The talks began in April 1782, after the American-French victory at Yorktown led to the toppling of Lord North’s Tory government and the naming of a Whig, Lord Rockingham, as prime minister and Lord Shelburne as foreign minister.
The French foreign minister, the Comte de Vergennes, expected the Americans to coordinate their diplomatic strategy with the French, but the Americans distrusted the French attachment to their cause and pursued an independent course. Among the team’s notable achievements were British recognition of American independence (a point pressed most strongly by Jay); the securing (by Adams and Jay) of American fishermen’s right of access to the Grand Banks off the coast of Newfoundland and other traditional fisheries in Canadian waters; and Great Britain’s ceding to the United States all territory between the Allegheny Mountains on the east and the Mississippi River on the west, thereby doubling the size of the new nation. For its part, the United States agreed to use its powers to end the persecution of Loyalists by state and local governments and to restore their property confiscated during the war. Both countries agreed not to block creditors from seeking to recover debts owed to them.
The preliminary articles of peace were signed by Adams, Franklin, Jay, and Henry Laurens for the United States and Richard Oswald for Great Britain on November 30, 1782. The final treaty was signed on September 3, 1783, and ratified by the Continental Congress early in 1784.
The Reader’s Companion to American History. Eric Foner and John A. Garraty, Editors. Copyright © 1991 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.