Massachusetts Historical Society
America's oldest historical society, founded 1791.

Back to The Second Continental Congress

"Philadelphia, Aug. 16. To the King's Most Excellent Majesty."

Philadelphia, Aug. 16. To the King`s Most Excellent Majesty.

Section Viewing Options NOTE

Jump:
overview | large | transcription HELP

Request this image

Extending an Olive Branch
Prepare for war or seek peace? This is the question before the Continental Congress in the spring of 1775. Delegates eventually agree on a comprehensive strategy. Colonies are urged to prepare for war by training militia and gathering supplies. Congress, meanwhile, will continue to pursue reconciliation. On 8 July Congress adopts a petition to the king, hoping he will intervene in Parliament on the colonies' behalf. William Penn, the respected former governor of Pennsylvania, will carry this petition to London and present it to the king himself. Although King George ignored their earlier petition of 1774, Congress hopes their renewed plea will encourage negotiations with the British government.

To examine the entire issue of this newspaper, please see the online display of the New-England Chronicle: or, The Essex Gazette, 24-31 August 1775.

Questions to Consider

1. How would you describe the tone of this petition? Use words and phrases from the document to support your answer.

2. Who or what do the colonists blame for their current grievances? Who is not to blame (or not mentioned)?

3. How does Congress propose to open negotiations with Great Britain? [Hint: see the paragraph that begins on the bottom of column 2.]

Further Exploration

4. Historians often refer to this petition as the "Olive Branch Petition." Research the history of the Olive Branch as symbol. How does it reflect the overall purpose of the petition?

5. Compare this petition to the king to the first petition sent to the king in 1774. In what ways are the petitions similar? In what ways are they different?