On May 10, 1775, the American Founding Fathers convened the Second Continental Congress at the Pennsylvania Statehouse in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. With the Battles of Lexington and Concord still hot on their minds, and less than a month into the Revolutionary War, the Founding Fathers set out to do the unthinkable, defeat the British Empire and change the course of history forever.
The Second Continental Congress was much like the first, a unicameral legislature of around 50 delegates representing the 13 Original Colonies, although 12 at the beginning as Georgia only joined the Congress two months later when it became clear that a united war against Britain was inevitable. The Congress voted as colonies and limited the 50 members down to only 13 actual votes.
Of the many returning faces from the previous Congress, some important figures joined the ranks, most notably Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock and following the appointment of delegate and General George Washington to the commanding position in the newly formed Continental Army, Thomas Jefferson. All of whom were to play significant roles in the events that were to transpire during the six years of the Congresses session.
For the first year, the Congress sought to maintain the unity of the colonies while also attempting to reconcile the conflict with Great Britain. This unity was maintained without any mandate to govern, for the Second Continental Congress was given power by the colonies beyond their delegatory participation. With this tacit approval by the colonies, the Second Continental Congress began more and more to present itself as a national government. It printed and backed paper currency as well as developed relationships with foreign powers, including financing their efforts through European loans and passing legislation such as the Olive Branch Petition to mend its relationship with Great Britain.
Almost a year after the passing of the Olive Branch Petition and Howe’s 12,000 man invasion force steaming fast for New York, the Second Continental Congress set itself on a more drastic course and one for the history books: complete independence from Great Britain.
However, many of the colonial governments were hesitant to make such an irreversible move and had not given their delegates the authority to make such a decision on their behalf, and the Second Continental Congress took radical action, calling for the removal of colonial governments still attempting to remain loyal to the Court of Saint James.
The tactic worked in unseating or at least unsettling the colonial government enough to go along with a Declaration of Independence. The date was July 4, 1776.
With de facto independence achieved, the Second Continental Congress went about earning their de jure with a victory in the American Revolutionary War, but soon realized that the feat of de jure independence was almost impossible so long as the national government only itself remained de facto.
As such, the Founders went about forging their second greatest achievement of their tenure in the Second Continental Congress (however, some would argue the first), the Articles of Confederation, created on November 15, 1777 and ratified March 1, 1781 dissolved the Second Continental Congress once and for all and left de jure power in the hands of the newly formed Congress of the Confederation.
But it all started May 10th, 237 years ago in history.
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