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State of New York State History

Hold a Mock First Continental Congress

One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind (https://constitutioncenter.org)

We are in the midst of the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution but one would hardly know it. While people remain fixated on the big pre-1776 events like the Battle of Lexington and Concord, specific actions leading to July 4, 1776, already were happening. Specifically, for example, the Orangetown Resolutions passed on July 4, 1774. How’s that for a coincidence.

The Orangetown (NY) Resolutions were part of a widespread movement of town and county protests of the Intolerable Acts passed by the British Parliament in 1774. The very event that precipitated what became the First Continental Congress, initiated grassroots efforts that helped define 1774 as the year when America’s First Civil War began. People (adult, white, males) were asked to take a stand as Loyalists or Patriots. Once having done so the die was cast although no one knew it yet.

The text of the Orange Town Resolutions reads as follows:

At a meeting of the Freeholders and inhabitants of Orangetown and Province of New York, on Monday, the fourth day of July, 1774, at the house of Mr. YOAST MABIE in said town, the following resolves were agreed upon and passed, viz:

1st, That we are and ever wish to be, true and LOYAL subjects to his Majesty George the Third, king of Great Britain.

2nd, That we are most cordially disposed to support his MAJESTY and defend his crown and dignity in every constitutional measure, as far as lies in our power.

3d, That however well disposed we are towards his majesty, we cannot see the late acts of PARLIAMENT imposing duties upon us, and the act for shutting up the port of Boston, without declaring our ABHORRENCE of measures so unconstitutional and big with destruction.

4th, That we are in duty bound to use every just and lawful measure to obtain a REPEAL of acts, not only destructive to us, but which, of course, must distress thousands in the mother country.

5th, That it is our unanimous opinion that the STOPPING of all exportation and importation to and from GREAT BRITAIN and the West Indies would be the most EFFECTUAL method to obtain a speedy repeal.

6th, That it is our most ardent wish to see concord and HARMONY restored to England and her colonies.

7th, That the following gentlemen, to wit: COLONEL ABRAHAM LENT, JOHN HARING, Esquire, Mr. Thomas OUTWATER, Mr. GARDNER JONES, and PETER T. HARING, may be a committee for this town to correspond with the City of NEW YORK, and to conclude and agree upon such measures as they shall judge NECESSARY in order to obtain a REPEAL of said acts.

A copy of the Orange Town Resolutions was sent to me in the spring 2024 Orangetown Crier of the Orangetown Historical Museum and Archives. It will sponsor a reading of the resolutions on
July 4 2024 at the ‘76 House, the still-standing restaurant from the American Revolution, along with the Tappantown Historical Society and the Historical Society of Rockland County.

Here is an example of what one community is doing at the grassroots level on the anniversary of events in 1774. The people were still loyal to the king but were in opposition to the duties imposed by Parliament.

Similar events must have occurred in multiple communities throughout the land although not necessarily on July 4 1774. What are you doing about them?

Here is where historical organizations and American Revolution scholars can take the lead. We know that the federal commission and national organizations working on the 250th are of limited use here. If you are fortunate enough to be in a state with a state commission, perhaps the commission is taking the lead in promoting 1774 events leading up to the First Continental Congress. If your state commission is not taking any action, perhaps your county 250th commission is. In this case a town, there only are six in Rockland County, and the county history organization are the one’s taking the lead. This celebration will require some research to determine exactly when and where something comparable occurred in your community and who were the people who were involved.

THE MOCK CONTINENTAL CONGRESS

It would be nice if a mock Continental Congress was held in Philadelphia in 2024. That would be a big undertaking and would raise problems about all the current states which were not colonies back then.

One alternative is to hold a mock Continental Congress in the legislative chambers of your state. It is quite possible that there already is some high school civics program that brings high school students to the capitol from throughout the state. That infrastructure could be built on to create a mock Continental Congress next fall during the new school year.

Mary Beth Norton, the author of 1774, has suggested three topics of debate for such a congress:

1. how to resist Britain that is whether to use nonimportation or not, and then non-exportation as well. Those are two different issues and people voted differently on them,

2. the other thing I would say would be how to enforce any agreement that the continental Congress makes. In short, whether to set up special committees or not, or whether to rely on existing governmental organizations.

3. Another debate topic that could be good would be to have them debate whether the colonies would have any possibility of fighting GB successfully if war started. There’s some excellent loyalist writing in that point they could draw on.

I offer these as guidelines for such a mock congress.

If getting access to the state legislative chambers in the fall is not feasible, perhaps a college could serve as well … or multiple colleges to involve as many students as possible.

If you do wish to hold such a mock congress, then now is the time to contact the schools in your area. If you first approach them in September for an event in October, then it will be too late. Plant the seed now.

The way things are going, 1774 is going to pass by without any national or statewide activities as if the First Continental Congress didn’t exist. Yes, the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic (SHEAR) will have roundtable of July 19 on the First Continental Congress at the semiquincentennial for the scholars in attendance at its annual conference. Yes it will follow with a private tour on July 20 of Carpenter’s Hall where the First Continental Congress was held.. But these are hardly national events. Mock congresses where students debate on being a Loyalist or a Patriot in October when the 2024 Presidential election heats up surely will bring home the mood and atmosphere of the First Continental Congress more than any academic paper, journal article, or book will. Imagine televising those debates.

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