The Second Continental Congress was a convention of delegates from the Thirteen Colonies that met beginning on May 10, 1775, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, soon after warfare in the American Revolutionary War had begun. It succeeded the First Continental Congress, which met briefly during 1774, also in Philadelphia. The second Congress managed the colonial war effort, and moved incrementally towards independence, adopting the United States Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. By raising armies, directing strategy, appointing diplomats, and making formal treaties, the Congress acted as the de facto national government of what became the United States. With the ratification of the Articles of Confederation, the Congress became known as the Congress of the Confederation. (born Jan. 20, 1732, Stratford, Va. — died June 19, 1794, Chantilly, Va., U.S.) U.S. statesman. As a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses (1758 - 75), he opposed the Stamp Act and the Townshend Acts. He helped initiate the Committees of Correspondence and was active in the First and Second Continental Congress. On June 7, 1776, he introduced a resolution calling for independence from Britain. Its adoption led to the Declaration of Independence, which he signed, as he did the Articles of Confederation. He again served in Congress from 1784 to 1787, acting as its president in 1784. He opposed ratification of the Constitution of the United States because it lacked a bill of rights. He later served in the first U.S. Senate (1789 - 92). (1777) Engagements in the American Revolution. British troops under John Burgoyne marched from Canada to join with other British troops, and, after camping at Saratoga, N.Y., engaged the Continental Army under Horatio Gates at the First Battle of Saratoga (September 19), also known as the Battle of Freeman's Farm. Failing to break the American lines, the British faced a counterattack led by Benedict Arnold at the Second Battle of Saratoga (October 7), or the Battle of Bemis Heights. With his forces reduced to 5,000 men, Burgoyne began to retreat, but Gates, with 20,000 men, surrounded the British at Saratoga and forced their surrender (October 17). The American victory induced the French to offer open recognition and military aid. English-born American general. He served in the British army during the French and Indian War. In 1772 he immigrated to Virginia, where he sided with colonial interests. He was made adjutant general of the Continental Army (1775) and succeeded Gen. Philip Schuyler in New York (1777). Assisted by Benedict Arnold, he forced the surrender of British forces under John Burgoyne at the Battle of Saratoga (1777). Congress then chose Gates as president of the Board of War. Supporters, including Thomas Conway, sought to have Gates replace George Washington, but the plan failed, and Gates returned to his New York command. In 1780 he was transferred to the South, where he attempted to oust the British forces under Charles Cornwallis but was defeated at the Battle of Camden, S.C. An official inquiry was ordered, but charges never were pressed. He retired to Virginia, then freed his slaves in 1790 and moved to New York. American naval hero. He went to sea at age 12 and became a ship's master at age 21. He joined his brother in Virginia in 1775. When the American Revolution began, he joined the new Continental Navy under Esek Hopkins. In 1776 he sailed the Providence along the Atlantic coast, capturing eight British ships and sinking eight more. Appointed by Congress to the newly built Ranger, he made a spectacular cruise through St. George's Channel and the Irish Sea (1777 - 78), where he took a number of prizes. In 1779 he commanded the Bonhomme Richard and intercepted a merchant fleet. Though outgunned by an escort ship, the Serapis, he forced its surrender after a fierce battle, answering its challenge to surrender with "I have not yet begun to fight!" His ship sank soon after, and he sailed two British prizes to the Netherlands. In 1790 he retired, in ill health, to France. The plan's key element was de Grasse's fleet, which arrived on 26 August from the West Indies, established control of the coastal waters inside the Capes of Virginia, and contributed 4,800 more men to the besieging force. Ten days later, de Grasse fought a strategically decisive engagement with a British squadron sent by Clinton to evacuate Cornwallis's force. The British failure to penetrate past de Grasse, plus Cornwallis's inertia, allowed Washington and Rochambeau to spring their trap.
The allies closed in on Yorktown on 28 September, and on 6 October began formal siege operations, which would have been impossible without French heavy artillery. By 14 October, the cannonade had weakened British positions sufficiently to allow the allies to capture key outposts: 400 American light infantry, led by Alexander Hamilton, took the smaller Redoubt No. 10 sooner and with fewer casualties than the French at Redoubt No. 9. Cornwallis and 8,000 men surrendered on 17 October.
The Treaty of Paris, signed on 3 September 1783, ended the American Revolutionary War and represented a major diplomatic triumph for the young nation. Following the decisive victory of the American and French forces at the Battle of Yorktown (1781), the British recognized that they could not defeat the rebellious colonists on the battlefield. After a change of government brought in a ministry devoted to ending the conflict, the British opened talks with the delegates from the Continental Congress: John Adams, John Jay, and Benjamin Franklin. The Americans declined the guidance of their French allies and negotiated their own settlement, signing the initial articles on 30 November 1782. The final document was agreed to by all parties in September 1783. The treaty recognized the independence of the United States, generously fixed its western boundary at the Mississippi River (a move that doubled the size of the United States), and gave the new country fishing rights off Newfoundland. The United States agreed to terminate reprisals against loyalists and to return their property.
The Continental Congress ratified the pact in 1784. Issues arising from the treaty would trouble Anglo‐American relations in the 1790s, but the team of Adams, Franklin, and Jay had made the most of what their countrymen had won in the battles of the Revolution.