Definition of the First Continental Congress
The First Continental Congress was held in Philadelphia during September–October 1774. The purpose of the Congress was to discuss a unified response to the Coercive Acts. Congress was successful in several ways, including the establishment of the Continental Association. However, it failed to convince Britain to repeal the Coercive Acts.
First Continental Congress Quick Facts
- Date Started: The First Continental Congress held its first meeting on September 5, 1774.
- Date Ended: The First Continental Congress adjourned on October 26, 1774.
- Location: The meetings were held in Carpenter’s Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
- First President: Peyton Randolph of Virginia was unanimously elected to preside over the meetings.
- Number of Delegates in Attendance: There were 56 delegates that participated in the meetings.
- Number of Colonies in Attendance: The 56 delegates came from 12 of the 13 colonies.
Interesting Facts About the First Continental Congress
- 12 of the 13 colonies sent delegates. Georgia was the only colony that did not send delegates.
- Congress originally leaned toward endorsing a plan presented by Joseph Galloway of Pennsylvania.
- Galloway’s plan, known as Galloway’s Plan of Union, proposed the creation of an American parliament to work with the British Parliament in governing the colonies.
- Before the Galloway Plan was endorsed, the delegation from Massachusetts presented the Suffolk Resolves.
- The Suffolk Resolves were drafted by Dr. Joseph Warren at a meeting in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, and were more radical than the Galloway Plan.
- The Resolves proposed, among other things, establishing a free state of Massachusetts until Parliament repealed the Coercive Acts, which were also called the Intolerable Acts, boycotting trade with Great Britain, and arming the local militia in Massachusetts.
- Congress endorsed the Suffolk Resolves and ordered them to be printed in the newspapers throughout the colonies.
- Congress established a pact called the Continental Association and called for a total cessation of trade with Great Britain to become effective on December 1, 1774, unless Parliament rescinded the Coercive Acts.
- Congress drafted the Declaration of Rights and Grievances, also known as the Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress, on October 14, 1774.
- Congress addressed and sent this document to King George instead of Parliament to demonstrate colonial loyalty to the Crown.
Fun Facts About the First Continental Congress
- The first issue the delegates had to decide on was if the room at Carpenter’s Hall suited their needs.
- Thomas Jefferson was not a member of the First Continental Congress.
- Benjamin Franklin was not a member of the First Continental Congress.
Accomplishments of the First Continental Congress
The delegates to the First Continental Congress joined together to debate several key concepts regarding their opposition to the Coercive Acts. By the time the debates were finished, Congress had:
- Adopted the Suffolk Resolves and ordered them to be sent to newspapers throughout the colonies to be printed and distributed.
- Created the Continental Association and the Articles of Association in order to enforce a trade boycott against Britain.
- Wrote the “Letter to the Inhabitants of the Province of Quebec”, in an attempt to convince the inhabitants of the Province of Quebec to join the American Cause and, in effect, become the 14th Colony.
- Approved the Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress, which were sent to King George III.
- Wrote a petition to King George III, known as the “The Humble Petition,” which asked him to repeal the Coercive Acts.
- Agreed to reconvene in the spring of 1775 if the Coercive Acts were not repealed by Britain.
British Response to the First Continental Congress
The British response to the actions of the First Continental Congress made war nearly inevitable. On March 30, 1775, Parliament passed, and the King approved, the New England Restraining Act, which:
- Prohibited the New England colonies from trading with any country other than Britain.
- Banned New England fishermen from fishing in the North Atlantic, off Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.
Election of Delegates to the First Continental Congress
Connecticut was the first colony to select its delegates, which it did on June 3, 1774. The delegates were elected by the Connecticut House of Representatives.
Rhode Island Delegates
Rhode Island elected its delegates on June 15, 1774. The delegates were elected by the General Assembly of Rhode Island. They were approved by Joseph Wanton, the Governor of Rhode Island, on August 10.
- Stephen Hopkins
- The Honorable Samuel Ward, Esqr.
Massachusettes elected its delegates on June 17, 1774. They were elected by the House of Representatives at a meeting that was held in Salem.
Maryland elected its delegates on June 22. They were elected at a meeting that was held in Annapolis by committees that had been appointed by the counties in the colony.
- Samuel Chase
- Robert Goldsborough
- Thomas Johnson
- William Paca
- Matthew Tilghman
South Carolina Delegates
South Carolina elected its delegates on July 1. They were selected at a “general meeting of the inhabitants.” They were approved by the South Carolina Assembly on August 2.
New Hampshire Delegates
New Hampshire elected its delegates on July 21, 1774. They were elected by “deputies appointed by the several towns.” The meeting was held in Exeter.
Pennsylvania elected its delegates on July 22. They were elected by a “Committee of the whole house.”
- Edward Biddle
- John Dickinson
- Joseph Galloway
- Charles Humphreys
- Thomas Mifflin
- John Morton
- Samuel Rhoads
- George Ross
New Jersey Delegates
New Jersey elected its delegates on July 23. They were selected by committees that had been appointed by “several Counties of the Colony of New Jersey” at a meeting that was held in New Brunswick.
- Stephen Crane
- John De Hart
- James Kinsey
- William Livingston
- Richard Smith
Virginia elected its delegates on August 1. The delegates were selected at the Virginia Convention, which was held in Williamsburg.
- Richard Bland
- Benjamin Harrison
- Patrick Henry
- Richard Henry Lee
- Edmund Pendleton
- Peyton Randolph
- George Washington
The “Three Counties Newcastle, Kent, & Sussex on Delaware” — or Delaware — elected its delegates on August 2. They were chosen by “Representatives of the freemen” at a meeting that was held in Newcastle.
New York Delegates
New York’s delegates were elected around August 20, 1774. The election process in New York also allowed each county to select its own representative.
- James Duane
- John Jay
- Philip Livingston
- Isaac Low
- Simon Boerum
- John Haring
- Henry Wisner
- William Floyd
- John Alsop
North Carolina Delegates
North Carolina elected its delegates on August 25 at a meeting that was held by the “deputies of the Inhabitants” of the colony at New Bern, North Carolina.
- Richard Caswell
- Joseph Hewes
- William Hooper
Presidents of The First Continental Congress
There were two men who oversaw the proceedings of the First Continental Congress.
- Peyton Randolph of Virginia presided over the meetings from September 5, 1774, to October 22, 1774.
- Henry Middleton of South Carolina presided over the meetings from October 22, 1774, to October 26, 1774.