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The Second Continental Congress

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John Adams, Robert Morris, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, the "leaders of the continental congress" according to Augustus Tholey in 1894
lithograph from Library of Congress

Primary Sources

Second Continental Congress' Petition to the King

Colonial Currency

Henry Lee's Resolution for Independence

Commission to General Washington

Speech to the Six Nations

After Concord, events moved quickly. The Second Continental Congress first met in May 1775. There had been no response to the Declaration and Resolves sent to King George III by the First Continental Congress.

The Congress began to act as a national government, in their first year establishing the Continental Army (Commission to General Washington), a Colonial Currency, and a post office for the "United Colonies." 

George Washington, Samuel Adams and Patrick Henry were all part of this Congress. Benjamin Franklin was in England at the time and presented the colonists' demands in person to the British Parliament.

On July 13, 1775, the Congress appealed to the Native American tribes (Speech to the Six Nations) to stand by the colonies and not assist the British. It became clear that Britain was prepared to fight against colonial independence. A royal proclamation declared that the King's American subjects were "engaged in open and avowed rebellion," and Parliament passed the American Prohibitory Act, which made all American vessels and cargoes forfeit to the Crown. In May 1776 the Congress learned that the King had hired German mercenaries to fight in America. The Congress continued to cut the colonies' ties to Britain.

By the middle of May 1776, eight colonies had decided that they would support independence. On May 15, 1776, the Virginia Convention passed a resolution that "the delegates appointed to represent this colony in General Congress be instructed to propose to that respectable body to declare the United Colonies free and independent states."

Richard Henry Lee, on June 7, 1776, presented a Resolution for Independence. There were still some delegates, however, including those bound by earlier instructions, who wanted to work for a peaceful resolution to the difficulties that the colonies had with Britain. On June 11, after a hot debate which indicated that eventually the resolution would pass, Congress then recessed for 3 weeks. Before Congress recessed, a Committee of Five, the Declaration Committee, was appointed to draft a statement presenting to the world the colonies' case for independence.


The First Continental Congress

Part of These United Colonies: The American War of Independence exhibit

The American Revolution

American Revolution Primary Sources

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