The Road to Peace A Chronology: 1779-1784

Stairwell Room

The Peace Commissioners. Unfinished portrait by Benjamin West showing the American peace commissioners who met with the British representatives in Paris: John Jay, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Henry Laurens. The figure behind Franklin is his grandson. Courtesy of The Henry Francis DuPont Winterthur Museum, Wilmington, Delaware

1779, August: Congress set minimum terms for peace with Great Britain which include independence, boundaries to be set at the Mississippi, free navigation of the Mississippi, British evacuation, and certain fishing rights.

1779, September 27: Congress selects John Adams to negotiate peace and a treaty of commerce with England.

1779, November: Thomas Sim Lee takes office as the second Governor of Maryland, succeeding Thomas Johnson who, as a Congressman in 1775, nominated George Washington as Commander-in-Chief

1780, July: Over five thousand French troops under the command of Comte de Rochambeau arrive in Rhode Island and begin preparations for the long march south to join Washington.

1780, December: After months of often bitter debate, the Maryland General Assembly agrees to confiscate the property of British Citizens (known as "loyalists") in order to help defray the cost of the war.

1781, March: Maryland ratifies the Articles of Confederation after successfully arguing that any western lands acquired by the peace treaty be administered by Congress. Lafayette and the American troops under his command encamp at Annapolis on their way south.

1781, June: Congress appoints a Peace Commission consisting of John Adams, John Jay, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Laurens, and Thomas Jefferson. Peace demands are limited to independence and sovereignty, giving the Committee discretion on boundaries, fishing rights, and navigation of the Mississippi.

1781, September: The French fleet and "Vessels from all Parts" of Maryland transport troops, artillery, and supplies from Annapolis to Virginia, while a wagon train of provisions proceeds overland.

1781, October 17: The British, under General Cornwallis, surrender at Yorktown, near the mouth of the York River, in Virginia.

1781, November: A Marylander, John Hanson, is elected the first President of Congress under the recently ratified Articles of Confederation.

1782, March: Parliament advises King George III to make peace.

1782, April: Richard Oswald, one of the British negotiators, reaches Paris where he begins informal peace talks with Benjamin Franklin. The Dutch recognize American independence. >

1782, September: A new British Ministry gives tacit recognition to the "13 United States" and formal negotiations for peace begin.

1782, October: John Jay delivers a draft of a treaty to Richard Oswald who is joined by a second British negotiator, Henry Strachey.

1782, November: William Paca, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, begins his first term as governor. Maryland and British barges clash near Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay. One Maryland barge is blown up, killing its captain and a large number of his crew.

Contrary to Congressional instructions, France is excluded from the peace negotiations and on the 30th the preliminary articles of peace are signed in Paris by the American and British commissioners.

1782, December: King George III opens Parliament with a speech from the throne offering to declare the thirteen colonies "free and independent states, by an article to be inserted in the treaty of peace."

1783, January: Articles of peace between France and Britain; Britain and Spain are signed.

1783, February: Thomas Jefferson waits in Baltimore (January 30-February 24) for passage to France where Congress expects him to join the other commissioners negotiating peace. On February 14 he receives a copy of King George's speech from the throne of the previous December recognizing independence. He doubts the necessity of going to Paris, but his instructions are not rescinded by Congress until April 1.

1783, March: Captain Joshua Barney, a Marylander, arrives in Philadelphia from France with the provisional treaty of peace which he delivers to Congress.

1783, April: Congress declares an end to hostilities and agrees to the preliminary articles of peace. In Paris, British negotiator Richard Oswald is replaced by David Hartley, a friend of Franklin's. In Annapolis, the announcement of the armistice is met with public rejoicing and "the State House, a superb Building," is "beautifully and magnificently illuminated."

1783, May: Annapolis is offered to Congress as a permanent home.

1783, June: Congress adjourns to Princeton, New Jersey from Philadelphia, to avoid soldiers protesting non-payment of back pay.

1783, September 3: The definitive copy of the treaty of peace is signed by John Adams, John Jay, Benjamin Franklin, and David Hartley at the Hotel d'York in Paris and immediately dispatched to Congress. Article Ten required ratification and exchange of copies within six months.

1783, October: All furloughed officers and men of the Continental Army are discharged. Only a small force remains in arms awaiting the British evacuation of New York.

1783, November: Annapolis Mayor Jeremiah Townley Chase informs the town that, by resolution of October 23, Congress intends to make Annapolis its temporary home. William Paca begins his second term as governor. On the twenty-second, John Thaxter, Jr., John Adams' private secretary, reaches Philadelphia, after over a month at sea, with an official copy of the definitive treaty which he delivers to the new president of Congress, Thomas Mifflin. At the State House in Annapolis, the Maryland Senate offers its chamber to Congress and moves upstairs. In New York, the British complete their evacuation.

1783, December: President Mifflin arrives in Annapolis on December 3 where he is given the governor's official residence. A United States flag, especially made for the occasion by the noted cabinetmaker John Shaw, is hoisted for the first time. A Congressional committee, chaired by Thomas Jefferson, reports favorably on the treaty. Debate begins over whether seven or nine states are needed to ratify with Jefferson strongly advocating nine.

On the nineteenth, George Washington arrives in Annapolis greeted at the edge of the city by General Horatio Gates, General William Smallwood, several distinguished citizens, and a thirteen cannon salute. He lodges at George Mann's new and elegant tavern and attends festivities organized in his honor. At noon on the twenty-third, he resigns his commission in the Old Senate Chamber of the Maryland State House, carefully following a program worked out by a committee that included Thomas Jefferson. After the ceremonies he leaves immediately for Mount Vernon to spend Christmas with his family.

1784, January 14: Congress, with nine states represented, ratifies the treaty of peace, known also as the Treaty of Paris. New Jersey and New Hampshire have one delegate present. New York and Georgia are unrepresented. Three copies are rushed by separate couriers to Paris.

1784, March: The first of the copies of the ratified treaty reaches France.

1784, April 9: King George III ratifies the treaty, five weeks after the deadline, but no one objects.

1784, May 12: Ratified copies of the Treaty of Paris are exchanged in Paris.

1784, June: Congress adjourns from Annapolis to Trenton, New Jersey, leaving government in the hands of a Committee of Thirteen States.

1784, August: The Committee of the Thirteen States adjourns to Trenton and Annapolis ceases to be the capital of the United States.

The English followed the course of the war on this could be bought on the streets of London for a shilling (about half the cost of a good meal). Accompanying the map was a printed account of principal places. Annapolis was described as "a small neat town of 150 houses; the streets are irregular, and not paved. It is situated on a peninsula formed by the river Severn and two small creeks, affording a beautiful prospect of Chesapeake -bay, and of the Eastern shore beyond it."
The William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Facsimile, Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 1556-40

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