In September 1774, 56 men gathered in historic Carpenters' Hall in Philadelphia to discuss the fate of their nation. This gathering was the First Continental Congress, and it ushered in a new age of democracy in a nation that had not yet fully formed. These men were delegates from 12 of the 13 American colonies, and they converged to discuss what options they had in boycotting the British Empire, which had just passed a law known as the Coercive Acts. This law meant that the American colonies would be taxed an "intolerable" amount, earning the law a second name, the Intolerable Acts. This congress was the first of two.
While the First Continental Congress was a short gathering, resulting in a warning sent to King George III, the Second Continental Congress was a longer ordeal. It had been agreed upon by those delegates who had attended the first congress that a second would be held in the event that the Intolerable Acts were not revoked. By the time the second congress convened in 1775, the American Revolution had already started. The Second Continental Congress was charged with spearheading the war effort.
One of the Congress's first acts, in June 1775, was to create the Continental Army, a militia group commanded by representative George Washington from the colony of Virginia. The Olive Branch petition was the second act of the Continental Congress, offering Britain one last chance to live at peace with the colonies. King George rejected the petition, and the second congress began to rule as a governing body over the colonies. This was seen as a problem by some delegates in the Congress, who believed the colonies had no official claim to rule the land they occupied.
Funding was scarce because the newly formed governing body had no way or right to levy taxes. They issued a form of paper money and certificates for future goods and services. Both of these forms of financing failed, and the Continental Congress sought help for its war efforts elsewhere, mainly from France.
On 10 May 1776, the members of the congress issued a declaration that they would begin to form a proper government. This was followed by a resolution of independence on 2 July 1776. Richard Henry Lee, a statesman from Virginia, wrote the original resolution. Congress debated for two days before turning its attention to the Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson, another politician from Virginia. On 4 July 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted a final, revised version of Thomas Jefferson's declaration, which was not signed by all of the delegates until the beginning of August of that year.
The members continued their work in a number of venues, having been forced from Philadelphia by the onslaught of British soldiers. The Congress met in Baltimore from late 1776 until 1777, when it relocated to Philadelphia once more before moving again to several other cities within the Pennsylvania territory. In November 1777, the Continental Congress adopted the Articles of Confederation, the precursor to the American Constitution. These articles established a "firm league of friendship" between the United States of America, allowing each state to govern itself in almost every aspect that was not specifically federally regulated.