Colonists' moves towards independence, 1774-1776

Colonists’ moves towards independence, 1774-1776

Formation of the Second Continental Congress

  • The Second Continental Congress was formed in 1775 as a response to the escalating conflict.
  • It acted as a de facto government, organising the war effort during the American Revolutionary War.
  • The congress established the Continental Army with George Washington as its commander.

Declaration of Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms

  • The Declaration of Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms (1775) was a document issued by the Second Continental Congress explaining why the thirteen colonies had taken up arms against Great Britain.
  • It articulated that the colonists believed their cause was just, focusing on two main points: the right of a people to defend themselves against tyrannical governance and protest against unlawful taxes.

Olive Branch Petition and British Response

  • The Olive Branch Petition, submitted in 1775, was a final attempt to avoid a full-scale war against Britain by professing loyalty to the king and requesting his help in achieving peace.
  • In response, King George III declared the colonies to be in a state of rebellion and authorised the use of armed force to suppress it, essentially rejecting the petition.

Publication of ‘Common Sense’ and its Impact

  • ‘Common Sense’, a pamphlet written by Thomas Paine in 1776, powerfully advocated for colonial independence.
  • It reached a wide audience, influencing public opinion and encouraging discussion around the argument for independence from Britain.

The Declaration of Independence

  • The Declaration of Independence, adopted in July 1776, marked the decisive split with Britain.
  • This important document, primarily drafted by Thomas Jefferson, announced that the thirteen American colonies were independent states and no longer under British rule.
  • The declaration outlined a philosophy of human rights and set forth grievances against the British king which justified the break.