The Treaty of Paris
The Treaty of Paris, signed on September 3, 1783, ended the American Revolutionary War between Great Britain and the United States of America and its allies. The terms of the Treaty of Paris greatly enlarged the boundaries of the United States, enabling the young nation to rapidly become a major international trading partner.
Territorial Cessions and Gains
On September 3, Britain signed separate agreements with France and Spain and, provisionally, with the Netherlands. The territories of East and West Florida were ceded to Spain, as was the Mediterranean island of Minorca. Meanwhile, the Bahama Islands, Grenada, and Montserrat, captured by the French and Spanish, were returned to Britain.
The treaty with France primarily focused on exchanges of captured territory but also reinforced earlier treaties, guaranteeing French fishing rights off the coast of Newfoundland. France's only territorial gains were the island of Tobago and Senegal in Western Africa. Dutch possessions in the East Indies, captured by the British in 1781, were returned by Britain in exchange for trading privileges in that region.
In the Great Lakes area, the British adopted a very generous interpretation of the stipulation that they should relinquish control "with all convenient speed. " The British argued that they needed time to negotiate with the Native Americans, who had defended this region from the United States but had been utterly ignored in the Treaty. Even after these negotiations were concluded, Britain retained control of the region as leverage in order to gain recompense for confiscated loyalist property. This matter was finally settled by the Jay Treaty in 1794, and America's ability to bargain on all these points was greatly strengthened by the creation of the new constitution in 1787.
Several of the articles of the Treaty of Paris were violated by all sides in the chaotic aftermath of the war. Individual states ignored federal recommendations to restore confiscated loyalist property, as required by Article 5 of the Treaty, and also continued the practice of confiscating loyalist property for "unpaid debts," in violation of Article 6. Some, notably Virginia, also maintained laws against payment of debts to British creditors, defying Article 4. Individual British soldiers ignored the provision of Article 7, which required them to abandon their property in the United States, particularly in respect to their relinquishing of slaves.
The treaty between Spain and Great Britain did not establish any clearly defined northern boundary to Spanish-controlled Florida. Spain used its control of Florida to block American access to the Mississippi, in defiance of Article 8 of the Treaty of Paris. The resulting territory dispute between Spain and the United States was resolved with the Treaty of Madrid, or Pinckney's Treaty, in 1795.