Committee of safety (American Revolution)

Many Committees of Safety were established throughout the Thirteen American colonies at the start of the American Revolution in 1774-75. They became shadow government that took actual control of the colonies away from royal officials who became increasingly helpless. These committees in part grew out of the less formal Sons of Liberty groups, which started to appear in the 1760s as means to discuss and spread awareness of the concerns of the time, and often consisted of every male adult in the community. The local militias were usually under the control of the committees, which in turn sent representatives to county-wide and colony-level assemblies to represent their local interests.

Committees of Safety formed in 1774 to keep watch on the distrusted royal government. By 1775 they had become the operating government of all the colonies, as the royal officials were expelled. Massachusetts took the lead in the appointment of a committee of safety so early as the autumn of 1774, of which John Hancock was chairman. It was given power to call out mandatory militia, with penalties for failing to respond to a call-up, and provide means of defense. It provided many of the duties of a provisional government. Other colonies appointed committees of safety. One was appointed in the city of New York, composed of the leading citizens. In the spring of 1778, the New York state legislature replaced all committees with "Commissioners of Conspiracy".

In North Carolina, the demand for independence came from local grassroots Committees of Safety. The First Continental Congress had urged their creation in 1774. By 1775 they had become counter-governments that gradually replaced royal authority and took control of local governments. They regulated the economy, politics, morality, and militia of their individual communities. After December 1776 they came under the control of a more powerful central authority, the Council of Safety.[1]

These Committees of Safety were in constant communication with committees of correspondence, which disseminated information among the militia units and provided a clearinghouse of information and intelligence on enemy activities.


  1. ^ Alan D. Watson, "The Committees of Safety and the Coming of the American Revolution in North Carolina, 1774-1776," North Carolina Historical Review, (1996) 73#2 pp 131-155

Further reading

  • Breen, T.H. (2010). American Insurgents, American Patriots: The Revolution of the People. 
  • Harper's Encyclopædia of United States History (1905)

See also

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