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Primary Documents in American History

Treaty of Paris

The American Peace Commissioners
The American Peace Commissioners.
Reproduction of unfinished painting by Benjamin West, no date recorded.
Prints & Photographs Division.
Reproduction Number:
LC-USZ62-70531

The Treaty of Paris ended the Revolutionary War between Great Britain and the United States, recognized American independence and established borders for the new nation. After the British defeat at Yorktown, peace talks in Paris began in April 1782 between Richard Oswarld representing Great Britain and the American Peace Commissioners Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, and John Adams. The American negotiators were joined by Henry Laurens two days before the preliminary articles of peace were signed on November 30, 1782. The Treaty of Paris, formally ending the war, was not signed until September 3, 1783. The Continental Congress, which was temporarily situated in Annapolis, Maryland, at the time, ratified the Treaty of Paris on January 14, 1784.

Library of Congress Web Site | External Web Sites | Selected Bibliography

Digital Collections

An American Time Capsule: Three Centuries of Broadsides and Other Printed Ephemera

A broadside printed in Philadelphia on November 26, 1783, contains the full-text of the Treaty of Paris. Earlier that year, a broadside published in Baltimore outlined the principal articles of the preliminary peace treaty signed with Great Britain.

A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation

The Journals of the Continental Congress reports that the Continental Congress issued a proclamation on April 11, 1783, "Declaring the cessation of arms" against Great Britain. The preliminary articles of peace were approved by Congress on April 15, 1783, and the Treaty of Paris was ratified on January 14, 1784.

The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, a six-volume set, includes a wide variety of documents related to the peace negotiations with Great Britain during the American Revolution. For example, John Adams kept a journal of the peace negotiations that is included in this set. Adams's entry for November 30, 1782, discussed the signing of the preliminary articles of peace.

After the signing of the Treaty of Paris, John Adams informed Congress in a letter dated September 5, 1783, that "On Wednesday, the 3d day of this month, the American ministers met the British minister at his lodgings at the Hôtel de York, and signed, sealed, and delivered the definitive treaty of peace between the United States of America and the King of Great Britain." Adams, Franklin, and Jay sent another letter to Congress on September 10, 1783, formally announcing that the definitive peace treaty had been signed.

The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States also provides biographical information on the American Peace Commissioners Franklin, Adams, and Jay.

Search the Journals of the Continental Congress and The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States to locate additional information on the negotiations and ratification of the Treaty of Paris.

Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention

Includes a broadside of the preliminary articles of peace ending the Revolutionary War, which were ratified by Congress on April 15, 1783.

Also contains a broadside of a Congressional proclamation announcing the ratification of the Treaty of Paris on January 14, 1784.

George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress

Includes George Washington's copy of the Preliminary Articles of Peace between the United States and Great Britain, which were signed in Paris on November 30, 1782.

On April 18, 1783, Washington issued General Orders to the Continental Army announcing the "Cessation of Hostilities between the United States of America and the King of Great Britain."

Search Washington's papers to find additional documents related to the American Revolution and the end of the war.

The Thomas Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress

On November 12, 1782, Congress appointed Thomas Jefferson as an additional commissioner to join John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay and Henry Laurens in Europe to negotiate a peace treaty with Great Britain. Winter weather delayed Jefferson's departure, and Congress eventually withdrew the appointment on April 1, 1783. However, Jefferson's papers contain numerous documents related to the negotiations with Great Britain, including instructions on negotiating peace sent by Congress to the American Peace Commissioners dated August 1782 and October 29, 1783. Also contains instructions from Congress sent to the American Peace Commissioners dealing with fisheries, Indian affairs, and Canada that are dated August 1782.

Jefferson recounted the events surrounding the ratification of the Treaty of Paris by Congress in his Autobiography Draft Fragment, in which his entry for January 14, 1784, states that "Delegates from Connecticut having attended yesterday, and another from S. Carolina coming in this day, the treaty was ratified without a dissenting voice."

Search Jefferson's papers to locate additional documents related to this topic.

America's Library

Jump Back in Time: The Continental Congress Ratified the Treaty of Paris, January 14, 1784

Exhibitions

Benjamin Franklin: In His Own Words

An online exhibition that indicates the depth and breadth of Benjamin Franklin's public, professional, and scientific accomplishments through important documents, letters, books, broadsides, and cartoons. This exhibition includes a section on the Treaty of Paris.

Creating the United States

This online exhibition offers insights into how the nation’s founding documents were forged and the role that imagination and vision played in the unprecedented creative act of forming a self–governing country. The section Creating the Declaration of Independence: Peace contains a copy of the Preliminary Articles of Peace, November 30, 1782.

John Bull & Uncle Sam: The American Revolution

This exhibition includes a map used by the British and American peace negotiators in Paris in the fall of 1782 to delineate the boundaries of the original territory that became the United States.

Today in History

April 15, 1783

Congress ratified preliminary articles of peace ending the Revolutionary War with Great Britain on April 15, 1783.

September 3, 1783

On September 3, 1783, the Treaty of Paris was signed, bringing the Revolutionary War to its final conclusion.

January 14, 1784

Congress ratified the Treaty of Paris on January 14, 1784, officially establishing the United States as in independent and sovereign nation.

Link disclaimerExternal Web Sites

American Originals II, The Treaty of Paris, National Archives and Records Administration

Our Documents, Treaty of Paris, National Archives and Records Administration

The Paris Peace Treaty of 1783 and Associated Documents, Avalon Project at Yale Law School

Treaty of Paris, Department of State

Selected Bibliography

Bemis, Samuel F. The Diplomacy of the American Revolution. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1957. [Catalog Record]

Dull, Jonathan R. A Diplomatic History of the American Revolution. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985. [Catalog Record]

Hoffman, Ronald, and Peter J. Albert, eds. Peace and the Peacemakers: The Treaty of 1783. Charlottesville: Published for the United States Capitol Historical Society by the University Press of Virginia, 1986. [Catalog Record]

Morris, Richard Brandon. The Peacemakers: The Great Powers and American Independence. New York: Harper & Row, 1965. [Catalog Record]

Schiff, Stacy. A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America. New York: Henry Holt, 2005. [Catalog Record]

Schoenbrun, David. Triumph in Paris: The Exploits of Benjamin Franklin. New York: Harper & Row, 1976. [Catalog Record]

Younger Readers

Jedson, Lee. The Treaty of Paris, 1783: A Primary Source Examination of the Treaty that Recognized American Independence. New York: Rosen Pub. Group, 2006. [Catalog Record]

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  September 24, 2014
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