After our class debate about the colonists’ ideas concerning separation, I began to wonder what were the final avenues taken to try to avert the Revolutionary War. To find a source pertinent to my interest and fitting for our assignment, I searched the “historymatters.gmu.edu” site using the key words “Revolutionary War primary document.” The search provided several documents, such as Washington’s papers at the Library of Congress, Martha Ballard’s diary, as well as a few others. None of the documents in my original search were specific enough to my interests in the days leading up to the American Revolution. I then narrowed my search to documents written in 1775 and found a link in The University of Georgia Tech’s American history documents database to The Olive Branch Petition.
In July 1775, The Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia to discuss possible courses of action following the most recent battle with Britain at Bunker Hill. Members of the Congress disagreed about what steps to take in dissolving the confrontation with Parliament and King George III. Separatists, such as John Adams, were fed up with decades of British colonization and were ready for sovereignty, even if at the price of war. Yet Congressional moderates garnered enough support to attempt one last-ditch effort to stop further bloodshed and end the conflict amicably. The Congress decided to write yet another letter, send it to London, and hope the king would be receptive. They called the letter The Olive Branch Petition.
The Olive Branch Petition professed colonial loyalty to his majesty in a final appeal for peaceful reconciliation with Britain. Fighting with the British had already started with the Battles of Concord, Lexington, and Bunker Hill. In 1775, as the British were reeling from an expensive victory at the battle of Bunker Hill, delegates from the middle colonies (Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New York) saw an opportunity to preserve lucrative trade agreements established with the mother country a century earlier. John Dickinson, a Pennsylvania moderate, engineered the Olive Branch Petition with hopes of shifting colonial frustrations from the king to Parliament, thus convincing the king that the colonies should be recognized as individual parliaments under the umbrella of the monarchy. Nonetheless, the king rejected the Olive Branch, branding the colonists as traitors and declaring them in a state of rebellion. The king’s heated dismissal of the Olive Branch convinced congressional moderates that war was necessary, helping to solidify the colonies as a unified force that stretched from the Carolinas to New England.
From the Sugar Act of 1764 to the Coercive Acts of 1774, colonial struggles for independence from Britain had turned on the subject of Parliamentary power. The issue of Parliamentary power to implement revenue taxes directly affected New Englanders more than southerners in the years leading...