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Showing posts with label World Reaction to American Declaration of Independence. Show all posts
Showing posts with label World Reaction to American Declaration of Independence. Show all posts

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

The Olive Branch Petition: The American Colonies Seek Peace with Great Britian

Olive Branch Petition
       In May 1775, when the Second Continental Congress convened, most of the delegates followed John Dickinson in trying to peacefully reconcile with King George III and Great Britain.  However a smaller group of delegates led by John Adams thought that an armed conflict was inevitable; yet they chose to remain quiet and wait for the time to rally people to their side.  This gave Dickinson and the Congress the chance to pursue the peace. Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the petition, but Dickinson thought his words were too offensive.  Dickinson edited and rewrote parts of the document.  Dickinson wrote that the colonies did not want independence but merely sought to negotiate trade and tax regulations with Great Britain. Dickinson wanted an agreement that would settle trade disputes and suggested that the colonists be given either free trade and taxes equal to those placed on the people in Great Britain, or alternately, no taxes and strict trade regulations. The letter was approved on July 5, then signed by members of the Congress. It was sent to London on July 8, 1775 in the care of Richard Penn and Arthur Lee. Dickinson had hoped that news of the bloodshed at Lexington and Concord combined with the "Humble Petition" would inspire King George to at least negotiate with the colonists. It reached London on August 14, 1775; and was presented to Lord Dartmouth, the Colonial Secretary, on August 21st. However, a letter written by John Adams had been intercepted in which Adams expressed discontentment with the Petition and wrote that war was inevitable. Adams also wrote that the Colonies should have already raised a navy and captured British officials. The letter arrived in London at the same time as the Olive Branch Petition. Due to the letter by Adams, British officials thought the petition insincere and King George even refused to receive or read it. The king himself considered the petition to have come from what he considered an illegal and illegitimate assembly of rebels. The king  issued the Proclamation for Suppressing Rebellion and Sedition  on August 23rd, declaring the North American colonies in a state of rebellion and ordering "all Our officers ... and all Our obedient and loyal subjects, to use their utmost endeavours to withstand and suppress such rebellion." So the rejection of the Olive Branch Petition by King George III gave Adams and his followers the opportunity to push for independence, resulting in a full-on armed conflict -the American Revolutionary War
A 1775 printing of King George III's A Proclamation for Suppressing Rebellion and Sedition

Below is the text of the Olive Branch Petition:

To the King's Most Excellent Majesty.
Most Gracious Sovereign: We, your Majesty's faithful subjects of the Colonies of New-Hampthire, Massachusetts-Bay, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New-York, New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, the Counties of Newcastle, Kent, and Sussex, on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, in behalf of ourselves and the inhabitants of these Colonies, who have deputed us to represent them in General Congress, entreat your Majesty's gracious attention to this our humble petition.
The union between our Mother Country and these Colonies, and the energy of mild and just Government, produced benefits so remarkably important, and afforded such an assurance of their permanency and increase, that the wonder and envy of other nations were excited, while they beheld Great Britain rising to a power the most extraordinary the world had ever known.
Her rivals, observing that there was no probability of this happy connexion being broken by civil dissensions, and apprehending its future effects if left any longer undisturbed, resolved to prevent her receiving such continual and formidable accessions of wealth and strength, by checking the growth of those settlements from which they were to be derived.
In the prosecution of this attempt, events so unfavourable to the design took place, that every friend to the interest of Great Britain and these Colonies, entertained pleasing and reasonable expectations of seeing an additional force and exertion immediately given to the operations of the union hitherto experienced, by an enlargement of the dominions of the Crown, and the removal of ancient and warlike enemies to a greater distance.
At the conclusion, therefore, of the late war, the most glorious and advantageous that ever had been carried on by British arms, your loyal Colonists having contributed to its success by such repeated and strenuous exertions as frequently procured them the distinguished approbation of your Majesty, of the late King, and of Parliament, doubted not but that they should be permitted, with the rest of the Empire, to share in the blessings of peace, and the emoluments of victory and conquest.
While these recent and honourable acknowledgments of their merits remained on record in the Journals and acts of that august Legislature, the Parliament, undefaced by the imputation or even the suspicion of any offence, they were alarmed by a new system of statutes and regulations adopted for the administration of the Colonies, that filled their minds with the most painful fears and jealousies; and, to their inexpressible astonishment, perceived the danger of a foreign quarrel quickly succeeded by domestick danger, in their judgment of a more dreadful kind.
Nor were these anxieties alleviated by any tendency in this system to promote the welfare of their Mother Country. For though its effects were more immediately felt by them, yet its influence appeared to be injurious to the commerce and prosperity of Great Britain.
We shall decline the ungrateful task of describing the irksome variety of artifices practised by many of your Majesty's Ministers, the delusive pretences, fruitless terrours, and unavailing severities, that have, from time to time, been dealt out by them, in their attempts to execute this impolitick plan, or of tracing through a series of years past the progress of the unhappy differences between Great Britain and these Colonies, that have flowed from this fatal source.
Your Majesty's Ministers, persevering in their measures, and proceeding to open hostilities for enforcing them, have compelled us to arm in our own defence, and have engaged us in a controversy so peculiarly abhorrent to the affections of your still faithful Colonists, that when we consider whom we must oppose in this contest, and if it continues, what may be the consequences, our own particular misfortunes are accounted by us only as parts of our distress. Knowing to what violent resentments and incurable animosities civil discords are apt to exasperate and inflame the contending parties, we think ourselves required by indispensable obligations toAlmighty God, to your Majesty, to our fellow-subjects, and to ourselves, immediately to use all the means in our power, not incompatible with our safety, for stopping the further effusion of blood, and for averting the impending calamities that threaten the British Empire.
Thus called upon to address your Majesty on affairs of such moment to America, and probably to all your Dominions, we are earnestly desirous of performing this office with the utmost deference for your Majesty; and we therefore pray, that your Majesty's royal magnanimity and benevolence may make the most favourable constructions of our expressions on so uncommon an occasion. Could we represent in their full force the sentiments that agitate the minds of us your dutiful subjects, we are persuaded your Majesty would ascribe any seeming deviation from reverence in our language, and even in our conduct, not to any reprehensible intention, but to the impossibility of reconciling the usual appearances of respect with a just attention to our own preservation against those artful and cruel enemies who abuse your royal confidence and authority, for the purpose of effecting our destruction.
Attached to your Majesty's person, family, and Government, with all devotion that principle and affection can inspire; connected with Great Britain by the strongest ties that can unite societies, and deploring every event that tends in any degree to weaken them, we solemnly assure your Majesty, that we not only most ardently desire the former harmony between her and these Colonies may be restored, but that a concord may be established between them upon so firm a basis as to perpetuate its blessings, uninterrupted by any future dissensions, to succeeding generations in both countries, and to transmit your Majesty's name to posterity, adorned with that signal and lasting glory that has attended the memory of those illustrious personages, whose virtues and abilities have extricated states from dangerous convulsions, and, by securing happiness to others, have erected the most noble and durable monuments to their own fame.
We beg leave further to assure your Majesty, that notwithstanding the sufferings of your loyal Colonists during the course of this present controversy, our breasts retain too tender a regard for the kingdom from which we derive our origin, to request such a reconciliation as might, in any manner, be inconsistent with her dignity or her welfare. These, related as we are to her, honour and duty, as well as inclination, induce us to support and advance; and the apprehensions that now oppress our hearts with unspeakable grief, being once removed, your Majesty will find your faithful subjects on this Continent ready and willing at all times, as they have ever been, with their lives and fortunes, to assert and maintain the rights and interests of your Majesty, and of our Mother Country.
We therefore beseech your Majesty, that your royal authority and influence may be graciously interposed to procure us relief from our afflicting fears and jealousies, occasioned by the system before-mentioned, and to settle peace through every part of our Dominions, with all humility submitting to your Majesty's wise consideration, whether it may not be expedient, for facilitating those important purposes, that your Majesty be pleased to direct some mode, by which the united applications of your faithful Colonists to the Throne, in pursuance of their common counsels, may be improved into a happy and permanent reconciliation; and that, in the mean time, measures may be taken for preventing the further destruction of the lives of your Majesty's subjects; and that such statutes as more immediately distress any of your Majesty's Colonies, may be repealed.
For such arrangements as your Majesty's wisdom can form for collecting the united sense of your Americanpeople, we are convinced your Majesty would receive such satisfactory proofs of the disposition of the Colonists towards their Sovereign and Parent State, that the wished for opportunity would soon be restored to them, of evincing the sincerity of their professions, by every testimony of devotion becoming the most dutiful subjects, and the most affectionate Colonists.
That your Majesty may enjoy a long and prosperous reign, and that your descendants may govern your Dominions with honour to themselves and happiness to their subjects, is our sincere prayer.
John Hancock
New-Hampshire,John Langdon,
Thomas Cushing.
Massachusetts,Samuel Adams,
John Adams,
Robert Treat Paine.
Rhode-Island,Stephen Hopkins,
Samuel Ward,
Eliphalet Dyer.
Connecticut,Roger Sherman,
Silas Deane.
New-York,Philip Livingston,
James Duane,
John Alsop,
Francis Lewis,
John Jay,
Robert Livingston, Jr.,
Lewis Morris,
William Floyd,
Henry Wisner.
New-Jersey,William Livingston,
John De Hart,
Richard Smith.
Pennsylvania,John Dickinson,
Benjamin Franklin,
George Ross,
James Wilson,
Charles Humphreys,
Edward Biddle.
Delaware Counties,Cæsar Rodney
Thomas McKean,
George Read.
Maryland,Matthew Tilghman,
Thomas Johnson, Jr.,
William Paca,
Samuel Chase,
Thomas Stone.
Virginia,Patrick Henry, Jr.,
Richard Henry Lee,
Edmund Pendleton,
Benjamin Harrison,
Thomas Jefferson.
North-Carolina,William Hooper,
Joseph Hewes.
South-Carolina,Henry Middleton,
Thomas Lynch,
Christopher Gadsden,
John Rutledge,
Edward Rutledge.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Russia’s and Empress Catherine II’s Reaction to the American Declaration of Independence

This post is a further exploration about how other countries (and their leaders) reacted to the American Declaration of Independence.

Late 18th century English cartoon on Catherine the Great's territorial ambitions in Turkey. (The Granger Collection, New York)

       Nikolai N. Bolkhovitinov, director of the Center for North American Studies of the Institute of World History and academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences, wrote*:   “The news of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, was first reported in a Russian document on August 13. This was a brief notation in a dispatch from the Russian chargé d'affaires at London, Vasilii Grigor'evich Lizakevich, to the first minister of the College of Foreign Affairs, Count Nikita Ivanovich Panin. A detailed account of the content and significance of the declaration was given by the Russian diplomat a week later: ‘In the Declaration of Independence promulgated by the general Congress on July 4,’ wrote Lizakevich, are repeated all the colonies' previous grievances concerning the redress of which they had in vain addressed themselves to the King, to Parliament, and to the British nation. No longer seeing any hope of correcting the abuses which they have suffered, they have found themselves compelled to issue this solemn declaration, which proclaims the United Colonies a free and independent state, thereby severing all their previous ties with Great Britain. In consequence of their independence, the United Colonies have the right and the power to declare war, to conclude peace, to contract alliances, to establish trade, and so forth, pledging themselves to sacrifice their lives, their honor, and all their possessions in order to preserve all the aforementioned privileges.
Although the Russian diplomat in his dispatch to the tsarist court was prudent not to mention high principles and the natural rights of man, it is to his credit that he evaluated the declaration and the courage of its creators very positively. ‘The publication of this document,’ Lizakevich concludes, ‘as well as the proclamation of a formal declaration of war against Great Britain offer evidence of the courage of the leadership there.’
The Russian diplomat clearly emphasized that the document was a declaration of war on Britain. The reports of Russian diplomats from London, in particular the dispatch of Lizakevich, served as an important source of information for the head of the College of Foreign Affairs, Panin, and Catherine II (Catherine the Great) herself on the situation in America and contributed to the formation, within the tsarist government, of an opinion critical of Britain's policy toward her former colonies. It is significant that the empress repeatedly observed that separation of the American colonies from Britain was practically unavoidable and that Panin and his close colleagues found the reasons for the rebellion in North America in the "personal fault" of the British cabinet and believed that the separation of the colonies from their mother country did not conflict with the interests of Russia and might even be advantageous to her.

       The American revolutionary government sent Francis Dana as the official representative to the Court of St. Petersburg.  During his time in Russia, Empress Catherine the Great refused to meet with him or to officially recognize the United States.  However, the Empress did institute The First League of Armed Neutrality.  This union consisted of Russia, France, and Spain against Great Britain.  Members of the League all agreed to protect the right of neutral powers to trade with warring powers, meaning they could continue to trade with the United States without concern for British blockades or attacks.  Americans continued to receive vital supplies from Europe throughout the war, allowing them to defeat Great Britain.  Catherine wasn’t exactly on the side of the Americans; it was more of a case of disliking the British and King George III.  She had already refused British use of the Russian army and navy.  She had thought that King George had allowed the rebellion to occur and that he should be taught a lesson.  The Russian reaction was more about the Empress gaining power over King George than American independence. (see http://www.quora.com/What-was-Russias-reaction-when-America-declared-its-independence)

For a Russian translation of the American Declaration of Independence and further reading: http://chnm.gmu.edu/declaration/russian.html

Thursday, 4 July 2013

King George's Response to the Declaration of Independence

(Have you ever wondered what King George III said after the Declaration of Independence was signed?)
King George III by Johann Zoffany c.1771

King George's response to the Declaration of Independence

His Majesty’s Most Gracious Speech to Both Houses of Parliament
on Thursday, October 31, 1776

My Lords, and Gentlemen,

Nothing could have afforded Me so much Satisfaction as to have been able to inform you, at the Opening of this Session, that the Troubles, which have so long distracted My Colonies in North America, were at an End; and that My unhappy People, recovered from their Delusion, had delivered themselves from the Oppression of their Leaders, and returned to their Duty. But so daring and desperate is the Spirit of those Leaders, whose Object has always been Dominion and Power, that they have now openly renounced all Allegiance to the Crown,
and all political Connection with this Country. They have rejected, with Circumstances of Indignity and Insult, the Means of Conciliation held out to them under the Authority of Our Commission: and have presumed to set up their rebellious Confederacies for Independent States. If their Treason be suffered to take Root, much Mischief must grow from it, to the Safety of My loyal Colonies, to the Commerce
of My Kingdoms, and indeed to the present System of all Europe.
One great Advantage, however, will be derived from the Object of
the Rebels being openly avowed, and clearly understood. We shall have Unanimity at Home, founded in the general Conviction of the Justice and Necessity of Our Measures.

I am happy to Inform you, that, by the Blessing of Divine Providence on the good Conduct and Valour of My Officers and Forces by Sea and Land, and on the Zeal and Bravery of the Auxiliary Troops in
My Service, Canada is recovered; and although, from unavoidable Delays, the Operations at New York could not begin before the Month of August, the Success in that Province has been so important as to give the strongest Hopes of the most decisive good Consequences. But, notwithstanding this fair Prospect, We must, at all Events, prepare for another Campaign.

I continue to receive Assurances of Amity from the several Courts of Europe; and am using My utmost Endeavours to conciliate unhappy Differences between Two neighbouring Powers; and I still hope, that all Misunderstandings may be removed, and Europe continue to enjoy the inestimable Blessings of Peace. I think nevertheless that, in the present Situation of Affairs, it is expedient that We should be in a respectable State of Defence at Home.

Gentlemen of the House of Commons, I will order the Estimates for the ensuing Year to be laid before you. It is [a] Matter of real Concern to Me, that the important Considerations which I have stated to you must necessarily be followed by great Expence: I doubt not, however, but that My faithful Commons will readily and chearfully grant Me such Supplies, as the Maintenance of the Honour of my Crown, the Vindication of the just Rights of Parliament, and the Publick Welfare shall be found to require.

My Lords, and Gentlemen, in this arduous Contest I can have no other Object but to promote the true Interests of all My Subjects. No people ever enjoyed more Happiness, or lived under a milder Government, than those now revolted Provinces: the Improvements in every Art,
of which they boast, declare it: their Numbers, their Wealth, their Strength by Sea and Land, which they think sufficient to enable them to make Head against the whole Power of the Mother Country, are irrefragable Proofs of it. My Desire is to restore to them the Blessings of Law and Liberty, equally enjoyed by every British Subject, which they have fatally and desperately exchanged for all the Calamities of War, and the arbitrary Tyranny of their Chiefs.