During the first meetings of the 13 American Colonies' Second Continental Congress, which began in May 1775, the delegates deliberated on independence, considered responses to the outbreak of hostilities with British forces in the colony of Massachusetts and appointed George Washington as commander of the Continental Army. On July 8, 1775, the delegates agreed to send King George III of England their notice of a final attempt at reconciliation, which was known as the Olive Branch Petition. Viewing the congress as an illegal assembly, King George III rejected the petition, further inflaming the pro-independence delegates to push harder for what ultimately became a formal break from the British Crown in the signing of the Declaration of Independence by the members of the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776.
With the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Second Continental Congress effectively became the new government of the United States. While the congress worked to develop and ratify the Articles of Confederation for the 13 original colonies, which were by then declared to be sovereign and independent states, it was also struggling to finance and wage a revolutionary war with a major European power. With no legal authority in place to collect taxes, the new government was in the position of financing the war on borrowed money.
The Second Continental Congress completed its work of statewide acceptance of the Articles of Confederation on February 2, 1781, when Maryland, the last of the original 13 colonies to ratify the articles, formally signed on. More than a year of debate was involved in drafting the Articles of Confederation prior to the 13 states' ratification. In one of the Second Continental Congress' final achievements, a new United States Constitution replaced the former Articles of Confederation in September 1788.