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Committee of correspondence
This article is about the historical committee of correspondence. For the modern organization see Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism
A committee of correspondence was a body organized by the local governments of the American colonies for the purposes of coordinating written communication outside of the colony. These served an important role in the American Revolution and the years leading up to it, 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 network of committees were the beginning of what later became a formal political union among the colonies.
As news during this period was typically spread in hand-written letters 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 organizations.
The earliest committees of correspondence were temporary, being formed to address a particular problem and then disbanding once a resolution was achieved. 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 Massachusetts Bay Colony correspondents responded by urging other colonies to send delegates to the Stamp Act Congress that fall.
In Massachusetts in 1772, Samuel Adams and Joseph Warren formed a committee to protest the recent British decision to have the salaries of the royal governor and judges be paid by the Crown rather than the colonial assembly, which removed the colony of its means of controlling public officials. In the following months, more than 100 other committees were formed in the towns and villages of Massachusetts. Soon the committees were being used in every other colony.
In 1773, as the relationship between the colonies and Britain worsened to a crisis level, the Virginia House of Burgesses committee recommended to the other colonial assemblies that permanent committees should be formed.
These permanent committees performed the important planning necessary for the First Continental Congress, which convened in September of 1774. The Second Congress created its own committee of correspondence to communicate the American interpretation of events to foreign nations.
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