Olive Branch Petition: Definition & Summary

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  • 0:01 What Was the Olive…
  • 0:50 Historical Background
  • 1:51 Summary of the Petition
  • 2:53 Reception
  • 3:16 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Stephen Benz

Stephen has taught history, journalism, sociology, and political science courses at multiple levels, including the middle school, high school and college levels.

The Olive Branch Petition was the last ditch effort of American colonists to make peace with the British crown. In this article, we'll look at the historical background that led to the petition, and consider how the petition was received by the king.

What Was the Olive Branch Petition?

Sometimes friends get into fights--it's just a part of friendship. But, have you ever gotten into a fight with a friend and been unable to make up with them? Maybe you asked for forgiveness for something you did, but they were so stubborn that they absolutely refused to accept your apology?

This common scenario is similar to the situation of the Olive Branch Petition. The 1775 Olive Branch Petition was the colonists' last ditch effort to make peace with the British king and avoid a war between Britain and the colonies. But despite the effort to heal the broken relationship between colonists and the English crown, the King of England absolutely refused to even hear the petition. Instead, the king proceeded to issue the Proclamation of Rebellion, essentially condemning the colonists for insurrection against the crown.

Historical Background

Prior to the Olive Branch Petition, relations between colonists and the King of England had gradually gotten worse. Great Britain had waged an expensive war from 1754 to 1763 against France in the Ohio territory. It was called the French and Indian War. The king sought to regain money lost from the war, and since colonists most profited from winning the Ohio territory, it seemed only logical to collect the lost money via a variety of taxes levied on American colonists.

These taxes, such as the Stamp Act, Townsend Acts, and Sugar Act, were fiercely objected to by American colonists because Americans were not represented in Parliament. Tensions further escalated when King George III closed the port of Boston in response to the Boston Tea Party, a protest of the government's sanctioning of a British tea monopoly. Tensions reached a tipping point when colonists and soldiers at Lexington and Concord clashed, resulting in deaths on both sides.

Summary of the Petition

With the battle at Lexington and Concord just three months passed, some American colonists tried to make amends with the king. This is just like our earlier example of trying to make amends with a friend you may have hurt. This is when the Olive Branch Petition officially was developed.

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