The Continental Congress was a meeting of delegates from each of the thirteen American colonies. These delegates served as the government during the Revolutionary War.
Congress Voting Independence by Robert Edge Pine and Edward Savage
The First Continental Congress
The First Continental Congress took place from September 5 through October 26, 1774. Delegates from each colony, except Georgia, met at Carpenter's Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They discussed the current situation with Britain including the Intolerable Acts, which the British Parliament had imposed on Boston as punishment for the Boston Tea Party.
The delegates took two major actions:
1. They sent a letter to King George III explaining the issues the colonies had with the way they were being treated. They demanded that the King stop the Intolerable Acts or they would boycott English goods. However, the King chose to ignore them and the Americans began the boycott.
2. They made a plan to meet again in May of 1775 if the British did not meet their demands.
Members of the First Continental Congress included John Adams, Patrick Henry, and George Washington. The President of the First Congress was Peyton Randolph.
The Second Continental Congress
The Second Continental Congress first met on May 10, 1775. After that, the delegates continued to meet in different sessions until March of 1781, when the Articles of the Confederation were ratified. The first meeting was at the State House in Philadelphia, which would later be called Independence Hall, but they also had sessions in other locations including Baltimore, Maryland and York, Pennsylvania. Unlike the First Continental Congress, this time the colony of Georgia would join and all thirteen colonies were represented.
Much had happened in the previous months since the end of the First Continental Congress including the start of the Revolutionary War with the Battles of Lexington and Concord. The congress had some serious business to take care of immediately including forming an army to fight the British.
Independence Hall in Philadelphia by Ferdinand Richardt
The Second Continental Congress was led by John Hancock. Other new members included Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. This congress acted much more like a government sending ambassadors to foreign countries, printing its own money, getting loans, and raising an army.
Major accomplishments of the Second Continental Congress:
On June 14, 1775 they established the Continental Army. They made George Washington General of the Army.
On July 8, 1775 they tried again for peace by sending the Olive Branch Petition to the King of Britain.
On July 4, 1776 they issued the Declaration of Independence declaring the United States as an independent country from Britain.
On June 14, 1777 they passed the Flag Resolution for an official United States Flag.
On March 1, 1781 the Articles of the Confederation were signed creating a real government. After this, the congress was called the Congress of the Confederation.
Fun Facts about the Continental Congress
In the First Continental Congress, Patrick Henry, a delegate from Virginia, made the bold statement that "I am not a Virginian, I am an American".
At the time of the congress, there were around 2.5 million people living in the United States.
John Adams and Thomas Jefferson chose the bald eagle as the symbol of the United States. Ben Franklin wanted to use the turkey.
In addition to the thirteen colonies, the northern colonies of Quebec, St. John's Island, and Nova Scotia were all invited to the Second Continental Congress. They did not attend.