The Treaty of Paris: The Document that Ended the American Revolution

Richard Bell – University of Maryland

Signed in November 1783, the Treaty of Paris was the formal agreement that ended the War for Independence and created the United States of America. It’s one of the most important founding documents in this country’s history; but it is also the least well known and the most misunderstood. Over many months of negotiation, three teams of delegates—from the United States, Great Britain, and France—had pushed and pulled to secure every advantage. The French delegation proposed confining the borders of the newly United States to the area east of the Appalachian Mountains and allowing Britain to keep possession of all land north of the Ohio River. But the U.S. delegation balked, cutting France out of subsequent negotiations and dealing directly with London. Weakened by the war and desperate to restore trade with America, British leaders bent over backwards to give Benjamin Franklin and his fellow U.S. delegates most of what they wanted. When the ink was dry, the United States had secured rights to all land east of the Mississippi River that was north of Florida and south of Canada, as well as important fishing rights, and the restoration of property and prisoners of war. As the Comte de Vergennes, the French foreign minister, bitterly observed, “The English buy peace rather than make it.”