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In 1772, Samuel Adams of Boston created the first Committee of Correspondence, which was primarily an exchange of ideas in letters and pamphlets among members. Within a few years, this one committee led to dozens of similar discussion groups in towns throughout the colonies. Eventually, these isolated groups came together to facilitate the exchange of ideas and solidify opposition to the Crown. The Committees of Correspondence proved invaluable in uniting colonists, distributing information, and organizing colonial voices of opposition.
In response to the Intolerable Acts, delegates from twelve of the thirteen colonies (Georgia chose not to attend) met at the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia in the autumn of 1774 to discuss a course of action. The delegates were all fairly prominent men in colonial political life but held different philosophical beliefs. Samuel Adams, John Adams, Patrick Henry, and George Washington were among the more famous men who attended.
Although rebellion against the Crown was at this point still far from certain, leaders believed grievances had to be redressed to Parliament and King George III. The delegates met for nearly two months and concluded with a written Declaration of Rights and requests to Parliament, George III, and the British people to repeal the Coercive Acts so that harmony could be restored.
The First Continental Congress marked an important turning point in colonial relations with Britain. Although some delegates still hoped for reconciliation, the decisions they made laid the foundations for revolt. Even though American colonial leaders had petitioned Parliament and King George III to repeal taxes in the past, never had they boldly denounced them until this point, when they claimed that Britain’s actions had violated their natural rights and the principles of the English constitution.
This appeal to natural rights above the king or God was groundbreaking because it justified and even legalized colonial opposition to the Crown. It converted the riotous street mobs into people justly defending their freedoms. In other words, the Americans were not in the wrong for resisting British policy. Rather, Britain was to blame because it had attempted to strip Americans of their natural rights as human beings. Thomas Jefferson later extrapolated these legal appeals in the Declaration of Independence.
The Continental Congress delegates decided that until the Coercive Acts were repealed, a stronger system of nonimportation agreements, including a new boycott of all Britigh goods, should be organized and administered throughout the colonies. Patriotic colonists argued that the purchase of any British-produced goods—especially those goods made from American raw materials—only perpetuated the servile relationship the colonies had to London under the system of mercantilism.
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