As we celebrate America’s birthday, let’s take a look back through the original documents of the Continental Congress available on Fold3 to see how history unfolded!
In 1774, as the relationship between colonists and the British deteriorated, the First Continental Congress was established. Their Articles of Association was an attempt to respond to the British Intolerable Acts (a series of punitive laws meant to punish colonists for the Boston Tea Party), and to assert some level of independence.
The British did not respond warmly to their efforts and attempted to quell the rebellion. In the meantime, colonists were organizing and strengthening militias. Tensions came to a head when the British arrived at Concord, Massachusetts for a routine raid on colonial military supplies. Shots rang out and the American Revolutionary War began.
On May 10th, 1775, a Second Continental Congress was convened to determine how to respond to the British threat. In June, Congress authorized the printing of money to buy war supplies. There were no taxes, so colonies were asked to contribute men and supplies. Congress met throughout May to “take into consideration the state of America.” A committee was appointed to conduct relations with foreign governments. Congress had become a functioning government.
On June 14th, Congress created a Continental Army and put George Washington in command. Congress relocated to York, Pennsylvania because British troops occupied Philadelphia. In July, Congress drafted The Olive Branch Petition in one last attempt to avoid war. It was rejected.
By the time 1776 rolled around, the discussions in Congress had shifted to complete independence. In June of that year, a committee was formed to begin drafting a declaration. On July 2nd, 1776, the Declaration of Independence passed Congress and on July 4th, Congress approved it!
Do you have ancestors that participated in the Continental Congress or fought in the Revolutionary War? If you want to dive deeper into the records, search our archives!