Olive Branch Petition

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The petition
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The petition

The Olive Branch Petition, written in the early days of the American Revolutionary War, was a letter to King George III from members of the Second Continental Congress who—for the final time—appealed to their king to redress colonial grievances in order to avoid more bloodshed.

When the Continental Congress convened in May 1775, the delegates were deeply divided over how to deal with the crisis with Great Britain. The first shots of the war had already been fired at Lexington and Concord; hostilities continued in June at Bunker Hill while the Congress was in session.

Moderates in the Congress, led by John Dickinson, still believed that King George might intercede on their behalf in order to prevent further escalation of the war. Despite the vehement objections of more radical delegates (particularly those from New England, where the fighting had occurred), the petition was adopted on 8 July 1775.

In the petition, written by Dickinson, the delegates insisted that their motives were to stop "the further effusion of blood" and to avert "the impending calamities that threaten the British Empire." The document expressed continuing loyalty to the king, and implored him to essentially agree to a cease-fire until colonial problems with the "Mother Country" could be amicably settled.

The petition reached London on 14 August 1775, but King George refused to receive it. The Crown had decided to teach the rebellious colonies—who were already showing an alarming inclination to invade Canada—a lesson. Soon, the colonists began thinking about war.

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