American Revolution

The First Continental Congress

The repeal of the Townshend Acts in 1770 did no more than temporarily quiet the turmoil, for the tax on tea was kept as a sort of token of Parliament's supremacy. Indignation in New England at the monopoly granted to the East India Company led to the Boston Tea Party in 1773. Despite the earnest pleas of William Pitt the elder (see Chatham, William Pitt, 1st earl of) and Edmund Burke, Parliament replied with coercive measures.

These (and the Quebec Act) the colonials called the Intolerable Acts, and resistance was prompt. The Sons of Liberty and individual colonials were already distributing statements of the colonial cause to win over merchant and farmer, worker and sailor. Committees of correspondence had been formed to exchange information and ideas and to build colonial unity, and in 1774 these committees prepared the way for the Continental Congress.

The representatives at this First Continental Congress, except for a few radicals, had not met to consider independence, but wished only to persuade the British government to recognize their rights. A plan of reconciliation offered by Joseph Galloway was rejected. It was agreed that the colonies would refuse to import British goods until colonial grievances were righted; those grievances were listed in petitions to the king; and the congress adjourned.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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