Treaty of Paris in 1783: Definition & Terms

Instructor: Christina Boggs

Chrissy has taught secondary English and history and writes online curriculum. She has an M.S.Ed. in Social Studies Education.

The Battle of Yorktown in 1781 was the last battle of the American Revolution, but did you know the war did not officially come to an end until 1783? This lesson explains the major points of the Treaty of Paris in 1783.

End of the American Revolution

The American Revolution officially began in 1775 when shots were fired at the Battles of Lexington and Concord. For six long years, the colonists fought the British. You can only imagine how both sides were physically exhausted! In September of 1781, the Americans, with the help of the French, successfully defeated the British at the Battle of Yorktown. While this was the last battle of the war, the American Revolution did not officially come to an end until two years later!

Early Negotiations

Beginning in 1782, American negotiators (including the famous Ben Franklin!) sat down to discuss the peace terms with the British. As you may already know, during the American Revolution, colonists fought for their freedom from Great Britain. At first, the British were unwilling to accept this term...after all, the American colonies were a huge source of revenue for them! How could they possibly lose all of that money?

The British told Ben Franklin that the American colonies would stay a part of the British Empire, but they would have much more freedom and self-direction. Franklin rejected the idea completely. The colonies would become their own independent country; that point was absolutely not negotiable!

Unfinished painting of the Paris Treaty peace negotiations. Unfinished because British negotiators refused to pose for the portrait.
Unfinished painting of the Paris Treaty peace negotiations

Terms of the Treaty of Paris

Ben Franklin, along with John Adams and John Jay, continued to negotiate with the British throughout 1782. Eventually, both sides settled on peace terms. Great Britain agreed to:

  • recognize the colonies as its own independent country
  • let the Americans continue fishing off the coast of Newfoundland (a part of Canada)
  • give the Americans all of the land between the Allegheny Mountains and the Mississippi River

In exchange, the colonists promised that they would:

  • help return British troops back to England
  • stop persecuting loyalists (people loyal to the British Crown) and return all of their damaged or stolen property

Both sides agreed that the Mississippi River would be open for both the United States and Great Britain to use. They also agreed to release any prisoners of war that were still held in captivity.

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