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The United Colonies was the name used by the Second Continental Congress for the emerging nation comprising the Thirteen Colonies in 1775 and 1776, before independence was declared. It emerged as a colloquial phrase to refer to colonies as a whole. The precise origin is unknown, but John Adams used the phrase "united colonies" as early as February 27, 1775, in a his sixth letter entitled "To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay" published in the Boston Gazette:
They have declared our cause their own—that they never will submit to a precedent in any part of the united colonies, by which Parliament may take away Wharves and other lawful estates, or demolish Charters; for if they do, they have a moral certainty that in the course of a few years, every right of Americans will be taken away, and governors and councils, holding at the will of a Minister, will be the only legislatives, in the colonies. Is this illegal?
On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee, after receiving instructions and wording from the Fifth Virginia Convention, proposed to Congress what became known as the Lee Resolution, which was seconded by John Adams. It was passed on July 2, 1776. Referring to the United Colonies, it read in part:
Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.
On September 9, 1776, Congress formally dropped the name "United Colonies" in favor of the “United States of America".
Congress called on the colonies to rename themselves as states, with new constitutions. On March 14 1775 as proposed by John Adams the Congress:
After the battles of Lexington and Concord in April 1775, the New England militias mobilized to surround the British in Boston. On July 6, 1775, Congress issued, A declaration by the representatives of the United Colonies of North America, now met in General Congress in Philadelphia, setting forth the causes and necessity of their taking up arms. They concluded, "We mean not to dissolve that union which as so long and so happily subsisted between us, in which we sincerely which to see restored....We have not raised armies with ambitious designs of separating from Great Britain, and establishing independent states."
On May 10, 1776, Congress unanimously resolved:
In preparation for independence, Congress defined treason as levying war against the United Colonies, adhering to the King, or providing aid or comfort to the enemy.
In early 1776, the cause of independence was widely promulgated in Thomas Paine's pamphlet Common Sense. He called on the 13 colonies to write a new constitution:
Congress voted Independence on July 2, 1776, and issued on July 4, 1776 the "Declaration of Independence":
Congress appointed George Washington "General & Commander in chief of the army of the United Colonies and of all the forces raised or to be raised by them", and instructed him to take charge of the siege of Boston on June 22, 1775. Congress created a series of new agencies in the name of the United Colonies, including a Navy, 
On September 14, 1775, Congress instructed Colonel Benedict Arnold to invade Québec, seize military stores, and try to convince the French Canadians to join the revolution. 
On September 9, 1776, Congress formally dropped the name "United Colonies" in favor of the “United States of America." Congress ordered, “That in all continental commissions, and other instruments, where, heretofore, the words ‘United Colonies’ have been used, the stile be altered for the future to the 'United States.'”