Reconciliation or Revolution? The Olive Branch Petition

In 1775, in one final attempt to avoid war with England, the members of the Second Continental Congress appealed to King George III in what is now known as the Olive Branch Petition. (John Adams referred to the petition as an earnest effort "to keep open the door of reconciliation, to hold the sword in one hand and the olive branch in the other.") Acknowledging that contending armies were already in the field, the petition described the war that had already begun as "a controversy so peculiarly abhorrent to the affections of your still faithful colonists," but insisted that the ministers of the British government had effectively "compelled us to arms in our own defense." The petition was the work of John Dickinson of Pennsylvania, whose pamphlets criticizing British policy in the 1760s and early 1770s had done so much to fortify colonial opposition to that policy. Signatories included John Hancock, John Adams, Roger Sherman, John Jay, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. George III refused to receive the Olive Branch Petition, effectively rejecting any attempt to resolve the colonial crisis by methods short of force of arms. One of two original engrossed manuscripts taken to England, the Library's copy now resides in the Manuscripts and Archives Division.

[John Dickinson]. The Olive Branch Petition. Autograph manuscript, signed by the members of the Second Continental Congress on July 8, 1775.
The New York Public Library, Manuscripts and Archives Division.

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