Second Continental Congress



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Second Continental Congress
In 1774, the Continental Congress agreed to meet again if the British did not address their complaints. In fact, as the battles at Lexington and Concord in 1775 showed, the dispute between the British and the colonies worsened.

The Second Continental Congress met on May 10, 1775, The delegates(elected representatives) included some of the greatest leaders in the colonies. Among them were John and Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, and George Washington—all delegates to the First Continental Congress. Several new delegates came as well.

Ben Franklin, one of the most respected men in the colonies, had been a leader in the Pennsylvania legislature. In 1765 he represented the colonies in London and helped win repeal of the Stamp Act. John Hancock of Massachusetts was a wealthy merchant. He funded many Patriot groups, including the Sons of Liberty. The delegates chose Hancock to be president of the Second Continental Congress. Thomas Jefferson, only 32, was also a delegate. He served in the Virginia legislature. Jefferson was already known as a brilliant thinker and writer.

The delegates at the Second Continental Congress had much to discuss. Though American and British blood had been spilled, they were not ready to vote for a break from Britain. It would be another year before Jefferson would write the Declaration of Independence.

The Continental Congress did take steps to begin governing the colonies. It authorized the printing of money and set up a post office, with Franklin in charge. Most important, it created the Continental Army. Unlike local militias, such a force could form and coarry out an overall strategy for fighting the British. The Congress unanimously chose George Washington to command the army. Washington was an experienced soldier and a respected Southern planter. He left Philadelphia at once to take charge of the forces in Britain.

The delegate then offered Britain a last chance to avoid war. They sent a petition(formal request) to King George III. It assured the king that the colonists wanted peace. It asked him to protect the colonists’ rights. The king rejected the petition. Instead he prepared for war. He hired 30,000 German troops called Hessian to fight alongside British troops.

Congress learned that British troops in Canada were planning to invade New York. The Americans decided to strike first at Quebec, led by Benedict Arnold but it failed.

Washington reached the Boston area in July 1775, a few weeks after Bunker Hill. The British held Boston, but Patriot militia ringed the city. Washington realized that the men were disorganized and lacked discipline(the ability to follow strict rules and procedures). Washington began the task of turning armed civilians into soldiers.

Many colonists held on to hope that the colonies could remain a part of Great Britain. Still, support for independence was growing. It was inspired in no small part by writer Thomas Paine. Paine arrived in the colonies from England in 1774. He soon caught the revolutionary spirit. In January 1776, he published a pamphlet called, Common Sense. In bold language, Paine called for complete break from British rule.

Common Sense listed powerful reason for why Americans would be better off free from Great Britain. The pamphlet greatly influenced opinions throughout the colonies.


Appleby, Joyce Oldham, and Alan Brinkley. "The Spirit of Independence(1763-1776)." Discovering Our Past: A History of the United States. 128-131. Print.


Justify your answers for each of the following.


  1. Citing textual evidence, what was the purpose of the Second Continental Congress.




  1. Citing textual evidence, what type of individuals were selected to be a part of the Second Continental Congress?




  1. On lines 30-31, it showed the colonists were attempting to keep the peace with Great Britain. Why did the peace not last?




  1. On line 23 it states, “The Continental Congress did take steps to begin governing the colonies.” What does the word “govern” mean? What steps did they take to govern themselves?




  1. Citing textual evidence, what was the biggest obstacle(challenge) Washington faced with the Continental Army?




  1. Citing textual evidence, why did Thomas Paine write the pamphlet Common Sense? What impact did it have on the colonists?




  1. On lines 52-53, it stated that the pamphlet Common Sense, “greatly influenced opinions throughout the colonies.” From what we’ve spoken about during this unit, Common Sense is perfect example of being what?



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