Treaty of Paris (1783)

The American victory in its war of independence from Britain was in large measure due to its alliance with France. That alliance had been negotiated with the explicit understanding that there would be no separate peace between Britain and America without French cooperation. However, Benjamin Franklin, as the chief American negotiator, recognized that the objectives of his country did not entirely match those of France. France was interested in replacing Britain as the European power on which America depended. The British were anxious that this relationship not develop, and consequently offered separate and generous terms.

The Treaty of Paris was signed between Britain and America on September 3, 1783, and quickly ratified by Congress. It provided for:

  • The recognition of American independence
  • The establishment of American boundaries between the Atlantic on the east to the Mississippi River on the west, and from the 49th parallel and Great Lakes on the north to the 31st parallel on the south (or everything east of the Mississippi except the Floridas and New Orleans)
  • The recognition of American fishing rights along the Newfoundland banks, a point sought by the New England interests
  • The pledge of the Continental Congress to "earnestly recommend" to the states that they settle property issues with the Loyalists, a provision insisted upon by the British.

Amid the hoopla and self-congratulation at the end of the war, one sobering fact slowly dawned on the American consciousness. The victorious nation had accumulated a massive debt – more than $11 million in national debt and state debts of more than $65 million. The war's cost significantly impacted later events.

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A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America by Stacy Schiff.
Benjamin Franklin began the "the most taxing assignment of his life" at the age of 70: to secure the aid of the French monarchy in helping the fledgli...
The Perils of Peace: America's Struggle for Survival After Yorktown by Thomas James Fleming.
On October 19, 1781, Great Britain's best army surrendered to General George Washington at Yorktown. But the future of the 13 former colonies was far ...