The Olive Branch Petition
The Olive Branch Petition, Which was drafted on July 5th, 1775, was a major turning point in the progress of the American Revolution. The petition may also be referred to the “The Second Petition to the King” or “The Humble Petition” (Olive Branch Petition). The outcome and reactions to the Olive Branch Petition fueled and created new feelings and tensions between the American colonies and Great Britain. The significance of the Olive Branch petition can be broken down into the reasons for composing a petition of negotiation and the outcome due to English and Colonial reactions.
The Olive Branch Petition is considered one of the most important and influential documents of the American Revolution (lively 226). The petition was the last chance the colonists gave the British for a peaceful negotiation (The Olive Branch Petition, 1775). In summarization of the Olive Branch Petition, the colonists wanted the American colonies to be a more self-governed province, yet to maintain their loyalty and patriotic support to their “mother country”. Due to the lack of a representative in the English parliament the American colonies wanted to be free of parliamentary authority, particularly the laws being made regarding the taxation policies in the states (Sosin 205). The Olive Branch Petition was composed in hopes that a written document could peacefully resolve the disagreements between the English government and the colonists (Olive Branch Petition).
The Petition was signed by 48 representatives from each colony, excluding Georgia. Among the 48 signatures on the petition were John Adams, Stephen Hopkins, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson (The Olive Branch Petition, 1775). Thomas Jefferson was the first to compose the Olive Branch Petition, but John Dickinson found his diction too offensive. Dickinson revised the petition and became the author (Olive Branch Petition). Dickinson was categorized within the Continental Congress as a moderate. Moderates still believed that a tranquil negotiation could be reached, while the radicals of the Continental Congress believed that the only possible course of action would be a full scale rebellion. Contrary to the hopefulness of the moderates that the King of England, King George III, would take the petition to heart the radicals believed that no positive outcome could result from such gesture (Lively 266).
The true importance of the Olive Branch petition is defined due to the reactions that were devised. Two original copies of the Olive Branch Petition were written. A few days after the petition had been adopted Richard Penn and Arthur Lee sailed to England on two separate ships, each containing a copy of the petition, and delivered the petition to Lord Dartmouth. Dartmouth was the cabinet secretary over all colonial affairs (lively 266). The Olive Branch Petition, presented by Lord Dartmouth, reached King George III on July 8th, 1775 (Olive Branch Petition). The petition was delivered to the king after the Battle of Lexington and Concord and The battle of Bunker Hill, causing the King George III to be infuriated with his colonies. His intensified anger due to the rebelling colonies King George III was blinded to the proposal and refused to even open or consider the petition (Lively 266). A letter by John Adams expressing the Olive Branch Petition was an ineffective effort and that a war was inevitable was intercepted and delivered to the king. King George III used this document to prove the colonists were insincere in their efforts for peaceful negotiation (Olive Branch Petition). The colonies were declared by the king to be officially in a rebellion and the Olive Branch Petition had officially been pronounced ineffective. King George III addressed parliament concerning the petition on October 26, 1775 saying “It is now become the part of wisdom, and (in its effects) of clemency, to put a speedy end to these disorders by the most decisive exertions.” Soon after this quote the War for Independence would begin (The Olive Branch Petition, 1775). Penn and Lee returned to the colonies on September 2, 1775 bearing the news of their failure in convincing King George III to comply which spread throughout the Americas to the colonists. The colonists also learned that the king had refused to consider any possible negotiations. This recognition by the colonists created a significant reaction in the American colonies. The ignorance of King George III stimulated rebellious and revolutionary ideas in the colonies. Within the Continental Congress all hopes of the moderates desisted. This caused the two major factions, the radicals and the moderates, to unify and become pro revolutionary (lively 266).
The Olive Branch petition is a pivotal point in American history. The reactions to the Olive Branch Petition clearly define a surge in colonial support for independence from English parliament. The ignorance of King George III of the colonist’s peaceful negotiation proposal clearly indicated to the Americans of King George III’s and the English government’s selfish intents to take advantage of the colonies by “taxation without representation”. When fathoming what may have happened if the idea of composing the Olive Branch petition had been bypassed, the path of American history could have taken a considerably different route, most likely for the worst for the colonial people. Without the king’s denial to read the Olive Branch Petition, the radical leaders such as John Adams would have no concrete evidence of England’s ill intents to rally revolutionary support behind. The king’s reaction to the petition brought a large portion of the colonists to the realization that the radicals were right. Without this evidence many colonists would remain loyalists, deprecating the support for the Revolutionary War. With a large population of the colonists still loyal to the king, if the Revolutionary War had broken out the rebels would have to deal with a much larger resistance within the colonies.
Lively, Robert. “Olive Branch petition”. Encyclopedia of American History. Volume III. Facts on File Incorporated, 2003.
“Olive Branch Petition”. Wikipedia, The Free encyclopedia. 13 Oct. 2007. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olive_Branch_Petition
Sosin, Jack. Agents and Merchants. University of Nebraska Printing Press Lincoln, 1965.
“The Olive Branch Petition, 1775”. Gopetition. 13 Oct. 2007. http://www.gopetition.com/olivebranchpetition.php