The Continental Congress was a convention of delegates called together from the Thirteen Colonies that became the governing body of the United States during the American Revolution.
The Congress met from 1774 to 1789 in three incarnations. The first call for a convention was made over issues of the Intolerable Acts penalizing Massachusetts. Though at first divided on independence and a break from Crown rule, the new Congress in July 1776 gave a unanimous vote for independence, issued the Declaration of Independence as a new nation, the United States of America. It established a Continental Army, giving command to one of its members George Washington of Virginia. It waged war with Britain, made a military treaty with France, and funded the war effort with loans and paper money.
In this article, inhabitants of the Thirteen Colonies of British America that supported the American Revolution are primarily referred to as "Americans," with occasional references to "Patriots," "Whigs," "Rebels" or "Revolutionaries." Colonists who supported the British in opposing the Revolution are usually referred to as "Loyalists" or "Tories." The geographical area of the thirteen colonies is often referred to simply as "America".
The American Revolution was a political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America. They first rejected the authority of the Parliament of Great Britain to govern them and then expelled all royal officials. By 1774 each colony had established a Provincial Congress or an equivalent governmental institution to govern itself, but still recognized the British Crown and their inclusion in the empire. The British responded by sending combat troops to re-establish royalist control. Through the Second Continental Congress, the Americans then managed the armed conflict in response to the British known as the American Revolutionary War (also: American War of Independence, 1775–83).
Pennsylvania, like many other colonies, was involved with the war and developing problem of the American Revolution.
The history of the United States as covered in American schools and universities typically begins with either Christopher Columbus's 1492 voyage to the Americas or with the prehistory of the Native peoples, with the latter approach having become increasingly common in recent decades.
Indigenous peoples lived in what is now the United States for thousands of years and developed complex cultures before European colonists began to arrive, mostly from England, after 1600. The Spanish had early settlements in Florida and the Southwest, and the French along the Mississippi River and Gulf Coast. By the 1770s, thirteen British colonies contained two and a half million people along the Atlantic coast, east of the Appalachian Mountains. The colonies were prosperous and growing rapidly, and had developed their own autonomous political and legal systems. After driving the French out of North America in 1763, the British imposed a series of new taxes while rejecting the American argument that taxes required representation in Parliament. "No taxation without representation" became the American catch phrase. Tax resistance, especially the Boston Tea Party of 1774, led to punishment by Parliament designed to end self-government in Massachusetts. All 13 colonies united in a Congress that led to armed conflict in April 1775. On July 4, 1776, the Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence drafted by Thomas Jefferson, proclaimed that all men are created equal, and founded a new nation, the United States of America.
The Age of Enlightenment (or simply the Enlightenment or Age of Reason) was a cultural movement of intellectuals beginning in the late 17th and 18th century Europe emphasizing reason and individualism rather than tradition. Its purpose was to reform society using reason, challenge ideas grounded in tradition and faith, and advance knowledge through the scientific method. It promoted scientific thought, skepticism, and intellectual interchange. It opposed superstition and intolerance, with the Catholic Church a favorite target. Some Enlightenment philosophes collaborated with Enlightened despots, who were absolute rulers who tried out some of the new governmental ideas in practice. The ideas of the Enlightenment have had a long-term major impact on the culture, politics, and governments of the Western world.
Originating about 1650 to 1700, it was sparked by philosophers Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677), John Locke (1632–1704), Pierre Bayle (1647–1706), Voltaire (1694–1778) and physicist Isaac Newton (1643–1727). Ruling princes often endorsed and fostered these figures and even attempted to apply their ideas of government in what was known as enlightened absolutism. The Scientific Revolution is closely tied to the Enlightenment, as its discoveries overturned many traditional concepts and introduced new perspectives on nature and man's place within it. The Enlightenment flourished until about 1790–1800, after which the emphasis on reason gave way to Romanticism's emphasis on emotion, and a Counter-Enlightenment gained force.
The Intolerable (Coercive) Acts was the Patriot name for a series of punitive laws passed by the British Parliament in 1774 relating to Massachusetts after the Boston Tea party. The acts stripped Massachusetts of self-government and historic rights, triggering outrage and resistance in the Thirteen Colonies. They were key developments in the outbreak of the American Revolution in 1775.
Four of the acts were issued in direct response to the Boston Tea Party of December 1773; the British Parliament hoped these punitive measures would, by making an example of Massachusetts, reverse the trend of colonial resistance to parliamentary authority that had begun with the 1765 Stamp Act. A fifth act, the Quebec Act, enlarged the boundaries of what was then the Province of Quebec and instituted reforms generally favorable to the French Catholic inhabitants of the region; although unrelated to the other four Acts, it was passed in the same legislative session and seen by the colonists as one of the Intolerable Acts.
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 substantial when considering the limitations imposed upon the Patriot supply pool.
The main goal of the navy was to intercept shipments of British matériel and generally disrupt British maritime commercial operations. Because of the lack of funding, manpower and resources, the initial fleet consisted of converted merchantmen, with exclusively-designed warships being built later in the conflict. Of the vessels that successfully made it to sea, their success was rare and the effort contributed little to the overall outcome of the rebellion.
The Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress (also known as the Declaration of Colonial Rights, or the Declaration of Rights), was a statement adopted by the First Continental Congress on October 14, 1774, in response to the Intolerable Acts passed by the British Parliament. The Declaration outlined colonial objections to the Intolerable Acts, listed a colonial bill of rights, and provided a detailed list of grievances. It was similar to the Declaration of Rights and Grievances, passed by the Stamp Act Congress a decade earlier.
The Declaration concluded with an outline of Congress's plans: to enter into a boycott of British trade (the Continental Association) until their grievances were redressed, to publish addresses to the people of Great Britain and British America, and to send a petition to the King.
The Papers of the Continental Congress are official records from the first three representative bodies of the original United Colonies and ultimately the United States of America. The First Continental Congress was formed in 1774 to address "intolerable acts" by the British Parliament. It ultimately formed the Second Continental Congress in May 1775 which, through 1781, was famously responsible for the Declaration of Independence and many critical articles establishing the United States of America. The Congress of the Confederation (1781–1789) immediately succeeded it after ratification of the Articles of Confederation and lasted through the end of the War for American Independence.
These are the important papers, letters, treaties, reports and assorted records—famous and obscure—relating to the formation of the United States government. While they contain exceedingly important reports, many of which may be well-known, they also contain much covering the day-to-day government of a fledgling country.