Exiting Gracefully

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Discusses the seminal work of the Continental Congress, including the Declaration of Independence and Articles of Confederation. The American Revolution is replete with seminal moments that every American learns in school, from the "shot heard round the world" to the Declaration of Independence, but in many ways the stories of the First and Second Continental Congress have been obscured by other events in revolutionary history.

United States Declaration of Independence

In the summer of , patriot groups around the 13 colonies communicated with each other and brought about the first council that would unite all of them. That September, 56 delegates who had been chosen by their colonial legislatures to attend the First Continental Congress met in Philadelphia to craft a united response to the Intolerable Acts, debate the merits of a boycott of British trade, declare their rights, and demand redress.

The First Continental Congress eventually petitioned the British government to end the Intolerable Acts while also determining to convene again the following summer. As it turned out, the Revolution would be underway before the Second Continental Congress could convene, and that body would eventually oversee an eight-year war effort. The king dismissed the petition out of hand.

For over a year, the Continental Congress supervised a war against a country to which it proclaimed its loyalty.

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In fact, both the Congress and the people it represented were divided on the question of independence even after a year of open warfare against Great Britain. Early in , a number of factors began to strengthen the call for separation.


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At the same time, many Americans came to realize that their military might not be capable of defeating the British Empire on its own. Meanwhile, the war itself evoked hostility toward Britain among the citizenry, paving the way for independence. In the spring of , the provisional colonial governments began to send new instructions to their congressional delegates, obliquely or directly allowing them to vote for independence. The provisional government of Virginia went further: It instructed its delegation to submit a proposal for independence before Congress.

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Congress postponed a final vote on the proposal until July 1, but appointed a committee to draft a provisional declaration of independence for use should the proposal pass. But the declaration was primarily the work of one man, Thomas Jefferson, who penned an eloquent defense of the natural rights of all people, of which, he charged, Parliament and the king had tried to deprive the American nation.

Who Won the American Revolution?: Crash Course US History #7

The Declaration of Independence allowed Congress to seek alliances with foreign countries, and the fledgling U. Lacking a pre-existing infrastructure, Congress struggled throughout the war to provide the Continental Army with adequate supplies and provisions.

American Legends Continental Congress by Charles River Editors - Read Online

Exacerbating the problem, Congress had no mechanism to collect taxes to pay for the war; instead, it relied on contributions from the states, which generally directed whatever revenue they raised toward their own needs. As a result, the paper money issued by Congress quickly came to be regarded as worthless. Drafted and adopted by the Congress in but not ratified until , it effectively established the U. Under the Articles, congressional decisions were made based on a state-by-state vote, and the Congress had little ability to enforce its decisions.

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The Articles of Confederation would prove incapable of governing the new nation in a time of peace, but they did not seriously undermine the war effort, both because the war was effectively winding down before the Articles took effect, and because Congress ceded many executive war powers to General Washington. The Revolutionary War was over and Congress had helped to see the country through.

However, the Articles of Confederation proved an imperfect instrument for a nation at peace with the world. The years immediately following the end of the Revolutionary War in presented the young American nation with a series of difficulties that Congress could not adequately remedy: dire financial straits, interstate rivalries and domestic insurrection.

American Legends: The Continental Congress (Unabridged)

A movement developed for constitutional reform, culminating in the Philadelphia Convention of The delegates at the convention decided to scrap the Articles of Confederation completely and create a new system of government. In , the new U.

Constitution went into effect and the Continental Congress adjourned forever and was replaced by the U.