The 2nd Continental Congress
After King George III read the initial petition from the 1st Continental Congress and rejected it, the colonists knew they would need to meet again. The Battles of Lexington and Concord had been fought and people’s emotions were high. Great Britain would not listen to their requests. While many wanted to break away, others still wanted to remain loyal. The discussions would be heated as each argued their side.
They officially met on May 10th, 1776 at the State House in Philadelphia (we know it now as Independence Hall). After long discussions and debates, the delegates agreed to break away from Great Britain and placed the colonies on alert. Be prepared for battle so they began to organize a militia.
The men gathered in Philadelphia once more for the 2nd Continental Congress on July 22, 1776. Peyton Randolph, the president of the 1st Continental Congress had passed away. John Hancock replaced him. This was merely days after the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4th of that same year. A few new members joined the previous group – Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock, and Richard Henry Lee.
The Congress was split into radicals and conservatives. The radicals included John Adams, Samuel Adams, and Richard Henry Lee. The conservatives included John Dickinson.
While the Congress had no legal rights according to the king, they still governed the new colonies and took steps to shape themselves into a country. Some changes they made:
1. The creation of a continental army with George Washington as their commander. This decision was made on June 14, 1776. Washington was elected unanimously because of his military skills. The ensuing battles would be bloody. They knew Great Britain was known to have the best army in the world. This thought frightened many and yet they knew they had no choice – either fight or continue to let Great Britain disregard their thoughts and requests.
2. Foreign policy – extending the Olive Branch Petition to King George III. The Olive Branch Petition – Because many did not want to declare their independence, the Olive Branch Petition was signed and delivered to King George personally. The colonists placed the guilt on Parliament, thinking the King was unaware of Parliament’s decisions. Richard Penn delivered the petition to Lord Dartmouth – the Secretary of State for the colonies. King George refused to read it. Instead, the king proclaimed the colonies were in a state of “full-scale rebellion”.
3. Issuing money and fundraising to pay for the war – Printing their own money was important. Until this time, the colonies were accepting money from various countries in forms of trade or using goods as a means to barter for what they needed. Now, with war on the horizon, they could not count on other resources to raise money. The need for a monetary system that all states could use and count on was imperative.
4. Acceptance of the Declaration of Independence – Thomas Jefferson was the answer to their prayers. Known as a prolific and well-versed writer, he was given the auspicious duty along with John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert R. Livingston, and Roger Sherman. Jefferson is known to have written it, but the other men collaborated, offering their advice.
The Continental Congress formed an army – the Continental Army. They needed a commander for the army and called up George Washington to take on the duty. They also set up provisions for printing money for the colonies. They became a governing body with different divisions. At first, they did not want to seek independence and sent the Olive Branch Petition to King George III. Of course the Olive Branch Petition did not have the desired effect. The petition asked for a peaceful resolution to the conflicts and declared their loyalty to the Crown. Unfortunately the king refused the Olive Branch Petition and told Parliament to squash the rebellion in the colonies. Then the King hired the Hessians to go against the colonists and bring them under control.
The members of the Continental Congress were labeled outlaws by the British government and prices were set for their capture. Men like Peyton Randolph (when he was alive), Thomas Jefferson, and John Hancock had to go into hiding many times to keep away from British soldiers who were offered rewards to capture them.
Once the Declaration of Independence was signed and forwarded to all the colonies, the delegates remained to discuss any further actions. They were forced to leave the city when British troops invaded and took over Philadelphia. The men debated for many months before coming up with the Articles of Confederation. Finally in November of 1777, the articles were sent to the states for ratification. Finally in March of 1781, the articles were ratified by all the states.
Without the determination of the delegates to come to a compromise, the United States of America would never have been formed. The men who were gathered set aside their own lives, their families, their businesses, and more to create our country. They learned to set aside their differences as well as they collaborated to create the Declaration of Independence as well as the Articles of Confederation.
Here's a big "Huzzah! Huzzah!" to those brave men and the women who stayed home to take care of business while the men ironed out their differences.