Declaration of Independence: History, Meaning, Continental Congress, and Facts

The Second Continental Congress

In the course of about one year nothing significant had happened on the part of the British government. There still existed draconian British tax laws in the colonies. It was around this time that the American Revolutionary War is said to have officially started. It was marked with the Lexington and Concord War of 19 April 1775.

Therefore, events of this nature made the planned Congress meeting of May 1775 even more crucial. This time around, the Second Continental Congress had an additional colony in the form of Georgia. Delegates from all thirteen colonies met at the State House in Philadelphia. Notable delegates present at the Second Continental Congress were John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Patrick Henry. Many of the delegates firmly believed that time for dialog was long over. They agreed that they needed a proper army to take on the British army. This led to several reinforcements in the rank and file of the various local militias.  And on June 14, 1775, George Washington was made general of the new Continental Army.

The July 8 letter from Congress  to King George III

Some members of the Congress still believed in giving peace a chance. They convinced the Congress to send a letter to the King. This letter was sent on July 8, 1775. Unfortunately, there was no meaningful response from the British monarch. Instead, the King looked for a swift means to crush the rebellion. In the British Parliament, the Proclamation of Rebellion was issued on August 23, 1775 to ensure that the gains of the colonies were crushed immediately. All sympathizers of the American colonies, both domestic and abroad, were quickly rounded up.

In spite of all these, some factions in the Second Continental Congress continued to press for dialog with the British Parliament and monarch. The Parliament, in turn, passed the Prohibitory Act in December 1775. In effect, this act imposed an economic blocked on the American colonies. The colonies and their colonial congress were now officially considered enemies of the empire. The Continental Congress saw this act as a sign that their declaration of independence was a reachable objective. John Adams tagged the British Prohibitory Act of 1776 as an “Act of Independency”. From there on wards, the American Revolution was in full force and throttle.

Militias spring up to Fend off the King’s troops

Prior to the full-blown revolutionary war, a few disgruntled colonists had already started rebelling against the British crown. This small group of people, often led by John Adams, organized a few protests here and there to express their disapproval with the British Parliament and the King of Britain, King George III. These groups numbered only a few local trade men but later included influential business men in the colonies. The band of militia also comprised minutemen that could be called into battle at a minute’s notice. They were instantly regarded as radicals and traitors of the British Empire.

King George III responded by bolstering existing British soldiers in the various colonies. He rallied the British Parliament to take decisive action against the rebels. Then in the latter part of October 1775, the American continent saw a spike in the number of British soldiers. The King  deployed more and more soldiers to those rebelling colonies. To add insult to injury, the King asked the colonies to pay for the wages and rents of his soldiers stationed in the colonies.

On the contrary, the mood among the colonists was positive. The colonists started to feel that they had wind in their sails. They had successfully rattled King George III’s cage and his entire empire. With this, came more and more sympathizers joining the colonists’ cause for greater freedoms. By January 1776, the rebels in those colonies no longer operated on a small scale- their numbers swelled exponentially. Colonist leaders like John Adams felt extremely confident that they could push back the impending British forces.

The Press’ role in the lead up to Independence

The euphoria and anxiety were so high that conservatives and pacifists joined the cause of these colonies. Amidst all of these, a lot of propaganda stories were cooked up by both the colonists and the British forces. It was not uncommon to find so many editorials and pamphlets that argued in favor of independence in the press. An example of this was the one written by Thomas Paine in 1776. Paine’s pamphlet, titled “Common Sense”, was a spectacular hit all around the colonies. It sold about 150,000 copies in the first couple weeks after its publication. In the pamphlet, Paine reasoned that the colonists’ fight for freedom and independence was their God-given “natural right” and that not even someone as powerful as George III or Parliament could stop them from pursuing this noble undertaking of theirs.

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