We Are Free! The Treaty of Paris

We all know about July 4th! It's the day we declared our freedom from Great Britain.  Well, today is the day the Treaty of Paris was signed by Britain!  This meant we were officially free.  Even though in our hearts and minds, we knew we were free, this is the day Britain finally agreed to let us go and govern ourselves as a free country!

Fife and Drum Corps

The peace discussions started in April of 1782.  Imagine that!  A year and five months later the treaty was signed.  Apparently Congress want the delegates to consult with the French, but they didn't want to consult another country on what was right for us.  So, instead, they agreed on the treaty on November 30, 1782, then Congress looked it over.  Congress approved it on April 14, 1783 and it was finally signed today!

The treaty not only recognized the United States as a free and independent country, but also outlined the borders - west to the Mississippi River, north to Canada, south to about Florida, and of course east to the Atlantic Ocean.  At the time, Florida belonged to Spain.  The last of the British soldiers were removed from the United States in November of 1783.

colonial rider spreading the word

So, here's your question - if Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown in 1781, why did it take two more years for Britain to finally agree to let the colonists go?  Remember there were no telephones, fax machines, or computers back then.  Just because Cornwallis surrendered did not mean everyone knew about it.  Many battles were still being fought across the colonies by loyalists and British troops who did not want it to be over.  Also, remember it took a long time for word to reach people over the wilderness.  King George himself did not receive word of Cornwallis' surrender for almost 4 months. Then he had to go over the information with Parliament.  King George did not want to give up but Parliament was tired of fighting a war so far away and spending so much money doing so.  Once they decided to stop fighting, they had to send word to their troops.  This took months!!!!!

George Washington speaks to citizens

Travel across the Atlantic took weeks.  Our new Congress sent John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay to represent the new United States.  All three men signed the treaty.

Article 1 acknowledges the United States as separate but equal states that are part of one and the same country. The king agrees to treat them as a single country and that his heirs will do so as well.

Article 2 recognizes the boundaries that I mentioned above in very specific detail - to certain water landmarks - such as the Missiissippi, the Atlantic, as well as lines of latitude.

Article 3 allows the United States to have certain fishing rights in the waters surrounding New Foundland and  Nova Scotia in Canada.

Article 4 allows for creditors from both new countries to still recovery any debts owed them in full value.  For example, if you owed a shopkeep 50 pounds before the war, you still had to pay them.

Article 5 gave back any confiscated lands or estates to Loyalists who still reside in the new United States of America. Anyone who decides to remain in the United States shall become a citizen after 12 months time.

Article 6 states no action will be taken against the Loyalists in the future and none of their belongings will be confiscated.  If they are imprisoned, they shall be set free to live in peace.

Article 7 states there shall be peace between the new United States and Britain in the future.  It also states that all British troops shall leave the colonies and the forts shall be vacated.  Any land confiscated by British troops shall be returned to their rightful owners.

Article 8 states that the Mississippi River shall be free to all countries to navigate.

Article 9 states that any territory captured by either side during the war shall be returned to the proper country.

Article 10 states that all the above shall take place within 6 months of the signing of the treaty or sooner.

Once John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay signed the treaty it was an official document.  The first one that completely and legally recognizes the United States as a free and independent country.


Yorktown captured artillery

American Flag - Redoubt 10 - captured by the  Patriots

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