The First Continental Congress

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Primary Sources

Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress

Speech of Patrick Henry to Virginia House of Burgesses

Speech of Edmund Burke Urging Conciliation with America

First Continental Congress Painting

The First Continental Congress

First Continental Congress
Chaplain Jacob Duche leading the first prayer in the First Continental Congress at Carpenter's Hall, Philadelphia - The Granger Collection, New York

Further Reading

John Adams by David McCullough

John Adams book cover
more information

An excellent Pulitzer Prize winning biography, rich in detail and original sources

More on David McCullough

Founding Brothers by Joseph J. Ellis

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Ellis tells us about the conflicts which divided the "founding fathers" of The United States. Pulitzer Prize winner


George Washington's War: The Saga of the American Revolution
by Robert Leckie


The Intolerable Acts helped to unite the colonies in their resistance to the British. The other American colonies united in sympathy with Massachusetts. Virginia set aside a day of prayer and fasting and proposed that the colonies meet.  This led to the calling of the First Continental Congress in September 1774.

Delegates from every colony but Georgia  met in secret at the Carpenters' Hall in Philadelphia. Benjamin Franklin had proposed such a meeting a year earlier, but after the Port of Boston was closed the momentum for such a meeting grew rapidly. The goal of the Congress was to resolve the differences between England and the colonies.

Pennsylvania delegate Joseph Galloway proposed a solution in the form of a plan of union, including the creation of an American Parliament to act with the British Parliament. Each body was to have a veto over the other in matters relating to the colonies. Debate was heated between the radicals and conservatives. Galloway's plan was defeated and there were enough votes to send a petition to the King.

Though far from united, they sent to Britain The Declaration and Resolves (October 14, 1774), a petition demanding the Intolerable Acts be repealed.

They also agreed to a boycott of British goods and trade with Britain. They adopted the Continental Association, which established a total boycott by means of non-importation, non-exportation and non-consumption accords. These agreements were to be enforced by a group of committees in each community, which would publish the names of merchants defying the boycott, confiscate contraband and encourage public frugality.

In England, many urged that the crown try to regain good relations with the colonies and avoid war. (Edmund Burke's Speech Urging Conciliation). When King George III heard of the colonists' demands, he answered: "The die is now cast. The colonies must either submit or triumph." The British refused to repeal the Intolerable Acts.

At this Congress some began to think like Americans for the first time. In the words of Patrick Henry  "I am not a Virginian, but an American." When he returned to the Virginia Convention, his voice rang throughout the colonies. "I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death."

Second Continental Congress

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