What Did the First Continental Congress Do?

The First Continental Congress convened in 1774 to organize opposition to the Coercive Acts, known to Americans as the Intolerable Acts. It drafted and sent a declaration of rights to London, organized a boycott of British goods and arranged for a Second Continental Congress if its demands were not met.

The Coercive Acts, a British response to the Boston Tea Party of 1773, closed the port of Boston, imposed martial law in Massachusetts, obliged colonists to house British troops and freed British officials from prosecution. Delegates from 12 of the 13 colonies met at the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia to formulate a response. They chose Peyton Randolph as president of the Congress. Other delegates included George Washington, John Adams and John Jay. The declaration of rights professed loyalty to England but denied Parliament’s right of taxation of the American colonies. Besides the cessation of imports from England, the delegates planned a future ban on exports to England.

The decision of the First Continental Congress to reconvene created an ongoing political body that functioned as the American government during the war. England ignored the demands of the colonists, and by the time the Second Continental Congress was convened in 1775, the Revolutionary War had begun. Among the tasks of the Second Continental Congress were the management of the war effort and drafting and signing of the Declaration of Independence.