Meeting Places for the Continental Congresses and the Confederation Congress, 1774–1789

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The Continental Congress was an itinerant legislature, often moving to escape British forces during the Revolutionary War.

The First Continental Congress met at Carpenters’ Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the fall of 1774. When the Delegates reconvened in May 1775, however, they met in Pennsylvania’s state house. By late 1776, as the British neared Philadelphia, Congress relocated 100 miles south to Baltimore, Maryland. In the summer of 1777, it moved to Lancaster and York in southeastern Pennsylvania. When the British abandoned Philadelphia, ending a ten-month occupation in the summer of 1778, the Continental Congress returned to the city for the remainder of the war.

On March 1, 1781, the Continental Congress ratified the Articles of Confederation and became known as the Confederation Congress. In the summer of 1783 a group of veterans from Pennsylvania’s state militias who sought back pay from their war service marched on Philadelphia and forced the Congress to move yet again. As the veterans neared the Pennsylvania state house where the Confederation Congress was then meeting, President Elias Boudinot convinced the Delegates to relocate to Princeton, New Jersey, on June 30, 1783. The Congress remained there until late fall, before subsequently moving to Annapolis, Maryland, and Trenton, New Jersey. It found a permanent home in New York’s City Hall in January 1785.1 Following the ratification of the Constitution, and two days after the Confederation Congress adjourned permanently on March 2, the First Federal Congress convened in City Hall (which was renamed Federal Hall after Congress moved in and was renovated by Pierre L’Enfant) on March 4, 1789.2

CongressBuilding & LocationDuration
First Continental CongressCarpenters' Hall, Philadelphia, PASep. 5–Oct. 26, 17743
Second Continental CongressState House, Philadelphia, PAMay 10, 1775–Dec. 12, 17764
 Henry Fite’s House, Baltimore, MDDec. 20, 1776–Feb. 27, 17775
 State House, Philadelphia, PAMar. 4, 1777–Sep. 18, 17776
 Court House, Lancaster, PASep. 27, 17777
 Court House, York, PASep. 30, 1777–June 27, 17788
 State House, Philadelphia, PAJuly 2, 1778–Mar. 1, 17819
Confederation CongressState House, Philadelphia, PAMar. 2, 1781–June 21, 178310
 Nassau Hall, Princeton, NJJune 30–Nov. 4, 178311
 State House, Annapolis, MDNov. 26, 1783–June 3, 178412
 French Arms Tavern, Trenton, NJNov. 1–Dec. 24, 178413
 City Hall, New York, NYJan. 11–Nov. 4, 1785; Nov. 7, 1785–Nov. 3, 1786; Nov. 6, 1786–Oct. 30, 1787; Nov. 5, 1787–Oct. 21, 1788; Nov. 3, 1788–Mar. 2, 178914

Footnotes

1Edmund Cody Burnett, The Continental Congress (New York: MacMillan, 1941): 584–587, 596–597, 613–618.

2“Federal Hall: History & Culture,” National Park Service, accessed 2 July 2019, https://www.nps.gov/feha/learn/hc.htm.

3Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. Worthington C. Ford, Gaillard Hunt, John C. Fitzpatrick, and Roscoe R. Hill (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1904–1937), accessed via Library of Congress, A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Databases, 1774–1875, http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/amlaw/lawhome.html. Hereinafter referred to as JCC, 1774–1789. See JCC, 1774–1789, vol. 1: 13, 104, 114.

4JCC, 1774–1789, vol. 2: 11–12; JCC, 1774–1789, vol. 6: 1027.

5JCC, 1774–1789, vol. 6: 1027–1028; JCC, 1774–1789, vol. 7: 168–169; Robert Fortenbaugh, The Nine Capitals of the United States (York, PA: The Maple Press Company, 1973): 23.

6JCC, 1774–1789, vol. 7: 168–169; JCC, 1774–1789, vol. 8: 753–754; Burnett, The Continental Congress: 237. The Continental Congress was scheduled to meet on March 4, but was unable to assemble a quorum until March 12.

7JCC, 1774–1789, vol. 8: 754–755; Fortenbaugh, The Nine Capitals of the United States: 34–35.

8JCC, 1774–1789, vol. 8: 756; 11: JCC, 1774–1789, vol. 661–662; Fortenbaugh, The Nine Capitals of the United States: 39.

9JCC, 1774–1789, vol. 11: 671; JCC, 1774–1789, vol. 19: 223; Fortenbaugh, The Nine Capitals of the United States: 48; Burnett, The Continental Congress: 343. Due to the extensive damage that resulted from British forces occupying the Pennsylvania state house, the Continental Congress convened at the University of Pennsylvania’s College Hall between July 2 and July 13, 1778. However, the Congress never conducted any legislative business there and “adjourned from day to day” due to inhospitable work conditions until delegates assembled a quorum on July 7. The Continental Congress ratified the Articles of Confederation on March 1, 1781.

10JCC, 1774–1789, vol. 19: 223; JCC, 1774–1789, vol. 24: 410.

11JCC, 1774–1789, vol. 24: 411; JCC, 1774–1789, vol. 25: 807; Fortenbaugh, The Nine Capitals of the United States: 59. Originally scheduled to meet on June 26, the Congress convened on June 30. The Congress briefly met at Colonel George Morgan’s Prospect House before convening in Nassau Hall.

12JCC, 1774–1789, vol. 25: 809; JCC, 1774–1789, vol. 27: 555–556. Although the Congress convened on November 26, it was unable to achieve a quorum until December 13, 1783; Fortenbaugh, The Nine Capitals of the United States: 62.

13JCC, 1774–1789, vol. 27: 641, 710; Fortenbaugh, The Nine Capitals of the United States: 68.

14JCC, 1774–1789, vol. 28: 1; JCC, 1774–1789, vol. 29: 872; JCC, 1774–1789, vol. 31: 923, 928; JCC, 1774–1789, vol. 33: 715; JCC, 1774–1789, vol. 34: 602–605; Fortenbaugh, The Nine Capitals of the United States: 68, 71, 78. The Congress occasionally met in Fraunces Tavern throughout 1788.