Continental Association

Last updated
Continental Association
The First Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, published and signed the Continental Association on October 20, 1774; Thomas Jefferson, who was not yet a delegate to the Congress, signed this copy (on lower left)
CreatedOctober 20, 1774
Date effective December 1, 1774
Signatories Edward Rutledge, George Ross, Caesar Rodney, Thomas McKean, George Read, Matthew Tilghman, Thomas Johnson, William Paca, John Morton, Samuel Chase, Richard Henry Lee, George Washington, Patrick Henry, Richard Bland, Benjamin Harrison V, Edmund Pendleton, John Dickinson, Charles Humphreys, Thomas Mifflin, Edward Biddle, John Rutledge, Christopher Gadsden, Thomas Lynch, Henry Middleton, Richard Caswell, Peyton Randolph, John Sullivan, Nathaniel Folsom, Thomas Cushing, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Stephen Hopkins, Samuel Ward, Eliphalet Dyer, Roger Sherman, Silas Deane, Isaac Low, John Alsop, John Jay, James Duane, Philip Livingston, William Floyd, Henry Wisner, Simon Boerum, James Kinsey, Robert Treat Paine, William Livingston, Stephen Crane, Richard Smith, John De Hart, Joseph Galloway, Joseph Hewes, William Hooper
Full text
Wikisource-logo.svg Continental Association at Wikisource
Carpenter's Hall in Philadelphia, where the First Continental Congress passed the Continental Association on October 20, 1774 Carpenters' Hall, Philadelphia, USA, May 2015.jpg
Carpenter's Hall in Philadelphia, where the First Continental Congress passed the Continental Association on October 20, 1774

The Continental Association, also known as the Articles of Association or simply the Association, was an agreement among the American colonies adopted by the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia on October 20, 1774. It was a result of the escalating American Revolution and called for a trade boycott against British merchants by the colonies. Congress hoped that placing economic sanctions on British imports and exports would pressure Parliament into addressing the colonies' grievances, especially repealing the Intolerable Acts, which were strongly opposed by the colonies. [1]


The Congress adopted a "non-importation, non-consumption, non-exportation" agreement as a peaceful means of settling the colonies' disputes with Great Britain. The agreement, which had been suggested by Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee [2] based on the 1769 Virginia Association initiated by George Washington and written by George Mason, opened with a pledge of loyalty to King George III of Britain, and went on to outline a series of actions opening with a ban on British imports that would begin December 1, 1774. Trade between the colonies and Britain subsequently fell sharply. The British soon responded with the New England Restraining Act which escalated their own economic sanctions. The outbreak of the American Revolutionary War in April 1775 superseded the need to boycott British goods.

A significant effect of the agreement was that it exhibited the colonies' collective will to act together in their common interests. Abraham Lincoln, in his first inaugural address in 1861, credited the origin of the union which would become the United States to the adoption of the Continental Association. The Union actually may have begun slightly earlier with the First Continental Congress's opening session on September 5, 1774, and from that date on, the colonies acted in accord on a series of agreements leading up to the Congress's closing session seven weeks later. [3] One of the last of these agreements, the most visible symbol of political unity among the colonies up to that time, was the adoption of the Continental Association. [4]


Parliament passed the Coercive Acts in 1774 to restructure the colonial administration of the Thirteen Colonies and to punish the Province of Massachusetts for the Boston Tea Party. A First Continental Congress was convened at Carpenters' Hall in Philadelphia on September 5, 1774, to coordinate a response to the Intolerable Acts (also known as the Coercive Acts). Twelve colonies were represented at the First Continental Congress, which included George Washington, John Adams, Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry and future Chief Justice John Jay. Peyton Randolph was unanimously elected as its president, and Charles Thomson elected secretary. A plan of reconciliation was proposed, but was roundly rejected for concern that Parliament would see the proposal as a colonial acknowledgment that it had the right to regulate colonial trade and impose taxes. [5] [6]

Many Americans saw the Coercive Acts as a violation of the British Constitution and a threat to the liberties of all Thirteen Colonies, not just Massachusetts, and they turned to economic boycotts to protest the oppressive legislation, which involved the "non-importation", "nonexportation", or "non-consumption" of British goods. [5] [7]

On May 13, 1774, the Boston Town Meeting passed a resolution, with Samuel Adams acting as moderator, which called for an economic boycott in response to the Boston Port Act, one of the Coercive Acts. The resolution said:

That it is the opinion of this town, that if the other, Colonies come, into a joint resolution to stop all importation from Great Britain, and exportations to Great Britain, and every part of the West Indies, till the Act for blocking up this harbour be repealed, the same will prove the salvation of North America and her liberties. On the other hand, if they continue their exports and imports, there is high reason to fear that fraud, power, and the most odious oppression, will rise triumphant over right, justice, social happiness, and freedom. [8]

Paul Revere often served as messenger, and he carried the Boston resolutions to New York and Philadelphia. [9] Adams also promoted the boycott through existing colonial committees of correspondence, which enabled leaders of each colony to keep in touch.

One of the first actions of the Congress was the endorsement of the Suffolk Resolves, which called for an embargo on British trade and urged each of the colonies to organize militias. [10] The delegates subsequently drew up a Declaration and Resolves that included the Continental Association, which was approved on October 20, 1774. Based on the earlier Virginia Association, the Association signified the growing cooperation between the colonies. Opening with a profession of allegiance to the king, the document then charged Parliament and lower British officials for creating "a ruinous system of colony administration" rather than blaming the king. The Association alleged that this system was "evidently calculated for enslaving these colonies, [11] and, with them, the British Empire." Twelve colonies joined at once; Georgia joined a year later. [7]

Signed copies of the Articles were sent to the King to present to both houses of Parliament, where they remained for some time mixed in with other letters and documents sent from America. [12]


Original Articles of Association, p. 1
See also: Pages 2 and 3   For printed text of the entire document see: WikiSource Articles of Association.jpg
Original Articles of Association, p. 1
See also: Pages 2 and 3    For printed text of the entire document see: WikiSource

The articles of the Continental Association imposed an immediate ban on British tea, and a ban beginning on December 1, 1774, on importing or consuming any goods from Britain, Ireland, and the British West Indies. It also threatened an export ban on any products from the Thirteen Colonies to Britain, Ireland, or the West Indies, to be enacted only if the Intolerable Acts were not repealed by September 10, 1775. The Articles stated that the export ban was being suspended until this date because of the "earnest desire we have not to injure our fellow-subjects in Great-Britain, Ireland, or the West-Indies." All American merchants were to direct their agents abroad to also comply with these restrictions, as would all ship owners. Additionally, article 2 placed a ban on all ships engaged in the slave trade. [13]

The Association set forth policies by which the colonists would endure the scarcity of goods. Merchants were restricted from price gouging. Local committees of inspection were to be established in the Thirteen Colonies which would monitor compliance. Any individual observed to violate the pledges in the Articles would be condemned in print and ostracised in society "as the enemies of American liberty." Colonies would also cease all trade and dealings with any other colony that failed to comply with the bans.

The colonies also pledged that they would "encourage frugality, economy, and industry, and promote agriculture, arts and the manufactures of this country, especially that of wool; and will discountenance and discourage every species of extravagance and dissipation", such as gambling, stage plays, and other frivolous entertainment. It set forth specific instructions on frugal funeral observations, pledging that no one "will go into any further mourning-dress, than a black crepe or ribbon on the arm or hat, for gentlemen, and a black ribbon and necklace for ladies, and we will discontinue the giving of gloves and scarves at funerals."

Continental Association signers

Page 3, the signatory page of the Association Articles of Association, page 3.jpg
Page 3, the signatory page of the Association

The Continental Association was signed by 53 of the 56 members of the First Continental Congress. [13] [lower-alpha 1]


The Continental Association went into effect on December 1, 1774. Compliance with (and support for) the established boycott was largely enforced through local enforcement committees. By mid-1775, a large majority of Virginia's 61 counties had set up their own enforcement committees. Nearly all other colonies saw similar levels of success in upholding the boycott, with the notable exception of Georgia, where Governor James Wright emphasized the need for British protection from Native Americans. [14]

The use of public pressure was an overwhelmingly effective tactic in enforcing support for the boycott. Those who went against the boycott or even simply criticized the Association would often find their names slandered in newspapers and town gossip, often forcing those targeted to cave to pressure and publicly apologize. The threat of more direct action also played a role in forcing merchants to comply, with one merchant in Annapolis, Maryland, choosing to burn his own ship full of imported tea rather than attempt to sell it. When enforcement could not be guaranteed, some counties enacted price ceilings to discourage smuggling. [14]


Georgia waited a year but the other twelve colonies quickly established local enforcement committees; the restrictions were dutifully enforced in the others, and trade with Britain plummeted. [15] Breen states that by early 1775 the local committees of safety, "increasingly functioned as a revolutionary government" and British officials no longer were in control. [16]

According to Christopher Gould, The Continental Association forced colonials to publicly take sides: Patriots signed and Loyalists did not. In South Carolina Patriots dominated in Charleston and coastal areas; Loyalists were most numerous in the backcountry. The Continental Association took charge of the boycotts and led to new governmental organizations that supervised Revolutionary activities. The South Carolina boycott made an exception for rice—it could still be exported but a fraction of sales went to purchase indigo from planters. Gould argues that the plan amounted to price stabilization and a commodity exchange program. [17]

The King acted by securing an election and buying enough seats at £2500 to control the new Parliament. It then responded by passing the New England Restraining Act which prohibited the northeastern colonies from trading with anyone but Britain and the British West Indies, and they barred colonial ships from the North Atlantic fishing areas. These punitive measures were later extended to most of the other colonies, as well. Britain did not yield to American demands but instead tried to tighten its grip, and the conflict escalated to war. However, the long-term success of the Association was in its effective direction of collective action among the colonies and expression of their common interests. [18]


In his first inaugural address in 1861, President Abraham Lincoln traced the origin of the union of the states to the Continental Association of 1774:

Descending from these general principles, we find the proposition that in legal contemplation the Union is perpetual confirmed by the history of the Union itself. The Union is much older than the Constitution. It was formed, in fact, by the Articles of Association in 1774. It was matured and continued by the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It was further matured, and the faith of all the then thirteen States expressly plighted and engaged that it should be perpetual, by the Articles of Confederation in 1778. And finally, in 1787, one of the declared objects for ordaining and establishing the Constitution was "to form a more perfect Union." [19]

See also


  1. Members of the First Continental Congress who were not signers of the Continental Association were: Robert Goldsborough (Maryland), John Haring (New York), and Samuel Rhoads (Pennsylvania).

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thirteen Colonies</span> British colonies forming the United States

The Thirteen Colonies were a group of British colonies on the Atlantic coast of North America during the 17th and 18th centuries. Grievances against the imperial government led the 13 colonies to begin uniting in 1774, and expelling British officials by 1775. Assembled at the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia, they appointed George Washington as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army to fight the American Revolutionary War. In 1776, Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence as the United States of America. Defeating British armies with French help, the Thirteen Colonies gained sovereignty with the Treaty of Paris in 1783.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Continental Congress</span> Convention of delegates that became the governing body of the United States (1774–1789)

The Continental Congress was a series of legislative bodies, with some executive function, for the Thirteen Colonies of Great Britain in North America, and the newly declared United States before, during, and after the American Revolutionary War. The Continental Congress refers to both the First and Second Congresses of 1774–1781 and at the time, also described the Congress of the Confederation of 1781–1789. The Confederation Congress operated as the first federal government until being replaced following ratification of the U.S. Constitution. Until 1785, the Congress met predominantly at what is today Independence Hall in Philadelphia, though it was relocated temporarily on several occasions during the Revolutionary War and the fall of Philadelphia.

The Navigation Acts, or more broadly the Acts of Trade and Navigation, were a long series of English laws that developed, promoted, and regulated English ships, shipping, trade, and commerce between other countries and with its own colonies. The laws also regulated England's fisheries and restricted foreign—including Scottish and Irish—participation in its colonial trade. While based on earlier precedents, they were first enacted in 1651 under the Commonwealth.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Intolerable Acts</span> Series of punitive laws passed by the British Parliament in 1774

The Intolerable Acts, sometimes referred to as the Insufferable Acts or Coercive Acts, were a series of five punitive laws passed by the British Parliament in 1774 after the Boston Tea Party. The laws aimed to punish Massachusetts colonists for their defiance in the Tea Party protest of the Tea Act, a tax measure enacted by Parliament in May 1773. In Great Britain, these laws were referred to as the Coercive Acts. They were a key development leading to the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War in April 1775.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Quartering Acts</span> Laws forcing American colonists to house British soldiers (1760s–70s)

The Quartering Acts were two or more Acts of British Parliament requiring local governments of Britain's North American colonies to provide the British soldiers with housing and food. Each of the Quartering Acts was an amendment to the Mutiny Act and required annual renewal by Parliament. They were originally intended as a response to issues that arose during the French and Indian War and soon became a source of tensions between the inhabitants of the Thirteen Colonies and the government in London. These tensions would later lead toward the American Revolution.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Boston Port Act</span> 1774 Act of the British Parliament meant to punish Boston for the Boston Tea Party

The Boston Port Act, also called the Trade Act 1774, was an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain which became law on March 31, 1774, and took effect on June 1, 1774. It was one of five measures that were enacted during the spring of 1774 to punish Boston for the December 16, 1773, Boston Tea Party.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Second Continental Congress</span> 1775–1781 convention of the Thirteen Colonies

The Second Continental Congress was the late-18th-century meeting of delegates from the Thirteen Colonies that united in support of the American Revolution and the Revolutionary War, which established American independence from the British Empire. The Congress constituted a new federation that it first named the United Colonies, and in 1776, renamed the United States of America. The Congress began convening in Philadelphia, on May 10, 1775, with representatives from 12 of the 13 colonies, after the Battles of Lexington and Concord.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Suffolk Resolves</span> Massachusetts revolutionary declaration

The Suffolk Resolves was a declaration made on September 9, 1774, by the leaders of Suffolk County, Massachusetts. The declaration rejected the Massachusetts Government Act and resulted in a boycott of imported goods from Britain unless the Intolerable Acts were repealed. The Resolves were recognized by statesman Edmund Burke as a major development in colonial animosity leading to adoption of the United States Declaration of Independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1776, and he urged British conciliation with the American colonies, to little effect. The First Continental Congress endorsed the Resolves on September 17, 1774, and passed the similarly themed Continental Association on October 20, 1774.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Committee of safety (American Revolution)</span> Local committees of Patriots that became a shadow government during the American Revolution

In the American Revolution, committees of correspondence, committees of inspection, also known as committees of observation and committees of safety, were different local committees of Patriots that became a shadow government; they took control of the Thirteen Colonies away from royal officials, who became increasingly helpless.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">First Continental Congress</span> 1774 meeting of American colonial delegates

The First Continental Congress was a meeting of delegates of 12 of the Thirteen Colonies held from September 5 to October 26, 1774 at Carpenters' Hall in Philadelphia at the beginning of the American Revolution. The meeting was organized by the delegates after the British Navy implemented a blockade of Boston Harbor and the Parliament of Great Britain passed the punitive Intolerable Acts in response to the Boston Tea Party.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Restraining Acts 1775</span> United Kingdom legislation

The Restraining Acts of early 1775 were two Acts passed by the Parliament of Great Britain, which limited colonial trade in response to both increasing and spreading civil disobedience in Massachusetts and New England, and similar trade restrictions instituted by elected colonial representatives. With time the foment would spread to most of its American Colonies. The first restraining act, known variously as the New England Trade And Fisheries Act, the New England Restraining Act, or the Trade Act 1775, limited the export and import of any goods to and from only Great Britain, Ireland, and the British West Indies; it also prohibited the New England colonies from fishing in the waters off Newfoundland and most of America's Atlantic coast, without special permissions and documentation, and imposed stiff penalties on both perpetrators and administrators if violations occurred. Previously legal or finessed trade between the colonies themselves or with other nations was prohibited, and enforced by naval blockade, effective July 1, 1775. The second restraining act, known also as the Trade Act 1775, similarly limited the export or import of any goods by way of only Great Britain, Ireland, and the British West Indies for most colonies south of New England; it was passed shortly after the first, upon receiving news in April that the colony's trade boycott had spread widely among other colonies. New York, Delaware, North Carolina and Georgia would escape these restraints on trade, but only for a few months.

The Non-consumption agreements were a part of a family of agreements, including the non-importation and non-exportation agreements addressed by American colonists in the 1774 Declarations and Resolves of the First Continental Congress. These agreements later served as the basis for the Non-Importation Act, and subsequent Embargo of 1807 that was passed by the United States Congress in 1806 in an attempt to establish American nautical neutrality during the Napoleonic Wars between France and Britain.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Boston Tea Party</span> 1773 American protest against British taxation

The Boston Tea Party was an American political and mercantile protest on December 16, 1773, by the Sons of Liberty in Boston in colonial Massachusetts. The target was the Tea Act of May 10, 1773, which allowed the British East India Company to sell tea from China in American colonies without paying taxes apart from those imposed by the Townshend Acts. The Sons of Liberty strongly opposed the taxes in the Townshend Act as a violation of their rights. In response, the Sons of Liberty, some disguised as Native Americans, destroyed an entire shipment of tea sent by the East India Company.

The Fairfax Resolves were a set of resolutions adopted by a committee in Fairfax County in the Colony of Virginia on July 18, 1774, in the early stages of the American Revolution. Written at the behest of George Washington and others, they were authored primarily by George Mason. The resolutions rejected the British Parliament's claim of supreme authority over the American colonies. More than thirty counties in Virginia passed similar resolutions in 1774, "but the Fairfax Resolves were the most detailed, the most influential, and the most radical."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cuisine of the Thirteen Colonies</span> Cuisine of the Thirteen British colonies in North America before the American revolution

The cuisine of the Thirteen Colonies includes the foods, bread, eating habits, and cooking methods of the Colonial United States.

The Provincial Congresses were extra-legal legislative bodies established in ten of the Thirteen Colonies early in the American Revolution. Some were referred to as congresses while others used different terms for a similar type body. These bodies were generally renamed or replaced with other bodies when the provinces declared themselves states.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Samuel Adams</span> Founding Father of the United States (1722–1803)

Samuel Adams was an American statesman, political philosopher, and a Founding Father of the United States. He was a politician in colonial Massachusetts, a leader of the movement that became the American Revolution, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and other founding documents, and one of the architects of the principles of American republicanism that shaped the political culture of the United States. He was a second cousin to his fellow Founding Father, President John Adams.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress</span>

The Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress was a statement adopted by the First Continental Congress on October 14, 1774, in response to the Intolerable Acts passed by the British Parliament. The Declaration outlined colonial objections to the Intolerable Acts, listed a colonial bill of rights, and provided a detailed list of grievances. It was similar to the Declaration of Rights and Grievances, passed by the Stamp Act Congress a decade earlier.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Petition to the King</span> 1774 petition to George III seeking repeal of the Intolerable Acts

The Petition to the King was a petition sent to King George III by the First Continental Congress in 1774, calling for the repeal of the Intolerable Acts. The King's rejection of the Petition, was one of the causes of the later United States Declaration of Independence and American Revolutionary War. The Continental Congress had hoped to resolve conflict without a war.

The American Revolutionary War inflicted great financial costs on all of the combatants, including the United States, France, Spain and the Kingdom of Great Britain. France and Great Britain spent 1.3 billion livres and 250 million pounds, respectively. The United States spent $400 million in wages for its troops. Spain increased its military spending from 454 million reales in 1778 to over 700 million reales in 1781.


  1. Mary Beth Norton, 1774: The Long Year of Revolution (2021) pp 199–202.
  2. page
  3. Nettels, Curtis Putnam (1957). "The Origins of the Union and of the States". Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society. 72: 68–83. JSTOR   25080515 . Retrieved February 6, 2022.
  4. Carl G. Karsch. "The First Continental Congress: A Dangerous Journey Begins". Carpenter's Hall. Retrieved January 9, 2022.
  5. 1 2 Ellis, 2007, pp. 18, 59–60
  6. Ammerman, 1974, p. 81
  7. 1 2 Ammerman, 1974, p. 151
  8. Ammerman, 1974, pp. 23–24  For full text of Boston resolutions, see Peter Force, American Archives, Vol 1, p. 331
  9. Ammerman, 1974, p. 24.
  10. Ammerman, 1974, pp. 74–75
  11. Preamble of the Continental Association
  12. Journals of the Continental Congress, Vol. II, pp. 22, 63
  13. 1 2 Continental Congress (October 20, 1774). "Continental Association (Articles of Association)". Founders Online ( National Archives. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
  14. 1 2 Middlekauff, Robert (2005). The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763–1789 . New York, NY: Oxford University Press. ISBN   0-19-516247-1. OCLC   55960833.
  15. Breen, 2010, pp 185–206.
  16. Breen, 2010, p 261.
  17. Christopher Gould, "The South Carolina and Continental Associations: Prelude to Revolution." South Carolina Historical Magazine 87.1 (1986): 30–48 online
  18. Ford, 1891.
  19. Lincoln, Abraham (March 4, 1861). "Abraham Lincoln's First Inaugural Address on March 4, 1861". AMDOCS: Documents for the Study of American History. Retrieved October 27, 2009.


Wikisource-logo.svg The full text of Continental Association at Wikisource