Thomas Paine and Common Sense
At this point, many colonists considered themselves loyalists. They did not like the Intolerable Acts or excessive taxes, but they feared leaving England. England would protect them. A war would also be very difficult to win as the British military was one of the best in the world.
However, in January 1776 Thomas Paine published a booklet called Common Sense. Paine had only been in the colonies a short while, but he strongly believed in their cause. He believed the following:
1. People should rule themselves, not kings and queens.
2. The colonies did not owe anything to England.
3. England only helped the Colonies when it benefited them. The King was NOT looking out for their best interest. For example, the King only fought in the French and Indian War to protect and expand his land. He did not care at all about the colonists.
At this point, many colonists thought of Britain as a parent country. Paine said parents do not "make war upon their families." He stirred up anger and memories of the Boston Massacre. His convincing words changed the hearts and minds of the colonists. Approximately 120,000 copies of Common Sense were sold.
Second Continental Congress
John Adams, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson arrived in Philadelphia as delegates for the Second Continental Congress. A total of 65 delegates took part in this congress.
The Olive Branch Petition was drafted by Congress. This petition was one last attempt at peace with England. This petition, a petition is a request signed by multiple people, tried to end the conflict. King George never responded and instead sent more British soldiers to the colonies.
The first step was to organize the militia. Militia were ordinary men, not full time soldiers who went to battle for the Patriots. Congress created a Continental Army. Then, Congress elected George Washington to lead the new army. Finally, the Congress had to decide if they were going to declare war on England. John Adams was ready for this step, but many were not. Thankfully, the success of Thomas Paine's Common Sense convinced the delegates to declare war to create a Declaration of Independence.
Declaration of Independence
On June 7th, 1776 delegates from Virginia introduced a resolution. A resolution is an idea you could vote on, to make the colonies free and independence states. They created a committee to draft a Declaration of Independence. John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin were on the committee. The document was presented to Congress. Congress debated on this document for several days and eventually voted to separate from Britain.
Congress then debated any needed changes to the document. Delegates from two southern colonies wanted to remove the the statement that slavery was a "cruel war against human nature." Other delegates agreed. Many of the changes angered Jefferson, but they knew they all needed to agree to become a united country. On July 4th, 1776 Congress voted to approve the Declaration of Independence.
Washington fought in the French and Indian War. He was selected to lead the Continental Army for the Patriots. Washington was a member of the First and Second Continental Congress. He was elected to be the first president of the United States.
Jefferson was a lawyer and a talented writer. Jefferson was a member of the Second Continental Congress. He wrote the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson was the 3rd president of the United States.