Due to the Boston Port Act and several other "Intolerable Acts" as the Bostonians called them, a general congress was called for all of the Colonies to meet and discuss the response to these acts. The unique thing about this event was that all of the Colonies felt that the treatment given to Boston was the same treatment they could expect from the Parliament. Little did King George III know that his efforts to quell the rebels would actually cause all of the other colonies to unite and though there was little talk, in this Congress, of Independence, the seeds that had been sown definitely began to germinate! This Congress met from September 5th - October 26th in 1774.
The British Parliament and the Colonies
In the first two paragraphs of a petition called A Declaration of Rights, the first American Congressman, meeting at Carpenter's Hall in Philadelphia, state the reasons that would lead to the Revolutionary War. They are petitioning the King because there was a prevalent feeling that it was Parliament who was the oppressive arm of the government and that the King just wasn’t aware of the trials through which his ministers were putting his British-American subjects. These are the problems with Parliament that the Continental Congress detailed.
1. The claim to sovereign legislative and taxation jurisdiction over the Colonies
2. The illegal use of the Courts of Admiralty to try criminal cases.
3. Undertaking the Governors and Judges salaries, giving them arbitrary power
4. Transporting accused treasonous colonists to England for trial.
5. The Boston Port Act, which shut down the Port of Boston until the Boston Tea Party was paid for
6. The Quebec Act which gave Canada the Ohio River Valley and legalized Catholicism
The Royal Governors and the Colonies
The Continental Congress also had problems with the Royal Governors and they outlined in this petition. The governors of each Colony, more than any other source, including King George, were responsible for the general feeling that the tyranny of the mother country was too hard to bear. These governors often treated their colonies as medieval fiefdoms that were expected to serve the will of the Lord of the Castle. Here are the main issues with the Royal Governors that this Declaration spelled out.
1. The people’s duly elected assemblies were often dissolved
2. Humble, loyal and reasonable petitions by colonists for relief were ignored
English Liberties and the Colonists Rights
The document went on to declare that this congress had been assembled to “to obtain such establishment, as that their religion, laws, and liberties, may not be subverted”. They also claimed historical precedence for their actions saying that they had only acted “as Englishmen, their ancestors, in like cases have usually done, for asserting and vindicating their rights and liberties”. Then they claimed that “the inhabitants of the English Colonies in North America, by the immutable laws of nature, the principles of the English constitution, and the several charters or compacts, have the following Rights.”