Two and a half months after the first shots of the Revolutionary War were fired on Lexington Common, Congress approved, signed and sent the Olive Branch Petition to King George III. Many claimed it was a last ditch measure to avert war, but the way the petition was written, telling the King that they want to remain loyal to him while at the same time rejecting the authority of parliament, some believe it was just a formality to war. Others believed it was a stall tactic to give the colonists more time to collect, guns, ammunition and supplies before the war escalated.
Regardless of what one believes, the purpose of the Olive Branch Petition was, it seems, that Congress put little to no faith in it resolving anything with the British.
On this day, July 6, 1775, only one day after approving the Olive Branch Petition and a full month and half before it was delivered to the King, Congress approved the Declaration on the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms.
The Declaration was written by a committee composed of Henry Steele Commager, John Dickenson (who penned the final draft of the Olive Branch Petition), Samuel Eliot, Thomas Jefferson and William E. Leuchtenburg.
The purpose of the declaration was to inform the United Colonies of America, Great Britain and the rest of the world, of their justification for taking up arms against Great Britain for a number of causes. After listing many of the causes, the declaration stated:
“Our cause is just. Our union is perfect. Our internal resources are great, and, if necessary, foreign assistance is undoubtably attainable. — We gratefully acknowledge, as signal instances of the Divine favour towards us, that his Providence would not permit us to be called into this severe controversy, until we were grown up to our present strength, had been previously exercised in warlike operation, and possessed of the means of defending ourselves. With hearts fortified with these animating reflections, we most solemnly, before God and the world, *declare*, that exerting the utmost energy of those powers, which our beneficent Creator hath graciously bestowed upon us, the arms we have been compelled by our enemies to assume, we will, in defiance of every hazard, with unabating firmness and perseverence, employ for the preservation of our liberties; being with one mind resolved to die freemen rather than to live slaves.”
Yet, this was not a declaration of the intent to seek independence, at least not on the surface, because the very next paragraph reads:
“Lest this declaration should disquiet the minds of our friends and fellow-subjects in any part of the empire, we assure them that we mean not to dissolve that union which has so long and so happily subsisted between us, and which we sincerely wish to see restored. — Necessity has not yet driven us into that desperate measure, or induced us to excite any other nation to war against them. — We have not raised armies with ambitious designs of separating from Great-Britain, and establishing independent states. We fight not for glory or for conquest. We exhibit to mankind the remarkable spectacle of a people attacked by unprovoked enemies, without any imputation or even suspicion of offence. They boast of their privileges and civilization, and yet proffer no milder conditions than servitude or death.”
It was hoped that between the Olive Branch Petition and the Declaration on the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms would make King George III aware of what his parliament was doing to the colonies and that he would take action to rectify the wrongs. However, when King George III made it clear that he sided with parliament, it became obvious that a peaceful resolution of the issues was no longer possible. The call for independence began to grow and gain support, leading to the Declaration of Independence a year later.
Sources for the above includes: Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking up Arms; Today, July 5, 1775: Olive Branch Petition; Declaration…The Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms; Editorial Note: Declaration of the Causes and Necessity for Taking Up Arms; Declaration of Arms Before Independence; Congress Issues a “Declaration on the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms”; An Introduction to the Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms – 1775; Declaration Of The Causes And Necessity Of Taking Up Arms; Declaration of Causes & Necessity of Taking Up Arms, Continental Congress, July 1775 Facilitator Prep/Text Analysis.