Olive Branch Petition
The humble petition of Congress, 1775
This document has the distinction, owing to its outstanding importance, of having been given a special designation by historians..... much in the same way as we speak of Magna Charta or the Declaration .....and is referred to generally as the Olive Branch. The reason is not hard to see, for it represents the final effort of the American Colonists to have their conditions ameliorated and the differences between themselves and the Mother Country settled amicably. This in spite of the fact that hostilities had already opened, and action had been initiated at Concord, Lexington and Bunker Hill.
Certain of the representatives were in favor of a conciliation and were not prepared to follow the majority in a declaration of independence. In order to obtain unanimous action, the majority agreed with the minority to present this petition, evidently believing that if it was turned down or ignored by the King, the minority would be willing to agree with the majority and declare for independence.
The document is in the form of a petition to King George III, and was adopted and two originals signed by members of the Continental Congress in July, 1775. Among the signatures are those of John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, John Jay, Roger Sherman, Lewis Morris, and many other founding fathers. In John Adams' record, it is said that "a petition was sent yesterday by Mr. Richard Penn in one ship and a duplicate goes in another ship this day." Richard Penn and Arthur Lee were deputed to take it to England, and on August 21, 1775, they had a working copy written and sent to Lord Dartmouth, Secretary of State for the Colonies, and named August 23rd as the date for the formal presentation of the original.
Lord Dartmouth received the original from Penn on September 1st, but the King would not see him On being pressed for a reply, Lord Dartmouth said: "As His Majesty did not receive the petition on the throne, no answer will be given." As a result of this action, and the cold shoulder given to the petition, the way was cleared for the Declaration of Independence
in 1776,.........and the Revolution went on to its successful conclusion.
Only two originals, signed by the Congressional delegates, and one working copy of the Petition are known: one original in the Public Record Office, London; the second in the New York Public Library. The working copy is preserved in the Karpeles Manuscript Library, in Santa Barbara, as well as the original report on the missions failure.
On September 2, 1775, Penn and Lee reported back to Congress:
"On the 21 st of last month, we sent to the Secretary of State for America, a copy of the Petition from the general Congress; and yesterday, the first moment that was permitted us, we presented to him the Original, which his lordship promised to deliver to his Majesty.
We thought it our duty to press his Lordship to obtain an answer; but we were told that his Majesty did not receive it on the throne, no answer would be given.
yr most faithful Servants