The Path to the American Revolution
The Olive Branch Petition


July 1775
in the
Second Continental Congress


The Olive Branch Petition of 1775 was the drafted during the Second Continental Congress after the Battles at Concord, Lexington and Bunker (Breed's) Hill. The delegates to the Second Continental Congress disagreed about what steps should be taken. Some wanted to declare independence immediately even if it meant war. Others who are referred to as Loyalists still had a feeling of loyalty to the British Crown. To them, they felt it was their Godly duty to respect the crown of authority and even though they didn't like the taxation without representation, they weren't ready for an all out war.

So as a compromise, the delegates agreed to make one more try to work out a reasonable solution with King George III. Those who supported immediate independence at any cost thought that if King George III did not respond positively to their petition, everyone would support a war if it was necessary. The petition declared the Colonies' loyalty to the King George III and said that the Colonists only wanted peace between them and England.

It was adopted and two originals were signed by members of the Second Continental Congress in July 1775. John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, John Jay, Roger Sherman and Lewis Morris were some of the signatures.

In John Adam's journal, he wrote: "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 sent to England to deliver the Petition. On August 21, 1775, another copy was sent to Lord Dartmouth, Secretary of State for the Colonies.
Lord Dartmouth didn't receive his copy until September 1st.

When Lord Dartmouth tried to see King George III, the King would not see him. Lord Dartmouth told the colonists: "As His Majesty did not receive the petition on the throne, no answer will be given."

On September 2, 1775, Richard Penn and Arthur Lee made this report to the Continental Congress: "On the 21st 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."

When the delegates in Philadelphia heard King George III would not read the Petition, they started writing the Declaration of Independence and the Revolution War was not far behind.

In August 1775, King George III formally rejected the petition, because it was an illegal document created by an illegal congress, and then declared the colonies in rebellion.

One of the two originals of the Olive Branch Petition that were signed by the delegates to the Second Continental Congress can be found today in the Public Record Office, London. The other signed original is in the New York Public Library. The working copy that was given to Lord Dartmouth is in the Karpeles Manuscript Library in Santa Barbara with the original report of the failed missions.

Click here to read the Olive Branch Petition in its original text.