1783: Peace in Paris & Other Quebec Curios

Part of “A Colony in Transition, 1763-1791”

Three sets of treaties in France would end the American Revolutionary War between the Thirteen Colonies and Great Britain and their respective allies. New England, who had France and Spain as their major allies during the war, had to sit down with Great Britain to negotiate the terms of peace following an over eight-year conflict in which New England’s states declared their independence from their mother country. America had started the conflict for various reasons. France had entered the conflict on the soon-to-be Americans secretly towards 1775, while formally declaring war with Great Britain in 1778. Their motives were mostly based on old grievances that happened during the Seven Years’ War, motives that were also shared by Spain. Spain, however, also had the motive to retrieve the now British colony of Gibraltar, a formerly Spanish stronghold that the Treaty of Utrecht ceded to British hands as part of the negotiations towards peace. These difficult decisions would repeat themselves in 1783, when these three powers came together, together and separately, with Great Britain to negotiate the end of another war.

The main treaty was between the Thirteen Colonies and Great Britain, called the Treaty of Paris. This treaty would have Great Britain legally recognise the Thirteen Colonies as being a sovereign territory. The Thirteen Colonies became the United States of America. The Treaty, negotiated by Benjamin Franklin and company, promised, among other things, American fishing rights off the coast of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and Newfoundland and restitution to the Loyalists. This latter promise is dubious as to whether the Americans respected this clause. Most importantly, the Treaty outlined the boundaries between the new United States of America with what was left of the British colonies in North America, most notably the Province of Quebec. The new boundary between these two pieces of land was to be from the shores of the Atlantic Ocean all the way to the Mississippi River (gaining notably precious Ohio territory for the Americans to settle in) and from the top of where the present Canadian border roughly stands all the way down to the border with Florida.

Secondary treaties between Britain with France and Spain were also concluded in Paris. France’s gains during this treaty were mostly in the war that had gone on between Britain and France over territories in Africa and India, but this these relatively minor gains did not match the crippling debt that the state piled to aid the Americans. Spain, however, did gain a certain amount of territory in North America: in the negotiations, Florida became a Spanish possession in exchange for Spain giving up the Bahamas, but Spain did not get back Gibraltar.

Bogged down with debt resulting from their aid in the American Revolution and deep economic and social divisions, France would have its own Revolution to overthrow an absolute monarchy that would ironically end with the establishment of a dictatorship under Napoleon. Roughly thirty years later, the United States of America would start their own war with Canada and the British Empire: the War of 1812. As for Spain’s beloved Gibraltar, it remains British to this day.

Learn more about Gibraltar, the elusive piece of land that Spain wanted to get back, here.

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