The Treaty of Paris, A.D 1783

The American Revolutionary War began April 19, 1775, a date celebrated as a public holiday in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the State of Maine. The war became a fight for independence with the July 1776 adoption by the Americans' Continental Congress of the Declaration of Independence. Coming to aid of the American cause were the Kingdom of France, the Dutch Republic, and the Kingdom of Spain. Provisional Articles of Peace were signed at Paris on November 30, 1782. The final Treaty was signed September 3, 1783. It was ratified by Congress on January 14, 1784, and by the King of Great Britain on April 9, 1784. Ratification documents were exchanged in Paris on May 12, 1784.

The American negotiators, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay, secured from one of the largest and most sophisticated world powers a treaty which contained not only an unconditional acknowledgment of American independence, but also important provisions establishing the territory of the United States as stretching from Canada to Florida and from the Atlantic to the Mississippi. American commercial interests were protected by a provision for Americans to continue to fish the waters of the Atlantic off Canada.

In the name of the most holy and undivided Trinity.

It having pleased the Divine Providence to dispose the hearts of the most serene and most potent Prince George the Third, by the grace of God, king of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, defender of the faith, duke of Brunswick and Lunebourg, arch-treasurer and prince elector of the Holy Roman Empire etc., and of the United States of America, to forget all past misunderstandings and differences that have unhappily interrupted the good correspondence and friendship which they mutually wish to restore, and to establish such a beneficial and satisfactory intercourse, between the two countries upon the ground of reciprocal advantages and mutual convenience as may promote and secure to both perpetual peace and harmony; and having for this desirable end already laid the foundation of peace and reconciliation by the Provisional Articles signed at Paris on the 30th of November 1782, by the commissioners empowered on each part, which articles were agreed to be inserted in and constitute the Treaty of Peace proposed to be concluded between the Crown of Great Britain and the said United States, but which treaty was not to be concluded until terms of peace should be agreed upon between Great Britain and France /1/ and his Britannic Majesty should be ready to conclude such treaty accordingly; and the treaty between Great Britain and France having since been concluded, his Britannic Majesty and the United States of America, in order to carry into full effect the Provisional Articles above mentioned, according to the tenor thereof, have constituted and appointed, that is to say his Britannic Majesty on his part, David Hartley, Esqr., member of the Parliament of Great Britain, and the said United States on their part, John Adams, Esqr., late a commissioner of the United States of America at the court of Versailles, late delegate in Congress from the state of Massachusetts, and chief justice of the said state, and minister plenipotentiary of the said United States to their high mightinesses the States General of the United Netherlands /2/; Benjamin Franklin, Esqr., late delegate in Congress from the state of Pennsylvania, president of the convention of the said state, and minister plenipotentiary from the United States of America at the court of Versailles; John Jay, Esqr., late president of Congress and chief justice of the state of New York, and minister plenipotentiary from the said United States at the court of Madrid /3/; to be plenipotentiaries for the concluding and signing the present definitive treaty; who after having reciprocally communicated their respective full powers have agreed upon and confirmed the following articles.

1. Britain recognizes the 13 original states as free sovereign and independent states.

Article 1:

His Brittanic Majesty acknowledges the said United States, viz., New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, to be free sovereign and independent states, that he treats with them as such, and for himself, his heirs, and successors, relinquishes all claims to the government, propriety, and territorial rights of the same and every part thereof.

2. The boundaries of the United States are established as running from Canada to Florida and from the Atlantic to the Mississippi.

Article 2:
Map source: Epochs of American History: Formation of the Union 1750-1829, Albert Bushnell Hart, 1892, Revised (1925) Edition, Longmans, Green and Co., New York, 1926.
And that all disputes which might arise in future on the subject of the boundaries of the said United States may be prevented, it is hereby agreed and declared, that the following are and shall be their boundaries, viz.; from the northwest angle of Nova Scotia, viz., that angle which is formed by a line drawn due north from the source of St. Croix River to the highlands; along the said highlands which divide those rivers that empty themselves into the river St. Lawrence, from those which fall into the Atlantic Ocean, to the northwesternmost head of Connecticut River; thence down along the middle of that river to the forty-fifth degree of north latitude; from thence by a line due west on said latitude until it strikes the river Iroquois or Cataraquy; thence along the middle of said river into Lake Ontario; through the middle of said lake until it strikes the communication by water between that lake and Lake Erie; thence along the middle of said communication into Lake Erie, through the middle of said lake until it arrives at the water communication between that lake and Lake Huron; thence along the middle of said water communication into Lake Huron, thence through the middle of said lake to the water communication between that lake and Lake Superior; thence through Lake Superior northward of the Isles Royal and Phelipeaux to the Long Lake; thence through the middle of said Long Lake and the water communication between it and the Lake of the Woods, to the said Lake of the Woods; thence through the said lake to the most northwesternmost point thereof, and from thence on a due west course to the river Mississippi; thence by a line to be drawn along the middle of the said river Mississippi until it shall intersect the northernmost part of the thirty-first degree of north latitude, South, by a line to be drawn due east from the determination of the line last mentioned in the latitude of thirty-one degrees of the equator, to the middle of the river Apalachicola or Catahouche; thence along the middle thereof to its junction with the Flint River, thence straight to the head of Saint Mary's River; and thence down along the middle of Saint Mary's River to the Atlantic Ocean; east, by a line to be drawn along the middle of the river Saint Croix, from its mouth in the Bay of Fundy to its source, and from its source directly north to the aforesaid highlands which divide the rivers that fall into the Atlantic Ocean from those which fall into the river Saint Lawrence; comprehending all islands within twenty leagues of any part of the shores of the United States, and lying between lines to be drawn due east from the points where the aforesaid boundaries between Nova Scotia on the one part and East Florida on the other shall, respectively, touch the Bay of Fundy and the Atlantic Ocean, excepting such islands as now are or heretofore have been within the limits of the said province of Nova Scotia. /4/

3. Britain recognizes the right of Americans to fish the Atlantic waters off Canadian.

Article 3:

It is agreed that the people of the United States shall continue to enjoy unmolested the right to take fish of every kind on the Grand Bank and on all the other banks of Newfoundland, also in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and at all other places in the sea, where the inhabitants of both countries used at any time heretofore to fish. And also that the inhabitants of the United States shall have liberty to take fish of every kind on such part of the coast of Newfoundland as British fishermen shall use, (but not to dry or cure the same on that island) and also on the coasts, bays and creeks of all other of his Brittanic Majesty's dominions in America; and that the American fishermen shall have liberty to dry and cure fish in any of the unsettled bays, harbors, and creeks of Nova Scotia, Magdalen Islands, and Labrador, so long as the same shall remain unsettled, but so soon as the same or either of them shall be settled, it shall not be lawful for the said fishermen to dry or cure fish at such settlement without a previous agreement for that purpose with the inhabitants, proprietors, or possessors of the ground. /5/

4. Both side agree that creditors on either side shall be able to collect.

Article 4:

It is agreed that creditors on either side shall meet with no lawful impediment to the recovery of the full value in sterling money of all bona fide debts heretofore contracted.

5. The U.S. agrees to earnestly recommend to the legislatures of the states to provide for the restitution to British Loyalists whose property had been taken.

Article 5:

It is agreed that Congress shall earnestly recommend it to the legislatures of the respective states to provide for the restitution of all estates, rights, and properties, which have been confiscated belonging to real British subjects; and also of the estates, rights, and properties of persons resident in districts in the possession on his Majesty's arms and who have not borne arms against the said United States. And that persons of any other decription shall have free liberty to go to any part or parts of any of the thirteen United States and therein to remain twelve months unmolested in their endeavors to obtain the restitution of such of their estates, rights, and properties as may have been confiscated; and that Congress shall also earnestly recommend to the several states a reconsideration and revision of all acts or laws regarding the premises, so as to render the said laws or acts perfectly consistent not only with justice and equity but with that spirit of conciliation which on the return of the blessings of peace should universally prevail. And that Congress shall also earnestly recommend to the several states that the estates, rights, and properties, of such last mentioned persons shall be restored to them, they refunding to any persons who may be now in possession the bona fide price (where any has been given) which such persons may have paid on purchasing any of the said lands, rights, or properties since the confiscation. /6/

And it is agreed that all persons who have any interest in confiscated lands, either by debts, marriage settlements, or otherwise, shall meet with no lawful impediment in the prosecution of their just rights.

6. Both sides agree that there shall be amnesty for actions taken in war.

Article 6:

That there shall be no future confiscations made nor any prosecutions commenced against any person or persons for, or by reason of, the part which he or they may have taken in the present war, and that no person shall on that account suffer any future loss or damage, either in his person, liberty, or property; and that those who may be in confinement on such charges at the time of the ratification of the treaty in America shall be immediately set at liberty, and the prosecutions so commenced be discontinued.

7. All prisoners of war are to be released and Britain agrees to quit all places it occupies in the U.S.

Article 7:

There shall be a firm and perpetual peace between his Brittanic Majesty and the said states, and between the subjects of the one and the citizens of the other, wherefore all hostilities both by sea and land shall from henceforth cease. All prisoners on both sides shall be set at liberty, and his Brittanic Majesty shall with all convenient speed, and without causing any destruction, or carrying away any Negroes or other property of the American inhabitants, withdraw all his armies, garrisons, and fleets from the said United States, and from every post, place, and harbor within the same; leaving in all fortifications, the American artilery that may be therein; and shall also order and cause all archives, records, deeds, and papers belonging to any of the said states, or their citizens, which in the course of the war may have fallen into the hands of his officers, to be forthwith restored and delivered to the proper states and persons to whom they belong.

8. The navigation of the river Mississippi shall be open to both British and Americans.

Article 8:

The navigation of the river Mississippi, from its source to the ocean, shall forever remain free and open to the subjects of Great Britain and the citizens of the United States /7/.

9. Any territory gained after November 30, 1782, when Provisional Articles were signed at Paris, shall be returned.

Article 9:

In case it should so happen that any place or territory belonging to Great Britain or to the United States should have been conquered by the arms of either from the other before the arrival of the said Provisional Articles in America, it is agreed that the same shall be restored without difficulty and without requiring any compensation.

10. Solemn ratifications of the present treaty expedited in good and due form shall be exchanged between the contracting parties in the space of six months or sooner.

Article 10:

The solemn ratifications of the present treaty expedited in good and due form shall be exchanged between the contracting parties in the space of six months or sooner, if possible, to be computed from the day of the signatures of the present treaty. In witness whereof we the undersigned, their ministers plenipotentiary, have in their name and in virtue of our full powers, signed with our hands the present definitive treaty and caused the seals of our arms to be affixed thereto.

Done at Paris, this third day of September in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-three.



/1/ France formally recognized the United States on February 6, 1778, being the first European power so to do, and Britain declared war on France on March 17, 1778.

/2/ The United Netherlands, also known as the Dutch Republic (1581 to 1795) consisted of the Duchy of Guelders, Holland, Zeeland, the former Bishopric of Utrecht, the Lordship of Overijssel, the Province of Friesland, and the Province of Groningen. In April 1782 the United Netherlands became the second European country to recognize American Independence. Even before that the Dutch, supposedly neutral, were trading with the Americans and the British considered that to be illegal support of the Americans and declared war on the Netherlands in 1780. That conflict, the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War, was not ended until 1784.

/3/ By the terms of the Treaty of Aranjuez, signed April 12, 1779 between France and Spain, France agreed to aid Spain in the capture of Gibraltar, the Floridas, and the island of Minorca from the British; in return, Spain agreed to join in France’s war against Britain including entering the Revolutionary War on the American side.

/4/ As may be seen by consulting this map of British North America in 1775, the territorial bounds of the United States agreed to in the Treaty were substantially larger than the settled area of each of the former colonies and extended from the Atlantic Coast to the Mississippi River. Massachusetts, Connecticut, Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia all had extensive western lands. With the exception of Florida, which was Spainish territory, the United States of 1783 was, geographical, substantially identical to the United States east of the Mississippi today. However, the lines were, in some cases, based on faulty maps, and adjustments were made by the treaty of Ghent (1814).

Vermont, whose territory had been claimed by both New Hampshire and New York declared itself an independent republic in 1776 and joined the Union as th 14th state in 1791. Massachusetts's Maine province became the 23rd state in 1820 under a compromise that admitted Maine as a free state and Missouri as a slave-holding state.

The states of Kentucky (15th in 1792), Tennessee (16th in 1796), Mississippi (20th in 1817), and Alabma (22nd in 1819) were erected in the western lands of Virginia, North and south Carolina, and Georgia.

The states of Ohio (17th in 1803), Indiana (19th in 1816), Illinois (21st in 1818), Michigan (26th in 1837), and Wisconsin (30th in 1848) were erected in the western lands of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Virginia under the terms of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.

/5/ The importance of fishing in the economy of the colonies and the early Republic is acknowledge by The Sacred Cod, which hangs in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. It was given to the House in 1784 by a Boston merchant, Jonathan Rowe. It is carved out of pine and is five feet long. According to the Massachusetts Studies Project (http://www.msp.umb.edu/.

The cod that is there now is the third carving under which Massachusetts lawmakers have sat. The first was destroyed in a fire at the Old State House in 1747, and the next was destroyed during the Revolutionary War The third cod dates from 1784, but no one is sure who carved it. It has faithfully followed the House of Representatives wherever it went, from the Old State House to the new House Chamber in 1895. The cod has been there ever since, except for the time in 1933 when it was "cod-napped" by members of the Harvard Lampoon magazine. The practical jokers soon returned the cod and it now hangs once again over the House.

/6/ Note that under the Articles of Confederation in effect from 1777 until superseded by the Constitution in 1787, the United States had no power to compell, but could merely "earnestly recommed" a State to act.

/7/. Although the Treaty provides for free navigation of the Mississippi by the United States and Britain, both sides of the mouth of the Mississippi were in Spanish territory and Spain hindered American access to the river due to disagreement over the boundary between Spanish West Florida and the U.S. This was not resolved until 1795 with Pinckney's Treaty. Britain's access to the Mississippi ended with the breaking of this treaty in the War of 1812. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1911 edtion)

By the treaty of Versailles, 1783, it was provided that "the navigation of the Mississippi shall for ever remain free and open to the subjects of Great Britain and the citizens of the United States." But the United States afterwards acquired Louisiana and Florida; and, the stipulation as to British subjects not being renewed in the treaty of Ghent, 1814, the United States maintains that the right of navigating the Mississippi is vested exclusively in its citizens