1700s |

Abigail Adams Leads Rhetorical Charge Against The British – 11/12/1775

When finding out that the so-called Olive Branch Petition was rejected by England on November 12th, 1775, Abigail Adams decides to write a letter to her husband. She writes, “Let us separate, they are unworthy to be our Brethren. Let us renounce them and instead of supplications as formerly for their prosperity and happiness, let us beseech the almighty to blast their councils and bring to Nought all their devices.”

The Olive Branch Petition was adopted by Congress the previous July and written by John Dickinson. The purpose of it was directed towards King George III in an effort for reconciliation between Great Britain and the colonies. Dickson desperately hoped to avoid a permanent break with the king explained opposition to British policies from the colonies saying that: “Your Majesty’s Ministers, persevering in their measures, and proceeding to open hostilities for enforcing them, have compelled us to arm in our own defense, 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.”

Their discontent was phrased this way as Congress attempted to explain to the king it was the ministerial policy that the American colonists were upset over rather than his own. With a last statement of fidelity to the throne, they ended their plea by saying, “That your Majesty may enjoy long and prosperous reign, and that your descendants may govern your Dominions with honor to themselves and happiness to their subjects, is our sincere prayer.”

However, what was presented in the Declaration of Independence in July of 1776 was somewhat different: “The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.”

To understand why the language from Congress changed means paying attention to events that occurred roughly one year ago. British Redcoats that were shot at by the militia at Concord and Lexington in April of 1775 were upset with Parliament and not the king. They wanted only great things for each of his subjects around the world since they still trusted him. However, the king’s act of refusing to accept the Olive Branch Petition soon changed their opinion of King George. The main reasons for arms to be taken up by Americans were now different.

The response from Abigail Adams basically put to words what the colonists were thinking which was that Patriots prayed that the rights of colonists that were being taking away by Parliament was done without the king’s knowledge; therefore, the petition would give the king the opportunity to come to the defense of his subjects. George III demonstrated to Patriots like Abigail that he knew what Parliament was doing by not even looking at the sent petition. The English-born radical Thomas Paine only increased the patriotic rage of the Americans with his publication of his persuading pamphlet in January of 1776 that was against the monarchy. Paine felt they had permitted “crowned ruffians” to “impoverish the nation and set it together by the ears.”

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Kelly Sutherland


Hi! I'm Kelly. My favorite time period was the 70s. I had a boatloads of fun traveling around with my close friends spreading love and just living my life to the fullest... if you know what I mean ;) Now I enjoy sitting in my cozy nook writing and learning about history.