It’s Ratification Day! Who, what, when, where and why?

Digital Originals

(WHTM) — It’s 1781 in Yorktown, Virginia, a British army under the command of Major General Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis, surrenders to a combined force of Americans under Major General George Washington and French troops commanded by General Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau. The Revolutionary War is over!

Well, not exactly…

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For there to be peace, there must be a peace treaty. Negotiations wouldn’t begin until 1782, following a change of government in Britain. The new Prime Minister, Lord Shelburne, realized the United States could become a valuable trading partner and was willing to see the United States achieve independence.

Negotiations began in Paris, in April of 1782. The American negotiators were John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, and Henry Laurens. The British negotiators were David Hartley and Richard Oswald. Negotiations went on through the summer, settling matters like the borders of the new country, fishing rights on the Grand Banks, exchange of prisoners of war, and most importantly, Britain’s acknowledgment that the United States was “free, sovereign, and independent”.

Most of the terms were settled by the end of 1782; but the actual treaty was not signed until September 3, 1983. Then the treaty was shipped to America for ratification by the Confederation Congress.

Congress, at the time, was meeting at the Maryland State House in Annapolis, Maryland. (This is the same building that’s in Annapolis today; the oldest state house in the United States. Independence Hall in Philadelphia was the Pennsylvania State House before being promoted to Cultural Icon.)

But when Congress met on December 13, 1783, to ratify the treaty, the weather was against them. The winter of 1783-1784 smacked the country with extreme cold coupled with ice and snowstorms. Only seven of the 13 states had enough representatives present to conduct business.

Not until January 14 did enough delegates reach Annapolis. The vote was taken, the Treaty of Paris was ratified, the Revolutionary War was officially over, and the United States of America was truly, in the eyes of the world (or at least the European powers), an independent nation.

To read the Treaty of Paris, click here.

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