First Steps to Governing a Revolution

No matter what day or event one wants to use for the start of the American Revolution, our forefathers faced many problems that had to be overcome. Raising an army and navy was just one of many and if there was a list, they wasn’t number one or two.

Governance and money was. This post covers the events that led to the formation of the Second Continental Congress that managed our revolution. Future posts will cover the Articles of Confederation; how our revolution was funded; and how the four Intolerable Acts led to clauses in our Constitution.

No matter what date one uses for the start of the revolution – the Boston Tea Party (12/16/1773), or the Battle of Fort William and Henry (12/14/1775) or the Battle of Lexington and Concord (4/19/1776), there was no central governing body to lead and manage the war. At the time, we were thirteen British colonies with separate governing charters.

The formal push for a central government began in July, 1754, in the midst of the French and Indian War with the release of The Albany Plan. Named after the city in which the Albany Congress was held, its state purpose was to “unite the colonies under one government as far as might be necessary for defense and other general important purposes.” It suggestions were rejected by all thirteen Colonial assemblies and the British Parliament.

In early 1774, the British Parliaments passed what we called the Intolerable Acts as a reaction to the Tea Party. In the U.K., they are known as the Coercive Acts and were an attempt to punish the colonies by making an example of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Our response was convening the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia on September 5th, 1774.

The First Continental Congress sent entreaties to King George III asking him to repeal or modify the Intolerable Acts. They were ignored.

Nonetheless, the congress achieved three goals – one, it brought representatives from all thirteen colonies together to present a united front. Two, the colonies agreed to boycott British goods beginning December 1st, 1774 and not to export goods to Great Britain. Only New York’s Colonial House of Assembly did not ratify the agreement, yet data shows imports from the U.K. dropped by 97% by the end of 1775.

And, number three was the members agreed to convene a Second Continental Congress.

When the Second Continental Congress was convened on May 10th, 1775, the country was marching toward war. On July 6th, 1775, the Second Continental Congress passed the Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms. In it, the colonists stated their objections to the imposition of taxes without representation in the British Parliament; extended use of jury-less Vice Admiralty Courts to adjudicate local legal matters not related to maritime cases; the Intolerable Acts and the Declaratory Act of 1766 that re-asserted Parliament’s absolute power to make laws and govern the colonies as it saw fit.

This bold statement was largely written by Thomas Jefferson and is known as the Lee Resolution. It was adopted 363 days before the Declaration of Independence was written and before the fighting started.

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