Treaty of Paris (1783)

Treaty of Paris (1783)

The Treaty of Paris, signed on September 3, 1783, and approved by the Congress of the Confederation on January 14, 1784, formally ended the American Revolutionary War between the Kingdom of Great Britain and the thirteen United States of America, which had rebelled against British rule starting in 1775. The other combatant nations, France, Spain and the Dutch Republic had separate agreements; for details of these see Peace of Paris (1783).

British recognition of American Independence

As a result of the French victory at the Battle of the Chesapeake and the allied American and French victory at the Siege of Yorktown, in December 1781 the British government revised its campaign strategy for the following year. However the lack of strategic victory at the naval Second Battle of Ushant off the French coast resulted in an inquiry into the administration of the Royal Navy, and subsequent French seizures of British colonies in the West Indies necessitated a further move away from operations in America. When the capture of the British base on Minorca in the Mediterranean Sea by a Spanish and French siege was added to these losses in February 1782, the government of Lord North was forced to resign by a series of Parliamentary votes, on 20 March 1782.

Because of the terms of France's alliance with America, the new British government began peace negotiations with Benjamin Franklin and other American representatives in Europe, to undermine the alliances against Britain. A breakthrough came in September 1782, when the authorization papers of Britain's negotiator were reworded to acknowledge that he was negotiating not with "colonies" but with "13 United States". British military successes that month against Spanish and French forces besieging the British fortress of Gibraltar, which commands the seaway between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean (plus the slow-traveling news of a ceasefire months earlier in a French-aided war against British forces in India), severely weakened the alliance, and France reluctantly accepted a preliminary peace treaty between the United States and Britain, finalized on 30 November. Though the British Parliament protested about some of the terms of this deal, it was formally signed as the Treaty of Paris on 3 September 1783 (peace treaties with France and Spain were signed the same day).

The agreement

The treaty document was signed at the Hôtel de York – now 56 Rue Jacob – by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay (representing the United States) and David Hartley (a member of British Parliament representing the British Monarch, King George III). Hartley was lodging at the hotel, which was therefore chosen in preference to the nearby British Embassy – 44 Rue Jacob – as "neutral" ground for the signing.

On September 3, Britain also signed separate agreements with France and Spain, and (provisionally) with the Netherlands. In the treaty with Spain, the colonies of East and West Florida were ceded to Spain (without any clearly defined northern boundary, resulting in disputed territory resolved with the Treaty of Madrid), 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.

The American Congress of the Confederation ratified the treaty on January 14, 1784, and copies were then sent back to Europe for ratification by the other parties involved, the first reaching France in March. 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 communication.

The ten Articles: key points

:"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."
#Recognizing the 13 colonies to be free, sovereign and independent States, and that his Majesty relinquishes all claims to the Government, propriety, and territorial rights of the same, and every part thereof; [Some online versions of the treaty omit Delaware from the list of former colonies, but the actual text lists it between Pennsylvania and Maryland. For example, see facsimile of a London newspaper announcing the treaty. [] [] Delaware is also included in both the preliminary version of the treaty read in the Continental Congress on April 15 1783 [] and the one ratified by the Congress on January 14, 1784 [] ]
#Establishing the boundaries between the United States and British North America (for an account of two strange anomalies resulting from this part of the Treaty, based on inaccuracies in the Mitchell Map, see Northwest Angle and the Republic of Indian Stream);
#Granting fishing rights to United States fishermen in the Grand Banks, off the coast of Newfoundland and in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence;
#Recognizing the lawful contracted debts to be paid to creditors on either side;
#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] ";
#United States will prevent future confiscations of the property of Loyalists;
#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);
#Great Britain and the United States were each to be given perpetual access to the Mississippi River;
#Territories captured by Americans subsequent to treaty will be returned without compensation;
#Ratification of the treaty was to occur within six months from the signing by the contracting parties.
*Spain received East and West Florida under the separate Anglo-Spanish peace agreement


Privileges which the Americans had received from Britain automatically when they had colonial status (including some surprising ones, such as protection from pirates in the Mediterranean Sea) 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 given in the Canadian boundary descriptions. 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 dispute continued, Spain used its new control of Florida to block American access to the Mississippi, in defiance of Article 8. [Jones, Howard [,M1 Crucible of Power: A History of American Foreign Relations to 1913] , Rowman & Littlefield (2002) ISBN 0842029168 (page 23)] 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 First Nations, 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. [Benn, Carl [ Historic Fort York, 1793-1993] Dundurn Press Ltd. (1993) ISBN 0920474799 (page 17)] 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 2007. [cite web | author = United States Department of State | title = Bilateral Treaties and Other Agreements (U-V) | work = Treaties in Force | year = 2007 | accessdate = 2008-05-28 | url = | page = 16]

ee also

*Other treaties signed in Paris
*List of treaties


External links

* [ Text of the Treaty of Paris] (without Delaware)
* [ Treaty of Paris, 1783] U.S. Department of State summary
* [ Treaty of Paris, 1783; International Treaties and Related Records, 1778-1974; General Records of the United States Government, Record Group 11; National Archives.] (with Delaware)

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