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Definition: Treaty of Paris, 1763 from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Treaty ending the Seven Years' War 1756–63, signed by Britain, France, and Spain.

Under the terms of the treaty Britain gained all of Canada, America east of the Mississippi Valley, Florida, and several islands in the Caribbean, as well as areas in India and the East Indies acquired by France after 1749.

Summary Article: PARIS, TREATY OF
From Encyclopedia of U.S. Political History


The Treaty of Paris (1783) was an agreement between Great Britain and the United States of America that officially ended the Revolutionary War and recognized the 13 former colonies as free and sovereign.

In 1782, the Continental Congress appointed five men to negotiate a treaty with the British that would grant the United States its independence: Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, John Adams of Massachusetts, John Jay of New York, Henry Laurens of South Carolina, and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia. Jefferson never made the voyage, Laurens was captured by the British and imprisoned in the Tower of London, Jay was negotiating with Spain in Madrid, and Adams was negotiating with Holland in Amsterdam, so Franklin was the lead negotiator until Adams, Jay, and Laurens arrived in 1782. The Continental Congress had stipulated that the negotiators conduct their business under the leadership of France. Jay and Adams, however, suspected that France's foreign minister, Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes, sought to delay the signing of the treaty, and they persuaded Franklin to conduct negotiations with Britain separately, away from the watchful eye of Vergennes. Britain was prepared to grant more liberal terms than Vergennes anticipated, hoping to thus drive a wedge between the alliance of the United States and France.

The main issues of contention between the British and the United States were boundaries, fisheries, Loyalists, and debts. The United States wanted to enlarge its boundaries as far as possible and sought to retain rights to all the fisheries it had used before the war; some of the richest fisheries were off the Canadian coast. Several states had confiscated the property of Loyalists and did not want to provide compensation. Some U.S. citizens owed debts to British creditors, and the United States wanted to avoid payment.

Although a preliminary treaty was signed on November 30, 1782, the treaty was not finalized until September 3, 1783. The treaty set the northern boundaries of the United States at the river-and-lake line west from where the latitude of 45° strikes the Saint Lawrence River, beyond Lake Superior to the Lake of the Woods, and then south to the headwaters of the Mississippi River, on the west along the Mississippi River, and on the southern boundary with Florida, 31° latitude to the Saint Marys River. The treaty stipulated that the United States would be granted "liberty" to all the fisheries accessed before the war, but it was allowed to dry the fish only in certain places. Loyalists were granted six months to remove their effects from the former colonies, but Britain was unable to secure full restoration. The United States met the demand for full restoration of Loyalist property by a counterdemand: that the slaves whom Britain had helped to escape during the war be considered "property" for which Britain must pay. Thus, the property of the Loyalists remained largely unrestored. Another issue of contention was the boundary of Maine, which would remain unresolved until the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842. The United States agreed, however, to repay the debts it had incurred before 1775 to British creditors.

The Treaty of Paris officially granted the United States its independence and was the impetus for peace on a larger scale, as France and Spain also signed separate treaties with Britain on September 3, 1783. Many of the issues that the Treaty of Paris was supposed to resolve, including borders and the treatment of Loyalists, remained troublesome despite attempts to solve them by the Jay Treaty in 1794; Britain went to war with the United States in 1812.

Bibliography and Further Reading
  • Bemis, Samuel Flagg. The Diplomacy of the American Revolution. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1983.
  • Jedson, Lee. The Treaty of Paris, 1783: A Primary Source Examination of the Treaty That Recognized American Independence. New York: Rosen Central, 2005.
  • Morris, Richard B. The Peacemakers: The Great Powers and American Independence. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1983.
  • Wait, Thomas B., ed. Secret Journals of the Acts and Proceedings of Congress. Boston: Wait, 1820-1821.
  • Wharton, Francis, ed. Diplomatic Correspondence of the American Revolution. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1889.
Micah D. Childress
© 2010 CQ Press, A Division of SAGE

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