Wednesday, January 14, 2015


14 January 2015: Ok - maybe the title of this post is a trifle misleading. Everyone knows the American Revolution actually ended in 1781 when Lord Cornwallis surrendered his army to George Washington following the Battle of Yorktown (VA). So what happened? Why did the title of the post mention 1784? OK, you asked, so here it is.

The Revolution fighting ended at Yorktown, but there was no treaty, no agreement that America won, no understanding of what would be happening going forward until there was a formal treaty, ratified by our government and the British government. The combined French-American victory at Yorktown, fostered in part by the successful French fleet action at the Battle of the Capes (those would be Cape Charles and Cape Henry at the south end of the Chesapeake Bay) which precluded Cornwallis from being resupplied by the British fleet - or barring that, evacuated, precipitated the fall of the Tory Government in England run by Lord North, and the installation of Lord Rockingham's Whig government. Talks of the peace treaty and negotiations began in April of 1782.  

Actually, they were held in Paris because the French expected the Americans would coordinate their diplomatic plan/strategy with the French, but the distrust between the Americans and the French negotiators was such that the Americans went their own way, pursuing an independent course.

Negotiating for the Americans were John Adams, John Jay, Ben Franklin (yep, that Ben Franklin), and Henry Laurens. Interestingly, Britain had only one: Richard Oswald. The negotiations included very important issues of fishing rights (off the Grand Banks), and Britain ceding all land between the Allegheny Mountains in the east and the Mississippi River in the west which had the effect of doubling the land mass of the United States.

For their part, the Americans agreed to do what they might to end the persecution of the Loyalists remaining in the country and to restore any property confiscated in the war. Both countries agreed to not block creditors seeking to recover war debts.

The treaty was signed on 3 September 1783 and ratified by the Continental Congress on 14 January, 1784.

And that my friends, is why today is important and why we say the Revolution actually ended today, 1784! And the Treaty was called the Second Treaty of Paris, the first being at the end of the French Indian War, 10 February, 1763.

Of course, Britain would adhere to few, if any, of the provisions of the Treaty and that, among other issues, would lead us to fight them again in 1812.

                                      Fair Winds,
                                         Old Salt

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