"The Peace Treaties Signed at Paris and Versailles|
on 3 September 1783"
This page is based upon a presentation given to the American Revolution Round Table of the District of Columbia on 3 September 2008 in Celebration of, and as a conclusion to a series of programs commemorating the 225th Anniversary of the American War for Independence. The program was presented by Albert D. McJoynt, a military historian and ARRT member.|
It should be noted that this article is the second of two, and might best be viewed after one is familiar with the first topic, which explains the 1781-1782 status of the complex ‘Global War' that existed under the full context of the 'War for American Independence'. Such a presepctive differs from perceptions that limit the war to its 1776 parameters. A link to the first article: "After Yorktown, 1781: The 'War Beyond the Horizon'" is at the bottom of this webpage.
||On 3 September 1783 Great Britain formally acknowledged the independence of the United States with a definitive treaty signed in Paris. On the same date, Britain signed a peace settlement with France – the main formal ally to the Americans – and Spain at the château de Versailles.Manchester signed for Britain and Vergennes signed for France.
Unfinished painting shown here is by the contemporary artist Benjamin West to commemorate the signing of the 1783 Treaty of Paris. The painting shows the American signers John Jay, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin. However, it inaccurately depicts Henry Laurens, who was not present. Also shown is William Temple Franklin, Franklin's grandson and secretary to the American delegation, but not a signer. The unfinished area was reserved for the British commissioners, Richard Oswald and David Hartley, who declined to pose.
The signing took place at the British commissioner's lodgings at the Hôtel d'York, in the Quartier Latin of Paris. Painting is held by the Winterthur Museum in Wilmington, Delaware.
"The Peace Treaties Signed at Paris and Versailles on 3 September 1783"
As we commemorate the 225th Anniversary of the peace treaties signed on 3 September 1783 one must recognize that the general public has a vague understanding of the treaties that ended the War for American Independence. This may be partly due to misunderstanding when and how the war ended and American Independence was acknowledged by Great Britain. The misunderstandings are unfortunately perpetuated by careless, vague, and often erroneous observations conveyed in the various media presentations that address the history of the war. Consider the recent March 2008 TV miniseries on John Adams, wherein two scenes evidence prevailing misunderstandings about the war's end. One scene has John Adam's wife learning of the British surrender at Yorktown on October 1781 and immediately announces to her family that the ‘war is over'. The miniseries follows with some brief scenes of Adams' only successful initiative as a diplomat in Europe in The Netherlands during 1780-1782. Then in a remarkable truncating of time, Adam's wife joins him and Thomas Jefferson in Paris in 1784, and the script allows a brief reference to a peace treaty having been negotiated. It is unfortunate that this highly publicized TV production – proclaiming association with some popular historians – should contribute to further promotion of the myth that Yorktown ended the war, and disregard an essential global phase in the war as well as ignore drama associated with negotiating American winning of Independence.
Of course the war did not end with, nor was American Independence achieved at Yorktown 1781. George Washington and other leaders at the time certainly knew otherwise, given that New York City and Charleston remained occupied by a British army that still outnumbered the allied American and French armies in North America. It would not be until late in 1782 before serious peace talks began and a 'preliminary/provisional' peace that acknowledged American Independence was signed on 30 November, in Paris. It is important that the general American public be reminded of critical military/naval campaigns and diplomatic actions during the last years of the American War for Independence. Appreciating this point provides an essential perspective and fondation to understanding the 1782-1783 peace negotiations. Serious consideration of peace had to await until Britain, France, and Spain had exhausted themselves in the Caribbean, the western Mediterranean, and India before they were ready to end the conflict.
During 1782, Britain gained temporary relief in successfully warding off major assaults on Jamaica and Gibraltar, but these were tenuous outcomes if the war were to linger. Often misunderstood is that the British Parliament's vote in February 1782 against "further ... offensive" warfare in North America was not a recognition of American Independence – the fundamental objective of the Franco American Alliance of 1778. Many British leaders envisioned some political accommodation whereby the colonies remained part of the Empire – somewhat as was done with Ireland. While many British histories of the war emphasize a few military and naval victories in 1782, the fact is that their empire was on the global strategic defensive and risked losing some possessions considered more valuable than the 13 colonies if the war continued. Britain not only failed to gain alliances (an essential element in her previous wars with France), but witnessed even Holland (generally an historic ally of England) recognizing the United States in October 1782.
This paper reviews the sequence of key events and introduces important issues that affected the peace negotiations. The context of these events is best understood if one first is familiar with the Global military and naval aspects form 1781 to 1783 associated with the American War for Independence. These aspects are addressed in a separate webpage article: "After Yorktown, 1781: the 'War Beyond the Horizon'". A link to this supporting article is at the bottom of this webpage.
The peace negotiations were complicated. There were complex challenges to resolve old boundary disputes as to what geographic limits defined the new American Republic (where to draw the lines between British Canada to the north, and Spanish possessions to the south and west?). Further, the Americans wanted rights to the Mississippi and fishing off Newfoundland. The British wanted Loyalists and English merchants re-compensated. The French had to persuade Spain to accept Minorca in place of Gibraltar, and to be satisfied with re-gaining Florida in place of Jamaica. While fundamentally tied [by the 1778 alliance] to obtain American Independence from England, the French aims [as specified in their 1778 alliance treaty] were to maintain their prewar positions in the West Indies and fishing rights off Newfoundland. While attempting to profit by facilitating trade with the American Insurgents, Dutch merchants dragged Holland into the war. Resolution of the conflict eventually required Great Britain to negotiate four separate national peace treaties, which had interlocking geographic interests over a broad expanse of the globe. Further complicating the negotiations was that Great Britain's adversaries were not all pursuing the same specific goals:
- The new United States wanted independence.
- Of the European countries, only France was fully committed [by the 1778 Treaty] to the American Rebels winning Independence; but it also wanted to retain its possessions that were put at risk for openly assisting the rebellion.
- So as to offset the larger British naval assets France urged Spain to commit to The Treaty of Aranjuez (signed on 12 April 1779), wherein France agreed to aid in the capture of Gibraltar, Florida, and the island of Minorca. On 21 June 1779, Spain declared war on England, but fearing repercussions in their own American colonies, withheld recognition of American rebellion.
- There was, however, an informal ‘quasi' alliance had existed since at least 1777 between the Americans and Bernardo de Gálvez, Spanish governor of Louisiana. This allowed the shipment of war materials to pass through the Spanish held territories in North America to be delivered to the American insurgents. Of equal importance – though little appreciated in American history narratives – Galvez's successful campaign diverted considerable British resources in the futile attempt to save their possessions in Florida.
- The United Provinces ('Holland' or ‘The Netherlands') had been forced into the open armed conflict and would have suffered losses of some colonial possessions had not the French armed forces intervened before hostilities ended. Though largely for mercantile profit, the Dutch trade and financial assistance to the American rebels significantly supported the French goals as well.
An overview of the key events of the negotiations provides a necessary reference before taking up the various complex themes and arguments involved. The dynamic flow of events injected several dramatic changes – opportunities and reversals – in terms of geographic realities and political cohesion needed to support negotiations. We can skip over some of the scattered and earliest peace-making initiatives of some British officials that fell well short of accepting American Independence and offered merely not to hang the Rebel leaders.
- The significant events began in September 1779 with the US Congress appointing John Adams – overlooking his unfortunate experience in European diplomacy from which he had returned in August – to negotiate peace and a commercial treaty with England. At the same time, the Congress named John Jay as minister to Spain to draw up the peace treaty with that country.
- In February 1780, a congressional committee drafted some ‘minimum demands' as a basis for future peace negotiations with Britain. The ‘demands' stated the principal objective was ‘American Independence', and proposed various geographical boundaries defining the new nation. Also proposed were that: British forces were to depart the newly prescribed US territory; Americans were to have free navigation of the Mississippi River; and Americans should retain fishing rights along the Newfoundland coast – rights they had possessed as subjects of England, from which the Americans now sought separation. The last two ‘demands' were controversial in that Mississippi River navigation had long been a contentious issue even between Britain and Spain – which technically claimed the shoreline. The Newfoundland fisheries were a particular objective of France – actually the only one stated in reference to North America in the 1778 Alliance Treaty between the Americans and France. Congress removed the fisheries from the ‘minimum demands' in August 1779.
- In the fall of 1779, Congress named Henry Laurens the US minister to Holland, but he was unfortunately captured by the British at sea the following year. In July 1780, Adams, finding himself of little use in Paris and prior to learning that Congress had already commissioned him to negotiate a Dutch loan, traveled to the Netherlands ‘to explore the possibility' of financial assistance. With Laurens' capture in October 1780, and imprisonment in London, Adams became the principal American representative in The Netherlands. He eagerly threw himself into the task of seeking Dutch recognition of the US as well as obtaining a loan.
- On 19 April 1781, Adams sent a memorial to the ‘States-General of the United Provinces of the Low Countries' [‘The Netherlands' for short]. This was a 16 page appeal to the the Dutch people espousing a fundamental Dutch-American bond in cultural customs and in commerce. This was his ‘militia diplomacy' in not addressing his appeal to the government along the traditional and more formal diplomatic channels. Adams rejected the suggestion of the French ambassador to The Hague, Duc de La Vauguyon, to adopt a more formal approach. Adams suspected La Vauguyon's motives as sinister designs of the French Foreign Minister Vergennes. Adams suspected that the French were scheming against him personally for his past difficulties with Vergennes. The truth was that the French were very anxious for Dutch recognition of, and granting loans to, the Americans. The French Foreign Minister was too professional to lose sight of specific objectives, such as obtaining more financial aid for the Americans. However, Vergennes did not loose sight of his concern that Adams was an erratic individual who lacked experience in diplomacy as well as a poor appreciation for the broad dimensions of the war. In cooperation with Franklin and the French ambassador to the US Congress, Vergennes' doubts of Adams' suitability resulted in the US Congress re aligning their peace commission.
- In June 1781, Congress revoked Adams assignment as ‘sole peacemaker' with Britain, and designated a negotiating committee consisting of: John Jay [in Madrid at the time], John Adams [in The Netherlands at the time], Benjamin Franklin [in Paris], Henry Laurens [at the time imprisoned in London], and Thomas Jefferson [who was prevented by affairs in Virginia at the time and did not participate in the negotiations]. At the same time, Congress further limited ‘essential peace demands' to Independence and allowed other points to the committee's discretion. However, Congress injected a controversial stipulation that the American commissioners were to act only with the "knowledge and concurrence" of the French ministry, seeking "their advice and opinion." This stipulation was likely due to the influence of the chevalier Luzerne, the French minister at Philadelphia, who managed to make himself influential with many in the US Congress.
- News of the October Yorktown victory reached Europe in November 1781. While not delivering peace, it certainly reverberated around the capitols. Adams received the news on 23 Nov 1781 in Amsterdam. With the encouragement of the Duc de La Vauguyon, Adams pressed the Dutch to respond to his earlier requests for Dutch recognition. This led to the northern province of Friesland formally receiving Adams as Minister from the United States on 26 Feb 1782. [The Province of Holland recognized American Independence 28 March, and other provinces followed – 19 April 1782 being the final date.] The recognition emphasized England's diplomatic isolation in the struggle. The military reversal at Yorktown and the open diplomatic association of the Dutch with the American rebellion provided decisive ammunition for the opponents of the British Prime Minister Lord North. The British Prime Minister, Lord North's reported exclamation "it's all over!" did not refer to the war, but more correctly to his administration's rule. The momentum grew quickly. On 27 February 1782, the British Parliament voted to end ‘offensive war' against the American Rebels. On 5 March 1782: Parliament advised King George III to make peace. North resigned on 20 March.
- A new British Chief Minister, Lord Rockingham, took over on 22 March, and attempted to address the chaos by seeking contact with the American peace commissioners. However Rockingham's administration was composed of two senior members who were in conflict: Charles James Fox became Foreign Secretary and Lord William Shelburne became Secretary of Colonial Affairs. Shelburne, had already been in correspondence with his long time friend, Benjamin Franklin. Both were in favor of finding a way to negotiate peace. Shelburne sent Richard Oswald, a Scottish merchant with friendly connections with many Americans, to Paris to meet Franklin and informally explore terms for commencing peace negotiations. Shelburne also persuade Henry Laurens [who had been released from his London prison on 31 December 1781 in exchange for General Lord Cornwallis] to go to Holland and explore the same topics with John Adams.
- In April 1782, Oswald was formally commissioned negotiator for England, and returned to France. James Fox, as secretary for foreign affairs, wanted the negotiations to be under his domain. However, as long as the Americans were not recognized as ‘independent' their affairs were technically under the Shelburne's colonial affairs office. On 12 April 1782, Richard Oswald, as representative of the Rockingham ministry, started formal exploratory talks with Franklin. Franklin was the only one of the American commissioners in Paris at the time (Laurens and John Adams were at The Hague; and Jay was in Madrid.). Franklin was persuaded to go along with Shelburne's appointed representative in Paris even if it meant not having ‘American Independence' recognized before negotiations. Another condition that delayed negotiations was the scattered location of the American commissioners. In the Netherlands, Adams' work was progressing. The Dutch recognized American Independence on 19 April 1782. Two months later, on 11 June, Adams secured a two-million dollars [5 million guilders] loan from Dutch bankers. It was not until securing an American-Dutch Treaty of Amity and Commerce on 8 October 1782 that Adams was free to go to Paris. Laurens returned to London and did not reach Paris until November of 1782.
- News of British naval victory at the 12 April 1782 Battle of the Saintes was received in Europe around mid May. The victory provided the British diplomats a more favorable opportunity to more aggressively pursue entering into peace negotiations. However, many popular Anglophone histories exaggerate the extent of the victory. It certainly provided significant propaganda with the capture of the famous French battle ship the Ville de Paris and its famous captian, the Comte de Grasse. While the event effectively destroyed the attempted invasion, it certainly did not remove the French naval presence in the West Indies or result in British naval domination in the region. [See link to webpage .‘Strategic Assessment of the Battle of the Saintes (12 April 1782) at the bottom of this page.] Beyond the propaganda effect, the capture of de Grasse did contribute to opening effective peace negotiations. The French admiral arrived in England in early August of 1782. He was met with honors in London and immediately approached by Lord Shelburne to convey proposals for peace to the French government. Admiral de Grasse was freed, and by late August was in Paris, where he met with the French king and Vergennes. Vergennes' response in sending his secretary, Gérard de Rayneval, to London would be misunderstood by John Jay as a sinister plot on the part of the French. It should be noted that Vergennes was conducting Anglo-French diplomacy with Fitzherbert, a representative of the British Foreign Office under Fox and not to Shelburne's Colonial Office in London. The functional separation of the British ministries [the Colonial Office dealing with the rebellious subjects of the crown and the Foreign Office dealing with a separate nation] necessitated separate negotiations, and all knew such was taking place. However, the situation provided an opportunity for the British to manipulate matters so as to instill suspicion and dissension among the allied negotiators.
- At Franklin's request, John Jay moved from Madrid to Paris, arriving 23 June 1782.
Jay had endured a frustrating two years (since 22 Jan 1780) in Spain, failing to obtain an alliance or open recognition of the United States. He managed a meager $170,000 loan and had to accept Spain's limited, secret assistance.
- The British government experienced another disruption with the death of Rockingham on 1 July 1782. Shelburne became Prime Minister on 11 July, Fox resigned soon after, and Shelbrune took full control over all peace negotiations. Peace ‘discussions' continued with more latitude for the British to coordinate their separate negotiations with European adversaries and the Americans. However, Franklin became ill and Jay assumed charge of the American negotiation.
- On 19 September 1782, the British Ministry decided to give tacit recognition to the "13 United States". On 27 September, Jay received Shelburne's 21 Sep dated offer; and, with Franklin's concurrence, accepted the conditions that ‘Independence' would be introduced into the first article of any provisional treaty. This allowed formal negotiations for peace to begin. Jay immediately sent for Adams to return to Paris. Adams delayed to sign a Treaty of Commerce with the Dutch on 8 October 1782, and then departed for Paris.
- On 5 October 1782, Jay gave Oswald a ‘draft of a preliminary treaty'. Adams arrived at Paris 26 October. He and Jay quickly found common grounds and mutually re-enforced their suspicions against the French. Jay was easily manipulated by Shelburne to suspect the worse intentions of the French representative with whom the British minister was holding separate discussions in London. Shelburne's intention to separate the allies had some success at this stage in the peace talks. Jay easily convinced Adams that the congressional directive to coordinate peace negotiations with the French Foreign minister should be ignored. Together, Jay and Adams overruled Franklin and the American commissioners agreed to disregard Congress' instructions. Shelburne seized the moment, and in late October sent a second British negotiator, Henry Strachey – a diplomat with past experience in dealings with the Americans – to join Oswald in Paris.
- On 5 November, the British and American commissioners agreed on a set of articles as a preliminary basis for a treaty. Talks continued at various locations in Paris, with the last formal round taking place at Richard Oswald's lodgings on 25 November. After a few modifications, ‘preliminary peace articles' were signed by British and American representatives on 30 November 1782. Though the signing was conducted without consulting Versailles, it was not an act that signified braking the French and American Alliance.
- The preamble to the document clearly contained the stipulation that the "Treaty of Peace proposed to be concluded, between the Crown of Great Britain, and the said United States; .... is not to be concluded, until Terms of a Peace shall be agreed upon, between Great Britain and France; and his Britannic Majesty...." While talks were conducted separately, there was no separate, final ['definitive'] agreement. As will be addressed later in this article, Franklin and Vergennes were able to finesse the mischievousness of Shelburne, Jay, and Adams. Even Jay's attempt to settle a score against Spain did not succeed. The preliminary articles contained a ‘secret and separate' article that agreed to Britain re claiming West Florida should they acquire possession of it before the signing of a final treaty. Jay's proposal included American collusion in the British military operations to effect such an outcome. Of course, responsible American authorities did not support the scheme and article became irrelevant.
- In December 1782: King George III announced in Parliament that the thirteen colonies were "free and independent states, by an article to be inserted in the treaty of peace." On 20 January 1783, Great Britain signed preliminary articles with France and Spain. Peace preliminaries then were complete and hostilities were officially ended. On 4 February, Britain proclaimed the cessation of hostilities.
- On 2 April, Shelburne was forced to resign. A new Coalition British Ministry was formed under James Fox and Lord North. The disruption did not fundamentally affect the peace process. However, it is evidence that the British public did not see the outcome as a victory for Great Britain. Besides the 13 colonies, England suffered a net loss in global possessions.
- Congress received the text of the provisional treaty on 13 March 1783, and proclaimed end of hostilities on 11 April. Congress ratified it on 15 April.
- On 3 September 1783, the treaties that officially ended the American War for Independence took place at different times and locations. These are sometimes labeled as the "1783 Peace of Paris" which suggests a single document and signing session. The expression -- often innocently employed for brevity of expression -- minimizes awareness of the 'world war' aspects of the American War for Independence which required Great Britain to sign more than one treaty to end it. To be more specific, there were two peace signing ceremonies on 3 September:
- One ceremony was in the morning, at the British ambassador's Parisian residence in Hotel d'York [now 56 Rue Jacob].
David Hartley [whom the British government had sent to replace Richard Oswald] conducted the final review and signed with the American delegates the acknowledgment of American Independence -- a pre-arranged necessity to concluding a peace agreement. This document would be correctly labeled the "1783 Treaty of Paris."
- A second ceremony was held in the afternoon, at Versailles. When French Foreign Minister, Comte de Vergennes, received confirmation that in the morning, the British had officially recognized independence of their former thirteen colonies, then he proceeded to sign for France and for Spain the final peace with representatives of the British Crown. The Netherlands, waited a few more months to sign, because they were not satisfied with what had been obtained for them. This document would be correctly labeled the "1783 Treaty of Versailles."
- The definitive 1783 Paris Peace Treaty was ratified by the US Congress on 14 Jananuary 1784. Ratifications were exchanged to complete the peace negotiations on 12 May 1784. King George III ratified the treaty 9 April 1784; there were no objections that this was five weeks after the deadline. On 12 May 1784, ratified copies of the 1783 Treaty of Paris were exchanged in Paris.
Equally as important as the issues being negotiated were controversial personality conflicts among the negotiators. The British Government experienced forced turnovers in ministerial leaders from March to July of 1782, and then in April 1783. The internal British political discord was certainly no less disturbing than the questionable personality characteristics of the American negotiators – factors often omitted in popular historical narratives. In contrast to summary remarks addressing the treaty in popular American narrative histories, less widely read scholarly publications introduce an array of controversial initiatives injected into the negotiations by a jealous John Adams and a suspicious John Jay.
Adams' resented Franklin's success in obtaining and smoothly maintaining the French alliance, and sought to have himself be acclaimed as ‘the George Washington of diplomacy'. Jay's entrenched anti-Catholic bias was re enforced by his failed mission to obtain either recognition or meaningful money directly from the Spanish Government after two years in Madrid. When Jay joined the ill Franklin in Paris, he was predisposed to suspect deceit on the part of the French. The British supplied Jay with intercepted messages of
a mid-level French diplomats that explored peace settlement options contrary to those considered important to the American commissioners in Paris. Jay falsely – as historical records show – suspected the French had a policy to undercut the American's claims in the forthcoming negotiations. Jay easily succumbed to British negotiators' suggestions to break the alliance with France.
Jay even invited the British to use their army in North America to retake Florida before the final peace was signed. Fortunately neither gambit succeeded. To a large degree, a special relationship between the two more skilled diplomats – Vergennes for France and Franklin for the Americans – managed to overcome the negative encumbrances injected by the other American negotiators.
Controversy about the treaty negotiations continues as found expressed by modern biographers and historians who report on the peace negotiations of 1782-1783. While they may agree as to dates of specific events, historians – or often simple propaganda forums – seem to lean toward different ‘spins' as to what was really unfolding. Perceptions and delusions entered in the memoirs and biographies of some icons among the American Founders have been used by many modern editors and authors to suggest that the ‘militia diplomacy' conducted by Jay and Adams in 1782-1783 was "a kind of Yankee morality play." For this last controversy one can examine: The French Navy and American Independence: A Study of Arms and Diplomacy, 1774-1787. By Jonathan R. Dull. (Princeton University Press); and Lawrence S. Kaplan's review of Professor's Dull's work in "Diplomacy of the American Revolution: the Perspective from France" printed in Reviews in American History (September 1976, The Johns Hopkins University Press).
Unfortunately, few modern authors examined the contemporary writings of the non American negotiators and diplomats. Authors seeking approval of the general American readership repeat without qualification the suspicions and self promoting opinions expressed by Jay and Adams during and soon after the negotiations of 1782-1783*. As a result, modern readers are presented with distortions as to the actual motives and intentions of the diplomats. Contrary to Adams' claims that the French wanted the war to continue, Vergennes was doing all he could to bring and end to the conflict. French communications that expressed reservations in supporting some of the American geographical border delineations were due to the French minister's doubts that the British would agree, and the dispute would only prolong the war. The French minister never faltered in supporting American Independence. When he learned of the separate preliminary articles of treaty signed between the British with the Americans in November 1782, Vergennes expressed his disappointment with the American negotiators furtiveness but complimented the Americans on acquiring far better arrangements with the British than he had thought possible. The French Diplomat's real sentiments were reflected in forwarding the Americans another large loan.
* Note: An example of the vagueness expressed by some modern popular historians, can be evidenced in what the widely respected historian, David McCullough writes in his very popular John Adams (2001, NY) (pp.283-284) [Bold font added for emphasis by editor of this webpage]:
"As expected, Vergennes was extremely displeased, though 'surprised' was the word he chose. 'I am at a loss, sir, to explain your conduct, and that of your colleagues in this occasion', he wrote formally to Franklin. What had been signed, Franklin emphasized, were preliminary articles only. Nothing had been agreed to that ran contrary to French interests, and, of course, no peace could take place until the French and British concluded their talks and the definitive treaty was signed by all parties. Franklin apologized if he and his colleagues had been guilty of neglecting a point of 'biensance' (propriety), but this was from no want of respect for the King, 'whom we all love and honor'.
"Then, with a cleverness of the kind he excelled in, Franklin included an afterthought. The English, he said, were now flattering themselves that they had divided the Americans from the French. So it were best that this 'little misunderstanding' be forgotten and thereby prove the English mistaken.
"Further, with amazing bravado, Franklin asked Vergennes for a loan of 6 million livres.
"In truth, Vergennes thought well of the work done by the Americans at the negotiating table. He had no serious objections to the preliminary articles. Indeed, he thought Franklin, Jay, and Adams had obtained considerably more from the British than he had thought possible. 'The English buy peace rather than make it', he remarked contemptuously to a French colleague. The 'little misunderstanding' was 'got over' in a matter of days and Vergennes agreed to the loan.
"In a letter to Livingston that he never sent, Adams would later contend that Franklin would not have signed the treaty without the knowledge of Vergennes – that Vergennes, in fact, had been in on the whole thing. But Adams, exhausted in 'strength and spirits', had by then succumbed to one of his spells of gloom during which he was incapable of seeing either Franklin or Vergennes in any but the darkest light."
The argument is: can the general casual reader rationalize Mr McCullough's two phrases? The phrases are separated by two short paragraphs: "As expected, Vergennes was extremely displeased,..." and "In truth, Vergennes thought well of the work done by the Americans at the negotiating table. He had no serious objections to the preliminary articles."
An exceptional, brief correction to popular American myth is surprisingly found in Thomas Fleming's Liberty!: The American Revolution (1997) p.337 admits to the difficulties of the ‘paranoia' introduced by Jay and Adams [Bold font added for emphasis by editor of this webpage]:
"When Jay and Adams entered the negotiations, matters grew confused. Both suspected the French to the point of paranoia, and this inspired the English to drag their feet and try one last time to divide the two allies. During this wasted interval, victories on other fronts toughened the British stand. The garrison of Gibraltar beat off a combined French-Spanish assault, and a British fleet, led by Admiral Lord Howe, slipped through the blockade to bring the fortress enough food and ammunition to survive for another year. In the West Indies the British thrashed de Grasse's fleet and captured the admiral."
Link to article based upon 4 April 2007 Presentation to the ARRT:
- "After Yorktown, 1781: The 'War Beyond the Horizon'" [HTM file].
- This article is meant to precede the one posted in this webpage. The purpose is to provide necessary background on naval and military aspects of the Global War and counters often exaggerated claims of British success in the Caribbean at the end of the war. The distorted perspective conceals the British serious need for peace. In truth, by 1782, the British not only lost hope of subduing the American rebellion. Since the war began, England lost territory to Spain in North America as well as Minorca, and islands to France in the West Indies. The French had also recovered some Dutch possessions seized by the British. Britain's very impressive defenses against the French-Spanish assaults to seize Jamaica and Gibraltar were not assurances that such attempts would not be repeated – in fact, the Bourbon alliance was forming another armada to go against Jamaica as the peace negotiations began in late 1782.
- This page is supported with three handouts that can be obtained in Adobe PDF format. These can be downloaded by clicking on the following:
- 1781-1782 Strategic map.pdf
- Global War 1781.pdf
- Global War 1782.pdf
- This page also has links to separate Expédition Particulière Commemorative Cantonment Society webpages addressing important aspects of the Global war that are often ignored -- and even distorted -- in many popular publications available to American readers:
- ‘Strategic Assessment of the Battle of the Saintes (12 April 1782)'. [HTM file]
- ‘West Indies Score Card During the American War for Independence'. [HTM file]
- ‘Suffren's East India Campaign (1782-1783)'. [HTM file]
- 'World War Context of the American Revolution'. [HTM file]
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Page posted 13 October 2008; Revised 3 October 2011; Minor editing 9 July 2014.