Ratification Day (United States)

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Congressional Proclamation of Ratification of Treaty of Paris, Jan 14, 1784

Ratification Day in the United States refers to the anniversary of the ratification of the Treaty of Paris on January 14, 1784 at the Maryland State House in Annapolis, Maryland by the Confederation Congress. This act officially ended the American Revolution and established the U.S. as a sovereign entity.[1][2]

Proclamation of Congress[edit]

The Journals of the Continental Congress reports that the Confederation Congress issued a proclamation on April 11, 1783, "Declaring the cessation of arms" against Great Britain. The preliminary articles of peace were approved by Congress on April 15, 1783, and the Treaty of Paris was ratified on January 14, 1784.[3]

An excerpt from the proclamation of ratification:

By the United States in Congress assembled, a proclamation : Whereas definitive articles of peace and friendship, between the United States of America and His Britannic Majesty, were concluded and signed at Paris, on the 3rd day of September, 1783 ... we have thought proper by these presents, to notify the premises to all the good citizens of these United States ...
Given under the seal of the United States, witness His Excellency Thomas Mifflin, our president, at Annapolis, this fourteenth day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-four ...[4]

Congressional Debate[edit]

Due to the severe winter of 1783–1784 (now known to be a consequence of the volcanic eruption of Laki in Iceland) only delegates from seven of the thirteen states were present in Congress. According to the Articles of Confederation, nine states were required to enter into a treaty. One faction believed that seven states could ratify the treaty; arguing that they were merely ratifying and not entering into a treaty. Furthermore, it was unlikely that the required delegates could reach Annapolis before the ratification deadline.[5]

Thomas Jefferson's faction believed that a full nine states were required to ratify the treaty. Any less would be trickery which Britain would eventually find out, giving it an excuse to nullify the treaty. Jefferson stated that it would be a "dishonorable prostitution" of the Great Seal of the United States.[5]

Jefferson's Compromise[edit]

Jefferson was elected to head a committee of members of both factions and arrived at a compromise. Assuming that only seven states were present, Congress would pass a resolution stating that the seven states present were unanimously in favor of ratification of the treaty, but were in disagreement as to the competency of Congress to ratify with only seven states. That although only seven states were present, their unanimous agreement in favor of ratification would be used to secure peace. The vote would not set a precedent for future decisions; the document would be forwarded to the US ministers in Europe who would be told to wait until a treaty ratified by nine states could arrive, and to request a delay of three months. However, if Britain insisted, then the Ministers should use the seven-state ratification, pleading that a full Congress was not in session.[5]

In the event, delegates from Connecticut and South Carolina arrived at the last moment, and nine states ratified the treaty. Three copies were sent by separate couriers to ensure delivery.[5]

References[edit]

External links[edit]