Treaty of Paris (1783)

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Benjamin West's painting of the delegations at the Treaty of Paris: John Jay, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Laurens, and William Temple Franklin. The British delegation refused to pose, and the painting was never completed.

The Treaty of Paris, signed on September 3, 1783, ended the American Revolutionary War between Great Britain on one side and the United States of America and its allies on the other. The other combatant nations, France, Spain and the Dutch Republic had separate agreements; for details of these, and the negotiations which produced all four treaties, see Peace of Paris (1783).[1][2] Its territorial provisions were "exceedingly generous" to the United States in terms of enlarged boundaries.[3]

The agreement[edit]

Signing of the preliminary Treaty of Paris, November 30, 1782.

Peace negotiations began in April of 1782, involving American representatives Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, Henry Laurens, and John Adams. The British representatives present were David Hartley and Richard Oswald.

The treaty document was signed in Paris at the Hotel d'York (presently 56 Rue Jacob), by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay (representing the United States), and David Hartley (a member of the British Parliament representing the British monarch, King George III).[4] Benjamin Franklin was a strong proponent of Britain ceding the Province of Quebec (today's eastern Canada) to the United States because he believed that having British territory physically bordering American territory would cause conflict in the future.[citation needed] Britain, however, refused.

On September 3, 1783, Great Britain also signed separate agreements with France and Spain, and (provisionally) with the Netherlands.[5] In the treaty with Spain, the territories of East and West Florida were ceded to Spain (without a clear northern boundary, resulting in a territorial dispute resolved by the Treaty of Madrid in 1795), as was the island of Minorca, while the Bahama Islands, Grenada, and Montserrat, captured by the French and Spanish, were returned to Britain. The treaty with France was mostly about exchanges of captured territory (France's only net gains were the island of Tobago, and Senegal in Africa), but also reinforced earlier treaties, guaranteeing fishing rights off Newfoundland. Dutch possessions in the East Indies, captured in 1781, were returned by Britain to the Netherlands in exchange for trading privileges in the Dutch East Indies, by a treaty which was not finalized until 1784.[6]

The American Congress of the Confederation ratified the Treaty of Paris on January 14, 1784 (Ratification Day).[7] Copies were sent back to Europe for ratification by the other parties involved, the first reaching France in March 1784. British ratification occurred on April 9, 1784, and the ratified versions were exchanged in Paris on May 12, 1784. It was not for some time, though, that the Americans in the countryside received the news because of the lack of speedy communication

Ten Articles: key points[edit]

Signature page of the Treaty of Paris courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

Preface. Declares the treaty to be "in the name of the most holy and undivided Trinity", states the bona fides of the signatories, and declares the intention of both parties to "forget all past misunderstandings and differences" and "secure to both perpetual peace and harmony".

  1. Acknowledging the United States (viz. the Colonies) to be free, sovereign and independent states, and that the British Crown and all heirs and successors relinquish claims to the Government, property, and territorial rights of the same, and every part thereof;
  2. Establishing the boundaries between the United States and British North America;
  3. Granting fishing rights to United States fishermen in the Grand Banks, off the coast of Newfoundland and in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence;
  4. Recognizing the lawful contracted debts to be paid to creditors on either side;
  5. The Congress of the Confederation will "earnestly recommend" to state legislatures to recognize the rightful owners of all confiscated lands "provide for the restitution of all estates, rights, and properties, which have been confiscated belonging to real British subjects Loyalists";
  6. United States will prevent future confiscations of the property of Loyalists;
  7. Prisoners of war on both sides are to be released and all property left by the British army in the United States unmolested (including slaves);
  8. Great Britain and the United States were each to be given perpetual access to the Mississippi River;
  9. Territories captured by Americans subsequent to treaty will be returned without compensation;
  10. Ratification of the treaty was to occur within six months from the signing by the contracting parties.

Consequences[edit]

Stone sign affixed on the rue Jacob building

Historians have often commented that the treaty was very generous to the United States in terms of greatly enlarged boundaries, which came at the expense of the Indian allies of the British. The point was the United States would be a major trading partner. As the French foreign minister Vergennes later put it, "The English buy peace rather than make it".[8]

Privileges that the Americans had received from Britain automatically when they had colonial status (including protection from pirates in the Mediterranean Sea; see: the First Barbary War and the Second Barbary War) were withdrawn. Individual States ignored Federal recommendations, under Article 5, to restore confiscated Loyalist property, and also evaded Article 6 (e.g., by confiscating Loyalist property for "unpaid debts"). Some, notably Virginia, also defied Article 4 and maintained laws against payment of debts to British creditors. Individual British soldiers ignored the provision of Article 7 about removal of slaves.

The real geography of North America turned out not to match the details used in the Treaty. The Treaty specified a southern boundary for the United States, but the separate Anglo-Spanish agreement did not specify a northern boundary for Florida, and the Spanish government assumed that the boundary was the same as in the 1763 agreement by which they had first given their territory in Florida to Britain. While that West Florida Controversy continued, Spain used its new control of Florida to block American access to the Mississippi, in defiance of Article 8.[9] In the Great Lakes area, the British adopted a very generous interpretation of the stipulation that they should relinquish control "with all convenient speed", because they needed time to negotiate with the Native Americans, who had kept the area out of United States control, but had been completely ignored in the Treaty. Even after that was accomplished, Britain retained control as a bargaining counter in hopes of obtaining some recompense for the confiscated Loyalist property.[10] This matter was finally settled by the Jay Treaty in 1794, and America's ability to bargain on all these points was greatly strengthened by the creation of the new constitution in 1787.

Only Article 1 remains in force as of 2013.[11]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Morris 1965
  2. ^ Jeremy Black, British foreign policy in an age of revolutions, 1783–1793 (1994) pp 11–20
  3. ^ Quote from Thomas Paterson, J. Garry Clifford and Shane J. Maddock, American foreign relations: A history, to 1920 (2009) vol 1 p 20
  4. ^ http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/paris.asp
  5. ^ Frances G, Davenport and Charles O. Paullin, European Treaties Bearing on the History of the United States and Its Dependencies (1917) vol 1 p vii
  6. ^ Gerald Newman and Leslie Ellen Brown, Britain in the Hanoverian age, 1714–1837 (1997) p. 533
  7. ^ Sandy Whiteley, Sandy (2002). On this date... a day-by-day listing of holidays, birthdays, and historic events and special days, weeks, and months. McGraw-Hill Professional. p. 366. ISBN 978-0-07-139827-5. 
  8. ^ Quote from Thomas Paterson, J. Garry Clifford and Shane J. Maddock, American foreign relations: A history, to 1920 (2009) vol 1 p 20
  9. ^ Jones, Howard (2002). Crucible of Power: A History of American Foreign Relations to 1913. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 23. ISBN 978-0-8420-2916-2. 
  10. ^ Benn, Carl (1993). Historic Fort York, 1793–1993. Dundurn Press Ltd. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-920474-79-2. 
  11. ^ United States Department of State (2013). "Treaties in Force". p. 307. Retrieved 2014-03-08. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]