Olive Branch Petition

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The Olive Branch Petition

The Olive Branch Petition was adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 5, 1775 and signed on July 8 in a final attempt to avoid war between Great Britain and the Thirteen Colonies in America. The Congress had already authorized the invasion of Canada more than a week earlier, but the petition affirmed American loyalty to Great Britain and beseeched King George III to prevent further conflict. It was followed by the July 6 Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms, however, which made its success unlikely in London. [1] In August 1775, the colonies were formally declared to be in rebellion by the Proclamation of Rebellion, and the petition was rejected by Great Britain—even though King George had refused to read it before declaring the colonists traitors. [2]

Continental Congress convention of delegates that became the governing body of the United States

The Continental Congress was initially a convention of delegates from several British American colonies at the height of the American Revolution era, who spoke and acted collectively for the people of the Thirteen colonies that ultimately became the United States of America. The term most specifically refers to the First Continental Congress of 1774 and the Second Continental Congress of 1775–81. More broadly, it also refers to the Congress of the Confederation of 1781–89, thus covering the entire period the Continental Congress served as the chief legislative and executive body of the U.S. government.

Thirteen Colonies British American colonies which became the United States

The Thirteen Colonies, also known as the Thirteen British Colonies or the Thirteen American Colonies, were a group of British colonies on the Atlantic coast of North America founded in the 17th and 18th centuries. They declared independence in 1776 and formed the United States of America. The Thirteen Colonies had very similar political, constitutional, and legal systems and were dominated by Protestant English-speakers. They were part of Britain's possessions in the New World, which also included colonies in Canada, the Caribbean, and the Floridas.

Invasion of Quebec (1775) offensive by the newly formed Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War

The Invasion of Quebec in 1775 was the first major military initiative by the newly formed Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. The objective of the campaign was to gain military control of the British Province of Quebec, and convince French-speaking Canadians to join the revolution on the side of the Thirteen Colonies. One expedition left Fort Ticonderoga under Richard Montgomery, besieged and captured Fort St. Johns, and very nearly captured British General Guy Carleton when taking Montreal. The other expedition left Cambridge, Massachusetts, under Benedict Arnold, and traveled with great difficulty through the wilderness of Maine to Quebec City. The two forces joined there, but they were defeated at the Battle of Quebec in December 1775.

Contents

Drafting

The Second Continental Congress convened in May 1775, and most delegates followed John Dickinson in his quest to reconcile with King George. However, a rather small group of delegates led by John Adams believed that war was inevitable, and they decided that the wisest course of action was to remain quiet and wait for the opportune time to rally the people. This allowed Dickinson and his followers to pursue their own course for reconciliation. [3]

John Dickinson American Founding Father

John Dickinson, a Founding Father of the United States, was a solicitor and politician from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Wilmington, Delaware known as the "Penman of the Revolution" for his twelve Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, published individually in 1767 and 1768. As a member of the First Continental Congress, where he was a signee to the Continental Association, Dickinson drafted most of the 1774 Petition to the King, and then, as a member of the Second Continental Congress, wrote the 1775 Olive Branch Petition. When these two attempts to negotiate with King George III of Great Britain failed, Dickinson reworked Thomas Jefferson's language and wrote the final draft of the 1775 Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms. When Congress then decided to seek independence from Great Britain, Dickinson served on the committee that wrote the Model Treaty, and then wrote the first draft of the 1776–1777 Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union.

John Adams 2nd president of the United States

John Adams was an American statesman, attorney, diplomat, writer, and Founding Father who served as the second president of the United States from 1797 to 1801. Before his presidency he was a leader of the American Revolution that achieved independence from Great Britain, and also served as the first vice president of the United States. Adams was a dedicated diarist and regularly corresponded with many important figures in early American history including his wife and adviser, Abigail, and his letters and other papers are an important source of historical information about the era.

Dickinson was the primary author of the petition, though Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, John Rutledge, and Thomas Johnson also served on the drafting committee. [4] Dickinson claimed that the colonies did not want independence but wanted more equitable trade and tax regulations. He suggested that the King devise a plan to settle trade disputes and give the colonists either free trade and taxes equal to those levied on the people of Great Britain or strict trade regulation in lieu of taxes. The introductory paragraph of the letter named twelve of the thirteen colonies, all except Georgia. The letter was approved on July 5 and signed by John Hancock, President of the Second Congress, and by representatives of the named twelve colonies. It was sent to London on July 8, 1775 in the care of Richard Penn and Arthur Lee. [5] Dickinson hoped that news of the Battles of Lexington and Concord combined with the "humble petition" would persuade the King to respond with a counter-proposal or open negotiations. [3]

Benjamin Franklin American polymath and a Founding Father of the United States

Benjamin Franklin was an American polymath and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, humorist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat. As a scientist, he was a major figure in the American Enlightenment and the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity. As an inventor, he is known for the lightning rod, bifocals, and the Franklin stove, among other inventions. He founded many civic organizations, including the Library Company, Philadelphia's first fire department and the University of Pennsylvania.

John Jay American politician, Patriot, diplomat, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States

John Jay was an American statesman, Patriot, diplomat, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, negotiator and signatory of the Treaty of Paris of 1783, second Governor of New York, and the first Chief Justice of the United States (1789–1795). He directed U.S. foreign policy for much of the 1780s and was an important leader of the Federalist Party after the ratification of the United States Constitution in 1788.

John Rutledge American politician and judge

John Rutledge was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States and also its second Chief Justice. Additionally, he served as the first President of South Carolina and, later, its first Governor after the Declaration of Independence.

Reception and rejection

Adams wrote to a friend that the petition served no purpose, that war was inevitable, and that the colonies should have already raised a navy and taken British officials prisoner. The letter was intercepted by British officials and news of its contents reached Great Britain at about the same time as the petition itself. British advocates of a military response used Adams' letter to claim that the petition itself was insincere. [5]

Penn and Lee provided a copy of the petition to colonial secretary Lord Dartmouth on August 21, followed with the original on September 1. They reported back on September 2: "we were told that as his Majesty did not receive it on the throne, no answer would be given." [6] The King had already issued the Proclamation of Rebellion on August 23 in response to news of the Battle of Bunker Hill, declaring the American colonies to be in a state of rebellion and ordering "all Our officers… and all Our obedient and loyal subjects, to use their utmost endeavours to withstand and suppress such rebellion". [7] The hostilities which Adams had foreseen undercut the petition, and the King had answered it before it even reached him. [8]

William Legge, 2nd Earl of Dartmouth British politician

William Legge 2nd Earl of Dartmouth PC, FRS, styled as Viscount Lewisham from 1732 to 1750, was a British statesman who is most remembered for his part in the government before and during the American Revolution, and as the namesake of Dartmouth College.

Proclamation of Rebellion

The Proclamation of Rebellion, officially titled A Proclamation for Suppressing Rebellion and Sedition, was the response of George III of Great Britain to the news of the Battle of Bunker Hill at the outset of the American Revolutionary War. Issued August 23, 1775, it declared elements of the American colonies in a state of "open and avowed rebellion". It ordered officials of the British Empire "to use their utmost endeavours to withstand and suppress such rebellion". The Proclamation also encouraged subjects throughout the Empire, including those in Great Britain, to report anyone carrying on "traitorous correspondence" with the rebels so that they could be punished.

Battle of Bunker Hill Early battle of the American Revoluntionary War

The Battle of Bunker Hill was fought on June 17, 1775, during the Siege of Boston in the early stages of the American Revolutionary War. The battle is named after Bunker Hill in Charlestown, Massachusetts, which was peripherally involved in the battle. It was the original objective of both the colonial and British troops, though the majority of combat took place on the adjacent hill which later became known as Breed's Hill.

Consequences

The King's refusal to consider the petition gave Adams and others the opportunity to push for independence, and it characterized the King as intransigent and uninterested in addressing the colonists' grievances. It polarized the issue in the minds of many colonists, who realized that the choice from that point forward was between complete independence and complete submission to British rule, [5] a realization crystallized a few months later in Thomas Paine's widely read pamphlet Common Sense .

Thomas Paine English and American political activist

Thomas Paine was an English-born American political activist, philosopher, political theorist, and revolutionary. One of the Founding Fathers of the United States, he authored the two most influential pamphlets at the start of the American Revolution and inspired the patriots in 1776 to declare independence from Britain. His ideas reflected Enlightenment-era ideals of transnational human rights. Historian Saul K. Padover described him as "a corsetmaker by trade, a journalist by profession, and a propagandist by inclination".

<i>Common Sense</i> (pamphlet) pamphlet by Thomas Paine

Common Sense was a pamphlet written by Thomas Paine in 1775–76 advocating independence from Great Britain to people in the Thirteen Colonies. Writing in clear and persuasive prose, Paine marshaled moral and political arguments to encourage common people in the Colonies to fight for egalitarian government. It was published anonymously on January 10, 1776, at the beginning of the American Revolution, and became an immediate sensation.

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References

  1. "Declaration of taking up arms: resolutions of the Second Continental Congress". Constitution Society. Retrieved September 23, 2013.
  2. Bailey, Thomas; Kennedy, David; Cohen, Lizabeth (1998). The American Pageant (11 ed.). New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.
  3. 1 2 Ferling, John E (2003). A leap in the dark: the struggle to create the American republic. Oxford, England; New York: Oxford University Press.
  4. Beeman, Richard (2013). Our lives, our fortune, our sacred honor: the forging of American independence, 1774–1776. New York: Basic Books. ISBN   9780465026296.
  5. 1 2 3 Brown, Weldon A. (1941). Empire or independence; a study in the failure of reconciliation, 1774–1783. Port Washington, New York: Kennikat Press (published 1966). OCLC   341868.
  6. Richard Penn; Arthur Lee. "Petition to George III, King of Great Britain, 1775". nypl.org. Image 5208532. Retrieved October 3, 2017.
  7. Axelrod, Alan (2008). Profiles in folly: history's worst decisions and why they went wrong. New York: Sterling. p. 150. ISBN   1402747683.[ unreliable source? ]
  8. Maier, Pauline (1997). American scripture: making the Declaration of Independence. New York: Knopf. pp. 24–25, 249–250. ISBN   0679454926.