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What was the purpose of the Olive Branch Petition?

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Quick Answer

The Olive Branch Petition was a last-minute attempt by members of the American colonies to avoid war with Great Britain by declaring their loyalty to the British Crown. However, the petition still asserted the rights outlined in the Declaration of Independence, and King George III formally declared the colonies to be in rebellion.

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Full Answer

The Second Continental Congress drafted the Olive Branch Petition on July 5, 1775. It was originally penned by Thomas Jefferson, but rewritten in a more inoffensive tone by John Dickinson. The petition suggested that the colonies would be happy with more favorable trade and tax regulations rather than full independence, and asked King George III to suggest a final plan. However, the King refused to read the petition or meet with the two congressional delegates. He considered the colonies to be in open rebellion and issued an effective declaration of war with the Proclamation for Suppressing Rebellion and Sedition in August, 1775.

Though the majority of Congressional delegates supported the course of action suggested by the petition, a small group headed by John Adams believed that war was inevitable. The King's outright rejection of the petition led to more support for the complete secession of American colonies from Great Britain.

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