First Continental Congress

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The First Continental Congress was a convention of delegates from twelve British North American colonies that met in 1774, early in the American Revolution. Called in response to the passage of the Intolerable Acts by the British Parliament, the Congress was held in Philadelphia, attended by 55 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 outset of the American Revolutionary War.

The Continental Congresses helped to forge the consensus for the American Revolution and create the pattern for American democracy.


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 Acts

Main article: Intolerable Acts

These Acts included:

  • The Boston Port Act, the first of the acts passed in response to the Boston Tea Party, closed the port of Boston until the East India Company had been repaid for the destroyed tea and until the king was satisfied that order had been restored.
  • The Massachusetts Government Act unilaterally altered the government of Massachusetts to bring it under control of the British government. Under the terms of the Government Act, almost all positions in the colonial government were to be appointed by the governor or the king.
  • The Administration of Justice Act allowed the governor to move trials of accused royal officials to another colony or even to Great Britain if he believed the official could not get a fair trial in Massachusetts. George Washington called this the "Murder Act" because he believed that it allowed British officials to harass Americans and then escape justice.[1]
  • The Quartering Act applied to all of the colonies, and sought to create a more effective method of housing British troops in America. The act permitted troops to be quartered in uninhabited houses, outhouses, barns, or other buildings.[2]
  • The Quebec Act was unrelated to the events in Boston, but the timing of its passage led it to be labeled as one of the Intolerable Acts. The act enlarged the boundaries of the Province of Quebec and instituted reforms generally favorable to the French Catholic inhabitants of the region. Many feared the establishment of Catholicism in Quebec, and that the French Canadians were being courted to help oppress Americans.[3]

Forming the Congress

The idea of a continental congress first appeared in a letter written and published by Samuel Adams on September 27, 1773.[4] 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".[5]

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.


Carpenters' Hall

The Congress met from September 5 to October 26, 1774. From September 5, through October 21, 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 Sons of Liberty, was selected to be Secretary of the Continental Congress.[6]

Galloway's Plan of Union

Patrick Henry already considered government dissolved, and was seeking a new system.[7] Pennsylvania delegate Joseph Galloway sought reconciliation with Britain. He put forth a "Plan of Union," which suggested an American legislative body be formed, with some authority, and whose consent would be required for imperial measures.[7] John Jay, Edward Rutledge and other conservatives supported Galloway's plan.[8] (Galloway would later join the Loyalists).


The Congress had two primary accomplishments. First, the Congress created the Continental Association on October 20, 1774. The Association was a compact among the colonies to boycott British goods beginning on December 1, 1774.[9] The West Indies were threatened with a boycott unless the islands agreed to nonimportation of British goods.[10] Imports from Britain dropped by 97 percent in 1775, compared with the previous year.[9] 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.[11]

If the “Intolerable Acts” were not repealed, the colonies would also cease exports to Britain after September 10, 1775.[9] 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 May 10, 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.[12]

List of delegates

# Name Colony Notes
1 Folsom, NathanielNathaniel Folsom New Hampshire
2 Sullivan, JohnJohn Sullivan New Hampshire
3 Adams, JohnJohn Adams Massachusetts
4 Adams, SamuelSamuel Adams Massachusetts
5 Cushing, ThomasThomas Cushing Massachusetts
6 Paine, Robert TreatRobert Treat Paine Massachusetts
7 Hopkins, StephenStephen Hopkins Rhode Island
8 Ward, SamuelSamuel Ward Rhode Island
9 Deane, SilasSilas Deane Connecticut
10 Dyer, EliphaletEliphalet Dyer Connecticut
11 Sherman, RogerRoger Sherman Connecticut
12 Duane, JamesJames Duane New York
13 Jay, JohnJohn Jay New York
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 Crane, StephenStephen Crane New Jersey
21 De Hart, JohnJohn De Hart New Jersey
22 Kinsey, JamesJames Kinsey New Jersey
23 Livingston, WilliamWilliam Livingston New Jersey
24 Smith, RichardRichard Smith New Jersey
25 Biddle, EdwardEdward Biddle Pennsylvania
26 Dickinson, JohnJohn Dickinson Pennsylvania
27 Galloway, JosephJoseph Galloway Pennsylvania
28 Humphreys, CharlesCharles Humphreys Pennsylvania
29 Mifflin, ThomasThomas Mifflin Pennsylvania
30 Morton, JohnJohn Morton Pennsylvania
31 Rhoads, SamuelSamuel Rhoads Pennsylvania
32 Ross, GeorgeGeorge Ross Pennsylvania
33 McKean, ThomasThomas McKean Delaware
34 Read, GeorgeGeorge Read Delaware
35 Rodney, CaesarCaesar Rodney Delaware
36 Chase, SamuelSamuel Chase Maryland
37 Goldsborough, RobertRobert Goldsborough Maryland
38 Johnson, ThomasThomas Johnson Maryland
39 Paca, WilliamWilliam Paca Maryland
40 Tilghman, MatthewMatthew Tilghman Maryland
41 Bland, RichardRichard Bland Virginia
42 Harrison, BenjaminBenjamin Harrison Virginia
43 Henry, PatrickPatrick Henry Virginia
44 Lee, Richard HenryRichard Henry Lee Virginia
45 Pendleton, EdmundEdmund Pendleton Virginia
46 Randolph, PeytonPeyton Randolph Virginia
47 Washington, GeorgeGeorge Washington Virginia
48 Caswell, RichardRichard Caswell North Carolina
49 Hewes, JosephJoseph Hewes North Carolina
50 Hooper, WilliamWilliam Hooper North Carolina
51 Gadsden, ChristopherChristopher Gadsden South Carolina
52 Lynch, Jr., ThomasThomas Lynch, Jr. South Carolina
53 Middleton, HenryHenry Middleton South Carolina
54 Rutledge, EdwardEdward Rutledge South Carolina
55 Rutledge, JohnJohn Rutledge South Carolina
56 Alsop, JohnJohn Alsop New York


  1. Ammerman, p. 9.
  2. Ammerman, p. 10.
  3. Ammerman, 11-12.
  4. Puls, p. 139.
  5. Launitz-Schurer, p. 114.
  6. Norman K. Risjord, Jefferson's America, 1760-1815 (Rowman & Littlefield, 2002), 114.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Evarts Boutell Greene, The Foundations of American Nationality (American Book Company, 1922), 434.
  8. Marion Mills Miller, Great Debates in American Hist: From the Debates in the British Parliament on the Colonial Stamp (Current Literature Pub. Co., 1913), 91.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Isaac Kramnick (ed.) and Thomas Paine (Author), Common Sense (Penguin Classics, 1982), 21.
  10. Ketchum, p. 262.
  11. Launitz-Schurer, p. 144.
  12. In Worthington C. Ford, et al. (eds.), Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, 2:192–193. Retrieved June 25, 2008.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Bancroft, George. History of the United States of America, from the discovery of the American continent. vol 4. Franklin Classics Trade Press, 2018. ISBN 978-0344254789
  • Burnett, Edmund C. . The Continental Congress. Greenwood Press, 1975 (original 1941) ISBN 0837183863
  • Henderson, H. James. Party Politics in the Continental Congress. Rowman & Littlefield, 2002 (original 1974). ISBN 0819165255
  • Launitz-Schurer. Loyal Whigs and Revolutionaries, The making of the revolution in New York, 1765-1776, 1980. ISBN 0814749941
  • Ketchum, Richard. Divided Loyalties, How the American Revolution came to New York. 2002. ISBN 0805061207
  • Puls, Mark. Samuel Adams, father of the American Revolution, 2006. ISBN 1403975825
  • Montross, Lynn. The Reluctant Rebels; the Story of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789. Barnes & Noble, 1970 (original 1950). ISBN 038903973X

External links

All links retrieved March 26, 2024.

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


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