What was the Continental Congress

lll. Preliminary stages of the declaration of independence, 1774/75

The majority of the Continental Congress demanded more autonomy than Galloway's plan and on October 14, 1774 only agreed to let the Parliament of Westminster regulate foreign trade for the benefit of all regions of the Empire, but in no case taxation. They granted the crown a veto of commercial legislation.

The Continental Congress justified its demands with a declaration of principle that linked the constitutional principles of the English Whigs of 1688 with the universally valid natural rights of a free man. Declared the "Intolerable Laws" unconstitutional for violating the rights and freedoms of the people of America. With this use of the word, the Continental Congress used the two meanings of people here, as it did later in the Declaration of Independence:> Population< und="">people< zunutze.="" als="" quelle="" der="" rechte="" der="" amerikaner="" nannte="" er="" nicht="" nur="" die="" englische="" verfassung="" ,="" deren="" schutz="" die="" auswanderer="" ab="" 1608="" ungeschmälert="" über="" den="" atlantik="" mitgenommen="" und="" deren="" gültigkeit="" ihnen="" die="" königlichen="" gründungsurkunden="" mehrfach="" bestätigt="" hätten.="" er="" berief="" sich="" auch="" auf="" "die="" unveränderlichen="" gesetze="" der="" natur"="" und="" verkündete:="" die="" bewohner="" der="" englischen="" kolonien="" in="" nordamerika="" seien="" "berechtigt="" zu="" leben,="" freiheit="" und="" eigentum,="" und="" sie="" haben="" niemals="" einer="" fremden="" macht="" ein="" recht="" darauf="" abgetreten,="" ohne="" ihre="" zustimmung="" über="" eines="" dieser="" drei="" güter="" zu="" verfügen."="" es="" war="" nur="" logisch,="" dass="" dieser="" grundgedanke="" der="" whig-doktrin="" über="" den="" ursprung="" und="" die="" aufgabe="" gerechter="" herrschaft="" zwanzig="" monate="" später="" in="" der="" präambel="" der="" unabhängigkeitserklärung="" wiederkehren="" sollte.="" in="" schlichter="" und="" klarer="" sprache="" erweiterte="" die="" grundsatzerklärung="" die="" rechte="" von="" engländern="" zum="" anspruch="" aller="" auf="" free="" government,="" d.h.="" "ein="" dem="" volk="" innewohnendes="" recht,="" an="" der="" gesetzgebung="" mitzuwirken."="" dreizehn="" der="" vom="" parlament="" seit="" 1763="" für="" die="" kolonien="" erlassenen="" gesetze="" verstießen="" nach="" dem="" urteil="" des="" kontinentalkongresses="" gegen="" diese="">

In order to force the repeal of the laws of 1774, the Continental Congress called on October 20, 1774 for a boycott of English goods and the abandonment of the export of American goods to British ports in the Caribbean and elsewhere. The import of slaves should also be stopped from December 1st. In the winter of 1774/75, revolutionary supervisory committees at the level of parishes, counties and colonies enforced extensive compliance with the boycott "Association" by intimidating merchants and buyers.

The relatively non-violent resistance finally turned into open civil war on April 19, 1775 with the skirmishes of Lexington and Concord outside of Boston. Insurgent militia besieged Boston from April 1775 and forced the Royal Navy to retreat to New York. The two capital mistakes of the hard-line strategists soon became apparent in London: The exemplary punishment of Massachusetts did not isolate the colony, but sparked solidarity; and colonists far less loyal to the king than expected rushed to the flags.

A second and from now on permanent continental congress of the initially twelve colonies ready to resist continued the coordination of resistance and negotiations in Philadelphia from May 1775. None of the colonies south of Nova Scotia single-handedly tried to come to terms with the king or his army. An aperçu attributed to the prominent Pennsylvania delegate, Benjamin Franklin, refers to the elementary national consciousness of the intercolonial elite at the time: "We either stick together or hang out individually." George Washington of Virginia, owner of a tobacco and wheat plantation, was named by Congress on June 15, 1775 as commander in chief of the troops besieging Boston.

In order to gain more support across the country for the service in the militia and in the congressional army and to mobilize the hesitant part of the politically active merchants, artisans and plantation owners, the Continental Congress passed on July 6th, 1775 a "Declaration of the Causes and Necessity, to take up arms. " Thomas Jefferson and two other members of the preparatory committee of this immediate predecessor of the Declaration of Independence were able to draw on this experience twelve months later. The train of thought and individual formulas of both explanations partly agree because both explanations reflect the basic beliefs of the American Whigs in the final phase of the power struggle. The declaration of armed resistance postulates the God-given freedom of mankind from unrestricted violence, thereby implicitly excluding colonial rule as discriminatory and measuring governmental power by the fulfillment of its task: "Respect for our great Creator, principles of humanity and imperative conclusions of common sense must each of them convince who thinks that governance was organized to advance the welfare of humanity and that it should be exercised to serve that purpose. " The colonists are therefore entitled to defend their freedom and reject attempts to enslave them by force of arms. Dozens of colonist rights violations since 1763 were then enumerated in detail. The Conclusion rejected "unconditional submission" and "slavery" in favor of violent resistance and defiantly added, "Our internal resources are great and, in an emergency, there is no doubt that external help is available."

In order to contest the St. Lawrence Valley as a deployment area for the British army, an American army of about one thousand men tried unsuccessfully from September to December 1775 to occupy Montreal and Quebec permanently; a second attempt in spring 1776 also failed. It became increasingly clear that without massive military support from France, the British army could not be driven out of the American colonies, and the French king would only provide open military and diplomatic aid once the colonies had left the English empire irrevocably.

The Continental Congress took an important step in this direction on April 6, 1776, when it opened the American ports to all ships except British ships. The economic declaration of independence came before the political one. The end of the state-controlled mercantile system began as a war measure. The Scottish enlightener Adam Smith published his comprehensive explanation of the advantages of free trade in the same year. In the cool language of the economic theorist and historian, Smith also pointed out the disadvantages of well-run colonial economies in The Wealth of Nations.

The independence wing in the Continental Congress was strengthened by the change in public opinion in the spring of 1776. In January 1776, an extraordinarily explosive pamphlet propagated the defection of England: In Common Sense, Thomas Paine, a journalist, radical Whig and Republican who had only recently moved from England, summarized all the arguments for immediate independence in rousing agitation prose. He declared the British hereditary monarchy to be incompatible with popular sovereignty and the principle of equality and the perhaps once balanced British constitution as irreparably corrupted. A colonist with "common sense" must recognize that the time is ripe for the establishment of a self-governing American nation: "Under the current designation> British subjects< können="" wir="" im="" ausland="" weder="" empfangen="" noch="" angehört="" werden.="" die="" sitte="" aller="" höfe="" ist="" gegen="" uns="" und="" wird="" es="" solange="" sein,="" bis="" wir="" uns="" durch="" eine="" unabhängigkeitserklärung="" anderen="" nationen="" gleichstellen."="" paines="" auch="" in="" den="" zeitungen="" der="" anderen="" kolonien="" in="" ausschnitten="" und="" auch="" auf="" deutsch="" veröffentlichtes="" pamphlet="" und="" die="" entgegnungen,="" die="" es="" auslöste,="" trieben="" die="" polarisierung="" der="" öffentlichen="" meinung="" in="" den="" kolonien="">

On May 15, 1776, several delegates left the continental congress in protest against the recommendation to the houses of representatives and convents of the colonies not to take oaths on the crown when filling public offices.

Virginia's House of Representatives instructed its delegates in Philadelphia on May 15, 1776, to vote for the declaration of independence. Thereupon on June 7, 1776 Richard Henry Lee of Virginia presented the three resolutions cited at the beginning to the Congress. The discussion about this final step and the attempts to change the mind in Philadelphia and in the convents and legislatures of the individual colonies dragged on until the vote on July 2, 1776.

The authors of the Declaration of Independence were also able to fall back on some of these preparatory decisions at the individual state level. For example, the assembly of delegates of the Pennsylvania Revolutionary Committees decided on June 24th, 1776 (in contemporary translation in Henrich Miller's Pennsylvania State Messenger of June 28th) that "the mutual connections of duty and grace between the king and his subjects ... have now been dissolved by the unauthorized rule "of the king. The Pennsylvanians also felt obliged to explain their step to the public in Europe:

"We address the nations of Europe and appeal to the great arbiter and ruler of the empires of the world, testify for us to be that this declaration did not originate in ambition or in an impatient [sic] under legitimate violence, but that We have been driven to do this in obedience to the first principles of nature, through the oppression and cruelty of the aforementioned King and Parliament of Great Britain. "

The Virginia's declaration of fundamental rights, adopted on June 12, 1776, seems to have had a direct influence on the wording of the declaration of independence. Jefferson himself had sent a draft of his home state's constitution to Virginia from Philadelphia, and he was familiar with the Bill of Rights drafted by George Mason. Since the basic assumption of Whig's theory of just government - the idea of ​​a social and power contract among citizens with equal rights - forms the logical starting point for both explanations and these ideas had been discussed intensively in hundreds of newspaper articles and pamphlets for over ten years, the parallelism of the line of thought is and the similarity of the wording nothing amazing. The Virginians had decided to justify their catalog of basic rights:

  1. All human beings are by nature equally free and independent and have certain innate rights which they cannot deprive their descendants of by contract if they place themselves in the state of human community; namely life and freedom and the means to acquire and own property and to strive for and achieve well-being (happiness) and security.
  2. All power rests in the hands of the people and is therefore derived from them. Holders of government are his trustees and servants and answerable to him at all times.
  3. Governance is or should be exercised for the common good, for the protection and security of the people, the nation or the community. Of the various forms of government, the best is that which can bring about the greatest measure of happiness and security and which is most effective in countering the risk of abuse of power. If any government or form of government does not serve or harm that end, the majority of the community has the undeniable, inalienable, and inalienable right to improve, change, or eliminate it in ways that are most appropriate for the common good.