Carpenters' Hall

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Frequently Asked Questions

These are the questions that we are asked most frequently by visitors at Carpenters' Hall.

Q
Why was Britain taxing the colonies?

A
French & Indian War (in Europe, the Seven Years War) ended in 1763, leaving England with large war debts. England felt the colonists should assist in paying the costs of defending and administering the colonies.

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Q
What events led up to the First Continental Congress?

A

The Sugar Act of 1764, first of a series of taxes by Parliament, was placed on sugar, coffee, and wines imported by the colonies. Opposition gave rise to the slogan, "No taxation without representation."

The 1765 Stamp Act placed duties on nearly every kind of document, from newspapers to legal papers and playing cards. Riots broke out, the largest being in Boston; British goods were boycotted, and the act was repealed.

In 1767, the Townshend Acts imposed several taxes. Again boycotts cut imports in half. The British responded by sending 4,000 troops to occupy Boston in autumn of 1768.

On March 5, 1770, waterfront workers attacked 9 British soldiers who fired, killing 5 colonists. Samuel Adams called this the "Boston Massacre"; 10,000 of Boston's 16,000 population marched in the funeral procession. Troops were withdrawn and the Acts were repealed. John Adams defended Captain Preston and his British soldiers who were set free.

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Q
What was the purpose of a Committee of Correspondence?

A

In 1773, Virginia appointed the first Committee of Correspondence to keep in touch with developments in other colonies. By 1774, all colonies had similar committees. Robert Smith, designer of Carpenters' Hall, was a member of the Pennsylvania committee.

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Q
What events led up to the Boston Tea Party?

A
Also in 1773, Parliament granted a monopoly on tea shipments to the East India Company, then nearly bankrupt. The Company, which did business only with Loyalist merchants, undercut other merchants, even smugglers. John Hancock, one of the country's richest men and most threatened by the new tea policy, helped instigate the Boston Tea Party (December 17) when 150 men, dressed as Mohawk Indians, dumped the tea cargo of three ships into Boston harbor. The East India Company was holding a seven-year surplus of tea from India and could be financially ruined if it was not sold.

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Q
Why was a general assembly of the colonies called?

A
In 1774, as a consequence of the Tea Party, Parliament passed a series of bills defending the remaining tea tax of the Townshend Acts, closed the port of Boston and nullified the charter of Massachusetts. General Gage landed 4,000 troops, many of who were quartered in residents' homes. In this way the British Parliament hoped to isolate the Massachusetts "rebels" from support by the other colonies. However, because of these "Intolerable Acts," colonial Assemblies (except Georgia) agreed to send delegates to a "congress" (First Continental Congress), which represented the full spectrum of opinion, from those seeking compromise with England to fiery rebels. Delegates chose Carpenters' Hall since it was a more neutral location than the State House, to which they had been invited. After seven weeks of debate (September 5 to October 26), delegates adopted 10 resolutions, often by very close votes, declaring to the King, Parliament, and the colonists the rights of British citizens in America and of their Assemblies. They also adopted an embargo on British imports, of which the colonies were the largest consumers.

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Q
What is the true story of Paul Revere's ride?

A
On April 18, 1775, 700 British troops crossed the Charles River and marched toward Concord, hoping to cut off the rebellion before it started by capturing guns and powder stored there. Two lights in the steeple of North Church in Boston alerted Paul Revere and Billy Dawes, another rider, who raced toward Lexington to warn the "Minutemen," farmers trained as militia to serve at a "minute's notice." Revere was captured and detained briefly by British soldiers who retained his horse, forcing him to walk home. Dawes was thrown from his horse but escaped on foot through the woods. Only Dr. Prescott, who had joined them, escaped by jumping on his horse, clearing a stone wall in the dark and reaching Concord. In the running battle at Lexington and Concord, eight Minutemen died. British losses: 73 dead and 174 wounded.

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Q
Where was the Second Continental Congress held?

A
On May 10, 1775, the Second Continental Congress convened in Pennsylvania's State House (Independence Hall). It was here that the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776.

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Q
Why is Carpenters' Hall known as the "Birthplace of Pennsylvania"?

A
In 1776, Carpenters' Hall became the "birthplace of Pennsylvania" when from June 18-25, 103 delegates chosen by popular vote met to denounce the colonial Assembly for dragging its feet on independence. Delegates declared Pennsylvania an independent state and forwarded the document to the Second Continental Congress, meeting at the State House. The document was received just a few days before adoption of the Declaration of Independence, on July 4th.

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Q
What effect did the Revolutionary War have on Carpenters' Hall and the Carpenters' Company members?

A
After the battle of Brandywine, in 1777, General Howe drove toward Philadelphia, forcing Congress to flee. Robert Allison, a member of the Carpenters' Company, led a group of men who lowered the Liberty Bell and church bells onto wagons for a hurried trip to Allentown to prevent the bells from being melted down for cannon. On Sept.26, British troops took over Philadelphia and left the following June. Carpenters' Hall became a field hospital. British officers borrowed books from Franklin's Library Company on the second floor but carefully returned them. The home of Joseph Fox, Master of the Company and an outspoken patriot, was burned by the British. Early Company records also perished.

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Carpenters' Hall, 320 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Open free to the public daily, except Mondays (and Tuesdays in Jan. and Feb.), from 10am-4pm

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Copyright 1999-2013 by the Independence Hall Association,
a nonprofit organization in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, founded in 1942.
Publishing electronically as ushistory.org. On the Internet since July 4, 1995.