The Committees of Correspondence: Definition & Purpose

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ashley Kannan

Ashley has taught history, literature, and political science and has a Master's Degree in Education

Before social media, there was a way where nearly everyone in colonial America could find out what was happening in the movement towards independence: the Committees of Correspondence. Read on to learn why the Committees of Correspondence were formed, how they worked, and what impact they had in colonial America.

Origins and Purpose

After the French and Indian War came to an end, the colonists expected some changes in their relationship with the British, especially since they'd supported them in battling the French and the Native Americans. However, the colonists were disappointed when the British were less than respectful towards them and began to see British acts and taxes as tyrannical and unfair. These included the Sugar Act and the Currency Act, which were meant to offset the cost of the war at the expense of the colonists. In response, Samuel Adams, one of our Founding Fathers, created the first Committee of Correspondence in Boston in 1764.

Samuel Adams felt that the Currency Act in particular, which the British used to regulate colonial currency, was unacceptable. In establishing the Boston Committee of Correspondence, his immediate goal was to generate popular support for colonial resistance and weaken the authority of the British at the town level. The establishment of Adams' committee led to the organization of a large network of other committees, not only in towns in Massachusetts, but throughout the original 13 colonies. As more acts were passed, such as the Stamp Act in March of 1765, committees were freely sharing information with one another, and a sense of solidarity began to emerge.

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  • 0:00 Origins and Purpose
  • 1:14 Activities and Organization
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Activities and Organization

The Committees of Correspondence consisted of groups of colonists that were committed to informing people about the need to oppose and declare independence from Great Britain. They were established by colonial legislatures or underground groups of colonists, such as the Sons of Liberty. The Committees of Correspondence also served as emergency provisional governments prior to the start of the American Revolution. Some of the more powerful committees could be found in Delaware, Maryland, New York, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.

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