The sound of the gavel that ended the First Continental Congress in October of 1774 was still ringing through the streets of Philadelphia when it was replaced by gunfire in the streets of Lexington and Concord the following April. The push for independence was gaining momentum among the people and, as the opposition to “overseas oversight” became stronger, less savory elements in the Colonies were becoming more brazen and more violent in their actions against those that sided with England.
Caught in the middle were a significant group of colonists that wanted independence, but believed that such a venture would certainly lead to an unwinnable war against an unbeatable British army and navy. And once this certainly-bloody, but short-lived, conflict was over, additional blood from those deemed traitors would flow through the streets of Boston, Philadelphia, New York, and dozens of other places.
It was against this volatile backdrop of diverse opinions that the men of the First Continental Congress met again for what would become the Second Continental Congress. All meetings have “action items”, and one of those from the first meeting was to meet again. The date set was May 10, 1775 and their meetings opened, once again, in Philadelphia.
And though they didn’t know it at the time, this group of 56 men would meet almost continually for the next six years…that’s one long congressional session. In 1775, they would discuss items like peace initiatives with the British Crown while simultaneously creating a Continental Army. But as the relationship with the Crown disintegrated, issues like maintaining and funding an army and getting out of town (when Philadelphia fell to the British) would be added to the agenda.
There were a few new faces in the meeting hall. John Hancock, who would become the Congress’ President, was there. The stately Benjamin Franklin was also present, though events would see him (and eventually John Adams) sent to France. And current President Peyton Randolph would be called back to Virginia, and his place was taken by a young man named Jefferson…Thomas Jefferson.
All told, 12 of the 13 Colonies were represented (just like at the first gathering). But Georgia would remain without true delegates only until July. And for the next six years, these men would work as a one-house government to hold together a fragile rebellion against an overwhelmingly powerful opponent.
Recommended Reading: John Adams