PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (WHTM) — The First Continental Congress had been very busy during its two months in session. The Congress came together in response to the rather bluntly named Coercive Acts, passed by the English Parliament in early 1774. American Colonists, with equal bluntness, called them the Intolerable Acts.
From September 5 to October 26, the First Continental Congress passed a set of Declarations and Resolves, an Address to the People of Great Britain, and a Petition to the King. All of these outlined their grievances with the British government, while expressing loyalty to King and Country. They also passed Articles of Association, calling on the colonies to stop importing goods from the British Isles if the Coercive Acts were not repealed. Their very last act before adjourning was to set a date for another Congress to meet on May 10, 1775, to take stock and decide if more action was needed.
By the time the Second Continental Congress met, relations with Britain hadn’t just gone downhill, they’d fallen off a cliff. British troops and Massachusetts “Minutemen” had exchanged gunfire at Lexington and Concord, the British garrison in Boston was now under siege, and the Continental Congress found itself a de facto government fighting a war. It did all the things governments do such as sending out ambassadors, raising armies, signing treaties, borrowing money, printing money (which quickly became “not worth a Continental”), and spending money without having any legal authority, because who else was going to do it?
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Congress did make one last effort to smooth things over with the mother country, passing the Olive Branch Petition, which appealed to the King to help resolve their differences. Unfortunately, by the time the petition reached England, George III had already declared the colonies “in rebellion”, and reconciliation was pretty much off the table. By mid-year of 1776, independence was much on the minds of the colonists, and on July 2 a Resolution of Independence passed in Congress, followed by a formal Declaration which was approved on July 4. (Getting it signed would take a while.)
While all this was going on, Congress had two other committees at work. One drafted the Model Treaty, a template for commercial treaties based on the principles of free ports to guarantee free goods, freedom of neutrals to trade in normal goods, and agreement on a contraband list. The other worked on a framework for a permanent government.
During the course of the war, Congress had to move several times, to avoid being captured by British forces. They spent the winter of 76-77 in Baltimore, moved back to Philadelphia, then in September 1777, after Washington lost the Battle of Brandywine, moved to York by way of Lancaster. While in York they approved the framework for the new permanent government. Called the Articles of Confederation, it was the first to refer to a new country like the United States of America. To become law it had to be ratified by all 13 states. The last state, Maryland, signed on February 2, 1781, and on March 1 the Continental Congress morphed into the Confederation Congress.
- mountvernon.org-First Continental Congress
- Constitutioncenter.org-First Continental Congress
- History.com-Continental Congress
- Britannica.com-Continental Congress
- Wikisource-Declaration and Resolves
- Wikisource-Petition to the King
- Wikisource-Address to the People of Great Britain
- Wikipedia-2nd Continental Congress
- Battlefields.org-Olive Branch Petition
- Archives.org-Declaration of Independence
- Department of State-Model Treaty
- Articles of Confederation