Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy

29/11/2004

American War of Independence


The National Archives holds many documents from the time of the War of Independence between Britain and its American colonies. Most were written from the British point of view, but here are two that came from the American side. The Olive Branch petition was written on 8th July 1775. The Declaration of Independence was written just one year later. These show the change a year can bring.

The Olive Branch Petition was a direct appeal to King George III. It was signed by representatives of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. They wrote that they were faithful subjects of the king and of Britain. They wanted to keep the union between the mother country and her colonies. However, new laws and rules that the British were trying to enforce alarmed them. They wanted the king to use his influence to get rid of the laws that the American settlers disliked. It was their last attempt to avoid a war with Britain.

At the same time, Americans were preparing to fight the British. This angered the king, who rejected the petition. Instead, he wanted action taken to put an end to ‘these disorders’. Soon afterward, the war began. By March 1776, the British were gone from Boston. For several months, no British soldier stood on the soil of the 13 rebel colonies. Now the Americans could declare their independence.

Thomas Jefferson’s historic document was approved on 4 July 1776. It was based in a philosophy of individual liberty. It listed the complaints against the king and the reasons why the colonists were breaking their ties with Britain. The Olive Branch Petition had praised the king; the Declaration now called him a tyrant. A large number of people who had signed the Olive Branch Petition were happy to sign the Declaration of Independence, such as John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, Roger Sherman, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin. They sent this copy to the British Admiralty.

Bitter fighting continued. It was not until 1783 that a treaty was signed and Britain gave up its claims to the 13 states.

Source-National Archives Kew

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