The American Revolution officially ended when the representatives of the United States, Great Britain, Spain and France signed the Treaty of Paris on September 3, 1783. The signing signified America’s status as a free nation, Great Britain formally recognizing the independence of its country. Thirteen former American colonies and the boundaries of the new republic were agreed: Florida in the north to the Great Lakes and the Atlantic coast in the west to the Mississippi River.
The events leading up to the treaty date back to April 1775, on a common green in Lexington, Massachusetts, when American settlers responded to King George III’s refusal to grant them political and economic reform with an armed revolution. On July 4, 1776, more than a year after the firing of the first salvos of the war, the Second Continental Congress officially adopted the Declaration of Independence. Five difficult years later, in October 1781, British General Charles Lord Cornwallis surrendered to American and French forces at Yorktown, Virginia, ending the last great battle of the Revolution.
In September 1782 Benjamin Franklin, along with John Adams and John Jay, began formal peace negotiations with the British. The Continental Congress initially appointed a five-person committee – including Franklin, Adams and Jay, as well as Thomas Jefferson and Henry Laurens – to manage the discussions. However, Jefferson and Laurens missed the sessions – Jefferson had travel delays and Laurens had been captured by the British and was being held at the Tower of London. The American delegation, suspicious of the French, chose to negotiate separately with the British.
During the talks, Franklin demanded that Britain hand Canada over to the United States. This did not happen, but America gained enough new territory south of the Canadian border to double its size. The United States has also successfully negotiated significant fishing rights in Canadian waters and has agreed, among other things, not to prevent British creditors from attempting to collect debts owed to them. Two months later, the main details had been worked out, and on November 30, 1782, the United States and Great Britain signed the preliminary articles of the treaty. France signed its own preliminary peace agreement with Britain on January 20, 1783, and then in September of that year, the final treaty was signed by the three nations and Spain. The Treaty of Paris was ratified by the Continental Congress on January 14, 1784.