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Committees of correspondence facts for kids

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The committees of correspondence were shadow governments organized by the Patriot leaders of the Thirteen Colonies on the eve of the American Revolution. They coordinated responses to England and shared their plans; by 1773 they had emerged as shadow governments, superseding the colonial legislature and royal officials. The Maryland Committee of Correspondence was instrumental in setting up the First Continental Congress, which met in Philadelphia. These served an important role in the Revolution, by disseminating the colonial interpretation of British actions between the colonies and to foreign governments. The committees of correspondence rallied opposition on common causes and established plans for collective action, and so the group of committees was the beginning of what later became a formal political union among the colonies.

A total of about 7,000 to 8,000 Patriots served on these committees at the colonial and local levels, comprising most of the leadership in their communities—the Loyalists were excluded. The committees became the leaders of the American resistance to British actions, and largely determined the war effort at the state and local level. When Congress decided to boycott British products, the colonial and local committees took charge, examining merchant records and publishing the names of merchants who attempted to defy the boycott by importing British goods.

The committees promoted patriotism and home manufacturing, advising Americans to avoid luxuries, and lead a more simple life. The committees gradually extended their power over many aspects of American public life. They set up espionage networks to identify disloyal elements, displaced the royal officials, and helped topple the entire Imperial system in each colony. In late 1774 and early 1775, they supervised the elections of provincial conventions, which took over the actual operation of colonial government.

Function

The function of the committees in each colony was to inform the voters of the common threat faced by all the colonies and to disseminate information from the main cities to the rural hinterlands where most of the colonists lived. As the news was typically spread in hand-written letters or printed pamphlets to be carried by couriers on horseback or aboard ships, the committees were responsible for ensuring that this news accurately reflected the views of their parent governmental body on a particular issue and was dispatched to the proper groups. Many correspondents were also members of the colonial legislative assemblies and were active in the secret Sons of Liberty or even the Stamp Act Congress of the 1760s.

History

The earliest committees of correspondence were formed temporarily to address a particular problem. Once a resolution was achieved, they were disbanded. The first formal committee was established in Boston in 1764 to rally opposition to the Currency Act and unpopular reforms imposed on the customs service.

During the Stamp Act Crisis the following year, New York formed a committee to urge common resistance among its neighbors to the new taxes. The Province of Massachusetts Bay correspondents responded by urging other colonies to send delegates to the Stamp Act Congress that fall. The resulting committees disbanded after the crisis was over.

Boston, whose radical leaders thought it was under increasingly hostile threats by the royal government, set up the first long-standing committee with the approval of a town meeting in late 1772. By spring 1773, Patriots decided to follow the Massachusetts system and began to set up their own committees in each colony. Virginia appointed an eleven-member committee in March, quickly followed by Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. By February 1774, eleven colonies had set up their own committees; of the thirteen colonies that eventually rebelled, only North Carolina and Pennsylvania had not.

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