United States of America
|President of the Continental Congress|
|Peyton Randolph (first)|
|Samuel Huntington (last)|
|Historical era||American Revolution|
Age of revolution
• Second Continental Congress convenes
|March 10, 1775|
|July 2, 1776|
|July 4, 1776|
|March 1, 1781|
|This article is part of a series on the|
|First Continental Congress|
|Second Continental Congress|
|Congress of the Confederation|
|United States portal|
The United Colonies was the name used by the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia to describe the emerging nation comprising the Thirteen Colonies in 1775 and 1776, before and as independence was declared. Continental currency banknotes displayed the name 'The United Colonies' from May 1775 until February 1777, and the name was being used as a colloquial phrase to refer to the colonies as a whole before the Second Congress met, although the precise place or date of its origin is unknown.
Founding Father John Adams used the phrase "united colonies" as early as February 27, 1775, in a 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.
On June 19, 1775, the members of the Second Continental Congress called themselves the "delegates of the United Colonies" and appointed George Washington the "General and Commander in chief of the Army of the United Colonies".
On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee, after receiving instructions and wording from the Fifth Virginia Convention, proposed to Congress that they cut their political ties with Britain, declare themselves independent, and create a constitution. Known as the Lee Resolution, and passed by the delegates on July 2, 1776, it referred to the United Colonies, reading 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.
Two days later, on July 4, 1776, the 56 delegates to the Second Continental Congress, unanimously adopted the Declaration of Independence, which was overseen by the Committee of Five and written principally by Thomas Jefferson in Philadelphia over a period of two weeks in June 1776.
On September 9, 1776, the Second Continental Congress formally dropped the name "United Colonies" in favor of the “United States of America", which had been introduced as the nation's name in the July Declaration of Independence.
Congress called on the colonies to rename themselves as states, with new constitutions. On March 14, 1775, as proposed by John Adams to the Congress:
After the Battles of Lexington and Concord in April 1775, New England American patriot militias mobilized to surround the British Army in Boston. On July 6, 1775, the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia 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 wish to see restored....We have not raised armies with ambitious designs of separating from Great Britain, and establishing independent states."
On May 10, 1776, the Second Continental 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 in the Lee Resolution on July 2, 1776, and two days later, on July 4, unanimously adopted the "Declaration of Independence", written principally by Thomas Jefferson, which read in part:
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" on June 19, 1775, and on June 22 instructed him to take charge of the siege of Boston. Congress created a series of new agencies in the name of the United Colonies, including a Navy.
On September 14, 1775, Washington, as "Commander in Chief of the Army of the United Colonies of North America", instructed Colonel Benedict Arnold to invade Quebec, seize military stores, and attempt to convince French Canadians to join the American Revolution.
On September 9, 1776, the Second Continental 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.'”