The First Continental Congress met in Philadelphia on September 5th, 1774, and it was made up of delegates from 12 of the 13 Colonies.
So, this Continental Congress was called when there was a lot of turmoil between the 13 Colonies in North America, and Britain, who was supposed to be the country that was in charge of these colonies.
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The transcript if for your convenience.
Now, the colonies weren’t cooperating with what Britain wanted them to do, and the colonists felt like they weren’t being treated fairly, so they didn’t feel any urge to cooperate. However, they didn’t want to go to full-scale war with Britain, so they came up with the First Continental Congress. They sent delegates from 12 of the 13 Colonies to try to solve this problem. Georgia did not send a delegate because they were having problems on their frontier with Indians, and were hoping that Britain would help them with that, and so they didn’t want to get involved in the Continental Congress because they were afraid that Britain wouldn’t help them, and they had their own issues with the Indians at their borders, Indians being the Native Americans.
So, at the First Continental Congress, these 12 delegates had a goal, and their goal was to achieve a peaceful agreement with Britain. They did not want to go to full-scale war with Britain. They knew that Britain was very powerful, they would be outnumbered if they sent a bunch of people over there. And they just basically wanted to get along but not be treated unfairly. So, the Congress affirmed loyalty to Britain and agreed to let Parliament dictate foreign affairs in the colonies. So, they said, “Okay, Britain, we’re loyal to you. Parliament can say what goes on with the foreign affairs in the colonies.” However, these colonists demanded that the Intolerable Acts be repealed, and the Intolerable Acts were a series of laws or taxes that were enforced, and some of them were taxes on goods that were just unbelievably high, and weren’t really warranted.
Britain was just being greedy and wanted to make more money off of things, and they needed to. And some of the other ones were just things that seemed unreasonable, they were forced to quarter British soldiers in their homes whether they wanted to or not, and this just led to a lot of different things where they felt like their rights were being invaded, and they also didn’t have representation back in Britain. There weren’t an equal number of colonists over there in Parliament to represent them, so they felt like they shouldn’t be paying as much in taxes. So, there were a lot of different issues going on there, but the main thing that the colonists wanted was to have these different laws, known as the Intolerable Acts, repealed, and they instituted a trade embargo with Britain until this happened.
So, they said, “Okay, we’re not trading with Britain anymore. We’re not going to buy any more of their stuff, we’re not going to ship through any more of our stuff until they repeal the Intolerable Acts. Otherwise, if they did that, we’d be happy to say ‘we’re loyal to Britain, Parliament can be in charge of foreign affairs over here in the colonies.’” That is not what happened. They did not reach their peaceful agreement. King George III of Britain declared the colonies must submit. They must do as Britain was saying, or face military action. So, they had been threatened now. “We aren’t ing to all this,” is what Britain is saying, King George was saying. “We don’t care that you want to be peaceful. You want this repealed, we’re not doing any of that. You to us. If there’s going to be military action, there will be consequences.”
So, assemblies gathered weapons and formed militias – groups of citizen armies, basically. And these assemblies gathered in all of the colonies, each colony had an assembly, and it was basically just a group that had collected weapons and sort of formed a militia. The British did not like the assemblies meeting. They didn’t want them getting together, making any plans. So, they were supposed to break up any assemblies that they wandered onto, and on April 19th,1775, the British military was ordered to end a meeting of the Massachusetts assembly. Now, the armed colonists that were in the assembly, because remember, they gathered weapons and had formed militias, the armed colonists resisted the British soldiers, and battles ensued on the Lexington Common. Now, these battles became known as the Battles of Lexington and Concord, because that is where the battles between the British military and these armed colonists that were part of the Massachusetts assembly occurred. And the Battles of Lexington and Concord became the first battles of the American Revolution.
So, the colonists tried to come to a peaceful solution, it didn’t work out. King George said, “You’re going to, or there’s going to be military action.” When the colonists resisted and didn’t , there was military action, battles ensued, and the Battles of Lexington and Concord became the first battles of the American Revolution. So, war has started. Now, we come to the Second Continental Congress. Clearly, their solutions that they came up with up here did not work, so the delegates met again. This time, delegates from all 13 colonies came. Georgia was included, Georgia realized, “Britain’s not helping me with my Indian problem. I need to join with the rest of the colonies.” So, delegates from all 13 colonies met in Philadelphia on May 10th, 1775, less than a month after Lexington and Concord. So, this is April 19th. On May 10th, less than a month after Lexington and Concord, they met. They realized, “Hey, the British means business. They’re clearly not going to come to a peaceful solution like we wanted. They’re not going to repeal the Intolerable Acts. We have to form our own army. We’ve got to figure out what we’re going to do, because Britain is definitely going to fight back.”
So, they focused on the defense of the American colonies, and local government. Since Britain had been in charge of their government before, they had to come up with their own local government system. So, part of what they did was work on local government, part of what they did was talk about their defense. What were they going to do? So, the delegates also discussed declaring independence from Britain, and this was a drastic thing because Britain was controlling all of them, but they said, “You know what? We can declare ourselves independent from Britain. They’re fighting us, they don’t want to do what we want, it’s hard to get across that whole big ocean to be over there and actually be representing the Parliament. Why not just have our own separate country over here?” And many delegates were in favor of this option. So, they established an army and named George Washington commander-in-chief.
Now, at this point, they did not decide to declare independence. They discussed declaring independence from Britain. Many were in favor, but they hadn’t declared it yet. They did establish an army and made George Washington commander-in-chief, they did discuss the defense of the American colonies which resulted in this army, and they set up a provisional local government, an idea for how that was going to be run. However, by 1776, the delegates realized there was no turning back from full scale war with Britain, and after this was over, there was no way they were going to patch things up. So, they drafted the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776.
So, your First Continental Congress was about trying to find a peaceful solution with Britain. The Second Continental Congress decided there can’t be a peaceful solution, Britain’s definitely going to fight us and is not going to give in, so they decided to form their own army. They chose a leader, and eventually, they drafted the Declaration of Independence to declare themselves independent of Britain.
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