discuss the future of this fledgling country were elected by the people, by
committees, or by legislatures in the various colonies. Some of the men who attended are names we
recognize today: John Adams (our second president)and his cousin, Samuel Adams
from Massachusetts Bay colony, John Jay (our first Supreme Court Justice) from
New York, John Dickinson from Pennsylvania, Peyton Randolph (who becomes the
president of the 1st Continental Congress), Richard Henry Lee,
George Washington (the leader of our army and our first president), and Patrick
Henry (Give me liberty!). There are
forty six other names on the list for a total of 56 delegates – none less
important than the men already mentioned, but just not as well known. Every man was given only 1 vote.
Of course they all wanted to show Great Britain and the king
they were unified in their arguments over what should be allowed or not, and
yet they disagreed on other points. For
instance, the delegates from Pennsylvania and New York actually thought they
(the men who gathered) could resolve the issues with Great Britain (who really
didn’t want to resolve anything – they wanted the colonies to just follow their
In May of the same year, the House of Burgesses in Virginia
held its own special convention to elect delegates to meet and discuss the
issues. Thomas Jefferson (whose name is not mentioned above) actually
introduced his own view of the rights in a document called “Summary View of the Rights of Great Britain”.
This first Continental Congress did not
ask for freedom from Great Britain. What
they really wanted was Great Britain to recognize wrongs done to the colonists. They wanted to be heard in Parliament.
Peyton Randolph's portrait (from his home in Williamsburg)
from Pennsylvania, presented his own plan which was mostly supported (only 6
were opposed). Many of the colonists supported his plan. Remember many still wanted to resolve the
issues with Britain. Without the support of everyone present, the plan fell
through. Some believed it failed because of the Suffolk Resolves. These
resolves declared the Coercive Acts unconstitutional and illegal; urged
Massachusetts to become a free state; wanted any taxes collected to be held by
the government and not given to Britain; asked everyone to support a boycott of
British goods; asked for the development of a militia; stated than anyone who
arrested citizens would also be arrested; and finally that the colonists did
not owe any loyalty to the King who violated their rights. Paul Revere brought a set of these resolves
to the Continental Congress. While some
were opposed to these drastic measures, they were passed by the majority of
Next came the Association
– where a total boycott was called for of non-importation, non-exportation, and
non-consumption agreements. Every community would enforce the boycott –
publishing the names of merchants who defied the boycott. They could confiscate
contraband, and could encourage the people economize.
From here, the Continental Congress put together a list of
grievances to submit to King George III. They announced the colonists had
certain rights – “life, liberty, and
property, and they have never ceded to any sovereign power whatever a right to
dispose of either without their consent.”
The key point in this list was – it was address to the King, not to
Parliament because the colonists felt the Parliament did not have the authority
to regulate their trade. The colonists
wanted their grievances addressed by the king.
Once the declaration was sent to the King, the men had no choice but to
wait for their reaction and pray the King would see their position and agree
they had been wronged.
On October 25th, 1774 – the petition is signed
and sent to the King.
So what happened when King George received these Suffolk Resolves? On November 30th, 1774, King
George III condemned Massachusetts and the resolves. Obviously the king did not feel the colonies
had the right to send him a petition, and he especially did not feel they had
rights. Something would have to be done
with those upstart colonists!!!