Negotiating Peace

Benjamin West intended his painting to represent the signing of the preliminary articles of peace on November 30, 1782. With minor changes the preliminary articles became the final Treaty of Paris signed on September 3, 1783. In addition to the American negotiators (from left to right) John Jay, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Henry Laurens, West included their secretary William Franklin and left space for Richard Oswald, who signed on behalf of the British. Oswald, who signed on behalf of the British. Oswald apparently did not like to sit for portraits and no likeness of him survives today.

  • MAP OF NORTH AMERICA by John Mitchell 1756
  • Both French and English versions of John Mitchells' map of the British Colonies in North America, first published in 1755 and in numerous subsequent editions, were used by the Peace Commissioners in Paris. A French edition, similar to this one, was known to have been used by Benjamin Franklin and John Jay in their discussions of boundaries with the Spanish and French. All four American Commissioners wrote Congress on December 1, 1782 that "the map used in the Course of our Negotiations was Mitchells."

    Original Hunting field Corporation, Maryland State Archives (image from MSA SC 1556-1-1)

In the fall of 1782, Henry Strachey was sent to join Richard Oswald in negotiating peace for the British. Strachey did manage to somewhat curtail America's extensive claims to fishing rights off Newfoundland and he succeeded in obtaining a guarantee that Americans would pay their British creditors. David Hartley replaced Richard Oswald in April 1783 in the final stages of the negotiations. He contributed little of substance to the wording of the treaty.

The news that King George III on December 5, 1782 recognized American independence and would agree to peace appeared in the Maryland Journal on February 18, 1783. Thomas Jefferson, in Baltimore awaiting passage to France, observed that "The King seems to part us with a sigh." On April 11, 1783, Congress proclaimed a "cessation of arms, as well by sea as by land...enjoining the observance thereof". In Annapolis was a day of public rejoicing offered on April 24 and was reported in the Maryland Gazette of May 1. Although his trip to France was no longer necessary. No one understood better than Jefferson that peace was not yet at hand. Seven months remained before the final treaty would be signed and yet another four months before the Treaty was officially delivered to Congress, it became Jefferson's task to shepherd it through the ratification process and to draft the Proclamation calling upon the states to implement its provisions. The American Revolutions began with Jefferson's Declaration of Independence. It ended with Congress adopting his Proclamation of Peace.

STEEL ENGRAVING OF KING GEORGE III
(1738-1820) Reproduction in print in Entick's General History of the Late War (3rd. ed., 1770). Facsimile, Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 1556-67

Road to Peace
Negotiating Peace
Treaty of Paris at Annapolis
Proclaiming Peace