The first Continental Congress was called after Parliament passed the Coercive Acts (called the Intolerable Acts in the colonies) to represent the interests of all the colonies. This is an important step as the colonies previously were reluctant to work with one another.
The Congress convened in Philadelphia on September 5, 1774. All the colonies except Georgia were represented. Delegates from Canada were invited, hence the name "Continental Congress" but none attended.
Originally the Congress discussed--and voted down a "Plan of Union" which would call for a Governor-General appointed by the King and a Grand Council appointed by the colonies. All acts of the Council were to be subject to Parliamentary approval. This was voted down 6-5 (voting was conducted by Colonies, much to the disdain of Patrick Henry who argued that the delegates were Americans first, then Virginians, New Yorkers, etc.)
The Congress did pass a Declaration of American Rights which stated:
- Parliament had the right to regulate commerce and matters which were strictly imperial. It explicitly did not have the right to regulate internal matters in the colonies.
- The "rights of Englishmen" for all Americans was proclaimed. The denial of their rights as Englishmen had been a primary complaint from the beginning.
- Each colonial assembly had the right to determine if British troops were required within its borders.
The Convention also adopted a "Dominion Theory" which held that each colony was a distinct and separate realm, subject to rule by the King alone, not Parliament. Since England was a Constitutional Monarchy, they would implicitly be guaranteed the Rights of Englishmen.
Finally the Congress adopted the Continental Association of 1774 which recommended that each colony enforce a boycott of British goods; for an interconnection of the colonies to enforce the boycott in all colonies and also enforce the non-exportation of American goods to Britain until such time as the colonies grievances were addressed.
Needless to say, the actions of the Congress made no friends for the Americans in Britain.