First Continental Congress

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The First Continental Congress
Thirteen Colonies
Coat of arms or logo
First Continental Congress 1774
Preceded by Stamp Act Congress
Succeeded by Second Continental Congress
Seats 56 from 12 colonies (excluding Georgia)
Meeting place
Carpenters' Hall, Philadelphia

The First Continental Congress was a meeting of delegates from twelve of the thirteen colonies that met on September 5 to October 26, 1774 at Carpenters' Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, early in the American Revolution. It was called in response to "The passage of the Coercive Acts" (also known as Intolerable Acts by the Colonial Americans) by the British Parliament. The Intolerable Acts had punished Massachusetts for the Boston Tea Party.

The Congress was attended by 55 delegates appointed by the legislatures of twelve of the thirteen colonies. Georgia declined to send delegates because they were hoping for British assistance with Native American problems on their frontier and did not want to upset the British.[1]

The Congress met briefly to consider options, including an economic boycott of British trade; rights and grievances; and petitioned King George III 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 onset of the American Revolutionary War. The delegates also urged each colony to set up and train its own militia.


The Congress met from September 5 to October 26, 1774. Peyton Randolph presided over the proceedings; Henry Middleton took over as President of the Congress for the last few days, from October 22 to October 26. Charles Thomson, leader of Philadelphia Committee of Correspondence, was selected to be Secretary of the Continental Congress.[2]

The delegates who attended the Congress were not of one mind concerning why they were there. Conservatives, such as Joseph Galloway, John Dickinson, John Jay, and Edward Rutledge, believed their task to be the forging of common policies to pressure Parliament to rescind its unreasonable acts. Their ultimate goal was to develop a reasonable solution to the difficulties and bring about reconciliation between the colonies and Great Britain. Radicals, such as Patrick Henry, Roger Sherman, Samuel Adams, and John Adams, believed their task to be the development of a decisive statement of the rights and liberties of the Colonies. Their ultimate goal was to end the perceived abuses of parliamentary authority, and to retain, in the empire and under the king if possible, the constitutional rights which were claimed on the basis of the colonial charters and the English constitution.[3]

Among the radicals, Sherman denied altogether the legislative authority of Parliament and Henry was of the opinion that the Congress needed to develop a completely new system of governance, independent from Great Britain, for the existing colonial governments were already dissolved.[4] To counter these ideas, Galloway put forward a "Plan of Union", which suggested an American legislative body be formed, with some authority, and whose consent would be required for imperial measures.[4][5]

Declaration and Resolves

In the end, the voices of reconciliation and compromise carried the day. Rather than precipitate rebellion by calling for independence, the First Continental Congress, in its Declaration and Resolves, passed and signed the Continental Association, which called for a boycott of British goods to take effect in December 1774. It requested that local Committees of Safety enforce the boycott and regulate local prices for goods. These resolutions adopted by the Congress did not acknowledge the legal power of Parliament even to regulate trade, but consented, nonetheless, to the operation of acts for that purpose. Furthermore, they did not repudiate control by the royal prerogative, which was explicitly acknowledged in the Petition to the King a few days later.


The Congress had two primary accomplishments. The first was a compact among the colonies to boycott British goods beginning on December 1, 1774.[6] The West Indies were threatened with a boycott unless the islands agreed to nonimportation of British goods.[7] Imports from Britain dropped by 97 percent in 1775, compared with the previous year.[6] Committees of observation and inspection were to be formed in each colony for enforcement of the Association. All of the colonial Houses of Assembly approved the proceedings of the congress with the exception of New York .[8]

If the "Intolerable Acts" were not repealed, the colonies would also cease exports to Britain after September 10, 1775.[6] The boycott was successfully implemented, but its potential for altering British colonial policy was cut off by the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War. The colonists were forced to quarter British soldiers, and feed them.

The second accomplishment of the Congress was to provide for a Second Continental Congress to meet on May 10, 1775. In addition to the colonies which had sent delegates to the First Continental Congress, the Congress resolved on October 21, 1774 to send letters of invitation to Quebec, Saint John's Island (now Prince Edward Island), Nova Scotia, Georgia, East Florida, and West Florida.[9] However, letters appear to have been sent only to Quebec (three letters in all). None of these other colonies sent delegates to the opening of the second Congress, though a delegation from Georgia arrived the following July.[10]

List of delegates

# Name Colony Notes
1 Folsom, NathanielNathaniel Folsom New Hampshire
2 Sullivan, JohnJohn Sullivan New Hampshire 3rd and 5th Governor of New Hampshire, general in the Continental Army
3 Adams, JohnJohn Adams Massachusetts Lawyer, first vice-president of the United States, and second President
4 Adams, SamuelSamuel Adams Massachusetts "Father of the American Revolution," cousin of John Adams
5 Cushing, ThomasThomas Cushing Massachusetts
6 Paine, Robert TreatRobert Treat Paine Massachusetts
7 Hopkins, StephenStephen Hopkins Rhode Island Authored pamphlet: 'The Rights of the Colonies"
8 Ward, SamuelSamuel Ward Rhode Island
9 Deane, SilasSilas Deane Connecticut
10 Dyer, EliphaletEliphalet Dyer Connecticut
11 Sherman, RogerRoger Sherman Connecticut Created the Great Compromise and Three-Fifths Compromise at the Constitutional Convention, Congressman, and a member of the Committee of Five who presented the Declaration of Independence
12 Duane, JamesJames Duane New York
13 Jay, JohnJohn Jay New York Lawyer; First Chief Justice of the United States, co-wrote The Federalist Papers
14 Livingston, PhilipPhilip Livingston New York
15 Low, IsaacIsaac Low New York
16 Boerum, SimonSimon Boerum New York
17 Haring, JohnJohn Haring New York
18 Wisner, HenryHenry Wisner New York
19 Floyd, WilliamWilliam Floyd New York
20 Alsop, JohnJohn Alsop New York
21 Crane, StephenStephen Crane New Jersey
22 De Hart, JohnJohn De Hart New Jersey
23 Kinsey, JamesJames Kinsey New Jersey
24 Livingston, WilliamWilliam Livingston New Jersey
25 Smith, RichardRichard Smith New Jersey
26 Biddle, EdwardEdward Biddle Pennsylvania
27 Dickinson, JohnJohn Dickinson Pennsylvania author of Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania
28 Galloway, JosephJoseph Galloway Pennsylvania Originator of the Galloway Plan of Union
29 Humphreys, CharlesCharles Humphreys Pennsylvania
30 Mifflin, ThomasThomas Mifflin Pennsylvania Later served as the first governor of Pennsylvania; Quartermaster general of the U.S. Army
31 Morton, JohnJohn Morton Pennsylvania
32 Rhoads, SamuelSamuel Rhoads Pennsylvania
33 Ross, GeorgeGeorge Ross Pennsylvania
34 McKean, ThomasThomas McKean Delaware
35 Read, GeorgeGeorge Read Delaware
36 Rodney, CaesarCaesar Rodney Delaware
37 Chase, SamuelSamuel Chase Maryland Future Associate Justice on the Supreme Court
38 Goldsborough, RobertRobert Goldsborough Maryland
39 Johnson, ThomasThomas Johnson Maryland
40 Paca, WilliamWilliam Paca Maryland
41 Tilghman, MatthewMatthew Tilghman Maryland
42 Bland, RichardRichard Bland Virginia
43 Harrison, BenjaminBenjamin Harrison Virginia Later served as the fifth governor of Virginia; father of President William Henry Harrison and great-grandfather of President Benjamin Harrison
44 Henry, PatrickPatrick Henry Virginia Prominent Virginian lawyer, creator of the 'Virginia Stamp Act Resolutions'.
45 Lee, Richard HenryRichard Henry Lee Virginia Would later submit movement for independence from Britain at the Second Continental Congress.
46 Pendleton, EdmundEdmund Pendleton Virginia
47 Randolph, PeytonPeyton Randolph Virginia Presided over this first gathering of a Congress.
48 Washington, GeorgeGeorge Washington Virginia Future commander of the Continental Army, and first president of the United States
49 Caswell, RichardRichard Caswell North Carolina
50 Hewes, JosephJoseph Hewes North Carolina Secretary of Naval Affairs Committee in 1776
51 Hooper, WilliamWilliam Hooper North Carolina
52 Gadsden, ChristopherChristopher Gadsden South Carolina
53 Lynch, Jr., ThomasThomas Lynch, Jr. South Carolina
54 Middleton, HenryHenry Middleton South Carolina
55 Rutledge, EdwardEdward Rutledge South Carolina
56 Rutledge, JohnJohn Rutledge South Carolina 2nd Chief Justice, Associate Justice; 31st Governor of South Carolina

See also


  1. Ferling, John. (2003). A Leap in the Dark. Oxford University Press. p. 112.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Risjord, Norman K. (2002). Jefferson's America, 1760-1815. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 114.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. McLaughlin, Andrew C. (1936). "A constitutional History of the United States". New York, London: D. Appleton-Century Company. pp. 83–90. Retrieved August 27, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 Greene, Evarts Boutell (1922). The Foundations of American Nationality. American Book Company. p. 434.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Miller, Marion Mills (1913). Great Debates in American Hist: From the Debates in the British Parliament on the Colonial Stamp. Current Literature Pub. Co. p. 91.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Kramnick, Isaac (ed); Thomas Paine (1982). Common Sense. Penguin Classics. p. 21.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Ketchum, pg. 262
  8. Launitz-Schurer pg. 144
  9. Worthington C. Ford, Library of Congress (United States); et al., eds. (1774 (printed 1901)). Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. p. 101. Retrieved Feb 7, 2010. Check date values in: |date= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Worthington C. Ford; et al. (eds.). Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789. pp. 2:192–193.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  • Bancroft, George. History of the United States of America, from the discovery of the American continent. (1854–78), vol 4-10 online edition
  • Burnett, Edmund C. (1975) [1941]. The Continental Congress. Greenwood Publishing. ISBN 0-8371-8386-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Henderson, H. James (2002) [1974]. Party Politics in the Continental Congress. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 0-8191-6525-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • 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 0-8050-6120-7
  • Miller, John C. Origins of the American Revolution (1943) online edition
  • Puls, Mark, Samuel Adams, father of the American Revolution, 2006, ISBN 1-4039-7582-5
  • Montross, Lynn (1970) [1950]. The Reluctant Rebels; the Story of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789. Barnes & Noble. ISBN 0-389-03973-X.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
Primary sources
  • Peter Force, ed. American Archives, 9 vol 1837-1853, major compilation of documents 1774-1776. online edition

External links

Preceded by
Stamp Act Congress
Legislature of the United States
September 5, 1774 to October 26, 1774
Succeeded by
the Second Continental Congress