The Second Continental Congress was a convention of delegates from the Thirteen Colonies that started meeting in the spring of 1775 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It succeeded the First Continental Congress, which met in Philadelphia between September 5, 1774, and October 26, 1774. The Second Congress managed the Colonial war effort and moved incrementally towards independence. It eventually adopted the Lee Resolution which established the new country on July 2, 1776, and it agreed to the United States Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The Congress acted as the de facto national government of the United States by raising armies, directing strategy, appointing diplomats, and making formal treaties such as the Olive Branch Petition.
The Second Continental Congress came together on May 11, 1775, effectively reconvening the First Continental Congress. Many of the 56 delegates who attended the first meeting were in attendance at the second, and the delegates appointed the same president (Peyton Randolph) and secretary (Charles Thomson). Notable new arrivals included Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania and John Hancock of Massachusetts. Within two weeks, Randolph was summoned back to Virginia to preside over the House of Burgesses; he was replaced in the Virginia delegation by Thomas Jefferson, who arrived several weeks later. Henry Middleton was elected as president to replace Randolph, but he declined. Hancock was elected president on May 24.
Delegates from twelve colonies were represented when the Second Continental Congress convened. Georgia 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 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 decided to send delegates to the Continental Congress and to adopt a ban on trade with Britain. One year later, Hall and two other Georgia delegates signed the Declaration of Independence.
Second Continental Congress
|Established||May 10, 1775|
|Disbanded||March 1, 1781|
|Preceded by||First Continental Congress|
|Succeeded by||1st Confederation Congress|
|mainly at Pennsylvania State House, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania |
from December 1776 to July 1778 various locations,
|There were about 50 members of the Congress at any given time, but it was the colonies themselves that had voting privileges so there were effectively only 13 seats.|
The First Continental Congress had sent entreaties to King George III to stop the Coercive Acts; they had also created the Continental Association 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 had already started by that time with the Battles of Lexington and Concord, 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 garrisoned there. On June 14, 1775, Congress voted to create the Continental Army out of the militia units around Boston and appointed George Washington of Virginia 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. Two days later delegates signed the Olive Branch Petition to the king affirming the colonies's loyalty to the crown and imploring him to prevent further conflict. However, by the time British Colonial Secretary 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, declaring elements of Britain's continental American possessions to be in a state of "open and avowed rebellion". As a result, the king refused to receive the petition.
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. The 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 a 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, 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 was delayed for several weeks, as advocates of independence consolidated support in their home governments.
On June 7, 1776, 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 the New World, but recognized the necessity of proving their credibility in the Old World. Congress formally adopted the resolution of independence, but only after creating three overlapping committees to draft the Declaration, a Model Treaty, and the Articles of Confederation. 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 which was approved on July 4 and published soon thereafter.
The Congress moved from Philadelphia to Baltimore in the winter of 1776 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's ships should they try to sail up the harbor and the Patapsco River 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 and continued their work.
Congress passed the Articles of Confederation on November 15, 1777, after more than a year of debate, and sent them to the states for ratification. 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. 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. Congress urged the individual states to pass the Articles as quickly as possible, but it took three and a half years for all the states to ratify them. The State Legislature of Virginia was the first of the Thirteen States to ratify the Articles on December 16, 1777, and the State Legislature of Maryland was the last on February 2, 1781.
|May 10, 1775 – December 12, 1776|
|Location:||Pennsylvania State House, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania|
|President:||Peyton Randolph (until May 24, 1775)|
John Hancock (from May 24, 1775)
|December 20, 1776 – February 27, 1777|
|Location:||Henry Fite House, Baltimore, Maryland|
|March 5, 1777 – September 18, 1777|
|Location:||Pennsylvania State House, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania|
|September 27, 1777|
|Location:||Court House, Lancaster, Pennsylvania|
|September 30, 1777 – June 27, 1778|
|Location:||Court House, York, Pennsylvania|
|President:||John Hancock (until October 29, 1777)|
Henry Laurens (from November 1, 1777)
|July 2, 1778 – July 20, 1778|
|Location:||College Hall, Philadelphia|
|July 21, 1778 – March 1, 1781|
|Location:||Pennsylvania State House, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania|
|President:||Henry Laurens (until December 9, 1778)|
John Jay (from December 10, 1778 until September 28, 1779)
Samuel Huntington (from September 28, 1779)
First Continental Congress
| Legislature of the United States
May 10, 1775 – March 1, 1781
Congress of the Confederation
Benjamin Harrison V (April 5, 1726 – April 24, 1791) was an American planter and merchant from Charles City County, Virginia, a revolutionary leader, and a Founding Father of the United States. He received his higher education at the College of William and Mary and was a representative to the Virginia House of Burgesses for Surry County, Virginia (1756–1758, 1785–1786) and Charles City County (1766–1776, 1787–1790). He was a Virginia delegate to the Continental Congress from 1774 to 1777 and a signer of the Declaration of Independence during the Second Continental Congress. He served as Virginia's fifth governor from 1781 to 1784. His direct descendants include two Presidents: his son William Henry Harrison and his great-grandson Benjamin Harrison.Carlisle Peace Commission
The Carlisle Peace Commission was a group of British negotiators who were sent to North America in 1778, during the American War of Independence. The commission carried an offer of self-rule to the rebellious colonies, including Parliamentary representation within the British Empire. The Second Continental Congress, aware that British troops were about to be withdrawn from Philadelphia, insisted on demanding full independence, which the commission was not authorised to grant. The Peace Commission marked the first time the British government formally agreed to negotiate with Congress; a previous informal attempt at negotiation took place in 1776.Committee of Secret Correspondence
The Committee of Secret Correspondence was a committee formed by the Second Continental Congress and active from 1775 to 1776. The Committee played a large role in attracting French aid and alliance during the American Revolution. In 1777, the Committee of Secret Correspondence was renamed the Committee of Foreign Affairs.Congress of the Confederation
The Congress of the Confederation, or the Confederation Congress, formally referred to as the United States in Congress Assembled, was the governing body of the United States of America that existed from March 1, 1781, to March 4, 1789. A unicameral body with legislative and executive function, it was composed of delegates appointed by the legislatures of the several states. Each state delegation had one vote. It was preceded by the Second Continental Congress (1775–1781) and governed under the newly adopted Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, which were proposed in 1776–1777, adopted by the Continental Congress in July 1778 and finally agreed to by a unanimous vote of all thirteen states by 1781. It was held up by a long dispute over the cession of western territories beyond the Appalachian Mountains to the central government led by Maryland and a coalition of smaller states without western claims. The plan was introduced by Maryland politician John Hanson and was referred to as 'The Hanson Plan'. The newly reorganized Congress at the time continued to refer itself as the Continental Congress throughout its eight-year history, although modern historians separate it from the earlier bodies, which operated under slightly different rules and procedures until the later part of American Revolutionary War. The membership of the Second Continental Congress automatically carried over to the Congress of the Confederation when the latter was created by the ratification of the Articles of Confederation. It had the same secretary as the Second Continental Congress, namely Charles Thomson. The Congress of the Confederation was succeeded by the Congress of the United States as provided for in the new Constitution of the United States, proposed September 17, 1787, in Philadelphia and ratified by the states through 1787 to 1788 and even into 1789 and 1790.Continental Army
The Continental Army was formed by the Second Continental Congress after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War by the ex-British colonies that became the United States of America. Established by a resolution of the Congress on June 14, 1775, it was created to coordinate the military efforts of the Thirteen Colonies in their revolt against the rule of Great Britain. The Continental Army was supplemented by local militias and volunteer troops that remained under control of the individual states or were otherwise independent. General George Washington was the commander-in-chief of the army throughout the war.
Most of the Continental Army was disbanded in 1783 after the Treaty of Paris ended the war. The 1st and 2nd Regiments went on to form the nucleus of the Legion of the United States in 1792 under General Anthony Wayne. This became the foundation of the United States Army in 1796.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 became the United States of America. The term most specifically refers to the First Continental Congress of 1774 and the Second Continental Congress of 1775–81. More broadly, it also refers to the Congress of the Confederation of 1781–89, thus covering the entire period the Continental Congress served as the chief legislative and executive body of the U.S. government.
Convened in response to the Intolerable Acts passed by the British Parliament the in 1774, the First Continental Congress sought to help repair the frayed relationship between the British government and its American colonies while also asserting the rights of colonists. The Second Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence in July 1776, proclaiming that the 13 colonies were now independent sovereign states, no longer under British rule. This body functioned as the provisional government for the U.S. until the nation's first Frame of Government, the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, came into force on March 1, 1781, at which time it became the Congress of the Confederation. Officially styled "The United States in Congress Assembled," this unicameral governing body would convene in eight sessions (a ninth would fail to achieve a quorum) prior to being disbanded in 1789, when the 1st United States Congress under the new Constitution took over the role as the nation's legislative branch of government.
Much of what is known today about the daily activities of these congresses comes from the journals kept by the secretary for all three congresses, Charles Thomson. Printed contemporaneously, these records the Papers of the Continental Congress contain the official congressional papers, letters, treaties, reports and records.Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms
The Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms is a Resolution adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 6, 1775, which explains why the Thirteen Colonies had taken up arms in what had become the American Revolutionary War. The final draft of the Declaration was written by John Dickinson, who incorporated language from an earlier draft by Thomas Jefferson.First Continental Congress
The First Continental Congress was a meeting of delegates from twelve of the Thirteen Colonies who met from September 5 to October 26, 1774, at Carpenters' Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, early in the American Revolution. It was called in response to the Intolerable Acts passed by the British Parliament, which the British referred to as the Coercive Acts, with which the British intended to punish Massachusetts for the Boston Tea Party.
The Congress met briefly to consider options, including an economic boycott of British trade and drawing up a list of rights and grievances; in the end, they petitioned King George III for redress of those grievances.
The Congress also called for another Continental Congress in the event that their petition was unsuccessful in halting enforcement of the Intolerable Acts. Their appeal to the Crown had no effect, and so the Second Continental Congress was convened the following year to organize the defense of the colonies at the onset of the American Revolutionary War. The delegates also urged each colony to set up and train its own militia.Halifax Historic District
Halifax Historic District is a national historic district located at Halifax, Halifax County, North Carolina, US that was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 with an increase in 2011. It includes several buildings that are individually listed on the National Register. Halifax was the site of the signing of the Halifax Resolves on April 12, 1776, a set of resolutions of the North Carolina Provincial Congress which led to the United States Declaration of Independence gaining the support of North Carolina's delegates to the Second Continental Congress in that year.
Much of the district is also contained within a historic site operated by the North Carolina Division of State Historic Sites and Properties, an agency of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.The original Halifax Historic District encompassed four contributing buildings: the Constitution House (c. 1770), Owens House (c. 1760), Clerk's Office (c. 1832), and Jail (c. 1838). The 2010 boundary increase expanded the district to encompass 108 contributing buildings, 3 contributing sites, and 3 contributing structures. Located in the district are the separately listed Church of the Immaculate Conception and the Michael Ferrall Family Cemetery, the William R. Davie House, the Halifax County Courthouse, and St. Mark's Episcopal Church. Other notable buildings include the Royal White Hart Masonic Lodge #2 (c. 1820), Halifax Baptist Church (c. 1855), W. D. Faucett house (c. 1868), Walter Clark Law Office (1872), Roanoke Hotel (1905–1906), Halifax Hardware Company (c. 1915), and Vinson's Drug Store (c. 1917).Independence Hall
Independence Hall is the building where both the United States Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were debated and adopted. It is now the centerpiece of the Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The building was completed in 1753 as the Pennsylvania State House, and served as the capitol for the Province and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania until the state capital moved to Lancaster in 1799. It became the principal meeting place of the Second Continental Congress from 1775 to 1783 and was the site of the Constitutional Convention in the summer of 1787.
A convention held in Independence Hall in 1915, presided over by former US president William Howard Taft, marked the formal announcement of the formation of the League to Enforce Peace, which led to the League of Nations and eventually the United Nations. The building is part of Independence National Historical Park and is listed as a World Heritage Site.John Harvie
John Harvie (1742 – February 6, 1807) was an American lawyer and builder from Virginia. He was a delegate to the Second Continental Congress in 1777 and 1778, where he signed the Articles of Confederation.Jonathan Dickinson Sergeant
Jonathan Dickinson Sergeant (1746 – October 8, 1793) was an American lawyer from Princeton, New Jersey. He represented New Jersey in the Second Continental Congress in 1776 and 1777. He later served as Attorney General for the state of Pennsylvania.Lord William Campbell
Lord William Campbell (11 July 1730 – 4 September 1778) was from a Scottish family loyal to the British Crown. His father was John Campbell, 4th Duke of Argyll.
From 1752 to 1760, he served in the Royal Navy in India. In 1762, because of the Seven Years' War, he was scheduled to serve in America. He met and married a lady named Sarah Izard from South Carolina in 1763. His brother-in-law was a future American rebel and member of the Second Continental Congress, Ralph Izard. In 1764, they returned to Britain where he became a member of Parliament, representing the family seat in Argyllshire. In 1766 he was appointed Governor of Nova Scotia, a position he held until 1773.
In June 1775, at the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War, Campbell became the last British Governor of South Carolina, a position for which he had lobbied hard, because his wife was from South Carolina.
Charged with bringing in the reins on the colony's revolutionaries, Campbell first decided to ignore the newly established Provincial Congress. The Provincial Congress was created in January 1775 in Charleston by former members of the South Carolina House of Commons as a separate ruling government independent of British authority and influence. Knowing the great rift between the aristocratic low-country and the backwoodsmen commoners of the backcountry, Campbell distributed pamphlets in mass numbers to backcountry citizens. The pamphlets stated that Charleston citizens kept lying and that the Provincial Congress could not be trusted.
Governor Campbell soon realized he could no longer reside and govern in safety in Charleston. Intimidation from Patriots resulted in public hangings, assaults, and business/home raids of suspected Loyalists. One home raided included that of Henry Laurens, who would go on to become the third President of the Second Continental Congress. Patriots were not afraid to intimidate or attack British officials, and several officials even fled the city to escape further persecution.
In 1775, Campbell fled his home at 34 Meeting Street in Charleston on a British warship, HMS Tamar, and returned to England. His departure marked the beginning of revolution in South Carolina and the end of British imperial rule over the colony.In 1776, during the British attack upon Fort Moultrie, he was wounded by a splinter in the side while aboard Sir Peter Parker's flagship, HMS Bristol. He never fully recovered, and died of its effects two years later at age 48.Maryland Line
The "Maryland Line" was a formation within the Continental Army, formed and authorized by the Second Continental Congress, meeting in the "Old Pennsylvania State House" (later known as "Independence Hall") in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in June 1775.Model Treaty
The Model Treaty, or the Plan of 1776, was created during the American Revolution and was an idealistic guide for foreign relations and future treaties between the new American government and other nations.Olive Branch Petition
The Olive Branch Petition was adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 5, 1775 and signed on July 8 in a final attempt to avoid war between Great Britain and the Thirteen Colonies in America. The Congress had already authorized the invasion of Canada more than a week earlier, but the petition affirmed American loyalty to Great Britain and beseeched King George III to prevent further conflict. It was followed by the July 6 Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms, however, which made its success unlikely in London. In August 1775, the colonies were formally declared to be in rebellion by the Proclamation of Rebellion, and the petition was rejected by Great Britain—even though King George had refused to read it before declaring the colonists traitors.Richard Henry Lee
Richard Henry Lee (January 20, 1732 – June 19, 1794) was an American statesman and Founding Father from Virginia best known for the Lee Resolution, the motion in the Second Continental Congress calling for the colonies' independence from Great Britain. He was a signatory to the Articles of Confederation, and his "resolution for independency" of June 1776 led to the United States Declaration of Independence, which Lee signed. He also served a one-year term as the President of the Congress of the Confederation, and was a United States Senator from Virginia from 1789 to 1792, serving during part of that time as the second President pro tempore of the upper house.
He was a member of the Lee family, a historically influential family in Virginia politics.Signing of the United States Declaration of Independence
The signing of the United States Declaration of Independence occurred primarily on August 2, 1776 at the Pennsylvania State House, Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 56 delegates to the Second Continental Congress represented the 13 former colonies which had declared themselves the "United States of America," and they endorsed the Declaration of Independence which the Congress had approved on July 4, 1776. The Declaration proclaimed that the former Thirteen Colonies then at war with Great Britain were now a sovereign, independent nation and thus no longer a part of the British Empire. The signers’ names are grouped by state, with the exception of President of the Continental Congress John Hancock; the states are arranged geographically from north to south.
The final draft of the Declaration was approved by the Continental Congress on July 4, although the date of its signing has long been disputed. Most historians have concluded that it was signed on August 2, 1776, nearly a month after its adoption, and not on July 4 as is commonly believed.Sons of Liberty (miniseries)
Sons of Liberty is an American television miniseries dramatizing the early American Revolution events in Boston, Massachusetts, the start of the Revolutionary War, and the negotiations of the Second Continental Congress which resulted in drafting and signing the 1776 United States Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The three-part miniseries premiered on History on January 25, 2015, directed by Kari Skogland. The theme music was composed by Hans Zimmer.
Government of the United States under the Articles of Confederation