OTD in History… September 3, 1783, the Treaty of Paris ends American Revolutionary War
By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS
On this day in history September 3, 1783, eight years after the start of the American Revolutionary War that led to American independence from Great Britain, the two countries sign the Treaty of Paris ending the war between them. What began as a revolt against Britain’s restrictive economic and political policies against the thirteen American colonies ended with a diplomatic agreement where Britain recognized the new nation the United States of America. In April 1775, the war began in Lexington, Massachusetts, by 1776, the colonies declared independence and formal war against Britain with General George Washington commanding the army. With the help of a diplomatic alliance with France, the Americans were able to bring Britain to their knees. On October 19, 1781, after five years of war, the fighting officially ended, as “British General Charles Lord Cornwallis surrendered to American and French forces at Yorktown, Virginia.”
The next step was negotiating a peace with Britain, the Continental Congress appointed a five-person committee, that consisted of Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, John Jay, and Thomas Jefferson and Henry Laurens. Jefferson, however, could not travel, and the British had caught Laurens and they imprisoned him in the Tower of London. Franklin, Adams, and Jay embarked on negotiations in Paris in September 1782. At first, in April 1782, Franklin demanded that Britain also hand over their Canadian colonies. In June, Jay arrived in Paris joining Franklin at the negotiations. Jay distrusted the French and negotiated peace with Britain separately, violating the Treaty of Alliance, America had with France, however, France had been doing the same behind the Americans’ back. Franklin opposed the move but being in poor health and refusing to give into the schism the British were trying to depict of the American delegation.
America and Britain signed a preliminary peace treaty on November 30, 1782, but a final agreement would not be signed until France and Britain also reached an agreement. Then on January 20, 1783, France signed with Britain a preliminary peace agreement. The United States and Britain signed the final agreement on September 3, 1783, at the Hotel d’York in Paris, with Britain recognizing America as an independent country and granting it western territory. Although America did not acquire any territory from the Canadian colonies, Britain was generous and “granted the new nation all the territory west to the Mississippi River, south to the Spanish frontier at 31 north latitude, and north to the Great Lakes and Canada.”
Britain gave America fishing rights off the “Canadian coast” but they were ambiguous and it would remain an issue in the War of 1812 between the two countries. America also made concessions, they agreed, that British creditors could “collect debts from Americans, which amounted to £5 million.” Britain also “recommended” that the United States return 800,000 worth in property they confiscated from loyalists, who had fled to British territories during the war, this term was the least adhered to by America.
Signing the peace treaty signaled the end of America’s long fight for independence. Historian John Ferling notes in his book, A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the American Republic, “The Treaty of Paris was signed on September 3, 1783, two days short of the ninth anniversary of the convening of the First Continental Congress at Carpenter’s Hall.” (Ferling, 254) It would take years for both countries to honor the terms of the treaty and the unresolved issues spilled over into the War of 1812. The Continental Congress ratified the Treaty of Paris on January 14, 1784, formally ending the Revolutionary War, and leaving the Congress on to the daunting task of governing the new nation and democratic experiment.
SOURCES AND READ MORE
Ferling, John E. A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the American Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
Findling, John E, and Frank W. Thackeray. Events That Changed America in the Eighteenth Century. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1998.
Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion, and news. She has a dozen years of experience in education & political journalism.