On this day, September 3, in 1783, representatives of Great Britain, the United States, France, and Spain signed the 1783 Treaty of Paris, officially ending America’s ‘Revolutionary War.’ The treaty was later ratified in the U.S. on January 14, 1784.
The war was waged when the British colonies in North America declared their independence from Great Britain. It has been called a “revolution” as the colonists sought big changes in how they were to govern and be governed. There would be no king, no autocrat of any kind leading the people. Instead the people would elect their government. And the people would have a say in all matters of government. It would be a government of, by, and for the people.
The treaty is interesting not only because it ended a war that began seven years prior. It is interesting because it set a course for what the United States would become. Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and John Jay represented the former colonies’ interests in the peace negotiations. Thomas Jefferson was supposed to be there but had travel delays. Henry Laurens was also supposed to attend but he could not get to France because British forces captured him and held him in the Tower of London. Apparently the end of the war did not end the hostilities.
At issue was land, and who would get what. We all remember that there were 13 British colonies that united to sever themselves from the British monarchy. We should also remember that, in addition to Great Britain, Spain and France also had interests in North America. For some reason, the Americans did not trust the French during these negotiations, and so opted to deal with the British separately.
The treaty verified that the United States was theretofore a sovereign nation, entitled to and responsible for enacting its own laws and regulations. The treaty also laid out the extent of territory that the United States could claim. That, of course, would include the land on the Atlantic coast, north of Florida. It did not include Florida, even though the first European settlement in North America – St. Augustine – was in Florida.
The Americans asked for Canada, but didn’t get it. The Americans did get some land extending westward. In their future, they would work that land, then buy more land (Louisiana Purchase) and explore and claim more land all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
As this is an election year in the U.S. (2020), American citizens will enjoy the fruits of the revolution when they cast their ballots in November. Not only does the Constitution acknowledge our rights to freedom of belief and expression, it also insists that our government is a government by the people. Americans vote for the men and women who will serve in public office.
What the revolution accomplished, and what millions of men and women have fought for and some have died for, is being severely tested today. The turmoil in the streets and all the fiery back-and-forth name-calling on social media – it stems from somewhere. Our knee-jerk reaction is to point to poor leadership. But poor leadership cannot be the source of all problems in a country where the people elect their leaders.
We the people need to do what our leaders are failing to do. We need to talk with each other. We need to resolve differences, together.