By the Treaty of Paris of Sept. 3, 1783, Great Britain formally acknowledged the independence of the United States, and the warring European powers, Britain against France and Spain, with the Dutch as armed neutrals, effected a large-scale peace settlement. The preliminary Anglo-American articles (which went unchanged) were signed on Nov. 30, 1782, after months of tortuous negotiations, in which the chief American plenipotentiaries, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay, acquitted themselves so well that their achievement has been labeled "the greatest triumph in the history of American diplomacy."
France and Spain signed separate preliminary articles with Great Britain on Jan. 20, 1783, and the Dutch and British signed theirs on Sept. 2, 1783. These preliminary agreements (except the Anglo-Dutch one, which was not ratified by both powers until June, 1784) were signed as definitive treaties on Sept. 3, 1783.
The Anglo-American settlement fixed the boundaries of the United States. In the Northeast the line extended from the source of the St. Croix River due north to the highlands separating the rivers flowing to the Atlantic from those draining into the St. Lawrence River, thence with the highlands to lat. 45°N, and then along the 45th parallel to the St. Lawrence. From there the northern boundary followed a line midway through contiguous rivers and lakes (especially the Great Lakes) to the northwest corner of the Lake of the Woods, thence "due west" to the sources of the Mississippi (which were not then known).
The Mississippi, south to lat. 31°N, was made the western boundary. On the south the line followed the 31st parallel E to the Chattahoochee River and its junction with the Flint River, then took a straight line to the mouth of the St. Marys River, and from there to the Atlantic. The navigation of the Mississippi was to be open to the citizens of both nations.
Another section of the treaty granted Americans fishing rights off Newfoundland and the privilege of curing fish in the uninhabited parts of Labrador, Nova Scotia, and the Magdalen Islands, but not in Newfoundland. A third part provided that creditors of either side would be unimpeded in the collection of lawful debts. In a fourth section the American government promised to recommend to the several states that they repeal their confiscation laws, provide for restitution of confiscated property to British subjects, and take no further proceedings against the Loyalists.
In the treaty with France, Britain relinquished the restrictions that had been imposed on the French naval port of Dunkirk, but aside from minor adjustments in the West Indies and Africa, the territorial dispositions made in the Treaty of Paris of 1763 were generally continued. Spain, however, in its treaty with Britain, reacquired the Floridas in America and the island of Minorca in the Mediterranean, while the British retained Gibraltar.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.