Paris Peace Treaty of 1783

Measures had meanwhile been taken by the Congress and the British government to arrange a treaty of peace. The former appointed (September, 1782) four Commissioners for the purpose, that different States of the Union might be represented. These Commissioners were John Adams of Massachusetts, John Jay of New York, Dr. Franklin of Pennsylvania, and Henry Laurens of South Carolina, who were all in Europe at that time. The British government gave Mr. Oswald full power to treat for peace with these Commissioners. He had discussed the terms with Dr. Franklin, who assured him that independence, satisfactory boundaries, and a participation in the fisheries would be indispensable requisites in a treaty. In July the British Parliament had passed a bill to enable the king to acknowledge the independence of the United States, and all obstacles in the way of negotiation were removed. The American Commissioners first named were joined by Laurens at Paris, where the negotiations were carried on. There, on the 30th of November, a preliminary treaty of peace, on the basis of independence, was signed by the American Commissioners and Mr. Oswald without the knowledge of the French government. This was in violation of the spirit of the terms of alliance, by which it was understood (and the Commissioners had been so instructed) that no treaty should be signed by either party to the alliance without the knowledge of the other. Some of the Commissioners doubted the good faith of Vergennes, believing him to be swayed by Spanish influence; but he acted honorably throughout. Dr. Franklin, who never doubted him, removed the dissatisfaction in the mind of Vergennes, because of this affront, by a few soft words. In the meantime the States-General of Holland had acknowledged the independence of the United States by receiving John Adams as an ambassador from the Congress in April of that year; and on the 8th of October (1782) they concluded a treaty of amity and commerce with them. This was signed at the Hague by Mr. Adams and representatives of the Netherlands. It was not ratified until January, 1783.

When the ratification of the preliminary treaty of peace was made known, a cessation of hostilities was proclaimed, on the 19th of April 1783, just eight years to a day since they began at Lexington. Then the soldiers who had enlisted "for the war" claimed the right to go home. Congress decided that the time of their enlistment would not expire until a definitive treaty of peace should be concluded. Much dissatisfaction was felt; but Washington soothed the feelings of the soldiers by allowing a very large portion of them to go home on long furloughs, during the summer of 1783. As the definitive treaty was concluded at the beginning of September, these men never returned to the army; and so was gradually and quietly disbanded a greater portion of the Continental Army in the field.

In April, 1783, a treaty was concluded between the United States and the king of Sweden; and in the same month the British government gave to David Hartley full powers to negotiate a definitive treaty with the American commissioners. It was concluded and signed at Paris on the 3d of September, 1783, by David Hartley on the part of Great Britain, and by Dr. Franklin, John Adams, and John Jay on the part of the United States. Then Franklin put on his suit of clothes which he had laid aside after receiving personal abuse before the British Privy Council, with a vow never to wear them again until America was independent and England humbled. Definitive treaties between Great Britain and France and Spain were signed on the same day; one between Great Britain and Holland was signed the day before. That between the United States and Great Britain was unqualifiedly acknowledged by the king of Great Britain; the Mississippi River was made the western boundary, and Canada and Nova Scotia the northern and eastern boundaries of the territory of the new Republic; the navigation of the River St. Lawrence was abandoned to the English; the navigation of the Mississippi was made free to both parties; mutual rights to the Newfoundland fisheries were adjusted; no impediments were allowed in the way of the recovery of debts by bona fide creditors; certain measures of restitution of confiscated property to Loyalists were to be recommended by the Congress to the several States; and there was to be a general cessation of hostilities, withdrawal of troops, and a restoration of public and private property.

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