The First Continental Congress



On the day when the operation of the Boston Port Bill was appointed to commence (June 1, 1774) all the commercial business of the capital of Massachusetts was concluded at noon, and the harbor of this flourishing town was closed, till the gathering storm of the Revolution was to reopen it. At Williamsburg, in Virginia, the day was devoutly consecrated to the religious exercises recommended by the Assembly. At Philadelphia it was solemnized by a great majority of the population with every testimonial of public grief; all the inhabitants, except the Quakers, shut up their houses; and after divine service a deep and ominous stillness reigned in the city. In other parts of America it was also observed as a day of mourning; and the sentiments thus widely awakened were kept alive and exasperated by the distress to which the inhabitants of Boston were reduced by the continued operation of the Port Bill, and by the fortitude with which they endured it. The rents of the landholders in and around Boston now ceased or were greatly diminished; all the wealth vested in warehouses and wharves was rendered unproductive; from the merchants was wrested the commerce they had reared, and the means alike of providing for their families and paying their debts; the artificers employed in the numerous crafts nourished by an extensive commerce shared the general hardship; and a great majority of that class of the community who earned daily bread by their daily labor were deprived of the means of support. But, animated still by that enduring and dauntless spirit of freedom which had been the parent principle of the New England communities, the inhabitants of Boston sustained the presence of this calamity with inflexible fortitude. Their virtue was cheered by the sympathy, and their sufferings were mitigated by the generosity, of the sister colonies. In all the American States contributions were made for their relief. Corporate bodies, town meetings, and provincial conventions, from all quarters, transmitted to them letters and addresses, applauding their conduct, and exhorting them to perseverance.

The royal garrison of Boston was now augmented, and its fortifications strengthened and increased, thus adding to the irritation of the people. At the suggestion of the Massachusetts Assembly, a Congress of the provinces was called. This Congress, embracing members from all the colonies except Georgia, met at Philadelphia on September 5, 1774. Of the debates of this body, which continued in session eight weeks, no authentic report exists, but it published a Declaration of the Rights of America, with many other acts in which a determined spirit of resistance to tyranny was indicated. Before dissolving, it was decreed to meet again on May 10, 1775, if no redress of American grievances was granted. A cargo of tea about this time entered the harbor of Annapolis, Maryland, but the ship-master became so alarmed by the popular excitement that he asked the advice of an able lawyer, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, as to what he should do. Carroll advised him to burn the vessel and cargo. This advice was taken. "The sails were set, the colors displayed, and the vessel burned amidst the acclamations of the multitude."





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