September 3, 1783: The Treaty of Paris is signed, ending the American Revolutionary War.
The terms of the treaty were overwhelmingly favorable to the United States (and not so much to the new nation’s wartime allies). Peace talks began in 1782, after the colonies’ decisive victory at Yorktown. The idea of an autonomous United States existing within the British Empire was rejected, and so the first provision of the Treaty of Paris was that the King would regard the United States as ”free sovereign and independent states” and treat them as such. Additionally, the treaty urged the restoration of confiscated Loyalist property (ignored) and the payment of creditors on each side (also ignored in some states) and granted both countries access to the Mississippi River (later defied by the Spanish).
The preamble of the document stated that its goal was to “to forget all past Misunderstandings and Differences” and to establish “a beneficial and satisfactory Intercourse between the two countries”. To lay ground for this future relationship, the British defined very generous boundaries for the new country’s borders (far past that of the original Thirteen Colonies), ending to the west at the Mississippi River. The French, whose aid during the war had been indispensable in securing victory, were not included in these negotiations; they drew up their own treaties with the British and regained some scattered territories as a result.
The bottom illustration of the American delegation (which included John Jay, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin) was painted by Benjamin West, but it was never completed because the British negotiators declined to sit for the portrait.