First Continental Congress Quotes

September 5, 1774–October 26, 1774 — American Revolution

Quotes from the debates and committees of the First Continental Congress.

Peyton Randolph, Illustration

Peyton Randolph was the first President of the First Continental Congress. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

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September 6, 1774

These quotes are taken from the diary of John Adams and are about the debate over how much weight the vote of each colony should have. In the end, Congress decided each colony had one vote, and the votes were equal.

Patrick Henry, Virginia —

The Distinctions between Virginians, Pensylvanians, New Yorkers and New Englanders, are no more.

I am not a Virginian, but an American.

Christopher Gadsden, South Carolina —

I cant see any Way of voting but by Colonies.

September 8, 1774

These quotes are taken from the diary of John Adams in the Committee for States Rights, Grievances and Means of Redress.

Richard Henry Lee, Virginia —

The Rights are built on a fourfold foundation — on Nature, on the british Constitution, on Charters, and on immemorial Usage. The Navigation Act, a Capital Violation.

John Jay, New York —

It is necessary to recur to the Law of Nature, and the british Constitution to ascertain our Rights.

A Mother Country surcharged with Inhabitants, they have a Right to emigrate. It may be said, if We leave our Country, We cannot leave our Allegiance. But there is no Allegiance without Protection. And Emigrants have a Right, to erect what Government they please.

Eliphat Dyer, Connecticut —

Part of the Country within the Canada Bill, is a conquered Country, and part not. It is said to be a Rule that the King can give a Conquered Country what Law he pleases. Note: Dyer was referring to the Quebec Act.

William Livingston, New York —

A Corporation cannot make a Corporation. Charter Governments have done it. K. [King] cant appoint a Person to make a Justice of Peace. All Governors do it. Therefore it will not do for America to rest wholly on the Laws of England.

Roger Sherman, Connecticut —

The Ministry contend, that the Colonies are only like Corporations in England, and therefore subordinate to the Legislature of the Kingdom. — The Colonies not bound to the King or Crown by the Act of Settlement, but by their consent to it.

There is no other Legislative over the Colonies but their respective Assemblies.

The Colonies adopt the common Law, not as the common Law, but as the highest Reason.

Richard Henry Lee, South Carolina —

Life and Liberty, which is necessary for the Security of Life, cannot be given up when We enter into Society.

Joseph Galloway, Pennsylvania —

I never could find the Rights of Americans, in the Distinctions between Taxation and Legislation, nor in the Distinction between Laws for Revenue and for the Regulation of Trade. I have looked for our Rights in the Laws of Nature — but could not find them in a State of Nature, but always in a State of political Society.

Joseph Galloway, Pennsylvania —

I have ever thought We might reduce our Rights to one. An Exemption from all Laws made by British Parliament, made since the Emigration of our Ancestors. It follows therefore that all the Acts of Parliament made since, are Violations of our Rights.

I am well aware that my Arguments tend to an Independency of the Colonies, and militate against the Maxim that there must be some absolute Power to draw together all the Wills and strength of the Empire.

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September 26–27, 1774

These quotes are taken from the diary of John Adams. Richard Henry Lee of South Carolina had made a motion for a Non Importation Agreement between the colonies. Congress eventually agreed to the trade boycott and determined to begin on December 1.

Christopher Gadsden, South Carolina —

Boston and New England cant hold out — the Country will be deluged in Blood, if We dont Act with Spirit. Dont let America look at this Mountain, and let it bring forth a Mouse.

Edward Rutledge, South Carolina —

I am both for Non Im and Exportation to take Place immediately.

Thomas Cushing, Massachusetts —

I think it absolutely necessary to agree to a Non Importation Non Exportation immediately.

September 28, 1774

These quotes are taken from the diary of John Adams. Congress continued the debate on the Non Importation Agreement.

Joseph Galloway, Pennsylvania —

The Proposal I intended to make having been opposed, I have waited to hear a more effectual one. A general Non Importation from G. Britain and Ireland has been adopted, but I think this will be too gradual in its Operation for the Relief of Boston.

A General Non Exportation, I have ever looked on as an indigested Proposition. It is impossible America can exist, under a total Non Exportation. We in this Province should have tens of Thousands of People thrown upon the cold Hand of Charity.

Our Ships would lie by the Walls, our Seamen would be thrown out of Bread, our Shipwrights &c. out of Employ and it would affect the landed Interest. It would weaken us in another Struggle which I fear is too near.

To explain my Plan I must state a Number of facts relative to Great Britain, and relative to America.

I hope no facts which I shall state will be disagreable.

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In the last War, America was in the greatest Danger of Destruction. This was held up by the Massa. [Massachusetts] and by the Congress in 1754. They said We are disunited among ourselves. Their is no indifferent Arbiter between us.

Requisitions came over. A No. of the Colonies gave most extensively and liberally, others gave nothing, or late. Pensylvania gave late, not for Want of Zeal or Loyalty, but owing to their Disputes, with Proprietors — their disunited State.

These Delinquencies were handed up to the Parent State, and these gave Occasion to the Stamp Act.

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America with the greatest Reason and justice complained of the Stamp Act.

Had they proposed some Plan of Policy — some Negociation but set afoot, it would have terminated in the most happy Harmony between the two Countries.

They repealed the Stamp Act, but they passed the declaratory Act.

Without some Supream Legislature, some common Arbiter, you are not, say they, part of the State.

I am as much a friend of Liberty [as] exists — and No Man shall go  [illegible]  further, in Point of Fortune, or in Point of Blood, than the Man who now addresses you.

Burlamaqui, Grotius, Puffendorf, Hooker. — There must be an Union of Wills and Strength. Distinction between a State and a Multitude. A State is animated by one Soul.

As We are not within the Circle of the Supream Jurisdiction of the Parliament, We are independent States. The Law of Great Britain dont bind us in any Case whatever.

We want the Aid and Assistance and Protection of the Arm of our Mother Country. Protection And Allegiance are reciprocal Duties. Can We lay claim to the Money and Protection of G. Britain upon any Principles of Honour or Conscience? Can We wish to become Aliens to the Mother State.

We must come upon Terms with G. Britain.

Some Gentlemen are not for Negociation. I wish I could hear some Reason against it.

The Minister must be at 20, or 30 millions [expense] to inforce his measures.

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I propose this Proposition. The Plan. — 2 Classes of Laws. 1 . Laws of Internal Policy. 2. Laws in which more than one Colony were concerned, raising Money for War. — No one Act can be done, without the Assent of Great Britain. — No one without the Assent of America. A British American Legislature.

James Duane, New York —

As I mean to second this Motion, I think myself bound to lay before the Congress my Reasons. N. York thought it necessary to have a Congress for the Relief of Boston and Mass. — and to do more, to lay a Plan for a lasting Accommodation with G. Britain.

Whatever may have been the Motive for departing from the first Plan of the Congress, I am unhappy that We have departed from it.The Post Office Act was before the Year 1763. — Can we expect lasting Tranquility. I have given my full Assent to a Non Im and Exportation Agreement.

The Right of regulating Trade, from the local Circumstances of the Colonies, and their Disconnection with each other, cannot be exercised by the Colonies.

Mass. disputed the Navigation Act, because not represented, but made a Law of their own, to inforce that Act.

Virginia did the same nearly.

I think we should justice requires that we should expressly ceed to Parliament the Right of regulating Trade.

In the Congress in 1754 which consisted of the greatest and best Men in the Colonies, this was considered as indispensable.

A civil War with America, would involve a national Bankruptcy.

Richard Henry Lee, South Carolina —

How did We go on for 160 Years before the Year 1763? — We flourished and grew.

This Plan would make such Changes in the Legislatures of the Colonies that I could not agree to it, without consulting my Constituents.

John Jay, New York —

I am led to adopt this Plan.

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It is objected that this Plan will alter our Constitutions and therefore cannot be adopted without consulting Constituents.

Does this Plan give up any one Liberty? — or interfere with any one Right.

Patrick Henry, Virginia —

The original Constitution of the Colonies, was founded on the broadest and most generous Base.

The Regulation of Our Trade, was Compensation enough for all the Protection we ever experienced from her.

Edward Rutledge, New York —

I came with an Idea of getting a Bill of Rights, and a Plan of permanent Relief.

I think the Plan may be freed from almost every objection. I think it almost a perfect Plan.

Joseph Galloway, Pennsylvania —

In every Government, Patriarchal, Monarchical,Aristocratical or democratical, there must be a Supream Legislature.  [illegible]

I know of no American Constitution. A Virginia Constitution, a Pensylvanian Constitution We have. We are totally independent of each other.

Every Gentleman here thinks, that Parliament ought to have the Power over Trade, because Britain protects it and us.

Why then will we not declare it.

Because Parliament and Ministry is wicked, and corrupt and will take Advantage of such Declaration to tax us — and will also Reason from this Acknowledgment, to further Power over us.

Answer. We shall not be bound further than We acknowledge it.

Is it not necessary that the Trade of the Empire should be regulated by some Power or other? Can the Empire hold together, without it.No. — Who shall regulate it? Shall the Legislature of Nova Scotia, or Georgia, regulate it? Mass. or Virginia? Pensylvania or N. York. It cant be pretended. Our Legislative Powers extend no farther than the Limits of our Governments. Where then shall it be placed. There is a Necessity that an American Legislature should be set up, or else that We should give the Power to Parliament or King.

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Source: Massachusetts Historical Society.

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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title First Continental Congress Quotes
  • Coverage September 5, 1774–October 26, 1774
  • Author
  • Keywords First Continental Congress, American Revolution
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date December 5, 2022
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update October 5, 2022

First Continental Congress Quotes is Part of the Following on AHC

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