What Was the Treaty of Paris?

Commemorative stamp of the signing of the Treaty of Paris. Editorial credit: tristan tan / Shutterstock.com

The Paris Treaty was signed by British and US representatives in September 1783, formally ending the American Revolutionary War. The treaty was negotiated by three American statesmen including John Jay, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin. The treaty recognized the Thirteen Colonies as the independent nation of the United States of America. The treaty also gave the new nation the Northwest Territory and paved the way for future westward expansion. The treaty also addressed the issue of American debts owed to British creditors, allowed the navigation of the Mississippi by vessels belonging to the United States, and secured the fishing rights to the Grand Banks.

The American Revolutionary War

The last battle in the war was fought in Yorktown. American troops led by George Washington with the assistance of French forces surrounded and captured Charles Cornwallis, a British general and the 9,000 troops he was leading. The news of the defeat soon reached England leading to a drop in the support for the war in the British Parliament. The decreasing appetite for the war led the British to initiate negotiations with the United States to bring the Revolutionary War to an end. In the United States, a small group of statesmen was appointed by the Continental Congress to negotiate the peace treaty in Europe. The group consisted of John Jay, Henry Laurens, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin. However, Henry Laurens was captured by the Royal Navy and Thomas Jefferson was also unable to join the negotiations in Europe leaving the task to the remaining statesmen. Benjamin Franklin had at the time been serving as an ambassador to France and had helped secure the assistance of the French during the war.

The Beginning of the Peace Negotiations

The peace negotiations began in 1782 but stalled on the matter of United States Independence. The election of a more agreeable British Parliament later accepted the American Independence. Lord Shelburne, the newly elected Prime Minister, supported the recognition of American Independence as it would allow the British to establish a profitable relationship with the new country without having to bear the military and administrative costs related to running colonies. It also allowed the British to avoid the problem of the rebellious colonists. The British therefore made significant concessions in a treaty that was largely favorable to the United States. The treaty nearly doubled the size of the new nation as it recognized the Northwest Territory as part of the United States.

Other Treaties Negotiated at the Time

Other nations that had fought against the British in the course of the American Revolutionary War also negotiated separate peace treaties that were concluded in September 1783. The nations included Spain, the Netherlands, and France.

Jay’s Treaty

The Treaty of Paris left several unresolved issues that led to continued tensions between the United States and Great Britian. The issues included the refusal by the British to relinquish several forts in the Northwest Territory and the confiscation of property belonging British loyalists by the United States. The issues were resolved when John Jay went back to Europe to negotiate a treaty that is commonly referred to as Jay's Treaty.


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