Olive Branch: Etymology
An olive branch is a symbol of peace, especially after a period of friction and disagreement between two parties. The use of ''olive branch'' in this sense is a reference to the Judeo-Christian myth of Noah and the flood. In this story, God told Noah to build an ark to preserve his family and all the animal species from a flood that would cover the entire earth. After the flood was over, Noah sent out a dove, which returned carrying an olive branch. The olive branch was seen as a sign that God was ready to start a new period of peace and safety on the Earth despite his previous anger toward humanity.
The Roman and Greek cultures also used the olive branch as a symbol of peace, especially after times of war. Multiple combatants against the Roman empire, for example, brought olive branches as a symbol of complete submission and cessation of hostilities.
Olive Branch Petition: Background
In the years leading up to the Olive Branch Petition and the Revolutionary War, tensions between the colonies and the British empire had increased significantly. The Petition itself describes many of these developments. The colonies had, in their minds, contributed significantly to Great Britain's success in the European Seven Years' War by fighting in the concurrent French and Indian War in North America. They assumed that their efforts would result in greater prosperity and autonomy. They were therefore alarmed when the British Parliament passed a number of laws and regulations that increased restrictions on the colonies and led to increased taxes imposed on them. The colonists regarded this oppression as ''more dreadful'' than if they had been conquered by a foreign government. The existence of these laws was only made worse by corrupt British governors and bureaucrats. The immediate and most egregious cause of the Petition was the occupation of Boston by the British army.
Olive Branch Petition: Creation and Summary
The Olive Branch Petition was an attempt to appease the conflict between the British colonies in America and the British Crown after the Battles of Lexington and Concord and other conflicts.
The Olive Branch Petition was a product of debate and problems during the period. Its creation was part of a larger effort to address tensions between the colonies and the British government. A committee of the Second Continental Congress met over several weeks and created the petition. The primary writer of the petition was John Dickinson of Pennsylvania, but several congressional delegates helped edit the drafts.
The Olive Branch Petition was meant by the Second Continental Congress to appease the wrath of King George III.
When Was the Olive Branch Petition Created?
The Olive Branch Petition was created in 1775. Significant dates regarding its creation include:
- June 3: The committee to write the Olive Branch Petition is created.
- June 19: The first draft of the petition is submitted to Congress.
- July 5: The final draft of the Olive Branch Petition, largely unchanged from the draft of June 19, is officially accepted by the Continental Congress.
- July 8: The Olive Branch Petition is signed.
Who Wrote the Olive Branch Petition?
John Dickinson, the congressional delegate from Pennsylvania, was tasked with writing the Olive Branch Petition. Throughout the writing process, other delegates assisted in editing the drafts, including Benjamin Franklin.
What Was the Purpose of the Olive Branch Petition?
The purpose of the Olive Branch Petition was to appease the anger of King George III and, by extension, Parliament. The colonists hoped that by promising their loyalty and recognition of the power of the king and his government, war could be avoided. The Petition demonstrates that in the beginning of the American Revolutionary period, the colonists did not want complete independence, only eventual autonomy.
What Did the Olive Branch Petition Say?
The Olive Branch Petition begins by summarizing the beneficial relationship between the British empire and the American colonies before the French and Indian War. It also notes the efforts the colonists made in fighting for the British empire during the war. The bulk of the petition consists of two main ideas. It notes that, despite the colonists fighting for the British empire, more restrictions were placed upon them rather than less; and it promises the colonies' allegiance and fealty to the British empire, specifically the king, so long as the restrictions are lifted. The following quotes come directly from the document.
''[The colonists] were alarmed by a new system of statutes and regulations adopted for the administration of the Colonies, that filled their minds with the most painful fears and jealousies; and, to their inexpressible astonishment, perceived the danger of a foreign quarrel quickly succeeded by domestic danger, in their judgment of a more dreadful kind.''
''We think ourselves required by indispensable obligations to Almighty God, to your Majesty, to our fellow-subjects, and to ourselves, immediately to use all the means in our power, not incompatible with our safety, for stopping the further effusion of blood, and for averting the impending calamities that threaten the British Empire.''
Response to the Olive Branch Petition
The response to the petition was mixed. Different groups viewed it in different ways.
Although many colonists were, of course, supportive of the petition, others rejected it, claiming that the Second Continental Congress did not represent them. Some residents of the colonies were put out by the rapid succession of this document by the Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms, which seemed antithetical to the Olive Branch Petition.
King George III refused to even read the petition (some scholars say it was never even presented to him), and several weeks after he received it he declared the colonies to be in open rebellion against the British government.
''All Our Subjects of this Realm and the Dominions thereunto belonging are bound by Law to be aiding and assisting in the Suppression of such Rebellion, and to disclose and make known all traitorous Conspiracies and Attempts against Us, Our Crown and Dignity.'' - By the King, A Proclamation, For Suppressing Rebellion and Sedition
The Proclamation of Rebellion was the official response of King George III to the Olive Branch Petition, which he refused to even acknowledge.
Olive Branch Petition: Significance and Impact
The significance of the Olive Branch Petition lies in its immediate short-term consequences and long-term repercussions.
American Revolutionary War
While many view the signing of the Declaration of Independence as the beginning of the American Revolutionary War, other scholars view the Battles of Lexington and Concord in April 1775 as the beginning. Still, others hold that the Olive Branch Petition, and King George III's response to it, was the beginning of the war. These two events established that there was no immediate, peaceful option for resolution between the colonies and the British empire.
The Declaration of Independence
The failure of the petition led to the eventual creation of the Declaration of Independence. In March 1776, the occupying British soldiers left Boston, which gave the Second Continental Congress the opportunity they were waiting for to declare independence.
The Olive Branch Petition was a petition sent by the citizens of British colonies in America to the British government and King George III. Its main purpose was to appease the British government and create reconciliation between the colonies and the British government. In the years leading up to the Olive Branch Petition and the American Revolutionary War, tensions between the colonies and the British empire had increased significantly. The Petition itself describes many of these developments. The colonies had, in their own opinion, contributed significantly to British success in the French and Indian War, the American theater of the Seven Years' War. They assumed that their efforts would result in greater prosperity and autonomy. Thus, they were alarmed when the British Parliament passed a number of laws and regulations that increased restrictions on the colonies and higher taxes.
The Olive Branch Petition was a product of debate and problems during the period. Its creation was part of a larger effort to address tensions between the colonies and the British government. A committee of the Second Continental Congress met over several weeks and created the petition. The primary writer of the petition was John Dickinson of Pennsylvania, but several congressional delegates, including Benjamin Franklin, aided in editing the drafts. King George III refused to acknowledge the petition, and several months after receiving it, he declared the colonies to be in open rebellion against the British government. His Proclamation of Rebellion declared that the colonies were officially in rebellion and would be squandered by the military.