The Path to the American Revolution
The Second Continental Congress


Opened May 5, 1774
and met continuously through the war
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

When the First Continental Congress adjourned October 26, 1774, the delegates agreed to meet again on May 5, 1775. The Second Continental Congress met as agreed on May 5, 1775. This was after the battles at Lexington and Concord on April 19th. Sam Adams, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Patrick Henry, and George Washington were some of the delegates.

There was mixed feelings about what should be done about the continued hostile acts of the British Parliament. Some delegates wanted immediate independence no matter what the cost. Others were still loyal to King George III and even though they did not like the British taxation without representation, they wanted to avoid an all-out war with England.

They finally decided to go slowly and not make any drastic moves that might start a major war. On the other hand, they also felt they needed to protect themselves, so they established the Continental Army and named George Washington as Commander-in-Chief. George Washington was officially commission on June 17, 1775, the same day as the Battle of Bunker (Breed's ) Hill. They also passed a "Declaration of Causes of Taking up Arms," which named England as an aggressor and gave the Colonists the right to take up arms against the British.

They wanted to tell King George III that they wanted peace. John Dickinson wrote "The Olive Branch Petition" and made suggestions on how to solve the problems. King George would not read it, because in his mind it was an illegal document made by an illegal congress.

The Second Continental Congress me all through the Revolutionary War. They made decisions when and where to attack the British and how to protect themselves. They issued paper money and set up a system where the government would borrow money from their citizens and pay it back with interest. They even created a postal system and the first American Navy was formed. There was never any power given to the Congress to levy taxes to finance the war effort. This meant that any support of the Army would come basically from the different colonies or persons who could afford to support them.

After King George III officially called the Colonies in rebellion and after Thomas Paine's Common Sense was circulated and read, the Patriots realized there was no way to solve the problems peacefully. They decided to declare independence and they drafted the Declaration of Independence which was adopted and ratified on July 4, 1776.

The main problem the Continental Congress had was how to finance the cost of the war. This took a lot of time and they tried different ways to support their Army. Soon the problem of "states rights" came, because even though they wanted to be united as one country, each colony wanted to remain independent and make its own laws.

The debate over how the colonies could remain united but keep their individual rights continued. In July 1776 the Articles of Confederation were presented to Congress as a way to define both the central government and the state governments. The Articles passed in 1777, but were not ratified by all the states until 1781.