Parliament was not amused in any way by the tea parties that took place in the colonies. In the session held on the 7th of March, Lord Chatham and Edmund Burke attempted to persuade the members to refuse to endorse a collection of "Coercive" measures which the king had proposed. Known commonly as the Coercive Acts, these measures included bills intended to punish Boston. Despite the fact that other port cities had responded antagonistically to the Tea Act, the king wanted to punish Boston for its long history of obstinacy and use her as an example to the other cities and colonies.
The first of the Coercive Acts was the Boston Port Bill. The intent of this bill was to bring the city to a state of near-starvation so that the citizens would show more respect toward the mother country. This bill, passed on 31 March, 1774 prohibited the loading or unloading of any ships in Boston Harbor except for military and food shipments cleared by the king's customs officials.
On 20 May the Administration of Justice Act was passed. This bill safeguarded the officials in the colony of Massachusetts against hostile colonial courts. This bill also stated that a crown official could transfer a trial to Britain if he felt it was necessary. This bill was designed to prevent the colonists from getting a trial by a jury of their own peers.
The Massachusetts Government Act was also passed on 20 May, 1774. This bill brought about an annulment of the Massachusetts Charter. The members of the Massachusetts Council would thereafter be chosen and appointed (and liekwise removed from office) by the king himself. In a bold move to nip the revolutionist spirit in the bud, the bill also prohibited the assembly of the people in town meetings without the prior written consent of the governor.
The Quartering Act was designed to apply to all of the colonies. Up to this time, the quartering of troops was generally confined to taverns and deserted buildings. The Quartering Act, passed on 2 June, 1774, informed that colonists that the troops would now be quartered in their dwellings along with their families. This would make it quite difficult for the colonists to carry on their secretive discussions and planning of subversive activities, such as the Boston Tea Party.
The last of the Coercive Acts did not apply directly to the colonies. In fact, it was not intended to be included with the other bills, but because it affected the colonies indirectly, they objected to it also. The Quebec Act was passed on 20 May, 1774 to provide a stable form of civil government to New England's estranged sister colony to the north. This, in and of itself was not objectionable. What the colonists objected to was the new southern boundary established by the bill for the Canadian province. The Ohio Valley was claimed by various of the colonies, including Virginia, Connecticut and Massachusetts. The Quebec Act ignored the charters granted to those colonies and established the Ohio River as the southern boundary of Canada.
Following Parliament's passage of the Boston Port Bill, an appeal was sent out by Boston's citizens requesting that the other colonies accompany her in placing economic sanctions against Britain in the form of the nonimportation of any British goods. The other colonies were not prepared to take such a drastic step, but most of them agreed that an intercolonial meeting, or congress, should be held to discuss what course of action they should take. Boston was undeterred in her decision to boycott British goods. The Committee of Correspondence of that city signed into effect the Solemn League and Covenant on 5 June, 1774. This document was an agreement among its subscribers to put an end to all business with Britain and to refuse British imports effective October 1 .
In response to the call for a congress, Providence let it be known as early as 17 May, 1774 that she was in favor of such. Philadelphia responded in the affirmative on 21 May; she was followed two days later by New York City. The other colonies followed suit and they proceeded to name delegates to attend the proposed congress. Between 15 July and 25 August the delegates were named and the congress was arranged to be conducted in Philadelphia in September. Only Georgia failed to obtain the assent of a majority of her representatives; no delegates would attend in her behalf.
The First Continental Congress was convened on 5 September, 1774 in the Carpenters Hall in the largest city in America at the time: Philadelphia. Fifty-six delegates from twelve of the thirteen colonies attended this first conference for the purpose of determining if they could work together in unity. Two months earlier, on 13-15 July, 1774, deputies chosen within the several counties of the Province of Pennsylvania met in Philadelphia to compose the Resolves Of The Committee For The Province With The Instructions To Their Representatives In Assembly and to choose the Pennsylvania delegates to attend the First Continental Congress. The seven individuals chosen included: Edward Biddle, Joseph Galloway, Charles Humphreys, Thomas Mifflin, John Morton, Samuel Rhoads, and George Ross. The First Continental Congress was in session between 5 September and 26 October, 1774. The spacious and comfortable rooms of the Pennsylvania Assembly were offered to the Congress for its use as the meeting place. But instead, the library on the second floor of Carpenters' Hall was chosen. The reason for this change was simple: Pennsylvanian delegate Joseph Galloway was the Speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly and he was known to be a staunch conservative in that Assembly. To hold the Congress in the Pennsylvania Assembly rooms would have given Galloway an unfair and advantageous sense of security. The "home team" always feels such an advantage and sometimes makes use of it to sway the opposing forces. Apart from the decision of where the Congress would be conducted, minor decisions of protocol had to be determined and agreed upon. The decision was made by the delegates in attendance that, due to the uneven numbers of delegates from each county, it would be fair for each province to have a single vote. It was also agreed that the business of the Congress should not be publicized until the Congress had completed its work and was ready to officially publish its resolves.
The Congress proceeded with their business and was in session during the second week in September when a report was received that Boston had just then been fired upon by British warships. That report was soon proven false, but on 16 September Paul Revere rode into the city and delivered a copy of the Suffolk Resolves to the Congress. The Suffolk Resolves had been drawn up and accepted by a congress held on 9 September in the county of Suffolk in Massachusetts. These resolves included four main points. The Coercive Acts were declared unconstitutional according to prior Parliamentary agreements. Therefore they should not be obeyed. The people of Massachusetts were encouraged by the second point to form a government of their own to collect taxes and withhold them from the crown officials until after the Coercive Acts were repealed by Parliament. The third point urged the citizenry to form a militia organization and to secure arms and ammunition with which to defend themselves if necessary. The fourth point called for economic sanctions against the British Isles. The radicals among the delegates immediately set to work in convincing the Congress to endorse and support the Suffolk Resolves. They succeeded in their goal and the Congress, by majority vote, on 17 September, 1774 did so endorse the actions of her northern colony.
The conservative delegates did not so readily accept their minor defeat on the issue of the endorsement of the Suffolk Resolves. On 22 September, 1774, Joseph Galloway presented an alternative plan, titled the Plan Of A Proposed Union Between Great Britain And The Colonies. The conservatives united in an attempt to have "Galloway's Plan Of Union" passed. This plan called for King George II and his Parliament to continue to regulate the "general affairs of America", but that the colonies would regulate and govern their own internal affairs. Under Galloway's plan, the king would appoint a President-General with the privilege to veto the acts of a Council, which would be appointed to three-year terms by the assemblies of each individual province. This President and Council would have the same standing as the other houses of Parliament. Unfortunately for the conservatives, but indeed fortunately for us, the descendants of those Patriots who spent almost a month in the stuffy library of Carpenters' Hall haggling over the fine points of the plan, Galloway's Plan Of Union was defeated by a vote of six to five on 22 October.
On the 14th of October the Congress adopted a document containing ten resolutions which set forth the rights of the colonies. This Declaration and Resolves denounced the Coercive Acts along with stating that the power to make and execute law within the colonies should be the right and privilege of those colonies. This document also included, as one of its resolutions, the idea that every citizen of the colonies should have the right to "life, liberty and property" without interference by Britain.
The single most important decision to be made by the provincial delegates meeting in congress was the adoption of the Continental Association. The Association was primarily an agreement between the colonies that they would cease importation of British goods effective December 1 , which included anything from Britain's East and West Indies colonies; that effective on the same date, all slave trade would cease; that, effective 1 March, 1775, they would engage in the nonconsumption of any and all extravagances, such as horse-racing and elaborate funerals; and finally that they would not export anything of American manufacture to Great Britain or any of her other colonies, with the one exception of rice to Europe, effective 1 September, 1775. The Association also called for punishments of violators by notification of their violations in the common press along with a request that their services and goods be likewise boycotted. Any province which failed to uphold the agreements made by the Association would be boycotted also. In effect, the Association was a strict agreement by the colonies to work together as a unified body one for all, and all for one. The Association was adopted by the Congress on 18 October, 1774.
Prior to its adjournment on 26 October, 1774, the First Continental Congress approved the drafting of two letters. The first was directed to Canada, requesting the Quebec Province to join the Americans in their stand of unity. The second letter, drafted by John Dickinson, was directed to King George the Third.