Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789


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America During the Age of Revolution, 1764-1775

This time line is drawn largely from the work of Richard B. Morris, in particular his Encyclopedia of American History.


New England Restraining Act. Parliament passed an act banning trade between the New England colonies and any other country besides Great Britain.

New England Resists. British troops continued to attempt to seize colonial ammunition, but were turned back in Massachusetts, without any violence. Royal authorities decided that force should be used to enforce recent acts of Parliament; war seemed unavoidable.

Lexington and Concord. British troops planned to destroy American ammunition at Concord. When the Boston Committee of Safety learned of this plan, it sent Paul Revere and William Dawes to alert the countryside and gather the Minute Men. On April 19, Minute Men and British troops met at Lexington, where a shot from a stray British gun lead to more British firing. The Americans only fired a few shots; several Americans were killed. The British marched on to Concord and destroyed some ammunition, but soon found the countryside swarming with militia. At the end of the day, many were dead on both sides.

The Second Continental Congress. The Second Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia on May 10. John Hancock was elected president of Congress.

George Washington is named commander-in-chief. On June 10, John Adams proposed that Congress consider the forces in Boston a Continental army, and suggested the need for a general. He recommended George Washington for the position. Congress began to raise men from other colonies to join the army in New England, and named a committee to draft military rules. On June 15, Washington was nominated to lead the army; he accepted the next day. To pay for the army, Congress issued bills of credit, and the twelve colonies represented in the Congress promised to share in repaying the bills.

Bunker Hill. On June 12, British General Gage put martial law in effect, and stated that any person helping the Americans would be considered a traitor and rebel. When Americans began to fortify a hill against British forces, British ships in the harbor discovered the activity and opened fire. British troops -- 2,400 in number -- arrived shortly after. Although the Americans -- 1,000 in number -- resisted several attacks, eventually they lost the fortification.

Olive Branch Petition. Congress issued a petition declaring its loyalty to the king, George III, and stating its hope that he would help arrange a reconciliation and prevent further hostilities against the colonies. Four months later, King George III rejected the petition and declared the colonies in rebellion.

Congress Treats with the Indians. Acting as an independent government, Congress appointed commissioners to create peace treaties with the Indians.

Congress Creates a Navy. Congress began to plan for aggressive action against British ships stocked with ammunition. It authorized the building of four armed ships, and began to formulate rules for a navy. On December 22, Congress named Esek Hopkins commodore of the fledgling American navy. Soon after, Congress authorized privateering, and issued rules for dealing with enemy vessels and plunder.

Congress Searches for Foreign Aid. When a congressional committee began to investigate the possibility of foreign aid in the war against Great Britain, France expressed interest.