Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Causes of the American Revolution: Part 6 – The 1st Continental Congress 1774

When any group, political, business, social, sees a problem, what’s usually the first line of action?

Call a meeting!

In 1774, our American colonies did just that.

Their relationship with Great Britain was a huge problem, and deteriorating.

Fifty-six powerful colonial representatives (all except Georgia) met in Philadelphia for two months. What came out of that meeting was the colonial agenda for the future, independence from Great Britain completely, whatever the cost. That probably meant war.

There was a wide difference of opinion among the delegates. The first group were radicals, including the champion rabble-rouser, Sam Adams. Their view prevailed ultimately.

Popular support for their position was by no means universal.

This is a fact which I really had to recognize. Generally, we think of the American Revolution as being widely supported. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The position of the moderates was defeated by only one vote.

They did not favor independence. The colonies should rather pledge allegiance to the British royalty, but little else. It resembles a more modern dominion status such as Canada. The moderates’ defeat caused understandably many hard feelings and some outright defections to the loyalist cause.

The staunch conservative loyalists wanted only to maintain our British connection.

Somehow, problems would be resolved. Loyalists existed all over the colonies. Many were concentrated in the South, and when war came, the British looked to them for active support.

Their position as a group was intolerable. Hounded and persecuted, property seized, thousands fled to Britain in Canada. It is not a pretty story. No wonder the American Revolution is often designated as a civil war. There were no good-will overtures such as Lincoln extended to Confederates at the end of our Civil War.

The British believed, not incorrectly, that they would win the war in the South, with help from many loyalists. But in war, the unexpected seems to happen. A stronger French involvement on our side and amazing maneuvers by American generals changed the military picture. Also, after years of war, the British had increasing problems keeping its distant army adequately supplied.

After 1774, colonial attitudes had hardened. The colonies had their own political and economic agendas. In a few years, there would be a Federal constitution. Colonial borders would see vast expansion.

And to bestow true legitimacy on this Congress, it set its second meeting for May 1775. – Renata Breisacher Mulry


Causes of the American Revolution, an ongoing series
Part 1 – The French and Indian War
Part 2 – The Stamp Act
Part 3 – Samuel Adams, 1722 – 1803
Part 4 – Tom Paine and Common Sense
Part 5 – Boston

3 comments:

Steven said...

Take a look at the Galloway Plan, from the delegate from Pennsylvania. Galloway was extremely close to moving the vote in the other direction and away from Sam Adams radical agenda.

Friends of 1776 Team said...

Dear Steven,

Many thanks for your astute and helpful comment. Single-vote decisions in our political history sounds like a good DVD series.

-Renata


The Team has noted some addresses about the Galloway Plan:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galloway's_Plan_of_Union

http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch7s3.html

http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/related/planforunion.htm

http://www.masshist.org/revolution/congress1.php

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