The lithograph above depicts George Washington, Patrick Henry and Edmund Pendleton on their way to the First Continental Congress in 1774. The event drew some of the colonies’ most respected citizens to Carpenter’s Hall, a red brick meeting house built for Philadelphia’s oldest trade union.
There, the elected delegates — who also included Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams — hammered out a list of demands to send to Great Britain, still the colonies’ mother country.
Their goal was not independence; instead, they sought an effective way to protest what they saw as unfair taxes imposed by Parliament and King George III (higher taxes had also spurred the Boston Tea Party a year before). They also said Britain had expanded its powers while unfairly stripping rights from individuals and local governments in the colonies.
When the colonists’ demands were rebuffed, the idea of breaking free gained momentum, leading to the Second Continental Congress and the Declaration of Independence in 1776.