History Timeline 1780s

Top: George Washington. Commander of the Continental Army and 1st President of the U.S.A. Courtesy NARA. Right: Surrender at Yorktown. Courtesy Library of Congress.


U.S. Timeline - The 1780s

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  • Timeline

  • 1782 Detail

    November 7, 1782 - British Parliament agrees to the recognition of U.S. independence. A preliminary peace treaty, later formalized as the "Treaty of Paris" is signed between American and British officials in Paris on November 30.

    Henry Laurens, John Jay, John Adams
    It was coming to a close, which was good for both sides. In 1781, the morale of the American citizenry was at a low point, searching for a victory, which finally came decisively at Yorktown on October 17, 1781. Meanwhile, in Britain, Lord North had resigned, leading the way for British Parliament to make concessions and end the American Revolution. Yes, conflict was still ongoing. King George III still thought the war could be won, but accepted the resignation of Lord North and the oppositions take that Britain had lost. On February 27, 1782, the opposition in the House of Commons had already voted to end the war.

    Various reports state that peace talks began in Paris between May and November. The American negotiators were John Jay, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Laurens, and Richard Oswald. With concerns of French duplicity, an agreement of unilateral talks between Great Britain and the United States came to the fore. The months of October and November saw difficult negotiations that would finally lead to preliminary peace on November 30, 1782.

    Washington was still concerned about whether a final peace would last, and kept his Army together, despite a pay crises, over the next year. There were no land battles, but the Continental Navy kept a eye on the French and British battles that continued on the high seas and Caribbean.

    The Houses of Parliament had been out of session between July and November 26, when the King gave a speech to the opening session, with the first meeting of the body on December 5, 1782. In the meantime, negotiations for peace had been ongoing through the month of November in Paris, as stated before, between representatives of both nations.

    King George III gave a speech at the beginning of the session.

    "My Lords and Gentlemen; Since the close of the last session , I have employed my whole time in that care and attention which the important and critical conjuncture of public affairs required of me."

    "I lost no time in giving the necessary order to prohibit the further prosecution of offensive war upon the continent of North America. Adopting, as my inclination will always lead me to do, with decision and effect, whatever I collect to be the sense of my parliament and my people; I have pointed all my view and measures, as well in Europe as in North America, to an entire and cordial reconcilation with those colonies.

    Finding it indispensable to the attainment of this object, I did not hesitate to go the full length of the powers vested in me, and offered to declare them free and independent states, by an article to be inserted in the treaty of peace. Provisional articles are agreed upon, to take effect whenever terms of peace shall be finally settled with the court of France.

    "In thus admitting the separation from the crown of these kingdoms, I have sacrificed every consideration of my own to the wishes and opinion of my people. I make it my humble and earnest prayer to Almighty God, that Great Britain may not feel the evils which might result from so great a dismemberment of the empire; and, that America may be free from those calamities, which have formerly proved in the mother country how essential monarchy is to the enjoyment of constitutional liberty. Religion - language - interest - affections may, and I hope will yet prove a bond of permanent union between the two countries: to this end, neither attention nor disposition, on my part, shall be wanting.

    "While I have carefully abstained from all offensive operations in America, I have directed my whole force by land and sea against the other powers at war, with as much vigour, as the situation of that force, at the commencement of the campaign, would permit. I trust that you feel the advantages resulting from the safety of the great branches of our trade. You must have seen with pride and satisfaction the gallant defense of the governor and garrison of Gibraltar; and my fleet, after having effected the best of their destination, offering battle to the combined force of France and Spain on their coasts; those of my kingdoms have remained at the same time perfectly secure, and your domestic tranquility uninterrupted. This respectable state, under the blessing of God, I attribute to the entire confidence which subsists between me and my people, and to the readiness which has been shewn by my subjects in my city of London, and in other parts of my kingdoms, to stand forth in the general defence. Some proofs have lately been given of public spirit in private men, which would do honour to any age, and any country.

    Having manifested to the whole world, by the most lasting examples, the signal spirit and bravery of my people, I conceived it a moment not unbecoming my dignity, and thought it a regard due to the lives and fortunes of such brave and gallant subject, to shew myself ready on my part, to embrace fair and honourable terms of accommodation with all powers at war.

    I have the satisfaction to acquaint you, that negotiations to this effect are considerably advanced; the result of which, as soon as they are brought to a conclusion, shall be immediately communicated to you.

    I have every reason to hope and believe, that I shall have it in my power, in a very short time, to acquaint you, that they have ended in terms of pacification, which, I trust, you will see just cause to approve. I rely, however, with perfect confidence, in the wisdom of my parliament, and the spirit of my people, that, if any unforeseen change in the dispositions of the belligerant powers should frustrate my confident expectations, they will approve of the preparations I have thought it advisable to make, and be ready to second the most vigorous efforts in the farther prosecution of the war."

    "Gentlemen of the House of Commons;

    "I have endeavoured, by every measure in my power, to diminish the burthens of my people. I lost no tie in taking the most decided measures for introducing a better economy into the expenditure of the army.

    "I have carried into strict execution the several reductions in my Civil List expences, directed by an Act of the last session. I have introduced a further reform into other departments, and suppressed several sinecure place in them. I have by this means so regulated my establishments, that my expence shall not in future exceed my income.

    "I have ordered the estimate of the Civil List debt, laid before you last session, to be completed. The debt proving somewhat greater then correctly stated, and the proposed reduction not immediately taking place, I trust you will provide for the deficiency; securing, as before, the re-payment out of my annual income."

    I have ordered enquiry to be made into the application of the sum voted in support of the American sufferers; and I trust that you will agree with me, that a due and generous attention ought to be shewn towards those, who have relinquished their properties or professions from motives of loyalty to me, or attachement to the mother country.

    As it may be necessary to give stability to some regulations by Act of Parliament, I have ordered accounts of the several establishments, incidental expences, fees, and other emoluments of office, to be laid before you. Regulations have already taken place in some, which it is my intention to extend to all; and which, besides expediting all business, must produce a very considerable saving, without taken from that ample encouragement, which ought to be held forth to talents, diligence, and integrity, wherever they are to be found."

    "I have directed an equiry to be made into whatever regards the landed revenue of my crown as well as the management of my woods and forests, that both may be made as beneficial as possible, and that the latter may furnish a certain resource for supplying the navy, our great national bulwark, with its first material.

    "I have directed an investigation into the department of the Mint, that the purity of the coin of so much importance to commerce, may be always adhered to; that by rendering the difficulty of counterfeiting greater, the lives of numbers may be saved, and every needless expence in it impressed.

    "I must recommend to you an immediate attention to the great objects of the public receipts and expenditure; and above all, to the state of the public debt. Not-withstanding the great increase of it during the war, it is to be hoped, that such regulations may still be established - such savings made - and future loans so conducted, as to promote the means of its gradual redemption, by a fixed course of payment. - I must, with particular earnestness, distinguish, for your serious consideration, that part of the debt which consists of navy, ordnance, and victualling bills: the enormous discount upon some of these bills shews this mode of payment to be most ruinous expedient.

    "I have ordered the several estimates, made up as correctly as the present practice would admit, to be laid before you. I hope that such further corrections, as my be necessary, will be made before the next year. It is my desire, that you should be apprised of every expence before it is incurred, as far as the nature of each service can possibly admit. Matters of account can never be made too public.

    "My Lords and Gentlemen:

    The scarcity and consequent high price of corn requires your instant interposition.

    "The great excess, to w hich the crimes of theft and robbery have arisen, in many instances accompanied with personal violence, particularly in the neighborhood of this metropolis, has callled of late for a strict and severe execution of the laws. It were such to be wish that these crimes could be prevented in their infancy, by correcting the vices becomes prevalent in a most alarming degree.

    "The liberal principles adopted by you concerning the rights and the commerce of Ireland, have done you the highest honour, and will, I trust, increase that harmony, which ought always to subsist between the two kingdoms. I am persuaded that a general increase of commerce throughout the empire, will prove the wisdom of your measures with regard to that object. I would recommend to you a revision of our whole trading system, upon the same comprehensive principles, with a view to its utmost possible extension."

    The regulation of a vast territory in Asia, opens a large field for your wisdom, prudence, and foresight. I trust that you will be able to frame some fundamental laws, which may make their connection with Great Britain a blessing to India; and that you will take therein proper measures to give all foreign nations, in matters of foreign commerce, an entire and perfect confidence in the probity, punctuality, and good order of our government. You may be assured, that whatever depends upon me shall be executed with a steadiness, which can alone preserve that party of my dominions, or the commerce which arises from it.

    "It is the fixed object of my heart to make the general good, and the true spirit of the constitution, the invariable rule of my conduct, and on all occasions to advance and reward merit in every profession.

    "To ensure the full advantage of a government conducted on such principles, depends on your temper, your wisdom, your disinterestedness, collectively and individually.

    "My people expect these qualifications of you; and I call for them," King George III, 1782.

    Yes, the king could talk, but to distinctly address his questions of the upcoming treaty and end of the American Revolution, it essentially distilled to this; the war was not going to be won, it was too costly, that Great Britain was in serious debt, and that they had other colonies to protect and prosper from.

    What about the American take on all this? Give us our liberty and freedom.

    British-American Diplomacy, Preliminary Articles of Peace; November 30, 1782

    Articles agreed upon, by and between Richard Oswald Esquire, the Commissioner of his Britannic Majesty, for treating of Peace with the Commissioners of the United States of America, in behalf of his said Majesty, on the one part; and John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, and Henry Laurens, four of the Commissioners of the said States, for treating of Peace with the Commissioner of his said Majesty, on their Behalf, on the other part. To be inserted in, and to constitute the Treaty of Peace proposed to be concluded, between the Crown of Great Britain, and the said United States; but which Treaty is not to be concluded, untill Terms of a Peace shall be agreed upon, between Great Britain and France; and his Britannic Majesty shall be ready to conclude such Treaty accordingly.

    Whereas reciprocal Advantages, and mutual Convenience are found by Experience, to form the only permanent foundation of Peace and Friendship between States; It is agreed to form the Articles of the proposed Treaty, on such Principles of liberal Equity, and Reciprocity, as that partial Advantages, (those Seeds of Discord!) being excluded, such a beneficial and satisfactory Intercourse between the two Countries, may be establish'd, as to promise and secure to both perpetual.

    ARTICLE 1 - His Britannic 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; 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

    ARTICLE 2 - From the north west Angle of Nova Scotia, Viz that Angle which is form'd 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 Laurence, 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 45th Degree of North Latitude; from thence by a Line due West on said Latitude, untill it strikes the River Iroquois, or Cataraquy; thence along the middle of said River into Lake Ontario; through the middle of said Lake, untill 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 the 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 & 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 Northwestern point thereof, and from thence on a due west Course to the River Missisippi; thence by a Line to be drawn along the middle of the said River Missisippi, untill it shall intersect the northernmost part of the 31st 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 31 Degrees North 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 strait to the Head of St. Mary's River, and thence down along the middle of St. Mary's River to the Atlantic Ocean. East, by a Line to be drawn along the middle of the River St 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 Se Laurence; 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.

    ARTICLE 3d - 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 Gulph of St Laurence, 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 Britannic Majesty's Dominions in America, and that the American Fishermen shall have Liberty to dry and cure Fish in any of the unsettled Bays Harbours 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.

    ARTICLE 4th - 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 bond fide Debts heretofore contracted.

    ARTICLE 5th - It is agreed that the 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 of his Majesty's Arms; and who have not borne Arms against the said United States: And that Persons of any other Description 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 Endeavours 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 I~aws 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 universaly prevail. And that Congress shall also earnestly recommend to the several States, that the Estates Rights and Properties of such last mention'd Persons shall be restored to them; they refunding to any Persons who may be now in Possession the bond 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.

    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.

    ARTICLE 6th - 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.

    ARTICLE 7th - There shall be a firm and perpetual Peace, between his Britannic 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 then immediately cease: All Prisoners on both sides shall be set at Liberty, & his Britannic Majesty shall, with all convenient speed, & 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 Port, Place, and Harbour within the same; leaving in all Fortifications the American Artillery 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.

    ARTICLE 8th - The Navigation of the River Mississippi from its Source to the Ocean, shall for ever remain free and open to the Subjects of Great Britain and the Citizens of the United States.

    ARTICLE 9th - In case it should so happen that any Place or Territory belonging to Great Britain, or to the United States, should be conquered by the Arms of either, from the other, before the Arrival of these Articles in America, It is agreed that the same shall be restored, without Difficulty, and without requiring any Compensation.

    Done at Paris, the thirtieth day of November, in the year One thousand Seven hundred Eighty Two.

    JOHN ADAMS. [Seal]
    B FRANKLIN [Seal]
    JOHN JAY [Seal]


    The Words [and Henry Laurens] between the fifth and sixth Lines of the first Page; and the Words [or carrying away any Negroes, or other Property of the American Inhabitants] between the seventh and eighth Lines of the eighth Page, being first interlined CALEB WHITEFOORD

    Secretary to the British Commission.
    Sec. to the American Commission

    Photo above: The photos include the four negotiators for the United States, and the single negotiation for England, Richard Oswald, in Paris 1782. Montage (left) Henry Laurens, 1781, Lemuel Francis Abbott; (center) John Jay, 1794, Gilbert Stuart; (right) John Adams, 1800/1815, Gilbert Stuart. All courtesy National Portrait Gallery via Wikipedia Commons. Below: Benjamin Franklin and Richard Oswald, representative of the King of England, discussing the Preliminary Treaty of Peace, 1782, Paris, 1898, Richard Pyle, Schribner's Magazine. Courtesy Library of Congress. Sources: "Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America," edited by Hunter Miller, Volume 2, Documents 1-40: 1776-1818, Washington: Government Printing Office, 1931. The Avalon Project, Documents in Law, History, and Diplomacy, Yale Law School; George Washington Papers, Library of Congress; Mountvernon.org; "Corbbett's Parlimentary History of England, 1782:1783,"; Wikipedia Commons.

    Benjamin Franklin and Richard Oswald

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