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The Continental Congress Essay

2107 words - 9 pages

The Continental Congress met in one of the most conservative of the seaport towns from which the revolutionary movement stemmed. Philadelphia patriots complained that there was more Toryism in Pennsylvania than in all the colonies combined; certainly the Quakers who dominated the province were more concerned in putting down radicalism at home than resisting tyranny from abroad. The character of the delegates who assembled in Philadelphia in September 1774 was likewise a good augury to the conservatives. The Continental Congress was composed of \"the ablest and wealthiest men in America\"; Chatham pronounced it to be \"the most honourable Assembly of Statesmen since those of the ancient ...view middle of the document...

\"Good God,\" exclaimed a Virginian, \"were we not abject slaves (in 1763)? We wanted but the name. . . . It was not till 1763 that we were openly insulted, and treated as slaves\" (Virginia Gazette, Purdie) By returning to 1763 fundamental grievances would be untouched: American trade and manufactures would be cramped by British restrictions; colonial laws would have to be approved by the British government; and Americans would \"always be peeled and pillaged\" for the benefit of English pensioners and courtiers. Moreover, the sacrifices already made for American liberty would have been in vain if such a poor palliative were accepted as the terms of peace (Principles and Acts of the Revolution). The \"blood and treasure\" already expended by Americans, exclaimed the radicals, and made reconciliation impossible except upon the colonists own terms. Thus the blood of the \"precious Sons of Liberty\" spilled in the cause of liberty was used to silence the advocates of reconciliation. Now that men were being asked to die, a richer reward than a return to 1763 had to be offered for their sacrifice (American Archives, Fourth Series).

The radicals in the Continental Congress rejoiced that Great Britains \"unexampled cruelties\" now barred the path of compromise. They proposed to gird for war before another blow could be struck. Their program was to open American ports to foreign powers; construct a navy; set up state governments; break off negotiations with Great Britain; seize the Tories and hold them as hostages.

Thus far, the radical policy of relying mainly upon events to bring the issue of independence before the people was fully vindicated. Disillusionment with English liberalism was widespread; \"measures short of war\" had been discredited; and the United Colonies had undertaken an armed invasion of part of the British Empire. And there were other evidences that Americans were moving steadily in the direction of independence even though they failed to read the signposts.

The Continental Congress was taking long strides in that direction as it strove to prepare the colonies for the inevitable struggle with Great Britain. On July 15, Congress resolved to relax the Association to permit the importation of military supplies; and in September a secret committee was appointed to take charge of the importation of powder and munitions. In August 1775, Congress rejected Lord Norths conciliatory plan. In November, news was received that no answer would be given the \"Olive Branch\" petition, and the Kings proclamation declaring the American colonies in a state of rebellion reached Philadelphia. Congress responded by creating the Committee of Secret Correspondence, later known as the Committee for Foreign Affairs; and in December authorization was given for the construction of an American navy.

When the American Revolution began, the British supposedly controlled the seas, but the colonial army was still successfully supplied with gunpowder...

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