The Second Continental Congress, 1775-1781, is by far the more noteworthy of the two Continental Congresses. It was created in late 1774 when the First Continental Congress called on the colonies to send delegates to the Second one. It met in Philadelphia at Independence Hall and was the national government that declared independence on July 2, 1776, fought, financed, and won the American Revolution with the help of France and other allies.
Delegate John Adams stated:
|“|| ‘Sink of swim, live or die, survive of perish, I give my hand and heart for this vote…. You and I indeed may rue it. We may not live to the time when this Declaration shall be made good. We may die; die colonists; die slaves; die, it may be ignominiously and on the scaffold. Be it so, be it so.
“If it be the pleasure of Heaven that my country shall require the poor offering of my life, the victim shall be ready…. But while I do live, let me have a country, or at least the hope of a country and that of a free country…
“Sir, before God, I believe the hour is come. My judgement approves the measure, and my whole heart is in it. All that I have, and all that I am, and all that I hope, in this life, I am now ready here to stake upon it, and I leave off as I began, that live or die, survive or perish, I am for the Declaration, It is my living sentiment and by the blessings of God, it shall be my dying sentiment, Independence now and Independence forever.”
Early in its history this second congress had drafted a new petition to the king, generally known as the "Olive Branch Petition". To this the king did not even pay the courtesy of a formal answer. Instead, he issued a proclamation declaring the colonists to be rebels, closing the American ports, and warning foreign nations not to trade. This contemptuous treatment convinced many that the colonists need hope for nothing at the hands of the king; and when, shortly after, the news reached America that the British government had hired German soldiers to help fight their battles in the colonies, even the most conservative began to admit the necessity of separation.
The colonies were besides sufficiently well organized politically to make separation possible. State governments had been organized by the advice of Congress during the year preceding the Declaration of Independence, and the events of that year had compelled Congress to assume also the functions of a general government. It had established an army, drawn up regulations for its government, and appointed a commander in chief; it had established a committee of correspondence with "our friends abroad," and had opened the American ports except to British vessels; it had issued paper money; finally, it adopted the Declaration of Independence and appointed a committee to draft articles for the government of the states thus newly created.
Then, after making provision for funds for the prosecution of the next year's campaign, the Second Continental Congress temporarily adjourned in December 1776. Continental congresses continued to meet, with only short periods of intermission, from this time until the ratification of our present Constitution.