Since there was Second Continental Congress there must have existed a First Continental Congress. The First and Second Continental Congress spanned the years of 1774 through 1781.
First Continental Congress
The meeting of 56 delegates from 12 colonies took place from September 5 through October 26, 1774. Georgia, who were supported by the British, were in a war with the Indians and therefore not at the Congress.
The British had enacted taxes and duties on imported tea making economics for the colonies more difficult. The culmination of these laws plus the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party incentive the need for the First Continental Congress.
The purpose of the First Continental Congress was to discuss how the colonies were to relate to Britain going forward. A number of documents were drawn with two main overall purposes. One, they petitioned the King to repeal many of his taxes, duties and restrictions. Two, they drafted documents to set out some self-governing declarations including American rights.
Payton Randolph was the President of the First Continental Congress. When Randolph became ill Henry Middleton convened for the last 5 days of the Congress.
The King, as expected, ignored the petition which motivated the Second Continental Congress.
Second Continental Congress
As was true of the First Congress the Second Continental Congress is acting as the government of the 13 colonies. However at the Second Continental Congress there were again only 12 colonies represented until the vote on the Declaration of Independence was held at which time the Georgia delegation arrived. John Hancock convened as President replacing Payton Randolph due to his ailing health.
The Second Continental Congress assembled on May 10, 1775 and did not dismiss until March 1, 1781. Although Britain did ignore the first petition they also responded. The 1775 British troops, without success, rushed into Concord to arrest those leaders responsible for voicing their grievances against the crown of England.
Second Continental Congress Purpose
With recent battles in Concord, Lexington and Boston in mind leaders gathered in Philadelphia to draft a response to British actions. The 2nd Continental Congress had no favorable response from Britain. That provided enough impetus for the Congress to begin debate on the need for independence.
Two significant actions took place at the Second Continental Congress
- Congress took steps to defend the colonies by providing for a Continental Army. George Washington was appointed as the Commander-In-Chief. The Revolutionary war with the British took place from 1775-1783 ending with the recognition of the sovereignty of the United states by Britain in the Treaty of Paris.
- In 1776 the Second Continental Congress appointed 5 delegates to draft a document which became famous and known as the Declaration of Independence.
Who were the 5 men appointed by The Second Continental Congress?
Five of the fifty-six delegates were appointed by the 2nd Continental Congress to write a document to establish the independence of the 13 colonies from Britain.
The committee of 5 were Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Robert Livingston, Roger Sherman and Thomas Jefferson. Since the delegates in Philadelphia were now wanted for treason time was pressing them for solutions. Since time was short and since Jefferson was well known for his command of the English language he was persuaded to write the initial draft. The others would approve of Jefferson’s work before it was given to the entire 2nd Continental Congress for a vote. Time again was of essence. When Jefferson finished his draft time did not allow for much input from the committee.
Benjamin Franklin, PA, 1706-1790, Scientist, Educator, author, Philanthropist, Statesman, Printer and Inventor
At 70 years of age Franklin was the oldest to sign the document for the independence of the 13 colonies. He was 1 of only 6 to sign both the Declaration and the Constitution.
An interesting quote from Franklin:
“Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.”
Benjamin Franklin was one of three who John Adams ranked as the most notable of the Founding Fathers. Franklin’s achievements included many that he did not paten believing all people should have access to them. Among those inventions he did paten are the lightning rod, bifocals and, of course, the Franklin Stove. He also held many firsts such as starting the first library in the nation, the first fire department manned by volunteers and the first hospital.
Benjamin Franklin was very active in the field of education. Blacks were suppressed under British rule. Franklin established the first schools for black Americans. This was, in fact, a chain of Christian schools with a curriculum of academics and Christianity. The University of Pennsylvania also lists Benjamin Franklin as a founder.
Benjamin Franklin lived his life within many Biblical principles. One was his provision for those in need. When in England he noticed taxes being collected to provide for the poor. He wrote against that policy and basically said the more that approach is used the less help it provides. The last resort for the poor should be the government after family, church and private charities had exhausted their resources or abilities.
When helping someone in need Benjamin Franklin said,
“Some time or other you may have an opportunity of assisting with an equal sum a stranger who has equal need of it. Do so. By that means you will discharge any obligation you may suppose yourself under to me. Enjoin him to do the same on occasion. By pursuing such a practice much good may be done with little money. … Mankind are all of a family.”
John Adams, MA., 1735-1826, Lawyer – another appointee made by the Second Continental Congress to write this special document.
Adams was the 2nd US President from 1797 to 1801. He was the first President to occupy the White House. There he had inscribed a prayer in marble in the mantle of the State Dining Room, “I pray Heaven to Bestow the Best of Blessings on THIS HOUSE and on all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but Honest and Wise Men ever rule under this roof.”
Today many rebel against this being a “Christian Nation” or the US being founded on the principals of Christianity. Founder and President John Adams had something to say about that almost 40 years after he signed the Declaration of Independence.
Adams said, “Now I will avow, that I then believe, and now believe, that those general Principles of Christianity, are as eternal and immutable, as the Existence and Attributes of God; and that those Principles of Liberty, are as unalterable as human Nature and our terrestrial, mundane System.” –Adams wrote this on June 28, 1813, excerpt from a letter to Thomas Jefferson.
When George Washington was elected as Commander-In-Chief of the new independent 13 United States there was a discussion among the founders as to what to call him. John Adams who is described, by Larry Arn, as a round man, suggested he be addressed as “His Majesty”. All disliked that term and “President” was agreed upon. Alexander Hamilton who often argued with Adams suggested Adams be thereafter referred to as “His Rotundity”. Robert Livingston, NY., 1716-1778, Merchant.
Although Livingston voted with his NY delegation for the Declaration of Independence he did not sign the document drafted by his committee of the Second Continental Congress. He thought it too soon to break with Britain. He and many with him still hoped for suitable compromise and reconciliation with the British.
Robert (Phillip) Livingston administered the oath of office to George Washington as President of the United States.
Livingston’s home was used by the British troops as a hospital as well as a barracks during the Revolutionary war.
Roger Sherman, CT., 1721-1793, Lawyer
Sherman was one of six to sign both the Declaration and the US Constitution. He was the only founding Father to sign all four of the documents upon which these United states were founded. The other two documents being the Articles of Association in 1774 and the Articles of confederation in 1781.
Sherman was a Superior Court of Connecticut Judge from 1766-1789. He served in the United States Senate 1791-1793 representing CN.
As many other founders were trained in Theology so was Roger Sherman. From his quotes and work we can see that Sherman was a dedicated Evangelical Christian. He was also the author of the doctrinal creed for his denomination.
Thomas Jefferson, VA., 1743-1826, Lawyer, Plantation Owner, Scientist, 3rd US President
The Second Continental Congress appointed Jefferson to the committee to write the Declaration. Jefferson had a few resources at his disposal to draw from. Notably he had the preamble of the Constitution of Virginia, which he had written. He also had access to the Virginia Declaration of Rights written by George Mason.
Once Jefferson had completed his first draft he submitted it to Franklin and Adams for their amendments before taking it to the full committee. On June 28 they submitted their work to the Second Continental Congress with the title, “A Declaration by the Representatives of the United states of America. In General Congress assembled.”
Congress removed references to British force upon the colonies to keep slaves. They wanted to soften Jefferson’s treatise in an attempt to make it acceptable. This step was also helpful in getting the necessary unanimous vote. New York did abstain but made the vote unanimous with their approval on July 9.
Great celebrations broke out all over the 13 United States of America following the July 4th news of their independence from Britain. Celebrations were marked by shouting, processions, gun fire and the ringing of bells. The Declaration of Independence was approved.
Jefferson designed his own gravestone with 3 items that he left the people. One was “the author of the Declaration of American Independence.”
“God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever.” Written by Thomas Jefferson, these words are engraved on a memorial in Washington in Jefferson’s honor.
It’s interesting that out of these 5 committee members, appointed by the Second Continental Congress, two went on to become Presidents of the United States. After the US Constitution was ratified Adams, Jefferson and other US Presidents signed their official presidential documents: “In the year of our Lord Christ.”
These were the men appointed by the Second Continental Congress. Their names will live forever when the truth is told about the founding of these 50 states of the United States of America which had its beginning with 13 colonies.
Article: 1st Amendment Definition