Four American Patriots  by Alma Holman Burton

The Continental Congress

The Virginia resolutions against the Stamp Tax were carried to the colonies in the North. They were published in New England and scattered all over the country.

The governor of Massachusetts wrote to the king's council: "I thought that the Americans would submit to the Stamp Act. But the Virginia resolves have proved an alarm bell."

And General Gage, the commander of the British forces, wrote from New York: "The Virginia resolves have given the signal for a general outcry all over the continent."

People now began to speak out more boldly. The Virginians declared they would not wear clothes bought in England until the tax was removed.

And when the rich planters went about clad in homespun, Patrick Henry looked quite as well as the best of them, and he talked much better than any.

After a time the king abolished the stamp tax, but he straightway put a tax on tea. Now, taxed tea was just as bad as taxed paper. People said they would not drink tea. And soon a swift courier rode into Williamsburg, saying that Boston had thrown the tea chests of the British merchants into the harbor.

Then another came in haste saying, that the king had shut up the port of Boston. The British general would not even allow a little shallop to enter the bay, and he kept his soldiers standing in the streets of the city with their bayonets fixed.

When the House of Burgesses met and ordered a day of fasting and prayer for the trouble that had come upon Boston, Patrick Henry spoke more boldly than ever against the tyranny of the king.

Governor Dunmore ordered the burgesses to separate. They hurried to meet again at Raleigh Tavern. Here they appointed a committee to write to the other colonies about what should be done. There was much writing back and forth between the North and the South.

Many said there should be a convention to form a union of the colonies. But, in our forefathers' day, as in our own, there were some men who did not believe in experiments.

A member of the South Carolina legislature laughed at the idea of a convention: "What kind of a dish will a congress from the different British colonies make?" he said. "New England will throw in fish and onions, the Middle States flax-seed and flour, Maryland and Virginia will add tobacco, North Carolina pitch, tar, and turpentine, South Carolina rice and indigo, and Georgia will sprinkle the whole composition with sawdust. That is about the kind of a jumble you will make if you attempt a union between the thirteen British provinces."

But another member retorted: "I would not choose the gentleman who made these objections for my cook, but I venture to say that, if the colonies proceed to appoint deputies to a Continental Congress, they will prepare a dish fit to be presented to any crowned head in Europe."

At last the colonies agreed to choose delegates to meet in convention at Philadelphia.

The Virginians chose Peyton Randolph a delegate for his dignity, George Washington for his military knowledge, Richard Henry Lee and Patrick Henry for their eloquence, Edmund Pendleton for his knowledge of law, Richard Bland for his skill in writing, and Benjamin Harrison for his popularity with the planters.

And so we see that Patrick Henry was chosen with the richest men in Virginia to go to Philadelphia to attend the first Continental Congress. The young lawyer was very busy for several weeks getting his affairs in order before starting on so long a journey.