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Coming of the American Revolution: Document Viewer
Massachusetts Historical Society
America's oldest historical society, founded 1791.

Back to The First Continental Congress

"Friday, October 14, 1774. The Congress came into the following Resolutions"

Friday, October 14, 1774. The Congress came into the following Resolutions

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"A System formed to Enslave America"
Colonists have been disputing Parliament's right to tax them since the Sugar Act of 1764. Building upon the arguments crafted by James Otis and others over the years, a congressional committee struggles to articulate Parliament's relationship to the colonies and its authority to regulate trade in the British empire. The proceedings are heated. While no delegate espouses absolute obedience to Parliament, some fear that a bold statement about colonial prerogatives will only provoke Parliament to no purpose. The committee prepares a document stating colonists' grievances and declaring their rights in a series of ten resolves, most of which pass through the larger Congress without dispute. Resolve Number 4, however, which proscribes Parliament's right to legislate for the colonies, prompts a great deal of debate. Deliberations continue until the Congress finally approves the document on 14 October.

Questions to Consider

1. By what power are the colonists granted rights?

2. What is the foundation of English liberty?

3. To what three things are colonists entitled according to the first resolution? Does this language sound familiar? Where have you heard it before?

4. What rights are delineated in Resolve 8? In what other important document (not found on this website) have these rights been mentioned?

5. What action does Congress declare must be taken before harmony between Great Britain and the colonies can be restored? (See pages 6 and 7 for a hint.)

6. Beginning on page 8, the document lists other resolves passed during the course of the Congress. Summarize the five resolves that relate to Massachusetts. Based on these resolves, do you think that the Congress was sympathetic or unsympathetic toward Massachusetts?

Further Exploration

7. Think of a situation at your school that you would like to change. Draft your own declaration in which you specify your grievance and suggest a remedy. Be sure to explain why you think the situation needs to be changed and why you believe that your proposed course of action is preferable for all concerned.