Treaty of Paris (unfinished painting -- from left to right) John Jay, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Laurens, and William Temple Franklin. The British commissioners refused to pose, and the picture was never finished.
Treaty of Paris (unfinished painting -- from left to right) John Jay, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Laurens, and William Temple Franklin. The British commissioners refused to pose, and the picture was never finished.
West, Benjamin (1738–1820)
License: Public Domain

Treaty of Paris

The treaty document was signed at the Hôtel de York – which is 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 of Paris on January 14, 1784, and copies were 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 due to 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."

1. 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;
2. 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);
3. Granting fishing rights to United States fishermen in the Grand Banks, off the coast of Newfoundland and in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence;
4. Recognizing the lawful contracted debts to be paid to creditors on either side;
5. 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]";
6. United States will prevent future confiscations of the property of Loyalists;
7. 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);
8. Great Britain and the United States were each to be given perpetual access to the Mississippi River;
9. Territories captured by Americans subsequent to treaty will be returned without compensation;
10. 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

The Treaty of Paris was signed by U.S. and British Representatives on September 3, 1783, ending the War of the American Revolution. Based on a1782 preliminary treaty, the agreement recognized U.S. independence and granted the U.S. significant western territory. The 1783 Treaty was one of a series of treaties signed at Paris in 1783 that also established peace between Great Britain and the allied nations of France, Spain, and the Netherlands.

The 1781 U.S. victory at the Battle of Yorktown made peace talks where British negotiators were willing to consider U.S. independence a possibility. Eighteenth-century British parliamentary governments tended to be unstable and depended on both a majority in the House of Commons and the good favor of the King. Thus, when news of Yorktown reached London, the parliamentary opposition succeeded in overthrowing the embattled government led by Frederick North, Lord North.

However, the new government, led by Charles Watson-Wentworth, Marquess of Rockingham, was not much more stable than the previous one. The strong personalities of its ministers led to internal conflicts between them and King George III. Rockingham died in July of 1782, and he was succeeded by William Petty Fitzmaurice, Earl of Shelburne. Lord Shelburne's government wanted to seek peace, but hoped to avoid recognizing U.S. independence. However, the war had been expensive, and Britain faced a formidable alliance, fighting the combined forces of France, Spain, and the Netherlands, in addition to the rebellious colonists.

Shelburne and other British diplomats had pursued a strategy of trying to drive the alliance apart by entering negotiations for a separate peace with France's allies. Although such efforts failed with the Netherlands, U.S. negotiators were receptive to the idea of separate negotiations, because they saw in such negotiations the clearest path to ensuring recognition of U.S. independence in a final peace settlement. The French Foreign Minister, Charles Gravier, Comte de Vergennes, approved of separate negotiations, though not of a separate peace.