Journals of the Continental Congress

First Continental Congress: October 26, 1774

October 26, 1774

The Letter to seven friends or Agents was approved and sent, the Letter to the Inhabitants of Quebec was sent and the Letter to the King was signed. John Adams “Dined at Home. This Day the Congress finished. Spent the Evening together at the City Tavern–all the Congress and several Gentlemen of the Town.”

Link to date-related documents.

Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]

The committee appointed to prepare a letter to the agents, reported a draft which was read, debated by paragraphs, and approved.

Letter to the Agents

We give you the strongest proof of our reliance on your zeal and attachment to the happiness of America, & the cause of liberty, when we commit the enclosed papers to your care.

We desire you will deliver the petition into the hands of his Majesty, & after it has been presented, we wish it may be made public through the press, together with the list of grievances. And as we hope for great assistance from the spirit, virtue, and justice of the nation, it is our earnest desire, that the most effectual care be taken, as early as possible, to furnish the trading cities, & manufacturing towns, throughout the United Kingdom, with our memorial to the people of Great Britain.

We doubt not, but your good sense & discernment, will lead you to avail yourselves of every assistance, that may be derived from the advice & friendship of all great & good men who may incline to aid the cause of liberty and mankind.

The gratitude of America, expressed in the enclosed vote of thanks, we desire may be conveyed to the deserving objects of it, in the manner you think will be most acceptable to them.

It is proposed, that another Congress be held on the tenth of May next, at this place, but in the meantime, we beg the favor of you, Gentlemen, to transmit to the speakers of the several Assemblies, the earliest information of the most authentic accounts you can collect, of all such conduct & designs of ministry, or parliament, as it may concern America to know.

To Paul Wentworth, Doctor Franklin, William Bollan, Arthur Lee, Thomas Life, Edmund Burke, Charles Garth.

The committee, to whom the address to the inhabitants of Quebec was recommitted, reported a draft, which was read, & being debated by paragraphs and amended, & approved.

To the Inhabitants of the Province of Quebec

Friends and fellow-subjects,

When the fortune of war, after a gallant and glorious resistance, had incorporated you with the body of English subjects, we rejoiced in the truly valuable addition, both on our own and your account; expecting, as courage and generosity are naturally united, our brave enemies would become our hearty friends, and that the Divine Being would bless to you the dispensations of his over-ruling providence, by securing to you and your latest posterity the inestimable advantages of a free English constitution of government, which it is the privilege of all English subjects to enjoy.

These hopes were confirmed by the King’s proclamation, issued in the year 1763, plighting the public faith for your full enjoyment of those advantages.

Little did we imagine that any succeeding Ministers would so audaciously and cruelly abuse the royal authority, as to withhold from you the fruition of the irrevocable rights, to which you were thus justly entitled….

The first grand right, is that of the people having a share in their own government by their representatives chosen by themselves, and, in consequence, of being ruled by laws, which they themselves approve, not by edicts of men over whom they have no control. This is a bulwark surrounding and defending their property, which by their honest cares and labors they have acquired, so that no portions of it can legally be taken from them, but with their own full and free consent, when they in their judgment deem it just and necessary to give them for public service, and precisely direct the easiest, cheapest, and most equal methods, in which they shall be collected….

The next great right is that of trial by jury. This provides, that neither life, liberty nor property, can be taken from the possessor, until twelve of his unexceptionable countrymen and peers of his vicinage, who from that neighborhood may reasonably be supposed to be acquainted with his character, and the characters of the witnesses, upon a fair trial, and full enquiry, face to face, in open Court, before as many of the people as choose to attend, shall pass their sentence upon oath against him; a sentence that cannot injure him, without injuring their own reputation, and probably their interest also; as the question may turn on points, that, in some degree, concern the general welfare; and if it does not, their verdict may form a precedent, that, on a similar trial of their own, may militate against themselves.

Another right relates merely to the liberty of the person. If a subject is seized and imprisoned, though by order of Government, he may, by virtue of this right, immediately obtain a writ, termed a Habeas Corpus, from a Judge, whose sworn duty it is to grant it, and thereupon procure any illegal restraint to be quickly enquired into and redressed.

A fourth right, is that of holding lands by the tenure of easy rents, and not by rigorous and oppressive services, frequently forcing the possessors from their families and their business, to perform what ought to be done, in all well-regulated states, by men hired for the purpose.

The last right we shall mention, regards the freedom of the press. The importance of this consists, besides the advancement of truth, science, morality, and arts in general, in its diffusion of liberal sentiments on the administration of Government, its ready communication of thoughts between subjects, and its consequential promotion of union among them, whereby oppressive officers are shamed or intimidated, into more honorable and just modes of conducting affairs.

These are the invaluable rights, that form a considerable part of our mild system of government; that, sending its equitable energy through all ranks and classes of men, defends the poor from the rich, the weak from the powerful, the industrious from the rapacious, the peaceable from the violent, the tenants from the lords, and all from their superiors.

These are the rights, without which a people cannot be free and happy, and under the protecting and encouraging influence of which, these colonies have hitherto so amazingly flourished and increased. These are the rights, a profligate Ministry are now striving, by force of arms, to ravish from us, and which we are, with one mind, resolved never to resign but with our lives.

These are the rights you are entitled to and ought at this moment in perfection, to exercise. And what is offered to you by the late Act of Parliament in their place? Liberty of conscience in your religion? No. God gave it to you; and the temporal powers with which you have been and are connected, firmly stipulated for your enjoyment of it. If laws, divine and human, could secure it against the despotic caprices of wicked men, it was secured before….

The Crown and its Ministers are impowered, as far as they could be by Parliament, to establish even the Inquisition itself among you. Have you an Assembly composed of worthy men, elected by yourselves, and in whom you can confide, to make laws for you, to watch over your welfare, and to direct in what quantity, and in what manner, your money shall be taken from you? No. The power of making laws for you is lodged in the governor and council, all of them dependent upon, and removable at, the pleasure of a Minister. Besides, another late statute, made without your consent, has subjected you to the impositions of Excise, the horror of all free states; thus wresting your property from you by the most odious of taxes, and laying open to insolent tax-gatherers, houses, the scenes of domestic peace and comfort, and called the castles of English subjects in the books of their law. And in the very act for altering your government, and intended to flatter you, you are not authorized to “assess, levy, or apply any rates and taxes, but for the inferior purposes of making roads, and erecting and repairing public buildings, or for other local conveniences, within your respective towns and districts.” Why this degrading distinction? Ought not the property, honestly acquired by Canadians, to be held as sacred as that of Englishmen? Have not Canadians sense enough to attend to any other public affairs, than gathering stones from one place, and piling them up in another? Unhappy people! who are not only injured, but insulted.

Nay more!–With such a superlative contempt of your understanding and spirit, has an insolent Ministry presumed to think of you, our respectable fellow-subjects, according to the information we have received, as firmly to persuade themselves that your gratitude, for the injuries and insults they have recently offered to you, will engage you to take up arms, and render yourselves the ridicule and detestation of the world, by becoming tools, in their hands, to assist them in taking that freedom from us, which they have treacherously denied to you; the unavoidable consequence of which attempt, if successful, would be the extinction of all hopes of you or your posterity being ever restored to freedom: For idiocy itself cannot believe, that, when their drudgery is performed, they will treat you with less cruelty than they have us, who are of the same blood with themselves.

What would your countryman, the immortal Montesquieu, have said to such a plan of domination, as has been framed for you?…

What advice would the truly great man before-mentioned, that advocate of freedom and humanity, give you, was he now living, and knew that we, your numerous and powerful neighbors, animated by a just love of our invaded rights, and united by the indissoluble hands of affection and interest, called upon you, by every obligation of regard for yourselves and your children, as we now do, to join us in our righteous contest, to make common cause with us therein, and take a noble chance for emerging from a humiliating subjection under Governors, Intendants, and Military Tyrants, into the firm rank and condition of English freemen, whose custom it is, derived from their ancestors, to make those tremble, who dare to think of making them miserable?

Would not this be the purport of his address? “Seize the opportunity presented to you by Providence itself. You have been conquered into liberty, if you act as you ought. This work is not of man.”….

We do not ask you, by this address, to commence acts of hostility against the government of our common Sovereign. We only invite you to consult your own glory and welfare, and not to suffer yourselves to be inveigled or intimidated by infamous ministers so far, as to become the instruments of their cruelty and despotism, but to unite with us in one social compact, formed on the generous principles of equal liberty, and cemented by such an exchange of beneficial and endearing offices as to render it perpetual. In order to complete this highly desirable union, we submit it to your consideration, whether it may not be expedient for you to meet together in your several towns and districts, and elect Deputies, who afterwards meeting in a provincial Congress, may choose Delegates, to represent your province in the continental Congress to be held at Philadelphia on the tenth day of May, 1775.

In this present Congress, beginning on the fifth of the last month, and continued to this day, it has been, with universal pleasure and an unanimous vote, resolved, That we should consider the violation of your rights, by the act for altering the government of your province, as a violation of our own, and that you should be invited to accede to our confederation, which has no other objects than the perfect security of the natural and civil rights of all the constituent members, according to their respective circumstances, and the preservation of a happy and lasting connection with Great-Britain, on the salutary and constitutional principles herein before mentioned. For effecting these purposes, we have addressed a humble and loyal petition to his Majesty, praying relief of our and your grievances; and have associated to stop all importations from Great-Britain and Ireland, after the first day of December, and all exportations to those Kingdoms and the West-Indies, after the tenth day of next September, unless the said grievances are redressed.

That Almighty God may incline your minds to approve our equitable and necessary measures, to add yourselves to us, to put your fate, whenever you suffer injuries which you are determined to oppose, not on the small influence of your single province, but on the consolidated powers of North-America, and may grant to our joint exertions an event as happy as our cause is just, is the fervent prayer of us, your sincere and affectionate friends and fellow-subjects.

Resolved that the Address of the Congress to the people of Canada [Quebec] be signed by the President.

The Address to the King was engrossed & signed.

  • Henry Middleton
  • Jno Sullivan
  • Nathl Folsom
  • Thomas Cushing
  • Samuel Adams
  • John Adams
  • Robt. Treat Paine
  • Step Hopkins
  • Sam: Ward
  • Elipht Dyer
  • Roger Sherman
  • Silas Deane
  • Phil. Livingston
  • John Alsop
  • Isaac Low
  • Jas. Duane
  • John Jay
  • Wm. Floyd
  • Henry Wisner
  • S: Boerum
  • Wil: Livingston
  • John De Hart
  • Stepn. Crane
  • Richd. Smith
  • E Biddle
  • J: Galloway
  • John Dickinson
  • John Morton
  • Thomas Mifflin
  • George Ross
  • Chas Humphreys
  • Cæsar Rodney
  • Thos M: Kean
  • Geo: Read
  • Mat. Tilghman
  • Ths. Johnson Junr
  • Wm. Paca
  • Samuel Chase
  • Richard Henry Lee
  • Patrick Henry
  • Go. Washington
  • Edmund Pendleton
  • Richd. Bland
  • Benjn Harrison
  • Will Hooper
  • Joseph Hewes
  • Rd. Caswell
  • Tho Lynch
  • Christ Gadsden
  • J. Rutledge
  • Edward Rutledge

Resolved That the Thanks of this Congress be given to the honorable House of Representatives of the Colony of Pennsylvania for their politeness to this Congress and that the delegates for this Colony be a Committee to communicate this Resolution to the said Honorable House.

The Congress then dissolved itself.

John Adams’ Diary

Dined at Home. This Day the Congress finished. Spent the Evening together at the City Tavern–all the Congress and several Gentlemen of the Town.

Thomas Lynch to Ralph Izard

There remains only an address to the Canadians and the petition to the King, to complete all our works, and these will be soon printed in England; should they reach you abroad, please consider whether their being translated into French and Dutch, may not have a good effect, as we shall want supplies of woolens and other goods from them, in case our mother country, (as it is called,) continues her oppression.
The New England men, continue a behavior truly heroic. Without rashness, or any tumultuous proceedings that belong to mobs, they oppose a steady, manly, cool and regular conduct, neither declining nor precipitating war.

Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.