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Formation of the Union By Albert Bushnell Hart Characters: 4562

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02

[Sidenote: Gage's quarrel with Massachusetts.]

The news of this series of coercive measures was hardly received in Massachusetts before General Gage appeared, bearing a commission to act as governor of the province; and in a few weeks the Port Bill and the modifications of the charter were put in force. If the governor supposed that Boston stood alone, he was quickly undeceived. From the other towns and from other colonies came supplies of food and sympathetic resolutions. On June 17th, under the adroit management of Samuel Adams, the General Court passed a resolution proposing a colonial congress, to begin September 1st at Philadelphia. While the resolutions were going through, the governor's messenger in vain knocked at the locked door, to communicate a proclamation dissolving the assembly. The place of that body was for a time taken by the Committee of Correspondence, in which Samuel Adams was the leading spirit, and by local meetings and conventions. In August, Gage came to an open breach with the people. In accordance with the Charter Act, he proceeded to appoint the so-called "mandamus" councillors. An irregularly elected Provincial Congress declared that it stood by the charter of 1692, under which the councillors were elected by the General Court. The first effect of the coercive acts was, therefore, to show that the people of Massachusetts stood together.

[Sidenote: Delegates chosen.]

[Sidenote: The Congress.]

Another effect was to enlist the sympathy of the other colonies. The movement for a congress plainly looked towards resistance and revolution. In vain did the governors dissolve the assemblies that seemed disposed to send delegates. Irregular congresses and conventions took their place, and all the colonies but Georgia somehow chose delegates. The first Continental Congress which assembled in Philadelphia on September 5, 1774, was, therefore, a body without any legal status. It included, however, some of the most influential men in America. From Massachusetts came Samuel Adams and John Adams; from New York, John Jay; from Virginia, Patrick Henry and George Washington. The general participation in this congress was an assurance that all America felt the danger of parliamentary control, and the outrage upon the right

s of their New England brethren.

[Sidenote: Declaration of Rights.]

This feeling was voiced in the action of the Congress. Early resolutions set forth approval of the action of Massachusetts. Then came the preparation of a "Declaration of Rights" of the colonies, and of their grievances. They declared that they were entitled to life, liberty, and property, and to the rights and immunities of free and natural born subjects within the realm of England. They denied the right of the British Parliament to legislate in cases of "taxation and internal polity," but "cheerfully consent to the operation of such Acts of the British Parliament as are bona fide restrained to the regulation of our external commerce." They protested against "the keeping up a standing army in these colonies in times of peace." They enumerated a long list of illegal Acts, including the coercive statutes and the Quebec Act.

[Sidenote: The Association.]

The only action of the First Continental Congress which had in any degree the character of legislation was the "Association,"-the only effective non-importation agreement in the whole struggle. The delegates united in a pledge that they would import no goods from England or other English colonies, and particularly no slaves or tea; and they recommended to the colonies to pass efficient legislation for carrying it out. The Revolutionary "congresses" and "conventions," and sometimes the legislatures themselves, passed resolutions and laid penalties. A more effective measure was open violence against people who persisted in importing, selling, or using British goods or slaves.

[Sidenote: Action of the Congress.]

The First Continental Congress was simply the mouthpiece of the colonies. It expressed in unmistakable terms a determination to resist what they considered aggressions; and it suggested as a legal and effective means of resistance that they should refuse to trade with the of mother-country. Its action, however, received the approval of an assembly or other representative body in each of the twelve colonies. Before it adjourned, the congress prepared a series of addresses and remonstrances, and voted that if no redress of grievances should have been obtained, a second congress should assemble in May, 1775.

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