The Debate Between Reconciliation and Independence
- John Dickinson of Pennsylvania was a leader in the Second Continental Congress who wanted to reconcile the issues with Britain, even though hostilities had started with the Battle of Lexington, the Battle of Concord, and the Siege of Boston.
- John Adams led a smaller faction that favored independence, which was known as the Adams-Lee Junto.
John Adams was a leader of the faction in Congress that favored independence. Image Source: Wikipedia.
Olive Branch Petition Committee
- On June 3, 1775, Congress formed a committee to draft a letter to King George III of England attempting to avoid war with Great Britain.
- The members of the committee were Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Johnson, John Rutledge, John Jay, and William Livingston.
- Two weeks later, on June 17, hostilities escalated with the Battle of Bunker Hill, the first true battle of the American Revolutionary War.
Writing the Olive Branch Petition
- The committee’s letter was presented to Congress on June 24, 1775, but was not approved.
- On July 6, 1775, Congress added Thomas Jefferson and John Dickinson to the committee and asked the members to draft a new letter.
- Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the letter.
- Some members believed that Jefferson’s draft was too harsh and would anger the King.
- The committee charged John Dickinson with creating a send draft.
Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the Olive Branch Petition, which was rejected by the First Continental Congress. Image Source: Wikimedia.
Congress Approves Dickinson’s Version of the Olive Branch Petition
- Dickinson’s more conciliatory version, known as the Olive Branch Petition was approved by Congress on July 8, 1775.
- The Olive Branch Petition assured the king that the colonists wanted to remain loyal subjects, they were not seeking independence, and only wanted their grievances to be heard and addressed.
- The Olive Branch Petition was signed by 48 members of Congress.
British Reaction to the Olive Branch Petition
- On August 21, 1775, Richard Penn and Richard Lee attempted to deliver the Olive Branch Petition to King George III, through Lord Dartmouth, Secretary of State for the American Colonies.
- The King refused to receive the Olive Branch Petition.
- On August 23, 1775, the King a proclamation and declared the American colonies were in a state of “open and avowed rebellion.”
- On November 7, 1775, the House of Commons defeated a motion to receive the Olive Branch Petition in a last attempt at reconciliation between Great Britain and the American colonies.
Impact of the Olive Branch Petition
The Olive Branch Petition was an important document because its rejection by King George and Parliament strengthened the influence and position of the men like John Adams and Samuel Adams who favored independence.