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The Signing of the Treaty of Paris - This Day in History - September 3rd

Posted on Thursday, September 3, 2020

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On This Day in History, September 3rd, The Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783

1783 painting by Benjamin West depicting the signing of the Treaty of Paris which was left incomplete after the British Delegation refused to pose

Following America's decisive victory at the Battle of Yorktown on October 19, 1781, large scale fighting in the American Revolutionary War had come to an end. Although the fighting on the battlefield had ceased, the diplomatic fight between the nations was just beginning. It was months before both sides would even come to the bargaining table, but negotiations finally began in April of 1782. Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, John Jay, and Henry Laurens represented the Americans, who were also joined by Franklin's secretary, his grandson, William Temple Franklin. 

Initially the British struck very hard terms, refusing to even recognize the independence of the United States, which was of course a major issue for the American delegation. Further complicating the matters were America's allies, France,Spain and the Netherlands. These nations assisted the Americans financially and militarily(especially the French), and their aid was crucial in America's victory. However now that the war was coming to a close, America's allies had become more concerned with negotiating terms with the British that would be most favorable to themselves.

After months of stalled negotiations and the start of growing schism between America and its allies, the British elected a new Prime Minister, Lord Shelburne. Shelburne took a very different tact with the Americans upon taking control of the negotiations. Recognizing the rift between America and France, Shelburne saw an opportunity. Rather than take a hard line with the Americans, Shelburne instead decided to offer the Americans significant concessions in exchange for negotiating directly with the British without the involvement of the French and Spanish. Shelburne not only offered America its independence, but he also handed over the Northwest Territory, a massive tract of land that doubled the area of the United States and included the land where the present-day states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin are currently located. 

In return the American delegation agreed to honor debts owed to the British and to give fair treatment to loyalists and allow them to attempt to reclaim their property. But most importantly for the British, the British would once again be able to trade with the Americans.

The treaty was drafted on November 30, 1782, and then almost a year later, after resolving the final disagreements between the two nations, the Treaty of Paris was signed on September 3rd, 1783 at the Hotel d'York in Paris. The Treaty of Paris, officially ended the Revolutionary War in America's favor and granted them the independence that America had declared over seven years earlier.

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