The Second Continental Congress was a unicameral delegation representing the 13 colonies during the onset of the American Revolutionary War. The convention met for the first time in Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on 10 May 1775. It acted as one of the first provisional governments in the history of the United States. With the establishment of this representative body, the nation secured the foundations of a government that would continue to operate to this day.
In the timeline of United States Revolutionary history, the Second Continental Congress followed the First Continental Congress held the prior year. All colonies except Georgia sent representatives to this first delegation to address the passage of the Intolerable Acts by the British Parliament. The First Continental Congress sent a petition to King George III and considered boycotts of British goods. They disbanded with the knowledge that a second meeting would be assembled, if necessary, the following year. With the onset of conflict in Lexington and Concord, the colonies found themselves in a state of war.
The majority of the delegates from the First Continental Congress returned for the second meeting, and new additions included Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, and Thomas Jefferson. Virginia delegate Peyton Randolph was elected as president of the proceedings, but had to return to the House of Burgesses in his home state after two weeks. Henry Middleton was then elected to the position, but declined and was replaced by John Hancock. At first, Georgia again took no part in the convention, but as of July, the Provincial Congress of the colony had no choice but to join.
One of the first actions undertaken by the Second Continental Congress was to create the Continental Army. The war effort had been principally managed by state militias, resulting in a haphazard rebellion that seemed doomed to fail. George Washington was appointed to the position of commanding general and immediately sent to the siege of Boston. On 6 July 1775, the Congress passed the Declaration of Causes, outlining the reasons for armed conflict. In a final effort of peace, it sent the Olive Branch Petition to the British, hoping to resolve the conflict before it escalated.
The Congress spent the next year consolidating its power, assuming the role of legislative and executive authority of the 13 colonies. It appointed an ambassador to France, obtained loans from European nations, issued paper money, and continued to raise an army. The major challenge the delegation faced was its lack of legal authority to raise taxes. As such, it was required to press the states for funds, sometimes to no avail.
By 1776, the Second Continental Congress was operating as the national government. To signify its power, it issued what would be one of the most important documents in the nation's history: the Declaration of Independence, ratified on 4 July 1776. The next year, the delegates passed the Articles of Confederation, an agreement to form a representative government with each colony becoming a state. This was ratified by the states over the next few years, finally being adopted 1 March 1781. The delegation was then abolished, and the Congress of the Confederation became the new governing body of the United States.