The Olive Branch Petition, 1775
The Olive Branch Petition, drafted on July 5, 1775, was a letter to King George III, from members of the Second Continental Congress, which represents the last attempt by the moderate party in North America to avoid a war of independence against Britain. The Olive Branch Petition has been called different names over the years, the most popular of which include The Second Petition to the King and The Humble Petition. It was shipped by boat on July 8, 1775, and received by King George III six weeks later.
The olive branch petition was signed by representatives of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina on 8 July 1775 and presented to King George III. Among the 48 signatories were John Adams, Stephen Hopkins, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and others who on 4 July 1776 signed the Declaration of Independence.
"...the apprehensions which now oppress our hearts with unspeakable grief, being once removed, your Majesty will find your faithful subjects on this continent ready and willing at all times...to assert and maintain the rights and interests of your Majesty and of our Mother Country."
- Extract from the Olive Branch Petition, 1775
The olive branch petition did not achieve its end and was summarily disregarded by the King. In a speech to Parliament on 26 October 1775, he declared:
"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."
The American War of Independence followed soon after.
What does the Olive branch petition say?
The Olive Branch Petition was a protest against the harsh regime inflicted upon the North American states by the British colonialists, in particular the imposition of new, harsher taxes. While it did not suggest an end to the union between the two countries - "the wonder and envy of other nations" - it did call for greater moderation on the part of the British. The olive branch petition was couched in terms of deep loyalty to the King, as shown by the following extract:
"We beg leave further to assure your Majesty that notwithstanding the sufferings of your loyal colonists during the course of the present controversy, our breasts retain too tender a regard for the kingdom from which we derive our origin to request such a reconciliation as might in any manner be inconsistent with her dignity or welfare. These, related as we are to her, honor and duty, as well as inclination induce us to support and advance; and the apprehensions that now oppress our hearts with unspeakable grief, being once removed, your Majesty will find your faithful subjects on this continent ready and willing at all times, as they ever have been with their lives and fortunes to assure and maintain the rights and interests of your Majesty and of our Mother Country."
Although the King discarded the petition, it still served a very important purpose in American Independence. The King's rejection gave John Adams and his radicals the opportunity they needed to push for independence. The rejection of the "olive branch" polarized the issue in the minds of colonists. It showed them that they could either submit unconditionally, or push to gain complete independence. Petitioning continues to be a very important part of the United States political system, for more information see "Freedom of Petition".
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