Monday, October 1, 2012

Continental Congress


Colonial Continental Congress

Articles of Association -  Extracts from the votes and proceedings of the American Continental Congress [electronic resource] : held at Philadelphia, on the 5th of September, 1774. : Containing the bill of rights, a list of grievances, occasional resolves, the Association, an address to the people of Great-Britain, and a memorial to the inhabitants of the British American colonies. : Published by order of Congress Hartford] : Philadelphia: printed. Hartford: re-printed by Eben. Watson, near the Great-Bridge., [1774], 48 p. ; 22 cm. (8vo) - from the Historic.us Collection.

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United Colonies of North America
September 5, 1774 to July 1, 1776
By: Stanley Y. Klos

America’s Four United Republics: 
The More or Less United States
Excerpt Copyright © Stanley Klos 2008 & 2012


Before identifying the Continental Congress junctures in the evolution of the United States and its democracies, we should first consider the term “republic in its 18th-Century American context. One of the most important works on the classification of political systems during the 18th Century was Baron de Montesquieu ’s work; The Spirit of Laws (1748). Montesquieu  defined three kinds of government: republican, monarchical, and despotic. Regarding a confederation republic he averred:

This form of government is a convention by which several smaller states agree to become members of a larger one, which they intend to form. It is a kind of assemblage of societies that constitute a new one, capable of increasing, by means of new associations, till they arrive to such a degree of power as to be able to provide for the security of the united body. [1]

From the inception of the United Colonies of America  in 1774 to the Revolutionary War’s concluding Definitive Treaty of Peace in 1784, the 13 Original Colonies and States formed confederation republics that fulfilled Montesquieu ’s requisite “degree of power as to be able to provide for the security of the united body. According, then, to the philosophe’s definition, a colonial republic began with the formation of an association titled, Continental Congress: United Colonies of America.



 For More Information go to 
America's Four United Republics

Alexander Hamilton , in the same Federalist letter of November 1787 in which he quotes Montesquieu, goes further by defining the United States of America as a confederacy, stating:

The definition of a confederate republic seems simply to be "an assemblage of societies," or an association of two or more states into one state. The extent, modifications, and objects of the federal authority are mere matters of discretion. So long as the separate organization of the members be not abolished; so long as it exists, by a constitutional necessity, for local purposes; though it should be in perfect subordination to the general authority of the union, it would still be, in fact and in theory, an association of states, or a confederacy. The proposed Constitution, so far from implying an abolition of the State governments, makes them constituent parts of the national sovereignty, by allowing them a direct representation in the Senate, and leaves in their possession certain exclusive and very important portions of sovereign power. This fully corresponds, in every rational import of the terms, with the idea of a federal government.

In Hamilton’s terms, then, a “confederacy” relies not just on a union of states under some form of federal authority, but likewise the retention by each of these states of their own governmental authorities, both subordinate to and “constituent parts of…national sovereignty.” 

Finally, for our consideration, in 1788, United States in Congress Assembled Delegate James Madison  in Federalist No XXXIX defined the word “republic,” placing clear emphasis on the derivation of its power from the people:

… we may define a republic to be, or at least may bestow that name on, a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure, for a limited period, or during good behavior. It is essential to such a government that it be derived from the great body of the society, not from an inconsiderable proportion, or a favored class of it; otherwise a handful of tyrannical nobles, exercising their oppressions by a delegation of their powers, might aspire to the rank of republicans, and claim for their government the honorable title of republic. It is sufficient for such a government that the persons administering it be appointed, either directly or indirectly, by the people; and that they hold their appointments by either of the tenures just specified … [2]

Reflecting upon these definitions by Montesquieu , Hamilton and Madison; this book puts forth the proposition that there were three distinct republics that led to a fourth which is the current government of the United States.  Each Republic is so delineated because it marks a divergent stage in the evolution of the United States; the names designated to each period are derived from the republic’s founding resolution or constitution, as follows:

  •  First United American Republic: United Colonies of America: Thirteen British Colonies United in Congress [3] (September 4th, 1774 to July 1st, 1776) was founded by 12 colonies[4] under the First Continental Congress and expired under the Second Continental Congress; [5] 



  • Second United American Republic: The United States of America:[6] Thirteen Independent States United in Congress[7](July 2nd, 1776 to February 28th, 1781) was founded by 12 states[8] in the Second Continental Congress and expired with the ratification of the Articles of Confederation;  





  •     Fourth United American Republic: The United States of America: We the People[11](March 4, 1789 to Present) was formed by 11 states[12]  with the United States Constitution of 1787’s enactment and still exists today.




With the four founding republics now identified, the following nomenclature, derived from the acts of three unicameral and one tripartite governing bodies, is offered for consideration:

·  The First United American Republic Government: The United Colonies of America  Continental Congress  (U.C. Continental Congress ), [13] with the name “Continental Congress” being adopted in the Articles of Association [14]   and “United Colonies of America” being derived from various relations enacted by the aforementioned U.C. Continental Congress ;

·   The Second United American Republic Government: The United States of America Continental Congress  (U.S. Continental Congress ), [15] with the name “Colonies” being changed to “States” by the Declaration of Independence ; [16]   

·  The Third United American Republic Government: The United States in Congress Assembled  (USCA or Confederation Congress), with the name being adopted in the Articles of Confederation ; [17]  

·  The Fourth United American Republic Government: The United States House of Representatives  and Senate in Congress Assembled (Bicameral Congress), The President of the United States of America (U.S. President), United States Supreme Court  (U.S. Supreme Court), with the names all adopted in the Constitution of 1787 . [18] For the purpose of this book the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate in Congress Assembled is abbreviated to the U.S. Bicameral Congress.

Having distinguished the four republics and their governing bodies, we may now examine them one by one to discover if the classifications and nomenclature meet what might become a generally accepted framework for the U.S. Founding period. 



Was Delaware, Virginia, or New Hampshire the first US State?


The origin of the United States’ current tripartite government can be traced back to September 1st, 1774, when deputies from the colonies first met at Philadelphia ’s City Tavern [19] on Second Street, just north of Walnut Street (yes the true birthplace of the Continental Congress and the Presidency was in a Philadelphia tavern).  

Although City Tavern did not host a quorum of colonies, the tavern was the site of the first caucus of congressional delegates on September 1, 1774. The discussions at this tavern meeting were significant as the decision was made, with 25 to 30 delegates present, that the members would wait until September 5th, for the additional delegates to arrive before proceeding to business. Specifically it was agreed that the Delegates would meet "Monday next" at 10 am at City Tavern to discuss where to conduct their first meeting.

Delegate Robert Treat Paine wrote in his diary on September 1, 1774: 
6 o'Clock the Members of the Congress that were in Town met at City Tavern & adjourned to Monday next.
Delegate Samuel Ward recorded in his diary on September 1, 1774: 
The Delegates from N. Jersies & two from Province of N York arrived, conversed with many Delegates & at Evening had a Meeting at the New Tavern & took a List of those present, in all twenty five.
Silas Deane wrote to Elizabeth Deane  on September 1, 1774:
The Delegates from Virginia, Maryland, the Lower Counties, & New York, are not arrived. We spent this Day in visiting Those that are in Town, & find them in high Spirits particularly the Gentlemen from the Jersies, and South Carolina. In the Evening We met to the Number of about Thirty drank a Dish of Coffee together talked over a few preliminaries, & agreed to wait for the Gentlemen not arrived untill Monday Next, before We proceeded to Business.  
 As decided at City Tavern on September 1st, 1774, deputies representing eleven colonies assembled at 10 am at the tavern.  According to Delegate James Duane:
The Members of the Congress met at Smith's [Sic City] Tavern. The Speaker of the Pensylvania Assembly having offerd the Congress the use of the State house; & the Carpenters the use of their Hall, It was agreed to take a View of each. We proceeded to the Carpenter's hall. Mr .Lynch proposed the Question whether as that was in all respects Suitable it ought not to be fixed upon without further Enquiry. 
I observed that if the State house was equally convenient it ought to be preferred being a provincial & the Carpenter's Hall[1] a private House. And besides as it was tenderd by the Speaker it seemed to be a piece of respect which was due to him, at least to enquire whether the State House was not equally convenient. The Question was however called for; & a great Majority fixed upon the Carpenters hall. 
John Adams wrote of the event in his diary: 
Monday. At ten the delegates all met at the City Tavern, and walked to the Carpenters' Hall, where they took a view of the room, and of the chamber where is an excellent library; there is also a long entry where gentlemen may walk, and a convenient chamber opposite to the library. The general cry was, that this was a good room, and the question was put, whether we were satisfied with this room ? and it passed in the affirmative. A very few were for the negative, and they were chiefly from Pennsylvania and New York.   [22]
The deputies who formed the Colonial Congress were not men who enjoyed a national reputation. The colonial population was now surpassing two million inhabitants with no “continental” newspaper or magazine.  Consequently, they were nearly all strangers to each other with most never even having heard the names of their new colleagues.  There were, however, several exceptions. John and Samuel Adams, for example were Boston leaders identified with deep-seated opposition to Great Britain and known all over the colonies. Virginia Militia Colonel George Washington had achieved colonial celebrity through his service with British regulars during the French and Indian War. Peyton Randolph was known as the judicious Virginia House of Burgesses’ Speaker and the Colonial Virginia attorney general who struck down Lt. Governor Dinwiddie’s Pistole Land Tax in a London hearing before the British Lords of Trade.[23]  Patrick Henry was known as an eloquent orator gaining colonial favor from his memorable opposition to the Stamp Act in 1765. There were other delegates who were men of some influence in their colonies, but the new congress had little knowledge of their character. It was a new beginning.

The first order of business for the delegates after the presentation of credentials was the election of a presiding officer. Delegate James Duane writes in his notes on the debates:
The Names of the Members were then called over; After which Mr Lynch proposed that we shoud elect a President or Chairman and named Mr Peyton Randolph Speaker of the Assembly of Virginia, who was unanimously approvd & placed in the Chair. A Question was then put what Title the Convention should assume & it was agred that it should be called the Congress. Another Question was put what shoud be the Stile of Mr Randolph & it was agreed that he should be called the President.
Congress next considered the election of a Secretary and Delegate Lynch put forth the name of Charles Thompson.   

Charles Thomson an orphan at 10 established himself through hard work as a Philadelphia merchant and intellectual in the 1750’s. He became embroiled in colonial politics 1760’s aligning himself with the more liberal colonists into the 1770’s which was quite unusual for a businessman. His conservative peers campaigned hard against his election as a delegate from Pennsylvania to the Continental Congress and were successful.  His benefactor, Benjamin Franklin, was a strong supporter for his congressional appointment and despite being then known as the “Samuel Adams of Philadelphia” Thomson was elected unanimously to be the Secretary of the Continental Congress.   

Duane writes:
The next point was to fix on a Clerk or Secretary. Mr Thompson was proposed by Mr Lynch.Mr. Jay observed that he had Authority to say that one of the members of the Congress was willing to accept the Office & he conceived the preference was due to him [him being James Duane]. To which it was answered that such an appointment would deprive the Congress of a Member as he would be too much incumberd by the Duties of a Clerk to attend to the Trust for which he was chosen. The Objection being thought Reasonable Mr Thompson was appointed by the Stile of Secretary of the Congress. 
Thompson would serve in this position in both the Colonial & U.S. Continental Congress and the United States in Congress Assembled for nearly 15 years.

By his political connections, his long tenure of office, and his executive and legislative functions, Thomson influenced the course of congressional and Revolutionary affairs.  “Secretary” was the title given to British to their executive department heads and Thomson was Secretary in that sense and not in sense of a record keeper or file clerk.
After the elections, the members turned to establishing the rules of the new colonial body.  It was not until the following day that the debate concluded and the members voted against forming a rules committee to further consider rules of order.  Instead they enacted the following resolutions on September 6th, 1774, to conduct colonial business:

Resolved, That in determining Questions in this Congress, each Colony or Province shall have one vote.—The Congress not being possessed of, or at present able to procure proper materials for ascertaining the importance of each Colony. Resolved, That no person shall speak more than twice on the same point without leave of the Congress. Resolved, That no Question shall be determined the day on which it is agitated and debated, if any one of the Colonies desire the determination to be postponed to another day. Resolved, That the Doors be kept shut during the time of business, and that the Members consider themselves under the strongest obligations of honour to keep the proceedings secret, until the majority shall direct them to be made publick. Resolved, unanimously, That a Committee be appointed to state the Rights of the Colonies in general, the several instances in which these rights are violated or infringed, and the means most proper to be pursued for obtaining a restoration of them. [25]

The proceedings of this body were deemed private and this pledge of secrecy would remain the rule in the successive confederation republics.   Secrecy would also be vowed by delegates thirteen years later during the Philadelphia Convention that framed the U.S. Constitution of 1787 .  Consequently, the debate to determine the name of this new association is not a matter of public record.  Historians are relegated to reviewing delegate letters and colonial resolutions to determine the origin of the name of the association that would go on to enact and direct united colonial measures.

The colonies had individually passed 12 different resolutions naming the Philadelphia  gathering and its membership in various different forms:

New Hampshire … General Congress; Massachusetts  … meeting of Committees from the several Colonies; Rhode Island  … general congress of representatives; Connecticut  … Congress of commissioners; New York  … Congress at Philadelphia ; New Jersey  … general Congress of deputies; Pennsylvania … Colony Committees; Maryland  … General Congress of deputies from the Colonies; Virginia … General Congress; South Carolina  … deputies to a general Congress; Delaware … general continental congress; [26] North Carolina  … general Congress. [27]

It would be Delaware ’s term, a Continental Congress   that was formally adopted on October 20, 1774, by a resolution known as the Articles of Association  that implemented a British trade boycott [28] . The naming of the colonial congress in the Articles of Association can be found in the resolution’s first paragraph:

We, his majesty's most loyal subjects, the delegates of the several colonies of New-Hampshire, Massachusetts -Bay, Rhode-Island, Connecticut , New-York, New-Jersey, Pennsylvania , the three lower counties of Newcastle, Kent and Sussex on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North-Carolina, and South-Carolina, deputed to represent them in a Continental Congress , held in the city of Philadelphia , on the 5th day of September, 1774. [29]

The name was primarily chosen to distinguish this congress from the many other congresses being held throughout the Colonies at that time.  The terms “Colonies of America,” “United Colonies,” and “Colonies of North America” were all used in 1774 delegate letters, colonial newspapers, and colonial congressional journals.  George Washington’s June 19th, 1775, Commander-in-Chief Commission, for example, uses the term “United Colonies,” followed by the names of the 13 members of the Continental Congress .  The name, the United Colonies of America , was not introduced as part of a First Continental Congress  resolution until Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration Setting Forth the Causes and Necessity of Their Taking Up Arms.

We the representatives of the United Colonies of America  now sitting in General Congress, to all nations send greeting of setting forth the causes and necessity of their taking up arms. [30]  

Jefferson’s 1775 Declaration was edited and approved on July 6th, adding the word “North” to name the republic, the “United Colonies of North America .” [31]   Two weeks later, Benjamin Franklin would, in Article I of his Articles of Confederation , also utilize the word “north”:

The Name of this Confederacy shall henceforth be the United Colonies of North America. [32]

November 9th, 1775 United Colonies Continental Congress Pledge of Secrecy  - Historic.us Collection
By January 1776, the Continental Congress UCA, as well as the colonies themselves, would drop the word “North,” referring instead to the Continental association as the “United Colonies of America”:

Resolved, By this Assembly, That Roger Sherman , Oliver Wolcott , Samuel Huntington , Titus Hosmer, and William Williams , Esqrs. be, and they are hereby appointed Delegates to represent this Colony at the General Congress of the United Colonies of America . [33]



18th Century Journal of Congress open to September 5, 1774, recording the convening of the
 First Continental Congress
 – Image courtesy of the Klos Yavneh Collection.



As can be seen, the aforesaid First Continental Congress ’ resolutions, rules, and various other acts clearly formed a body of laws among the colonies, establishing the First United American Republic: The United Colonies of America: Thirteen British Colonies United in Congress . The United Colonies Continental Congress , the new republic’s governing association convened from September 4th, 1774, to July 2nd, 1776, passing resolutions, laws and acts necessary to conduct a war to win independence from the British Empire.  Although independence was not declared until July 2nd, 1776, the United Colonies Continental Congress (U.C. Continental Congress) acted as a quasi-central government, for the 13 Colonies, meeting the definition of a confederation republic as evidenced by a review of key U.C. Continental Congress  Republic milestones, including:


  • U.C. Continental Congress measures provoked British Regulars to march out of Boston, attempting the capture of hidden military supplies. In early expeditions, the British were not opposed, found nothing, and returned to Boston. On April 19th, 1775, however, shots were fired during the British advancement on Lexington and Concord, launching the first military engagement of the Revolutionary War; 
  • On May 10th, 1775, Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold seize Fort Ticonderoga in New York; 
  • On June 15th, 1775, the U.C. Continental Congress appoints George Washington commander-in-chief of the Continental Army;
  • On July 6th, 1775 the U.C. Continental Congress approves a United Colonies of North America Declaration … Setting Forth the Causes and Necessity of Their Taking Up Arms against Great Britain; On June 17th, 1775, the Battle of Breed's Hill forces the retreat of the Colonial Minutemen; 
  • On June 22nd, 1775, the U.C. Continental Congress issues two million dollars in continental currency to fund the war effort;
  • On July 21st, 1775, the U.C. Continental Congress considers Benjamin Franklin’s Articles of Confederation as a possible constitution for the United Colonies of North America; 
  • On November 13th, 1775, Major General Richard Montgomery occupies Montreal Canada;
  • On December 31st, 1775, General Montgomery is killed in the Battle for Quebec City and American troops retreat from Canada;
  • On March 17th, 1776. The Continental Army led by General Washington forces the British to evacuate Boston;



The above acts and numerous other resolutions are evidence that the U.C. Continental Congress established the First American Republic that attempted to negotiate colonial autonomy and, when unsuccessful, waged war for independence against Great Britain.  Although the first caucus of the eleven colonies was held on September 4th, the colonial delegates did not convene their association until September 5, 1774 at Carpenter’s Hall.   This later date, therefore, marks the beginning of the First American Republic: United Colonies of America. 

The First United American Republic: United Colonies of America: Thirteen British Colonies United in Congress  Summary:

1.   The  republic’s day of origin occurred on September 5th, 1774, with the calling to order of the First U.C. Continental Congress at Carpenters’ Hall  in Philadelphia;
2. Peyton Randolph  was elected as the first U.C. Continental Congress  Republic President on September 5th, 1774;
3. Charles Thomson  was established as the first U.C. Continental Congress  Republic Secretary with his election on September 5th, 1775;
4. George Washington  was established as the first U.C. Continental Congress  Republic Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army  on June 17, 1775;
5. Benjamin Franklin  was established as the first U.C. Continental Congress  Republic Postmaster General with his election on June 17, 1775.

By: Stanley Yavneh Klos

Edited By: Naomi Yavneh Klos. Ph.D.
  • First United American Republic: United Colonies of North America: 13 British Colonies United in Congress was founded by 12 colonies on September 5th, 1774 (Georgia joined in 1775)  and governed through a British Colonial Continental Congress.  Peyton Randolph and George Washington served, respectively, as the Republic's first President and Commander-in-Chief;
  • Second United American Republic: The United States of America: 13 Independent States United in Congress was founded by 12 states on July 2nd, 1776 (New York abstained until July 9th), and governed through the United States Continental CongressJohn Hancock and George Washington served, respectively, as the Republic's first President and Commander-in-Chief; 
  • Third United American Republic: The United States of America: A Perpetual Union was founded by 13 States on March 1st, 1781, with the enactment of the first U.S. Constitution, the Articles of Confederationand governed through the United States in Congress Assembled.  Samuel Huntington and George Washington served, respectively, as the Republic's first President and Commander-in-Chief; 
  • Fourth United American Republic: The United States of America: We the People  was formed by 11 states on March 4th, 1789 (North Carolina and Rhode Island joined in November 1789 and May 1790, respectively), with the enactment of the U.S. Constitution of 1787. The fourth and current United States Republic governs through  the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate in Congress Assembled, the U.S. President and Commander-in-Chief, and the U.S. Supreme Court.  George Washington served as the Republic's first President and Commander-in-Chief.







 The First United American Republic
Continental Congress of the United Colonies Presidents 
Sept. 5, 1774 to July 1, 1776


September 5, 1774
October 22, 1774
October 22, 1774
October 26, 1774
May 20, 1775
May 24, 1775
May 25, 1775
July 1, 1776


The Second United American Republic
Continental Congress of the United States Presidents 
July 2, 1776 to February 28, 1781


July 2, 1776
October 29, 1777
November 1, 1777
December 9, 1778
December 10, 1778
September 28, 1779
September 29, 1779
February 28, 1781


Commander-in-Chief United Colonies & States of America

George Washington: June 15, 1775 - December 23, 1783


The Third United American Republic
Presidents of the United States in Congress Assembled
March 1, 1781 to March 3, 1789


March 1, 1781
July 6, 1781
July 10, 1781
Declined Office
July 10, 1781
November 4, 1781
November 5, 1781
November 3, 1782
November 4, 1782
November 2, 1783
November 3, 1783
June 3, 1784
November 30, 1784
November 22, 1785
November 23, 1785
June 5, 1786
June 6, 1786
February 1, 1787
February 2, 1787
January 21, 1788
January 22, 1788
January 21, 1789





The Fourth United American Republic

Presidents of the United States of America