The First and Second Continental Congress

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Why did delegates to the Second Continental Congress choose George Washington as commander in chief?

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There were several reasons why the delegates of the Second Continental Congress chose George Washington as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army. Washington had significant experience helping the British fight against the French and the Native Americans during the French and Indian War. While he was associated with some...

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There were several reasons why the delegates of the Second Continental Congress chose George Washington as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army. Washington had significant experience helping the British fight against the French and the Native Americans during the French and Indian War. While he was associated with some early British losses at Fort Necessity and Fort Duquesne, his actions during the war were viewed positively, earning him a good reputation. For example, he was involved with the later British victory that led them to take control of Fort Duquesne.

George Washington was also known for his leadership skills. His opinion on issues was valued and respected. People viewed him as a natural leader from his past experiences. At the Second Continental Congress, he was placed on committees dealing with military matters. Various individuals felt that if somebody from outside the New England area led the army, it would help make the army more of a national army. The fact that he came from Virginia, in addition to his previous military experience and his positive reputation, made his selection a logical choice to accomplish the goal of making the army appear to be more of a national army.

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One of the major reasons for the selection of George Washington as "commander-in-chief" came from his past. Washington had gained significant respect for his actions while serving in the French and Indian War. Upon arrival at the Second Continental Congress, Washington was appointed to a number of committees regarding the military.

Washington was also selected based on the fact that he was from Virginia. It was believed by a number of congressmen from the New England area, where much of the early fighting had occurred, that the leader of their forces should be someone from outside the area in order to create an actual Continental Army. They felt that appointing Washington to such a high position would also lead to greater involvement from Virginia, which at the time was the most populous colony, and also carried with it significant wealth.

Another motivating factor for Washington being appointed to the Continental Congress was his age and physical health. Washington, who was forty-three at the time, was young and healthy enough to be able to handle the physical demands of a military campaign. In addition, Washington's height and strong build made him an imposing figure who commanded respect.

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There were two main reasons why the Second Continental Congress chose George Washington (rather than some other person) as the commander in chief of the Continental Army.  One reason was political, the other was military.

On the military side, Washington was selected because of his experience.  Many colonists had been part of the British forces that fought in the French and Indian War.  Of those colonists, Washington was seen as the man who had been most involved in the war at the highest levels.  Therefore, he was seen as more qualified militarily than the more political leaders of the revolution such as John Hancock.

On the political side, we must remember that the colonies did not have a strong sense of unity at this time.  People thought of themselves as citizens of their colony, not as Americans more generally.  For this reason, it was important to make efforts to ensure that all colonies would be behind the war effort.  Most of the political leadership of the rebellion was from Massachusetts.  Therefore, the Congress chose Washington as commander in chief partly because he was from Virginia.  This selection would help to ensure that Southerners would support the revolution as well.

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