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The Second Continental Congress was a meeting of delegates from the
Thirteen Colonies The Thirteen Colonies, also known as the Thirteen British Colonies or the Thirteen American Colonies, were a group of Kingdom of Great Britain, British colonies on the Atlantic coast of North America. Founded in the 17th and 18th centuries, th ...
in America that united in the
American Revolutionary War The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), also known as the Revolutionary War and the American War of Independence, was initiated by delegates from thirteen American colonies of British America British America comprised the colon ...
. It convened on May 10, 1775, with representatives from 12 of the colonies in
Philadelphia Philadelphia (colloquially known simply as Philly) is the largest city in the Commonwealth (U.S. state), Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in the United States. It is the List of United States cities by population, sixth-most-populous city in the ...

Philadelphia
,
Pennsylvania Pennsylvania ( , elsewhere ; pdc, Pennsilfaani), officially the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, is a landlocked A landlocked country is a country that does not have territory connected to an ocean or whose coastlines lie on endorheic basi ...

Pennsylvania
, shortly after the
Battles of Lexington and Concord The battles of Lexington and Concord were the first military engagements of the American Revolutionary War The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), also known as the Revolutionary War and the American War of Independence, was init ...
, succeeding the
First Continental Congress The First Continental Congress was a meeting of delegates from 12 of the 13 British colonies that became the United States. It met from September 5 to October 26, 1774, at Carpenters' Hall Carpenters' Hall is the official birthplace of the C ...
which met in Philadelphia from September 5 to October 26, 1774. The Second Congress functioned as a ''de facto'' national government at the outset of the Revolutionary War by raising armies, directing strategy, appointing diplomats, and writing petitions such as the
Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up ArmsThe Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms is a Resolution adopted by the Second Continental Congress The Second Continental Congress was a meeting of delegates from the Thirteen Colonies in America which united in the America ...
and the
Olive Branch Petition 250px, Signature page of the Olive Branch Petition, with John Hancock's prominent signature at the top The Olive Branch Petition was adopted by the Second Continental Congress The Second Continental Congress was a meeting of delegates from ...
. All thirteen colonies were represented by the time the Congress adopted the
Lee Resolution Richard Henry Lee proposed the resolution on June 7, 1776. The Lee Resolution (also known as "The Resolution for Independence") was the formal assertion passed by the Second Continental Congress on July 2, 1776 which resolved that the Thirteen Co ...

Lee Resolution
which declared independence from Britain on July 2, 1776, and the congress agreed to the
Declaration of Independence#REDIRECT Declaration of independence {{Redirect category shell, {{R from other capitalisation ...

Declaration of Independence
two days later. Afterward, Congress functioned as the provisional government of the United States of America through March 1, 1781. During this period, its achievements included: Successfully managing the war effort; drafting the
Articles of Confederation The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union was an agreement among the 13 original states of the United States of America The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America ...
, the first U.S. constitution; securing diplomatic recognition and support from foreign nations; and resolving state land claims west of the
Appalachian Mountains The Appalachian Mountains, often called the Appalachians, are a mountain range, system of mountains in eastern North America. The Appalachians first formed roughly 480 million years ago during the Ordovician, Ordovician Period. They once reache ...

Appalachian Mountains
. Many of the delegates who attended the Second Congress had also attended the First. They again elected
Peyton Randolph Peyton Randolph (September 10, 1721 – October 22, 1775) was a planter and public official from the Colony of Virginia. He served as Speaker (politics), Speaker of the Virginia House of Burgesses, president of Virginia Conventions, and the first ...

Peyton Randolph
to serve as President of the Congress and
Charles Thomson Charles Thomson (November 29, 1729 – August 16, 1824) was an Irish-born Patriot leader in Philadelphia Philadelphia, colloquially Philly, is a city in the state of Pennsylvania in the United States. It is the sixth-most populous city in ...
to serve as secretary. Notable new arrivals included
Benjamin Franklin Benjamin Franklin ( April 17, 1790) was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States that was negotiated on behalf of the United States by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and John Jay The Founding Fathers of the United States, or simp ...

Benjamin Franklin
of Pennsylvania and
John Hancock John Hancock ( – October 8, 1793) was an American Founding Father The following list of national founding figures is a record, by country, of people who were credited with establishing a state. National founders are typically those w ...

John Hancock
of Massachusetts. Within two weeks, Randolph was summoned back to Virginia to preside over the
House of Burgesses The House of Burgesses was the elected representative element of the Virginia General Assembly The Virginia General Assembly is the State legislature (United States), legislative body of the Virginia, Commonwealth of Virginia, and the oldest con ...
; Hancock succeeded him as president, and
Thomas Jefferson Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, architect, philosopher, and who served as the third from 1801 to 1809. He had previously served as the second under and as the first under ...

Thomas Jefferson
replaced him in the Virginia delegation. The number of participating colonies also grew, as Georgia endorsed the Congress in July 1775 and adopted the continental ban on trade with Britain.


History


''De facto'' government

The First Continental Congress had sent entreaties to
King George III George III (George William Frederick; 4 June 173829 January 1820) was King of Great Britain There have been 12 British monarchs since the political union of the Kingdom of England The Kingdom of England was a sovereign state on the ...

King George III
to stop the
Coercive Acts The Intolerable Acts were punitive laws passed by the British Parliament The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the Parliamentary sovereignty in the United Kingdom, supreme Legislature, legislative body of the United Kingdom, the Crown dep ...
; they had also created the
Continental Association The Continental Association, often known as the Association, was a detailed system created by America's First Continental Congress The First Continental Congress was a meeting of delegates from 12 of the 13 British colonies that became the U ...
to establish a coordinated protest of those acts, putting a boycott on British goods. The Second Continental Congress met on May 10, 1775, to plan further responses if the British government had not repealed or modified the acts; however, the
American Revolutionary War The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), also known as the Revolutionary War and the American War of Independence, was initiated by delegates from thirteen American colonies of British America British America comprised the colon ...
had already started by that time with the
Battles of Lexington and Concord The battles of Lexington and Concord were the first military engagements of the American Revolutionary War The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), also known as the Revolutionary War and the American War of Independence, was init ...
, and the Congress was called upon to take charge of the war effort. For the first few months of the war, the patriots carried on their struggle in an ad-hoc and uncoordinated manner. Even so, they had seized numerous arsenals, driven out royal officials in various colonies, and besieged Boston in order to prevent the movement by land of
British troops British may refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * British people The British people, or Britons, are the citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the British Overseas Territories, and the Crown dependenc ...
garrison Garrison (from the French ''garnison'', itself from the verb ''garnir'', "to equip") is the collective term for any body of troop A troop is a military sub-subunit Sub-subunit or sub-sub-unit is a subordinated element below platoon lev ...

garrison
ed there. On June 14, 1775, Congress voted to create the
Continental Army The Continental Army was the army of the Thirteen Colonies and the Revolutionary-era United States. It was formed by the Second Continental Congress after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War, and was established by a resolution of ...
out of the
militia A militia () is generally an army An army (from Latin ''arma'' "arms, weapons" via Old French ''armée'', "armed" eminine, ground force or land force is a fighting force that fights primarily on land. In the broadest sense, it is the land-b ...
units around Boston and appointed
George Washington George Washington (February 22, 1732, 1799) was an American soldier, statesman, and Founding Fathers of the United States, Founding Father who served as the first President of the United States from 1789 to 1797. Appointed by the Continenta ...

George Washington
of
Virginia Virginia (), officially the Commonwealth of Virginia, is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), '' ...
as commanding general. On July 6, 1775, Congress approved a Declaration of Causes outlining the rationale and necessity for taking up arms in the
Thirteen Colonies The Thirteen Colonies, also known as the Thirteen British Colonies or the Thirteen American Colonies, were a group of Kingdom of Great Britain, British colonies on the Atlantic coast of North America. Founded in the 17th and 18th centuries, th ...
. Two days later delegates signed the
Olive Branch Petition 250px, Signature page of the Olive Branch Petition, with John Hancock's prominent signature at the top The Olive Branch Petition was adopted by the Second Continental Congress The Second Continental Congress was a meeting of delegates from ...
to the king affirming the colonies' loyalty to
the crown The Crown is the state (polity), state in all its aspects within the jurisprudence of the Commonwealth realms and their subdivisions (such as the Crown Dependencies, British Overseas Territories, overseas territories, Provinces and territorie ...
and imploring the king to prevent further conflict. However, by the time British Colonial Secretary
Lord Dartmouth
Lord Dartmouth
received the petition, King George III had already issued a proclamation on August 23, 1775, in response to the news of the
Battle of Bunker Hill The Battle of Bunker Hill was fought on June 17, 1775, during the Siege of Boston The siege of Boston (April 19, 1775 – March 17, 1776) was the opening phase of the American Revolutionary War The American Revolutionary War (177 ...
, declaring elements of
Britain's continental American possessions
Britain's continental American possessions
to be in a state of "open and avowed
rebellion Rebellion, uprising, or insurrection is a refusal of obedience or order. It refers to the open resistance against the orders of an established authority In the fields of sociology Sociology is the study of society, human social behavio ...
". As a result, the king refused to receive the petition.
Georgia Georgia usually refers to: * Georgia (country), a country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia * Georgia (U.S. state), one of the states of the United States of America Georgia may also refer to: Historical states and entities * Democratic Republ ...
had not participated in the First Continental Congress and did not initially send delegates to the Second. Even so, the people of St. John's Parish (present-day Liberty County) sent
Lyman Hall Lyman Hall (April 12, 1724 – October 19, 1790), physician, clergyman, and statesman, was a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence The United States Declaration of Independence is the pronouncement adopted by the Second C ...

Lyman Hall
to the gathering on their behalf. He participated in debates but did not vote, as he did not represent the entire colony. That changed after July 1775, when a
provincial Congress The Provincial Congresses were extra-legal legislative bodies established in ten of the Thirteen Colonies The Thirteen Colonies, also known as the Thirteen British Colonies or the Thirteen American Colonies, were a group of Kingdom of Great Br ...
decided to send delegates to the Continental Congress and to adopt a ban on trade with Britain. The Continental Congress had no explicit legal authority to govern, but it assumed all the functions of a national government, such as appointing ambassadors, signing treaties, raising armies, appointing generals, obtaining loans from Europe, issuing paper money (called " Continentals"), and disbursing funds. Congress had no authority to levy taxes and was required to request money, supplies, and troops from the states to support the war effort. Individual states frequently ignored these requests. Congress was moving towards declaring independence from the British Empire in 1776, but many delegates lacked the authority from their home governments to take such drastic action. Advocates of independence moved to have reluctant colonial governments revise instructions to their delegations, or even replace those governments which would not authorize independence. On May 10, 1776, Congress passed a resolution recommending that any colony with a government that was not inclined toward independence should form one that was. On May 15, they adopted a more radical preamble to this resolution, drafted by
John Adams John Adams (October 30, 1735 – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, attorney, diplomat A diplomat (from grc, δίπλωμα; romanized Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific stud ...

John Adams
, which advised throwing off oaths of allegiance and suppressing the authority of the Crown in any colonial government that still derived its authority from the Crown. That same day, the Virginia Convention instructed its delegation in Philadelphia to propose a resolution that called for a declaration of independence, the formation of foreign alliances, and a confederation of the states. The
resolution of independence File:RichardHenryLee.jpg, Richard Henry Lee proposed the resolution on June 7, 1776. The Lee Resolution (also known as "The Resolution for Independence") was the formal assertion passed by the Second Continental Congress on July 2, 1776 which resol ...
was delayed for several weeks, as advocates of independence consolidated support in their home governments. On June 7, 1776,
Richard Henry Lee Richard Henry Lee (January 20, 1732June 19, 1794) was an American statesman and Founding Father The following list of national founding figures is a record, by country, of people who were credited with establishing a state. National founder ...

Richard Henry Lee
offered a resolution before the Congress declaring the colonies independent. He also urged Congress to resolve "to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign Alliances" and to prepare a plan of confederation for the newly independent states. Lee argued that independence was the only way to ensure a foreign alliance since no European monarchs would deal with America if they remained Britain's colonies. American leaders had rejected the
divine right of kings In European Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life and Teachings of Jesus, teachings of Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth. It is the Majo ...
in the
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, but recognized the necessity of proving their credibility in the
Old World The Old World consists of Africa Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous , after in both cases. At about 30.3 million km2 (11.7 million square miles) including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of 's total su ...
. Congress formally adopted the
resolution of independence File:RichardHenryLee.jpg, Richard Henry Lee proposed the resolution on June 7, 1776. The Lee Resolution (also known as "The Resolution for Independence") was the formal assertion passed by the Second Continental Congress on July 2, 1776 which resol ...
, but only after creating three overlapping committees to draft the Declaration, a Model Treaty, and the
Articles of Confederation The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union was an agreement among the 13 original states of the United States of America The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America ...
. The Declaration announced the states' entry into the international system; the model treaty was designed to establish amity and commerce with other states, and the Articles of Confederation established "a firm league" among the thirteen free and independent states. These three things together constituted an international agreement to set up central institutions for conducting vital domestic and foreign affairs. Congress finally approved the resolution of independence on July 2, 1776. They next turned their attention to a formal explanation of this decision, the
United States Declaration of Independence The United States Declaration of Independence is the pronouncement adopted by the Second Continental Congress The Second Continental Congress was a meeting of delegates from the Thirteen Colonies in America which united in the American Re ...

United States Declaration of Independence
which was approved on July 4 and published soon thereafter.


Provisional government

The Congress moved from Philadelphia to Baltimore in the winter of 1776-77 to avoid capture by British forces who were advancing on Philadelphia. Henry Fite's tavern was the largest building in Baltimore Town at the time and provided a comfortable location of sufficient size for Congress to meet. Its site at the western edge of town was beyond easy reach of the British
Royal Navy The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare Naval warfare is combat Combat ( French for ''fight'') is a purposeful violent conflict meant to physically harm or kill the opposition. Combat may be armed (using weapon A ...
's ships should they try to sail up the
harbor A harbor (American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of varieties of the English language native to the United States. Currently, American Engl ...
and the
Patapsco River The Patapsco River mainstem is a U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution flowline dataThe National Map , accessed April 1, 2011 river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towar ...
to shell the town. Congress was again forced to flee Philadelphia at the end of September 1777, as British troops occupied the city; they moved to
York, Pennsylvania York (Pennsylvania German language, Pennsylvania German: ''Yarrick''), known as the White Rose City (after the White Rose of York, symbol of the House of York), is the county seat of York County, Pennsylvania, United States, located in the South ...

York, Pennsylvania
, and continued their work. Congress passed the
Articles of Confederation The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union was an agreement among the 13 original states of the United States of America The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America ...
on November 15, 1777, after more than a year of debate, and sent it to the states for
ratification Ratification is a principal Principal may refer to: Title or rank * Principal (academia) The principal is the chief executive and the chief academic officer of a university A university ( la, universitas, 'a whole') is an educational insti ...

ratification
. Approval by all 13 states was required for the
establishment Establishment may refer to: * The Establishment, the dominant group or elite holding effective power or authority in a society * The Establishment (club), an English satire club of the 1960s * The Establishment (comics), ''The Establishment'' (com ...
of the constitution. Jefferson's proposal for a Senate to represent the states and a House to represent the people was rejected, but a similar proposal was adopted later in the
United States Constitution The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles or established precedents that constitute the legal basis of a polity, organisation An organization, or orga ...

United States Constitution
. One issue of debate was large states wanting a larger say, nullified by small states who feared tyranny. The small states won and each state had one vote. Another revolved around the issue of
western land claims The state cessions are those areas of the United States that the separate states ceded to the Federal government of the United States, federal government in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The cession of these lands, which for the most p ...
; states without such claims wanted those with claims to yield them to Congress. As written, western land claims remained in the hands of the individual states. Congress urged the states to give their assent quickly, and most did. The first to ratify was Virginia on December 16, 1777; 12 states had ratified the Articles by February 1779, 14 months into the process. The lone holdout, Maryland, finally ratified the Articles on February 2, 1781, doing so only after Virginia relinquished its claims on land north of the Ohio River to Congress.


List of sessions


See also

* American Revolutionary War#Prelude to revolution *
History of the United States (1776–1789) Between 1776 and 1789 thirteen British colonies The Thirteen Colonies, also known as the Thirteen British Colonies or the Thirteen American Colonies, were a group of Kingdom of Great Britain, British colonies on the Atlantic coast of North A ...
*
List of delegates to the Continental Congress The Continental Congress was initially a convention of delegates from several British American colonies at the height of the American Revolution era, who spoke and acted collectively for the people of the Thirteen colonies that ultimately became t ...
*
State cessions The state cessions are those areas of the United States that the separate states ceded to the federal government in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The cession of these lands, which for the most part lay between the Appalachian Mountain ...
* Timeline of the American Revolution * United Colonies *
Founding Fathers of the United States The Founding Fathers of the United States, or simply the Founding Fathers or Founders, were a group of American revolutionary Patriots (also known as Revolutionaries, Continentals, Rebels, or American Whigs) were those colonists of the Thi ...
*
Memorial to the 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence The Memorial to the 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence is a memorial depicting the signatures of Signing of the United States Declaration of Independence, the 56 signatories to the United States Declaration of Independence. It is loca ...


References


Further reading

* * * * * *


External links

* * Full text of ''Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789''
b

{{Authority control 1775 establishments in the Thirteen Colonies 1781 disestablishments in the United States * Continental, second History of Philadelphia History of Baltimore History of Lancaster, Pennsylvania York, Pennsylvania Provisional governments United States Declaration of Independence