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03 September 1783 – Independence Day?

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American peace commissioners in 1782 (from l to r, John Jay, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Laurens, and Franklin's grandson, William Temple Franklin, secretary to the American Delegation) painted by Benjamin West.

Lots of Americans know the significance of 01 September (Germany invaded Poland) and 02 September (VJ Day), but rare is the individual who knows the significance of 03 September. In 1783, three American peace commissioners and one British commissioner Richard Oswald signed the Treaty of Paris . This treaty between Great Britain and United States of America ended the American Revolution and formally secured American independence from Great Britain.

The treaty was negotiated and then signed in two parts. A preliminary treaty between the United States and Great Britain was signed in 1782 (the subject of Benjamin West’s unfinished work above). It was agreed at the time that the treaty would go into effect only upon the conclusion of a separate peace between Britain and France, our ally in the Revolutionary War. This was duly accomplished, and the United States and Great Britain signed the final treaty in Paris in 1783.

In his painting, Benjamin West planned to portray all seven of the diplomats who were present at the signing of the 1782 preliminary treaty: American peace commissioners, John Jay, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Henry Laurens; secretary to the American delegation William Temple Franklin (Benjamin Franklin’s grandson); British commissioner Richard Oswald; and Oswald’s secretary Caleb Whitefoord. Although Whitefoord cooperated with West, Oswald refused to pose and West never finished his painting.

Commissioner Henry Laurens has particular ties with South Carolina, where the USS Yorktown (CV-10) now rests, and with the battle of Yorktown and its negotiations there which led to the Treaty of Paris. We will take a close look at those interesting facets next week!

Happy Labor Day weekend and could have been…Independence weekend!

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