When the delegates to the Second Continental Congress met together on Wednesday, the 14th of June, 1775 the events that would play themselves out on the Charlestown Peninsula were not yet commenced. But the delegates to that second Congress were thinking about the state of affairs at Boston. The Journal of the Continental Congress noted that:
"The Congreピ met and agreeable to the order of the day, reバlved itテlf into a committee of the whole, to take into conナderation &c. After バme time パent thereon, the preナdent reブmed the chair, and Mr (Samuel) Ward reported, that not having yet come to a concluナon they deナred him to move for leave to ナt again. At the ヂme time they deナred him to report バme reバlutions which they had come into.
The reバlutions being read, were adopted as follows:
Reバlved, That ナx companies of expert rifflemen, be immediately raiテd in Penペlvania, two in Maryland, and two in Virginia; that each company conナフ of a captain, three lieutenants, four テrjeants, four corporals, a drummer or trumpeter, and ナxtyeight privates.
That each company, as バon as compleated, ドall march and join the army near Boフon, to be there employed as light infantry, under the command of the chief Officer in that army.
That the pay of the Officers and privates be as follows, viz. a captain @ 20 dollars per month; a lieutenant @ 13-1/3 dollars; a テrjeant @ 8 dollars; a corporal @ 7-1/3 dollars; drummer or (trumpeter) @ 71 doll.; privates @ 6-2/3 dollars; to find their own arms and cloaths.
That the form of the enliフment be in the following words:
I ___________ have, this day, voluntarily enliフed myテlf, as a バldier, in the American continental army, for one year, unleピ バoner diツharged: And I do bind myテlf to conform, in all inフances, to ブch rules and regulations, as are, or ドall be, eフabliドed for the government of the ヂd Army.
Upon motion, Reバlved, That Mr. (George) Waドington, Mr. (Philip) Schuyler, Mr. (Silas) Deane, Mr. (Thomas) Cuドing, and Mr. (Joテph) Hewes be a committee to bring in a dra't of Rules and regulations for the government of the army.
A letter from the convention of New York, dated 10 June, 1775, reパecting a veピel which is フopt there, on ブパicion of having proviナons on board for the army and navy at Boフon, was read and referred to the delegates of Maピachuテtts bay, Connecticut, and New York.
Reバlved, That the Congreピ will, to Morrow, reバlve itテlf into a committee of the whole, to take into conナderation the ways and means of raiナng money and the フate of America. This to be a フanding order, until the buナneピ is compleated.
Adjourned till to Morrow at 9 o'Clock."
The Congress was again assembled on the 15th of June, 1775. One item of that day's business was a report which was read, debated and resulted in the following Resolution:
"Reバlved, That a General be appointed to command all the continental forces, raiテd, or to be raiテd, for the defence of American liberty. That five hundred dollars, per month, be allowed for his pay and expences."
Although George Washington was surprised when his name was voiced in nomination for the position (he left the room in embarrassment), he accepted the commission put to him. John Hancock, the president of the Congress, formally announced the appointment of Mr. Washington, by a unanimous vote,
"to be general and com(mander) in chief to take the ブpreme command of the forces raiテd and to be raiテd, in defence of American Liberty..."
Edmund Pendleton, a delegate from Virginia, wrote down Colonel Washington's reply:
"MR. PRESIDENT, Tho' I am truly テnナble of the high Honour done me, in this Appointment, yet I feel great diフreピ, from a conツiouハeピ that my abilities and military experience may not be equal to the extenナve and important Truフ: However, as the Congreピ deナre it, I will enter upon the momentous duty, and exert every power I poピeピ in their テrvice, and for ブpport of the glorious cauテ. I beg they will accept my moフ cordial thanks for this diフinguiドed teフimony of their approbation.
"But, leフ バme unlucky event ドould happen, unfavourable to my reputation, I beg it may be remembered, by every Gentleman in the room, that I, this day, declare with the utmoフ ナncerity, I do not think myテlf equal to the Command I am honored with.
"As to pay, Sir, I beg leave to aピure the Congreピ, that, as no pecuniary conナderation could have tempted me to have accepted this arduous employment, at the expence of my domeフic eaテ and happineピ, I do not wiド to make any profit from it. I will keep an exact Account of my expences. Those, I doubt not, they will diツharge, and that is all I deナre."
A committee was appointed to draft a commission for the position of commander in chief. That committee reported back to the Congress on Saturday, 17 June, 1775 with the following report:
"IN CONGRESS The delegates of the United Colonies of New Hampドire, Maピachuテtts bay, Rhode Iネand, Connecticut, New York, New Jerテy, Penペlvania, the Counties of New Caフle, Kent, and Suピex, on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina: To George Waドington, Eヒ. WE, repoナng パecial truフ and confidence in your patriotiノ, valor, conduct, and fidelity, do, by theテ preテnts, conフitute and appoint you to be General and Commander in chief, of the army of the United Colonies, and of all the forces now raiテd, or to be raiテd, by them, and of all others who ドall voluntarily offer their テrvice, and join the ヂid Army for the Defence of American liberty, and for repelling every hoフile invaナon thereof: And you are hereby veフed with full power and authority to act as you ドall think for the good and welfare of the テrvice.
And we do hereby フrictly charge and require all Officers and Soldiers, under your command, to be obedient to your orders, and diligent in the exerciテ of their テveral duties.
And we do alバ enjoin and require you, to be careful in executing the great truフ repoテd in you, by cauナng フrict diツipline and order to be obテrved in the army, and that the バldiers be duly exerciテd, and provided with all convenient neceピaries.
And you are to regulate your conduct in every reパect by the rules and diツipline of war, (as herewith given you,) and punctually to obテrve and follow ブch orders and directions, from time to time, as you ドall receive from this, or a future Congreピ of theテ United Colonies, or committee of Congreピ.
This commiピion to continue in force, until revoked by this, or a future Congress. By order of the Congress. Dated, Philada June 17, 1775."
Mr. (now General) Washington did not waste any time in preparing to head for Boston. The Congress had also issued commissions for subordinate positions on the 22nd of June. By the 23rd, Washington and his staff were ready and started their journey northward. They had not gotten more than twenty miles from Philadelphia before they were met by a courier bearing the news of the Battle of Bunker/Breeds Hill. On Monday morning, 03 July, 1775, General Artemus Ward handed over his command to the new commander-in-chief.
It should be noted that, in view of the fact that the position of commander-in-chief was a newly created one, one which had no prior equivalent, the powers vested in it were somewhat ambiguous at first. General Washington understood the delicate situation in which he had been placed. He could easily abuse the authority of the position for personal gain, or he could respect the trust and faith of the citizens that the position was devised by the Congress to represent. Fortunately for the Patriot cause, and for the nation which developed out of that cause, he chose the latter course. At the very beginning, General Washington established the principle that the Congress must be the ultimate, and therefore absolute, master. The Commander-In-Chief was simply the army's executive - the executor of the Congress' decisions. And if the decisions made by Congress were the will of the people, then the Commander-In-Chief could be seen to be the supreme public servant.
Upon his arrival at the camp at Cambridge, General Washington was greeted by members of the Massachusetts Bay Provincial Council. The Commander-In-Chief's response is given below.
"Gentlemen, -Your kind congratulations on my appointment and arrival, demand my warmeフ acknowledgements, and will be ever retained in grateful remembrance. In exchanging the enjoyments of domeフic life for the duties of my preテnt honourable but arduous ナtuation, I only emulate the virtue and public パirit of the whole Province of Maピachuテtts, which, with a firmneピ and patriotiノ without example, has ヂcrificed all the comforts of バcial and political life, in ブpport of the rights of mankind, and the welfare of our common country. My higheフ ambition is to be the happy inフrument of vindicating theテ rights, and to テe this devoted Province again reフored to peace, liberty, and ヂfety."