Study Guide Zone

GED Reading Practice

Read the following passage and choose the best answer to the ten questions that follow.

The Second Continental Congress was held May 10, 1775 in Philadelphia. George Washington became the commander of the Americans, mainly because it was felt he would be able to bring the Southern colonies into the fold. This Congress also drew up the Olive Branch petition, a peace offering made to the King of England. The Articles of Confederation were drawn up here; their emphasis on states' rights proved to be a poor setup for organizing a comprehensive military strategy. This Congress created the Committees of Safety, a system for training community militias. This Congress created a bureaucracy for the purpose of organizing a navy and raising money. Finally, it was here that the colonists formally declared independence.

At the time that the Declaration of Independence was issued, many colonists were opposed to complete separation from England. Many of them still considered themselves Englishmen, and were afraid to be branded as traitors. They also realized that they were in uncharted waters: no revolt had ever been successful in winning independence. Finally, many colonists feared that even if they were successful in winning independence, the result would be chaos in America. The minds of many of these reluctant colonists were changed, however, by the Battle of Bunker Hill, which was won by the British. After this battle, King George II declared that the colonists were in a state of rebellion. Furthermore, the British labeled the members of the Second Continental Congress as traitors, and ignored the Olive Branch petition. Confused colonists were further inflamed by the British use of Hessian mercenary soldiers. The writings of Thomas Paine also converted many colonists to the revolutionary cause.

The Declaration of Independence was proposed at the Second Continental Congress by Richard Henry Lee, and was composed by a committee of Franklin, Jefferson, John Adams, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman. The document has three parts: a preamble and reasons for separation; a theory of government; and a formal declaration of war. Jefferson attempted to have it include a condemnation of slavery, but was rebuffed. The Declaration had many aims: to enlist help from other British colonies; to create a cause to fight for; to motivate reluctant colonists; to ensure that captured Americans would be treated as prisoners of war; and to establish an American theory of government. In fulfilling this last purpose, Jefferson borrowed heavily from Enlightenment thinkers like Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Locke, asserting famously that 'all men are created equal.'

The issuing of the Declaration of Independence had effects both on the Revolutionary War and on world history at large. As far as its immediate effects, it changed the war in America from a war for liberty to a war for independence, by rhetorically emancipating America from Britain. It also opened a path for the French Revolution a few years later, a revolution motivated by the principles expressed in the Declaration. Revolutions in South America, Africa, and Asia have also used the Declaration of Independence as inspiration. In the subsequent history of the United States, the document would be used by abolitionists as an argument against slavery, and by suffragists as an argument for the right of women to vote. 

1. What does the passage imply about the Southern colonies?
A: They did not attend the Second Continental Congress.
B: They did not approve of George Washington.
C: They were equivocal on the issue of slavery.
D: They were more reluctant than the Northern colonies to join the coalition of states.

2. What was the Olive Branch petition?
A: an attempt to reconcile with France
B: an attempt to reconcile with King George II
C: a declaration of war against England
D: a plan of military strategy

3. Which word best describes the British attitude to the Second Continental Congress?
A: pleased 
B: indifferent
C: confused 
D: enraged

4. Which aspect of the Articles of Confederation was ineffective?
A: the acceptance of slavery
B: the inclusion of Southern states
C: the emphasis on the power of the federal government
D: the emphasis on states' rights

5. Thomas Paine was most likely:
A: a French poet
B: an American publisher
C: an American propagandist
D: the author of the Declaration of Independence

6. Which of the following is NOT a reason why some colonists were reluctant to declare independence?
A: the issue of slavery had not been resolved
B: they felt an independent America would descend into chaos
C: they were aware of the fact that no such rebellion had ever been successful
D: they still considered themselves Englishmen

7. What is one irony of the Declaration of Independence?
A: It was written on parchment paper.
B: It borrowed many of its ideas from the English thinker John Locke.
C: It was composed in Philadelphia.
D: It was composed in 1775.

8. How did the Declaration of Independence change the war in America from a 'war for liberty to a war for independence'?
A: It declared that England was dependent on the United States.
B: It suggested that America was a sovereign nation entitled to independence.
C: It abandoned the ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
D: It started a new war against a new adversary.

9. This passage primarily: 
A: indicates the idiocy of both British and Americans
B: gives facts in favor of the British
C: supports the American colonists
D: gives facts in an impartial manner

10. What would be the best title for this passage?
A: 'George Washington and the Second Continental Congress'
B: 'The Founding Fathers Smack Down King George II'
C: 'The Three Parts of the Declaration of Independence'
D: 'The Second Continental Congress and the Declaration of Independence'

Answer Key

1. D. The passage suggests that the delegates selected Washington as commander in the hopes of convincing the Southern colonies to stay in the coalition.

2. B. The passage states explicitly that the Olive Branch petition was drafted as an attempt at reconciling with the English king.

3. D. The British were clearly irritated by the impetuous Americans.

4. D. The emphasis on states' rights in the Articles made it difficult to form an army.

5. C. It is apparent that Paine's writings were designed to rouse American patriotic spirit.

6. A. The passage does not suggest that some colonists were reluctant to declare independence because of slavery.

7. B. The fact that an English philosopher's writings were used as justification for a war against England is somewhat ironic.

8. B. By declaring that America was a sovereign nation, the authors of the Declaration implied that the new nation had a right to independence.

9. D. The author does not seem to be partial in his or her explication of the facts.

10. D. This is a straightforward passage about the Second Continental Congress and the Declaration of Independence.

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