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The Declaration (of the causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms, written in 1775 at Philadelphia) presented a summary of the familiar grievances that were impelling the colonies to take drastic action but left the door open if England wanted a peaceful solution of the dispute. The Whigs in Parliament were thanked for the “nobility” of their support and for recognizing “the justice of our cause.” In three different passages, (Thomas) Jefferson had extended an olive branch, and in the most emphatic of them had written: “We mean not to dissolve that union which has so long and so happily subsisted between us.”

The Declaration ended on a conciliatory note, too, and Patrick (Henry) meant every word as he read the final prayer, “May the Ruler of the Universe dispose our adversaries to reconcile on reasonable terms.”