College of Political Knowledge

Subject:  Early American History

It is the week of the 4th of July when we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence….the document that was our founding document (something that I do not agree with at all)…….while it is an important document it is not in the same class as the US Constitution……

Most Americans are aware of the slogan, “no taxation without representation” and the magic words of Nathan Hale, “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country”….most have a vague knowledge of the Sugar Act of 1764 or the Stamp Act of 1765, but what about the Townshend Acts of 1767…….. thanks these days to Google we can look them up and have an instant knowledge, but few do……..and of course most know about the Sons of Liberty, the Boston Tea Party, Boston Massacre, Concord, and on and on…….but my question is just what prompted the wealthy colonists to think of demanding Independence?  (You may stop here and answer if you like)…..Was it truly a desire for freedom or just a dislike of having to pay taxes?

Some, probably most, will say that it was the culmination of all these things that lead to the declaration, right?

If the founders were set in their desire for the independence of the colonies from England….please explain the Olive Branch Petition…….

On June 3rd, 1775, the Congress passed a resolution forming a committee to draft a letter to the King. The members of this committee were Ben Franklin, Thomas Johnson, John Rutledge, John Jay and William Livingston. This committee presented its letter to the Committee of the Whole (the whole Congress) on June 24, but it was not approved. Instead, on July 6th the Congress reconsidered the matter and sent the committee back to form another proposal, adding John Dickinson and Jefferson to the committee.

Portrait of John DickinsonJohn Dickinson

Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft, but John Dickinson, especially, thought the draft was too harsh and would only anger the king. So he was given permission to make alterations to Jefferson’s draft. On July 8th Dickinson’s version was presented to Congress and approved, but not unanimously. This letter has come to be known as the Olive Branch Petition, because it extended an offer of reconciliation to the King. The Olive Branch is of course a symbol of peace. It has also been called the “Humble Petition” and the “Second Petition to the King.”

The letter affirmed the loyalty of the colonists to the King and assured him that they did not seek independence, only redress of their grievances. Congress’ vote in support of Dickinson’s draft, which was much more fawning in its tone toward the king, showed Congress’ willingness to give those who held Dickinson’s views one last chance at reconciliation, though they generally didn’t believe it would work.

Read the text of the Olive Branch Petition here.

The Olive Branch Petition was signed by 48 members of Congress and entrusted to Richard Penn of Pennsylvania, a descendant of William Penn, the founder of the colony. Penn left America on July 14th and arrived in London on August 14th. He delivered the letter to Arthur Lee, who was the Agent in England for the Massachusetts Colony.

So in about a year the colonists went from please take us back attitude to give me liberty or give me death attitude…….why?

What happened to change their minds so drastically?

Well to answer my own question…….the King and his representatives answered the petition with a proclamation that the colonies were now in a state of full rebellion….and that started the ill feelings.  After about six months after the King’s proclamation the pamphlet, Common Sense” was published and within it was a call for full independence for the colonies from the mother country, England….

After the Paine pamphlet was published and read by the common people there began an incubation of the idea of independence…..until that point the so called founders were set in trying to keep the ties with England….it was reconciliation not independence that was on their minds….independence was an idea that originated outside the circle of wealth that was the “Founding Fathers”……

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