The Committees of Correspondence were the American colonies’ means for maintaining communication lines in the years before the Revolutionary War. In 1764, Boston formed the earliest Committee of Correspondence to encourage opposition to Britain’s stiffening of customs enforcement and prohibition of American paper money. The following year, New York formed a similar committee to keep the other colonies notified of its actions in resisting the Stamp Act. In 1773, the Virginia House of Burgesses proposed that each colonial legislature appoint a committee for intercolonial correspondence. The exchanges that followed built solidarity during the turbulent times and helped bring about the formation of the First Continental Congress in 1774.
Committees of Correspondence were the American colonies’ first institution for maintaining communication with one another. They were organized in the decade before the Revolution, when the deteriorating relationship with Great Britain made it increasingly important for the colonies to share ideas and information. In 1764, Boston formed the earliest Committee of Correspondence, writing to other colonies to encourage united opposition to Britain’s recent stiffening of customs enforcement and prohibition of American paper money. The following year New York formed a similar committee to keep the other colonies notified of its actions in resisting the Stamp Act. This correspondence led to the holding of the Stamp Act Congress in New York City. Nine of the colonies sent representatives, but no permanent intercolonial structure was established. In 1772, a new Boston Committee of Correspondence was organized, this time to communicate with all the towns in the province, as well as with “the World,” about the recent announcement that Massachusetts’s governor and judges would hereafter be paid by–and hence accountable to–the Crown rather than the colonial legislature. More than half of the province’s 260 towns formed committees and replied to Boston’s communications.
In March 1773, the Virginia House of Burgesses proposed that each colonial legislature appoint a standing committee for intercolonial correspondence. Within a year, nearly all had joined the network, and more committees were formed at the town and county levels. The exchanges that followed helped build a sense of solidarity, as common grievances were discussed and common responses agreed upon. When the First Continental Congress was held in September 1774, it represented the logical evolution of the intercolonial communication that had begun with the Committees of Correspondence.
The Reader’s Companion to American History. Eric Foner and John A. Garraty, Editors. Copyright © 1991 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.