The Congress Debates Independence

The news of Lexington and Concord flew from one local community to another in the thirteen colonies. Within 20 days, it evoked a common spirit of American patriotism from Maine to Georgia.
For a map of the USA in 1775 click here

While the alarms of Lexington and Concord were still re- sounding, the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia on May 10, 1775. Its president was John Hancock, a wealthy Boston merchant. Thomas Jefferson >was there
too, and the venerable Benjamin Franklin,
who had returned from London, where, as "Our cause is just. Our union is perfect. Our internal resources are great, and, if necessary, foreign assistance is undoubtedly attainable.... The arms we have been compelled by our enemies to assume, we will... employ for the preservation of our liberties, being with one mind resolved to die free men rather than live slaves."

Even as the declaration was being debated, Congress took the militia into continental service and appointed Colonel George Washington commander in chief of the American forces. Yet in spite of the military involvement and the appointment of a commander in chief, the idea of complete separation from England was still repugnant to some members of the Congress and to a sizeable portion of the American people. It was obvious, however, that the colonies could not forever remain half in and half out of the British empire.