Continental Congress(redirected from Continental Congressmen)
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First Continental Congress
Indignation against England's colonial policy reached fever pitch in the colonies after the passage (1774) of the Intolerable Acts, and the Sons of Liberty and the committees of correspondence promoted the idea of an intercolonial assembly similar to the one held (1765) at the time of the Stamp Act.
The First Continental Congress (Sept. 5–Oct. 26, 1774) was made up of delegates from all the colonies except Georgia. It met in Carpenter's Hall, Philadelphia, and Peyton Randolph was chosen to preside. The meeting's general purpose was to express colonial grievances against British policy, and only a few radical members considered the possibility of breaking with England. The plan of Joseph Galloway for reconciling Great Britain and the colonies under a new imperial scheme was introduced but rejected.
The session's most important act was the creation of the Continental Association, which forbade importation and use of British goods and proposed prohibition of colonial exports. Several petitions of grievances, written principally by John Dickinson, were sent to the king, and the meeting was adjourned until May 10, 1775.
The Second Continental Congress
Smoke from the battles of Lexington and Concord (Apr. 19, 1775) had scarcely cleared when the Second Continental Congress met on the appointed day in Philadelphia. Armed conflict strengthened the radical element, but only gradually did the delegates swing toward independence. A Continental army was created to oppose the British and, through the agency of John Adams, George Washington was appointed (June 15, 1775) commander in chief. The reconciliation plan offered (1775) by Lord North's government was tabled. A diplomatic representative, Silas Deane, was sent (Mar., 1776) to France. American ports were opened in defiance of the Navigation Acts. Finally, the momentous step was taken: Congress on July 2, 1776, voted to declare independence, and on July 4th adopted the Declaration of Independence.
The Congress, a young and unsteady organization, had little money and limited means for obtaining more. Nevertheless, it struggled to press the conduct of the war while moving, under force of military circumstances, from place to place; it met at Philadelphia (1775–76), Baltimore (1776–77), Philadelphia again (1777), Lancaster, Pa. (1777), York, Pa. (1777–78), and Philadelphia once more (after 1778). There was friction between Congress and the military leaders, and the soldiers, contemptuous (sometimes justly) of the politicians, constantly agitated for their pay and their rights. The Congress, jealous of its powers, frequently hindered Washington in his strategy.
The Postwar Continental Congress
See Journals of the Continental Congress (34 vol., 1904–37); Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (ed. by E. C. Burnett, 6 vol., 1921–33; repr. 1963); E. C. Burnett, The Continental Congress (1941, repr. 1964); L. Montross, The Reluctant Rebels: The Story of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (1950, repr. 1970).