This Day in History: September 3

On this day in 1783, The American Revolution finally comes to a close with the signing of the Treaty of Paris. Involving representatives of the United States, Great Britain, France, and Spain, it cemented America’s status as a free nation, as Britain formally recognized the independence of its 13 former American colonies, and the boundaries of the new republic were established: Florida north to the Great Lakes and the Atlantic coast west to the Mississippi River.

The events leading up to the treaty dated back to April 1775, when American colonists in Lexington, Massachusetts responded to King George III’s refusal to grant them economic and political reform with armed revolution. On July 4, 1776, more than a year after the first shots of the war rang out, the Second Continental Congress officially adopted the Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson. Five years later, in October 1781, British General Charles Lord Cornwallis surrendered to American and French forces at Yorktown, Virginia, effectively concluding the last major battle of the Revolution.

In September 1782, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and John Jay began official peace negotiations with the British. During the talks, Franklin requested that Britain hand over Canada to the United States. This was never realized, of course, but America did acquire enough new territory south of the Canadian border to double its size. The United States also received important fishing rights in Canadian waters and agreed not to prevent British creditors from trying to recover outstanding debts.

A couple of months later, the key details had been hammered out and on November 30, 1782, the United States and Britain signed the preliminary articles of the treaty. France signed its own preliminary peace agreement with Britain on January 20, 1783, and then in September of that year, the final treaty was signed by all three countries along with Spain. The Treaty of Paris was ratified by the Continental Congress on January 14, 1784.

It's hard to imagine how different the country -- and the world itself -- would be today had the Americans not come out victorious in the Revolutionary War. America owes a big debt of gratitude to France, who stepped in to support the cause with soldiers and supplies of their own. Interestingly, France would have a bloody revolution of its own from 1789 to 1799, during which the United States would remain neutral.

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