Continental Congress

Continental Congress

Overview
The Continental Congress was a convention of delegates called together from the Thirteen Colonies that became the governing body of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 during the American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

.

The Congress met from 1774 to 1789 in three incarnations. The first call for a convention was made over issues of mounting taxation without representation in Parliament
Parliament of Great Britain
The Parliament of Great Britain was formed in 1707 following the ratification of the Acts of Union by both the Parliament of England and Parliament of Scotland...

 and because of the British blockade. Though at first somewhat divided on issues concerning independence and a break from Crown rule, the new Congress would come to issue a Declaration of Independence and a Constitution, and proclaim the name United States of America as the name of the new nation.
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Timeline

1774   First Continental Congress assembles in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

1774   The first Continental Congress adjourns in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

1775   American Revolutionary War: the Continental Congress bans trade with Canada.

1775   American Revolutionary War: the Continental Army is established by the Continental Congress, marking the birth of the United States Army.

1775   The Olive Branch Petition is signed by the Continental Congress of the Thirteen Colonies.

1776   American Revolution: the Virginia Convention instructs its Continental Congress delegation to propose a resolution of independence from Great Britain, paving the way for the United States Declaration of Independence.

1776   Richard Henry Lee presents the "Lee Resolution" to the Continental Congress. The motion is seconded by John Adams and leads to the United States Declaration of Independence.

1776   The Continental Congress appoints Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston to the Committee of Five to draft a declaration of independence.

1776   The Continental Congress officially names its new union of sovereign states the United States.

1777   American Revolutionary War: Marquis de Lafayette lands near Charleston, South Carolina, in order to help the Continental Congress to train its army.

 
Encyclopedia
The Continental Congress was a convention of delegates called together from the Thirteen Colonies that became the governing body of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 during the American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

.

The Congress met from 1774 to 1789 in three incarnations. The first call for a convention was made over issues of mounting taxation without representation in Parliament
Parliament of Great Britain
The Parliament of Great Britain was formed in 1707 following the ratification of the Acts of Union by both the Parliament of England and Parliament of Scotland...

 and because of the British blockade. Though at first somewhat divided on issues concerning independence and a break from Crown rule, the new Congress would come to issue a Declaration of Independence and a Constitution, and proclaim the name United States of America as the name of the new nation. It would establish a Continental Army and also have to endure a war with Britain, before fruition of an independent Constitutional government was fully realized among the American colonies.

First Continental Congress


The First Continental Congress
First Continental Congress
The First Continental Congress was a convention of delegates from twelve of the thirteen North American colonies that met on September 5, 1774, at Carpenters' Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, early in the American Revolution. It was called in response to the passage of the Coercive Acts by the...

, which met briefly in Carpenter's Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from September 5, to October 26, in 1774 and consisted of fifty-six delegates from twelve of the Thirteen Colonies
Thirteen Colonies
The Thirteen Colonies were English and later British colonies established on the Atlantic coast of North America between 1607 and 1733. They declared their independence in the American Revolution and formed the United States of America...

 that would become the United States of America. The delegates which included George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

, then a colonel of the Virginia volunteers, Patrick Henry
Patrick Henry
Patrick Henry was an orator and politician who led the movement for independence in Virginia in the 1770s. A Founding Father, he served as the first and sixth post-colonial Governor of Virginia from 1776 to 1779 and subsequently, from 1784 to 1786...

, and John Adams
John Adams
John Adams was an American lawyer, statesman, diplomat and political theorist. A leading champion of independence in 1776, he was the second President of the United States...

, were elected by their respective colonial assemblies. Other notable delegates included Samuel Adams
Samuel Adams
Samuel Adams was an American statesman, political philosopher, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. As a politician in colonial Massachusetts, Adams was a leader of the movement that became the American Revolution, and was one of the architects of the principles of American...

 from Massachusetts Bay, and Joseph Galloway
Joseph Galloway
Joseph Galloway was an American Loyalist during the American Revolution, after serving as delegate to the First Continental Congress from Pennsylvania.-Early life:...

 and John Dickinson
John Dickinson (delegate)
John Dickinson was an American lawyer and politician from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Wilmington, Delaware. He was a militia officer during the American Revolution, a Continental Congressman from Pennsylvania and Delaware, a delegate to the U.S. Constitutional Convention of 1787, President of...

 from Pennsylvania.

Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin
Dr. Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat...

 had put forth the idea of such a meeting the year before but was unable to convince the colonies of its necessity until the British placed a blockade at the Port of Boston in response to the Boston Tea Party
Boston Tea Party
The Boston Tea Party was a direct action by colonists in Boston, a town in the British colony of Massachusetts, against the British government and the monopolistic East India Company that controlled all the tea imported into the colonies...

 in 1773. All of the colonies sent their delegates except Georgia, who had its own troubles and needed the protection of British soldiers. Most of the delegates were not yet ready to break away from Great Britain, but they wanted the British King and Parliament
Parliament of Great Britain
The Parliament of Great Britain was formed in 1707 following the ratification of the Acts of Union by both the Parliament of England and Parliament of Scotland...

 to act more fairly. Convened in response to the Intolerable Acts
Intolerable Acts
The Intolerable Acts or the Coercive Acts are names used to describe a series of laws passed by the British Parliament in 1774 relating to Britain's colonies in North America...

 passed by the British Parliament in 1774, the delegates organized an economic boycott of Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

 in protest and petitioned the King
Petition to the King (1774)
The Petition to the King was a petition sent to George III of Great Britain by the First Continental Congress. The petition expressed loyalty to the king and hoped for redress of grievances relating to the Intolerable Acts and other issues that helped foment the American Revolution.-Further...

 for a redress of grievances. The colonies were united in their effort to demonstrate their authority to Great Britain by virtue of their common causes and through their unity, but their ultimate objectives were not consistent. Pennsylvania and New York had sent delegates with firm instructions to pursue a resolution with Great Britain. While the other colonies all held the idea of colonial rights as paramount they were split between those who sought legislative equality with Britain and those who instead favored independence and a break from the Crown and its excesses. On October 26, 1774 the First Continental Congress adjourned but agreed to reconvene in May 1775 if Parliament still did not address their grievances. In London, Parliament debated the merits of meeting the demands made by the colonies; however, it took no official notice of Congress's petitions and addresses. On November 30, 1774, King George III opened Parliament with a speech condemning Massachusetts and the Suffolk Resolves
Suffolk Resolves
The Suffolk Resolves was a declaration made on September 9, 1774 by the leaders of Suffolk County, Massachusetts, of which Boston is the major city. The convention that adopted them first met at the Woodward Tavern in Dedham, which is today the site of the Norfolk County Courthouse...

. At that point it became clear that the Continental Congress would have to convene once again.

Second Continental Congress


By the time the Second Continental Congress
Second Continental Congress
The Second Continental Congress was a convention of delegates from the Thirteen Colonies that started meeting on May 10, 1775, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, soon after warfare in the American Revolutionary War had begun. It succeeded the First Continental Congress, which met briefly during 1774,...

 met on May 10, 1775 in Philadelphia, the Battles of Lexington and Concord had already begun in April, and while delegates were still making their way to Philadelphia, which marked the beginning of the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

.

John Hancock
John Hancock
John Hancock was a merchant, statesman, and prominent Patriot of the American Revolution. He served as president of the Second Continental Congress and was the first and third Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts...

 from Massachusetts was elected president of the assembly. Congress issued a petition entitled "The Declaration of Rights and Grievances" to King George III, the King of Great Britain. The Delegates adopted a strategy where the colonies would prepare for war while the Congress continued to pursue reconciliation. On July 8 the Congress adopted a petition to the king in the hopes that he would intervene in Parliament
Parliament of Great Britain
The Parliament of Great Britain was formed in 1707 following the ratification of the Acts of Union by both the Parliament of England and Parliament of Scotland...

 on behalf of the colonies. A former governor of Pennsylvania was chosen to carry another petition, approved in July 1775, to London and present it to the king himself but the king refused to see him. On August 23 he issued a proclamation declaring the colonies to be in a state of "open and avowed rebellion." Moderates in the Congress still hoped that the colonies could be reconciled with Great Britain, but a movement towards independence steadily gained ground. On June 17 the Battle of Bunker Hill
Battle of Bunker Hill
The Battle of Bunker Hill took place on June 17, 1775, mostly on and around Breed's Hill, during the Siege of Boston early in the American Revolutionary War...

 energized the Patriots; Congress established the Continental Army
Continental Army
The Continental Army was formed after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War by the colonies that became the United States of America. Established by a resolution of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, it was created to coordinate the military efforts of the Thirteen Colonies in...

 and appointed George Washington as commander-in-chief in June 1775. On July 4, 1776 Congress issued a Declaration of Independence
United States Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence was a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies then at war with Great Britain regarded themselves as independent states, and no longer a part of the British Empire. John Adams put forth a...

, ending all American efforts at reconciliation. Congress designed a new government in the Articles of Confederation
Articles of Confederation
The Articles of Confederation, formally the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, was an agreement among the 13 founding states that legally established the United States of America as a confederation of sovereign states and served as its first constitution...

, which operated as the nation's constitution.

Confederation Congress


The newly-founded country of the United States next had to create a new government to replace the British Parliament
Parliament of Great Britain
The Parliament of Great Britain was formed in 1707 following the ratification of the Acts of Union by both the Parliament of England and Parliament of Scotland...

 that it was in rebellion
Rebellion
Rebellion, uprising or insurrection, is a refusal of obedience or order. It may, therefore, be seen as encompassing a range of behaviors aimed at destroying or replacing an established authority such as a government or a head of state...

 against. After much debate, the Americans adopted the Articles of Confederation
Articles of Confederation
The Articles of Confederation, formally the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, was an agreement among the 13 founding states that legally established the United States of America as a confederation of sovereign states and served as its first constitution...

, a declaration that established a national government which was made up of a one-house legislature known as the Confederation Congress. Its ratification gave the Congress a new name: the Congress of the Confederation
Congress of the Confederation
The Congress of the Confederation or the United States in Congress Assembled was the governing body of the United States of America that existed from March 1, 1781, to March 4, 1789. It comprised delegates appointed by the legislatures of the states. It was the immediate successor to the Second...

, which met from 1781 to 1789. The Confederation Congress helped guide the United States through the final stages of the Revolutionary War, but during peacetime, the Continental Congress steeply declined in importance.

During peacetime, there were two important, long-lasting acts of the Confederation Congress:
  1. The passage of the Northwest Ordinance
    Northwest Ordinance
    The Northwest Ordinance was an act of the Congress of the Confederation of the United States, passed July 13, 1787...

     in 1787. This ordinance accepted the abolishment of all claims to the land west of Pennsylvania
    Pennsylvania
    The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

     and north of the Ohio River
    Ohio River
    The Ohio River is the largest tributary, by volume, of the Mississippi River. At the confluence, the Ohio is even bigger than the Mississippi and, thus, is hydrologically the main stream of the whole river system, including the Allegheny River further upstream...

     by the states of Pennsylvania, Virginia
    Virginia
    The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

    , New York, Connecticut
    Connecticut
    Connecticut is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island to the east, Massachusetts to the north, and the state of New York to the west and the south .Connecticut is named for the Connecticut River, the major U.S. river that approximately...

    , and Massachusetts
    Massachusetts
    The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

    , and the ordinance established Federal control over all of this land in the Northwest Territory
    Northwest Territory
    The Territory Northwest of the River Ohio, more commonly known as the Northwest Territory, was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from July 13, 1787, until March 1, 1803, when the southeastern portion of the territory was admitted to the Union as the state of Ohio...

     -- with the goal that several new states should be created there. In the course of time, this land was divided among Ohio
    Ohio
    Ohio is a Midwestern state in the United States. The 34th largest state by area in the U.S.,it is the 7th‑most populous with over 11.5 million residents, containing several major American cities and seven metropolitan areas with populations of 500,000 or more.The state's capital is Columbus...

    , Michigan
    Michigan
    Michigan is a U.S. state located in the Great Lakes Region of the United States of America. The name Michigan is the French form of the Ojibwa word mishigamaa, meaning "large water" or "large lake"....

    , Indiana
    Indiana
    Indiana is a US state, admitted to the United States as the 19th on December 11, 1816. It is located in the Midwestern United States and Great Lakes Region. With 6,483,802 residents, the state is ranked 15th in population and 16th in population density. Indiana is ranked 38th in land area and is...

    , Illinois
    Illinois
    Illinois is the fifth-most populous state of the United States of America, and is often noted for being a microcosm of the entire country. With Chicago in the northeast, small industrial cities and great agricultural productivity in central and northern Illinois, and natural resources like coal,...

    , Wisconsin
    Wisconsin
    Wisconsin is a U.S. state located in the north-central United States and is part of the Midwest. It is bordered by Minnesota to the west, Iowa to the southwest, Illinois to the south, Lake Michigan to the east, Michigan to the northeast, and Lake Superior to the north. Wisconsin's capital is...

    , and part of Minnesota
    Minnesota
    Minnesota is a U.S. state located in the Midwestern United States. The twelfth largest state of the U.S., it is the twenty-first most populous, with 5.3 million residents. Minnesota was carved out of the eastern half of the Minnesota Territory and admitted to the Union as the thirty-second state...

    .
  2. After years of frustration, an agreement was reached in 1787 to organize a Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia with the mission of writing and proposing a number of amendments to the Articles of Confederation in order to improve the form of government. In reality, the delegates to this Constitutional Convention soon decided that they needed to start over with a blank slate to write a new Constitution of the United States to completely replace the Articles of Confederation. Furthermore, the delegates agreed that the new Federal Government would come into effect upon the ratification of just nine of the States, rather than requiring unanimous consent as the Articles of Confederation did. Hence, the Confederation Congress peacefully planted the seeds of its own demise and replacement.


Under the Articles of Confederation, the Confederation Congress had little power to compel the individual states to comply with any of its decisions. More and more prospective delegates elected to the Confederation Congress declined to serve in it. The leading men in each State preferred to serve in the state governments, and thus the Continental Congress had frequent difficulties in establishing a quorum
Quorum
A quorum is the minimum number of members of a deliberative assembly necessary to conduct the business of that group...

. When the Articles of Confederation were superseded by the Constitution of the United States, the Confederation Congress was superseded by the United States Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

.

The Confederation Congress finally set up a suitable administrative structure for the Federal government. It put into operation a departmental system, with ministers of finance, of war, and of foreign affairs. Robert Morris was selected as the new Superintendent of Finance, and then Morris used some ingenuity and initiative -- along with a loan from the French Government -- to deal with his empty treasury and also runaway inflation, for a number of years, in the supply of paper money.

As the ambassador to France, Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin
Dr. Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat...

 not only secured the "bridge loan" for the national budget, but also he persuaded France to send an army of about 6,000 soldiers across the Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

 to America -- and also the dispatch of large squadron of French warship
Warship
A warship is a ship that is built and primarily intended for combat. Warships are usually built in a completely different way from merchant ships. As well as being armed, warships are designed to withstand damage and are usually faster and more maneuvrable than merchant ships...

s under Comte de Grasse to the coasts of Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

 and North Carolina
North Carolina
North Carolina is a state located in the southeastern United States. The state borders South Carolina and Georgia to the south, Tennessee to the west and Virginia to the north. North Carolina contains 100 counties. Its capital is Raleigh, and its largest city is Charlotte...

. These French warships proved to be decisive at the Battle of Yorktown
Battle of Yorktown
Battle of Yorktown may refer to:*Siege of Yorktown , last major battle during the American Revolutionary War, also known as the American War of Independence*Battle of Yorktown , a battle during the Peninsula campaign of the American Civil War...

 along the coast of Virginia by preventing Lord Cornwallis's British troops from receiving supplies, reinforcements, or evacuation via the James River
James River
The James River may refer to:Rivers in the United States and their namesakes* James River * James River , North Dakota, South Dakota* James River * James River * James River...

 and Hampton Roads
Hampton Roads
Hampton Roads is the name for both a body of water and the Norfolk–Virginia Beach metropolitan area which surrounds it in southeastern Virginia, United States...

, Virginia.

Robert Morris, the Minister of Finance, persuaded Congress set up the Bank of North America, in 1782. This bank was privately chartered, but it was funded in part by the loan from France. The Bank of North America played a major role in financing the war against the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was the formal name of the United Kingdom during the period when what is now the Republic of Ireland formed a part of it....

.

The combined armies of George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

 and Nathaniel Greene
Nathaniel Greene
Nathaniel Greene may refer to:*Nathanael Greene , American Revolutionary War general*Nathaniel Greene , American journalist...

, with the help of the French Army and Navy, defeated the British in the Battle of Yorktown during October 1781. Lord Cornwallis was forced to sue for peace and to surrender his entire army to General Washington. During 1783, the Americans secured the official recognition of the independence of the United States from the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 via negotiations with British diplomats in Paris, France. These negotiations culminated with the signing of the Treaty of Paris of 1783
Treaty of Paris (1783)
The Treaty of Paris, signed on September 3, 1783, ended the American Revolutionary War between Great Britain on the one hand and the United States of America and its allies on the other. The other combatant nations, France, Spain and the Dutch Republic had separate agreements; for details of...

, and this treaty was soon ratified by the British Parliament.

Timeline


1774
  • September 5: First Continental Congress
    First Continental Congress
    The First Continental Congress was a convention of delegates from twelve of the thirteen North American colonies that met on September 5, 1774, at Carpenters' Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, early in the American Revolution. It was called in response to the passage of the Coercive Acts by the...

     convened at Philadelphia’s Carpenter's Hall.
  • October 14: Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress
    Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress
    The Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress was a statement adopted by the First Continental Congress on October 14, 1774, in response to the Intolerable Acts passed by the British Parliament...

     adopted
  • October 18: Continental Association adopted
  • October 25: First Petition to the King
    Petition to the King (1774)
    The Petition to the King was a petition sent to George III of Great Britain by the First Continental Congress. The petition expressed loyalty to the king and hoped for redress of grievances relating to the Intolerable Acts and other issues that helped foment the American Revolution.-Further...

     signed
  • October 26: Congress adjourned, resolving to reconvene the following May if grievances are not redressed

1775
  • April 19: War began at the Battles of Lexington and Concord
    Battles of Lexington and Concord
    The Battles of Lexington and Concord were the first military engagements of the American Revolutionary War. They were fought on April 19, 1775, in Middlesex County, Province of Massachusetts Bay, within the towns of Lexington, Concord, Lincoln, Menotomy , and Cambridge, near Boston...

  • May 10: Second Continental Congress
    Second Continental Congress
    The Second Continental Congress was a convention of delegates from the Thirteen Colonies that started meeting on May 10, 1775, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, soon after warfare in the American Revolutionary War had begun. It succeeded the First Continental Congress, which met briefly during 1774,...

     convened at Philadelphia’s State House.
  • June 14: Congress established the Continental Army
    Continental Army
    The Continental Army was formed after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War by the colonies that became the United States of America. Established by a resolution of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, it was created to coordinate the military efforts of the Thirteen Colonies in...

  • June 15: Congress appointed one of its members, George Washington
    George Washington
    George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

    , as commander of the Continental Army
  • July 1: King George III Addresses Parliament stating they will "put a speedy end" to the rebellion
  • July 6: Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms
    Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms
    The Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms was a document issued by the Second Continental Congress on July 6, 1775, to explain why the Thirteen Colonies had taken up arms in what had become the American Revolutionary War...

     approved
  • July 8: Second petition to the king (the Olive Branch Petition
    Olive Branch Petition
    The Olive Branch Petition was adopted by the Continental Congress in July 1775 in an attempt to avoid a full-blown war with Great Britain. The petition affirmed American loyalty to Great Britain and entreated the king to prevent further conflict...

    ) signed
  • October 13: Congress established the Continental Navy
    Continental Navy
    The Continental Navy was the navy of the United States during the American Revolutionary War, and was formed in 1775. Through the efforts of the Continental Navy's patron, John Adams and vigorous Congressional support in the face of stiff opposition, the fleet cumulatively became relatively...

  • November 10: Congress established the Continental Marines
    Continental Marines
    The Continental Marines were the Marine force of the American Colonies during the American Revolutionary War. The corps was formed by the Continental Congress on November 10, 1775 and was disbanded in 1783. Their mission was multi-purpose, but their most important duty was to serve as on-board...



1776
  • January 10: Thomas Paine
    Thomas Paine
    Thomas "Tom" Paine was an English author, pamphleteer, radical, inventor, intellectual, revolutionary, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States...

     publishes Common Sense
    Common Sense (pamphlet)
    Common Sense is a pamphlet written by Thomas Paine. It was first published anonymously on January 10, 1776, during the American Revolution. Common Sense, signed "Written by an Englishman", became an immediate success. In relation to the population of the Colonies at that time, it had the largest...

  • July 2: Resolution of independence adopted, asserting the independence of the colonies from Britain
  • July 4: Final text of the United States Declaration of Independence
    United States Declaration of Independence
    The Declaration of Independence was a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies then at war with Great Britain regarded themselves as independent states, and no longer a part of the British Empire. John Adams put forth a...

     approved
  • August 2: Declaration of Independence signed in Congress
  • December 12: Congress adjourns to move to Baltimore, Maryland.
  • December 20: Congress convenes in Baltimore at Henry Fite’s House.

1777
  • February 27: Congress adjourns to return to Philadelphia.
  • March 4: Congress reconvenes at Philadelphia’s State House.
  • September 18: Congress adjourns in order to move to Lancaster, Pennsylvania
    Lancaster, Pennsylvania
    Lancaster is a city in the south-central part of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It is the county seat of Lancaster County and one of the older inland cities in the United States, . With a population of 59,322, it ranks eighth in population among Pennsylvania's cities...

    .
  • September 27: Congress convenes for one day in Lancaster, at the Court House.
  • September 30: Congress reconvenes at York, Pennsylvania
    York, Pennsylvania
    York, known as the White Rose City , is a city located in York County, Pennsylvania, United States which is in the South Central region of the state. The population within the city limits was 43,718 at the 2010 census, which was a 7.0% increase from the 2000 count of 40,862...

     at the Court House.
  • November 15: Congress issues the Articles of Confederation
    Articles of Confederation
    The Articles of Confederation, formally the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, was an agreement among the 13 founding states that legally established the United States of America as a confederation of sovereign states and served as its first constitution...

     to the states for approval

1778
  • June 27: Congress adjourns to return to Philadelphia.
  • July 2: Congress reconvenes in Philadelphia, first at College Hall
    College Hall (University of Pennsylvania)
    College Hall is the oldest building on the West Philadelphia campus of the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to its construction, the university was located on Ninth Street in Center City, Philadelphia. The building was designed by Thomas Webb Richards and completed in 1873...

    , then at the State House.

1781
  • March 1: Articles of Confederation go into effect, Congress becomes the Congress of the Confederation.

1783
  • June 21: Congress adjourns to move to Princeton, New Jersey.
  • June 30: Congress reconvenes in Princeton, New Jersey
    Princeton, New Jersey
    Princeton is a community located in Mercer County, New Jersey, United States. It is best known as the location of Princeton University, which has been sited in the community since 1756...

    , first at a house named “Prospect,” then Nassau Hall
    Nassau Hall
    Nassau Hall is the oldest building at Princeton University in the borough of Princeton, New Jersey . At the time it was built in 1754, Nassau Hall was the largest building in colonial New Jersey. Designed originally by Robert Smith, the building was subsequently remodeled by notable American...

    .
  • November 4: Congress adjourns to move to Annapolis, Maryland
    Annapolis, Maryland
    Annapolis is the capital of the U.S. state of Maryland, as well as the county seat of Anne Arundel County. It had a population of 38,394 at the 2010 census and is situated on the Chesapeake Bay at the mouth of the Severn River, south of Baltimore and about east of Washington, D.C. Annapolis is...

    .
  • November 26: Congress reconvenes at Annapolis, in the State House.

1784
  • August 19: Congress adjourns to move to Trenton, New Jersey
    Trenton, New Jersey
    Trenton is the capital of the U.S. state of New Jersey and the county seat of Mercer County. As of the 2010 United States Census, Trenton had a population of 84,913...

    .
  • November 1: Congress reconvenes at Trenton, at the French Arms Tavern
    French Arms Tavern
    The French Arms Tavern was a structure in Trenton, New Jersey that served as the capitol of the United States and meeting place of the Congress of the Confederation from November 1, 1784 to December 24, 1784. The building was located at the southwest corner of King and Second Streets from 1730...

    .
  • December 24: Congress adjourns to move to New York City

1785
  • January 11: Congress reconvenes in New York City, first at City Hall, then at Fraunces Tavern
    Fraunces Tavern
    Fraunces Tavern is a tavern, restaurant and museum housed in a conjectural reconstruction of a building that played a prominent role in pre-Revolution and American Revolution history. The building, located at 54 Pearl Street at the corner of Broad Street, has been owned by Sons of the Revolution in...

    .

1787
  • September 17: Philadelphia Convention
    Philadelphia Convention
    The Constitutional Convention took place from May 14 to September 17, 1787, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to address problems in governing the United States of America, which had been operating under the Articles of Confederation following independence from...

     adjourns after writing the United States Constitution
    United States Constitution
    The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...


1788
  • July 2: New Hampshire
    New Hampshire
    New Hampshire is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. The state was named after the southern English county of Hampshire. It is bordered by Massachusetts to the south, Vermont to the west, Maine and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Canadian...

     became the ninth state to ratify the US Constitution, thereby allowing for the creation of the new government.
  • July 8: Continental Congress puts the new Constitution into effect by announcing the dates for the elections and the assembly of the new Congress.
  • October 10: The last session during which the Continental Congress succeeded in achieving a quorum. The Continental Congress passed its last act on this date.

1789
  • March 2: Last session of the Continental Congress at Fraunces Tavern
    Fraunces Tavern
    Fraunces Tavern is a tavern, restaurant and museum housed in a conjectural reconstruction of a building that played a prominent role in pre-Revolution and American Revolution history. The building, located at 54 Pearl Street at the corner of Broad Street, has been owned by Sons of the Revolution in...

     is adjourned sine die
    Adjournment sine die
    Adjournment sine die means "without assigning a day for a further meeting or hearing". To adjourn an assembly sine die is to adjourn it for an indefinite period...

    . Philip Pell
    Philip Pell
    Philip Pell was an American politician and lawyer from Pelham Manor, New York. He was a delegate for New York to the Continental Congress in 1788 and 1789....

     of New York
    New York
    New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

     was the sole member in attendance.
  • March 4: First session of the 1st United States Congress
    1st United States Congress
    -House of Representatives:During this congress, five House seats were added for North Carolina and one House seat was added for Rhode Island when they ratified the Constitution.-Senate:* President: John Adams * President pro tempore: John Langdon...

     begins at Federal Hall
    Federal Hall
    Federal Hall, built in 1700 as New York's City Hall, later served as the first capitol building of the United States of America under the Constitution, and was the site of George Washington's inauguration as the first President of the United States. It was also where the United States Bill of...

    .
  • April 30: George Washington
    George Washington
    George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

     inaugurated as first President of the United States
    President of the United States
    The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

    .
  • July 23: Charles Thomson
    Charles Thomson
    Charles Thomson was a Patriot leader in Philadelphia during the American Revolution and the secretary of the Continental Congress throughout its existence.-Biography:...

     transmitted to President Washington his resignation of the office of Secretary of Congress.
  • July 25: In accordance with President Washington's directions, "the books, records, and papers of the late Congress, the Great Seal of the Federal Union
    Great Seal of the United States
    The Great Seal of the United States is used to authenticate certain documents issued by the United States federal government. The phrase is used both for the physical seal itself , and more generally for the design impressed upon it...

    , and the Seal of the Admiralty" were delivered over to Roger Alden, deputy secretary of the new Congress, who had been designated by President Washington as custodian for the time being.

See also

  • Albany Congress
    Albany Congress
    The Albany Congress, also known as the Albany Conference and "The Conference of Albany" or "The Conference in Albany", was a meeting of representatives from seven of the thirteen British North American colonies in 1754...

  • Stamp Act Congress
    Stamp Act Congress
    The Stamp Act Congress was a meeting on October 19, 1765 in New York City of representatives from some of the British colonies of North America. They discussed and acted upon the Stamp Act recently passed by the governing Parliament of Great Britain overseas, which did not include any...

  • List of delegates to the Continental Congress
  • American Revolution
    American Revolution
    The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...


Further reading

  • Fremont-Barnes, Gregory, and Richard A. Ryerson, eds. The Encyclopedia of the American Revolutionary War: A Political, Social, and Military History (5 vol. 2006) 1000 entries by 150 experts, covering all topics
  • Horgan, Lucille E. Forged in War: The Continental Congress and the Origin of Military Supply and Acquisition Policy (2002)
  • Irvin, Benjamin H. Clothed in Robes of Sovereignty: The Continental Congress and the People Out of Doors (Oxford University Press; 2011) 378 pages; analyzes the ritual and material culture used by the Continental Congress to assert its legitimacy and rally a wary public.
  • Jensen, Merrill. The Articles of Confederation: An Interpretation of the Social-Constitutional History of the American Revolution, 1774-1781 (1959) excerpt and text search
  • Resch, John P., ed. Americans at War: Society, Culture and the Homefront vol 1 (2005), articles by scholars

Primary sources

  • Smith, Paul H., ed. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 volumes. Washington: Library of Congress, 1976–1998.

External links