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The Nation Expands

Treaty of Paris, 1783

Although British hopes of winning the Revolutionary War ended in 1781 with their defeat at Yorktown, nearly two years passed before the United States and Britain signed the Treaty of Paris and officially ended the war. The peace process was complicated because France, Spain, and Holland had also joined the conflict, fighting with the Americans against the British. Each of these countries had their own strategic national goals for the war, which made a final peace harder to agree on. Also, although Britain's King George III did not think he could win the war anymore, he was still determined not to grant the Americans independence. But John Adams, John Jay, and Benjamin Franklin, the three Americans sent to Britain to negotiate the peace treaty, insisted that independence for the colonies be built into the peace agreement.

The Treaty of Paris was finally ratified in September 1783, and it was a great victory for the Americans. The treaty not only recognized the United States of America as an independent nation, but also established boundaries that extended far to the west of the 13 original colonies. The new country would be bounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the east, the Mississippi River on the west, Florida on the south, and Canada and the Great Lakes on the north. Spain retained control of Florida, and the United States was permitted use of the Mississippi River.

As the map shows, much of the land granted to the United States in the treaty did not belong to any of the 13 original states. For a time, some of the original states tried to claim these new lands as their own. For instance, New York tried to claim lands that included present-day Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. North Carolina tried to claim portions of what is now Tennessee, while Virginia tried to claim land that is now part of Michigan.

Map of land acquired in the Treaty of Paris
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