The Olive Branch Petition: what is that image?

By Evelyn Frangakis
November 8, 2007
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

This letter is one of three supporting documents associated with a very important item in the Library’s Manuscripts and Archives Division known as the Olive Branch Petition.

The Olive Branch Petition, written in 1775, was the final effort of the Second Continental Congress to persuade King George III of England to respond to the concerns of the American Colonists and to settle their differences amicably. The King refused to receive the petition, which led eventually to the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Its historic importance is not only due to the fact that twenty-five of the delegates who signed it also signed the Declaration a year later. In addition, Patrick Henry, John Jay, Silas Deane, and Robert R. Livingston signed the Olive Branch, but did not sign the Declaration.

The image in the header is a detail shot of a letter by Richard Penn, who had been charged with traveling to England to deliver the petition to the King, to a Mr. Chambers. In it, he pleads the American cause. The letter is written in iron gall ink on handmade laid paper. The red circle that is visible is the remnants of seal made of red-dyed dough (flour and water paste) that was traditionally used to seal a folded letter.