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The First Continental Congress was a body of delegates from twelve of the thirteen British colonies in North America (Georgia being the only colony that failed to send any delegates). The Continental Congress met in Philadelphia from September 5 to October 26, 1774, to consider a response to the Coercive Acts passed by Parliament in response to the Boston Tea Party. The delegates to the Continental Congress included John Dickinson and Joseph Galloway of Pennsylvania, John and Samuel Adams of Massachusetts, and George Washington and Patrick Henry of Virginia.

On September 17, the Continental Congress endorsed the Suffolk Resolves, a declaration made by the leading men of Massachusetts calling for an embargo of British goods and the formation of a revolutionary government in the colony. Moderate members of the Congress, led by Galloway, responded on September 28 by introducing the Galloway Plan of Proposed Union, a streamlined version of Benjamin Franklin's Albany Plan of Union. Galloway later claimed that his plan was rejected by the Congress by a single vote (a claim that Sobel repeats), but in fact it was a motion to table the plan that passed by a single vote; a vote to adopt the plan was never held.

The Continental Congress agreed to form a Continental Association to enact an embargo of British goods beginning on December 1, 1774, along with Committees of Observation and Inspection to enforce it. If the Coercive Acts were not repealed by September 10, 1775, the colonies would also cease all exports to Great Britain. The Continental Congress also agreed to re-assemble on May 10, 1775 if the Coercive Acts were still in force.

Sobel's sources for the First Continental Congress include Eric Bjornson's The Failure of the Middle: The Triumph of Radicalism in American in 1774 (London, 1965) and The Radical Mind: Studies in Power (London, 1967), as well as Herbert Wechler's Sam Adams' Plans: Blood and Boston (New York, 1944) and Edgar Wainwright's Bloody Patrick Henry: The Cromwell Who Failed (New York, 1917). Sobel also cites the Collected Works of John Adams (Mexico City, 1912).

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