Today in History

Today in History: January 14

Treaty of Paris Ratified

Cartoon of a bucking horse
The Horse America, Throwing His Master,
Published by William White,
Angel Court, Westminster,
London, England
August 1, 1779.
Prints & Photographs Online Catalog

The Continental Congress ratified the Treaty of Paris on January 14, 1784, officially establishing the United States as an independent and sovereign nation. The Continental Congress approved preliminary articles of peace on April 15, 1783. The treaty, signed in Paris on September 3, 1783, required Congress to return the ratified document to England within six months.

Although Congress was scheduled to convene at the Maryland State House in November, as late as January 12 only seven of the thirteen states were legally represented. Operating under the weak Articles of Confederation, Congress lacked the power to enforce attendance. With the journey to England requiring approximately two months, time was running short.

Annapolis, Maryland. Maryland State Capitol I
Maryland State Capitol,
Annapolis, Maryland,
Theodor Horydczak, photographer,
circa 1920-1950.
Washington as It Was: Photographs by Theodor Horydczak, 1923-1959

Delegates continued to trickle in. Connecticut representatives presented their credentials to Congress on January 13, leaving the convention one delegate shy of a quorum. Richard Beresford of South Carolina left his sickbed in Philadelphia for Annapolis, and, after his arrival, the vote was taken.

The Treaty of Paris granted the United States territory as far west as the Mississippi River, but reserved Canada to Great Britain. Fisheries in Newfoundland remained available to Americans and navigation of the Mississippi River was open to both parties. Congress promised to recommend states return confiscated loyalist property, but they had no power to enforce this demand. Creditors in both countries were free to pursue collection of debts.

For additional insight into this period of American history visit the following American Memory Collections: