The Continental Association — the Colonies Respond to the Intolerable Acts

October 20, 1774

The Continental Association was an organization created by the First Continental Congress to enforce the Articles of Association — a trade boycott against British merchants — unless Britain repealed the Coercive Acts.

Richard Henry Lee, Illustration

Richard Henry Lee of Virginia proposed the boycott that formed the basis of the Continental Association. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Continental Association Summary

The Continental Association was an organization set up by the Articles of Association, which were agreed to by the delegates to the First Continental Congress on October 20, 1774.

After Britain passed the Boston Port Act to punish Boston for the Boston Tea PartySamuel Adams and the Boston Committee of Correspondence called for a trade boycott against British merchants. Under the plan, which was called the Solemn League and Covenant, they asked the other colonies to join Boston in “a joint resolution to stop all importation from Great Britain, and exportations to Great Britain, and every part of the West Indies, till the Act for blocking up this harbour be repealed, the same will prove the salvation of North America and her liberties.”

However, some colonies, such as Virginia, had already set up their own boycott, and others were not so quick to go along with the plan.

Instead, there was a call for a “Continental Congress,” to discuss the issue and devise a unified response. Soon after, news of the Massachusetts Government Act reached the colonies, and the agenda of the Continental Congress expanded to discuss a response to all the Coercive Acts.

On October 20, 1774, 53 delegates signed the Articles of Association.

Under the agreement, Committees of Inspection were to be set up in each colony to ensure the colonists complied. The Committees of Correspondence were also given the power to conduct inspections.

Although Georgia did not send delegates to the First Continental Congress, it voted to join the Association in July 1775.

Carpenter's Hall, Philadelphia, Illustration
The First Continental Congress held its meetings in Carpenter’s Hall in Philadelphia. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

5 Things to Know About the Continental Association

  1. The trade boycott, as laid out in the Articles of Association, was proposed by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia. The vote to adopt the Articles was taken on September 22, 1774.
  2. The Articles of Association stated that if the Coercive Acts were not repealed by December 1, 1774, a boycott of British goods would begin in the colonies. The Articles also provided plans for an embargo on exports if the Acts were not repealed by September 10, 1775.
  3. Article 2 of the Articles of Association threatened the British slave trade. It said, “We will neither import nor purchase, any slave imported after the first day of December next; after which time, we will wholly discontinue the slave trade, and will neither be concerned in it ourselves, nor will we hire our vessels, nor sell our commodities or manufactures to those who are concerned in it.”
  4. The boycott included non-importation of British goods, non-exportation of goods to Britain and Ireland, and rules that had to be followed by colonists. All of the provisions of the Articles of Association would be enforced by Committees of Inspection, which would be set up in each colony.
  5. The colonies agreed to promote manufacturing and industry, which was a direct violation of many of the Trade Acts that had been imposed by Parliament since the colonies were founded.

Continental Association Significance

The Continental Association was important to United States history because it was the first time all 13 Original Colonies agreed to implement and enforce a trade boycott against Britain.

Signers of the Continental Association, by Colony

New Hampshire

Massachusetts Bay

Rhode Island


New York

New Jersey

  • James Kinsey
  • William Livingston
  • Stephen Crane
  • Richard Smith
  • John De Hart


Delaware (The Lower Counties)


  • Matthew Tilghman
  • Thomas Johnson, Jr.
  • William Paca
  • Samuel Chase


North Carolina

  • William Hooper
  • Joseph Hewes
  • Richard Caswell

South Carolina