The 1781 U.S. victory at the Battle of Yorktown made peace talks where British negotiators were willing to consider U.S. independence a possibility.
After Yorktown, the Continental Congress appointed a small group of statesmen to travel to Europe and negotiate a peace treaty with the British: John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson and Henry Laurens.
Jefferson, however, was not able to leave the United States for the negotiations, and Laurens had been captured by a British warship and held captive in the Tower of London until the end of the war, so the principal American negotiators were Franklin, Adams and Jay.
Franklin, who served as America’s first ambassador to France, had been in Paris since the start of the Revolution and was instrumental in securing French assistance during the war. Peace negotiations between British and American diplomats began there in the spring of 1782 and continued into the fall.
Eighteenth-century British parliamentary governments tended to be unstable and depended on both a majority in the House of Commons and the good favor of the King. Thus, when news of Yorktown reached London, the parliamentary opposition succeeded in overthrowing the embattled government led by Frederick North, Lord North.
However, the new government, led by Charles Watson-Wentworth, Marquess of Rockingham, was not much more stable than the previous one. The strong personalities of its ministers led to internal conflicts between them and King George III.
Rockingham died in July of 1782, and he was succeeded by William Petty Fitzmaurice, Earl of Shelburne. Lord Shelburne’s government wanted to seek peace, but hoped to avoid recognizing U.S. independence.
However, the war had been expensive, and Britain faced a formidable alliance, fighting the combined forces of France, Spain, and the Netherlands, in addition to the rebellious colonists.
Shelburne and other British diplomats had pursued a strategy of trying to drive the alliance apart by entering negotiations for a separate peace with France’s allies.
Although such efforts failed with the Netherlands, US negotiators were receptive to the idea of separate negotiations, because they saw in such negotiations the clearest path to ensuring recognition of US independence in a final peace settlement. The French Foreign Minister, Charles Gravier, Comte de Vergennes, approved of separate negotiations, though not of a separate peace.
In the meantime, Anglo-American negotiations had been stalled, owing to internal conflicts in the British government and British refusal to recognize U.S. independence as part of the peace settlement.
In July of 1782, Lord Shelburne gave in on the issue of independence, hoping that a generous peace settlement with the United States would bring peace with France, the Netherlands, and Spain. However, John Jay objected to British refusal to acknowledge the United States as already independent during peace negotiations, so the negotiations halted until the fall.
Anglo-American negotiations entered their final stage in October and November of 1782. The United States succeeded in obtaining Newfoundland fishing rights, a western border that extended to the Mississippi with rights of navigation (which the Spanish government would later prevent) and, most importantly, British acknowledgement of U.S. independence along with the peaceful withdrawal of British forces.
In return for these concessions, the agreement contained provisions requiring the U.S. to honor private debts and ensure an end to the seizure of Loyalist property. U.S. negotiators John Jay, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Henry Laurens signed a preliminary agreement with British representative Richard Oswald on November 30, 1782. The agreement would remain informal until the conclusion of a peace agreement between Britain and France.
The Peace of Paris is a collection of treaties concluding the American Revolution and signed by representatives of Great Britain on one side and the United States, France, and Spain on the other.
Preliminary articles (often called the Preliminary Treaty of Paris) were signed at Paris between Britain and the United States on November 30, 1782.
On September 3, 1783, three definitive treaties were signed
- Treaty of Paris – between Britain and the United States in Paris
- Treaty of Versailles – between Britain and France and Spain, respectively
- Treaty of Paris – between Britain and the Netherlands (Dutch Republic) (a preliminary treaty on September 2, 1783, and a final separate peace on May 20, 1784)
Click the following link to a general summary about the Peace of Paris: