Study Guide

Treaty of Paris Quotes

By Joint effort of British-American diplomacy

  • Friendship

    It having pleased the Divine Providence to dispose the hearts of the most serene and most potent Prince George the Third, by the grace of God, king of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, defender of the faith, duke of Brunswick and Lunebourg, arch-treasurer and prince elector of the Holy Roman Empire etc., and of the United States of America, to forget all past misunderstandings and differences that have unhappily interrupted the good correspondence and friendship which they mutually wish to restore, and to establish such a beneficial and satisfactory intercourse , between the two countries upon the ground of reciprocal advantages and mutual convenience as may promote and secure to both perpetual peace and harmony. (Intro.2)

    This is as close to a thesis statement as the treaty gets. It specifically calls out "friendship" as being part of the goal of the treaty itself. While it's easy to dismiss this as making nice for diplomatic purposes, it's important to remember that making nice for diplomatic purposes has a—wait for it—diplomatic purpose.

    Specifically, of helping turn enemies into allies. Whether or not Britain meant that they wanted the U.S. as their BFF is nearly irrelevant. They left the door open, and that alone is a good enough reason to do it.

    It is agreed that the people of the United States shall continue to enjoy unmolested the right to take fish of every kind on the Grand Bank and on all the other banks of Newfoundland, also in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and at all other places in the sea, where the inhabitants of both countries used at any time heretofore to fish. (3.1)

    This part of the treaty governs fishing rights, which were more important then than they are now. In it, the British are assuring the U.S. that they basically have all the fishing rights they want, which is huge. It's pretty friendly.

    That there shall be no future confiscations made nor any prosecutions commenced against any person or persons for, or by reason of, the part which he or they may have taken in the present war, and that no person shall on that account suffer any future loss or damage, either in his person, liberty, or property; and that those who may be in confinement on such charges at the time of the ratification of the treaty in America shall be immediately set at liberty, and the prosecutions so commenced be discontinued. (6.1)

    The British king is looking after the Loyalists here. This is an important bit of friendship. These people never turned their backs on him, so he's asking they be treated well. It's a stand-up move, and in doing so, he makes a relationship with the U.S. easier.

    There shall be a firm and perpetual peace between his Brittanic Majesty and the said states, and between the subjects of the one and the citizens of the other, wherefore all hostilities both by sea and land shall from henceforth cease. (7.1)

    Okay, it's not quite friendship, but you can't be friends with someone who's still shooting at you. Go ahead; try. Actually, don't. That's a terrible idea.

    So you see the point. They need to conclude hostilities before they can move on to the healing process.

    The navigation of the river Mississippi, from its source to the ocean, shall forever remain free and open to the subjects of Great Britain and the citizens of the United States. (8.1)

    This is like one of those situations where a parent has to let both siblings use the same set of Star Wars action figures. Both countries wanted the Mississippi, which was really important for travel back then. So this provision insured that, legally speaking, both sides would have to cooperate. It's setting the stage for a kind of friendship to develop.

  • Politics

    His Brittanic Majesty acknowledges the said United States, viz., New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, to be free sovereign and independent states, that he treats with them as such, and for himself, his heirs, and successors, relinquishes all claims to the government, propriety, and territorial rights of the same and every part thereof. (1.1)

    This is the big one. The first article of the treaty effectively creates the new country called the United States of America. Before this, there was a difference of opinion over whether the country existed. That was the whole reason for the war. Politics can't exist without acknowledging the different sides, and this does that, all while granting a formidable and non-negotiable, concession.

    And also that the inhabitants of the United States shall have liberty to take fish of every kind on such part of the coast of Newfoundland as British fishermen shall use, (but not to dry or cure the same on that island) and also on the coasts, bays and creeks of all other of his Brittanic Majesty's dominions in America; and that the American fishermen shall have liberty to dry and cure fish in any of the unsettled bays, harbors, and creeks of Nova Scotia, Magdalen Islands, and Labrador, so long as the same shall remain unsettled, but so soon as the same or either of them shall be settled, it shall not be lawful for the said fishermen to dry or cure fish at such settlement without a previous agreement for that purpose with the inhabitants, proprietors, or possessors of the ground. (3.2)

    This is part of Article 3: the fishing rights article. What you can see here is a small bit of politics being played with the language. Specifically, that while it's okay to fish pretty much anywhere, actually going to shore where the British control is a no-no. Granted, this is just to cure the fish (basically adding salt and stuff to preserve it), but it also stops a sneaky invasion. "We just landed here to cure these fish...with all these muskets and gunpowder."

    It is agreed that Congress shall earnestly recommend it to the legislatures of the respective states to provide for the restitution of all estates, rights, and properties, which have been confiscated belonging to real British subjects; and also of the estates, rights, and properties of persons resident in districts in the possession on his Majesty's arms and who have not borne arms against the said United States. (5.1)

    Ooh, layers. The treaty, a form of politics, is requesting more politics, to address the imbalance of power in other politics. Okay, so the war was, at least partly between the Patriots and the Loyalists. The Patriots win, so the treaty was doing its best to encourage the winning side to be magnanimous with the losing side. Acknowledging the internal politics in the external politics. It also sends a clear message to the Loyalists: your king has not forgotten you. Could be a deep game the British are playing.

    "There shall be a firm and perpetual peace between his Brittanic Majesty and the said states, and between the subjects of the one and the citizens of the other, wherefore all hostilities both by sea and land shall from henceforth cease." (7.1)

    This is the official "we have peace now" part of the treaty. Peace is politics. In fact, peace is the good kind of politics—war is what happens when politics fail.

    "The solemn ratifications of the present treaty expedited in good and due form shall be exchanged between the contracting parties in the space of six months or sooner, if possible, to be computed from the day of the signatures of the present treaty." (10.1)

    This is a last little bit of political bookkeeping. The treaty has to go through the right channels to become law.

  • Freedom and Tyranny

    It having pleased the Divine Providence to dispose the hearts of the most serene and most potent Prince George the Third, by the grace of God, king of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, defender of the faith, duke of Brunswick and Lunebourg, arch-treasurer and prince elector of the Holy Roman Empire etc. (Intro.2)

    Whether or not King George was a tyrant or not, his list of titles sure sound like something a tyrant would use. A lot of these date back to other countries entirely. While it's alien to the American mind for the leader of a country to have a title in another (it's actually forbidden in the Constitution), it's not weird at all for nobility. They intermarried all the time, and it wasn't unusual for a noble from one place to rule another country. In this case, George, a German, ruled Great Britain.

    His Brittanic Majesty acknowledges the said United States, viz., New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, to be free sovereign and independent states, that he treats with them as such, and for himself, his heirs, and successors, relinquishes all claims to the government, propriety, and territorial rights of the same and every part thereof. (1.1)

    That would be the freedom the Patriots wanted from the beginning. Laid out there in black and white. To modern eyes, though, this independence doesn't look much like freedom, as it pretty much only applied to landowning white men.

    It is agreed that the people of the United States shall continue to enjoy unmolested the right to take fish of every kind on the Grand Bank and on all the other banks of Newfoundland, also in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and at all other places in the sea, where the inhabitants of both countries used at any time heretofore to fish. (3.1)

    "The unmolested right" is another way to say freedom. We had the right to take fish, as did Great Britain. That was far more important back then, when a larger percentage of the diet came from the sea.

    It is agreed that creditors on either side shall meet with no lawful impediment to the recovery of the full value in sterling money of all bona fide debts heretofore contracted. (4.1)

    While it's weird to modern eyes to see a matter of debts looked at as part of freedom, it was. The exchange of money and debt is an important part of commerce, and property rights were a huge part of what needed to be guaranteed. So asserting that loans could still be collected was a matter of freedom.

    All prisoners on both sides shall be set at liberty, and his Brittanic Majesty shall with all convenient speed, and without causing any destruction, or carrying away any N****es or other property of the American inhabitants, withdraw all his armies, garrisons, and fleets from the said United States, and from every post, place, and harbor within the same; leaving in all fortifications, the American artilery that may be therein. (7.2)

    It's very easy to look at history from this time as the history of white guys. This quote here is literally the only time people of color are mentioned in the treaty. At all…despite Native Americans forming a significant part of the fighting forces. Here, the treaty treats "N****es" —African Americans—as property. Legally, at the time, they were. It would take another four score and seven years to rectify that monstrous injustice.

  • Legitimacy

    It having pleased the Divine Providence to dispose the hearts of the most serene and most potent Prince George the Third, by the grace of God, king of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, defender of the faith, duke of Brunswick and Lunebourg, arch-treasurer and prince elector of the Holy Roman Empire etc., and of the United States of America, to forget all past misunderstandings and differences that have unhappily interrupted the good correspondence and friendship which they mutually wish to restore, and to establish such a beneficial and satisfactory intercourse, between the two countries upon the ground of reciprocal advantages and mutual convenience as may promote and secure to both perpetual peace and harmony. (Intro.2)

    This is subtle, but the first admittance of legitimacy is right there in the first sentence, not once but three times. The first is implicit: you don't make a treaty with yourself, so any treaty is by definition going to be with another country. Secondly, the United States of America are named as an equal power to King George III. And lastly, the treaty's stated purpose is to restore friendship and so on between two countries.

    His Brittanic Majesty acknowledges the said United States, viz., New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, to be free sovereign and independent states, that he treats with them as such, and for himself, his heirs, and successors, relinquishes all claims to the government, propriety, and territorial rights of the same and every part thereof. (1.1)

    Granting independence is a sure indication of legitimacy on the part of the treaty. The King, under no uncertain terms, is calling the former colonies a country in their own right.

    And that all disputes which might arise in future on the subject of the boundaries of the said United States may be prevented, it is hereby agreed and declared, that the following are and shall be their boundaries. (2.1)

    The second Article goes through the boundaries of this new state. Weirdly, by placing boundaries on the United States, it makes the entire thing more legitimate. After all, an infinite border would be meaningless, impossible to enforce, and really just kind of silly. Making concrete edges defines the United States as a real place.

    There shall be a firm and perpetual peace between his Brittanic Majesty and the said states, and between the subjects of the one and the citizens of the other, wherefore all hostilities both by sea and land shall from henceforth cease. (7.1)

    Listen to that language: "between the subjects of one and the citizens of the other." This is acknowledging two different powers and even the differing relationships the government has with their people. To a king, these are subjects. To a republic, these are citizens. There's a difference and in the language of the treaty, that's highlighted.

    In case it should so happen that any place or territory belonging to Great Britain or to the United States should have been conquered by the arms of either from the other before the arrival of the said Provisional Articles in America, it is agreed that the same shall be restored without difficulty and without requiring any compensation. (9.1)

    You don't return territory to an illegitimate state. Because of how slow news traveled back then, provisions like this were often necessary. The idea that territory could be returned to the United States fairly marked it as its own thing.