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Treaty of Paris

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The Treaty of Paris of 1783 ended the U.S. Revolutionary War and granted the thirteen colonies political independence. A preliminary treaty between Great Britain and the United States was signed in 1782, but the final agreement was not signed until September 3, 1783.

The surrender of the British army at Yorktown, Virginia, on October 19, 1781, ended the major military hostilities of the Revolutionary War, but sporadic fighting, mostly in the south and west, continued for more than a year. The defeat led to the resignation of the British prime minister, Lord North. The coalition cabinet formed after North's resignation decided to begin peace negotiations with the colonial revolutionaries.

The negotiations began in Paris, France, in April 1782. The U.S. delegation included BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, JOHN ADAMS, JOHN JAY, and Henry Laurens, while the British were represented by Richard Oswald and Henry Strachey. The negotiators concluded the preliminary treaty on November 30, 1782, but the agreement did not take effect until Great Britain concluded treaties with France and Spain concerning other British colonies.

The United States ratified the preliminary treaty on April 15, 1783. In the final agreement that was signed in September 1783, the British recognized the independence of the United States. The treaty established generous boundaries for the United States: U.S. territory would extend from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River in the west, and from the Great Lakes and Canada in the north to the thirty-first parallel in the south. The U.S. fishing fleet was guaranteed access to the fisheries off the coast of Newfoundland.

Under the treaty navigation of the Mississippi River was to be open to both the United States and Great Britain. Creditors of both countries were not to be impeded from collecting their debts, and Congress was to recommend to the states that loyalists to the British cause during the war be treated fairly and have their rights and confiscated property restored.

The signature page of the Treaty of Paris, signed by Great Britain's representative, David Hartley, and by U.S. representatives John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay.
CORBIS

FURTHER READINGS

Brecher, Frank W. 2003. Securing American Independence: John Jay and the French Alliance. Westport, Conn.: Praeger.

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