Continental Congress

Continental Congress  - Give me Liberty

Patrick Henry, a member of the Continental Congress

This article on the Continental Congress provides fast facts and information about the history, with a timeline, of the Continental Congress

  • Background Facts about the Continental Congress
  • The First Continental Congress and Second Continental Congress
  • Facts, history and interesting information about the Congress of the Confederation
  • History Timeline, dates and important events of the Continental Congress
Colonial GovernmentStamp Act Congress
House of BurgessesContinental Presidents
American Colonies IndexColonial Congress & Government

History of the first 13 Colonies, Colonial Government and Congress

The Continental Congress was the first national government of the United States during the American Revolution

Continental Congress
The Continental Congress Definition: The Continental Congress was where elected representatives of colonists assembled in revolt against British rule. The Virginia House of Burgesses served as a model for the Continental Congress. Virginians Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson and Peyton Randolph invited delegations from all of the other colonies to meet in Philadelphia on September 5, 1774 to debate the course of action in response to grievances of colonies against Great Britain. The grievances related to the laws passed by the British Parliament, the 'last straw' being their passing of the Coercive Acts (aka Intolerable Acts) that had punished Boston for the Boston Tea Party. Achievements: The Continental Congress initiated Nonimportation Agreements in 1774 which led to the formation of the Continental Association, created a Continental Army, issued the Declaration of Independence and framed Articles of Confederation.

  • Define Continental: The Continental Congress was a meeting, or convention, of delegates from all of the Thirteen Colonies belonging to the continent of North America - hence the term 'Continental'
  • Define Assembly: The Continental Congress is also referred to as a legislative assembly in which elected political delegates assemble together.
  • Define Legislative: The word legislative means having the power to make laws.

Continental Congress - Background
Prior to the Continental Congress some representatives met with delegates from different colonies, but not all 13 colonies were involved. These previous meetings were:

  • The New England Confederation Established in 1643 and dissolved in 1684
  • The Albany Congress Established in 1754 and disbanded in 1754
  • The Stamp Act Congress, or First Congress of the American Colonies Established in October 7, 1765 and disbanded October 25, 1765

The Virginia House of Burgesses was dissolved by Lord Dunmore in 1774, which led to their leaders, including Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson and Peyton Randolph calling for the first meeting of the Continental Congress aimed at the political unification all of the American colonies. During the Stamp Act Congress Christopher Gadsden said,

"There ought to be no New England men, no New Yorkers known on the Continent, but all of us Americans..."  

Continental Congress: 1774 - 1789
The Continental Congress met from 1774 to 1789 as the First Continental Congress, the Second Continental Congress and, following the implementation of the Articles of Confederation, a national government was created which was made up of a one-house legislature known as the Confederation Congress. The Congress of the Confederation met from 1781 to 1789. The adoption of the Constitution of the United States in 1788 led to the creation of the United States Congress.

  • The delegates to the First Continental Congress had been chosen by the colonies in to set forth the views of the people, and remonstrate against the conduct of the King and Parliament
  • Congress petitioned the King and fixed May 10, 1775, as the day on which a second Congress should meet to consider the results of their petition
  • The British reaction to the petition in January 1775 was to send orders prohibiting another meeting of the Congress.
  • In February 1775 the British Parliament declared that Massachusetts was in a state of rebellion
  • Matters quickly escalated and on April 18, 1775 the American War of Independence began
  • The Colonies asked Congress to adopt the army gathered around Boston, and direct the war
  • Congress, unexpectedly, became a governing body, and began to act as advisor to each of the colonies - for additional information refer to Colonies to States

Prayer at the Continental Congress

Prayer at the Continental Congress

  • First Continental Congress: Established September 5, 1774 and disbanded May 10, 1775
  • Second Continental Congress: Established May 10, 1775 and disbanded March 6, 1781
  • Congress of the Confederation: Established March 1, 1781 and disbanded March 4, 1789
  • United States Congress

Continental Congress Timeline
The Continental Congress Timeline details dates of meetings and important events in the history of the Continental Congress

Continental Congress Timeline

Continental Congress Timeline: History of Government in the Colonies 

1643May 19, 1643: The New England Confederation was established in May 19, 1643 as a union for “mutual safety and welfare” formed by the colonies of Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, Connecticut, and New Haven.

1754The Albany Congress Established in 1754 and disbanded in 1754. The Albany Congress was a meeting of representatives of seven of the American colonies in 1754 (Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island). The inter-colonial Albany Congress was designed to deal with Iroquois grievances against the English. At the congress, prominent colonists proposed the Albany Plan of Union.


1765October 7, 1765: The Stamp Act Congress, or First Congress of the American Colonies was established in October 7, 1765 and disbanded October 25, 1765. The Stamp Act Congress was a meeting in New York City to consider ways to protest the Stamp Act. Representatives from nine colonies attended (Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and South Carolina.)

1774Samuel Adams established the Committees of Correspondence

1774The Governor of Virginia, Lord Dunmore, disbanded the the House of Burgesses in 1773 for supporting persons opposed to Great Britain. This led to the creation of the Continental Congress.

Timeline for the First Continental Congress

Timeline for the First Continental Congress 

1774September 5, 1774: The First Continental Congress is established September 5, 1774 and meets at at Philadelphia’s Carpenter's Hall.

1774October 14: Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress are adopted by the delegates 

1774October 25: The First Petition to the King is signed

1775April 19: The American Revolutionary War began at the Battle of Lexington and the Battle of Concord

1775May 10, 1775: The First Continental Congress is disbanded on May 10, 1775

Timeline for the Second Continental Congress

Timeline for the Second Continental Congress 

1775May 10, 1775: The Second Continental Congress was established on May 10, 1775 and meets at Philadelphia’s State House.

1775June 14: The Second Continental Congress establishes the Continental Army 

1775June 15: George Washington is appointed as commander of the Continental Army

1775July 1: King George III addresses Parliament in London stating they will "put a speedy end" to the rebellion

1775July 6: Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms approved

1775October 13: The Second Continental Congress establishes the Continental Navy

1775November 10: The Second Continental Congress establishes the Continental Marines

1776January 10 1776: Thomas Paine published Common Sense

1776July 2: Resolution of independence adopted by the Second Continental Congress

1776July 4: Final text of the United States Declaration of Independence approved (also see Declaration of Independence Text and Words)

1776August 2: Declaration of Independence signed in Congress

1776December 20: Congress re-convenes at Henry Fite’s House in Baltimore, Maryland

1777February 27: Second Continental Congress adjourns to return to Philadelphia and reconvenes at Philadelphia’s State House on March 4

1777September 30: Second Continental Congress meets at York, Pennsylvania at the Court House.

1777November 15: Second Continental Congress issues the Articles of Confederation to the states for approval

1778June 27: Second Continental Congress returns to Philadelphia first meeting at College Hall and then at the State House.

1781March 1 1781: Articles of Confederation go into effect and the Second Continental Congress becomes the Congress of the Confederation.

1781March 6, 1781: The Second Continental Congress was disbanded March 6, 1781

Timeline for the Congress of the Confederation

Timeline for the Congress of the Confederation 

1781From 1781 to 1788 the Congress of the Confederation met annually on the first Monday in November, which time was fixed by the Articles of Confederation. 

1781The Congress of the Confederation was established on March 1, 1781 and the Articles of Confederation became effective from the same date and were the basis of the national government of the US during the American Revolution War.

1783June 21: The Congress of the Confederation adjourns to move to Princeton, New Jersey. 

1783June 30: Congress reconvenes in Princeton, New Jersey

1783November 4: Congress adjourns to move to Annapolis, Maryland

1783November 26: Congress reconvenes at Annapolis, in the State House.

1784August 19: Congress adjourns to move to Trenton, New Jersey.

1784November 1: Congress reconvenes at Trenton, at the French Arms Tavern

1784December 24: Congress adjourns to move to New York City

1785January 11: Congress reconvenes in New York City, first at City Hall, then at Fraunces Tavern

1787September 17, 1787: Philadelphia Convention adjourns after writing the United States Constitution

1788July 2, 1788: New Hampshire becomes the ninth state to ratify the US Constitution, allowing for the creation of the new government.

1788July 8, 1788: The Continental Congress puts the new Constitution into effect by announcing the dates for the elections and the assembly of the new US Congress.

1788October 10, 1788: The Continental Congress passed its last act on this date

1789March 4, 1789: The Congress of the Confederation was disbanded on March 4, 1789 and the first session of the 1st United States Congress begins at Federal Hall. The Articles of Confederation were therefore effective from March 1, 1781 to March 4, 1789

1789April 30 1789: George Washington is inaugurated as first President of the United States

Continental Congress Timeline

Continental Congress - Carpenter's Hall

The Presidents of the Continental Congress
George Washington was known to have referred to the office of the Presidents of the Continental Congress as "the most important seat in the United States". The First President of the Continental Congresses was Peyton Randolph, who was elected on September 5, 1774.

Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence

Continental Congress

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