First Continental Congress

The First Continental Congress was a convention of delegates from twelve of the thirteen British North American colonies that met on September 5, 1774, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, early in the American Revolution. Called in response to the passage of the Coercive Acts by the British Parliament, the Congress was attended by 56 members appointed by the legislatures of the Thirteen Colonies, except for the Province of Georgia, which did not send delegates. The Congress met briefly to consider options, organize an economic boycott of British trade, publish a list of rights and grievances, and petition King George for redress of those grievances.

The Congress also called for another Continental Congress in the event that their petition was unsuccessful in halting enforcement of the Intolerable Acts. Their appeal to the Crown had no effect, and so the Second Continental Congress was convened the following year to organize the defense of the colonies at the best of the American Revolutionary War.


Like the Stamp Act Congress, which was formed by American colonists to respond to the infamous Stamp Act, the First Continental Congress was formed largely in response to the Intolerable Acts.

The idea of a continental congress first appeared in a letter written and published by Samuel Adams on September 27, 1773. [Puls, pg. 139] In May 1774, New York City's Committee of Fifty-One, called for a continental congress when it issued a declaration: "Upon these reasons we conclude that a Congress of Deputies from all the Colonies in general is of the utmost moment; that it ought to be assembled without delay, and some unanimous resolutions formed in this fatal emergency". [Launitz-Schurer, pg. 114]

The Congress was planned through the permanent committees of correspondence. They chose the meeting place to be Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in Carpenters' Hall, which was both centrally located and one of the leading cities in the colonies. The Congress was held in 1774.


The Congress met from 5 September to 26 October 1774. From 5 September through 21 October, Peyton Randolph presided over the proceedings; Henry Middleton took over as President of the Congress for the last few days, from 22 October to 26 October. Charles Thomson, leader of Philadelphia Sons of Liberty, was selected to be Secretary of the Continental Congress. [cite book |title=Jefferson's America, 1760-1815 |author=Risjord, Norman K. |publisher=Rowman & Littlefield |year=2002 |pages=p. 114]



The Congress had two primary accomplishments. First, the Congress created the Continental Association on October20 1774. The Association was a compact among the colonies to boycott British goods beginning on 1 December 1774.cite book |author=Kramnick, Isaac (ed); Thomas Paine |title=Common Sense |publisher=Penguin Classics |year=1982 |pages=p. 21] The West Indies were threatened with a boycott unless the islands agreed to nonimportation of British goods. [Ketchum, pg. 262] Imports from Britain dropped by 97 percent in 1775, compared with the previous year. Committees of observation and inspection were to be formed in each colony for enforcement of the Association. All the colony's Houses of Assembly approved the proceedings of the congress with the exception of New York. [Launitz-Schurer pg. 144]

If the “Intolerable Acts” were not repealed, the colonies would also cease exports to Britain after September 10 1775. The boycott was successfully implemented, but its potential for altering British colonial policy was cut off by the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War in 1775.

The second accomplishment of the Congress was to provide for a Second Continental Congress to meet on 10 May 1775. In addition to the colonies which had sent delegates to the First Continental Congress, letters of invitation were sent to Quebec, Saint John's Island, Nova Scotia, Georgia, East Florida, and West Florida. None of these sent delegates to the opening of the second Congress, though a delegation from Georgia arrived the following July. [cite book| title=Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789| editor=Worthington C. Ford, "et al." (ed.)| pages=2:192–193| url=]

List of delegates

ee also

*List of delegates to the Continental and Confederation congresses
*Papers of the Continental Congress
*Timeline of United States revolutionary history (1760-1789)



*Bancroft, George. "History of the United States of America, from the discovery of the American continent." (1854-78), vol 4-10 [ online edition]
*cite book| first=Edmund C.| last=Burnett| title=The Continental Congress| origyear=1941| year=1975| publisher=Greenwood Publishing| id=ISBN 0-8371-8386-3
*cite book| first=H. James| last=Henderson| title=Party Politics in the Continental Congress| origyear=1974| year=2002| publisher=Rowman & Littlefield| id=ISBN 0-8191-6525-5
*Launitz-Schurer, "Loyal Whigs and Revolutionaries, The making of the revolution in New York, 1765-1776", 1980, ISBN 0-8147-4994-1
*Ketchum, Richard, "Divided Loyalties, How the American Revolution came to New York", 2002, ISBN 0805061207
*Miller, John C. "Origins of the American Revolution" (1943) [ online edition]
*Puls, Mark, "Samuel Adams, father of the American Revolution", 2006, ISBN 1403975825
*cite book| first=Lynn| last=Montross| title=The Reluctant Rebels; the Story of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789| origyear=1950| year=1970| publisher=Barnes & Noble| id=ISBN 0-389-03973-X

Primary sources

*Peter Force, ed. "American Archives," 9 vol 1837-1853, major compilation of documents 1774-1776. [ online edition]

External links

* [ The Continental Congress - History, Declaration and Resolves, Resolutions and Recommendations]
* [ Full text of "Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789"]
* [ "Papers of the Continental Congress" (Digitized Original Documents)]

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