After the Boston Tea Party, Parliament responded with the Intolerable Acts, also known as Coercive Acts, effective March 31, 1774. The colonial response was organized by the creation of the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia, a convention of 56 delegates from 12 colonies chosen by their legislatures. The only colony that did not attend was Georgia but sent representatives to the Second Continental Congress on May 1775.
It is believed that John Hancock did not initially attend Congress because he knew that British Parliament was attempting to assert its authority in the colony by altering its provincial charter. In fact, the charter was annulled by the Massachusetts Government Act and its members were to be appointed by the King. By the same act, the Provincial Assembly was dissolved. As a result, in October of 1774 the Massachusetts Provincial Congress was created with the same members as the Provincial Assembly and elected John Hancock as its President. The Congress was an autonomous body from Britain and became the de facto government of Massachusetts and the first autonomous government of the American colonies. They had the powers of a government to rule its citizens, to collect taxes and to create a militia. The Provincial Congress organized the Massachusetts militia creating regiments made up of “minutemen”. They were known as minutemen because they had to be ready to fight at a minute’s notice.
In December 1774, Hancock was elected as a delegate from Massachusetts to the Continental Congress replacing James Bowdoin and joining John Adams, Samuel Adams, Thomas Cushing and Robert Treat Paine.
The Massachusetts Provincial Congress changed meeting places frequently as Hancock’s and Samuel Adams’ revolutionary activities made them the most wanted men by British authorities. In April 1775 as they were attending the now independent Provincial Congress in Concord British authorities were actively looking to arrest both men. Feeling it was not safe to return to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia they went into hiding in Hancock’s house in Lexington. The night of April 18, 1775 Paul Revere embarked in his famous “Midnight Ride” to warn Hancock and Adams of the plans to arrest them and to seize arsenal from the militia. The Independence War started with the first shots at Lexington and Concord.