Monday, December 10, 2012

Treaty of Paris

 1783 Treaty of Paris

September 3rd, 1783

The Treaty of Paris, signed by Commissioners Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, John Jay and John Hartley on September 3, 1783, effectively ended the American Revolutionary War between Great Britain on one side and the United States of America and its allies on the other. The other combatant nations, France, Spain and the Dutch Republic had separate treaty agreements.  The territorial provisions to the United States were "exceedingly generous."  

A year and half later,  in his rooms at the Hotel de York and agreed to end the war with  "The Definitive Treaty of Peace between his Britannic Majesty and the United States of America."  The Treaty was immediately dispatched to United States Congress Assembled President Elias Boudinot and King George III as Article Ten required

“The solemn ratifications of the present treaty expedited in good and due form shall be exchanged between the contracting parties in the space of six months or sooner, if possible, to be computed from the day of the signatures of the present treaty.”

Table that served for the signing of the Treaty of Paris which, formally established American Independence from Great Britain.  

Students and Teachers of US History this is a video of Stanley and Christopher Klos presenting America's Four United Republics Curriculum at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. The December 2015 video was an impromptu capture by a member of the audience of Penn students, professors and guests that numbered about 200. - Click Here for more information

Brief Background:

In March 1782, shortly after the fall of Lord North's ministry, Peace Commissioner Benjamin Franklin sent a letter seeking a “general peace” to Lord Shelburne.

Lord Cholmondeley having kindly offered to take a letter from me to your Lordship, I embrace the opportunity of assuring the continuance of my ancient respect for your talents and virtues, and of congratulating you on the returning good disposition of your country in favour of America, which appears in the late resolutions of the Commons. I am persuaded it will have good effects. I hope it will tend to produce a general peace, which I am sure your Lordship with all good men desires, which I wish to see before I die, and to which I shall with infinite pleasure contribute everything in my power.  

By the time the letter reached London, the new ministry, in which Shelburne was then Secretary of State for home and colonies, had already been formed. Secretary Shelburne, with the approval of the cabinet, replied by dispatching to Paris an agent to talk with Franklin informally to determine the terms upon which the Americans would make peace. The person chosen for this purpose was Richard Oswald, a Scottish merchant of frank disposition and open-minded views.

In April there were several conversations between Oswald and Franklin.  The most noteworthy point Franklin made was that in order to make a durable peace the nations must remove all occasions for future quarrel.  The line of frontier between New York and Canada was populated by a lawless set of men, who in time of peace would be likely to breed trouble between their respective governments.  Franklin articulated that it would be wise for England to cede Canada to the United States. A similar reasoning was also used for Nova Scotia in their initial meetings. Franklin furthered reasoned that by ceding these lands to the United States, it would be possible from their sale, to indemnify the Americans for all losses of private property during the war, and also to make reparation to the Tories whose estates had been confiscated. By pursuing such a policy, England, which had made war on America unjustly, and had wantonly done it great injuries, would achieve not merely peace, but reconciliation with America, and reconciliation, said Franklin, is "a sweet word."  

This was an exceptionally bold tone for Franklin to take but he knew that almost every member of the Whig ministry had publicly articulated the opinion that the war against America was unjust and wanton.  Benjamin Franklin who was a shrewd hand at a bargain masterfully set his terms sky high. Oswald, surprisingly, seemed to have been convinced by Franklin's reasoning, and expressed neither surprise nor reluctance at the idea of ceding Canada. The main points of this meeting were noted upon a sheet of paper, which Franklin permitted Oswald to take to London and show to Lord Shelburne, first writing upon it an express “declaration” of its informal character.

On receiving this memorandum, Shelburne did not show it to the cabinet, but returned it to Franklin without any immediate answer, after keeping it only one night. Oswald was presently sent back to Paris empowered as commissioner to negotiate with Franklin.  Oswald carried Shelburne's answer to the memorandum that desired the cession of Canada addressing Franklin’s three main points. The message was terse:

1. By way of reparation.  -- Answer:  No reparation can be heard of.
2. To prevent future wars.  -- Answer:  It is to be hoped that some more friendly method will be found. 
3. As a fund of indemnification to loyalists.  -- Answer: No independence to be acknowledged without their being taken care of.

Shelburne added that “the Americans would be expected to make some compensation for the surrender of Charleston, Savannah, and the City of New York, still held by British troops.” 

From this it appears that Shelburne, as well as Franklin, knew how to begin by asking more than he was likely to get. England was no more likely to listen to a proposal for ceding Canada than the Americans were to listen to the suggestion of compensating the British for surrendering New York. But there can be little doubt that the bold stand thus taken by Franklin at the outset, together with the influence he exerted over Oswald, contributed materially to the dazzling success of the American negotiations. 

With the formal appointment of a British Commissioner the negotiations of the initiative passed almost entirely out of Benjamin Franklin’s hands as his colleagues, John Jay and John Adams took over the talks with Great Britain. The form that the treaty took was mainly the work of Jay and Adams.  The services of Franklin were chiefly valuable at the beginning, and again, to some extent, at the end.  

U.S. Peace Commissioner John Jay, a former President of the U.S. Continental Congress, refused to continue treaty negotiations with Great Britain unless the United States was recognized as a foreign nation.  Additionally Jay, against the direct orders of the United States in Congress Assembled, persuaded fellow Commissioners John Adams and Benjamin Franklin to exclude France from the treaty negotiations.  Jay was quick to note that  France was quite hostile to their North American land claims. 

France sought to see the United States territorial claims between the Alleghenies and the Mississippi to be divided between England and Spain.  France had hoped that England would have the lands  north of the Ohio, and the region south of it to remain an Indian territory under the protectorate of Spain.  The French were willing to concede a narrow strip on the western slope of the Alleghenies, over which the United States would be permitted to "excise protectorship."  In other words, France wished to confine the United States to the east of the Alleghenies and prevent their expansion westward into what would be later known as the Louisiana Purchase. France also sought to exclude the United States from all share in the fisheries, in order to prevent the new nation from becoming a great naval power. France was an ally only up to a certain point and this antagonism of interests made joint negotiations extremely difficult.

The three Commissioners, at Jay's bidding, unanimously required the British Ministry to formulate a new commission authorizing Peace Commissioner Richard Oswald to negotiate a treaty without France or Spain and with the United States of America as a sovereign nation. The absence of France and Spain in the negotiations came as a great relief to Great Britain because it took their claims to North American territory off the negotiation table in the area being claimed by the United States of America. On September 21st, 1782, Parliament passed an act empowering Commissioner Oswald to enact a treaty with United States of America as a sovereign nation:

An act to enable his Majesty to conclude a peace or truce with certain colonies in North America therein mentioned, it is recited … And it is our royal will and pleasure, and we do hereby authorize, empower and require you, the said Richard Oswald, to treat, consult of, and conclude with any commissioners or persons veiled with equal powers, by, and on the part of the Thirteen United States of America, viz. New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, the three Lower Counties on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, in North America, a peace or a truce with the said Thirteen United States, any law, act or acts of parliament, matter or thing, to the contrary in any wise notwithstanding.[1]

The date of September 21st, 1782, unbeknownst to most U.S. citizens not September 3rd, 1783, marks Great Britain’s recognition of United States’ sovereignty.  Commissioner John Jay wrote to Foreign Secretary Robert R. Livingston:

Dear Sir, I have only time to inform you that our objections to Mr. Oswald's first commission have produced a second, which arrived yesterday. It empowers him to treat with the Commissioners of the Thirteen United States of America. I am preparing a longer letter on this subject, but as this intelligence is interesting, I take the earliest opportunity of communicating it.[2]

On October 5th, 1782, with the “colonies” now recognized by Great Britain as “more or less” United States, John Jay turned over their treaty plan to Oswald.  The plan included the new clauses relating to independence, the territorial boundaries and the articles on the fisheries. Oswald, in enclosing the plan to his government, wrote: "I look upon the treaty as now closed."  

On November 17th Jay wrote U.S. Foreign Secretary Livingston a long letter outlining his progress in the Treaty of Paris negotiation from his arrival stating:

Although it is uncertain when I shall have an opportunity either of finishing or transmitting the long, particular letter which I am now undertaking to write, I think the matter it will contain is too interesting to rest only in my memory, or in short notes, which nobody but myself can well unfold the meaning of. I shall, therefore, write on as my health will permit, and when finished shall convey this letter by the first prudent American that may go from hence to Nantes or L'Orient. My reception here was as friendly as an American minister might expect from this polite and politic court; for I think they deceive themselves who suppose that these kind of attentions are equally paid to their private as to their public characters. [105]

Treaty with United Kingdom Preliminary Articles of Peace, November 30th, 1782. - Peace was desired by all parties as the Revolutionary War waged on. However the decisive battle at Yorktown on October 19, 1781 was a turning point and peace negotiations became formalized. Once Great Britain agreed to acknowledge the United States as free, sovereign, and an independent state, sensitive issues on boundaries, fishing rights, and compensation still needed resolution. Neither side got all that it wanted, and the language was at times purposely vague. However, on November 30, 1782, a preliminary treaty of peace was reached. -- General Records of the United States Government, National Archives 

Jay’s account was precise and concluded with an account from the time Mr. Oswald received a suitable Commission to negotiate a viable Treaty and his reasons for excluding France from the negotiations:

On the 27th of September, Mr. Vaughan returned here from England, with the courier that brought Mr. Oswald's new commission, and very happy were we to see it. Copies of it have already been sent to you, so that I will not lengthen this letter by inserting it here; nor will I add anything further on this head at present, than to assure you that Mr. Vaughan greatly merits our acknowledgments.

The next thing to be done was to prepare and draw up the proposed articles. They were soon completed and settled between us and Mr. Oswald, by whom they were sent to his court, with letters declaring his opinion that they ought to be accepted and agreed to; but they differed with him in opinion.

These articles, for very obvious reasons, were not communicated to the Count de Vergennes.

Mr. Oswald did not receive any opinion from his court relating to our articles until the 23d of October, when letters from the minister informed him that the extent of our boundaries, and the situation of the Tories, &c., caused some objections, and the minister's secretary was on the way here to confer with us on those subjects.

On the 24th of October, I dined at Pussy with Dr. Franklin, where I found M. Rayneval. After dinner we were in private with him a considerable time. He desired to know the state of our negociation with Mr. Oswald. We told him that difficulties had arisen about our boundaries, and that one of the minister's secretaries was coming here with papers and documents on that subject. He asked us what boundaries we claimed. We told him the river St. John to the east, and ancient Canada, as described in the proclamation, to the north. He contested our right to such an extent to the north, and entered into several arguments to show our claim to be ill founded. These arguments were chiefly drawn from the ancient French claims, and from a clause in the proclamation restraining governors from making grants in the Indian country, &c.

He inquired what we demanded as to the fisheries. We answered that we insisted on enjoying a right in common to them with Great Britain. He intimated that our views should not extend further than a coast fishery, and insinuated that pains had lately been taken in the eastern States to excite their apprehensions, and increase their demands on that head. We told him that such a right was essential to us, and thug our people would not be content to make peace without it; and Dr. Franklin explained very fully their great importance to the eastern States in particular. He then softened his manner, and observed that it was natural for France to wish better to us than to England; but as the fisheries were a great nursery for seamen, we might suppose that England would be disinclined to admit others to share in it, and that for his part he wished there might be as few obstacles to a peace as possible. He reminded us, also, that Mr. Oswald's new commission had been issued posterior to his arrival at London.

On the 26th of October Mr. Adams arrived here, and in him I have found a very able and agreeable coadjutor ... I am sensible of the impression which this letter will make upon you and upon Congress, and how it will affect the confidence they have in this court. These are critical times, and great necessity there is for prudence and secrecy.
So far, and in such matters as this court may think it their interest to support us, they certainly will, but no further, in my opinion.

They [France]are interested in separating us from Great Britain, and on that point we may, I believe, depend upon them; but it is not their interest that we should become a great and formidable people, and therefore they will not help us to become so. It is not their interest that such a treaty should be formed between us and Britain as would produce cordiality and mutual confidence. They will therefore endeavor to plant such seeds of jealousy, discontent, and discord in it as may naturally and perpetually keep our eyes fixed on France for security. This consideration must induce them to wish to render Britain formidable in our neighborhood, and to leave us as few resources of wealth and power as possible.

It is their interest to keep some point or other in contest between us and Britain to the end of the war, to prevent the possibility of our sooner agreeing, and thereby keep us employed in the war, and dependent on them for supplies. Hence they have favored and will continue to favor the British demands as to matters of boundary and the Tories.

The same views will render them desirous to continue the war in our country as long as possible, nor do I believe they will take any measures for our repossession of New York unless the certainty of its evacuation should render such an attempt advisable. The Count de Vergennes lately said that there could be no great use in expeditions to take places which must be given up to us at a peace.

Such being our situation, it appears to me advisable to keep up our army to the end of the war, even if the enemy should evacuate our country; nor does it appear to me prudent to listen to any overtures for carrying a part of it to the West Indies in case of such an event.

I think we have no rational dependence except on God and ourselves, nor can I yet be persuaded that Great Britain has either wisdom, virtue, or magnanimity enough to adopt a perfect and liberal system of conciliation. If they again thought they could conquer us, they would again attempt it.

We are nevertheless, thank God, in a better situation than we have been. As our independence is acknowledged by Britain, every obstacle to our forming treaties with neutral powers and receiving their merchant ships is at an end, so that we may carry on the war with greater advantage than before in case our negociations for peace should be fruitless.

It is not my meaning, and therefore I hope I shall not be understood to mean, that we should deviate in the least from our treaty with France; our honor and our interest are concerned in inviolably adhering to it. I mean only to say that if we lean on her love of liberty, her affection for America, or her disinterested magnanimity, we shall lean on a broken reed, that will sooner or later pierce our hands, and Geneva as well as Corsica justifies this observation.

I have written many disagreeable things in this letter, but I thought it my duty. I have also deviated from my instructions, which, though not to be justified, will, I hope, be excused on account of the singular and unforeseen circumstances which occasioned it.

Let me again recommend secrecy. [106]

Jay spoke of their perfect accord as a team acknowledging Mr. Adams's services on the eastern boundaries and Franklin's contributions on the subject of the Tories.

John Adams wrote in his Diary of Jay’s resolve in the negotiations:

That J. insists on having an exchange of full Powers, before he enters on Conference or Treaty. Refuses to treat with D'Aranda, until he has a Copy of his Full Powers. Refused to treat with Oswald, until he had a Commission to treat with the Commissioners of the United States of America. -- F. was afraid to insist upon it. Was afraid We should be obliged to treat without. Differed with J. Refused to sign a Letter &c. Vergennes wanted him to treat with D'Aranda, without. [107]

Adams also went on to record John Jay’s jaded feelings about the French and their role in the negotiations recording in his diary on November 5, 1782:

Mr. Jay likes Frenchmen as little as Mr. Lee and Mr. Izard did. He says they are not a Moral People. They know not what it is. He don’t like any Frenchman. -- The Marquis de la Fayette is clever, but he is a Frenchman. -- Our Allies don’t play fair, he told me. They were endeavouring to deprive us of the Fishery, the Western Lands, and the Navigation of the Missisippi. They would even bargain with the English to deprive us of them. They want to play the Western Lands, Mississippi and whole Gulf of Mexico into the Hands of Spain. [108]

Adams wrote Abigail on November 8 of the Peace Commissioner’s success:

The King of Great Britain, by a Commission under the great Seal of his Kingdom, has constituted Richard Oswald Esqr. his Commissioner to treat with the Ministers Plenipotentiary of the United States of America, and has given him full Powers which have been mutually exchanged. Thus G.B. has Shifted Suddenly about, and from persecuting us with unrelenting Bowells, has unconditionally and unequivocally acknowledged Us a Sovereign State and independent Nation. It is surprising that she should be the third Power to make this Acknowledgment. She has been negotiated into it, for Jay and I peremptorily refused to Speak or hear, before We were put upon an equal Foot. Franklin as usual would have taken the Advice of the C. [Comte] de V. [Vergennes] and treated, without, but nobody would join him. [109]

Finally Adams wrote Foreign Secretary Livingston this November 21st letter concerning the negotiations:

We live in critical moments. Parliament is to meet, and the King's speech will be delivered on the 26th. If the speech announces Mr. Oswald's commission, and the two houses, in their answers, thank him for issuing it, and there should be no change in the ministry, the prospect of peace will be flattering. Or, if there should be a change in the ministry, and the Duke of Portland, with Mr. Fox and Mr. Burke, should come in, it will be still more so. But if Richmond, Camden, Keppel, and Townshend should retire, and my Lord North and company come in, with or without the Earl of Shelburne, the appearances of peace will be very unpromising. My Lord North, indeed, cannot revoke the acknowledgment of our independence, and would not probably renounce the negotiations for peace, but ill-will to us is so habitual to him and his master, that he would fall in earnestly with the wing-clipping system; join in attempts to deprive us of the fisheries and the Mississippi, and to fasten upon us the Tories, and in every other measure to cramp, stint, impoverish, and enfeeble us. Shelburne is not so orthodox as he should be, but North is a much greater heretic in American politics.

It deserves much consideration what course we should take in case the old ministry should come in whole or in part. It is certain, at present, that to be obnoxious to the Americans and their ministers is a very formidable popular cry against any minister or candidate for the ministry in England, for the nation is more generally for recovering the good-will of the Americans than they ever have been. Nothing would strike such a blow to any ministry as to break off the negotiations for peace; if the old ministry come in, they will demand terms of us at first, probably, that we can never agree to.

It is now eleven or twelve days since the last result of our conferences were laid before the ministry in London. Mr. Vaughan went off on Sunday noon, the 17th, so that he is no doubt before this time with my Lord Shelburne. He is possessed of an ample budget of arguments to convince his lordship that he ought to give up all the remaining points between us. Mr. Oswald's letters will suggest the same arguments in a different light, and Mr. Strachey, if he is disposed to do it, is able to enlarge upon them all in conversation.

The fundamental point of the sovereignty of the United States being settled in England, the only question now is, whether they shall pursue a contracted or a liberal, a good-natured or an ill-natured plan towards us. If they are generous, and allow us all we ask, it will be the better for them; if stingy, the worst. That France don't wish them to be very noble to us may be true. But we should be dupes, indeed, if we did not make use of every argument with them to show them that it is their interest to be so, and they will be the greatest bubbles of all if they should suffer themselves to be derived by their passions, or by any arts, to adopt an opposite tenor of conduct.[110]

John Jay was especially concerned over the fate of the Tories in the negotiations, especially New York as the British had held the city for six long years.  There was much dissent among N.Y. patriots over the loyalist who prospered in the city during the revolution.  The New York Governor just after he was elected:

… persecuted, robbed, plundered, banished, and imprisoned, the unhappy loyalists at a great rate. His inveteracy, his rancor, and hatred to Great Britain and the Loyalists, he carried so far, that he has been heard to say, ‘that he had rather roast in hell to all eternity, than‘ consent to a dependence upon Great Britain, or ‘show mercy to a damned Tory.’ [111]

On Monday, November 25th the Commissioners heard from Stratchey and Oswald.  Adams recorded in his diary:

Dr. F., Mr. J. and myself at 11 met at Mr. Oswalds Lodgings. Mr. Stratchey told Us, he had been to London and waited personally on every one of the Kings Cabinet Council, and had communicated the last Propositions to them. They every one of them, unanimously condemned that respecting the Tories, so that that unhappy Affair stuck as he foresaw and foretold that it would.

The Affair of the Fishery too was somewhat altered. They could not admit Us to dry, on the Shores of Nova Scotia, nor to fish within three Leagues of the Coast, nor within fifteen Leagues of the Coast of Cape Breton.

The Boundary they did not approve. They thought it too extended, too vast a Country, but they would not make a difficulty.

That if these Terms were not admitted, the whole Affair must be thrown into Parliament, where every Man would be for insisting on Restitution, to the Refugees.

He talked about excepting a few by Name of the most obnoxious of the Refugees.[112]

In his diary, Adams continues recording the proposed changes to the treaty with surprising details and concludes that day’s business writing:

Mr. Jay desired to know, whether Mr. Oswald had now Power to conclude and sign with Us? Stratchey said he had absolutely. Mr. Jay desired to know if the Propositions now delivered Us were their Ultimatum. Stratchey seemed loth to answer, but at last said No. -- We agreed these were good Signs of Sincerity.[113]

Commissioner Henry Laurens, who was released from the Tower of London in a prisoner exchange for General Cornwallis, arrived in Paris in late November 1782.  Adams wrote of his participation in the negotiations of the Preliminary Treaty:

November 29, 1782 -- Met Mr. Fitzherbert, Mr. Oswald, Mr. Franklin, Mr. Jay, Mr. Laurens, and Mr. Strachey, at Mr. Jay's, Hôtel d'Orléans, and spent the whole day in discussions about the fishery and the Tories. 

Commissioner Oswald produced a paper from his pocket, in which he had drawn up a claim, and he said the first principle of the treaty was equality and reciprocity. Now, they demanded of us payment of debts, and restitution, or compensation to the refugees. 

Upon this, I recounted the history of General Gage's agreement with the inhabitants of Boston, that they should remove with their effects, upon condition that they would surrender their arms; but as soon as the arms were secured, the goods were forbid to be carried out, and were finally carried off in large quantities to Halifax. Dr. Franklin mentioned the case of Philadelphia, and the carrying off of effects there, even his own library. Mr. Jay mentioned several other things, and Mr. Laurens added the plunders in Carolina, of negroes, plate, &c.

 I said I never could put my hand to any articles without satisfaction about the fishery; that Congress had, three or four years ago, when they did me the honor to give me a commission to make a treaty of commerce with Great Britain, given me a positive instruction not to make any such treaty without an article in the treaty of peace acknowledging our right to the fishery; that I was happy Mr. Laurens was now present, who, I believed, was in Congress at the time and must remember it. Mr. Laurens upon this said, with great firmness, that he was in the same case and could never give his voice for any articles without this. Mr. Jay spoke up, and said it could not be a peace; it would only be an insidious truce without it.

November 30, 1782. - We met first at Mr. Jay's, then at Mr. Oswald's; examined and compared the treaties. Mr. Strachey had left out the limitation of time, the twelve months, that the refugees were allowed to reside in America, in order to recover their estates, if they could. Dr. Franklin said this was a surprise upon us. Mr. Jay said so too. We never had consented to leave it out, and they insisted upon putting it in, which was done.

Mr. Laurens said there ought to be a stipulation that the British troops should carry off no negroes or other American property. We all agreed. Mr. Oswald consented. Then the treaties were signed, sealed, and delivered, and we all went out to Passy to dine with Dr. Franklin. Thus far has proceeded this great affair. The unravelling of the plot has been to me the most affecting and astonishing part of the whole piece.

I was very happy that Mr. Laurens came in, although it was the last day of the conferences, and wish he could have been sooner. His prehension, notwithstanding his deplorable affliction under the recent loss of so excellent a son, is as quick, his judgment as sound, and his heart as firm as ever. He had an opportunity of examining the whole, and judging and approving; and the article which he caused to be inserted at the very last, that no property should be carried off--which would most probably, in the multiplicity and hurry of affairs, have escaped us--was worth a longer journey, if that had been all. But his name and weight is added, which is of much greater consequence.[76]

On November 30, 1782 Adams recorded:

 NOVEMBER 30 SATURDAY. ST. ANDREWS DAY: We met first at Mr. Jays, then at Mr. Oswalds, examined and compared the Treaties. Mr. Stratchey had left out the limitation of Time, the 12 Months, that the Refugees were allowed to reside in America, in order to recover their Estates if they could. Dr. Franklin said this was a Surprize upon Us. Mr. Jay said so too. We never had consented to leave it out, and they insisted upon putting it in, which was done. Mr. Laurens said there ought to be a Stipulation that the British Troops should carry off no Negroes or other American Property. We all agreed. Mr. Oswald consented. Then The Treaties were signed, sealed and delivered, and We all went out to Passy to dine with Dr. Franklin. Thus far has proceeded this great Affair.[114]

Conclusion of the Treaty with United Kingdom Preliminary Articles of Peace, November 30th, 1782. - Peace was desired by all parties as the Revolutionary War waged on. However the decisive battle at Yorktown on October 19, 1781 was a turning point and peace negotiations became formalized. Once Great Britain agreed to acknowledge the United States as free, sovereign, and an independent state, sensitive issues on boundaries, fishing rights, and compensation still needed resolution. Neither side got all that it wanted, and the language was at times purposely vague. However, on November 30, 1782, a preliminary treaty of peace was reached. -- General Records of the United States Government, National Archives 

When the news of the signed Preliminary Treaty was communicated to Vergennes, he wrote to Rayneval in England that the concessions of the English exceeded all that he had believed possible; Rayneval replied: "The treaty seems to me like a dream." [115] The deed was done, Jay’s gamble of defying the orders of Congress and excluding France resulted in a remarkable Treaty for the United States.  The ever extraordinary Benjamin Franklin smoothed things over with the French Court.  He actually managed to get a new loan from France to America secured marking a somewhat official acceptance of the triumph secured by Jay and his fellow Commissioners. Alexander Hamilton wrote to Jay, after examining the Preliminary Treaty:

I have been witness with pleasure to every event which has had a tendency to advance you in the esteem of your country; and I may assure you with sincerity, that it is as high as you could possibly wish. All have united in the warmest approbation of your conduct. I cannot forbear telling you this, because my situation has given me access to the truth, and I gratify my friendship for you in communicating what cannot fail to gratify your sensibility.

The peace which exceeds in the goodness of its terms, the expectations of the most sanguine does the highest honor to those who made it. It is the more agreeable, as the time was come, when thinking men began to be seriously alarmed at the internal embarrassments and exhausted state of this country. The New England people talk of making you an annual fish-offering as an acknowledgement of your exertions for the participation of the fisheries.

We have now happily concluded the great work of independence, but much remains to be done to reap the fruits of it. Our prospects are not flattering. Every day proves the inefficacy of the present confederation, yet the common danger being removed, we are receding instead of advancing in a disposition to amend its defects. The road to popularity in each state is to inspire jealousies of the power of Congress, though nothing can be more apparent than that they have no power; and that for the want of it, the resources of the country during the war could not be drawn out, and we at this moment experience all the mischiefs of a bankrupt and ruined credit. It is to be hoped that when prejudice and folly have run themselves out of breath we may return to reason and correct our errors.

After having served in the field during the war, I have been making a short apprenticeship in Congress; but the evacuation of New York approaching, I am preparing to take leave of public life to enter into the practice of the law. Your country will continue to demand your services abroad. [116]

The violation of the instructions of Congress displeased a part of that body. Mr. Madison, who voted for the instruction, wrote: "In this business Jay has taken the lead, and proceeded to a length of which you can form little idea. Adams has followed with cordiality. Franklin has been dragged into it." [117] Mr. Sparks, in his "Life of Franklin," contended that the violation of their instructions by the American commissioners in concluding and signing their treaty without the concurrence of the French government was "unjustifiable."

One only has to look at a 1780’s map of North America, given in the Life of Shelburne, "Showing the Boundaries of the UNITED STATES, CANADA, and the SPANISH POSSESSIONS, according to the proposals of the Court of France in 1782," to understand what Commissioners John Jay, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Henry Laurens[3] achieved with the 1783 Definitive Treaty of Peace in Paris  that ended the war with Great Britain.  

If the American commissioners had followed the USCA’s instructions to govern themselves by the opinion of French Minister Vergennes, [4] the treaty would have deprived the United States of Alabama and Mississippi, the greater part of Kentucky and Tennessee.  The lands consisting of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, parts of Minnesota and the navigation of the Mississippi River had also been excluded in the treaty proposed by France.  

National Collegiate Honor’s Council Partners in the Park Class of 2017 at the Benjamin Franklin Museum. Sophia  Semensky is holding an American Museum Magazine or Repository of Ancient and Modern Fugitive Pieces, &c., No. 5 May, 1787, Published by Mathew Carey, Philadelphia. The issue is open to the full printing of The Constitution of the Pennsylvania Society, for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery, and the Relief of Free Negroes, Unlawfully Held in Bondage: begun in the year 1774, and enlarged on the twenty-third of April, 1787. The Constitution is signed in type Benjamin Franklin, President.  This Pamphlet was gifted to Independence Hall National Historic Park by Stanley and Naomi Yavneh Klos in memory fo Eilleen Klos and Kuni Yavneh. – For more information visit our National Park and NCHC Partners in the Park Class of 2017 website

In the arrangement of the provisions, Benjamin Franklin played an important part, especially in driving the British commissioners from their position with regard to the compensation of loyalists. After a long struggle upon this point, Franklin observed that, “if the loyalists were to be indemnified, it would be necessary also to reckon up the damage they had done in burning villages and shipping, and then strike a balance between the two accounts" and he grimly suggested that a special commission might be appointed for this purpose. It was now getting late in the autumn and Shelburne felt it to be a political necessity to bring the negotiation to an end before the assembling of parliament. At the prospect of endless discussion, which Franklin's special commission proposal involved, the British commissioners gave way and accepted the American terms. It was now up to Franklin to lay the matter before French Foreign Minister in such a manner to avoid a fracture of the cordial relations between America and France. It was a delicate matter for in dealing separately with the English government, the Americans laid them open to the charge of having committed a breach of diplomatic courtesy and complete disregard to the direct orders of The President of the United States and Congress Assembled.  Benjamin Franklin managed the disclosure of the Treaty to the French with entire success.  

On the part of the Americans the treaty of 1783 is still hailed as one of the most brilliant triumphs in the whole history of modern diplomacy. Had the affair been managed by men of everyday ability, the greatest results of the war would probably have been lost. The new republic would have been cooped up between the Atlantic and the Alleghenies.  A national westward expansion would have been impossible without further warfare with England.  Most importantly, the formation of a Federal Republic with no opportunity for territorial expansion would have muted many of the voices who formed the constitutional convention in 1787. 

To the grand triumph the wide-ranging talents of Franklin, Adams, and Jay equally contributed to the accomplishments of the treaty. To John Jay is due the credit of detecting and baffling the sinister designs of France and persuading John Adams to contradict the orders of the President and Congress. Without the tact of Franklin, however, this probably could not have been accomplished without offending France who could have easily vetoed the Treaty with by rattling her military saber.  The United States now had her Independence from a treaty that begins “In the name of the most holy and undivided Trinity.” Perhaps the three men who this author admires most were indeed on the case of “The Definitive Treaty of Peace between his Britannic Majesty and the United States of America.”

Treaty of Paris signature : signed by British Commissioner John Hartley and 
United States Peace Commissioners John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay

1783 Treaty of Paris Text

In the name of the most holy and undivided Trinity.  It having pleased the Divine Providence to dispose the hearts of the most serene and most potent Prince George the Third , by the grace of God, king of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, defender of the faith, duke of Brunswick and Lunebourg, arch-treasurer and prince elector of the Holy Roman Empire etc., and of the United States of America, to forget all past misunderstandings and differences that have unhappily interrupted the good correspondence and friendship which they mutually wish to restore, and to establish such a beneficial and satisfactory intercourse , between the two countries upon the ground of reciprocal advantages and mutual convenience as may promote and secure to both perpetual peace and harmony; and having for this desirable end already laid the foundation of peace and reconciliation by the Provisional Articles signed at Paris on the 30th of November 1782 by the commissioners empowered on each part, which articles were agreed to be inserted in and constitute the Treaty of Peace proposed to be concluded between the Crown of Great Britain and the said United States, but which treaty was not to be concluded until terms of peace should be agreed upon between Great Britain and France and his Britannic Majesty should be ready to conclude such treaty accordingly; and the treaty between Great Britain and France having since been concluded, his Britannic Majesty and the United States of America, in order to carry into full effect the Provisional Articles above mentioned, according to the tenor thereof, have constituted and appointed, that is to say his Britannic Majesty on his part, David Hartley , Esqr., member of the Parliament of Great Britain, and the said United States on their part, John Adams , Esqr., late a commissioner of the United States of America at the court of Versailles, late delegate in Congress from the state of Massachusetts, and chief justice of the said state, and minister plenipotentiary of the said United States to their high mightinesses the States General of the United Netherlands; Benjamin Franklin, Esqr., late delegate in Congress from the state of Pennsylvania, president of the convention of the said state, and minister plenipotentiary from the United States of America at the court of Versailles; John Jay , Esqr., late president of Congress and chief justice of the state of New York, and minister plenipotentiary from the said United States at the court of Madrid; to be plenipotentiaries for the concluding and signing the present definitive treaty; who after having reciprocally communicated their respective full powers have agreed upon and confirmed the following articles.

Article 1:
His Britannic Majesty acknowledges the said United States, viz., New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, to be free sovereign and independent states, that he treats with them as such, and for himself, his heirs, and successors, relinquishes all claims to the government, propriety, and territorial rights of the same and every part thereof.

Article 2:
And that all disputes which might arise in future on the subject of the boundaries of the said United States may be prevented, it is hereby agreed and declared, that the following are and shall be their boundaries, viz.; from the northwest angle of Nova Scotia, viz., that nagle which is formed by a line drawn due north from the source of St. Croix River to the highlands; along the said highlands which divide those rivers that empty themselves into the river St. Lawrence, from those which fall into the Atlantic Ocean, to the northwesternmost head of Connecticut River; thence down along the middle of that river to the forty-fifth degree of north latitude; from thence by a line due west on said latitude until it strikes the river Iroquois or Cataraquy; thence along the middle of said river into Lake Ontario; through the middle of said lake until it strikes the communication by water between that lake and Lake Erie; thence along the middle of said communication into Lake Erie, through the middle of said lake until it arrives at the water communication between that lake and Lake Huron; thence along the middle of said water communication into Lake Huron, thence through the middle of said lake to the water communication between that lake and Lake Superior; thence through Lake Superior northward of the Isles Royal and Phelipeaux to the Long Lake; thence through the middle of said Long Lake and the water communication between it and the Lake of the Woods, to the said Lake of the Woods; thence through the said lake to the most northwesternmost point thereof, and from thence on a due west course to the river Mississippi; thence by a line to be drawn along the middle of the said river Mississippi until it shall intersect the northernmost part of the thirty-first degree of north latitude, South, by a line to be drawn due east from the determination of the line last mentioned in the latitude of thirty-one degrees of the equator, to the middle of the river Apalachicola or Catahouche; thence along the middle thereof to its junction with the Flint River, thence straight to the head of Saint Mary's River; and thence down along the middle of Saint Mary's River to the Atlantic Ocean; east, by a line to be drawn along the middle of the river Saint Croix, from its mouth in the Bay of Fundy to its source, and from its source directly north to the aforesaid highlands which divide the rivers that fall into the Atlantic Ocean from those which fall into the river Saint Lawrence; comprehending all islands within twenty leagues of any part of the shores of the United States, and lying between lines to be drawn due east from the points where the aforesaid boundaries between Nova Scotia on the one part and East Florida on the other shall, respectively, touch the Bay of Fundy and the Atlantic Ocean, excepting such islands as now are or heretofore have been within the limits of the said province of Nova Scotia.

Article 3:
It is agreed that the people of the United States shall continue to enjoy unmolested the right to take fish of every kind on the Grand Bank and on all the other banks of Newfoundland, also in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and at all other places in the sea, where the inhabitants of both countries used at any time heretofore to fish. And also that the inhabitants of the United States shall have liberty to take fish of every kind on such part of the coast of Newfoundland as British fishermen shall use, (but not to dry or cure the same on that island) and also on the coasts, bays and creeks of all other of his Britannic Majesty's dominions in America; and that the American fishermen shall have liberty to dry and cure fish in any of the unsettled bays, harbors, and creeks of Nova Scotia, Magdalen Islands, and Labrador, so long as the same shall remain unsettled, but so soon as the same or either of them shall be settled, it shall not be lawful for the said fishermen to dry or cure fish at such settlement without a previous agreement for that purpose with the inhabitants, proprietors, or possessors of the ground.

Article 4:
It is agreed that creditors on either side shall meet with no lawful impediment to the recovery of the full value in sterling money of all bona fide debts heretofore contracted.

Article 5:
It is agreed that Congress shall earnestly recommend it to the legislatures of the respective states to provide for the restitution of all estates, rights, and properties, which have been confiscated belonging to real British subjects; and also of the estates, rights, and properties of persons resident in districts in the possession on his Majesty's arms and who have not borne arms against the said United States. And that persons of any other description shall have free liberty to go to any part or parts of any of the thirteen United States and therein to remain twelve months unmolested in their endeavors to obtain the restitution of such of their estates, rights, and properties as may have been confiscated; and that Congress shall also earnestly recommend to the several states a reconsideration and revision of all acts or laws regarding the premises, so as to render the said laws or acts perfectly consistent not only with justice and equity but with that spirit of conciliation which on the return of the blessings of peace should universally prevail. And that Congress shall also earnestly recommend to the several states that the estates, rights, and properties, of such last mentioned persons shall be restored to them, they refunding to any persons who may be now in possession the bona fide price (where any has been given) which such persons may have paid on purchasing any of the said lands, rights, or properties since the confiscation.

And it is agreed that all persons who have any interest in confiscated lands, either by debts, marriage settlements, or otherwise, shall meet with no lawful impediment in the prosecution of their just rights.

Article 6:
That there shall be no future confiscations made nor any prosecutions commenced against any person or persons for, or by reason of, the part which he or they may have taken in the present war, and that no person shall on that account suffer any future loss or damage, either in his person, liberty, or property; and that those who may be in confinement on such charges at the time of the ratification of the treaty in America shall be immediately set at liberty, and the prosecutions so commenced be discontinued.

Article 7:
There shall be a firm and perpetual peace between his Britannic Majesty and the said states, and between the subjects of the one and the citizens of the other, wherefore all hostilities both by sea and land shall from henceforth cease. All prisoners on both sides shall be set at liberty, and his Brittanic Majesty shall with all convenient speed, and without causing any destruction, or carrying away any Negroes or other property of the American inhabitants, withdraw all his armies, garrisons, and fleets from the said United States, and from every post, place, and harbor within the same; leaving in all fortifications, the American artilery that may be therein; and shall also order and cause all archives, records, deeds, and papers belonging to any of the said states, or their citizens, which in the course of the war may have fallen into the hands of his officers, to be forthwith restored and delivered to the proper states and persons to whom they belong.

Article 8:
The navigation of the river Mississippi, from its source to the ocean, shall forever remain free and open to the subjects of Great Britain and the citizens of the United States.

Article 9:
In case it should so happen that any place or territory belonging to Great Britain or to the United States should have been conquered by the arms of either from the other before the arrival of the said Provisional Articles in America, it is agreed that the same shall be restored without difficulty and without requiring any compensation.

Article 10:
The solemn ratifications of the present treaty expedited in good and due form shall be exchanged between the contracting parties in the space of six months or sooner, if possible, to be computed from the day of the signatures of the present treaty. In witness whereof we the undersigned, their ministers plenipotentiary, have in their name and in virtue of our full powers, signed with our hands the present definitive treaty and caused the seals of our arms to be affixed thereto.

Done at Paris, this third day of September in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-three.


On November 22nd, John Thaxter, Jr., John Adams' private secretary, arrived in Philadelphia and presented the Treaty of Paris to President Thomas Mifflin for ratification consideration by the United States in Congress Assembled (USCA) in Annapolis.  Mifflin concerned over the nine state quorum challenges necessary to ratify the treaty, wrote the Governors of the states from Philadelphia, on November 23, 1783 this circular letter.

"I have the honor to inform you, that Mr. [John] Thaxter, the private Secretary to Mr. [John] Adams, arrived here from France last evening; being dispatched, by our Minister at Paris [Benjamin Franklin], with a copy of the definitive treaty of peace between the United States of America and Great Britain; which was signed on the 3rd of September last. As I find by the last article of the treaty, it is stipulated that 'the ratifications thereof, expedited in good & due form, shall be exchanged between the contracting parties in the space of six months or sooner if possible'; to be computed from the day of the signature; and as much of that time is elapsed, I think it proper to give your Excellency this information, to the end that the delegates of your State may be impressed with the necessity of their attending in Congress as soon as possible..."[80]

As feared by President Mifflin, the USCA failed to achieve a quorum in November and well into December only managing the lower limit of seven states on the 13th to convene the Annapolis Congress. 

The severe winter of 1783–1784, due to the volcanic eruption of Laki in Iceland, prevented delegates from five of the thirteen States from attending the USCA. The Treaty stipulated that the USCA was required to approve and return the document to England within six months of September 3, 1783. It was January 3rd, 1784, four months into the timeframe, and a ratified treaty would take 45 days to cross the Atlantic.  Time was now of the essence.

A quorum of seven States was present and one faction of the USCA argued these states could ratify the treaty because they were merely approving and not entering into a treaty. Furthermore, it was unlikely that the required delegates could reach Annapolis before the ratification deadline. Thomas Jefferson led the delegates who insisted that a full nine states were required to ratify the treaty. Any less, Jefferson argued, would be chicanery and a "dishonorable prostitution" of the Great Seal of the United States.   Additionally, a seven state ratified Treaty would open the door to Great Britain declaring it null and void at later date when the King learned the USCA did not meet the constitutional nine state requirement.

Jefferson headed a committee of both factions and arrived at a compromise. The USCA would ratify with only seven states present if the vote was unanimous and this would not set a precedent for future decisions. The treaty would be forwarded to the US ministers in Europe who would be instructed to request a delay of three months. If Great Britain should insist on the meeting the deadline, then the Ministers should present the seven-state treaty ratification.  Shortly after the committee disbanded an eighth state arrived and was in favor of the Treaty’s ratification.  On January 13th, the convention needed one more delegate to gain the nine states necessary to ratify the treaty. The following day, South Carolina Representative Richard Beresford, who was ill, arrived in Maryland achieving a quorum. The vote was immediately taken upon on his arrival and on January 14, 1784 and the treaty passed unanimously.  The USCA resolved 

Unanimously, nine states being present, that the said definitive treaty be, and the same is hereby ratified by the United States in Congress assembled, in the form following  A Proclamation To all persons to whom these presents shall come greeting: Whereas definitive articles of peace and friendship between the United States of America and his Britannic majesty, were concluded and signed at Paris on the 3d day of September, 1783, by the plenipotentiaries of the said United States, and of his said Britannic Majesty, duly and respectively authorized for that purpose; which definitive articles are in the words following:

 ‘The Most Holy and Undivided Trinity ... Done at Paris, this third day of September, in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-three. (L. S.) D. Hartley, (L. S.) John Adams, (L. S.) B. Franklin, (L. S.) John Jay.’ 

In testimony whereof, we have caused the seal of the United States to be hereunto affixed. Witness his Excellency Thomas Mifflin, our President, this fourteenth day of January in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty four and in the eighth year of the sovereignty and independence of the United States of America.
Resolved, that the said ratification be transmitted with all possible despatch, under the care of a faithful person, to our ministers in France, who have negotiated the treaty, to be exchanged.

Resolved, that Colonel Josiah Harmar be appointed to carry the said ratification.  [87]

Three copies were sent by separate couriers to ensure delivery.

United States in Congress Assembled  Treaty of Paris Ratification Proclamation signed by President Thomas Mifflin and Secretary Charles Thomson.

Journals of the United States in Congress Assembled Containing  the Proceedings From the Third Day of November, 1783 to the Third Day of June, 1784 Open to the January 14th, 1784 vote on the Treaty of Paris Ratification.  Note that the Journals record that 11 of the 13 States had a total of 23 delegates present during the ratification vote.   The States of New Hampshire and New Jersey did not meet the two Delegate minimum per State mandated by the Articles of Confederation so their State's votes are not counted being marked with a black circle rather than the ay.  The remaining nine States that voted ay on the ratification met the Articles of Confederation State quorum minimum of nine to enact a Treaty.   - -- Image Courtesy of 

King George III did not ratify the treaty for Great Britain until April 9, 1784 and his signature officially ended the American War for Independence. At the writing of this chapter I am pleased to report the Treaty Proclamation is currently displayed prominently at the National Archives in Washington D.C. with Mifflin's signature, as “Our President,” boldly penned just under the Great Seal of the United States and opposite of “In the name of the most Holy and Undivided Trinity.”(See above)

[1] King George IIIAn act to enable His Majesty to conclude a peace or truce with certain Colonies in North America Colonies in North America therein Mentioned.  Printed Charles Eyre and William Strahan, London, September 21, 1782.
[2] The Diplomatic Correspondence of the American Revolution, Published By. John C. Rives, Washington, DC: 1857, page 462. (hereinafter DCAR, 1857)
[3] A fourth U.S. Peace Commissioner, former President Henry Laurens, arrived in Paris in late November 1782. John Adams wrote … that Congress had, three or four years ago, when they did me the honor to give me a commission to make a treaty of commerce with Great Britain, given me a positive instruction not to make any such treaty without an article in the treaty of peace acknowledging our right to the fishery; that I was happy Mr. Laurens was now present, who, I believed, was in Congress at the time and must remember it. Mr. Laurens upon this said, with great firmness, that he was in the same case and could never give his voice for any articles without this. Mr. Jay spoke up, and said it could not be a peace; it would only be an insidious truce without it.--  John Adams diary 37, 22 - 30 November 1782. Original manuscript from the Adams Family Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society, page three.
[4] comte de Vergennes Charles Gravier (1717—1787) was a French Foreign Minister serving during the reign of Louis XVI during the American War of Independence.  In 1777, he informed the United Colonies commissioners that France recognized the United States and together they formed the Franco-American Alliance. Vergennes was circumvented by the commissioners in 1782-83 when they negotiated an end to the Revolutionary War with Great Britain without France's participation.

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