York-Town Court House
September 30, 1777 to June 27, 1778
No Longer Standing
Replica Built 1976
205 W Market St
York, PA 17401
York-Town Court House York, Pennsylvania September 30, 1777 to June 27, 1778
York-Town Court House was constructed by William Willis in 1756 and stood in the "Centre Square" of two 80' thoroughfares. The 45’ x 45’ Georgian Brick Colonial Court House stood in the Center of West Market Street until 1841. In this Court House the Delegates received notice of Washington’s loss at Brandywine, Burgoyne’s surrender at Saratoga, Franklin’s success in achieving an alliance with France and the struggles of the Continental Army in Valley Forge. Also in this building the delegates hammered out and passed the Constitution of 1777, better known as the Articles of Confederation. A replica of the Court House was built in 1976 by the York County Bicentennial Commission; it stands in a small colonial park at the intersection of West Market Street and the Codorus Creek.
On the other side of the mighty Susquehanna, a river offering a protective natural barrier like the Delaware which impeded a surprise British Invasion of Philadelphia, sat the small hamlet of York-Town (now known as York, Pennsylvania). York had an underutilized courthouse that could readily be used to reconvene Congress in safety. York also offered numerous accommodations to house the delegates comfortably. On September 31st the Continental Congress moved into this 35-year-old town of about 300 dwellings and 2,000 residents.
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John Adams, once settled in York Town to the time to write Abigail:
“It is now a long Time, since I had an Opportunity of writing to you, and I fear you have suffered unnecessary Anxiety on my Account. -- In the Morning of the 19th. Inst., the Congress were allarmed, in their Beds, by a Letter from Mr. Hamilton one of General Washington’s Family, that the Enemy were in Possession of the Ford over the Schuylkill, and the Boats, so that they had it in their Power to be in Philadelphia, before Morning. The Papers of Congress, belonging to the Secretary's Office, the War Office, the Treasury Office, &c. were before sent to Bristol. The President, and all the other Gentlemen were gone that Road, so I followed, with my Friend Mr. Merchant [Marchant] of Rhode Island, to Trenton in the jersies. We stayed at Trenton, untill the 21. when We set off, to Easton upon the Forks of Delaware. From Easton We went to Bethlehem, from thence to Reading, from thence to Lancaster, and from thence to this Town, which is about a dozen Miles over the Susquehannah River. -- Here Congress is to sit.
In order to convey the Papers, with safety, which are of more Importance than all the Members, We were induced to take this Circuit, which is near 180 Miles, whereas this Town by the directest Road is not more than 88 Miles from Philadelphia. This Tour has given me an Opportunity of seeing many Parts of this Country, which I never saw before.”
The work in York was prodigious as the delegates were in the final stages of formulating the first U.S. Constitution, the Articles of Confederation, while anxiously awaited news from Battle of Saratoga. The letters of the delegates report that Congress typically met from 10am to 1pm and recessed until 4 pm. The after recess sessions often lasted well into the evening while committee duties filled the remaining free time. John Hancock wrote to his wife Dorothy during this period:
I sat in the Chair yesterday & Conducted the Business Eight hours, which is too much, and after that had the Business of my office to attend to as usual … I cannot Stand it much longer in this way. 
John Adams wrote to Abigail Adams of his tenure in York,
War has no Charms for me … If I live much longer in Banishment, I shall scarcely know my own Children. Tell my little ones, that if they will be very good, Pappa will come home. 
Charles Carroll of Carrollton, a Maryland Delegate initially wrote of his York experience that "the Congress still continues the same noisy, empty & talkative assembly it always was since I have known it," As the Delegates grew painfully aware that aid would not be forthcoming to their cause without an unanimously ratified Confederation Constitution the atmosphere of dread could only be changed with the crafting of such a document that would surely "give us great strength & new vigor."
Continental Congress Legislation passed at York-Town Court House:
January 2, 1778 Dismisses Esek Hopkins from the -Continental Navy. January 8 Detains Convention Army in America until properly notified of Britain's "explicit ratification of the convention of Saratoga." January 11 Appoints committee to repair to headquarters to concert with General Washington on the reform of the army. January 12 Examines John Folger on the theft of des patches from the commissioners in France. January 14 Accepts Baron Steuben's tender of services as a volunteer in the Continental Army. January 15 Orders creation of additional magazines for supply of the army in Pennsylvania. January 16 Instructs committee at camp to evaluate an attack on Philadelphia. January 17 Resolves to issue an additional $10 million in loan office certificates. January 20 Appoints Charles Carroll and Gouverneur Morris to the committee at camp to replace members named from the Board of War. January 21 Adopts measures to secure improved British treatment of American prisoners of war. January 23 Names General Lafayette to command an invasion of Canada. January 27 Appoints committee to confer on the reform of the hospital department. January 30-31 Studies proposals for reform of the quarter master department and for retaining the neutrality of the Indians in the northern department. February 2 Appoints officers for Canadian expedition. February 3 Prescribes oath required of all officers of the United States. February 4 Directs commissioner to the court of Tuscany to seek $1 million loan; receives Committee at Camp recommendation that Jeremiah Wadsworth be appointed commissary general of purchases. February 6 Reforms medical department; appoints middle department physician general. February 11 Adopts regulations for commissary general of military stores. February 13 Requests North Carolina beef and pork embargo. February 16 Resolves to emit additional $2 million in bills of credit. February 17 Suspends Board of War's special purchasing agents. February 19 Relocates Convention Army for security purposes. February 23 Appoints committee to reexamine feasibility of Canadian expedition. February 26 Adopts resolves for arranging a prisoner exchange; adopts new Continental Army quotas and recruiting regulations. February 27 Prescribes death penalty for persons convicted of aiding the enemy. March 2 Appoints Nathanael Greene quartermaster general and adopts new quartermaster regulations; urges cavalry recruitment; suspends Canadian expedition. March 3 Authorizes General Burgoyne's return to England. March 4 Authorizes Washington to employ Indians with the army. March 5 Resolves to emit additional $2 million in bills of credit. March 7 Designates April 22 a day of fasting and prayer. March 12 Urges states to keep three delegates in constant attendance. March 13 Adopts new commissary regulations; reassigns Lafayette and de Kalb. March 16 Orders return of Pennsylvania pacifists exiled to Virginia; orders study of state compliance with recommendations of Congress. March 18 Increases Washington's authority to negotiate prisoner exchanges. March 21 Adopts measures for defense of the northern department. March 24 Resolves to resume once daily sessions. March 26 Orders arrest of Delaware loyalists to thwart invasion threat. March 28 Appoints Casimir Pulaski to command independent cavalry corps. March 30 Adopts revised prisoner exchange instructions. April 4 Resolves to emit additional $1 million in bills of credit; empowers Washington to call New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland militia. April 7 Adopts contract terms for Commerce Committee to execute with Roderique Hortalez & Co. April 9 Sets pay and allowances for commissary officers and appoints Jeremiah Wadsworth commissary general of purchases. April 10 Holds acrimonious debate on letter criticizing Washington, sparking walkout of Thomas Burke and Edward Langworthy. April 11 Orders Thomas Burke to answer charges of disrupting proceedings of Congress; resolves to emit additional $5 million in bills of credit. April 14 Adopts regulations for commissary general of purchases. April 15 Responds to Delaware protest that General Smallwood's seizure of loyalists infringed the internal police of the state; directs General Gates to take command of the northern department. April 16 Rejects motion to refer issue of Continental officers' pensions to the states. April 18 Orders inquiry into the loss of the Virginia. April 22 Orders publication of statement on North Ministry's peace proposals. April 23 Urges states to pardon and forgive penitent loyalists; requests Maryland to send troops to suppress Delaware uprising. April 25 Resolves that Thomas Burke's withdrawal from Congress was "disorderly and contemptuous." April 26 Holds Sunday debate on half-pay proposal for Continental officers. April 28 Accepts General Conway's resignation ending his cabal to replace George Washington with Horatio Gates. April 29 Adopts plan to encourage desertion of British mercenaries seeking land and citizenship in the United States. May 3 Holds Sunday session to consider treaties of commerce and alliance negotiated with France. May 4 Ratifies the Franco-American Alliance with France. May 5 Instructs commissioners to secure revocation of two treaty of commerce articles. May 8 Adopts an address to the inhabitants of the United States. May 9 Issues proclamation denouncing seizures of neutral shipping by American armed vessels. May 11 Instructs Massachusetts on safeguarding the rights of the owners of an illegally seized Portuguese vessel. May 13 Rejects motion to refer proposed officer pension plan to the states. May 15 Adopts plan to provide half pay for officers for seven years after the conclusion of the war. May 18 Receives "plan for regulating the army" from the committee at camp. May 19 Orders emission of $6.3 million in bills of credit to pay interest on loan office certificates. May 21 Authorizes Massachusetts to assist Nova Scotian revolutionaries at Continental expense; adopts principles for governing prisoner exchanges. May 22 Resolves to emit additional $5 million in bills of credit. May 26 Adopts revised "rules" of Congress. May 27 Adopts new "Establishment of the American Army." May 28 Revises commissions of the American commissioners to Vienna, Berlin, and Tuscany. May 30 Resumes twice daily sessions "for the space of one month." June 1 Debates instructions for the American commissioners in Europe. June 4 Recommends suspension of state price regulations; directs Washington to "proceed in arranging" the army. June 6 Rejects peace proposals submitted by Lord Howe and Sir Henry Clinton. June 8 Embargoes provisions (effective June 10-November 15, 1778). June 11 Receives notice of the arrival of the Carlisle peace commission at Philadelphia; orders expedition against Fort Detroit; orders quartermaster department inquiry. June 13 Receives letter from the Carlisle peace commission. June 17 Adopts reply to the Carlisle peace commission orders halt to personal "correspondence with the enemy." June 20 Receives notice of the British evacuation of Philadelphia; resolves to emit additional $5 million in Continental currency. June 22-25 Debates proposed state amendments to the Articles of Confederation. June 25 Orders reinforcements for Rhode Island. June 26 Orders Articles of Confederation to be engrossed for signing. June 27 Adjourns from York, "to Thursday next, to meet at the State House in Philadelphia."
Continental Congress Legislation passed at York-Town Court House:
September 30, 1777 Convenes at York. October 1 Resolves to meet twice daily. October 2 Authorizes delegates to draw provisions from Continental commissaries. October 4 Commends sundry officers for bravery in defense against General Burgoyne's northern invasion. October 7 Debates "mode of voting" under draft Articles of Confederation. October 8 Adopts penalties for "communicating" with the enemy; commends Washington for the "brave exertions" of his army at Germantown. October 9-14 Debates taxation proposals under draft Articles of Confederation. October 15 Debates powers of Congress under draft Articles of Confederation. October 17 Reorganizes the Board of War. October 20 Exonerates General John Sullivan for failure of Staten Island expedition; learns informally of General Gates' capture of General Burgoyne's army at Saratoga. October 22 Orders inquiry into the conduct of Indian Commissioner George Morgan. October 23-30 Debates and revises draft Articles of Confederation. October 29 President Hancock takes leave of Congress. October 31 Receives official notification of the Saratoga Convention.
November 1 Elects Henry Laurens President of the Continental Congress. November 4 Commends General Gates and his army for their defense against Burgoyne's invasion and various other officers and units for their defense of the Delaware. November 7 Names new appointees to reorganized Board of War. November 10-14 Conducts final debates on Articles of Confederation. November 15 Adopts the Articles of Confederation November 17 Transmits Articles of Confederation to states for their consideration. November 19 Directs General Washington to inquire into the treatment of American prisoners. November 20 Adopts report on pacification of the western frontier. November 21 Recalls Commissioner Silas Deane from the court of France. November 22 Adopts economic program asking the states to levy taxes, call in paper money, and regulate prices. November 24 Adopts measures for improving the provisioning of the army. November 27 Recommends confiscation of loyalist property in the states; completes reconstitution of the Board of War, Horatio Gates named president. November 28 Appoints committee to confer with General Washington; orders inquiry into the failures of the Rhode Island expedition and the Delaware River defenses; appoints John Adams commissioner to France. November 29 Appoints committee to obtain a French translation of the Articles of Confederation and to invite Canada "to accede to the union of these states." December 1 Rejects alteration of the Saratoga Convention to permit embarkation of Burgoyne's army from Rhode Island. December 3 Resolves to seek $2 million loan from France and Spain; directs suppression of Delaware loyalists; adopts instructions for retaining continued neutrality of the Six Nations; endorses proposal for a surprise attack against Lake Champlain. December 8 Orders Silas Deane's immediate return to Congress. December 10 Denounces General William Howe's treatment of American prisoners; authorizes General Washington to impress supplies in Pennsylvania. December 13 Appoints General Thomas Conway to newly constituted post of inspector general of the army. December 16 Receives report of the committee at headquarters. December 19 Questions General Washington's plans for a winter cantonment. December 26 Debates implementation of the Saratoga Convention. December 30 Grants navy boards increased authority over naval officers; extends General Washington's powers to impress supplies, discipline officers, and punish spies.
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