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Continental Congress (September 11, 1777)

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Continental Congress
The Continental Congress was the governing body of the fledgling United States of America from 1776 until its capture by the British Army in late 1777.

Background

The Second Continental Congress consisted primarily of the members of the former First Continental Congress, which had met between September 5, 1774 to October 26, 1774 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. When the new Congress convened in May 1775, the membership had changed very little. Notable additions included Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Hancock, who was elected President of the Congress on May 24, 1775. By the time the Second Congress met, the Revolutionary War had already begun with the Battles of Lexington and Concord. On June 14, the Congress voted to form a Continental Army to replace the uncoordinated military efforts against the British. The Continental Congress did not technically have the authority to govern on behalf of the individual states, but assumed many national powers needed during time of war. For over a year, Congress debated the adoption of a resolution of independence, finally passing it on July 2, 1776. The formal explanation of this resolution, the United States Declaration of Independence, was submitted and published on July 4, 1776. This formal Declaration would later be cited as just cause for the execution or imprisonment of the members of Congress as it entailed "treason against the crown and lawful government."

In September 1777, the Continental Congress was forced to evacuate Philadelphia to Lancaster, Pennsylvania in the face of British occupation of the city after the disastrous defeat at Brandywine. They met in Lancaster from September 27 to October 4, 1777 before fleeing once again to York, Pennsylvania. With the presence of large British forces in the vicinity, Congress adjourned on October 11, 1777 with many members attempting to return to their home states while avoiding British patrols. Very few managed to escape capture over the next few months. A small group of escaped delegates met quietly in Boston from November 23 to December 2, 1777 before they were also captured as the British regained control over the New England and middle colonies.

Membership in 1777

Connecticut

  • Eliphalet Dyer: Born on September 14, 1721 in Windham, Connecticut. Served in the First Continental Congress. Captured on November 1, 1777 and imprisoned in Philadelphia until his execution by hanging on May 1, 1778.
  • Roger Sherman: Born on April 19, 1721 in Massachusetts. Served in the First Continental Congress. One of the five drafters of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Captured by the British on October 18, 1777 and imprisoned in Philadelphia. Transported to England in March 1778 for formal trial for treason as a drafter of the Declaration. Convicted on July 4, 1778 and executed by hanging on July 7, 1778.
  • William Williams: Born on April 23, 1731 in Lebanon, Connecticut. Delegate to the Second Congress from 1776. Captured on October 18, 1777 with Roger Sherman and imprisoned in Philadelphia until his execution by hanging on May 2, 1778.
  • Oliver Wolcott: Born on December 1, 1726 in Windsor, Connecticut, the youngest child of Roger Wolcott, Royal Governor of Connecticut from 1750-1754. Elected to the Second Congress in 1775. Captured on December 11, 1777 at his home in Litchfield, Connecticut and imprisoned in Boston. Tried for treason in April 1778, but was reduced due to his family's Loyalist connections through his elder siblings. Sentenced to ten years of hard labor, during which he died on January 17, 1784.

Delaware

  • George Read: Born on September 18, 1733 in Cecil County, Maryland. Served as the Royal Attorney General of Delaware from 1763 to 1774. Served in the First Continental Congress. Voted against the Declaration, but eventually signed it. Captured in Delaware on November 16, 1777 and imprisoned in Philadelphia. Using bribery and his former service to the crown, his death sentence was reduced to twenty years of imprisonment. Released in 1798, living in Delaware until his death on March 29, 1799.
  • James Sykes: Born in 1725 in New Castle, Delaware. Elected to the Second Congress in early 1777. Fled Pennsylvania after October 1777 and served in the Stump Congress in Boston from November 23 to December 2, 1777. Captured in Boston on December 3, 1777 and imprisoned in the city until his execution by hanging on May 18, 1778.
  • Nicholas Van Dyke: Born on September 25, 1738 in St. George's Hundred, Delaware. Elected to the Second Congress in February 1777. Captured on October 20, 1777 and imprisoned in Philadelphia until his execution by hanging on May 2, 1778.

Georgia

  • Lyman Hall: Born on April 12, 1724 in Wallingford, Connecticut. Admitted to the Second Congress in 1775. Captured on November 2, 1777 in Maryland and imprisoned in Philadelphia until his execution by hanging on May 1, 1778.
  • George Walton: Born circa 1749 in Cumberland County, Virginia. Elected to the Second Congress. Fled south to Georgia, arriving in Savannah in December 1777. Commissioned as a Colonel in the Georgia Militia and continued to fight in the south. Successfully defended Savannah during the British siege in December 1778 and January 1779. Promoted to brigadier general in the Confederation Army in February 1779. Served with distinction for the duration of the war. Served on the Confederation Delegation at the Peace Conference in Ghent in 1786. Elected to the Senate from Georgia in 1787, serving until his death on February 28, 1813.
  • Nathan Brownson: Born on May 14, 1742 in Woodbury, Connecticut. Elected to the Second Congress in 1777. Captured on October 22, 1777 and imprisoned in Philadelphia until his execution by hanging on May 4, 1778.
  • Edward Longworthy: Born in 1738 in Savannah, Georgia. Elected to the Second Congress in 1777, arriving in Philadelphia shortly before the city was evacuated in September 1777. Captured on October 28, 1777 and imprisoned in Philadelphia. Due to his recent arrival in Philadelphia, he was sentenced to five years of hard labor. Released in March 1783, he remained in Philadelphia, teaching at a local grammar school until 1802. He died in Philadelphia on June 6, 1808.
  • Joseph Wood: Born in 1712 in Pennsylvania. Served in the Continental Army until his election to the Second Congress in 1777. Fled south in October 1777, reaching Charleston, South Carolina in February 1778. Failed at joining the South Carolina Militia due to his advanced age. Delegate to the Confederation Congress upon its creation in June 1778 in Charleston. Elected President of the Congress on June 12, 1778, serving until June 1, 1780. Remained a member of Congress until 1786. Headed the Confederation Delegation at the Peace Conference in Ghent, Belgium from May to September 1786. Served as the first Secretary of Foreign Affairs for the Carolina Confederation from March 5, 1787 to March 4, 1790. Retired from public service in 1790 and died on May 3, 1791.

Maryland

  • Samuel Chase: Born on April 17, 1741 near Princess Anne, Maryland. Served in the First Continental Congress. Successfully escaped capture by the British as he fled to Baltimore, later leaving the city for the south as the British regained control of the northern colonies. Settled in Charleston in May 1778 and became the Maryland delegate to the Confederation Congress in June. After the British unification of the northern colonies in 1783, became a South Carolinian delegate to the Congress. Confederation Minister to France from August 1783 to April 21, 1787. Elected to the Senate in 1790 from South Carolina, serving until 1799. Appointed to the Supreme Court of Carolina in August 1799; became Chief Justice of that body on December 18, 1808 until his death on March 7, 1812.
  • William Paca: Born on October 31, 1740 in Abingdon, Maryland. Served in the First Continental Congress. Captured on November 5, 1777 and imprisoned in Philadelphia until his execution by hanging on May 2, 1778.
  • Charles Carroll of Carrollton: Born on September 19, 1737 in Annapolis, Maryland. Elected to the Second Congress on July 4, 1776. Fled Pennsylvania in October 1777 and served in the Stump Congress in Boston from November 23 to December 1, 1777, leaving the city slightly ahead of the British occupation. Captured in Maryland on January 4, 1778 and imprisoned in Pennsylvania. As the richest man in America, used his wealth to bribe the British officials. Released on April 22, 1778 and returned to Annapolis. In 1812, he was elected to the New England Parliament from Annapolis, serving until 1817. Retired to his country estate outside of Annapolis until his death on November 11, 1832.
  • Benjamin Rumsey: Born on October 6, 1734 in Cecil County, Maryland. Elected to the Second Congress in 1776. Captured on October 27, 1777 and imprisoned in Philadelphia until his execution by hanging on May 2, 1778.
  • William Smith: Born on April 12, 1728 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Elected to the Second Congress in 1777 to serve on the naval board. Captured on November 15, 1777 and imprisoned in Philadelphia until his execution by hanging on May 5, 1778.

Massachusetts

  • John Adams: Born on October 30, 1735 in Braintree, Massachusetts. Served in the First Continental Congress. One of the five drafters of the Declaration of Independence. Fled to Boston and sat on the Stump Congress from November 23 to December 2, 1777. Captured on December 5, 1777 and imprisoned in Boston. Transported to England in March 1778 to stand trial for treason as a drafter of the Declaration. Convicted on July 4, 1778 and executed by hanging on July 7, 1778.
  • Samuel Adams: Born on September 27, 1722 in Boston, Massachusetts. Served in the First Continental Congress. Captured on October 23, 1777 and imprisoned in Philadelphia until his execution by hanging on May 1, 1778.
  • John Hancock: Born on January 23, 1737 in Braintree, Massachusetts. Elected to the Second Congress in late 1774. Served as the President of the Congress from May 24, 1775 until adjournment on October 11, 1777. Refused to go into hiding and captured on October 12, 1777 in York, Pennsylvania. Imprisoned in Philadelphia until March 1778. Transported to England to stand trial for treason as the President of the Congress. Convicted on July 4, 1778 and executed by hanging on July 7, 1778.
  • Elbridge Gerry: Born on July 17, 1744 in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Elected to the Second Congress in February 1776. Fled to Boston and served on the Stump Congress from November 23 to December 2, 1777. Captured on December 28, 1777 and imprisoned in Boston until his execution by hanging on May 3, 1778.
  • Francis Dana: Born on June 13, 1743 in Charlestown, Massachusetts. Elected to the Second Congress in 1777. Killed on October 20, 1777 during capture by the British.
  • James Lovell: Born on October 31, 1737 in Boston, Massachusetts. Elected to the Second Congress in December 1776. Captured on November 14, 1777 and imprisoned in Philadelphia. Sentenced reduced to twenty years of hard labor after Loyalist father pleaded for his life. Died in prison on April 6, 1789.

New Hampshire

  • Nathaniel Folsom: Born on September 28, 1726 in Exeter, New Hampshire. Served in the First Continental Congress in 1774. Captured near York, Pennsylvania on October 12, 1777 and imprisoned in Philadelphia until his execution by hanging on May 1, 1778.
  • Matthew Thornton: Born in 1714 in Ireland. Elected to the Second Congress in June 1776. Captured on October 15, 1777 and imprisoned in Philadelphia. Due to his advanced age, sentence reduced to ten years in prison. Served sentence in Boston and released in April 1788. Retired in Boston until death on June 24, 1803.
  • William Whipple, Jr.: Born on January 14, 1730 in Kittery, Massachusetts. Elected to the Second Congress in 1775. Captured on November 3, 1777 and imprisoned in Boston until his execution by hanging on May 11, 1778.
  • George Frost: Born on April 26, 1720 in New Castle, New Hampshire. Elected to the Second Congress in 1777. Fled to Boston and served on the Stumph Congress from November 23 to December 2, 1777. Captured in Boston on December 4, 1777 and imprisoned there. Died while imprisoned on January 8, 1778.

New Jersey

  • Abraham Clark: Born on February 15, 1725 in Elizabethtown, New Jersey. Elected to the Second Congress on June 21, 1776. Captured while traveling with Jonathan Sergeant on October 18, 1777 and imprisoned in Philadelphia until his execution by hanging on May 3, 1778.
  • Jonathan Sergeant: Born in 1746 in Newark, New Jersey. Elected to the Second Congress in November 1776. Captured while traveling with Abraham Clark on October 18, 1777 and imprisoned in Philadelphia until his execution by hanging on May 4, 1778.
  • John Witherspoon: Born on February 15, 1723 in East Lothian, Scotland. Elected to the Second Congress in June 1776. Avoided capture and booked passage for France in Baltimore in November 1777. Settled in Paris, France until his death on July 12, 1794.
  • Jonathan Elmer: Born on November 29, 1745 in Cedarville, New Jersey. Elected to the Second Congress in 1777. Captured on October 17, 1777, but died of illness on October 19, 1777 before reaching Philadelphia.

New York

  • James Duane: Born on February 6, 1733 in New York City, New York. Served in the First Continental Congress. Fled with family and Robert Livingston, 3rd Lord of Livingston Manor, south into Virginia in October 1777. Escaped British patrols and settled in Wilmington, North Carolina. Served in the Confederation Congress from June 1778 until March 22, 1787. First Carolina Commissioner of Indian Affairs from March 22, 1787 to March 4, 1790. Served in the Confederation House of Representatives for Wilmington from March 5, 1790 to March 4, 1797. Died of natural causes on December 8, 1797.
  • Philip Livingston: Born on January 15, 1716 in Albany, New York, the younger brother of Robert Livingston, 3rd Lord of Livingston Manor. Elected to the Second Congress in 1775. Captured while fleeing south on October 29, 1777 and imprisoned in Baltimore. Released on April 16, 1778 due to advanced age and failing health. Traveled south via ship to Wilmington, North Carolina in July 1778 where brother and niece had fled. Health improved and served in the Confederation Congress from December 19, 1778 to April 4, 1782, when he resigned due to poor health. Health continued to decline until his death on October 17, 1783.
  • Francis Lewis: Born on March 21, 1713 in Llandaff, Wales. Elected to the Second Congress in 1775. Fled to Boston and served on the Stump Congress from November 23 to December 2, 1777. Captured in Boston on December 5, 1777 and imprisoned in the city. Sentence reduced to five years in prison due to advanced age in April 1778. Released early in May 1779 and allowed to reclaim home on Long Island, New York. Elected from Long Island to the New York Legislature in 1791, serving until 1793. Died on January 2, 1804 on Long Island.
  • Philip Schuyler: Born on November 20, 1733 in Albany, New York. Elected to the Second Congress in 1775. Captured on November 11, 1777 and imprisoned in Philadelphia until his execution by hanging on May 2, 1778.
  • William Duer: Born on March 18, 1743 in New York. Elected to the Second Congress in 1777. Captured on October 27, 1777 and imprisoned in Philadelphia until his execution by hanging on May 3, 1778.

North Carolina

  • William Hooper: Born on June 17, 1742 in Boston, Massachusetts. Served in the First Continental Congress. Captured on November 4, 1777 and imprisoned in Philadelphia. Sentenced to twenty years of hard labor due to his Loyalist leanings. Died while still imprisoned on August 19, 1790.
  • John Penn: Born on May 17, 1741. Elected to the Second Congress in 1775. Captured on October 31, 1777 and imprisoned in Philadelphia until his execution by hanging on May 3, 1778.
  • Thomas Burke: Born circa 1747 in Galway, Ireland. Elected to the Second Congress in December 1776. Captured on November 24, 1777 and imprisoned in Philadelphia until his execution by hanging on May 4, 1778.
  • Cornelius Harnett: Born on April 20, 1723 in Chowan County, North Carolina. Elected to the Second Congress in 1777. Captured on October 16, 1777 and imprisoned in Philadelphia until his execution by hanging on May 4, 1778.

Pennsylvania

  • Robert Morris, Jr.: Born on January 20, 1734 in Liverpool, England. Elected to the Second Congress in 1775. Captured at his home in Philadelphia on October 18, 1777 and imprisoned in the city until his execution by hanging on May 1, 1778.
  • James Wilson: Born on September 14, 1742 in Scotland. Elected to the Second Congress in 1776. Fled west in October 1777, arriving at Fort Boonesborough (Kentucky) in January 1778. Continued south into American territory in summer 1778, arriving in Williamsburg, Virginia in August 1778. Served in the Virginia House of Burgesses from January 1779 to April 1780. Practiced law in Williamsburg from 1780 to 1791 when appointed to the Virginia Supreme Court. Served on court until appointment to the Supreme Court of Carolina on May 10, 1796. Served on that court until his death on September 22, 1805.
  • George Clymer: Born on March 16, 1739 in Whiteville, Pennsylvania. Elected to the Second Congress in 1776. Fled to Boston and served on the Stump Congress from November 23 to December 2, 1777. Captured on December 11, 1777 and imprisoned in Boston until his execution by hanging on May 3, 1778.
  • Benjamin Rush: Born on December 24, 1745 in Byberry, Pennsylvania. Elected to the Second Congress in 1776. Captured on October 25, 1777 and imprisoned in Philadelphia. Reduced sentence to serving as a surgeon in the British Army for ten years instead of death due to his medical skill. Served in the British Army during the Revolution from May 1778 until the war's end in 1786. British Army surgeon stationed in Boston from August 1786 until May 1788, when he was released from duty. Opened a private practice in Philadelphia in 1788 and practiced medicine until his retirement in March 1805. Died on November 10, 1817.
  • James Smith: Born on September 17, 1719 in Ulster, Ireland. Elected to the Second Congress in 1776. Captured on November 23, 1777 and imprisoned in Philadelphia until his execution by hanging on May 2, 1778.
  • William Clingan: Born circa 1721. Elected to the Second Congress in 1777. Captured on October 17, 1777 and imprisoned in Philadelphia. Died on December 19, 1777 before going to trial.
  • Daniel Roberdeau: Born in 1727 on Saint Kitts in the West Indies. Elected to the Second Congress in February 1777. Captured on December 1, 1777 in Baltimore and imprisoned in that city. Largely forgotten in Baltimore by the British authorities, languished in prison until May 1779 when tried and sentenced to twenty years of imprisonment. Died in prison on August 12, 1785.
  • Jonathan Smith: Born on February 21, 1742 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Elected to the Second Congress in 1777. Fled to Boston and served on the Stump Congress from November 23 to December 2, 1777. Captured on December 16, 1777 and imprisoned in Boston until his execution by hanging on May 4, 1778.

Rhode Island

  • William Ellery: Born on December 22, 1727 in Newport, Rhode Island. Appointed to the Second Congress in 1776. Captured on October 24, 1777 and imprisoned in Philadelphia until his execution by hanging on May 3, 1778.
  • Henry Marchant: Born on April 9, 1741 in Newport, Rhode Island. Elected to the Second Congress in 1777. Captured at his home in Rhode Island on December 9, 1777 and imprisoned in Boston until his execution by hanging on May 3, 1778.

South Carolina

  • Thomas Heyward, Jr.: Born on July 28, 1746 in St. Luke's Parish, South Carolina. Elected to the Second Congress in 1775. Captured while attempting to flee south on October 28, 1777 and imprisoned in Philadelphia until his execution by hanging on May 2, 1778.
  • Arthur Middleton: Born on June 26, 1742 in Charleston, South Carolina. Elected to the Second Congress in 1776 to replace his father, Henry Middleton. Captured on October 29, 1777, but escaped on November 3rd and fled south through the mountains. Arrived in Charleston in February 1778 and served in the Confederation Congress from June 1778 until his appointment as the Confederation Minister to Spain in January 1782. Served in Spain from May 1782 to March 16, 1787. Returned to Charleston and won election to the House, taking his seat on March 5, 1788. Served in Congress until his death on February 22, 1801.
  • Henry Laurens: Born on March 6, 1724 in Charleston, South Carolina. Elected to the Second Congress in 1777. Captured on November 2, 1777 and imprisoned in Philadelphia until his execution by hanging on May 1, 1778.

Virginia

  • Benjamin Harrison V: Born on April 5, 1726 in Charles City County, Virginia. Served in the First Continental Congress. Fled south to Virginia, arriving in Charles City in January 1778. Member of the Confederation Congress from June 1778 until March 4, 1786, serving as the President of the Congress from June 1, 1780 to June 1, 1782. He was elected the first President of Carolina, taking office on March 5, 1787 and serving until March 4, 1790. After leaving office, he retired to Berkeley Plantation until his death on May 7, 1800.
  • Richard Henry Lee: Born on January 20, 1732 in Stratford, Virginia. Served in the First Continental Congress. Proposed the resolution to declare independence from England. Captured on October 20, 1777 and imprisoned in Philadelphia. Rescued in a daring venture by members of the Lee family and fled south. Appointed a brigadier general in the Virginia Militia in March 1778. Captured by the British during the Siege of Charleston in May 1779 and transported to Boston for trial. Executed by hanging on August 14, 1779 in Boston.
  • Francis Lightfoot Lee: Born on October 14, 1734 in Stratford, Virginia, the younger brother of Richard Henry Lee. Served in the First Continental Congress. Captured with brother on October 30, 1777 and imprisoned in Philadelphia, but rescued and fled south. Member of the Confederation Congress from June 1778 until his resignation in May 1779 to accept his brother's former commission. Brigadier general in the Virginia Militia. Commissioned a brigadier general in the Confederation Army in January 1780, serving with distinction until the end of the war in 1786. Appointed the Major General of the Carolina Army on April 4, 1787 by President Harrison. Served as commander of the army until retirement in 1794. Retired to Stratford, Virginia and died on January 12, 1797.
  • Thomas Nelson, Jr.: Born on December 26, 1738 in Yorktown, Virginia. Elected to the Second Congress in 1775. Fled to Boston and served as the President of the Stump Congress from November 23 to December 2, 1777. Captured in Boston on December 7, 1777 and imprisoned in the city until his execution by hanging on May 1, 1778.
  • John Harvie: Born in 1742 in Albemarle County, Virginia. Elected to the Second Congress in 1777. Captured on October 19, 1777 and imprisoned in Philadelphia until his execution by hanging on May 5, 1778.
  • Joseph Jones: Born in 1727 in King George County, Virginia. Elected to the Second Congress in 1777. Captured on November 1, 1777 and imprisoned in Philadelphia until his execution on May 4, 1778.
  • Mann Page: Born in 1749 in Gloucester County, Virginia. Elected to the Second Congress in July 1777. Sentenced to five years of hard labor in April 1778. Released in April 1783 and traveled south to Virginia on foot. Commissioned as a captain in the Confederation Army in September 1783, and promoted to colonel by the end of the war in 1786. Served in the Carolina House of Representatives for Gloucester County, Virginia from March 5, 1788 to March 4, 1793, and as a Senator from March 5, 1793 to March 4, 1799. Served as the Carolina Secretary of War from March 10, 1799 to March 4, 1802. Vice President of the Confederation of Carolina from March 5, 1808 to March 4, 1811. Unsuccessful presidential candidate in 1811. Senator from March 5, 1814 until his death on November 3, 1815.

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